The Life Story of a pioneer Joseph Knight Rogers

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Thus we can see that Joseph Knight had a good dream, which simply did not materialize in his lifetime. He would no doubt be very proud to see how a descendant is carrying out his dream, at least in part.
On October 3, 1888 another boy, Ross Wall, was born to Josephine in Pima, Graham County, Arizona. On the following December 2, 1888 Charles Roseberry was born to Louisa in Pima, Graham County, Arizona. David White was born to Louisa on March 11, 1891 at Pima, Graham County, Arizona, and on the following April 29, 1891 at Pima, Graham County, Jesse Knight was born to Josephine.
Apparently objections to plural marriages again became active in the 1890’s (When the Manifesto was issued). P.H. McBRIDE’S LIFE STORY (18) recounts: “1891-2. In the summer of 1891 we spent in Juarez Mexico, and lived in a tent on the banks of a sluggish river where the turtles and snakes of every kind and insects lived. Joseph K. Rogers, wife Louisa and her children lived here too. Also several other families lived here. It was quite an adventure. We went home in the summer of 1892 and never went to Mexico again.”
Joseph Knight must have returned to the States alone as an old letter to him dated April 21, 1892 reads in part: “hope and pray you will get through your trial alright.” Another letter to Joseph Knight from Juarez, Mexico, dated June 16th, 1892 stated: “ was glad you did not have to go to the pen, etc.” These two letters are incomplete, therefore unsigned, but are undoubtedly from Louisa to Joseph. They indicate that Joseph Knight stood trial for having plural wives between April 21st and June 16th, 1892, but where this hearing was held and/or the details concerning it have not yet come to light. Evidently the charges were dismissed. (Writer thins trial held in Tucson.)
However, records from the District Court, Second Judicial District of Territory of Arizona, (20) show that both Joseph Knight and Louisa Rogers were indicted for living in polygamy. The case was set to be heard on May 22, 1891 but the charges were dismissed in 6-1892. The only conclusion one can draw is that the hearing for Joseph and Louisa was set for May, 1891 but they were not available and case was held pending. Then in the spring of the next year Joseph returned to the States and a hearing was held with him alone. This is the hearing Louisa referred to in her letters, and it was dismissed in 6-1892 with no sentence or fine. Joseph Knight’s next children were born in 1894---Wallace, on April 11, to Louisa and Lillian to Josephine on May 10, both being born in Pima, Graham County, Arizona. Lillian was to be Josephine’s last child. On February 7th, 1896, little four year old Jesse Knight passed away and was buried in the Rogers private cemetery. This was also a sad event in the lives of this family.
Once more Joseph Knight was elected to the Legislature. He and George W. Skinner served in the 19th Territorial Legislative Assembly as Representatives of Graham County. By this time twelve Counties were represented. According to the Legislative Log both men supported bills favorable to the moral and economic progress of the State and their respective community. The capitol was now at Phoenix and this session began on January 18, 1897 and ended on March 18, 1897.
Shortly after Joseph Knight left for the Assembly Louisa gave birth to twin children---a boy, Millard Henry and a girl, Helena, on January 26th, 1897. Whether or not Joseph Knight came home for this event is not known. He may not have seen them until they were about 6 months of age. Also, Joseph’s father, Ross Ransom Rogers, died on March 13th, 1897 just 5 days before the ending of the Legislature and was buried the following day in the Rogers private cemetery. It is believed that Joseph Knight was not at Pima for this event.
While Joseph Knight was in Phoenix he renewed acquaintances he had known elsewhere. One person in particular was Jesse N. Smith, whom he had known in Utah, Northern Arizona, Pima and Old Mexico. This man has several entries in his JOURNAL (19) relating that the two men went on a legislative tour of Public Institutions, such as Yuma Prison (then called the “Hell Hole”), the State Hospital, etc. Also the two men stayed with Joseph Knight’s uncle, Henry Clay Rogers of Lehi, on several occasions. Henry Clay was also a legislator from Maricopa County. Together they reviewed old times and discussed church as well as civil matters. Mention was made of their sadness and disappointment in learning of the apostasy of Apostle Moses Thatcher, who had played such an important and vital part in the resettlement of the Saints since the days of Nauvoo, and most recently in Mexico.
On January 18, 1898 Joseph Knight was called to be a High Councilman. He was ordained by Apostles J.H. Smith and L.W. Taylor, the latter being mouth. This position pleased Joseph very much and was very important to him as his diaries indicate.
Joseph’s accounts indicate that life continued pretty much in a normal fashion for the next five years. On January 27, 1901 Martha Louisa was born to him and Louisa. He was finding it difficult to find enough work to support his large family. His older children were helping as much as they could, but jobs were scarce and times were hard. In the fall of 1901 the family tried raising cane on a large scale from which they made and sold molasses, going to Clifton and Morenci with their products. How successful they were we do not know, but they apparently did not follow this up the following year. During the latter part of this same year and the first part of 1902, Joseph Knight tried his hand at selling books, mostly church books, but some on “elocutin’” (which was the rage at that time), poetry, dramatic readings etc. This venture must also not have been very rewarding nor lucrative as it didn’t last long, according to his records.
