None Knew Them

The generation of my grandparents is rightfully known as The Greatest Generation.

They have been so identified because of their sacrifices and contributions during the years of the Great Depression and World War II.

We likewise are free with our praise of the Pioneer Generation, those pre-and-post Civil War era ancestors who conquered the West

We marvel as well over the Generation of Emigrants who crossed oceans and continents around the turn of the 20th century.

In greater measure, we identify our Pilgrim and Puritan ancestors of the Great Migration generations of the 1600s.

But as I continue to work family history it occurs to me that there was a generation just as great as all these yet they seem to escape any recognition. I have come to call them the Unheralded Generation.

This is the generation of ancestors born from roughly 1790 to 1810, or so – the children and grandchildren of early colonists of the American Revolution.

We just don’t give them the credit they deserve.

This thought came to me as I pondered over the graves of ancestors this week in Mendon, Utah.

There, between the tiny markers for William and Linzey Findley, is a monument erected in their honor by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

The monument clearly says “None knew them but to love them. None named them but to praise.”

Curious, I began to poke around looking for where those words came from. I wanted to know why these words are assigned to a marker to these 5th great-grandparents of mine.

The all-knowing Google could only point me in the direction of an obscure 19th century America poet by the name of Fitz-Greene Halleck.

Halleck was something of a mover and shaker in early American publishing circles in New York. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Washington Irving and Edgar Allen Poe.

A New York Times article described his poetic works as “ranging from the incomprehensible to the awful”. Yet there Halleck is, immortalized on the great Literary Walk of Central Park with William Shakespeare, Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

His one claim to poetic greatness comes from a work he penned for another poet, Joseph Rodman Drake, when Drake died. This poem made Halleck’s name widely known in the 19th century:

Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my better days!
None knew thee but to love thee,
Nor named thee but to praise.

Tears fell, when thou wert dying,
From eyes unused to weep,
And long where thou art lying,
Will tears the cold turf steep.

When hearts, who truth was proven,
Like thine, are laid in earth,
There should a wreath be woven
To tell the world their worth;

And I, who woke each morrow
To clasp thy hand in mine,
Who shared thy joy and sorrow,
Whose weal and woe were thine.

It should be mine to braid it,
Around thy faded brow,
But I’ve in vain essayed it,
And feel I can not now.

While memory bids me weep thee,
Nor thoughts nor words are free,
The grief is fixed too deeply
That mourns a man like thee.

I have pondered all week why the Daughters of Utah Pioneers would put those words on that monument above the graves of the Findleys.

I have shared the history of the Findleys before in telling the story of Ann Westover, her brother William, Jr. and his wife, Sarah.

But I’ve not said much about their parents, William Sr. and Linzey, because there is honestly little known there to share.

I have a feeling it is the story of a great love between two people. It is clearly a story of tremendous sacrifice. And it is certainly a story that has never been told nor rightfully recognized.

William Sr. was a Scot, a coal miner and quite nearly an old man when he pushed the family handcart with Linzey and Ann to Utah in 1856.

He was 47 years old that year and he would spend the last 30 years of his life toiling on the farm in Mendon in obscurity.

The town of Mendon has a plaque honoring the founding families of the city near the town square and the Findley name is on it. But that is a reference to William Findley Jr, who came to Mendon in 1859 and claimed some of the best farm land there to be found.

It was William Findley Jr who was well known in the community. He was the one with the impressive team of 12 champion horses. It was William Jr who on the High Council. It was William Jr. the journals of visiting Church authorities would mention as a leader in the Mendon Ward.

William Sr. and Linzey settled next door to William Jr. and Sarah.

When William Jr. unexpectedly died in 1869 it was William Sr. who sent for daughter Ann.

We know William Sr. was faithful. He appears on the records of the Mendon Ward in various activities all the way until about a month or so before his passing in 1887.

When Ann received her patriarchal blessing it was mentioned that William Sr. had just previously given Ann a father’s blessing, and was standing in with the Patriarch as Ann received her patriarchal blessing.

