LIFE AND FAMILY OF WILLIAM REESE DAVIES
LIFE AND FAMILY OF WILLIAM REESE DAVIES by Murland R. Packer 1990
William Reese Davies was born in New Church, Carmarthanshire, South Wales, on July 31, 1805. He was the son of Reese Davies and Ann Thomas. He was a tailor by trade. After coming to America, the family name was commonly misspelled. This seemed to be due to the fact that Davis was a common name in America, but Davies was not. Also they reportedly pronounced the name the same as Davis. This led to the common error of others spelling his name without the "e" . Also the "e" was commonly dropped from his middle name, so it became Rees. Because of the confusion, his grandchildren took the name of Davis. His sons were raised in Wales and did not change their name.
William married Rachel Morris of St. Ishmael, Carmarthanshire, South Wales about 1824. She was born June 6, 1803 in St. Ishmael. [She was the daughter of George Morris and Catherine Anthony.]
Very little is known of their early lives. No personal histories or letters have been found which they wrote. They had five children:
George Davies was born November 17, 1825 in Glamorshire, South Wales. John Reese Davies was born September 16, 1827 in Cannarthen, South Wales. Elizabeth Davies was born November 23, 1829 in Ferryside, Cannarthen, South Wales. James George Davies was born November ~6, 1831 in Llanelly, Cannarthen, South Wales. David Davies was born May 9, 1834 in Ferryside, Cannarthen, South Wales. Some family research was done in 1984 by Bert J. Rawlins, A.G. His report to Raymond Davis indicated the following:
"The Christening of William Rees Davies, along with those of his brothers and sisters, was found in the baptismal register of Bwlchnewydd Independent Chapel, which is located in Newchurch Parish. William R. Davies and Rachel Monis moved a great deal during their married life." Tragedy struck the Davies family when they lost two sons in death about the same time. David, the youngest, died in December 1840 at the age of six. George, the oldest died about the same time at the age of fifteen. The cause of death is not known in either case. This must have been a great shock to the family. This loss, however, may have prepared them for the message of the Restored Gospel which was soon to come into their lives. (George actually died nine years later in 1849)
The first Mormon missionaries assigned to Wales were Henry Royle and Frederick Cook, who began to proselyte in North Wales in October 1840. Some months earlier others had been preaching in the English counties which border Wales. These missionaries could well have gone into some of the Welsh villages for a street meeting or two. However, there was little success in these missionary efforts.
The first missionary assigned to the heartland of Wales was William Henshaw. He went directly to cosmopolitan Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. It was a town which had recently become the industrial center of Wales. With no knowledge of the Welsh language, Henshaw had to proclaim his message in English and hope some would understand. He had to approach people who did speak English and then rely on bilingual converts to teach the gospel to their Welsh speaking countrymen. On February 19, 1843 he baptized his first converts, the family of William Reese Davies. This consisted of William, 37, his wife Rachel, 39, John Reese, 15, and James George who was 11 years old. Elizabeth, 13, was baptized three months later, on May 19, 1843. They were the first converts to the Church in South Wales. They were the nucleus which led to a rapid growth of the Church in Wales. Dan Jones, a Welshman, was baptized in the Mississippi River near Nauvoo in January of 1843. After the Prophet's death he went on a mission to Wales and led the first group of Welsh Saints to the Salt Lake Valley in 1849.
The town of Merthyr Tydill was very near the English border and it is reasonable that some in the town would be able to speak English. William and possibly other members of his family must have spoken English as well as Welsh and recognized the truth when they heard Elder Henshaw speak.
It is only reasonable that the Davies Family would have been anxious to tell their closest friends of their new faith. This would have led to other baptisms and success of the missionary efforts in South Wales. By June there were 32 members in the Merthyr Tydill area in Penydarren branch, and by the end of the year there were 50 members. Another branch was organized in nearby Rhymni where the Davies family lived.
John James was baptized February 27, 1843 followed by "Tha .. " Griffiths and Mary Griffiths on March 4, 1843. John Reese Davies later married Mary Griffiths. During the next few months several families were baptized including the Thomas, Edwards and Williams families. Elizabeth later married Reese Jones Williams. During the following three years, William Henshaw established several branches in Glamorgan and Monmouth, with a membership totaling nearly five hundred members.
William Davies fulfilled a mission in his native land before coming to Zion. According to Joseph Smith's diary, taken from a little book in the genealogical library, entitled, "Mormons In Wales," he was the first to preach the gospel in his native tongue in Wales. (The author has not been able to find this book in the library.)
