Columbus Reed Freeman

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Columbus Reed Freeman

Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Jackson, Breathitt, Kentucky, United States
Death: April 25, 1907 (68)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Place of Burial: Safford, Graham, Arizona, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Jacob Freeman and Nancy Beal Freeman
Husband of Lydia Clementine West Freeman
Father of Malcolm Samuel Freeman, Sr.; John Levi Freeman; Lydia Clementine Dowdle; Emma Eliza Freeman; Columbus Reed Freeman, Jr. and 3 others
Brother of Adeline Cassandra Freeman Webb; Elizabeth Caroline Hall; Nancy Ann Hyde; William Hamblin Freeman; Martisha Freeman and 6 others

Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About Columbus Reed Freeman

Columbus R. Freeman (1838-1907) - Biographical Sketch

A native of rural Kentucky (or Missouri per the 1880 census records), Columbus Reed Freeman moved to western Illinois before traveling with the Mormons to frontier Utah. He was an American frontiersman and early pioneer to southern Utah and Arizona.

Freeman was born in 1838 in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky, the son of John Jacob Freeman (1804-1871) and Nancy Beal Smoot (1807-1891). However, census records indicate that Columbus was born in Missouri, and there is a Family Data Collection record from which states that Columbus was actually born in Johnson, Concord County, Missouri on June 27, 1838. His father’s forebears were from southern England and immigrated to Jamestown, Virginia. Generations later they moved to Kentucky. His mother was in the Smoot clan, some of whom later rose to positions of some prominence among the Mormons.

Freeman's parents joined the Mormons and moved to western Illinois in the early 1840s. As a child, Freeman experienced the "Mormon War" in western Illinois. In 1846 they joined the forced expulsion of the Mormons from Western Illinois and crossed into Iowa Territory. They sojourned in Iowa for several years until they could gather the means to immigrate to Utah.

In the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Jefferson, Andrew County, Missouri, Columbus was 10 years old and living with his parents, John, 45, (a farmer), Nancy B., 42, and his older brother, John W., 13, and three younger sisters, Margaret, 9, Jemima, 7, and Martha J., 3. In this census record it states John, Nancy, and John W. were all born in Kentucky, Columbus was born in Missouri, Margaret in Illinois, and the two youngest daughters were born in Missouri.

The family must have been in Missouri in 1838 when Columbus was born, and then went to be with the rest of the church in Nauvoo in 1841 when Margaret was born. Then they must have gone back to Missouri for some reason in 1843 when Jemima and Martha were born. After Martha was born in 1847, it wasn't long before they traveled to Utah with the rest of the Mormon Pioneers.

By the Spring of 1851, the Freeman's had acquired an outfit and necessary provisions to journey to Utah. They joined the John G. Smith Company. The Freeman family consisted of John Freeman, 46, Nancy Beal Smoot Freeman, 44, Martisha, 17, John, 15, Columbus, 13, Margaret Phebe, 10, Jemima Marinda, 8, and Martha Jane 3. Initially, they were part of the John G. Smith Company and traveled with them as far as the Platte River. There eight to ten wagons, including the Freeman's, broke off from the main company and traveled ahead of it. This became known as the David Lewis Company, and they reached the Salt Lake Valley in advance of all the 1851 organized companies.

To the Cotton Mission in Southern Utah - The Cotton Mill in Washington County. John Freeman, Columbus's father, and several of his brothers were among the earliest settlers in Washington County. Evidently, John Freeman and family were among the Southerners who were sent to the hot, semi-arid southwestern corner of Utah to found the Cotton Mission. However, it is unclear where they were living immediately before they moved to Washington County.

Washington appeared to have many advantages over other nearby locales. It was located near several fine springs and the Washington fields seemed to provide a lush expanse of farmland. However, appearances proved to be deceiving and soon "Dixie" was considered one of the most difficult areas to colonize. The broad fields were actually floodplains so if their dams washed out, as they did with discouraging frequency, their crops were jeopardized.

Meanwhile the springs, so inviting in an arid, hot country, created marshes, the perfect habitat for mosquitos. Many of them suffered from bouts of malaria (the "fever and ague" or "chills") for many years. Although it eventually proved commercially unsuccessful, the Cotton Mission did succeed in producing cotton goods for local use and export at an important stage in Utah Territory's economic development.

In the Iron Military District: Private Columbus Freeman - In 1857, the Iron Military District consisted of four battalions led by regimental commander Col. William H. Dame. The platoons and companies in the first battalion drew on men in and around Parowan. (It had no involvement at Mountain Meadows.) Major Isaac Haight commanded the 2nd Battalion whose personnel in its many platoons and two companies came from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the north such as Fort Johnson. Major John Higbee headed the 3rd Battalion whose many platoons and two companies were drawn from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the southwest such as Fort Hamilton. Major John D. Lee of Fort Harmony headed the 4th Battalion whose platoons and companies drew on its militia personnel from Fort Harmony, the Southerners at the newly-founded settlement in Washington, the Indian interpreters at Fort Clara, and the new settlers at Pinto.

In 1857, Freeman was 19 and living in southern Utah. He is listed in June 1857 muster list but for unknown reasons, not in the October 1857 list. According to the muster roll, he was a private in a platoon in Company C of Parowan. No one else from Parowan is known to have be involved in the massacre so why was Freeman identified? In Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Walker, Turley and Leonard opine that since Freeman's parents and siblings were living with the other Southerners in the new settlement of Washington in Washington County, he may have been living in Washington and was recruited from there to march to Mountain Meadows. He was among the young men ordered to muster to Mountain Meadows.