There can be no doubt of how close Ann Westover was to her parents. She named her first son William.

When she came to Mendon it was to help William, Jr.’s widow – Sarah, and her children – but she lived in the home and on the farm of her parents next door.

Their place, in time, became “Sister Westover’s house”, where the school children would pass each day and stop for cookies and storytelling.

Throughout all this drama the steady influence and presence of William Sr. and Linzey is evident – but never mentioned.

We know that Linzey was a beloved Matriarch. Generations of granddaughters after her carry her name. We know the little iron that Sarah carried beneath her skirts across the plains has been passed down in the decades since only to daughters named Lindsay.

Yet no stories or known written history of William, Sr. and Linzey Findley exist.

“None named thee but to praise”, indeed.

These honored and beloved pioneers are not the only ones of their generation whose true stories are not really known.

Alexander Westover – Edwin’s father – is practically unknown as a man. His wife, Electa, we have a little more about but she too lived a life of incredible loneliness and sacrifice.

David Rowe and his wife, Hannah – grandparents to Ruth Althea Rowe Westover – were of this generation as well.

Their son William’s stories of service in the Mormon Battalion and great spiritual experiences are documented well. But the stories of conversion and sacrifice for David and Hannah are not known or remembered.

Levi Murdock, and his wife Elizabeth, are significant figures in the settlement of the north Ogden area of Utah. But they were considered among the oldest and wisest of Mormon pioneer families yet they left behind no family records, relying on their history to be recorded in the journals of others.

David Smith and his companion, Deborah Alden – parents to Albert Smith, are better remembered not for their own history but for their distant heritage among the pilgrim and puritan settlers of New England.

Grandma Sophie’s parents – Johan Frederick and Sophie Catrine – have no known history. Perhaps all the records from Denmark are yet to be found.

From the Humble side of the family we do know a little more of those of this generation. George and Mary Ann came over from England in about 1850. But while we know their travels a lot more could be known of their story.

We do have a few from this generation whose stories we know.

Notably we know the stories of Gardner Snow, Horace Roberts and of Elam Cheney. These are all notable characters in early LDS history. But without outside record keeping from Church events we might not know anything about them at all.

I think of this generation as unheralded because they were truly the first to push westward. They may have first settled in places like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois before pressing forward towards Utah but they aren’t celebrated for that.

They were, if truth be told, pioneers to many of those WE consider to be pioneers.

So I find the DUP marker between William and Linzey in Mendon to be quite appropriate in its sentiment.

But I hope to one day make that sentiment obsolete. Their story should be discovered, shared and celebrated. They were, by all evidence, greatly devoted to family and grandparents I would be proud to know.

Kim Westover

Facial hair is not prolific in our family lines.

It may be all the missionaries and school teachers we have had over the years or perhaps it just that the manly art of beards and mustaches just isn’t in our gene pool.

But on a recent perusal of the gallery feature at FamilySearch.org I began to notice not only that we DO have some beards we actually have some EPIC beards — you know, hall of fame stuff — when it comes to facial hair.

Take, for example, this very modern-looking beard from William Rowe:

William Rowe

William is the father of Ruth Althea Rowe. He was a member of the Mormon Battalion as well as one of the founding fathers of the town of Mendon, Utah. He had a huge influence on William Westover and it appears he kept his beard for the majority of his adult life. It is not known when this photo was taken but I suspect it dates from about the 1860s.

So many of these pictures feature older men with beards. Not this one. Here is Uncle Loris, from about 1943, with a young man’s beard for sure. He is in uniform here so I think there is a story to this image and this beard that maybe someone out there knows:

Loris Westover

The first of the Riggs family to join the Church was William Sears Riggs. He too sported a beard most of his adult life but this later-in-life image is my favorite his epic beard:

William Sears Riggs

He was one of many who headed west for the gold fields in California, but he came west with an LDS wagon train in 1850. He was convinced to wait the winter months out in Utah before pressing on to the gold mines. He ended up staying, joining the Church and raising a family in Utah.

