Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tanner 30: George Jarvis

George Jarvis
b. 25 March 1823 Harlow, Essex, England
m. 17 September 1846 Harlow, Essex, England
d. 6 January 1913 St. George, Washington, Utah
b. 8 January 1913 St. George, Washington, Utah
Wife: Ann Prior
Father: Thomas Jarvis; Mother: Elizabeth Billings

Our pioneer ancestor, George Jarvis, was born in Harlow, Essex, England, March 25th, 1823, and was the fifth child and fourth son of Thomas and Elizabeth Billings Jarvis. Thomas was a hostler and farmer. Elizabeth was a nurse.

As a boy and youth he worked at farming and gardening, and later, in a grist mill. His employer had often heard George express a desire for the sea, and through his influence, obtained for the lad a position on ship-board as an apprentice for four years, when he was near seventeen years of age. He started on a voyage to South Australia, visiting China, India, and South Africa, and being gone about a year.

Another voyage was to West Australia, China, and the Malay Islands, loaded with tea, and return to London, lasting twenty-two months. Another voyage loaded with troops for South Africa; then went to Ceylon, and Calcutta. After that he changed ships and went again to China, loaded with tea, and returned again to London. Next he went on a voyage to North America, loaded with lumber, and returned to London, being gone about four months.

His apprenticeship over, George now joined the British Navy, and went to the West Indies. There he was unfortunate; he lost his big toe, got sick, and was blinded in one eye, and there was fear that he might lose both eyes. He was placed in a hospital in Jamaica, where he remained for four months. He was then invalided home to London, passed a medical examination by a naval surgeon, was an outdoor patient of the hospital and given a pension of sixpence a day for life. (He lost that, however, when he left England.)

George had previously met a beautiful girl, who was now almost seventeen, Ann Prior. They were married September 17th 1846, and went to Woolwich, where he was given the job of ship-keeper in the British Navy, and belonged to Her Majesty’s Flagship for about three years. While here he met Lorenzo Snow and Franklin D. Richards, elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He went home that night and told his wife what he had heard, that an angel had appeared to Joseph Smith and that the church had been organized as it was anciently, and now missionaries were visiting the people, being sent out as the apostles of Christ were. Ann listened intently to all he told her and then said “George, it’s true.”

They were both baptized by Ira Bradshaw on Christmas 1848, in the Thames river.

Not long after this, George went to work for Ravenhill and Miller, on Blackwall, London, as leading seaman for rigging purchases for lifting heavy machinery. He held that position for nine years, sometimes going on short voyages. He was anxious to emigrate to Utah, so he went on a voyage to China to get money for that purpose. On the voyage over the chief engineer was very friendly, and told George he would keep him on the steamboat to run from Hong Kong. Soon, however, he was discharged. He was much disappointed and grieved. He went to the engineer and asked if he had not given satisfaction. The engineer replied, “Yes, George, you know I like you, but you are a married man, and I think you had better go back to England.” He tried to get another job, but had a large boil on his arm and had to go to a hospital, which was very expensive. Everything seemed to be against him, and he finally sought the Lord in prayer, and the impression came, “Go home.”

At a post on the way home he heard of the massacre of European sailors. The Chinese war with England had begun. Had he remained he might have been slain with the other sailors. He felt that the Lord had overruled for his protection. He had been gone about a year, but had not obtained as much means as he had hoped. He found they only had enough to take them to Boston. They decided, however, to make the start.

It was the spring of 1857, and they had five small children. On board the SS George Washington, the cook became seasick, and George was given the position of chief cook, which lasted all the voyage, as the other man did not get well enough to take over. With only one helper, George cooked for 815 passengers, leaving his wife to care for the little ones.

Their stay in Boston was a very trying experience. It was a time of bank failures and general financial panic. Work was hard to get and wages were small. George was willing to work at whatever he could get to do, but was often out of a job. Housing could only be had in the poorest part of the city, which was also an unhealthy part. They were often without proper food, and in winter, fuel was also scarce and sometimes impossible to get sufficient to keep the family warm, as the weather was extremely cold. Added to these conditions, the wife and mother bore a child in the last of November 1857 (Margaret), and was so ill she was not able to be out of bed for four months. She could not nurse her baby, and with insufficient means to hire help, the little one was delicate, and had a real struggle to live.

In March 1859, another little girl was born, a beautiful child, and was apparently doing well, but at four months it died from cholera, after only a day or two sickness. The mother sorrowed for her loss, and was not completely recovered from her illness. They were, however, able to change locations to a little better place, and were getting some household necessities, but she grew worse again.

George Q. Cannon visited them, and advised Brother Jarvis to leave Boston and start for Utah. He said, “You may lose your wife on the way, but you will surely lose her if you stay here.” He administered to her, and gave him promise of work when they got to Florence, Nebraska. They sold their few belongings and managed to get enough means to take them to the frontier of the immigration, about a thousand miles from Salt Lake City.

Here George was employed by the church making tents and wagon covers for outfitting the company for the journey. They had to wait until all were ready, and while waiting, the mother was gaining in health, so that she was more fit to attempt the long journey. Brother Cannon arranged to have Brother Jarvis and a Brother Hunt have one outfit together, so that Sister Jarvis could ride, and the others take turns riding and walking.

But Brother Jarvis was not used to handling a team, so the other man drove and his wife rode, and the Jarvis family walked all the way, not even being allowed to let the little children ride occasionally for a rest.

They arrived in Salt Lake City in August 1860. George and the two oldest boys soon had work, they found a room to live in, and President Young let them have what food they needed in advance. On the 14th of October a son was born, who was named Heber.

They all rejoiced at being with the Saints, and during the next year had begun to prosper, and gain health and strength.

