John Rowley and Sarah Wright Family Messenger

RALPH NEPHI ROWLEY, Second Installment

Since the printing of the last installment of the history a great deal more research has been done and many more interesting facts have been gleaned. For this reason we will go back in our history to the time of their boarding the “Kennebec.”

They came with the first Company of the “Perpetual Emigration Fund.” They boarded ship the day before sailing with their own bedding, enough food for the crossing and their own cooking utensils.

They sailed with their three sons, John Thompson, who was five years old, Hugh who was three and baby Ephraim, just four months old. Ralph Nephi was twenty seven and his wife, Mary Ann, twenty six.

The “Kennebec” was a new and commodious ship of 1,070 tons. She sailed out of Bromley, Moore Doc, Liverpool, England the 10th of January 1852. There were 333 persons on board under the direction of John B. Higbee, who had labored as a missionary to England from 1849 until the sailing.

Included among the Saints who sailed on the “Kennebec” were sixty passengers, who were assisted by the Perpetual Emigration Fund.

Among the Saints were many craftsmen. They were going to Zion, their hearts filled to overflowing with the Joy the Gospel brings and in addition they were leaving a land of poverty and unemployment with hopes of being a real help to their fellow Saints in a land where they could thrive, own houses and land as well as live the Gospel without persecution. A land choice above all other lands!

Besides the Saints there were a number of Irish emigrants on board, who were not of their faith, they were not supplied sufficient provisions to last them until the end of the voyage; but in order to lay in a sufficient supply, they stole all they possibly could from the Latter-Day Saints, who consequently had to go short themselves, and were compelled to subsist on half rations the last four or five days before landing. These Irish emigrants were taken on board because there were not Saints enough to fill the ship. Peace and harmony prevailed among the latter as a rule; also good health; the provisions and water were good and wholesome and included oatmeal and pork, but as the English did not like oatmeal and the Scots could not relish pork, they exchanged these articles of food with each other, to the great satisfaction of both parties. As Mary Ann was Scottish and Ralph Nephi was English, I wonder how their preferences were.

On board ship the Saints were isolated from the rest of the passengers and did very little associating with them. Their days were planned by wise leaders and there was a time for study and religious meeting as well as instruction in the things they would need to know when they crossed the plains. In general, the Saints were fed and cared for better than the rest of the passengers.

The voyage throughout was a safe and pleasant one with the exception of one terrific hurricane, which swept the deck clean of cook houses, water barrels and everything else that could be washed overboard. During this terrible storm Mary Ann sat on the floor of the lower deck gathering her three children close around her, she put her arms around them and shut her eyes and prayed, fearing that they might go down any time. There were dozens of women and children around her, some of them crying and praying. Ralph Nephi with the rest of the men, was on deck helping the sailors. There were over three hundred people on board of different nationalities and beliefs. It was a great experience to see how differently each was taking this terrifying experience. After a while the storm let up and the sea quieted.

They arrived in New Orleans on March 11, 1852. They had emigrated in their native Scottish costume and as they waited to board the other boat many remarks were made by the bystanders, of the beautiful child John and of what a striking picture he made with his long blonde ringlets and dressed as he was in kilts.

Some of the Saints from the “Kennebec” continued the journey on board a small boat called “The Pride of the West” and arrived at St. Louis, Missouri, about the end of March. Some of the Saints remained temporarily in St. Louis. Some of the Saints took passage from here to Kansas City on the ill-fated “Saluda”, which was chartered by Eli B. Kelsey. The “Saluda” blew up killing many of the Saints who were on board. Other Saints took passage on a small river steamer, “The Isabel”, (I think the Rowley’s were on this boat, although, Uncle George Arthur Rowley, remembered it as the “St. Angie”, I could find no record of the “St. Angie” but the “Isabel” fills his description). The “Isabel” and the “Saluda” passed each other many times on their trip up the river. The “Isabel” came up the river three hours after the disaster (April 9, 1852) and picked up many of the surviving passengers of the terrible tragedy. Among those killed were Helen Dunbar, wife of Wm. C. Dunbar, and their two children, Euphemia, age six years and Franklin Lorenzo, age one year. They were from Scotland. Mary Ann’s mother, Mary Ann O’Brian, had first been married to Alexander Dunbar and after his death she married Mary Ann’s father, Hugh Thompson. Could these Dunbar’s have been relatives of Mary Ann’s? just how much this tragedy touched the lives of Mary Ann and Ralph Nephi we have been unable to ascertain. They arrived in Kansas City three days after leaving St. Louis.

From Kansas City they went to Kanesville, Iowa, the outfitting station for their journey across the plains. There was a long delay here until more wagons could be secured.

