Manti

The Place Manti Has in Our Family History

The Deseret News this week featured an article about the Manti Temple, telling this famous story of Brigham Young and Warren S. Snow from 1877:

Standing on the southeast corner of the Manti Utah Temple site, Brigham Young told Warren S. Snow, “Here is the spot where the Prophet Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a temple site, and that is the reason why the location is made here, and we can’t move it from this spot.”

This story in recent years has been cast into doubt by bloggers and historians alike who claim there is no official record of this ever happening.

Yet the story is told and retold, as it was in the Deseret News this week. It has been archived in Church publications for decades.

In fact, of all the records kept of the dedication of the Manti temple there is nothing to suggest that anything was “dedicated” before the temple was constructed.

Yet the story persists. Why?

Because it was put forward by Warren S. Snow, not the Church.

Historians have a bone or two to pick with Bishop Snow, Mayor Snow and General Snow, as he was known during his lifetime.

And yes – he is family.

He is one of the many illustrious sons of Gardner Snow, that grand patriarch of the Snow family.

The Snow family started joining the Church in the very early 1830s, and their experiences in Vermont, Kirtland, Far West and later, Nauvoo, led to pioneering the West.

Warren S. Snow is just one part of multiple Snow family members who founded, lived, and played a part in establishing Manti, Utah. Manti, and the temple built there, would over the generations come to play a big part for the Westovers, the Smiths, the Snows, the Riggs and the Quilter families.

Manti has always been and likely will always be a very small and remote place. But it looms large as a home, a gathering place and a sacred ground for many we call family.

To fully understand how this came to be we need to tell some stories of those early Manti pioneers who helped to make that temple possible.

~ A Little Manti History ~

Chief Walkara, also known as Walker, was born about 1808, along the Spanish Fork River in what is now Utah, one of five sons of a chief of the Timpanogos band.

Chief Wakara

Described as being over six feet tall and extremely strong, he was a successful warrior from a young age. His piercing eyes earned him the nickname “Hawk of the Mountains.”

While there are plenty of stories about his life it must be noted that Wakara was known for both good and bad things. Some historians have called him the most prolific horse stealer in history. Others call him a great peacemaker.

What there is to know about historians, whether the speak of a man like Chief Wakara or a man like Warren Stone, is that historians usually have some point they are trying to make.

I personally believe that history is best told through those who passed through it. In the case of both Wakara and Snow, they left us plenty on their own to think about.

Around the year 1845, before white settlers came to Utah, Chief Wakara had a dream.

This is an account he told that was recorded by a Mormon settler later:

“He died and his spirit went to heaven. He saw the lord s sitting upon a throne dressed in white. The Lord told him he could not stay, he had to return. Walker desired to stay but the Lord told him that he had to return to earth that there would come to him a race of white people that would be his friends and he must treat them kindly.”

When the Mormons did come Chief Walker met in council, along with 12 of his warriors, with Brigham Young and church leaders in the Salt Lake Valley.

These Indians had come to ask Brigham Young to send colonists into the Sanpitch Valley to teach the Indians how to build homes and till the soil.

During the proceedings of this council which convened on June 14, 1849, at Salt Lake City, Walker remarked “I was always friendly with the Mormons. I hear what they say and remember it. It is good to live like the Mormons and their children. I do not care about the land, but I want the Mormons to go and settle it.”

A scout team was sent in August and by fall fifty families were called to go to the valley to settle it. It would be the first settlement south of Provo.

They were led by experienced men who names mark the pages of early Church history. Men like Isaac Morley, Charles Shumway, and our own great-grandfathers, Gardner Snow and Albert Smith, were sent.

Upon arriving many felt that the Sanpitch Valley was indeed a blessed place.

Father Morley, as most of the settlers referred to him, pointed a prophetic finger to a hill rising in the distance and said, “There is the termination of our journey; in close proximity to that hill, God willing, we will build our city there.”

That hill would come to be known as Temple Hill, in time. It was recognized as early as 1850 as a special place and some claimed visions while arriving there.

A woman named Betsy Bradley, and her three-year-old son, Hyrum, saw a personage in white on a white horse mysteriously appear on the hill and then, just as mysteriously, he disappeared.

Bradley told about this mysterious appearance to everyone who desired to listen and through it one of the Sagas of the Sanpitch was born: Everyone said, “This personage dressed in white on the white horse is the same personage that constrained Father Morley to proclaim it a special place and that person is the Prophet Moroni!”

Orson F. Whitney, in his book Life of Heber C. Kimball, relates this story:

“In an early day when President Young and party were making the location of the settlement here, President Heber C. Kimball, prophesied that the day would come when a temple would be built on this hill. Some disbelieved and doubted the possibility of even making a settlement here. Brother Kimball said, “Well, it will be so, and more than that the rock will be quarried from that hill to build it with, and some of the stone from that quarry will be taken to help complete the Salt Lake Temple.”

All of this was widely known long before Warren Snow and Brigham Young climbed that hill in April of 1877.

By that time, the history of Manti, of Warren Snow, of Brigham Young, of the Ute Indians, and of the temple had already covered a lot of ground.

~ Gardner Snow, A Patriarch ~

Gardner Snow moved to Manti in 1850, a little after the original parties led by his good friend Isaac Morley had selected Manti’s hill as the base for the community.

He was, at this point in his life, 57 years of age, an experienced veteran of the early LDS Church experience. He was seasoned. He had served as a missionary, Bishop, and a member of the Quorum of the Seventy.

He experienced the temple for the first time in Kirtland and later lived in Far West. He was chased, with many others, by mobs out of Missouri, and later had his home and possessions burned to the ground while living at Morley’s Settlement in Illinois.

In Nauvoo he received his temple endowments and later moved to Council Bluffs, where he resumed his work as Bishop.

When he was finally allowed to come to Utah he was assigned to Sanpete County, where he worked as a councilman and then later as a probate judge for many years.

