CHARLES BENJAMIN HARPER
Charles Benjamin Harper, the son of Elizabeth Phipps Brand and Benjamin Harper, was born November 21, 1848, at Saville St., Hackney, London, N. E. The family moved several times during his early years. Including these places in order: Bath Grove; an unknown location; Garden Place; Walworth Road, on the south side of the Thames, where Alfred was born. Next they moved to Leather Lane, Holborn, London, E. G. Here Charles was baptized at the age of eight. The next move was to Southampton St., Camberwell, which was also on the south side of the river. They moved to Saint Leonard’s Street, Bromley By Bow. This was their last move before coming to America.
His first school experience was at a Dame School which he attended at the age of six or seven. Their cost three pence (four to six cents) per week. Following this he attended a larger public school which he had no clear remembrance. At Leather Lane he attended “Baldwin’ Garden National School” for boys only. However, a girl’s school was also maintained and once a week the girls joined the boys for singing practice. The name of this school was decidedly a misfit because there was no garden nor even a playground. When they moved to Southampton Street he worked in his father’s store. While they lived in Bromley he attended the “Priory Street National School” for three months where he was head boy. He was now at the end of his formal schooling for at the age of fourteen he left school to work in his father’s oil shop. However, he did attend the “Saint Michael Night School” for a short period of time.
For his work in the store he received six shillings, (about $1.50) per week and paid three shillings to his mother for board.
He worked for his father until he was about seventeen years of age. At this time his mother desired to immigrate to Utah but his father was not very favorable to the idea. So she decided to send her eldest son, Charles, to America, in the hope that she could use this as an inducement for her husband to emigrate also. The father made no objection, so on May 5, 1866 Charles left England on the sailing vessel “Caroline”. His parents accompanied him to the London docks. His passage was paid to the frontier and he had eight or ten $2.50 gold pieced with which to face the new life.
During the six weeks of ocean voyage many amusing and some near tragic things occurred. The ship was heated by upright stoves. One day a pig which was being carried as part of the food supply got loose. It took refuge under the stove. In trying to get the pig out the stove was very nearly upset. Should this have happened very serious consequences from fire might have follow.
On June 11, 1866 the ship arrived in New York but the passengers were not allowed to leave the company. They went up the Hudson River by steamboat and over to New Haven, Connecticut. There they took the train to Montreal, thence to Toronto, and on to Sarnia. From there they crossed to Detroit and went on to Saint Joseph, Missouri. Here they boarded a steamboat and proceeded up the Missouri River for two hundred miles to a landing called Wyoming, Nebraska. At this place the eighteen year old Charles joined Chipman’s Wagon train and the long wearisome trek began.
The train left Wyoming on July 13 and reached Salt Lake City on September 15, 1866. Each day was full of hardships. Charles walked every step of the way, tired and often hungry. For the food allowance was not too plentiful. Each person was allowed 1 ½ pounds of flour a day. 1 pound of bacon a week, a little molasses and dried fruit given every two of three days, and a little saleratus to raise their bread. No sugar, tea, nor coffee was given to boys. This food was little enough for an active, growing boy and he and his partner, Joe Ellsmore, often picked up the up the burned crusts which the independent teamsters had discarded. At the Sweetwater Joe Ellsworth sold his shirt for some dried currants, rive and jerked, dried beef which he shared with Charles. At Coalville, Utah they went into the fields and raked barley for which Charles received about a half bushel of potatoes. A woman of the company traded some baby clothes for some beef and some of this she exchanged for some of Charles’ potatoes.
The train arrived in Salt Lake City soon after breakfast on Saturday, September 15. That same night Charles, in company with Fred Fowlkes, a teamster, left Salt Lake City for Pleasant Grove where Fowlkes resided. They spent the night camped along the Cottonwood just north of the present location of the Murray smelter.
After his arrival in Pleasant Grove he went to live with John Baker on what is now the Annie Holman property. As a climax to his first meal in this city he had his first real taste of native black currant pie. In return for his work he received his board, clothes and lodging. During his first Christmas season in Utah he went to Fountain Green for a load of coal. His breakfast on Christmas morning consisted mainly of frozen bread. He returned to Nephi in time for dinner which he ate at the home of Pete Sutton. The main course of this well-remembered meal consisted of pork sausage.
He remained with John Baker until March 1, 1867 when he went to work for Thomas Wooley for $150.00 a year plus his board and lodging. Out of this first year’s salary he paid his tithing, his temple donation, and his debt to the emigration fund. On March 1, 1868 he rehired to Wooley for $25.00 a month plus board and lodging.
His parents left England on Tuesday, June 30, 1868, arrived in New York on July 12 and in Pleasant Grove on August 20, 1868. They went to Lindon and made their home there. Charles went to live with them, boarding himself. During the summer of 1869 he farmed on share for Mr. Wooley. That fall in October he went to Eagle Valley, Nevada to help run a shingle mill. At that time Eagle Valley was supposed to be within the boundaries of Utah. He returned in February 1870 and in the same month shortly after his return he became engaged to Harriet Gibbons.
That same month he met with an accident from which he never fully recovered. In company with Joseph Olpin he went to Grove Creek to chop Balsam logs. There he caught in a snow slide which pinned his against a tree. The tree probably saved his life but his knee was twisted and as a result he walked the rest of his life with a decided limp which grew worse as he grew older.
On December 11, 1871 he and Harried Gibbons were married in the Endowment House by Joseph Fielding Smith who later became the President of the Church. They were accompanied by their mothers and the entire trip was made by horse and wagon.
They settled in a small rock house on property which he had bought on Locust Avenue. In this house were born six of their nine children. In 1885 he built a large home just south of his first home on the same property. Here he lived until his death.
On May 10, 1895 he left on a mission to his native country where he served until 1898. All this time his wife supported the family and kept him on his mission through hard work.
His life in the church and community was most active. He served for many years as secretary of the Sunday School before the ward was divided. At various times he served as City Councilman, Justice of the Peace, member of the school board which was instrumental in securing a high school building for Pleasant Grove, and as president of the Pleasant Grove Canning Company. At the time of his death he was a High Priest.
His wife died on October 30, 1922 after a lingering illness. During the later years of his life he devoted himself to the care of his nursery and to the enjoyment of his hobbies; chief of which ware his flowers, a notable library, and a fine shall collection.
He died very suddenly at his home of a heart attack on Sunday morning, October 29, 1933, less than one month before his eighty-fifth birthday.