Joshua Sylvester 1781-1854 / Ann Webb 1786-1859
James Sylvester1815-1888 / Rebecca Nicholson 1819-1904
Joshua William Sylvester 1843-1925/ Christine Christensen 1847-1881
Research Abstracts from Yorkshire/Linconshire Parishes for Sylvester & Nicholson and related families.
(Fully footnoted and illustrated histories of Joshua, James, and Joshua William, and their children in Lives and Letters of the Sylvesters and Nicholsons. E-mail me for information on obtaining a copy of this 720-page history of the Sylvester and Nicholson famlies.) See new information on the Sylvester/Nicholson families. [Added Sep 2007.]
Annette Nicholson web page, with extensive Nicholson histories, currently being revised.
Joshua William Sylvester 1843-1925 and Christine Christensen 1847-1881 (Picture corrected Dec 2007.)
James Sylvester 1815-1888 and Rebecca Nicholson 1819-1904
Rebecca Olena Sylvester 1869-1893
Christine Johnson 1893-1988
REVISED SKETCH OF JOSHUA SYLVESTER AND FAMILY
by Maureen Bryson, March 2003
Joshua Sylvester was christened 30 Dec 1781 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, son of Joseph Sylvester and his second wife, Rebecca or Rebekah Berry.
There exists in the family a history of Joshua written by his granddaughter, Roseinia Sylvester Jarvis, which was the basis of the family history for many years. The original hand-written copy of this history survives in the back of one of the six LDS Temple Record Books written by Roseinia, then kept by Althea Gregerson Hafen and now in the possession of Elaine Hafen Briggs. Knowledge of Joshua’s family has been greatly enhanced through recent research. Some errors have been found in this history, but its importance to the family remains.
Sketch of Gd Father, Joshua Sylvester & Family by Rosenia S. Jarvis
Joshua was the son of Joseh & Rebecca Sylvester, who had five sons–Joshua, Joseph, Charles, Benjamin & James. They were all fine intelligent men. One of them invented the hot-air stove and his bust may be seen in London. Gd Father, Joshua, enlisted as a soldier in the war between England & France, I think. He was married to Ann Webb & had one child at the time he left home. After an engagement he was nmbered among the slain, and reported to his wife as dead. After four years of widowhood she one day saw a tall fine looking man comming up the walk who reminded her of her husband, as he came nearer she knew it was he. There love not dead. Her joy was as great as her surprice, as she headaches not heard from him in all that time. After that my Father (James) was born then Charles, Benjamin & Rebecca. Gd Pa and wife, their sons George & James (father) joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gd Ma had been an invalid for four years, afflicted with asthma. Father took her the Voice of warning to read. She told him that she felt better thru reading that book. After further investigation she accepted the Gospel and at the time of her baptism was healed entirely. Her daughter, Rebecca, was combing her hair the next day and said, “Why Mother your hair is wet. Yes, I know, you have been baptized.” For all her mother was healed, still Rebecca did not accept the Gospel. George was a R.R. engineer, got his arm hurt & received a pension. He married Agness.
James (father) was his mothers helper. He attended school and advanced remarkably until he was eleven. The teachers all thot him very bright & intelligent & regretted him leaving school, but one day as he was rolling a whoop on his way to school he met one of his uncles who said, “My boy, I think I can find you a better job than that.” So he got James a job of work in a lace fctory. Father liked the work & was pleased to earn money but always regretted being taken out of school. Afterward he was apprenticed to learn the edgetool trade in Sheffield. It was there he met my Mother (Rebecca Nicholson). After a three years courtship they were married. Their history will be written elsewhere.
Charles married ____ who was an invalid. They had only one daughter (Albina) who became a great singer & after her mother’s death she kept house for her father. As she left home one day to attend her singing practice her father joked & laughed with her, as she went out. She was gone one hour, when, on her return home she found that he had fallen from his chair and was lying on the floor, dead. This was a very great shock to her. She was now left alone in the world. She appealed to her Mother’s folks for help & comfort, but they turned a deaf ear, as their daughter had married against their will & their pride would not allow them to go to her child now bereaved of both parents. So she sent for her father’s brother, George & wife who came & helped her. She was then engaged to a Mr. Marshall & it was decided that they should be married at once and keep on living in the same house. Her husband was a good man & the last we heard from them they had four nice children.
Benjamin died young. I think he was not married.
Rebecca was a very beautiful girl, she was engaged to a young mna who worshiped her, but she did not care for him, and kept putting him off. One day while visiting the Barracks with a crowd of young people, she met & fell in love with a handsome young soldier whom she afterwards married much against her parents wishes. But she said she could not give him up, she would please her eye if she plagued her heart. Consequently, after a time his rigement was ordered to India, she could not go with him & so must be left, which almost broke their hearts as they loved each other dearly. There only hope was that he might sometime return, but he never did. Nor did she ever hear from him. After many years she married again but never had a child to live. She became very stout as she grew older and ws one day hanging out clothes when she broke a blood vessel and did in half an hour after.
The old sketch of Joshua said Joseph and Rebecca had 5 sons, Joshua, Joseph, Charles, Benjamin, and James. This was, of course, only partially true. Charles is actually the son of the first wife, Sarah Mills. It is this Charles who invented the "hot air stove" spoken of in the old sketch. He was very well known during his lifetime, and it is significant that two of Joshua's sons were christened at St. George's Bloomsbury, the parish where their Uncle Charles resided. I have also seen a small book of poetry, which though published by an anonymous author in Sheffield in 1797, is generally attributed to Charles Sylvester by his contemporaries in Sheffield.
Joshua did serve in the British Army. He served in the 59th Regiment of Foot (soldiers). This was the Second Battalion, known as the 2nd Nottinghamshire Regiment, of the East Lancashire Regiment. We have details of his service from June 1807 to his discharge on 3 Nov 1814. He served in Colchester, Essex; Weeley, Essex; Spain at La Coruna; Newry near Armagh, Northern Ireland; Fermoy, Cork, Ireland; Chichester, Hampshire, Isla de Leon, Spain; St. Sebastian, Spain; France; and Dublin, Ireland. He is listed first as a private, but by Sep 1807 is listed as a sergeant, and the company armourer, an enlisted man having charge of the repair and maintenance of the small arms of his unit.
Joshua married Hannah Webb on 11 Jan 1808 in Colchester St. James, Essex, England. This was during the time Joshua was first posted at Weeley. Joshua signed the marriage register, but Hannah only marked with her “x”. The witnesses were Joseph Bradey and Mary Batty. This was the record which gave the regiment in which Joshua served, resuting in obtaining his service record. The christening records for their children list their mother’s name as Ann, and her death certificate also says Ann. All the family records list her name as Ann Webb. The names, Ann, Anna, and Hannah, are often used interchangeably in British records. As a birth or christening records has not been foud for her yet, as either Hannah or Ann, it is also possible she changed the name she used after her marriage. To alleviate confusion in this record, further references to Ann or Hannah Webb will use only the name Ann.
Joshua and Ann’s marrigae would not have been common for members of the military at that time. “Marriage was frowned upon [in the military] until the 19th century. Six out of 100 soldiers were allowed to marry ‘on the strength’ with the approval of the commanding officer. This means that the wives were financially considered as part of the total allowed for the regimental strength. The wives lived in the barracks and had free rations, for which they did the washing, mending, cooking, and cleaning of the barracks” (In Search of the Forlorn Hope, John W. Kitzmiller II, 1988, p. 787).
There is a strong tradition that Joshua fought in the Napoleonic War, and other members of his regiment are credited with fighting at Waterloo in Jun 1815. However, the military record clearly shows that Joshua was discharged before Waterloo. Descendants of his son, George, also have a tradition that their ancestor was born at sea while Joshua and Ann were returning from France to England. The period including Jan 1812 is not included in the military records found for Joshua. They show him at Chichester in the quarter before George’s birth.
Joshua is listed in the christening records of his children as a sawsmith and bracebitmaker. The 1851 Census lists him as a trowel maker. His death certificate lists him as a smith, and Ann’s death certificate lists him as a Brace Bit Forger. His son, Charles’s marriage certificate lists him as an augermaker. It appears he was something of a jack of all trades as a small tools maker, which is also consistent with his job as armourer in his regiment. Joshua died at #9 Court Pritchet Street, Aston, Warwickshire on 9 July 1854, age 73. His death certificate lists his cause of death as “dysentery and years.” He was buried at the parish church of Saints Peter and Paul as Aston, near Birmingham, on 16 July 1854.
Ann’s birthplace is given as Coggeshall, Essex, in the 1851 Census. Her age in that census and her age at death put her birth in 1786 or 1787. Searches in the Coggeshall parish records and in parishes within a 15-mile radius of Coggeshall who records are available in the Salt Lake Family History Library (as of 1996) have not resulted in a positive records of her birth. She died at #1 Court, Bowden Street, Eccleshall Bierlow, Sheffield on 29 Oct 1869, age 73. Her death certificate lists her cause of death as “chronic bronchitis.” She was buried on 1 Nov 1859 at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Sheffield.
Joshua Sylvester was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 13 Nov 1842 in the Derbyshire Conference of the British Mission. There is an addition to that entry that he emigrated to Zion 27 Jan 1849 age 8. The note about emigrating must refer to Joshua’s grandson, Joshua William, who certainly could not have been baptized in 1842. Family tradition says Joshua’s wife, Ann, was also baptized but no record has been found. An Ann Travis was baptized the same day as Joshua but they wre the only two recorded as baptized that day in that record.
Recent research has found a previously unknown son for Joshua and Ann. While stationed at Weeley, Charles Sylvester, son of “Joshua and Ann / late Webb, 59th reg” was christened on 11 Jun 1809. The birth date is given in the parish register as 13 Jun. A burial date was not found in the register for Charles. Inasmuch as none of the family mention an earlier brother named Charles, and the youngest son in the family was also named Charles, it is most likely this first Charles died young. But no record has been found to give a definite date for this. The two sone named Charles were likely named for their father’s half-brother, the inventor/scientist, Charles Sylvester.
Joshua and Ann’s next child, usually listed in family records as the oldest son, George Sylvester, was born 4 Jun 1812. The only record with his full birth date recorded is in the LDS Membership records for the Rugby Ward. Family tradition says he was born on King George III’s birthday, which is 4 June. He was married to Agnes Lawrence and had five children by her. His second wife was Maria Dann and they had nine children. He did work for the railroad all his life and did work for a time in France, where one of his daughters was born. A substantial amount of information is available for George Sylvester and his descendants.