An interesting little event occurred about this time and the event is copied verbatim from the GRAHAM GUARDIAN (21) dated February 14, 1902, written by the Pima Regular correspondent, to wit:
“Pima has been all agog with excitement for the past week caused by the efforts of Constable Roberts, of Safford, to sell merchandise and sore fixtures of Joseph East, under an execution issued from Justice Hunter’s Court, and supplemented by the efforts of W.T. Webb and the School Trustees of the District to prevent the sale. This sale should have taken place on Saturday, but before it was fairly under way, the aforesaid Trustees appeared on the scene and claimed the goods for rent due them for the use of the building. They ordered the Constable to stop the sale and when he refused, gently assisted him, along with the lawyers, McCollum and Dial, out of the building and placed a padlock on the door. The discomfited trio returned to Safford, but came back Monday, armed with warrants for the arrest of W.T. Webb, Phil C. Merrill, J.K. Rogers and S.E. Allen, on a charge of RIOT.
The prisoners were taken to Safford, before Justice Hunter, and were arraigned on a charge of Contempt of Court, the Riot charge having been dismissed. They were not allowed a trial, as demanded but the Court pronounced the GUILTY and fined them as follow: W.T. Webb and Phil C. Merrill $250.00 each; S.E. Allen $50.00 and J.K. Rogers $150.00. The fines have not been paid and in all probability never will be. The goods---innocent cause of all the trouble---repose peacefully on the shelves and the silent, but impressive padlock, keeps guard over the door.”
This is one time when Joseph Knight went “all out” to protect the rights of the school board of which he was a member. His account of the affair merely states he was “acquitted of the charge.”
It was in October 1902 that Joseph, his son, James and his son-in-law, Joe Hamblin (Nancy’s husband) took 2 wagons and three span of horses and went to the mining towns of Naco and Canenea, Old Mexico, and Bisbee and Douglas, U.S.A. in hopes of finding work. They found none or very little and headed for home. Joseph Knight writes in his diary: “December 25, 1902---Christmas and no work.”
They found no work at Pearce or Wilcox, and arrived home on December 31st, 1902, tired and discouraged. He wrote: “All’s well at home but --- O HOW POOR.”
The next day he went to Brother Larsen’s where he saw Louisa and his month-old daughter Mary for the first time. She had been born on November 30, 1902 while Joseph was away looking for work. He made the following entry in his diary: “First of January, 1903, another year found us all well but finances at a low ebb.”
When he returned from this last rip to find work he found that his oldest sister, Emily Durnford, whom he had not seen for 28 years, had come for a visit. She had one of her grandchildren with her. Joseph said of Emily, in his diary: “She is 61 and well preserved.” Emily stayed 4 months before going on the Mesa to visit with other relatives. Joseph mentions her several times in his diary and it is evident that he enjoyed her visit very much and the news she brought about the family members in Utah.
From his diaries we gather that the crops were good some years and at times very bad, depending on the rains and the water situation, as is always true with farmers. The Rogers families never actually starved, as they always had cows for milk and butter, chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat, and their produce gardens and fruit trees always provided good vegetables and fruits. Their grain crops usually provided plenty for flour and food for the animals after the first few years when the colonization had stabilized. But---there was never very much money for other essentials. Joseph Knight and his boys, when they became old enough, traveled regularly to the near by towns looking for any kind of work available. His older daughters all worked as domestics, cooks, and waitresses in the Valley, at Wilcox, Clifton, and Globe. Most of them helped their parents until they married and started their own families. In the early part of 1903 James, (Mary’s boy) joined the army and was not heard of for some time.
Joseph Knight was again indicted for having plural wives on December 20th, 1904. Bail of $1,000 was arranged and the hearing was set for May 5th, 1905 at Tombstone, Arizona, in the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the Territory of Arizona (20) at the regular term of said Court. What happened at this hearing is related verbatim as told to a granddaughter, Nellie (Hamblin) Burk, by one Mary J. (Ballard) Cosby, who heard the story from a Mr. George Wilcox who was the clerk at the Court at the time the hearing took place. Mrs. Cosby (then single) was working as a domestic in the Wilcox home. (22)
“Mr. Wilcox came home to dinner one day in deep thought and sat down to the table with his head in his hands. His wife asked him if he were ill and he raised his head and said, “No, I have just heard the first real gospel sermon I have ever heard in my life from a Mr. J.K. Rogers, who is being tried for living in polygamy. He had pictures of his three wives and their children. He placed them all on a table before the Judge and said, “These are my wives and my children. Now you can do what you will with me---hang me, shoot me, put me in jail in the darkest dungeon on earth, but you can’t take them away from me. They are sealed to me by the authority of God and I love them. I respect them and provide for them and took them by the same authority. And this has been handed down through the Bible and given to Joseph Smith in the last dispensation.” He then told the story of Joseph Smith, why Brigham Young brought the Saints to Salt Lake City, Utah and why he, J.K. Rogers, was sent to Arizona to help settle it; and how he was now trying to live as he believed, raising his family honorably, helping to take care of the Ward, and trying to do the will of the Lord. He concluded by inviting others to study the principles of the Gospel so they would have the spirit to be with them. After J.K. got through, the Judge fined him $200.00 and told him to “Go home and take care of your family.”
