The Life Story of a pioneer Joseph Knight Rogers



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Very early the Brethren rented a suitable piece of land from a Mr. Patterson, who was a resident when they came to the Gila, and immediately planted potatoes, corn, and other garden products. They also bought land from another resident, Mr. William Gillespie, a site on the river where they located to take out a ditch. They were all anxious to commence farming, therefore the ditch was soon a reality. Alfred Baker, William Teeples, and Hyrum Weech made the original survey for the ditch, later known as the Smithville Canal. By December 1859, the ditch was ready to be plowed. William Teeples made some scrapers, hewing the sides and handles and backs out of some cottonwood logs. The front of these were pointed with old pieces of wagon tires, hammered thin on the front edge, to cut through the ground; crude maybe, but effective. Soon crops were planted and irrigated with water taken from the river by means of this canal, and the total aspect of the settlement begin to take on the look of perminency rather than camp. A brief entry in Joseph’s diary says:
….. “In the year 1879 another daughter was born to us on the 18th of December, Thursday afternoon at 4 o’clock. Name is Bertha Isabell. Weighed 10 ½ pounds.” She is, of course, the first of Joseph and Josephine’s children to be born in Arizona.
As other settlers swelled the population of this first Mormon settlement in the Gila Valley, they were soon given a “Ward” status in the Snowflake Stake, CHURCH CHRONOLOGY by Jensen (11) states: At a priesthood meeting held at Snowflake, Arizona on September 26th, 1880, the Saints who had settled on the Gila River were organized as the Smithville Ward with Joseph K. Rogers as Bishop.” Joseph Knight’s diary says:
….. “I was ordained under the hands of Apostle Erastus Snow, Brigham Young Jr., and Jesse N. Smith, the former being mouth, at Snowflake, Apache County, Arizona, in October, 1880.”
By November of 1880 the population of the valley had increased materially, and as a nominating convention was being held in Tucson, J. B. Collins of near-by Ft. Thomas, and Hyrum Weech of Smithville, were elected to represent this part of Pima County. At this convention Mr. Collins nominated Joseph Knight to represent this district in the Territorial Legislature, and Hyrum Weech seconded it. Joseph then became an elected member of the House of Representatives of the Eleventh Legislative Assembly, Territory of Arizona, which was held at Prescott, Arizona. This session convened on January 3, 1881 and closed on March 12, 1881. Joseph made the trip from Smithville to Prescott by horseback. One of his little diaries itemizes his expenses for himself and horse for this period of time. There was also a list of things he planned to buy for his family before his return so that we see his thoughts were with his home and family while discharging his public duties.
From the JOURNALS OF ARIZONA, 1881---State Capitol (17) we find from reading the daily entries of bills introduced and/or passed, that Joseph Knight introduced and /or voted for measures he felt would directly benefit or be uplifting to the people he served and felt responsible for, either from a moral standpoint or better living conditions. Example---control of dance halls; gambling and lotteries; fencing laws and laws pertaining to water development, especially in regards to the construction of storage dams, canals etc. It was at this Assembly that he introduced the bill, which later passed, creating Graham County out (of) parts of Pima and Pinal Counties. For this reason he was sometimes referred to as “The Father of Graham County.” At that time it was the only county having an English name, the others all having been given Indian names.
His diary entries indicate that Joseph Knight really enjoyed serving in the Legislative Assembly. He felt right at home there as he had always sat in on planning committees in every community in which he had lived since reaching his maturity. It has been said among family members that Joseph was offered a substantial sum of money if he would “absent himself” from the Assembly on one occasion, so that a bill could be passed to expel all the Mormons from the state of Arizona. Needless to say he refused. No such bill ever did pass.
