True To The Faith
Our Pioneer Heritage
Kate B. Carter
Pages 173 — 188
I, Richard Bentley, am the son of Thomas and Ann Wood Bentley. I was born in Great Aycliff, County of Durham, England on October 1, 1820. When I was about three years of age my father with his family consisting of my mother, four sons and four daughters, of whom I was the youngest, moved to Alston Moor, in Cumberland County, where he rented a large factory four stories high. I do not remember the length and width. It was fitted up with linen and woolen machinery, and my father commenced the manufacture of linen fabrics such as domestic sheeting, shirting, diaper for tablecloths and toweling, and also tailor's thread, shoe thread, and twines and grain and ore sacks. It will be remembered at that time that cotton cloth and thread was not much used in England. My brothers Abraham, Thomas and Joseph assisted my father in the business after they left school. [Editor's note: Ann born 1816, Ralph Thompson born in 1811, Aycliff, Durham, England worked for Thomas Bentley sometime after 1823 — 1837. Married Ann Bentley, before April 1837]
When I was about either years of age, I commenced going to school. I was sent to what was called the Free Grammar School taught by Professor William Gray as principal. The school was partially supported by the Greenwich Hospital Company, and I was about thirteen years of age, when my father because dissatisfied with the progress I had made. About that time an old Presbyterian minister, Mr. Harper, concluded to take up a select class of pupils at his own residence, and my father, being a member of his church, secured me a place in his class, where I remained nine months or three terms.
About this time, my brother, Thomas, married Miss Ellen Strobart of Hexham and my father turned over to him the woolen department of his business and started him in the woolen and carpet business. It was now thought to be a proper time for me to begin to learn a trade of some kind. My father wished me to be a machinist, but my mother opposed the idea as it was too dirty a trade, and suggested that I should be a shopkeeper, which was agreed upon, and my father got me a situation with a Mr. Brockbank, who was a whilesale and retail tea and coffee dealer in the city of Carlisle. Mr. Brockbank and family were Quakers and were very fine people. I lodged and boarded in the home with them, and they were very kind to me. At first I felt very homesick, this being the first time I had been away from my mother. Almost every Sunday I took a walk outside the city about two miles to where I could get a view of a mountain which was seven miles from Alston, my home and about thirty miles from where I stood, looking and wishing for wings that I might fly and take a look at the loved ones at home; the mountains looked so near. When I had been in Carlisle about a year, Mr. Brockbank concluded to give up the grocery business and move to a place in Scotland where he had large sawmill property. He sold out the business to two young men and they did not need my services. Mr. Brockbank offered to get me another situation, but I preferred to return home. During my absence my brother, Abraham had received a very good offer to go to Sunderland and take charge of a large sailcloth factory, and he accepted. When I had had my visit at home, I wrote to my brother in Sunderland to look out for me a situation in that city. In a few weeks I received a letter from him stating that he had made arrangements for me to take a situation with a Mr. Puncheonk, who kept a grocery store in Monkwearmouth, which was on the opposite side of the River Wear from Sunderland. At this time my sister, Mary was about to be married to Joseph Hutchingson and was very much disappointed that I could not stay for the wedding.
So I left home a second time, which was in the fall of the year. The next summer my mother made us a visit at Sunderland, where she was taken sick and died. My mother's death was a sorrow I thought I never would get over. I do not remember ever getting a whipping or a cross word from my mother in all my life. Not but that I had many times needed chastising, but she was naturally kind, affectionate and indulgent. Soon after my mother's death, the person in whose store I was working failed and became bankrupt, so I was again out of employment. I returned to my father's hours. My brother, Thomas wished me to go into his office and assist him in his business, as he had to be away a good deal doing his own commercial traveling. I accepted my brother's proposition and went to live with his family which left my father quite alone. My brothers and sisters all being married, he concluded to close up the linen department of the factory and retire from business. My brother, Joseph, having previously had an offer to go to Leeds and take charge of a linen factory, accepted and the family home was broken up. My father took up his abode with my sister Margaret, whose husband kept a grocery and provision store in Alston. His name was John Sanders and he was among the first who were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Editor's note: June 23, 1837, Elder Willard Richards and other Brethren, including Elder Isaac Russell and Priest John Snyder, left Kirtland, Ohio, for a mission to the British Isles. Elder Russell and Brother Snyder were assigned to Alston, Cumberland, England, where they organized a branch of the Church in 1837. One record states that Ralph was baptized the 8th of September, another reads October 1837. On the 8th of September 1840 he took leave of his native land and with his family in connection with the Second Organized Company of Saints, emigrated from England to Zion. He resided in Kirtland, Ohio, until the Spring of 1842, when he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he remained until the Saints were driven thence. Being unable to move West with the body of the Church at its expulsion from Illinois, he went to St. Louis, Missouri for a short season. In the Spring of 1850, he moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and in 1852 emigrated to Utah.]
I often visited at my brother-in-law's house and became acquainted with several of the first elders who came to England to proclaim the gospel. I was very much interested in hearing them talk about the signs of the times, the predictions of the prophets that had been fulfilled, and those that were yet to come to pass. I never attended any of their meetings, though I had a very strong belief in the doctrine they taught. Religion was something I did not have much taste for, and I thought I could apply it to my later life.
