Joshua A Davis
Contributor: finnsh Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
The year of 1820, Joshua Davis was born 23 December in Alton, Madison County, then the capital city of Illinois. As quite a coincidence, he was born on the fifteenth birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith; just months after Joseph received the "first vision."
In early spring of 1820, this religious young man named, Joseph Smith, was perplexed and having an unquenchable thirst for truth, desired to know which of all the present churches to join. While he lacked a formal education because of family financial cir[#$@^!]mstances, he possessed a superior intelligence that enabled him to go to the heart of things. He retired to a grove of trees by his family's farm near Palmyra, New York to pray about his concerns after reading in James 1: 5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and up[#$@^!]ideth not; and it shall be given him." Upon inquiring, through sincere prayer, a dark power came over him and seemed to bind his tongue so that he could not speak. As thick darkness gathered around him, he exerted all his strength to call upon God to deliver him from the power of his unseen enemy. At that moment a brilliant light shone from the heavens above and gradually descended upon Joseph. When it appeared, the enemy fled. The whole wilderness was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. "Immediately, his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision. Joseph later wrote, 'When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages. whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!'" When Joseph left the grove of trees that spring morning of 1820 his life was changed forever, as he possessed the essential spiritual truths upon which to launch the new dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through divine guidance The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 with Joseph Smith as its first President.
This vision given to Joseph Smith that spring morning of 1820 was to playa very important role in the life of Joshua Davis. Being the fifth child of nine born to Joanna (Betsy) Thomas and Dennis Davis, Joshua grew to manhood working on his fathers' farm in Alton, or as a cargo handler on riverboats up and down the Mississippi.
At the age of 19, Joshua became very interested in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Joseph Smith. He was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 16 April 1840 by Orson Hyde, and confirmed by John E. Page. Joshua was the only member of his family to join the Church at this time, the rest of them presently remaining with the Methodist and Presbyterian faiths. Being baptized by Orson Hyde was an honor for he was one of the twelve apostles of the Church, ordained 15 February 1835. Orson had diligently studied and investigated the church for sometime before joining in the fall of 1831. Being convinced that he I had finally "found the truth," he was soon ordained a high priest by Oliver Cowdery, 25 October 1831. Orson Hyde served many missions for the church and later in 1841, being partly of Jewish extraction, Elder Hyde was sent to Palestine to dedicate that land for the return of the Jews.
Joshua Davis deeply committed to his new faith, soon left his family home and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with Joseph Smith and the Saints who were gathering there after much perse[#$@^!]tion in Missouri. About this time his father, a widower, and family moved to - Black Oak, Caldwell County. Missouri, where they bought property and continued farming with the help of their faithful slaves. Caldwell County was where the anti-Mormon militia perse[#$@^!]ted the early Saints of Far West, burning their homes, killing their cattle and destroying their crops. It was the County where the massacre of 30 innocent men and children of Haun's Mill, by approximately 240 men, oc[#$@^!]rred. The devastated survivors were forced to leave Missouri during that winter, and the following spring of 1839. With the area so deserted, property and land was cheap and easy to come by, which probably made the move to Caldwell County appealing to the Dennis Davis family in the years of 1838 through 1845. Joshua's brothers were honorable men and became prominent citizens of the county. In 1869 the township of "Davis" was named for them.
At first the town of Nauvoo was actually named, "Commerce", but Joseph soon changed the name. Nauvoo is a Hebrew word meaning "beautiful" The area was swampy flatland near the bend of the Mississippi River and consequently unhealthy. But the Saints drained the swamps, toiling long hours each day while living in wagons, tents or dugouts. On 1 July 1839 Joseph Smith called upon all Saints everywhere, to migrate to the new town. Thousands responded to his call. By the time Joshua Davis arrived in Nauvoo it was growing quickly and excitement prevailed as Nauvoo did soon become a "beautiful" city. The first structures built by the Saints were frontier log cabins. As time and capital allowed, frame homes were erected and still later more substantial brick homes were built. Construction quickly became one of Nauvoo's principal industries and employed hundreds of talented
craftsman, many who had joined the Church in England and Scandinavian countries and had migrated to Nauvoo with others of their new faith. The Saints were encouraged to plant and [#$@^!]ltivate fruit and shade trees, vines and bushes on their new large lots. Joseph was the main reason Nauvoo grew so quickly. Converts and [#$@^!]rios came to him and he welcomed them all.
A large. hotel was being built called "The Nauvoo House" to accommodate strangers who would come to the city to learn about the gospel. By the summer of 1841 there were almost 10,500 Saints in the Nauvoo area. As more and more Saints came, another Church settlement was developed on the Iowa side of the river. The "Stake" there was named "Zarahemla," after the famous city in the Book of Mormon. Smaller stakes, surrounding Nauvoo, were also formed during this early Church period.
Of all the projects started in Nauvoo under the direction of the prophet Joseph Smith, the most exciting one was the Nauvoo temple! The cornerstones were laid on 6 April 1841 and work began immediately. Its construction dominated the activities of Nauvoo for the next five years. It would be where the Lord would reveal sacred ordinances to His people, which they so desired. Joshua Davis was among the able-bodied Saints who worked on the temple regularly. In doing so, he became very well acquainted with the prophet. Joseph Smith and his older brother Hyrum. Hyrum was the Chairman of the building committee for the temple. Many men donated at least one day in ten as "[#$@^!]hing labor." Joshua Davis was in poor financial cir[#$@^!]mstances at this time. One day as he approached the temple site to work, the Prophet, Joseph saw Joshua wearing a pair of worn shoes strapped together with hickory bark. Joseph inquired of Joshua's shoes, left and went to the store (probably his Red Brick Store), soon returning with a new pair of boots for Joshua.
