Martin Luther ENSIGN (b. 1831-d. 1911) and Mary Dunn (b. 1833-d. 1920) are the 3rd great-grandparents of JR. [This line runs thru JR's Maternal grandmother's father. ]
Martin Luther ENSIGN and JR are 7th cousins 5 times removed. Their common ancestors are John HOSKINS "Immigrant" (b. abt. 1584-d. 1648) and Ann FYLER "Immigrant" (b. abt. 1589-d. 1662.) [This line runs thru JR's maternal grandfather's mother.]
Martin Luther ENSIGN and JR are 5th cousins 7 times removed. Their common ancestors are Major John MASON "Immigrant" (b. 1600-d. 1672) and Anne PECKE "Immigrant" (b. abt. 1619-d. 1672.) [This line runs thru JR's Maternal grandmother's father. ]
Martin Luther ENSIGN and JR are 22nd cousins 6 times removed. Their common ancestors are Saire De QUINCY Earl of Winchester (b. abt. 1154-d. 1219) and Margaret De BEAUMONT (b. abt. 1154-d. 1235.) [This line runs thru JR's maternal grandfather's mother.]
1832 - 1911
I am the son of Horace Datus and Mary Bronson Ensign, born March 31, 1831, in Little River Village, two and on-half miles northeast of Westfield, Hamden County, Mass. My parents received the gospel in 1843; Edwin S. Wooley being the first Elder that brought the gospel. Father went to hear him through curiosity as he had been represented as a saint, and was convinced the first sermon he heard. He invited him to Little River to lunch and Mother was converted also, and many others and a branch was organized.
We started for Nauvoo in the spring of 1845 in March. I was now fifteen years old, had no schooling after this time, as we were traveling and making settlements in uninhabited country. In our travels the route was from Massachusetts, through Connecticut to New Haven, from there to New York, then Philadelphia, through the state to the Ohio River, down to Marysville, thence up the Mississippi River to Nauvoo. Most of the Saints had been driven out before we got there. We arrived in Nauvoo in May and stayed only about three weeks, bought wagons and cattle and then took our journey west across Iowa, three hundred miles, to the Missouri River.
I drove a team for John Wooley, brother of Edwin S. Wooley. They had been to Westfield on missions. There was a city laid out on the west bank of the Missouri River, called Winter Quarters. There we built a house of hewed logs, one of the best in the city. Ward meetings were held in it during the winter and after we came west there was a store kept in it. There were at least two thousand inhabitants, and twelve hundred and fifty homes and dugouts built. This place was afterwards called Florence. The land had not come into market. It was a very cold and sticky place and many people had chills and fever, and scurvy or “blackleg” as it was called by some.
I took the chills and fever (probably malaria) and they continued with me until the next spring. Hundreds were sick and destitute and a great number died. Father died of scurvy on his birthday, November 28, 1846 being forty-eight years old. Now we were without a father, and in a wild Indian country, our provisions were running short, we were unaccustomed to a life of this kind and now we were left with a windowed mother with six children on her hands, Datus Horace, twenty-one years old, Luman Ashley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Rufus Bronson and Lydia Esther.
After the house was built and some prairie hay was cut, the boys took a team and went down the Missouri for provisions for the winter. It was very cold crossing the large prairie. They went again in the spring to get more to take across the plains.
The pioneers started from Winter Quarters about the middle of April. We started about the 15th of May 1847. Luman drove Brother Frost’s team. Calvin and Rufus drove Mother’s teams. I went with Ira Eldridge and drove three yoke of oxen and a wagon to the Valley for John Eldridge, brother of Ira, who had gone with the pioneers. Datus went with the pioneers. He and Brother Frost went together. They took a plow ready stocked and were the first to plow a furrow going a few rods and broke the beam. (The remains of this, after being worn out, were put in the museum as a relic).
There were six companies of one hundred wagons each, with six captains of hundreds, twelve captains of fifties and sixty captains of ten, making one thousand wagons in all, to the best of my judgement the way we were organized. (Probably six hundred wagons.) We drove close together for protection until new Fort Laramie, not knowing our destination until we met some of the pioneers who were sent back to meet us and let us know our destination. We were told it was the Great Salt Lake Valley about five hundred and fifty miles further on. We were told to break up into fifties and go as fast as our teams could travel.
After leaving Fort Laramie we left the Platte and went over the Black Hills, a very hilly road but plenty of food and water and wood, coming out to the Platte River again. Went up the river for a few days then crossed it and went to Independence Rock on the Sweetwater River. Camped here and had a dance on the rock, it being flat on top and large enough for cotillion. The pioneers were here on the 4th of July and gave it the name.
