Getting to Know the Lost Generation

This incredible image was taken in Pinto, Utah between 1865 and 1870. It shows the old rock Church built by the pioneers there and members of the Pinto ward who gathered to take the picture.

Pinto Ward

When I was with my Dad he had me put this image on his big screen and we studied it closely to see if we could identify any Westovers.

And why not?

We know both Charles and Edwin Westover families were there. What are the odds either or both are pictured here?

We know what they look like from other images. Both were seriously embedded in the community, well known, and played prominent roles. And, let’s face it, the Pinto Ward just wasn’t that big.

We can’t confirm that they – or any other family members – are in this picture.

But we know them. We know their story. One or both of them have to be there. We just know it.

~ The Lost Generation ~

Folks born between 1880 and 1900, who came of adult age right before World War I, are called the Lost Generation.

I find that to be an apt description, but not for the reasons that writers and historians do. To them, this generation was “disoriented, wandering and directionless”.

To me, our family members of the Lost Generation are underappreciated and unknown. They were far from directionless. They are the grandchildren of pioneers and the grandparents of Baby Boomers.

That makes them table-setters, champions of education, builders, teachers and examples.

Look at this image – taken less than 50 years later than the image above from Pinto – taken in Rexburg, Idaho.

This is a well known image and we believe we know the name of every person in this photo:

Children of William and Ruth Westover

As I stumbled on this image of the children of William and Ruth Westover it dawned on me that my struggles with this image stem from one simple fact: I know their names but I don’t know their stories.

In fact, as I’ve studied this image it occurred to me that we owe a great deal to these people and we need to get their stories down in detail.

So, what follows is some forensic work with this image itself. And, a brief overview of each individual pictured here.

And I promise, this is just a beginning.

~ Who is in this Picture? ~

William Ernest Westover is the man standing on the right. He is the eldest, born in December 1883, the firstborn of William and Ruth. This happened while they were still living in Mendon, Utah. Mendon is where William and Ruth spent the majority of their growing up years and where they were married on 1 March 1883.

As the eldest he experienced frequent breaks in his schooling to help out on the farm. He passed through all the hardships of those early years in Rexburg. He was active in the Church, baptized in 1892 and called to serve a mission while a young man.

In the Church History Library we find a letter from his Bishop to the First Presidency requesting a release for young Elder Westover due to the death of his father.

William – who likely went by the name Ernest by this time – came home and took up the care of the farm and the family.

His mother, Ruth, was struggling mightily due to illnesses among her children and the weight of keeping the farm running with the passing of her husband.

He was a farmer. He stayed in Rexburg to serve the family and sought out his education where he could. He attended the Rexburg Academy where he met Eulalia Humble. They married in the Salt Lake Temple in April of 1909, enjoying a double wedding that same day with Eulalia’s brother.

Together William Ernest and Eulalia raised a large family. He remained a farmer in Idaho his whole life. He passed away on December 14, 1968 and is buried in the Rexburg cemetery.

Arthur Edwin Westover, Sr, is pictured standing on the far left in the photo. To his left, sitting in font of him, is his wife Hetty and their daughter Georgia.

Like his older brother, Arthur Edwin too was born while his parents still resided in Mendon. He was born 25 February 1886.

Of all the siblings I’ve been able to find precious little about Arthur Edwin’s life.

I know that he married Hetty Moline Humble – younger sister of Eulalia – in November of 1912.

They had 9 children but Hetty passed away at the age of 35 in 1927 after having suffered a miscarriage and pneumonia.

He worked for the railroad in Idaho his whole life. Arthur died in March of 1975 and is buried in Victor, Idaho next to his wife.

Ray Finley Westover, standing next to Arthur Edwin’s left in the photo, was born in 1890 in Rexburg. He remained in or near Rexburg farming his entire life.

Ray married Olive Zenola Smith in 1912 in Salt Lake City. Olive was the daughter of Mary Ann Humble, older sister to Eulalia and Hettie. Mary Ann had married Albert Smith Jr, and Olive Zenola was their oldest daughter.

Ray and Olive raised a family of 9 children. Olive passed in 1948 and Ray in 1965.

Looking back at the picture, right behind Olive’s left shoulder is her younger sister, Mary Ann Smith. Next to her is Arnold Westover.

This picture was taken about six months before Arnold and Mary Ann would be married.

Arnold was born in Rexburg in March of 1895, just a short time after the tragic death of his sister, Hazel Ann.

Like his brothers before him, Arnold was pressed into farm work in between sessions of school.

Arnold was only 8 when his father passed and given the struggle on the Westover Ranch he learned from his older brothers what needed to be done while still very young.

He was self-taught in many areas and became, over time, a builder.

He married in 1914 to Mary Ann Smith, later sealed the following year in 1915.

They raised a family of children, eventually settling in Quincy, Washington after the war.

Arnold served in many civic and church positions, and through his company built many of the buildings in Quincy.

Mary Ann passed in 1959 and Arnold in 1971.

Back to the photo: in front of Arnold, to his left, is sister Myrtle Elizabeth Westover.

She was born in 1899, making her very young when her father passed away. She was cared for by her siblings while in grade school and later she moved with brother Floyd and family in Clementsville, Idaho.

There she met Joseph Ard and married him in 1919.

Together they had 8 children and lived pioneer-like lives for many of their early years.

Their children all served during the war yet survived well into old age. Myrtle’s life was filled with family and church service.

Standing to the immediate left of Myrtle is Zena Althea Westover, born in Rexburg in 1897. Being a little bit older meant that Zena was able to remember happy childhood days with siblings and experiences with her father. Like the other Westover children, Zena was mentored by her older siblings on the Westover Ranch. There she met a local boy, Jesse Hinckley, and married him in 1925.

They had 8 children and moved around a bit in their early years but eventually settled in Salt Lake City in 1942, staying their for the rest of their lives. There they built a legacy of love anchored by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Zena passed in 1967, Jesse later in 1982.

Lorin Westover, pictured in the bottom center of the photo, is about 11 years old in this picture. As the youngest, made the Westover Ranch his lifelong home and passion. He farmed and worked as the Teton Canal watermaster.

He married Anona Virgin in 1926, who passed in childbirth in 1928.

In 1929 he met and married Gladys Ingram. They had six children together and built a legacy of many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Lorin’s love of the family and the Westover Ranch fueled the organization of the Westover Family Ranch and from his foundational efforts the ranch continues to be a gathering place and a focal point for all descendants of William and Ruth Westover.

~ Who is Missing from this Picture? ~

From oldest to youngest, these children of William and Ruth are not pictured here:

Floyd Delbert Westover, third born of William and Ruth, was born in 1888, the first of the Westover children to be born in Rexburg.

A farmer his entire life, Floyd’s career began on the Westover Ranch. In 1907 he married Margaret Clay and together they raised a family of 11 children. In 1927, they moved to Aberdeen, which is just north of American Falls and west of the American Falls reservoir. Floyd would be there the rest of his life.

When Margaret passed in 1956, he married Rachel Widdison in 1957. Floyd was active in LDS church leadership and served as Farm Bureau secretary in the community.

Hazel Ann Westover was born in Rexburg in February of 1893. She lived for two years only and died due to an infectious condition.

~ The Story Behind this Picture ~

I believe this picture was taken in the spring of 1914, likely upon the occasion of the passing of Ruth Westover in April of that same year.

How can we be sure of that? The babies give us the best clue. Standing on a chair between Hetty and Eulalia is Ray and Olive’s daughter, Edna. She was born in April of 1913. She appears to be about a year old in this picture.

Sitting on Hetty’s lap is baby Georgia, who was born in January 1914, making her about three months old in this picture.

Ernest and Eulalia have two children in this picture. A little boy, Thomas Harold, standing immediately in front of William Ernest, is about 3 years old. Eulalia is holding Leora, who would have been and appears to be about 9 months old in this image.

Given this event was likely the funeral gathering of Ruth Althea it could be that Floyd was there and is the one taking the picture.

~ Next Steps in Learning and Telling Their Stories ~

The above information is gleaned from what I can find. I’m certain I’m missing details and maybe even making some mistakes (or leaving some names out) from this brief summary.