The official Court record shows that Joseph Knight waived counsel, pleaded GUILTY and pled his own case, as related above. He was not given a jail sentence.
Joseph’s last child, Susanna, was born to Louisa on May 4th, 1906 at Pima, Graham County, Arizona. His wife Josephine had given him 11 children, three of whom died in infancy; Louisa had borne 10 children, two of whom died at ages 19 and 15; Mary had had 2 sons before her untimely death. This made a total of 23 children, 18 of whom lived to maturity, married, and had children of their own. His descendants number in the hundreds today.
In the fall of this year (1906) Joseph Knight again found it necessary to leave home and search elsewhere for employment. He and his son Tommy went to Douglas where he hired out as a carpenter, to work on a building in Pirttleville, located a short way northwest of Douglas. It was customary for the workmen to ride on a trolley car from Douglas where they lived to Pirttleville where they worked. When nearing a curve on the outskirts of Pirttleville, the car usually slowed down considerably, and some of the workers would hop off. On December 16, 1906, Joseph Knight was standing on the steps of the car, preparatory to stepping off, when the streetcar seemed to lurch, unbalancing him, so that his head hit a trolley post. He was immediately taken to the Calumet Hospital in Douglas. He died the following night at 11 p.m., on December 17th, 1906. A coroner’s jury declared the death was entirely accidental. His family was notified and Josephine, with her son George, made the trip to Douglas by train but did not arrive before his death. His son Tommy of course, was already in Douglas and the three of them accompanied the body back to Pima. After impressive ceremonies, Joseph Knight Rogers was laid to rest in the cemetery which he had set apart for that purpose many years before on the Rogers land, where wife Mary, Wilmirth and Jesse, two of his children, and his father, Ross Ransom Rogers had already found their final resting place.
Soon after going to Douglas to work, Joseph had sent home a picture of himself with a hat on so that none of his hair could be seen and with the usual beard shaved off. This made his daughter Helen write to him in protest, saying that it just did not look like him and that she did not like it. He replied that he had to do it so as to make himself look younger so he could get a job. His gray hair and beard made him look older than he really was.
It was in October before his death in December that Joseph Knight at last heard from his son James, and to show how the boy’s leaving and his silence for so long really hurt his father, the following letter is a verbatim copy of Joseph’s reply to James: (23)
“DOUGLAS, Oct. 28, 1906. Mr. James K. Rogers---Co. L 10 Inf., Camp McKinley, Honolulu. My Dear Son: I received your letter dated Sept. 20th, a few days ago, the first that I have received from you since you left home over three years ago. I was quite surprised and pleased to get a letter from you.
I felt quite badly hurt when you left home without my consent or knowledge, and doubly so for so long a time to pass and not a word directly from you, I your only living parent. Some of my other children have treated me about as contemptuously. It makes me feel almost as though my married life had been a failure and especially so of you and my children that has been born to me under the new and Holy Principle of Plural Marriage. The U.S. Government has seen fit to pass laws against Plural Marriage, which laws passed since I made Covenants in the Temple of the Lord over the altar with your Aunt Louisa and your Honored Mother for time and all eternity, and to be a father to their children that we should be blessed with. In order to do so and try and carry out my part of the program, to own Louisa and Mary as my honorable wives and their children not bastards, but honorable and born in lawful wedlock according to laws of God. I have stood all kinds of abuse, dodged to Old Mexico several times, and through the courts two times here, once since you left, which resulted in a fine of $200.00 and my own expenses, which was about as much more, and not one cent of help from my children, to even a sympathetic word, roving over the country at will, nobody and nothing to care for, only their own sweet will and pleasure.
In order to maintain the honor of my family, I have been doing this thing now for over a quarter of a century, since before you were born. I thought I had a right to a little support from my children, especially my boys, that owe their existence to that Holy Principle that the government is trying to put down. I am almost alone in this part of the world trying to maintain the honor of my family.
Well, my son, I realize that you were young and easily persuaded, but as you ripen in years and are blest with children, you will begin to understand some of the cares and expense, and responsibility of raising a family, and when the goys get big enough to be of some help and comfort to you, then unexpectedly and unannounced to leave home, three or four years to pass without a word, then and not until then, can you understand some of my feelings.
Of course, if you feel that you do not care to see your old father, nor you Aunt (Josephine) that nursed you when you were helpless, after the death of your honored mother, nor your brothers and sisters, ye just go to Australia and if that is not quite far enough, maybe you can find a place to jump off where you might light on some other planet. Now get mad, like Tommy, and not write for another three or four years. Well James, the Gospel is true and from God, and there is a great work for you to do if you want to. From your father, J.K. Rogers.

