Sarah Ann Hodgson
Contributor: doddemagen Created: 9 months ago Updated: 9 months ago
History of Sarah Ann Hodgson McKee-Utah Pioneer of 1852
Compiled and written by Aurilla M. Gerber
Revisions by Verda Kitchen
Sarah Ann Hodgson was born February 1, 1832, in Halifax, Leeds, Yorkshire England, a daughter of Arthur and Mary Busfield Hodgson and a granddaughter of Thomas and Sarah Ambler Hodgson.
She was small in stature, standing five feet high and weighing, when grown, just ninety pounds. She was a frail, sickly child, but had a very cheerful disposition; her hair was brown and she had large blue eyes. She was very apt with her hands and was clever as a dress and hat maker.
The climate in England was damp and foggy, and winters were cold. In her youth, in England, living conditions were far from the modern conditions of today. The homes were heated by fireplaces which furnished insufficient heat for England’s cold damp winters; hence, many people suffered poor health and had to be sent to other places more sunny and dry.
Sarah Ann’s doctor advised that she be sent to the “Isle of Man” for a while during her youth, but her mother, who had been converted and baptized to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 18 April 1844 thought that if they would heed the counsel and gather with the Saints in America, Sara Ann would be blessed with better health; so they began to plan to that end. Sarah Ann was baptized on the 29 of October 1849 by Joseph Buntly according to the Bradford Branch Records of England, along with her brothers, Thomas and Allen.
The spirit of gathering increased their desire and efforts to join the body of the Saints in Salt Lake Valley, in the territory of Deseret, of America as it did in all members who were sincerely converted.
The applied for passage to America with the church leaders who were over the British Mission. At that time, Brother Orson Pratt was the immigration official for the Church. When they received the letter from Brother Pratt, dated December 5, 1849, saying that their application had been accepted, and arrangements were being made for their immigration to the new world of America, their delight had no bounds. To the young folks, Sarah Ann, 17, and Thomas, 20 years of age, the news was so thrilling; it meant adventure, new experiences, new cities and strangers. All of which was particularly inviting to these youths.
Thomas had worked with his father as a mechanic saving his wages for this dreamed of event. It had been the goal of the whole family for months, perhaps years. December was always full of happenings for the Hodgsons. Christmas was a happy annual event. Thomas, the son, 20, and Susanna Hartley, 19, were married on December 26, 1849. Thus, she could go to America with her sweetheart.
Then there was planning, sorting out the things they could take, selling or giving away the things to be left behind; packing , and visiting. There were few days left until they must leave and be in Liverpool, the port of sailing, by January 2, 1850. It was such a short time. It was less than a month to accomplish so much, under the stress of the circumstances at Christmas season.
They must leave their dear home, friends, and relatives, perhaps never to see either again. It was all exciting and saddening to reminisce and contemplate. The farewells, promises, and parting caused such mixed emotions, especially when the future was so uncertain and all so new to them; an ocean voyage, its dangers and inconveniences. A life on the briny blue Atlantic for two to three months. The landing on a strange land among strangers. But the goal, to be among the Saints of God! The effort and strain were worth it; to be able to worship God with others who had had similar experiences, was exciting and consoling.
The letter of instructions from Brother Pratt was read and re-read and kept handy for reference. It contained so many special instructions. They had to be in Liverpool, ready for sailing in the new ship “Argo” by January 2, 1850. The letter from Brother Orson Pratt is here given:
North 15 Wilton Street
Out of Saint Ann Street Liverpool
December 5, 1845
Mr. Arthur Hodgson,
I have charter the large new and splendid ship “Argo” to sail with a load of Saints from Liverpool for New Orleans on the 6 day of January, 1850.
The passengers whose names are here inserted are requested to be in Liverpool on Wednesday, the second of January, namely:
Arthur Hodgson 46 years
Mary Hodgson 44 years
Thomas Hodgson 20 years
Sarah Ann Hodgson 17 years
Allan Hodgson 10 years
Susanna Hodgson 19 years
Let no person bring their luggage to our office, as we have no room for it, but upon arriving in Liverpool, the passengers can take their luggage on board the ship where they can lodge until the ship sails.
After securing their luggage, the passengers are requested to call immediately at my office, North 15 Wilton Street out of Saint Ann Street, and have their tickets receipted in full. If possible, all the passengers should have their passage paid in full as early as Thursday evening, the third day of January, as several entire lists of names and ages must be made out according to law before the ship can receive her clearance. A neglect of these instructions will put the passengers and ourselves to great inconvenience; no person will be permitted to receive his berth until he had procured his ticket and passed the government medical inspector. Therefore, let no one delay procuring his ticket longer than Thursday evening, the third instant.
Every charterer of a vessel sailing to North America is, obliged to send out ten weeks provisions; and if the voyage is performed in less than ten weeks, the overplus of provisions is returned to the charterer. But in this case, I shall make a present of the overplus provisions to the passengers, to assist them in their journey up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Should the ship make a short voyage, the overplus provisions would be worth from 150 to 200 sterling.
The Steerage Fare will be for adults----------------- 3 5 0
Children under 14 years and over 1 year----------- 2 10 0
Infants under 1 year---Free---------------------------
Second Cabin for adults------------------------------ 4 0 0
Children under 14 years and over 1 year----------- 3 0 0
Included in the fare will be the following amount of provisions for each adult, namely:
25 1lbs of Biscuit 5 lbs of Molasses
10 lbs of Wheaten Flour 1 ¼ lbs of Tea
20 lbs of Rice 3 1bs of Butter
50 lbs of Oatmeal 2 lbs of Cheese
10 lbs of Pork 1 pint of Vinegar
5 lbs of Sugar
Children under 14 and over 1 year, half of the above amount. This will be about sufficient for the passengers during the voyage. If, however, they should want more or a greater variety, they can supply themselves therewith.
Passengers must furnish their own bedding, their cooking utensils, provisions, boxes, etc.
The ship will be found in the Victoria Dock.
All persons who do not belong to our Church, who wish to sail on our ship with the Saints, and who will preserve good order, must send to me their address, names, ages, and deposits; the same as the Saints, and they shall be notified by letter, what day to be in Liverpool.
A committee of three will be appointed to preserve cleanliness and good order during the voyage.
Acknowledge the receipt of this letter by return post, that we may know that you have been notified, otherwise your berth may be filled with other passengers, and also state whether the passengers whose names are included in this letter will take second cabin or steerage fare. The second cabin will be far more pleasant and healthful to those who can afford the extra expense.