When Joshua was visiting Kirtland, Ohio in 1840 at the age of twenty, he met and courted Susan Ann Cole, who had joined the Church with her family in Rochester, New York where she was born. Her family had moved to Kirtland to join with Saints, and practice their new faith. A girl of Dutch descent, Susan had been taught thrift and industry at a young age. Joshua and Susan Ann married on 12 November 1840 in Alton, Madison County, Illinois while she was twelve years old. Their first child, William Dennis was born in Carthage, Illinois in 1842, but died a month later. They lived there a short time before the anti-Mormon contentions drove them back to Nauvoo. Nauvoo had become a pleasant, prosperous, well-planned city. The Nauvoo temple was well under construction and the city was alive with new stores, dinner parties, quilting bees, house-raisings, cornhusking parties, a cir[#$@^!]s, military parades, reenactments of famous battles in American history and summer swims in the Mississippi. The Maid of Iowa, a steamboat owned by Captain Dan Jones and later by the Church, was used for ex[#$@^!]rsions on the Mississippi. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent in compe[#$@^!]ive jumping, pulling sticks, running, throwing weights, and wrestling, all of which the prophet, Joseph forever enjoyed participating in. During the winter, the Saints enjoyed sliding on the frozen river or horse drawn sleigh rides.
These joyous times were soon to end for the Saints of Nauvoo. By 1844 various men were stirring up contentions against the Mormons again and especially the Prophet, Joseph. With a force of more than twelve hundred state militiamen, Warsaw and Carthage citizens in mass meetings passed resolutions to "utterly exterminate" the Mormon leader. Illinois officials con[#$@^!]cated state arms from the Nauvoo Legion while allowing other militias to retain theirs. The whole countryside was in a state of confusion! Despite being acquitted earlier, Joseph and Hyrum were arrested in Nauvoo on June 24 and escorted to Carthage on horseback. As they passed the unfinished temple site on the hill in Nauvoo, Joseph lamented, "This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them." Oh, the fateful day of June 27, 1844! Joshua Davis, and wife, Susan Ann were outside of the jail in Carthage, Joshua acting as a bodyguard for the prophet and Hyrum. "Carthage Greys" performing as jail guards also, offered only token resistance to members of the Warsaw Militia, who had blackened their faces to disguise themselves. All visitors were being asked to leave while Joseph inside the jail, was bearing his powerful testimony to guards. Joshua and Susan Ann Davis probably left at this time. Since arriving in Carthage, the four remaining men in the jail, the Prophet and President of the Church; Joseph, thirty-eight and brother Hyrum, forty-four, Church patriarch and associate president; John Taylor, thirty-five, editor of two Nauvoo newspapers, the Times and Season, and the Nauvoo Neighbor; and Willard Richards, forty, a physician and the Prophet's personal secretary, had had a steady stream of visitors. Now there were none. The many Church members and friends of the prophet had left for Nauvoo to bring back witnesses, or get medicine. As the anti-Mormon mob stormed Carthage jail it was only a few minutes before the Prophet and his brother lay dead. John Taylor was shot 5 times but was still alive and Willard Richards was not hit even though 100's of shots were fired into the jail. Joseph had prophesied to Willard over a year before, ... "that the time would come when he would not receive a hole in his robe, though ball would fly around him like hail and friends would fall dead by his side."
As Joshua and Susan Davis were fleeing the confusion the mob stole their horses and they did not find them for several days. The day following the Martyrdom, beginning at eight o'clock in the morning, an estimated ten thousand people filed through the Mansion House to view the bodies of the slain Prophet and his brother, Hyrum. There was no peace for the people of Nauvoo. Not satisfied with having killed the Prophet and Patriarch, their enemies continued to harass them. Josh Davis had been instrumental in helping to build the "beautiful" city of Nauvoo. He had enjoyed peace and prosperity just long enough to feel settled. The Davis' owned two lots in Nauvoo, one on the river and same street as the prophet, Joseph and one closer to town. He was appreciative of having his own home, which he had strived so hard to obtain. Joshua had four slaves who belonged to him while living in Nauvoo. His ac[#$@^!]mulated land and property was soon to be sacrificed to the hands of angry mobs. It was during this time in 1844 that Joshua's second son, Henry Louis was born. Perse[#$@^!]tion became so severe that Joshua and Susan Ann together with their son planned on leaving the state. Thousands of other Saints intended to do the same. Nauvoo presented a busy scene during these days. Committees were moving about disposing of property, and the proceeds were immediately turned into the buying of wagons, working animals and supplies. Blacksmiths, carpenters and wheelwrights were busy the entire daylong making and repairing wagons. The sound of hammer and anvil could be heard even far into the night. The work on the temple had a brief pause, then the labor was picked up again at a accelerated pace, as the Saints so wanted to receive the blessings of it. The temple was to be the crowning jewel of the city. When it was completed in 1846, a year and a half after the Martyrdom, it was looked upon as perhaps the finest building then in the state of Illinois. It stood as a structure of gleaming limestone. Its tower reached 165 feet in the air, and it could be seen for several miles up and down the river into the far interior of Illinois, and from far into Iowa.
Among the blessings unfolded during these early years was Marriage or "sealing" for eternity. Latter-day Saints believed that Jesus, speaking of marriage, taught: "What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put usunder," and that Paul insisted, "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." In May 1843 the Prophet, Joseph instructed the Saints that in order to attain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, one must enter "the new and everlasting covenant of Marriage." Two months later he recorded a revelation outlining the great blessings promised to faithful recipients of this ordinance. The Nauvoo Temple was designed to accommodate these ordinances. Susan Ann, now eighteen years old and Joshua Davis received this blessing and were endowed and sealed in the Nauvoo temple on 29 Jan 1846, before leaving on the trek West with the other Saints.
