|The Life Story of A Pioneer - Joseph Knight Rogers
Compiled by Helen Viola (Williams) Crandall
Although Joseph Knight Rogers lived only sixty-two years, which is not old by today's measures, his was a very full, worth, and eventful life. He might truly be called a "pioneer" because he spent most of his life helping to settle new areas, mostly in Utah and Arizona.
He probably inherited this pioneering instinct as most of his American progenitors were likewise people who traveled and helped to settle and develop various places in the New England States and Canada.
His first "identified Rogers Ancestor to settle in America was Jeremiah Rogers (1) and his wife, Abigail. They lived in Salem, Massachusetts in the early 1700's, where Jeremiah worked as a wheelwright. One of their sons became the Reverend John Rogers, the first settled minister of Boxford, Massachusetts, which is near Salem.
John's wife was Susanna Marston. Their son Nathaniel, and his wife Rebecca Symonds became the parents of Samuel Rogers who married Hannah Sinclair. One of their sons was David White Rogers and he and his wife Martha Collins were the parents of Ross Ransom Rogers.
Ross Ransom Rogers married Helen Moffett Curtis and they were the parents of eleven children. Joseph Knight Rogers, their third child, is the subject of this story.
From the Vital Records (2) showing the birth dates and birthplaces of the aforementioned ancestor(s) we are able to follow these families through the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Canada (where one great grandmother died and is buried), Connecticut, and New York, before some of them left the New England area for good. Some of the latter traveled westward to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. The last three generations settled mainly in Utah and Arizona (3) until their descendants began to scatter. As of 1973 descendants of these immigrant pioneer Rogers’ ancestors are to be found in every state of the union and probably in most of the free countries of the world.
Joseph Knight Rogers' grandparents, David White and Martha (Collins) Rogers, were the first members of this Rogers family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the year 1837 they were living in New York City, N.Y., where they were managing a rooming house, doing carpentry work(3) of all kinds, and re-finishing furniture in order to support their large family and to send them to the best schools available at that time. Previous to this they had lived in Canada and Western New York where David White had trapped and logged along with his carpenter work but had gone to New York City where work was more plentiful.
From the diaries of Henry Clay Rogers and Ross Ransom Rogers (4), children of David White and Martha, and from Bancroft's HISTORY OF UTAH( 5), we read of their conversion to this strange, new religion by Elders Parley P. Pratt and Elijah Fordham, who were laboring in that area at that time. These Elders were very discouraged because they had made only six converts during several months of proselyting. In his diary under the date of 1838(5) Parley P. Pratt wrote: "Of all the places in which the English language is spoken, I find the City of New York to be the most difficult as to access to the minds or attention of the people. From July to January we preached, advertised, printed, visited, and prayed in vain."
The two elders invited their new converts to a last prayer meeting, intending to set forth to New Orleans immediately afterwards. They each prayed in turn, when suddenly the room filled with a holy spirit and they all began to prophesy and speak in tongues. The Elders were made to understand that they should not leave the city as yet, for the Lord had many people in that area whom he wanted to hear the Gospel, so that they could be gathered into the fold.
Among the converts was David White Rogers (5), who fitted up a large chamber at his own expense and invited the Elders to hold their meetings there. This place soon began to be too small for all the people who wanted to hear the gospel and soon the Elders were ministering at fifteen different places throughout the city, all of which were crowded. They sometimes preached twice a day, almost every day in the week, besides visiting from house to house. Branches of the Church were formed during 1838 at Sing Sing (now Ossining, New York), Brooklyn, elsewhere on Long Island, and in New Jersey.
Because of subsequent persecution by unbelievers, the main bodies of all of these groups began soon to join the Saints in Ohio and by 1844 they had moved on the Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. Many of them eventually reached Utah.
The coming of the Elders and the message they bore fulfilled two rather remarkable dreams had by David White and his wife Martha some years before (4), which no doubt accounts for the deep interest they early manifested in this new faith which was causing such a stir among the New Englanders at that time.