Our next steps are to talk to the surviving descendants of the children of William and Ruth. I’d love to talk to the family historians in each branch of the family, maybe even go so far as to record conversations in podcast form.

A conversation is sure to reveal details and richness a written history never could. Explanations are faster and easier to convey in simple conversations.

So I will be reaching out. We’d like to collect stories, photos and documents to be as complete as possible in this project.

This is an unsung generation – long overdue for exposure and appreciation.

Spiritual Experiences

I am spending a lot of time working on the history of my parents. It is a complex project.

Anyone attempting to write the history of people they love is confronted with great challenges. How do you tell the story and get it right? How do you handle weaknesses? How do you handle their conflicts? How do you relate all the mistakes, all the bad decisions and all the humanity of their lives without distorting their goodness or impacting how they might be seen by future generations?

It is a minefield.

One of the many stories I want to tell of my Mom and Dad lies in their spiritual journeys. Mom and Dad could not have been more different in their spiritual experiences.

It was something I heard them frankly discuss. I also had conversations with them about it individually. I heard their testimonies and their questions. My Dad in particular was frustrated and felt unworthy, especially when he compared his spiritual experiences to those of my Mother.

Dad’s experiences were of the “still small voice” variety. There were no great visions, no visitations, no grand manifestations or detailed revelations.

He told me once of how he had a spiritual experience as a boy about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He just was given the gift to know that Joseph was a prophet. It was after that boyhood experience that Dad actually engaged in the scholarly work of exploring the things that Joseph actually wrote and taught. He felt his spiritual confirmation as a young man aided his doubting adult mind and opened him up to what Joseph brought forward.

Mother’s experiences were much more dramatic.

As a convert, she was given a spectacular experience as she read the Book of Mormon. Mom had a near death experience related to a miscarriage in which she visited the other side, was talked to and given a choice. Her spiritual gifts, as they are called, were completely opposite of my Dad.

What has been instructive in all this as their son has been that my spiritual experiences can and do go either way. I seem to have inherited a little of both, if such a thing can be inherited. What it has taught me is a reverence for the experiences people claim.

I have learned to respect them. I think it is important to learn what we can from the spiritual experiences of others, rather than to be critical of them.

On these pages I have not shied away from sharing the dreams, visions and otherworldly experiences of family through the ages.

I share them because they are a part of the people we love, regardless of whatever Church they were a part of in this life.

With all that being said, I’d like to share below two deeply spiritual experiences that have come across that give me much to ponder.

These come from men who are not exactly related – but they are connected to us as family.

~ Zeke Johnson’s Witness of a Resurrection ~

Zeke Johnson

Zeke Johnson was the son of Joel Hills Johnson, who I’ve talked about before. He lived from 1869 to 1957.

Around the year 1908 he had a profound experience while plowing a field. This is his telling of that experience:

“I have been requested to relate an experience I had in 1908-9 in San Juan Co. I was just making a home in Blanding and the whole country there was covered with trees and sagebrush. I was working hard to clear the ground to plant a few acres of corn. We had five acres cleared and stared to plant corn. My little boy, Roy, about 7 or 8 years old was there to help me plant the corn. I’d plow around the place, then he would plant the furrow with corn, then I’d cover it and plow again. While I was plowing on that piece of ground, I discovered there were ancient houses there, that is the remains of them.

As I was plowing around I noticed that my plow had turned out the skeleton of a small child, the skull and backbone, but most of the bones of course were decayed and gone. Part of the skeleton was there, so I stopped immediately as my plow had passes it a little. I turned and looked back against the bar of the plow between the needles. As I was looking at that little skeleton that I had plowed out and wondering, all of a sudden, to my surprise, I saw the bones begin to wiggle and they began to change position and to take different color and within a minute there lay a beautiful little skeleton. It was a perfect little skeleton.

Then I saw the inner parts of the natural body coming in the entrails, etc. I saw the flesh coming on, and I saw the skin come on the body when the inner parts of the body were complete. A beautiful head of hair adorned the top of the head, and in about a half minute after the hair was on the head, it had a beautiful crystal decoration in the hair. It was combed beautifully and parted on one side. In about half a minute after the hair was on the head, the child raised up on her feet. She was lying a little on her left side with her back toward me. Because of this I wasn’t able to discern the sex of the child, but as she raised, a beautiful robe came down over her left shoulder and I saw it must be a girl.

She looked at me and I looked at her, and for a quarter of a minute we just looked at each other smiling. Then in my ambition to get hold of her, I said, ‘Oh you beautiful child.’ I reached out as if I would embrace her and she disappeared. That was all I saw, and I just stood there and wondered and thought for a few minutes… Now, I couldn’t tell that story to anyone, because it was so mysterious to me and such. Why should I have such a miraculous experience? I couldn’t feature a human being in such a condition as to accidentally plow that little body out and see it come alive. A body of a child about 5 to 7 years old, I’d say. I just couldn’t tell that story to anyone until finally, one day I met a dear friend of mine, Stake Patriarch, Wayne II. Redd of Blanding. He stopped me on the street, and said, ‘Zeke, you have had an experience on this mesa you won’t tell, and I want you to tell me.’ Well, I told it to him. Then he had me tell it to other friends and since then I’ve told it in 4 temples in the United States, and many meeting houses, many socials, Fast meetings, and at Conference time.

I wondered and worried about it for years as to why I was allowed to see it, a common man like me – uneducated as I was. Why was I, just a common man, allowed to see such a marvelous manifestation of God’s powers? One day as I was walking along with my hoe on my shoulder, going to hoe some corn, something said, ‘Stop under the shade of the tree for a few minutes and rest.’ This just came to me and I thought I would, so I stopped there and this was given to me:

It was an answer to my prayers. I prayed incessantly for an answer as to why I was privileged to see that resurrection. Then I was told why. When the child was buried there, it was either in time of war with the different tribes, or it was wintertime when the ground was frozen, and they had no tools to dig deep graves. If it were during time of war they couldn’t possibly take time to dig a deep grave. They just planted the little body as they could under the circumstances. Then it was done, the sorrowing Mother knew that it was such a little shallow grave that in her sorrow she cried out to the little group present, ‘That little shallow grave, the first beast that comes along will smell her body, and will dig her up and scatter her to the four winds. Her bones will be scattered all over these flats.’

There just happened to be a man present holding the Priesthood. (A Nephite or a Jaredite, I don’t know which, because they both had been in this country.) This man said, ‘Sister, calm your sorrows. Whenever that little body is disturbed or uncovered, the Lord will call her up and she will live.’ Since that time I have taken great comfort, great cheer, consolation, and satisfaction with praise in my heart and soul, until I haven’t the words to express it, that it was I that uncovered that little body.

Thank you for listening to me. I just can’t tell this without crying.”

I am gratified to have this experience shared in Zeke Johnson’s own words. I think such sacred experiences need to be shared this way.

As I try to write the sacred things my Mom and Dad passed through I struggle with getting the details right and accurately reflecting things correctly. This is one reason why these sacred things need to be prayerfully considered.

My mother once told me of a profound experience she had. She told me there were things about it she could share and other things she could never share. She never betrayed the charge she was given to keep some things to herself. But she wanted me to understand that those sacred things were given to her anyway.

I find this a common thread as I research and learn of the sacred experiences of others. Even still, there are a great many instructive things we can takeaway from what they can share. Such is the case in this next story.

~ The Vision of Heber Hale ~

Heber Q. Hale

Heber Hale was the son of Solomon and Anna Clark Hale. Our family connection is told somewhat in this post, as Anna Clark was once a plural wife of James C. Snow.

Heber was born in a stalwart Mormon family. The lives of Soloman and Anna Clark Hale testify of the environment he grew up in.

So it is no surprise that in later life Heber served in leadership positions in the Church. He was faithful to those things he was taught.

Still, he had his spiritual struggles. For Heber, there was difficulty for him in understanding the proxy work that takes place in temples. Even while a Church leader he prayed over his questions that troubled him.