The third child was James Sylvester, christened 28 Jan 1816 in Sheffield. He married Rebecca Nicholson on 27 Feb 1838 in Sheffield. James and Rebecca joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eventually emigrated with their family to Utah. Their history is found elsewhere.
Joshua and Ann’s fourth child was Rebecca Sylvetser, born 30 Jun 1818 and christened 2 Aug 1818 in Sheffield. She was married on 11 Dec 1839 in Sheffield to James Parker, age 25, a butcher, of Eyre Street, Sheffield. He was the son of James Parker, a painter. Rebecca’s age was given as 21 and her residence as Hermitage Street. Witnesses to the marriage were James Sylvester and J. Hudson. It this is the young soldier she is said to have married first, there is no mention here of his being in the military. On 9 Mar 1856 in the Rotherham Parish Church she was married to John Woodhead. She is listed on the certificate as Rebecca Parker, age 38, a widow, of Masbro, and daughter of Joshua Silvester, Brace Bit Maker. Her husband, John Woodhead, was age 45, a widower, occupation die sinker, also of Masbro. He was the son of Richard Woodhead, a silversmith. The witnesses were Charles Sylvester and Mary Trickett.
Rebecca’s first husband, James Parker, probably died before 1851 as she is listed as unmarried, occupation staymaker, in the 1851 Census. On her father’s death certificate in 1854 she is listed as the informant, “Rebecca Silvester.” In 1859 on her mother’s death certificate she is listed as “Rebecca Woodhead.” An 1879 letter from Charles and Albenah Sylvester says she “got so stout that she broke a blood vessel and died. . . . She was hanging the clothes out in the yard a few minutes before she died.” She was living at Court 1, Bowden Street, Eccleshall Bierlow, at the time of her death. The death certificate lists her cause of death as “sudden heomorrage from the lungs.” The informant was Margarett Garnett of 98 Bowden Street, but lists Rebecca as the wife of John Woodhead, a die sinker. She died 22 May 1862, age 43, and was buried on 25 May 1862 at St. Mary’s Church, Sheffield.
Joshua and Ann’s fifth child, Charles Sylvester, was christened 8 Jun 1821 at St. George’s, Bloomsbury, London. He gives his birthplace as Sheffield in the 1851 Census and as London in the 1871 Census. Charles was married on 28 Aug 1850 in the parish church at Sheffield to Sarah Cotterill. She was christened 2 Aug 1812 at Sheffield, daughter of John Cotterill and Mary. Charles gave his occupation as Auger Maker and his residence as Doctor’s Field. Sarah was a spinster of New Field. Charles was 28 and Sarah was 35. She is listed in the 1851 Census as a “silver burnisher.”
Their youngest son was Benjamin Sylvetser, christened 21 Mar 1824, in St. George’s, Bloomsbury, London. [This christening was listed as having been in 1814 for a number of years, but has been shown to be 1824.] He is said to have died of a fever in 1855 in India or at sea returning from India. A search of the India Company records, the Consular Index, and the Miscellaneous overseas deaths, has not resulted in any further information about him. A letter from Geoffery Sylvester (great-grandson of George Sylvester) dated 2 Nov 1992 states: “We know Benjamin was a trader in the Indian Ocean, reputed to be a captin, by all accounts not always strictly legal trading.”
According to a letter from their daughter written shortly after her mother’s death, “my dear mother has been an iniveleid for four years and eight week since she took to her bed and never got better[.] we buried her on the fifth of June.” Charles was an augermaker or edgetool hardener. He is described in a 27 Feb 1879 letter from his brother, George, as “stout and jolly.” He died 10 Nov 1882 at Eccleshall Bierlow, Sheffield. In a letter dated 14 Nov 1882, Albenah wrote: “I am sorry to tell you that I have lost my Father. When I went to Chapel on Friday night I left him in his usual health except that he complained of having caught a cold and on returning in about an hour I found him on the floor[.] I shall never forget is, the shock was very severe. He could not have been taken many minutes when I got in as I had passed the woman just up the street who had delivered him his paper and to whom he remarked that it was a miserable night. The doctor said he must have died instanteneously[.] we have buried him today in the new Cemetery at Intake Road as that was his wish.”
His daughter, Albenah was a singer and married John William Ashforth Marshall on 1 Jan 1883 at Norton, Derbyshire, just southwest of Sheffield. They had at least three children.
LIFE SKETCH OF JAMES SYLVESTER AND REBECCA NICHOLSON
Written by their daughter Roseinia Sylvester Jarvis 19th July 1909
My mother Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester had eleven children six of whom are now living, of whom I will tell later. My mother was a wonderful woman, I believe she possessed all the good qualities. She was the eldest daughter of William and Maria Calkwell Nicholson, a blue eyed, fair haired, beautiful child, who attracted attention where ever she went.
She received a fair education, excelled in needle work, made white shirts and worked samples at the age of eight years. Like her mother was quick in all her movements and very active.
At the age of 16 she met my father James Sylvester who was an Apprentice in the cuttlery [sic] business at Sheffield, Eng. and who began paying attention to her. Her father jokingly said that he would be proud of such a son in law. This made her feel that she would never speak to James again, but afterwards he gave her a lecture telling her she was too young to think of beaux, and such nonsense, which made her think just the contrary. After three years of courtship the happy couple were married and started on lifes journey together, Rebecca was so youthful looking that she began to wear caps to make her look older.
They lived in Sheffield for some time and always ate Christmas dinner with her parents. On one occasion James was called on to do the carving, while doing so he stood up and some one accidentally moved his chair, so when he sat down again it caused a mighty crash among the plates set before the fender to keep warm.
While living in Sheffield, Eng., they were blessed with five beautiful children, viz., Ann Maria, Rebecca, Joshua, Mary and Emma. Ann Maria died at the age of seven and was buried in England. About this time they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints preached, which struck them very forceably [sic] and after much careful study in comparing the doctrine with that taught by Christ or with the Church of Jesus Christ of former days, they were both thoroughly convinced that it was the right one, so they quit the Methodist Church and joined this with which they remained firm and steadfast to the last, never regretting or wishing for anything better, for to them it was the plan of life and salvation, also exaltation and eternal life, though all in all it was a great trial for them to leave their parents, brothers, sisters, friends and country and chance it in the wilds of America, but this was the appointed gathering place for the Saints and there was no sacrafice [sic] too great for them to make for the Gospel’s sake.
Rebecca’s parents were opposed to them joining this new church and on one occasion when they were talking against them going to America, Grand Pa Nicholson told little Josh. that if he went he would be drowned in the sea or killed by the Indians, to which Josh. answered, “Grand Pa, you lie, the Lord will take care of us.” Grand Pa pretended to be dreadfully shocked and told him not to come for the present as usual on Saturday, so he stayed away for a while, then Gr. Pa sent for him to come and often laughed at the childs earnestness and ready answer.
Mother said she hid her Book of Mormon for fear her father would make fun of it, a step she regretted all her life, as he was a deep thinker and a liberal minded man and would have enjoyed reading it, as it contains a history of the Ancient Inhabitants of America, and accounts for the wonderful discoveries of Ancient Cities in ruins, and shows that the mounds being unearthed reveal a higher state of civilization than that found among the American Indians, all of which would have interested him she knew.
After they decided to come to America, they began to save money for this purpose. In the mean time, father became a local preacher, and finely [sic] the President of the Branch at Sheffield asked him if meetings could be held in their own room, and of course they consented, mother taking pride in getting the room ready for that purpose.
While still in England they lost their oldest child Ann Maria, aged seven, in 1849. Father and Mother with their four remaining children, embarked for America in the Ship Zetland. They were in the docks for two weeks, and then six weeks crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Mother was very sea sick, and the voyage was rough, but with this exception all went well and they finally reached the shores of America, strangers in a strange land. They entered a sailing vessel and sailed up the Mississippi River as far as St. Louis, where an old friend met them and insisted on them going home with him until they found a house to rent, which they did.
Father soon located his family in a comfortable home and went into business, buying up 2nd hand furniture & stoves, repairing and selling them again. He made money fast. Mother assisted him some and also taught a little school in the afternoons, part of the time, but money making was not what they had left their home and relatives for, it was for the Gospel’s sake, purely. They were reminded of this fact in a remarkable way, as the cholery [sic] broke out and people died like rotten sheep. Father went among the sick administering comfort to the Saints, especially, and helping to bury the dead etc. Finally mother was seized with it and carried to the hospital, where she lay for six weeks, hovering between life and death, and then she said to father, “Live or die, I will take no more medicine and you must get me away from here.” Then father took her home, her poor bones had worn through the skin and she was in a pitiable condition, but through the administration of the Elders and the blessings of God she was healed.
Father, and his little eight year old daughter, Rebecca, did the work, washing and all, as they could get no help, there were so many afflicted.
On one occasion, while mother was so low she was visited by a heavenly messenger, who told her among other things, that she should get better and go to the Valley, and there do a great work, but charged her not to tell.
When father came home that night he seemed extra anxious and down hearted, so forgetting the charge, she told him about her vision, when almost immediately she was seized with a dreadful cramp, even her tongue cramped so that she could not speak. After the Elders rebuked the evil power she got relief, and the promises were afterwards fulfilled to the letter.
During the three years stay in St. Louis, James and Eliza were born and Rebecca and James died, and were burried [sic] in the same grave. By this time father and mother both felt that they were ready to come on to the Valley, as the gathering place of the Saints was called.
Father sold out his business and bought two yoke of oxen & a wagon and started across the plains, with a company of saints, a distance of a thousand miles. As Mrs. Buxton, a widow with two children, Elizabeth & John, lay dying, she begged of mother not to leave her children behind, but, to bring them to Zion, also another friend and widow, made the same request about her only child, (Lemuel Hague) so mother left her feather bed, dishes and many other useful things in order to bring those three orphans, but she willingly made the sacrifice, thanking the merciful God for sparing her own life and those of her children.
Crossing the plains Joshua was run over by the heavy wagon, but after being administered to, by the Elders, was soon all right again.
In the year of 1852, after a long weary journey, they arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. They first settled in Provo, but afterwards moved to Springville, where they resided for nine years. During this time, their daughters, Lovinia, Roseinia, and Altheria were born, also their son Joseph. James and Rebecca were sealed in Provo in the office of George A. Smith on 6 March 1855. They were later endowed and resealed in the Endowment House on 3 June 1865, sealing at that time performed by Wilford W. Woodruff.
They endured many hardships incident to Pioneer life, such as Indian Wars, grass hoppers, crickets etc.