We went up the Sweetwater to the dividing ridge of the Rocky Mountains. Now we came down the western slope. On Big Sandy Creek we met the returning pioneers, President Brigham Young and company. Datus was with them. He came back with us, Ira Eldridge’s fifty being in the lead of all the companies.
Arriving in the Valley on the 18th of September, five or six days before any of the other companies, we drove to the fort that the pioneers had built around a term of blocks. There were two extensions made to this fort, one of ten acres on the south, and the other of five acres on the north. We built in the north one, on the east side near the corner. We got our logs in Emigration Canyon, built a house with nearly a flat roof made of poles and canes, and a wagon box taken apart for the floor. We were told it would not rain so we built a flat roof so did all the rest but it wasn’t long before we saw our mistake for we got several good soaking.
The winter was quite warm, very little rain or snow. Stock fattened all winter, as there was an abundance of grass. When we had our little house finished we examined our provisions. As Uncle Samuel Ensign’s provisions and ours were together, we divided according to the number in each family. We had one barrel of wheat and two and a half bushels for seed and possibly a little flour. We were put on short rations. Mother asked us how we should eat. Should we eat as long as we had any, or have a little each day. We told her to do as she thought best and we would be contented – So we had a little each day of chopped wheat, sometimes sifted and sometimes not.
Brother Christmore built a small gristmill at the mouth of City Creek canyon in the fall of 1847. We took our wheat there and had it chopped. We found a patch of thistle roots one and one-half miles south of the fort, about three acres. We dug them to eat through the winter. They were very good. There were a great many bushels dug and eaten that winter. As soon as Sego Lilies made their appearance, we dug them as long as they were good and had to depend on them for a living. Three of us dug them nearly every day in the spring of 1848.
We sowed our wheat just north of the City and County building (where it was built later), about two and one-half acres. It came up and grew very nicely until the crickets began to eat the leaves and some of the heads. For want of water the crop was light. At the lower end where the water did not reach, the crop turned a little yellow. We cut come with our knives and laid it in the sun for a few days then rubbed it out and took it to the mill and had it chopped. When it was baked it was green in color, but was it good? We hadn’t had any wheat for a long time now we filled up for a while.
I found about a quart of potatoes where the pioneers had planted and dug them. None of them were larger than a red plum. We planted them and had about three bushels. We kept them for seed the next years. We lived on rations for three years.
In the spring of 1849 we moved our house from the fort onto our lot on the corner of Second East and Third South and built an adobe house the same year. In 1850 we rented the adobe house to Wadell and Company for a store. The men were from St. Louis. They stayed about a year. In 1849 there was a great immigration through Utah to California for gold, the same in 1850 and for several years. In 1851 I did a lot of work on the first tabernacle that was built in Salt Lake City.
I was baptized in August (no year given) by Bishop Edward Hunter and confirmed. We worked every tenth day for tithing for Mother. On January 8, 1852, Mary Dunn and I were married by Daniel Spencer. In the spring we moved to Centerville, Davis County, and rented a farm from Julius Osten. Our furniture consisted of a table, a long bench or settee, a bedstead and two stools that I made. We borrowed a bake kettle of Uncle Samuel. Mary, my wife, had the bottom of the kettle, a set of dishes, knives, forks and bed clothes, these she had worked out for, more thoughtful than I was.
I raised a crop on shares. In September we moved into Beck’s house, a half mile south and stayed there until February 1853. We then moved to Ogden to my brother Datus’s and stayed there until May. I cut some house logs on the Weber River bottoms, hauled them to Datus’s place, hewed them and put them up. I then cut poles for Stewart Brothers and took wheat for pay. I got enough to last me until harvest (flour was worth $12.00 per hundred). We then moved to North Ogden, took up a piece of land and hauled my house there. Father Dunn had bought a tract of land in Boxelder, as it was then called, and wanted me to go there with him, so I put up my house on a piece of land he gave me, nine acres, about thirty rods west of where George Reeder’s house now stands. We lived temporarily in an old log house covered with brush. It had snakes in the roof and one got into our bed one night.
In June 1853, Simeon Carter and Bishop William Davis ordained me a teacher. This was the first time I had prayed, the morning before I was ordained. In July we were counseled to move our housed together and form a fort for protection against the Indians. The fort was located on the block where John Forsgreen now lives, in the third ward. Three times in one year I had moved my house. We had some Indian trouble in the winter and spring. In the fall we built a large log meeting house, getting the logs from William Louis Cannon, and having them ripped by two men with a pit saw. In 1854 I rented a farm of Jefferson Weigh. In the fall of 1854 Brigham City was surveyed, that is, Plat A, one-half mile square.
