George Washington Taggart

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George Washington Taggart

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Sharon, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, United States
Death: Died in Richville, Morgan, Utah, USA
Place of Burial: South Morgan Cemetery, Morgan, Morgan, Utah, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Washington Taggart and Susannah Taggart
Husband of Clarissa Marina Rogers and Harriet Atkins Taggart
Father of Julia Mariah Lewis, THIRD WIFE; Frederick Taggart; Clarissa Taggart; Susannah Taggart; Sarah Jane Taggart and 9 others
Brother of ALBERT TAGGART; SAMUEL W TAGGART; OLIVER HAZARD TAGGART and HENRY C TAGGART

Occupation: LDS high priest, Member Mormon Battalion, carpenter, millwright, farmer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About George Washington Taggart

"I wished to do that which would be productive of the most good in building up and establishing the Kingdom of God. I believe that the God of Israel will order all things right for those that act through a pure desire for the welfare of his Kingdom; this is the motive through which I hope always to act." - George Washington Taggart

George Washington Taggart was a man who labored hard and gained very little in a material sense. He was a man of faith and courage who loved and was deeply committed to his God, his family, and his country. His numerous descendants, the beneficiaries of his hard work and dreams, can take pride in his noble achievements and be motivated by his tremendous example.

Early Life

George was born 6 November 1816 in Sharon, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, the eldest of six sons born to Washington Taggart (son of James Taggart and Elizabeth McNee or McNay) and Susannah Law (daughter of Reuben Law and Alice Piper). Lt. James Taggart and Reuben Law both fought in the Revolutionary War as did two of George's great-grandfathers, Cpt. John Taggart and William McNee. John Taggart also fought in the French and Indian War.

George had blue eyes, dark hair, and stood about five feet eight or nine inches tall. According to George's Day Book, a record he kept of work he did between the years 1837 and 1841, George worked at carpentry (planing and milling), sawing timber, repairing wagons and carding and spinning wool. There is also an entry for money due for a violin and trunk. George was a talented musician capable of making violins, guitars, fifes, and other instruments. He wrote at least one ballad.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In December 1841, at the age of twenty-five, George Washington Taggart made a decision which would not only alter the course of the rest of his life, but affect the lives of generations of his posterity. George asked a Mormon missionary by the name of Elder Eli P. Maginn, to baptize him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. George's parents, Washington and Susannah, and his brother Oliver also joined the LDS Church, but the new religion divided the family as George's remaining brothers, Albert, Samuel and Henry, did not join.

George married Harriet Atkins Bruce (born 20 March 1821) on 7 May 1843. Having been baptized two months after George on 20 February 1842, by the same Elder Maginn, Harriet seems to be the only member of her family who joined the LDS Church.

In June 1843, one month after their marriage, George and Harriet along with his parents and brother Oliver, left family, friends, and their home to move to Nauvoo, Illinois to gather with the main body of the LDS Church. Less than three months later, Oliver died at the age of nineteen. Washington, age fifty-seven, died the next day.

On 6 September 1843 Susannah wrote to Albert, Samuel and Henry in New Hampshire: "The subject upon which I must write makes the task a painful one, for I must tell you, my Children, you are fatherless . . . Oliver died the first day of September five o'clock in the afternoon and your father about the same time the next day. You may judge what my feelings must be, situated as I am in a land of strangers, though the neighbors are very kind, and the people, as far as I have any acquaintance, are good."

Her longing and concern for her sons in New Hampshire are evident in this expression of her faith: "But I would say to you all I want to see you very much. I hope you will in consequence of this dispensation of providence be led to consider of the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, and the uncertainty as to the time when, and be prepared for the same. And now my children, I must conclude by wishing you health and prosperity and by saying my heart's desire and prayer to God is that you may be saved."

At the bottom of his mother's letter, George added a description of Nauvoo and the Prophet Joseph Smith: "I like the place very much but there is many inconveniences which we will have to undergo in consequence of not having money . . . There is a great deal of building a going on here this Summer, and the place is growing fast. The most of the people are industrious and honest, but poor. But there is many, as might be supposed, that are not honest, and many that belong to the Church which are not to be depended upon. This I expected before I came here, therefore I am not disappointed.

"Now something concerning Old Jo, so called. He is a young looking man of his age, which is near thirty-eight years [George was nearly twenty-seven], and one of the finest looking men there is in the country. And he does not pretend to be a man without failings and follies. He is a man that you could not help liking as a man, setting aside the religious prejudice which the world has raised against him. He is one of the warmest patriots and friends to his country and laws that you ever heard speak on the subject. Neither is he puffed up with his greatness, as many suppose, but on the contrary is familiar with any decent man and is ready to talk upon any subject that any one wishes. And I assure you, it would make you wonder to hear him talk and see the information which comes out of his mouth and it is not in big words either but that which any one can understand.

"[C]oncerning public reports and stories that are abroad in the world concerning Joseph Smith and the Mormons, so called, as a people they are as false [as] the Devil or those that make such stories. I say this as a fact, knowing it to be so. Therefore, if you ever believed me to be one of truth, [I] am still the same.

"I wish to hear from each one of you and would like to see you . . . I am in hopes that I shall see all of you here some day."

On 28 January 1844, George and Harriet became the parents of a baby daughter they named Eliza Ann. Two days later George received a patriarchal blessing from Patriarch Hyrum Smith, brother of the prophet, in which he was promised, "you shall be blessed in lineage of your posterity, and your name shall be commemorated unto the latest generation."

