William Greenwood (1819-1899) joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, in 1840 in England. His parents and all of his siblings joined the Church and immigrated to Warsaw, Illinois, where his parents and five other family members died of ague. William’s granddaughter Louela White Storrs compiled this account of her grandfather’s life.
William Greenwood was born March 4, 1819 in Heptonstall, Yorkshire, England, to William Greenwood I and Sarah Utley.
William I and Sarah Utley Greenwood
The elder William was a blacksmith by trade, but at an early age he got a spark in one of his eyes. In trying to doctor it, he lost the sight of both eyes, so he never saw most of his thirteen children. He and his wife Sarah, all of his children, and some of his brothers and sisters, joined the Latter-day Saint Church in England in 1840-41, and they emigrated to America. Although William I was blind, he became quite handy at doing things with his hands such as making various articles of furniture, really specializing in good bedsteads.
The family came across the ocean on the ship “Tyrene” which landed at New Orleans, with Joseph Fielding as captain. They settled first in Warsaw, Illinois. It had been a long and wearing trip of about eight weeks on the ocean. Before they could get adjusted to this new climate and conditions, they all came down with what was called “ague” fever and chills. At times they were unable to help each other to get even so much as a drink of water. Seven of the Greenwood family members died of this malady within nine weeks, including William I and Sarah, his wife. They were all buried in or near Warsaw, Illinois. It was said of Sarah by her daughter-in-law Ann Hartley Greenwood, “She was one of the best women that ever lived. She had a strong testimony of the gospel, to which she testified as she sat up in bed just before she died. She entreated her family to remain true to it. She talked in tongues.”
William’s Life in England
William II (hereafter just referred to as William) must have grown up working in a clothing factory, as did so many of the children in that part of England, because as a young man he had become a steam loom overseer. He met his wife, Ann Hartley, in the factory, as she too was a worker at the looms. He was twenty years old and she was eighteen when they were married in 1839.
Soon after their marriage, he followed his wife’s lead in joining the LDS Church, and they came with William’s parents to America. William had the ague along with the rest while they were at Warsaw, Illinois, and it left him so weak and debilitated that he couldn’t work at all for a year and a half.
Ann soon became so homesick that she thought she must return to England. William was not in favor of this, so he would not cooperate with her in any way in making the arrangements for the trip back. He did, however, return with her to England in 1843. They found work again at the factory, but he was never satisfied or happy. So, in 1846, he decided he would have to return to America to be with the LDS people, with or without his wife. That must have been a sorry parting, as she decided to stay in England. However, it didn’t take Ann long to decide that her happiness lay with her husband, so she joined him again in about 1848. Upon his return to Warsaw, William had to accept work at fifty cents a day, as that was the going wage of the time.
William Obeyed the Word of Wisdom
William had grown up without any prejudice against the use of tobacco, tea, and coffee, and he was fond of all of them. His new religion forbade the use of them. He had embraced it in its entirety, so he was determined to take them out of his appetite and life. It was a hard struggle for him, but he finally succeeded. It is told of him that in the early days of his life in America when he went to work for a certain man, he was not offered any tea. He went home disgusted, refusing to go back to work if they didn’t serve afternoon tea.
William and Ann Crossed The Plains and Then Were Called Settle the Desert
William and Ann began making preparations to make the trek across the plains to join with the church members in Utah. In May of 1852, they were ready to start, arriving in Salt Lake in November of that year. They came with the Benjamin Gardner Company. Ann had born four children previous to this time, but two had died and been buried in England, so they had two living. Another son was born to them on the plains, and they named him William.
This little family had only been in Salt Lake three weeks, barely enough time to get rested after such a strenuous trip, when they were called by Church authorities to go to Cedar City to settle. This meant another long hard trip into a very wild new region, and a great contrast to anything they could ever have imagined. After several years of trying to overcome the adverse conditions in Cedar City, most of the settlers became discouraged and disgruntled. They felt it was an impossible situation. Many planned to go to California, but the Greenwoods wanted to stay closer to the center of the Church.
