Telford, John

Telford, John


Born: 2 March 1802, Armagh, Ulster, Ireland

Spouse: Jane Telford

Died: 19 January 1896

Parents: George Telford and Jane Dodds

Family Line: Anna Telford


JOHN TELFORD, by Eloise Alien Pingree, his great-granddaughter

John Telford was bom atArmaugh,Ireland, March 2,1802. He was baptized in Canada and joined the body of the church in Missouri. He was at Nauvoo when the comer stone of the Temple was laid and worked upon it until completion. He was intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and was in Nauvoo at the time of the Martyrdom. On being driven from Nauvoo, he went back to Quincy, Illinois, where he labored and collected the wherewith to come to the valley of the mountains, where he arrived in the year 1851. Brother Telford was married first in March, 1825 to Jane Telford, and had seven children by his first wife and they finally settled in Bountiful, Utah and resided there many years. He served as a Bishop’s Counselor [to Bishop Anson Call], President of the Teaches Quorum, Superintendent of Sunday School, and the Instructor of Theology, and each position being a credit to himself and an honor to his fellow workers. He also served the people of Bountiful for eight years, as the Justice of the Peace, administering in righteousness.

John Telford was married again in March 13, 1857 to Elizabeth Robinson. They had nine children by this marriage. At the time of his death in 1886 he had forty four grandchildren and one hundred and eleven great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

His death was the saddest held in the little community of Richmond. When he was returning home from getting a wagon at the blacksmith shop for repairs, he stopped at the foot of a dugway leading up the river bank to his place and put some old posts into his wagon. It was supposed that in getting into the wagon afterwards, his foot slipped and in the wheel. The team became frightened and bolted away, dragging the body of John Telford, fearfully mangling his head. The team ran past the door of his house, where his wife was standing and saw him being dragged. Aid was sent for, but before it could arrive, the injured died. He was not conscious from the time of the accident. The funeral was held in Richmond Ward, Cache county,Utah, January 25,1896.

He was a wise counselor, being well posted in all Church Doctrine and it was said of him, “To know him was to love him.”


John Telford, a Utah Pioneer of 1851, was born March 2, 1802 in the city of Armagh, province of Ulster, Ireland. He was the son of George Telford and Jane Dodds Telford. He was the sixth child in a family of seven children and was an orphan when he was nine years of age.

The city of his birth is situated in the north central part of Armagh Countyand is known as the “Orchard of Ireland” and is the Parliamentary Borough. Armagh was also the ancient metropolis of Irelandand a seat of learning as well as a religious center.

The Telfords were members of the Episcopal Church and according to tradition their political affiliations were with the old Order of Fianns, the champions ofErinwhose legendary hero Finn was comparable to the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table.

An event in proof of this tradition occurred one evening when John Telford was about seven years of age. As he and his cousin Doctor Willis were returning home they found their street closed by the Orangemen, a secret society in opposition to the Fenians who had many fires burning.

As it was late, John and his cousin decided to take a chance and pass the fires rather than take the long tiresome way home. They were attacked by the Orangemen who fought with burning torches. John was beaten and severely burned but Doctor Willis fought the men off and John ran to safety. He was burned so severely across his shoulders that he carried the scars to his grave.

John Telford’s family had been inIrelandfor many years and were a well-to-do family for their day and were very fastidious in their dress. They were soldiers and land-holders, having been given grants of land by the King.

TheTelfordestate was on the border of the hunting court where the “High Lords of Ireland” gathered for the hunt. An interesting tradition concerning the hunting tells how misfortune came to the family, causing John’s father to seek new opportunities in America.

According to this tradition one of the English Aristocracy who were inIrelandon a fox hunt was among a party of hunters on this court. During the chase, a rabbit that they were pursuing crossed over the border of the court on to theTelfordproperty and was killed by their dog.

Three angry hunters pursued the dog and Mrs. Telford hearing the disturbance stepped through the door into the door-yard. The dog fled to his mistress for protection and hid under her skirts as the three mounted men charged into the yard and right up to the door. The English noblemen demanded the dog and threatened to kill it. Mrs. Telford refused to give up her dog and when he persisted she defied him.