Yours most respectfully,
P. S. Let no one come to Liverpool with an expectation that there will be room for him on the ship, unless he has been duly notified to come; for in so doing he might be disappointed and make unnecessary expense. Several of the American Elders who have presided over Conferences will return in this ship.
Theses Hodgson Saints were at Liverpool on the appointed date. We have no record how they traveled from their home in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, with all of the specified necessities plus a few belongings and keep-sake treasures.
They went direct to the new ship “Argo” and followed instructions. When the ship was preparing to sail, Sarah Ann must have looked weak and sickly, causing the Captain to ask her mother if she passed the doctor’s examination; when told that she had, he remarked that, “The sharks will get her then”. “No”, said her mother, “She will reach America.”
Sarah Ann did reach America and came across the barren plains to the Rocky Mountains and on to Utah, enduring trials that would tax the strength of the hardiest of people.
The ship “Argo” with its cargo and 402 Saints set sail from Liverpool, England, January 10, 1850, across the Atlantic Ocean to New Orleans and docked March 8, 1850, having traveled a distance of 5,000 miles with Jeter Clinton as their Captain. It is very probable that Jeter Clinton was one of the returning missionaries mentioned in Orson Pratt’s letter. We read of him in pioneer history as being a captain of one of the Utah pioneer companies.
The voyage across the Atlantic had taken two months, lacking two days. The over-plus provisions promised them by Brother Pratt were very valuable to them now as they immediately after docking at New Orleans boarded another ship, directed by some Church leaders, and sailed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, as distance of another 1,173 miles.
These long shipping voyages, with so many persons aboard, were not easy on this sickly young girl, nor was it easy on any of the passengers. They had to have a cook on board to cook for each family the diet they wished; often there were complaints. They had very little space for each family to occupy and keep their quarters clean and sanitary. They kept their allotted provisions in their own boxes and containers, furnishing the cook their own supplies to be cooked for them.
Finally they landed in St. Louis which was located on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Branch of the L.D.S. Church was functioning with the appointed leaders to meet and care for the immigrants needs, finding housing facilities, doctors for the sick, and work for the needy. The goal for these Saints, for the present, was to reach Council Bluffs on the Missouri River which was the last out-fitting place and also the last contact with civilization before starting the long desert trek to Utah.
The cholera was raging in St. Louis and along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. In late 1849 and early 1850 it caused much sickness, death, and hardships on these new immigrants. New graves were constantly being made on the banks of these rivers. These weary voyagers were very susceptible to this disease, and family tradition says that it also struck this family, causing the death to three of them.
They must have sought employment to help finance their continued journey. Apparently they had paid their own fare thus far, as they had left England three months before the Immigration Perpetual Fund was introduced in Europe in April, 1850.
St. Louis was the main city in the United States where the Mormons could work for or obtain the needed supplies for the westward trek. St. Louis is credited with being sympathetic and helpful to the Mormons who had been so persecuted and harassed by the people in the northern part of Missouri.
Arthur, his son Thomas, and Susanna Hodgson never reached Utah. They passed away along the route after landing in North America. Perhaps they are buried in an unmarked grave as were so many worthy Saints.
They had such longing to mingle with the Saints of God in Utah in the Valley of the Mountains. They had put forth such great effort to that hardship, they had been tested and won the crown that those wear, who stay true and follow counsel of the Latter-day Church leaders and the commandments of God.
All honor to those who blazed the trail,
We so casually follow today,
But let us cherish forever more,
The brave who fell by the way.
Call not back the dear ones parted,
Anchored safe where storms are o’er,
On the border land we left them
So to meet and part no more.
It was frustrating and heart breaking to leave loved ones in graves in unfamiliar settlements, in a strange land, and so far from their native home. They would never be able to even see the graves again and care for them. This good Hodgson family have long since been reunited in their heavenly home prepared for them above. At this time, 1979, it has been 129 years since these English Hodgsons reached the shores of the great North America. What changes have taken place in our Church status among the unbelieving population. Now we are recognized with respect the world over. The converts of today all have the convenience and luxury on the voyage coming to America, but their test of faith is just as great if not greater in this world of wickedness and indifference.
How the Hodgsons got to Council Bluffs and when, is not known, but Sarah Ann, her mother Mary Busfield Hodgson, and her young brother, Allan, were the only ones left of the family of six to finish the final lap of the journey on to Utah in the valley of the mountains. The 1850 census, lists Arthur Hodgson, the father, as living in Pottawattamie County on the 25th of September, 1850. Most likely he was in Council Bluff or Council Point when he died. The son, Thomas, died June 3, 1852, just before they left Council Bluff to come to Zion. God gave strength to the faithful souls who carried on to Zion. Mary, with frail daughter Sarah Ann, and small son, Allan, were those numbered with the immigrants leaving this last out-fitting city in June, 1852.
Sarah Ann was 19 and had met and married William McKee on July 22, 1851 in Council Point, Pottawattamie, Iowa, almost a year before they left there to continue their trek on to the Salt Lake Valley. She was willing to continue the arduous journey of another 1,000 miles over rough, dusty, rutted roads in a wagon or walking along by the side. They camped each night in the open with the blue canopy of heaven for a ceiling to their outdoor bedrooms. They were exposed to elements of scorching sun or freezing winds blowing dust in their faces and food.
They started their westward trek on June 15, 1852, taking her mother and brother Allan, 12 years old. William took his two unmarried sisters, Lettie and Martha Jane, and perhaps Eliza Ann and her husband Marius Ensign. Also one colored man who drove one oxen drawn wagon. They rolled their loaded wagons full of provisions out of Council Point Branch, and with the ten members, they went a distance of five miles to the Missouri River crossing to be ferried across from the east side in Iowa to the west side of the river into Nebraska’s Indian Territory.
This journey was not an easy one even for those who had no children to care for. At night the tired and dusty pioneers would cook meals over a smoking campfire or no fire at all, because of no fuel, then eating a scanty cold supper. At times they camped with no water to clean up or cook with. Many times they cooked with buffalo chips for fuel, which had to be gathered by them during the day’s travel.
Too often cholera snuffed out the lives of camp members, leaving the families and friends limp from grief. Sarah Ann witnessed the burial of many old and young, also the birth and baptism of some; some accidents causing death, some sickness causing death. She knew many who deserted and went to another company or to California. Her experiences were similar to all pioneers of those early years, far too hard for weak bodies. But could this wagon trip have been worse than the ship voyage of one year previous? Now she was a young bride with her heart full of love and her head full of dreams. The future looked glowing, with her kind, loving groom by her side. They were headed to the promised land of Zion, where she and William could live and worship in peace, free from mob violence and persecution. At last the journey to the Salt Lake Valley was nearing an end.
