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Margaret Webster Esplin

by Hattie Esplin

Margaret Webster was the eighth child of a family of fifteen children whose parents, Henry Webster and Ann Rigby were married in Prescot, Lancashire, England, March 15, 1825. The father was born Sept 11, 1796 and the mother was born 12 April 1805, both in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. Margaret was born December 2, 1836 in St. Helens.

In 1847 the message of the Gospel as revealed in these latter days to our inspired Prophet Joseph Smith came to this family through the missionaries sent to England. The parents and seven of the children were baptized, the mother first on the 21st of November 1847, the Rachel, age 15, Mary Ann, age 13, and Margaret, age 11, were baptized 21st of March 1848 by Elder Samuel Sherrett. On March 18th, 1849, Henry Edward, age 11, and Thomas, age 9, were baptized and the father, 3 February 1850. There were four children under eight years of age, Joseph, William, and Sarah and James, who were twins. Four of the children died in England; Elizabeth, Mary, Betsy as infants and Hannah died at age of seven.

Margaret with her parents and eight brothers and sisters, crossed the ocean in the ship “Josiah Bradley”, one of the ships chartered by the agents and Elders of the Latter-day Saint Church to take care of emigration to Zion.

This ship sailed form Liverpool 18 February 1850 carrying 263 Latter-day Saints, bound for the Rocky mountains, it being the second company leaving in 1850. Elder Thomas Day was the president of the company and his two councilors were Able Evens of Wales and Dainel Baxter of Kilbirme, Scotland. Elder Day had previously acted as president Elder at the Ribgy Branch. After a fine and pleasant passage of 8 weeks and 4 days the company arrived in New Orleans on April 18, 1850. Their ship was manned by Captain Mansfield. (British Mission, 1848-1850)

The family sailed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, thence traveled on to Council Bluff, Iowa. The father died here on December 16, 1850 of cholerammarbus and Rachel, age eighteen, died on the 30th of the same month. Henry Edward, age fourteen, died in July 1851 from the effects of a sunstroke. The oldest sister, Lydia, had married James S. Brooks and did not come to Utah until a few years after the rest of the family. (Arrived in Salt Lake Valley October 1, 1856 in John Banks Ox Team Company) Her four oldest children were born in St. Louis, Missouri. The oldest son, John Rigby Webster and wife, Mary Scott of Edinburg, Scotland remained in the States and died in Kansas.

The rest of Margaret’s family stayed in Council Bluffs until 1852, but she came to Utah with David Dixon and family for whom she was working. Before starting for the valley she desired to go across the Missouri River to see her folks and ask permission of her mother to take the long journey. Dixon refused her this privilege, saying he would see her mother about it which he did and her mother told him she wanted her daughter to come home. Dixon, determined to have his own way, told Margaret that her mother had given consent.

She arrived in the Valley in 1852. Soon after arriving in Utah, Mr. Dixon decided to go to California and wanted Margaret to go with him and be his wife. She refused and found work with another family. She lived at Mill Creek the first winter and in the spring went to American Fork. In the fall of 1853 she went to Salt Lake City, her mother, brothers, and sisters having arrived from Council Bluffs.

Margaret’s people after their arrival had some difficulty in finding where she was. They had a notice given out in Conference meeting for the saints to report to them if any knew of her whereabouts. Margaret was at the meeting but on account of deafness caused by measles when a child did not hear the notice. A short time after that she met one of her brothers on the street. They were very glad to see each other. Margaret then went to live with her folks at Big Cottonwood. It was here that she met John Esplin and was married to him on November 10, 1853, afterward having her endowments in the Endowment House and sealed to him on December 6, 1861 by Brigham Young. John took his young bride of seventeen and with other called by Brigham Young went to Salt Creek, now Nephi, Juab Co., to make a home. The Indians were very troublesome and it was impossible to get timber from the mountains so they gathered willows from the Salt Creek banks and wove them together for their first home, making the roof of dirt. Margaret helped gather the willows and it was in this place that her first child, Henry W. was born, October 10, 1854. They lived in Nephi fifteen years and eight of their children were born her, two of them dying in infancy.

