History Of John Henry Owen Wilcox
History Of John Henry Owen Wilcox
taken from Family Search written by J.O. Meiling
On December 25, 1775, in a little town in Rhode Island, was born Hazard Wilcox. He met and wed Sarah Seeley. In 1824 the resided at Benton, Arkansas, where on 14 Feb. 1824, was born John Henry Owen Wilcox, the youngest and last of a larg family and the subject of this treatise.
Little is known of his early life. Leaving Arkansas the family settled in Missouri, where in 1831 the father died. It was here in Marion County, Missouri that the boy accepted Mormonism. This new religion had aroused such bitter antagonism against its adherents that mob violence was prevalent throughout the Middle west. They lived in Jackson, Clay, and Caldwell counties in Missouri, being driven from place to place with less regard than for so many cattle. On one occasion, Grandfather escaped the wrath of the mob by hiding in a corn field, and another time he was clad in girls clothing to cover his idnentity lest he be taken away by a brother-in-law who was bitterly opposed to his affiliating with the Mormons. He witnessed the transfiguration of Brigham Young when he assumed the likeness of the Prophet Joseph Smith at the time a successor to lead the western trek was being discussed. When it was seen futile to further attempt to maintain the homesteads in the Mississippi valley, and hold their religious convictions, the Mormon converts, in accordance with the advice of the Prophet Joseph, prepared to head west into the unknown Rocky Mountain region. John Henry Owen, with his widowed mother and sister Jane, was among them and early in the summer of 1847, in a slowly moving ox drawn prairie schooner, set out in John Taylor's Company, bound for that unknown, unexplored western wilderness. Jane and Justus Azel Sealey were married 10 March 1842, and were in the same Company. Over the prairie lands, along the North Platte river, up the ridges and valleys, up of the Wasatch Mountains, and down through Emmigration Canyon continued that trek of more than 1000 miles, the like of which is recorded no where else in history. What were the emotions that surged through his being his being when , on September 30, 1847, from a vantage point on the Western Slope of Big Mountain, he gazed over Salt Lake Valley, a cheerless, desolate, uninviting desert wasteland? What did he behold in that panorama to bid him welcome, or to suggest that this is the long sought haven in which to build a home? Somber indeed, was the picture painted by Jim Bridger when he urged the original emigrants not to stop in Salt Lake Valley. Said he, "This is no place for civilized man. Nothing but wild beasts and savages could possibly survive the vigors of the elements and the destitution of this barren land. Nothing can grow and utter starvation will inevitably follow if settlement is attempted." Did Grandfather lament and want to turn back as did the children of Israel? Never. With a burning desire for a home in a land of religious freedom, as the obstacles that beset the way of the o conquer the obstacles that beset the way of the frontiersman, as in the woof there was woven into his being some of the most enduring fabric that ever formed a part of human character.
He first settled in Salt Lake, where on the 14th of March, 1848, he was married to Mary Young, a convert from Ontario, Canada, who also came westward in John Taylor's Company. In 1850, they moved to Manti remaining there until 1853, when they settled at Fort Hamilton, a settlement located some distance west of the present site of Mt. Pleasant. That same year, they moved to Pleasant Grove, Then to North Ogden. In 1860, he came to Mt. Pleasant whare they resided the rest of their lives. He homesteaded 20 acres of land Three miles north of the town and tilled this land for nearly 40 years until he became so feeble he could plow but a quarter of an acre per day.
Grandfather participated in the Walker and the Blackhawk Indian Wars. While residing at Fort Hamilton, he was employed at a sawmill in Pleasant Creek Canyon, where on one occasion he was left as a watchman while the other workmen went to town. In the early evening he heard the words, "go home." He paid no attention to this until the warning was repeated three times then he went home. On returning to camp the next day they found it a smoldering mass of ruin. The Indians had set fire to the lumber, the logs, the wagons and every combustible object, and driven off the cattle. This cost Grandfather his wagon and oxen, but did not deter him in his determination to strive on. He traded all his possessions, including a house and lot for another wagon and yoke of cattle.
Though he went hunting occasionally to augment the family food supply, he had little recreation, his first concern was to supply provisions for a wife and eleven children. His life was filled with toil, trials, hardships, privations, sacrifices and heartaches incident to life in that time. He was ambitious and worked at any form of labor available, including farming, logging, mining, building log and adobe dwellings. At one time he worked at a mine near Austin, Nevada, where he was so severely injured that he was weak for years. He was an expert log hewer, even made lumber by this method. His ability in making ox yokes was widely known and many men came to him for his service. On one occasion he exchanged a large load of poles for 40 pounds of wheat, which he planted on an acre and a quarted of land, and with joyousness they gathered from the threshing floor seventy bushels of grain. He grubbed oak brush for a peck of corn per day and thanked God for the opportunity of earning that 14 pounds of corn to help feed his family. In our day, we hear much about the full dinner pail but Grandfather well remembers the days his dinner bucket contained only a pinch of salt, with which he hoped to season a kettle of segas, thistle stocks, pig weed or other edible plants he might find to cook for his noon day meal. Grandmother Wilcox oft repeated, "As I look back on these agonizing times, I wonder how in the world we ever managed to keep body and soul together. I know, However, that it was through the graciousness of the Good Lord on High, we were able to withstand those terrible ordeals." The Mormons made the desert blossom as the rose, but the first "roses to bloom for grandfather were a few potatoes broduced from seed brought from California on pack animals and sold pour to a customer at 25 cents each.
Grandfather never learned to read or write, yet the feat of turning this sagebrush covered wasteland into fields of bounteous harvests, will be emblanzoned on the history of Utah by these early pioneers. It was not the call of wild, the desire for fame or fortune, or adventure that promted him to abondon his friends and posessions, but the hope of finding a place where he could dwell in peace and safety, unbomolested by a bloodthirsty mob determined to annihilate the converts to this newly-born religion. He had morality, truthfulness, and strict adherence to the golden rule worthy of emulation to the end of time.
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant, ... ... ..."