Persecution in Nauvoo

Hyrum Smith and the Prophet Joseph Smith were shot and killed five months later on 27 June 1844, in Carthage Jail, Carthage, Illinois. As a member of the Nauvoo Legion and of the Nauvoo Legion Band (George played the fife), George was one of those who went to meet and return with the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum as they traveled the twenty miles from Carthage to Nauvoo. According to George's son James: "I have heard him [GWT] tell of going with those that went to Carthage for the two bodies of Prophet Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith to bring them to Nauvoo, and I have heard him play the tunes he helped to play in the band that were played when they marched into Nauvoo with the bodies. This would cause us to picture in our minds the awful event of the martyrdom."

Clarissa Marina Rogers was a young girl of eight living in Nauvoo at the time. Twelve years later she would become George Washington Taggart's third wife. Clarissa's future daughter-in-law, Valeria Laird Taggart married to son James, would write in 1931-32: "As a child, she [Clarissa] remembered the terrible gloom and sorrow that swept over the city of the saints when the Prophet and his brother were killed at Carthage. She remembered passing through the Prophet's Mansion House and viewing their dead bodies. She remembered the sorrow they all felt. She went to the meeting afterwards and saw the mantle of the Prophet Joseph Smith fall upon Brigham Young as he was speaking. I have heard her bear her testimony to the congregation at Sunday School in Richville, Morgan County, Utah, pertaining to this."

Fanny Parks was twenty-two when the prophet was killed. Just over a year later she became George Washington Taggart's second wife. In her autobiography she gives an eyewitness testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith: "I often think of the many happy hours I have spent listening to the words of life that flowed from the lips of the Prophet. No one could help but like him for he was kind and good. I have heard him reprove men for their wrong doings and talk pretty sharp but it was always in such a good spirit that it appeared to me that no one could be offended. I have heard him talk a great many times and can bear testimony that I always felt benefited and I know he was a prophet of God and that the Lord called him in his own due time to lay the foundations of his latter day work."

As angry mobs continued to threaten the saints in Nauvoo, one can only imagine the concern Albert, Samuel and Henry must have had for their family there. On 21 August 1844, Henry wrote to Albert: "We rec'd your letter yesterday and I was glad to hear that you was well and that [you] was agoin to start for Nauvoo so soon . . . If you go to Nauvoo, I want you to fetch Mother back with you and I want you to write as soon as you get there and let us know how you prosper. You must be careful and not let them put a knife into you."

On 5 March 1845, George wrote to Albert: "We were very much gratified to hear that you were yet in existence, and so near at hand. My health is now pretty good, Mother also and my little daughter Eliza Ann are in comfortable health, although they have both been sick 3 months each the past winter.

"My wife [Harriet] has ceased to live. She now lies in the grave by the side of Father and Oliver. She died Feb 19th, after a lingering illness of 6 months. I think my lot has been one of sorrow and tribulation since I come to Nauvoo but I do not feel like complaining for sorrow and perplexity is the common lot of mankind here in this life.

"I am glad that you are intending to come to Nauvoo for I want to see you very much. As you intend coming up in the month of April, don't fail to be here by the 6th, for there is to be a general Conference to commence on the 6th, and if you will be here at that time, it will be the greatest treat that you ever had."

George's son James would later say: "Father thought a lot of those early leaders (Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball) and they had much confidence in him. . . He had implicit faith and trust in them, which I have always thought influenced his family for good."

There is evidence that George worked on the Nauvoo Temple, sometimes taking his young daughter, Eliza Ann, with him. He'd make a bed in a wheelbarrow and care for her the best he could while he worked.

A Second Marriage

On 23 July 1845, George married Fanny Parks of Livonia, New York and Fanny adopted seventeen-months-old Eliza Ann as her own child. Fanny wrote in her autobiography: "While I was in Nauvoo, I became acquainted with George Washington Taggart, and . . . was married to him by Father John Smith, the prophet's uncle." By September Brigham Young urged all who could, to come into the confines of the city of Nauvoo for mobs were burning homes and fields on the outskirts.

Susannah died on 31 October 1845. In a period of two years, four members of George's family had died: his brother, father, wife, and mother. The prophet of his new religion had been murdered. As far as there is any record, George never saw his remaining brothers Samuel and Henry after he left New Hampshire and never saw Albert after Albert's visit to Nauvoo sometime between April and October 1845.

When Albert, Samuel, and Henry learned of their mother's death, it was more than two years before they would hear anything from George. In a letter dated 2 April 1848, George wrote: "Beloved Brothers Albert, Samuel, & Henry, As I have not written to you for a long time, neither have I heard any thing from you since Henry's letter by J. C. Little wherein he expressed his fears that I had forgotten him. But fear not Henry, for I have not forgotten any of you. But wish I could come and see you, but when this will be I cannot tell. . . . I was disappointed to hear that you had received no letters from me since the death of our Mother, for I think I wrote two letters to you between that and the time I left Nauvoo which was on the 17th of Feb 1846. I did not write to you concerning Mother's death for about two months, in consequence of my being sick at the time with the chills and fever, which continued until about one week before I left Nauvoo. The last letter I wrote to you was I think about the first of Feb., 1846."

On 15 February 1846, Brigham Young led the first group of saints from Nauvoo into the wilderness towards the Rocky Mountains. George Washington Taggart left on February 17th in the Company commanded by John Scott. He wrote in his journal: "this I did by council of the Church William Huntington in particular who was Captain I think of the 25th hundred of which I was a member under the first organization of the Church into emigrating companies." As a member of the Nauvoo Legion, George was called to act as a guard for the artillery in these first companies to leave Nauvoo, leaving behind his little daughter and young bride of seven months. "The first day the 17th We crossed the Missippi and encamped for the night on the priary about one mile from the river," he wrote.

