John Stoker (1817 - 1881)

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Birthplace: Madison Township, Madison, OH, USA
Death: Died in Bountiful, Davis, UT
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About John Stoker

THE LIFE STORY OF JOHN STOKER

John Stoker, son of David and Barbara Graybill Stoker, was born at Bloomfield, Jackson, Ohio on the 8th of March, 1817. He was one of the founders of Davis County and for twenty three years served as Bishop of Bountiful. He was a Major in the Infantry of the Utah Militia and repeatedly served in the Territorial Legislature. He was one of the strong and substantial men of his section, and lived and died widely respected and esteemed.

He had six brothers and sisters as follows: Christine Stoker McDaniel, William Stoker, Nancy Stoker, Sarah Stoker Davis, Catherine Stoker Hulet and Michael Stoker.

In his early years he split rails and floated logs down the Ohio River, but later became a farmer and cattle raiser. He received, when a boy, such education as was usually given in the common schools of the period. In 1836 his family moved to Farr West, Missouri. On November 13, 1833, he was baptized a member of the Church by Seymour Brunson, who was then on an LDS mission.

He was with the Church in Missouri in 1838 when he married Jane McDaniel. They were the parents of six children: Alma Stoker (adopted), Hyrum Stoker, Franklin Stoker, David Stoker, Zibiah Jane Stoker (Mrs. Judson Tolman), Sarah Ann Stoker (Mrs. Harlon Edward Simmons).

In the spring of 1839 they were driven by the mob out of Davis and Caldwell Counties into Adams County, Illinois. In 1842 he moved to Hancock County where he remained with the Church until 1846 when they were driven to Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. He spent two years here--most of his time taking care of the sick. He left that point with ox team, wagon and scant provisions in April 1848. His arrival at the Missouri River was just in time to join the general exodus of the pioneers to the Rocky Mountains in 1848.

He was appointed Captain of fifty. This group, who crossed the plains and mountains from the Missouri River to Great Salt Lake City, left on May 26, 1848 and arrived in Salt Lake City on September 19, 1848. The group was divided into three divisions, in charge of the First Presidency of the Church; namely, the First Division in the charge of President Brigham Young, the Second Division in the charge of President Heber C. Kimball, and the Third Division in the charge of President Willard Richards.

The First Division was composed of 1,229 souls and had with them 397 wagons, 74 horses, 19 mules, 1,275 oxen, 699 cows, 184 loose cattle, 411 sheep, 141 pigs, 605 chickens, 37 cats, 82 dogs, 3 goats, 10 geese, 2 hives of bees, 8 doves and 1 crow. This division left the Elkhorn River June 1st and arrived in Great Salt Lake City on September 20, 1848 and days following.

John Stoker was in the Third Division. Lorenzo Snow was Captain of one hundred; Heman Hyde, Captain of fifty, John Stoker, Captain of fifty, and Nathaniel S. Beach, Captain of ten. Brother Thomas Bulloch had special charge of the wagon containing the valuable Church records.

It appears from Church records that John Stoker and family either spent the first winter in the old Fort in Salt Lake, or lived in his wagon at Bountiful as did those of several families. It was not until the Spring of 1849 that John Stoker took up land and made his home in Bountiful.

Bountiful has the distinction of being the oldest Mormon settlement in Utah, next after Salt Lake city. To get an insight on the life of John Stoker, it almost becomes necessary to review the history of Bountiful as all development revolved around his leadership.

The North Mill Canyon Ward was first organized in 1849. In the beginning it consisted of all that part of Davis County extending north to Centerville, east to the Wasatch Mountains, south to Salt Lake County and west to the Jordan River and the Great Salt Lake. It comprised a fine farming district and the ward included that part of the country now constituting the following wards; Bountiful First, Bountiful Second, West Bountiful and South Bountiful.

The first Bishop of the ward was Orville S. Cox, the second was Anson Call, and the third was John Stoker. Following John Stoker, Anson Call served for a second term. Perrigrine Sessions arrived in Salt Lake September 26, 1847; and three days later on September 29th, camped near the spot where he subsequently built a permanent home. He was the first Latter Day Saint to make a wagon track north of the Hot Springs. Five more families joined him in the Spring of 1848 and they were the only ones up there until after the company of saints arrived in Salt Lake in the fall of 1848. Among these were Orville Cox and Anson Call. Orville Cox took the lead in the religious affairs from the beginning. Hannah Holbrook taught school then in a wickiup on the bank of the Jordan River.

