Home Text


by Miriam Covington Bradshaw

Born August 20, 1815 in Rockingham, Richmond Co., North Carolina. He crossed the plains in 1847 in Edward Hunter’s Company under Captain Daniel Thomas arriving in the Valley Sept 25, 1847.

In the sixteenth century, William, John and Henry Covington came from England to the United States with Lord Baltimore. (Lord Baltimore died before the charter was signed. The charter rights were passed to his son, Cecilius Calvert Baltimore (16xx-1775. Taken from Encyclopedia) They settled first in Maryland and Virginia where large grants of land were given to them by England’s king. Family tradition states that William Covington was America’s silver smith. The moulds were deeded to his daughter who cared for her parents in their old age. This daughter was the wife of Lord Calvert or Baltimore.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, John and William moved to Richmond Co., North Carolina while Henry remained. As years passed, the Covingtons grew in numbers, most of them were capable in many fields of government, education, religion, manufacturing and farming.

Robert Dockery was the great, great grandson of William. He grew to manhood in Rockingham. Most of his time was spent gaining a good education, and helping on his father’s big plantation where the principle crop was cotton and tobacco. Soon after he married Elizabeth Thomas of Marlboro Co., South Carolina. He with his father’s family moved to Summerville, Noxebee Co., Mississippi where several of his mother’s people had moved in 1834. They soon established themselves on large plantations with plenty of slave labor to make farming a profitable occupation. Here three children were born. John Thomas, Aug 7, 1840, Emily Jane Covington Farr, Jan 1, 1843, and Sarah Ann, February 2 or May 4, 1845 who died that year.

In 1843 Benjamin Clapp, Samuel Gurley and Mr. Hullet were preaching the gospel in a town ten miles away. Daniel Thomas happened to hear this new strange religion’s doctrine. It sounded good to him so he came home with a Book of Mormon which his relatives were anxious to read. His brother, after reading it said, “You had better be careful how you fool around these Mormons. They may be deceivers. The book is quite a history, a very interesting novel, but I don’t know about it all.‘ A week or so passed. The people of Summerville, at least some of them were anxious to hear the gospel. After Elder clapp had preached two weeks, Robert Covington asked for baptism Feb. 3, 1843. His wife’s people all ask for membership in the church. Robert’s father, mother, brothers and sister all turned against him. They felt that he had lost his reasoning. He was disinherited.

When talk of joining the Saints in Nauvoo was first mentioned the slaves protested for they had deep love for their master. They all wanted to go too. In 1845 when he moved one couple with their children did go. I do not know if they came on to Utah or not. But my brother, John, living in Idaho by chance met a colored man who said that his father came west with Robert D. Covington and they later settled in Idaho.

Two years with the Saints when the move west began, his wife was expecting a baby and the ordeals the Saints had suffered had made inroads on health. This must have been a trying journey for it seemed the forces of the elements were pitted against them. The dust storms, hail storms, lack of good water and wood to burn, with Indians camped on the opposite bank of the Platt River stampeding cattle, crossing often to beg or trade for food that was so scarce. Sometimes they swarmed in their camp like bees often helping themselves to whatever was handy. Housewives would miss their camp and cooking equipment. One day while men were fixing broken wagons they stopped near some currant bushes. Robert Dokery sent his two children, John and Emily with buckets to gather what they could. They worked hard cleaning the currants as they picked. Just as they finished filling their buckets an Indian stepped from behind the brush and gave a war whoop. They dropped their buckets and fled toward camp. When they neared camp they looked back and saw the Indian with their currants laughing at his huge joke.

August 1, 1847 - Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The morning was quiet, heat was terrific. The emigrants had called a halt. Saints had not found wood to burn for eleven days and water was not fit to drink. Some of their animals had died by licking alkali off the ground. They also had wagons to fix. Mrs. Sessons had a buggy she drove back to the second hundred, a distance of five miles. She brought Sister Covington back to her camp and put her to bed with a new son, Robert Laborous Covington. While the Saints were halted, A. D. Smoot called a meeting pleading with the Saints to be more united, to trust in the Lord and to consider this a school of experience training them to be leaders.

August 2

They traveled twenty-two miles on a dry prairie finding food for their cattle in only one place. They traveled fifteen miles on empty stomachs, traveling long after dark.