George's company traveled to Sugar Creek the 18th of February, and here caught up with "the body of the camp." George wrote, "our time was mostly spent in hearing council from the Twelve, gathering up provisions keeping up guard around the encampment and cutting wood and keeping fires, these things all being verry necessary, and the latter on account of it being very cold and snowy."

On March lst, the camp continued west. In George's words: "we sufered concidderable in consequence of cold and wet weather and muddy roads, but we were encouredged and strengthened by the twelve and others of the brethern which kept us in good spirits and I thought that I could endure almost anything that might come although My health had been very bad the most part of the winter, but it came to pass that we traveled on and worked by the way for corned meat as oportunity presented and thus the Lord prospered us on our journey and gave us favour with the people that sojourned in the land."

Brigham Young arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa on 14 June 1846. Church Headquarters would be established at a place not far from here, about six miles north of present day Omaha, Nebraska, called Winter Quarters. Winter Quarters would be a place the saints could plant crops and prepare for the trek to the Salt Lake Valley.

George traveled with the main camp until they reached "the neighbourhood of grand river" where George and some of the men of his company were sent out in search of labor to procure provisions. "We started about 9 oclock in the morning 16 or 17 in number with nothing to eat but a small loaf of bread made of parched corn meal and 5 or 6 hard biscuit . . . We traveled over the priary until about 4 oclock in the afternoon when We came to timber one of the Company was there lucky enough to shoot a wild hog and another a turkey, We were then provided with something for our Supper . . . the next morning . . . after traveling about 3 hours We came to what is called Duncan settlement, here We immediatly got a job of work of one Harvey Duncan of hewing and raising a log house, the people were very much excited in consequence of having so many Mormons come into their neighbourhood, some were in favour of driving us out of the place by force and held 2 publick meetings to council on the expediency of such a plan, but the Duncans being Men of influence and not being in favour of such measures brought about so much oposition that the game of driving was frustrated, We were therefore permited to stay and prove ourselves which We did and got a good name, We laboured in this place six or seven weeks in which time We gathered up a good supply of oxen Cows and provisions."

About the lst of June, George and all but five or six of his companions headed for Mt. Pisgah, arriving about the 10th. "Scotts Company stoped here 8 or 10 days in which time I received a letter from My Wife stateing that She expected to start from Nauvoo about 1st of July with Brother B Mills with wom I had Made a contract to this effect before I left Nauvoo, Myself with some other of the Company in a similar situation in regard to our families received council to stop at Pizgah or go back for our families as the nature of the case seemed to require I therefore taried for the space of one month which time I stoped and worked with Father Parish William and Ephreaim Lindsay and Henry Stevens, I planted a garden at this place hopeing that My Family might receive some benefit therefrom."

The Mormon Battalion

But George was not to be reunited with Fanny and Eliza Ann at this time. Neither would he hear any word from or about them again for many long months.

On 30 June 1846, Captain James Allen of the United States army arrived at Council Bluffs with a letter for Brigham Young from General Kearney asking whether four or five hundred able bodied men from among the saints would enlist in the army to fight in the war between the United States and Mexico.

According to Mormon Battalion historian Norma B. Ricketts, first reactions of the saints ranged from outrage to disbelief. Most didn't realize that Brigham Young had offered to help the United States by hauling supplies for the army, setting up posts, etc. in exchange for much needed cash to buy teams, wagons and supplies needed for their western migration. Though President James K. Polk refused these offers, he did have his own agenda which was to obtain for the United States land from the Atlantic to the Pacific (Manifest Destiny). Polk wanted to secure from Mexico the provinces of New Mexico and California. He didn't want the French or British to take control of them, neither did he want a large number of Mormons joining with either the French or the British. Perhaps the timing of both the War with Mexico and Brigham Young's request had something to do with his call for volunteers from the Mormons to join the army. From Brigham Young's point of view this was the first positive government action towards the saints. The Church could have permission to remain temporarily on Indian lands in Iowa and Nebraska while it prepared to move west, five hundred men could get as far as California at government expense, and the money earned by the men as well as their donated clothing allowance would produce the needed cash.

Brigham Young knew the loss of manpower would substantially weaken his camp and that he would have a fearful responsibility in caring for their dependents, but he traveled one hundred miles as far back as Mt. Pisgah, requesting every man who could be spared to enlist. Said Brigham Young: "I will do my best to see that all their families are brought forward, so far as my influence can be extended, and to feed them when I have anything to eat myself."

Once the saints understood the wishes of Brigham Young, the quota of volunteers was obtained in around two weeks. George wrote in his journal: "I was not present at the meeting but learned in season that the Council was that every Man that posibly could should volunteer for the space of one year in the Service of the United States to go to Santafee & then to Californy & there receive our discharge, & that a Family or property must not be named as an excuse for not going, in consequence of My not Hearing the council given by President Young I went to Wm Huntington Senr & E T Benson and Counciled with Them concerning the expediency of My volunteering in this expedition stating to them the situation of My Family & also My own feelings on the subject, which were that I wished to do that which would be productive of the most good in building up and establishing the Kingdom of God, but did not wish to go inconciderately at work at anything that Might cause Myself and Family to suffer, but the council of these two Men was that the importance of the case required that every Man should go that posibly could and that it was best that I should go."