Rachel provided for the family while William was on his mission, by running a cookie shop. They lived in the back of a wealthy family's home. The lady of the house would throw away her dirty clothes. Rachel would gather them up, wash and iron them, and sell them back to the same lady.
Even though there was increasing animosity and even hostility toward the new converts, the Davies family must have felt blessed because all of their immediate family was active in the Church.
Music was an important part of family life in the Davies home. According to Raymond Davis, William had a wonderful voice. It was reported to sound like a flute and he was asked to sing for the Queen of England on three different occasions.
Rachel was a lovely woman. She lived the gospel and loved to sing the songs of Zion. She did all her sewing by hand and being of a happy and sunny nature was happy in whatever she did. She never saw a washboard until she came to America. She always did her washing by rubbing the clothes between her hands. Her children were always clean. At the time of the Church Conference in Manchester in December 1845, there were about 500 members in Wales. Elder Wilford Woodruff appointed Dan Jones to preside over the branches of the Church in Wales, nearly all of which had been established by William Henshaw. Elder Henshaw was to continue as president of the Merthyr Tydfil Conference. The Church grew rapidly in Wales, due in part to the missionary efforts of the Davies family. By the fall of 1846 there were about 900 Welsh members.
In February 1848 Dan Jones announced that official approval had been given for the Welsh to begin making definite plans for emigrating in a year's time. All were encouraged to payoff their debts, and the wealthy were asked to be generous in assisting the poor. Persecution was becoming intense against Church members and they were anxious to join the other saints in Zion.
By the time William and Rachel emigrated to America in February 1849, John Reese would have been 21 years old, Elizabeth would have been 19 years old and James would have been 17 years old. None of the children sailed at that time with William and Rachel. The family records of Vilo Pearce, a descendant of James, show that James, "was the first member of his family to come to America. He worked in the mines in Wales and earned his fare to come to America. His hardships were many. As a pioneer he walked across the continent. Later he earned money enough for the rest of his people to come to Southern Utah. Pipe Springs, Arizona was named from an Indian shooting a pipe out of his mouth with an arrow." It seems unlikely that James would have come to America much before the age of 17 and been able to earn money to help his family emigrate. He may have come as far as Council Bluffs with his older brother, John.
By November 1848 detailed instructions concerning essentials such as food, clothing, trunks and tools were distributed to Church members, and those who intended to emigrate were instructed to pay a deposit of one pound sterling per person no later than December 31, to secure passage. Over three hundred Saints responded.
The plan for emigrating called for all Welsh Saints to meet in Liverpool by February 15, 1849. Those from South Wales met in Swansea on the thirteenth and made the voyage together by steamer, the Troubador. The gathering in Swansea caused a great sensation among the local residents and was even described in considerable detail in the local newspaper. The departure from Swansea was at 9 o'clock Wednesday morning, February 14, 1849 and they arrived at Liverpool the following day at 3:30 P.M. Most passengers became very sick from the motion. This was only a prelude to the 50 days of Atlantic waves on their way to New Orleans.
In Liverpool the emigrants were organized for travel. For some reason departure of the Buena Vista was delayed for another six days and 77 Saints who had paid to board the Buena Vista had to wait another week and sail on the Hartley along with 161 English and Scottish converts. The Music Hall was a large six story building which was rented as lodging for the entire company while waiting to sail.
The 249 Saints on board the Buena Vista were organized with Dan Jones as president of the emigrating company. He was assisted by three "counselors." They were William Morgan, a forty-six year old engineer from Merthyr Tydfil, Rice Williams, a forty-five year old farmer from Rhymni, and William R. Davies, a forty-three year old tailor from Rhymni. These three constituted a council which was to organize and handle all temporal and spiritual matters.
"The Bishop then arose and made a few appropriate remarks on the occasion and said that he held a letter addressed to Prest J. D. Lee but that he would read it as it concerned all the Saints which read this. Dated March 2nd 1856. To Presidents, Bishop, and brethren in the counties of Iron and Washington. I write to inform you that the persons who can get thier endowments must be those who pray, who pay thier tithing from year to year, who live the lives of Saints from day to day; setting good examples before their neighbors; men and women, boys and girls over sixteen years of age, who are living the lives of Saints, believe in the plurality, do not speak evil of the Authorities of the Church, and posses true integrity towards thier friends, can come up [to Salt Lake] after thier crops are sown, and thier case mite be attended to. Brigham Young Heber C. Kimball J. M. Grant " Church records indicate that William and Rachel were sealed in the Endowment House May 1, 1856. They followed the Prophet's advice. They prepared their crops and journeyed to Salt Lake to enjoy this blessing. Others may have traveled with them at that time; but no details have been found.