His story isn’t quite as dramatic as the story of Samuel Barnhurst (told in this post). Here is Samuel and his fine beard from about 1870:

Samuel Barnhurst

Samuel, of course, is father of Priscilla Barnhurst, who is the mother of the man sporting this more subtle beard:

Will Riggs

This is my great-grandpa Riggs and I know many who just love this picture of him. The hat always gets the first comment but honestly the mustache and the soul-patch on his chin just complete the look altogether. This is one of those pictures I would love to know the story behind. When was it taken, what’s up with that hat and why didn’t he keep the trendy facial hair?

Next up and sporting the under-the-chin beard variety is the very famous, Horace Roberts:

Horace Roberts

Horace Roberts learned the art of pottery and dish making from his father — in Illinois. When he joined the Church he was asked by the Prophet Joseph to open a pottery shop in Nauvoo, and he did. Later Brigham asked him to do the same in Provo. Due to his craft he was a very well known individual. He was also father to Jane Cecelia Roberts, who was a wife to this guy:

James C. Snow

James Chauncey Snow was a son of Garner Snow, who you’ve read about here on WFH, who joined the Church in 1833. James would have a prolific career in the Church, serving as a missionary and later in several leadership positions. He was also involved in local and state politics. When he died he was buried in Manti, which just happens to be the home of this man:

Albert Smith

Rockin’ the Amish style beard is Albert Smith, whose story will be told soon in an upcoming video. Albert too was a member of the Mormon Battalion and later a founder of the city of Manti, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was there so long and was so beloved in that community that for decades it seemed “Father Smith” spoke at every civic 4th of July and Pioneer Day celebration in Manti.

Rounding out our review of epic beards is a turn to the 21st century and my cousin, Kim Westover.

Kim Westover

This epic shot of this iconic beard reminds many of Hemingway and while I get that what I really see is a man with profound love for family and heritage. He knows well all the men above, as well as many others, and leads the family not only with occasional facial hair but in a unifying spirit, a great disposition, and a generous nature.

I hope I haven’t left anyone out. If you have any other great beards from our family past to share, please send them in!

Manti Temple Workers 1886

I have been spending a lot of time in the world of Albert Smith for an upcoming video we hope to release. That, of course, comes with an always challenging effort to find images to help tell his story.

The best and perhaps most beloved photo of Albert is this one, showing him late in life with one of his wives:

Albert And Sophie

This photo has been mired in controversy for decades. That is most definitely Albert Smith, seated in the chair wearing the checkered suit. But the question comes from the woman pictured — is it Rhoda Gifford Smith or Sophie Klauen Smith?

Albert Smith lost his first wife, Esther, in 1856. As was common in the 19th century Albert began looking for a new companion because survival on the farm demanded it. He found a widow, Rhoda Gifford, who was likewise in need of a spouse and they married.

This was in 1857 — right after the arrival of the Willie Handcart Company. Grandma Sophie’s story has been told. Together, with Albert and Rhoda, Sophie went to the endowment house on Valentine’s Day 1857 and were sealed at the same time.

Albert Smith was suddenly a polygamist.

It wasn’t a happy arrangement and we’ll get into that in the video. For now though, let it suffice to say that Rhoda and Albert divorced in 1865 — long before the photo above was taken.

The picture above was taken by George Edward Anderson, a photographer born in 1860. This article from the September 1973 Ensign tells his story. The photo above was found in his collection of images dating from 1880-1928.

We know that Albert died in 1892. So this picture was taken between 1880 and 1892 — long after Rhoda was out of the picture. That woman in the photo is Grandma Sophie.

Mystery solved.

But in the resolution of one mystery comes yet another. And that is in this image:

Who are these people?

The photo is the next in sequence taken in Anderson’s Springville studio. It is likewise marked “Albert Smith”.

Looking at this couple do you suspect they are married? Or could they be brother and sister?