At one time father felt that he could not stand to see his family in poverty, suffering for the necessaries of life, and so decided to leave them for a time and go back to St. Louis, where he had made money so easily & make money again and return with it to his family, to this plan mother was opposed as she feared he might die there, but father was about to go when he had a dream, which warned him not to go. He thought the Savior or a heavenly messenger appeared to him from behind a large rock surrounded by a halo of light and said “I came very nearly reporting you to the Father.” My father answered and said, “Do you think the Father knows of me?” The messenger answered, “Do you think the Father who marks the sparrow’s fall, does not know his children?”
My father awoke with the impression that it was wrong for him to look back and long for the flesh-pots of Egypt, as it were, so settled down and made the best of what this country afforded, until better times came, but he had always provided well for his family, and it ground him to see them short of clothing. Mother could stand it better, she had, some times, to put us to bed while she washed and mended our clothes, but she always managed to have us clean for Sunday. People wondered how she did it, but they did not know of the hours she spent at home mending, making over and washing in order to keep us so.
We had plenty to eat such as it was, squash pie and melon preserved in beet molasses were among the delicaces [sic], but we had bread, milk, butter and meat, also vegetables in plenty.
Again at the time of the gold fever in California, when so many went to seek their fortunes, my father thought of going, but was again warned by a dream. This time he thought he saw a great fire or light and many men were lighting their torches by it. They then started off in the darkness, when one after the other of the torches went out and the men were lost in darkness. He awoke with the impression that the Church was the fire or light and that those who left for the sake of gold would loose [sic] the spirit of the Gospel and fall away into darkness, which they afterwards did. He seemed to be with those who started out with torches and as one after another went out he looked back at the fire burning so brightly and wished himself back.
After this warning he tried to think less of wealth of this world and prize what he had, the true Gospel as some thing more precious.
My father had always desired to live in a warm climate so when the call was made for the Saints to settle the Southern part of the State of Utah, he volunteered to go. There was also another reason for him wanting to go, as their oldest daughter Mary had married Joseph Birch who was called to go, so father sold out at Springville and started with his family in ox teams. He had considerable stock and as it was late in the fall he concluded to winter at Gunnison, it being a warm, open Valley; and then go on in the Spring.
That winter the new settlement of Gunnison was visited by Apostle Orson Hyde, who advised all who were there to remain. Father went to him and stated his condition, to which Apostle Hyde replied, “Bro. Sylvester stay here and make your mark,” so father bought land and built a two roomed log house that winter. In the Spring during the high water season, the Sanpitch River overflowed its banks and spread over the Valley. It was 2 ft. deep in our house, and covered the garden stuff which was looking so fine before. It was then deemed necessary to move the town from the river bottom land to the Bench land. Father, with all the rest, tore down their newly built log houses and moved them to the new town site. He at first worked at blacksmithing, but it did not pay, so he sold his tools and bought land. He kept buying and fencing land until he owned about 100 acres and raised about 10 or 12 hundred bushels of grain per year, besides root crops such as potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, artichokes, etc., which made excellent cow, sheep & hog feed. He was prospering finely when the Black Hawk Indian War broke out, which necitated [sic] another move. This time into a Fort for mutual protection against Indian rades [sic]. The log houses were built a little distance apart with the space between filled in with a high rock wall, in which was left a small gate way, through which we passed to the Corrals outside, and which were all locked at night, so also were the four wagon gates at the North, East, South and West sides of the Fort. The Fort formed a square which contained all the houses and people of the town.
The war lasted four years and during all that time, father, his hired man and brother Joshua were minute men subject to a call to fight at any minute night or day. Joshua was in the cavelry [sic] and was out on duty most of the time, leaving his young wife Christena almost frantic.
Father belonged to the home Guard and spent about two night a week guarding the town, these were fearful times. All the settlements on the Sevier River were broken up after they had been raided and robbed of their horses and cattle; the people of these towns were in such a helpless condition that the two towns Gunnison and Manti took the people of the Sevier River District and housed and provided for them until such time as they could return to their homes. Father took a family of eleven, man, woman and nine children whose name was Brown, he built a house for them by his own in the Fort and helped take care of them. Besides this father had to furnish horses and provisions for the Soldiers, several times taking a horse from his work team.
After the War he built a rock house on his City lot at the upper end of town and was comfortable again.
Father could not give up the thoughts of Dixie, his daughter Mary and husband were constantly pleading for him to come, so he finally sold out his lots and house, but could not sell his field land, as it was on Indian Reserve and he could not get a Government Title, so he left it and never realized any thing for all his hard work.
He arrived at Kanarra in July 1868, left his children there while he and mother went to visit St. George and on their way back located and started a new home at Bellvue. He pitched a tent and made a nice bowery in front, then came and took us all down. Mother said it felt like home as soon as she set foot on the place.
The tent, bowery and wagon box gave us shelter until late in the Fall when we moved into the Basement Story of our new rock house, which was completed by Spring.
Father then cleared the land of oak brush and, with the help of one hired man and we children, fenced with rock wall and planted 5½ acres of land into lucerne and vineyard by the second year.
We children, three girls and one boy helped pile and burn the brush, helped load and unload rock for the house and fence, and to cut and plant grape cuttings, afterwards to sucker them and tie them to stakes, also helped to plant corn and cane crops, helped make molasses and then made candy and helped to eat it, helped to plant the orchard and later to pick and pack the fruit for market and dry and take care of the rest.
Thus we were generally useful and all took a delight in helping father who was always good and kind, always appreciative and tender of us, but never exacting or hard. Mother too helped outside as she tended the garden after father planted it, and finding that the outdoor exercise agreed with her best, she left the house work, cooking and sewing to the girls, and spent most of her time in caring for the garden, fruit etc.
We usually milked five or six cows and raised our own meat, beef, pork, poultry etc. This with the choicest of fruits and vegetables furnished us with a good living, but it was more difficult to get clothes. So mother began knitting the home made socks, for which the peddlers gave a good price and she also taught we girls to knit, and our winter evenings were generally spent in knitting men’s socks, while father read to us.
We used, also, to assist our neighbors, some times who ran a hotel, and in this way got a good course in Domestic Science as she was a fine cook and able teacher. Through all these busy times mother took time to teach us reading, writing & spelling, as we had no schools at first, and thus we grew up natural and free, a very happy family. Father always played some musical instrument and we had much singing too, especially when friends would come in. First he played the accordian, then the violin and then the organ. He would go to the organ when he came in to rest, and he and mother would sing hymns on Sunday afternoon and evenings. Story of the organ always trying something for advancement. [This last penciled in at end of paragraph.]
Then often traveling musicians would stop there over night and have a musical evening, which father enjoyed so much.
In winter time our house was seldom free from company, for it was always open to the poor who could not go to the Hotel next door, who refused shelter to all who could not pay, so we used to say that the Hotel Keeper took the money while father took the gratatude [sic] and blessings of the people, but some paid so we managed to live and was loved and respected by all. Some times, after many years men have called at our door and said “Mrs. Sylvester I called here when I was broke and hungry and you fed and warmed me and now I wish to pay you for it,” mother would have forgotten the circumstance but, they did not, the fire and light was always free. If people had their own provision they were all right, if not that too, was furnished.
For many years after we children were grown married and gone, father and mother remained there in the same old way.
Mother always kept extra clothes & bedding for poor travelers who came in wet and cold and saved many from freezing to death in that bleak place in winter, for while the Summers were so pleasant, the seasons so long that Tropical fruits could be raised, still the winters were extremely cold, as the wind blew so much from the cold snowy north, causing real blizzards. On dark & stormy nights kept a light in the north window that could be seen for miles.
One beautiful mild morning on the 19th May 1888, when mother got up as usual, but with the feeling “How beautiful and calm every thing seems this morning, it seems as still as death.” The sun was bright and shining in at the window and she was impressed with the feeling of serenity, so she said to her little grand daughter, who was visiting with her, and to whom her grand Pa had said the night before, “You sleep with grand Ma Emma and I will sleep in the little bed room,” “Come Emma, we have over slept, let us dress quickly and get grand Pa’s breakfast.” When she went into the kitchen she found there was no fire, a thing unusual, as father always started the fire before going out to do the chores, but thinking he was not feeling well as he had missed making it once before lately on this account, she got his breakfast before disturbing him. She then opened his room door and spoke, but as he did not answer, she went and turned down the bedding when she saw the gastly [sic] look on his face. He was still warm. Little Emma ran for their son Joseph, their daughter Altheria and husband, who were soon there. They worked with him for some time thinking to bring him to, but it was in vain, the spirit had taken its flight.
It seemed that every body was kept away that morning, as his friend Owens, always called on his way to the field, but this time got to the gate and then turned back, and another friend Mr. Dutton, who had camped near by and had been in the evening before, singing and playing the organ with him saw father go around the house and pile up some lumber, and then just as he was going back in the house, he spoke to him, but father did not answer him, which hurt his feelings, as he said of all his friends he loved father best, so Dutton said to his boy, “Come let us go, I feel there is some thing wrong as Bro. Sylvester did not answer,” but he wrote to mother and said “I will never forget the look he gave me.”
Father had taken off his shoes and coat and layed down with his hand under his head and went off without a struggle.
This was a terrible blow to mother and we thought she would go too for a time, for she fainted time & again. I stayed with her that summer and took the care of house keeping off her, and she worked in the garden and finally felt better. Sister Mary stayed with her about two years and then we persuaded her to give up house keeping and live with her children, which she did, renting her place, but before leaving she prepared extra clothing, bedding and table linen to be used in case her friends came or any poor travelers wet, cold or in need. She lived 16 years after father died and did much good among her children, grand & great grand children. Besides working in the temple for hundreds of her relatives and friends. The last winter of her life she stayed with Sister Altheria Gregerson at Bellvue. She was a great help in many ways, up to the last. The grand children all loved her and went to her to get their buttons sewed on, their toys mended etc. She took great comfort with the baby and would sit and rock the cradle and sing and read for hours. She also enjoyed talking or conversing with the travelers who came in, as Sister kept Hotel. She often met old friends and some very nice people, who marveled at her intelligence and mental activity at her advanced age.
