Appollos Benjamin Walker

by Jennie Johnson-daughter

Appollos Benjamin Walker was the son of Henson Walker, Jr. and Elizabeth Foutz. He was born in Pleasant Grove, Utah on Nov. 4, 1856. He was the fourth child in a family of seven children, having two brothers and sister older and two brothers and a sister younger than himself. He was named in honor of Appollos and Benjamin Driggs, two fine young men who had worked much with his father and who were favorites of the Walker family.

From his earliest childhood “Bennie”, as he was affectionately called, was trained in habits of industry, frugality, and dependability; and began to assume responsibility in helping to provide for the family. He drove the cows to the herd, the oxen to the mountains for wood and helped to dig ditches that brought the mountain stream onto the valley farms. He learned early in life the value of irrigation in this arid country; how and when it should be done, how the water could be divided and distributed evenly, and how to make gates and boxes for its distribution over the various farms. As a boy he waded back and forth over his father’s fields, barefooted, with his white duck overalls rolled to his knees to do the irrigating. There was little machinery on the farms and what they did have was of the crudest types.

The Indians were very troublesome and often drove away the cattle and horses. For several years everybody lived inside of the old fort wall. Later they began to increase in numbers and it became necessary to spread out.

Once some soldiers came through town. Straggling members of Johnson’s army had made trouble for the Indians and had even killed some of them in a fight that took place at Battle Creek, east of town. As soon as the Indians heard that the soldiers were in town, down they came from the mountains. They sent runners ahead and these naked Indians, with their bodies covered with red paint and their hair full of feathers, ran around on the top of the fort wall brandishing their tomahawks and giving their war cry. It was enough to chill the blood of little boys. The people of the town had signed a treaty with the Indians so they ceased to molest the settlers. They had learned that it was cheaper to feed them than to fight them, and often for many years, great crowds of Indians would come into town and Bennie’s father would take many of these dusky people into his home and feed them at his table.

When he was old enough to go to school, Bennie went for a little while in the winter when there wasn’t much else that could be done. he took part in church activities and entertainment’s. When he was so small he could hardly see over the pulpit, he learned and recited “The Night Before Christmas.” He was a great reader and this habit remained with him throughout his life, increasing as he advanced in years.

He was baptized by his father in Utah Lake Sept. 9, 1866. When he was about 13 years old, his older brother, Lewis, was accidentally killed. The shock and grief at his death nearly killed his mother, leaving her an invalid through the remaining years of her life. he always manifested the tenderest feeling for her in her affliction.

The family had learned to recognize his ability to lead out in whatever was done at home. They depended upon him and put much responsibility upon him. The father’s duties as Bishop, mayor of the city, and later as a missionary, took him away from home a great deal.

In 1871 he began to work on the railroad as a section hand. He remained with this job several years, always turning his check over to his father as soon as he received it.

The United Order was established and as people turned their property over to the Church they were baptized into the order. For three years he worked in the order, hauling lumber, cutting ties, farming or whatever those in authority told him to do.

Across the street from his father’s home lived the Holman family. Their little black-eyed daughter used to come to the well for water. The children played together. Sometimes Bennie picked a beautiful pink rose, and roses were rare in those day, from the bush that grew by the well and gave it to her, or carried her bucket across the street for her. admiration and friendship that was mutual ripened into a love that was lasting and beautiful, and on the 24th of April, 1876, they were sealed in the Endowment House for time and all eternity.

Now the authorities of the Order gave him a load of grain with which to get the things necessary for housekeeping. He took the grain to Bingham and sold it and went to Salt Lake City where he bought their first furniture. They moved into the house that had been occupied by his father-in-law. Here this new life together began.

He took care of his garden and chores nights and mornings and farmed for the Order this year. During the year he received a pair of white duck overalls and fresh meat for the Sunday dinner a few times. Things began to go badly and continued so until many left the Order. People were getting nothing out of it but a lot of hard work and when they left it they went empty handed, losing all they had put into it. These young people began to realize that it was a losing proposition and that they would never have anything at the rate they were going, as they left the Order. He went to Santaquin Canyon and hauled lumber during the winter. He took his wife and baby, Ben-then about six months old- to visit with her people while he was away.

In January 1879, when his second child, James H. was about three months old, he made a trip to Arizona with several others to haul machinery for John W. Young, who had charge of the building of a factory there. This trip, which was to have ended when the machinery was unloaded, lasted till October, working and waiting for a settlement with Mr. Young. At last they refused to wait any longer. They loaded their wagons with wool to be sold at Richfield and started back to get their pay. Here they were met by Mr. Young’s wife, who had come in response to a telegram from her husband, to take charge of the sale of the wool. They refused to allow her to have anything to do with the affair until they had taken out their pay, which amounted to about $30 a month.

He remained in Pleasant Grove that winter, and the following spring began to clear some land in the Basin (Lindon), as it was called. The land cost him a dollar an acre, but it must be cleared and improved. He took 20 acres–cleared part–and began to build two rooms from rock hauled from the hills. He planted some wheat, corn and potatoes. Water was scarce because the canal was only in course of construction and much of it was lost while the small stream ran so great a distance. The ground was dry and parched. The water came once in three weeks; only enough to keep thing from burning up. that year he raised 50 bushels of wheat, some corn for the pigs and a few potatoes. The potatoes were small, but he picked out the best of them to pay for tithing. When he took them to the clerk he didn’t want to receive them because of the size, but when he was told it was that or nothing as far as potatoes were concerned, he took them without further ado.

