Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Death of Willie Jarvis, 1881

When English immigrants George and Ann Prior Jarvis arrived in St. George, Utah, in 1861, they had seven children with them. An infant daughter had died in Boston. 

After they moved to St. George, they had three more children: Emmaline, Josephine, and Thomas William, named after his grandfather.

They lost Willie, as they called him, in 1881. Here are three accounts, plus a special anecdote Ann recorded in her diary.

From Diary of Charles Lowell Walker:
St George 5th April Tues 1881  At the Temple all day. About 2 P.M. we had a terrific storm [with] defening claps of Thunder which shook the earth and the Houses and the Temple windows, and water pipes shook very lively. The lightening struck 2 Boys killing Willie Jarvis nearly 8 years old, and wounding a little Son of Br D H Cannon's Which has spread a gloom over the town.
From the diary of David H. Morris:
On April 5 there was a terrible thunderstorm, accompanied with lightning which once struck the spire of the tabernacle running down the pinicle, part inside and part out, which also divided and run down the front part of the building and striking the steps. [Eugene] Schoppman was teaching school at the time, but his pupils being frightened at the thunder, dismissed school; four little boys being out at the time sought shelter in the door of the building, where they were all standing in a row, the one to the south, Willie Jarvis was instantly killed by lightning that came down the above mentioned shock and Angus Cannon (D. H. Cannon's boy) had his leg struck dum[b] for a while." [April 7, 1881; as quoted in Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 549.]
From “Short Sketch of the Life of Anne [sic] Prior Jarvis”:
Two more children were born to us in St. George, a daughter and a son – our last baby. 
When he was seven yrs. and six months old, he was killed by lightning on the tabernacle steps. Apr. 5 1881. O, that trial, I thought that would kill me. It helped to destroy my health. He was going to Martha Snow’s school. I tried to be cheerful, and tried to comfort my family. I knew it was wrong to be selfish even in grief. And, although I kissed the rod and thought the Lord wanted to chastise me, yet I knew that Lord did comfort me, and ruled it for my good. I had a dream, before he died, that I lost him in a crowd, and I knew I could never find him. Two little boys came to me to comfort me.
I told them they were dear boys – but not my Willie. He was very kind to me. Two nights before he was killed he jumped up out of bed, when I was groaning with the pain in my chest. He laid his hands on me, and prayed in the name of Jesus. He was an active, quick, intelligent child. Bro. Erastus Snow gave me great comfort, when he returned from S. L. City. He spoke about the accident in his fatherly manner. He said, The boys are in a higher school. He had lost one about Willie’s age by diphtheria. I realize all I had any claim to, is in the graveyard. I cannot say – he was mine. We do not own anything on this earth, only as our Father will bestow blessings upon us, yet we are selfish and think “This is mine.” Bro. Snow advised my husband to take a trip to Arizona, which we did leaving Mar. 1882. I felt I could not go unless my next youngest boy Heber went with us. He and my youngest daughter, Josephine, both went. [34-35.]

And, last, here is a dream that a recent Scottish immigrant, Jessie Cunningham Gray, shared with the grieving parents, and which Ann recorded in her diary.

A Dream to Jessie Cunningham Gray 
I entered a large house East, a house of the Lord, and I entered a room on the right hand. there were three men in the room. One was our Savior, the other Bro Jarvis, the third person I do not know. There was a large table and a glass pitcherful of clear water and a box. There was two clear stones in the box of a square shape. Our Savior took the two stones from the box and gave one to Bro Jarvis and one to the other man. Both men looked through the glasses. Bro. Jarvis said “I would like to see my Willie [.”] Our Savior called, “Willie, come forth.” Willie came forth and stood before his father. Bro Jarvis said, “Willie you do look pretty.” Our Savior answered, “Yes, he looks pretty.” Our Savior said “Willie, go rest in peace, and you shall be called forth in the morning of the first resurrection, a king.


  1. Such wonderful material you have gathered, compiled, and shared. You are a fine teacher. Thank you.