After the Mormons entered Salt Lake they were hardly settled in their new homes when the leaders began to go and send men to look the country over, for new settlements.
They must have been inspired how this church would grow, and the need of many places for the mormon people to settle.
My Father, Warren Marshall Johnson, was called by the president of the church to go and run a ferry across the Colorado River, at Lee’s Ferry in Arizona.
Father and his two wives, Permelia and Samantha went there in the early settlement of the church in Utah. Father ran the boats with very little help.
All their children were born there except two, Permelia’s first one and Mother’s last one. One wife would wait on the other in confinement. They had ten children each. One of the most tragic things that happened was shortly after they moved to the ferry. In the spring the River would get very high, the water coming down through the canyon in a torrent. My sister in writing this incident said, “I have seen the water almost up to the house. It would stay there for several hours, or maybe a day, then begin to lower and finally go down leaving the land covered with mud that would take days to dry off.”
The tragedy I speak of happened soon after or not many years after Father moved this family to the ferry. The folks never were able to talk about it without tears coming to their eyes. It was so sad. A company of several men of the church leaders, one or two apostles, they had several wagons (unreadable) for each wagon, and a horseman or two. That is men on horseback.
They were on their way into Arizona to look at the country with a view of settling the country. This was before there were any settlements in Arizona. When this company arrived at the ferry the river was high, and when it was high Father never used the big boats to ferry people across the river. He always used the small boat or a skiff. He would take the (unreadable) apart. Take the boat load at a time. The wagon box one trip, then come back for another load or as much as the boat would hold, without dipping water. They would start up the river far enough to land on the opposite at the right landing and not strike the bank below and have a hard time getting back to the landing. It was a hard job at times when the river was high.
This company was in a hurry, they had the idea they could use the big boat, get their way across, not take them apart and be on their way sooner. Not go to the bother of unloading then put the wagons together and reload on the other side of the river. Father told them it was too dangerous, and he would not take the responsibility of such a thing. the leader of the company still insisted they use the big boat. Father told him if he was willing to take all responsibility he would do all he could to help them. they put to wagons on the big boat. The boat would hold two wagons and the teams. They were towing it up the river, not near where they were going to start to cross. The boat struck a whirlpool and dipped water. The tow ropes broke, the boat sand far enough for the wagons to roll off the planks and the floor floated off. the men on the boat to keep it from bumping the shore or the rocks on the shore, were thrown into the river. Father was one of them, and he could not swim. He took hold of a plank that floated off the boat, clinging to it till he was picked up. He was the first man taken out of the river. A Brother Roundy could swim well. They didn’t see him after the boat sank. He may have taken a cramp or struck by something from the boat. Anyways he was never seen again. His body was never found. But they hunted after the river went down (very dangerous). Both wagons were lost. The horses were not lost. They were going to let them swim across.
That put a stop to that trip. the men went sorrowfully back home. After this happened father never let any travelers cross the river against his judgement.
On December 25, 1888 my mother gave birth to her eighth child. Dates of interest were always remembered and celebrated as well as they could in their isolated condition. Especially Christmas. No matter how many children there were in the family a new baby was always welcome, and by me coming on Christmas morning the children were thrilled because Santa had brought them a new baby sister.
The folks suffered many hardships as well as pleasures. It was while there were there the manifesto was pronounced. My mother being the second wife would take her children and go up the river often and stay in a little shack till after the officers left in order to keep Father out of jail.
When I was three years old, father moved mother to Kanab. The officers did not bother him then. Mother was more comfortable. the children could enjoy a more social life and go to school there. Father taught school at the ferry. Often other families would move there for the winter to send their children to school. He had taught mathematics in the Yale University before coming (the last line is missing on the photo copy)
Four years after mother moved to Kanab Father decided he would move his other wife and family away. They had, had an epidemic of diphtheria, four of the children died and were burried at the ferry.
He had lived at the ferry for twenty years, thinking his calling being fulfilled came to Kanab to look for a place to move his first wife and family too.
