Friday, May 12, 2017

Edward and Eddie Bunker: God Overrules When It Is Best

This is a great family story about my third and second great grandfathers respectively, Edward Bunker, Sr and Edward ("Eddie") Bunker, Jr.  This story was adapted by my father, Jim Hartley. It is very well possible my existence -- let alone my father's -- would be in question had Edward Bunker, Sr. made a different decision.

I am impressed with the mercy my great grandfather Edward Bunker, Sr. extended during a challenging situation, in spite of having his own livelihood and survival threatened. I am also impressed with his following of divine guidance, especially since it would have been easier to get caught up in the moment and do something completely different.

Below are my father's words:

Edward and Eddie Bunker: God Overrules When It Is Best

A thunderstorm assaulted the starless night over Clover Valley, Nevada. It was Bradford Huntsman’s shift to help guard the new settlement and its dwindling livestock. Huntsman feared that the storm would provide the perfect cover for the Paiute Indians to try to steal their cattle again. And he was right.

Edward Bunker, Sr.
1822 - 1901
It was the summer of 1864. Most of the fifteen families in Clover Valley had come several months earlier from Santa Clara, Utah. Bishop Edward Bunker, Sr. needed to save his struggling LDS colony in Santa Clara, which was suffering from drought and famine. Part of his solution was to create a new settlement in Clover Valley 75 miles to the northwest, and move a portion of the Santa Clara settlers there.

Clover Valley was a beautiful little area situated in a small opening in the mountains of southeastern Nevada, barely across the border from Utah. The valley was about a mile wide and extended east and west along the Clover Valley Wash for some five miles.

An aggressive band of Paiute Indians roamed the area. Initially they were friendly and Bishop Bunker established a treaty with them. But, to be safe, he wisely instructed the pioneer families to build their homes in the shape of a rectangular fort. Their log houses were constructed side-by-side in two parallel, facing rows. Protecting one end was a school house and at the other end a sturdy corral. The corral was made of long sticks and branches that were skillfully woven closely together and interlocked. They called it a “rip-gut” fence. All the livestock were brought into the corral each night. On the range or in the corral, the livestock was guarded night and day. Despite their efforts, during the winter and spring of 1864, the Paiutes found ways to steal more than 70 head of cattle.

The thunderstorm that summer night made the livestock—and Bradford Huntsman—nervous. A flash of lightening suddenly revealed an Indian crouched in a corner of the corral with his bow drawn ready to shoot. But, Huntsman fired first. When the sun rose the next morning, the settlers found the Indian dead with a bullet hole through his heart. Huntsman had most likely saved all of their livestock and his own life.

Not long thereafter, a posse of miners came to Clover Valley from Pahranagat Valley 40 miles to the west. Indians had murdered one of their crew. The miners had captured and killed four Indians they claimed were part of the raiding party that had murdered their man. One of them was Bushhead, a Clover Valley Paiute, whom they hanged when they caught him. The posse wanted the settlers in Clover Valley to join the miners in an attack on the Indian encampment in the mountains southeast of Pahranagat Valley. But, Bishop Bunker and the other settlers refused to participate.

On August 24th, 1864, Bishop Bunker sent a letter to Apostle Erastus Snow, who was serving as the president of the St. George Stake, informing him of the situation with the Indians.  In response, President Snow recommended a policy of not taking any Indians as prisoners, but, instead, killing any thieves caught in the act. President Snow then tempered his recommendation with a noteworthy addendum: “I hope, however, that God will overrule if for the best.”

Once when Bishop Bunker visited Clover Valley, Indians again attempted to steal some cattle. While chasing the would-be thieves, guards caught a young Indian and they were ready to punish him, probably according to President Snow’s policy. Bishop Bunker intervened. “No, he is only a boy. You scare him good and plenty, then let him go.” In this case, Bishop Bunker sensed that God had overruled. The boy was set free without any harm.