On the evening she was taken ill she conversed on the leading topics of the times with such intelligence that the gentleman remarked “What a wonderfully bright old lady she was.” After retiring she took a chill, sister Altheria did all she could for her, but pneumonia set in, Dr. Higgins came but said he could do no more than what had been done. 3 times pneumonia after grandfather died. [This written in the margin.] Her children were soon sent for and were at her bedside, all but, Mary Birch, whose husband was very ill at the time. Mother knew us all up to the last and was happy and cheerful and looked forward with hope and joy to the meeting of her parents, brothers, sisters, husband and children on the other side. There was nothing unpleasant about her two weeks sickness, her breath was sweet, her voice clear and she sang very distinctly the following song;
When the lamp of life is waneing [sic], weep not for me
When the languid eye is straining, weep not for me
When the feeble pulse is ceasing, weep not for me
‘Tis the fettered soul releasing, weep not for me.
and the following;
One there is above all others, Oh, how he loves
He has love beyond a brother, Oh, how he loves
Earthly friends may turn and leave you
One may soothe, another grieve you
But this friend will ne’er deceive you
Oh,- how = he loves.
The Evening before she passed away she called us around her bed side and ask each of us to speak and tell her how we felt towards her as our mother, if we were satisfied. We did so, praising her example and teaching. After which she exhorted us to be true to the Gospel, be united, hold together and be charitable towards each other and be an honor to our name. She had so much vitality that it took several days longer for her to die than the Doctor thought it would. The night before she died she took a cramp in one foot and leg which was very severe. The next morning at day light we all stood around her bed and saw her go to sleep. All who saw her said they never saw a more beautiful corpse. We layed her by fathers side and erected a beautiful marble monument to mark their resting place just west of Sister Altheria’s house at Bellvue, Wash. Co., Utah. She died 9th Feb. 1904.
Joshua William Sylvester
Joshua William Sylvester was the oldest child of James Sylvester and Rebecca Nicholson to survive to adulthood. Much of the following history is taken from A Brief History of the Life of Joshua William Sylvester written by his daughter, Althea S. Howe on 20 Dec 1945, from History of Joshua Sylvester by R.W. Sylvester, and from a transcription of a Jan 1994 tape history by Joshua’s daughter, Margaret Hardy, of Mesquite, Nevada. Also included is Joshua’s own History of My Life During the Indian Wars as dictated to his neice, Althea Gregerson on 21 Aug 1909 in Mesquite, Nevada. Many references are also taken from the LDS ward records of Elsinore, Utah.
Joshua William Sylvester was born in Sheffield, England, February 5th, 1843. He was the son of James and Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester. He came to America with his parents when he was six years of age, crossing the Atlantic in a small ship called the Jetland. They were delayed two weeks in the Docks in England and the journey across the Atlantic took six weeks. They reached New Orleans and from there took a steamboat to St. Louis. Here the family remained for three years. In the spring of 1853 they resumed their journey to the valley of the mountains. Joshua William was nine years old and drove one of the ox teams, walking beside them all the way from St. Louis to Salt Lake Valley. Joshua surprised the company with his natural ability in handling oxen at such an early age. It was amazing that a boy of nine years could do the work usually assigned to grown men. He would be a small man in stature even in adult life, and at this age was a most remarkabel figure handling the team of oxen that pulled the family wagon across the plains. They were in the James Jepson company and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1853.
In 1861 Joshua was called by the Church authorities to go to St. Louis and bring immigrants to Salt Lake. It was on this trip he met Christine Christensen, she and her father being passangers in Joshua’s wagon. Joshua had ample time on the trip across They were married at Gunnison, Utah on 1 January 1862. This same year Joshua was called again to go to St. Louis for more immigrants. His skill with the teams was in great demand in in the next twelve years he made seven trips across the plains bringing an ever-increasing stream of immigrants to Utah. He crossed the plains seven times in twelve years. He was very efficient in handling oxen and was very successful with them in fording rivers. Often he would be the only driver to cross without trouble.
While he was living at Gunnison the Indians had driven off the cattle of the settlers. Joshua was chosen as leader of a posse to go in search of the cattle. Late in the afternoon of the second day they found the cattle feeding quietly in a ravine, and no Indians in sight. Guards were set and the men decided to wait until morning before starting home. That night around the campfire the men were discussing the situation. Some of the men were in favor of pursuing the Indians and punishing them for stealing. Joshua was not in favor of this. He said, “We came for our cattle, we have found them; so let us return home in peace.” This was done. Some time later Chief Black Hawk told Joshua that he was so close to him that night that he could have reached out and touched him. The Indian was hiding behind the rock on which Joshua sat listening to their conversation and waiting to give the signal to the Indians who were hiding all around in the ravines, had the white men decided to fight.
In 1864 he rented a farm at Mona, Utah, and raised and harvested a good crop as the result of his hard work. Here the first child was born and they named him James William Sylvester. During these years Joshua had been very interested in the Indians. He had learned and could speak their language. Because of this President Brigham Young sent him many times as a messenger to the different tribes. Often he acted as an interpreter for other messengers sent by President Young. In the spring of 1865 the Black Hawk Indian War broke out. He fought the Indians for four years and took part in the battle in which Chief Black Hawk was killed. Joshua was a minute man subject to call at any minute, night or day. He belonged to the cavalry and was out on duty most of the time.
From Joshua’s own account: “As it has been requested many times at our Blackhawk Reunions that we write our history, and it was enjoined on us by Senator Smoot of Manti, who said we should write it if it were ever so crude. Judge Bodkins on that same occasion recommended the same.
“The Judge said in his speeck, that we had only gone through the same experience, as other states and territories; when Seantor Smoot showed, that we were a thousand miles from civalization , and had no chance to get help from the Government, in time of need.
“Many who live now, do not know of these things, so I just make mention. I remember many of the Indian Wars, beginning with the Walker War; when my father was called out at a moments notice, as I was in after years, but will begin with the Black Hawk War.
“It was in the Spring of Sixty-five, when we were busy plowing and planting, that the news came to Gunison, where I lived, that the Indians had killed a man at 12 mile creek, and that they had gone up Salina Canion , and killed Barney Ward and another man and driven off all the Salina stock.
“The next morning a compnay of us started with Bishop Karns to look for a band of horses.
“While we were out of town, word came from Manti, to raise men and ammunition and get to Salina, as soon as possible. Not finding the horses, (they having been taken by the Indians), we were returning home when about half way between Gunison and Salina we met the Gunison boys, the sons of Bishop Karns with them.
“They said that they had got my bed clothes with them, expecting to meet us. I told them it was no use for me to go, as I had only one bullet for my gun, but William Karns said, ‘Come on you’ll get some bullets’, so Andrew Anderson and I went, the Bishop and the others returned home. We found men gathered at Salina from all parts of Sanpete. I begam inquiring for bullets, when I was informed that Barney Ward had been seen molding some for his pistol which was the size I wanted, and as he did not have his pistol with him, when he was killed they must be in his trunk, so acordingly , some one went with me it then being dark, and we had no light, and he was laid out a corpse on the trunk, or chest. We raised him up grovelled around untill I found them.
“Firing of the one I had in the gun the next morning and reloading with one of his with a good charge of powder I started with the comand , up the canion , in order to overtake the Indians and get the stock, for they had taken all that Salina had.
“We followed the trail through narrow places and above precipeses and under cliffs, until we came to where they had just killed a beef; there we put on advance guard, and advanced untill we had passed a narrow place on the trail, when the Indians fired the signal gun, and they all opned fire from the rocks above, on the steep sides of the mountain; we found then that we were traped .
“Cornell Allred then gave orders for a retreat to a ridge below in order to flank, where we made a stand. I will here state that bullets were passing over our heads like hail, and had they known how their guns were carring they could have shot us down fast, but in shooting down hill a bullet will raise so they over shot, but their trap was well layed, for they had aranged to close in on the trail behind, and three or four could have cleared the trai, but an unexpected move of ours frustrated them.
“The Officers finding that they were getting a cross fire, and had also worked down on the mountain, called for amother retreat to the next ridge so as to flank, and some of our men went to far, which hindred the Indians from closing the trail. But the Indians had got so far down the mountain that they could get good shots and we could not see one of them. William Karns was shot from his horse and killed while riding by his brother Osten and he had to leave him.
“Williams horse worked along the trail with the crowd; therefore when the second retreat was reached, there was no chance to flank. We were not aquainted with Indian War fare then, but it made us look out ever after; had it not been a provedential move, there could have been a masacree equal to that of general Custers, for bullets flew, but we could not see where they came from. We saw a few Indians run across the cannion to get a cross fire, and one that was quite a distance up the cannion, swinging his hand to them on the mountain to work down; some of us fired at him, he fell from his horse; there was a lull in the firing for a few moments. That Indian proved to be one by the name of Topaddy; the Indians said he got better, and was afterwards killed by an Indian.