A letter dated from Liverpool on February 25, 1849 was sent as a "last greeting" of the emigrating Saints to the 3,000 Saints who were remaining in Wales. It was sent as an encouragement to them and an admonition for them to follow to Zion. William was one of 25 men who signed that letter. (See Appendix A.)
“We started on the plains [from Council Bluffs] on the first of July, 1854 . . . . Now I will tell you about the sircuse [circus] that we had the first few days on the plains. Our captain tould us to get up erly in the morning for to get redy to start in good time. After breakfast was over we got the cattle together and tryed to yoke them up. I can assure you that this was quite a task for us and after we got them itched to the wagons we started out. Now corns the sircuse and it was a good one. The Captain was a waching us and telling us what to do. He tould us to tak the whip an use it and say whoah Jake, gee grandy and so on. Now the fun commenced. Then we went afrer them prety lively and when the cattle went gee too much we would run to the off side and yelling at them woah and bunting them with the stock of the whip. then they would go ha to much and we was puffing and sweeting and if you was there to look on you would say that it was a great sircuse. This was a great experience and a tuff one and by the time we got half way across the plains we could drive an ox team as well as you can enney day." The journey of the 1852 Welsh pioneers was considerably more pleasant than it had been for those who crossed in 1849. They had no rain storms and no snow. However, four Welshmen died on the journey.
Finally the Buena Vista was dragged out to sea about 2 o'clock on Monday, February 26, 1849 as thousands of spectators came out to watch. The voyage then depended upon the wind in the sails and their God in whom they had placed their faith and lives. Fifty days on this crowded ship was a challenge to the new converts, most of whom had never been at sea. The stench and lack of sanitation were ever present trials. William Clayton, on board the ship North America in 1840, described the conditions as, "The wind blew hard the vessel rock and many were sick all night. This was a new scene. Such sickness, vomiting, groaning and bad smells I never witnessed before and added to this the closeness of the berths almost suffocated us for want of air." We can imagine that eventually most of the seasickness abated, or turned to mere agonizing, and that there were some pleasant times on the Buena Vista.
This was only the first leg of a long journey which would take three more years for William and Rachel Davies. Two rivers had to be ascended and the plains had to be traversed before their final destination was reached.
During the journey two women died and were buried at sea and a young couple was excommunicated by the presiding council. By the end of the journey, they had run out of oatmeal, bread and water and had to eat hardtack and drink water full of slime. All supplies were kept at the back of the ship in a storeroom. Dan Jones and his three assistants, including William Davies, were responsible for apportioning allotments to each family. The family or groups of families then prepared and cooked the food by using the cooking facilities in shifts.
They reached New Orleans April 17, 1849. The joy they felt as their feet touched solid ground can scarcely be imagined. However, they probably did not realize in advance that cholera was rampant in New Orleans.
They found that they had caught up with a group of English Saints who had just arrived on the ship Ashland. Dan Jones hired a steamer, the Constitution, which agreed to transport the combined group of nearly 450 passengers a distance of 1,100 miles up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Three of the English Saints died of cholera before they arrived at St. Louis. Although everyone feared cholera, the Saints thought that their faith, combined with the will of the Lord that they arrive safe at their destination, would make them essentially immune. St. Louis was the place to purchase flour, meat, groceries, and everything necessary for the trek to Zion, which would be initiated from Council Bluffs where the Saints would gather. Clothes, firearms, stoves, and even iron to make wagons were included in the buying spree. The Welsh and English Saints transferred their goods to the steamer, Highland Mary. For the last leg of the water journey to Council Bluffs, on May 2, 1849. Cholera broke out on the ship and its journey to Council Bluffs was lengthened by several days to allow time nearly every day for graves to by dug along the shore. During the fifteen day journey, one fifth of the Welsh Saints fell victim to the dreaded disease. Some families were almost wiped out. Oh, the faith it must have taken for those left to continue their journey to an unknown land. For fear of becoming infected themselves, the Saints in Council Bluffs wanted no part of the new arrivals. Isaac Nash recorded in his journal: “We arrived at Council Bluffs in a sorry condition. Nobody would come near us. We were put out on the banks of the river with our dead and suffering. Apostle George A. Smith, hearing of our arrival and of the sad condition we were in, came down to the river banks. . . . Brother Smith sent word to the people that if they would not take us in and give us shelter, the Lord would turn a scourge upon them. It was not long before teams and wagons came down and all were taken care of." The anticipated rejoicing on reaching Council Bluffs was diminished by the unfathomable sorrow which surrounded the Welsh Saints as they dragged themselves into the city. Being shunned by the other Saints did not help to raise their spirits. Of the 249 emigrants who had left Liverpool a few months earlier on the Buena Vista, 19 had abandoned their belief in Mormonism and were searching for brighter horizons in St. Louis and various parts of Missouri. Sixty-seven had died at various points along the way. Those remaining (163) rejoiced in the Lord and continued with their plans for the future. Some made immediate plans to continue the journey to Salt Lake City that season.