I have not figured it out yet. The records I’ve found of Albert Smith Jr. are so far pretty scant. He was married in 1883, just 22 years old, to Caroline Nielsen.

Looking at her records, which includes a few images, the woman in the photo above is definitely NOT Caroline. She and Albert Jr had three children in the 1880s — two sons and a little daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who died, along with Caroline, in 1889.

The journal of Albert Smith records a little about this period of time, with letters flying back and forth among the various family members. Not only did Albert Jr suffer from devastating news but sister Albertina, four years older, died in childbrith in June of 1890 in Huntington, Utah. Albert’s journal speaks of Albert Jr. returning to the Smith home in Manti with at least five of the grandchildren to stay with them a while.

I could be wrong — and probably I am wrong — but something tells me that might be a picture of Albert Jr and Mary Ann Humble sometime before they were married in December 1891.

Mary Ann Humble had been married before to a man named Clark Brinkerhoff. She was his 2nd wife. He was sent on a mission and while he was gone the Manifesto came out. With that he never returned to Mary Ann and the child they had together. In 1891 she married Albert Smith Jr, and he adopted the son Mary Ann and Clark had together.

Missing for me in identifying the picture above are the critical details in the histories of Albert Smith Jr and Mary Ann Humble.

Whoever these people are — they knew Albert Sr. and Sophie, because this picture very obviously was taken at the same time and paid for by Albert Smith in the studio of George Edward Anderson in Springville, Utah.

Note: I’m still combing through Anderson’s sizable collection but I did find this image of Manti Temple Workers taken in 1886. I’m wondering if there are any Smiths, Nielsons or Snows recognizable in these faces.

Manti Temple Workers 1886

Samuel Barnhurst

When I first began using Family Search I was somewhat frustrated with the idea that anyone could edit information on that one-world family tree.

To me, the “watch” feature is a critical function of Family Search. I click on “watch” next to any name and if someone comes along and adds or changes something I get notified about it right away.

Indeed, I get annoyed with unknown folks making ill-advised changes to data associated with my family members.

But over time I have come to see the wisdom of an open-edit record.

Not only do we get more complete information about our ancestors, in time more of their stories become easier to understand because inevitably other people have data, journals, and photos I do not possess.

This is a good thing. We all make the record stronger. The stronger the record, the more accurate the information we receive.

Family stories, you see, are not always family truth.

Consider for example the story of Samuel Barnhurst.

Samuel Barnhurst was the father of my Great Grandma Riggs. I’ve spent some time the past year or so working on learning the Riggs story so that I can begin sharing it here.

Like most of our stories I tend to focus on migrations west that explain the how and the why we all came to be in this part of the world now. Samuel’s story of his westward migration is no less epic than any other we’ve shared here.

Samuel Barnhurst was born in 1827 in Philadelphia to an English immigrant family. His parents were from England where his father was a silversmith. They were well-to-do, well connected and quite religious.

His parents, Joseph and Priscilla, were married and had two children before coming to Philadelphia sometime between 1812 and 1819. They would have ten more children in America, including Samuel, who would be the 9th of their 12 children.

Perhaps it was because of their wealthy status that we have pictures of almost their entire family, both together around 1840ish and later in life as photography became more established. I am hopeful that I learn from the records left behind of Samuel’s siblings what really happened in his early years that caused him to leave Philadelphia.

Certainly his conversion to the LDS church was central to the story.

I started collecting information on Samuel about 20 years ago when I had stumbled across a family history website who claimed him as an ancestor. Sadly, I can no longer find that website or remember who authored it but the story I archived from it varies quite a bit from what is now available from various sources on FamilySearch.org.

Joseph Barnhurst Family

The Joseph Barnhurst Family in the 1840s, perhaps as late as 1850.

Joseph and Priscilla and family were very active in a Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Young Samuel, who in his mid-20s had married a woman and started a family of his own, was employed in something that gave him extraordinary interest in religion.