Edward Bunker, Jr.
1847 - 1915
Periodically Bishop Bunker dispatched freight and supply wagons from Santa Clara to Clover Valley. Often they were driven by his 18 year old son, Edward Bunker, Jr., commonly known as “Eddie.”

On one of those 75 mile freight trips, Eddie camped for the night in a mountain meadow and bedded down in an old rock house. In the morning, he was met by an Indian war party hungry for blood. But, upon seeing Eddie, the chief hesitated. He asked, “You are Edward Bunker’s son?” “Yes.” “Well you hitch up and go on. The people at the Clover Valley Fort had caught my boy trying to steal cattle. They wanted to punish him much. But Edward Bunker saved my son, I’ll save his. You hitch up and go on.” God had again overruled.

Edward Sr. and Eddie, Jr. led extraordinary pioneer lives. What a great blessing it was for them—as it is for all of us—that God overrules when it is best.


Adapted by James E. Hartley from the Edward Bunker Family Association’s  Bunker Family History, Vol. 1, 1957 (edited by Josephine B. Walker, Delta, Utah); Gaylen K. Bunker’s Edward Bunker, A Study in Commitment and Leadership (2nd Edition, 2011); FamilySearch, and various non-family historical resources.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My 3rd Great Grandmother - Tamma Durfee - A Tough, Resilient Pioneer

This is a great tribute to my third-great grandmother, Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis. My father, Jim Hartley, prepared this summary of her life, and all the events described here really happened. This follows a recent post about another pioneer ancestor of mine, Edward Bunker Sr.

What catches my attention the most here is Tamma's great example of one who persevered and pressed forward amid severe tribulation and opposition because of a firm dedication to what she believed. Tamma truly was a tough, resilient pioneer and is an inspiring person to learn from. Below are my father's words:

Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis: A Tough, Resilient Pioneer

Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis
1813 - 1885
It had been a long time since Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis planted a garden with any realistic hope that she would enjoy the harvest. What a joy to finally have a place to call home. What a relief to plant a garden without fear of hateful, violent, anti-Mormon mobs. What a blessing to be in the new frontier settlement of Springville, Utah, where she and her large family could enjoy relative peace and security.

It was early spring. The garden soil was prepared. Tamma straddled shallow furrows in her long work dress and systematically pressed sweet pea seeds about 1-inch deep into the cool earth. These, combined with other precious seeds she had carried across prairies and mountains, were more valuable to her family’s livelihood than gold. Tamma had most of the first row planted when she heard a clucking noise directly behind her. She discovered a rooster following her eagerly gobbling up the seeds she had just planted. No wretched rooster was going to threaten her family’s survival! She caught the thieving bird, chopped off its head, slit open its gizzard, removed the pea seeds, and replanted them. That evening at dinner, Tamma offered a fervent prayer of thanks to God for her family. She asked a blessing on her freshly-planted garden and on the meal, and then served a delicious dinner of rooster and dumplings.

Tamma Durfee was a pioneer and a child of America’s western frontiers. She was born 6 March 1813 in Lenox, a small, newly-created town in central upstate New York. She was the second of 13 children of Edmund Durfee, Sr. and Magdalena Pickle. Tamma understood at an early age how essential gardens are for a family’s survival. She also knew from the very beginning that frontier life is hard. But, Tamma’s life would be especially hard—one full of seemingly endless hardships and losses.

In 1831, when she was 18 years old, Tamma married Albert Miner. They began their lives together in Ohio, part of the Western Reserve. They were among the earliest converts to a new Christian denomination, the Church of Christ (in 1834 the name was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The public nicknamed its members, “Mormons.” Church membership grew quickly in northern Ohio, and soon the followers numbered in the thousands. Local intolerance of the faith sparked hatred and intense persecution. At age 26, Tamma, Albert, and their 5 children joined their fellow church members in an exodus to Missouri. Tamma and her family made their home near Far West. One month after settling in, their 2-year-old daughter, Sylva died. Then, 6 months after Sylva’s death, while pregnant with her sixth child, she and her family were expelled from their Missouri home by Mormon-hating mobs. They were forced—along with thousands of other Latter-day Saints—to travel destitute and ill more than 200 miles to find refuge in Illinois.