Welsh members who left Liverpool on the ship Hartley, arrived in Council Bluffs June 8, 1849. Eighty four persons led by Dan Jones, left Council Bluffs July 13, 1849 in the company led by George A. Smith. Others searched for employment until they could save enough to provide for the long trek. William Morgan and William Davies followed the departing pioneers for one day's journey from Council Bluffs at the request of Dan Jones. At a latter time they would be leading the Saints who stayed in Council Bluffs. Other Welsh Saints who would pass through Council Bluffs could also be instructed more completely. Council Bluffs was becoming rather cosmopolitan with its English, Norwegians, and now a large group of Welsh. Interpreters were kept. busy, as they provided the only way of communicating for many. The need for the Welsh to learn English was diminished by their banding together and by forming a Welsh speaking branch of the Church.
Life for the 113 Welsh converts in Council Bluffs, and for several others who had remained at St. Louis to gain employment, offered numerous difficulties and challenges. Most had not gone ahead with the George A. Smith Company and their compatriots simply because their resources were exhausted by the time they completed the Atlantic crossing and the ascension of the two rivers. A few who may have had the funds to continue on to the Valley that same year had been requested to stay behind and preside over the other Buena Vista and Hartley emigrants. William Morgan was called to preside as Branch President over the Welsh branch and William Reese Davies was called to stay in Council Bluffs as a counselor to him.
By June of 1852 most of the remaining Buena Vista and Hartley emigrants were fitted out and ready to begin their journey to the Rocky Mountains. During the previous three years while William and Rachel had been in Council Bluffs, they were joined by other Welsh Mormons from various parts of Wales. Those who could afford to continue immediately to the valley did so. Most, however, stayed in Council Bluffs until 1852 when the bulk of the remaining Welsh Saints crossed the plains together.
By June 21, 1852 the Welsh had gathered near Winter Quarters. They were visited by Apostle Ezra T. Benson. They needed an interpreter to translate Elder Benson's instructions as to how they were to be organized for the crossing. William Morgan was appointed Captain of Fifty (the Welsh with a few English and French made up fifty wagons). His counselors were William R. Davies and Rees Jones Williams, William's son-in-law (husband of Elizabeth).
On the morning of June 28, 1852, a very hot day, the company finally got under way. In the afternoon of that first day, William showed his lack of experience at driving a team by running his wagon into another one and breaking his axletree. There was a delay until the following day while repairs were made. One can visualize a tailor from Wales who is suddenly on the American frontier trying to drive a team of steers which may have been half wild
. John Johnson Davies made a similar trek from Wales two years later. He records his first encounter with oxen as follows:
On September 20th when they were about 80 miles from Salt Lake, they met Dan Jones who had been called to return to Wales on another mission. A few days later several other Welsh brethren arrived in the camp. They had traveled over thirty miles from Salt Lake with a load of watermelons, muskmelons, potatoes, grapes, etc. These delicacies came as a welcome treat to those who had spent three months on the trail. The reunion of these friends must have been wondrous as they were united in "The Valley." On September 25, 1852 they entered Salt Lake City in the early afternoon. For William and Rachel Davies the journey which had begun three and one half years earlier was now complete. Their eyes now beheld the Zion for which they had dreamed and sung about for so many years. The details of where William and Rachel were the first few years after they entered the Valley are unknown. Cora Fonda and Rebecca Stapley report that shortly after arriving in Salt Lake, William was called by Brigham Young to go on an Indian mission and settle southern Utah. They also state that Rockville was one of the first places William and Rachel lived. The first known settlers in Rockville were about 1858. This leaves a question as to whether William and Rachel did actually live in Rockville. They did live for a short time (in 1860) in Grafton which is only two miles west of Rockville. This may account for the reference to Fockville.
In the October 1853 Conference in Salt Lake, fifty families were called to labor among the Indians in southern Utah and to help settle the area under the direction of George A. Smith and Erastus Snow. A few families left that fall. Most families went in the Spring of 1854. It is not known if William and Rachel were among that group. It seems likely that they remained in the Salt Lake area until the spring of 1854.