At its peak, Nauvoo had close to twelve thousand people, with two to three thousand more living in nearby towns in Illinois and Iowa. Also, there were arrivals everyday of new Saints, who had recently joined the Church. Most members wanted to leave the state and find a safe haven where they could practice their religion in peace. Brigham Young, President and senior member of the Church's governing Quorum, was to lead the exodus. His organizational skills were tremendous. Later his energy, firmness, and good humor proved to save the Latterday Saints from disaster on the Iowa plains and many named him the modern day "Moses."
From the start of the exodus, Brigham Young through inspiration proposed that a smaller group go in early spring, ahead of the main body. Thus, President Young planned to start with this "vanguard company" of able-bodied "pioneers" and some families who could "[#$@^!]t the trail" and find a good location to put in crops, improve roads and bridges, locate campsites and collect firewood. But in Nauvoo there were increased mob attacks, stealing of wagons and much perse[#$@^!]tion. So departures started early in February 1846 instead of springtime and many of the Saints were ill prepared. It was extremely cold as temperatures plummeted for three weeks, wagons ferried across, often dodging ice chunks, and then scores crossed on the soon frozen solid Mississippi River.
Many travelers camped at the ever-expanding campground of Sugar Creek, seven miles inland from the River. President Young sent the "vanguard group" ahead. This proved to be a successful plan, as they did [#$@^!]t and mark the trail, as well as plant crops along the way for those coming behind to harvest.
While many Saints were reluctantly leaving their Nauvoo temple behind, Brigham Young was determined that it should be dedicated. Six of the Brethren were asked to return and take care of this. They were Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde, John Bernhisel, and Brigham Young's brothers, Joseph, John and Phineas. On the evening of 30 April 1846, a private dedicatory service was held. The reason for the private service being that the Brethren were fearful that a public ceremony scheduled for the next day might be disrupted by the enemies of the Church. The following morning, Orson Hyde, who had baptized Joshua Davis, delivered the formal prayer of dedication. (At least 5,615 early Latter-day Saints received their temple endowments before this dedication of the temple.) As citizens visited the abandoned city that coming year it was written that, ... "the body of the Mormons were an industrious, hardworking and frugal people. In the history of the whole world there cannot be found such another instance of so rapid a rise of a city out of the wilderness---a city so well built, a territory so well [#$@^!]ltivated... in so brief a period of only seven years."
After the Saints left Nauvoo, their enemies defiled the Temple. They set fire to the edifice on 9 October 1848. A tornado did further damage on 27 May 1850, and the remaining walls, no longer safe, were taken down in 1865. For one brief shining moment, this to the Saints was, the "City of Joseph." The sacred Nauvoo Temple was the House of the Lord, built with consecration, love, faith, and skill.
In 1846, the Davis' and thousands more fled their beloved Nauvoo, crossed the Mississippi River, and fled into the Iowa prairie. The temple on the hill was their fading Picture of all they had left behind---their snug and solid homes, their well-kept farms, and the burial places of loved ones, including the burial sites of their Prophet and Patriarch. The Davis' surely wept as they paused and looked back eastward, to the city built by their consecrated labors. Now they were to face an unknown wilderness. Joshua and Susan Ann told their four slaves they could return to Missouri to be with Joshua's father and stepmother. They chose to do so instead of trying to cross the unknown country to the west. But their eight-year-old son, Tobe Davis refused to go with them. He cried and begged Joshua to take him with them across the plains. So they did. Just before leaving in May of 1846, Joshua made a quick visit south to see his family in Caldwell County, Missouri. He walked 200 miles to do so. His father gave him a horse to ride back on. This gave the Davis' a complete team of horses to pull their wagon for the exodus. (They also had a team of cows to draw another small wagon.) Because of financial cir[#$@^!]mstances caused by the mobs, Joshua and Susan Ann lost almost all their earthly possessions. As a result, they set up at Stringtown, Iowa for a time. Their third son, Joshua Martin, was born here on 3 September 1847.
It wasn't long afterwards, the Joshua Davis family journeyed on to "Kanesville," renamed by the Latterday Saints and later known as Council Bluffs, Iowa to local residents. They joined many Saints who were pausing there before moving further west. This was on Pottawattamie Indian lands and on the east side of the Missouri River. They "camped out" here for over three years, probably living in a small cabin Joshua built. Here the soil was productive and many raised wheat, Indian corn, potatoes and other vegetables. They gathered wild berries, plums and nuts. Kanesville developed into a rustic, sizable Latter-day Saint town, boasting the log tabernacle, shops, a concert hall, and the Frontier Guardian newspaper. Elder Orson Hyde, (man who baptized Joshua) was assigned to preside over the Saints there. He published the newspaper for the benefit of its Church members. At the river's edge were three ferries. During the California Gold Rush, the Saints in Kanesville prospered from selling farm products and livestock and providing skilled labor to the hordes of forty-niners. A fourth son, born to Susan Ann on 23 October 1849, was named Heber Carlos. He died 5 February 1850, all while they were still in Kanesville/Council Bluffs. Amid trials of illnesses and Heber's death, Joshua and Susan prepared to move further west with the other Saints.
Brigham Young was guided to settle in the Salt Lake Valley and it was spiritually confirmed several times. In describing one of those occasions, Wilford Woodruff, who was with President Young when he first entered the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, later said that President Young "was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and of Israel, as they would be." After this vision passed, he said, "It is enough. This is the riqht place. Drive on." The Saints had been successfully led to the prophesied place preserved "in the top of the mountains." (Isaiah. 2:2, Micah 4: 1) This Church migration has been described by leading American historians as..."the largest and most successful group immigration in United States history" and its immigrants as the "best prepared pioneers in the West."