“I will here relate a little incident, it was on the second retreat when we had reached the top of the ridge, another retreat had been called, I was cinching my saddle, when there was a man came up the trail holding to another man’s horses tail, he was nearly exhausted; there was a mule that had thrown a man, who was afterwards killed by the Indians. The mule had worked up the trail, but stood tangled in the reigns. The man on the horse said, get that mule, the exasted man ran to the mule and says ‘give me a knofe’, Who in the crowd has a knofe?’ I grabed my knife out of my belt and ran to him, leaving it with him, I returned to my horse; the sinch being to long the rings met on either side, and having a heavy pack on behind, when I went to get on it turned, I wanted my knife then, but he had gone, and every one else, so I had to undo a long strap. About that time bullets were coming thick and fast, so I threw the whole business and jumped the horse bare backed and soon over took the others. I see the man I let have the knife and asked what he had done with it! Pulling it out of his pockett he said, ‘Was you the man that let me have this knife that saved my life?’ That man was Frank Hyde. We marched out of the cannion feeling pretty blue. We met Bisop Karns [Kearns written in above] at the mouth of the cannion, you may imagine the feeling of a father and son on thinking of the son, and brother being left a corpse. It was a sad sight to those who witnessed the scene. It was a month or six weeks As near as I can remember before we were called out again, when the alarming news came that while Jake Harris and Bob Golisby were a little south of Salina looking after some horses they were fired on by the Indians killing Golispy. Harris got away and got to Gunnison that night. A young man by the name of Robenson (a life friend of mine), left my home that day; he came from monroe to mill and was returning with a load of flour, he had camped on the oposite side of the river from where Golispy was killed. There were some men from Monroe who camped a little below with them. In the morning he left them and started for home, the Indians saw he was alone, and they ambushed in a gulch, and as he drove up they shot him, and he fell back on the flour. The oxen whirled, they shot one of them, the other broke the bow and got a way. The men that Robinsen stayed with said they would all have been killed that night, had it not been for Robinsens dog; he growled several times that night; the people of Monroe were waiting for Robinsen to come as the whole town was out of flour. When they found him, the Indians has scalped him, took what flour they could carry off, and turned the rest out of the sacks over him. We were called out again. We got on their trail and found they had gone East to Grass Valley. We stoped at Glenwood all one day, and then, started at dusk over the mountain for Grass Valley, traveling all night, in the dark, on a rough trail. We arrived so that we could see all over the valley at daylight. We desended and unsaddled on the creek to rest, oposite a large cedar grove, and sent out the Pickett guard. It was not many moments, before we were arroused and told that the cedars were full of Indians. We were soon saddled and the grove surrounded. The first shot Marion York was shot through the breast by an Indian who lay behind a log; Captain Beach ordered the men to dismount and go into the cedars, which was soon done and they soon routed them; It was part of the band that killed Robinsen, as we found some of his things with them, the main part had gone on ahead. We returned through the head of Grass Valley, down Salina Cannion to Salina, stoping there that night and the next day. The following evening we started and traveled all night down narrow trails getting nearer Castle Valley. When we struck the valley we struck their trail where they were driving a herd of cattle towards Green River. We followed, traveling day and night untill we struck Price River where we met Cornell Ivy’s command. It was decided to still follow. There we took stock of provisions, and found that we had a pint of cracker crumbs to the man for three days. Two days took us to Green River. We lay there one day. Some of the boys swam the river and found tracks very fresh, as though they had just left that morning. Most of the boys wanted to still follow, but the officers decided, on account of being out of supplies, and horses being jaded, we had better give up the chase, which from what we found out afterwards was lucky for us. I now give the account, taken from Tomas Calwell, who in the years afterwards, talked with Jake Aropean (a chief). He told Calwell that he saw him come to the river and get water and could have shot him. Calwell said, ‘Why dident you”? He said he dident want to. He also said that they could have shot the ment that swam the river. ‘Why dident you shoot them,’ asked Calwell. The Indian replied that they wanted all the men to get in the river, then the water would have been red. He said they were abmushed and as soon as we all got into the river they would have opened fire. We started back the next morning, traveling two days and nights, without food, on the third day we wanted to kill a horse; the officers told us, if we did not meet suplies that day, we might kill one, but that night at the mouth of Rock Cannion we met men, with packs of supplies. We tore saics open and filled our pockets and shirt bossoms with biscuits, and started up the trail. We could only go single file, untill we go on top the mountain, some did not get in untill next morning. The next day we all took our different courses for our homes, from the top of the mountain. The Gunison boys arrived there at one o’clock in the night singing, ‘We Will Rally Round the Flag Boys”. I never hear that tune but I think of that night.
“While we were gone to Green River there was a band of Indians attacked the settlement of Glenwood, firing on them from the hills. It was suposed to be part of the band that we caught at Cedar Grove, so in a few days, there was a call for men to go to Fish Lake, where it was suposed they had a rendevouse. Acordingly, we dried and sacked our beef, and the women baked the crackers and we started. Just before we reached the lake, we were attacked by the Indians in ambush wounding General Snow in the shoulder. Orson Taylor was also wounded. It was their scheme to attack, kill all that came their way, drive off the stock at different points, so as to draw men from home, and so it went.
“Salina was stripped of all their stock three different times. Theymade a rade on Richfield, drove off their stock and killed and mutulated the bodies of some women and a girl that were going over to Glenwood. They were seen prowling around Marysvalle. A company was sent from Richfield to help them, and arriving there about one o’clock in the night. The Indians were ambushed by the side of the road. Just before they reached the ford they fired on them killing two men and wonding others. They made a rade on Circle Valley, drove off their stock, and met a man just returning from Sanpete, he had his wife and one child, he got them out of the wagon and ran into some brush, they, seeing he had a pistol did not follow him, for an Indian will never follow a man into ambush if he knows he is armed, and so on it went, untill it was decided to break up all the settlements on the river, south of Gunison, as we could not protect so long a line. That fall we hawled grain and drive a large herd of cattle to Salt Lake City, to buy guns, pistols and amunition, paying as high as forty dollars for a Remington pistol. I gave seventy five dollard for a Henery rifle and ten cents each for cartridges. The next spring men were sent from Salt Lake and Utah counties, to assist in guarding the country. I will give an acount of a little affair.
“It was the second spring after the war began. Myself and some Gunison boys had gone to Marysvalle prospecting, there having been gold discovered there, six of us were returning home; we camped in the abandoned town of Monroe for the night. Next morning we started. When we got to the Rocky Ford about twenty-five miles, we saw a lone horse on the oposite side of the river. We also saw fresh pony and cattle tracks. When we got over the river we saw a lone wagon. We were going to stop for dinner but when we drove up to the wagon, we saw that the tugs had been cut off the single trees; we also saw mogasen [moccasin] tracks. We decided we did not want dinner, so we drove on, wondering what had happened. When we came to the road that led to Cepeo [Scipio], we found a board laid across, on which was written, ‘We have taken the dead man from Cipieo to Gunison’. We drove on west side of the river, they could see our dust from Gunison for a long distance and they imagined they could see Indians chasing us, and as a squad of men had just arrived from Manti and were already mounted, they pushed on to meet us, though the sun had gone down, and it was getting dusk. As they were coming up one side of the slope and us the other, when we reached the top and saw their dust, we thought of nothing but Indians and we grabbed our pistols and guns, but right then I took command telling the boys not to fire a shot untill I told them, and if they made a move to surround us, we would let them have a shot, and I would run the team to the river bank where we could get breast works. Some of them kept wanting to shoot. I kept telling them not, and kept eying the squad; finially I said that it might not be Indians, they could all see at once that is was not, there was big excitement in Guinson for all they knew it was us that was coming. When we got home we found that where the lone horse stool there had been a company that were going to put crops in at Richfield; the Indians had attacked them and they had carrelled their wagons and intrenched, and stood them off untill finely Axle Iversen mounted a smarter horse than they had and broke through their lines and got the express to Gunison. One man was killed in that camp. It was composed of a good many old men and little boys. Some would load guns while the best marks men would do the shooting. I will say in conclusion besides all this, we tore our houses down and moved into line of fort, My father tore down and built his house five times on acount of Indians, and this is how the country was maintained. We were minute men suposed to be ready at a moments notice. If you had a horse he must be ready for you or someone else when word came for help. some times a team would be stopped, a horse taken out of the harness, a man would jump on its back and away they would go. I will relate the next trip we had after Indians. We moved from Gunison to Cannara Iron County, after living there a couple of years we had a raid from the Navajoes. It was in the fall of the year, I think it was the later part of September, after a very dark night I got up and found my fences torn down and some horses gone, after breakfast I rode to town which was about a mile off. I found the boys saddling what horses they could get hold of for the most of their stables were empty. There had been a man from Dixie stopping in the place; before going to bed, he went to see to his mules which were in a correll, he found the bars down, he put them up, and thought it would be better to have the mules hobbled, so he went and got the hobbles which were iron and put them on the mules. Next morning he found his mules shot with arrows, that with the horses being gone out of the stables gave it away, so away we went after them; there being a little fall of snow on the mountain, we could easily track. We pushed on until dark, when we discovered them, they had just started a fire, we crawled on, and just, as we were ready to fire the Indians heard and made a jump and ran; We fired; We got our horses which they had, and their outfit and returned home, when we found that other raids had been made that nightall along the line for about forty miles. A man by the name of Nebecker, was camped outside of town he lost all of his mules. Had we known they were gone, we could have headed them off. We found that they had been prowling for a week or two, gathering horses and getting ready to make the brake all in one night. They had sat on the hill and seen men put their horses in the stables, and when they could find the door in the dark they got them. They got to my stable, but I supose they could not find the door, I had driven four old cows and an ox to a nice little spot of grass, by a spring on the mountains. The Indians had camped there and killed them and dried the meat. The[y] drove stock from all those points, and it was not discovered, untill they were gone, and had it not been for that Indian getting vexed and shooting the mules, because he could not get the hobbles off, their raid would have been a complete success. So this was how it was all the time; the Indians could sit on the mountains and see where our stock was and what we were doing, make a dash, kill people that were at work in the fields or traveling the road, and rush the stock into the mountains, leaving some to drive them on, while others fell back on the trail, to ambush those that pursued them; therefore we hardly ever got onto them unless they had the advantage. Therefore when we were out in the mountains, our mothers, wives and sisters anxiously waiting to hear from us were the greatest sufferers, and if they saw any one come riding past they all rushed to hear the news, but while they had womans fears they had soldier’s hearts, and got provisions ready out of their scanty suplies, and often molded bullets for us while we were getting other things rady, but never said don’t go.
“It might be well to add that after the settlement on the river was broke up the Indians had to go farther west to the older settlements, and men were sent from Salt Lake and Utah Counties to help guard Sanpete Co. Those men were like we were in the begining not onto their job.
“The Salt Lake men were camped at Thistle Valley on the north end of Sanpete. The Indians came in on them, and got all their horses but one, killed one of the night guards, and surounded them, firing on them from the cedars on the hills, and crawled up a gulch on another side. A man had been out riding and had just come in and had not unsaddled, he jumped on the horse and broke through the lines and got word to Mount Pleasant, about 25 miles off, Cornell John Ivy, with his minute men rushed to their aid. When the Indians saw them they left. That same summer they ambushed and killed Magor Vance and Houtz, near 12 Mile Creek on their return from Gunison to Manti. They were Utah County [men]. They made a raid on Cipieo at Round Valley, drove off a large band of horses and cattle. They also made a raid on Parawan, but were defeated, the Parawan night guards discovered them gathering stock and got word to town, and men came out and fought them that night and till noon next day, and they had to go without the stock. Such was the early life in Utah. I have not given dates to all that transpired, for it is a sketch of a history of over forty years ago. I now feel glad to see the beautiful towns and cities, that have sprang up, where once I heard the warwhoop of the wild savage, and may the desendents of pioneers live long to enjoy the blessings gained by the old Vetrens of Utah.
[It is then signed ‘J.W.Sylvester Happy New Year.’”
In 1869 Joshua was called to help settle the Dixie Country. His parents also received the call. Some of the family located at Kanara and others went on to St. George. Joshua and family rented a large ranch from a brother-in-law, Joseph Birch, at Kanarra. They lived on this ranch for seven years. Joshua developed a love for this areas that would be demonstrated later in his life when he would again return to file for land and water and establish another home in the Mesquite, Nevada area.
But by this time there were three children ready for school. Joshua and Christine wanted the best schooling available for their children so they decided to move farther north. They had accumulated enough to buy a large farm in Central, Utah and a home three miles north in Richfield, then quite a promising town.
