Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Pioneer Research, Winter Edition

Centerville Ward Chapel, Davis County, Utah (1879). Centerville Canyon behind.
Only the center part is original. There have been several additions over the years.
Strolling the streets of Centerville, Utah today, it was nagging me that I still haven't solved the problem of where in town the Thompson Family lived for a few years in the 1860s when my 2nd Great Grandmother, Annie Thompson, was born April 3, 1863. She died as a young mother in 1890, leaving my Great Grandfather at age seven. He died in 1963 and I knew him well, so there is some responsibility here.

Hitting the internet when I got home, I checked out the listing of historical sites for Centerville to see if there is a record of a pioneer home built by a Thompson Family. I'm suspicious there was not. They were hard-working but not with much financial means in life and they likely boarded or shared space with another family in their brief time here. Or because they were here for a few short years, any home would not have been long remembered as belonging to them.

There is not even a solid date for the arrival in Utah. The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database shows them as arriving with "Unknown Company 1860." There are several family histories online at and that are inconsistent in having them arrive in 1859, 1860, and Annie's father, William Thompson (1840-1918), in 1861 with the telegraph line construction. The last one seems rather specific and it is documented in William's obituary in the Ogden Standard-Examiner of 13 June 1918. And it is consistent with William's marriage to Annie Shefford (1833-1874) in Salt Lake City on 11 November 1861 as the telegraph line was completed from the East to Salt Lake City on October 18, 1861. However, Centerville LDS Ward Records have his father, Edward Thompson, rebaptized in Centerville, Utah on November 4, 1860. The US Census has Edward and his family, including son William, in Omaha, Nebraska as of June 29, 1860. Therefore, I conclude that the Thompsons, except William coming a year later with the telegraph line construction, arrived in Utah in the Fall of 1860.

They remain unlisted in the pioneer companies. However, by following the clues in the known reports, I think I can pin them down. The family accounts that have them coming in 1859 also say that it was with the Horton D. Haight Company. There was such a company in 1859, but the 1860 Census has the family still in Omaha. There is no Horton D. Haight Company listed for 1860. That was because Captain Haight was a part of the Hooper and Eldredge Freight Train in 1860. Horton Haight drove the ox-cart portion of that company. There was also a mule contingent in that train. Freight trains occasionally carried additional passengers. And that's where this gets interesting.

There are several reports in the Summer of 1860 of the various companies coming across the plains. Travelers on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages were significantly faster than the ox carts or human-pulled hand carts. The Deseret News published these reports as they came in.

