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John R. Welker, Sr.

Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Madison County, Ohio, USA
Death: June 1, 1913 (87)
Safford, Graham, Arizona, USA (Stroke)
Place of Burial: Plot: Old Layton Section-North End, Safford, Graham, Arizona, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of James Robert Welker and Elizabeth Welker
Husband of Roxana Mahala Dustin Welker
Father of Roxana Louisa Welker Madsen; Mary Amelia Welker and John Eller Welker
Brother of David Welker; James Wilburn Welker; Jacob Stoker Welker; Mary Catherine Nelson; Susan Welker and 3 others

Occupation: Farmer, Pioneer, Mormon Bishop in Utah and Arizona
Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About John R. Welker

From the Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Volume 4, Stake and Ward Officers, St. Joseph Stake: John Welker, Bishop of the Layton Ward, St. Joseph Stake, Arizona, from 1884 to 1898, was born March 16, 1826, in Madison Township, Jackson County, Ohio, a son of James Welker and Elizabeth Stoker. He came to the Valley in 1852, was ordained a High Priest August 26, 1877, by John Taylor, and a Bishop November 4, 1884, by Brigham Young, Jr. He died June 1, 1913. Following is a brief obituary from the El Paso, Texas, Herald Newspaper, dated June 12, 1913, Page 12: After an illness of only three days, John Welker, aged 87 years, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Christian Madsen, in Safford, Arizona. The funeral was held at the Layton Church and the body interred in the Union Cemetery. The funeral was conducted by President Kimball, Samuel Claridge, and Mr. Nash. Mr. Welker was one of the early settlers of the valley. He is survived by two children, Mrs. Madsen (Roxana Louisa Welker Madsen) and John Eller Welker.


I was born on the 16th day of March, 1826, in the state of Ohio, Jackson County. My father’s name was James Welker and my mother’s name was Elizabeth Stoker Welker. We lived in Ohio until I was nine years old. Then we moved to the state of Missouri and settled fifteen miles east of Far West, Hancock County. We lived there four years until the Latter Day Saints were driven out.

It was there I first saw the Prophet Joseph Smith. I saw him very often at the time that Gov. Boggs sent his army of 3600 to drive the Saints from Missouri or to exterminate them. I was mustered under his command at the time Gov. Boggs’ army came to exterminate them or drive the Saints from the state.

On one occasion the prophet mustered the men and had them placed along the road that they were coming on. As the front guard came near he gave orders to the men to halt. I had the privilege to march under his command at the time that the big army of 3600 was on Goose Creek Hill. The Prophet, the boys and old men and a great many women marched on a rise on the west side of town.

The able bodied men were out bringing in families, and watching the movements of the army. The move that the Prophet made kept the army back until the able bodied men got into Far West. The mob had taken a number of our men prisoners. The Prophet’s army camped that night on Goose Creek Hill. A Judas gave him away, a great deal like Judas did with the Savior. He told them the army could come in and take possession of Far West.

The next day they marched in and placed a heavy guard around the town, demanded surrender of all the fire arms which had to be laid down, the surrender of the Prophet and a number of Apostles and leading men. They took them off and placed them in jail at Richmond, Missouri, under the pretense that they would have a fair trial, but they never got it. The Governor intended to keep them or kill them. The Lord protected them until they got away from the state of Missouri. The Governor and officers of Missouri tried to get him from the state of Illinois. They did not get him. Our Heavenly Father protected him until He saw fit to let him seal his testimony with his blood as many of the prophets of old had done.

I will now tell a little of my experience in the time the mob was gathering and after they came to Far West. We had to leave home and go into the town of Far West, leaving all that we could not take along with us to the mercy of the mob. We had to live on boiled corn a great deal of the time, with a little meat when we could get it. We had a great many hogs at home but we dared not go out to get them. But the hogs fared better than we did. They ran in the timber where there were plenty of acorns in the field. When we went back there were many fat hogs left for our winter meat. There was no sale for any of them. Those that we did not use for our meat we left in the timber for there was no one to buy them. This may be hard for some to believe but it is true. Now we had meat but no flour.

My father went in to the older settlement to work to get a little clothing for his family and something to eat while traveling out of the state. My father had bought land and started a home and he never got a dollar for it. We had to leave or forsake and quit Mormonism. Father told one of Gov. Boggs’ officers that he would rather die than to go back on Mormonism and forsake it. It was a matter of conscience. He would rather leave all that he had of land and property than to forsake his religion.