So at the age of twenty-nine, George Washington Taggart enlisted in Company B in the Mormon Battalion, one of five hundred men who set out between July16-22, 1846, to commence an unparalleled march of two thousand miles on foot through the barren deserts and across the mountains of the Southwest to California. George enlisted as a Musician, a Fifer, playing a fife he made himself. This fife was in the possession of grandson Edis Taggart. Edis has generously donated it to the Museum of LDS Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On 8 July 1846, the day before George left Mt. Pisgah for Council Bluffs, he wrote to his wife: "Beloved and respected Wife, it is with grief, and disapointment although mingled with bright prospects of the future that I sit down to pen a few lines to you concerning the sudden change that is about to come across my calculations, I expect the disappointment wil be as great to you as to Myself, I have calculated from the time that I stoped at this place until this morning that I should see you and Eliza Ann before I left . . . My faith is that you will not murmur at my volunteering to absent myself from you for so long inasmuch as I go by council of the church, you may be asured Fanny it is a great disappointment and a wound to My natural feelings to tear Myself as it were away from My Family that I have not seen for five months, and when I have been immagining to Myself for the last week that you were almost in sight, but I believe that the God of Israel will order all things right for those that act through a pure desire for the welfare of his Kingdom this is the motive through which I hope always to act . . . take good care of Eliza Ann and tell Her that Her Father is sorry to go away and not see Her and Mother, but tel Her to be a good girl and not forget her Father . . . may the Lord bless you with life and health and with every nesecary blessing and keep you steadfast in the principles of truth and virtue until We meet again, this is and shal be the prayer of your absent but afectionate Companion."

As the Battalion marched away, Brigham Young was faced with the nearly impossible task of figuring out how to shelter for the coming winter twelve thousand displaced saints scattered across the state of Iowa from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River. It is estimated that by December 1846, four thousand saints were huddled together in crude log or sod shelters in Winter Quarters. By September, armed mobs with rifles and cannon were driving the remnant of the saints from their homes in Nauvoo.

Fanny and Eliza Ann were still in Nauvoo when the news came that George had joined the Mormon Battalion. From her autobiography: "I was left in the care of John Mills with the understanding that he should take me to Council Bluffs with the avails of some property we hoped to sell, but there was no sale for anything, but Brother Mills was very kind to me. Then the call came for 500 men to go in the Battalion, my husband was one of them. I was still back there and it seemed awfully hard to me. I had no one to look to and not a penny of my own, but Brother Mills did all in his power to make me comfortable and said for me to stay with his family and if he went I should go, but he had neither team nor wagon and no one to help him as the children were small so it looked very discouraging."

At Fort Leavenworth, on 6 August 1846, George wrote to Fanny: "Beloved companion, I now improve an oportunity which presents itself in writing a few lines to you thinking that it wil be some consolation to you to know that I am yet alive and have not forgotten My Wife I am in good health, you may well suppose that I am anxious to hear from you as I have not heard from you since your letter of the second of June, I feel a great anxiety to hear from you for I fear that you must have been in want of provisions before this unless some of the Brethren have been kind enough to provide for you for the last 2 or 3 months, I feel concerned for fear I have left you to suffer. . . I feel Fanny as though I had made as great a sacrifice as I could wel make, in that I have forsaken for the time being My possessions My Family and at the risk of life start for Mexico as a united States Soldier with 500 of My Brethren in order to show that the Blood of my Grandfathers who fought and bled in the revolutionary war and the spirit of liberty and freedom still courses in the veins of some of their posterity that are called Mormons, I go forward on this expedition with ful faith and confidence that I shal have your prayers and blessings and that My life wil be preserved and that I shall again have a joyful meeting with you and Eliza Ann and enjoy a long and happy life here uppon the Earth."

The battalion members would suffer greatly from sickness, thirst, starvation, mistreatment, even death, but as promised by Brigham Young, "would not have any fighting to do." According to George's son Frederick: "I well remember sitting on my father's knee and hearing him tell many stories of the hardships he suffered while with the Mormon Battalion. How they suffered from lack of water until their tongues would swell. He also said he had walked and led his mules in order to preserve them, until his feet would bleed." Three sick detachments of the Battalion ended up in Pueblo, Colorado. Of the original five hundred men, only 335 (including George) reached California.

4,300 Miles In Twenty-Two Months==

In two pocket-size books of lined, folded, and hand-sewn paper, George kept a journal of the trek, written more in the form of notes. Years later in a hard-backed book, he used these notes to record this memorable journey in beautiful, handwritten script, correcting spelling and sentence structure. George's grandson Spencer and his wife Ila remember seeing this polished version of the journal in 1954, but at the present time its location is unknown. Most fortunately for George's descendants, the original day by day journal George carried on the trek was placed in the Church Historian's Office in Salt Lake City by George's granddaughter Lucy Goodrich Lind.

The following selected excerpts from this journal illustrate not only some of the difficulties the soldiers endured, but a description of the American Southwest by a young carpenter who grew up in the wooded hills of New Hampshire. No editorial corrections have been made other than the notes added in brackets for clarification:

July 19-27: We traveled over a beautiful priary country but scearce of timber

July 31-September 4: traveled . . . over a vast level priary of near 80 miles with but 4 or 5 watering placeses no timber worth mentioning

September 4: many of the Brethren were sick with fevers & agues, & many of Capt Hunters [Jesse D. Hunter, Captain of Company B] company in particular, (one thing however I wil here mention (on the authority of William Evans [Private, Company B] (and others) one of my mess mates who was begining to recover from an atack of the chills & fever & had been riding in the bagage wagons, the only way provided for carrying the sick) & that is, the principle Surgeon Sanderson [Dr. George W. Sanderson, listed as Assistant Surgeon for Battalion] by name came up with the wagons in the afternoon of the 4th & ordered the Sick to get out of the waggons and swore that not a Man should ride except by His permission & His permission would not be given except those returned sick would take his medicine He also said that if he knew of anyone prescribeing any medicine to any sick Man without His orders that He would cut His damned throat

