Charles Augustus Cobbley

CHARLES AUGUSTUS COBBLEY: Autobiography

From the files of Mary Jean Caldwell. Charles Augusts Cobbley is the father of Emma Idella Cobbley, who is the mother of Calvin Walker. He was born in England, but was a Mormon pioneer at a young age, coming to Utah in the early 1860s. His autobiography follows.

I, Charles A. Cobbley was the fifth child of a family of seven children born to the union of Thomas and Sarah Smith Cobbley. My birth place was England, the shire of Northampton and the town of Winwick. I was born 13th September 1855. At this time my parents were rejoicing in the anticipation of going to Zion and when I was but six weeks old, a wind rocked sailing vessel, the “John Bright”, was my cradle. After landing in America, my parents and family sojourned in the east in Pennsylvania for more than five years while they worked and saved that they might continue their journey to the valleys of the saints where children could live and grow in the light and beauty of the gospel.

I was six years old when my parents with their seven little children were again able to take up their journey toward the land which for so long had been their goal. The severest of trials—fire, death and persecution dogged our trail, but with courage and faith undaunted we came through. We left Florence, Nebraska with our hearts clinging to two small graves freshly mounded, but with faces set resolutely and hopefully to the west. Death hovered over me, but my life was spared and very soon afterwards my small legs trudged almost the whole of one thousand miles across the vast plains.

It was in September 1861 when my mother, my father and their family reached their goal of Pleasant Grove, the little spot which had for so long been our destination.

In the days of my childhood and youth I knew the hardships, toils and privations which were incident to pioneer life, but I also knew the simple but deeply satisfying pleasure and joys which were a vital part of the lives of those closely, united pioneer souls.

When I was a small boy we had to walk bare-footed up to the mouth of Battle Creek to turn on our irrigation water.

I always tried to be industrious and thrifty. I often said to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I was never one to waste my time. As a child and as a youth I worked hard and willingly and in my free hours I entered into a wholesome, unhampered play and recreation which the great open county and the simple village that those days so well afforded, with all the zest and enjoyment of one accustomed to hard toil and too with all the joy and skill of one who was of fine physique and who possessed physical prowess—for I was a well built youth, athletically inclined and skilled.

Some winters our wood would run out and we would have to go to the foothills to gather sage brush. Mother would sit up nights to patch our clothes by the sage brush light which was all we had, there being no lamps. Once in a while we were able to get a little tallow to make some candles. We thought we were well fixed but we were often obliged to put up with the grease light.

In the winter, too, we had a little grain. We hadn’t got fixed so we had any granary’ we would have to make us a bin to put our wheat to keep it dry. A great many times we could not get any wheat ground. Sometimes we would have to boil the wheat and mash it and make us a little bread in that way. We used to take our wheat as far as Springville to a mill and sometimes we would have to wait two or three days before we could get it ground. It wasn’t the very best flour when we got it but it tasted good.

As years went on we were able to get us a cow or two and have a little butter and a little milk, so that was pretty good we thought. In a few years we were able to get a saw mill and then we went to the mountains and cut timber and worked in the winter getting logs which the saw mill would cut and give part of the lumber. Finally, we were able to get us a better house. Many of the people at that had lived in house with partly dirt roof and dirt floor and we didn’t have any brooms. We used to tie sage brush together and make a broom that we could sweep our floors with.

In 1866 the Indians in the Black Hawk War caused much trouble. The boys went out from every county in Utah. We had quite a time with the Indians down in Sanpete and Sevier counties; they had camped at Gunnison the Sevier River. Quite a number of the boys were under the direction of Daniel H. Wells and there the Indians had cornered quite a number of families and massacred them all. He was there all summer guarding. Black Hawk was on the war path. Black Hawk was born in what was called Spring Lake, Utah County and he died in Spring Lake. That was the hardest time that the Mormons had in Utah with the Indians. The Indians were stirring trouble all summer.

Captain Snow during the time of 1866 was camped at Monroe, Sevier County and the Indians came down to Monroe and made a raid on the people and stole a great many cattle. Captain Snow started out the next morning and followed them with a company of men up the canyon through the mountains and came out into what is known as Grass Valley which is not a great ways from Fish Lake. The white man had not followed the Indians so far up to that time. They were camped on the creek bottom. Snow urged his men to draw up close to the Indians, which they did without the Indians knowing it. He told his men not to shoot until they got orders. They fired at one time, killing a great many Indians and they ran in every direction in which they could get away. So he was able to recover some of the stolen stock and it was the turning point of the Indians, so that just a few days after the Indians were up this way from Salina; they had been into Round Valley and they stolen a large herd of cattle for Scipio—about two or three hundred head of cattle were being driven across Sevier Valley and General Pace was camped by Gunnison. He saw the Indians coming out and there were more Indians east of the valley waiting for them to come.

