William Henry Adams (1817-1898)

. . . lived on sego lily bulbs and thistle roots.  They were grateful to find mushrooms growing from under the shavings of the logs with which they had built the house .

altWilliam Henry Adams was born the son of John Adams and Mary Nash Adams at Hythe, Kent, England on June 4, 1817.

Parentage:  John Adams was a mariner.  At the age of 21 he married Mary Nash.  She was about eight years his senior.  Soon after their marriage he rejoined his ship and sailed away to foreign ports.  But in the course of the journey his ship was seized by the British government as a revenue tax by England.  John was sent to the Isle of St. Helena where he  became a guard of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been exiled there by the British government.  John died there in October, 1817 never knowing that he had a son.

Mary Nash Adams was a seamstress by trade and provided for her son by sewing.  The dresses of that day required yards and yards of dark material with all the delicate stitches done by hand.  Working with poor lighting and the dark cloth, her eyes began to fail.

About 13 years after the birth of Wm. Henry, Mary had a daughter whom she named Mary Gardiner.  William Gardner was the father and he provided for her financially until his death, but Mary Nash and William Gardner  never married.

Apprenticeship and Marriage: At the age of eight, Wm. Henry was put out under a master apprentice, which was the custom in England.  He worked with a mason which was very hard work for a boy so young.  The last two or three years of his apprenticeship he grew to know the work.  He spent time in many of the brick buildings, most of which were many stories high.  One day while working on one of these high buldings he fell through the joists from the top story to the bottom.  As he fell, a spike caught his coat and held him hanging there.  Fearing the worst, the men ran to his aid and, to their surprise, he had not even been scratched.  He bult many arches and tunnels in the buldings of England.

At the age of 20 he married Martha Jennings.  He obtained a horse and a cart and set up sort of a moving van business.  Later they ran a grocery store which had been owned by Martha's father.

Conversion and Immigration: William had a severe attack of typhoid fever and was near death.  He prayed and told the Lord if he was spared he would humbly serve him the rest of his life.  Not long after, he met the elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He was baptized in the middle of the night so as not to be attacked by the mobs of unbelievers.  He was later made president of the branch at Dover.

When the call came to emigrate to Zion, they sold the store and bade goodby to his sister Mary and his aging mother, who by this time had gone blind.  They sailed to America on the sail ship "Prince".  Their two oldest children had died as babies.  Their next two--William H. four years old, and Eliza 7 years old--came with them.


'Prince' Sailing Ship

After nine weeks of sailing they reached America in the fall of 1847.  They went to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  They purchased 160 acres with a house and prepared to stay.  Here they met Brigham Young and Williard Richards.  During the long winter they became better acquainted with Willard Richards.  When spring came, he persuaded them to come west with the saints.

Moving West: William bought a wagon and two oxen.  He also had two milk cows which supplied them and others.  Their company consisted of 526 people and 169 wagons.  He tells how at night they made a sort of diamond shape with the wagons and put the cattle in the center so they would not wander off or be stolen by the Indians.  Certain people were assigned to hunt for food and others were to watch constantly for anything unusual.  One day while hunting, he killed a small animal and, not knowing what it was, he brought it back to camp and it was identified as an antelope.  He was kidded about being a "green Englishman".  He also killed a number of buffalo.


Wagon Train similar to the Willard Richards Company, 1848

He had a couple of interesting guns.  One was a Kentucky rifle which was considered to be the best in the country.  He also had a "pepper box" pistol.  A man by the name of Wilson picked it up to examine it.  It discharged and the bullet went through the left knee of little William, his four year old son.  Willard Richards, who had practiced medicine near Boston in the mid 1830s, was head of the company.  Young William was placed on the tongue of a wagon and, without anesthesia, the men probed for the bullet.  They feared he would never walk again.  However, Williard Richards arose from his wagon and prophesied in the name of the Lord that he would walk before they reached the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, and he did.

Arrival and Settlement: The Willard Richards Company arrived in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1848.  William chose a lot next to Willard Richards and set to work constructing a one room adobe house.

In 1850 he was called by Brigham Young to go with Philo Farnsworth and John Mercer to go south to scout a new place.  They first camped in what is now Lehi.  Then they came over closer to the mountains to where there was a large grove of cottonwood trees [Pleasant Grove].  On July 19th they started to survey a town site. [This survey ran south to what is now the state road to the underpass, up main street to center street leading to American Fork.]

They returned to Salt Lake to report, and bring their families to the new valley.  William's wife had a new baby on the fifth of August, so the Adams family remained in Salt Lake about two months.  In the meantime--Philo Farnsworth, George Clark, John Holman, and Lewis Harvey traveled bacl to Salt Lake Valley in September 1850.

During the time the Adams' were in Salt Lake, a Mr. John Banks and wife and two children had just arrived and the Adams family befriended them. William offered to share their land with them.  In October, 1850, when they returned to the settlement, winter set in early.  Being too late in the season to build homes,  they took the wagon box off the running gears and put the wagon box on two logs near each other and that is how they spent the winter.

They worked their oxen all winter hauling cottonwood logs from the Provo River area and cedar posts from the sand hills a little to the west. [These would actually have been from juniper trees]. When the spring of1851 came they were eager and ready to build their cabins.  Each family moved to their farms and began fencing and plowing and building.  Everyone helped.  There were roads and bridges to build and ditches to make.  No one had any experience in irrigating so they all leanred together.