September 8: We traveled over a more beautiful priary than I had ever Seen before & it was fed so close by the Buffalow that it looked like an old pasture, We saw 4 or 5 emence herds of Bufalo this day I judge from 3 to 5 hundred

September 17: Brother Felps [Alva Phelps, Private, Company E] who had been under the Surgeons care for some time Died and was buried

On September 19, 1846, George wrote another letter to Fanny: "I am yet in tolerable health, Brother Pace, Lee & Egan, came up with the Battalion . . . with letters from the Mormon Camp, and you may expect that I was greatly disappointed when I learned that there was no letter for me neither did I learn any verbal information concerning you, I have not had any information whatever concerning you since your letter of the 2d of June, but wherever you may be I hope this wil find you and Eliza Ann enjoying the blessing of life and health, I hope to send in connexion with this letter a small sum of money for your benifit"

Continuing with George's journal:

September 25-27: We came in view of a small growth of timber the first We had seen for 9 days this timber was a small growth of red and white Cedar . . . the face of the Country begins to present a very different senery from anything We have seen since We left fort Leavensworth, We begin to see sudden and abrupt eminences and nobs riseing up from the roleing priaries, and Mountains begin to be visible in the distance, the rock about these broken and scattering Mounds (for such I shall call them) is a soft sand stone

October 3: the Battalion divided into two divisions, about 250 of the most able Men were detailed by order of Lieut Smith [Lieutenant Andrew J. Smith arrived in camp August 29 to take command of the Battalion. Colonel James Allen died in Fort Leavenworth and Captain Hunt of Company A had been in command in the interim.] of the command to take a more forced march for Santifee, this was acknowledged to be a judicious moove by most of the company commanders, Capt J Hunter said publicly to His Men that He thought this to be the best move that could be made, but many were opposed to this proceeding, for one I did not feel like volunteering to go on and leave the sick behind consequently I did not go with the first division

October 4: We drove up our Beef Cattle and yoked several pairs of them in order to strengthen the teams that We might be able to move forward, for the main strength of the teams were taken with the first division of the Battalion

October 7: encamped near a Spanish village called Labagus [Las Vegas], in this region of Country pine and cedar is tolerable plenty . . . We saw immence herds of Sheep Goats and Cattle, the inhabitants appear friendly and courteous

October 9: Lieut Omen [George W. Oman, 1st Lieutenant, Company A] the oficer in command of the 2d division gave orders to strike tents and pursue our march, but in consequense of Lieut Ludington [Elam Luddington, 1st Lieutenant, Company B] getting his wagon broke the Night before about 5 miles from camp He was therefore not in a situation to obey the order but had to go back and repair His wagon before He could go forward, Lieut Omen However gave orders to Seargent William Hyde [2nd Sergeant, Company B] to take charge of Ludingtons Company and proceed forward contrary to Ludingtons orders notwithstanding, this however Seargent Hyde refused to do, and Omen was not disposed to stop and see Lieut Ludington under way consequently there was another division took place, Omen went forward of the 4 Companyes and left Ludington and Company B to get along the best way they could, Myself with eight or ten others of Company B started forward on a slow pace expecting to be overtaken by the rest of the company in the course of a day, however in this We were disapointed for We travelled slowly all day and were not overtaken neither did We overtake the companyes in advance, We travelled until about 7 oclock in the evening when We concluded to light up a fire and wait until the rest of the Company came up, this We did, and the next day about 3 oclock Lieut Ludington came up with the rear of the Company, We were all very much pleased to get togather again and We would not scatter of any more but keep togather . . . On the Evening of the 12th We went into the long looked for Citty of Santifee [Santa Fe], We were about six hours behind Lieutenant Omen

When George reached Santa Fe, he was still carrying the letter he'd written to Fanny on September 19th. On October 18th he added: "In consequence of Brother Lee & Egan not returning immediately after comeing up with Our Battalion . . . I have caried this letter which I suposed I had finished at the time I wrote it . . . Fanny I feel anxious to hear from you & My Little Daughter and I am more anxious to see you, but distance and circumstances forbids Me the latter privilege, but I trust that Our minds and feeling are not separated although distanse between us may intervene . . . I send for your benefit at this time 19 dollars and 4 cents I drew 13 dollars 54 cts I loaned $8 and kept 2.60 for Myself . . . I wish I could send you a thousand dollars but that you know is out of the question . . . My health is good and I am blessed, and I do not forget to remember you in My prayers to the Lord, be faithful & true and again Il [I'll] meet you." A note was added on the outside of this letter: "Have just learned that We have to take up a line of March tomorrow Morning without receiving any of our wages consequently I shal send no money with this leter."