Black Hawk came out on a little hill just south of Salina. While he was on that hill one of the boys drew his rifle and he got the promise to shoot at Black Hawk which was quite a ways off. The rifle was not much good and it was thought there was no chance of hitting him but he shot—well, old Black Hawk fell—you know those balls were much larger than the bullets which you shoot today and his abdomen was cut open. It was the cause of his death, though he died a little later. The men from Gunnison started after the Indians and they followed them into the hills. They got part of their cattle back, some of them were shot full of arrows, but they had quite a scrimmage. Black Hawk never got well from his wound, so that was practically the end although about the same time they had a scrimmage with the Indians at Tintic but they drove them back. They had quite a few raids in Sanpete and did much damage there. But when the fighting was over at Salina and also with Snow’s men over in Grass Valley and the fighting was going on in Tintic and also over through by Santaquin at the same time Black Hawk got shot it practically broke up the Black Hawk war. The boys were able to come back in the fall and we never had any serious trouble from that time on with the Indians. Of course, we had little outbreaks but nothing like this was with Black Hawk, who finally wended his way around to Spring Lake country and died there.

The people were very glad when this Indian trouble was over. We were certainly happy beyond all expression to think that the Indians and grasshoppers had left us. We were then able to start in and move out of the fort. We could farm, cut timber, make some improvements on our places, and graze our stock and increase our herds without having guards. It was the beginning of a new era.

My brother went back after immigrants in the 1867’s as far as Benton. He came through with his immigrants and landed safe in Salt Lake City and the happy news that came back to us was that the Railroad was coming. It was a bright day dawning for Utah which were all more pleased to hear and in 1868 President Brigham Young (the people were in poor condition with little money and very little work to do) met with the head men of the Union Pacific Railroad and he took forty miles of the work road that there was from Omaha, Nebraska to the western part of the state. He constructed forty miles of this road of the Union Pacific and he gave all of the men who were unemployed work and they were paid for it.

My father and I as a boy went to work on the Union Pacific Railroad. I worked there carrying tools from the contractors to the blacksmith’s shop. We worked in Weber Canyon where that contract was done and then we went to the Promontory Point, west of Brigham City, and there we worked until the roads were finished.

The Central Pacific and the Union Pacific met on top of the Promontory close to the work which father and I were working on. We left the Promntory to come home just before the two roads were connected or the driving of the Golden Spike connecting California and the East by rail. (We packed our bedding from the Promontory point home, which took us three days.) That was a very bright day for Utah; no more had we to wait for our supplies. The iron horse was blowing her whistle through the beautiful valley of Utah.

Then about 1870 Brigham Young with a few more men built the railroad from Ogden to Salt Lake City, which was called the Utah Central and soon after he started to build Utah Southern from Salt Lake City to Provo. This helped us very much to get things and our trials seemed to be over in this state; it was indeed a dawn of a new day. We could get enough shoes. We used to go to dances in buckskin pants but things were changing and we got modern implements with which to work. The country seemed over night to blossom as the rose, everything looked bright and cheerful to us.

At that time we began to get coal from coal mines in Coalville in Evanston and Rock Springs where we dug coal for the railroad and so we too got coal. It seemed like the country was born again, even the climate seemed to change. We got more horses and mules and rid ourselves of the oxen. We went to the mountains to get lumber and build better houses, more than one room to live in. most of the families had eight or nine sleeping in one room. During the spring and summer we would go and sleep in the straw and hay stacks.

We didn’t have the rain that we have nowadays. I have seen it upwards of three months without a particle of rain. We had to depend on the irrigation. Alfalfa came into Utah and no more had we to depend on the wild hay. We would gather it with our shoe tops in water and pack it after it was out to places where it could be dried. We had plenty of feed for our cows and they started to produce better and more milk. We could then live different to what we had done before. We had to be gone for two or three days to get one load of wood from the mountains; that was the best we could do, but after the Indians had quit I could go in safety and get our wood and we could commence to live. We could go to our farms in safety and we began to feel that we were free; that we could move from place to place and have some enjoyment and peace. We could turn our cattle and horses into the hills by having someone to herd them. Sometimes they would get a few of our cattle from us but nothing like they had done.

The railroad being completed through the country, a new era dawned. We felt like we were getting back into civilization again. We could go from place to place without having any guard with us. Saw mills were being placed in the canyons so that we could get lumber. We commenced to build a house. Our homes had better roofs, better floors; we commenced to enjoy ourselves again. Roads were being made into the canyon so that we could get there. We didn’t have much coal, only for blacksmith purposes. We would gather sage brush which had been a very good servant to us when we couldn’t get the wood. By getting better teams we could plow, cultivate our land and the land started to produce since the ditches carried the water on to the land. Farms began to realize something; the mines opened up in Nevada. We were able to get a good market for our flour, potatoes, and barley. We got about $8.00 a bushel for barley and about the same for potatoes. Stage and rail having been established through the country, we were able to get rid of our grain and products. A line was established through Salt Lake and Utah counties. Another live went through by Camp Floyd, almost due west into Nevada and through into California. Later on the line changed and went through Utah and Juab counties, taking a southern route through Fillmore and then westward. Later on came the telegraph lies. We had already got through the country, I believe to St. George. Little poles and a line that had already been built, so that we could get news a little better which made it better for us. It seemed that the last of the dark days were almost over for us as a people. We appreciated it to have these changes come which had been promised us. Our land yielded very good both in potatoes and other things.

