Friday, April 6, 2012

John President Porter

My Great Great Grandfather: Written by a grandchild from his marriage to Nancy Graves - published by permission

My grandfather, John President Porter, son of Sanford and Nancy Warriner Porter, was born July 28, 1818 in Plymouth, Oneida County, New York. His father had become interested in the teachings of Joseph Smith, and in July 1830 became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was converted and baptized by Lyman Wight. His entire family soon followed him.

On October 5, 1843, John President Porter married Nancy Rich at the home of her brother, Charles C Rich, and in the presence of her family in Lee County Iowa. John and Nancy made their home in Charleston, Lee County, Iowa, where their son, Joseph Rich was born March 29, 1844. A second son, Sanford was born December 25, 1845.

Some time later they moved to Nauvoo. In 1847, Charles C Rich, who was then living in Winter Quarters, went to Nauvoo on business and to visit family. When he returned home, grandfather and his family followed him to Winter Quarters, arriving there on May 21, 1847,  On June 14 of the same year, they all left for the Rocky Mountains in Charles C Rich's Company. While en route John P Jr, a 3rd son was born at Sweetwater, September 4, 1847. They arrived in Salt Lake City, October 2, 1847 and camped where pioneer park is now.

A little later they went to Centerville and took up land there. They had always understood the bottom land or land lying close to the river was more fertile and more productive than the higher land. With this thought in mind, they took up land down near the lake. A few years later they were convinced that a salt lake is quite a different thing from a running stream of water. They found the soil was full of alkali, and would produce very little that could be used as food. By the time they discovered their mistake, all the best land in Centerville had been taken up.

In November, 1851, a baby daughter was born and mother and child both died. The father found it a hard and desperate struggle to provide and care for three little boys, the oldest only 6 years old. Friends and relatives were kind and gave all the help they could, but the times were so hard, food so scarce, and the tiny house so crude and comfortless, a mother in the home was badly needed. 

On March 24, 1853 he married Nancy Graves, who was a widow with four little daughters.

During the gold rush, grandfather made some arrangements for his family and he went to California and panned out gold for a short time. He returned home with quite a large sum of money and a bag of gold nuggets, which enabled him to provide much more comfortably for his large family. The nuggets were exchanged for necessities with people passing through the country.

A short time after grandfather returned from California, word came of the approaching army from the east, and the Saints were called upon to abandon their homes and move south. 

The following is from my fathers journal: "Something that was indelibly impressed on my mind as a young child, was that the government was sending an army of men of men with guns to kill every Mormon. Everybody was talking abut it, but Mother said they would not be able to do it. Then I remember Brigham Young told all of the people that the army was getting close. They called out all the spare men and boys, one, Eli Kilbourn who I knew, to go to Echo Canyon and help build up a defense so the could hurl down rocks on one side and bombard the other. It seemed to me, from what they said, that Brigham would do anything, no matter how many men came.

The word came that Lot Smith had gone east with a few men, and had surprised two trains of wagons and teams. They carried off their provisions and supplies, drove off their oxen and burned the wagons and all the grass before them so they would have to stay there all winter. This was the fall of 1857.

The next spring, as I remember, father had just planted his crops when word came from Brigham Young that the army was coming, and for everyone to get ready at once to move south, and leave their buildings ready for the match. A few men were to be left to burn them at a given signal.  I remember the move distinctly, the days of travel, stopping at a place called Pondtown. I remember the strings of trout the men and boys caught out of the ponds. I remember that Uncle Lyman built a pig pen and while at work the Indians gave us a scare and we boys ran to him. How long we stayed there and the return trip is not clear, but word came that peace had been made with the army, to go home seemed to take of the strain we were under" Father was 4 years old when this move was made.

continuing from fathers journal: My memory now reverts to the cold winters, the snow being waste deep or more.  The cold East wind swooped down on Centerville. Chickens were blown to the lake, pigs frozen to death, roofs blown from our houses. The roof of Mr Higby's house was blown off while he was away from his home. His wife rushed out and was blown into a fence, and unable to stand, was frozen to death. At another time, a young man living with us, Thomas Spackman by name, came home one night nearly frozen to death. They pulled off his overalls; they stood up straight by the side of the wall. 

Then I remember my Uncle Warriner and Uncle Sanford and Thomas Spackman hauling saw-mill fixtures over the mountains east of Bountiful to a canyon they called Mill Creek. there were no roads in or out to get the lumber away. As there was another Mill Creek, they changed the name to a very proper one, "Hardscrabble".

The following is taken from the Journal of John Presidents Father Sanford Porter, Sr. "About the year 1858, such heavy snow fell in winter, and such high waters followed and caused such an unusual rise in salt Lake, that most of the farms lying in the bottoms along the shore about fifteen miles were damaged by salt water.  I had to abandon my farm then, and I went over the mountains to Morgan County, Utah, where I found the soil good, and my boys later joined me."

