My Great-Great-Grandfather William P Smith

By Laraine Smith

My great-great grandfather William P Smith was the father of Hyrum Smith who was the father of Hyrum Ernest Smith Sr. who was the father of Hyrum Ernest Smith Jr. I (Laraine Smith) am the daughter of Hyrum Ernest Smith Jr.

William P Smith was born January 22, 1810 a son of Alice Smith and Thomas Smith. Very little is known about his early life in England (map). It is known that he was always high spirited and headstrong. He did a lot of boxing, and the young men of the town liked to make little wagers. Once he won a watch. When he decided to come to America he tried to bet it to gain a little money. He kept betting it, but after winning it back the third time, he decided to keep the watch which he brought to Utah with him.

William's father was a doctor and often William would accompany him on herb gathering trips. William learned to make healing salves and medicines and helped his father set broken bones.

The girl of William's choice was a girl by the name of Mary Grimshaw, daughter of Ann Lisonbee and Jonathan Grimshaw, she was born March 1, 1815, Her parents disapproved because they classed William as being wild and irresponsible. One night when William brought Mary home later than her parents thought was proper, her father came out to scold. William became angry and doused him in the rain barrel. Mary's father in his anger turned her out saying that he never wanted to see her again. She went to live in William's house. It was the custom In England at that time for those who intended to marry to have their engagement announced in church for three successive Sunday's. They walked five miles to church to do this. They were united in marriage on April 11, 1834 and their first child, Nathan, was born the first day of March 1835 (cemetery marker).

The first time William attended a Mormon meeting, it is said that he went to scoff, but he was invited to come up front and help with the singing and he stayed to listen. A friend who had previously joined had a bit of influence with him, and when Nathan was seven years old the Smith family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their family consisted of Nathan 7 years, Maria 2, and Alice a baby of three weeks (cemetery marker). They all set sail that same year, in August 1842 for America.

Not long before they were scheduled to reach New York, Marie became very ill and died. The ships captain wanted to bury the little one at sea, but William persuaded him to wait until they reached land. As soon as land was sighted they stopped and buried the dead child (Ed. Note: Several other biographies indicate that this event occurred after William P and family had left New York and were travelling up the Mississippi River to Nauvoo). They then went on to New York. The complete sea voyage took seven weeks.

They stayed in New York for one year and then continued on their journey to join the Saints In Nauvoo (map). They went by water, by the Gulf of Mexico and then up the Mississippi River as it was less expensive.

The Smiths lived in Nauvoo for about four years and there Joseph (cemetery marker) and Mary Ann were born. William worked on the temple while Nathan helped carry water. During the time of strife and the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, William and his family were also persecuted by the unfriendly mobs. When the majority of the saints were driven out of Nauvoo, William's wife, Mary, and two children were very ill with fever, so ill that they couldn't be moved. Armed men came and ordered the family to leave. William who had seen the men approaching had quickly passed guns and ammunition through a hole in the chinking between the logs in the back of the house to Nathan who hid them in the cornfield. After seeing how sick Mary and the children were and finding no firearms, the men gave them more time. They even gave William a job cleaning out the wells that the saints had been accused of poisoning.

On October 16, 1847 with an outfit of one horse, one oxen, and an old wagon with no cover, they, with the other saints started toward Utah (map of the Pioneer Trail). The weather was wet and cold and the Mother especially suffered from exposure and poor health. But everyone was the same: poor outfits, scant clothing, and very little to eat. However, with stout hearts they moved forward. They had exhausted their scanty food supply and the winter winds were beginning. They were many miles from help in either direction, but they had faith in the Lord, who they had sacrificed so much to follow, would not forsake them. A cold west wind was blowing and snow began to fall. It seemed they had reached almost the end of their endurance and despair was in their hearts when flocks of quail began drifting into their camp. The hunters had searched far and wide for food and had found nothing. The quail, indeed, seemed "Manna from Heaven"

The saints stopped at Ferryville, near Council Bluffs, Iowa (map) to rest and recuperate and William was called to preside over that branch of the church while they were there. William and his family stayed there five years where William Jr. and Hyrum were born. Nathan and his father operated a ferry boat across the river. They saved up enough to buy a fine wagon with horses, instead of oxen to pull it. They had many tools and nice household utensils. There were plenty of provisions and many kinds of seed to be planted in their new home, and also there was a nice size herd of cattle and sheep.

In 1852, William and family again started on toward Utah, overtaking Captain Wheellock's company. Cholera broke out among the people and many died and were buried on the plains. Nathan contracted the disease and his mother's faith and warm catnip tea was believed to have saved his life. Later the Smith family separated from the company and traveled the rest of the way to Salt Lake City under the leadership of Captain McGary, arriving in Salt Lake City October 6, 1852 after a seven week trip. Ten days later they moved to land bordering on the Little Cottonwood Creek later known as Union (map; see also Union Ward). Union Fort was built by the settlers to protect them from the Indians. Most of the families built their homes inside the fort.