Father Dunn, A. Hess and I, with four teams went for iron, two hundred miles out west on the old emigration road, as far as Kackey Ford on the Humbolt River. The iron we got was from wagons that were left by the emigrants that were going to California for gold. Their teams gave out and they had to leave the wagons. They had been burned by the Indians or by the owners. We got four loads. I sold mine for flour, pound for pound. Flour was then ten cents a pound and very scarce.
In 1855 I was called to go to Cache Valley to hew and put up some log houses for the church on the Church Farm. They were the first built in the valley and were for the herdsmen. The winter of 1855 and 56 was a very cold and long one. Snow was from 18 to 24 inches deep all winter. From November to April thousands of cattle died of starvation, or were drowned trying to get water from rivers and sloughs. Provisions were very scarce, some people ate the cattle that were drowned and in the spring they lived on roots and pigweed greens until harvest.
In the spring of 1856 President Brigham Young and company commenced to build a gristmill. Two of the hands boarded with us, Uncle Samuel Ensign and Mr. Taggart. The company was supposed to furnish the provisions but I did not get any and we were soon without. The men were then taken, one to Samuel Smith’s and one to Lorenzo Snow’s. I then killed a beef and cut the meat into thin slices and jerked it over a fire, cut and dried on sticks as some of the Indians did. I traded some of it to George Hamson for grain. With that and roots and greens we got through to harvest. The mill was owned afterwards by Lorenzo Snow and Samuel Smith.
In the fall of 1856 the Reformation was proclaimed by the Presidency of the church and all were catechized as to their standing by men appointed for that duty. We were asked if we were stealing, if so we were to ask forgiveness and return four fold, and to make all things right and be baptized for our sins. All who made full confession were blessed in so doing, for all were guilty more or less.
In 1857, I was called to go on a mission to England with seventy-two other Elders and cross the plains, a thousand miles with handcarts, with which to draw our provisions, bedding and cooking utensils, clothing, etc. In March, before going on my mission we went to Salt Lake City and had our endowments and I was ordained an Elder. I did not return home until after April Conference. Mother came to Ogden with William Deuchens and Datus brought her to Brigham City.
Before starting on my mission I told an old Indian where I was going. He asked when I was leaving and said he would come and see me go. He came and saw me part with Mother and the three girls; he stood by the fireplace, the tears coming from his eyes in streams. He said he would get my wife ducks and fish, and he did. He was the only person who came to bid me goodbye.
Harvey Pearce and I started from home on the 18th of April, 1857 for Salt Lake City with him team. We put our cart behind and reached there on the 20th. Henry Lee joined us in our cart. Now there were three. Joseph Young ordained me a seventy on April 21 or 22 then we were set apart for our missions on the 22nd by the apostles.
We started from Salt Lake City on April 23 to cross the plains with our handcarts. About five hundred of the brethren came with us and lent a hand onto the Bench and then bid us “God speed”. Some came with us a few days. It was a grand sight to see the company start out.
On the 24th we organized our company with Henry Herriman as president, William Brench as captain, George Goddard as clerk and we had a chaplain. We forded every stream on our route, only the Platte water was deep and cold as ice. We took off our boots and pants to keep them dry. (More details can be found in Church History.)
We arrived in Florence June 13th. After selling our carts, blankets, etc. my share was $7.00. We got aboard the steamboat, “Morris Greenwood”, for St. Louise, paid $3.00 for deck passage and $1.40 for provisions. Arrived in St. Louis the 18th.
There was a branch of the church in St. Louis and Horace Eldridge was president. He gave me money for my passage to Cincinnati, about $7.00, and went by train. Arrived on the 23rd. There was a branch of the Church in Cincinnati and I was given $10.00. The fare to Philadelphia was $11.00, so I borrowed a dollar from Brother Miner Atwood, which took me there. Brother Angus Cannon was president here. He gave me $4.00; the fare to New York was $3.00. I gave Atwood his dollar and landed in New York without money on the 3rd of July, and destined for England. There were fifteen elders with me who had money to pay their fare, $23.00 each. President John Taylor presided here. He asked me if I had friends here in this part whom I could get money from. I told him I had some in Massachusetts, three hundred miles away, but no means to go there. He then saw the captain who said he would take me for $15.00, provided I would go without a berth or dishes to eat on. I consented to go and took my journey with the rest.