On September 15, 1852, in the forenoon, the company of John Tidwell reached the city square. After lunch, Sarah Ann and William moved with their occupants southward, traveling about two more days before reaching Palmyra on the Spanish Fork River. This community had about twenty families at the time; Stephen Markham was the presiding Elder.
Just where they lived in Palmyra that first winter of 1852 and 53 is not known. There were very few houses built of logs, but many families were living in dugouts when the Saints arrived in the fall of 1852. The majority of the pioneers were directed south to the Spanish Fork River area that fall.
The population of Palmyra that year increased from about eighteen to seventy five families. Among these families were William McKee and his brothers, Thomas, Jonathan, and James, but Hugh didn’t settle in Spanish Fork for about a year. Thus, Sarah Ann was not friendless. She also had her mother and brother with her to giver her aid and moral support during the next few years of poverty and other hardships.
William, her husband, was very energetic so perhaps he made a dugout to house his own group during that first very severe winter, or perhaps they divided and lived with separate families. They had become accustomed to such situations long before their arrival in Utah. Lettie McKee married Albert Stevens after arriving that year on November 22, 1852, so perhaps her sisters went with her.
The winter was extra hard and caused great loss to these immigrants who were travel weary and weak. The food supply was very scanty for both man and animals. Their already thin oxen and other stock were turned out to forage throughout the following months. Only the hardiest of these survived the cold weather. That first winter must have been extra hard on Sarah Ann who was in a delicate condition. On April 15, 1853, she gave birth to a son named David Arthur; he lived only a very short time and was buried in Palmyra.
A ward was organized in 1853, with Stephen Markham as Bishop of Palmyra. We learn that the Markham’s home was a large one-room dugout filled with not only his own family but many families who shared its hospitality. How charitable they must have been in early pioneer days.
A petition was presented in 1853 to the territorial legislature asking for a city charter for Palmyra, which was granted. The citizens proceeded to elect city officers. They organized a company of home guards for protecting and defending the citizens and their property against Indian raids. Stephen Markham was elected major with W.W. Willis as Captain along with other officers.
This year of 1853 the Walker War broke out, so the Saints of Palmyra proceeded to build a fort to protect them from the Indians. Houses were built inside the fort, opening to the center of the enclosure. This fort was on a forty-acre plot, about one and one-half miles northwest of the center of where Spanish Fork City is now. It is supposed that Sarah Ann, husband, and family took advantage of this added security and moved into the fort, for a time at least.
George A. Smith, a church leader, helped to survey Palmyra in 1853. He pronounced it the most beautiful spot in the mountains. The Saints built a one-room school and church house combined which was dedicated January 1853, by Bishop Stephen Markham.
Sarah Ann’s second child, a daughter, Mary Tweed McKee, was born on 24 Oct 1854 in Palmyra. She was a great comfort to Sarah Ann.
This year and the next, the crickets harvested their crops leaving them again destitute for food. The Indians had raided and warred the year before until, since reaching Zion in Utah, Sarah Ann had not found that looked-for peace and rest from troubles, but she was among good friends and righteous people who loved and helped each other.
Many of her neighbors were moving to the fast growing settlement called Spanish Fork, a short distance away. So they bought a lot in the south part of today’s Spanish Fork City and built a house in late 1856 of adobe. Her husband dug the dirt out of a spot in their lot to make the adobes, and then used the hole for a cellar.
In late 1856 they moved into their new home built on their large lot. They enjoyed its newness and it was to them a luxury they had not known for many years. She used her fireplace for her domestic purposes until several years later when her husband bought her a stove, their first. He made this purchase while on a trip back to the states, in which he, like many others went to help other immigrants to come to Utah.
My father William, Jr., said it was the first stove he had seen and to him it was very special. William Jr., was born February 24, 1857, a few months after the McKee’s moved into the new home. On April 3, 1859, Joseph Allan was born, then a daughter, Sarah Ann in 1861, who died in February, 1863, at the age of just two years. Then their youngest child, Louisa Ann Jane, Sis for short, was born on September 7, 1866. It was a pleasure to rear these children in the city of Spanish Fork with friends of the same standards and social and religious backgrounds to associate with.
Sarah Ann was a very intelligent and thrifty person and perhaps a strong willed one. She was a neat and efficient housekeeper, even after she became an invalid the last twenty years of her life; she seemed to keep control of her duties as a wife and mother. Her daughters were taught and later kept very neat efficient homes of their own and became thrifty companions for their husbands.
Her children were kind and helpful to their mother, lifting her around from place to place in the house. My father, William Jr., says he carried and lifted his mother about for several years when he was not away working. She was so tiny and jovial that her husband would carry her to the neighbors for social events and neighborly visits, often, on long winter evenings.
She was a person who commanded respect and love from her associates. Her children were taught faith in the Gospel, and all were religious, hard working people. They all obeyed the ever-lasting covenant of eternal marriage.
I do not know the nature of Sarah Ann’s illness. Perhaps it was female trouble or it could have stemmed from her childhood in the damp country of England which caused many to contract tuberculosis.
Louisa Ann (Sis) was just fourteen when her mother passed away, yet she took over the household duties for her father and brothers, Bill and Joe. She was well trained by her mother for the duties and responsibilities of a home of her own. While still young, 19 years; Louisa Ann went to the temple with her sweetheart, Marion Dudley, and was married for time and all eternity in 1885. Mary T., the oldest daughter married at sixteen in the temple at St. George to Thomas Butler. These daughters and husbands, a few years after their mother’s death, all went to Ashley Valley, to Jensen, a small community in Uintah County, Utah on the banks of the Green River.
Sarah Ann Hodgson McKee was endowed and sealed to her husband, William McKee, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, February 16, 1858. Her husband had her sealed to her parents in the St. George Temple, November 29, 1883.
Her doctor said that her faith and will kept her alive long past her time. She passed away on November 1, 1880, full of faith in the Gospel that she had accepted in her youth. They buried her in the William McKee lot where her little girl, Sarah Ann, had been buried earlier.
On February 2, 1901, her good husband passed away in Jensen in Uintah County, Utah. His sons, Bill and Joe, hauled his body to Spanish Fork, Utah to lay beside his faithful and loving wife in the Spanish Fork Cemetery, in Utah County, Utah.
In the year of 1963, in the month of May, the grandchildren of these loved grandparents placed a new memorial marker to replace the old sandstone one that marked the burial spot of grandparents who left them a heritage of faith, honor, and the right to have a noble place among Utah Pioneer descendants.
Adaline Butler, a granddaughter who died in Provo, 1910 or 11, was also buried in this same McKee lot.