My brother, Thomas, belonged to the Wesleyan Methodist Society and was a local preacher of their doctrine. He was quite a good speaker and quite respected. He was very bitter in his opposition to the elders and spoke against their doctrine whenever he had a chance. But from that time he began to go down. In his rounds among his customers, he was thrown into the society of ungodly men and he soon began to partake of their evil habits and began to neglect his duties as a Christian preacher. He took to drinking too much, and to gambling sometimes and finally to neglecting his business, all of which brought him to ruin; and he had to make an assignment to his brother-in-law, Smith Stobart.
My brother Abraham, having left Sunderland and gone to Leeds in Yorkshire, commenced business on his own account. I concluded to visit him and my brother Joseph in Leeds and try to get another start. I found times in Leeds very hard, business being dull, with thousands of people out of work. In walking through the streets, I saw a great many respectable men and their wives and little children singing in the streets to get a little bread to eat. This condition of things brought to my mind what I had heard the elders talk about in Alston, of the tribulation and distress that should come upon the people in the last days. I began to be alarmed about myself and thought how I would feel if I were in the same condition of want and beggary.
I had been in Leeds a few months when I received a letter from my brother-in-law John Sanders, stating that he and my sister were going to America, and if I would go with them he would pay all my expenses, and urged me very strongly to accompany them. The ship was to sail on the 21st of September 1841. I laid the matter before my brothers, and they were very much in favor of the proposition. Abraham said he would talk to a fried of his, a Mr. Cornforth, who had been a sea captain and had made the trip to America many times. Mr. Cornforth said it was the best thing I could do as there was a much better chance for an opening for a young man in that country than in England, and he wished he could induce his son, about my age to go too. After many consultations with the Cornforths, it was decided that I should go to America. I wrote to my brother-in-law accepting his proposition and saying that I would arrive in Liverpool in time to sail on the 21st. I straightway began to make preparations to leave my native land, and in due time packed my clothes chest, a large deal chest with a drawer under it, and shipped it by freight train, directing it to the ship Tyrean in dock at Liverpool. This was a week before I started by passenger train. [Editor's note: According to "Heart Throbs of the West," volume 12, page 463 by Kate B. Carter, on Sept. 8, 1840, Ralph Thompson, his wife Ann and three little daughters, Mary, born 16 May 1938 (DJL: this is most likely supposed to be 1838), and twins, Margaret and Annie, born 30 January 1840, sailed from Liverpool on the ship North America in the second organized group to leave England...about 200 Saints with Theordore Turley in charge. They arrived in New York October, 1, 1840.]
The ship was advertised to sail at 1:00 p.m. on the 21st of September, 1841. I arrived at Liverpool at 9:00 a.m. and made my way to the ship. I found my folks on board and glad to see me. When I inquired for my luggage, I was told that it had not come on board. This gave me a terrible fright as it was but a short time before the ship would start out. I immediately started for the railroad station. When I got there it was a few minutes past 12:00 a.m. I ran all around the yard but could find no one in the office or yard to give me any information about my luggage. I began to search among the freight, and in lifting up a canvas cover near a door that lead to the street, found my chest. I had no time to consider what to do, but made up my mind to take it and go. By doing so I knew I ran a desperate risk of being arrested. I passed through the door and looked around for the yard man but he was not in sight. A drayman was passing just then, so I called him and told him I wanted him to take that chest to the dock. He said all right, so we put it in his dray and started. I told him to drive as fast as possible as I wanted to go aboard a ship that was just starting out. He said he would get her at the gate of the dock. He was as good as his word. The ship was just going through the gate or bridge. We got the luggage aboard and I jumped on after it. It was a thankful heart that I found myself safe in the ship.
The ship laid at anchor in the River Mercey until next morning when the pilot came aboard and we started on our voyage across the broad Atlantic. We were six weeks on the passage, the former part of which was rough and stormy. Elder Joseph Fielding was president of the company of Saints on board the ship. He was a kind, good man and treated me kindly. He called on me to assist in giving out the daily rations to the Saints, in fact few of them knew that I did not belong to the church. There were a number of young folks on board, and when we got fairly out to sea and the storms had abated, we began to enjoy ourselves and had a pleasant time. I told the folks that it was the happiest time many of them would see for a long time to come. Among the passengers were Mrs. Mary Ann Price and her sister Emma, with whom I became intimately acquainted. Taking it all in all we had a very pleasant passage and landed safely in New Orleans about the first of November, 1841.
Next day we took the steamboat for Nauvoo. At Warsaw 18 miles below Nauvoo, we were met by Apostle Willard Richards counseling the Saints to disembark at Warsaw and commence to build a city which was laid out a short distance below. The company landed from the boat in a heavy snowstorm and took shelter in an empty building that had been used for a hotel and held meeting that evening. Brother Willard Richards spoke in regard to the design in building the city, and showed a plan of the same. The price of lots was from one to five thousand dollars. Next morning the ground was covered with snow about a foot deep. There was one small log cabin on the ground occupied by Brother Decker, who was called mayor. The brethren concluded that they wanted no lots and began to make arrangements to move on to Nauvoo. John Sanders, my brother-in-law, left us and started on foot for Nauvoo. On the third day a team arrived to take us to the City of the Saints. Brother Sanders had rented a log cabin on the river bank.