I will not tell all of the trials here. We had to leave in the spring. We could take nothing from where we had lived. We left a large pile of corn. We could not get market for any of it. We suffered a great deal in traveling out of the state in the month of March. Three families moved in one wagon, three horses to draw it. I made my own shoes to walk, from saddle skirts and boot legs. They were the first that I made and they lasted me through all right. It was a hard experience and a trying time. We all got through alive but had a hard time traveling in ice and snow.

Three miles south of Columbus, seventy-five miles east of Quincy, Illinois, we found a man by the name of Coleman Wilkes who took us home with him. He let us have a house to live in and furnished us something to eat and let us work to pay for it. We stayed with him three years.

Father found out there was land to enter in Hancock County, so we went to the county seat and filed on a quarter section. After filing on his land my father and his boys built a two room log house which was in a nice location on the edge of a white oak grove. A beautiful spring ran out a little below the house. This place was about fifteen miles east of Nauvoo.

We had very little to do with. My father and I went in to Pike County, Illinois to work at harvesting. That is where my father contracted the intermittent fever which caused his death in 1844.

We had got a very good start again. About four years later the Devil thought the Mormons had rested about long enough, and commenced his plans to drive them out again. They commenced on the Prophet Joseph Smith to convict him of some crime. They could not do that lawfully so they took another step, that was to burn them out. They kept that up until the governor took a hand in the trouble. To tell all that the governor did will not be allowed today. He disarmed the Mormons the same as Gov. Boggs had done, then he could tell them what they must do. They had to have the Prophet Joseph Smith and put him in jail until he had a trial. The governor pledged his honor that he would be protected and should have a fair trial. He was not protected and brought to a fair trial, but kept in jail.

On the 27th of June, 1844, the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred. A mob of about two hundred masked men surrounded the jail trying to break in and take the prophet out. They finally broke in the door. Hyrum was then shot through the door. The Prophet jumped out the window and they shot him as he fell. They then placed him against the well curb and shot him after he was dead. One of the mob stood with his sleeves rolled up brandishing a knife to cut off his head. A brilliant light suddenly surrounded the Prophet and the mob fled in fright. Old Father Loveland took the bodies to his house in Carthage and from there they were taken to Nauvoo. John Taylor was wounded by the mob. This is a true statement as I remember it. I was an eye witness and I don’t think I will forget it.

Now into the mission and calling of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, was called of God and his son Jesus Christ, that he would be faithful to do the work which would be required of him, that he should be the instrument in the hand of the Lord in establishing the Church of Christ upon the earth for the last time. It should not be thrown down or given to any other people. A statement in the “Desert News” about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “In the statement of Governor Ford we find an indication of the weapons wielded by the pirates. Nauvoo conspirators are found in the very articles quoted by the Tribune. The leading members are: Wilson, Law, Austin, two Hicks brothers and two merchants, Finch and Robinson.”

Governor Ford appeared anxious to bring the murders to justice and had sixty names of men presented to the grand jury as implicated in the crime. Nine were indicted. They were Levi Williams, Mark Aldrich, Jacob Davis, William N. Grover, Thomas C. Sharp, John Wills (or Willes), William Voorhees, William Gallagher and one Allen. They were held on the testimony of Brackenbery and Daniels, two youths who had accompanied the mob to Carthage. There was a girl by the name of Eliza Jane Graham.

We had not proved up on the land. The mob against the Latter Day Saints was increasing and I, but a boy of eighteen, was the oldest of the boys that were at home. My oldest brother was married and doing for himself. I was the one to look after the family after my father died. When the burning out of Latter Day Saints by the mob commenced, I was in a settlement ten miles from where they were burning houses. Some of my cousins and relatives lived close by where I lived. We got together and agreed to take turns and watch the mob and do the best we could to protect our homes. Someone was out every night watching their movements. They did not come to our little settlement to burn us out. If they had come, some of them would have got hurt.

There are many things connected with this I will not write. This burning of houses was kept up by the mob until the Sheriff McIntosh ordered out a posse of men to take the mob and bring them to trial. In a chase after a crowd of the mob Porter Rockwell shot and killed one of them. They were kindling a fire in my mother-in-law’s house. When the sheriff’s posse came in sight they dispersed and fled in all directions. As they ran, one man of the mob turned in his saddle and shot back at the posse. Porter Rockwell shot and fetched him from his horse and he died soon after.