Sarah Ann had preserved with loving care a Bible, an heirloom handed from mother to daughter. It is about 8 x 6 x 2 ½ with a tan hard back cover of leather, worn some, I think more from handling, than from reading, at least in later years. This book belonged to Sarah Foster Busfield, Sarah Ann’s grandmother. She gave it to her daughter, Mary Busfield Hodgson. When Mary died, Sarah Ann became the possessor of it. When Sarah Ann died she had given it to her daughter, Mary T. McKee Butler. At Mary T.’s passing, her daughters had died so she gave it to her brother, William McKee, Jr.’s daughter, Mary McKee Lloyd. Then when Mary M. Lloyd died in 1963, she had designated the Bible to go to Mabel Gerber Davis, a daughter of Aurilla McKee Gerber who is a sister to Mary M. Lloyd. It is still at this time preserved with loving care.
Another heirloom, a multi-colored flowered earthen serving dish, oblong in shape, has been cracked or broken lengthwise through the middle. The dish has been mended by some person either extremely thrifty or desperately in need of a serving dish. Holes have been drilled along each side of the break, similar to eyelets on a shoe. Then the holes have been drawn together by sewing through them crosswise over and over, repeating the process with each set of two holes opposite each other. When our sister, Mary M. Lloyd passed away, January 28, 1963, the dish was given to Sister Sarah McKee Smith, by the previous wish of Mary Lloyd. Now it is among Sarah’s treasures.
I have a receipt of $10.00 given to Sarah Ann H. McKee, our grandmother, dated 1872 for stock shares in the first Spanish Fork co-op store.
Another relic is grandfather, William McKee Sr.’s sword and sheath he had when he was captain in the Black Hawk Indian war. He also fought in the Walker War. My cousin William McKee of West Jordan, Salt Lake County, Utah, treasures this among his keepsakes, and it remains in his family since his death.
• Pioneer diaries in D.U.P. Lessons books
• Family histories and records
• Temple records of William McKee Sr. vicarious work in St. George Temple in 1878-83
• Diary of Fifth Company of Utah Pioneers of 1852 with John Tidwell as captain
• Spanish Fork History by Nephi Jensen
• Shipping records from Liverpool, England in 1849-50
• Researches of Census records, marriage records of Pottawattamie Co. Iowa, temple records, and branch records for revisions made by Verda McKee Kitchen.
William Mckee Jr.
Contributor: doddemagen Created: 9 months ago Updated: 9 months ago
A Sketch of William McKee Jr. Life and Experiences
Written by Aurilla McKee Gerber
William McKee Jr. was born February 24, 1857, in Spanish Fork, Utah. He was the third child of William Sr. and Sarah Ann Hodgson McKee. His father and mother came across the plains in 1852, and settled in Palmyra, near Spanish Fork. In 1856, they bough a lot and built a home in Spanish Fork where William Jr. was born and lived for twenty-eight years. During this time while just a young man, William freighted and also helped to build some of Utah’s railroads that angle through the state.
He received very little schooling as his mother was an invalid and his grandmother who was old, lived with them, which necessitated William or “Bill” as he was called, to help in the house. One of his fondest recollections as a child was the good bread and “lasses” as they called molasses, which his folks made from sorgum.
William was a grown boy when his invalid mother died, after a lingering illness for twenty years during which time she had to be waited upon and carried where ever she went. Then his sister, Sarah, or “Sis” as she was known by her friends and family, kept house for her father and brothers, Bill and Joe. She was very young and had many hardships in those early days. Bill had an older sister, Mary Tweed, who had married when he was a small boy of thirteen years, to Thomas Butler. Mary was not able to help much either materially or financially. His sister Sarah married young to Marion Dudley, moving to her own home, leaving her father and brothers to batch at home. Not long after this they moved to Ashley Valley, Uintah County, a new raw country to conquer.
It was in the spring of 1884 they left their Spanish Fork home with part of their belongings starting for a new home and land. They settled in Jensen, Uintah County, Utah near Green River. They each took homesteads joining. Owing to the newness of the country and time it took get a water and irrigation system worked out, it became necessary to obtain work elsewhere to finance this new project. William worked in Vernal which at that time was just a small settlement of farmers and cattle growers. The county seat at that time was called “Ashley” and was located about two miles north of where Vernal, where the present county seat now stands.
For more than a year, Bill worked for a farmer named William Ashton, who was considered a successful rancher for those early days. There was a bond of mutual friendship developed between Bill and the Ashton family that has never been forgotten, though the older members have passed away. While working here Bill earned enough straw, other than his wages to winter his own cattle which he had left in Spanish Fork the previous winter. In the spring of 1885 they moved the remainder of their possessions from Spanish Fork to Vernal and Jensen just fifteen miles east of Vernal. But they again returned to their old home in December 1885 taking an old friend, John Thompson, back for treatment of a broken arm. They then finished the winter with their friends Joseph and Caroline Dudley in Spanish Fork. On March 10, 1886, before returning home, he married Emily Aurilla “Em” Markham, who came from and old pioneer family of Spanish Fork. William with his bride started for Ashley Valley in a covered wagon 18th of May, 1886. The heavy snow of the past winter had swollen the Provo and Spanish Fork rivers, which they had to cross by fording because bridges had never been built across these rivers yet. The roads were new and in very poor condition as were all roads when spring broke in those days. Their trip was a hazardous one, often taking hours to pass over dangerous places along the way, but they finally reached their homestead June 5, 1886, after 18 days on the road. Bill and Em gave Bill’s father a home with them until his death in February 1901, a period of 15 years. Bill’s brother Joe also lived with them until he was married to Laura Orsor.
In the spring of 1886, the first crops were planted on the farms of what was called Burns Bench. The McKee’s had fifty acres of oats planted. That first year the high water took out their new dam in Ashley Creek, leaving their land dry and parched and a total failure of crops. Like other pioneers they rebuilt their dam and planted again but troubles continued, water shortages from one cause or another. After a year or so, a few men got together and organized a group of farmers, who dug a ditch from Brush Creek down to Burns Bench. This ditch was seven miles long. They dug five miles with picks and shovels along the side of the hill using the straight edge and level to get the right grade. William Jr. was one of the surveyors. The ditch, when finished, was five feet wide on the bottom and seven miles long. It served them well saving their crops in future years and is still in use and is called Burns Bench Ditch.
They had no ward organizations until a presiding elder was appointed for that part of the county. They traveled twenty miles by wagon and team to old Ashley, northwest of the present town of Vernal, to the county seat to do all their shopping and business. The road was exceedingly dangerous during high water, as there were no bridges, and all streams were forded and all roads were in bad condition. Then an L.D.S. Church organization at Vernal was set up which was fifteen miles from Jensen. This was the closest community activity accessible to the McKee family. At that time Ashley was part of the Heber Stake.