The story I first found on that website was that Samuel was a newspaper columnist who wrote on religion in Philadelphia. One of the stories he wrote about in the 1840s was rumors of the Mormon Church and their “gold bible”.

In the aftermath of his published story mocking the Church he attended a lecture where missionaries of the Church rebutted his story – and therein began his association with the Church.

After catching up on Samuel’s stories on Family Search, I’m not sure any of that is true.

Here is an excerpt from another history posted of Samuel on Family Search:

“Samuel had high blood pressure and varicose veins. Doctors did all they could for him, bled him and put leaches on to keep his veins from bursting. One night he was wondering what to do, he either dreamed, or had a vision. He saw two men; a voice told him to go to them and they would tell him what to do to be cured.

About that time, Mormon missionaries were sent to that city. One day he was walking down town when he saw the two men he was shown in his dream on the other side of the street. He crossed over and spoke to them. They told him he would have to have faith. He was about 28 or 29 years of age. After attending their meetings he was favorably impressed with their teachings. His family was very opposed to the Elders but he decided to pray to find out for himself.

He went to his room to pray and see if the Church was true. The room began to get light. The brightness of it was more than he could stand and he told the Lord he was satisfied, to take it away. As the light began to die down he thought how foolish he was not to see more when he had a chance. No sooner had he thought this than it became brighter than before and he said he could stand no more. A voice said, “Anytime you want to see or hear more, ask and you shall receive.”

He asked the Elders for baptism and later was administered to for his illness. He was instantly healed and was never troubled with it again.”

Regardless of what his situation was that brought Samuel to the Church it is clear his family was greatly opposed to it.

Almost universally in all the histories shared about Samuel the story is told of him coming home one night and hearing voices of people in another room talking about him.

As he listened to their conversation through a door he heard their plot to kidnap and institutionalize him for his conversion to Mormonism.

So bitter was the divide that Joseph, Samuel’s father, evidently said “it would be bad enough to have a son in the insane-asylum, but even that would be better and easier to live down than having a son who had joined the Mormon Church”.

Whatever the truth, Samuel left.

No official record of divorce is known and family records clearly show that Samuel never again had contact with any of his family – not his parents, his wife or his children – in Philadelphia. In fact, in later years both branches of the Barnhurst family were shocked to learn the other existed.

In 1857 around the age of 30, Samuel headed west in the company of returning missionaries – including apostles John Taylor and Erastus Snow.

That year of 1857 was pivotal in the history of the Church in Utah. We’ve talked about it before. The march of Johnston’s army was underway and the Church was going through the famous Mormon Reformation. This was when polygamy grew immensely within LDS ranks, as we’ve seen the histories of other branches of the family.

It was also a season of peak immigration with Saints arriving from Europe, many of whom spoke languages other than English. This included a young single woman from Denmark named Ane Marie Jensen, whose story shared some interesting parallels to Samuel Barnhurst’s.

Though they did not know each other, at the encouragement of their new Church leaders in Utah, Samuel and Ane married just months after arriving in Utah in 1857.

He would live until 1890, she would live until 1906.

Their 30+ years together would bring 9 children into the world and would see them move several times before settling in Hatch, Utah where they and their children would impact local history.

In fact, a Google search of Hatch history reveals that a son of Samuel and Ane served in a Bishopric with William R. Riggs when they moved the town of Hatch to higher ground to avoid flooding from a local dam.

I don’t know the story of that association yet but it yielded a marriage between the Riggs and the Barnhurst families.

One history states that Samuel never reconciled with his Philadelphia family and that he refused to acknowledge or even to talk about them for the remainder of his days.
I question that. After all, my Great grandmother – his daughter – was named after his mother and his youngest child was named Joseph, after his father.

I’m guessing and this is pure speculation that the adult years of gospel training in the life of Samuel Barnhurst taught him not only forgiveness but respect for love and family. Theirs is another reunion I’m curious about when it took place on the other side.

I would encourage you to have an account at Family Search and to get out of the data of births and deaths and ordinances and begin reading and sharing the stories and histories people are posting there.