The Town of Harmony had been settled in the spring of 1853. When President Young visited the area in May of 1854, he organized the missionary work to the Indians and suggested that the townsite of Harmony be moved to higher ground. The next day a site was selected and construction of a fort was initiated. It was 300 feet square and everyone in the settlement lived in the fort. This settlement was called Fort Harmony. The headquarters for missionary work in southern Utah at that time was at Fort Harmony. People probably started moving into the fort that fall. About this time (summer of 1854), there are references to William and Rachel being at Fort Harmony. He was the first Presiding Elder there. This says a lot for his character. He was not a frontiersman nor was English his native tongue. Yet he was called to preside over the new community. His attributes included a strong and abiding faith in this new religion. His spiritual insight and conviction also helped qualify him for the leadership of the branch and later the ward.
"MONUMENT NO. 59 "AT FORT HARMONY, UTAH "FORT HARMONY "Established May 9, 1854, by John D. Lee, Richard Woolsey, William R. Davis [Davies] and others [Elisha H. Groves] who had founded Harmony in 1852. County seat of Washington County until 1859. Headquarters of Mormon Missions to Lamanites 1853 - 1854. The Fort was finally abandoned in February 1862 following the heavy storms that caused the walls to crumble and fall, the settlers founding New Harmony and Kanarraville. The wall was 300 feet square. Houses on the east side were one story and wall ten feet high, on the west side two stories and wall sixteen feet high. Kanarra and Harmony creeks supplied water for irrigation.
The faint outline of the old fort still exists where the old adobe bricks have returned to a pile of soil. The rock foundation can still be seen in some places. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers have established a monument at the site which reads as follows:
"Put up by Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association and members of Parowan Stake." The Saints made their own clothes from wool and later from cotton which was locally grown. Each family tried to keep a few sheep to supply their own wool. This wool was carded, spun and woven for their own use. They knitted their own socks and stockings. All boots and shoes were carefully saved for the visits made by a traveling shoemaker.
The people were very resourceful in preparing and preserving food. They dried vegetables and fruits which they raised, as well as what wild fruits they could find. Choke cherries, ground cherries, currants, service berries and elder berries were gathered and used. Molasses and honey were also used for preserving fruit. They made cheese, dried meat and preserved meat and butter in salt. Potato or hop yeast was used for their raised bread. Nearly every family brought with them a Dutch Oven. It served the purposes of stoves for baking as well as for other cooking needs. The com bread or batter cakes were made thin and baked quickly, but the rich, large, round loaves of bread were perfectly cooked when they came out of the bake oven. It required skill in baking to get the loaves baked without burning the edges or being dough in the middle.
Fuel for fires became more scarce and had to be hauled from further sites. Matches were also expensive and scarce. They would try to keep coals through the night. If the coals were out in the morning someone would be "sent for fire." They would look for smoke coming out of another chimney.
Light was another problem. When it was possible to secure tallow, candles were made by either the mold or dip method. As an alternative, a piece of rag with a pebble tied in it was placed in a shallow dish of grease.
Soap was made from tallow using lye leached from cottonwood ashes. The cottonwood ashes were carefully saved in a barrel or box for this purpose.
A Church conference was held in Cedar City on May 20, 1855. The members living in Fort Harmony and Cedar City were organized into a Stake with Isaac Haight as Stake President and William Reese Davies as Bishop at Fort Harmony. Other settlements such as Pine Valley, Pinto, Washington and Toquerville were organized as branches under the Fort Harmony Ward at various times while William was Bishop. William chose Henry Barney as his first counselor and his oldest son, John Reese Davies as his second counselor. His younger son, James George was also living at Fort Harmony.
Minutes of meetings held at Fort Harmony were recorded between February 1856 and July 1860 by Rachel Woolsey, a plural wife of John D. Lee. These minutes give a wonderful insight into life in the area and to a few activities of the family. Rachel Davies was a midwife and assisted families in the fort. Little else is known of her activities. William, as Bishop, was the father of the ward and guided its activities and was arbitrator for the differences between its members. These were probably intensified by the fact that the families were living so dose together.
Rachel Woolsey recorded that a Church meeting was held March 30, 1856 in the home of the Bishop, William Davies. There was some discussion that they must plan to raise enough crops that season for themselves and for others who were expected to join them later in the season. She then recorded the following:
Rachel Woolsey records that on April 13, 1856, Bishop William Davies spoke "at a good length on the order of the Kingdom of God etc. and his experience in the Church." Oh how we would like to have a record of what he said. She also recorded on April 14, 1856, that Bishop Davies assembled his council to decide on how to finance the public works. The public works included the meeting house, fort wall, gate guard house, pool [well] in the center of the fort and privies on each side of the gate. After considerable debate, a motion was made by Elisha Groves and seconded by the Bishop that a poll tax of 23 dollars be set on each male over 18 years of age and a 15 per cent tax on all property.