The nearest doctor to this little group was twenty miles away in old Ashley. When medical aid was needed they traveled in lumber wagons with a slab or rough boards for a seat this long distance, regardless of how urgent the cause. Many lives were lost because of this condition.
Their social life consisted of gathering in each others homes for surprise parties, dances, to play games, and to serve real banquets. Everyone brought a basket of lunch to spread out on the table for all.
Groceries were so high priced in Old Ashley, that one box of matches cost 25 cents and everything was in proportion. So each year some of the families journeyed back to Spanish Fork for yearly supplies of groceries and dried fruits. It would take a month to make these trips. The wheat was taken to Vernal to the old Reynolds and Johnson Flour Mill to have it ground. The winters were very severe. The frost would hang in ropes from the trees for months at a time, while the thermometer would register 40 degrees below zero. Green River would freeze over and hold up a wagon and team. At one time while taking a ton of alfalfa seed across the Green River on the ice, the water spurted up all around the wagon. William was afraid to go on across so he unhitched his team on the middle of the river and fastened a long rope to the end of the tongue then took his team to the bank and pulled the wagon by the ropes. The seed was sold in Meeker, Colorado, and the men then hunted and brought a load of venison back for winter use. As long as there was no closed season for the hunting of deer, the whites as well as the Indians got their meat, jerked it from the bones and dried it for their future use by hanging it on strings stretched in the top of the house.
At another time, William, his brother Joe, and Frank Orsor went across Green River on horseback to prospect for Gilsonite. When they were three fourths of the way across William’s horse (Old Jane), broke through the ice into swimming water. With the help of the others, William held her head above the water with the bridle reins and removed the saddle; then a lariat was thrown around her hind legs, she was pulled out, and they journeyed on their way.
William was a good friend to the Indians and often gave them food to take on their fall hunts.
William watched Ashley Valley grow from a small group of homesteaders to a beautifully developed valley of green productive fields and bustling towns. At that time Maeser was just a raw country with not even a store. William helped to make all the canals in the valley from Jensen to White Rock, including Brush Creek. He helped make the irrigation system, even getting the water pipelines installed in the homes in Maeser, west of Vernal. He also helped plant orchards; watched the change from lumber wagons to buggy wagons, to surreys, to rubber-tired vehicles, to the present limousines and the airplanes. He watched the change from dirt-roofed and dirt-floored log cabins to our modern homes of today.
William and his wife were parents to eight living children, all married. His wife preceded him in death six years. William Jr. died in April, 1938.
In 1901 William and his family moved from Jensen to Fourth ward or Glines ward now, up in the valley near Vernal. Here he lived one and a half years near his brother Joe who had moved from Jensen a few years prior. Joe’s wife died at this time, and the family lived with William and his family for about six months. Then William moved to Mill Ward (later named Maeser) about three miles northwest. They took Joe’s six month old baby with them and kept her about six months longer. Here they got three more children of their own, making eight children, four girls and four boys. These Children have all married but the youngest son, Lynne, who was left with William when his wife passed away January 4, 1932 on her birthday.
William lived with a married son, Harold, in his own home until his death April 7, 1938 after a lingering sickness.
William was a faithful L.D.S Saint and always helped to roll on its cause. He sent two boys on missions and sent all eight of his children through high school. At the time of his death, he had living eight children, twenty-one grand children and six step grand children, making a total of twenty-seven grand children.
At the present time to William and his companion, there are forty-eight direct descendants living-twenty three grandchildren, eight children, seventeen great grandchildren. There are four grandsons and two step grandsons and a step granddaughter in the service. Two grandsons have filled missions, and all his descendants are workers in the L.D.S. church, for which their great grandparents sacrificed so much. One son at the present time is serving as a missionary in the Southern States.
History of William McKee Sr.
Contributor: doddemagen Created: 9 months ago Updated: 9 months ago
History of William McKee Sr.
Compiled by Aurilla Gerber
Revised by Verda Kitchen & Emily B. Olsen
William McKee was born on October 7, 1825 in the Slippery Rock Township of Butler County, in Western Pennsylvania. His parents were David and Mary Tweed McMillen McKee. He was the sixth child, and sixth son in a family that would one day have 11 children (7 boys and 4 girls). His birth was most likely in a log cabin.
William’s father was a farmer by trade and he taught his sons this same occupation as they grew up and worked with him on their farm lands. They were religious in nature, and it is thought that they belonged to the Presbyterian faith at this time.
In the spring of 1837 a young, 17 year old, missionary called at their home. He introduced himself as Erastus Snow and then he preached the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to them. David and Mary were converted to this religion and were baptized on May 15, 1837 in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Their children, several of them grown, were baptized at later dates. After they had left Pennsylvania, William was baptized on August 10, 1840 by Michael B. Wilton. To our knowledge the David McKee family was the only family converted within their circle of relatives; none of David’s brothers or sisters joined.
From the tax deed records in Butler County, it shows that David McKee sold his land and properties to his brother, Hugh, in 1837; and it is possible this was in their departure from Butler County Pennsylvania. The route they followed as they moved westward from Pennsylvania is unknown, but we do locate them in Pike County Illinois in 1840. They were here in this county for perhaps about 2 years, for the oldest son Thomas was married at Bloomfield and his first child was born in this area. Perhaps Daniel, the second son, was also married while they lived in this county.
As Nauvoo became the gathering place for the Saints as they were driven from Missouri and other Illinois counties, we know the Saints began to move to this place and its surrounding areas by the early 1840’s. The McKee family also followed other Saints to this gathering place. If they settled in Nauvoo itself we do not know, but land records and other accounts state that David McKee’s family lived in Montrose Lee County, in Iowa territory, which area lies west across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. Here the McKee family lived for several years during the Nauvoo period, and owned a large parcel of land that they farmed until the movement west began.
It was in this influence that William grew to manhood. He often in his late years talked of Joseph and Hyrum Smith that he had known during life in Nauvoo. He no doubt had often heard Joseph counsel and teach the saints. He mingled with the leaders of the church along with the rest of the Mormons. He worked a great deal in Nauvoo during the building of the Temple and was as proud as any to see its beautiful walls reach completion. As the mobs threatened and intimidated the Saints, William and his family were probably forced out of homes and property. The McKee family joined the other Saints in the trek westward. Just how soon the McKee’s joined the body of Saints it is not known, but in the land records of Keokub, Lee County, Iowa it states that David McKee sold his land and properties to a James O’Neil on April 1, 1846 for $300. His son, Jonathan, states in his history, that the McKee family didn’t leave with the first body of saints westward, but later in the season.