If you have old histories sitting around somewhere that are not on Family Search I would encourage you to upload them for all to enjoy.

Samuel Barnhust and Ane Marie Jensen are pioneers – beloved as much as any others we have spotlighted. I look forward to learning more about them.

Tonight I went fishin’ for a while. I don’t get nearly enough opportunity to do that –“fishin’” as it relates to family history.

Here’s how it works: I go to FamilySearch or Ancestry and enter very broad search terms – say, a surname like “Smith”.

Then I sort out all the results to drill down to just what I want to see. Sometimes it is birth certificates, sometimes it is census records, sometimes it is just something else.

Tonight it was photos.

I went to Ancestry and trolled for all photos I could find associated with “Westover”. I got that beauty of an image above from this little fishing expedition.

Those boys are brothers by the name of Canfield.

I had seen that name somewhere before so I had to click on it and figure out the connection.

I got the connection alright – but the side story was a much better find – a true tale of the old West.

What made it even better was the alleged mystery of a 120-year old event spilled over on the pages Ancestry as descendants of the men involved continued to debate the tale of cattle rustling, old west gangs, suicide and murder.

Interested? Read on.

First, the family connection: the man in the bottom left of that picture is Moroni Canfield.

This picture of Moroni and his brothers was taken in about 1890 – about three years before Moroni died – or was murdered or committed suicide, depending on whose history you believe.

Moroni married Sarah Evaline Westover, eldest daughter of our Edwin R. Westover and his wife, Sarah Jane Burwell.

Moroni and Sarah met around 1870, when Edwin was living in Hamblin. Both were about 20 when they married.

Edwin has no real part to play in this story. After Moroni and Sarah were married they left Hamblin for several years and returned in 1877, where Edwin traded his property there to Moroni for a team, harness and wagon for Edwin to use on his mission to Arizona.

Moroni and Sarah would have a family of 8 children and his life until the 1890s mirrors that of so many in Southern Utah from that time. They struggled financially and fought the elements in their attempts to build Zion.

With a name like Moroni you have to know there is a strong Mormon connection, too.

Moroni’s father joined the Church, went to Nauvoo and later to Winter Quarters where they came west when Moroni was just a boy. He was thoroughly invested in the Church.

A story is told of how Moroni once came upon two US Marshals who were in Utah hunting down polygamists.

Moroni asked these two men why they were there and the marshals shared they were on their way to Enterprise to arrest Thomas Sirls Terry, a leading figure in that community and a known polygamist.

Moroni was able to give the marshals the slip and get to the Terry farm to tip off the family, who got “Ol Man Terry”, as the marshals called him, out of town just in time.

That story is told in contrast to the real criminal activity that the ranchers of southern Utah had to deal with in horse and cattle thieves.

The Canfields lived not far from a place called Desert Spring, which happened to be a crossroads of sorts between Beaver, Utah, Pioche, Nevada and Utah settlements to the north and mining camps to the south. Desert Spring was also the base of operations for a man named Ben Tasker, a genuine old west outlaw.

Tasker was known for his gang of outlaws who would first provide aid to travelers passing through Desert Spring and follow them for short distances only to rob them in the middle of nowhere.

Their primary source of income came in the way of cattle and horses – and Tasker’s gang stole them by the hundreds, changing brands or butchering them to be sold in the mining camps.

There are legendary tales – some untrue, I’m sure – of just what a tough customer Tasker was.

One story talks of him shooting a man and then using his body as a table while Tasker played cards.

The Canfield brothers knew too well how lawless the times were and they had a personal connection to Tasker.

Their sister, Lucy Philena, was married to a man named Thomas Emmet.

Lucy Philena’s history talks a bit about the woes in her marriage. Though she and Thomas were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City when they returned to Southern Utah and started their family it seemed that Thomas wasn’t around much. The history says he traveled a great deal “on business”.

Thomas Emmet

His business was “his dealings in cattle and horses”.