Hatred of Mormons continued in Illinois. At age 32, her parents’ nearby home and barns were ransacked and burned by mobs, and her father was later murdered. When she was 33, Tamma’s husband and brother risked their lives in a futile effort to repulse an overwhelming force of merciless anti-Mormon militias that drove the Church members out of the state. Tamma, Albert, and their 8 children escaped only to find themselves stranded with many others on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. While waiting for rescuers, many became sick, including Tamma’s 7-month old daughter, Melissa. After sleeping for two weeks on the cold ground, Tamma and her family set off for Iowaville, some 65 miles away. Three days into their trek, their baby died and they had to bury her along the way. Then, Tamma herself became dangerously ill and was bedridden for 9 months. The family made it to Iowaville and remained there for a little more than a year. While there, exhaustion and exposure claimed the life of Tamma’s husband, Albert. At age 35, after 17 years of marriage, Tamma found herself a widow with 7 children.

She moved her family to Council Bluffs on Iowa’s western border where her mother and brother were. Two years later, in June 1850, Tamma acquired 2 wagons, teams, and provisions, and joined a wagon train headed for the Salt Lake Valley in Utah Territory. Shortly after their arrival, Tamma met and married, Enos Curtis, a family friend from Nauvoo. Enos was a widower, whose spouse had also died in Iowa during their journey west. Tamma was 37. During their first winter in the Salt Lake Valley, Tamma’s oldest son Orson became ill with a throat infection and died at age 17.

Enos and Tamma decided to help settle a new Utah community called Springville—a beautiful, fertile place where, despite early Indian problems, they established a farm and finally enjoyed a measure of peace and security. Tamma bore 4 more children, including a set of twin daughters, one of whom died when she was just 7 months old. Sadly, 4 months after their baby daughter died, Enos also passed away. Tamma was a widow for the second time and her 7 dependent children were fatherless. She and Enos had been married for less than 6 years. She was 43.

Not quite a year later, Tamma married again, this time to John White Curtis, Enos’s son. They also lived in Springville, where Tamma lived out her days. Together they had one child. Tamma and John were married for 28 years when she died in 1885 at age 75.

During her remarkable lifetime, Tamma lived in 15 different locations in 5 states and one U.S. territory, traversing more than 2,900 miles. Six of those moves were forced because of religious persecution and life-threatening mob violence. Tamma gave birth to 14 children, 5 of whom died—3 as infants and 2 before they were age 21. She married 3 times and was widowed twice. In addition to her own, Tamma helped nurture and raise 15 step-children.

Despite an extremely hard life of danger, deprivation, and sacrifice, Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis was unshakable in her devotion to God and her church, and she was unfailing in her love for her large family. Throughout it all, she was a tough, resilient pioneer…something her roosters knew quite well.


This sketch of Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis’s life was prepared by her great-great grandson, James E. Hartley, based on an oral history of Norma Miner Hartley by William G. Hartley, October 11, 1973 (tape 1, transcript page 15); from documents and stories posted on FamilySearch for Tamma Durfee (KWJX-NPN), Edmund Durfee, Sr. (LVDG-SXB), Edmund Durfee, Jr. (KWVQ-7FT), Jabez Durfee (KWJZ-WGJ), Albert Miner (KWJR-FZ2), Enos Curtis (KWJR-PQC), and John White Curtis (KWJZ-48B); and from a description of the “Battle of Nauvoo,” from

Thursday, April 20, 2017

My 3rd Great Grandfather - Edward Bunker, Sr.: Perpetual Pioneer

Edward Bunker, Sr.
1822 - 1901
This is a great tribute to my third-great grandfather, Edward Bunker, Sr., prepared by my own father, Jim Hartley. There are lots of lessons one can glean from this. However, I am particularly impressed with my great grandfather's sensitivity to divine guidance. Below are my father's words: 