William's first home was of logs brought from a nearby canyon. One day when a group of men were in the canyon getting wood they heard groaning. Investigating they found an Indian with a broken leg. William set the bone and cared for the injured Indian. Because of William's skill in setting bones and making medicines with herbs, he was looked upon as a great Medicine Man by the Indians and they never harmed him or his family. William Smith never moved inside the fort. Whenever his neighbors would urge him to, and mention the Indians he would say, "Tut, tut, they will not harm thee!" The Indians liked and trusted him and many times came to him for aid when they were ill or had broken bones.

William also acted as doctor and dentist for his neighbors and friends. He used a queer instrument for pulling teeth called a turnkey. The turnkey was fastened onto a tooth, a piece of soft cloth was placed over the nearby teeth and the tooth was pried out. This was very painful for the patient.

It was a hard, trying, process making a home in a new land. Willows and sagebrush had to be uprooted before the soil could be made ready and crops planted. Ditches had to be dug from the creeks to carry water to the fields. And the grasshoppers seemed to return every second year. When they came they would devour every living green thing in their path. The settlers would drive them into the streams to drown them. Then they would scoop them out by the bucket full. Huge piles of grasshoppers would decay and stink. The chickens would eat grasshoppers until their eggs would be red inside,

To add to their troubles, little William became sick and on February 22, 1853 he died and was buried in the Union Fort Pioneer Cemetery.

Two more sons were born to the Smiths in Union Fort -- Thomas and John. When John was about three weeks old, his mother Mary went to act as midwife to a neighbor. It was a cold wet night in October and when she returned home, and was putting up her horse, one of the poles slipped and struck her on the chest. It was not known whether it was the injury or if she caught cold which caused the congestion in her lungs and caused her death on November 14, 1856.

The following January little John lay very ill. A colt had been missing for several days, and the older boys had been hunting for it. Thomas, about four, who was looking out the window called "Come quick, here is Mother, bringing the colt," but they, after running to the window could not see their Mother. All they could see was the colt. Tommy said "Can't you see her? She's standing by the chopping block, she is coming for the baby in the morning." The next morning the baby died.

Alice, the oldest daughter, cared for the younger children for a couple of years until she married. Then Mary Ann acted as housekeeper.

William worked very hard to take care of his motherless children. He helped in the home and farmed with his boys raising hay, grain, fruit, and vegetables.

He gave his time and services to help his friends and neighbors, his church and his community. Although he was not a doctor with an M.D., he could help his fellow men in many ways. He understood herbs and their usage. He made a very good salve from herbs and their tallow for skin infections. His canker medicine combining herb tea and golden seal drug was widely used. He would gather the herbs in season and dry them to cure them. When Bishop Silas Richards' (cemetery monument) counselors were called elsewhere in 1862 William was called to serve as a counselor in the Union Little Cottonwood ward, in which he served for about seven years. He also owned one of the first hand powered farming mills used to blow the chaff from grain and peas.

As a youth in England William had learned to be a weaver. He wove three kinds of cloth, one was called jeans for men's or boy's clothes, one was linsey or linsey-woolsey for women's and girl's clothes and the other was flannel. He also wove blankets. His interest in weaving led to his meeting and marrying a woman who could also weave cloth and blankets. William and Anna Benson were married in the Endowment House December 12, 1863. They had three children, James (cemetery marker), Zelphia and Elizabeth. Zelphia was the only one who lived to adulthood (obituary). This marriage was not a happy one and ended in divorce on September 12, 1867.

At the time the step-mother left, Hyrum was 15 and Thomas 13. They became very close as they were always together at work on the farm or relaxing at community get togethers. Hyrum was six feet tall, but Thomas topped him in height by several inches. Tom although broad and very athletic was a very peaceful boy. When the Sandy youths and Union boys bad trouble Tom would try to settle the dispute without fighting. If the fighting was already starting Tom could often help stop it and bring peace to the group.

Zelphia's mother married a man in Oakley, Utah (map) and she and her daughter moved there. Throughout the years William kept in touch with Zelphia, doing things for her to show his love and his interest in her health and well being. Later when William heard that Zelphia was working in the mining town of Park City, he loaded a wagon with flour, fruits, and vegetables and sent Hy and Tom to take it to her. The boys were very happy to go as they loved their half sister very much.