On September 20, 1868, the day their son David was born, a call came from Brigham Young to them to go on a mission to help settle the Muddy and raise cotton. Leaving the oldest son Henry to care for the family as best he could, her husband and second son John James made the long journey to prepare a home for the family who sent down the next year. Their ninth child, Clara Isabel was born here in October 1870. In December 1870, Brigham Young visited the settlement of St. Hoseph where the Esplin’s lived and released them from the mission and told them to go to any place in Utah that they wished to. Margaret wanted to go back to Nephi and dreaded the thoughts of settling in another new country, but her husband said, “We will follow the council of Brigham Young and go to Long Valley.” On the journey she could not keep it out of mind how much she would like to go to Nephi. So when her husband came to the place that turned off to go to Nephi he said to Margaret, “You can have one of the teams and outfits and turn here and go to Nephi, but I am going to Long Valley.” She like all true pioneer women refused to leave her husband and went to Long Valley with him. She had seven children, the oldest being sixteen years old and the baby one two months old. No wonder that she wished to go where the country was more settled and where they could obtain shelter and food without so much hardship. But when the first crop of grain raised in Long Valley that spring of 1871 was taken by the grasshoppers, her husband sent her and all the family except the oldest daughter Margaret, age 12 years, who stayed with him, to Nephi to stay until conditions were better. The two oldest boys, Henry W. and John James worked in the fields and other places and obtained grain, flour and supplies and returned to Mt. Carmel that next fall. And John worked to improve living conditions to make them more comfortable when they returned. Their tenth children Miranda was born at Mt. Carmel in January 1873.

Margaret now had an experience which if she had followed her own inclinations and gone back to Nephi would never have had, and that was living under the principle of the United Order in Orderville, which organization lasted some twelve years and of which Brigham Young said was lived more successfully here than any other place where it was organized. It was organized at Mr. Carmel by John R. Young and other authorized by Brigham Young in March 1874. There was considerable dissatisfaction among some of the members who entered into this principle mostly among those who had lived in the settlement before the Muddyites came and then returned to repossess their claims after the Indian trouble had been conquered. Consequently, those who wished to continue living in the United Order decided to go up the valley three miles and make a new settlement, which they did in the spring of 1875. The eleventh child of the Esplin family, George, was born in February before they made the move. It seemed that the Esplin family was still to keep on the move as it became their lot to go to Kanab over a sand desert of 22 miles and take care of some land property that had been turned to the Order. They twelfth child, Persis was born here in July 1877. They also went 20 miles farther through the heavy sand and raised cane and made molasses at Moccasin, Arizona. They were called back to Orderville to take care of a farm a mile north of town. Their last child, Clarissa was born here in November 1879. after the Order broke in 1885, the farm became their share when the property was divided up. Her husband wrote in the family Bible concerning this: “We as a family lived and labored in the United Order until September 1885, when under the circunstances it was considered best to divide our ihnterest, consequently, the land, teams, wagons, and stock, etc., were sold to the highest bidder, saled bids, each one buying acorrding to the amount of their capital stock; retained the woolen factory, sheep herd, tannery under the management of a Board of Directors. Owing to our traditions and the selfishness and imperfections of human nature, we had many severe trails as a community and as individuals. But I trust we gained a profitable experience.”

During his later years Margaret’s husband had inflammatory rheumatism and also a lameness caused by breaking his knee-cap. of this she wrote: “When the Order broke up I thought it was the hardest thing of all to have to start anew, my husband a cripple, my boys with young families to support. but I roused up and was very cheerful indeed, and went at it in good earnest and soon got quite comfortable again.” Her husband kept on working even though he was a cripple and in the fall of 1895 while he was out working he became very sick and being unable to walk, he crawled on his hands and knees to the house. He died from the effects of a stroke October 19, 1895. The three youngest children were still unmarried. All of their children married L.D.S. members in the Temple of the Lord and have remained faithful and true to the principles taught them by their worthy parents.

John and Margaret’s hearts were turned to their fathers and they went to the St. George Temple in 1880 and did work for their kindred dead and had their three first children sealed to them who were not born under the covenant. In 1890 they went again and received other higher blessings administered to those who are worthy. And also did ordinance work for other worthy people who had passed on.

Margaret spent the last days of her life visiting and enjoying herself among her children and other relatives. She died 13 years after her husband in February 1908. She had pneumonia and asthma. She left a large posterity to bless her name and honor her for the wonderful mother and grandmother, also great grandmother she was.

Margaret’s mother and children Joseph, James and Sarah joined the settlers of Utah who went to live in San Bernardino. Thomas settle in Central, Graham County, Arizona and later went to Levan, Utah. William lived in Nephi, Utah and Central Arizona. Lydia lived in Big Cottonwood for several years where three of her children were born and then she and family joined her folks in San Bernardino where six more children were born.

The Webster family were thrift, honest and God-feating people and bestowed upon their children a wonderful heritage, being raised under the influence of the restored Gospel. They raised large families and adhered to the foundation principles of truth and righteousness which they inherited and endured in faithfulness their trials coming to Zion and in helping to settle the Rocky Mountain West.

In her last days, Margaret became so deaf that she could not hear anything, but she was still faithful in attending her duties in the church and attending her meetings. She said she could feel the spirit if she could not hear what was said. She was kind and thoughtful, faithful and true, and lived a life that can well be emulated by her many descendants.