I worked that winter in a brickyard, the first hard work I ever did in my life, digging clay preparatory to making bricks the next summer. The yard belonged to Dr. Forester. I earned one dollar, twelve and one-half cents a day, but I never got my pay. In February 1842, I was baptized in the Mississippi River by Elder Joseph Fielding; the ice had to be cut to let us down into the water. I was confirmed by Elder Fielding and Elder Sanders. I worked some in the summer carrying off bricks from the moulder. I wore out all my shoes so went barefooted through the week, I managed to get a pair of low shoes for my work and these I kept for Sundays.
My brother-in-law was a hard working man. He and Brother Peter Mayhew worked together. They were miners in the old country, and in Nauvoo took contracts for digging wells. They had plenty of work, got good pay and were able to live very well. Late in the summer I concluded to go into the country and try harvesting. I went to Laharp and got a job to bind after the cradler. Three days satisfied me with that job, and I went home sore, and with no pay for that work. In the fall I took a job to quarry thirty cords of rock for Wilson Law and Bro., for the foundation of a gristmill. I had to get the rock on the banks of the river. The covering of the rock was three feet thick and frozen solid, but we got the rock in time. I do not remember whether we got the pay or not. If we got it, it was in â€śchips and whetstones.â€ť
In April 1843, Mrs. Price and her family arrived in Nauvoo. On September 9th, 1843, I married Elizabeth Price. Shortly after, with my wife, I went to St. Louis where I met my father, my brother, Abraham and family, my sister Jane and husband, son Andrew and daughter Catherine, I obtained work as packer in a flout mill. My wife obtained work making fine shirts for an outfitting store. It was in St. Louis that I received the sad news of the murder of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I could not believe it. I did not think the Lord would allow his servants to be killed.
In the spring and summer of 1844, the water in the Mississippi was very high. It stood four feet in the second story of our mill. Of course the work had to be stopped and all hands except myself were discharged. I was kept on to look after the property. As the water receded, I busied myself sweeping the mud down and cleaning the machinery. In the fall I was take n sick with malaria fever, and I had to give up my work at the mill. When I was able to move we concluded to return to Nauvoo as we had accomplished what we came for. We had made a very modest housekeeping outfit. During the summer of 1844 John Sanders and Peter Maughan had gone up the river to work a coal mine for the church, near Monmouth. In the latter part of the summer Bro. Sanders was taken sick and died. When we arrived at Nauvoo, my sister was feeling very sad over the loss of her husband. She wished us to stay with her and help her take care of matters pertaining to the estate, her horses, cows, etc., which I did during the winter. In the winter I was ordained a Seventy and enrolled in the 19th Quorum. [Editor's note: After the birth of the little son William in 1845, Ann, the mother, was left in rather delicate health. The Saints all grieved because of the martyrdom of the Prophet and times were really difficult. As the trials increased and the need for the Saints to make a move became more apparent...because of the fact that the destination was so uncertain, the time it would require to make the journey and the conditions to be met up with entirely unknown...Ralph went to Brigham Young and asked his advice about starting out with the First company. Considering the situation from every angle, Brigham Young counseled him to remain in Nauvoo until things looked a little more favorable for him, or at least until Ann, his wife was in better health before attempting to make the journey. Ralph moved his family from Nauvoo to St. Louis, where he found employment and he and Ann worked energetically to accumulate the supplies and equipment for another outfit. In St. Louis, Missouri, on October 9, 1848, another daughter, Elizabeth, was born to them. Then came the scourge, a siege of the cholera. People were dying off like cattle. Ann, Ralph's wife, and their little four-year-old son, William, were stricken and on June 14, 1849, they both died. Now, more than ever, Ralph felt that he must get to the Valley where the Saints were. About a month after the death of his wife and son William, the baby, Elizabeth, died, July 27, 1849, and on November 10, of the same year, the eldest daughter, eleven-year-old Mary, passed away. Nine-year-old Annie, one of the twins, was allowed to come to Utah with Aunty Margaret Harrington, sister to Ann Bentley. Aunty Margaret acted as mid-wife to Brigham Young's family and she had no children of her own. They came in 1849 in the wagon Ralph had made for himself.]