As Joshua and Susan Ann Davis prepared to finish the 1,004-mile trek to the Salt Lake Valley, they abandoned their home in Council Bluffs on 3 June 1850 and joined the first company of emigrating Saints to leave that season to cross the plains. Their party and wagon train consisted of 206 persons, 51 wagons, 9 horses, 6 mules, 184 oxen, 122 cows, 44 sheep, 46 yearlings, 19 dogs, 1 pig and 2 ducks. Their Captain was Milo Andrus. In a journal history of this company on 3 June 1850, we read that: "Duty of the daily Captain and counsel to provide hay and feed for horses and cattle. All must retire at 9 o'clock and rise at sunrise. Each man must take his turn to watch the company cattle. The camp comes together at 8 o'clock every night for prayer. There would be no swearing in the company. No shooting allowed within 20 rods of the company. No loaded guns allowed in the company. No loose powder near fires. The company commences to travel at 7 o'clock in the morning. We must each and all assist in sickness or broken wagon or any other accident as may happen." Later on 12 June 1850 is written: "We passed the graves of hundreds. We got along pretty well as far as Salt Creek. Here the stream was swollen so high that the bridge had been carried away and we were obliged to go to work and build a raft to carry our wagons over. We all got across safely." Then the last journal entry of 30 August 1850 reads: "About 5 p.m. Captain Milo Andrus passed the office having a banner inscribed 'Holiness to the Lord' on one side and 'Hail to the governer of Deseret' on the other side fastened to his wagon at the head of his company.
Joshua allowed a deserting soldier from the Mexican War to join his family group. This man drove one of Joshua's teams across the plains to Zion in exchange for food and transportation. Most caravans required over seventy days to make the journey. Through Ne[#$@^!]ska and part of Wyoming the pioneers stayed on the north side of the Platte River to keep themselves separated from the other wagon trains heading for California and Oregon on the south side. This helped assure permanent campgrounds for the Saints. Many times while on their way, "the camp would prepare for evening duties and the horses would smell the scent of Indians long before they could be seen. The horses would break loose and run away where some men would have to go and find them, leaving just a few men to protect the women and children at camp. Thus, women took an active part in helping to guard the camp and supplies. They, themselves, were very efficient in handling the firearms and took on many of the duties that were so numerous in that day. Joshua quickly decided it would be better to make friends with the Indians and soon became skilled at it where he learned to trade with them. The Indians before long trusted him, for Joshua never would fail them. He always kept his word, because he found that if the Indians knew a white man kept his word, they would help them in any way the white man desired them to. In his close association with the Indians they taught Joshua how to truly cook [#$@^!]h. He would make a fire, and let it burn down to the very hot ashes. Then he would wrap the [#$@^!]h in clean wet grass, put the [#$@^!]h under the pile of ashes, add more wood to the fire, and let it remain until the [#$@^!]h were cooked. This method was found to be very satisfactory because the [#$@^!]h retained their sweeter flavor than when they were fried. They had plenty of dried or 'jerked beef', as it was called. In his camp Joshua, with two other men, was appointed to be in charge of killing buffalo for their "jerked" meat supply. This was no easy task! Buffalo have very thick skin and there are only two places on their body where a gunshot will [#$@^!]trate. That is, the back of the shoulder and right between the eyes. So you had to be a fabulous shot to be given this assignment. To say the journey through the wilderness was tiresome would be saying the least! The children of Joshua and Susan, who were too small to walk occasionally along the side of the wagons, suffered most from the dreary ride from early morning until night month in and month out. The irksome journey was not all that the children were called upon to endure, for enroute to Zion the children, William, Henry, Joshua Martin and an orphan child, Julie Cook, contracted the measles. They were all sorely affected, but Henry suffered most. He was so near death that Joshua and family drove to one side of the trail, expecting him to die at any moment. It was thought in those days that the drinking of water was very injurious to persons having measles. Consequently, this harmless drink was withheld from the children. Susan Ann, seeing that Henry was about to die, gave him all the water he could drink. Whether this was what caused him to recover or not, Susan always thought it was. Henry was only six years old at the time. Just as the Davis' wagon train company was reaching the high point in the Rocky Mountains they got caught in a terrible snowstorm that became knee deep. For some time they could not find any food for their oxen, horses or for themselves. The trek was indeed punctuated by much sacrifice, sorrow, and many stressful situations, but devout prayers, hymns, music, good humor, optimism and faith kept them moving everyday step-by-step toward the Great Salt Lake Valley, their Zion. Trail markers made from Buffalo skulls were left along the trail to direct and encourage the Saints. They often had messages such as this one from Brigham Young, stating, "all is well." During the journey to Utah, Susan being an artistic and industrious woman learned to make shoes. Her teacher was an elderly Englishman in their party. This trade proved very useful to her, for when she reached Utah Valley, she made shoes for her own children, and many residents of the town.
It was 3 September 1850 when the Davis family finally reached the Salt Lake Valley. Friends urged Joshua to go into the barbering business and make his home in the developing city of Salt Lake. He was offered two city lots from Brother Godbee, on Second South and Main, where the Kenyon Hotel now stands, if he would stay in Salt Lake instead of going to Provo. At first he considered the offers. However, upon hearing that game and [#$@^!]h were more plentiful in Provo, that the valley abounded with persimmons, cherries, and berries, that the land was fertile with generous water available for irrigation, and that many of his old friends had settled there, he changed his mind. The Davis' had suffered much for lack of food on their long journey; winter was coming, their provisions were scant, and they felt they would fare better to go to Provo, at least for the winter. They remained in Salt Lake City for a few days then went southward to Utah Valley, the first Mormon colony in Utah outside of Salt Lake basin, named after the Ute Indians who lived there.