According to John D. Lee's account in Mormonism Unveiled, Freeman attended the fateful military council at Mountain Meadows on the evening of Thursday, September 10, just before the final massacre the following day. However, the youthful private could not have played a significant role in the deliberations of the council. His exact role at the time of the final massacre is not unknown, although he could have been among the contingent of militiamen who accompanied the emigrant men from their camp on their northbound march just before the massacre commenced.

In the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Parowan, Iron County, Utah Territory, Columbus, 20 years old, was living with his parents, John, 55, and Nancy, 51, and younger sisters, Jemima, 15 and Martha J., 12. John's father was listed as a farmer, whose real estate was valued at $400 and his personal estate as $750.00.

Sometime later in 1860 or perhaps as late as 1862, Columbus Reed Freeman married Lydia Clementine West (1840-1912), the daughter of Samuel Walker West and his first wife, Margaret Cooper West, who were also both early Mormon converts in Tennessee in the 1830's. He had left southern Utah for Corn Creek in Millard County. Columbus and Lydia had eight children. In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census for Kanosh, Millard County, Utah Territory, Columbus, 32, Lydia, 27, and their first four children were Malcolm S., 6, John L., 5, Lydia C., 3, and Emma E., 1 year old. Columbus was working as a farmer, and the value of his real estate was valued at $250 and his personal estate at $250. The census record showed he was born in Missouri, Lydia in Kentucky, and all of their children in Utah.

In the 1880 census, the family was still living in Kanosh, and Columbus, 41, was employed as a laborer, and his wife Lydia, 39, was keeping house, with their children, Malcolm L., 16, John C., 15, Lydia C., 14, Columbus R., 8, Margaret B., 6, William N., 4, and Orilla M., 2 years old.

Sometime in the early 1880s, Freeman and his family joined the Mormon colonizers of southeastern Arizona. By December 1885, when local church leader Jesse N. Smith visited with Freeman and his family, they were located "below Solomonville" in the Gila Valley on the upper Gila River. Freeman informed Smith about an Apache uprising that had resulted in the deaths of the Wright brothers, two local Mormon settlers. Jesse N. Smith, a Mormon polygamist, was married to two of Lydia Clementine West Freeman's sisters, Emma Seraphine West and Margaret Fletcher West, as well as three additional plural wives. Margaret died young and was buried in Utah before the Smith family moved to Arizona.

By the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Graham County, Arizona, Columbus, 61, and Lydia, 60, were living with their two youngest children, William, 24, and Orilla, 22. They had been married for 40 years. Living next door was their son, Malcolm, a 37-year old widower, and his children, Samuel M., 11, William I., 9 and Lillian, 6.

Next door was Malcolm's brother, John, 35, with his wife, Lydia, 32, and their children, Emma L., 13, Mildred, 4, and triplets, Beulah, Blanche and Bertha, 1 year old, all three having been born in November, 1898. John and Lydia had been married 14 years, had 8 children, 5 of whom were still living. Columbus and his 3 sons were all listed as either farmers or farm laborers. They owned their farm free of a mortgage.

In September 1904, church leader Jesse N. Smith visited the Gila Valley where among other things he visited Columbus Freeman in Layton and stayed the night. Going to the church conference with Freeman the next day, Smith "labored with Bro. Freeman; received his promise that he would return to the Church; spoke to Pres. Kimball in his behalf." (Smith, ed., Journal of Jesse N. Smith, 449.) It is not known if Freeman made reconciliation.

In 1907 Columbus passed away, and at the time of his death on April 15, he must have been visiting or living in Los Angeles, California, however, he was buried in the Safford City Cemetery in Safford, Graham County, Arizona. He was survived by his wife of 45 years, Lydia, and his many children. Lydia died in 1912.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, for Graham County, Arizona, Lydia was a 70-year old widow, living with her son William, 31. Lydia was listed as a farmer and William as a farm hand. Next door was William's older brother, John, and his wife Lydia, and their children, Mildred, 14, the triplets, Beulah, Blanche, and Bertha, 11, and two more daughters had been born, Norine, 7, and Beth, 9 months old. John was also still working as a farmer. Two years later Lydia Clementine West Freeman passed away on January 24, 1912, in Safford, Arizona and was buried there with her husband.


Bigler and Bagley, Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives, 235; Bradshaw, ed., Under Dixie Sun, 235; Krenkel, ed., Life and Times of Joseph Fish, 162; Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, 232, 379; Lee Trial transcripts; Membership Records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1848;; Smith, ed., Journal of Jesse N. Smith, 320, 449; Walker, et al, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 191, Appendix C, 257; U.S. Census for 1850, 1870, 1880 and 1900.

For full bibliographic information see Bibliography.

External Links

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Columbus Reed Freeman's Timeline

June 27, 1838
Jackson, Breathitt, Kentucky, United States
June 8, 1863
Age 24
Millard, Utah, United States
March 23, 1865
Age 26
Kanosh, Millard, Utah, United States
February 27, 1867
Age 28
Kanosh, Millard , Utah, United States
February 1, 1869
Age 30
Kanosh, Millard, Utah, United States
July 1872
Age 34
Millard, Utah, United States
October 1, 1874
Age 36
Kanosh, Millard, Utah, United States
February 13, 1876
Age 37
Kanosh, Millard, Utah, United States
June 1878
Age 39
Arizona, United States
April 25, 1907
Age 68
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States