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History of John Esplin

Written in December 1948 by Hattie Esplin, Granddaughter

Early in the nineteenth century there lived in the little village of Wardend, Perth, Scotland, a family consisting of four sons, George, David, William and John with their parents Alexander and Margaret Campbell Esplin. Little is known of them except they were country folk and probably made their living by tilling the soil. The father was born in Cortachy, Forfar, Scotland, and the mother was born in 1789 in the village of Alyth, Perth, Scotland. The youngest son, John, was born January 1, 1829 at Wardend. In this short biography he mentions his father was being a farm servant in his young days and that, using his works, “From nine years old til fifteen, I tended or herded cattle in the summer and went to school three or four months in winter. Then I was engaged to James Jack for three years to learn tailoring.” The mother died 22 April 1849 and in May of that year, the family moved to Lochee, near Dundee, Forfar County, where they owned some houses and a plot of ground. It was here in the spring of 1849 that John first heard of the Gospel revealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet of God, through an acquaintance and school fellow, John Robertson. He recognized the truth of this message and became anxious to learn more of its principles which he did by contacting the missionaries, Elders Richard Brown and Hugh Findlay. He spent several months studying the gospel and attending meetings of the Elders. He was baptized in the river Fay at Dundee by Elder Brown and confirmed a member of the Church by Elder Findlay the following Sunday, August 4, 1849. Of this experience he relates: “I rejoiced under the cheering influence of the Spirit of the Lord which I had received and wondered why others could not believe and embrace the glorious principles that I so much rejoiced in.” He tried to get his father and brothers to see the light of truth he enjoyed in being a member of the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so they might enjoy this great blessing, but they were not impressed by its teachings. So he, agreeable to the council of the Priesthood, made preparations to emigrate to Zion.

Thus in this case as well as many others, fulfilling the prophecy recorded in jeremiah 3, verses 14 and 15; “Turn O backsliding children saith the Lord; for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city and two of a family and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

On the 28th of August 1850, he left his home in Lochee, Scotland and boarded a train at Dundee which stopped at Perth Station where a number of the Dundee Saints bade farewell to him and others who were leaving for Utah. They arrived at Glasgow at 7:45 p.m. On August 29th he left Glasgow at 3:15 p.m. on the steamship Admiral and landed in Liverpool at 1.00 p.m. the next day then transferred his luggage aboard the ship North Atlantic manned by a Captain Cook. The next few days were spent in getting located on the ship and luggage set in order for the long voyage.

The North Atlantic was one of the “Ships chartered by the Latter-day Saint Church who had agents to look after the welfare of the Mormon converts who wished to gather with the saints.” This agent received applications from the converts and when he had sufficient applications the voyage was arranged for them and the temporal and spiritual welfare and comfort of the passengers were assured before they sailed. Experienced Elders were sent with the ship to superintend the saints on board. This vast emigration of Mormondom from Europe was handled with a great saving of expense to the individual and the Church.

Heart Throbs of the West
Vol. 4 pages 145-8

On Sunday, September 1st, before the ship sailed, very many of the passengers attended a meeting on board the ship being addressed by Orson Pratt in the forenoon and B. Richards in the evening.

On Wednesday, September 4th, 1850, the ship North Atlantic sailed from Liverpool for New Orleans, carrying 357 souls of the Latter-day Saints, including children, under the Presidency of Elder David Sudworth and Hamilton G. Park, destined for Salt Lake Valley via New Orleans, St. Louis and Council Bluffs. Arrived at New Orleans, November 1, 1850. (British Mission Record 1848-50)

John Esplin kept a diary of his journey from Dundee to St. Louis, Missouri. He states that on the eve of sailing (Sept. 3) the passengers and crew were called to the quarter deck and addressed by Mr. Candle concerning their respective duties. The ship was steered that morning at 7:30 to her moorings in the middle of the river (Dove) and after all was in readiness for the journey Mr. Candle returned to Liverpool.

The ship was divided into fifteen companies or divisions with a president over each division and order and regularity prevailed. The caption and crew favorable inclined toward the saints gave them many privileges. John writes under the date of September 6, “A gentle breeze during the day. A severe gale arose that night and continued unsettled till Saturday the 14th. During that time I suffered severely from sea sickness and fever. The rest of the passengers with a few exceptions also suffered most severely.