Those questions and prayers led to this experience:

“It is with a very humble and grateful spirit that I attempt to relate on this occasion (by request) a personal experience, which is very sacred to me. I must, of necessity, be brief.

Furthermore, there were certain things made known to me which I don’t feel at liberty to relate here. Let me say, by way of preface, that between the hours of twelve and seven-thirty in the night of January 20, 1920, while alone in a room at the home of W. R. Rawson in Carey, Idaho, this glorious manifestation was vouchsafed to me. I was not conscious of anything that transpired during the hours mentioned, except what I experienced in this manifestation. I did not turn over in bed, nor was I disturbed by any sound, which, indeed, is unusual for me. Whether it be called a dream, an apparition, a vision, or a pilgrimage of my spirit into the world of spirits, I know not. I care not. I know that I actually saw and experienced the things related in this heavenly manifestation, and they are as real to me as any experience of my life. For me, at least, this is sufficient.

Of all the doctrines and practices of the Church, the principle of vicarious work for the dead has been the most difficult for me to comprehend and wholeheartedly accept. I consider this vision as the Lord’s answer to the prayer of my soul on this and certain other questions.”

“I passed but a short distance from my body through a film into the world of spirits. This was my first experience after going to sleep. I seemed to realize that I had passed through the change called “death,” and I so referred to it in my conversation with the immortal beings with whom I immediately came in contact. I readily observed their displeasure at our use of the word death and the fear which we attach to it. They use there another word in referring to the transition from mortality to immortality, which word I don’t recall, and I can only approach its meaning and the impression which was left upon my mind by calling it “the new birth.”

My first visual impression was the nearness of the world of spirits to the world of mortality. The vastness of this heavenly sphere was bewildering to the eyes of the spirit-novice. Many enjoyed unrestricted vision and unimpeded action, while many others were visibly restricted as to both vision and action. The vegetation and landscape were beautiful beyond description — not all green as here, but gold with varying shades of pink, orange, and lavender, as the rainbow. A sweet calmness pervaded everything.

The people I met there — I did not think of them as spirits, but as men and women — self-thinking and self-acting individuals, going about important business in a most orderly manner.

There was perfect order there and everybody had something to do and seemed to be about their business.

That the inhabitants of the spirit world are classified according to their lives of purity and their subservience to the Father’s will, was subsequently made apparent. Particularly was it observed that the wicked and unrepentant are confined to a certain district by themselves, the confines of which are as definitely determined and impassable as the line marking the division of the physical from the spiritual world — a mere film, but impassable until the person himself was changed. This world of spirits is the temporary abode of all spirits pending the resurrection from the dead and the judgment. There was much activity within the different spheres, and appointed ministers of salvation were seen coming from the higher to the lower spheres in pursuit of their missionary appointments.

I had a very pronounced desire to meet certain of my kin folk and friends, but I was at once impressed with the fact that I had entered a tremendously great and extensive world, even greater than our earth and more numerously inhabited. I could be in only one place at a time, could do only one thing at a time, could look in only one direction at a time, and accordingly, it would require many, many years to search out and converse with all those I had known and those whom I desired to meet unless they were especially summoned to receive me.

All men and women were appointed to special [and regular] service under a well organized plan of action directed principally toward [preaching the gospel to the unconverted, teaching those who seek for knowledge and] establishing family relationships and gathering genealogies for the use and benefit of mortal survivors of their respective families, that the work of baptism and [the] sealing [of] ordinances may be vicariously performed for the departed in the temples of God upon the earth. The authorized representatives of families in the world of spirits have access to our temple records and are kept fully advised of the work done therein, but the vicarious work done here does not become effective automatically.

The recipients must first believe, repent, and accept baptism and confirmation; then certain [officiating] consummating ordinances are performed effectualizing these saving principles in the lives of these regenerated beings. And so the great work is going on — they doing a work there which we cannot do here, and we a work here which they cannot do there for the salvation of all God’s children who will be saved.

I was surprised to find there, no babes in arms. I met the infant son of Orson W. Rawlings, my first counselor. I immediately recognized him as the baby who died a few years ago, and yet he seemed to have the intelligence and, in certain respects, the appearance of an adult, and was engaged in matters pertaining to his family and its genealogy. My mind was quite contented upon the point that mothers will again receive into their arms their children who died in infancy and will be fully satisfied; but the fact remains that entrance into the world of spirits is not an inhibition to growth but the greatest opportunity for development. Babies are adult spirits in infant bodies.

I [presently] beheld a mighty multitude of men — the largest I had ever seen gathered in one place, whom I immediately recognized as soldiers — the millions who had been slaughtered and rushed so savagely into the world of spirits during the great world war. Among them moved calmly and majestically, a great general in supreme command. As I drew nearer, I received the kindly smile and generous welcome of a great loving man — General Richard W. Young. Then came the positive conviction to my soul, that of all the men living or dead there is not one who is so perfectly fitted for the great mission unto which he had been called. He commands immediately the attention and respect of all the soldiers. He is at once a great general and a great High Priest of God. No earthly field of labor to which he could have been assigned could compare with it in importance and extent. I passed from this scene to return later, when I found General Young had this vast army of men completely organized with officers over successive divisions, and all were seated, and he was preaching the Gospel in great earnestness [to them].

As I passed forward, I soon met my beloved mother. She greeted me most affectionately and expressed surprise at seeing me there and reminded me that I had not completed my allotted mission on earth. She seemed to be going somewhere and was in a hurry and accordingly took her leave, saying that she would see me again soon.

I moved forward, covering an appreciable distance and consuming considerable time, viewing the wonderful sights of landscape, parks, trees, and flowers, and meeting people, some of whom I knew, but many thousands of whom I did not recognize [as acquaintances]. I presently approached a small group of men, standing in a path lined with spacious stretches of flowers, grasses, and shrubs, all of [a] golden hue, marking the approach to a beautiful building. The group was engaged in earnest conversation. One of their number parted from the rest and came walking down the path.

I at once recognized my esteemed President Joseph F. Smith. He embraced me as a father would his son and, after a few words of greeting, quickly remarked: “You have not come to stay,” which remark I understood more as a declaration than an interrogation. For the first time I became fully conscious of my uncompleted mission on earth and, [as] much as I would have liked to remain, I at once asked President Smith, if I might return [to earth]. “You have expressed a righteous desire,” he replied, “and I shall take the matter up with the authorities and let you know later.”

We then returned and he led me toward the little group of men from whom he had just separated. I immediately recognized President Brigham Young and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find the former a shorter and heavier built man than I had pictured him in my mind to be. On the other hand, I found the latter to be taller than I had expected to find him. Both they and the President were possessed of a calm and holy majesty, which was at once kind and kingly. We then retraced our steps and President Smith took his leave saying he would see me again.

From a certain vantage point, I was permitted to view this earth and what was going on here. There was no limitation to my vision and I was astounded at this. I saw my wife and children at home. I saw President Heber J. Grant at the head of the great Church and Kingdom of God, and felt the divine power that radiates from God giving it light and truth and guiding its destiny. I beheld this nation, founded as it is upon correct principles and designed to endure, but beset by evil and sinister forces that seek to lead men [astray and thwart] the purposes of God. I saw towns and cities, the sins and wickedness of men and women. I saw vessels sailing [upon] the oceans and scanned the battle-scarred fields of France and Belgium.

In a word I beheld the whole world, as if it were but a panorama passing before my eyes. Then there came to be the unmistakable impression that this earth and scenes and persons upon it are open to the vision of the spirits only when special permission is given, or when they are assigned to special service here. This is particularly true of the righteous, who are busily engaged in two fields of activity at the same time. [They may be active among the living as well as the dead.]

The wicked and unrepentant [spirits] have still, like the rest, their free agency, and, applying themselves to no useful or wholesome undertaking, seek pleasure about their old haunts and exalt in the sin and wretchedness of degenerated humanity. To this extent they are still tools of Satan. It is these idle, mischievous, and deceptive spirits who appear as miserable counterfeits at spiritualist séances, table dances, and ouija board operation. The noble and great ones do not respond to the call of the mediums and to every curious group of meddlesome inquirers. They would not do it in the world of mortality, certainly they would not do it in their increased state of knowledge in the world of immortality. These wicked and unrepentant spirits are allies of Satan and his host, operating through willing mediums in the flesh.