While living in New York City David White had dreamed that he was taken by a guide to a point where he was shown a terrible, swift destruction, which seemed to embrace the whole face of the land. He was told by his guide that "he would learn more about this terrible event when he was fifty years of age". Martha had dreamed that she was in the midst of a heavy washing when she heard a knock at the door, and, rather vexed, she opened the door and was accosted by two men who asked for her husband, declaring that they had a message of great importance to deliver. One man was large and dark, with a pleasant, intelligent countenance, while the other was a small man, but very pleasant and earnest. She told them that her husband was away and would not return until evening, whereupon they left. During the intervening years, Martha did not remember their message but was impressed that somehow it was of great worth.
When her husband invited Elders Pratt and Fordham to hold their meetings in their home, Martha immediately recognized these men as the men of her dream and David White was fifty years of age at the time. When he read in the Book of Mormon that the Elders gave him of the "terrible destruction that took place upon this continent at the time of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ", then David White understood his dream regarding such a destruction. Needless to say, their entire family was converted almost instantaneously and they, along with many others in the community, were baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The year was 1838.
Ross Ransom Rogers, now nineteen years of age, fell in love with Helen Moffett Curtis, also a new convert to the church. They were married September 1, 1838 at Peekskill, New York not far from New York City. She was the daughter of Matthew and Betsey (White) Curtis and was born and reared at Danbury, Connecticut, not far from Peekskill, New York. Evidently this young couple made their first home in Brookfield, Orange County, New York, just across the Hudson River, west from Peekskill, as their two oldest children were born there. The second child, a boy, died at one year of age.
Soon after this, Ross Ransom joined his father's family and, with others, left New York to joining the main body of the church which had suffered terrific persecutions in the State of Missouri at the hands of the mob-militia and had been expelled from that State. These people were then re-assembling at Commerce, later called Nauvoo, the City Beautiful, in Hancock County, Illinois, on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
The Curtis family did not migrate at this time and prevailed upon Ross Ransom to leave his wife and child with them until he could establish a home for them in the west. Consequently, after establishing a home in Nauvoo he returned to New York for his family and brought them, together with other members of her family, to Nauvoo. On the way, however, they stopped long enough in Indiana for Joseph Knight Rogers to be born on the 20th of December 1844, at Washington Township, Putnam County, Indiana.
This family lived at Nauvoo for approximately two years. Here a sister, Helen Olivia, was born in 1846, but she died the same year. Regarding her death, Joseph Knight writes in his diary (4).....“Was expelled from Nauvoo in the fall of 1846 by a ruthless mob, in consequence of which I lost a sister who was then about two weeks old. My mother and myself came near to following her at the same time in consequence of the cold and privations that we passed through at that inclement season of the year".
Two years later in 1848 another sister, Martha Elizabeth, was born in Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa, indicating that this family had left Illinois with others when Nauvoo was burned by mobsters after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. For a complete understanding of this horrible chapter in the history of the Church, which Joseph Knight experienced along with his immediate family and thousands of others, one should read a good, authoritative account of this period in Church History.