The thirty-three families of Saints who had arrived at the Provo River in 1849 had built a fort near the fresh water lake where a small monument now marks the site. During that winter, the... "Utes threatened war against the new settlers, and the Nauvoo Legion was called upon to protect the people of Provo. In a two-day encounter called the 'Battle of Fort Utah', forty Indians and one settler were killed and several others were wounded. This confrontation effectively ended Indian resistance in Utah Valley and made it possible for other settlements to be developed in 1850 and 1851. These settlements rallied together and Provo became the Stake Center and County seat."
Brigham Young visited Fort Provo after this battle and finding it in a marshy place for wintering, suggested they move it to higher ground [#$@^!]her east. This they did in the spring of 1850, and rebuilt it on a site, which is now known as the North Park or Sowiette Park, located at 500 North and 500 West in Provo. Joshua and Susan were one of the first families to settle in this new compound. Joshua built a small log house in the southwest corner of the fort, where three months later their fifth child, and first girl, Emily Anner was born on Joshua's birthday 23 December. The following spring of 1851 found Joshua busy acquiring land and preparing the soil for [#$@^!]ltivation. His first land lay near the later Geneva resort, which is now the surrounding site of the Geneva Steel Plant. On this he built a log cabin. Another cabin was built where the Ironton Steel plant stands today. On 19 May 1852 Joshua and 53 signers pe[#$@^!]ioned the First Presidency of the Church to assist them is organizing the city of Provo, dividing it into blocks and encouraging Church authorities to move into the Provo city area. President Brigham Young did assist Provo in this request. The city of Provo was soon planned and the blocks numbered and placed in a hat to be drawn. Joshua drew the northeast corner on first South and Fourth West. Here he built a two-room_adobe house into which his family moved from the cabin in the Fort. This was Joshua, Susan and their growing families home for many years.
The first means of economic exchange in the valley was the thousands of dollars worth of gold dust brought from California by members of the Mormon Battalion who had participated in the discovery of gold near Sacramento. Later the First Presidency sent a few men to California on a "gold mission" for more of the precious metal to help with Deseret's economy. The gold dust was minted into coins. Paper [#$@^!]rrency based on the Church's gold supply was also used. (Notice these coins are dated 1850, the year the Joshua Davis family entered the Salt Lake Valley)
Under strict commandment from God to obey the law of plural marriage, the Prophet Joseph Smith began in 1841 to instruct leading priesthood brethren of the church concerning this law and their responsibility to live it. Some worthy members of the Church were asked to practice plural marriage during the next nine years. However on 28-29 August 1852 a special conference was held in the Old Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Under the direction of President Brigham Young, Orson Pratt made the public announcement that the Church was practicing plural marriage under commandment of God. He delivered scriptural standpoints concerning plural marriage and explained that marriage was ordained of God, as the channel for spirits to acquire mortal bodies, and that through plural marriage worthy priesthood holders could raise up a numerous righteous posterity unto the Lord. Brigham Young then spoke giving a brief history concerning the revelation on celestial marriage. As a worthy priesthood holder, Joshua Davis married a second wife, Elizabeth Jane [#$@^!]ndon, on 4 September 1851. She was fourteen years old when their wedding took place. It is believed that Joshua knew Elizabeth in Alton, Illinois where she, like Joshua, was born or in Nauvoo from 1843 to 1846, where her family were members of the Church residing there at the same time as Joshua. To this marriage was born a daughter on 9 January 1853, named Rosetta Maribee Davis. This was Elizabeth's second marriage, her first being to a man named Wilford Heath Hudson from Harrison County, Indiana. Little information is available on her marriage to Joshua. It was said she got disillusioned with polygamy and moved on. Records show she later married James Pett of Brigham City, Utah on 31 May 1860.
Sometime after moving into the adobe house, Joshua and Susan Ann Davis met Johanna Anderson. Johanna was Swedish and had joined the Church in Sweden with her family. They had to be baptized secretly, at night, to avoid arrest. She was the forty-first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in her homeland and fourteen years old at the time. Only five months after being confirmed a member of the Church, Johanna and her family who were quite well-to-do, disposed of all their worldly goods and ac[#$@^!]mulated enough passage money to cross the treacherous ocean to join the Saints in America.
They traveled on a clipper ship named Charles Buck. The journey was very long and as her family later trekked across the miles and miles of plains to the Salt Lake Valley, Johanna saw many who were strong and [#$@^!]ve, weaken and fall by the wayside to end their earthly life. Each weary day brought them closer to Zion. Johanna walked all the way and often pulled the handcart behind their covered wagon. They arrived in Zion on 7 September 1855 and were directly sent by Brigham Young to Fort Ephraim one hundred-thirty miles south, because food was scarce in the Salt Lake Valley due to drought and to the cricket infestation, which had destroyed much of the season's crops. After two weeks of battling the crickets, seagulls flew in and began to devour the insects. They would eat as many as they could, then throw them up and eat again, repeating this process over and over. This went on for over two weeks until the crickets were effectively eliminated. Many crops were preserved but not enough to feed the two thousand Saints who immigrated that year. Arriving at Fort Ephriam, Sanpete County Johanna's family thanked God that not one of them had died on their incredible journey from Sweden.