William P Smith married Sarah Pidd Griffiths who was previously married to Joseph Griffiths, born January 18, 1816 at Hinford, Shropshire, England and died July 20, 1860 in the Union Fort. He married Sarah Pidd on March 23, 1860. Since he [Joseph Griffiths] was already married to his first wife, Ann, this was a polygamous marriage. Three children were born of this marriage, Joseph, who died at birth, Lucy Ann, and George Henry, who as a baby, died accidently by falling into a hot tub of soap. Ann was the mother of seven children. Joseph Griffiths became my great-great-grandfather; Sarah Pidd Griffiths my great-great-gandmother; Lucy Ann Griffiths my great grandmother. (Ed. Note: Joseph and Sarah's surviving daughter Lucy later married William P and Mary Smith's son Hyrum. In this fashion, Sarah Pidd and Joseph Griffiths become direct ancestors of Laraine.)

The Griffiths' had a farm, but the widows could not handle the heavy work involved. The children were too small to help much. How to support the family was a problem. Sarah was an expert dressmaker and tailor having learned the skill as an apprentice in England. She had already taken care of the clothing needs for the Griffiths family. Clothing could not be purchased so all wearing apparel was handmade. Sarah began sewing for many families in the Union area. For about seven years she provided the income while Ann cared for the home and children. One of the families Sarah did sewing for was at the William P Smith home.

While visiting the Smiths, Sarah and William became socially interested. He took her to church socials, and for a time picked her up at the Griffiths' home. After some time Ann was afraid they would marry, so she forbade William to come to the home. Sarah began cooking meals at the Smith home. She made a soda dough which was cooked on a hot griddle. Everybody liked this kind of bread and called it "Sparkling Cakes". Finally they decided to get married and headed by horse and buggy to the Endowment House in Salt Lake. Ann heard about their plans and arrived at the Endowment house ahead of them. She was very upset and told the authorities that William and Sarah must not marry; if they did she and her children will lose all their means of support. Upon the arrival of William and Sarah, the authorities would not marry them. However, the authorities told them they were sure the problem could be resolved, and for them to return later and the marriage would be performed. It had been over seven years since her husband, Joseph Griffiths had died and all these years her earnings had gone for the support of her and Ann's families. Also Ann's boys were now older and more able to handle the work on the farm. Sarah's help was not as necessary.

So William and Sarah started home very angry and disappointed. Suddenly William suggested that they go up to Fort Douglas and be married. So they turned around and went to the fort and were married by Judge Titus November 23, 1867. The people of the community were scandalized. They decided that if William and Sarah were married by a non-Mormon they had left the church. Many were no longer friendly. It became dangerous for William and Sarah to be away from home after dark. Several times shots were fired at them and once a bullet went between them as they sat on the wagon seat coming home from a shopping trip. But William went unconcerned about his own affairs. He and his boys farmed and his wife and her ten year old daughter, Lucy, fitted very well into life in the Smith household.

On November 4, 1868 William and Sarah were blessed with twins. Isaac died after three days and Sarah lived to be eight years old (cemetery marker). Little Sarah was a sweet loveable child and everyone grieved deeply when she died.

Following is a story told by Lucy Ann about her experience helping her step-father weave. "By the time my mother married William there was a factory in Salt Lake that would take their wool in trade for yarn. Father Smith and mother would bring the yarn home and after the summer's work was over the weaving would commence. First the warp was reeled onto the warping frame wick. This kept mother and me busy for about three days. Then it was put onto the loom; then the weaving could be started. Mother and I wound the bobbins and we had to keep the wheel going to keep ahead of Father. He could make the shuttle fairly fly and I can hear him now calling out in his shrill voice "Bobbins, Bobbins", and it made him out of patience if he had to wait for them. We would fill all the bobbins we had at night to try to keep ahead of him. Sometimes something would go wrong with the warp and he would have to get off the loom to fix it. I'd be glad of this break and to get ahead with the bobbin winding again. I remember one night a kitten was in the house and it got on the loom and tangled the yarn. Father Smith was so angry about having to straighten out the warp that he wouldn't speak to mother or me for almost two weeks. We were glad when company dropped in and he got over his sulking spell."

"William Smith" being quite a common name, William's mail often got mixed up with other William Smith's mail, so he decided to borrow the initial from Sarah's maiden name. And from then on he signed his name William "P" Smith.

William was a very busy man throughout his life building a home, breaking up the farm land planting the crops, making irrigation ditches. He was very industrious, and a hard worker and he certainly had the courage and determination to succeed. It is sometimes said he had a quick temper and was self willed, at times very temperamental. He had endured many hardships and had made many sacrifices, but this did not stop his will to prosper.

Genealogy Collection provided by:
Becky S. Porter, 2493 S. Hulls Crossing, Preston, Idaho 83263

E-Mail: Roland K. Smith