[Published in the John Dingman Wilcox Family Bulletin #1 in 1974, pp 7-12]
Written by his daughter,
Martha Wilcox Hacking
In the little town of Mountain, Upper Canada, where is now the Providence of Ontario, in the year 1839, there dwelled Samuel Allen Wilcox, his wife, Martha Parker Wilcox, and their small daughter, Melinda.
They were naturally religious people who tried to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Sometimes they found it hard to reconcile these teachings with those of the church of which they were members.
So when two Mormon Missionaries came to their home, their hearts were open to receive the message brought to them. These missionaries, Christopher Merkley and William Snow, were welcomed into the Wilcox home and their teachings eagerly accepted.
Soon both husband and wife were converted to the new faith and were baptized September 14, 1839. They had a great desire to see the prophet Joseph Smith and to mingle with others of their faith, so on the fifth day of August, 1840, they left their comfortable home and started for Commerce, later called Nauvoo, Illinois. They arrived October 9th.
Speaking of her meeting with Joseph Smith, Mrs. Wilcox said, "When I saw him, my heart rejoiced for I knew beyond a doubt that he was a Prophet of God."
One year after they reached Nauvoo their second child was born, Sarah Jane, October 24, 1841; and on April 23, 1843, their first son, John Dinginan Wilcox, the subject of this sketch, was born. The family were poor in circumstances owing to the sacrifice they had made to gather with the Saints. The mother's bed was a straw tick on the floor in the corner of the room but her heart was filled with joy in the possession of her son. As to the father, his pride knew no bounds. This beautiful dark-haired boy was just what he had longed for.
While Mrs. Wilcox was still confined to her bed, William Law, who was at that time counselor to Joseph Smith, called at their home with a paper which he wished them to sign, stating that the Prophet Joseph was a false Prophet and an adulterer.
Martha Wilcox raised up on her elbow and rebuked him saying, "You are possessed of the devil. There is a hole the carpenter made. Get out of it as quickly as you can." Law slunk away without another word.
Through hard work the family were living more comfortably when another daughter, Asenath Viola, came to them April 1, 1845.
Mr. Wilcox helped to build the Temple and the couple received their endowments there, but sealings were not done in the Nauvoo Temple. They later were sealed in the Endowment House on January 26, 1869.
Mrs. Wilcox was a member of the first Relief Society, though not present at the organization.
Then came the terrible trials when the Prophet was killed and the Saints were driven from their homes. What this family along with others must have suffered. Turned out in the bitter cold with their four little children! So much has been said and written of the suffering of these exiles that little need be said here.
The Wilcox family, after crossing the river with the rest of the Saints, went to a place called Bonepart in Van Buron Co., Iowa. Here their second son, Adam, was born. John was at this time nearly four years old. Mr. Wilcox got a job working with his team for a man named Currans. This enabled him to provide for his family and earn enough to go to Ferryville just across the river from Winter Quarters. Not being in a position to cross the plains at that time, they rented a farm at Keg Creek two miles down the Missouri River. They farmed there two years and then moved thirty-five miles down the river into Fremont Co.
Here on a stream called Nishnabotna Creek, Mr. Wilcox homesteaded and. bought land amounting to 320 acres. John’s boyhood days were spent on this farm. They lived here for eleven years. John and Adam grew into husky boys and soon became real farmers. The land was rich and they raised large crops of corn and other grains. Hog raising was very profitable. Not only was it a good corn country, but wild nuts and plums grew in abundance on which the hogs grew fat.
Each family had their own smoke cellar and cured their own meat which was freighted by team to the nearest cities. The father did considerable freighting and much of the farm work fell to the boys. They had a faithful dog named Bob who always accompanied them to the field. Snakes were numerous and old Bob would grab a snake and with a few quick jerks snap off its head.
Prosperity came to the Wilcox family here. While they were living on that farm five children were born to them; Samuel Allen Jr., Joseph, Silas, Phebe, and Boyd. The two eldest daughters, Melinda and Sara, married and went west. The mother often longed to go too, and join the body of the Saints and often urged her husband to do so, but he would say, "Wait a little longer Mother, then we will go."