By avocation, Gardner Snow was a sheepherder in Manti. He was in Manti less than a year when his partner, Sarah Sawyer Hastings Snow, passed away at the age of 60.

Gardner Snow

During their life together Gardner and Sarah had 9 children – six of them sons. Of those six sons only three survived into extended maturity.

James Chauncey Snow (our great grandfather), like his father, had experience in early Church history and came around the same time as his father to Utah. He would be a Stake President in Provo and live a long life of family and church service.

Warren Stone Snow, who you will read more about below, would become a Presiding Bishop in Utah and a controversial figure in the history of Manti.

George Washington Snow came with his brothers to Utah in the early 1850s, settling near their father in Manti. He would work for some years as a cooper in Manti, where he also studied the law and later served as a lawyer, the prosecutor of Sanpete County and in various elected public roles for years.

All of these Snow men were deeply embedded in Church and public service in Central Utah.

Their histories are all public record. In their various fields of service they touched the lives and many and were known by generations of Manti citizens.

Gardner Snow was especially well thought of, much like his friend Isaac Morley, because they were early church members who knew the Prophet and had experienced the persecutions of the early Church experience.

All of these men would die before connections with the Westover, Smith, Riggs and Quilter families were made.

It is curious to contemplate how their passions for the temple and getting it completed in Manti during their lifetimes would come to be meaningful for their later descendants.

~ Albert Smith in Manti ~

Albert Smith’s connection to the Westover family comes through is granddaughter, Mary Ann Smith, who married my great-grandfather, Arnold Westover.

If there is any individual representative of the 19th century Mormon experience, it is Albert Smith.

He joined the Church in 1835, lived in Missouri and Western Illinois, suffering from the persecution and loss of those places before the Nauvoo period.

Like many others, he relocated to Nauvoo and was in the same ward as Joseph Smith – in fact, he knew the Prophet well.

Albert was friends with several individuals known in Church history, notably Wilford Woodruff, and he would, in time, become acquainted with others who played important roles in pioneering Manti.

While living in Nauvoo, Albert served a mission, returned home to find his family in crisis due to the scandals of John C. Bennett, and he helped to construct the Nauvoo temple.

Albert and his family were among the first company to leave Nauvoo and was at Mt. Pisgah when Brigham Young called for service in the Mormon Battalion.

Albert served, along with his 17-year-old son, Azariah, the entire year. They backtracked to Utah from California, arriving just after the Saints first got there in the summer of 1847.

He farmed his allotted acreage in the Salt Lake Valley, and it was on his land that the miracle of the seagulls took place, an event he recorded in detail in his journal.

With many others Albert and family were called to move to Sanpete County.

Albert and his wife established a farm and used their home for the first several years to host the first dramatic productions held in Manti. They were very involved in the community and Albert dutifully recorded it all in his journals.

For all his Mormon experience and his faithfulness, Albert never held high position in the LDS Church. In time he would embrace plural marriage, albeit reluctantly.

For more than 40 years Albert steadfastly built the Kingdom of his faith, commenting here and there in his journal of both his experiences and his opinions of the pioneer experience.

The Manti temple, for him, represented many things.

What he would do over the forty years it took to build that temple in Manti should be an inspiration for all of us who call ourselves his grandchildren.

His quiet, in-the-background life of service stands in contrast to a man he would share family with in the generations to come.

That man’s name is Warren Stone Snow.

~ Warren S. Snow – A Complicated Man ~

The Snow family of Manti has a long history in the LDS faith.

In fact, they were one of the most unique families in early church history with the likes of Lorenzo Snow, Eliza R. Snow, Erastus Snow, Gardner Snow, James Chauncey Snow and Warren S. Snow among their famous numbers.

Their history and exploits as a family during the rise of the Church in the 19th century was so great that one Congressman, Charles B. Landis, in a speech made in 1900, declared the Snow family “the most consistent Mormons in the whole bunch”.

But Warren S. Snow was different from his famous father, brothers and cousins.

Warren S. Snow

His foundation of faith was indeed built in his youth while attending early church gatherings in the Mormon Barn, as it was called, of his grandfather, Levi Snow, in Chesterfield, Vermont.

But his experiences as a young man serving in security capacities for the Church seeded a conflict within him that colored nearly all of his later experiences as a church leader.

He was there – and close to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family – when the Prophet was murdered in 1844.

In fact, in recorded talks given in church conferences not long after the Martyrdom, Warren referred to the bodies as “mangled”. It was an event that traumatized him so greatly that he often spoke strongly, if not violently, against the enemies of the Church.

Warren’s long service in the conflicts that arose during the post-Nauvoo period later left him described as a chosen defender of the Church and its prophets. He would, in time, enter into the circle of Brigham Young and become his close friend.

Brigham at one time considered Warren S. Snow as a potential member of the Quorum of the Twelve, saying that he was a “good man” when his name was brought up in counsels.

As it was, Warren S. Snow was assigned to Manti and made the presiding Bishop there, as well as a leading representative in the territorial legislature. In these capacities Warren had vast responsibilities related to church and civic governance.

He was consulted on how and where new settlements would be established and he placed men in important positions in Church leadership all over central Utah. He reported directly to Brigham and the Quorum of the Twelve and met with them frequently.

But there were troubled episodes during the early church leadership service of Warren Snow.

During a brief period after the Utah War, an examination of tithing funds in Manti resulted in a scandal made public from the pulpit by a visiting apostle, Orson Hyde, who declared Warren’s leadership suspect.

After a long and humiliating public investigation, it was determined that the bishopric led by Warren Snow was “careless” instead of dishonest.

Warren Snow publicly repented of his part in the scandal and that repentance was accepted by his superiors who had stood critical of him. But the event did great damage to his reputation and Warren struggled to regain the respect of the people of Manti.

His reputation as a hard man had proceeded him, and many questioned his judgment given the rumors they had heard about him over the years.