In these early, first years of settlement in this area, people all helped each other as a means of survival. Gradually, however, families began to be more individualized and independent as each would concentrate on his own trade. Joseph Knight was capable of doing various kinds of work. He had learned the carpenter trade from his father and grandfather, as well as blacksmithing. Most men of his day and age had to know a great deal about farming as this was the core of their very existence. In addition, quite a number of these early colonists, including Joseph Knight, earned money by hauling coke and supplies from the railroad at Wilcox and Bowie to the mines at Globe and Miami, a distance of about 124 miles, and bringing back from the mines to the railroad stations, the copper bullion. Although most of the freighting was done by great teams of mules and horses, veritable caravans, owned by such firms as Tully & Ochoa and M. C. Samaniego, of Tucson, still enough was left for the two and four-horse teams of the Mormons to enable them to buy provisions and implements for tilling the farms.
The road from Wilcox to Globe was oft times a highway of danger as much of it lay through the width of the Apache Indian Reservation. For protection the teams usually traveled together in a sort of military order. The larger outfits had strict rules for defense; each driver with his pistol and rifle and each “swamper” similarly armed. At night the wagons were drawn into a circle, within the horses were corralled or tied to the wagon poles where they were fed. Pickets were kept out and care was unceasing day and night. In 1899 the Gila Valley, Globe, and Northern Railroad was completed from Bowie through the Valley to Globe, thus ending the “freightin’ days.” The general loss to the freighters, however, was more than balanced by bettered transportation facilities to the inhabitants of the ever-growing communities in the valley.
On January 27th, 1882 another daughter, Emma, was born to Joseph and Josephine in Pima (changed from Smithville), Graham County (changed from Pima), Arizona. This was their 6th child and 5th daughter. Their only boy so far had died in Utah before they came to Arizona.
Obeying the council of the leaders of the Church at Salt Lake City, for the bishops and other leaders of the various wards to marry more than one wife, Joseph Knight, with Josephine’s consent married Louisa Christina Roseberry and Mary Emma Fuller. He married Louisa in the morning and Mary in the afternoon of October 25, 1882 in the St. George Temple, at St. George, Utah. They had gone by wagon along with others from the Valley, who attended first, the Stake Conference at Snowflake, and then continued on to St. George for the marriages. Several other couples were married at the same time. The trip took approximately two weeks. Upon their return to Pima separate living quarters were established. Joseph Knight and his three wives were willing to risk the criticism that did come their way because they fully believed that this principle had been given by the Prophet Joseph, and, as of that date, had not been terminated by Church Authorities. (The Manifesto of 1890, wherein President Woodruff, then president of the Church, issued a statement to the effect that the Church no longer required the Saints to take plural wives, ended this practice.)
By 1883 enough Saints were settled in this area to warrant forming a stake. CHURCH CHRONOLOGY by Jenson, (11) states: “The St. Joseph Stake was organized by the First Presidency on February 25, 1883. Its first president was Christopher Layton. His first counselor was David P. Kimball and the second counselor was James H. Martineau, all of St. David, Arizona. At a two-day meeting held at Pima, Graham County, Arizona, on May 1, 1883 the Saints organized into four wards, namely: Pima, Thatcher, Graham and Curtis, with Joseph K. Rogers, John H. Moody, Jorgen Jorgensen and Moses M. Curtis, as representative bishops, respectively.”
In October of this year two more children were born to Joseph Knight Rogers, On October 1, 1883 Thomas Fuller was born to wife Mary Emma and on October 15, 1883 Charlotte Roseberry was born to wife Louisa Christina. These were the first children born to the two new wives. They were born at Pima, Graham County, Arizona. As early as 1873 the Saints had been asked by the Church Authorities to push settlements southward from Utah into Arizona and possibly even into Mexico, with the thought that they might possibly have to move there in order to avoid persecutions that were then commencing with regard to some of the Mormons having plural wives. Consequently, in addition to Missionaries who had been sent to Mexico to carry the Gospel message, other exploration parties had been sent to locate suitable places to colonize and to negotiate with the Mexican officials for permission to buy land and to locate. On January 4, 1883, Apostle Moses Thatcher and party were in Northern Mexico and at that time he dedicated that area for future colonization should it become necessary. This party traveled as far southeast as Corralitos, Chihuahua, Mexico where some arrangement was made for lands. Other parties looked for possible colonization sites in Sonora, but found none at that time due to the unrest and revolutionary situation there. The Authorities advised scouting parties to look to the State of Chihuahua for suitable locations.