At October Conference 1861, President Young called for volunteers to go to Dixie. Our George was one of the first to volunteer. His wife was not pleased, but by early December the company was ready to start. The Jarvis family did not have as good an outfit as had been requested, nor the provisions specified, but they went, walking most of the way. They were the first to move onto their city lot in the St. George townsite.
First they lived in a tent, but soon worked together and made adobes and built a house with upstairs rooms, and later added other rooms on the ground. The first years it was hard to get flour enough, and they had to substitute caneseed and corn and some bran, and sometimes the flour was sticky, so they wanted for some necessities and all niceties for some years. But by industry and taking advantage of natural resources, they managed to live and build up a home city that has been noted all over the Church.

There were dams and ditches to build, crops to plant, care for the harvest, they built a tabernacle and the first temple the Saints built this side of the Mississippi River. All of these projects received due support from the Jarvis family. George had charge of all the scaffolding during the construction of the temple, and also charge of swinging the font into place on the backs of the oxen.

Picture of the scaffolding on the St. George Temple.

He sent to England for grape seeds, and from them originated two kinds of grapes that were extensively planted in Southern Utah, and both became very popular—a white and a dark grape. His home lot contained many sorts of vegetables, fruits, vines and flowers, and was a show place in the city.

Nor were his church duties neglected. He served as superintendent of Sunday School, president of ward teachers, a member of the bishopric for many years, and later, was ordained a patriarch, and gave hundreds of blessings. He expressed himself as more pleased with that calling than if a million dollar legacy had been given him.

His daughter Josephine makes the following comments:
One day during an illness when my brother Brigham was taking care of father, he said, "Brig, I have traveled all over the seas, have visited many countries, and I thank God I am as pure as the day my mother bore me." ... He has accumulated no wealth, yet to my mind he is rich, vastly so, in the record he has made of honesty, temperance, purity of life, and integrity to the Gospel. I lived at home until my 29th year and I can testify that I never heard or knew of a dishonest act of his. I never heard him utter a vulgar or profane word: he was always loyal to those in authority in the Church. Never a word of fault-finding in them was allowed in our home. He was the kindest, most indulgent father! Words fail me when I try to express my love and admiration of his character.

During the last years of his life his health was poor and his memory failed to some extent. He passed quietly away on the 6th of January 1913, after about a week’s illness from Lagrip or “flu.” He would have been ninety years old in March.

Adapted by Margaret Overson from sketches and history had in the family, and from a sketch written by his youngest daughter, Josephine Jarvis Miles. In Margaret Jarvis Overson, George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy. Mesa, Arizona: 1957, i:34–38.

I see that someone put up a family site online at

Image of St. George temple from Image of St. George desert landscape from Photo of grapes Photo of art of ships at sea


  1. I am the daughter of Stella Jarvis Peterson, daughter of Margaret Jarvis. I have some of the original pictures that you mentioned, but I do not know how to scan pictures to send them to you. In 2004, I published a large volume on the posterity of Stella Jarvis, complete with bios and pictures of each of her 600 descendants (as of 2004). There
    are many more descendants now. It also includes bios and pictures of our ancestors, which includes a portion of Ann Prior's original diary. It is included in the book in Ann Prior's own words. This diary was passed down from Ann herself to her daughter, Margaret to her daughter, Stella Peterson, to her daughter, Pauline Hansen, to her son, Boyd Hansen to me, Boyd's Aunt, Lois Peterson, Salisbury. If anyone is interested in this information, they can contact me at: , 801-377-5133, or at 1798 N. Cobblestone Drive, Provo, Utah. I still have a limited number of the books left.
    Sincerely, Lois Salisbury

  2. i am the son of nephi jarvis. i came into some info on the where a bouts of samuel walter jarvis diary and , and i believe wedding ring or engagement ring he gave to his wife plus his repeating rifle. i also have pictures of all his brothers in a group in mexico along with other pictures and other stories when he was in mexico during the revolution.along with that i have an oral history of joe jarvis jr. concerning his dad joe jarvis sr..

  3. That's wonderful that all this information can be shared among the extended family. Make sure you visit the family site mentioned in the last paragraph of this post and send your information and stories to Mark Jarvis. His website is a great resource for all the members of the George and Ann Jarvis family.

  4. I am the daughter of Merlin A Reader his mother Edith G Reader/Reeder Jarvis her parents George Fredrick Gregory and Dliah Ann Bright. I do genealogy and can not afford ancestry. My name is Kathy and I was born and raised in SLC Ut. I currently live in Klamath Falls Oregon. My dad used to do genealogy as well as my sister Brandy. I'm on Facebook as Kathy Ann. I would love stories and get to know my family history. email is

  5. I am of the Jarvis line through Heber Jarvis, Jesse Rulon Jarvis Sr., Jesse Rulon Jarvis Jr. and Rex Albert Jarvis was my Father. My Father was very proud of his LDS ancestry and the integrity they showed. I have children and a grandchild of my own, my siblings have great grandchildren. THis puts many generations from George and Ann Jarvis. Yet, their St. George and Mesa AZ. temples still stand as monuments to their hard work, integrity, and faithfulness. I'm a proud GGGG Granddaughter.

  6. Wonderful! Happy to "meet" you.

  7. I am of the Jarvis line through Heber Jarvis, Jesse Rulon Jarvis Sr., Jesse Rulon Jarvis Jr. and Rex Albert Jarvis was my Father. My Father was very proud of his LDS ancestry and the integrity they showed. I have children and a grandchild of my own, my siblings have great grandchildren. THis puts many generations from George and Ann Jarvis. Yet, their St. George and Mesa AZ. temples still stand as monuments to their hard work, integrity, and faithfulness. I'm a proud GGGG Granddaughter.