In his journal, William H. Adams wrote, "We all became green English men," for there was a first time for everything.  Everyone helped and they had good crops that year.

The Indians were maraudng and would steal anything left out, even their pots and pans they had so carefully carried from England.

There were no saw mills to cut the lumber so they devised a way.  They dug a pit six feet deep and a rod [about 16 feet] long.  They put two long poles across the pit; then put a log across them.  One man was in the pit and another up top and with a large two-man saw they ripped the lumber the size they needed.

Back to Salt Lake:  With the passing of the seasons and good crops, things began to look brighter.  William and Martha decided they should go to Salt Lake and be sealed together.  This took place 6 August 1852 in the old Council House performed by Heber C. Kimball.  They were very happy!

While in Salt Lake, they slept on a bed of green grain that they had taken with them for this purpose and also to feed their horse.  Martha contracted a severe cold and became very ill by the time they got home.  She suffered nine days and on the 17th of August she passed away.  She was buried in a plot on the north east that they had designated for a cemetery.  This cemetery was later moved to the present site.


Grave Marker of William Henry Adams Sr., his wife Martha Jennings Adams, and his mother Mary Nash Adams - Pleasant Grove City Cemetery, Utah

More Hardships:  William struggled to care for his children.  That fall of 1852 his sister and blind mother were among the immigrants to Utah.  They were a great help to him.  Mary stayed two years. She married Samuel Jeweks and then they moved to Cedar City.

In the year 1853 the grasshoppers were so bad that very little of their crops were saved.  Starvation and sickness were at their door constantly.  They did have some musty corn that they ground in the coffee mill because William couldn't afford to take it to the mill.  They lived on sego lily bulbs and thistle roots.  They were thankful to find mushrooms growing from under the shavings of the logs that had bulit the house with.  They gathered sacks full and the mushrooms were a great aid to their meager diet.

Blessings Received: In 1858 Johnson's army was on its way to Utah.  People were advised to move south for protection--especially widows and children.  The settlers were told to take them into their homes.  That is how William met his second wife.  He took into his home Frances Ann Otten Crossland and her four daughters.  She kept house and cared for his three children and blind mother.  In July 1858 William H. and Frances Ann were married.  That made a family of ten living in one room in a log house.

Not long after moving to Pleasant Grove, her oldest daughter, fifteen years old, married John Mc Donald and they move to Salt Lake.  She started to make taffy in her home and it became so popular that it expanded and the J.G. McDonald candy company was started.

In the passing years, Alice, Annie, and a son Joseph Hiram was born to the family.  The older family found mates and married and moved away.  The last son, Joseph Hiram, also married but he stayed close to help care for his aging parents.

William's Other Contributions: William Henry Adams died 6 October 1898--the closing of a life of sacrifice and work, faithful to the end.  Intelligent and trustworthy, he never went to school a day in his life.  But he developed his own skills and became a good reader, a good writer, and an excellent speller, and he was good at math.  He served eight terms as city treasurer and tax collector and had the confidence of the people in keeping accurage accounts. 

William built many of the old homes in Pleasant Grove.  He went to his reward after a life of service.


Source:  Melissa Jane Caldwell Adams family papers 1817-1939 (inclusive); Ms0082, Box 1, folder 1; J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Special Collections, 295 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0860

William Henry Adams Sr. was born in the town of Hythe, England, in 1817 to Mary Nash and John Adams.  His father died before he was was born, and his mother then married William Gardner. Together they raised her son, and had a daughter they also named Mary.

William Adams Sr. was apprenticed to the mason's trade at eight, which he later put to use constructing buildings in Utah. In 1839, he married Martha Jennings in Dover, England and they took over her parents' grocery business. They joined the Mormon church soon after their marriage, and in 1847 emigrated to America with their children, William Jr. and Eliza.

The family arrived in the fall of 1847, and went directly to Council Bluff where they bought 160 acres of land to farm. In the spring of 1948, they left for the Salt Lake valley, in the company of Willard Richards, Brigham Young's cousin, and a contemporary of Joseph Smith.

The Adams arrived in Salt Lake City in October 1948, but in 1850, at the request of Brigham Young, William, Philo Farnsworth, and John Mercer went to Utah County to help found Pleasant Grove.

Martha died in 1852, and William was not only left with the children, but the hardships that followed. This included the beginning of crop failure in 1853, and the arrival of his mother and half-sister in the same year.

In 1858, the cycle of crop failure came to an end, and William married Ann Otten Crossland, who bore him three children. During this time, he helped build barracks at Camp Floyd for Johnson's Army, and served as treasurer and tax collector in Pleasant Grove. He died in 1898.

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Comments 4

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Connie Bradshaw (website) on Sunday, 19 August 2012 14:24

A great tribute, Golden. You did a wonderful job!

A great tribute, Golden. You did a wonderful job!
Dick Pellek (website) on Monday, 20 August 2012 16:52

You have written a very colorful account that epitomizes the Legacy Stories genre. Well done, Golden.

You have written a very colorful account that epitomizes the Legacy Stories genre. Well done, Golden.
Greg Clark (website) on Monday, 27 August 2012 12:04

A great story. Thank you for sharing.

A great story. Thank you for sharing.
Stan Hammond on Tuesday, 05 April 2022 17:30

Glad to learn the details of my wife's ancestor. Thanks

Glad to learn the details of my wife's ancestor. Thanks