P.S. Of course, will be pleased to get another letter from you soon. J.K.R.

Thus we see that till the very end Joseph Knight adhered to and defended the principles he believed in, even though it incurred disfavor with some of his own family members, to say nothing of a partially hostile community at best.
The Graham County Guardian, December 21, 1906 carried this headline: (21) J.K. ROGERS---KILLED. THE FATHER OF GRAHAM COUNTY Met a Violent Death at Douglas---last Sunday.
“Honorable J.K. Rogers, an old-time and prominent resident of Graham County, having landed in Pima among the first residents there in 1879, was killed in Douglas Last Sunday.
It seems that Mr. Rogers had been riding on a street car and upon leaving it was struck by the car and was thrown beneath its wheels. (this proved to be a wrong version. See details elsewhere.) The car passed over his body (not so). Death was not instantaneous and a telegram was sent to his wife in Pima (Josephine) Sunday night, telling her of the accident. She left for Douglas Monday morning, but before her arrival the injuries sustained proved fatal, Mr. Rogers having died Monday night.
Among the first settlers of the lower part of the valley, Mr. Rogers arrived here from Utah in 1879 and located in Pima, being one of the founders of the town. He was elected Bishop of the Ward, which position he filled for about seven years. In 1881 Mr. Rogers was elected to the Assembly, this then being a part of Pima County.
When the Legislature met in 1882, Mr. Rogers introduced the bill and secured its passage, creating Graham County, the only county in the territory bearing an English name, thus becoming the “Father” of one of the best counties of the State. In 1896 Mr. Rogers was again honored by being elected to the Legislature.
Mr. Rogers leaves a large family and numerous friends in all parts of the country to mourn his death.”
A granddaughter, Aloha (Hamblin) Jensen, (Nancy’s girl) penned the following paragraph when she was gathering material for this story, before her own death prevented her from completing her task. It seems a fitting tribute to both: “Joseph Knight’s untimely death came at a time when his sons needed him to guide them through the trying years of adolescence and young manhood; his daughters needed him for counsel and love; and, above all, his two remaining wives needed his all over goodness and companionship in their golden years.”
The last of Louisa’s children, Susanna, was but 8 months old when her father died and there were six more children in this family who had not yet passed their teens. Josephine also had a teen-aged daughter. Thus we see a large family unprovided for, who sorely missed the head of the household. Josephine was to live eleven years and Louisa forty-seven years without their companion before their own deaths.
Joseph Knight Rogers’ accomplishments during his 35 years in Utah and his 27 years in Pima, Arizona were the rewards of one of God’s chosen ones---the responsibilities put on such young shoulders were carried with dignity and honor. We, his descendants, can best honor his name and memory by emulating his life style---that of accepting LIFE with all of its responsibilities, trusting in God and obeying his commandments implicitly. His life was a living testimony to the principles he believed in and lived to the best of his ability. WHAT MAN CAN DO MORE?
MY THANKS to all who have given me bits of information through the years and encouraged me to put them all together into a story of our Joseph Knight Rogers’ life. I will not attempt to list names, but as you read the story you will recognize your contributions. Without your help I may not have been able to get the job done. I do hope my compilation pleases all of you.