In the spring of 1845 we went to live on a farm three miles of Nauvoo, belonging to a Mr. Pratt, who had moved up from New Orleans for the benefit of his health. He engaged me to do his farming so we stayed with him that summer and the next winter. In the fall of 1845, wagonmaking companies were formed in the city to make wagons, etc., with which to cross the plains. I joined one under Captain Cox. There was a fine lot of timber suitable for wagonmaking on Mr. Pratt's farm, and he gave me permission to cut and use what timber I wanted for the wagon shop. I put in what time I could spare from my other labors in assisting to make wagons and in the spring of 1846 I got a new wagon minus the irons. I then began to make calculations for migration. I got the tire and one band on each wheel of my wagon, also the boxes for the hubs, king and queen bolts. This was all the iron used about it, except nails and staples for the bed. I got my wagon finished, ready for the roadâ€¦
About the first of February, 1846, the first company was ready to cross the river. A great deal of ice was running so they could not cross. On the morning of the 6th it was found that the river was frozen over, and proved to be solid enough to hold up loaded wagons. The frost had accomplished this in one night and the wagons rolled over the next day. I crossed in the evening and drove seven miles to Sugar Creek, where the company had camped in about eighteen inches of snow. I drove back to Nauvoo that same evening. My brother-in-law, William Price proposed that we put our two outfits together and get out as soon as possible which we agreed to do. I had a wagon with a bed twelve feet long, three and a half feet wide, and large projections over the wheels, also provisions and clothing and one cow. Bro. Price had a heavy wagon, one yoke of steers, one cow, and a horse. He sold his wagon and bought a one-horse wagon and harness. The two families comprised William and Charles and their mother, my wife and myself. William was to drive the freight wagon and I was to drive the one-horse wagon for the family. We were still one yoke of cattle short. One day I met a brother whom I did not know, he asked me if my name was Richard Bentley, I said it was and he then asked, â€śAre you going to emigrate this spring?â€ť I answered. â€śThat is my intention.â€ť He said â€ś I have yoke of cattle that I want to send out to the Bluffs and would be very much obliged if you could take them out for me.â€ť I said I would do so with pleasure as I just ended one yoke of cattle to make up my team, and he turned them over to me. Our outfit was now complete, and we were ready to start on our journey to the mountains or somewhere else. This was sometime in May, 1846. About this time the mob began to gather about Carthage and we were counseled to stay and help defend the city.
A short time previous to this, my wife and I had moved to mother's place, about 6 miles east of Nauvoo, for convenience in keeping our stock and getting ready for the journey. About the middle of June, report came in that the mob had advanced to Golden's Point, eight miles southeast of Nauvoo. We were advised to take our families across the river, then the men to return and defend the city. We moved them over and I shouldered my musket and returned to Nauvoo, and stood guard at the Temple. About the first of July, it was concluded to send our spies to find out if the mob were still camped at Golden's Point. If so, the troops in charge of the city should go and disperse them. When the spies reached the place where the mob had been encamped., they found no one there. A heavy thunder storm had come up in the night thoroughly drenching the mob and also their powder, so they had dispersed.
The troops guarding the city were disbanded and told to go on their journey. I crossed the River, and on the 4th of July, 1846, started across the country for the Missouri River and Winter Quarters. Bro. Price, having remained with the folks at camp taking charge of the stock and the outfit, had everything ready to start when I got there. We had heavy loads and teams unused to work, and not very good drivers, but we made the trip by some hard work and much tribulations, and I fear some loss of temper. We were sometimes refused water from wells by persons living on farms near the road, because we were Mormons. We took up Winter Quarters at what was called Hyde's Park, situated six miles east of Council Point on the Missouri River and thirteen miles south of Kanesville. We found Elder Hyde and family, the Browning Bros., and their families who had built some cabins and located for the winter. The main body of the church was in camp at Winter Quarters, six miles above now stands the city of Omaha. After we had finished our house, Bro. Price and I took a job from Elder Hyde to make rails to fence forty acres of land and also to put up the fence; which we accomplished during the winter.
In the spring of 1847, we rented land and put in twenty acres of wheat and raised a good crop. We threshed the wheat with oxen by having them tread it out on a floor made on the ground, and we winnowed it with the wind. In the winter of 1846-47, my wife's mother died. On the 11th of May, 1847, our daughter Emma was born, and my wife was very sick for several months. During the summer or fall the twelve apostles visited Apostle Hyde and held a council in one of the rooms of my house. At this meeting it was decided to reorganize the Church and Brigham Young was chosen President with Willard Richards and Heber C. Kimball as his counselors. On the 6th of October 1847, the Semi-annual Conference was to be held at Kanesville, Pottawattamie Co.
When President Young arrived, he concluded that the schoolhouse was entirely too small to have the conference in, so he appointed Bro. Henry W. Miller to superintend a new building and see that it was finished in time. The people went at it with a will and the work was accomplished by the given time. I do not remember the length and width but it was a mammoth log cabin. According to Essentials in Church History: President Young arrived at Winter Quarters on Ocober 31, 1847. On December 5, 1847, they met in council at Elder Hyde's home, rented from Richard Bentley and reorganized the presiding council of the church. General conference was held December 24-27, 1847. The longest logs available on the Missouri bottoms were secured, two for each side, spliced by an alcove about 18 feet in the center for a stand; the floor was made of logs split and hewed about 4 inches think. On that occasion it was the first time I ever danced in my lifetime, and my limbs were stiff for a week after it.
In the fall of 1848, I moved my family to Kanesville, having engaged with Needham and Ferguson to clerk for them. They had just moved from St. Louis to Kanesville with a large stock of merchandise and outfitting goods for the emigrants to the gold fields of California. Kanesville being the last outfitting station on the route, trains began arriving early in the spring of 1848, and by the time the roads were fit to travel on, the country around Kanesville and Council Point was literally alive with camps of emigrants and their cattle and horses. The emigrants were a lot of gentlemen, generally civil and well bred. They had many teams, fine outfits and plenty of money, which they spent unsparingly. Their bills for provisions and other outfits would frequently amount to from 800 to 1,000 dollars and they were paid without grumbling. Every year after the first, the emigrants gradually became of a less wealthy class, and competition among the merchants became so great that by 1852 it was very unpleasant, and not very profitable doing business with them.
