James Thompson Lisonbee (1839 - 1877)

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Death: Died in Springville, Utah, Utah, United States
Managed by: Earlene Rutledge
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About James Thompson Lisonbee

Biographical Summary:

"...James Thompson Lisonbee Sr.’s parents lived on the frontier in an area that had been settled only a few years. He was born November 15, 1839, in Pickens County, Alabama, to Coker Lisonbee and Mary Ann Callaham—the seventh of ten children.

At the tender age of nine, James lost his father to the harsh and rugged wilderness of Alexandria, Missouri. The family had just moved there and was making preparations to move west.

In 1854 when James was twelve, his fatherless family crossed the plains to Utah and settled in Springville, Utah. He went back across the plains when he was called to be a teamster and brought waiting Saints from the Missouri River to the Salt Lake Valley..."

"...James and Ellen married on April 20, 1862, in Springville, Utah. Shortly after their marriage, James volunteered and went yet another time to the Missouri River after stranded Saints. He and Ellen had five children during their years in Springville.

In 1865 James became an officer in the Black Hawk Indian War. He traveled about one-hundred miles south to Sevier and Sanpete Counties and helped protect the Saints from Indian attacks.

In the spring of 1871, James returned to Sevier County with his wife Ellen and family and helped settle Monroe, Utah. Then James bought land outside of Monroe. They endured many hardships. The family lived there in a dugout for some time while James built a log room. The family wasted no time moving in.

They occupied their little log room before it had a floor, door, or window. They lived there until they were called to moved back to Monroe. Ellen gave birth to two more children, one before and one after their return to Monroe.

James spent the remainder of his life in service to his Church. He received a call to be the bishop and president of the United Order in Monroe in 1874. In 1876 he was called on a mission to the Southern States.

He was released as bishop during his mission, and the Monroe United Order was disbanded..."

"...James was thankful for his mission call and responded with wholehearted commitment despite the very real hardship to his family. They were very poor.

His wife Ellen made his cloak for him out of a blanket. She was left with the responsibility of making the living and caring for their six children, ages eleven to one. Ellen returned to Springville hoping to find work.

She and her sister Harriet, who also had the responsibility of a family, rented an orchard and dried fruit. They also sewed and did any work they could get. After the fruit was dried and sold, Ellen took her family back home to Monroe.

Mission days… The first time James crossed the plains it took over four months by wagon. This time he traveled twothousand miles in sixteen days. He paid fares and hitched rides on freighters, trains, and steamboats. He traveled to Mississippi where James—Elder Lisonbee—could find no listening ears. Being alone and without really knowing why, he packed up his clothing and started for the mountains of northern Alabama, urged on by a Spirit that would not let him rest. Day after day he walked on, foot sore and weary, in dire financial straits in a land of strangers. He met rebuffs and then kindness, was sometimes well cared for, and again hungry.

One night he found shelter with a man. They sat up and talked until a late hour on the principles of the Gospel. The next morning as he prepared for another start, his host suggested that he stop and preach. They secured a log cabin which was a church, announced a meeting, and a crowd gathered.

After the meeting, one in the audience invited him to dinner where listeners were ready to hear his teachings. On January 11, 1877, with ten inches of in Alabama, Elder Lisonbee broke the ice and started baptizing. The following Sunday he organized the Grove Oak Branch. The local ministers became alarmed and tried to banish him from the community.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the rural South was a violent place. Elder Lisonbee was subject to much persecution because he was alone. He was threatened many times—not only by ministers and mobs—but by the Klu Klux Klan. These threats did not curtail his labors. He fellowshipped small branches, baptized and confirmed, buried the dead, blessed and healed the sick, blessed children, held services, and preached. Elder Lisonbee’s converts were alive with hope and began preparations to emigrate west.

During his mission, Elder Lisonbee saw his eldest sister Rachel whom he had not seen for twenty-two years and other relatives. She rejoiced to see him.

On March 14, 1877, Elder Lisonbee slipped into a hole while crossing a stream and got very wet. The wind was blowing very cold. He became ill with chills and fever, and he contracted malaria. He was given an honorable release due to his illness, but he felt inspired to stay. He extended his mission five months, then wanted to return home because of his family’s impoverished circumstances. But he did not have the fare. He spent eighteen months in the mission field.

Because he stayed, he had the privilege of leading out, by the same road he came, a goodly company numbering sixty to seventy souls. His dream of a haven in the distant west became their quest. Elder Lisonbee accompanied them to Kansas City, Missouri. Then he took the train to Utah, and his little band of Saints went on to settle in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

In anticipation of James’ return, Ellen and their six children made a one-hundred mile journey to Springville to meet him. She brought the children by horse and wagon from Monroe. She and her sister Harriet made clothing for the children to wear for the occasion. They spun, wove, and sewed suits and dresses.

James finally arrived in Springville on November 28, 1877. Sadly, two days later James was diagnosed with pneumonia. He died in Springville eleven days after his return on December 9, 1877, at age thirty-eight and was buried on Ellen’s thirtieth birthday. He never made it home..."

SOURCE: Krauss, Dixie H; Perry & Lora; Their Roots & Branches; Deseret Pioneers; publicatoin date 2003. Retrived from: http://www.hancocklegacy.org/PDF/James%20Lisonbee%20&%20Ellen%20Amelia%20Johnson.pdf

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James Lisonbee's Timeline

1839
November 15, 1839
1862
April 20, 1862
Age 22
Springville, Utah, Utah, United States
1877
December 9, 1877
Age 38
Springville, Utah, Utah, United States