Rachel Woolsey recorded the following for Nov. 3, 1856:
"The Bishop [Davies] and council met to organize the Deacons Quorum. Meeting by singing and prayer after which the Bishop said that he wanted to hear the deacons and Teachers speak thier determination to press forward. They done so satisfactory. After which the Bishop then gave them some instructions how they ought to discharge thier duties in keeping the [meeting] room clean and in order, etc .........
"Sunday, November 9th. .. ... Bro E.H. Groves spoke in a Energetic Manar. The Bishop then arose and spoke of the responsibility that rested on him and said that he determined by the grace of God to carry out the spirit of the reformation that had commenced in our midst, etc. "Sunday, November 16th. 2 o'clock p.m. After singing and prayer the Bishop arose and spoke on the duties of the saints, that it was our duties to adhere to the principles of righteousness and not consult our feelings [do as we wish], but conform our feelings to the ordinances of the Gospel- and all would be right. . . . . In the evening the prayer meeting was held. After singing and prayer the Bishop [Davies] gave way for the Saints to use thier privalages [bare testimony]. They done so and they spoke under the demonstration of the spirit of the Lord. Bro. [Elisha H.] Groves spoke of his experiences in the commencement of this Church. Spoke of Angels that appeared in the temple in Kirtland and of the Cloven tongues like as of fire that set upon those that were in that Temple and he said that he felt the same spirit in our midst this evening. Sister Groves testified the same things. After the brethren and sisters spoke the Bishop arose and said that his heart rejoiced in the principles of the Gospel. Said he felt the spirit of God working powerfully in our midst this evening, etc. Sung 'Praise God, etc.' Ben. E.H. Groves.
The families of William Davies and Elisha Groves were very close. At this time Elisha was a member of the ward and Stake Patriarch. Washington County made some early timber and water grants, one of which was a joint grant to William and Elisha (Forgoqen Chapters of History, Vol. I, no. 36), passed December 2, 1856:
"An ordinance granting the control of timber and water in South Ash Creek to Elisha H. Groves and Wm. R. Davis [Davies]. Be it enacted by the County Court of Washington County, that the right of controlling water and timber for the benefit of the southern settlements be and is hereby granted to Elisha H. Groves and Wm. R. Davis [Davies] of the county. "
The meeting minutes for a Fast Meeting held Thursday, February 11, 1857 record the following:
"The Bishop [William R. Davies] arose and gave the meeting over for the brethren to testify, pray and use the gifts of the spirit. After several had spoken, J. R. [John Reese] Davies spoke in tongues powerfully. J. D. Lee interpreted equally as powerful. It was an exhortation to the Saints to continue in the work of reformation commenced, etc. The Bishop [William R. Davies] then exhorted the Saints to diligence and faithfulness. Ben. by E. H. Groves. "
Rachel Woolsey recorded that William Davies and his son John R. Davies departed for Salt Lake City, in company with the Stake President Haight and C.W. Dalton, on March 4, 1857. They returned on the evening of April 2nd. She also records the following:
"Sunday, April 5, 1857
"The Bishop [W.R. Davies] then arose and testified to what Bro. Dalton had said. He spoke at good length on the principles he had heard at S. L. City, and said he never rejoiced so much in his life to see and hear the progress of the Kingdom of God in these last days. He spoke of the plans of the First Presidency at present in contemplation. Ben. by J.R. Davies.
"2 o'clock in the afternoon met. Singing. Prayer by H. Barney. J.R. Davies was then called on to address the saints. He said he felt well, never better in his life that he had in his present trip to S.L. City, in seeing the onward progress of the Kingdom of God; that Zion was lengthening her cords & extending her stakes. And he rejoiced in blessings of the endowments which he received on the 21st of March, 1857. (Saturday). The meeting was then given for the saints to testify, etc. Several did speak. Ben. by J.R. Davies.
"June 28, 1857 . . . . The Bishop [Davies] then spoke of the spirit of indifference and negligence that the saints had fallen into since the reformation, etc., and the necessity of arousing from that lethargy. "
On August 7, 1857 the election returns for Washington County showed that William Reese Davies was elected as County Treasurer. No other information has been found of his political activities.