Then one day he came home from one of the freighting trips to St. Joseph, Missouri, in a state of excitement. Throwing the lines one on one side and the other on the opposite, he said, "Mother, you can start packing. We are going West. The United States is at war. The first gun was fired at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina, just as the Prophet Joseph prophesied. If we don't leave now, we may never be able to go."
Soon they were on their way West. They sold their wonderful farm getting what cash they could and taking cattle for the remainder. At the end of the first days travel, Mr. Wilcox found that he had been paid $100.00 more than the price agreed upon and went all the way back to rectify the mistake.
Arriving at Winter Quarters they started across the plains traveling in David H. Cannon's Company. It was a long slow journey. The boys drove the cattle, the father one team and wagon, and the mother another.
John, thinking to wile away the evenings, brought along a violin. Its squeaking exasperated his father to such an extent that he broke it over the wagon wheel.
Asenath became very ill with some kind of fever and it looked as if they might have to leave her by the wayside, but after weeks of illness her life was spared and she slowly recovered.
While traveling along the Platte River they came to a little shack near the road in which they found a young couple by the name of Burgoyne. This couple had embraced the gospel in England. Immigrating to America they had arrived at Winter Quarters in time to join a company going west. At this point in the journey the young wife became unable to travel and so the company left them saying that they could join the next company.
Seeing their fear and loneliness, Mrs. Wilcox said, "Sam, our cattle and horses are tired, why not turn them out on this good grass to rest and fatten. Then when these folks are ready to go we can travel fast and overtake the others." It was a risk, but seeing the situation and Sam's heart being tender as that of his wife, they stayed. A few days later a son was born to the Burgoynes and soon the proud mother was able to continue the journey.
The young man was so grateful that he wanted to do something to help so Mr. Wilcox said he could tend Mother's team. Glad to be of service, he took over. That night it took him an unreasonably long time to unhitch the team. The next morning noticing that he was having trouble in getting them harnessed, John went to his assistance. He found that every buckle on the harness had been unbuckled.
The company arrived in Salt Lake City, October 7, 1861. Learning that Cedar Fort Valley, about 140 miles southeast of Salt Lake was a good place for cattle they went there to settle.
At the point of the mountain between Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley they met the Johnston army just leaving for the east. The family lived that winter at Camp Floyd in one of the houses vacated by the army. The following spring they moved to Cedar Fort.
John was now in his nineteenth year. He had been well taught in the principles of honesty and religion and was a young man of sterling character. He helped to get his parents settled at Cedar Fort, building a house of logs. Then lured by the hope of high wages, he went to Montana to work in the mining camp. Montana was at that time Wild West at its worst. On the way up John traveled for a while in the company of a man who was taking a load of whiskey to sell at a mining camp.
The Portneuf River was so high at that time that they had to be ferried across. They stopped for some time, the whiskey dealer selling some of his ware to the ferryman. When the bill was presented, the ferryman refused to pay saying he hadn't got that much. Quick as a flash the dealer drew a gun. John grabbed the gun just as the trigger was pulled, and the hammer came down on his thumb. The ferryman's life was saved, the quarrel was settled, and they continued their journey.
John went to Bannock, then one of the largest towns in Montana. He saw many things that were shocking to him in that mining town where the law had not yet come. But though there was no law there were some honorable citizens who sought to uphold justice.
To illustrate, an old man had been robbed and murdered. Two men were accused of the crime. John witnessed the trial of the two men. The procedure was as follows: One man was chosen to judge the case, one to prosecute, and another to defend. The trial was held on the street corner where a large crowd had collected. The judge mounted a box, called the crowd to order, and announced the trial. He stepped down. The prosecutor stood on the box and presented the evidence against the accused, then he stepped down. The man appointed to defend the case stepped upon the box and presented his side of the case and returned. The judge then took the box and said, "You have now heard the evidence for and against the accused. All those who believe them guilty step to this side of the street and those who believe them not guilty step to the other side." Nearly everyone voted guilty and the two men were taken out of town and hung.
Later a Vigilante Committee was formed by men who had experience in the California Gold fields.
From Bannock John vent to Virginia City. He took up a claim in the famous Alder Gulch which turned out to be one of the richest locations in the state. Not being familiar with assessments and rules he failed to complete his assessment work soon enough and his claim was jumped.