In the spring of 1851, Needham and Ferguson dissolved partnership; Bro. Needham emigrated to Utah and Mr. Ferguson continues the business. I continued with him until May 1852, when I emigrated to Utah in the 20th company, H. W. Miller being captain of the company. Bro. Miller was an excellent captain to travel with. Elder Hyde and family were in the company. We made good time, passing all the companies along the road down to the 7th. The cholera was very bad on the plains that year, but only one or two died out of our company. Captain Miller would not stop in one camp long enough for the people to get sick and die. It was very sorrowful to see so many graves by the roadside. We arrived in Salt Lake City on September 24th, 1852. [Editor's note: It was not until July 5, 1852, that Ralph and two daughters, Margaret and Eleanor Jane, left Kanesville, Iowa, an outfitting station, in the Fourteenth or Abraham O. Smoot Company, of about 250 souls with John B. Walker as Captain of the fifty in which Ralph Thompson, Wife and two children are listed, according to Church Emigration Records, Film W R F Pt 3 "Crossing The Plains 1847-1869," Journal History Supplement for Friday, December 31, 1852, page 91) The emigration of the Latter-day Saints across the plains in 1852 was larger than in any preceding year, owing to the fact that the Saints who made themselves temporary homes in Pottawattamie County had been counseled by Pres. Young to migrate to the Valley of the Mountains. As the majority of the Saints complied with the counsel given, all the branches in Pottawattamie County, between thirty and forty in number, were discontinued and the membership of these branches constituted an important part of the emigration of that year. The emigration from Great Britain was also a large one that season and even a number of Saints who had spent a year or more in St. Louis, crossed the plains in 1852 making their way to the valley.] The emigrants that season were counseled to go south to strengthen the Southern settlements, as the Indians were rather troublesome. My sister, Margaret, wished me to locate in Salt Lake City. She, previous to leaving Nauvoo had been married to Br. Thomas Harrington, and had arrived in Salt Lake before us. I made up my mind that I would go south as far as Parowan, as a brother from there had offered us a house for the winter. [Editor's note: When they arrived in the valley, Ralph, Margaret and Eleanor Jane were re-united with the little sister Annie, and the father immediately went to work for the Godbe Lumber Company, making tents, or whatever work was available. He was determined to make a home for his daughters.]
After the October conference, we started on our way to the south. Soon after starting the weather became stormy, and it seemed that winter had set in. My wagon was heavily loaded, and the roads became muddy, and in crossing a rocky ridge near Summit Creek one of the tires of the hind wheels of my wagon broke. I took a log chain and wrapped it around the tire and felly and started on, and traveled twenty miles to Nephi. The wheel was not injured in the least by traveling that far with a broken tire. On arriving at Nephi I inquired for a blacksmith shop and in doing so met with a sister with whom we had been acquainted in Kanesville and who had married Joseph I. Heywood. He was president of the Stake at Nephi. Bro. and Sister Heywood were very solicitous that we should stay and locate instead of going to Parowan. They invited us to stay and kindly offered to furnish us a room for the winter. We accepted their hospitality for the night and put up with them. In the night there was a heavy snowstorm; next morning we concluded to locate in Nephi as it was late in the season, so made preparations accordingly. In the winter of 1853 I was employed teaching school. In the spring I rented a five-acre lot and put in a crop. I purchased fifteen more acres in the fall, and during the winter prepared it for planting in the spring. During the winter and spring, I built a log cabin and moved out to my lot.
In the winter of 1854 I went to Parowan as one of the escorts to the U.S. District Court under U.S. Marshal Heywood. Hon. G. P. Stiles being Judge. [Editor's note: Ralph's twin daughters, Margaret and Annie, were married at the age of fifteen while their father was away assisting in the building of a mill. Annie had been keeping company with William S. Godbe and Margaret with Frederick Augustus Herman Frank Mitchell. Brigham Young was going away for some time and the young people thought they should be married before he left, so they had a double wedding in the Endowment House on November 15, 1854. Because of their tender age, their father was rather upset when he returned home and learned what had taken place.] The next spring I put in fifteen acres of wheat, ten acres in one lot and five in the other. When the wheat was about six inches high, the grasshoppers came down like a cloud and devoured everything before them. They commenced at one side of the field and cleared it as they went. [Editor's note: In 1856 Ralph was called to aid in a building program in the settlement of Carson, Nevada. His son-in-law, Mr. Mitchell, Margaret's husband, was going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he traveled as far as Carson with Ralph. Many of those who had been called to aid in the pioneering project in Carson were called home to Utah the following year to help defend the Saints against Johnston's Army. However, Ralph sustained a broken leg earlier and as it was impossible to secure medical aid in the camp, they put him in a wagon and sent him home to Salt Lake. His son-in-law, William S. Godbe, went out to the Salt Flats to meet him; but the long hard journey, without any care, proved very serious. His leg always troubled him after that and he was unable to go on in the line of work he had been doing. Before he came to America, he had followed the profession of weaving. His first wife's people were manufacturers and Ralph understood a good deal about chemicals and dyes. His daughter Annie's husband, Mr. Godbe, was part owner of Godbe & Pitts Drug Store, so it was not difficult for him to go into the store and pick up that line of work again.]