Incited to unreasonable anger the Englishman brought suit against the Telfords and fought the case in the Irish courts for years but the Telfords won the suit. However, the defense of their rights cost them the loss of their property and when John Telford was nine years old his father and the two older sons, James and William, left Ireland for America and secured work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The altitude of that mountainous region was too high for George who was used to the low country and he contracted that dread disease known as Mountain Fever and died. His wife, Jane D., who came over to theUnited Statesto take care of her two young sons during their father’s illness, also contracted the fever and passed away, leaving the two youngsters alone in a strange land. John and his baby sister Eliza were left inIrelandwith their three older sisters and other relatives.

After the death of his parents John was apprenticed to a weaver and although he was used to a good home and plenty, he was now forced to make his own living, which he did from the tune he was a boy of nine.

John became an expert weaver of the finest linens but he did not like the work as he was interested in agriculture and wanted to be a landowner and live the free, independent life that was the heritage of his forefathers.

John’s people were loyal toEnglandand always ready to fight in her defense but their sympathies were with the oppressed and liberty loving Irish people and their desperate struggle for freedom.

When John was a lad of thirteen years,Britainand her Allies went to war withFranceand John’s uncles, true to family tradition, went to war for their country. One was killed in the battle ofWaterloo, and another deafened in the same battle from the roar of the camions that brought death to about 50,000 brave men.

John Telford was married in March 1825 to his cousin Jane Telford, inScotland. After their marriage, John secured work and they remained inScotlandabout two years and lived across the Channel fromBelfast,Ireland.

Robert Telford, their oldest child, was born at Barrhead,Renfrewshire,Scotland, January 8, 1826.

A short time later John and his family returned to Armagh County, Ireland, where they remained until about 1830 when they decided to seek better agricultural and financial opportunities in America. John and his wife and their three small children set sail fromBelfastforQuebecin an emigrant ship sent out by the English Government, with a company of Irish colonists to settle inCanada. Among this company of colonists were John’s sister Mary Jane and her husband Joseph Irwin and Joseph’s brother Tom and wife Jane.

This was a long and trying voyage and nearly proved disastrous a number of times during the trip across the ocean. There were incidents causing excitement and thrills as well as dread and tragedy.

When smallpox broke out on board every one was desperately afraid as it was considered sure death to all who contracted it, so when John’s small daughter Anna broke out with the disease, her mother hid her in one of the large linen chests, as she feared some of the panic stricken people would throw the child overboard. This chest is still in the possession of the family, a valued relic.

While at sea they were also caught in a violent storm and huge waves washed overboard causing much damage. In the darkness they collided with another ship, became entangled and spun like tops in the storm and were nearly sunk. The sailors, however, were very fortunate and succeeded in cutting the ships apart. So much damage had already been done to the ship that they had to work desperately for days, pumping water to save the ship and keep it from sinking while repairs were made.

A lot of damage was also done to the effects of the passengers by the salt water that washed overboard. John Telford’s family records were destroyed along with other valuable articles.

When the colonists reached the harbor atQuebecthey were attacked by another ship which attempted to ram their vessel and sink them in the harbor, but due to the captain’s presence of mind and the quick dexterous work of the helmsman, they escaped injury and no harm was done.

One of the passengers observing the suspicious maneuvering of the other ship sounded the alarm. The captain who was below deck came on the run with drawn sword, calling “Jack, to the helm”. The passengers also rushed to the assistance of the captain at the rail. After the hostile demonstrations were over and they had escaped damage or injury by out-maneuvering the onrushing ship, the captain who was a Scotchman, took up his speaking tube and called to the crew of the other ship, “Thank you, gentlemen; except for that act we wouldn’t ever have known your nationality.” The affair was hushed up and nothing ever done about it. After this long voyage of eight weeks on the ocean the colonists landed inQuebec.