The Moroni Canfield history on Ancestry is a bit more descriptive of Thomas’ activities.

According to their version of things Thomas rode with Ben Tasker’s Gang and neglected his wife and small children for long periods of time.

The Canfield family did all they could to help Lucy Philena but they grew weary of Thomas’ antics and were constantly rescuing him from the trouble he would get into.

On the night of June 28, 1893, Moroni and a few others were herding about 1500 head of cattle when something happened.

In the morning, Moroni was found dead – shot in the head.

From Moroni’s history on Ancestry we read of why some descendants of Canfield felt Thomas Emmet and Tasker’s gang had something to do with Moroni’s untimely death:

“Emett was a pretty rough character. He and a friend Bob Tait ran and dealt with the Ben Tasker Gang. Ben Tasker was a horse and cattle thief operating all over the territory. He had his headquarters at Desert Springs, at the junction of roads from Beaver, Iron Springs, Mountain Meadows and the Nevada mining camps.

Ben Tasker had been arrested numerous times, but always found some way to get away. He and his men would take what they wanted and kill anyone who stood in their way.

The Canfield brothers because of their sister had been trying to keep Emett out of trouble and talk some sense into the pair. Nothing worked. They grew tried of seeing Philena and her little ones hungry and without proper care. She had lost a number of babies by miscarriages. They were sick to death of pulling him out of a hole and trying to feed and clothe this little family.

So, they decided to catch Emett in the act. Well they caught him and Bob Tait both in the act. Stealing Cattle.

They had come prepared so they pulled their guns on him and Tait and told Emett they were sick and tired of getting him out of his messes. That the law was on to them and was out to get them.

Now, Grandfather said, I told him “I do not want to see your face any more in Utah or close about. You head for Texas as fast as you can. It will be less costly for us to take care of your family than to bother with the likes of you. If we ever see you around in Utah again I personally will shoot you.”

[Insert spookly old west whistling music here]

Thomas Emett evidently didn’t need to hear any more.

He lit out of Utah heading south and that was the last the Canfield’s heard from him – until Moroni ended up with a bullet in his skull.

To quote again from the history on Ancestry, “Moroni and the Canfield herd would have been in the right place and the right time to be easy pickings for Thomas Emett or one of his associates. Revenge is as good a motive for murder as money, and Emett had both.”

The surviving family of Thomas Emmet doesn’t care for that version Canfield family history. They have a very different point of view.

Another family historian on Ancestry – a descendant of Thomas Emett – was able to prove that not only was Thomas hundreds of miles away in Arizona at the time of Moroni’s death but he was also, fortunately, dead, too.

Thomas had died 10 years before – in Phoenix, evidently of smallpox.

Yes, thanks to the modern sleuthing of family historians, they cleared the name of Thomas Emmet from the charge of murder.

That doesn’t mean the controversy had diminished. His memorial on FindAGrave.com, after several contrary comments, now notes:

“There are many unsubstantiated rumors that still persist even after 125 years. I have letters, life stories, and 1st hand accounts of what happened to Thomas. My great grandfather, Don Thomas Emett, his son, told others to ignore what people say, we know what is true. We are told by the authorities to not gossip. It is sad 125 years later people can’t wait to tell me how bad my great-great grandfather was.”

Thomas’ family had long compiled proof of his innocence, most notably the receipt of his spurs and his saddle, which were shipped to them after he died.

Even still, it wasn’t hard to make the connection to Tasker or to Emmet.

Tasker at the time of Moroni’s death was in jail in Beaver, Utah. His reputation as a frequent escaper from jails was legendary because his roaming gang would often overwhelm lone guards or sheriff personnel.

Tasker’s men were in the area – and revenge was not their only motivation in what Moroni was up to.

Moroni, you see, was then under contract to move and sell and very large herd of cattle – right through the heart of west central Utah where Tasker did his most notorious work.

Perhaps that was a reason why Moroni took the job – one that would change fortunes for him and two of his friends.