More from George's journal:

November 10: the amount of provisions taken in at Santifee for four Months journey was 60 days Soldiers rations, why there was not a greater supply I know not, the Battalion have now been uppon half rations for something like ten days, there is now about 30 days rations in camp to serve the Battalion for a three Months journey through the unsettled and barren Country of Mexico

"November 13: We travelled about 15 miles over a very Broken and desolate lokeing Country and entirely destitute of timber We encamped for the Night at a very good and a very romantick lookeing wattering place

November 14: We travelled . . . over a beautiful valley of good soil but no timber, the water from the Mountains sinks directly after comeing into the valley, this Night We pitched our tents at a beautiful little riverlet

November 17: turned our course Westward and went through a pass of the Mountains which is not known to have been travelled by white Men before, I have learned that We were intended for an exploreing party and our movements proves the fact for We are takeing an entire new route, We travelled this day 5 miles and encamped at another wattering place

November 19: for the last two days We have travelled over a beautiful Valley Country of a rich lookeing soil and wel adapted to farming purposes, but one great convenience is lacking in All this Southwest world as far as I have yet travelled and that is timber, there is hardly any timber in this Country worth mentioning

December 3: Several . . . Soldiers . . . went out this day to hunt wild Cattle which were plenty . . . this circumstance it might be supposed caused . . . some joy among the Soldiers inasmuch as We antisipated gratifyeing Our apetites once again with a full meal of beef Soup

December 4-6: travelled 36 miles among Mountains and Valleys . . . the Country is still almost entirely destitute of timber, or of what would be called timber, there is in many places an abundance of small Shrubbery

December 11: two of the Brothren were badly hurt and two Mules were gored to death this day by the Wild Buls

December 18: left the Town of Tubson [Tucson] travelled about 25 miles and encamped without watter

December 19: travelled about 30 miles and found no watter except 2 or 3 small puddles of 30 or 40 gallons each which was very muddy and bad but it was swallowed with eagerness by everyone that passed it

December 20: travelled about 12 miles and came to watter where We encamped, Our Mules were suffering very much for watter it being the 3rd day since they had had any watter or but very little grass, for the country for the last 3 days was an entire desert without anything growing of any amount except scattering shrubery

December 22: came to Pemaw [Pima] Indian Vilage where We encamped, these Indians were very familiar and friendly, They brought some Melons into Camp one of which Brother D, P, Rainy [David P. Rainey, 1st Corporal, Company B] purchased, I enjoyed the pleasure of helping to eat it which was something quite new to Me for Chrismas

January 1-2, 1847: there is hardly a blade of grass to be seen, the most of the upland country . . . is either almost entirely sand or else it is gravel Covered with little Stones, We pass now and then a rich little valley as We pass near the river [Gila River, Arizona], there is a great variety of Mountain senery which continually presents itself to the Eye of the Traveller as He passes through this part of the Country

January 9: We are now . . . 250 miles from Sandiego and We have about 6 or 7 days half rations to last us to where We can get more, our Mules are worn out and are dying almost every day, I wil here say that since We left Santifee, I think that We have not had more than half rations

January 11: this Morning the Battalion got safely across the Colorado with the teams and wagons, and We resumed our journey westar, We travelled 15 miles & Encamped at . . .

This is the last entry in George's journal. It is possible parts of the journal are missing, but since there are blank pages following this entry, it is also possible George's own physical condition was so weakened he no longer had the energy or desire to write. The last part of the Battalion's journey to California was particularly difficult. From Norma Ricketts' book: "Jan. 16, Half naked, the men suffered for lack of clothing. A tropical sun during the daytime and winter cold at night was detrimental to both men and animals. . . They had completed a march of nearly sixty miles in forty-eight hours over the worst stretch of desert without water."

According to Sergeant William Coray of Company B: "The Col. ordered the officer of the day to call up the musicians at one o'clock [A.M.] to beat an assembly and we would move on for water. No feed yet for the mules, and it is a sin the way they are dying off. Part of the command did not get to the camp during the day, such was the extreme suffering of the Mormon Battalion. Three days without water and if the fresh beef had not met us nothing could have saved our lives but the unseen hand of Almighty God . . . we had passed a large desert the worst place we had encountered since we left the states."

Norma Ricketts: "Jan. 17, The past five days seemed the hardest of the trip to date. . . Many, many men had no shoes. They wrapped rawhide around their feet and tied it in place. . . Others wrapped clothing around their feet for protection against burning sand in the daytime and freezing cold at night. The men were used up from thirst, fatigue, and hunger; there was no talking. Some could not speak at all, their tongues were so swollen and dark. Many had scurvy. . . Sixteen more mules gave out." George later told his son Frederick how their tongues swelled from lack of water. How would one play a fife at 1:00 in the morning with a swollen tongue?

Finally, on 29 January 1847, the Mormon Battalion reached San Diego. Colonel Cooke reported to General Kearny "that a wagon road 'of great value to our country' had been opened to the Pacific Ocean. (Cooke did not know that gold would be discovered in California one year later and that Cooke's Wagon Road would become one of the major overland routes to the West.)"

The Battalion spent two days in San Diego before leaving for San Luis Rey where they remained about six weeks. On 14 March, the colonel received orders to send one company to San Diego and the rest to Los Angeles.

George's Company (B) was sent to San Diego. Captain Hunter, who was in charge, gave permission for the men to work for the citizens of the town. Thus they gained an opportunity to earn some extra money to purchase horses, mules, and supplies for the long awaited return to their families. They worked at a variety of jobs including making adobe, burning bricks, digging wells, and building houses. They laid brick sidewalks, built chimneys, and whitewashed fences and buildings. George opened a tannery and made "a quantity of pack-saddles for the return trip."

The men of Company B organized a club for the purpose of lecturing, debating, and reciting. Perhaps it was at this time that George wrote his following ballad about his experiences with the Mormon Battalion,

According to historians Tyler and Ricketts, the citizens of San Diego were quite disappointed when the soldiers of Company B left in July for Los Angeles. "It is proper to state here," Tyler reported, "that the company, having greatly improved the town, as well as being peaceful, honest, industrious and virtuous, the citizens plead with them in the strongest terms not to leave. They had dug from fifteen to twenty good wells, the only ones in the town, several of which were walled with brick, besides building brick houses, including a court-house, to be used for courts, schools, etc. They had paved some of the sidewalks with brick, while some, being house carpenters, had done the finishing work on the inside.