Soon after arriving inCanadathe Telfords and the Irwins sailed up the St. Lawrence River and settled on theGreat Lakes. John and his family lived for a short time inToronto. Some time later they and Tom Irwin and family settled inEssex,Ontario, on adjoining farms just across the river fromDetroit, where Joseph and Mary .lane Irwin were located.

Here inEssexCounty, John had a fine maple sugar orchard of all new trees. He became prosperous in the short time he had been in this new land and was soon able to build a new home with new furnishings throughout.

During his residence in Canada John also ran a logging crew and had quite a number of men working for him in the timber, as well as on his land.

During the winter it was intensely cold in the woods and after the strenuous work of felling trees the men had to put on their heavy coats and run up and down the felled logs to keep from freezing, while they ate their lunch which had previously been buried in the deep snow to keep it from freezing solid.

It was eight years after John Telford settled inCanadathat he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was converted by John Lander and was baptized January 17, 1838 by John Win. Immediately after joining the church John began preparations for a speedy departure for theUnited Statesto join the main body of Saints at Kirtland,Geauga County,Ohio.

Then came their first real sacrifice when they willingly gave up their new home and prosperity for the sake of their religion.

Because of the opposition and the prejudice of the people against him, and his unpopular belief, John did not try to sell any of his property. He just locked up his house and left everything in tact.

Their young orchard of maple sugar trees that had been tapped only once or twice, their comfortable home and possessions, were left behind. They went with only the few things allowed by theUnited Statesgovernment, packed into their wagon and with five small children, to cast their lots with the harassed people of their faith, who also were sacrificing all material considerations, every comfort, and often health and even life for their religion.

It was in the early part of 1838 that John and his family reached Kirtland, during that dark period of the Church when the Saints suffered so much from persecution and apostasy, just before they were forced to leave the state.

Kirtland, once the refuge of this people and a prosperous community, was situated in the loveliest spot in northernOhio. It was a beautiful town with its hills, vales and clear streams of water and with their far-famedTemplebuilt upon the highest bluff and overlooking the shimmering waters ofLake Eriein the distance.

Due to persecution the Saints must leave all this and seek new homes in another state, so, early on July 6, 1838, nearly all the Saints left Kirtland and moved in a body to Missouri under the leadership of the Seventies. It is thought, however, that John was not a member of the “Kirtland Camp” but that he and his family left about the same time and went some distance away from that vicinity where he got work in a farming district for the summer and joined the Saints later inMissouri.

John Telford and his family endured all the persecutions, mobbings, and drivings suffered by the Saints in the early history of the Church inOhio,Missouri, andIllinois.

At one time during this distressing period when he and all his family except Robert were down in bed with chills and fever, the mob came and ordered them out of their home. The victims of this fever were very ill every other day, but John and his wife were fortunate and their worst time occurred on alternate days, so when one was too sick to get up it was possible for the other to help take care of the children.

On the day that the mob came John was so helpless and ill that it aroused the sympathy of one member of the mob who objected to the heartless treatment imposed upon them by the mobbers and interceded for them and got the mob to consent to let them remain in their home until the following day, but when morning came conditions were even worse and neither John nor his wife were able to get up when the mob returned.

This only added to the fury of the men and they threatened to bum the family with the house unless they would denounce Joseph Smith as in imposter. This they refused to do although the mobbers devised every means to get them to discredit the Prophet. When their efforts failed they prepared to carry out their inhumane threats, but the man who had interceded for them on the previous day defied the mob and carried the family out of the house, against the blasphemous threats of the mobbers.

He helped them to get away in safety by marching with his gun between their wagon and the anger-crazed mob for a mile, while their home and their crops and all. their possessions were consumed by fire. Even the great stacks of sacked wheat that was piled up in the yard during the harvest was also burned by the infuriated mob.

Sick and destitute this family of exiles left their stricken community and looked in vain for food and shelter, as the mob had threatened the residents in all the surrounding country with like treatment if they sold food to the Saints or assisted them in any way.