About this time, Marshal Heywood was ordered to get up a company of men to go to Carson Valley as guard to the U.S. District Court, to organize Carson County. The marshal proposed that I go along, which proposition I accepted as by this time the grasshoppers had taken ten acres of my wheat and the prospect was fair that they would take the other five. The terms were five dollars a day with everything furnished for a man and his house. I thought it would be a good chance to get my bread and other provisions for my family. We were in Carson about two months. At the U.S. District Court at this time, I took out my final papers of citizenship. Orson Hyde was clerk of the court.
When I returned home at the end of two months, I found my family all well, and my wife had one hundred bushels of wheat stored in the house which was quite a surprise to me. My wife informed me that after I left she thought that she would try to save the other five acres of wheat which the grasshoppers had not reached. So she took the children, the pigs and chickens and went to the field every day to fight the hoppers, and by that means saved the wheat. That was the only wheat saved in the settlement.
In December 1855, U.S. District Court convened at Nephi to bring to trial the perpetrators of the Gunnison Massacre by the Indians. Judge Kinney presided. I was appointed clerk of the court. Colonel Steptoe with troops as a posse constatus. Major Holman, prosecuting attorney for the U.S. Colonel Steptoe and Staff officers boarded and had headquarters at our house. Several Indians were arrested, three were convicted of manslaughter. The others had to be turned loose, as Attorney Hoffman had gotten himself into trouble with a squaw and had to leave for fear of the grand jury. He started for Salt Lake City which left the court with no prosecuting attorney, consequently Judge Kinney was obliged to adjourn court, and the soldiers left for Salt Lake City. Judge Kinney and Col. Steptoe both expostulated with Hoffman about breaking up the court to move to Carson and colonize that country. In the winter I was sent by Marshal Heywood to Fillmore as deputy marshal and marshal's clerk. Anson Call was also sent as deputy marshal. Heywood did not attend that court. This term lasted six weeks. This was Judge Drummond's celebrated court when he had his harlot sit on the bench with him. This court was to continue the U. S. business commenced at Nephi by Judge Kinney to try to convict the murderers of Lieutenant Gunnison and William Potter, a Mormon. The court was in session for six weeks.
In the winter, I sold out my possessions in Nephi and made preparations to start for Carson. In the spring of 1856, with my family and all I possessed, I started for Carson Valley. I had one wagon drawn by two yoke of oxen and on yoke of cows with several loose cows in the herd. The company was very large numbering over one hundred wagons and a large number of loose cattle. We made the trip in about six weeks. On reaching the Carson River the company was disorganized; the people locating on the river in Carson Valley and in several small valleys adjacent. Washoe Valley was selected by Apostle Orson Hyde, who with his wife, MaryAnn, was with the company as headquarters of the mission. The town was surveyed and laid off in five-acre lots. A beautiful stream of pure mountain water ran through the townsite and formed a lake on the south side of the valley. The valley is about six miles long east and west, and about three miles wide and is stated close to the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I bought a lot at the mouth of the creek and guilt a hewed log house. Elder Hyde bought a house on the opposite side of the creek. Ten or fifteen families located in town adjacent. William Jennings took a lot adjoining mine. Christopher Layton bought a farm on the east end of the valley. Alex Cowan bought a small place east of town, Chester Loveland and his brother-in-law, Matt Hamilton, George Billings and several others located in Washoe Valley. A log schoolhouse was built and improvements made, and we soon had quite a comfortable little settlement. Soon after arriving, Elder Hyde and William Price sent to California for machinery for a sawmill and men were put to work cutting and hewing logs for a sawmill, and in a short time the mill was running and doing good work which gave us plenty of lumber to floor and finish our houses for winter, and to fence our land. August 15, 1856, my son Frank, was born and being the first child born in the new colony had the honor of having the town named Franktown after him.
I was very much pleased with Carson and the surrounding valleys, also with the climate and the many crustal streams coursing down the mighty mountains. Mountain trout was very abundant in the river and small streams emptying into it, so much so that after the spring overflow on the bottoms had subsided, a great amount of fish was left in the low places and pools so the farmers turned their hogs loose and they got fat on the fish. I bought some of the bacon but it was so fishy that I could not eat it. In the summer the white clover grew so high, 8 or 10 feet, the wind blew it down flat and in the fall it would rot off at the bottom and the wind would roll it into windrows ready for the farmers to haul it off for hay in the winter. There was a great deal of fish in Washoe Lake, and in the spring they ran up the creek to spawn. A few rods above my house the creek forks, and when the Indians wanted fish they put a dam in one fork and turned the water down the other; when the water drained out of the fork they had dammed off, they followed it down and picked up with their hands the fish that were struggling to get from one pool to another. My house was not more than twenty feet from the creek and my children could throw out a mess of fish for breakfast in a few minutes.