These three forces [Satan, his host, and the unrepentant spirits] constitute an unholy trinity upon the earth and are responsible for all the sin, wickedness, distress, and misery among men and nations.

I moved forward feasting my eyes upon the beauty of everything about me and glorifying in the indescribable peace and happiness that abound in everybody and through everything. The farther I went the more glorious things appeared. While standing at a certain vantage point, I beheld, a short distance away, a wonderful, beautiful temple capped with golden domes, from which emerged a small group of men dressed in white robes, who paused for a brief conversation. They were the first I had seen thus clad; the millions that I had previously seen were in uniforms.

In this little group of holy men my eyes cantered upon one more splendorous and holy than the rest. While I thus gazed, President Joseph F. Smith parted from the others and came to my side. “Do you know him?” he inquired. I quickly answered, “Yes, I know him. My eyes behold my Lord and Savior.” “It is true,” said President Smith. And, oh, how my soul thrilled with rapture and unspeakable joy filled my heart.

President Smith informed me that I had been given permission to return and complete the mission upon the earth which the Lord had appointed to me to fulfill. Then with his hand upon my shoulder he uttered these memorable and significant words,

“Brother Heber, you have a great work to do. Go forward with a prayerful heart and you shall be blessed in your ministry. From this time on never doubt that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, the Savior of the world, that the Holy Ghost is a God of Spirit and the messenger of the Father and the Son. Never doubt the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of the soul; that the destiny of man is eternal progress. Never again doubt that the mission of the Latter-Day Saints is to all mankind, both the living and the dead; that the great work in the holy temples for the living and the dead has only begun. Know this: that Joseph Smith was sent of God to usher in the gospel dispensation of the Fullness of Times, which is the last unto mortals upon the earth. His successors have all been called and approved of God. President Heber J. Grant is at this time the recognized and ordained head of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Give him your confidence and support. Much of what you have seen and heard here you will not be permitted to repeat when you return.” Thus saying he bade me goodbye and God bless you.

Quite a distance through various scenes and passing innumerable people I travelled before I reached the spheres which I had first entered. On my way I was greeted by many friends and relatives, certain of whom sent words of greeting and counsel to their dear ones here — my mother being one of them. One other I will mention. Brother John Adamson, his wife, his son James, and their daughter Isabelle, all of whom were killed by the hand of a foul assassin in their home at Carey, Idaho, on the evening of October 29, 1915. They seemed to divine that I was on my way back to mortality and immediately said (Brother Adamson was speaking), “Tell the children that we are very happy and very busy and they should not mourn our departure, nor worry their minds over the way in which we were taken. There is purpose in it, and we have a work to do here which requires our collective efforts, and which we could not do individually.” I was at once made to know that the work referred to was that of genealogy on which they are working in England and Scotland.

One of the grandest and most sacred things of heaven is the family relationship. The establishment of a complete chain without any broken links brings a fulness of joy. Links wholly bad will be dropped out and either new links put in or the two adjoining links welded together. Men and women everywhere throughout the world are being moved upon by their departed ancestors to gather genealogies. These are the links for the chain. The ordinances of baptism, endowments, and sealings performed in the temples of God, by living, for the dead are the welding of the links. Ordinances are performed in the spirit world effectualizing the individual recipient for the receiving and saving principles of the gospel vicariously performed here.

As I was approaching the place where I entered, my attention was attracted towards a number of small groups of women preparing what appeared to be wearing apparel. Observing my inquiring countenance one of the women remarked, “We are preparing to receive Brother Worthington very soon.” As I gasped his name in repetition I was admonished, “If you knew the joy and the glorious mission that awaits him here, you would not ask to have him longer detained upon the earth.” Then came flooding my consciousness this awful truth that the will of the Lord can be done on earth as it is in heaven only when we resign completely to His will and let His will be done in and through us. On account of the selfishness of many, persons who might have otherwise been taken in innocence and peace have been permitted to live, and have lived to their own peril and this assertion of personal will as against the will of God. Phillip Worthington died January 22, 1920, of which I was advised by telegram and returning to Boise I preached his funeral sermon on January 25, 1920.

Men, women, and children are often called to missions of great importance on the other side. Some respond gladly while others refuse to go, and their loved ones will not give them up. Also, many die because they have not the faith to be healed. Others yet, live among and pass out of the world of mortals without any special manifestation of the divine will. When a man is stricken ill, the question of prime importance is not: “Is he going to live?” or, “Is he going to die?” (What matters isn’t whether he lives or dies as long as the will of the Father is done!)

Surely we can trust him with God. Herein lies the special duty and privilege of administration by the right and authority of the Holy Priesthood, namely: It is given to the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ to divine the will of the Father concerning the one upon whose head their hands are held. If for any reason thy are unable to presage the Father’s will, then they should continue to pray in faith for the afflicted one, humbly conceding supremacy to the will of God, that His will may be done in earth as it is done in heaven.

The righteous person’s birth into the world of spirits is a glorious privilege and blessing. The greatest spirits in the family of the Father have not usually been permitted to tarry longer in the flesh than to perform a certain mission; then they are called to the world of spirits where the field is greater and the workers fewer. This earthly mission may therefore be long or short as the Father wills.

I now declare to the world that irrespective of [the opinion] of others I do know of my own positive knowledge and from my own personal experience, that God is the Father of the spirits of all men, and that He lives; that Jesus Christ is His Son and the Saviour of the world; that the spirit of man does not die but survives the change called death and goes to the world of spirits; that the world of spirits is on or near this earth; [that man’s individuality is not lost by death, nor is his progress inhibited,;] that the principles of salvation are now being taught to the spirits and the great work of joining the Father’s family among the living and the dead is now in progress, and that but comparatively few will ultimately be lost; that spirits will literally take up their bodies again in the resurrection; and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has [again] been established upon the earth with all of its keys, powers, authority, and blessings through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith; that this is the power that will not only save and exalt everyone who yields obedience to its principles, but will ultimately save the world; that the burden of our mission is to save souls unto God; and that the work for the salvation of the dead is of no less importance than the work for the living.”

~ Resisting the Urge to Be Critical ~

I watched a movie recently called Heaven is for Real. It tells the fairly recent story of Todd Burpo, whose 4 year old son experienced the other side during an operation for a burst appendix.

The movie was less about the experience itself than the story of what Mr. Burpo endured as a result of what he learned through his child.

It threw him into a crisis of faith. And, as we have seen all too many times, it told the story of people who mocked, doubted and criticized him as a faith leader because of the details he shared of his son’s experience.

We see this all the time. People mock what they fear or are ignorant about.

This is one of the reasons why I feel it is important that we share the spiritual experiences we have, where we are allowed.

Like my Mom and Dad, our personal spiritual experiences are going to vary. To some are given more, to others less.

So when I share experiences like the ones above I encourage an open mind. Much as family stories will vary in the telling by individual the “belief”, if you will, in the spiritual experiences of others is going to be different.

Some may be beyond belief, at least from what our minds know and understand right now.

Even still, it is important to know these stories and to appreciate the perspectives they come from. I believe there is great value in knowing of them even if we don’t embrace them as 100% truth.

I think there is purpose in these experiences and I will continue to share them as I discover them.

I am learning that these experiences are starting to add up. In these pages we have shared many of them – the blessing received of the stranger by Ann Findley Westover, the other-side experience of Ella Jensen, the vision of the baptism of family members by Alexander Westover, and many others.

There’s a reason our ancestors and some of our family here now have these experiences. The more we can absorb them the more we can learn and be prepared for the spiritual experiences held in reserve for ourselves.

Poke ‘Em in the Leg

Sandy and I had the chance to visit Manti this week for the temple open house. When the renovation work was announced a couple of years ago being able to see the Manti Temple before rededication quickly became a bucket list item.

But something unexpected happened to me on this visit to Manti.