Early in 1849, Orville S. Cox was called to preside in the new settlement. He was ordained and set apart as Bishop over which was then called the North Millcreek Ward. Anson Call was one of his counselors. Other families located in the North Millcreek Ward and began to make improvements on lands which they took up for agriculture purposes. Among these settlers was Judson Tolman and John Stoker. In the fall of 1849 Bishop Cox was called to settle San Pete Valley and Anson Call was appointed Bishop.

At a meeting held in the school house on November 19, 1849, the people voted to have a day school started in the ward. James Brinkerhoff, John Stoker and Solomon Cowley were appointed to find a teacher. They hired John C.L. Smith to teach school for three months, commencing the first Monday in December 1849 at the rate of $ 30 per month.

The farming in the area at this time was not successful due to the ravages of the crickets, which threatened to eat up everything and thus destroy the means of sustenance for the struggling pioneers. They fought the crickets by digging ditches and trenches around the fields, run these full of water and then drive the crickets into the water. They would skim them off the water and crush them. In North Canyon Ward as well as in Salt Lake City, the seagulls came to the rescue and proved themselves a blessing in answer to prayers.

On January 7, 1851, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Amasa M. Lyman, and Jedidiah M. Grant preached at the house of Perrigrine Sessions and reorganized the ward. Anson Call was called to settle in Little Salt Lake Valley and John Stoker was ordained and set apart as Bishop by Brigham Young. Three days after, Moses Daily and Perrigrine Sessions were appointed as his counselors.

At a meeting held on April 12, 1851 in the school house, it was decided that the ward should be divided into three districts. One division was marked by the center of the block that Sidney Went lived on, running east and west; and the other division was the street running south of Daniel Woods' residence. John Stoker, Chester Loveland and Joseph H. Dame were appointed as a committee to select a place for building a school house in the center district; and Jesse N. Parkins and Esquire Hatch for the south district.

It was also decided to sell the old school house at public sale on the first Saturday in October next and that the money accruing from the sale be put in the hands of Bishop Stoker to be divided between the three districts according to the number of inhabitants in each district.

At a meeting held on May 3, 1851, it was decided that the school house in the North Canyon Ward center district should be 30 x 20 feet and be built in the northwest corner of Bishop John Stoker's land. This house was built during the winter of 1851-52 on lands lying about half a mile northwest of the present Bountiful meetinghouse.

In 1852, Heber C. Kimball had a site for a flouring mill surveyed in North Canyon Ward. The mill was completed in 1853. It was the largest mill in the territory of Utah at one time, but as early as 1900 it was in ruins.

In about 1852 a prayer circle was organized in the North Canyon Ward and meeting were held in the house of Perrigrine Sessions. Among early members of this prayer circle were Anson Call, Perrigrine Sessions, John Stoker, Jeremiah Willey, Joseph Holbrook, Israel Barlow and Joseph B. Noble.

At this time the North Canyon Ward was divided into twenty three teachers beats with two or more teachers in each. These teachers beats were grouped into five districts with two special teachers in each district to collect fast donations. The acting teachers met every Sunday morning at nine o'clock, a rule which was kept up in the ward for more than twenty years.

At the October 1853 General Conference held in Salt Lake City, the North Canyon Ward report signed by John Stoker read as follows: Ward membership 574; namely twenty high priests, thirty seven seventy, fourteen elders, five priests, five teachers and four deacons. This also included 295 lay members, twenty seven children over eight years of age not baptized and 167 children under eight years of age.

In 1854, President Young advised the people in the North Canyon Ward to build a fort in order to protect themselves against the Indians. The fort was commenced in 1854, but never completed. The building of the wall was apportioned out to the brethren, some of whom completed their walls, while others only built it in part. The fort was never occupied, and its erection only served the purpose of giving employment to the poor. On November 27, 1854, Wilford Woodruff who visited the North Canyon Ward, reported: "The wall of the North Canyon Fort is laid out to enclose a space 216 rods long by 197 rods wide; it is to be six feet thick at the bottom and twelve feet high, and already 415 rods have been laid up six feet high. Sister Hannah Holbrook has taught a school here during the summer and is expecting to continue it through the winter. She has taken much pains with her scholars and manifested interest in their learning. About fifty children attend her school. There is another school taught by a man in the southern part of this ward, which has forty scholars. This is a rich farming country and much grain has been raised."