Then the governor Ford ordered out what he called the “malisha” but they turned out to be nothing more or less than a mob. He marched his army to Nauvoo and ordered surrender, and the firearms to be given up again as the governor of Missouri had done. Now I will not go into all the details of this surrender. There is some of it I have forgot, as I did not pen it down at the time.

I will now tell some more of my travels and experiences while we were ordered to leave the state of Illinois. I moved to Council Bluffs in Iowa. My brother Wilburn was taken sick on the road and at one time while traveling I had to drive his team sometimes when he could not drive. We got through to Council Bluffs.

I built a house near a small stream, Spring Creek, and fenced a small farm in a very rich piece of bottom-land. In 1850 I married Roxana Dustin. In 1851 I rented my mother-in-law’s farm. I had it planted. One night a rain came and a cloudburst in the hills up the stream above where we lived washed us out of our house. We went to Joseph Dustin’s that night about a mile through the timber. We had to travel and it was thundering and lightning and my wife was near being confined with our first child. We got there with a few of our rags on us. I got my pants on but no hat or coat. There was no time for hunting clothing.

It washed away the crop and many other things we had were lost. We had a narrow escape from being drowned that night. I took my wife to a hill close by, about ten rods away from the house and then went back to my mother-in-law’s house and woke them and led them out to the hill. By this time the water was too deep to go back for anything more. We went to Joseph Dustin’s (John Welker's brother-in-law) and stayed there until morning.

When I went back to the hill the next morning the water was running five feet deep between the houses. We lost very near all we had in the house. I had my wife and a little farm and house, a pair of three-year old colts, two cows and one hog and a few chickens left to make another start with. We lived there until 1852, then went to Utah and made a home again. I had got tolerable well fixed to live again, then went to Bear Lake County in Idaho, made a home again and lived there about twenty years. Then Arizona was cracked up to be the garden of the world. I sold out again and went to Arizona in 1883.

There were but a few Mormons in Layton (Arizona) at that time. I stopped close to Hyrum Tippets' on a farm that Mr. Tuttle had purchased from a Mexican, and after a few days my son, (John Eller Welker) with my help, bought his claim, which was on a quit-claim deed. My son went to the land office and filed on two hundred twenty acres under the Desert Act. He let me have land to clear and after he proved up on the 160 acres, I bought part of the land from him. He gave me a deed for it. It was one expensive farm, a grove of mesquite without a fence or a ditch to carry water to the farm, but a few acres scratched over by Mexicans.

Then I was called that winter of 1883 to take charge of the Layton Ward as presiding elder which gave me a great deal of labors. Now to go into the details of the labors that I had to do would be too much of a task, so I will only give a little of it in this. There were no sawmills, but a little one-horse mill that Mr. Fry had up in the mountains. There was no lumber to be had to build with. I went to the wash above Layton and got some crooked cottonwoods and put up a small cabin and covered it with brush and grass and dirt. It was a fine dwelling house. When it rained it leaked, and when it quit raining outdoors it kept on raining in the house.

In 1884 I was ordained bishop to preside over the Layton Ward. Then my labors were increased. We were turned into a mesquite grove to make farms without a water ditch to run water to irrigate the land or houses to shelter us from the storms. We had houses to build, ditches to make, the mesquite to clear off and the stumps to dig out. The water ditch was a hard and expensive one to make. It had to be made through heavy mesquite groves.

In 1885 the young men of Layton Ward built a small adobe house close to Alma Bennett’s on the corner of his lot, to hold their meetings and it was used also for Ward meetings until the Ward put up a brick meeting house and covered it with a sheet iron roof in the time when shingles were scarce in this part of the country.


Saturday, March 16, 1940: Today is Grandpa Welker’s birthday. He lived to the age of 88, and has been dead nearly 30 years. More changes have taken place since his passing than the 88 years of his life. It was just the beginning of the machine age. He never saw or heard a radio or saw any electric machinery or household appliance operated by electricity. He operated his farm with man and horse power. He loved the smell of the good rich earth he turned and the feel of it as it trickled through his finders. He was greatly provoked with the introduction of modern machinery. He did not believe the automobile would be permanent, said it would kill too many people or scare both men and horses to death, that the noise of it would run people crazy. How surprised he would be now to see one drive up to his door with no sound to announce its arrival.