Account taken from: THE BISBEE DAILY REVIEW Bisbee, Arizona

Thursday Morning, Dec. 20, 1906 (his birthday)

(Special Correspondence)

Car While It Was In Motion

And Was Thrown Against

Trolley Post.

DOUGLAS: Dec. 19th Special:

Honorable J.K. Rogers, a pioneer of Arizona, having served twice as a member of the Legislature from Graham County, was dangerously injured yesterday morning near Pirttleville, by being thrown from one of the street cars, when it struck a curve while going at a rapid rate. Mr. Rogers was on his way back to work on a building at Pirttleville, where he was employed as a carpenter. He is now in the Calumet Hospital where he is in a precarious condition.

Sunday morning Hon. J.K. Rogers, a carpenter who came here from Graham County three months ago, boarded a street car in this city to ride to work on a building near Pirttleville. According to the story told by some of the passengers on the street car, Mr. Rogers before reaching the curve in the tract at Pirttleville, requested the motorman to stop at the curve, as he desired to get off there. Mr. Rogers was standing on the front end of the car, near the motorman when the car, which had not lessened its speed, struck the curve, throwing Mr. Rogers from it, striking his head against a trolley post. After striking the post, Mr. Rogers fell to the ground and rolled down the embankment. He was afterward carried to the Calumet Hospital, where he was pronounced this morning to be in a precarious condition.
The injury proved fatal, he died in the Calumet Hospital at 11 o’clock p.m. It was announced that the Coroner would conduct an inquiry some time today, but the hour had not been named.
A numerous family survives, there being about 11 in all. His wife and 2 children (only George) arrived in the city this morning from Pima, Arizona.


Account taken from: THE BISBEE DAILY REVIEW, Bisbee, Arizona,

Friday December 21, 1906 (Special Correspondence)

DEATH DUE TO BEING THROWN FROM TRAIN This is the Decision of Coroner’s Jury After Investigating Case, Douglas Dec,, 20, 1906
“Simply ascribing the cause of his death “by having been thrown from Car #3, of the Douglas Street Railway, against a trolley pole, in rounding a curve near Pirttleville, on the morning of Dec. 16th” (Josephine’s birthday) is the manner in which the coroner’s jury last evening disposed of the sad case of Hon. J.K. Rogers, who on Sunday morning received such injuries by falling from a street car that he died on Monday night. The jury did not attach any blame to the street car employee.

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