Edward Bunker, Sr.: Perpetual Pioneer

Driven by a deep sense of mission and religious devotion, Edward Bunker, Sr. was a perpetual pioneer, who never seemed able to completely settle down. During his lifetime, Edward—

·         Crossed the 1,000-mile Midwestern prairies 5 times.
·         Enlisted in the U.S. Army for a 2,000 mile infantry march during the Mexican-American War.
·         After demobilization from the Army in San Diego, California, traveled 1,600 miles to retrieve his wife and son in Nebraska and take them to Ogden, Utah. (While traveling east through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he helped bury the remains of the Donner Party’s rear wagon group).
·         Crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice to spend 3 years serving “without purse or script” as a Mormon missionary in England, Wales, and Scotland.
·         Led a handcart company of 320 Welsh immigrants across the rugged Midwestern prairie to their Zion in the Great Salt Lake Valley.
·         Helped settle six LDS pioneer communities including Ogden, Toquerville, and Santa Clara in Utah; Clover Valley and Bunkerville in Nevada; and Colonia Morelos in Sonora, Mexico.
·         Served three times as a Mormon bishop for a cumulative total of 26 years.
·         Faithfully entered plural marriage (polygamy) and supported three wives and 28 children. (Six of the children did not live to adulthood.)

Edward Bunker planted, cultivated, and built where no one had before. He survived persecutions, blizzards, floods, droughts, famines, epidemics, near-starvation, Indian raids, and even a vicious attack by a large herd of wild bulls. He negotiated with Indians, arranged coveted water rights with competing communities, and was an inspired religious leader and “father” to hundreds. He staunchly defended his beliefs when confronted with politics, practices, and doctrines that he could not support in good conscience.

In 1882, when Edward Bunker was nearly 60 years old, poor health was finally getting the best of him. He decided that he needed an extended trip into the Arizona Territory to regain his strength and, while there, he would visit relatives and friends. He was joined by his first wife, Emily (who was then 54 years old), their son Silas (nearly 19 years old), their daughter Loella (nearly 16 years old), and their youngest son, George (age 9). On April 4th 1882, they loaded two wagons and embarked on a southerly route to Mesa.

After spending the summer in Mesa, they traveled for an additional 16 months visiting relatives and friends in at least 3 locations deep in the southeastern portion of Arizona—San Pedro (near St. David), San Bernardino Ranch (near Douglas, on the Mexican border), and Sulphur Springs Valley (about 50 miles northeast of San Pedro). Along the way, Edward also revisited some of the locations he passed through nearly 40 years earlier as an Army volunteer in the Mormon Battalion. But their travels in that region placed them squarely in the paths of outlaws, cattle rustlers, livestock smugglers, and renegade Indians.

In 1872, the U.S. Army drove the fierce Chiricahua [“Cheer-ah-COW-wa”] Apaches off of their traditional lands and forced them onto the San Carlos Indian Reservation near the southeastern border of Arizona. But, many of the Apaches refused to be confined there. Over the years, they staged numerous vicious attacks in eastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and northern Mexico. 

In 1882, Brigadier General George Crook was dispatched by the U.S. Army to subdue the Apaches and return them to the San Carlos Reservation. It took him 4 years to accomplish his mission. In his Resumé: Operations Against Apache Indians. 1882-1886, General Crook published this report on the Apaches:

“…the Chiricahua were the wildest and fiercest Indians on the continent; savage and brutal by instinct, they hesitated no more at taking human life, when excited by passion, than in killing a rabbit…. All efforts to conquer these tigers of the human race by force of arms, had been fruitless.”

In 1882 and 1883, when the Bunkers ventured near the San Carlos Apache Reservation, renegades by the names of Geronimo, Chief Juh, Na-tio-tish, Mangus, Natchez, and Chihuahua, were on the warpath throughout the region. They ruthlessly killed unsuspecting white and Mexican settlers and travelers, and stole their cattle, horses, and weapons.

