July 24 is an official state holiday in Utah, commemorating the pioneer heritage that turned the desert into a home. My husband and I both have many pioneer roots that we cherish. When life has been challenging, I’d say to him, “I want to be a good pioneer woman.” Their stories inspire and encourage me. Because of them I believe I can do hard things.
We both have ancestors that were involved in the horror of the Haun’s Mill Massacre. I have a 2nd great grandmother who was a handcart pioneer that knew the deprivation and sorrow of the crucible trek through early winter storms. But whether it was a child lost on a wagon trail, or a brother in a handcart, I love their examples of fortitude, perseverance and a faith that did not falter.
I’m including a brief story of my husband’s third great-grandfather, John William Cooley, Sr. His story is about being willing to move when life demanded it, the blessings that come after the struggle, of entrepreneurship, and the adventure of starting a new life near the end of a good one. This comes from the book, “Our Dayley Line” by Keith L. Dayley (my husband’s uncle). All quotes are from that book.
Born 29 November 1811, at New Haven, New York, he latter moved to Canada (now Ontario) where he met and married Hannah Gould (1836) and they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had two children, but the son died. They moved to Kirtland and later Nauvoo. Hannah died 6 March 1843. In approximately 1840 John married Susan Jane Hunt. It is supposed he was living in Kanesville (now Council Bluffs) Iowa at the time.
“In a letter written to President Brigham Young by Elder Ezra T. Benson dated 16 March 1852, John William Cooley is listed as Captain of the 1st Big Pigeon Branch which consisted of 230 souls. They were reported as being perfectly united and all going to the valley that season and taking their poor with them.”
“During the night of 9 July 1853, while camped at Shepherd’s creek, on the ‘Mormon Pioneer Trail,’ . . .[their son], William Cooley died.”
“The Daniel A. Miller and John William Cooley pioneer company Arrived in the Salt Lake valley 9 September 1853.” The next summer, their daughter, Nancy was born in Big Cottonwood. Soon after he moved to Grantsville to help settle that area.
He was valiant in fighting the 1855 plague of grasshoppers and his family survived the 1856 famine. From the Barrus Biography [Emery Barrus, Mayor]:
“Brother John W. Cooley had a patch of barley get ripe in 1856. Guards were placed over it to keep the hungry people from going in, gathering the ripe ears and trampling down the remainder of the crop. Brother William Burton and James Kearl harvested it by hand, thrashed it with flails and cleaned it up in the wind. Each family got a half bushel and ground it in coffee mills to make cake for the 4th of July dinner as a gift from Mr. Cooley.”
In Grantsville, Feb. 1860, John Cooley was chosen a director of the newly organized Deseret Agricultural Society. He often had “parched corn or wheat in his pockets, which he would munch on as he wandered around his place. He took a great deal of interest in his place, and always carried a hoe over his shoulder, ready to chop down a thistle or weed that may have sprung up. On 9 October 1859, he won the prize at the Fair for having the best fenced and cultivated farm.” John Cooley planted both sides of Cooley Lane with Lombard Poplar trees. This lane was so beautiful that the Salt Lake Tribune ran pictures in 1950. It was known as “Lover’s Lane” as it was a beautiful place for a buggy ride.
In Grantsville, John Cooley opened (possibly the first) dry goods store west of the old adobe church / school house building. He established the second (and soon more prosperous) mill in the area in North Willow Canyon. He and his partner George Carter sent east for an auger for boring wells. The second attempt at drilling was successful and soon he had a well digging business. “Historian Jensen [?] gives Grantsville the credit for having the first bored well in Utah. Later, the first weeping willow tree in the community was planted near [that first] well.”
His Grantville days were not the end of his time. In 1897 he moved to Basin, Idaho (Oakley). He died there Nov. 17, 1898. He was survived by his two wives (who remained in Utah), Susan Hunt, 17 years his junior, and her sister, Nancy, 31 years younger than he. He had 16 children. “The question is, why did he go to live with a daughter in the Basin, who was 25 years younger than her dad, when he still had two wives in Utah? There was, I am sure, a good reason. However, we are simply left to wonder.”
From Wikipedia: “Grantsville, first known as Twenty Wells because of the many sweetwater artesian springs in the area, was first settled in 1848 as a seasonal livestock grazing site for stock owners in Salt Lake City. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1850 to establish one of Brigham Young’s more than 350 Mormon colonies throughout Utah Territory. By then, the fortified town was known as Willow Creek. Three years later, with almost 30 families living in the settlement, it was renamed Grantsville in honor of George D. Grant, the leader of a detachment of the Nauvoo Legion militia sent to control hostile Native Americans in the Tooele Valley. Grant is also known for leading a group to rescue members of the Martin Handcart Company. The latter years of the decade brought many hardships to Grantsville’s citizens, including drought, grasshopper infestations, and the settlement’s temporary abandonment in advance of the arrival of Johnston’s Army. Ironically, the arrival of the army and its construction of Camp Floyd in nearby Cedar Valley ended up greatly blessing Grantsville’s settlers as they were then able to trade with the army for many needed provisions. By the end of the next decade, the 1860s, Grantsville had become a largely self-sufficient oasis of orchards and shade trees at the edge of the Territory’s western deserts. Brigham Young himself visited Grantsville on several occasions, both officially and unofficially, including dedicating the first permanent church building in 1866.”