That transaction was nearly complete, all Moroni needed to do was to finish the move, a task that took him near Beaver and a task that proved to be much more difficult than he anticipated.

Moroni had a pocketful of money but what he had collected to move the cattle was dwindling fast and he would find himself in a negative cash position if he didn’t deliver soon and deliver as many cattle as possible.

A news report of Moroni’s death explained his fate was sealed by the weather, a lack of manpower, sleep and the realization that Moroni had lost big on his deal.

Moroni Canfield, they reported, killed himself after a midnight thunderstorm scattered his herd and he felt all was lost.

For decades the descendants of the Canfields and the Emmets held to their respective stories about the demise of Moroni Canfield.

But the ultimate vindication of Thomas Emmet came from an unusual source – Moroni’s mother, Elizabeth Canfield.

In 2013, a family member posted to FamilySearch a letter that Elizabeth Canfield wrote in July 1893. She told a vivid tale of horror at learning the real story of Moroni’s demise.

She described how Moroni had “been in the saddle” for three days without sleep, trying to keep the cattle together all while wrestling with a fast coming financial disaster. The longer it took him and the more cattle he lost the deeper the hole he was in.

The combination of financial stress and physical exhaustion led Moroni to one very sad conclusion.

Elizabeth writes:

“The night before he did this his reason left him. Pratt [his brother] could do nothing with him. He tried to get him to go to bed, put his arm around him and tried to get him to lie down and that was the night he was to get to water. He would not do it and about 10 o’clock the cattle got the scent of water- 1,511 head of them. As soon as they smelt the water, they went wild. The boys rushed after them but could only find 300 head…”

“F. Rice was the only man with a pistol. He took it off and laid it down by his bed instead of putting it under his head. Of course Roni would not sleep and got up. Told a boy to go round the wagon and get his horse. As soon as his (the boys) back was turned, he picked up the thing, put the muzzle in his mouth and fired…”

“…After he was buried, I was looking over his clothes and found a little scrap of paper in his overalls pocket. He told the boys that all was lost. The cattle gone. But if he had only waited till day light he could have seen the stock or the most of them at a distance.

On the paper he said ”I Moroni Canfield have staked all and lost. I have ruined myself and friends. Their names are E.V. Hardy and L. C. Maneger (Marriager?). I have lost all am not fit for a felons cell. Good bye. May Father in Heaven have Mercy”.

Of course, life went on for everyone else.

Moroni’s mother lived until 1908 and is buried in Hamblin. She is remembered for her faithfulness.

Lucy, Thomas’ widow, remarried a man named John Day in Hamblin and they had three children, including a set of twins.

Sarah Westover Canfield Bowler with her 2nd husband, James Bowler.

Moroni’s widow Sarah remarried nearly a decade later and lived until 1927.

There are many lessons to learn from these tragic events.

For the family of Thomas Emmet, there has to be some joy in his vindication. He may have been a lot of things but he clearly didn’t murder Moroni Canfield.

Not all of our relatives have great things to be said of them. Even still, why would we settle for anything less than the truth?

For those of Moroni Canfield’s family – especially those who laid the blame for his death on Thomas Emmet – what do you have to say for yourselves?

Surely it is hard to be unsympathetic to poor Moroni. He had troubles, clearly.

But as I sat thinking of all this I couldn’t help but wonder about the story of Ben Tasker.

Certainly he has descendants and his history is somewhere, no?

Well…no. At least not that I have found yet.

A Google search seems to return a lot of links back to FamilySearch about this guy. They turn out to be histories of other people – many of them victims of Tasker and his gang.

They were the cattle rustlers of the Old West in Utah, no doubt about it.

I found Ben Tasker living in Beaver in the 1880 census. He’s listed as divorced and living alone. He was 61 years old.

But there’s not much else written about him that I’ve found yet.

For whatever reason I want to know how and when he died. Did he go out in a blaze of bullets? Did he jump off a cliff in Bolivia? Or did he die of old age?

That’s a history hunt for another day.