James Henson Walker

The Life of James Henson Walker

Father Appolos Benjamin Walker, Mother Sarah Jane Holman Walker and a baby boy lived in part of the big house owned by the Grandfather, Henson Walker. Their maternal grandmother had been visiting at the home for some time but the morning of the birth she had started for her home in Fountain Green, Sanpete Co. Utah. The evening of October 13, 1878 mother became ill and it was one month before the baby was to come. There were no doctors in the town. She grew worse and father called Aunt Margaret, the family nurse who lived in the same house to in while he went for the woman who had been engaged to take care of the case, Mrs. Pratt, but she was away from home, so he went after Mrs. Farnsworth. Not finding her, he hurried to Mrs. Phelps, but the baby came before she got there. That good kind soul, Aunt Margaret, had cared for both mother and child.

He was from pioneer ancestors; all four of his grandparents came to Salt Lake Valley before the fall of 1852. Among these ancestors were people prominent in the affairs of the city and state who became prominent in the building of the new western empire. They were strong, physically, mentally, and morally. They had strength to endure the hardships of the trek across the plains and the hardships of a new country. They had power to think out ways of subduing this wild new land, this land of sage brush, with animal and Indians, bringing under control the forces of nature until this land was made to blossom. They had the moral courage to do the right in the face of temptation, of serving God, loving their neighbors, and fighting their way to success in a new land. They had love and sympathy that knew not bounds. They continued faithful throughout their long busy lives, three of the four lived to pass the 85th birthday. This is the heritage that they bequeathed to their children and their children’s children. Will we as sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters to the last generation, measure up to this heritage, will our lives and our work show we are worthy of them?

In Jan. of 1879 the father started on a freighting trip to Arizona for John W. Young. Mother took two babies and went to Fountain Green to visit her people. When the work was finished he had $200 with which to start a home. In Aug. 1880 his first sister was born in May 1881 the family moved to the basin. The father had previously bought some new land, cleared a part, tried to raise a few crops and had build a small two-roomed house made from rock hauled from nearby. The house was not complete. It lacked the casing around the doors and windows, the baseboards and the chimneys. They made a cellar, a chicken coop, and corral. The time came when they were to move out to the new home, a distance of three miles from town. The furniture and household effects were packed in a wagon and drawn by a span of mules. Behind it followed two cows. Old Brownie and Cherry, two pigs, and behind them came Old Nat, the dog. In the wagon rode the family, father and mother each with a baby on his lap and one small boy sitting between them. Three miles meant a very long way in those days. The nearest neighbors were a half mile away.

Many people had predicted that they would starve to death in this new place, but having inherited some of that dauntless pioneer spirit, they went forth to do or die. The ground was dry and parched. Snakes crawled about in the yard, got into the cellar, and even tried to get into the house. In winter time snow was melted for house use. A canal was being constructed from the North of Provo Canyon with a few hands. A ditch was finally completed to the little 20 acre farm and once in three weeks a little stream came down to moisten the dry earth and fill the berries. Four other children came to bless this home one sister and three brothers, making seven, the oldest being ten years. They all grew up together with love in their happy home. Peace and contentment reigned supreme even though they had had little of the worlds riches.

The father cultivated the farm and when opportunity afforded he went away to work to help with living expenses and improvements, so the boys learned early to assume responsibility. The cows had to be driven a half mile away. The two boys drove them through sage brush so tall only the backs of the cows could be seen. Gnats were so plentiful they got in their eyes and ears. When the cows wandered off the trail it was Jim who brought them back.

In the winter they stayed at home a good deal for it was a long cold walk to town. They had summer recreation consisting of a trip to Grandma Walkers about twice a month occasionally the two older boys could swim in the canal.

One winter night the house caught fire. The chimney had not yet been built. Mother happened to look out of the window and saw the light shinning on the snow. Looking for the cause they found the roof ablaze. Father put a ladder against the side of the house, took a can of water that had been used to wash the supper dishes, and which had been saved to feed the pigs the next morning and climbed on the top. He took the bail of the can between his teeth and in his stocking feet pulled himself up the edge of the slippery roof where he poured the water on the fire thus putting it out. They were only small children, but they had learned a lesson they never forgot. They thanked a kind Heavenly Father that their lives and their home had been spared.

One winter a terrible epidemic of diphtheria spread through the country. One day someone complained and the towns only doctor, Dr. Rogers, was sent for. He looked over the children and pronounced it diphtheria. He wrapped cotton on the end of slender sticks, dipped them in medicine and rubbed them up and down our throats as far as he could. Jim kicked the doctor and said, “Darn you, you’d choke a feller to death.” Later when we all had mumps he said he was all right except for a hurt in the little ditch down the back of his neck.

They walked two miles to the little rock school house in Lindon and two miles home. He was baptized in the canal on his eight birthday by his father.

