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WILLIAM BURGESS, SR. (1794-1880)


A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF
WILLIAM BURGESS, SR.
(1794-1880)


A Pioneer of
Kirtland, Nauvoo, Salt Lake City, St. George, Pine Valley
(Entering the Salt Lake Valley September 22, 1848)


William Burgess, Sr. was born 21 May 1794 at Lake George, Washington County, New York to Chris John and Hannah Newland Burgess. (Probably in the vicinity of Lake George. In the Nauvoo Temple records he lists his birthplace as Argyle. The Argyle township at that time stretched almost that far north.) He died 20 November 1880 in Pine Valley, Washington County, Utah.

He married Vilate Stockwell in 1813. She was born 10 October 1794, the daughter of Abraham and Violate Gale Stockwell. She died 21 July 1880 at Pine Valley, Utah. William and Violate Burgess had eleven children. In their early married life they lived in Northeastern New York state. Ten of their eleven children were born there. Their oldest child, a son named Harrison, was born there 3 September 1814. Harrison was the first to hear of the Church of Latter-day Saints. The family decided to move to Kirtland, Ohio with Harrison to join the body of the church. William's family started for Kirtland with Harrison in September 1834. William stayed behind to transact some business and joined the family later. While the family was on the journey they accidently met the Prophet Joseph Smith and saw and heard him preach for the first time at Springfield, Pennsylvania. They arrived in Kirtland safely.

William Sr. soon had work and was later converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by his son's teachings. He was a very industrious man and worked very successfully as a blacksmith and carpenter, he also set up and operated sawmills. So when the Kirtland Temple was started he worked faithfully on the Temple with others. This Temple was dedicated 27 March 1836. William was one of the men who received a special blessing for working on the temple.

"There was no peace for the Saints so all were busy preparing to leave Kirtland, Ohio. One bright day, July 6th, I with my family of eight, my married sons, Harrison, Horace, and William Jr. with their families, friends and neighbors started."

A threat was made by their enemies that they would never leave Kirtland. When they did leave, it was the largest company of Saints to ever travel together. After traveling a few hundred miles they stopped at Dayton, Ohio where they worked to obtained means to move on to Missouri. As they passed through the towns the people would stand and stare at them, sometimes they even threw rotten eggs at them. As they went through one town a cannon was placed in the street to fire at them.

"I, with others, had quite a time trying to reason with these quarrelsome men, they took some of the Saints and put them in prison but later let them go."

When they got to Far West they soon left, going on thirty miles farther to Adam-Ondi-Ahman to settle. Orders were given for them to leave and many were driven from their homes.

"On leaving I, William Sr., and family stayed at my son, Horace's home a few miles southwest, as the mobs had burned our home and all we had to the ground"

"March 1838 I with my family, married sons and son-in-law, Zera Pulsipher and others left for Illinois, traveled 200 miles across the Mississippi River and went to a large tract of vacant land in North Adams County. I, my son, Horace, and John Pulsipher built a road into the woods called Bear Creek."

They cut timber and soon had a snug log cabin built, also 121 acres of land cleared and planted to corn and grain. This raised a fine crop.

"When the Nauvoo Temple was started I was among the first to start work on it."

The cornerstone was laid April 6th 1841. Nauvoo was the largest city in the upper Mississippi country. On June 27, 1844 the beloved Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed by the mob. After the Prophet's death the mantle fell on Brigham Young and the Saints knew he was to be their leader. In 1845 the Saints gathered in Nauvoo and labored and toiled to finish the Temple and it was dedicated in the spring.

Pres. Young and the twelve Apostles gave orders for the Saints to prepare to go to the valley of the mountains where the Lord wanted them to go. Pres. Young asked men to come forward with teams and provisions to go ahead and build roads and prepare the way for the Saints to follow.

"I was one of the first to accept the call, so on the second day of February 1846 with Zera Pulsipher and other dear friends we formed the first company. With Pres. Young and the twelve apostles we were out all that cold, stormy winter working our way westward, making roads through what later became the state of Iowa."

It would take too long to write all the original trek across the plains, so only a few [incidents] will be given.

"I, with sons, Horace and Abram made a skiff for fishing and would go up the Missouri River to a lake where the fishing was good and bring back a load of fish. What a blessing this was to the suffering Saints."

[In 1848] "On the bank of the Elkhorn River Pres. Young organized the Saints into companies. I was the captain of the first ten wagons which went ahead all the way across the plains.

A little boy was drowned. I, my son, Horace, and others made a coffin hewn from a log. We were 125 days on the journey across the plains. One baby boy was born to my son Wm Jr.

Later we settled in the 16th Ward in Salt Lake City after it was settled and laid out. We lived there until we were called to Southern Utah's Dixie. In the fall of 1861, I was a pioneer to Pine Valley, Utah."

William Burgess Sr. was a true Pioneer of the West and lived a pure, useful life, was an expert hunter, and a great lover of nature.

He was a kind father and husband and was loved by all. He and sons built and operated sawmills in Park City and Pine Valley.

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Elderly Picture of
 William Burgess, Sr.

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