It reminded me a bit of an occasion with Uncle Darrell when I was a teenager. I cannot exactly recall the circumstance but I do remember well exactly what he said to me. He was having a conversation with my father and I wasn’t paying much attention to what they were saying. Suddenly I felt a sharp poke in my leg and Darrell asked me, “What do you know about Albert Smith? Do you know who William Rowe was? What do you know about the Mormon Battalion? These men are your family and you need to know.”

For a moment I thought he was mad at me. It was a hard poke! Being startled, I looked up at him and there were tears in his eyes. He wasn’t mad – he was speaking from great conviction. He meant what he said, it was something he clearly felt very deeply about. I said, “Okay – I’ll learn.”

Well, I’ve learned.

The visit to Manti this week brought it upon me in so many ways.

~ Learning about Albert Smith ~

I credit the time I spent caring for my Dad the last year and a half of his life as a time when I gained a greater appreciation for Grandfather Albert Smith.

Albert lived in Manti. But that 42-year period of his history is only part of his story. I’ve told some of it here, about our family during the crisis year of 1856.

But we have shared before about the place Manti plays in our family history, too. It explains a bit more about Albert. In reading that again I was struck by memories of my own deep feeling for Albert as just a regular person.

That long piece on Manti’s place in our family history was a work that took better than a year.

It was a blessing to have that time during the pandemic to work on it. I had an employer who allowed me to work at home, giving me the opportunity to take care of Dad. But when I wasn’t working, and when Dad was feeling up to it, we dug deep into our family history.

I would put the family tree up on his TV in his bedroom so he could see the connections. And, of course, we would talk about the new discoveries that came up as we planned various projects.

Albert Smith was a project. Dad wanted a video (which I still need to complete). He would get frustrated a bit with me when I would post new stuff because he felt I am too wordy (I am but I’m not sorry).

And Albert was and continues to be one continual string of fascinating detail. I kind of wish I had Uncle Darrell around to talk about it with me now. I wonder how much of this stuff he knew and did not.

Dad and I found that Albert was referenced many times in a history that is published on the Sanpete County website.

That is where we learned a little more about the Indian troubles experienced in Manti and one violent incident that took place right in front of Albert’s home.

That story opened up one simple question in our minds: Where was Albert’s home?

Dad didn’t live long enough for me to discover that information. But several months ago I found this map showing the settler plots in Manti from the very beginning:

Manti Settler Map

So that was one of my goals this week in visiting Manti.

Why was this such a big deal to me?

Albert Smith was an old man by the time the Manti temple was announced, constructed and dedicated.

He had aged and while he still worked his farm as best he could he had, by the time of the temple dedication in 1888, made several concessions to age. He sometimes just didn’t go to Church because his hearing had become so bad he couldn’t listen. Albert expressed his frustrations many times about slowing down.

But he was an avid watcher of the temple going up and he and Grandma Sophie, according to his journal, would visit the temple construction site to see up close how things were progressing.

When the dedication came, Albert was chagrined to get tickets to the 2nd day events. The first day events he would have to watch from his porch and he did, noting in his journal the masses thronged at the doors of the temple.

Crowds at the Manti Temple Dedication

Crowds that Albert saw at the Manti Temple Dedication from his doorstep

So finding Albert’s house was just a desire to connect with his real world view of the temple.

Using the map above, I located where his property was – and that of Gardner Snow – and tried to picture what Albert described.

I was a little disappointed.

Main Street in Manti has grown so much it was inconclusive to me if Albert really could see the temple from his house.

Then I stumbled upon this picture of the temple from around the time it was under construction:

Manti Temple mid-1880s

This is roughly the view from near where Albert’s property was

This view is not too far north of Albert’s lot. Of course Albert could see the temple. And no wonder it became so important to him.

For many years Albert had written and sent money to a genealogist back east to research his ancestors. As soon as that temple was dedicated Albert noted in his journal the many times he and Sophie and Azariah and other family members went to the temple to work on family names.

Take a good look at that hill.

That hill was where that original pioneer group sent by Brigham Young lived in the winter of 1849-50. Albert noted in his journal about the rattle snakes they found there and the work it was to remove them all. Contrast that to the history of hill as it became known in Albert’s day, with Moroni dedicating that spot for a temple, long before our pioneers ever got there.

Even now, driving into Manti from any direction, the temple dominates the valley. It is the center of everything. Symbolic in every way.

~ The Temple ~

In our tour of the temple we learned that the remodel was not really an effort to change the facility. We were told there were some structural issues that caused roof leaks, that electronics and computer infrastructure were upgraded, and that the famous murals of this pioneer temple were painstakingly restored after having faded.

Other than that, the temple remained pretty much the same it was when originally dedicated. I guess that is why is has only been closed about two years.

All the furniture is the same. The intricate wall and window coverings are the same. The detail work on every door, every handle, every piece of trim in every room is exactly the same.

I swiped these images from the Church website of some of the interior of the temple:

The Creation Room

The creation room at the Manti temple

This is the creation room. Those benches are original, as are those upholstered chairs. The mural has been “restored”.

To my knowledge, Albert and Sophie did all the various ordinance work for those names they were able to obtain. Interestingly, though Albert was bent by age he found he did not need to use his cane once he got inside the temple.

Spiral stairs of the Manti temple

Sandy made this week’s visit having come off of heel surgery just a few months ago. We knew that getting up and down the temple stairs would be an issue for her. Back in Albert’s day he had to navigate those stairs and he had to climb that hill to get inside the temple.

So as we look at this baptistry below, and think about the 1400 family members Albert and others were baptized for between 1888 and 1892, it represents no small amount of physical effort:

Manti Temple baptistry

Albert and Sophie, of course, were not the only family members who made the Manti temple a focal point.

In fact, as various family members have made their way to Manti this month they are noting with fondness the weddings, endowments and temple experiences of all previous generations.

My grandparents were sealed in Manti in 1940.

In thinking about that before this week it didn’t occur to me that Manti has more sealing rooms than most temples.

Even more, the sealing rooms in Manti are all unique – unlike each other. Look at this incredible room:

Sealing Room in the Manti temple

What kind of world was it in the 1880s that allowed such creation in Manti, Utah? This was some special generation.

The craftsmanship of all the woodwork and furniture is credited to a lot of talent brought over from our Danish ancestors, which was no small community there in Manti.

The design, the financing, the ground-level preparation, the stone cutting and hauling, and the construction of the Temple took 11-years and who knows how many man-hours to accomplish.

But records were kept. Here is an example, of a donation of labor – one of several, no doubt, made by Grandfather Gardner Snow:

Temple donation in Manti

Note the date of this donation – February 18th, 1878. That means that Gardner Snow, at age 85, made this donation to the temple by working with his hands. Gardner Snow was, by this time, a man of means. He had a ranch. He was a probate judge. He doubtless could have just donated cash. He didn’t. He went and gave of himself.

The Temple was built with many, many such contributions. That is what it meant to those people.

For Albert, his temple experience began in Nauvoo. The anticipation of another temple in his lifetime was great. In his journal, from 1877, he mentions traveling to St. George to see the temple there:

October 30th, 1877 – “…We left on September 28th and had a very good journey there in 7 days, a distance of 220 miles, found Hannah and the rest of our friends well. It being only 24 miles from St. George we went there to see the Temple. I shall not describe the building. I will only say it was finished outside and all of the rooms in the lower stories. The outside is as white as the driven snow. It was worth going some way to see…”

In April 1878 Albert talked of meetings held in Manti. “…President Young, Brother Wells and company came here from St. George and held meetings in the evening…They selected the spot for the Temple and had the place staked off and surveyed. Today there was a meeting at 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock they repaired to the place and had the place dedicated…Next Monday we are to commence to build the Temple…”

Albert kept close tabs on the work of the Temple. His New Year’s day journal entry gives all the dimensions of the temple, including how many steps needed to be made (126) at the entrance. He noted that there were “…150 to 200 hands to work they put in 15 kegs of powder in one blast which lifted at least 2500 yards of rocks and debris weighing at least 2500 tons…”

Around that same time, Albert noted: “A few days ago I sent $15 to Brother Cummings Jr living at Salt Lake who is going ast to get the genealogy for the brethren that wishes to send by him. Anxious to procure all the name that I can….”