A tragedy befell this large family in August 1846. David, William’s youngest brother, sixteen years old passed away, when they were only a few months travel from their Nauvoo home. They traveled on and finally found the beautiful settlement of Mt. Pisgah on the Grand River, Iowa. The site was an elevated stretch of country leading down to the Grand River through very fertile soil, covered with green vegetation and much timber with a large cold water spring from which the culinary as well as water for stock was a welcomed convenience.
The Saints were anxious to grow crops for food and beasts, and they banded together and fenced 1500 acres of this land, protecting it from roving Indians and straying beasts, as well as protecting their own cattle. Here they planted grains, beans, potatoes, turnips and other vegetation for consumption. Many houses were built as timber was plentiful. A church and school houses were soon built for the community. Wards were organized and church activity was carried on as if they were in Nauvoo. The Priesthood looked after the poor and sick. Companies were moving on to Winter Quarters as fast as they could supply or outfit for the trip.
While they were in Mt. Pisgah David McKee, William’s father, contracted Cholera (a disease of the bowels, with cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting). He passed away on May 1, 1847. He was 50 years old. Another boy Daniel, age 29, died during their exile and it could have been at this time in Mt. Pisgah. A memorial for all the saints who died in this settlement has since been built. David McKee’s name is on the monument. Mt. Pisgah remained a settlement for the Saints until 1852, before being abandoned. It is likely that the McKee’s left the settlement within two years after their father’s death, and traveled on near the edge of the Western Frontier at Winter Quarters.
Winter Quarters was the last settlement for those preparing to go west. To get to Winter Quarters, the Missouri River had to be crossed by ferry, which put the travelers in Nebraska. The settlement grew quickly. By December 1846, there were 538 log houses, 83 sod houses, and 3,483 inhabitants, where only a few months before there had not been a house. Some of the houses were shingled with foot long shakes, 6 inches in width and ½ inch thick. Some had puncheon logs split into three inch thickness, smoothed on one side, and laid for floors. Sod chimneys were a common sight. The floors were mostly earth, with canvas or carpet laid on top for covering. Many of the people dug into the banks of earth and covered their dugouts with sod and willows. A sawmill was constructed, and meeting and school houses were built. Bishops were appointed over the twenty-two wards which this town had been divided into. The leaders, with Brigham Young, had chosen this site to be the last outfitting station for the Saints. They urged the Saints to gather here as fast as possible. Another reason for gathering together was that a large town was better protection from Indians.
After Brigham Young left with the first group of Saints for the Salt Lake Valley, the Indians began to get restless about so many people in their Nebraska Territory. The Indian Department requested the Saints move out of Winter Quarters, Nebraska. The Saints then re-crossed the Missouri River to the east side and traveled a few miles into the settlement of Council Bluffs. By late summer Winter Quarters was deserted, and had become a Ghost Town.
It is unknown if the McKee family was in Winter Quarters, but they are found in Council Bluffs as this time. William seemed to be the only boy not married. Hugh, just older, had met and married Julia Raymond on November 22, 1849 in Council Point (which is a branch of Council Bluff). The settlers built a log Tabernacle here. When Brigham Young returned from Utah in the fall of 1847 he was sustained as President of the Church in the Tabernacle at Council Bluffs.
Many of the men had to leave their families and go back to Missouri, because St. Louis was then main point where they could obtain supplies. They would work for teams, feed, cattle or for anything of value to them on the Westward Trek. Some of the McKee’s went away to work. Julia Raymond McKee says her husband, Hugh, left her with her parents soon after their marriage and was gone to work for one year. When he returned he had better supplies. The McKee family lived at Council Point near to Council Bluff for a few years, working together, and trying to get a store of provisions to last them until they reached the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. William was left to care for his mother and sisters. His sister, Priscilla, married James Pollock when quite young and they were ready and left with the Daniel C. Wells Company on July 10, 1848 for the Salt Lake Valley. Priscilla and James with their children Clarinda (age 6), and Thomas (age two), were among the early pioneers to reach Utah. They later moved on to California.
On July 22, 1851 William McKee was married to an English girl, Sarah Ann Hodgson, who was twenty-two years old. She was also a convert to the church, who had immigrated to America with her parents in early 1850. Her father, brother, and sister-in-law had passed away on their journey from England to Council Bluffs leaving her Mother and a ten year old brother, Allan, and herself to settle alone in Zion. On November 10, 1851 Mary, William’s mother, passed away. William now was responsible for getting his sisters across the plains to the Valley in Utah.
On November 28, 1851, there rode into Council Bluff visitors from the Great Salt Lake. Apostle Ezra T. Benson and Jedadiah Grant came with and important message from the First Presidency of the Church. At 6:00 PM on November 29, in the Council House the Saints met for a special meeting. Nearly 100% of the people were present. The meeting was called to order by President John Tidwell; after the meeting had been opened by prayer, Elder Thomas McKensie arose and read from the “Frontier Guardian” the following:
“To all the Saints in Pottawattamie, Beloved Brethren; We send unto you our beloved brethren, Ezra T. Benson and Jedidiah M. Grant, for the special purpose of counseling and assisting you to come to this place, and we desire you to give heed unto their counsel in all things and come to this place with them next season and fail not. Come all ye officers of the Church and all ye officers in the state or county. There is not more time for Saints to hesitate what course they will pursue.
We have been calling to the Saints in Pottawattamie every since we left them to come away, but there has continually been an opposing spirit, whispering as it were-stay another year and get better fit out-until many who had means to come conveniently have nothing left to come with, even as a former Prophet said “If a man will not gather when he has the chance, he will be afflicted with the Devil.” His property will go to waste, his family fall by sickness, and destruction and misery will be on his path; even so has it been with some of you and soon will it be with more of you if you do not hearken to this call and come away. What are you waiting for? No, you have all of you unitedly, a far better chance than we had when we started as pioneers to find this place. You have better teams and more of them. You have as good food and more of it; you have as much natural strength as we have had to come; our women and children have walked here, and barefoot too, only as they could occasionally get a skin from the Indians to make a moccasin, and can you not do the same? You can and we say again come home! And if you can get one good wagon and team to five families and five teams to 100 souls or no teams at all, more than cows and calves to your handcarts, you can come here with greater comfort and safety. When the pioneers came here they had nothing to come to; while you will have everything; and here is the place for all the Saints to get their fit-outs for Zion; even from all nations; therefore, we say again, arise and come home. Elder Hide [Hyde?] will return to your place with Brothers Benson and Grant, and set in his calling as usual [acting clerk], but you must not depend too much on him for he has his private affairs to settle and prepare to bring his family and come with you; and we have sent Brothers Benson and Grant to bless you and counsel with you and relieve Brother Hide [Hyde?}.