While living in Nauvoo, Ross Ransom and his father, David White, had operated a cabinet and joiner's shop and had assisted greatly in building "The City Beautiful". They did not make the journey across the plains to Utah until the fall of 1850, but spent the intervening time from 1847 to 1850 between Montrose, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo, and Council Bluffs, Nebraska on the western bank of the Missouri River, a distance of 400 miles, in assisting others in outfitting their wagons and making their own preparations for the long arduous journey to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Lacking a detailed, first-hand account of their emigration to Utah, we must rely on the account given by Andrew Jenson, Church Historian at that time, as related in Volume 12 HEART THROBS OF THE WEST, by Kate B. Carter, entitled “They Came in 1851,”(6)
“The first company of companies of the season, consisting of 150 wagons, left Kanesville (Council Bluffs) about the first of May, led by Captain John G. Smith. Under him Roswell Stevens acted as captain of the first, Abraham Day of the second, and Lewis A. Shurtliff of the third fifty. In order to avoid crossing the larger streams, which at that time of the year were much swollen, the companies took a new route following the divide between the Missouri River and the Elkhorn for a distance of nearly 200 miles in a north-westerly direction. They then turned westward and after traveling for 10 days longer they came to the Elkhorn, which they bridged and crossed and finally reached Loup Fork, which they forded on Saturday, June 14th, being then 6 weeks out from Kanesville. From Loup Fork they crossed sand hills by hundreds, and numerous creeks and sloughs, which they bridged with grass and brush. After considerable travel in this way, they concluded to divide the company, which was done, and while Captain Steven’s fifty went westward, Captains Day and Shurtliff, with their respective fifties, also known as the second and third divisions, turned southwest; seventeen wagons with California emigrants who traveled with them, took a southerly course. After 9 days travel, the second and third divisions came in with the California wagons, and on the 12th of July reached the Platte (river) bottoms. Strange to say, no deaths or serious accidents occurred in this exceedingly hard and wearisome journey, and only four head of cattle were lost. Most companies started in June.
In the “Frontier Guardian,” of June 13th, 1851, the Saints who had not yet started for the Valley (Salt Lake), but who had intended to go that season, were urged to start at once and not cross the Missouri River later than the 20th of that month. They were also advised to keep strong guards out so as to protect themselves against Indian depredations, for it was reported that the Pawnees and other tribes were bent on mischief and theft, and had already robbed and plundered several companies on the plains that season.
The next intelligence about the emigration of 1851 was given by Apostle Orson Hyde, who, on his journey from Kanesville to the Valley, wrote from the Platte River, 108 miles east of Laramie, under the date of July 22nd, 1851, to the effect that he and his party, on the 11th of that month, near a branch of the Loup Fork, were assailed by about 300 Pawnee Indians who robbed them of between 7 and 10 hundred dollars. He himself lost about $50.00 worth of blankets, guns, clothing, camp furniture and provisions, besides one of his horses.-----Captain Smith’s three companies of fifty each were not robbed by the Indians as they had passed through before the pioneers had taken their position on the road. Apostle Orson Pratt, returning from his mission to Great Britain lost his horses after crossing the Missouri River, and it was supposed that Omaha Indians stole them. These different companies all reached Great Salt Lake City in safety.
It has been estimated that about 5,000 emigrants crossed the plains and mountains from Missouri to the Great Salt Lake City in 1851. But the history of these companies is so meager that the journey of only a part of them can be accounted for. In a letter to Apostle Parley P. Pratt, who was away on a mission, under the date of October 23rd, 1851, President Brigham Young said: `The emigration of the Saints from the east has closed for the season, with general prosperity, and little sickness and loss, compared with previous years. Probably 550 or 600 wagons have come in, besides a good supply of merchandise---more than there is gold to pay for it’.” (Taken from Emigration Record Vol. 2)
The above account pretty well sums up briefly the events of any one company that made the plains crossing during those early days of Utah colonization. Even though Joseph Knight did not leave a detailed account of the trials and tribulations of the Nauvoo period or the crossing of the plains, it is reasonable to suppose that in spite of the hardships encountered this must all have appeared as exciting adventure to this 6-year-old boy. He did say in his diary (4) that in the fall of 1850 they arrived in Utah and immediately settled in Provo. Here, in January 1851 Charles Addison was born, the first of the family to be born in the west.