August 4

Indians came into camp and spread blankets on the ground. We were advised to feed them, but not trade with them. There is sickness and death among the pioneers. Eliza R. Snow was a great comfort to the sorrowing. On one occasion she remarked,“ Death makes occasional inroads among us. Nursing the sick, tending the wagons was a laboring service. The patient faithfulness with which it was born. To consign ones loved ones to these desolate graves was enough to try the hearts of the strongest.”

August 5

They camped eight or nine miles from Fort Laramie where food was plentiful and water good. Here they camped five days to fix wagons, wash, mend and bake. Choke cherries and wild currants were quite near this camp. Seven death occurred on the journey. Captain Jedediah M. Grant lost a child. His wife died before they reached the Valley. But she was taken to the Valley to be buried.

August 7

Bears near the camp disturbed their sleep. Two Indians women were gathering berries when they saws a bear watching them. Carefully laying their basket down for the bear to eat, they retreated. This was witnessed by some of the pioneers of the company. Traveling for a few days was slow and rough. There were hills to climb which broke several wagons. In September the pioneers crossed lots of sand and the wind blew hard. They saw fearful storms with dust, rain and snow.

September 4

The pioneers going east to help the remaining Saints west camped all night with them giving words of encouragement and telling them of their new home in the West and what a feast was prepared by the women of the company. The last miles were hard ones because of the cold and rugged mountain country.

September 24

They arrived in the Valley. Robert’s wife was frail. The hardships had all but taken her strength. She hoped to get stronger, but the cold winds of winter added a severe cold to her troubles and Dec 17 she left a devoted family to carry on her good name. Robert had a trying time for a while with his motherless children. He lived in Cottonwood near Salt Lake City. here he was an able school teacher and was known as Professor Covington.

He married Malinda Alison Kelly next. She gave birth to a daughter named Mary Ellen, Dec 28, 1849 in Big Cottonwood Utah. She lived only a few years. Then he married Nancy Roberts, Born Jul 19, 1839 in Hyde, Cheshire, England. They were married in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Dec 28, 1856. She had four children, Phoebe Ann, Thomas, Nancy, Melinda and James Isaac. Then she died in 1864. With each child she was taken by team to Big Cottonwood where medical aid, the best to be had was provided. It took two weeks to make the trip one way.

From Documentary History of the Church:

The Dixie Mission left Salt Lake City April 6, 1807 and came to Parowan without any serious accidents. We remained three or four days to get grinding done. They went to Cedar City where we met President Height. It took six days from Cedar to WAshginton. President Height aided us on our trip having to make roads over the roughest ground I ever saw. We arrived May 6, 1857. On May 7, 1857 we were called together to organize a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint. We numbered about 160 men, women and children, 200 head of cattle, some sheep and pigs and children. Men who were called were J. B. Begina, John Spouce, Richard Queen, W.H. Crawford, john Thomas, J.D. McCollough, James Matthos, Gabriel Cooley, William Jergens, William Slade, Dr., William Slade, Jr., Robert Loyd, Joseph Harfield, John Freeman, J.M. Couch, John Hawley, William Hawley, Jacob Clark, Stephen Duggins, William Duggins, Thomas Smith, ?lmstead Richer, Alexander Parron, Robert Covington and Edward West. Brother Height took charge. Brother Crawford took the minutes, “Oh My Father” was sung. Bro Height offered prayer. It was moved that Brother Height appointed president. he appointed Robert Dockery Covington. It was Bro. Covington’s right to choose his counselors. He said that he preferred for the President to choose his counsellors so Bro Harrison Pierce, 1st Counselor and Johnathan R. Ragean, 2nd Counselor were chosen. Instructions were given on how to honor the Priesthood, how to treat the Indians, and the Brethren were exhorted to put down evil wherever it was found. Prayer was offered by Harrison Pierce. That evening a meeting was held and the charge given over to Brother Covington.

August 22, 1857

George A. Smith and others visited Washington where the Dixie Mission was being established. We arrived Tuesday August 18, 1857 and was most cordially welcomed by Brother Covington and others who spared no pains to make our visit a pleasant one. Brother Smith thought that no other settlement had a more promising start in the mountains, considering the lateness of the start. The corn planted by the Indians was fifteen feet high. Ours was not quite that high as it was not planted until the 15th of June. The cotton looked well, never had the old cotton grower seen so many balls on a single stock and such thrift.