"On the 6th [July], the citizens of San Diego sent an express to P. St. George Cooke, commander of the southern military district, requesting that another company of 'Mormons' be immediately sent to take the place of Company B, stating that they did not wish any other soldiers quartered there."

Reunited

The Battalion was officially discharged on 16 July 1847. Some chose to reenlist for an additional six months, some stayed in California for awhile, and the rest, consisting of 223 men and including George, headed east in search of their families. On 24 August, these latter met C. C. Smith traveling west who told them Brigham Young and the pioneers were settling in the Great Salt Lake Valley. The first part of September they met Captain James Brown who had taken one of the sick detachments to Pueblo. He had a letter from Brigham Young counseling those veterans without families to return to California to work for a season because provisions in Salt Lake were too meager to support a great influx of people the first winter. Approximately half of the group turned back.

George continued with the half heading to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving on October 16th. Not finding their families, George and thirty-one others remained in the Valley only two days before continuing on to Winter Quarters. They kept only enough food and supplies to get them to Fort Bridger, leaving the rest with the destitute saints in the valley. But at Fort Bridger there were no supplies or flour to be purchased. The men existed on buffalo, beef, small game, and an elk until they reached Fort Laramie.

At Fort Laramie the situation was the same. In the letter George would write to his brothers on 2 April 1848, explaining his long absence in writing to them, he gave a short summary of his journey with the battalion including this description of the last part of the journey: "We were five months coming home or rather to our families, in which time we suffered considerably from heat and thirst, but more particularly from cold and hunger. For our provisions were exhausted at Fort Laramie, and here we could not replenish [them] for two good reasons, the first was we were almost entirely out of money and the next was there were no provisions at the Fort. Therefore we had to depend [word partly blotted out] entirely upon the buffalo for supplies for the remaining part of our journey which was 500 miles, the last 200 miles of which we had to subsist almost entirely upon our worn-out mules and horses which you may suppose was not very good meat." At the end of his journey George had one horse and a span of mules. In view of this remark to his brothers and the fact that horses and mules were relatively inexpensive and plentiful in San Diego at the time George was there making pack saddles, it is interesting to wonder how many animals George started out with when he left California.

The men arrived in Winter Quarters on 18 December 1847, according to Ricketts' book. George wrote: "we arrived, I think, on the 17th of December." By his own calculations George had traveled 4300-4400 miles mostly by foot in exactly twenty-two months (17 February 1846 - 17 December 1847) since he had left his wife and young daughter in Nauvoo.

Some of the thirty-two men in George's group found their families in Winter Quarters, but others had to travel on to Council Bluffs or Mt. Pisgah. Levi McCullough learned in Winter Quarters that his wife and one of his children were dead. His remaining children had been divided among different families. One of his sons asked, "Which one of you ragged men is my father?" George found Fanny and Eliza Ann in Winter Quarters "in good health and more comfortably situated than I could have expected."

For more than six years since George had become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his life and that of his family was one of hardship. Yet still, on 2 April 1848, he wrote to his brothers: "I presume that you will begin, by this time, to wonder how or whether George gets along with his Mormonism. I [assure] you, his faith and confidence in it is as good this day as it ever has been since he first heard it."

The Great Salt Lake Valley

George hoped to take his family to the "Great Valley of the Salt Lake" in the Spring of 1849 or 1850. They left in July 1852: George, Fanny, Eliza Ann, and three more children, Harriet Maria, George Henry, and Charles Wallace. They reached the valley on 17 October 1852, almost five years to the day from when George arrived there for the first time.

George and his family lived first in Salt Lake, eventually settling in Richville, near Morgan, Utah. He worked as a carpenter, joiner, and millwright assisting in the building of a number of grist mills including the Chase Mill in Liberty Park (Salt Lake City), and mills in Bountiful, Farmington, and Brigham City. He also worked on the Salt Lake Temple. George's son James wrote about his father: "He was very neat and precise in his work, and when it was completed it was done right and needed no remodeling . . . I remember hearing him tell of doing a piece for Brigham Young and doing it according to instructions. After doing the work twice from two different plans as directed, it proved to be unsatisfactory, whereupon he was told by Brigham Young: 'George, tear it up and do it to suit yourself.' He did and to the satisfaction of all concerned.

"My father built a grist mill [with the Hinman brothers] located near our home [Richville], where he made flour for twenty or thirty years for all who lived all over Morgan County and nearby areas. After [the mill] having been discarded, it was torn down by . . . Frederick Clark. He had done considerable carpenter work in his day and said it was the best piece of work he had ever seen, for all the joints were fitted as though they were grown that way, and the timbers were all hewn and fitted with a broad ax."

Plural Marriage

While George was working on a grist mill in Brigham City for Lorenzo Snow, he became acquainted or reacquainted with Miss Clarissa Marina Rogers, now twenty. At the age of forty, George entered into plural marriage with Clarissa in December of 1856. Together they had twelve children including two sets of twins: Clarissa, Susannah, Sarah Jane, Noah Albert, Julia Marie, Marcus, Franklin, Frances, James, Alice Janette, Henry Milton, and Frederick (born when George was sixty). Clarissa was promised in a patriarchal blessing, "some of the most holy spirits has been sent into the world, that will multiply and increase until thou shall behold a multitude hath come from thee, possessing good and wholesome spirits."