William Davies left Fort Harmony on September 20, 1857 and traveled in company with John D. Lee for conference in Salt Lake. They returned on Saturday, October 17th. They brought "with them some news that the soldiers [Johnston's Army] were on the way, etc. They say there is a distemper raging north, called the horse distemper. The Bishop was afflicted with it, and its effects was still on them." Horse distemper was described as causing great pain in the head and a soreness through all the body. On the following day "the Bishop preached and said that he was glad to return again, etc. Said about the spiritual warfare we had to fight and to obtain the victory before we could gain the crown."
In January 1858 many Saints were afflicted with the horse distemper. On Sunday, the 24th, Bishop Davies was one who was to ill to attend Church services.
John R. Davies married Patience Sibyl Groves who was also living in the fort with her parents, Elisha and Lucy Groves. Rachel Woolsey recorded the following under the date of February 22, 1858:
"This day Prest. Haight and wife and daughter, also Prest. E. Snow & wives and several others from Cedar came to celebrate the nuptials of J.R. Davies and William Fream. The tables were set the whole length of the meeting house, and when all things were ready, about 5 pm the ceremony was performed. First J.R. Davies [John Reese Davies] was married to Patence [Patience] Sibyl Groves [daughter of Elisha H. Groves], by Prest. Isaac C. Haight. Also William Fream was married to Mary Morse. And then all sat down to the table to the good things, after which all joined in the dance, etc."
In the spring of 1858 Josua T. Willis, who at that time lived in Fort Harmony, was called to lead a group to settle Toquerville. He was appointed to act as the Branch President. The Branch was organized under the Fort Harmony Ward. He was made Bishop of the Toquerville Ward on November 16, 1861. At that time Toquerville was growing and Fort Harmony was being abandoned.
Bishop Davies was reported as ill on November 28, 1858 and unable to attend Church. On the following Sunday, he sent a message which asked the Saints to pray for him, " ... that he may recover by the prayer of faith." He was not well enough to attend Church services until January 26th.
Virgin City was laid out in April 1859, and by appointment of President Isaac C. Haight of Cedar, Nephi Johnson was president of the Branch, which was attached to the Harmony Ward.
At the Sunday meeting November 13, 1859, Bishop William R. Davies reported that due to his poor health he would have to spend the winter at Virgin. The winter weather was milder there. He appointed his son, and only councilor at that time, to preside in his absence with the assistance of Elisha H. Groves. Henry Barney had moved to another town.
The meeting minutes for January 1860 reported that the weather was very severe and about eight inches of snow was on the ground. They also reported that Bishop N.C. Tiney had gone to make a new settlement on the Virgin River (Grafton) which was six miles above Virgin City.
In 1859, Nathan C. Tenney, with some other families from Virgin City commenced a new settlement called Grafton. It was a mile below the present site of Grafton. More settlers arrived in 1860-61. Dams were built in the Virgin River and agriculture commenced. Floods caused by the overflow of the river washed away nearly all the lands claimed by the early settlers. T he townsite was moved in the spring. of 1862. Grain was raised for a number of years, but the Virgin River continued to wash away the soil, the ditches were filled with sand, and dams were continuously washed away. The settlement was abandoned in 1866 and then resettled by a few families a couple years later.
William and Rachel moved back to Fort Harmony (from Virgin) the first of March 1860 with their son, James and his family.
A few weeks later, March 31st, William and Rachel left Fort Harmony to visit Salt Lake City (conference) with James. They returned on May 19th. The following day William spoke at some length on the things he had learned in Salt Lake.
The meeting minutes recorded by Rachel Woolsey end on July 15, 1860 with the following record:
"The bishop [William Reese Davies] having returned to his present home at Grafton, yet Bro. Lee and his family came together and we had a meeting in which Bro. Lee spoke of the necessity of overcoming our weaknesses before we could inherit the Kingdom of God. J.R. Davies said that anger dwells only in the bosoms of fools, etc., and exhorted to truthfulness and diligence, etc."
No other information is available with respect to William and Rachel living in Grafton. By the following year they are found in Kanarra.
In 1860 Elizabeth's husband, Reese Jones Williams, was killed in a sawmill accident when he fell on an open circular saw. She then sold her home for an ox team and wagon and she and her four children went to Fort Harmony to live with her parents. She then moved to Kanarra when her parents moved there. Little is known of Elizabeth's life. She was with her husband in Council Bluffs until they came to Salt Lake with her parents in 1852.