On his birthday in November 1878, Albert noted this in his journal: “I am 74 years old. How many more birthdays I shall live to see I do not know. Sometimes I feel as though it mattered not if I am only prepared to go and then I feel anxious to live till the Manti Temple is finished and I have an opportunity to enter there in and attend to the ordinances for my Father’s House, those that died without having an opportunity of hearing the Gospel. O my Father in Heaven, I ask thee in the name of Thy Son to spare my life if it is consistent to Thy will till the Temple is finished and I have an opportunity to enter therein and attend to the ordinances for my friends that died without having an opportunity to attend to themselves. Even those ordinances that were ordained before the world was made for the salvation and exaltation of all the sons and daughters of Father Adam, except the sons of perdition, even those that sinned against the Holy Ghost that have no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come. And O my Father help me to so live that I may be found worthy of that privilege and may they holy spirit inspire the saints to go with their might and labor diligently till the House of the Lord is completed.”

In 1880 Albert reported that fireworks were displayed over Temple Hill on the 4th of July and that by the fall the walls had reached 30 feet in height. All needed stones for the temple were cut and numbered, making faster work of the walls going up.

In 1883 Albert at long last was able to report on the project of securing his genealogy. “He wrote me soon after he returned that he had procured several hundred names of my forefathers and would be pleased with the when he got them so arranged that he could send them to me. Surely I am pleased with them there being upwards of 400 from my great grandfather whose name is Rev. Henry Smith who was the first Baptist minister in the place he lived in England. He came over 16 years after the landing of the Mayflower….”

In May, Albert was asked to speak in Church on the subject of Baptism for the Dead. He said in his journal: “One week previous I received 400 names in addition to 100 previous I had of my forefathers. It caused me to reflect on that subject a few nights previous to that meeting. As I was meditating on the principles of baptism for the dead, it seems as tho I was surrounded with the spirits of my forefathers opening the principles to my mind, giving me understanding that they was looking to me and my children to attend to those ordinances for them that they cannot attend to themselves. Not only did the open the principles in my mind but they showed me the necessity of my stirring up my children to faithfulness and to so live that we might be prepared when the Temple is finished to go there as well as the brethren and sisters and attend to those ordinances for which the Temple is built. Suffice it to say that I did not sleep none all night for it seemed as tho they was with me till day light opening my mind to many things.”

In December 1886, Albert said this: “ …I went with Azariah to the Temple. We spent 3 hours or more viewing all the rooms. We went to the top of the west tower. I will not try to describe the beauty of some of the rooms but leave it to those who are permitted to go there to contemplate on the beauty and use of these rooms…”

Dedication day came on May 21st, 1888. Albert noted: “There are so many here not one half could get in! There was excellent preaching by the Twelve and others….It is now 20 minutes after 11 o’clock. I can stand in my door and see crowds of people in front of the Temple that cannot get in. The service commenced at 10 o’clock.”

As I viewed these rooms and took in all the rich detail I was moved by my memories of Albert’s many journal entries of doing work for his ancestors.

He would work on 20 or 30 names at a time and his journal notes each time he went in the last years of his life.

In fact, the bulk of Albert’s journal entries until he died noted frequent temple attendance and records how he and Grandma Sophie enlisted their help of children and grandchildren in getting all those names worked on.

Thoughout these years Albert continued to learn about his ancestors. In 1888 he noted, “The other day there was a book put in my hand that contained the record of John Alden who came in the Mayflower and the first one that stepped on Plymouth Rock and the last one that died of that crew. I think he was my mother’s 3rd great grandfather.”

Albert and Sophie continued to go to the temple. In December 1891 Albert noted that their temple routine was interrupted slightly because of the “grandchildren that were with us”.

These were likely the children of Albert Jr. and his new bride Mary Ann, who were married in the Manti Temple on December 16th. Albert and Sophie were there to witness it.

His last noted entry in his journal of temple attendance was in June 1892, some four months before he died. Albert freely noted that sons Azariah and Albert Jr “had helped” during some of his final sessions.

While I am aware of all our ancestral family who have attended the Manti Temple – particularly contemporaries such as Gardner Snow, who no doubt attended frequently as well – it is Albert who most occupied my mind while touring the temple he visited so many times.

In fact, it occurs to me that Darrell’s poke to my leg was really just a proxy work for Albert, who pokes me in the heart.

I want Albert’s story known but I especially want what Albert’s prayer as noted from his journal above known by my children and grandchildren. For generations to come I want them to hear his words, his witness and the desires of his heart as it comes to the sacred temple.

His feelings, in this regard, are my feelings. He expresses them better.

May we reflect on them often.

Friends and Family

Circles of Friends and Family

In April of 2021 we took a road trip to Southern Utah. It would be my Dad’s final road trip, an exploration of family history.

It was his desire to connect the names and dates on the family tree to places – places even that he was familiar with from his first years growing up there.

I can recall Dad telling me that he wanted to really know these people as best he could before he passed.

In response, I spent as much time studying the people and the places we went to. I wanted to be so familiar with it all that the stories could be shared in real time.

My Aunt LaRee and Uncle Will worked on putting such a trip together for more than a year.

I fear they may never know what a big deal that was to both my Dad and for me. That trip, I feel, extended Dad’s life a bit because it gave him purpose beyond fighting illness and recovering from surgery.

As we drove we visited and Dad mixed memories of the times and places he lived in when he was a boy, sharing things of himself and my grandparents the rest of us did not know.

We stopped at pioneer cemeteries and shared what we knew of the people we found and the places they lived.

Some of these were remote, almost forgotten places. Ghost towns, really.

Places like Hebron and Pinto and Hamblin. Other places were smack dab in the middle of civilization, such as St. George, Provo and Manti.

While Dad had broad places and target individuals in mind I was swimming in details ahead of where I knew we would go.

Despite all this there were surprises and spontaneous moments.

Dad, knowing that Aunt Gladys (daughter of Grandpa and Grandma Snow) was buried in Junction, Utah, decided to make a brief stop there after we had left Kingston.

Junction still has only about 200 residents and it was no problem finding the cemetery, which resides on such a hill that the graves are terraced. Finding Aunt Gladys took just a few minutes and while the others stood there to look I turned around and found this grave:

James Bay - Friend of the Westovers

My surprised response to this discovery was, “Well, hello old friend!”

~ James Willard Bay ~

James Bay converted to the Church in 1840. He was single.

Guess who his influencing missionary was? The same Elder Goodale who taught Hannah Beal and later, Electa and Edwin, in Ohio in 1844.

In fact, James Bay became embedded in the whole company that included the Westovers coming from Ohio to Winter Quarters, and then on to Salt Lake in 1848.

He not only knew the Westover family well but also others who would also interact with the family over the decades.

My surprise in discovering James Bay’s grave that day in Junction in 2021 was centered on the fact that he knew and was important to my family.

What I did not know then was the story of the rest of his life once he got to Utah and how many others in our family story he knew and interacted with.

As we have noted many times on these pages, there are few coincidences that surprise in family history.

James Bay has more than his share of them.

~ A Mission and Marriage ~

There are a number of people who were involved in the Westover trek west to Utah. In the group were men named Aaron Sceva and John Kempton. Both men would, in time, marry Hannah Beal.

Traveling as a body of Saints under the direction of Apostle Ezra T. Benson they headed first to Council Bluffs, Iowa before staging for the trek west at Winter Quarters.

Like others in that pioneering group, Bay, being a farmer, spent about two years in the Salt Lake Valley just trying to help people survive.

He desired to serve a mission back home in Ohio because he hoped to convert his family and his old girlfriend.

Brigham Young obliged him, calling James to serve 1850. He went East and tried again with his family. Though civil to him, his family rejected him.

His former girlfriend was a little harsher with him. Years later, after he heard she had passed on, he had her sealed to him because “I still love her so”.

As James Bay returned from his mission he was called to Captain a company west in 1852. This experience set up his future and speaks of his associations in the past.