He returned to Cedar Fort that same year in the fall and in 1864 vent to Bear Lake.
In 1865 he married Mary Theodotia Savage, daughter of David Savage and Mary White Savage. The family had moved to Bear Lake from Cedar Fort in 1863. The couple were married at Paris, Idaho, August 23, 1865. They were sealed in the Endowment House May 11, 1867.
The spring following his marriage, John and his father-in-law took up homesteads on Swan Creek on the western shore of beautiful Bear Lake. They built houses, cleared land, and planted crops and gardens.
Mary was an excellent housekeeper and she made their little home beautiful with her own handiwork and shine with her neatness.
Their first child, John Elbert, was born August 28, 1866. This event seemed to make their happiness complete, but dark days were ahead for the little family. The stock from the near hills kept getting into their fie1ds and so John and his neighbors decided to run a fence through a slough on the shore of-the lake and joining their land. John had a strong presentiment that he should not go into the water, but as men two or three times his age were ready to do so, he was reluctant to refuse. He worked in the cold water up to his waist all day. The next morning his body ached from head to foot and he didn't go to work. However, he felt that the day should not be entirely lost, so he walked up the hill back of his home to get an oak stick with which to make an ax handle. He got his stick and started home but had gone only a short distance when a severe pain struck him in the right hip and down the back of his leg. It soon became difficult for him to walk and he was forced to stop and rest at short intervals. While resting he started to shape the ax handle by hewing the stick. In some way the ax he was using slipped, cutting a deep gash about four inches long in his leg. The pain in his hip was so severe that he couldn't feel the cut when it became infected.
His good wife helped him to bed and there he remained for many weeks suffering from rheumatic fever. It settled in the sciatic cord drawing it up and shortening the cord about four or five inches, leaving him a cripple for life.
For five years he suffered greatly, unable to step on his foot. He was barely able to get around on crutches. Not willing to burden his dear wife more than was necessary; he took up shoe making as a means of adding to their income. At first he only mended, but he soon became efficient in the manufacturing of boots and shoes.
In 1869 they went back to Cedar Fort, thinking the warmer climate might be beneficial to his health. Except for a short time spent at Lewiston, a nearby mining camp, and at Goshen where he went to ply his trade, he spent seven years at Cedar Fort. While there he worked at the shoe-making trade, taught school, and played the violin for dances.
The lot on which their house stood was very rocky and not being able to clear it, John told, his pupils that if they would gather the rocks from his garden plot he would give them a dance. They went to work with a will and soon had the land cleared. And what fun they had at the dance! Perhaps the knowledge that they had earned it made it more enjoyable.
Mary loved gardening and what gardens she did raise!
Two more Sons were born to them in Cedar Fort. David Oswell, born Sept. 18, 1870, and Samuel Orris, born Oct. 19, 1872.
In l874 the family moved to Holden, Utah where a united order had been established. They worked in the order until it was discontinued. While there Lucy Abigail, their first daughter, was born, November 3, l874
In 1877 they moved to Kingston in southern Utah where the Thomas King family had established the United Order. Both John and Mary were prominent in the affairs of the Order.
John was head of the shoemaking department which did all the shoemaking for the colony and mending also, and considerable work for others. He was Superintendent of the Sunday School, taught school, and played for dances.
Mary was superintendent of the kitchen and dining room, President of the Young Woman's Mutual Association, and secretary of the Relief Society. It was here that their second daughter, Martha Elnora, was born, August 6, 1877.
Both Mary and John often spoke of the time spent in the Order as the happiest part of their lives. The people were content and prosperous. They built a gristmill, a tannery, and later a woolen mill. They raised sheep and cattle and all shared alike. But after the death of the founder, Thomas King, dissension and dissatisfaction crept in and gradually undermined the organization.
In the autumn of 1879, John D. Wilcox and seven other men left the order and with their families went up to Grass Valley, about twenty miles from Kingston and settled close to what was then called Otter Creek, which flows into the East Fork of the Sevier River. A partnership was formed for the purpose of getting means to obtain outfits to go to Arizona where they hoped to build homes. The men in partnership were John D. Wilcox, James Huff, John Wheaten, Christian Sorensen, Niels Nielson, Hans Jensen, Canute Petersen, Peter Nelson. Edward Decauls also went with them, but returned to Kingston.