Richfield at this time was living under the Mormon Church law of the “United Order.” Although always reluctant to talk about this part of their father’s life, it is known through his children that Joshua was asked to join the United Order in Richfield. Joshua agreed that he would join, but his stipulations were a bit more then the brethren would agree to. That was that sine he had brought into the area cattle and equipment that seemed to him to be the equivalent in monetary value of that of any of the presiding brethren, he felt that he should have a home built by them, the equivalent of those that the presiding brethren lived in. This they refused to do and Joshua lived in Richfield “in the world” of the United Order, but not “of it.” There is, of course, no proof or record that this was the reason Joshua received a new call that took him out of the city of Richfield.
The stake authorities called Joshua to go to Elsinore, Utah, some seven miles south, to preside over that branch of the Church. This seems to indicate a confidence in Joshua’s abilities to lead and in his dedication to the church, despite what may have happened in Richfield. Joshua was ordained a High Priest in the LDS Church on 16 July 1877 by Apostle Erastus Snow. A letter from George M. Jones, Clerk of the Sevier Stake dated 26 May 1911 quotes from “The Stake History”:
“Richfield, Sept 16, 1876
“Brother Joshua Sylvester, with the approval of President Brigham Young you are appointed to take charge of the settlement of Elsinore as Prest. and acting Bishop. It is desire that you immediately enter upon the dutiies of your office, and as soon as convenient identify your interests with the said settlement, as far at least as to reside in their midst.
Signed, A.K. Thurber, Prest. Stake ...”
The letter continues, “I find Joshua Sylvester as bishop of Elsinore, ordained by Orson Hyde the date of this meeting is July 15, 1877 and I take it that the ordinances were performed on that date. The organisation of the Elsinore Ward I would say was on the date of the appointment of Bishop Sylvester Sept. 16th 1876.” The manuscript history of the ward says Elsinore was not officially organized as a ward until 15 Jun 1877.
There had been some trouble among the saints there and many were in direct opposition to the church authorities.
The first settlers had come to Elsinore in 1875. There were about 15 families. They were all Danish so chose the name Elsinore for their new home. Joshua’s children indicated there was some resentment among these Danish people that an Englishman should be chosen to preside over them. They tolerated the situation, however, because Joshua’s two wives were Danish and he had learned to speak their language.
According to the Deseret News report of 15 February 1877 “he was well received by the people.” The News also reported that a school house had been built. (The land had been donated by Joshua, and several teachers lived in their home while teaching in Elsinore.) A cooperative store had been started and plans for a canal had been made. This canal was later completed at a cost of $3,000, all the work being done by the farmers. The Deseret News described the settlers by saying, “A loafer is not known in this place and it is not expected that any one of that type could live here. A more industrious set of people could not be found. Peace and good feeling prevail in the settlement.”
Joshua was a good leader and a kind friend to everyone. By 1877 there were forty families in Elsinore. The bishopric decided they needed a church. The people were called together and Joshua told them about their plans, asking for their support, and saying that if every man, woman and child would work hard they could accomplish this task and be blessed. In six months time the church was built and paid for and served the ward until 1911. It was a brick structure twenty-nine by forty-eight feet in size.
When the church was completed they had a three day celebration. The ward record indicates that a John Hossler from Mt. Pleasant was in Elsinore in the spring of 1881 and “taught music. An organ was purchased from him for the meeting house, each family paying their proportion according to their meand. Eliza Sylvester and Mahala Bell [later Joshua’s daughter-in-law] were the organists.” The family history records that Joshua presented the ward with an organ that two of his sons, Ralph and Josh Jr., hauled by team and wagon from Salt Lake City and that they arrived with it just in time for the celebration.
Joshua loved music. He had a find bass voice and sang in public a great deal. He had an organ in his home and several of his children qcquired their love for music through his efforts. He brought several musicians into the community that he paid for himself. He had a find bass voice and sang in public a great deal. Brother Thomas Durham came to Elsinore during the days of the polygamist “Underground.” He lived in Joshua’s home together with a wife and several children for more than a year. Brother Durham was a musician of great skill and a teacher whose art was practiced in Joshua’s home. The whole community benefited from Brother Durham’s stay there. His daughter, Elizabeth, rememberd a 24th of July celebration when the town’s brass band came around the house to serenade the Bishop and his family. The family all came out to the long porch that ran the full length of the house to hear the martial music. The Bishop became so enthused that he took off his black coat and turned it inside out with the red silk lining showing and danced a prancing dance up and down the length of the porch several times. When the band finished its number the members all laid down their instruments and vigorously appplauded the Bishop.
During the winter of 1887-88 there was a terrible epidemic of diphtheria in Elsinore. Fifteen children died. Joshua went into the homes of the stricken families and was quarantined at different placed for six weeks. Not one of his family contracted the disease.
His home was a place where many people came. As Bishop, many traveling church authorities were housed there. Any and all travelers were made welcome and were given help if in need. One of his elder daughters, Ada, said, “The children never slept in the same bed two nights in succession, they were shifted around so much to make room for visitors.”
Joshua served as bishop for twelve years and did much for his community. He donated the land where the present school house stands and also the lot where the church was built. He was one of a committee that chose the sight for the Otter Creek Reservoir, which has meant so much to the people of Sevier County. He served as a county commissioner, and was a school trustee for many years. He was a lover of music and brought several musicians into the community that he paid for himself. He had a find bass voice and sang in public a great deal.
As bishop, Joshua also handled disputes between neighbors, particularly when there was no magistrate of the civil court available. There are amusing tales told in the family of some of those court sessions. The Joshua’s own son became involved in a prank with a man known as “Wooden-shoe-maker.” Josh Jr. with some other boys cut the tails of several sheep belonging to the “Wooden-shoe-maker.” This so incensed the man that he demanded a Bishop’s Court Session with appropriate punishment. The Bishop ruled that the boys would have to work for “Wooden-shoe-maker” for several days in lieu of hard cash, as money was a scarce commodity. This they did, repenting at length of their prank. The memory of Elizabeth of the event is that Bishop Joshua had a hard time keeping a straight face while listening to the case. Josh’s son Herman however, remembers later years when a small jail was built. Herman remembered being locked in the jail for staying out past the nine o’clock curfew hour. The curfew bell was rung and the town Marshal would jail any juvenile out on the streets after that hour.
On 5 Feb 1885 “the house of Peter K. Kristensen was the scene this Evening of a delightfull gathering in honor of 42 birthday anniversary of our hon. Bishop J.W. Sylvester, the throng was a joyous one and consisted of a large Number of Citizens of this place. After supper the party enjoyed them self in dance extext. the party made the bishop an present of some very handsome and usefull Articels and at a late hour the party adjourned wishing many happy returns to the bishop.” Again in 1886 “a surprise party on Bp. Sylvester by the people of the ward was an occasion of much enjoyment. A wholesome and tasty banquet followed by dancing, singing etc. It was his birthday.”
Surprise parties were a favorite pastime. In March 1890 there was a surprise party for Jas. I. Jensen [one of Joshua’s counselors in the bishopric] who was being called to go on a mission to Scandinavia. “Bishop Sylvester, together with the Relief Society and the Saints in general, uniteand in the meeting-house of that place served up a dinner well woorthy a king’s table to which the whole town was invited together with your humble servant from Richfield, without however, Bro. Jensen having the least suspicion of any such thing going on before being called to the place. When all were comfortably seated and prayer offered by the Bishop, a well-filled purse was presented to Bro Jensen, made up from donations. An essay was then read by Mrs. [Caroline] Sylvester, expressing the great respect and esteem in which Bro. Jensen was held by the Saints of Elsinore.”
Also as bishop, Joshua spoke to the congregation in Elsinore on many occasions. The ward minutes of 20 Dec 1885 record that “Bp. J.W. Sylvester occupied the most of the time in addressing the congregation in his usual interestingly and instructive manner.” On 5 Aug 1883 he spoke to them, “touching more or less on the importance of sustaining our own institutions [wards, or local congregations].” On 29 Apr 1883 he spoke “for some length of time on subjects pertaining to our temporal and spiritual welfare especially home manufacture and the course we ought to take to become selfsustaining.” In a Relief Society meeting on 5 Apr 1883 he talked about diligence to one’s call, and that for many years he had learned a good deal of the Danish language that had served him well in his current calling. He spoke of the church being organized in its fulness and about how big an influence a mother has with children and the obligation to teach them.
Joshua was released as bishop on 27 Nov 1887. “At a public meeting ... Prest. William H. Seegmiller being present, Jens Iver Jensen was sustained as a future Bishop of Elsinore, instead of Joshua W. Sylvester, whose financial condition made it necessary for him to be absent from home.”
In about 1905 Joshua left Elsinore. It was so cold up there and he felt like “his old bones needed to get out of that cold country.” He homesteaded a piece of land about three miles east of Mesquite, Nevada. It was actually in Arizona, just over the state line. Nephi Johnson had moved here from Elsinore and had homsteaded a place on the Virgin River. Joshua homesteaded a piece just above him. He farmed there, but water was hard to get onto the land from the Virgin River and farming was not very profitable. Today, however, a dam in the river had made water plentiful and this same farm is one of the show places of that valley and a very valuable piece of property, attached to the Peppermill Golf Course.
After settling in Mesquite, Joshua made frequent trips to St. George. His sister, Roseinia, was married to George Jarvis. George Jarvis’ first wife was Eleanor Woodbury, who had a sister named Clara. After Clara’s husband died, Joshua and Clara were introduced. She was having a struggle with her young family and Joshua felt like he wanted a family to share his ranch with. Margaret recalls, “Mother said she liked and respected him right from the first. She knew he was a good man and that he would be good to her and to her little family.” On 14 Apr 1908 Joshua married Clara Woodbury Barlow for time only in the St. George Temple. She had six children by her first husband, Herbert Arthur Barlow, five of whom were living. Three more children were born after her marriage to Joshua, Horace Greeley, Margaret and Lenora. This made a total of twenty-three children born to Joshua William Sylvester. One of Clara’s daughters, Alice Barlow Alldredge wrote, “He was a very good father to all of us and the only way you could tell which were his own children was by their names.”