During the passionate period known as the Mormon Reformation, a time when “hellfire and damnation” was preached from the pulpit as leaders browbeat the Saints for not living their religion, Warren Snow was among the most vociferous.

His sermons from the time accused Church members of the need to repent and do better against all kinds of weaknesses and shortcomings.

During this period Warren was viewed as a particularly harsh leader. Some of his actions in his callings did little to dissuade the skeptical nature of how others viewed him.

In one famous episode the case of a man who was guilty of serious sexual transgression was brought before a Church court led by Bishop Snow. Excommunicating the man was not strong enough for members of the council – or for Bishop Snow.

In a clandestine midnight mugging of the man he was castrated, evidently at the hands of the Bishop and those members of the council who had excommunicated him.

Word of this reached Brigham Young and other Church leaders and another investigation ensued, casting a cloud of suspicion over Warren Snow that he never fully recovered from.

Part of the suspicion of Bishop Snow came from his reputation as a Church defender.

During the Utah War Warren Snow was a commanding general in the Nauvoo Legion, the holdover militia organized in Utah to defend against invading forces.

Snow was specifically charged by Brigham Young not to kill the troops on the way. He could steal cattle and supplies, set fires, and do anything possible to disrupt their march to Utah but he was not to engage in the use of deadly force.

Surviving records of the campaign indicate this was a difficult charge for Warren Snow, who wanted revenge on the enemies of the Church.

In Church talks Warren Snow often spoke of defending the faith.

A patriarchal blessing given to him sharpened his self-view in this role. It told him he was called to the protective service to the Church and promised that he could not be killed by enemies of the faith.

But for all of Warren’s passion about defending the faith there was another side to him that was markedly compassionate and spiritual.

He was blessed with a number of spiritual experiences that profoundly influenced him, including hearing the voice of God during the dedication of the Kirkland temple and witnessing the transfiguration of Brigham Young.

In the early 1860s, perhaps in a move to rescue Warren Snow from his reputation, Brigham Young sent the Bishop to England on a mission.

He served for several years with distinction and surviving letters between Warren and Brigham show that Warren did all he could to re-establish good feeling between them.
When Warren returned Brigham did welcome him with open arms and he sent the same apostle, Orson Hyde, who had led the investigation against him years before, to address the people to proclaim Warren’s innocence and to re-establish him in local church leadership in Manti once again.

Warren S. Snow Letter

A letter from Warren Snow to Brigham Young. Source: Church History Library

It did not go well for a time. But before long Indian uprisings created a need for Warren Snow, Defender of the Faith.

For years the residents in Central Utah had endured constant badgering by roving bands of Indians who would steal cattle and occasionally kill settlers.

Brigham’s strategy statewide for the longest time was to appease the Native Americans who lived there, clinging to the idea that he would “rather feed them then fight them”.

But not all settlers had Brigham’s patience.

When property was destroyed and especially when lives were taken many felt to impose an equal loss upon the Indians.

This inflamed situations over and over, and after a particularly gruesome killing of white settlers up a nearby canyon, things quickly got out of hand with a young Indian leader known as Black Hawk (a nephew to Chief Walker and a son of Chief Sanpitch).

The more the back-and-forth of killing between the Indians and the whites happened the bigger it seemed that Black Hawk’s band grew. In short time, greater damage and increased numbers of people were killed on both sides.

When the appointed leader of the local militia abandoned his post in the middle of a conflict it was Warren Snow who assumed command.

Working as closely with Brigham Young as he could Warren saw this new opportunity to prove to the community of Manti that he was a changed man.

For more than a year the Black Hawk War, as it came to be called, raged as Warren and Brigham tried to bring peace through restraint.

While Warren Snow was plain spoken with Brigham Young and other Church leaders about what he thought should be done he always sided publicly with what Young both advised and publicly said.

But Black Hawk persisted, and the event escalated after Warren Snow had promised safety for Indian warriors only to have more of them killed by restless settlers bent on revenge.

Everyone was aware of how tenuous the situation was – even Albert Smith.

From his journal we hear of an uprising that started in Gunnison, where a Mormon family was brutally murdered by marauding Indians.

The retaliation event took place right in front of the Smith home in Manti, as local settlers there captured two Indians completely unconnected with the Gunnison affair and tried to kill them.

Albert intervened and pled for their lives, stating to his fellow citizens of Manti that killing the wandering pair would only lead to more bloodshed on their own properties and to their own families.

He echoed, perhaps unknowingly, the same sentiments advanced by Brigham Young and Warren Snow.

As had happened so many times before, Albert’s admonition was ignored. For months the people in Manti went into hiding for fear of Indian retaliation.

In time, both Brigham and Warren came to see that something needed to be done to get Black Hawk to back down. Over the course of 9 months Warren led large groups of men in attacking and capturing leaders of the Indian band.

The Indians stepped up their part by using women and children to help captured prisoners to escape and on one careless night at the jail in Manti, Utah they caused the escape of about 8 Indian warriors.

Warren and his men gave chase and during a very close exchange of gunfire on the streets of Manti, Warren killed two Indian chiefs while sustaining a bullet wound to his arm and shoulder.

He wrote to Brigham to report on the affair, expressing regret at having to take a life to save his own.

Knowing that the event would inflame things even further, Brigham sent Warren on a relentless chase into the Fish Lake forest in search of Black Hawk and his closest men. It took months, and Warren ended up with greater wounds and became exhausted from the chase.

His exploits were reported in the news and in time the campaign began to wear down Black Hawk and his men. Black Hawk went on record to say that as long as Warren Snow lived in Manti he would never know peace.

Brigham felt that maybe Warren Snow, for as valiant as his efforts had been, could have been making things worse with Black Hawk. Seeing that Warren was injured, exhausted, and leaving the care of his family to others for long stretches of time, Brigham relieved him of command and sent him home to heal.