At the organization of the Carson Valley Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I was appointed an set apart as bishop of that stake with Mathew Hamilton and George Billings as counselors. In the spring of 1857, Apostle Hyde William Price with some others, left Carson for Salt Lake City. Late in the summer, Peter Conover and five men as a guard brought an express from President Brigham Young for the Saints to break up and move back to Salt Lake as an army of extermination was moving up from the United States. This order filled the Saints with consternation, as we had all got comfortably settled and were prospering. As it was getting late in the season, it was necessary to make a quick move and the people went to work with a will to dispose of their property and get ready to start. A council was held at which it was suggested that we send to California and procure a supply of ammunition for the home defenders; I was asked if I had any tithing money on hand. I said I had. I was then asked if I would allow it to be used to purchase the ammunition and if it was not all right, when we arrived in Salt Lake a number of the brethren would endemnify me. I said the money could be used for that purpose. It was agreed to get one ton of powder with lead and caps to match. Wm. Nixon who was keeping store at Carson Valley would go to California, make the purchase, and buy a small stock of merchandise for himself so as to cover up the ammunition, which was successfully done. I also furnished money to buy a span of piebald mules and Chester Loveland furnished another span of mules and a wagon. My action was approved and the supplies were very acceptable.
When I returned to Salt Lake City, my family consisted of my wife, Elizabeth, my two eldest daughters, Emma and Lavinia, a son, William Oscar, born at Kanesville, Iowa, a daughter Annie Elizabeth, born at Nephi, Utah and a new baby boy, Frank Richard, born in Carson Valley, Nevada. [Editor's note: On December 15, 1860, Ralph married thirty-year-old Elizabeth Skelton. President Daniel H. Wells performed the ceremony in the Endowment House on Temple Square. Elizabeth was born 23 Sept. 1830 in Brompton, Yorkshire, England, a daughter of James Skelton and Mary Leaf. The only information we have about her is that she was baptized a member of the Church in January 1860. A sister, Rachel, who was born 29 Dec. 1836 in Brompton, Yorkshire, England, had come to Utah with her, was baptized 3 March 1862 and was endowed 13 April 1867, possibly when she was married to William Burleigh. Ralph, Aunt Sarah and the third wife, Elizabeth, lived in rooms above the Godbe & Pitts Drug Store on the South East Corner of First South and Main Street in Salt Lake city during the first few years that Ralph was working in the Drug Store. It was here that a baby daughter, Alice, was born to Ralph and Elizabeth on the 30th of November, 1861. Aunty Harrington, the mid-wife, cared for Elizabeth at the birth of the baby. Later, the family moved down on Third West, between fourth and fifth south just opposite the old Sixth Ward Chapel and School House.]After the scare from Johnston's Army was over, I guilt an adobe house in Salt Lake City. I spent nearly four years as a missionary in England; and while president of the London Conference, I became well acquainted with George E. Careless, who was a prominent musician from the British royalty. He became converted to Mormonism and in spite of ill health, decided to come to Utah and cast his lot with the Latter-day Saints in their home in the mountains.
I returned to Salt Lake City in 1864, and I was offered a load of merchandise by my nephew, William S. Godbe, if I would take his place as a pioneer to Utah's Dixie. Since I had no job here, I was glad to go, as I could set myself up in the mercantile business in the city of St. George. Elder Orson Pratt, who had been released from the Dixie Mission, was glad to trade his newly erected adobe home to me for my adobe one in Salt Lake City. In a short time, I was on my way with my family and merchandise to set myself up as a pioneer merchant, and with the prospect of a new home awaiting our arrival. My eldest son, Oscar, was a lad of fourteen so he could easily manage one of the outfits. Upon our arrival, we found a commodious two-story house, located across from the store and office, and I found that this business until 1875, when my son-in-law Edwin G. Woolley, with two associates set up the Woolley, Lund and Judd Mercantile Institution. They bought me out, giving me credit on their store for value received.
My boys and I found time to cultivate the two-acre lot on which my home stood. Besides raising a variety of vegetables for the family table, we planted a large asparagus bed west of the house and set out many seedless grapevines to the north. These are still supplying an abundance of first class grapes. Some of the mulberry trees planted to feed my wife's silkworms did double duty by providing an abundant shade in the hot days of summer. I had seven and one-half hours of garden water every five days for my two lots, but my stream was on the end of the ditch so it was usually a small one. With a lot this size I was glad to hire a man named Johnny Rhoner as my gardner. He was a fast, hard worker but he always gave up just after noon, so we solved his problem by my hiring him for a half day's work, leaving him his afternoons for his own pleasure.