Joshua also bought a little rock house in Mesquite. It was the first house that was built there and is still standing (1994). However, after his marriage to Clara Woodbury Barlow in 1908 and the birth of their son, Horace, Joshua being age 66 at that time, he felt a need for the family to move from town to the ranch to alleviate the three-mile trip between their home and ranch each day, as this was very tiring. Here they set up “housekeeping” in a tent with a dirt floor and a little shed made of limbs. One can imagine a southern Nevada summer in these conditions. All the water they had was dipped from a ditch which came from the Virgin River. “It was very, very hard water. Hard to wash in, hard to drink and all, but that’s all the water they had. There was a spring across the river that they could go over and fill up barrels, but it was quite a few miles over to that spring. But they did haul a barrel and have drinking water when there wasn’t a flood in.”
Joshua built corrals, had his barnyard and haystacks and did raise good produce, hay and grain. However he had a difficult time with water for his crops also as “the Mesquite people had built the canal before he moved there, and they thought it belonged to them and would only let him have a turn of water when they told him he could. And sometimes if the water was low he didn’t get a turn very often, and he had a hard time. But he was a very hard worker and a very good provider.” He built a rock house on the ranch, next to a little hill they called Arrowhead Hill because they found so many arrowheads there. There was a tin lean-to they used for a kitch and a nice fireplace.
But there was still the problem of water. So Joshua built a water wheel. “He got the material and built it all himself. Some of the men from Mesquite would come up and help him. When they helped him he always gave them a sheep or a cow or something for pay because he didn’t have the money. But they were always glad to come and help him to get something in the line of meat.” He built all the buckets for the wheel himself and could then get water from the ditch without a dam. “And the melons that he raised were just something special. He always had the best melons. And people from Mesquite would come up; the whole town would come up sometimes for a melon bust. He’d bring a wagonload of melons down and feed everybody.” He was very generous and seldom missed an opportunity to share what they had with those less fortunate. He had stock in a grist mill between the Johnson and Sylvester ranches so that they could get the flour they needed.
Life was very hard on the ranch and after a few years it was decided that they should get a place in St. George for his wife and children to spend at least the winters there. Joshua continued to work the ranch, with his wife and children in St. George, making trips back and forth.
His daughter, Margaret, says, “He was a very religious man. I know when Alice [her older half-sister] was about 9 years old she got bit by a sidewinder. A sidewinder’s really more poisonous than a rattlesnake. When he found out she was bit he tracked it to see for sure that it was sa snake that had bitten her. It was at night and they were getting reado to go to St. George to [a church] conference the next morning. They were going to leave that night because when it was so terribly hot they traveled at night more than they did in the daytime. But the first thing he did was put his hands on her head and give her a blessing that they would know what to do. And they did. They went to one of the ranches and got liquor, whiskey, and gave to her and she lived. They said for 24 hours she was as limp as a dishrag. They thought then that they had given her too much. But through his prayer they knew what to do for her and she got alright. And they did go to conference. She was very sick and in the wagon but they did go to conference.”
During this time Joshua made frequent trips to St. George and often camped near the Shemwitz Indian Reservation or Shem as it was called. In those days it took two days to make the trip from Mesquite to St. Geroge by team and wagon. Since Joshua knew the Indian language so well he became very friendly with the Indians. One Indian, by the name of Foster Charles, especially liked to visit with him. He had been to school and could read so Joshua told him about the history of the Indians or Lamanites as recorded in the Book of Mormon. He became very interested and wanted to know where he could find out more about them, so Joshua took him a Book of Mormon. When the missionaries from St. George came to the Shem, Foster joined the church and became bishop of the branch. When Joshua’s family from Mesquite were in an accident and lost some of their horses, the Indians went out immediately to look for them when they found out “it was Josh Sylvester’s family.”
Joshua did not leave his musical talents behind. “We loved to hear him sing. When he would come from Mesquite up to St. George ... his sister, Allie Gregerson lived just across the street. He would go over there on her front porch and sing song after song. He just really had a beautiful voice. And I can remember him singing with Annie Leavitt, List Leavitt’s wife here in Mesquite. She had a beautiful soprano voice and he would sing tenor and they would sing in sacrament meeting.... I’ll never forget what a beautiful voice father had.”
In 1919 he decided to sell the ranch. He felt he was getting old (76!) and working the ranch nearly alone was not easy. He sold the ranch to three men, William E. Abbott, George Bowler and a Mr. Waymire. They pooled their money and gave him some money down and were to pay the rest when they could. Joshua also owned a piece of ground in Mesquite, about 20 acres, with fruit trees and grapes and a nice little piece to farm. He had a sheep wagon that he lived in - hot in the summer and cold in the winter! It had a stove and a table and bed and “that’s where he lived after he sold the ranch.”
His wife, Clara’s, health was not good and so she moved with the children back to Mesquite. Traded her home in St. George for lumber. Joshua continued to live in his sheep wagon and would join the family for dinner at noon, but fixed his own breakfast and “just had bread and milk at night.”
The last years of his life were spent in Utah during the summer months and in Sawtell, California, at a Veterans Home in the winter. His health was very poor and “he wore a truss all the time. So he went down there this one winter and really enjoyed it. He said there was lots of veterans there to talk to. And he was always a talker.... when we would go from [Mesquite] to St. George if he met someone on the road that he knew, we could just depend on being there for a couple of hours while he talked.” He would send the family oranges and other citrus fruit while there. The next winter he decided to go back. “He said they got good care and he was out of the cold and so he decided to go back. It was there that he got quite sick and the children from up in Utah had him come there and he stayed there until he passed away.”
The land in Nevada and Arizona he had intended to insure a living and an education for his family did not go to them because of problems with the taxes. George Bowler gained title of the land. Joshua said that “Someday when they can get water on that upper bench this is going to be a beautiful place.” The ranch has now been made into a sports farm owned by the Peppermill Hotel, with the golf course on that bench - and it is beautiful.
Joshua William Sylvester died 31 May 1925 at the age of 82 while at the home of his daughter, Elizabeth Jensen, in Eureka, Utah. He said he had been greatly blessed. All of his children had honored his name and were true to the faith. “No greater blessing could come to any man.” He was a very religious man. His faith was that of a little child. He never questioned the divinity of Christ nor the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. His mission in live had been to serve his fellow man.
Joshua had children by three of his four wives.
His first wife, Christine Christensen or Jensen, was born in Mygdal, Hjorring county, Denmark on 19 Apr 1847. She was the daughter of Jens Christian Christensen, a mason, and Margarethe Nielsen. Christine was christened as Christine Jensen in Mygdal on 30 May 1847. Her sister, Maren Jensen or Christensen, was born 23 Dec 1844 and christened 12 Jan 1845. She died in Mygdal 11 Nov 1858. A notation in the burial record indicates her family were “Mormons” and that regular Lutheran church burial rites were not given. This sister was sealed as a wife to Joshua William Sylvester on 16 Mar 1877 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
Christine was chosen as a counselor to Marie Nielsen, the first Relief Society president in Elsinore, on 9 December 1877. She was serving as the Relief Society President at the time of her death on 28 September 1881 in Bellevue. “Bp. Sylvester’s wife Christine died at Kanarra in Octbr. She was a woman of many virtues and greatly beloved by all who knew her. She left a large number of children to mourn her departure.” She was the mother of seven children; James William, Christine Eliza, Rebecca Olena, Roseinia, Joshua Benjamin, Ralph and Emma.
Caroline was also born in Mygdal on 19 June 1853 and christened 28 Jun 1853 as Caroline Carlsen. She was the daughter of Marie Petrine Christensdatter and Carl Christian Warberg, though her parents were not married. Caroline, or Carlie as she was called, married Joshua William Sylvester in May 1873. She had been raised for a while in the same household as Joshua’s first wife, Christine. They were very beautiful women and were a great help to him in his work. Both served as the first President of the Y.L.M.I.A. (Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association) from 1878 to the fall of 1882. She was appointed as counselor of the Relief Society on 6 Dec 1883. Caroline was a very efficient nurse and spent much of her time caring for the sick and needy in the community.
She is consistenly listed in the Relief Society records as donating eggs to the ward. She also spoke to the sisters frequently. “Sister Charline Sylvester spock very interesting sade we should not speck evel about one another fore we are not to gouch [judge] but our God who art in heaven shal gouch us[.] sa[i]d we could incrise a good deel faster in Wisdom and knolige then we do if we would take a holde and try to do our best she spock a good dele about the Primere [Primary] and other good points.” On 7 Feb 1889 she “spoke about how easy we can be lead estroy [astray] and say or do any thing which we afterwords will regret spoke on the training of our children and the responsibility of Mothers.” On 5 Oct 1889, “Sister Sylvester said she was grateful that she could meet here to day - thought if we gave after for every little trifle we could about always stay at home.... The lord put us here to see if we would work out our own salvation.... Spoke about the responsibility that rested upon mothers in regard to their children. Belived God would be more merciful to the mothers than our brethren ... Thought that mothers shouldmeet in the primaries with their children look after that the children learned their part for the meetings. The mothers should leave a little of their work and labor a little more with their children, spoke also about the advantages the children had now contrary to former days.”
On 6 Nov 1889 “Sister Sylvester wished we could remember all the good things we hear. When we study over these things we feel well. It is right that we should have trials. This life is short how we whould make use of it. God understand our nature that is a great blessing ... Spoke about a fallen man a drunkard the sorrow of his poor family - What a blessing to have noble children.” The last reference to her speaking in Relief Society on 5 Dec 1889 is an interesting reflection of her character, “Sister Karoline Sylvester said she remembered Brigham Young said in her hearing that we would be called to answer for every useless trimmings we had put on our dresses. Some might say that she was very oldfashioned but was not ashamed. Incouraged the mothers to read good books - and get knowledge that they might be ably [sic] to raise their children in a proper way.”
Her daughter Althea Sylvester Howe wrote of her: “Mother was a beautiful intelligent woman, small in statu[r]e, with a cheerful heppy disposition. She was neat and attractive in appearance, crsupulously clean with her self her children and her home. She had high ideals and taught her children to be prayful, honest, truthful, and to be respectful to those in authority and older people—and to be generous and helpful to all in need. Mother took part in all the activities of the church and all the social affairs of the town. She had a beautiful soprano voice and sang in the choir and at all social gatherings. She also was a fine reader and we all remember the many wonderful evenings at home when she would rad to us stories from the juvenile instructor.... Mother was an expert knitter and knit all the stockings the family wore. She did beautiful spinning and weaving, her embroidery and needle work won much praise.... she never sat down with out some thing in her hands to do. She was a splendid nurse and spent much of her time careing [sic] for the sick.”