According to Bancroft’s HISTORY OF UTAH, (5) Ross Ransom Rogers built the first adobe house in Provo in 1851. Describing the founding of Provo, Bancroft says: “Later in the year (1850) was founded the city of Provo, somewhat to the eastward of Ft. Utah, near the western base of the Wasatch Mountains, on a site where the timber and pasture were abundant, and where the gradual fall of the Timpanogos affords excellent water power. In March of 1851 it was organized as a stake of Zion. The settlement was pushed forward with the energy characteristic of the settlers. Before the end of 1850 more than twenty dwellings had been completed; and before the close of 1851 the place had begun to wear the appearance of a town. Among the buildings in course of erection were a flouring mill and two hotels; manufactures were started; all were busy the livelong day at farm or workshop, and in the evening, writes Elder Isaac Highbee, in February 1852, `We have on Monday singing school, on Tuesday Lyceum, on Wednesday the Seventies meeting, on Thursday prayer meeting, on Friday spelling school and on Saturday the meeting of the lesser priesthood.” Also from Marius Jensen’s HISTORY OF PROVO, UTAH (7) we find that Ross Ransom Rogers was listed as being on the grand jury as of March 1851 and on April 4, 1851, he was elected to the Town Council. At the second session of the Council he was one of the standing committee assigned the responsibility of locating roads running from Provo City to any point within the corporation. We see, then, that J. K. Rogers’ family played an important part in Utah History, and especially of Provo from its very beginning.
Three more brothers and two more sisters of Joseph Knight were subsequently born in various places in Utah, making 11 children in all, 2 of whom died in infancy. Joseph Knight kept in touch with some of these brothers and sisters throughout his life. He likewise wrote to and heard from some of his father’s brothers and sisters as old letters and diary entries show. (8) “Family” was important to him as his life-pattern indicated.
Joseph’s own story during his boyhood days while in his father’s household before his own first marriage and time spent in Utah are pieced together from his own unfinished “Auto-biography” (4) beginning with the year 1853. He was now nine years of age. ……”In the summer and fall of 1853 the celebrated Ute Indian, Chief Walker, made war upon the Mormon Settlements in Southern Utah. My father, in common with a number of Brethren, was called to move south in the fall of this year to strengthen the settlements. We arrived in Parowan, Iron County, in the month of December.”
Bancroft, the historian, says of Parowan: (5) “On the 7th day of December, 1850, George A. Smith and a party made up of 119 men, 48 women and children, with 101 wagons, 368 oxen, 146 cows, about 22 tons of seed, a good supply of tools and around 300 pounds of flour per capita, set out for lower Utah, on Center Creek, in a valley of Wasatch Range, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. Here they tried to settle. Due to subsequent Indian raids, this area was almost abandoned for a time and had to be reinforced by the groups that arrived in 1853. Then a city came into being, built close to the original fort and was given the Indian name of PAROWAN. Here there was good pasture and plentiful timber and the soil was rich, so that bountiful harvests were gathered from 1,000 acres of cleared land.”
However, the main attraction became the immense deposits of iron ore that were found in the neighboring mountains. In later years this area was to become an industrial center. Here many early-day pioneers found employment. Parowan was incorporated as a city in 1865 by legislative act and named the County Seat of Iron County (so named after the vast iron deposits) in 1866. By 1883 there was a population of 800 and it was sometimes referred to as “Little Salt Lake.” As early as 1854 the city bought a new flag and spent $325.00 (a large sum for that day and time) for new instruments for their band, indicating their progress and pride in their community. In 1856 Ross Ransom Rogers and Mr. C. C. Pendleton made several grain-drilling machines, as mentioned by Bancroft (5) and Carter (6), in information concerning the growth of Parowan.
Important as it was to develop their community they were never allowed to forget the reason they had been sent to this area. The threat of Indian attacks was never far from the minds of even the small children. During the years 1853-4 occurred what is known as the “Walker War” in which the Mormons in the settlements of all of Southern Utah suffered serious loss of life and property. Bancroft (5) sates that: “Walker, a favorite Chief of the Utahs, was at that time, a man in his prime of life; one versed in all manly exercises, an excellent shot, and a capital judge of horse-flesh. In addition to several native dialects, he could converse fluently in Spanish and made himself understood in English. Long before the advent of the Mormons, he made frequent raids into the Mexican States where he laid people under contribution, took captive persons of rank and condition, whom he held for ransom.