Her daughter Alice said about her mother: "In her early life, she had no opportunity for schooling and education. Her mother was a widow [Clarissa's father died soon after leaving Nauvoo and was the first person buried at Mount Pisgah, Iowa] with a large family, and the children had to earn their own way. In spite of this, Mother was a most noble character; humble self-sacrificing, as a person could ever be. It was not an uncommon thing to come upon her in a secluded spot, down on her knees, offering supplication to our Heavenly Father, prayer for the welfare of her children.

"She would share willingly the last blanket or last morsel of food with her neighbor, when they were in need; was also jovial and kind, and was noted for giving cheer and good advice to her many friends when they were in trouble or downcast in spirit.

"She had quite a hard life, rearing her family in two rooms, without any conveniences, and worked very hard. . . Through all the work, sickness, and all, I can truthfully say, I don't ever remember hearing her complain. She was without doubt, the most patient person I have ever known. Another characteristic I admired so much, was that she would never allow any of the children to say a word against their father, to criticize him in any way, in her presence."

A Father's Legacy

About his father, James wrote: "He was firm but kind. When he told any of us children to do anything, we knew he meant for us to do it. He was honest in his dealings, and expected honesty in return when dealing with others.

"He was always willing to make a wrong right. I remember when I was a boy of being punished by him for a wrong he thought me guilty of, but on learning that the blame should have been placed on one of my brothers, he immediately made the matter right with me, a characteristic I admired in him ever after.

"In each place father lived he was active in church work as well as a community builder, filling at one time the position of secretary in one of the quorums of Seventy, and later that of a High Councilman in the Morgan Stake, holding this position until his death. From scraps of his records we have, he must have been appointed to receive tithing and fast offerings and other donations."

Though George's life was full of hardship, it was also filled with love, love for his family, friends, music, the Lord and His gospel, and the beauty of the natural world. In a letter to his brothers written in 1860 he wrote: "Tell Henry I indulge in the sport of trout fishing a little yet." That George had a sense of humor is evident by the following story: "One of the sisters on her way to Relief Society stopped in at the mill [in Richville] to visit with Brother Taggart. While visiting with her he jokingly dipped his hands in the flour and placed them on her back so that it appeared as if he had had his arms about her. At Relief Society the sisters were full of oh's and ah's whispering to each other that Bro. Taggart had had his arms around sister so and so."

George Washington Taggart died on 3 June 1893, at the age of seventy-six, having lived his life acting "through a pure desire for the welfare of [God's] Kingdom." According to George's son Frederick: "His funeral was held in Richville with a very large congregation attending the services. Eighty-four teams followed the hearse to the cemetery . . ." Fanny, who died two years before George, on 6 May 6, 1891, and Clarissa, who died 19 April 1901, are buried beside him in the South Morgan Cemetery, Morgan, Utah.

Sources

  • Spencer L. Taggart, ed., Taggart Family Newsletter.
  • Forrest Rick McConkie, George Washington Taggart Member of the Mormon Battalion His Life and Times and His Wives Harriet Atkins Bruce, Fanny Parks, Clarissa Marina Rogers and Their Ancestors (West Valley City, Utah: Jennie's Family Histories, 1997)
  • Valeria Laird Taggart, "A Tribute To My Husband's Mother (Clarissa M. R. Taggart)" (1931-32). (One of several histories assembled, July 1955, by Mary L. Taggart, Lewiston, Utah.)
  • Fanny Parks Taggart, Journal of Fannie (Fanny) Parks Taggart (typed transcript provided by Walter and Hazel Hilbig, 1978) 7. The original journal was given to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneer Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.
  • Hazel Manwaring Hilbig and Frederick Walter Hilbig, ed., George Albert Goodrich Family History and Genealogy 1608-1976, Vol.1 (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976)
  • George W. Taggart, A Short Sketch of His Travels with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1846-1847) - typescript copy made by Spencer L. Taggart; original journal deposited in Church Historian's Office in Salt Lake City.
  • Preston Nibley, Brigham Young, the Man and His Work (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1936)
  • Norma Baldwin Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996)
  • William G. Hartley, "On the Trail in January," Ensign Jan.1997
  • R. Scott Lloyd, "Held 'in honorable remembrance'." Deseret News (Church News) week ending November 8, 1997
  • Naamah Kendall Jenkins Carter Young, 5 letters (LDS Archives, Salt Lake City) call number: MS 156.
  • Sergeant Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, 1846-1847 (Gorieta, New Mexico: The Rio Grande Press)
  • Spencer L. Taggart, History of James and Valeria Taggart (May 1990)
  • Map of Nauvoo from Nauvoo Visitor's Center, copied by Adelle Taggart Karren on trip to Nauvoo, 1997.
  • Alice Taggart Bright, "Clarissa Marina Rogers Taggart" (One of several histories assembled, July 1955, by Mary L. Taggart, Lewiston, Utah.).
  • Elma Dickson, "Richville Grist Mill" (article written in January 1980 by lifelong resident of Richville, Elma Dickson.)
  • George Washington Taggart: A Biography and Tribute, Eileen Taggart Robinson. April 1998
  • Updated from MyHeritage Match via daughter Julia Maria (mariah) Lewis (born Taggart) by SmartCopy: Oct 5 2014, 17:08:39 UTC
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George Washington Taggart's Timeline

1816
November 6, 1816
Sharon, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, United States
1841
December 1841
Age 25
1844
January 28, 1844
Age 27
Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois
1846
January 12, 1846
Age 29
1857
December 12, 1857
Age 41
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT
1860
May 16, 1860
Age 43
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT
May 16, 1860
Age 43
Salt Lake City, Sl-Lk, UT
1863
January 28, 1863
Age 46
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT