William Edward Cowley

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William Edward Cowley

Birthdate: (62)
Birthplace: Kirk German, Isle of Man, England
Death: April 6, 1901 (62)
Helper, Carbon, UT, USA
Place of Burial: Cleveland, Emery, Utah
Immediate Family:

Son of Matthias Cowley and Ann Cowley
Husband of Sarah Ann Alger
Father of William Elroy Cowley; Lafayette Cowley; Matt Cowley; Charles Zera Cowley; Don Carlos Cowley and 7 others
Brother of Ann Callister; John Mathias Cowley; Elizabeth Jane (Cowley) Dutson; Catherine Mary Anderson; Eleanor Margaret Cowley and 1 other

Occupation: Blacksmith
Managed by: Lucia Kathryn Finley
Last Updated:

About William Edward Cowley

In the Irish Sea, midway between Scotland and Ireland in Ellan Vannis is the Isle of Man, an area of two hundred and thirty square miles, where at Douglas on August 2, 1836, William Edward Cowley was born. He was the son of Mathias and Ann Quayle Cowley. The family consisted of father, mother, two sons and three daughters.

In the late 1830s and early ‘40s, the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were converting hundreds of people to the new religion, among whom were the Cowley, Quayle and Cannon families, who were later to take a very active part in the Church when they arrived in the valleys of the mountains.

On April 21, 1841, these families left Liverpool aboard the ship Rochester with seven of the nine apostles of the Church who had been laboring in the British Isles: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George A. Smith and Willard Richards.

The ship landed in New York May 20, 1841, with 130 Saints aboard. It is evident the Saints went immediately to join the body of the Church, while the apostles remained in various eastern states to complete their missions.

When this group of Saints arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, they found the Church had been driven from their temple city to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they were building another temple. After their arrival in Nauvoo, the Cowley family joined in its construction. William was baptized in 1846 when ten years of age.

When the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo in 1846, the Cowley family with many others camped on the banks of the Mississippi River on their way to St. Louis, Missouri. While at St. Louis, the father, Mathias Cowley, died very suddenly, leaving his wife and five children.

They remained here until 1854, when they crossed the Plains with the Isaac Groo Company. Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, William was taken into the office of Brigham Young as a minuteman, subject to call to fill any of the many requests made by the President for help on the frontier, the farm, the ranch, or any other service needed. He spent much time on the Church Ranch at Rush Valley. He made a trip across the Plains with teams sponsored by Perpetual Emigrating Company to help Saints to the valley of the mountains.

At the conference in October 1856 word reached the Church of the terrible condition of the Edward Martin Handcart Company, which was blocked in snow and ice, and where many had died. William E. Cowley and Joseph F. Smith were sent to take provisions, clothing, bedding and other necessities to the stricken travelers, who, when the relief teams reached them abandoned the handcarts and were brought into Salt Lake Valley on

November 30. Of this trip Levi Edgar Young writes: "This handcart company’s experiences were one of the saddest in the history of the west." He also states that these two young men made two trips across the Plains between 1857 and 1859.

When Johnston’s Army was coming to Utah to "exterminate the Mormons," all the young men were called to go and do everything they could to impede their progress. William was a member of one of the groups who went. These men and boys destroyed the roads, burned the wagons and scattered the cattle owned by the army, thus detaining it until such time as arrangements could be made to let them enter the Valley in 1858. All these trips were made with no remuneration, but were missions which the Saints willingly performed.

When conditions became normal again, William was employed in the Church blacksmith shop as an apprentice. This was a valuable opportunity, as in those early days no occupation was quite so needed as the blacksmith and wheelwright. All travel was with horses, mules or oxen which must have iron shoes made to fit, and the wagons often needed repair, too.

William had courted Sarah Ann Alger, daughter of John and Sarah Pulsipher Alger, while she lived in Salt Lake City, before the family moved to Beaver. When William was ready to start out for himself in 1863, he went to Beaver where he and Sarah Ann were married by her father. The young couple decided to stay at Beaver. John to go into partnership with his father-ion-law and Lafayette Shepherd. This was not for long, as in 1864 they were all called to the Dixie Mission. The call included John and Sarah Pulsipher Alger and family, John’s parents, Samuel and Clarissa Hancock Alger and family, and William E. Cowley, his wife and child. Samuel Alger and family located at Parowan; the others went on to St. George.

William at once joined in the activities of the new city. The Indians were very troublesome, and the conditions demanded a military organization to protect the property of the settlers. William joined Captain James Andrus’s Company, which, in 1866 went to drive the marauding Indians across the Colorado River. While sitting around a campfire, an Indian prisoner got loose and stabbed William in the neck, striking a heavy cord; the blade glanced off, thus saving his life.

Shortly after the founding of St. George, in 1862, the people boasted a martial band, with Edward Duzette as leader. William Cowley at once joined the group, playing the snare drum. He became an outstanding drummer and played with Oswald Barlow after Duzette moved away. He also loved to show his ability at tap or step dancing. At this he was very gifted.

In 1870 he joined in partnership with William Squired, an English blacksmith and mechanic, and they operated a shop near the center of town until Mr. Squires died. William was a skilled workman, being able to use one hand as well as the other.

After eight years, in 1872, the Cowleys, with twenty-six other families, were requested by Brigham Young to settle Clover Valley, Nevada, under the leadership of Edward Bunker. However, this section was inhabited by so many marauding Indians and cattle rustlers who drove off the cattle, sheep and horses of the colonizers, along with the committing other depredations, that after two years the enterprise was abandoned.