The following year Johanna, now called "Hannah", went to Provo to work for the Joshua Davis family and on 9 November 1856, she became the third wife of Joshua. She was seventeen years of age and he was thirty-six. They were married in the best room of Susan Ann's new adobe home. A few months later Hannah's father, Ola Anderson died in Ephraim. This news truly saddened her. Hannah and Joshua had three sons, Homer Andrew, Dennis Joshua, Norman Taylor, and three daughters, Joanna Louisa, Alwilda Hannah and Mary Caroline, all born in Provo.
In her early-married life to Joshua, Hannah lived across the street from the adobe house in a log cabin Joshua built for her. Later she moved to their farm where the Ironton Steel Plant now stands in a small home made by him. This was a second large piece of and owned by Joshua. One night in 1863, Hannah was alone with her three sons and Joshua's son Martin. Indians surrounded their farm. They were terribly frightened and humbly prayed that they might be saved from harm. Hannah tried to light several matches because it was so dark, but finally they crawled out of the house, wrapping the baby, Norman, in her apron. They crawled from one clump of sagebrush to another until they came to the Pleasant Grove Hill. There they hid terribly frightened until morning. After they had escaped, the Indians burned the house completely to the ground. Hannah always felt her prayers were answered by her not being able to light a match, giving the Indians their whereabouts.
Shortly thereafter, Joshua traded with Mrs. Armstrong (the government Indian agent), a wagon and a team of oxen for a comfortable adobe home at 340 North 400 West in Provo, considered one of the finest homes in town. This property consisted of twelve rods of ground. Here Susan, Joshua's first wife moved in and lived the rest of her life. Later, Joshua purchased the remainder of the block, excepting one lot. Hannah, his third wife, moved from the farm to the north east corner of the block, in an adobe home.
Joshua and his growing sons took an active part in the development of Provo. They helped clear land, hauled building materials and fence posts and freighted to and from the surrounding territories. As an example, during the winters of 1857-59, when Johnston's Army was encamped at Camp Floyd, now Cedar Fort, Joshua and his sons hauled produce across the icebound Utah Lake to the soldiers. Tension between the soldiers and the Saints were often great, but fortunately no serious long-term conflicts ever developed. The negative effect of the army in Utah was the introduction of various vices into the territory, but Joshua and his sons did their part to help keep peace by bringing Joshua's wives' homemade cherry pies to the soldiers. These pies were soon in great demand and the soldiers were willing to pay fifty cents a piece for them. Once produce and pies were unloaded, Joshua and sons reloaded the sleds with cedar posts for their return trip over the ice. Often times on this return, Joshua and the "Davis boys" stopped to catch trout in the Provo River and took loads of [#$@^!]h up to the Salt Lake Markets. The round trip took four days. Upon arriving in Salt Lake they would camp at the "old [#$@^!]hing yard" which was located exactly were the Hotel Utah/Joseph Smith
Memorial Building, is now located. This was headquarters for all travelers and teams. A great deal of trading food and supplies was accomplished here as a means for economic self-sufficiency for the Saints. The Salt Lake Temple, which took forty years to build, was under construction right across the street in Temple Square. Thus, from these Johnston's Army and the Salt Lake City visits, Joshua taught his boys to be cooperative, peaceful, [#$@^!]ve and yet industrious, which led to other resources for their family income.
Having had considerable training and experience in [#$@^!]hing skills, Joshua was soon asked to organize the operation of "seining [#$@^!]h" from Utah Lake. A seine is a large [#$@^!]hing net with floats along the top edge and weights along the bottom. It allows the [#$@^!]hermen to bring large quan[#$@^!]ies of [#$@^!]h out of the lake at one time. This industry supplied food commodities for the expanding population of Saints who were sent to colonize the Provo area. Joshua was a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. He operated one of the first threshing machines in Utah, built by his brother-in-law, William Cole. Overcoming rough and sagebrush-covered terrain, Joshua and his boys helped build roads, dig and construct canals to irrigate farms, thus considerably benefiting the entire community. As a result, the "Davis and South Davis ditches" were named after Joshua and his sons.
This pioneer was even Utah County's first sheriff!
Joshua and Susan Ann had six more children born to them after moving out of the Provo Fort. They were, Susan Ann or Susanna, Orson Hyde, Albert Marion, Burdell Thomas, Rachel Emmer and George Albers. Joshua's very last child was born on 11 October 1873. She was Hannah's
youngest daughter, Mary Caroline, named after her mother's two sisters. Joshua blessed her on 19 October 1873 when she was only eight days old.
All eighteen of Joshua's children were close to him throughout their lives. He had a way of getting his sons to pull together, such as having Albert homestead land and then divide it between brothers and half-brothers. He taught his boys to operate the threshing machine to profit the community. Joshua also had a woodworking mill with a lathe where all sizes of wooden bowls were made as well as dash churns, butter paddles and rolling pins. He taught all his sons to be generous in serving the Church and helping others less fortunate than they. Most Davis' were known to pass on a dollar whenever a contribution was asked for. Working together for the betterment of the whole family was what pleased Joshua the most. While sons were "proving up" on the land, their father, Joshua was buying shares of Provo Bench Canal stock at $10.00 per share. A year or two later he bought more stock in the same canal at $20.00 per share. Two years following this he se[#$@^!]red more stock at $50.00 per share to be certain that there was water enough for all of their land. (In 1951 Provo Bench Canal stock sold for $500.00 per share.) With his many land holdings, implements, vehicles, cattle and fine horses, Joshua Davis was considered among the well-to-do persons in Utah County. His friends named him "Rich Josh Davis." In his later years, Joshua made several trips back to his father's home in Black Oak, Caldwell County, Missouri, where he was given considerable amounts of money from his father's estate. While visiting he would gather several hundred names of his kindred to be used in genealogical work. If he couldn't visit his family in person he often wrote letters to keep in touch, even though he was a very poor speller.