We took passage on a sailing vessel, the “Dreadnought”, and landed in Liverpool August 4, 1857. I was not well, had caught cold before leaving New York. The rations were very poor, the sea bread was wormy and everything was of poor quality. Apostle Orson Pratt was president of the British Mission…I was assigned to Sunderland, in the Northeast of England…In January 1858 I received notice to return home. I met other elders…sailed January 21, and seven weeks later arrived in New York…. I spent three weeks visiting my relatives and friends in Massachusetts…Went west with Henry Herman. The Church furnished 12 wagons and 50 horses and mules to bring us from Florence, Nebraska to Utah…. From St. Louis to Omaha we were on the boat with teamsters and supplies for the Utah was. They did not know we were Mormons so we had no trouble…The army was at Fort Bridger. We took a road north of them, but encountered the advance guard repairing roads. Peace had been declared so they let us pass. The main army left Bridger the day we passed there. We arrived in Salt Lake City June 21, 1858, making the journey from Florence in 52 days.
Because of the “move south”, I found my family living in Payson, 120 miles from home, all well and living in a cellar belonging to Robert Snider. That is the girls were there. Mother had come north to meet me and had missed me. She came back and we met in the cellar.
We started for our home in Brigham City July 4th. We met the army on the 5th in the narrows of the Jordan River and were delayed for half a day because we could not pass them on the dugway. It was a very hot day and we suffered for water for our teams and ourselves. We arrived home July 10th. All was desolate. The doors, floors, ceilings and board fences had been taken to make boxes to hold flour and other things in the move, many not expecting to return, so all was free for all.
God had blessed us while I was gone. I left the family very short of provisions, only about 40 pounds of flour, and a little pork, only enough to do for a few days and no prospects for more. But Brother Daniel Hill came to tend the gristmill here, with the intention of boarding himself, but finally gave it up and came and boarded with mother and paid her in flour and meat, etc. So she had provisions. From trading with the Indians she got a good yoke of cattle. She had three heads to move south with, she had killed one of those I had left for beef for the winter.
When we got home the wheat was ready to cut, but I no cradle or scythe to cut it with. Brother Gibbs had a scythe and said if I would make a cradle we could cut together or turn about so I was provided with grain. The wheat was a volunteer crop. We had 35 bushels down in the field where it was very weedy. I cut it and Mother pulled the wheat out of the weeds. I had 80 bushels five miles north on a farm, later owned by Ezra Barnard.
All together we had 115 bushels, more than we had ever raised in one year before and without any being sowed. God had blessed me greatly. But we had no vegetables. In the fall I killed an ox and sold half of it to a man from California and got 25 pounds of sugar and a bolt of sheeting, the most we had had at one time since we were married.
I labored on the farm and in the canyons until 1862, the year of the high water. I worked on the Bear River ferry for Abraham Slanruker through the summer. The mines were found in Montana in 1861. In 1863 Jarvas Johnson commenced to work in company with me. We built a shop with waterpower on Box Elder Creek and did carpenter work together for 12 years. We built a sawmill at the head of Box Elder Canyon ourselves in 1866. In 1867 we formed a company and sent to the States and bought a portable sawmill and put it on Paradise Creek. I rented it and ran it on shares for a year. In the fall of 1869, I worked for the Railroad Company making frames for tents and setting them up, building houses and camp furniture for the men, making as high as $25.00 a day some times. In 1872 a crazy man who broke in and started a fire with shavings burned our shop. In 1873 Johnson and I built a sawmill in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, Cache, County, for Unsworth and Company. In 874, I commenced to work for the Brigham Co-op, had charge of the carpenter and furniture departments for three years. In 1877, I went to Logan Canyon and had charge of a stream sawmill for the Brigham Co-op for one year, had about 30 men under my charge. September 18, I was ordained a High Priest by Lorenzo Snow and set apart as a High Counselor in the Box Elder Stake of Zion.
I helped build the bridge across Bear River at Bear River City, 1875. The county built the bridge at Standings in 1882. I had charge of the hands, burnished the materials and kept the pay roll. James Pett was the architect. In 1882 I was elected Justice of the Peace and held that office for ten years, being elected five times, and held the office of Coroner three terms, 1886 to 1892.
In 1892 we formed a creamery company and built a creamery costing $5,300.00. I put in $200.00 though first the company ran it at a loss. In 1893 I rented it and ran it two months, then stopped for want of a market for butter. I lost stock, land and $800.00 in the business. The creamery was built on my land.
I have been farming, gardening, etc., and have continued up to the present time, 1897. Since my arrival in these valleys I have worked a large donation on all the public buildings; first in Salt Lake City on the first tabernacle for two or three months, besides labor for tithing every tenth day for four years for Mother; later I worked on the public buildings of Brigham City, the court house and also working in the Logan Temple, October 1883 to March 1884, putting the arches in the bit room where we go through the veil. The Temple was dedicated in May 1884.
(Martin Luther Ensign died May 18, 1911 at Brigham City, Utah).
Children listed at the end of Mary DUNN ENSIGN Autobiography.