August 8, 1860:
Latest from the Plains.
We have been favored with the perusal of a letter from Elder G. Q. Cannon to President Young, dated at Laramie, on the evening of the 1st inst., from which we learn that he, in company with Capt. Hooper, H. S. Eldredge and two or three others, arrived there on that evening in twelve and a half days from Florence, all well, and their animals in good condition. They expected to reach this city on or before the 15th of the present month.
The first hand-cart company passed that post on the 21st of July, and the companies in charge of Capts. [Jesse] Murphy, [James D.] Ross, and [John] Smith, a few days later.
The last Hand-cart company was at Deep Ravine, near the head of Grand Island on the evening of the 24th. The last wagon company, Capt. William Budge, Nephi Johnson, Sergeant of Guard, formed camp near Florence on the 17th, and were to start on the 20th, and Capt. J. [Joseph] W. Young's train on the 23rd.
August 15, 1860:
The Companies on the Plains.
The last company started from Florence, the same day that Elder Cannon left (July 20th) under the presidency of Elder Wm. Budge.—In addition to a late start from England, this company had been somewhat detained in quarantine through sickness, which caused it to be beyond the usual time in leaving Florence; but from the character of their outfit and the reliability and prudence of Capt. Budge, they are expected to make good time and arrive here in September.
Elder Cannon and friends passed Hooper and Eldredge's ox train of merchandize—H. D. Haight, captain, 82 miles out from Florence. The mule train of the same merchants--John Y. Greene captain, was passed 120 miles out. Elder Asa Calkin and family were traveling with this train.
The second Hand-cart company—Captain Oscar Stoddard—126 persons, 22 carts, was 250 miles out on the evening of the 26th, 40 miles below Ash Hollow. On the same day, they passed a small company, under Capt. John Taylor, from Iowa City—the company was principally from that region.
On arriving at Deer Creek on the 5th inst. they saw Capt. James D. Ross's company camped on the north side of the Platte. Elder Cannon crossed over and learned that Capt. [John] Smith's company was about a day's travel behind that of Captain Ross.
They overtook Capt. [Jesse] Murphy's company at Greasewood and camped with them on the night of the 7th at Independence Rock.
The next evening, they camped with Capt. Franklin Brown's small company near the Three Crossings of the Sweet Water. The Hand-cart company Capt. [Daniel] Robison, was at the same place.
The companies had been greatly prospered in traveling. With the exception of Capt. Smith's train, which was not visited, there is no loss of cattle reported, save two in Capt. Ross's company. The wagons with 2500 lbs. of flour and 500 lbs. of bacon, sent out by President Young to the first Hand-cart company were met five miles east of the Weber river on Sunday afternoon.
Those who expect friends can rely on the foregoing statements as a basis for calculation.
September 19, 1860:
ARRIVED FROM THE PLAINS.—On Thursday evening last, Elder Calkin and family arrived from the east all well as we are informed.
On Friday, Capt. B. [Brigham] H. Young's train came in; and Capt. [John] Taylor's company arrived on Monday evening.
There have also been several other arrivals during the week, of which, in the absence of reliable reports, we cannot speak particularly.
The much anticipated Elder Calkin was Asa Starkweather Calkins (1809-1973) returning to Utah having served as President of the British Mission, 1858-1860. That last line in the newspaper of September 19th is fascinating:
There have also been several other arrivals during the week, of which, in the absence of reliable reports, we cannot speak particularly.
It would have been helpful to have had the telegraph completed so that those leaving in a company could be transmitted and checked against those arriving in a company and they could check in along the way to inform of those dying or leaving to go back. But it wasn't just people dying or leaving the companies on the journey. Sometimes the companies themselves reformed out there on the plains. Things happened.

Trying to follow through all that got a little complicated. And there is no record of a John Y. Green Company arriving in 1860. According to the Deseret News of 15 August 1860, Capt. Green was the mule-team portion of the  Hooper and Eldredge frieght train. The mule teams appeared to have been ahead of the ox-carts as of August 15th.

There was one more entry for the 1860 companies that helps clear it up and possibly explains how the Thompsons came (besides the enigmatic "several other arrivals during the week" of September 19). A returning missionary, David Taylor (1833-1871) recorded:
On the 18th of June I started to Florence, arrived there July 15th, and started on the plains the same day, in Co. with bro. John Y. Green, and others, 12 wagons, and 48 animals: horses and mules. We progressed speedily until oppsite Plum Creek [near present-day Lexington, NE], Augst 27th when our horses ran or were stolen away during a violent storm. 23 out of 48 were missing and could not be heard from. One of mine was among the missing, and I got an ox team and traveled with H.D. Haight's train. Nothing important occurred during the remainder of the journey, and I arrived at my home in this (Salt Lake) City on the 22nd of Sept 1860.
Edward Thompson and family were in Omaha through June 29, 1860. This John Y. Green Company that left on July 15 with no company list disbanded on the plains with at least Elder David Taylor joining up with Horton Haight. Both Green and Haight were part of the Hooper and Eldredge Freight Train arriving on September 22, 1860. I think that is as likely as any date for the arrival of my Third-Great Grandfather and his children except for William arriving a year later.

William, at age sixteen, had already arrived in America from England a year before the rest of the family to earn some money before they arrived. He appears to have been an enterprising and self-reliant young man.

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