The first trip over the mountains  was made on snow shoes. Sanford Porter Sr, Sanford Porter Jr, and Warriner made the trip and laid out the farms in the snow, then returned to Centerville. In the spring they returned and were well pleased with their farms. They planted some grain and built some log houses, then returned for their families.

Quoting again from fathers journal: "In the spring of 1861 my father, John President Porter, moved his family to Porterville. It was a hard, slow job to get through Weber Canyon. We stopped at the homes of Jedediah Morgan Grant and Thomas Thurston, who were living where Milton now is.

When we reached Porterville, father had a good three room log house ready to move into. I believe my grandfather and two Uncles Warriner and Sanford preceded us. Coming from the hot, dry Salt Lake Valley into the cool, green valley of Morgan seemed like heaven to the Porter family. The river and creeks were lined with grove of cottonwood trees, and the green grass was knee high all through the bottoms when the family reached what is now Porterville.

Another interesting quotation is taken from the journal of Charles G Porter: "During the summer of 1862 father had all the material on the ground for a big barn. The next year all the material for a house. He had dozens of loads of rocks hauled. I remember father kept one carpenter about six months and two men all winter working on the house and barn. The doors, window sash, floors, stairs, in fact all the lumber was sawed in Hardscrabble Canyon, and hand worked by the carpenters. The brick was made by Thomas Brough at his brick yard in West Porterville. The total cost was between $2500 and $3000. In the fall of 1865 as I remember, we moved in."

Grandfather loved the comfortable, roomy new home. The kitchen was large and sunny, and in a corner near the west window, stood an old fashioned, cane-bottom rocking chair where grandfather loved to sit when the days work was done. On a nail in the wall near his chair hung a slate with its wooden frame all bound in bright red cloth. The cloth was attached to the frame with a black cord which passed through the next hole, and so on. A pencil attached to a string  hung on the same nail, and with his slate and pencil, grandfather figured out all his expenses, transferring only the final figures to paper, thus cutting down the expense of his bookkeeping operations.

Grandfather was a good provider. He kept part of his Centerville farm and had a peach orchard. He also grew a patch of sugar there. In the fall grandfather would take part of his family to Centerville and harvest peaches and cane. The cane was taken to Brother Forde's mill where it was ground, and the juice made into molasses. A forty gallon barrel of this molasses was brought home to supply the family with sweets for the year. A half a barrel of peach preserves made with molasses was also brought home. Large quantities of the peaches were dried, to be stored away for winter use.

Grandfather was very fond of honey, and several hives of bees were always kept near his home. It was not an unusual sight to see grandfatehr put his mosquito netting over his head, and fasten it around his head, and fasten it tight around his neck with is shirt collar, pin his gloves tight around his wrists and go out before sun-up to rob the bees and get a supply of fresh honey to eat with grandmothers hot soda biscuits for breakfast.

Beef and pork were produced on the farm to furnish the family meat supply. And at butchering time it was cured in big barrels of brine "strong enough to float an egg". Part of the meat would also be smoked in the homemade smoke house out in the back yard.

Although grandfather owned and operated his farm, at heart he was always a miner, and as soon as his boys were old enough to take over the farm work, he spent more time prospecting in the Hardscrabble hills.  He felt so sure these hills were full of valuable ores, that he spent every cent that could be spared from the family income, trying to uncover rich veins that were always only a few feet away.

This continued as long as grandfather John President lived. The last work he ever did was in the mines. A deep shaft had been sunk in on one of the Hardscrabble mountains and from all indications, as grandfather understood them, a rich vein of gold was just out of sight. He was all excited and promised his wife and daughters gold buttons for their coats that winter.

One morning when he returned to work, he found several feet of water in the bottom of the shaft. They tried to bail it out but it ran in faster that they could bail. A pumping system was badly needed, but was too expensive to be considered unless they could be sure the gold was there. Grandfather decided to drive a pipe deep into the shaft, believing that when the pipe was drawn out, enough ore would be clinging to it to convince his doubting family, that the gold was there. The pipe was driven in, but when they attempted to bring it out, it broke off a few inches under the ground. Grandfather gave up. He sank down on the ground and said, "This is the end."

They took him home in the old lumber wagon, over the rocky, bumpy road, a tired broken old man, and tucked him into his good old feather bed. When he arose the next morning, the family saw a white stricken face. They put him into bed again. He was suffering with a severe ailment and needed expert medical care and hospitalization which, of course, was impossible. Ten days later he passed away, May 28, 1895 at the age of seventy-seven. And the gold in the old shaft is still "just a little way away.

PS: One cannot experience what I have today, wandering around and studying Porterville, without being bound closer to these ancestors of mine. I have only published a bit of what I garnered. Larry Cragun

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