The change in leadership did help in ending the conflict with Black Hawk. In months, hostilities ended.

But the whole affair had a restorative effect on Warren Snow’s reputation. He returned to cheers in the streets of Manti and in time became Mayor of the city.

His service as a church leader in the years that followed were markedly different this time around.

For the next 30-years Warren Snow enjoyed a reputation as a man of prudence, a man of compassion and a man who defended the faith with softer tones and greater testimony.

So, when Warren Snow stood on Temple Hill in Manti with Brigham Young and later declared that President Young had said Moroni had dedicated that spot for a temple in the Latter-days, people took him seriously.

In fact, his funeral in 1896 was attended by thousands of people. His impact on the community and the whole of central Utah would go down in local history in glowing terms.

The Manti Temple, which was announced in 1875, featured a variety of events that involved the entirety of the community.

A parade was held when the ground was dedicated (or, rededicated, if you will). The Mormon hierarchy present included the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and prominent local citizens such as Patriarch Garner Snow, and, of course, General Snow.

The Monday following the dedication of the site, on April 30th, 1877, the citizens of Manti gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony so that work could commence that day.

The 100-people gathered knelt in prayer led by Bishop John B. Maiben, then Partriarch Gardner Snow prayed over the labors.

One by one the prominent individuals of Manti took their turn with the shovels in the following order: Bishop Maiben, Patriarch Snow, James Wareham, Hans Jensen, Frederick Cox, Albert Smith, Jezreel Showemaker, George Peacock, Luther Tuttle, and George Billings.

After these ceremonial few, more than 80 men with their horses and oxen began the broad work of excavating with plows, scrapers, picks, and shovels. It would be the first day of more than 11 years of temple construction.

For Albert Smith, who attended these events and noted them in his journal, the coming of the temple spurred an effort to do his family history.

He wrote letters and sent money to genealogists in New York and Massachusetts. This happened before the temple was first announced in 1875.

Along with his third wife, Grandmother Sophia Smith, the anticipation of the temple was something recorded with each passing season. Albert and Sophie would visit the unfinished temple frequently and record what they saw.

By the time the temple was completed in 1888 Albert had possession of nearly 2000 names of his ancestors. He was proud of his Mayflower connections and was anxious to get into the temple to do work for them.

The temple dedication was an event so anticipated it is believed that was when this notable image of Albert and Sophie was taken:

Albert & Sophie Smith

When it finally came time to dedicate the temple more than 5000 people came to the remote location of Manti to participate.

Going to these events required tickets or invitations. In fact, nearly everything associated with the Temple over the years of it’s construction featured some sort of documentation. Here is a donation slip showing a contribution made by Gardner Snow:

Gardner Snow donation

Albert himself did not get tickets to the first day of dedication events. He watched the assembled masses at the temple from his front porch and attended for himself on the 2nd day.

Crowds at the Manti Temple dedication

Crowds at the Manti Temple dedication

~ What Temples Meant to the Pioneers ~

The pioneer era temples – which include both Kirtland and Nauvoo, by the way – were built during seasons of duress. They were built despite the poverty of Church members. Each was a tremendous act of faith.

As such, the completion of each temple was a celebration of faith. Within the temples the Saints could worship in the most sacred ways.

Simply put, a temple dedication was a big deal.

When Saint George was completed in 1877 as the first temple in the West, nearly all of those living in Manti, including the Snow and the Smith families, traveled to participate.

For years prior to its completion the Saints in Sanpete sent money and materials to St. George to help with the temple. After the St. George Temple was completed the members of the Church there returned the favor to assist in building the Manti temple.

For these pioneer temple builders the Temples provided a place for their children to make covenants and to be “sealed” together.

Perhaps the first of the next generation of the family to take advantage of the new Manti Temple was Joseph Homer Snow, son of James C. Snow. On July 19, 1888, just a few months after the dedication of the Manti Temple, he was sealed to Mary Nielsen, who went to the temple for herself for the first time on that date that they were married.

Joseph and Mary Snow would go on to have ten children. Their fourth, a girl they named Muriel, was born in 1891. In 1913, Muriel Snow would go to the Manti Temple and marry William Reeves Riggs, Jr.

They had a large family too. Their 2nd child, a daughter named Maurine, went to the Manti Temple in 1940 – and there married Leon Westover.

Maurine was following in the steps of her sister, Milda. Who only months before, in June 1940, went to the Manti Temple and married Charles Gerald Quilter.

Of course, there were other marriages and other temples in different places. That is not the point.

The point is that generations after the pioneer era temples were built the children and grandchildren of those pioneers who built them took advantage of them, fulfilling prophecy, fulfilling dreams and bringing forth new generations “born under the covenant”.

Was this what Moroni, the last of his ancient people, was thinking if he was indeed seen in vision in Manti?

Who exactly was Moroni and what could be his connection to Manti?

For members of the Church, we know that Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823 to extend to him his calling. During that event, the Prophet Joseph recorded that Moroni quoted from the Biblical book of Malachi, stating, in part:

“…And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the father, and the hearts of the children shall turn to the fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be wasted at his coming…”

This, and other things given to Joseph Smith as Moroni taught him over the next several years, laid the foundation for modern temples as part of the “restoration of all things”.

Joseph Smith spoke of Moroni several times during his lifetime and offered information not contained within the Book of Mormon about him. Associates of the Prophet recorded such conversations and from those memories came this map outlining the travels of Moroni in North America:

Map of Moroni's Travels

Researchers now conclude that Moroni may have not only dedicated the land where the Manti temple now stands but that he could well have done similarly in St. George, Nauvoo, Independence, Kirtland and “others we know not of yet”.

This research was not conducted before the time of the pioneer era in Manti. It was not information that was widely shared or known.

Is it merely coincidental then that Warren Snow and other such as Betsy Bradley shared what they knew of Moroni in Manti?

