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 Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


SHORT SKETCH OF WILLIAM BURGESS
PIONEER OF 1848-1861

By his granddaughter - Jennie Burgess Miles

At Lake George, New York, May 21st 1794 William Burgess was born. He died November 20th 1880 at Pine Valley Utah in his 87th year. Married Vilate Stockwell, she was born October 10th, 1794 at Vermont, Windham County and died July 21st, 1880 at Pine Valley, Utah. Both are buried in cemetery there. They were both pioneers of 1848-1861.

Parents of eleven children.

In their early-married life they lived in Putnam, Washington [County], state of New York. There first child, a boy was born there September 3rd, 1814. They named him, Harrison. This boy, when a young man started with his father's family in September 1834 for Kirtland, Ohio. The father remained behind to transact some business, later joining his family. On this journey they accidentally met the Prophet Joseph Smith, saw and heard him preach for the first time at Springfield, Pennsylvania.

They arrived at Kirtland safely.

William and wife were converted later to the Mormon faith by this son's teaching. William being an industrious man working successfully as a carpenter, blacksmith, and setting up and operating sawmills always had plenty of work to do. So when the temple of the Lord was started at Kirtland, he worked faithfully with the rest on it. In the spring of 1835 the temple was so far complete that he and his wife and other members of his family received their endowments. This temple was dedicated March 27, 1836 . There seemed no place was to be had for the Saints, so later, all were busy preparing to leave Kirtland.

So at the noon hour of a bright July day (July 6th) William Burgess with his family, his married sons and wives, with friends and neighbors started on their journey. A threat was made by their enemies that they "would never leave Kirtland". But when they did leave they were the largest company of Saints that had ever traveled together. Traveling a few hundred miles they stopped one month at Dayton, Ohio, where working, they obtained means to push on to Missouri.

As they passed through the towns, people would stand in their doors to look at them and sometimes did worse than look -- eggs, etc. were thrown with force at them. In one village they went through a cannon was placed in the street to fire on them. William Burgess with others persuaded these hateful quarrelsome men to let them pass. They did, after putting some of the brethren in prison. These were soon released and joined the company. He did not stay long at Far West, went thirty miles farther to Adam-Ondi-Ahman. Many were driven from their homes that they had worked so hard for. Orders were given to them to leave. Some of the homes were burned, [a] mob burned William Burgess' home to the ground and all they had in it. March 1839 William Burgess and family, his married sons and families, his dear friends and relatives, Zerah Pulsipher and family left for Illinois. They traveled two hundred miles, crossed the great Mississippi River safely and hearing of some vacant land in the north of Adams County…

William, his son Horace and John Pulsipher built a road into the woods called Bear Creek Timber. In one month snug log cabins were built, 12 acres of land fenced and planted into corn, and they raised plenty of grain.

When the Nauvoo Temple was started William Burgess was among the first to start work on it. The laying of the corner stones was done on the 6th of April 1841.

Nauvoo was the largest city in the upper country and after the death of the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum, on the 27th of June 1844 it was called "The City of Joseph." (Mother told us this many times.)

After the death of those two beloved men, Joseph's mantle fell on Brigham Young. So the Saints knew he was to be their leader. 1845 the Saints gathered into the City of Joseph, there they toiled and labored hard to finish the temple. It was dedicated the to Lord, and in the spring Brigham Young and the twelve gave order to start to get ready to go to the place the Lord would prepare for them in the mountains. President Young asked men to come forward with teams and provisions and go as a "Pioneer Company" to make a road to prepare a way for the Saints to follow. William Burgess was one of the first to accept this call. So on the 2nd of February 1846, he crossed the Mississippi River with the first pioneer company and the twelve. All that winter they made a road west through the wilderness of what afterwards became the state of Iowa.

It would take too long to write all of the original trek across the plains so will state just a few more things.

He [William] with his sons, Horace and William, and Brother Pulsipher made a seine and skiff for fishing. Our father often told us of these fishing trips and how the Pioneers enjoyed the loads of fish which were distributed among them, and he also told us of how the companies were organized on band of Elkhorn with William Burgess captain of the first ten. These ten wagons were first all the way across the plains. Before leaving the Elkhorn a little boy was drowned and a coffin was made from a solid log hewn our like a trough with a lid and grandpa helped make this coffin.

Have heard my mother tell of these incidents many times. William Burgess was a great hunter and if a buffalo hunt was on, he'd be there with his trusty gun, which was ever on hand to join in. He loved the great outdoors and was ever ready to lend a helping hand.

I will end this with -- William Burgess with his family (except his youngest son, Melancthon, who came a year ahead of his folks in 1847) entered Salt Lake September 22nd 1848. Later he and his sons settled in 16th Ward in Salt Lake City, Utah. He lived there till called as a Pioneer to help settle "Dixie" or St. George in 1861 in fall of the year.

Later was a Pioneer into Pine Valley. He and sons built a sawmill in Pine Valley and where Park City now stands, and other places. He always lived a moral, virtuous and useful life, loved by all who knew him, and a true LDS. He loved the Prophet Joseph and always spoke of him as "Our Beloved Prophet."

 

 Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

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