Decided impetus was given the southward movement when it became evident that the national prosecution against plural marriage was to be pushed to the extreme. Early in November, 1884 apostles Brigham Young, Jr. and Heber J. Grant held a meeting in Pima and acquainted all in this area with plural wives that they must be on the alert to go to Mexico if they were to avoid being arrested and/or fined. Shortly thereafter we find that Joseph Knight, together with P. H. McBride, Andrew Anderson, Joseph Jorgensen, Lyman Wilson and John Loving found it necessary to flee to Old Mexico.
This party went without their wives. According to bits of information gleaned from the diaries of P. H. McBride, James Gale, Louisa Christina Rogers and Betsey Loving, (18) it appears that the men probably went by wagon to San Simon and across the border into the state of Chihuahua and to the Mexican Customs Station at La Acension, a town of about 1,000 inhabitants at that time. From there they traveled in a southerly direction for about thirty miles, arriving at Corralitos. According to the JOURNAL OF JESSE N. SMITH, 1834-1906, by the Smith Family Association, (19) “Corralitos was the seat of a large cattle raising county and was pleasantly situated in the center of an open valley. It was also near a smelter around which there was a vast accumulation of cinders and refuse, making a striking feature for travelers to see. Across the river and downstream about one mile was an old grist-mill which the men were allowed to use by the Corralitos Company, from which they rented land and planted crops as quickly as possible.” This was the first attempt by the Mormons to colonize in Mexico.
Another baby girl was born to Joseph and Josephine on November 22, 1884 at Pima, Graham County, Arizona. She was named Wilmirth and was destined to live less than two short years. It is not known if Joseph Knight was in Mexico or Pima, Arizona at the time of her birth.
On January 12, 1885 Mons Larson and James Gale joined the first six men at Corralitos, also without their wives. Soon, however, Joseph Knight and John Loving made arrangements for Louisa Rogers and Betsey Loving (sisters) and their children to come to Corralitos by train. Apparently Brother Henry D. Dall took these people from Pima to San Simon where they took the train to El Paso. It is believed that some of Josephine’s children might have been with Louisa. According to Betsey Loving’s account of the trip they were met at El Paso by Joseph Knight Rogers and spent the night there. The following day they went by train south from El Paso to San Jose and from there they traveled west to Corralitos by wagon---a distance of 120 miles. (These two sisters were the first Mormon women to help in the Mexican colonization. Very shortly thereafter on February 16, 1885 the wives of P. H. McBride and James Gale arrived, evidently by wagon, as they were “passed through the Customs at La Acension,” which would not have been so had they made the trip by train. It is believed that P. H. McBride made the trip back to Pima for his wife Laura, and James Gale’s wife, Elizabeth Ann, and their children. (Information concerning this period of time is sketchy and scarce, at best.)
These first families who had rented land, fenced it and planted crops, became the first stopping place for the others who followed, therefore most of these crops went to help the new arrivals until they could get started. At this time Alexander Finley and E. P. McDonald, and others were negotiating with the Mexican Government to buy some land in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, upon the Casas Grandes River. Some of the brethren were already there with Brother A. F. McDonald. Brother Layton, who was just from there, made a flattering report of the facilities of that Country.” Of course, they were talking about Joseph and his companions who had gone there in November, 1884.
A few months after the settlers had planted their crops at Corralitos the Governor of Chihuahua declared that all “Mormons” were to be expelled from Chihuahua. The Brethren protested and wrote letters to the Central Government at Mexico City. A group of leaders from the various Mormon Camps tried to talk with the Governor but to no avail. Next the saints were notified that the Federal Government at Mexico City had ordered that all duties were to be doubled. The Brethren again protested as they had paid the full usual duty when they had entered Mexico, but it was to no purpose. They had to give security for $318.94 in additional duties. Later word was received the Mormons would be allowed to stay until they could harvest their crops, but would then be expelled. Eventually land was purchased and permanent colonies were established. Corralitos never became a permanent colony because a clear deed to the land could never be located by the Mexicans. The original settlers in this area moved to some of the permanent colonies.