That is speculation of a spiritual scope left for greater minds than my own.

All I can say, as one living in the 21st century, attending a temple and reflecting on my pioneer temple heritage, and as one now anticipating a new temple dedication in the years ahead where I live in my stake in Smithfield, Utah, is that I have no doubt of Moroni’s connection.

Smithfield Utah Temple

No, like Albert Smith, I lay no claim to visions.

I take on faith that the gift of such given to others is theirs.

The gift given to me to know is that God is in command and we know that best through work done in temples, where my heart is indeed knit with theirs and the covenants they made with God.

Norse King

Grandpa Was a Viking Raider and a Norse King

Whenever King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson makes the news I take notice. Old Bluetooth was a Norse King who lived more than 1,000 years ago. He is my 34th great-grandfather.

~ How We Are Related ~

Our connection to King Harald comes via the Rowe line. I’ve outlined my direct descendancy in this post from more than 3 years ago.

His nickname, Bluetooth, comes from a distinguishing feature – likely a dead tooth – that he most famously displayed in battle. Both his friends and enemies referred to King Harald as “Bluetooth”.

Norse King Harald Bluetooth

In our day, “Bluetooth” has a different meaning. It is the signature technology that allows devices to connect wirelessly. For example, many people use their phones to pair to wireless speakers to listen to music. The technology that allows this is called Bluetooth.

This technology is named after our King Harald because he is credited with bringing Christianity to the Northern European countries of Denmark and Norway – thus uniting them in faith (so, you could say wirelessly). He was one very talented Norse King.

As a direct descendant, I jokingly tell people that every time they use Bluetooth for anything they owe me a nickel. If I can’t inherit the King’s castle, or even his Viking ship, at least allow me to collect, um, royalties.

All joking aside, the story of King Harald is one we haven’t told completely. It’s time we rectify that somewhat. After all, he was never supposed to be the King.

~ How Harald Become the King ~

Harald was born the 2nd son of Gorm the Old, who was a Norse King that ruled from 936 until around the year 958.

Gorm the Old, and his wife, the queen, Thrya, had three sons – our Harald being the middle of the three.

(This history is a hyper-condensed version of the common story told about King Harald on the Internet. There are many variations of this story and, being 1000+ years old, who knows what the absolute truth is. Regardless, it’s a good story and one we welcome arguments about and discussion of it).

The oldest of the three boys was named Canute, a literal fair-haired boy, quite beloved by King Gorm. From early on it was widely known that Canute would inherit the Kingdom.

Harald, then, was destined to a life of living in his brother’s shadow – close to the throne but never intended for it. His inheritance was given to him before his father died – a fleet of Viking ships that Harald used to raid and pillage.

Raiding and pillaging was what Danish princes did while they awaited their ascendency to the throne and evidently Canute and his brother Harald were good at it – competitive even.

Each year at Christmastime the boys and their ships would venture home to celebrate the season with their parents.

It was during one of these Yuletide return-to-home seasons that Canute and Harald’s fleets clashed at sea and, as a result, Canute died in battle.

Harald knew this presented more than the usual holiday family tension. He had heard, as had most in the circle of King Gorm the Old, that the bearer of the bad news of the passing of Canute would himself or herself be put to death.

(King Gorm supposedly converted to Christianity, or so King Harald would have us believe from his history. Perhaps this all happened early on in that process).

Anyway, Harald arrived that Christmas knowing he was now the new heir to the throne but he wasn’t exactly eager to share the news. So he decided to first tell his mother, Queen Thyra, thinking she would be the one to tell the King.

According to Wikipedia, Queen Thyra had a clever plan to share the news that would send the message but spare her life.

She ordered the royal hall hung with black cloth and that no one was to say a single word.

When Gorm entered the hall, he was astonished and asked what the mourning colors meant.

Queen Thyra spoke up: “Lord King, you had two falcons, one white and the other gray. The white one flew far afield and was set upon by other birds which tore off its beautiful feathers and is now useless to you. Meanwhile, the gray falcon continues to catch fowl for the king’s table.”

Gorm understood immediately the Queen’s metaphor and cried out, “My son is surely dead, since all of Denmark mourns!”

“You have said it, your majesty,” Thyra announced.

King Gorm the Old so mourned his son he died the next day, no doubt dampening the festive Christmas spirits of all the family assembled.

So Harald became the King.

He too converted to Christianity, perhaps some time after both his parents had passed away, because he had his parent’s bodies exhumed and given a Christian burial in the church cemetery near the town of his birth.

Jelling Stone

~ Why King Harald is in the News ~

King Harald is known all over Europe. He made it a point when he reburied his parents in Jelling, Demark, to install what is called The Jelling Stones, where the history of his royal parents is carved in runic etchings.

But even after honoring his parents with a Christian burial and doing his family history in stone, the exploits of King Harald are documented all over northern and western Europe.

This story in today’s news (July 31, 2022) tells of competing theories of modern historians tracing artifacts that point to Poland as a possible burial ground for King Harald.

It’s a great story – regardless of which theory you believe – and, as these things go, it likely doesn’t matter if King Harald had a pagan or a Christian burial in Poland.

The simple fact remains that he is dead and has been so for 1000 years. The fact he was king, that his legacy is the spread of Christianity and that he was legendary in his exploits as a bold, opinionated man means he’s definitely one of us. Family, indeed.

I will collect and learn of the many histories written of him. I know we will never arrive at the full truth of who he truly was as a man until we get to the other side and can ask him alone.

Until then, we can enjoy his modern fame. We can tell our children and grandchildren what we know of this ancient grandfather.

And we can all enjoy yet another fascinating individual from our family history.

Curmsun Disc

The Curmsun Disc, found in 2014 mentions King Bluetooth

The Curmsun Disc has a fascinating story – it appeared in Sweden in 2014, but some scholars believe it was originally part of a Viking hoard found by Heinrich Boldt, a young boy from Germany, in 1841 near the island of Wolin, which was a part of Germany at the time.