Therefore, we wish you to evacuate Pottawattamie, and the states. Next fall be with us, all ye saints of the most High, and it shall be well with you if you will keep all the commandments. Oh, ye Saints, give not your heritage to reproach, neither sell your improvements in Pottawattamie to strangers for nothing. No! Rather sell your improvements for their value or give them unto the hands of those you shall be counseled to, for the benefit of the poor saints who are coming after as a consecration for the benefit of the poor.
It is a day of sacrifice and those who are ready to sacrifice and do their duty and come home, they may save being burned. How long will the Saints in St. Louis remain where they are? Arise and come with the Saints of Pottawattamie and you shall be blessed.
We remain your brethren in the New Covenant,
Heber C. Kimball
Many in the meeting bore testimony of the truth of the gospel and all showed willingness and faith in the cause ahead. It was decided to start the trek in the early spring of 1852. Each of the heads of families was interviewed that night in Council Point. Most all pledged to go. Their abilities, assets and liabilities were considered. The number in each family who would go was numbered against the wagons available to each family and with his number of Oxen and other cattle. Many were unable to outfit themselves and too poor to go without help. This meant that others who were better fixed would have to help them. Each family head pledged as to how many poor they could take. Some were able to take belongings or freight, but no more passengers. All pledged to help what they could. This same plea was also sent to Mt. Pisgah, to England and all the Saints still out in the world to “come” and gather with the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. For those who did not have wagons, they were to get handcarts; if not a handcart, they were to get wheelbarrows or a cow to carry a pack on, but all were to make their way to the Valley. The record of the camp diary states that Thomas McKee and his four brothers, James, Hugh, Jonathan and William pledged willingness to heed the council and to help others who were less fortunate in the great journey west for religious freedom. William McKee’s appraisal of his outfit states that he had four members of his family and was equipped with one wagon, four oxen, four cows, and he said he would be ready to go with the others.
The winter of 1851-52 was spent with all hands busy. Women were sewing strips of canvas for tents, while others were making over clothes or other things. There was no boredom in Council Bluffs. Many meetings were held and changes were made in the process of preparation, but progress was made toward that eventful day of leaving, and bidding farewell to Council Bluffs. The air was filled with excitement and expectation. The Saints worked feverishly from December 1851 to June 1852 to be ready to leave. Many tentative dates were set for leaving, but finally Captain John Tidwell announced that next Saturday (June 5th) all must be moving. The day before leaving the city looked like a mushroom field, because so many covered wagons stood ready to go.
It wasn’t long until a meeting was called to discuss the problem of what should be done about the unsold property that was left behind. It was decided that Thomas and James McKee would stay a while longer and take care of the property until a committee could be appointed by the authorities of the church for that purpose. This left just three of the McKee brothers, Hugh, William, and Jonathan to go on with the Fifth Company of John Tidwell, who was Captain of fifty.
Many companies of immigrants in groups of fifty, moved out of Council Bluffs. Some of them earlier than the Fifth Company, and some later. On Saturday June the fifth, immediately after breakfast, one company of ten moved out of Council Point and camped near the ferry. The next day others followed. They went just a few miles, and camped. A high wind was blowing which caused several days delay on the Saints being able to cross the river by ferry. When the winds did subside, which was on June 12, Captain Robins and his ten, hitched their teams and went to the ferry. In a short time they began to cross the river into Nebraska. This ten, with others crossing after, traveled about two miles from the river, on through the Bluffs and three fourths a mile from Winter Quarters, and then they made camp. The other tens and the livestock still on the Iowa or east side of the river were detained because some companies of Gold hunters, on their way to California, offered the ferry hands more money for ferrying them across. They tipped the ferry hands generously in wines and drinks until they were too tipsy and happy to safely operate the ferries. By June 15, the wind was again getting stronger, but the last three wagons finally crossed, then unhitched their horses and oxen, waiting for the wind to abate so the menfolk could cross their cattle and sheep. Some of the earlier group returned to help them, and soon all were in camp together.
The company was given a set of rules to follow, and much of their success depended on how well they abided by these rules. Prayer was to be said night and morning, attend meetings on the Sabbath Day, no swearing allowed in the camp, everyone was to prepare to tie their cattle if necessary, a guard was to herd the cattle outside of the corral and call out every half hour to the campers. Horses were to be kept in the corral for safety. Every man was to have a good gun and ammunition for it, but no gun was to be left in the wagon loaded. Animals were to be treated with care and kindness. Trumpets were to blow each morning, giving different signals for when each of the activities were to begin.
The diary of this fifth company shows that after they had been on the move one or two days, Brother Benson suggested that they reorganize again and take another survey of their equipment and preparedness. He felt they should organize into tens. In this survey, we find that William McKee’s outfit had two wagons, with ten members in his family, eight oxen, eight cows, and two sheep. William had assumed the responsibility of taking Sarah’s family and others with them on their journey.
A meeting was called on Sunday June 16th to give thanks to the Great Creator for the preservation of their lives. They were now actually on the Plains, and on their way to the Valley. On June 17th, William with his two wagons was at the end of the caravan. A colored man was driving his first wagon, and he was driving the other. They were about a mile behind the rest of the group because the cattle kept breaking loose. The colored man was confronted by three Indians, who ordered him to give them some of the things in the wagon. Upon refusing they rushed for William’s wagon, which was a short distance behind. The colored man, sensing their intent, immediately went to William’s assistance. It is believed that if the colored man had not been there, William’s wagon would have been robbed and perhaps some of the occupants harmed.
William McKee and his brothers were in the Fifth Company of tens. Along the way Buffalo hunts were organized, some to hunt and others to take wagons and haul it to camp. It was then divided among each company of ten in camp. When a camping place was found with plenty of good water, fuel, and feed for animals, the entire Company would camp a week or so, giving them a chance to mend wagons, and for the women to do their cleaning. Wagon wheels often broke down and freight had to be shifted to other wagons until repairs were made. All had been advised to bring axletrees, some of which were of steel, which required a blacksmith to each company. Wooden axletrees were made to use temporarily until long enough stops were made to give the blacksmith a chance for major repairs. Oxen were shod, on these breaks, easing their sore feet. Very few horses were used, just enough for the captains and herders to ride. The sturdy oxen were used to haul wagons, because of their great strength and endurance, but due to the sharp rocky roads that were hard on their feet, special oxen shoes were required.
