Joseph Morris Phelps

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Joseph Morris Phelps

Birthplace: Far West, Caldwell, Mo
Death: Died in Nr. Cokeville, Lincoln, Wy
Place of Burial: Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho, Usa
Immediate Family:

Son of Morris Charles Phelps and Laura Phelps
Husband of Melissa Phelps; Eliza Jerusa Phelps; Sarah Phelps and Margaret Phelps
Father of Joseph Morris Phelps, Jr.; Claire Raleigh; Hyrum Phelps and Arthur Phelps
Brother of Pauline Phelps; Mary Ann Rich; Harriet Wight Phelps; Jacob Spencer Phelps and Eliza Phelps
Half brother of Hyrum Smith Phelps; Laura Ann Phelps; Sarah Diantha Phelps; Martha Ann Phelps; Charles Wilkes Phelps and 3 others

Managed by: Marie Sullivan
Last Updated:

About Joseph Morris Phelps

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 Morris Phelps Company (1851) Age 14

Find a Grave

Birth: Jun. 2, 1837 Far West Caldwell County Missouri, USA

Death: Sep. 29, 1886 Cokeville Lincoln County Wyoming, USA

Son of Morris Charles Phelps & Laura Clark

Married Malissa Stevens, 25 Dec 1857, Alpine, Utah, Utah

Married Eliza Jerusa Clift, 1 Jan 1861, Alpine, Utah, Utah

Married Sarah Leggett, 17 Aug 1867, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

Married Margaret Hunter, 31 May 1879, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

Heart Throbs of the West, Kate B. Carter, Vol. 12, p. 288

The Old Phelps Ranch--Joseph Morris Phelps and his wife, Eliza Clift Phelps, were called by President Brigham Young to help Charles C. Rich colonize Bear Lake Valley. In the spring of 1864, they put their belongings, as much seed as possible, their infant son Joseph Morris Jr. and themselves into a covered wagon; left their home in Alpine, Utah and began the journey to Bear Lake Valley.

Joseph Morris was the son of Morris Charles and Laura Clark Phelps and was born in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, June 2, 1837. He walked across the plains, barefoot, driving two yoke of oxen when he was fourteen years of age. His sister, Mary Ann, who had become the wife of Charles C. Rich drove a team of oxen for her husband. She, however, was able to ride. Eliza Clift Phelps, the daughter of George Washington and Amanda Fausett Clift, was born in Nauvoo, Illinois January 25, 1846.

They arrived in Bear Lake Valley in June 1864 with five other families and camped on the bank of a creek just west of where Fourth Street crosses Washington Avenue in what is now Montpelier, Idaho. They named it Clover Creek, but Brigham Young later changed it to Montpelier.

Joseph Morris and John Cozzens were chosen to locate timber for building purposes, fuel and fencing. Joseph chose a canyon four miles north and a little east of their settlement. When they met with the other families to report he said, "There is enough timber in that gap to last us and our children for fifty years." John Cozzens said "I agree with Joseph, because neither we nor our children will ever be able to get any of it out." Joseph said, "If you will give me two good teams and John to help me I will guarantee to furnish you all the timber you can use." This he did. To this day the place is called "Joe‘s Gap" and still has timber in it.

That fall they moved into that first log cabin on Fourth Street. But Joseph was a rancher and cattle and horse raiser. The next spring he began looking for a ranch where he could find summer range and wild hay for winter. He found a small valley fifteen miles south and east of Mont-feller which he named Sheep Creek Valley. Here he found hundreds of acres of wild meadow grass along the shores of Bear River with hundreds of acres of grazing land both in the upper valley and the adjoining mountains. It was the kind of place he had dreamed of and always wanted. He selected as a building spot a grove of cottonwood trees near Bear River and built his second log cabin. A portion of the house, still in use, is that log cabin covered with stucco and lined with lath and plaster. Here Joseph and Eliza established a summer home, moving to Montpelier for the severe winters.

There were many ways of securing title to land at that time. In a few years they owned about five hundred acres of meadow land and could use thousands of acres of grazing land as there were no other families living in the valley.