John Johnson Davies (no relation) had married Elizabeth's cousin, Mariah Davies in Wales in 1853. They had emigrated to Utah in 1854, arriving in Salt Lake in October. They were immediately visited by Elizabeth and her husband, Reese, who invited them to stay with them, which they did until after Christmas. How long Elizabeth stayed in Salt Lake is not known.
By 1860 the people of Fort Harmony decided to move the town site. It was felt that there was not enough water to support Fort Harmony as they were losing to much water in bringing the two creeks, Ash and Kanarra, so far. Half of the people followed John D. Lee to establish New Harmony on the site which had formerly been farmed by the Indian Mission. The others followed Elisha H. Groves to establish the town of Kanarra.
The company which settled Kanarra numbered about one hundred and eight souls. The heads of families included William R. Davies, John R. Davies, James Davies and others.
The settlement of Kanarra (also referred to as Kanarrah or more recently as Kanarraville) was started first in June of 1860. It was probably the following spring before most of the families actually moved to Kanarra.
They held meetings in private homes (log cabins) until a log building was constructed in 1862 which served as a school and church. It was used for all public meetings. It later burned and all ward records were lost.
The Civil War began in April 1861. President Young with his usual foresight, saw that cotton was going to be at a premium. At October conference that year, he read out the names of 300 families who were to move to St. George. The main company arrived in December. This was a boon to the local economy as these families suddenly arrived. Some of them settled in the existing communities. However, this was the beginning of St. George as the major town in Southern Utah.
President Young visited the settlement of Kanarra in September of 1862 and reported that there were 13 families. He preached one of his "most heavenly discourses" and all rejoiced.In those days people were compelled to haul their grain a long distance to have it ground into flour. John R. Davies left his wife, Sibyl, and two children to take a load of wheat to get it ground. He expected to return with a winter's supply of flour for his family. The trip took six days traveling with a team of horses and a wagon. It rained on him all the way and as a consequence, he took a severe cold which developed into pneumonia. He died a few days after returning home, in October 1862 (date unknown). Their third child, Mary Ann Davies, was born April 7, 1863 in Old Kanarra, six months after his death.
At a conference held in Cedar City on November 15, 1862, changes were made in the alignment of wards. Henry Lunt was sustained as Bishop of Cedar Ward. Kanarraville, Pinto and New Harmony were included as branches under his ward.
Wind storms had been a problem in the new settlement. About 1865 there was a particularly severe wind storm which lasted three days. When it was over, there was much damage and even the cemetery was left with the caskets sitting on top of the ground. Because of this, the town was moved about a mile south to a new and better location in 1866. This was suggested by Erastus Snow, one of the twelve Apostles. The cemetery was also moved to a new location west of the new town. The original townsite is referred to as Old Kanarra.
Little is known of William and Rachel while they were in Kanarra. William died there February 5, 1865. This would have been in Old Kanarra.
In November 1866 John Johnson Davies moved his family to Kanarra. He bought a farm with Llewellyn Harris. Llewellyn had married Patience Sibyl Groves, the daughter of Elisha and widow of John Reese Davies, in October 1865. John Johnson Davies was a wonderful singer and was asked to organize a choir, which he did.
The wife of John Johnson Davies died May 16, 1869 and left him with six children.
Elizabeth Davies married John Johnson Davies July 25, 1870. They continued to live in Kanarra.
Elizabeth's mother, Rachel, lived with them for a while. After Rachel's grandson was married and built a home, she spent the rest of her years with him and his family. Rachel died May 28, 1882 and was buried in Kanarra. Elizabeth died in Kanarra September 27, 1890.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
1. "History of William Rees Davies" by Cora A. Fonda and Rebecca Williams Stapley (family records)
2. “The Call of Zion" by Ronald D. Dennis, published by BYU
3. Family records of Vilo Pearce, New Harmony, Utah
4. Minutes of Meetings, Fort Harmony, Utah by Rachel Woolsey Lee, in the Huntington Library
5. "History of Kanarraville" by Marlyn Lovell
6. "History of New Harmony" by Laverna T. Englestead
7. Journal of John Johnson Davies (St. George, Utah Library)
8. "Under Dixie Sun, A History of Washington County, Utah," by Washington County Chapter D.U.P.
by Murland R. Packer
Ancestral Chain: TR, Lark, Kirt DeMar WOOD, Laura Elizabeth PARKER, Elizabeth Ann DAVIS, James George DAVIS, William Rees DAVIES and Rachel MORRIS.
Ancestral Chain: TR, Lark, Kirt DeMar WOOD, Laura Elizabeth PARKER, Elizabeth Ann DAVIS, James George DAVIS, William Rees DAVIES and Rachel MORRIS.