While setting forth on these forays, he was attired in a suit of the finest broadcloth, cut in the latest fashion, and donned a cambric shirt and a tall “beaver hat.” Over this costume he wore his gaudy Indian trappings and rode at the head of his braves who were also gaily attired with this and that bauble, stolen from afar.
At first Walker received the exiled Mormons with open arms, gave the information as to the nature of the country, where to settle etc., and guarded them from depredation. But when he saw that his choicest lands were being settled, game was disappearing from the canyons and mountainsides, etc., his friendship turned to hatred and he then made war to rid his country of the white man. On July 17th, 1853, hostilities broke out and continued throughout the winter and on into the spring of 1854.
Among the causes that led to the disturbances with the Utahs was the “slave trade: practiced by the Indians. For generations they had carried on a lucrative trade with the Mexicans, capturing and trading women and children of the lowly Paiute tribes, for horses and goods. This practice (was) so unpalatable to the Mormons that Brigham Young authorized the arrest of “strolling Mexicans”, who came into Utah to buy slaves; and the Territorial Legislature, in 1852, passed laws prohibiting slave trade. Also Governor Brigham Young issued a proclamation ordering the Territorial Militia to be kept in readiness in marching against the Indians in all parts of the territory. These acts curtailed the Indians and trouble with them became less frequent, especially with the Utes. In January of 1855 Chief Walker died and it seemed that peace would prevail at last.”
Joseph Knight was now eleven years of age and was beginning to be or real help to his father in their struggle to earn a living, while combating the Indians as well as the elements. His diary says: ….. “In the year of 1855, the grasshoppers made their appearance by the myriads and destroyed nearly all the crops of Utah, which caused a great deal of suffering for bread among the masses of people.”
Utah history books relate that in addition to the grasshoppers there was also drought in many areas so the “man and beast alike” suffered for lack of bread for man and forage for the animals.
Joseph’s diary continues: ….. “In the spring of the following year, 1856, our family moved to Beaver, about 17 miles southeast of Parowan. At this place my father, and a man by the name of E. Thompson, built and owned the first sawmill in Beaver County. Also he built the first log house on the Beaver Plot.”
From OUR PIONEER HERITAGE by Kate B. Carter (9), we learn that the men who first pioneered Beaver had been selected from the settlers at Parowan by Hon. George A. Smith, who selected the most capable to act as colonizers. The land that was surveyed---sixteen ten-acre plots was awarded by casting lots. The southeast corner lot fell to Ross Ransom Rogers. He seeded part of it to wheat, and as soon as possible, he made a small ditch to the river, taking out the water for irrigation. The colonists engaged in cutting timber and building shanties for their families to come to, and constructed a fence around the entire 16 lots as some means of security. Bancroft (5), states: “The appearance of the valley was not inviting. Situated at an altitude of 6,500 feet, frosty and barren, its surface covered in parts with sagebrush, and its soil everywhere impregnated with alkali, it was first considered unfit for occupation. Its main attraction was the volume of water afforded by the Beaver River, which courses through the valley, from east to west, its source being at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet.”
This power was utilized in the mills that subsequently developed here. However, in the beginning it had been selected for the development of a herd ground for the cattle of the southern settlements and it also had sufficient timber to justify a sawmill. In 1883 Beaver was one of the principal manufacturing centers in Utah and had a population of around 2,000. Three newspapers were being printed here. It was here at Beaver City that the trial of John D. Lee was held, on July 12, 1875 in connection with the famous “Mountain Meadows Massacre,” which took place in this same general area.
To continue with Joseph’s diary: …..“In 1857 the great `Reformation’ among the Latter-day Saints took place. A general baptizing took place, also. In March of this year I was baptized for the first time, by Orson Tyler, and confirmed by Ross Ransom Rogers. Also in this year the U.S. soldiers came to Utah for the avowed purpose to destroy the Mormons, but proved a blessing.