The following year in May 1881, things were near enough in the course of preparation so they could move out to the Basin (Lindon). During the early spring they had raised a nice flock of chickens that had already been moved out as he came back and forth from work. One night the coyotes got into them and the next morning when he came back, the dead chickens were scattered everywhere. What a loss and what a disappointment. There was nothing to do but try it again. At last they were ready to move.

The march began. A span of mules and a wagon, two cows–Old Brownie and Cherry–two pigs, the furniture and household effects, a courageous young man, his wife and three small children; Ben, James and Jennie, and “Old Nat,” their dog. Many people had predicted that they would starve to death on this new land, but this young couple was not sure of anything until they had tried it and they were willing to try. Water had to be hauled and when it stood in a barrel on a hot summer day, all that could be said for it was that it was wet. How the family suffered for a good cold drink from Grandma’s well.

The next fall Ben went away to work and was gone till spring. He spent whatever time he could away, it being the only way he had of getting money for machinery for improvements. When the taxes were paid in the full they began to lay away money to pay them the following year. There was little money to be had and every silver coin was laid away. The butter, eggs or produce that could be sold., bought script.

During this long winter while Ben was away, Grandpa used to send someone out quite often to see if the family was all right. During fine weather when we had suitable clothes to wear, we went to town to Church and to visit, occasionally. There was no way to go but in the wagon with the span of mules. That was slow going. The world wasn’t going so fast as it is now, so they didn’t mind. As the family rattled along toward home at the close of the day, Old Nat always come to meet them. He was a faithful old black dog with only three legs–one had been “lost” in the mowing machine when he was only a pup. He always came to welcome everyone back home. He bark and whined to show them how glad he was to see them. Sometimes Ben stopped the wagon and let him ride. He always went with the boys when they drove the cows to the herd, to sort of lead the way–for the sagebrush was taller than the boys.

The winters were spent much at home and on nights when the father was home he made candy or popped corn and then gathered everyone about his knees and told stories while the mother sewed or knitted the stocking and mittens for the family. The home was only a “little cabin in the clearing” but inside were parents so good and true that it seemed finer than a mansion to the children.

Many happy year were spent growing up together as a family. When Ben was not away to work, his church duties occupied his spare time. He was President of the YMMIA for many years, both before he married and after they left town. He was a member of the Seventies council and must go back to tend to these duties. He was floor manager at the Order Hall where the dances were held. The weather was never too cold or the distance too great to stand in the way of his doing his duty.

In the summer he sometimes loaded the family in the wagon on top of new mown hay and took with them their lunch into the field or unto Dry Canyon where they could gather serviceberries, or sometimes they went to the river. He went into the mountains with the boys to look after the cattle. He could take time to play ball or marbles or any other game the children enjoyed. He loved his home and family and their welfare and happiness was his chief concern. He was kind and sympathetic, yet his word was law with his children. They seldom wanted to disobey. He made no promise he did not keep. Sometimes when the children failed to follow instructions, he would let us go for several days, yet they knew what the inevitable would be no matter how long it was delayed. He was never severe or extreme in punishment. They learned while very young to obey and thus save themselves and him, for it caused him great sorrow to have his children do wrong and they knew it.

For many years all the fuel was hauled from the mountains and chopped up ready for the stove. So during the summer when a little spare time came, trips were made to the canyon. Quaking aspen was used for kindling, mahogany, maple and pine made the warm, cheery winter fires. By fall a great pile of each kind of wood lay in the yard and then all must be chopped with an ax. There were no saws. This furnished fuel until summer came again.

In the fall he sometimes hunted chickens but this was usually done while he and the boys were after wood. Sometimes they went up behind the mountain to Mahogany Ridge. They took the front wheels off the wagon and logs were fastened with chains to this cart and pulled down with the other end of the logs dragging on the ground. Sometimes several long poles were fastened together and one horse hitched at the end of each of these “drags,” as they were called. The horses followed along one after the other down the side of the mountain until deep drag roads were made. How the dust rose in clouds above the drags. The men walked along to look after the horses. The children learned to watch for the cloud of dust on the mountainside which meant father was coming home. Grain for the horses was put in one end of a seamless sack and in the other end, was tied the midday meal. The sack was hung around the hame of the harness and to the other hame, was fastened the ax. How we children clamored to get this sack on his return, for maybe there would be scraps of the lunch or some berries or choke-cherries. It all tasted so good. If they took the gun with them, there were generally wild chickens–one, two, or even ten or twelve. It was some work after supper to clean all these chickens, but they made fine meat and mother knew how make them taste their best.