In 1854, a post office was opened in North Canyon Ward called Stoker, at the residence of Perrigrine Sessions, with David Sessions as postmaster. A good crop of wheat and other cereals as well as garden vegetables were raised that year.

On February 24, 1855, George A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson met with the saints and instructed them to establish a library for mutual improvement. On Sunday, February 25, 1855, they preached to the saints in the north school house on John Stoker's property. The building which was 30 x 20 feet, was crowded. The windows were raised and many remained outside. They preached for 2 3/4 hours, dividing the time equally between educations, walling the city, and building up and beautifying Zion. Bishop John Stoker proposed they name their city Bountiful. The people voted unanimously for this. The city plot was surveyed 200 rods by 97. At that time, 416 rods of earth wall had been built six feet high and six feet thick. There had been about thirty houses erected within the limits of the wall. The ward had been divided into two school districts, and two adobe school houses had been built. Both were well finished.

The ward contained about 150 families who had raised 20,000 bushel of wheat the year before. President Kimball's flour mill was doing a good business; this and three sawmills, two shingle mills and lath mills, a hemp and flax breaker, propelled by water which manufactures ropes, and a threshing machine factory were the principal industries of this settlement. Besides the thirty houses within the city, the whole ward was dotted with "splendid mansions" and comfortable farm houses.

In 1855, the grasshoppers devoured the crops in the spring as they came up out of the ground. The loss of the crops caused hard times. Some of the pioneers reported that during the grasshopper period in 1855 and 1856 flour and wheat were so scarce that anything that looked like bread was not seen for weeks. Many of the people lived for days on sego roots, red roots and other roots which grew on the desert land.

John Stoker entered into polygamy by marrying Harriet Susan Willis on October 26, 1855. Of this union there were two children: John Stoker and Catherine Stoker .

At a meeting held in Bountiful on July 8, 1856, steps were taken on the advice of President Young to inaugurate a more perfect system of public schools in the several districts. Thomas E. Fisher was appointed president of all the schools in the ward. He subsequently chose John Stoker, John Telford, Anson Call, and Samuel Maxwell as his assistants. Teachers were appointed to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography and grammar. The energetic and praiseworthy efforts of the teachers were soon attained with satisfactory progress.

In 1856, President Young called for volunteers to go east for the relief of the belated hand cart train. Bountiful responded liberally.

In 1857, the growing population of Bountiful made it necessary to build a new meeting house large enough to accommodate the people. Ground was broken for a tabernacle 80 x 40 feet on February 12, 1857. The brethren responded liberally with labor and means towards this erection.

On July 5, 1857, John Stoker took a third wife, Jane Allen. Of this union there were eight children: Mary Ann, Henry, Lorenzo, Clarissa, Jude, Albert, Jesse, Harriet Eunice.

( Clarissa, Jude and Harriet Enice all died as children).

At the approach of Johnsons Army in the latter part of 1857, the people of Bountiful responded willingly to the call for men to go into the mountains to meet the army.

At a mass meeting held on January 27, 1858, the people adopted a resolution in relation to the official course of Governor Brigham Young and the action of the Legislative Assembly, in opposing the entrance of an armed force into the country. The resolution was as follows: "Resolved that we hold ourselves, our lives, our faculties, our means and families ready for every emergency in carrying out our constitutional rights as free men, which were so nobly gained by our forefathers and bequeathed to us, their children, as being worthy of maintaining these liberties forever against every invading foe."

The people willingly left their homes to go south, taking with them only what they could conveniently load into their wagons.

Twenty men were left to guard the vacated homes with instructions to apply the torch and burn everything in case the army. on their arrival into the valley, would prove hostile. Most of the people who thus vacated their homes went as far south as Utah County, where they located on the Provo bottoms, a place they called Shanghai. When peace was restored, the people returned to their homes and were able to harvest a good crop of volunteers which had matured during their absence.

Work on the meeting house was completed up to the square at the time of their move south.

At a meeting held on March 13, 1858, Chester Loveland and William Atkinson were chosen as counselors to Bishop John Stoker by unanimous vote of the people. Later, when Chester Loveland moved to Box Elder County, William H. Lee was chosen as second counselor and William Atkinson was sustained as first counselor.

In 1860 when the Pony Express was started between the Missouri River and California, Bountiful responded liberally by furnishing men for riders.

Work on the meeting house continued and the Tabernacle was completed in 1862 and dedicated on March 14, 1863. After the Bountiful Tabernacle was finished, the members of the prayer circle (of which John Stoker was a member) met every Sunday in the upper room of the vestry of the building. This vestry measured 16 x 24 feet on the outside. In the basement there were three school rooms.