It was on the Old Oregon Trail. Many emigrants passed through the valley. Joseph had to build his own road nearly half way to Montpelier so he put a toll gate across a narrow place in the road near his home and collected toll. This helped to improve the road and was the first toll gate, and, as far as I know, the only one in Bear Lake Valley.

They built their own private canal from Bear River and improved the hay by broadcasting blue grass, red top and broad leaf seed on the land. The meadow still produces hundreds of tons of good quality hay and makes a fine living for two families.

They soon had a fine band of horses and cattle. Joseph made much of his living trading horses and cattle with emigrants. Many of the emigrant cattle and horses were foot sore and jaded. Their owners were glad to trade them for fresh ones; paying some boot. These Joseph would fatten and get ready for sale again.

Of course they encountered many hardships. One winter after they had moved into town their children contracted diphtheria. Two of them, Hyrum two years of age and Arthur four were very ill. She was sitting on one side of the stove holding the baby, her husband on the other side was holding the older child. There was no doctor or help of any kind. Eliza said, "Suddenly Joseph laid the child on the bed picked up the Bible and read where it opened, 'Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of God,‘ then he looked at me and said 'I wonder.‘ In a few hours both children were dead." They dressed the infants as best they could and the next day with the help of kind neighbors they placed their bodies in home made caskets and kept them there for nearly a week while the men in the small village made a trail through the deep snow to the cemetery. It took all the horses, oxen and men in the village four days to reach the cemetery where they dug a grave wide enough for both caskets. The next day they took the bodies and buried them. This was the second grave to be made in the Montpelier cemetery. Hyrum's pet dog followed them to the cemetery. When they were ready to leave he refused to go with them. Joseph said "He will come home by morning, Eliza." But he did not. They never saw him again. The next spring they looked for his skeleton, but could find no trace of him. They decided a bear had eaten him.

At another time she was alone with the children at the ranch. In the night she heard their dog yelping. She was afraid to look out, but could hear the sound getting farther away. They never saw him again and knew that some wild animal had taken him. Eliza said she lived in terror of bears, wolves and Indians as she often had to stay alone while her husband went to town for provisions.

One time they were going out to the ranch with a horse and buckboard. They had to ford the river. It was raining and the stream was swollen so much they were afraid to drive into it with the buggy and provisions. Joseph unharnessed his faithful horse and taking one child at a time he swam him across and back three times. When he went to take his wife across the horse was trembling and so exhausted they were afraid he could not carry them across. Joseph asked, "Do you have anything I could feed him?" She answered, "I do not know unless it would be bread and loaf sugar." He said, "Get it for me." He broke a loaf of bread into small pieces put a sugar cube with each piece and fed it to the animal. They let him rest as long as they dared then he carried both of them safely to the opposite bank and to the frightened children. Joseph and the oldest son walked and led the horse while she and the two younger ones rode. They finally reached home safely.--Mary Inez Jones Phelps

Family links:

  • Morris Charles Phelps (1805 - 1876)
  • Laura Clark Phelps (1807 - 1842)
  • Sarah Leggett Phelps (1846 - 1931)*
  • Eliza Jerusa Clift Phelps (1846 - 1917)*
  • Margaret Hunter Phelps (1850 - 1936)*
  • Joseph Morris Phelps (1861 - 1918)*
  • Ezra James Phelps (1867 - 1942)*
  • Caddie Madora Phelps Shupe (1869 - 1922)*
  • Benjamin Franklin Phelps (1871 - 1871)*
  • Claire Phelps Raleigh (1872 - 1951)*
  • Leo Wesley Phelps (1880 - 1894)*
  • Joseph Smith Phelps (1882 - 1967)*
  • Mary Ann Phelps Parker (1884 - 1968)*
  • George Lafayette Phelps (1887 - 1956)*

Inscription: Joseph M. son of Morris & Laura Phelps Born June 2, 1837 Accedently (sic) Killed Sep. 28, 1886

Burial: Montpelier City Cemetery Montpelier Bear Lake County Idaho, USA

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Joseph Morris Phelps's Timeline

June 2, 1837
Far West, Caldwell, Mo
October 29, 1861
Age 24
Alpine, UT, USA
January 6, 1872
Age 34
September 29, 1886
Age 49
Nr. Cokeville, Lincoln, Wy
October 1, 1886
Age 49
Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho, Usa