When he was nearly 11 he met with a serious accident. On the way home from an errand his horse ran away with him and drug the boy’s leg along a barb wire fence. A large piece of muscle in the fleshy part of the calf of his leg was nearly cut loose. His father had to help him off the horse. Dr. Rogers without anesthetics (unknown them) sewed up the worst part. Mother was a good nurse and eventually the sore leg was well, but we had to heat sacks of salt for several days and nights.

In the fall of 1892 he had malaria fever and was out of school for some time. When he was well enough to go back to school, Mother went to Fountain Green for a few days. Jim got pleurisy we thought so we put hot packs on him. By the time mother got home he was better but we had to heat the sack of salt again for several days and nights.

Early in Oct. 1891, father was called to serve as a missionary in the North Central States Mission. Two boys, 13 and 14, were left to take care of the farm, do the chores, and go to school. Frank Banks used to volunteer a few days during the hauling of hay and harvesting. He was ordained successively to the office of Deacon, Teacher, and priest.

About this time the older children having finished their school work at the Stringtown school must go to Pleasant Grove, a distance of three miles. In the spring of 1896 their elementary work was finished and in September of that year James entered the B.Y. Academy. In December of that year he married Emma Idella Cobbley, daughter of Charley A. and Emma Davis Cobbley.

In 1897 he entered the U of U where he continued for two years. He worked hard early and late; usually rising at 4 A. M. to study till time for school. At the end of the 2nd year, he was qualified to take a school in the Grammar Grades. He took the State Teachers examination in the summer of 1898 and received his certificate and began to teach in September at the Lindon School. He worked just as hard as a teacher as he had as a student, not only to bring his pupils up to a higher standard, but to continue his own studies. His first year of teaching was a hard one. He had grown up with the people of this community and was so much a part of it that people could hardly realize that one of their own number, so young and inexperience would undertake to train their young people, some of whom were as large as he was and not very very much younger. He had a real struggle to convert the parents and some of the students that he was master of this situation and expected to remain so at any cost. By the end of the first few week he had made all concerned realize that he was in earnest and old and young alike respected Mr. Walker. He taught in Lindon 3 years, during which time he was active in the church, working in Sunday School, Mutual, and as Choir Leader. He was ordained an elder by Bp. James Cobbley in the late summer of 1897 and took his family to Pleasant Grove in the little house owned by Aunt Catharine White. He sold his home in town and bought the Jas. T. Thorned property east of town so that his boys could have a place to work and play. In 1901 he was made Principal of the Pleasant Grove School District.

He was ordained a member of the 44 Quorum of Seventies and served in the Superintendency of the Sunday School for some time. In Aug. 1907 he was ordained a High Priest by Elder Able John Evans and set apart as 2nd counselor to Bp. Swen L. Swenson. The Pleasant Grove Ward was divided into wards on May 6, 1909. Prs. Joseph F. Smith set him apart to act as bishop of the 3rd Ward that was just now being organized. He served in this position until 1923. His first great sorrow came April 27, 1915 at the age of 5 years his son Myron died. He emerged from the experience a bigger, better, more sympathetic man.

In 1930 he brought a large farm in Idaho Falls to try to keep his family together and employed. It proved unsuccessful and took several years of careful management to emerge from his loss. He was also advancing his scholastic training by summer school and extension work. He graduated in 1912 and continued and obtained his B.S. Degree in 1916. Then left the U of U and spent two summer of the U of Chicago doing graduate work.

For 15 years he taught in the Pleasant Grove schools, advancing from Grade to Principal. The High School was inaugurated under his supervision and he was its first Principal. From there he went to Superintendent of the Alpine School District for 6 years. After nearly 35 years in the responsibility he resigned to accept a position with the MacMillin Publishing Co. of New York. He did his work here as he had done everything else. He put his whole heart and soul into it. He wanted to be the best and ablest of their representatives. He never tried to sell a new book unless he knew what the book contained. He traveled all over these western states.

It was while on one of these trips to California to a convention that his wife passed away after an illness of only a few hours on the morn of July 4, 1923. To fill the place of mother to his family of 13 children, the last two still very young and maintain the standards and ideals they had set was a large responsibility. His mother made her home with him to help care for the children, until Aug. 1925 when he married Josephine Greenwood of American Fork. They had one son Benjamin. The children grew up with a great deal of love and respect for their foster mother. They remodeled and added to their home making it one of the finest homes in the city. June 22, 1931 Jane died. She had graduated from Business College and was in a Salt Lake insurance office. He had been on the high Council since the organization of the stake and worked with the Adult Aaronic Priesthood. It was under his direction that this group placed the monument on the corner of the city park. He was pres. Of the P.C. Bank and the Board of Directors of the canning co. He would not give up until his systems refused and he died of stroke Sept. 30, 1937 even though he had been desperately ill. He regarded his family as his greatest asset.

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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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