I have seen as many as 800 bushels potatoes grown on one acre of land. In Pleasant Grove 100 bushels of barley and oats were grown on one acre of land. Some land would yield us from 30 to 65 bushels of wheat.

By this time the mines had found gold and silver. The first gold was found in Bingham Canyon; the first silver, I believe, was found in the Emma mine in Little Cottonwood. A man logging up there found a mineral looking rock and showed it to a miner who said it was silver ore. Some claim the first mineral was found over in Ophir or Stockton but I have always understood the first silver was found in the Emma mine, which was later a great producer. They also found lead. Bingham is holding out good to this day. It made quite a lot of work as mines and smelters had started.

I worked in the smelter hauling ore to a smelter here in Murray. The mines made a good deal of work for us and also a good market for our products that we could furnish both in grain, fruit and vegetables. We were able to get along very good at that time after working in the mines and smelters. For some time I got to be able to save some money and made up my mind I wanted to get married, so I selected my wife. Her name was Emma Davis and we were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on 28th of June 1878.

So then I left off working for my father and started for myself. I got some land, a team wagon and started out. So as previously I had worked in the Blacksmith’s business and as we had to get settled down, I got a home with things around the house and went to building a Blacksmith’s shop and turned from the farm to do work for my neighbors around in the farming community and worked that way for about twenty-five years, doing my own work and shoeing horses and all farm blacksmith work.

As the mines opened up in southern Utah, I fixed up a freight team and went hauling goods in the terminus railroad which was at Lehi. I commenced hauling freight down to Pioche, Nevada. Al freight from Lehi going to Pioche and then I would come back loaded again. The soldiers had located at Beaver, they had a great deal of freight. I was hauling on that road winter as well as summer and camping at night was disagreeable but we had to be doing something to earn a livelihood for the family, so in the fall and winter I went to Frisco, camped on the ground where the Horn Silver mine was later found there. I helped move a saw mill from Salt Lake City through the desert to Wa Wa Spring about 25 miles still west of Frisco. Mines were found over there. I also freighted in the Star Valley District when the mines opened up. there was plenty of work for the teams and lots of freight to be hauled. I used to take the fall of the year when not working on the farm and take the team and haul freight through all that country in that season of the year. I always said it was better to doing something than to be loafing around; it has been a habit of mine to be always working. I always found that it was better to have a dollar in the pocket than to have none. I tried to make the best use of the time that was given me.

About this time of the year the railroad was moving through the country and they built a road from the Bingham Junction to what is called Bingham so that the mines and smelters opened up. they built a railroad from Sandy to the mouth of Little Cottonwood which made more work. I used to come and haul freight to the mouth of Little Cottonwood and load back to Sandy. I took a contract at Sandy from a man by the name of Fred Meyers who furnished coal from Sandy to Flagstaff Smelter, which made me quite a lot of work and I did very well in my contract until it was finished. I used to like to work with a team and especially a good one.

When the spring would come again I would try to return home and cultivate the soil, put in crops and get ready for another year’s work there. I had to go back to the farm and blacksmithing work. Anything and everything to do I found it was a good thing not to pick the job but were there was an opportunity grab it and make the best of it.

Along about this time my Father bought himself a ranch in Juab county so I went down with him and worked with him for a while. The railroad had started to move and had already moved from Lehi to Prove and started to move south. The mines were carrying a great deal of ore in the south and I went to work and helped on father’s ranch in Juab, which was afterwards called York. They stayed there for a number of years which made quite a bit of work there. I was down there helping him, had about 300 head of cattle that I was taking care of in the country at that time. I was trying to get a few cattle of my own, took that up during the summer season of the year and turned them back to the owners in the fall, then started to haul freight from the south to different places in southern Utah. The mines had already opened up in Marysvale and I went into that country. I didn’t stay long, I didn’t like the appearance of the mine; they didn’t look very good and I went back and thought I would do a little prospecting myself on Mount Nebo. I found some prospects at that time which showed up pretty good, so I sold it. My brother and I went in and worked one that we found, which was taking quite a little bit of ore from Nebo at that time but it seemed to be all, and it was found close to the top of the ground. They didn’t go down very far.

I left prospecting at that time and returned back home with my farms. The mining business is a peculiar one. If a man is going into the mining business he must have a lot of money to sink and invest in work. It is no place for a poor man unless he is lucky enough to strike something at the very start. I did have a little experience in mining and had experience in other things that were going on in the country at that time, but I found this out—I believe there was nothing safer for a man than to stay with his farm.

Of course, it was all right to get away a little while in the winter or fall and make a few dollars when crops and harvests were over. I have seen lots of money lost in mining. Thus the safest way was to stay with the safe and that which would pay the best.

I worked up at a lumber mill for Thomas Wooley where Mutual Dell is now. I also helped get the lumber for the first hall that was built in Lindon, Utah. Along with my many jobs, I was Road Supervisor for the County. In the church I was Superintendent in the Sunday School and one of the seven Presidents of the Seventies in the Utah Stake.

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Author: Heather Hoyt

I'm a stay-at-home mom living in Wyoming and I like to write, take photographs, and play with my kids.

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