Every Sunday the Elders held meetings on the quarter deck and many useful and beneficial teachings were given. Under the date of September 29th, John Writes, “It is Sunday. Three meetings were held on deck today and the gifts of the Spirit were made manifest, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.” On another Sunday they enjoyed a spirited testimony meeting.

On October 31st, the ship anchored at New Orleans and on November 2nd, John boarded the steamer Sultana and sailed the next day up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, arriving there November 9, 1850, making the trip from his native land a journey of ten weeks. He says the trip from New Orleans cost each passenger two dollars. The river being frozen he spent the winter in St. Louis and on April 22, 1851, he took passage on the steamer, Robert Campbell for Kanesville (now Council Bluffs, Iowa.

He worked his passage across the plains by driving a team for Joshua Grant who was hauling freight for Dustin Amym, a tinsmith. He arrived in Salt Lake Valley September 18, 1851. The next summer he hired to Charles A. Harper who lived on Big Cottonwood, Salt Lake County. In September 1852, Charles A. Harper was called on a mission to England and John rented his farm for a year.

On August 30, 1852, he received his endowments in the Council House, Salt Lake City. On November 10, 1853 he married Margaret, daughter of Henry and Ann Rigby Webster who had emigrated from St. Helens, Lancashire, England. That same month they went to Salt Creek (now Nephi, Juab County) and endured the hardships of making a home in the wilderness and among the savage Indians during the time of the Walker War. Their first house was made of willows woven together and with a dirt roof. They worked and made as comfortable a living as they could under those trying circumstances. Nephi had been settled in 1851 by Joseph L Heywood who was called by Brigham Young to settle hear the streams flowing from the valleys of the protected Mount Nebo on the east. Timothy B. Foote had the honor of building the first house in Nephi and there were twelve homes built by the end of 1851. T.B. Foote was the first postmaster for Nephi and held the position for 37 years.

Other settlers with whom the Esplins associated with as early neighbors in Nephi were Charles Sperry, William Cazier, Israel Hoyt and the Claridges.

In 1853, the people of Nephi were forced to build a wall for the protection against the Indians. Chief Walker and his warriors of the Paw-Ute tribe were on the warpath. Many of the residents abandoned their homes and sought shelter inside the fort. Chief Walker did not like the wall and trouble ensued.

At the time when Johnston’s Army was threatening the peace and safety of the pioneer settlers, John Esplin was chosen among others by Brigham Young as a guard and under the leadership of Major T.B. Foote, he started for Union Square, Salt Lake City, on October 31st, to perform domestic duties until further orders, which luckily was not necessary.

John and Margaret were faithful and active in their duties in the Church and depended on the Lord for His guidance and protection. On May 18, 1857, John was ordained a Seventy and was a member of the forty-ninth Quorum. They now had two sons, Henry Webster and John James.

In April 1861, a call came from the head of the Church for the people of Nephi to furnish six teams of four yoke of cattle each, also six teamsters and one mounted guard, for the purpose of assisting emigration from Florence on the Missouri River to Salt Lake City. John went as a teamster, driving his own outfit. They left home April 16 and returned September 12th of that year. They were prospered on their journey and lost but a few animals.

They were enjoying the fruits of their labors in Nephi when a call came from President Brigham Young for them to go on a mission to help settle the Muddy Valley and raise cotton, in what is now southeastern Nevada, a blistering alkali desert. John had never refused a call that came to him and he responded to his as readily as any. The call came the day their eighth child, David, was born, September 10, 1868. So he took his second son, John James, and went down to the Muddy to prepare a home for the family who came down the next year.

They went to the settlement of St. Joseph, living in adobe houses with willow and dirt roofs and built in the form of a fort on the bench of the Muddy River. It was a very good climate and soil and everything grew rapidly and thriftily.

In 1869, the Saints who settled at Overton were organized into a branch with Helaman Pratt as presiding elder, and in November James Leathead was made head of the Muddy Mission consisting of St. Thomas, St. Joseph (Logandale, Overton, West Point and Junction City.

