Monday, April 14, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 12)

Part 1 (Introduction and Index)

Many settlers regarded that portion of the trail from Sunset Crossing as the worst part of the journey. Here the trail led through an uninhabited desert. Water was the worst problem. Most of the time it was unavailable, and when it was, it was often bad tasting and dirty. In his diary, David K. Udall records the following:
We were hard put to make it from one watering place to the next. The women had to get very thirsty before they would drink the brackish, muddy water which often had wrigglers in it. But we let the mud settle and drained out the wrigglers, and it wasn’t so bad. [65]
After enduring the rigors of that journey from Kingston to St. Johns, David Thomas, Adeline, Frances and David John, along with son, Isaac Thomas, and his family and John (Adeline’s brother) and Jesse Springthorpe arrived in St. Johns on November 19, 1881. There they camped on the Public Square. Eight other men and their families from Kingston were in that group. [66] James and John Hewitt, Frances’ orphaned sons, also went to St. Johns with their aunt Adeline and the other Thomas family members. [67]

Of this company, Brother John Henry Heap said:
We had so little. We had to bring provisions for two years. Those who had two wagons brought one or two small pieces of furniture. We had one brass kettle which we still have. A young man named Peterson made chairs with rawhide bottoms and sold to the new settlers. A few years later, when we got a little cash, we bought beds and a few other articles from the Barth Mercantile.
Frances Ann Christensen, (David and Adeline’s daughter), Aunt Fannie, said:
We just couldn’t carry enough grain or flour to last two years. We had to buy flour at $12 a hundred and it too often was filled with weevils. I remember we built father’s blacksmith shop first. Mother cooked in there. The men would come in from work so tired and hungry. Father would give them a dish of whatever mother was cooking—even if there wasn’t enough for the family… [68]
When the group arrived in St. Johns, Arizona, Nov 20, 1881, the first order of business was to secure land where homes could be built for their families. On Friday, November 25, David paid twenty dollars and one cow worth $15 for city lots 1 and 4 in block 20. He signed a note for the remaining money, probably about $65. Isaac bought lot 2 in the same block while John Springthorpe bought lots 3 and 2 in block 16 and James Hewitt bought lot 4 and John Hewitt bought lot 1 in block 16. It appears that most of them signed a note agreeing to pay the purchase price in installments in the coming years. [69] 

On October 13, 1891 St. Johns Co-operative Mercantile and Manufacturing Institution issued a receipt to Isaac Thomas for a house and two lots. [70] It is probable that the two lots and the house were given back to the church as payment on the original purchase of land by David N. Thomas. Local St. Johns historians report that the home later burned so there is no physical evidence today of David and Adeline’s stay in St. Johns. 

With the land secured and the cold and wind of a desert winter upon them, the men hastened to the White Mountains to obtain lumber to build some sort of shelter. The wives and children slept in the covered wagon beds set up off the ground, and were left in St. Johns while the men went into the White Mountains. [71] The White Mountains were thirty to forty miles away from St. Johns and trees suitable for lumber were plentiful there. Still it would have taken some time to prepare the lumber, haul it back to St. Johns and then build the homes, so the families probably had to endure a cold and windy winter in those wagon boxes. Frances remembers that her father built the blacksmith shop first, and her mother cooked the family meals there, but apparently they still slept in those covered wagon boxes for a while longer. 

To be continued...

[65] Shumway, The First 100 Years: St. Johns Arizona Stake, 12.

[66] List of Households in Kingston, 1880, showing those called to Arizona mission. [Appendix 2] Extrapolated from “1880 Federal census” and newspaper clipping of 1881.

[67] “Record of Land Purchases,” Saint Johns Ward, Eastern Arizona Stake, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, LR7779 21 (100000534295). Records show they purchased land same day as David and Isaac. See appendix #2.

[68] LeRoy C. and Mabel R. Wilhelm, A History of the St. Johns Arizona Stake: The Triumph of Man and His Religion Over the Perils of a Raw Frontier, 1982, The St. Johns Arizona Stake. At the Apache County Historical Society Museum, St. Johns, Arizona, also at LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, 1059492.

[69] “Record of Land Purchases.”

[70] Receipt from St. Johns Co-operative Mercantile. Collection of James L. Tanner, Picasa Online Album, Thomas and Springthorpe Collection. (See Appendix 2.)

[71] Waite, “Brief History of Isaac Thomas.”

Picture of pasture south of St. Johns, Arizona, from Flickr, courtesy of Ken Lund, available under a Creative Commons license.

Rigby, Helen. “A History of David Nathan Thomas and his wives, Mary, Adeline & Frances.” Utah: n.p., 2011.

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