In one of the outlying districts John attempted to buy food for his family but the farmer told him that even there the mob had threatened the same violence against any one who aided the Mormons. He said, “I pretend to be human but I dare not sell you anything or I too would be forced to flee with my family.” The farmer was alone and going into the field but he told John that there was meat in the smokehouse and flour and potatoes in the bins and with a hurried “Good day, sir” he went into the fields. John took a few slices of bacon, a little flour and potatoes, put his money under the door and hurriedly went away before anybody discovered that he had received assistance.

It probably was inMissouriwhere this occurred as John owned a farm in that state and was inIndependenceat the time of the Haun’s Mill massacre, on October 30, 1838.

The terrible experience of the Saints during theMissouripersecutions are among the most tragic events in the history of the Church. No words can describe the misery and suffering of this people during that tragic winter of 1838 and 1839, when about 15,000 Saints were driven from their homes by armed mobs. Their property was destroyed and the people expelled from the state and again forced to seek shelter in another state.

This exodus was under the direction of Brigham Young. Many of the Saints went toQuincy,Illinois, and located temporarily. John and his family later went toHancockCountyand located in Nauvoo, the beautiful city which they helped to build and develop.

Nauvoo, first called Commerce, was built on a magnificent site over-looking theMississippiand in a majestic curve of the river which formed a half circle around the city. Nauvoo grew rapidly from an unhealthy marshland with few inhabitants into a beautiful, prosperous city, the largest in the industry and beauty, for its educational opportunities, its comfortable homes, and magnificentTemple.

John Telford was in Nauvoo when the cornerstone of theTemplewas laid on April 6, 1841. He worked on theTempleuntil the building was completed.

Here in Nauvoo John built a good one and one-half story brick house with lovely flower gardens, one-half block north of theTemple. He also owned two city lots in Nauvoo.

Here they were again happy and comfortable when persecutions were renewed and the people in Nauvoo and vicinity were harassed as they were inOhioandMissouri.

On June 27, 1844, the greatest sorrow of all befell the Mormon people when their beloved Prophet and Patriarch, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred atCarthage,Illinois. This was a distressing and difficult period for the grief-stricken Saints, but under the leadership of the Twelve, the work of the Church and the city continued to advance.

Although persecutions which had ceased for a short time after the martyrdom were renewed with increased determination the work on theTemplecontinued. In their anxiety to complete the building before they were forced to flee from the city, the Saints worked in all kinds of weather and suffered a lot from cold and exposure.

John’s son Robert worked at the rock quarries and also helped with the construction of theTemple. One day while he was working at the top of the structure, and on the inside of the building, he fell to the bottom receiving injuries from which he never entirely recovered.

The younger son George who suffered so much from exposure while working on theTemplein the cold, wet weather later died from the effects of pneumonia inGarden Grovein 1850, when he was twenty one years of age.

When theTemplewas completed as far as was necessary for this work, John and his wife Jane and his three oldest children had the opportunity of receiving their Endowments there before the Saints were expelled from the state. John was endowed on December 24, 1845.

He and his family left their home in Nauvoo in February, 1846 at the beginning of the general exodus west, of over 20,000 homeless, destitute people. The majority of the Saints who left Nauvoo during the extremely cold, stormy winter camped on the open prairie across the river from their beautiful city where their comfortable homes were empty and their property unsold while they lived in open camps suffering untold hardships in the vain hope of thus avoiding further hostilities and bloodshed and the destruction of their property by the mob.

After leaving Nauvoo the Telfords went back toQuincyand secured work. They lived for two years at Quincy Bottoms, where the men split rails which they sold to a Steam Boat Company. In this way they earned the money to purchase the equipment for the journey across the plains to theSaltLakeValley.

During this unsettled period John and his family also lived for a short time at Calhood Point andGarden Grove.

In 1851, they started toUtahwith the Harry Wilton Company. The usual plan of organization for traveling was to divide the people into companies of one hundred wagons, subdivided into companies of fifty wagons and ten wagons, with Captains over each division. John was the Captain of a division of fifty.