In his company was a blind woman by the name of Laura Adeline Beal.

Yes, she is another sister to Electa and to Hannah. There is no doubt that James Bay was asked to see her home to family in Utah because of his prior association with Hannah and Electa. They trusted him.

A years-later published news clipping about James Bay declares Laura to be his wife. However, this is now believed to be false. There is no official marriage record between Laura and James found in either history.

Laura had been blind since childhood. Her parents sent her to a school for the blind in Ohio, where she learned Braille. She had obtained a copy of the Bible in Braille and would be known for generations for her love of continually reading from it.

When Laura’s parents died, they left her a small inheritance that would help fund her way west to where her sisters lived. All they needed was someone to care for her on the trek.

There is little doubt that James Bay was trusted for this. The same man who had helped with financing the Westovers through the inheritance of Sarah Jane Burwell was the same man who made the arrangement for Laura’s money and passage west. James Bay was asked to see those arrangements through.

James knew another man in his company by the name of Festus Sprague, who was traveling with sister Lucinda. Festus was James’ friend as well.

Within just weeks of starting their trek west James and Lucinda were in love and were married on the trail by Elder Orson Hyde.

In his journal, James wrote:

While walking together in the hot sun today, keeping pace with the slow tread of the oxen in their steady trek toward the land of Zion, I persuaded Lucinda to marry me.

When they reached Independence Rock histories of James Bay and Laura Beal say this:

“On July 22, they reached Independence Rock, in Wyoming, and at noon, James Bay, his wife Lucinda, Laura and others walked upon it. By August 4, the company had reached the Big Sandy Creek in southwestern Wyoming. James Bay sent word ahead to Salt Lake City that most of the company was well, but the cattle were weak, and he asked if twelve yoke of cattle and four wagons could be sent to assist them. He also mentioned Laura Beal, a blind woman, sister to Electa Miller, “her that was Westover”, and requested that Electa come to meet them. It notes: “It would be a great satisfaction to her sister Laura, for she is unwell and wishes her assistance very much. My wife takes charge of her now, and has since leaving Ohio.”

Their destination once arriving in Utah was Grantsville – home to Laura’s and Electa’s sister Hannah.

James Bay stayed in Grantsville only a short time and within the year of 1853 they were called to move south to Johnson’s Fort.

~ Joel Hills Johnson ~

Johnson’s Fort, now known as the city of Enoch, between Cedar City and Parowan, was founded by a fairly well-known individual named Joel Hills Johnson.

Johnson had a long history in the Church dating back to 1830, just after the Church was organized. He played a minor role in the history of Church, witnessing and participating in many well known events between Kirtland and Nauvoo.

Joel Hills Johnson

After arriving in Salt Lake he wrote the hymn High on a Mountain Top while waiting one day to pay his tithing. He was a trusted man of action to Church leaders no matter where they sent him. After sending him south to Parowan they directed Johnson to build a farm and a ranch not far away.

While there, a few other families joined him in efforts to expand the offerings of what could be grown in the territory. One of those families was James and Lucinda Bay.

James Bay had become something more than a simple dirt farmer during these years. It is thought that his association with Joel Hills Johnson extended as both men moved to Bellevue, a remote area of far southern Utah. It was in this place that both Bay and Johnson found success growing different kinds of fruits and vegetables.

James Bay took to calling himself a “horticuluralist”, and the charge from Brigham Young to grow cotton in Utah’s Dixie was one hotly pursued by both Johnson and Bay, leading to the colonization of St. George and surrounding areas in 1861.

It became Bay’s life’s work to grow things. He supported his family through his healthy crops in Bellevue, then Virgin City and finally in Junction.

In the mid-1860s he entered plural marriage with a widowed sister of his wife. In time, he would have several more women sealed to him, though most were sealing arrangements for support of widows and single sisters. He would have 11 children in all through three of his marriages, adopting several children along the way.

In a history written by two granddaughters named Pearl and Eliza Snow (I haven’t yet figured the connection – but bet money there is one) much is made of James Bay’s gentle nature, his many friends, and his gospel living philosophy.

“His was a practical religion. He believed he should help his neighbors and speak no ill of them. He had numerous friends. We have never met an enemy of his. His home was humble, but it was a haven to all who wished to share it with him and his family.”

James Bay had other family associations. One of the more enduring was with Charles Westover, one of many family members he first crossed the plains with. Charles and James worked for Erastus Snow after first coming to the Salt Lake Valley. As single men, they were ideally suited to help the Apostle to build and maintain his new Utah farm for his families.

Another important association was with Aaron Sceva.

Aaron Sceva was born in 1806 and while we don’t know exactly how James Bay and Sceva first met we do know that Aaron Sceva was passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. James Bay was baptized in the spring of 1843. By the night he was baptized James was accompanying the missionaries who baptized him to preach to others.

In December James Bay was ordained an elder by John Kempton, husband at that time to Hannah Beal. Shortly after that ordination, he met and baptized Aaron Sceva, who was also immediately ordained an elder by James Bay and, like Bay, immediately went on a mission.

Sceva was known throughout his adult life for his missionary zeal. He was always preaching the gospel, whether serving a mission or not.

This passion led Sceva to leadership positions, even speaking before general conferences of the Church in Salt Lake City. For a time, he served as a counselor and general authority in the church Elders Quorum Presidency in the early 1850s.

Upon reaching Utah, however, he made his home in Grantsville, not Salt Lake City. It was there he married Hannah Beal after John Kempton died. Sceva never left there and it was his homestead where the Beal families and Westover families – and yes, at times even the Bay family – gathered and found safety.

One line from the journal of James Bay seems to sum up the relationship he formed with Aaron Sceva, as well as provides us a small glimpse into each man’s convictions: Aaron Sceva had a vision before I baptized him and he thought he had received the Holy Ghost, so when he found out that I had the authority to baptize him he was very happy.

James Bay would have other close connections to people we know from various family histories. He received his Patriarchal blessing from Isaac Morley. He was married under the hand of Orson Hyde, and later by Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, and James G. Bleak.

He was an avid temple-goer, and along with Lucinda he performed the work for hundreds of their kindred dead or even his friends. He frequented both the St. George and Manti temples.

James and Lucinda Bay

James and Lucinda Bay

Given all his associations with Westovers and Beals there is no doubt he was at the St. George temple dedication with Electa, Charles, Edwin and others he knew from way back at Winter Quarters.

His association with Joel Hills Johnson is personal for me because Johnson is the 5th great-grandfather of my daughter-in-law, Angie. Thus he is a direct ancestor of my grandchildren.

Johnson is buried near Edwin Westover in Johnson Canyon, Kane County, Utah – another location we found on that trip in 2021.

It was at the Johnson farm there where Edwin sought refuge in the final days of his life and where he passed away. The Johnson family took him in and tried to save his life. When he died, they buried him with their own.

I find it a rich irony that my grandchildren’s two great grandfathers, who were the first men of their families to join the early Church, are buried together. There is no way they could have known then, of course, that they would share descendants.

Or perhaps, in the realm of the great beyond we all go to after we die, they do know now.

I know it is not coincidence.

I’ve worked on this brief review of our friend James Bay for some time. But it was only today, March 15th, 2024, that I came to another bizarre connection that’s not so coincidental.

I have a good friend who is the same age as my son. We’ve known each other for several years.

Weeks ago I learned of some vandalism at the cemetery in Grantsville and I shared that news in a group this friend and I are in online. He mentioned that he had grandparents buried there and, when we go out there, to see if their grave sites were affected.

In looking at his family tree and digging a bit into his family’s pioneer Utah past, I discovered that that his family are among the founders of Grantsville and, in fact, one of his great grandfathers designed the very cemetery where many of his family are buried.

Like all family histories, it was interesting to learn of their lives and sacrifices as they pioneered that area.

But in my quest to learn more about James Bay through his wife Lucinda I learned that her brother, Festus Sprague, stayed in Grantsville after arriving in Utah. He married one of the daughters of my friend’s great-grandfather, a founder and former mayor of Grantsville.

This seeming coincidental and unimportant connection, like all others we talk about above and in other places in our family history, has a purpose.