Indian raids were still frequent after I arrived in St. George. The Navajo Indians from across the Colorado River were the most difficult to deal with. After their raids they were often able to recross the river with their stolen animals, making it almost impossible to the settlers to recover their property or punish the raiders. Following one of these raids in January of 1866, efforts were made to apprehend the raiders. On January 11, I, as Mayor, sent Capt. David H. Cannon and a company of men from St. George and Washington to report to Major William Maxwell with a dispatch suggesting that the Indians be pursued and overtaken, if possible, before they crossed the Colorado River with their plunder, but not to cross the river in pursuitâ€¦
At the November 1866 term of the county court, James G. Bleak, Franklin B. Woolley and I were appointed as a Board of Examiners to judge the qualifications of teachers who applied for positions in the several schools in the county. The people who had been called to settle on the Muddy were having a terrific struggle to maintain themselves and many of the settlers had been discouraged and left for other parts. In March 1868, Pres. Erastus Snow, accompanied by Elders Joseph W. Young and myself visited the Muddy River settlers, comforting and encouraging those who still remained at their post of duty. In the November 1869 Conference, President Erastus Snow reported, â€śI propose that Joseph W. Young be set apart as President of this St. George Stake of Zion.â€ť This was seconded by several and unanimously carried. President Joseph W. Young expressed his desire for counselors, whereupon Elder Robert Gardner as first counselor and Elder James G. Bleak as second counselor were each sustained by unanimous vote. This action made vacancies in the office of bishop of St. George, and in the High Council. Marius Ensign, Joseph Birch, Jesse W. Crosby, Jr., Richard Bentley and Miles E. Romney were nominated to fill vacancies existing in the High Council, making the High Council consist of Walter E. Dodge, John O. Angus, Taylor R. Bird, William Empey, Erastus McIntire, Samuel Miles, John R. Young and the above newly chosen ones. I was set apart by Erastus Snow on Nov. 9th, 1869.
Since the anti-polygamy attitude was increasing against the Mormons, even the members in tis faraway Dixie felt that they must protest the untruths being hurled against them. Because of this, a mass meeting was called on March 29, 1870, presided over by President Erastus Snow. The immediate item for discussion was the Cullom Bill, a new piece of legislation that had been recently introduced into the House of Representatives in Washington D. C. by Hon. Shelby N. Cullom, and was known as the Anti-Polygamy bill. A committee of five, I being one of them, was appointed to draft a preamble and resolutions as to our feelings about the bill. In this we declared our loyalty to all constituted authorities but were opposed to some of the actions of officials sent among us, etc. It was signed by the following: Richard Bentley, Miles P. Romney, James G. Bleak, Joseph W. Young and Joseph Birchâ€¦
In 1877 Mayor Alex F. MacDonald resigned as Mayor of St. George to accept a call as a missionary to Scotland and I was appointed to fill his unexpired term. In March of 1878 I was elected Mayor and again in 1880 for another two years. Ten years later on April 14, 1888 I was elected Mayor for the third time. During my terms as Mayor I continued the project of rocking the diagonal water ditch for its full length, which project had been begun under Mayor Robert Gardner and continued under Mayor McDonald. The city's drinking water was dipped up into barrels from the water ditches during the early morning hours and during this same hour cattle and horses were let out of their corrals to drink. They often waded up and down the ditches as they drank, affecting the purity and the taste of the drinking water that was being dipped up. When Mayor, I had wooden water troughs set in the ditches at suitable places. Animals now seemed more willing to stand on the outside of the ditches and drink from the troughs instead of wading up the ditches and thus the quality of the drinking water was much improved.
About 1888 a rich vein of copper ore was discovered at the Grand Gulch Mine in the mountains north of the Colorado River in Northern Arizona. Samuel Adams, Henry Eyring and I owned stock in the mine so we erected a smelter in the eastern part of the St George Valley. Here we smelted the ore that had been hauled in from the mine by teams and the copper was shipped to the railroad. This little industry of hauling and smelting made considerable employment, of which there had always been a great need in our little settlement, something I had given much thought and time to developing. During my third term as Mayor the pile dam, in the Virgin River on which the farmers had counted so strongly, was washed away and considerable of the canal went with it. In December, 1889, the discouraged farmers and stockholders of the Washington Field Canal Company convened to take some action relative to a new dam. So many dams had been washed away that the farmers had lost interest. In building more dams for floods to take out. The feeling was for a permanent dam or none at allâ€¦
On January 15, 1885, Thomas Nelson Terry of Hebron Country joined our family by marrying my last daughter, Annie Elizabeth. He was in the ranching business among the hills in the northwest section of Washington County. I had accumulated quite a bank of mares of I turned them over to him to run them on his range for half the profit. My two sons, Oscar and Frank also added to this stock and we kept up the arrangement for more than twenty years, for it served the family with horses to trade for homes as well as other needs. I drove a span of horses on a buggy for my private use, but later changed to a fast trotting horse on a single buggy for local use.
On December 6, 1882 while I was away at Beaver, Beaver County, Utah, helping to hold Court, my wife, Elizabeth, passed away. This left me alone and not used to caring for my household needs. I managed for awhile, but when I met a lady from the eastern states, a descendent of the Daniel Webster family and a trained practical doctor, her name was Hannah Copp Webster, we were married on September 9, 1884, and sealed in the Temple at St. George. On September 13, 1897 I was ordained Patriarch in the St. George Stake and to the best of my ability acted in that capacity for the remaining years of my life. In my later life I was handicapped with deafness to the extent that I had to withdraw from all public offices, and the asthmatical attacks from which I had suffered for years took much pleasure from any social life that I might have enjoyed; however I was still quite comfortable in the good solid home in which I had lived all my years in Dixie.
Note — Richard Bentley died on March 24, 1906, at his home in St. George at the age of 86. He was survived by his wife and six children. A year later, on May 15, 1907, his wife, Hannah died at home after an extended visit to her son and other relatives in the east.
-Helen B. Shurtliff