He was well equipped for his journey into the wilderness. He had three wagons packed with flour and provisions, seeds for planting and other necessities. One of the wagons, an extra large one, was loaded with bolts of cloth, fine linen, and other materials which lasted the family for years after they reached their destination all of which he divided with poorer families after he reached the valley.

John’s wagons were built especially for the trip and according to his own specifications, so that no space was wasted. Two of his wagons were extra large and he also had a light, one-horse wagon for his family to ride in. It was equipped with an especially built and upholstered seat, to add some comfort to the long, dreary journey across the plains. There were only four of his children left, however, to make this journey as three had died during that distressing period due to persecution.

When John began the journey west he had horses enough for all his wagons but on the plains the Indians stole or shot his horses so he was forced to use cows and oxen the remainder of the journey. The fine black mare which his daughter Anna drove on the light wagon was killed by a poisoned arrow so she had to drive a cow the remainder of the way toUtah. Victoria, the youngest daughter, who drive a team had to use a cow and a horse on her wagon after the stampede.

This company arrived inSalt Lake cityin September, 1851. John settled inBountiful,DavisCounty, the second settlement inUtah.

The first few years in this territory was a critical time for the pioneers. The partial crop failures due to drought and grasshopper plagues, their isolation from manufacturing centers, and the slow means of transportation had left many of them about destitute of clothing and other necessities.

John’s foresight had enabled nun to provide his family with plenty of material for clothing but after seven years there was little to choose from and they made their dresses from the same bolt of cloth for every day wear as well as for Sunday; the only difference being in the amount of yardage used, their best dresses being made very full, according to the mode for dress occasions.

Added to the difficulties of building a new empire in this arid and isolated region, was the political oppression and misrepresentation they were forced to endure.

During the summer of 1857, the pioneers were faced with what they feared was utter ruin and disaster when they received word that an army was marching against them. The troops were sent toUtahby the Federal Government because of – false-reports^ received atWashingtonagainst the pioneers.

When it was rumored that the army was planning a “Mormon Conquest” and expected to take over their homes and all their possessions the pioneers prepared for self defense. They stationed a picket guard at Weber Camp in the mouth ofEchoCanyon, to watch the movements of theU.S.soldiers during the winter. All the mountain passes were guarded by the Utah Militia.

The pioneers also planned to bum their homes and destroy everything they had built up and leave the valley a blackened ruin rather than again leave their homes to be enjoyed by their enemies.

In the spring of 1858 John Telford and his family, with the pioneers of the northern settlements left their homes and moved “en masse” for the south, leaving only enough men on the deserted communities to bum the buildings and lay waste the country.

The people went toProvoand waited for a peaceable settlement to the difficulties. When word came that the army had passed throughSalt Lake Cityon the 26th of June and were locating in theCedarValley, forty miles from the city, most the people returned to their deserted homes. They arrived in time to harvest a volunteer crop of grain which covered their fields.

On this trip south John was caught in the quicksand while fording the river and his wagon sunk and damaged their perishable goods. A lot of his valuable papers were destroyed. The deeds to all the homes which he had given up and left unsold, after joining the Church, his diary covering a period of twenty years and giving a daily record of all his travels and experiences during those turbulent years in the early history of the Church – all these were destroyed.

On March 13, 1857 John Telford was married to Elizabeth Robinson, a handcart pioneer of 1856.   She was an educated and cultured woman from Beauvale,Nottinghamshire,England. She was a woman of supreme faith and courage, who met the problems of the new country in the true pioneer spirit.

In December, 1857Elizabeth’s son William was born, the first of her nine children.

John Telford lived many years inBountifulwhere he was active in both the Church and the community. He was a councilor to Bishop Anson Call, President of the Teacher’s Quorum and also a visiting teacher. He was assistant Superintendent of the Sunday School for many years and was a teacher of Theology.

John was an authority on Church Doctrine and was well qualified for this position as he was a High Priest and had the privilege of being a member of the School of the Prophets which was first organized atRutlandand taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. This school was the first educational movement sponsored by the Church and include only those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood considered worthy.

This school took up an intensive study of many important subjects such as history, science, and laws governing the universe as well as the sublime truths of Theology. They also studied subjects pertaining to health and proper living.