The disc was found during the construction of a church, which stands to this day. It was built in Wiejkowo, 3 kilometers away from the modern town of Wolin, on the remains of an older medieval chapel.

Swedish archaeologist Sven Rosborn claims the entrance to the crypt was discovered by accident by Boldt, who was playing with other children on the construction site.

Read more at The Viking Herald

Willis Welty Family

The Value in Re-Plowing Old Ground

It has been an interesting time for working on family history.

The part I like least about this work is prospecting for data – finding the names, dates and places necessary to fill out the tree.

That’s ground-floor stuff and I’m much more of a storyteller. I want to know what’s beyond the data with each person.

I got a message a few weeks back from my niece Michaela asking if I had any more female names for baptisms. As it turned out I was fresh out. She will be going for her own endowments next fall so until then she’s limited in what temple work she can do. So, for her sake I decided to see what I could find out there in the part of the work that’s not my favorite.

I’m glad I did. From it I learned more of the story.

~ Going for the Low Hanging Fruit ~

In all the recent work on my step-grandfather’s line – that of Pascal Henry Caldwell – I assumed I would find a lot of work on his family. After all, it now stretches back to the year 1100.

But that Caldwell family must have a lot of people out there working on it that I do not know about.

Not only did I find the data but I found lots of temple work that has been done over the past several years.

The Caldwells were not the low hanging fruit I thought they were.

So I went back to my mother’s line to see what had changed. Due to the pandemic and the situation with my Dad it’s maybe been three years since I’ve been down in the weeds on my mother’s lines. There was enough there – and still is – to keep us pretty busy.

What I noticed right off is that others have really stepped up in the time I’ve been away. In fact, I would wonder what my mother would think today if she saw how things have progressed since the last time she was able to look at it herself.

Of course, what I was about to learn is that she knows it all without being here.

She woke me up one night this week. It was her voice I heard.

~ There’s More to the Story ~

I had a long session on Family Search and Ancestry on Wednesday. I had decided to go back to some familiar names to find out where we stood on completing their temple work and what additional records we could attach to names.

When I attended Roots Tech I listened with interest to hear the numbers from Family Search and Ancestry about records they have added since the last Roots Tech was held. Billions and billions of records are added each year from sources all over the world.

I have noticed the last several years that military records have been added in abundance. And, of course, the 1950 census was just released and I wanted to update information from any family who participated in that event.

It was a long day that resulted in many “new” records being added but nothing that changed the outcome in temple work or new family discoveries.

I had a nagging sense, however, that I was actually doing something useful. That something was going to come of going back and adding records to names that technically didn’t need them.

I hit the pillow at about 1:00 am, exhausted, and slept for about 90 minutes. Then, in a dead sleep, I felt a poke on my shoulder and my mother’s voice said “John Jackson”. And that was all.

In all my years of working family history I can claim to have had feelings and promptings to something I needed to do.

But never have I ever felt anything so specific.

So I immediately got out of bed and began a search for John Jackson.

Of course, I assumed that was the entirety of his name.

There are a billion John Jacksons in the world but none that I could find that tied to my mother’s family.

I was momentarily confused as I tried to think through the problem. Then it dawned on me.

I wasn’t looking for a man whose last name was Jackson. I was looking for a man whose first and middle names were John Jackson.

In about 30 seconds I found him – John Jackson Carson, who lived from 1858 to 1924.

He was the son of Erastus Ulysses Carson, who had two families with two separate wives. We knew about John Jackson years ago and did his work, along with all of the other children of Erastus and his two wives.

What we did not know what that John Jackson, like his father, had three wives. He had children with each of them. The reason we didn’t know this before is that the records showing all this were not available the last time any work was done on John Jackson Carson.

In fact, some of the wives and children fell under the 110-year rule, meaning they might have been discoverable in some cases but we could not do their temple work.

Between the combined new record resources of Family Search and Ancestry, we have now a more complete story of John Jackson – and his 8 children from his three wives.

All of John Jackson’s children are now on the other side. Many of their records are now available. He has grandchildren and great grandchildren still living all over the country.

~ More to Every Story ~

John Jackson’s new discoveries made me question everyone on my mother’s lines. So I went back, straight to my grandparents, and began just adding what new records I could find.
Most yielded nothing new.

But, as I got past that great-grandparent level – say from 1850 to 1920 – I started uncovering a lot of new people. Wives added, children born, etc. The make-up of some family units changed dramatically.

For example, Aunt Glenora Welty, my great-grandfather’s sister, has been for years a kind of lost person.

All we had of her was a record of her name from the 1870 census when she was a year old and ten years later from the 1880 census when she was 11. That was enough information to get her baptized and sealed to her parents.

But as is often the case with female records, it ended there.

From years back I can find online inquiries from my mother asking for help in trying to discover whatever happened to Glenora. I spent considerable time about 6 years ago on Glenora and got no further than my Mom did.

But after John Jackson’s discoveries I decided to give it another go and in 20 minutes I was able to finally get somewhere.

Glenora married in 1887 at the age of 18. On the wedding record, which I think may have been available for years, they spelled her last name as Kelty instead of Welty. Her parents were not listed on the marriage record, as was common at the time.

Glenora was an usual name at the time and evidently she never used it after marrying. Every new record I found of her she is listed as Glenna.

In fact, thanks to all these new records I was able to find a brief obituary about her in the local paper:

Glenora Welty Lohman

Of course, discovering this entire family of nine people led to other stories. Glenna had a daughter named Eleanor Beatrice Lohman who never married. She died in France in 1958.

That was a curiosity to me and I wondered what happened.

Turns out, she was in France working as an insurance clerk and while there she died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. When a foreigner working overseas dies there is a report made to send to the family – and that report is accessible now through Ancestry.