They left Council Bluffs, Iowa, June 1, 1852, in the Abraham O. Smoot Company, with Christopher Layton as assistant Captain. There were 250 people in this company with thirty one wagons. This was the first company of European Saints to cross the plains under the direction of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. The company was well organized with men assigned to all the different tasks, Joseph Davis Matthews was one of the hunters chosen to furnish the Saints with fresh meat.

Of their journey across the plains, Uncle George Arthur Rowley tells the following:

“Mary Ann walked most of the way across the plains and drove a two yoke team of oxen, three steers and a cow.”

While crossing the plains a Mrs. Brockbank was lost and never found. No one ever knew whether she perished or fell into the hands of Indians. Mrs. Brockbank had a baby girl, Agnes; Mary Ann had a nursing baby Ephraim George, so she nursed and cared for both babies throughout the journey. Mrs. Brockbank left three other children besides baby Agnes. Two of these Uncle George Arthur Rowley knew in later life; Isaac Brockbank of Salt Lake City and Elizabeth Bushnell of Meadow, Millard, Utah.

George Arthur Rowley continues: “I will call some of the families who came across the plains in the same company, John Cooper, family of Fillmore, the Charlesworth family of Meadow and the Brockbank family of Salt Lake City, Utah.

They arrived in Salt Lake City Sept. 3, 1852. The company was met by the First Presidency with William Pitts’ band and many other leading citizens. This company brought the remains of Elder Lorenzo D. Barnes and William Burton, who died while on missions to Great Britain.

It is not known where they stayed or what their circumstances were when they got to Salt Lake City. We know only that they were in Salt Lake City one month to the day when they lost baby Ephraim George. He had been born 16 August 1851 in Glasgow, Scotland, while they were preparing to migrate to Zion. He had lived through the happy time of preparation. Lived with them the experiences of crossing the great waters and shared his mother’s love and sustenance with the little orphan girl, Agnes. He had suffered many hardships crossing the plains. He lived to be buried among the Saints who had made the supreme sacrifice—in this OUR BELOVED ZION!!

Ralph and Mary Ann were called to Fillmore where he helped to build the State house, for he was a very good rock mason, having learned the trade when building kilns to bake his pottery in. in all things of this nature Ralph Nephi was well trained.

In October of 1852 many families arrived from Salt Lake in Fillmore. It is my opinion that it was at this time that the Ralph Nephi Rowley family went there.

If they lived with the rest of the State House workers, they lived in a tent or shanty that first winter; right on the State House grounds or on what was at the time called the Public Square.

Because of Indian trouble all the men had to be ready to take up their guns and defend the settlement. Whenever there was an Indian scare, Ralph Nephi was ready with the others under Captain Henry Standish to defend the settlement.

These kind-hearted people, unused to these harsh pioneer conditions, where they must be always on the alert for a skirmish that could well be a life and death affair, were further concerned and shocked when one of their close associates, Charles Robinson was stabbed and nearly killed by an Indian, who tried to break through the window of his sister’s cabin.

Ralph became personally acquainted with Chief Kanosh at this time; a friendship that endured on down through the years through the many circumstances that brought them together. They had come at a time when the Indian affairs had flared into the most serious trouble all over the state, at the very beginning of the Walker and Black Hawk wars. They lived in the very country that the Red man claimed for their own for this was the vicinity of the home of the Indians. The Rowley’s stayed and lived through all of the Indian troubles and wars.

Ralph and his family were so closely associated with the Indians that they all learned to speak the language and could converse with them fluently. The Piute Indians, better known as the Kanosh Indians were not bad Indians. They were peace loving. It was Indians from other parts who would come to Millard County and do their wicked work. Ralph Nephi and his son John Thompson who at the time was a small boy would take their turn carrying the gun, joining scout parties, hunting horses and cattle after the Indian had stolen them and driven them away.

Hugh Thompson, Mary Ann’s father sailed from Liverpool, England, 28 February 1853 and arrived in New Orleans, 23 April 1853. Not long after this they were able to welcome this most wonderful old man, who was so loved by every one that babies are still being named in his honor. What a reunion it must have been! The tales they had to tell each other. All but three people had been baptized on the ship he came over on. Even the Captain had been baptized, 48 people had been baptized as they crossed the ocean. When he arrived in Fillmore he had a heavy oak chest and in one drawer of that chest was $10,000 all in English Gold Sovereigns, one English sovereigns is equal to a $5.00 gold piece in the United States money. The story goes that he later consecrated this entire amount to the Church.

The teacher was giving a test in health class. One question was this: “How should you retain your posture?” the country boy chewed his pencil hesitantly and then wrote, “Keep the cows out and let it grow a while.”


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