The Cowleys, with others, were called to Pine Valley, Washington County, where William’s skill as blacksmith was needed at the sawmill, getting out timber for the many buildings being erected in the vicinity of St. George, and especially the tabernacle and temple. Each time a call came, the Cowley family numbered more.

In 1875 William was sent by President Brigham Young to accompany Charles Pulsipher to Pipe Springs, Arizona, to relieve Anson Perry Windsor, manager of Windsor Castle and the Canaan cattle, Charles Pulsipher to be presiding elder and William E. Cowley, foreman and blacksmith. While serving here, they had many experiences with the unruly Indians. At one time everyone was disturbed by screaming and howling. They all hurried to get the horses, cattle wagons and other property into the fort, expecting a great band of Indians were upon them, but they found the commotion was caused by an old squaw coming for help for blood poisoning.

In 1877 President Young made his last trip to the Dixie Mission. As he was returning to Salt Lake by way of Kanab, he visited at Fort Winsor. Shortly after the visit the telegraph operator, Lydia Windsor, gave out the news that the President was very ill. He had been loved as a father by William, who, when he received the word, started immediately for Salt Lake City. When he reached Payson he was told the President had passed away. To hasten the journey he took the fastest means available so he could attend the funeral services.

William never returned to Windsor Castle. He had a home in St. George and remained there until 1881, when he moved to Silver Reef to work at the mines as blacksmith. When the price of silver dropped so low that the mines could not continue to operate, he returned home to St. George, where he always had work at his trade. He thought he never would move again.

In 1878 William bought lot 3, block 12, plat D, St. George City Survey, from Jesse W. Crosby. This property was located on 5th North just off Diagonal Street. There he built his home and located his shop under two large cottonwood trees in the street. For the farmers desiring work done at the shop, there was plenty of room to drive their teams in and await for the smith to sharpen the plowshare, make shoes for the horses, mend a broken part of some farm implement or do some other repair job. While the work was going on, much interesting conversation was also indulged in, for William Cowley was a man of great and varied experience, with a way of telling about it at was pleasant to listen to. After twenty years of responding to the many calls made of him to help in the establishing of locations for new settlements, it was time to care for his large family of growing children.

Sarah Ann’s sister was left without help with a large farm and numerous cattle in Washington County, so the Cowley boys, some brown young men, took over the care of Aunt Addie McArthur’s land and cattle. There were many discouragements. Often when the crops were young or not matured, huge floods came down the Virgin River and washed out the dams, thereby causing the crops to burn up before the water could be diverted into the canal again. Then too, Addie married Tom Price, who took over her interests, leaving the Cowley boys without steady employment.

About this time the great building program had ended and many families were moving from St. George. Many of them had learned their trades while working on he temple, the tabernacle and other buildings, but must now seek employment elsewhere. Some were going to Arizona, while others were seeking homes in eastern Utah. Hearing of the great opportunities in Castle Valley, William went to investigate. He found plenty of land, water and coal where he could secure farms for his eight sons. In 1885 he moved his family, which consisted of his wife, eight sons and two daughters, to a new section of country where their troubles really began.

Their water supply was the Huntington River, seven miles from Cleveland, where they were locating. All the water they had for drinking and other purposes had to be hauled that distance. William, his sons, the Alger boys and others at once made the seven miles of canal. He built a large home and for several years all church meetings and social gatherings were held there. At the time of the Scofield Mine disaster in 1900, six funerals were held at once at this home.

William E. Cowley was the first merchant in Cleveland. In 1897 the Rio Grande Railroad changed from narrow to broad gauge tracks, and during all the time this work was being done he worked as blacksmith for the company.

At the opening of the Pleasant Valley coalmines at Sunnyside in 1899, later known as the Utah Fuel Corporation, he went there to work at his trade, moving his family there.

On April 6, 1901, he started from Sunnyside to go to Salt Lake to attend Church Conference. On arriving at Helper, he found his ticket had expired. He bought another, paying the price out of a hundred-dollar check. As he received his change he turned to a friend and said he thought he would walk the two miles to Castle Gate and spend the night with his friend, Bishop William Lamph, and wait for the five o’clock flyer. An outlaw must have seen him receive the change from his check and waylaid him. He was robbed and murdered, then dragged onto the railroad tracks. He was not dead when left, however, but drew himself off the tracks before he died and the train did not touch him. Heber M. Wells, governor of Utah, and some nephews, the Collister brothers, offered a big reward for information concerning the outlaws, but no trace of them was ever found. William was buried April 9, 1901, at Cleveland, leaving a wife, eight sons and two daughters, two sons having died in infancy.

Lucia Finley Ancestry.com files lkf46 added this on 29 Dec 2007


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William Edward Cowley's Timeline

August 6, 1838
Kirk German, Isle of Man, England
May 20, 1841
Age 2
Liverpool (leaving 20 April 1841) to New York (arriving 20 May 1841)
December 23, 1864
Age 26
Beaver, Beaver, UT, USA
December 31, 1866
Age 28
St. George, Washington, UT, USA
September 8, 1868
Age 30
St. George, Washington, UT, USA
July 29, 1870
Age 31
St. George, Washington, UT, USA
August 2, 1872
Age 33
Clover Valley, Lndln, Nevada
November 19, 1874
Age 36
Pine Valley, Utah
October 24, 1876
Age 38
Winsor Castle, Pipe Springs, Mojave, AZ