Another good reason to plow over old ground is to discover what other family members (most you likely don’t even know about) have added to either Family Search or Ancestry.

Someone at some time posted this image of my great-grandparents, Kit and Effie Carson (Kit was John Jackson’s half brother):

Kit and Effie Carson

That picture means the world to me. My mother did not get to know her Carson family growing up because her mother did not get to know the Carson family, their stories or traditions. To get anything this intimate is very significant to me.

That wasn’t the only family photo I recently discovered. Below is a picture of the Willis Welty family around the year 1915 or so. Willis is Glenora’s brother. Why is this important? Because when my grandmother – Winifred Calista Welty – was orphaned by the deaths of her parents it was with this family that she lived for a long period of time:

Willis Welty Family

Can you see why continuing to look for people we have found adds to the story? When my Nana died in 1967 my mother was only 24. She had nothing of her family that was known. Since that time we have been able to piece together their stories as every new record, photo or story is added.

I’m not done discovering things as I work through ground that has been plowed before.

In fact, I’m finding that I can get 20 to 30 records I can attach now to people who have lived in past 150 years on average. Not every person – but a great many.

This has me motivated to keep working on names we’ve already worked on before. There are stories to uncover in names we have already known about and perhaps have done the temple-work for.

It is good to learn more of their stories.

Aunt Evie

Memories of Aunt Evie

Evelyn Riggs Westover, Aunt Evie to the entire world it seems, passed over to the other side today, Monday, May 23, 2022.

Aunt Evie

In the coming days there will be no shortage of tributes, memories and histories shared of this wonderful lady.

As cousin Lynn Quilter expressed this morning, “Well, that ends an era in the family”.

He’s right. Aunt Evie was the youngest in her family and the last of our “greatest generation” to leave us. What a grand legacy she built with Uncle Darrell and what an imprint she has left on us all.

There are not many people, not even my children, who can fully appreciate how much Aunt Evie has impacted my life.

Even as I still mourn the recent loss of my father I’m almost speechless in trying to express how significant Aunt Evie has been to so many of us. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have long cherished her.

On both sides of the veil today there are hearts rejoicing. Her long illness and physical challenges, which could never define her, have released her and she is free to return home to so many others who also adore her.

As a little boy, I struggled to understand our connection.

I was told she was my Aunt Evie, yet I had another aunt who was so much younger. More confusing to me was that my father called her Aunt Evie, too. So did my uncles – and my aunt. I just couldn’t comprehend that.

Aunt Evie, most of the time when I saw her, was in the company of my grandparents.

In fact, my Grandma, who I adored, seemed to be a little different whenever she was around Aunt Evie.

Riggs Sisters

This family famous photo of the Riggs girls – all expecting, powering the post-war baby boom all by themselves.

You see, they laughed a lot.

Aunt Evie could make my Grandma laugh out loud and with great enthusiasm. This was, at least at that time, a little out of character for Grandma, to me.

My Grandma was a little serious, you see. Not in a stern way, but in a reverent way. Grandma was bright and positive and loving and so very, very kind. But it sure seemed that when Aunt Evie was around my Grandma sure laughed a lot more.

Once, at a family event at my Grandma’s house when Evie was there, I asked her about this whole Aunt Evie thing. I was maybe five or six.

I just did not understand how my Daddy’s Aunt Evie could be my Aunt Evie too. So, I asked her about it.

In fact, I told her I would much prefer to call her Grandma – because she looked a little like my Grandma. Aunt Evie just giggled.

Taking me in her lap, she hugged me, kissed me and told me that she loved me. She was always doing that to me.

She said, “Now, Jeff, I know it’s confusing. But your Grandma is your Grandma and nobody else can be your Grandma. She’s special.”

I said, “I know. She’s my Grandma but you can be my Grandma too”.

She laughed again.

“I love you like any Grandma would, that’s for sure!” Evie said, with a finger pointing in the air. “But I’m your Aunt Evie and happy to be so!”

That sounded a lot like something my Grandma would say. She did her best to explain.

“Your Grandma and I are sisters,” Evie said. “I’m her little sister so that makes me your Aunt Evie.”

I clearly did not understand.

But I was taken with the idea that both Grandma and Aunt Evie were once little girls. Sisters, you see, were little – like me. I had sisters, I understood that. But how could she still be Aunt Evie to me and to my Dad?

Aunt Evie very wisely pointed around the room when I told her of my confusion. “Do you see all these people?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“We are all family. Every one of us. And that is all you need to understand.”

Aunt Evie was always that kind of voice of comfort and love to me. And fun, too. She could laugh with the best of them.

When I was a teenager we moved in across the street from Uncle Darrell and Aunt Evie. Years had passed but Evie hadn’t changed at all. She made a special effort to make me feel welcome living just across the street.

Of course, Uncle Darrell built our house but it was Aunt Evie who made the efforts to make us feel welcome.

On one of my first weekends there she invited me to go to the store with her. On the way, she chatted me up, asking about school and the things I liked. As we walked the store she explained what she was looking for and that she loved feeding everyone.

There was a long line at the check out and while we waited our turn she just kept talking. But suddenly she stopped and started giggling. Behind me was the rack of magazines and a tabloid headline had caught Evie’s eye.

Man Marries a Head of Lettuce, the headline read. Aunt Evie started giggling at that headline and just could not stop.

She was laughing so hard tears were starting to come out of her eyes and she started apologizing. But she kept right on giggling and asked me to help fill out her check because she couldn’t see well enough to do it herself.

I understood rather quickly that this was just life with Evie. She saw humor in things most of us might never notice. She was infinitely upbeat. She took great joy, it seemed, in just about everything.

She had her serious moments, too, of course. At Church one Sunday, after I had given a talk, she came up to me and grabbed my face, giving me a big kiss in the process. “You did far better than I could do. I’m proud of you.”

There was no giggling with that, just love. That was Evie’s gift.