In 1864 men were sent east from Bountiful to meet and assist the poor in coming to Utah.

In 1866 ten teams were sent east to get telegraph wire for the Deseret Telegraph Company.

In 1868 a Sunday School was organized in Bountiful. On April 28, 1868, Bishop Stoker organized the Relief Society. During this same year, many of the Bountiful men sought employment with the Union Pacific Railroad, which was being built through Echo and Weber Canyons

On October 8, 1869, John Stoker was set apart to serve a short term mission to the Southern States. He returned from this mission in the following spring, on February 29, 1870. He still remained the bishop during this time. Under date of March 12, 1869, a cooperative mercantile institution was formed in Bountiful to commence business in a few days. Bishop Stoker was elected President, with William Brown as Vice President. A year later it was reported to be flourishing and the members of the society were doing their utmost to farther the object for which the society was organized. It was also reported that the members of the Relief Society were indefatigable in their labors and were doing a good work.

In 1870 the Young Ladies Co-operative Retrenchment Association was organized. Seven years later the name of the organization was changed to the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association. On February 26, 1874, the Young Men's Association was organized.

The people of Bountiful were happy and hopeful and had a feeling of warm fellowship for each other. They would often get together and have a jolly time. Dances and amusements were held in the schoolhouse and the boys and men would take some potatoes or a squash or pumpkin or something of that sort to pay for their dance ticket. The girls and the women would take some molasses cake or other goodies. The boys took their dates on horses most of the time as to go in buggy was out of the question. They often had molasses candy pulls. Some of the men and boys wore shirts and trousers made from seamless sacks and they thought they were pretty well dressed.

On August 4, 1874, due to failing health, Bishop Stoker was released as Bishop. Four years later, on December 1, 1878, under the hands of President John Taylor and Apostle F.D. Richards, he was ordained a member of the High Council of the Davis Stake of Zion and a Patriarch which offices he held at the time of his death.

From the dairy of Thomas Briggs we read the following: "Brother Davis came to me to go with him to see ex-Bishop John Stoker, who was very ill. We concluded to change his clothing as we did not think he would last very long. We administered to him, and he seemed to have something to say to us, but was too weak to speak. We asked the Lord if it was His will to give him his speech, so that he might speak to us once more. June the 11th I called to see Brother Stoker on my way to the City, which was about 3 AM, the usual time for us to go to town with our loads. Brother Stoker was asleep and resting well. When I arrived home at 7 PM he was still breathing, but shortly after he died. He was one of the oldest bishops in the Church."

John Stoker died on June 11, 1881 at his home in Bountiful, Utah.

His grandson, David Stoker Jr (1869-1952), married Henry Stahle's sister, Emma Louisia (1870-1947) in Logan on December 23, 1891.

He was bishop in Bountiful when the Bountiful Tabernacle was dedicated in March, 1863. My 4th great grandfather, William Atkinson, was his 1st Counsellor at the time.

OBITUARY: Deseret News Weekly, 22 Jun 1881, Vol. 30, p. 221:

"The Hand of Death. -- Patriarch John Stoker, of Bountiful, a man well known and highly respected died on Sat. evening shortly before 7 o'clock, and was buried Saturday morning. For some time he had been suffering from paralysis, which among other things affected his speech, and from the obituary notice, which will be found elsewhere, it appears that his death was the result of this affliction.

He was a fine man in every respect, and greatly esteemed by all, especially beloved by the Latter-day Saints, among whom he was an example of high integrity and moral worth. His loss will be deeply felt. Although for several years unable to take as active a part as formerly in the affairs of his Ward, over which he faithfully presided 23 years, and therefore had been relieved from the labors and responsibilities of the bishopric, his interest in the work of God never for a moment flagged, and to the last is influence was felt for good throughout the settlement."

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John Stoker's Timeline

1817
March 8, 1817
Madison, OH, USA
1833
November 1, 1833
Age 16
November 1, 1833
Age 16
1835
December 7, 1835
Age 18
Lick, Jackson, Ohio
1840
November 9, 1840
Age 23
Columbus, Adams, Illinois, United States
1842
August 12, 1842
Age 25
Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, United States
1844
September 28, 1844
Age 27
USA
1846
January 21, 1846
Age 28
January 21, 1846
Age 28
1847
May 21, 1847
Age 30
Mount Pisgah, Pottawattamie, Iowa, United States