Brief Biography of John Worthen who Arrived in Utah in 1852

by Zenna Worthen Buttle – Granddaughter

John Worthen was born 22 July, 1817 at Northwich, Cheshire, England. He was the son of Richard Worthen and Mary Cowap. He had seven brothers and sisters. Their names are Samuel Richard, William, James, Robert, Richard 2nd, Joseph.  The sisters are Jane and Mary Worthen.

Richard, the father of John, was a shoemaker by trade. Richard’s father was Richard Nicols, a soldier who died in Foriegn Wars while fighting under the British Flag. Richard’s mother was Martha Worthen. Later Martha married William Chrimes and had issue.

John Worthen, my Grandfather, was married to Hannah Elam, who was born 28 July, 1816, Frodsham, Cheshire, England, on March 25, 1839 in the same town. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1840: was baptized by William Berry and was ordained a Priest in 1841.

John Worthen with his wife and their twho children Henry and Ann, along with his father Richard and his mother and brother and sisters migrated to Navoo, Illinois in 1841. Grandfather was a stone mason or builder and he built a fine home in Navoo, Illinois planning on living there the rest of his life. On the property he owned was a large ravine. He planned on building a stone vault in this ravine which would serve as a burial place for his entire family.

He worked on the Navoo Temple and was working in the Navoo House when the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed.  Grandfather often told of the time when Joseph Smith’s likeness fell on Brigham Young when he was being sustained as President of the Latter Day Saint Church.

Grandfather was ordained a Seventy in the ninth Quorum 8 October 1844, by B. L. Clapp.

He was driven out of Navoo by the mob with the last of the Saints that were driven that dreadful night across the icy river about April 1845. He and his family along with his Mother and brothers and isters went to Des Moines, Iowa and there his wife died and he buried her in Augusta, Des Moines, Iowa. She had another son Peter William born in Navoo and died after giving birth to a stillborn baby “Eva Lucy” 10 February 1847. John buried her with full confidence that they would meet in the first resurrection.

On November 12, 1848, Grandfather married Amanda Maria Hartson who was born at Mansfield, Toland, Connecticut, on August 3, 1820. They were married at Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa.

When Richard 2nd. and Joseph Worthen, brothers of John were crossing the river at Augusta, Iowa to go to Sunday School they were swept off the ferryboat and were drowned. This was April 18, 1849.

When the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo, John did not have enough money to go west. He went to New Orleans and worked at his trade as a stone and brick mason, a trade which was very popular and in demand at the time. He planned on earning enough money to buy an outfit to come West.

Richard, his father died 2 or 12 September 1845. Jane, his sister died in New Orleans. James died 1850 and Robert his other brother died 31 April 1849.

After laboring long enough in New Orleans to buy an outfit, John, his wife Amanda and his mother Mary Cowap Worthen migrated to Utah by ox team. They arrived in Salt Lake in 1852.

There were twelve children born to John and Amanda. Three of them Laura Maria, Clarinda Augusta and Emily Jane were born in Iowa. The other nine children – Alonzo, Heber, John Alvin Edwin Eugene, George Lucian, Mary Elizabeth, Josephine Henrietta, Mary Horatio, Clarence Edger and Richard Reuben were born in Salt Lake City, Utah.

After arriving in Salt Lake City, grandfather worked on the Temple. He was foreman on the Temple block for a number of years, and also the custodian of the tabernacle for many years. He always attended church every Sunday afternoon in the Tabernacle and they used to pass the sacrament.

Grandfather was one of the first contractors in Salt Lake City, Utah. He helped lay the rocks for Brigham Young’s grave. He also built homes for President Brigham Young, John Taylor, Bishop Hunter and many others.

On Sunday May 30 1858 Grandfather married his third wife, Mary Ellen Midgley, my Grandmother. Mary Ellen Midgley was born at Almondbury, Yorkshire, England, 15 September 1831.

Seven children were born to them, Walter Rufus, Charles Herbert, Eliza Alice, Sarah Emeline, Hannah Sophia, Adelina Bertha and Joshua Milton Worthen, my father.

John Worthen was ordained one of the presidents of the ninth Quorum of Seventies, 22 June 1875 by Brother Rockwood. He was set apart as one of the presidents in the twenty-third Quorum of Seventies, 13 December 1883. He was ordained a High Priest 30 May 1891 by Elias Morris.

John Worthen built a house on E Street and 1st Avenue, a double house, two stories, five romes on each side. There he lived with his two wives and families; His home was built in the 20th Ward. My father, Joshua Milton, was born there. The house is still standing (March 1949). The lot was about a forth of the block. Here Grandfather had a garden that was of the finest in the 20th ward. He had a large barn with cows and pigs. He took the milk to the tithing office and received $1.00 for 20 quarts. My father said he raised some of the finest strawberries in the valley.

While living here with his two families, grandfather fell from a building and was badly hurt. He got rheumatism along with this trouble and he thought he was not going to live very long so he made out a will. One night he was reading this will to my grandmother and as there was such a thin wall between the other wife’s part of the house, Amanda, the other wife could hear him reading. In the will he had written that when he died if the time came when one of the wives had to move because they could not live in peace in the same house, that the one who remained in the house would have to pay for the other wife’s rent, which had to move out of the house.

His wife Amanda became angry and sent to a lawyer, who was a Mormon Hater, and he took her case. At this time the Edmund-Tucker law was in affect, a law which disenfranchised all women who were married in polygamy. Grandfather and Grandmother had been married in the Endowment House and he knew that all would be Amanda’s by law. He did not even appear at the trial and Amanda got possession of the home and the property. Then Amanda’s children put grandfather out of his house. Amanda received her divorce from grandfather. Then on the 23 March 180 my grandfather and Mary Ellen Midgely, my grandmother were married by the law.

He then moved around with his family and grandmother in different places for awhile in Salt Lake City until he finally built his last house on the secont West just below 7th South – 721. The house is still standing. He was seventy years old at this time.

He then sent one of his sons, Charles Herbert Worthen on a mission to the Southern States. Just at the time that his son was to be released from his mission he died and they held his body in refrigeration for eight days until his son could get home for funeral.

On 23 April 1893 John Worthen, the father of twenty two children died at the age of 76 years. My father said he had a wonderful dad.

All his brothers and sisters had died by 1868 except for Samuel. In grandfather’s diary he has written the dates that he was baptized for his five brothers who had died, which was 18 September 1868 and his Mother was baptized for his sister the same day.

Samuel Worthen, the brother had three wives and twenty eight children. He settled with his families in Southern Utah. Before grandfather built his last home he lived at 350 East 7th South, about a year. Then he moved to Rarriet’s House by the Bamburger Tracks between North and South Temple on 2nd WEst, then moved by Wasatch Springs and Sixth North.

The above information was given to me by my father Joshua Milton Worthen. My grandfather died before I was born. The following information is given in the Church Historian’s office – Reference Bio. Ency. Vol 3:165 p. ans P.M. of Utah 1039.

John Worthen and give others crossed the plains in the 20th company – Henry W. Miller, Captain J. H. Dec. 31 1852. Supplement page 127. He is listed as one man, one woman, four children, one wagon, and eight cattle.

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