One bright morning he saddled a horse and started to go to Fredonia. Brother Walley then the president of the stake, ask father to ride with him, he was going down to get a load of hay. Father liked company and went with Brother Walley. While he was loading the hay father bargained for a home. On their way back a small ditch crossed the road letting one wheel cross at a time. The load tipped over throwing father on a tree stump. Besides breaking his back the flesh was injured very bad. The bones were broken and made it necessary to remove some of the back bone.
He never walked again, being paralyzed from his hips to his feet. It was most painful. I can remember now how he moaned when the Dr. tried to set his back. I believe he was laid over a barrel. They started for Salt Lake with him as soon as he could go. There were better doctors there. They put a pair of springs across a wagon box, made a good bed and laid him on it. And I remember when he left he gave each one of us children his picture. It was sad for we didn’t know how the trip would serve him, but nothing could be done for him except remove some of the back bone. After he met with this accident he bought a place, joined my mothers. Every morning the town women would wash him, fix his bed, whatever could be done to make him comfortable.
During the day us children would go ask him if he wanted a drink. He did like attention. Every evening the family would gather around his bed and have prayers. It was during this time he taught us children bible stories and questioned us on things as who was the first man, who built the ark, how many people and who were they that went in the ark. Questions and answers that are still fresh on my memory. We loved to have him ask us those bible questions.
He was very patient as well as my mother and Aunt Melia. He always said the President of the church called him to the ferry and he did wrong in leaving the ferry before he was released by the President of the church. An honest tithe was always paid. Every child had their name on the tithing list. He lived in Kanab for six years. The papers were full of the Bighorns being settled. They decided to move. Father wanted to see his children get homes of their own and he wanted to help them.
In 1900 part of the family started for the Bighorn (in June). Father’s bed was a pair of springs laid across a wagon box, mattress and other bedding as needed. The wagon box had a cover on it. They arrived in the Bighorns in August.
The boys worked on the Rail Road and the Sidon Canal.
The next spring 1901 my brother Jerry went back to Kanab to help my mother’s family move and get the cattle (100 head). Leaving Kanab on the 15 of June 1901, arriving just three months later.
Father had located a place down on the Bighorn River, just north of where Greybull now is. Being disappointed in a place across the river at Byron where Jerry thought the deal was closed when he left. But Father could not get around and the other man took it all.
That winter most all the cattle died, colder weather and not much feed. In March 1902, my father died and was buried there at Coburn, but later his body was moved to Byron when the railroad went through.
Our families sold their holdings and moved to Byron. Later nearly all the families moved back to Southern Utah. They didn’t like the cold winters there.
My mother and Aunt Permelia are buried side by side in the Kanab cemetary.
Pioneer life is sad as well as joyful. Mother worked in the Relief Society as counselor to the first president of the Byron Ward. It was during this time a Typhoid epidemic broke out. So many died. Brother Cozzens died Sunday night. Tuesday he was burried. Brother Wirth and Luke Cozzens, his son died while they were at the cemetary burying Brother Cozzens. Those were sad days. Nearly every family had some that were sick. We only had dirt floors for a while but just as soon as improvements could be made they were.
In October 1907 i was married in the Salt Lake Temple to Oscar Jones. That fall and winter we lived in a tent just west of Powell. Oscar worked on the ditch that waters the Powell flat.
I know what a pioneer life is, but if I have helped plant a garden or a tree or see a rose in bloom that I have planted, where the sage brush or the rattle snaked lived, I have done my part.
The only reward I will ask is to see our children become more interested in the Gospel, pay a good honest tithing and teach the principles of the gospel to their children. For I bear testimony that I know this gospel is true and I hope every one will live and believe as we have tried to teach them, if they will. The blessings that are promised will be ours and we will live again as a united family in the Eternal world.
Oscar was laid to rest February 14, 1944. Life is lonesome without him. But our children are sealed to us and death will not separate us throughout eternity. And I hope each and every one will live to be able to go to the temple and I have a desire to go to the temple and do work for some that have not had the privilege while living this life.
September 8, 1957
It has been a long time since I wrote any of my life history. Since I wrote these few words many things and many changes have taken place.
Estelle and I visited in Oregon with Loa and her family the next summer after Oscar’s death. The first summer we went to Southern Utah and stayed with my brother Frank.