He loved horses and raised the best. Wherever he lived he owned beautiful horses. And when the time came he could ride behind his prancer’s hitched to a rubber-tired buggy that was near perfection in transportation as he ever cared to attain. Dear old grandpa Welker was an honest and industrious man, generous and helpful to his neighbors and never slacked with time or money according to his means in the advancement of the community wherever he lived. He was a faithful member of the church to which he belonged (Church of Latter Day Saints or Mormons) and served in the capacity of Bishop for over seven years. He was active and industrious up to the time of his death, however his mind seemed to weaken. He could not remember or do things he was used to doing. He had a stroke and only suffered a few days.

His whole life was spent in pioneering. To this day, trees, houses, and other monuments of the work of his hands still stand. There were only two children by their marriage, Louisa Roxana, my mother, and John Eller, their only son. Uncle Eller went back to Idaho with his family, becoming discouraged with the conditions of Arizona, so different to the north country, Idaho, where he was born and raised. It left grandpa and grandma saddened and lonely for a long time as there were several grand children to whom they were greatly attached.

None of the family were ever satisfied with Idaho after returning there, but never came back to Arizona again. After grandmother’s death on March 11, 1904, grandpa John Welker visited the family in Idaho once a year, leaving on the train the first of June, as regular as the year rolled around, to visit the old home and his many relatives.

He was always known as “Uncle John” and always had the love and respect of all who knew him. The long, severe winters in Idaho began to get the best of him and he suffered intensely with rheumatism. Grandma was afflicted with asthma and some times would almost choke to death. How often we children had cried and prayed and feared each attack would be her last, which was before the move to Arizona in 1883. So for some reason or other of which I do not know, (I was about 14 years old at the time) one or two families from our town drifted into Arizona and began to write back about the land of milk and honey!

Yes, they said that very thing! Where the sun shone more than 12 hours a day, fruit tress bloomed in February, raised five crops of alfalfa. November days were like summer, when in Idaho we had several feet of snow. There were many other breathtaking descriptions about this fairyland. This was along about 1881 and from then on this correspondence rolled in. So is it any wonder that a large number of families, mostly relatives, began to pull “the stakes” they had driven so many years before, and prepare for the big move, starting out again with a covered wagon cavalcade.

Then on September 23, 1883, they started for Arizona, sun kissed land, and it lived up to its reputation as far as sunshine was concerned. And when on November 5th we pitched camp in the suburbs of the little town of Safford, where we made our home, the sun was warm, trees were green, acres of growing alfalfa greeted our eyes, but some how the picture had faded in a degree through the dangers and hardships we were subjected to as we traveled all those weary miles. It looked different to what we expected. We were tired and homesick.

Never the less, every man, still a true pioneer, began to build a home and grandfather Welker was among the first to begin. In his passing he left hosts of friends and a better world for his having lived in it.


I found John's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on, which reads:

John Welker, son of James Welker and Elizabeth Stoker, was born March 16, 1826, in Madison, Lake County, Ohio. He passed away on June 1, 1913, in Safford, Graham County, Arizona, and had previously lived in Bloomington, Idaho, in 1870. His baptism date was June 1842, and he was ordained a High Priest on August 16, 1877, with the officiator being John Taylor. He was Ordained Bishop on November 4, 1884, and the officiator was Brigham Young, Jr. His endowment date was March 31, 1857, in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah. He was sealed to his spouse on the same date and place. He was a farmer in 1870 and in 1870 John had a household of six, with a real estate valued at $450 and a personal estate of $600. John came to the Salt Lake Valley in 1852.

The six people living in John's household in Bloomington, Bear Lake, Idaho, in 1870 were himself, his wife, Roxana Mahala Dustin Welker, their daughter, Roxana Louisa, son, John Eller, a niece, Rebecca Malinda Stephens (daughter of Alexander Roswell Stephens and John Welker's sister, Rebecca, who died in 1863 either during or shortly after childbirth with her fifth child), and Levi J. Dustin, a nephew of Roxana Mahala Dustin Welker, whose mother died when he was just a young boy.


John Welker's headstone at his grave reads as follows:

Sacred to the memory of John Welker, born March 16, 1826, died June 1, 1913.

Gone but not forgotten

God in his wisdom recalled

The boon his love had given

And though the body slumbers here

The soul is safe in heaven

He was my third great grandfather and was obviously quite a man!

Della Dale Smith-Pistelli

August 27, 2014

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John R. Welker's Timeline

March 16, 1826
Madison County, Ohio, USA
August 20, 1851
Age 25
Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa, USA
Age 25
July 12, 1853
Age 27
Willard, Box Elder, Utah
June 1, 1913
Age 87
Safford, Graham, Arizona, USA
June 3, 1913
Age 87
Safford, Graham, Arizona, USA