Over the years I would have opportunities to have many conversations with her. Some about me and what I was doing but almost always it was about other people in the family. My parents, my cousins, my grandparents, her parents and all those who came before.

Darrell & Evie

My adventures in family history I’ve noted many times came about thanks to Uncle Darrell. But in a more quiet, consistent way Evie was at the center of many of those conversations, too.

She always read what I would post on this website. She asked me questions. She encouraged me. She was always interested.

I’m not sure how much Aunt Evie knew how much that motivated me. I’ve always had kind of an Aunt Evie filter in place when I write things – because I knew she was going to read it.

Still, we teased her a lot when I was younger.

I can never forget those early morning drives to Seminary. It was always early and we were always grumpy and Evie never was. Never.

Being teenagers we would sometimes do things just to get her reaction. On a cold day when the windshield on their big Chevy Impala iced up we all sat in the car while Evie tried to clear the windshield.

Evie was a little lady. That Impala was huge. She had bummed my pocket comb off me so she could scrape the window.

We were content to sit in the car with the defroster blowing watching her jump up at the windshield in an attempt to get her little arms to cover some distance on that huge window. The higher she jumped and reached to scrape the ice the more we laughed.

Looking back now, it seems kind of a mean thing to do.

But when she, out of breath, got back into the car and saw us laughing she started laughing too. “I must have looked pretty silly!” she laughed. But that was Aunt Evie – always bright, always positive, always laughing at herself and never at others.

To me, she was always sensitive about my Mom.

She always asked how Mother was doing. She always asked, if we were discussing something important, if I had talked to my Mom about it.

She always complimented my Mom to me, too – how pretty she was, what neat things she did with our yard, how talented she was in so many creative ways.

Once, when I was maybe 15 or 16, Evie could see I was struggling with girls. I thought she and my Mother talked about it because I had just recently had a talk where my Mom encouraged me to not be so shy – to let my light shine.

Aunt Evie, knowing it was a difficult topic for me but not knowing my Mother had already talked to me, asked me if “the girls” were treating me okay. I told her that was an interesting question, then I told her about the conversation Mom and I had about it.

Aunt Evie hugged me and then kissed me and then told me she loved me. She said my Mom was one smart lady and that I should do as my mother advised. In later years I wanted to ask Evie about that moment but I never did. I should have.

My Mom sometimes had problems accepting love. This was likely due to her upbringing. She just didn’t always know how to respond when someone expressed love.

I know Evie tried and tried and tried with all of us, including my Mother. She never stopped trying.

I say this only because when I think of all the big moments in my life Aunt Evie was there.

She was there when I went to school, when I graduated, when I went to the Temple, and when I went and returned home from a mission. She was there when I got married.

She made sure to speak for those I loved who I had lost.

When my Mom died, she expressed love and told me how much my Mother must love the man I had become. Even recently when my Dad died she told me how grateful he was for me, that he loves me and that she agreed with him.

Evie’s love extended beyond herself and I always felt okay with that. After all, who else would know?

She was especially sensitive to me about my Grandma and Grandpa. After my grandparents passed away Aunt Evie always invoked their name at these big moments she participated in. Grandparenting is a proxy work, if you ask Aunt Evie.

She knew how invested I was in my grandparents and how they were invested in me.

Evie, Dad and Grandma

This was a significant photo for my Dad, show him being held by his mother next to Evie in Topaz, 1943.

She did the same thing with my father.

In fact, one of the last conversations I had with my father before he passed was about Aunt Evie.

She was always his 2nd Mom after Grandma and I never knew a time when Dad and Evie were not close.

In his final years they would call each other frequently, comparing notes on their health issues and cheering each other on.

During the course of these conversations, which always ended in a mutual expression of love, Evie would remind Dad that she was supposed to go first.

In my conversation with my Dad that night he passed away he said, “If I go first, Evie will never forgive me.” I understood fully what he was saying. He just didn’t want to let her down.

When I saw Evie a week or two after my father’s funeral, she hugged me, as always, and whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry about your Dad. I sure loved him.” But without saying a word to her about it, she just kept talking. “He wasn’t supposed to go first. The little stinker!”

This too was one of things I love about Aunt Evie.

Everything is eternal in her eyes. My Dad was not “gone”. He is still here, still the same. So too, I would tell you, is Aunt Evie.

She spoke of Uncle Darrell, too, in present tense. Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for over 30 years but not in Evie’s eyes. The same was true of her parents and her siblings. She spoke of them all in the here and the now. Always.

That’s because one of Evie’s great gifts was to see the greatness in others. That was never something in the past, it was always something in the now.

Like all truth, the greatness in people is eternal. Evie was always so bright and hopeful and loving in expressing this about others.

That’s why her passing at age 96 is not a thing to be sad about.

The reunion taking place right now is filled with the laughter – and the giggles – of Evie and her sisters. I know it.

How proud her Mom and Dad must be. How thrilled Uncle Darrell must be to have her back. What a great time it is for my grandparents, and my parents, and all who know and love Evie.

I cannot think of Evie and not smile. It just isn’t possible. Even in death, there is joy.

How I miss her already. How deserving all those dear family members on the other side are of her presence there with them today. Like a new baby coming into this world, I know the passage of Aunt Evie in that “new birth” is one of great rejoicing. It can simply be no other way.

I would be remiss without acknowledging all of Aunt Evie’s children, who have been so loyal and loving to her these many years. Barta has been there for Darrell and Evie these many years with such devotion. How I admire her tenacious care, especially during these difficult times. What great acts of service and example we have still among us.

There is much more to tell of the life of Aunt Evie. There’s a great love story. And another story of raising a dynamic family. Another other of church service. Another of service to family, past and presence. I just can’t do justice to it all.

The responsibility is now ours to document the wonderful life of Evelyn Riggs Westover.

I know among her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren there are many memories and lessons. I hope you will share them in abundance here, so that the record we leave behind is complete.