In 1881, a small LDS settlement was started in Sulphur Springs Valley, less than 50 miles from the reservation. But, because of the danger from the Apaches, the settlement was abandoned in 1884. Despite the dangers, in 1883, Edward and his family spent several months there. Perhaps it was while traveling near Sulphur Springs that the Bunkers had their close encounter with the Apaches.

In the hot Arizona desert, the morning and evening hours were best for wagon journeys. One day during their travels, after stopping for supper, the Bunkers intended to travel a few more hours to a known watering spot where they would camp for the night. They loaded up both wagons. Everything was ready and everyone but Edward and young George were seated in the wagons. Suddenly, Edward announced, “We will not go on tonight.” After vigorous complaints and objections from Emily and the children, Edward repeated, “We are not going tonight.” That settled it. They unloaded the wagons and made camp where they were.

The next morning they moved on. A few hours later, as they approached the watering place where they had intended to camp the previous night, they saw smoke rising in the air. They found that Apaches had murdered a group of white people who had camped there and set fire to their wagons. The Bunkers were stunned by the realization that they would also have been victims of the massacre if Edward had not followed that strong impression the night before that told him to stay where they were.

Edward was a man who was close to God, and he had spent decades listening to those kinds of promptings. He knew from experience to follow them, even when they didn’t make any sense at the moment. By following this impression, he saved the lives of his family.

After 21 months in the Arizona Territory, Edward, Emily, Silas, Loelle, and George returned home safely to Bunkerville, arriving the day after Christmas, 1883.

But the fire of the pioneering spirit continued to blaze in Edward. In 1901, when Edward was 79, he and Emily, along with their son George and his family, moved from Bunkerville, Nevada to settle in a new LDS colony in Sonora, Mexico some 600 miles away. Sadly, later that same year, Edward died from a sudden illness and was buried at Colonia Morelos in Old Mexico, a pioneer to the end.


Adapted by James E. Hartley from the Edward Bunker Family Association’s  Bunker Family History, Vol. 1, 1957 (edited by Josephine B. Walker, Delta, Utah); Gaylen K. Bunker’s Edward Bunker, A Study in Commitment and Leadership (2nd Edition, 2011); FamilySearch, and various non-family historical resources.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Amazing Conversion Stories - James Houston

My previous entry was about the amazing conversion of Margaret Crawford Houston to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This entry is about her husband, James Houston (my 3rd great grandfather), who also had an amazing conversion to the church. James' story reminds me a little bit of the prophet Joseph Smith's own history and his own endeavor to find the truth. I am grateful for James' courage and the decision he made nearly 180 years ago, which no doubt has affected me for the better.

Below are James Houston's own words from his autobiography, which is available on (ID: KWBB-6WN):

James Houston Conversion

James Houston
1817 - 1864
I was brought up to be a silk (shawl) weaver. I saw a lot of trouble in my youth, and it caused me to reflect much of the things I saw and heard and I had a great desire to know the true way to be saved in the kingdom of God. I observed that all great men do not always agree on what is right. There was no use for me to try to find the way, still I had a desire to know.

One day I was at an election meeting where a priest was doing his best to explain his faith. I felt a desire to be with good people when they were gathered. The priest was speaking on the subject, "What To Do To Be Saved." I continued praying in my heart, when there was something that came over me that made me feel good all over. I did not say anything to others. I often thought about it, but did not know what it was. But I know now. The Lord heard my prayers and gave the answer -- that I would be shown the right way. I think I was about 14 years old.

I served four years as an apprentice silk-shawl weaver with my brother, John, just before he died. Shortly after his death he came to me one night in a dream. He asked me some questions and I asked him some. From that time on, things took a turn, although I can see many ways that the Lord opened up the way for me to understand the Gospel.

The Elders came to Paisley [Scotland] about the time I had the dream. I mean the Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came. I was so engrossed in the company that I did not get to hear them. I went to their place one night and they would not let me in because they had been disturbed before.