Disease broke out on the trail, often causing epidemics and many died. They were wrapped in blankets or any available covering, and buried in hasty made graves along the way, sometimes covered with rocks to protect them from hungry wolves. Most of them were marked with the name in crude ways. The Priesthood members were assigned to occasionally visit each family, when camped, to check on the health and spirit and conditions of the camp, and to persuade them to attend to their prayers and meetings.
On August 14th, soon after all had retired for the night, a guard called out an alarm that Indians were upon them. The captain ordered all men to the center of the corral within five minutes. They soon learned that the Indians were after their stock, and had already gotten away with the horses. The men started chasing with axes, guns or clubs, following after the fast escaping Indians and horses through thick brush and timber. Though the night was pitch dark and they were afoot, their determination to recapture the horses was spurred on by desperation. They at last overtook them and regained their loss. When back at camp, with horses tied up, the men found the commotion at camp, worse than chasing the Indians. In the excitement the cattle had stampeded, rendering the herdsmen helpless to quell them from running in all directions. The men were shouting orders and giving directions, cattle were milling and trampling and bellowing, women and children were frightened in such dust and uproar, and all with no moon to pierce the blackness of the night. By dawn the tension had eased, the cattle were soon rounded up and again put across the river in good feed by the herders, while the rest of the camp resumed their normal routine of duties and assignments for the beginning of the day. The next day was Sunday. The camp laid over and mended a few broken wagons, and had a Sunday meeting in which to worship. Come Monday morning all the cattle were there but one ox belonging to Jonathan McKee. After a few hours delay, the ox was found and the company rolled out of camp, and went on their way again. The company bull was brought by John Dallows. It became sick and had to be left behind. The camp agreed to pay Mr. Dallows five cents a cow for bull service. William McKee had five cows by this time and it cost him fifty cents. Most men had few cows, but nine dollars and fifty-five cents was collected to help pay the owner for his bull. Later another eleven dollars and ninety-five cents was given to Mr. Dallows.
As they got close to the valley everyone became excited. On the next to the last night on the trail, some of the cows became lost in the brush, which caused a delay of several hours. They had just a mountain, a smaller mountain, a few streams to ford, and one more camp ground. They located the cattle, and doubled up on their teams to cross the mountains. They were glad when they finally had the mountains behind them. On September 15, 1852, they passed through the mouth of the canyon and rolled into the city. The diary, in which much of this account has been taken from, was by George Bowering, who served as the company clerk.
The McKee’s did not stay long in the Salt Lake Valley. They soon left Salt Lake and traveled on south to a settlement called Palmyra, which was on the Spanish Fork River. This site had been surveyed the year before. Most of the pioneers of 1852 settled here. It was about 1 ½ miles from where the center of Spanish Fork City is today. The added population furnished more protection from the Indian raids.
Timber for building, fencing, and fuel was scarce and very difficult to obtain. Only willows and cottonwood trees grew along the river banks, with sagebrush and greasewoods plentiful in the low lands. To get good timber it necessitated long trips into the mountains, endangered by the Indians, hence many early inhabitants lived in dugouts, thatched over with willows and sod. Archibald Gardner, a mill builder, moved to Spanish Fork in 1857 along with John H. Redd. They built the first saw mill and a shingle mill, and later in 1858, the built a grist mill. The Palmyra school or community house was built in 1853, equipped with rough slabs for seats. The roof was covered with willows and dirt. Stephen Markham was the Stake President and he dedicated this building.
William McKee with his brothers, Hugh, James, Thomas, and possibly Jonathan, all lived in Palmyra. Spanish Fork seemed to be an agreeable center, with many of Palmyra residents moving to this town. William and his wife, Sarah Ann, lived in Palmyra until 1856. They had two children while living in Palmyra David Arthur, and Mary Tweed. David died when he was only a day old. In 1856 they bought a lot and built a house in Spanish Fork, where in 1857 another son was born, William Jr. In the years that followed, Joseph, Sarah Ann, and Louisa Ann were born to them in this home.
We find in Bishop Thurber’s diary, this record in Spanish Fork; “February 2, 1863, This evening I performed the marriage ceremony for Allan Hodgson to Susan King at the home of William McKee.” In this same diary we read, “February 20, William McKee called and woke me up to go administer to his sick child, which was very sick”. On February 21, “Mr. McKee’s child died today”. This child was Sarah Ann, age two years.
William gave a home to his wife’s mother, Mary Busfield Hodgson, and also to Allan Hodgson, mentioned above, who had walked across the plains when but ten years old.
In these early years in Utah, the Indians gave the settlers much grief. When the Black Hawk War broke out, William, having had much experience with the Indians, became a Captain of a Calvary unit. The government gave him his appointment and commission as Captain of the Calvary. These commission papers are kept by some of his grandchildren as a pioneer relic, also the sword he owned is in the family possession.
In his early days in Spanish Fork, William took part in the dramatic performed in Spanish Fork, on the stage in the open air at the old Fort between Palmyra and Spanish Fork. In 1857, he was appointed as pound keeper. In 1858, he was appointed captain of Police, which position he held several years. William was one of the men who were asked to go into the canyon to bluff Johnston’s Army when they were trying to enter the Valley. He owned a farm in Spanish Fork, and also operated a molasses mill and an adobe yard for the community. Many early buildings in Spanish Fork were made from his adobe.
Near the completion of the St. George Temple, William went to St. George, Utah and helped with the Temple until it was finished. While there, with his sister, Eliza Ann and her husband Marius Ensign, they did a great deal of Temple work. A book containing the names of his dead kin and the vicarious work done for them, by him, is kept by the family at this time. A sister, Letty Steven, Martha Jane Dunton, a daughter Mary McKee Buttler, and a brother James McKee helped William in this Temple work during the winter months.
William never learned to write much, but in his later years he became a great reader though he never attended school. He was entirely self taught. His Irish wit and dramatical talents made him a most interesting story teller. He had a store of jokes and songs that he often told or sang to his grandchildren. He was very fond of his grandchildren, and always had a bag of candy or a treat for them whenever it was possible.
Sarah Ann, William’s wife, was an invalid for years and had to be carried about whenever moved. She passed away in 1880 in Spanish Fork, Utah. His youngest daughter kept house for him, after his sons left Spanish Fork and went to Ashley Valley in 1884 to pioneer this new eastern section of Utah.
In 1885, William sold his property in Spanish Fork, and moved to Ashley Valley to live with his son William Jr.. He lived with William Jr. and his family until his death on February 2, 1901. He is buried in the Spanish Fork Cemetery in the McKee plot.
History compiled by Aurilla Gerber March 1965
Revised and printed in 1979 by Verda Kitchen
Revised again by Emily B. Olsen July 2013