Each man had received cattle for their share of the United Order funds. They traded the cattle for meadow land receiving only $10.00 per head and homesteaded land adjoining making 160 acres. That winter they lived mostly on trout, which was plentiful, milk, and some bread.
James Huff was a mill-right and under his directions they built and operated a sawmill in Coyote Creek Canyon. They produced quantities of lumber for sale and for their own building needs.
The Antimony mines were not far from there, so Huff did some prospecting and they took up several claims. The "Little Emma" and the "Big Injun" were worked and the ore hauled to Salt Lake City and sold. Later a man by the name of Fred Day bought up all their claims.
At the end of the year's time all the property of the company was sold except the real estate, part of which could not be sold until a government title was obtained. It was finally decided that John Wilcox and Niels Nielson should stay on the land. Six splendid outfits were made up for the others to go to Arizona.
Though they had the land, there was nothing to run it with, but a good friend in the person of Archie M. Hunter came to their rescue, letting them have a good team with the privilege of hauling poles whenever they could find time, to pay for them. Mr. Hunter owned a ranch nearby and wanted the poles for fencing. He was a very generous friend and helped the Wilcox family over many hard places. He was always repaid, generally with work.
A branch of the Church was organized on the 8th of February with John D. Wilcox presiding Elder. The place was called Wilmont.
After a few years Niels Nielson sold. his land to Mr. Wilcox, making him 200 acres. His boys grew up on the farm and worked with him even after they were married. The farm was most conveniently located. The farming land sloped gently to the west. Below the house was the corral from which the milk cows were turned into a fine pasture and on toward the river was the rich meadowland.
Four children were born to them at Wilmont. Joseph Ezra, born March 11, 1880, died April 6, 1881; Adam Vernale, born August 3, 1882, died at Sunnydell, Idaho, April 27, 1909; Mary Malinda, born January 3, 1886; Leo Boyd, born February 24, 1889, died March 26, 1889.
Two of their sons were married while they lived at Wilmont. John E. married Helen Mar McCullough on April 13, 1886, and David Oswell married her sister, Francis Melissa McCullough, February 5, 1889. Three of Mr. Wilcox's brothers had gone to Snake River Valley, Idaho and John D. decided he would sell his farm and join them. Accordingly about 1890, much to the sorrow of his wife, he sold their home for $3000. He received cattle and horses in part payment on his place, but they did not go to Idaho at that time. About fifteen miles south of Wilmont was a valley which the adjoining hills furnished with good range for his cattle, so that was where they settled. Many of the cattle died that winter and spring, owing to the deep snow and the ensuing high water. This valley was named John's Valley.
He obtained a tract of 320 acres of land under the Desert Act. But in order to give his family the advantages of church and school, he moved them to Escalante. He and his sons, John E. and Os, also bought a farm on Center Creek about halfway between Wilmont and John's Valley. In Escalante they bought a lot with nothing but a story and a half house, the upper rooms not finished.
He and his good wife set out an orchard of choice fruits expecting the canal to reach there that spring. Through some delay it didn't come until the following year. Water had to be hauled from Escalante Creek about a mile away all that summer to keep the trees alive. The climate there was delightful and such fruits as peaches, grapes, apricots, etc. grew in abundance. Soon the Wilcox orchard was one of the best in Potato Valley. Lawn and flowers were planted and the home became a beauty spot, while the vegetable garden was something to talk about.
Here as in other places, Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox were prominent in both civic and religious circles. He was head of the Democratic committee and Justice of the Peace. He was also Sunday School teacher and officer in the High Priest Quorum. She was teacher of the kindergarten class for years. She was first secretary and then president of the Relief Society. There was no doctor in the town and she did a wonderful work among the sick.
Those were happy and busy days and years spent in the little town of Escalante. But unrest came to John D. Wilcox again. They were now growing old and he thought how fine it would be to spend their remaining days where they could work in the temple, and where their children, Vern and Mary, could attend good schools.
