Benjamin Henry Johnson
On the cold and frosty day of January 9, 1830 in the village of Leigh, Worcestershire, England was born Benjamin Henry Johnson, the ninth of ten children. His parents William and Elizabeth Johnson and their families were longtime residents of the county.
The Stourbridge area where the Johnsons lived was farming country where dairy and agriculture were the primary occupations of the residents.
Wilford Woodruff, a member of the twelve apostles, was sent to England to proselyte in early 1840. He was assigned to Hanley, Staffordshire. As he preached on a Sunday before the Saints, the Spirit whispered, "This is the last meeting that you will hold with this people for many days."
He prayed to the Lord and was told to go south; for the Lord had a great work for him to perform--many souls were waiting for His word. He rode through the parishes of Dudley, Stourbridge, Stourport and Worcester where the Johnson family lived and stopped in Castle Frome, Ledbury, Herefordshire. No elder of the Latter-day Saints had ever visited there.
Mattius F. Cowley wrote about the religious circumstances of the area,
"There was a company of men and women--over six hundred in number--who had broken off from the Wesleyan Methodists and had taken on the name of United Brethren. There were forty-five preachers among them. They were licensed to preach religious services according the the laws. This body of United Brethren were searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were calling upon the Lord continually to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge, that they might know the true way to be saved."
Elder Woodruff went into the area and was asked to preach to this group. Within a short time he had baptized six hundred people.
Benjamin's mother, Elizabeth, was baptized on 20 March 1840. Benjamin was baptized as a child of 11 on 1 November 1841 by Elder Woodruff. Other siblings were baptized during this time period.
Benjamin reported to the government that he had immigrated to the United States in 1848. He was found in that year living in Pottawatamie County, Iowa where he and his future wife Mary Jane Tidwell received a marriage license on 30 April 1851 and were married 4 May 1851. Mary Jane had been living with her parents John and Jane Smith Tidwell in the Council Point, Pottawattamie, Iowa branch of the Church.
It is highly likely that Benjamin and Mary Jane traveled with her father, John Tidwell's pioneer company across the plains into Utah. This journey began in Kanesville, Iowa on 4 June 1852 with a group of 340 people and 61 wagons.
The company witnessed groups of Sioux Indians passing along their trail and sadly many shallow graves which wolves had dug up. The men were able to kill buffalo on occasion to help feed the large group.
Captain Tidwell and his group came in to the Salt Lake Valley on 15 September 1852. Benjamin and Mary Jane and her parents settled in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Utah and remained there for several years.
At least by the year 1860 and perhaps as early as 1857, Benjamin and Mary Jane relocated to Millard County, Utah. In 1861 Apostle George Albert Smith visited Round Valley [Scipio] and organized the settlers there as a branch of the church, with Benjamin H. Johnson as presiding teacher pro tem. He was the first presiding Elder in the church at Round Valley.
In the early spring of 1865, Benjamin hitched his team and wagon in preparation for a trip to Salt Lake City. It is not known the conversation between him and his wife Mary Jane, but she asked him not to go by way of Sanpete County where her family was then residing. She must have known that Benjamin had intentions to marry her younger sister Sarah. He promised Mary Jane that he would not go to Sanpete. But, he did. On 11 April 1865 he took Sarah to Salt Lake with him and married her in the endowment house.
Family lore has it that when Benjamin returned with his new bride, Mary Jane was unforgiving and despite his pleading she no longer desired him as a husband. This story may not be completely accurate since Benjamin and Mary Jane conceived and had a child the next year. But the story is not completely false either.
Benjamin had many troubles with the Indians of the area, and on 10 June 1866, some of his property was stolen by them.
He always had some good horses. He kept the stage coach station near the southwest canyon pass at Round Valley until 1866. He also took care of the mail contract and did much freighting.
Final citizenship papers were granted to Benjamin in 1873.
From the journal of Thomas Memmott we read on 16 February 1889, " Benjamin Johnson of Scipio, also Bishop Thomas Yates, John Quarnberg and Jesse B. Martin were arrested by deputy marshal on the usual charge of living with their wives . . . The brethren were summoned to appear before Commissioner Leonard in Salina and bound to appear before the district court."
Thomas' entry on 18 February 1889 stated, "Benjamin H. Johnson prepared and with my help formulated a paper for the district court. He went entirely back on his religion, and the principle of plural marriage. Crawfished in complete style. I tried to convince him of his error but he was determined, so I just helped him to compile his papers."
Utah territorial files contain the letter written by Benjamin on 18 February 1889 to Judge Leonard. Perhaps from his own hand we can get an idea of his personality and character.
On the final page to the judge we read, "I trust your Honor will not consider that this statement is merely a trumpted up matter because of my arrest. Such is not the case, as I made up my mind to squarely meet the issue [polygamy], and I should certainly have done so had I not been arrested although I might have put it off a little longer."
It appears he did take care of his polygamy problem as Benjamin and Sarah were legally married on 2 June 1889. This probably could not have happened unless he was legally divorced from Mary Jane. I have not found a divorce degree yet as not all of the records documenting territorial divorce proceedings have survived--but I will keep looking.
Benjamin's grandchildren claimed he said, "I had two of as good a women as ever lived if they each had a man, but it was this old man that caused the trouble."
Benjamin lived to be 90 years old dying on 24 July 1920. He is buried in the Scipio cemetery.
Children of Benjamin and Mary Jane:
John William, 1851
Mary Ett, 1853
Benjamin Heber, 1857
Martha Ann 1860
James Franklin, 1862
Mary Rosetta, 1866
Children of Benjamin and Sarah:
Mariah Elizabeth, 1869
Ida Belle, 1871
William Thomas, 1872
Martha Jane, 18875