Two more boys were born to Joseph Knight in July, 1885. James Knight, son of wife Mary was born July 7, 1885, and Joseph Roseberry was born to wife Louisa on July 11, 1885---almost twins. Both children were born at Pima, Graham County, Arizona, therefore Louisa had returned from Mexico sometime prior to this. (Apparently Mary never did go to Mexico on any of the subsequent trips.)
Joseph Knight may have been in Mexico at this time as an entry in the Smith JOURNAL (19) states: “On August 8, 1885, J. K. Rogers and family returned to Smithville.” (The town was now called Pima as the Post Office Department had named the post office “Pima,” therefore the town changed its name accordingly.) This family could have been wife Josephine and children, although this is not known for a certainty. Joseph Knight must have gone back to Corralitos almost immediately as we find in an old account book where he started to record the births and deaths of his children and it is dated, “Corralitos, 13 September 1885.”
By November of 1885, Joseph Knight was still at Corralitos as the Smith JOURNAL (19) records: “November 15, Sunday, Joseph K. Rogers came in from Corralitos and reported that Senor Campos wanted Brother Teasdale to come there and close a contract for some land as he wanted to go home. Brother Rogers spoke at the meeting as did also Brother Jones who came over from La Acension.”
Evidently Josephine was with Joseph at this time but they returned to Pima some time before February 15th, 1886 when their son George Wall was born. (Josphine’s first son after having given him 6 girls. Their first boy died at age 2.) George always remembered his mother saying that he had “almost” been born in Mexico, but she had insisted that her baby be born in the USA. Also, little Wilmirth died on February 3, 1886 at Pima, Graham County, Arizona, therefore the family was definitely in the states prior to these two events. It was when he returned this time that Joseph Knight found that he had been released as bishop without any prior notice. This hurt him deeply and he never really did feel that he had been treated fairly in this respect. The reason given for this action was that he was away so much he could not properly take care of the Ward affairs, and, right or wrong, he did not feel the action was entirely justified under the circumstances.
Joseph Knight was working on his father’s farm in Lehi, Arizona, when on December 18th, 1886 he received word that his wife, Mary Emma (Fuller) had died. She was but nineteen years of age and the cause of her death is not known to this writer. She was buried two days later in the Rogers private cemetery, where little Wilmirth, Josephine’s daughter had already been interred, and where other members of this family would one day find a final resting place. This cemetery is located on land owned today by a grandson of Joseph and Louisa, Dean Rogers, son of Joseph and Janetta (Lamb) Rogers.
Mary Emma’s sad untimely death left two little boys to be cared for and Joseph’s other two wives filled this need. Louisa took Thomas Fuller (Tommy) age 3 and Josephine took James Knight (Jimmy) age 1 ½ years. These boys were raised as members of the respective families as full brothers and sons.
Apparently there was no need for Joseph Knight to return to Mexico for the next five years and we read from his little pocket diaries that life moved along at a normal pace with him being involved with the things that concerned all people in that time and place. He recorded the weather, planting and harvesting the various crops, selling crops and garden produce, mending harnesses, repairing houses, building sheds and other buildings as needed, sitting on juries at the County Seat at Solomonville (now Solomon), attending meetings and conferences and meeting church assignments, visiting the schools as an interested trustee, working assessments on the ditch, hauling wood, mending fences, shoeing horses, mending wagon wheels, administering to the sick, gathering and paying tithing, attending to other functions concerning the church and community, etc. He was involved totally in the life of the community. While Bishop he had the big responsibility for the spiritual needs of his flock. He was also active on election boards, school boards, and was always on the board of directors of the canals, regulating the water needed for crops, etc. He accepted these positions with dignity and fulfilled them with honor. He was respected by his fellow men.