I cannot help but think of my Dad, who said to me on that trip in 2021, “Who is James Bay, again?”.

Dad has to be smiling about all this. It’s been about three years since that trip and I’m still learning new stuff – beyond the stuff I knew that day in Junction. There is a reason for all this.

I have no idea what it might be. The possibilities are endless.

All I know is that the friends we make and the friends we have are not far distant from those we call family.

It was true of James Bay in his day. And it is true of me in mine.

We are all connected. For a reason. The Lord is in it.

The Honeymoon Trail

Just west of a place out in the middle of nowhere on the Utah/Arizona border called Fort Pearce is a old pioneer trail. In this remote place on this mostly forgotten trail are rocks where at a time in the old west travelers left their mark on red stone in wagon wheel grease.

Those marks remain today and can still be read:

Honeymoon Trail

Those written words are “Westover” and “Funk”.

There has to be a connection, right?

Yes. There are several.

~ The St. George Temple ~

In 1877 the St. George Temple was dedicated. It was a huge event for the Westover Family.

Mother Electa Beal Westover, through her sons Edwin and Charles, gathered the family to go through the temple for themselves and for their families.

The St. George Temple was the first completed after the Nauvoo period. Though work had started on the Salt Lake Temple almost as soon as the pioneers arrived in 1847 it was a work in progress for decades.

The Endowment House in Salt Lake City was built for the purposes of “sealing” ordinances for the living and nearly all the Westovers and their extended families had been there for their own weddings.

In January of 1871 the prospect of a temple in St. George was raised by Brigham Young.

The Cotton Mission, known as Dixie and encompassing many small communities around St. George, was struggling and many settlers were wanting to leave. Brigham, frustrated that work on the Salt Lake temple had stalled for 7 years, proposed a temple in St. George as a means of unifying the Saints living there.

There was an immediate enthusiastic response. Work began and continued for several years with contributions from nearly every pioneer family in the area, including the Edwin and Charles Westover families. As the dedication approached in early 1877 everyone in Electa’s family gathered.

St. George Temple

Edwin and family, living in Hamblin, had come to St. George in advance of a new mission call to settle new communities in northern Arizona. Property had been traded, supplies had been gathered and further preparations, which included going through the temple and getting patriarchal blessings, had to be done.

Charles and family had relocated sometime before from Pinto to Washington City, just outside of St. George. Mother Electa lived with them.

Their bishop was a man named Marcus Funk.

~ Charles Westover ~

Charles WestoverAlexander and Electa Westover had four children while building their farm in Ohio and three of them lived to adulthood: Edwin, Charles and Oscar.

All three came west with Electa and she remained close to all three. Edwin, the oldest of the three, farmed next to his brother in the Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley until the early 1860s.

Charles and families were called to the Cotton Mission as part of the original settler group in 1861. His name and original family home shows on the first pioneer map of St. George.

Edwin and families were called to the Cotton Mission in 1862, after living for a brief period in Grantsville near Electa’s sister, Hannah.

Oscar left Utah as a young man and moved west to California, raising a family in Petaluma.

Of the pioneering Westover brothers it was Charles who seemed to be the most well known and well connected.

Charles Westover had a personal relationship with Apostle Erastus Snow.

Erastus Snow

Erastus Snow

As a young single man in 1848, when the Westovers traveled to Winter Quarters, Charles sought Snow out because he heard he was looking to hire someone to drive his family’s team west.

In the course of making those arrangement Charles indicated his desire to be baptized so Erastus Snow baptized him.

For the rest of Snow’s life there would be interactions between him and Charles Westover.

It is assumed that Snow influenced the call of the Westovers to St. George and, of course, he played a central role in the construction and the dedication of the St. George temple.

Charles and his wives spent the rest of their lives in St. George.

That is why it is ironic that Cache Valley – far to the north on the other end of the state – would not only be known as home to Edwin’s posterity. It would also become home to many of Charles’ descendants.

Thanks to Bishop Marcus Funk.

~ Marcus Funk ~

Marcus Espersen Funk was born in Denmark in 1842 and came to America in 1857 with his parents. His parents, Dederick and Kirsten, joined the Church after missionary work was established in their area of Denmark by…Apostle Erastus Snow.

They came to Utah and found farming opportunities in the tiny Cache Valley community of Richmond.

While in Richmond, young Marcus became known for his ability to handle horses. Throughout his life, wherever he lived, he was known for his fine horses and for the care and gentle treatment he gave them. Eventually he became a teamster for William B. Preston, who was the chief founder of Logan, the town mayor, and bishop (all by the age of 29). The job would eventually change Marcus’ life for good when he answered to call to drive one of his teams on a “down-and-back”.

It was on such a drive in 1864, on a return trip, that Preston’s company helped a pioneer handcart group on their westward trek. In that group was a girl who caught Marcus’ eye. By the time they all arrived in Salt Lake, they were engaged.

Not many years later Marcus and his wife were called to move their family south to the Cotton Mission by Brigham Young. They settled in Washington City, assigned there by Erastus Snow, and became embedded in Church and civic leadership. In time, Marus would serve as both bishop and mayor.

Marcus Funk

At the time of the dedication of the St. George temple, the Charles Westover family and the Marcus Funk family each had several children living with them.

In 1877 Lewis Burton Westover was 9 years old. Eliza Johanna Funk was 8.

In 1889 they married. In the St. George temple.

Around that time Marcus Funk was called yet again by the Church to settle a new area in Sanford, Colorado. He was again called as Bishop.

The newlywed couple of Lewis and Eliza followed him to Colorado. The Lewis Burton Westover family would stay there until Marcus Funk and family left – in 1909.

~ The Honeymoon Trail ~

When the St. George temple was dedicated it wasn’t just a big deal to the Westovers and Funks and other in the region known as Dixie. Mormons from everywhere came to St. George to go through the temple and they did so for years, at least until the next temple opened in Manti.

An unwritten chapter in the life of Edwin Westover belongs to that of his Southern Utah family. Edwin was sure to communicate to his wife Sarah Jane that their entire family was called to settle in North Arizona. He wanted her to continue on to fulfill that mission, which she did.

The Westovers, under Sarah Jane’s direction and that of Edwin’s eldest son, Edwin Lycurgus Westover, grew the generations of the Westover family in Arizona in an epic and righteous way.

As they prospered, met spouses and married they had to travel the Honeymoon trail to St. George to get to the temple.

Honeymoon Trail

For better than 30 years this trail was well known to newlyweds.

Ironically, the newlyweds in Lewis Burton Westover – a grandson to Electa Westover (who was a temple worker in St. George) – and Eliza Johanna Funk were living in Washington City when they married in the St. George temple. It was only after they married and were living in Sanford, Colorado that they traveled the Honeymoon Trail and put their names on the rock.

~ A Latter-day Westover-Funk Connection ~

This might or might not be something, I don’t know yet. I only discovered the above story in the past few days.

My own move to Cache Valley happened in 2012 when a change in jobs allowed my wife and I to reconsider where we were living and raising our children. We felt we needed a change.

We looked all over Utah but were drawn to the little town of Richmond after one of our daughters expressed a desire to attend high school in nearby Smithfield. We went there, found a house and it just felt right.

This move had everything to do with my family history awakening. A short time after we moved we got called to serve on trek, which would include two of our daughters.

We went and I had some powerful experiences in learning all about my pioneer ancestors.

Our stake president, in the early morning devotional on the day we left on trek, promised us that if we desired a spiritual experience we need only to pray for it. I did and I had several.

Upon our return, I emailed him and told him of what happened to me on trek. His note was short but gracious. And he signed it with this post script: “Oh, Brother Westover, by the way, my mother is a Westover”.

I looked her up and she is Zaetell Westover, a daughter of Lewis Burton, and thus another descendent of Charles and Electa.

I have scoured the cemeteries local to me here in Cache Valley. I visited them often enough I can trace many familiar names, even people I am not related to. One of those names in Funk, which is prominent still in Richmond.

My children had friends from our time living in Richmond with the last name of Funk.

Boy, do I have a story to tell them.