Joshua's membership in the Church never faltered. He was the true patriarch of his home and with his loved ones. He prized getting the family together, especially on his birthday. He referred to himself and family as "God serving people." He was very involved with Church affairs and was a member of the Provo Second and later Third Ward till the end of his life. In reviewing the Church’s list of Missionaries from 1860-1894 we learn that Joshua Davis served at least two missions for the Church. Records show a mission to the Eastern United States, set apart by Joseph F. Smith leaving on 14 November 1871 and returning 1 March 1872. Joshua would have been 52 years old at that time. Another mission was to Missouri, called by President Brigham Young and set-apart on 26 December 1874 and returning 4 April 1875. He left from the "Ogden Station" 27 December 1874 for this mission.
A do[#$@^!]ment affirming Joshua Davis' Missouri mission dates: (quoted as written) from Deseret News, 12 April 1875 reads as follows "Elder Joshua Davis of Provo called at this office a few days since, having just returned from a mission in the east, upon which he left last December. He went to Missouri and visited and labored in Caldwell, Clay, Ray, Davis and several other counties, which were wholly or partially settled by Latter-day Saints in the early history of the Church. Elder Davis says that the past winter has been the coldest known in that region within the memory of the oldest inhabitants, and that owing to drought and the ravage of the chinch bug the last two seasons, many of the people are bordering on starvation. The farmers in numerous instances are also without seed grain and potatoes and teams, having lost their stock through the intense cold.
On the 21st of last month, March, Elder Davis visited Mr. John Whitmer at Far West, formerly a member of the Church and one of the eight witnesses whose names are attached to the Book of Mormon. Mr. Davis stayed with Mr. Whitmer one night and part of two days. During the visit, the two gentlemen spent most of their time conversing about Mormonism; in the course of which Mr. Whitmer, with uplifted hand declared, 'I with my own eyes, saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated and I also saw an angel who witnessed the truth of the Book of Mormon.' Mr. Whitmer also affirmed that Brigham Young was carrying out the platform established by Joseph Smith while he was living. He inquired if the Indians were being baptized by the 'Mormons' in Utah, and seemed to be pleased on learning that numbers of them had come forward of their own accord and demanded baptism at the hands of the Elders. He also told Mr. Davis that his brother David, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was residing at Richmond and keeping a tavern, and that Oliver Cowdery, another of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, died at Richmond Mo. in 1849. He was agreeably surprised to hear that Martin Harris, another of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was living in Cache County, Utah at the advanced age of ninety years and well. Mr. Whitmer inquired if the Prophet Joseph Smith ever gave a revelation on the subject of Celestial Marriage, and on receiving an answer in the affirmative requested Mr. Davis to send him a copy of it, for he would like to read it, as he had heard it denied that a revelation on that subject had ever been given.
In closing their interview, Mr. Whitmer expressed a great desire to have news from Utah, but Mr. Davis told him it would be better for him and his brother David to pay a Territory visit during the coming summer.
The Messrs. David and John Whitmer left the Church in 1838 in consequence of the terrible perse[#$@^!]tion of the Saints and their expulsion from the State of Missouri. In consequence of their action in this respect they were permitted by the mob to remain in the State and retain possession of their property, as thousands of others might have done had they abandoned their faith. Since that time Mr. John Whitmer has become an intensive landed proprietor and now resides upon his property in the city of Far West, and we understand that he has never failed to bear testimony of the validity of the Book of Mormon whenever opportunity has presented."
Either on his first or second mission, Joshua called upon his father's farm to visit with his relatives. Calling at his father's home, he found him chopping wood. It had been 22 years since they had met so his father did not recognize him. Wishing to have some fun, Joshua did not disclose his iden[#$@^!]y. He asked for food and a nights lodging, but the old man pleaded in his inability to accommodate him. Making some ex[#$@^!]se of his wife's declining years. Joshua's father sent him "around the next little hill. There he said was a woman who would give him a bed." On arriving there, Joshua found that it was his brother Sam's wife; she thought she did not know him but after a pause, recognized familiarity in his manner and his smile. Joshua had a scar on his forehead that he had gotten from an ice skating fall as a small boy. Sam's wife pushed his hat back and saw the telltale scar on his forehead. She was happily surprised and said, "Oh, it's Uncle Josh!" After supper, they went to their father's home and spent the evening with him and stepmother, Nancy Potts. (Joshua's mother had died at age forty-five, in Alton, Illinois when Joshua was sixteen.) His relatives treated him royally. His brother John was converted to the Church, and Joshua interested the others to a considerable extent. His father died at the age of ninety-four and it was his last wish that his temple work be done for him. Joshua did do the temple work for his father as well as for his brothers, John and Sam.
Ten years after this mission, Joshua wrote in one letter dated 24 December 1882, to John's wife, Margaret asking if she wanted to be sealed in the temple to John. He talks of his father's baptism by Jessie Hitchcock in Pike Co., Illinois. He closes his letter saying ..."operations of Congress" (must be referring to the Edmunds Act passed in 1882 which was a 'bitter prejudice' against the Saints for their belief in plural marriage.) ... will preach more in high places all over the earth than we can. He says the Church will stand all that can be brought against it. "If there is anything you can't see thru, wait it will be made known to you," was Joshua's last advise to John's wife. He closes with a prayer for God's blessings to her and all that belongs to her. (Letter enclosed) Joshua never gave up being a missionary, especially to his own family.