They had heard that there were good opportunities for homesteading in Millard County, so they took their ox teams and covered wagons and their children and set out in the winter month of February, 1856. When they got as far north as Beaver Valley, they camped on the bank of the Beaver river. They liked the area with its abundant supply of water, good supply of wood in the canyon, etc. They continued north until they got as far as Wild Cat Canyon, a narrow place which they found blocked with deep snow so that they couldn’t get through. They turned back and decided to settle in Beaver Valley.
The wagon box was lifted off of the wheels and it became their first home in Beaver. They worked hard to plant grain, only to have it all spoiled by three weeks of rain after it had been cut. Their scant supply of provisions had become completely exhausted, and they had to live on the milk from one cow, along with wild berries, roots, and greens which they could find in the wild. William herded the town cows, barefoot all the year, wearing just buckskin pants which he had gotten from Indians. Gradually, through using every bit of ambition, good management or sheer ingenuity which they could muster, they accumulated a few animals and were able to eke out an existence until things got somewhat better for them.
William built a log cabin and added on to it until there were three rooms. Soon the Indians became a real problem, and they decided to move closer to other settlers, several miles north of their first location. They first had a log house but later build a home of the native bluestone, and kept adding on until they had six rooms and an upstairs attic where their grandchildren would love to play in later years.
The Indians were still a problem. One time, William was herding his sheep on the hills south of town when he was caught by a group of Indians. They threw him to the ground and drew a sharp knife across his throat in a menacing gesture several times. He didn’t cry out or show the fear he felt, so they relented saying, “Heap brave man no squaw,” and they spared his life. The Indians tried several times to steal a lovely little gray mare which the Greenwoods owned, and finally succeeded. After quite a bit of trouble, William got the mare back, after which the family decided to bring her into the kitchen at night for safe keeping.
In 1869, the Church called on William for a wagon and team to go east across the plains for immigrants. It was decided that young Barney, the oldest son, should make the trip. He was only sixteen and small, but he was responsible for his age. It was a long and arduous journey of six months. The Greenwoods had no thought but to answer the call, so while Barney was away, his father did two men’s work at home.
The Greenwoods, along with other families in the area, soon began to transport the goods that they could raise, selling them in other areas. Later, the US soldiers took up residence at Fort Cameron, east of Beaver, and they purchased many things from the settlers such as eggs, milk, cream, straw, hay and grain. So the standard of living began to increase.
Sometime during this period, William met an Englishman who had just come from the “old country.” He had a red silk scarf which must have created a nostalgia in William’s soul, as he wanted it so much that he traded a little pig worth four dollars for it. The scarf remained in the family as a cherished relic.
A Mormon Pioneer’s Final Days
After the death of William’s wife in 1897, he lived with his daughter Mary Ann for two years. He was so pleasant and kind to his grandchildren that they always remembered him fondly.
As there was now train transportation to Milford, 30 miles west of Beaver, Mary Ann and her husband thought they would take a trip to Salt Lake in October of 1899. They took William along with them and enjoyed the trip very much. On the return trip, the train made a stop at Clearwater (or Clear Lake) in Millard County. William was in a different car than Mary Ann and her husband, and for some unknown reason, he decided to get off the train. It was dark and stormy and the wind blew his hat off his head. He tried to follow and recover it, and while so doing the train pulled away, leaving him. He started walking along the track until he met up with an employee of the railroad who quizzed him as to where he was going and found out that he was lost. He asked the way to Fillmore, and the man pointed along the tracks.
Next morning, the employee heard the old man was missing. He went out to look for him in the vicinity of where he had encountered him. He picked up his tracks in the direction of the Sevier River, only to find that he had stepped into a low place along the bank, which had caused him to stumble and fall into about two feet of water. Apparently he had been unable to recover himself, and so there he lay, drowned. An inquest afterwards brought out this weird story. His daughter and her husband knew nothing of his doings until arriving in Milford next morning, whereupon they started the investigation as to his whereabouts. It was a tragic thing to have happen while he was still enjoying good health.
Truly William Greenwood was a man of deep and sterling qualities, never complaining of his adversity, but going ahead steadily against the greatest of odds, true to his faith and family. No one could live more faithfully and nobly.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.