In 1900 they sold their home in Escalante and farm three miles up the river and went to Logan to live. They purchased a home adjoining the Brigham Young College and a pasture nearby. Here their youngest daughter, Mary, graduated from the high school department of that school and took a kindergarten training course. John and Mary did much of the temple work they were so desirous of doing, so their dream came true.
Their son Vern, who moved to Logan with them, joined his brother Orris, who had some time before gone to Sunnydell, Idaho. The boys each took up a homestead and as neither of them were married, they persuaded their parents to come and live with them. This time their mother was willing to move, for although she loved her home in Logan very dearly, she wanted to be with and make a home for her boys. They made the move in l907 to the very spot Mr. Wilcox had in mind when he sold his home in Wilmont so many years before.
They bought eighty acres of land, built a comfortable little house and again planted trees for shade, an orchard, flowers and garden, and made things beautiful.
They had only been in their home two years when a great sorrow came to them. Their son, Vern, a young man of 26, died. The shock was doubly great owing to the fact that he was such a big strong man, so full of life and fun. It was a terrible loss to them, but they bore it bravely.
Mary, the daughter, was married about two years previous to Vern’s death to Ezra Liljenquist, a very worthy young man. Their two older sons, John and Os, came and made their homes close to their parents. Their oldest daughter, Lucy Burr and family also lived near them, and in 1914 their daughter, Martha Hacking and family came from Canada and made their home in the vicinity.
When the U.S. entered World War I, Orris enlisted even though he was over the age limit. He was taken with his company to France, but the armistice was signed before he saw actual combat.
After a long, useful life, John D. Wilcox passed from this life June 19, 1922. His loss was deeply felt by his family and friends. He was a man of keen intellect, well versed in the scriptures and an authority on any point of doctrine. His honesty and integrity made him a man among men.
His memory, and that of his dear wife who survived him thirteen years, will always be held sacred in the hearts of their children and grandchildren. Much of this material for this history was taken from records kept by John D. Wilcox in his own handwriting.
Important Dates in the Life of John D. Wilcox
Born April 23, 18143, Nauvoo, Illinois
Entered Utah October 7, 1861
Died June 19, 1922, Sunnydell, Idaho
Will of John D. Wilcox
Dated at Rexburg, Idaho
Known all men by these presents, that I John Dingman Wilcox of Sunnydell, Madison Co. Idaho being of sound mind and memory do make and declare this to be my last will and testament.
First—All my just debts and funeral expenses shall be first duely paid.
Second—I bequeath to my Lawful Wife Mary T. Savage Wilcox all my property, personal and real-estate, for her good and benefit as long as she lives. Then whatever remains of said estate shall be equally divided among my children as follows:
John E. Wilcox,
David O. Wilcox,
Samuel Orris Wilcox,
Lucy A. Wilcox Burr,
Martha E. Wilcox Hacking,
Mary M. Wilcox Liljenquist,
Third—I further state and declare that if it should so happen that any of my above named children should not be living at the final settlement of my said estate that portion allotted to them shall be equally divided among their children who are living at that time.
Fourth—I hereby appoint D.O. Wilcox to be my legal executor of this my last Will and Testament. For this purpose I Deed to said D.O. Wilcox the following described property:
Beginning at the North East Corner of the N.E. ¼ of the N.W. ¼ of Section 9 Township 4 North Range 40 East of Boise Medrian then running West 20 Rds. then South 6~ Rds. then East 20 rds. then North 6I~ rds. to the place of beginning.
Also beginning at the North West corner of the North West ¼ of the North East ¼ of Sec. 9 and running South 35.5 rds. then East 25.5 rds. then West of North to a point 11 rds. East from the place of beginning, then West 11 rds. to the place of beginning. The two pieces containing 12 acres more or less.
Said David O. Wilcox, to have and to hold the same as my lawful Executor of this my last Will and Testament, with full authority to act in the premises until the demise of the Grantors John Dingman Wilcox and Mary T. Wilcox. Then to have power to settle and dispose of what remains, if any, as stated in this Will and agreeable to the wishes of all concerned.
Signed and Sealed in the presence of /s/ John D. Wilcox
Witness: /s/ S. P. Oldham