During these years Joseph Knight began acquiring more land and making plans to expand so as to include his boys in his projects. One of his sons, who later became an Attorney, Charles Roseberry (Louisa’s boy) wrote of these plans and dreams of his father and his account is as follows;
“At this time father owned a 40 acre farm about a mile east of town. This was considered a fair-sized farm for the day, but there were no chances of expansion down there because all the land had been taken up and father had the possibilities of a large family. There was good land just west of Pima waiting to be filed on under the U.S. Land Management Laws. Father envisioned a Rogers Colony in this area. His father had just moved to Pima. (Ross Ransom Rogers) Nancy, (Josephine’s daughter) had just married, my mother, called “Aunt Louisa,” being a polygamist wife, was eligible to take up land. So grandfather Ross R. Rogers took up the North 160 acres; father took up what we called Aunt Josephine’s homestead and 40 acres; Joseph Hamblin (Nancy’s husband took up 160 acres lying just south of father’s. This put father between his father and his son-in-law. Aunt Louisa then took up 160 acres, which was mostly in the reservoir, or used for that purpose. This made 680 acres of patented land, about ½ farming land.
A little part of the northeast part of this was watered by what was called then the “Central” or Town Ditch. Father had about ten acres under this canal. The rest, at first was to be watered from the reservoir, which was to be filled by getting water out of the Cottonwood Wash as it ran down in the spring of the year. It seemed that when the use increased the supply diminished. Father then turned to Ash Creek, up where Moses Cluff had his orchard, where for several years he was able to get considerable water, but the demand increased and the supply diminished so he then turned to the Union Canal for an additional supply of water.
The Union Canal now waters all of the Ross Ransom Rogers land, all of Aunt Josephine’s and all of Joe Hamblin’s farming land, but only about 15 acres of Aunt Louisa’s homestead.
Because it was understood that Aunt Louisa’s homestead would be used up mostly in the reservoir, which was to be used by all, each was to give Aunt Louisa a portion of their homestead. Aunt Josephine kept her promise faithfully by giving Louisa a deed to the best 40 acres in the Homestead. This fairly well evened up the farm land of the two entries and families, but the other two failed to do anything along this line.
The reservoir was run by a Board of Directors similar to the Canal Companies and the expense of getting the water into the pond was shared by the users in proportion to their stock in the Company. They likewise were issued water in proportion to their stock. This worked fairly well until most were depending on water from the river, through the Union Canal more and more as it was more dependable. They would refuse to come to help get the water into the pond and after a few years Uncle Joseph Rogers, who had considerable holdings above the canal, took over the entire reservoir system. Because people were getting cheaper and more regularly from the river they did not complain.
Aunt Louisa sold all her holdings to her son Joseph. Joe Hamblin sold his entire holding to others and it finally became the property of Dean Rogers, son of Joseph and Janetta (Lamb) Rogers. In fact, all the property in Pima of Aunt Louisa, Joe Hamblin and Dean’s father is now owned by Dean. This includes the reservoir.
The reservoir has had a steady improvement since its first start about 1890. I can remember when the dam was only about six or eight feet high. The next big increase made it possible to back the water all the way to the last hill. This was hailed as a great achievement. The two dams were more than a quarter of a mile apart. I thought it was a great achievement to be able to swim from dam to dam without touching land. There were not many around who could do it or at least try to do it because of the possible danger of cramps or giving out in the middle.
Dean Rogers has built the dams higher and has increased the capacity several times, but the land covered is slight. Dean has also increased the possible chances of filling the reservoir by enlarging the intake ditch so that it will carry all the small floods and his overflows has made it so that he is able to get a portion of the large floods that came down in the summer time.
Having seen this project grow from its infancy and helping to make it grow for about a quarter of a century and working with it in other ways, my interest in it make me fell good that it still remains in the Rogers name and that it is not only a pleasant sight to see, but a useful adventure. It shows that grandfather J.K. had a vision that has proven to be a worthwhile adventure. There is a feeling of pride in all this accomplishment and to know that I assisted, perhaps in a meager way, in its accomplishment and beauty and usefulness. I always desire to drive by the pond and onto the hills overlooking the homesteads and sit and dream or reminisce. I see before me accomplishment and beauty. I close my eyes and see the wilderness, mesquites, cacti, sagebrush, arrowweed, washes, unlevel land, no ditches or roads. But I open my eyes and rejoice again in the sight.”
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