January 6, 1859

Robert Covington was in President’s office when he with others went with President Young to administer to Fanny Murry, a sister of President Young.

April 14, 1859

Elder Amasa W. Lyman tarried with Brother Covington. He found them busy planting wheat.

October 31, 1859

Brother Covington in Salt Lake Reports the cotton crop good. Sugar came the best he had ever seen.

June 3, 1857

Amasa M. Lyman writes, returning from California, he camped with Robert D. Covington who informed him that he though 1,000 acres of good land could be cultivated. Good herd grounds with plenty of grass also plenty of wood and water.


Robert D. Covington was Notary Public for Washington Co.

April 16, 1860

Was chosen as judge of cotton and tobacco of State Fair.

April 1, 1861

A contract was let for a road to be built near Beaver Dams to Robert D. Covington, James D. McCullough, James Pierce and Walter E. Dodge. Robert has cultivated cotton every year since he was bishop and has preserved specimens and (unable to read)


Grape cuttings were imported from California. The Chinese sugar cane was planted. Grain was taken from Fifty to Ninety miles to be ground. To get blacksmithing done, they also traveled that far. Many southern men left after the first year declaring cotton could not be grown there. Those who remained are acquiring sheep, cattle and goats.

August 27, 1862

Robert D. was chosen County Representative of the Deseret Agriculture and Manufacturing Society. Within six weeks he was to hold a County Fair, give awards and choose helpers.

September 25, 1862

President Brigham Young returning to Salt Lake related that they were given peaches and grapes to feast on in Washington. Also viewed with pleasure the fine crop of Brother Covington’s who understood his business and puts whole heart into his work.

March 22, 1863

Robert at St. George Conference took his seat with the State High Council

November 2, 1865

Bishop Covington was one of the speakers. He reported Washington Ward in good condition.

May 7, 1865

At conference in St. George, Robert D. was sustained Presiding High Priest over his Ward.

November 6, 1864

A conference was held with Apostle Erastus Snow presiding. A convention of experienced men of Washington and Kane Counties to consider self protection. To establish uniform priced in Exchange for grain, etc. Cotton $1.25 lb, Molasses $4.00 gal, Tobacco 3.00 lb and preserves $6.00. Robert Dockery Covington was one of the men chosen.

September 2, 1867

Robert D. Covington wrote the following letter:

Washington Ward, St. George Stake, September 2, 1867

Elder George Albert Smith

Dear Brother:

Knowing you are interested in the property and general welfare of our Southern Utah Dixie, I thought it would not be amiss to send you a few particulars and items of interest with regards to the settlement. We have had the warmest summer ever experience in this country. It has had its effects of many of us in the shape of languidness. It has been very oppressive. But aside from this, the general health of the people has been very good. While sickness and death nd making such inroads on human families in different parts of the country, we feel like offering our prayers of gratitude to the Almighty for the blessings of health that we enjoy, not with-standing the difficulties we have had this seasons in obtaining sufficient water for irrigation. Our cane and corn look remarkable well. I believe the best that I have seen in the Washington fields. The cotton crop will be late because of the lateness of the season in getting water onto the land. Our fruit crop is profitable. The Indians are quiet and peaceful. (unreadable) taking all into consideration, we are pretty well satisfied with our Dixie home. I remain your brother in the gospel of peace, Robert D. Covington

November 3, 1867

R.D. Covington’s Washington Choir furnished the music.

January 6, 1867

Bishop’s from different settlements started on a missionary tour. R.D. Covington was the number. They visited and held meetings with all the people of the Upper Virgin Valley, then to the Muddy and Beaver Dam settlements. They reached St. Thomas on the 19th having crossed the Virgin River 38 times and the Muddy once. The people of Muddy had raised that year 6,500 bushels of wheat 10,00 bails of cotton. On the 24th of January they returned to St. George. The early part of February Iron Co with Pinto and Pine Valley were also visited. The products of the past five years were astounding. When they saw how much the people had accomplished. The choices products of the earth were there.

February 24, 1867

The Western Union Telegraph Office came to Washington. Robert D. did not place it until he heard from President Young. It was put in Delph Whitehead’s home. Moroni, San Pete Co, was as far south as the line.