Tobe nicknamed "Dick" Davis who had come with Joshua across the plains, remained with the Davis family as Joshua's "man servant." He lived with the family in a small one-room house on Joshua's lot in Provo. He grew up with the "Davis Boys," cooking, hunting and logging and was like one of the family. At some point during the Civil War, Tobe returned to Missouri to be with Dennis Davis, Joshua's father. Tobe's mother had been Dennis' slave but she was like a mother to Dennis' children after his first wife's' death, and they were "family." Dennis, fearing a raid on his farm, hid his money under a hog trough and secluded himself in the cornfield nearby. He left Tobe to guard the house. The enemy came demanding money and the whereabouts of the owner of the farm. Tobe, "Dick" averted their questions and divulged no secrets for which a rope was thrown around his neck with the threat of lynching. He still concealed his knowledge. The soldiers went their way without their loot and left Tobe unharmed. Tobe's wit and [#$@^!]very endeared him to the family. During Dennis' late illness, Tobe made a bed beside that of his master's so that he could attend his every want. After Dennis Davis died on 21 February 1879, Tobe went back to Utah and Joshua's family for a while. As Joshua Davis got older and began to slow down, Tobe Davis went to Park City where he worked as a tramway laborer and [#$@^!]ided leather quirts (riding whips) for the young boys in
town. He died 3 February 1897 and was buried in the older Plat C Section of the new Park City Cemetery. He was fifty-five years old. Tobe's faithfulness to the Davis family was proven over and over many times and the entire Davis family dearly loved him.
In 1882 Susan Ann Davis had a sister that died and left her with a little three-year-old girl to raise, Peral Loveridge Jeppson, her niece. Susan and Joshua raised two other children besides Peral and their own; Julia Cook Biglow, an orphan child; and Jasper Davis, a grandson. Susan enjoyed telling stories of Nauvoo and of being close neighbors to the Prophet, Joseph Smith. She delighted in making artistic things for her home, especially beautiful quilts. Susan and Joshua's home was always open to visitors and she enjoyed cooking. Susan Ann suffered almost total blindness in the last years of her life. She died when Peral was twelve years old, on 4 January 1891.
Joshua and second wife, Elizabeth Jane were sealed in marriage in the "Office of the President" on 27 May 1853. Elizabeth died 9 June 1897 in Brigham City, Box Elder, Utah, not living with Joshua but with her third husband, James Pett.
Joshua spent his last ten years with his wife, Hannah. She was a marvelous cook especially known for her "melt in your mouth" bis[#$@^!]its. She was remembered for "being so clean and having everything just scrubbed." Hannah was very skilled with her hands and an excellent seamstress. They were sealed together as eternal companions in the Manti Temple, Sanpete County, Utah on 4 March 1891. Exactly two years later, 4 March 1893, Joshua purchased a home (from Albert Marion Davis) for Hannah as an anniversary gift, for which he paid $1,500.00. When Hannah and Joshua's youngest child, Mary Caroline married George Powelson, Joshua sold them property next to his house for $150.00. Mary Caroline and George moved into their new home there on 2 July 1894. As neighbors, George spent many evenings taking Joshua for buggy rides around the lake bottoms, to visit with family. Joshua liked the family to get together for [#$@^!]h fries and story telling. Joshua and Hannah often ate dinner with George and Mary Caroline or other members of the family who lived in and around Provo. Sometimes being "challenging" or showing "favoritism," he was nicknamed the "ole' codger" during his later years, for Joshua Davis lived to the ripe old age of 81 years 10 months and 28 days. The brick home pictured here being his last residence. It still stands today at 400 North and 300 West, in Provo. Joshua died of asthma on 21 November 1902, and was lovingly laid to rest in the Provo City Pioneer Cemetery on 23 November 1902. His headstone reads..."Our Father Has Gone to the Mansion of Rest to the Glorious Land by the Diety Blest."
One of his granddaughters, Ranetta Ann Davis Loveless, described Joshua as "medium height, heavy set, ruddy complexioned, dark eyes, soft gray hair and beard neatly trimmed. Both hair and beard whitened long before his death. His manner was jovial and he delighted in telling experiences of his life. He drew vivid mind pictures of joys and sorrows of Nauvoo, the Martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith and brother Hyrum, crossing the plains, settling the desert, troubles with Indians, and peace and prosperity found in nearby places. About every morning he drove to the farmhouses of his sons. His grandchildren loved him to come and enjoyed the stories of his experiences. He sometimes took his buggy rides alone but usually took grandmother or "Aunt" Hannah if they wished to go. I often prepared dinner and served it when they returned." In reference to the entire Joshua Davis family, Ranetta Ann Davis Loveless wrote...”Their thrift, their hospitality, their genial disposition have been a guide to me. I love and respect all of them."
By following his religious beliefs, Joshua Davis' life was filled with peace in his later years. He sat back and finally relaxed, living mostly off the sale of his extensive land holdings. He served in the Quorum of Seventy, a high calling in the LDS priesthood, for much of his adult life. Joshua lived to see six Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serve and move the gospel forward. He gave up the "easy life" in Missouri to follow what he believed to be true, the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Joseph Smith, and the following Church Prophets/Presidents. From those early days in Nauvoo, Joshua never looked back but lived with hardship, sacrifice, sorrow and perse[#$@^!]tion for his beliefs that most of us cannot comprehend or understand. It is believed he was jailed for a time, because of his practice in plural marriage. Through his constant diligence, industry, and instruction, Joshua made his families lives a bit better each day. In the end, Joshua had what was most important in life. He was blessed with a loving, ambitious, public-spirited family and a posterity of which he was proud to be patriarch. He was father of eighteen children, grandfather of eighty-six children and the great-grandfather, at the time of his death, of forty children. Today his descendants would number into the thousands. He was indeed a true Mormon pioneer, for Joshua Davis did his part to make the sagebrush desert of Utah Valley, in his Zion, "BLOOM!"