Before these trips with the gun, came the preparation. The gun must be taken apart and thoroughly cleaned and older children must get the wads ready. These were little round pieces, about the size of a dime, cut from cardboard. They must be put carefully by themselves, ready for use when the gun was loaded. One of these was put in the muzzle of the gun, and pushed into place with a ramrod–then a tiny measure of powder and shot, and then more wads. When the load was to be shot off, a copper-colored cap was put under the hammer. This little cap when hit with the hammer of the gun, exploded, thus driving out the shot which killed the chickens.

Sometimes great flocks of wild geese flew past and would light in the fields where grain had been raised. Ben would load the gun and walk by the side of a horse, making the horse go among the flock, then he could get a good shot. The horse seemed to know how to act to keep from scaring the geese.

The grain was not harvested as it is now. It was cut and dropped without being tied. Sometimes the grain would be ripe and so dry it must be gathered up and tied while the dew was on it. So it was done at night, and the older children would take turns going with him to carry the lantern while he made bands of the stocks of grain and twisted the ends together to hold it fast.

Now the family must have more room in which to live, so plans were made accordingly. This addition was to be make of adobe. Molds were made, a yard was cleared by the canal near where Albert Anderson lived. A mudhole was fixed and the adobes were set out to dry. Ben and James H. Tramped the mud until it was thoroughly mixed and father molded the adobe. When their yard was filled they went about their other duties until the adobes were dry, then they piled them up and began again.

About this time the Pleasant Grove 2nd Ward was organized. Ben was made chairman of the committee that was to build a meeting-house. This was to be built of adobes and he, having had some experience, had an opportunity to mold the adobes. The clay was hauled to the church grounds and the adobes were made there.

About this time he received a call for a mission, but Bishop James Cobbley felt he could not be spared now, so he waited upon the President of the Church, and the call was postponed for a year. By this time the house had been completed near enough for general use and Ben left for the Central States in October 1891. While in the mission field he labored in Indiana. He made many friends, had many wonderful experiences and in March 1893 he was called home because of the sudden death of his sister, Victoreen, and the serious illness of his mother. He returned in time to attend the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. He has worked in the Logan, Manti and Salt Lake Temple for his relatives.

As long as he lived he was identified with building and improvement of the irrigation system. He was a member of the Board of Directors from the beginning and served as president for many years, up to the time of his death. He was in charge of digging at least part of the North Union Canal from Provo River across the Bench (Orem). Its course he surveyed by using only a hand “spirit level.” This canal is still is use. It was his privilege to devise ways of measuring the water, and the building of the weirs for the irrigation system–all done under his supervision. His system of water division was known as the “rule of 3” and is still used by the company. Much time was spent in the interest of the company and the care of its buildings. During high water season, great care must be exercised. There was danger of the river washing out the banks of the canal. At such times he would work in the water to his waist for days at a time. Sometimes the work would continue night and day till the danger was past. Trees were tied in tree cornered cribs and filled with rock. Many of these cribs were built along the banks of the river, thus breaking the force of the stream. Sometimes his entire time for weeks was taken in trying to protect the property of the company. The river overran its banks in many places. This work was dangerous and several times he came near losing his life, besides the risk of being in the cold water so much from which he suffered later in life.

about this time he became a member of the School Board and served until after the Lindon School Building was completed. By this time a new schoolhouse must be built and much controversy arose as to its location. Many people wanted it where the old building stood. Ben’s vision and foresight made it clear to him that the ward would never be much father north half and that the growth of the ward would be much farther south. Feelings and enthusiasm ran high. It was not a personal matter with him. He was in office to work for the interest of the people and he knew that to yield to the wishes of the few, would be a disaster for many in years to come. He would not give in. finally the present site was purchased and the building completed. It cost him his re-election to office again, but he did not let that worry him and often quoted, “It is better to be right than to be President.”

For many years he paid an assessment of the Utah Stake Tabernacle and served as a Home Missionary in the Stake, visiting nearly every ward in Utah County. At the organization of the Alpine Stake he was made a member of the High Council and later, a member of the Finance Committee for building the Stake Tabernacle. These positions he held as long as he lived.

He spent two entire winters doing missionary work in the stake. He was also a member of the Stake Sunday School Board as advisor from the High Council, which calling took him from home nearly every Sunday. He received a badge at a Sunday School Convention for having been a teacher for 25 consecutive years.

He was President of the Mutual for many years after the division of the Pleasant Grove Wards. In 1904 he was elected County Commissioner on the Republican ticket. He was re-elected at the next election and made the chairman of the board, which position he held at the time of his death.

In the early spring of 1909 he was called with his wife, to go to the temple and have their second endowments.

In the winter of 1909 his health began to fail. One night in the latter part of December while watching at the bedside of his mother, who was very ill, he contracted a severe cold which was the beginning of his last illness. Nearly all his life he had been subject to throat trouble. This had gradually weakened the muscles of his heart, now they were not equal to the pressure brought upon them.

He was sick only a little more than a month and everything that human skill, fasting, faith and prayers could do, was done but he gradually became weaker and on the evening of Feb. 3, 1910, he sank away into a sleep that knows no awakening. He was surrounded by his entire family, his brothers, sisters, and friends.

It was said of Grandfather A. B. Walker before his death, “He was one man that could look around a corner.”

(From the files of Mary Jean Caldwell)

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