Col. D. D. MacArthur:

Brother Mendez Cooper and William Prince have just come in from Harrisburg and they report that an Indian had told him that 40 or 50 Navajos were in the vicinity of Grape Vine Springs and had killed three head of cattle and were traveling in the direction of Harrisburg Fields. All are afoot. The friendly Indians are very much excited. The people of Harrisburg are on guard. Indians say they want horses. We wish to know immediately what to do. We await your orders. Yours hastily, Robert D. Covington.

June 19, 1868

Elder George A. Smith wrote in the Millennial Star, “On horseback from Montana to Arizona. At Washington 19th of June. We were kindly received by Bishop Covington. He writes, ‘It was amusing to see my sole companion, Dr. Boyd A. Batchalor from Louisiana pronouncing the quality to the cotton as we went through the mills and looking around at the buxom girls and mechanically nodding a yes, yes to the explanations of the sedate Bishop Covington as he explained the difference of spinning, weaving, twisting, etc.’”

Southern Mission Conference

November 20, 1868

Bishop Robert D. Covington was a speaker. He was still President of High Priest Quorum. He spoke of some of his 25 years experience. Referred to the Lamanites. Ask the people to give them work then pay them food and clothing to encourage them to be industrious.

April 18, 1870

Bishop Covington just home from the Southern States Mission. He started for the east the 18th of last November. Labored in Mississippi and brought two families comprising thirteen persons as part of the fruits of his labors. The Bishops account of conditions is far from good. He says a feeling of unrest, insecurity to life and property to prevalent, greatly increased by suspension of military and civil rule. Instead Klu Klux Klan is numerous and powerful and by no means life is considered safe. Many are moving to Texas and California. He met no opposition from the ministers. A few scattered Saints were left in charge of S. P. Holley – end of copy

Robert Gardner wrote in his diary:

We found Robert D. Covington our old neighbor and others who had been sent to that mission some years before. The appearance of these brethren, their wives and children was discouraging. Nearly all had Malaria. They had worked hard and worn out their store clothes and had replaced them with the cotton they had raised on their own lot or farm. The women had corded, spun and woven by hand and colored with weeds this cotton. The men’s shirts, women and children’s dresses and sunbonnets were all made of the same piece of material. Their clothes and faces were all of the same color, being blue with chills. This tried me more than anything I had seen in all my Mormon experience, thinking if I remained my family would soon look the same. I wanted to go back to Salt lake and spare them this. Brother Covington said, “Let’s pray about it.” We knelt in prayer. It was the Lord’s will we stay. So I said, “ We will trust in God and go ahead.”

Robert D. cut large stones from a nearby mountain and built a grand home for those pioneer days. The walls were three feet thick and built Colonial Style. There were two big fireplaces on each of the three floors. The upper floor was used for years as a dance floor for the young people. Many people speak of the Southern hospitality enjoyed in his home. He had no tolerance for sin. He had the name of doing a good job of h\keeping his Ward living the Gospel. He died at a ripe old age, nearly 87. june 2, 1902, Washington, Utah.

Robert Dockery Covington. Written by himself April 1872. St. George, High Priest Record Book 15649 p.

(he wrote a beautiful hand)

Robert Dockery Covington was the son of Thomas and Jane Thomas Covington. I was born August 20, 1815 in the State of North Carolina, Richmond Co., City of Rockingham. Baptized February 3, 1843 by Benjamin Clapp in the State of Mississippi, Noxebe Co. Ordained a Bishop 1858 by Amasa Lyman and George A. Smith. Received my endowments in Nauvoo in the fall of 1845. Came to Salt Lake in 1847. Spent 1846 at Winter Quarters. I went on a mission to the Southern States in the fall of 1849. Returned in the spring of 1856. I was sealed to my wife Elizabeth Thomas 1867. Nancy Roberts taking her part. We had four children, John, Emily, Sarah and Robert. I was sealed to my wife Malinda Alison on December 1856 by whom I had one child, Mary Ellen. Was sealed to Nancy Robert Dec 28, 1856 by whom I had four children, Phoebe, Thomas, Malinda and James. My grandfather was John Covington. My grandmother was Nancy Wall. Her forefathers immigrated to America at an early date. My grandfather on mother’s side was William Thomas. My Grandmother was Rachel Roe.

Robert Dockery Covington was appointed May 7, 1857 Bishop of Washington Ward, Washington Co., Utah. Set apart August 1, 1857 with Brother Harrison Pierce, 1st Counselor Bro. Jonathan R. Ragean 2nd counselor.