They were prospering fairly well in spite of the heat, flies, mosquitoes, ant and Indian trouble when that section was definitely made a part of Nevada. The Nevada officials seemed determined that the Muddy settlers should pay them the three years back taxes. President Young visited the Muddy settlements in 1879 (December) and found conditions unfavorable for homes for the saints. He saw what a hard fight they were making and released them from the mission and advised them to make homes in Utah wherever they chose to go. However, he told them about two small settlements (Mt. Carmel and Glendale) in Long Valley which had been deserted because of Indian troubles and advised them if it were agreeable to them to settle there. About 200 of the Muddy settlers went to Long Valley. They were released from the Muddy Mission in December 1870 and reached Mt. Carmel (then called Windsor) March 4, 1871; the settlers of St. Joseph coming as a ward intact keeping the same organization when they reached there. The St. Thomas settlers on the Muddy with their organization settled at Glendale (then called Berryville by the first settlers). It took a month from the exodus and they held meetings each Sunday as they traveled along. They had to stop and make roads through the snow much of the way. They selected some good logs as they passed through the forests to haul for their houses when they reached their new home site.

The first crop of wheat, the seed being brought from the Muddy, was taken by grasshoppers. Margaret and the boys took the younger children and went to Nephi. John and the oldest daughter Margaret stayed at Mt. Carmel. The boys worked at Nephi in the harvest fields and other places and procured grain and other products and returned to Long Valley in the fall with flour, preserves, vegetables and provisions.

Complying with the council of Brigham Young that the saints enter into practice the principle of the United Order, the people of Mt. Carmel were organized under that principle March 20, 1874 by John H. Young and others authorized by Brigham Young. That fall about half of the people wanted to disorganize as they were not satisfied with the principle. Those who wished to remain in the Order then decided to move up the valley about three miles and make a new settlement. Accordingly, in the early part of 1875, they removed to this site, building their homes together in a square for the sake of economy and on the 14th day of July that year the company reorganized and incorporated under the name of Orderville United Order.

John Esplin lived only part of the time at Orderville, being assigned to labor at other places belonging to the company. He took care of the lots in Kanab with had been turned into the company by those joining the order, also raised crops and made molasses at Moccasin, Arizona. He was one of the members of the first Board of Directors of the United Order.

Later he took care of a farm a mile above Orderville and raised crops for the Order. After the Order broke up he secured this farm for himself and boys. Here he lived the remainder of his days. He and margaret had a family of thirteen children all raised to maturity except two. He faithfully kept the family record in the family Bible, also a short sketch of his life from which I have been able to get information for this history.

In February 1880, John Esplin and wife Margaret did work in the St. George Temple for his father, mother, and three brothers and in connection with Mary Ann Andrus, Margaret’s sister, did some work for the Webster family who had passed on. They returned in 1890 doing some work for themselves and others.

John had inflammatory rheumatism for a number of years and also had the misfortune to slip in icy winter time and fell and broke his knee-cap which caused a lameness the rest of his life. He had a stroke at the time of his death. He died Saturday, October 19, 1895 at 3:00 p.m.

The following is taken from the Deseret News of Wednesday, October 30, 1895:

 John Esplin, one of the first settlers of Orderville and one
 of the most zealous workers in honest toil and in being a
 saint, died at his residence Saturday, October 19, 1895 at 3
 p.m.  His illness was that of a severe pain in the head and
 vomiting.  Some few weeks before he had a fall hurting him
 about the ear and seemed to be somewhat paralyzed and crawled
 on his hands and knees for ten or fifteen rods to the house.
 He recovered so far as to be able to do some work until within
 two or three days before his death.  He was a faithful worker
 in the United Order for over ten years.  At the time of his
 death, he was a faithful member of the 85th Quorum of
 Seventies.  He was never heard to murmur but was zealous to
 carry out the counsel given by the Priesthood.

                                    Francis L.Porter
                                    Ward Clerk of Orderville

John Esplin stands at the head of his family in this dispensation. He holds the keys of the redemption of his family because he was the first and only one to accept the gospel and follow after it faithfully to the end of his days. He and his wife have accomplished a great work on earth. Both embraced the gospel in the old country and remained true and faithful through their lives. They bestowed a wonderful heritage upon their posterity. A heritage of good strong healthy bodies–pure blood, free from taint and devoid of heredity diseases–industrious and active in spiritual and physical pursuits, also showing wonderful capabilities in mental activities; and with a natural love of upright and honest living.