Caroline died at Elsinore on Tuesday, 23 Aug 1892. “Sister Caroline Sylvester wife of Ex Bp. J.W. Sylvester died suddenly. She had been ailing for some time but all thought she was getting better. She has for many years been a prominent worker in most of the different Societies and organizations in the ward and possessed more than usual ability. She leaves nine children of which the smallest is a very young baby. Her funeral took place the next day and was largely attended. Thirty seven vehicles followed her remains to the grave.” She was the mother of thirteen children; Hadava or Ada, Althea, Dora Lavina, Elizabeth or Libby, George Albert, Caroline or Carrie, Agnes, Arthur Franklin, Eleanor, Wilford Woodruff, Herman Cyrus, Claudi[u]s, and Curtis. Five of the children, including the youngest mentioned above, died in infancy.
Joshua was married to Ottomine or Minnie Katrine Bertelsen Frandsen on 19 December 1894 in the Manti Temple by John Daniel Thompson McAllister. (Her sealing to her first husband, Lars Frandsen, was cancelled on 8 Dec 1894. She had eight children in her first marriage. She was born 15 Jun 1847 in Staarup, Viborg, Denmark and died 8 July 1925 in Salt Lake City. Family tradition has it that Joshua and Minnie were divorced, but no record has been found of this, and the sealing in the Manti Temple was not cancelled.
Joshua’s fourth wife was Clara Woodbury, widow of Herbert Arthur Barlow. Clara, as stated previously, was the sister of George Jarvis’ first wife, Eleanor Woodbury. They were married 14 April 1908 in St. George. Clara sold her little home in St. George and they moved to Mesquite. “They loaded all of her furniture and belongings in the wagon and started for Mesquite. There was mother and five little children and father and all the furniture. The road was so bad, so rocky and bumpy and all, it’s a wonder they got here with anything. But when they did get here and started to unload they found that the back had come off from one of the dressers that held all their important papers; their marriage license, their patriarchal blessings and all of mother’s sheets and things like that she had to set up housekeeping had been just strung across the mountain. They didn’t know where. And there was never any of it recovered. They had to get by without that.”
Clara had five children when she married Joshua. Her daughter Alice stayed out of school one year to help care for Joshua on the Mesquite ranch when their second child was born. “It was then that he [Joshua] called her [Alice] his little housekeeper. A senator and some of the state officials were coming and they were coming to the ranch to see Papa and mother would not stay there, because she said ‘I just can’t meet them under these circumstances.’ We had a dirt floor, just the very meager necessities of life. But alice did, she stayed she made bread, she cooked the dinner for them and everything and they just thought that was so great. But father thought just as much of Alice as he did [his other] kids. She was just such a special little girl in his life, always so good to him. But she stayed right there, and took care of him, and fixed dinner for these men. A couple of weeks after the had left, she got a box of candy, and it said ‘To the best little housekeeper in the state.’ She always prized that, said it was full of candy and she just really thought that was something very special.”
REBECCA OLENA SYLVESTER JOHNSON
Rebecca’s short life is a sadly typical example of the difficulty of childbearing in the days prior to modern medicine and antibiotics. She was born December 13th, 1869 in Kanarra. She moved with her family to Elsinore when her father was called as Bishop there.
She was called as a Sunday School teacher on 11 Feb 1883 (at the age of 13!) in the Elsinore Ward. Her future husband, Chris Johnson, her sister Eliza Sylvester, and her future sister-in-law, Mahala Bell were among other teachers listed at that time. Chris Johnson contributed the rather large sum of $2 in May 1883 to the Young Ladies and Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association to be sent to S. C. Petersen who was serving a mission in Denmark for the emigration of the poor. He also served in the Superintendency of the Sunday School in 1889 and 1900.
As she grew to womanhood, she was courted by Chris Johnson. When he told his employer that he was seeing her, the employer was surprised, and told Chris that “if you get Becky Sylvester to marry you, I’ll give you my best horse.” We can only hope that he kept his promise. A good horse was important to Chris as he ran the livery stable in Elsinore. He furnished horses and “white top” buggies to salesmen who covered the southern part of the state. The railroad went to Elsinore and then buggies were hired to get south to St. George.
Rebecca and Christian Johnson, who had been christened in Copenhagen as Hans Carl Christian Johansen, were married in the Manti Temple on 30 April 1890. Their first daughter, Ethel, was born 28 May 1891 in Elsinore, and their second daughter, Christene, known as Christe or Christie, was born 11 Apr 1893. Rebecca died a month later on 9 May 1893 and was buried on 11 May 1893.
This left Chris with two young daughters. Christie went to live with her mother’s cousin, Emma Birch Tuft, who had a young son, Vivan, just a little older than Christie. Aunt Emma was able to nurse the baby and care for her for the first couple of years of her life. Ethel was sent to live with one of the other cousins. Although Chris remarried, and stayed close to the girls, they did not live with him and his new wife. He also died young, on 3 June 1911, when the girls were 20 and 18 years old. After his death Ethel went to live with Aunt Eliza Sylvester and Christie lived with her father’s sister, Aunt Caroline Johnson. The sisters never lived together until they were retired.
Ethel would go to her Grandma Johnson’s [Margrethe Pedersen, 1835-1901] house after school. Her Grandma Johnson never learned to speak English. Grandma would give her bread with cream and sugar and always made sure Ethel was wearing the knit shirt she had made. Ethel’s were blue and Christie’s were pink, also their stockings. Christie had a hard time and would tear hers. She learned quickly how to darn them.
When Ethel was about four, she had a bad case of ringworm and was being pushed in a baby carriage. Christie was walking alongside when they met a woman in the town. She looked at them, raved about Chris, then told Ethel they didn’t look a bit alike. Chris once won a “Most Beautiful Baby Contest” in the county. When Chris asked Ethel why she won, Ethel told her it was because she was the ugliest baby! But Ethel was never really jealous of Chris. Chris went to school in Provo, Ethel in Salt Lake. Once on a date in Provo, a young man asked if it was a joke that they were sisters because they did not look alike. Ethel wrote on 31 Aug 1991, shortly after her 100th birthday. “I have always been so happy with both my Johnson and my Sylvester families and they are so different but I love them equally. Chris got the Sylvester looks and Johnson disposition and I’m so definitely Johnson in looks and Sylvester in disposition that it’s almost unbelievable.”
The girls attended a very good school with an outstanding teacher, who was also the teacher in Sunday School and Young Women’s meetings. She made all the students realize how important the rules of etiquette were. When the graduated from eighth grade, their education was equal to, if not better than, a high school education today. After her graduation, Ethel went to Brigham Young Academy, which was one large brick building, for two years, at a cost of $26 a year for tuition! She then transferred to a business college in Ogden.
After finishing college, she got a job with the Crane Company in Salt Lake City as secretary to the manager. One of her friends worked for Harold Smoot and was offered a position in Senator Reed Smoot’s office in Washington D.C. She was not interested and recommended Ethel. Ethel went to Washington D.C. in about 1916, when about 25 years old. This was the beginning of 34 years of working in Washington. She worked as a secretary in Senator Smoot’s office for 13 of the 30 years that he was in the Senate, even living in his home with his wife, Althea Dinwoodie and their children for a time. Ethel said Senator Smoot once remarked about polygamy that “Goodness knows one [wife] is too much!” These were pleasant, interesting and worthwhile years.
The Senator’s “First Secretary” was Logan Morris. The secretaries had a lot of fun. There were also five college boys who worked in the office, including Truman Young and Matthew Cowley. If they were through with their work at 1:00 they could lock the door and go, or stay in the office. One day, the door was locked but someone knocked. Ethel didn’t have her shoes on and one was hanging from a chandelier, and the visitor was [LDS] President Heber J. Grant. Another time one of the men threw a typewriter at Truman Young. The typewriter belonged to Earl, and he was a very serious young man and very worried about the typewriter.
When the Senator left Washington she got a position in the Defense Department in Personnel, later transferring to the Legal Division of the Veterans Administration. She worked in St. Louis and in New York where she lived at the Christadora Settlement House in Greenwich village. It had been built by the Curtis Publishing Company for struggling students of the arts. After World Ward II began it was opened to German refugees and the public. Ethel was fortunate to get a lovely room on the 14th floor. She was very involved in social events; house parties, theater, opera and other cultural events, and bridge.
She moved back to Washington D.C. and traveled extensively, including 7 cruises, one around the world in 60 days, and another 30 day cruise to Europe. The latter was devoted to bridge almost exclusively. “I believe if you play bridge, you are always popular.” She also took night classes at George Washington University, attended lectures, and did volunteer work at the hospital.
After her retirement from the goverment, she worked for a friend in her travel agency. She then decided to go to Salt Lake for a visit. Plans were changed and much to the delight of her family, she decided to remain instead of settling back in D.C. She spent the next ten years between Salt Lake and Riverside, California. She went there to visit friends who had recently married. They wanted to go to Europe and Ethel offered to watch over their home. Little did she know what she was starting because similar requests came from an admiral, a general, a colonel, and many others. She requested no salary, but made the houses her home. That way she stayed a friend instead of a paid employee.
After her sister Christie’s husband’s death in 1971 she decided to live in Salt Lake City with her sister. She was always grateful that she had so many lovely friends and a family that was more than attentive. Even when over 100 years old she always had her hair done, and “dressed” to go anywhere. A true lady of a nearly forgotten era. She was always interested in political activities, and was very involved with the Republican party. She averaged about 12 pieces of mail a day up until her death.
When asked how it felt to be 100 years old, she answered, “I can’t forget the good old days when I wasn’t a hundred years old. It was a good life. Everything considered, I should be happy, and I really am.” She never married but enjoyed the love of her many nieces and nephews.
Christie lived with “Aunt Em”, her mother’s cousin, Emma Tuft, until she was almost 4 years old. She lived in Monroe with cousins until her father died. She then lived with her aunt Caroline Johnson. She attended Brigham Young Academy in Provo, with the persuasion and assistance of Aunt Eliza Sylvester. “We invited Christie Johnson to come and live with us and go to school. Christie was my half-sister Becky’s daughter.... This year at college qualified Christie Johnson so that she was able to teach the lower grades. She tuaght school at Joseph, Sevier County, Utah.”
On 25 Jun 1919 she married Glenn Groesbeck Smith in the Salt Lake Temple. She received her patriarchal blessing under the hands of the Church Presiding Patriarch, Glenn’s cousin, Hyrum G. Smith, on 12 Nov 1919. They had six children, two of them died as young children. She raised her family through the Depression. They faithfully paid their tithing and were never without a job during that time.
She served with her husband who was called as the President of the Texas-Louisiana Mission of the LDS Church in October 1945. Glenn passed away on 19 June 1970 and Christie passed away on 15 Aug 1988.