John was also Justice of the Peace inBountifulfor eight years. He helped with both money and labor to redeem the desert. He helped to build the first grist mill inCentervilleand assisted in building the canal inSalt Lake Citythat supplied Gardner Grist Mill. He helped to bridge Weber River and assisted in building the tannery atFarmington, also Snow’s Carding Mills atBrigham City. John helped to build the roads and canals and also the Union Pacific Railroad. He also assisted in building the co-op store and Tabernacle atEast Bountiful.

John Telford raised the first peaches inDavisCountyand paid the first tithing peaches inUtah. He and Joseph Holbrook also raised the first Early Rose potatoes inUtah. They received two and one half potatoes from the east for seed which they divided for planting.

He also did pioneer work in Richmondwhere he moved in 1860. He lived in the Old Fort and helped in pioneer work in that community for a short time and then moved toBrigham City for a few years where he continued his work of pioneering.

About 1864 John and his family returned toBountifulwhere they remained until June, 1881 when they went back toCacheValleyand lived inLewistonfor about one year. When he was eighty years of age he bought a small farm and a three-acre lot inRichmondand built a home there where he resided the remainder of his life.

John Telford was a man of fine character and a natural leader. He was honest, industrious, straightforward and truthful, and had a high sense of justice and honor. He was broad minded, kind, understanding, and generous to a fault. He despised hypocrisy, vulgarity and unfair dealing. He was a man of exceptionally good judgment and was held in high esteem by his town’s people. He was always called to act as a mediator in all the disputes in the community and his judgment was never questioned. Whatever his decision, all parties were satisfied that justice had been rendered.

John was a student of law so was qualified to fill the need of the early pioneer community in the capacity of legal advisor, investigator and judge. In his office of Justice of the Peace and as a member of the Bishopric, he was called to act in this capacity for many years, both in temporal and spiritual affairs.

John was intellectual and of a highly spiritual nature and was very reverent. He had good government in his family. He guided his children with a word or a nod of the head and they never disregarded his wishes. He was patient as Job and often imposed upon. He was high tempered and although perfectly controlled he would whither one with a look when angry and people feared his displeasure.

John was a good neighbor, loyal to his friends, his country and his religion. He had great pride in ancestry but stood for individual accomplishment and had no false money values. He loved fme horses and beautiful surroundings and was especially interested in agriculture, horticulture, politics and religrion.

He loved music, had a good tenor voice and enjoyed singing. He also loved poetry and all good books. He knew and often repeated appropriate quotations from poetry, fiction or the scriptures to fit every occasion.

When John came to Utahhe brought quite a number of books with him across the plains. Among these were all the Church works. Walker‘s Dictionary. Biography of Distinguished Men. Pictorial History of America. Exercises on the Globes, and Rollins Ancient Histories, He also brought some volumes of poetry, such as Poems of the Seasons, Poetry of the Passions, Poems of Robert Bums and John Saxe and several other volumes of Discourses, etc.

John Telford was a reader and a student all his life. He was educated and a true gentleman. He always retained his keen active mind and was as straight as a soldier when he died.

After a long life, rich in experience, he passed away at his home inRichmondon Sunday, January 19, 1896, a victim of pneumonia. He was ninety-three years, ten months and seventeen days old when he died.

He was survived by his wife Elizabeth and eight of his seventeen children. He also had forty-four grandchildren and one hundred and eleven great grandchildren and one great grandchild. Before his death there were five generations in the family.

Funeral services for John Telford were held in the Richmond Ward chapel on Wednesday, January 22, 1896, and were attended by a host of relatives and friends. The speakers were all old friends of approximately forty years standing: Apostle Marriner W. Merrill, Elders Christian Hyer and Wallace Burnham ofRichmondand William Waddoups and Sidney Kent ofLewiston.

John Telford was interred in theRichmondCemeterywhere he lies at peace on that lovely, quiet hillside, and impressive marble shaft with an emblem of OldIrelandmarking his last resting place.




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