So I got into conversation with one of their listeners who had been at the meeting the night before. He told me of an angel coming to Joseph Smith and what the angel said. The power followed the word and it ran through me from head to foot. I began to stand up for it and was surprised at myself.

I got a book, "The Voice of Warning," and began to read it, and the devil began to be mad. I did not know what was the matter. The man of the house where I lodged was a religious man, and when I read in the book and it was so good I would preach to him, and it would make him raving mad. He said all these things were done away with. He spoke of the things I could not understand and that made him very mad and me so pleased, but I was not to be put off  that way. I could not get rid of that feeling and would argue in the workshop until I was astonished at myself.

I sailed for America October 15, 1840 with a small company of saints. Everywhere I could see the same spirit against the saints. It confirms me more. After a pleasant journey of nine weeks, we landed at New Orleans, Mississippi, America, on December 2, 1840. We took a steamboat to St. Louis arriving December 17. (Elder Mulliner, the leader of the company, was unsuccessful in hiring a boat to take the company to Nauvoo and a number of the emigrants remained in Alton, Illinois until the following Spring when they reached Nauvoo in safety).

The Gospel had a great effect on my mind and I thought much. Brother Mulliner invited me home with him in Springnell, Alton, Illinois. I believed the Gospel but I thought I was not good enough to be baptized. I attended the meetings regularly. I was baptized 1841 and confirmed the same night in Springnell, Alton, Illinois.

I knew the gospel was true and I received the spirit according to the promise.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amazing Conversion Stories - Margaret Crawford Houston

My third great grandmother, Margaret Crawford Houston, had quite the conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her experience was recorded and written by, I believe, Gladys Delong Banks, a granddaughter. I have taken Gladys's own words and posted them below, with the exception of the title and some other minor edits for clarification:

The Whitewashed Walls

Margaret Crawford (Houston) was born in Dunsyre Parish, Lanark, Scotland in 1825. When she was a young girl, about 17, a very strange incident happened to her.

Margaret Crawford Houston
1825 - 1912
She had just finished putting chalk, or whitewash, on the walls and hearth stone. They had a large fireplace at one end of a low ceiling room where the family lived and did most of their cooking. In the hills nearby there were large deposits of white clay, or chalk, which if dissolved in water, made a white wash. This was used to paint the walls and the great hearth stone of the large fireplace, often, to keep the house clean and comfortable for the family. It was Margaret's job to do this as she was the oldest girl. She had just finished her task, and she and her mother were admiring the snow-white walls and hoping they would not have to be done again very soon, when a knock came at the door.

Margaret opened the door and let in who seemed to be a beggar. He walked into the room and looked at the girl, then the mother, and the white walls. He stood a moment and gazed steadily at Margaret. He walked to the fireplace and picked up a piece of charcoal and went to the white wall and began to write.

The mother and daughter looked on in speechless amazement. No one uttered a word since the appearance of this strange person. Then both Margaret and her mother began to remonstrate at having the walls all marked up with black charcoal.

But he would not quit and seemed to know nothing of what they were saying but continued writing until he had covered the whole wall from top to bottom. When he finished, he walked from the room never saying a word.

At first, when Margaret looked at the writing, it seemed to be in some strange language and she could not make it out. Then after a time, it was made clear and she read as follows:

"Margaret was going to be visited by a young man who was teaching a new and strange religion. The young man was from the new world and had crossed many waters to teach her this religion. She would accept the new religion and some of her family would accept it, but they would suffer persecution by joining it. The young man was of their own nationality, and would return to his home. Then he would come to her land and take her as his wife across the many waters, and there in the new world they would build a home and have a great posterity."

After the family read this they all laughed and made fun of it and thought it was just some crazy person who was roving around and had written a fairy tale. But Margaret was deeply impressed. They wondered how it would be possible for one of their own nationality to come from the new world.

James Houston
1817 - 1864
Things turned out just as they were written. James Houston, born in Paisley, Scotland, was converted to the [Mormon church] by Samuel Mulliner and went to America [in 1840]. Later, James was called on a mission to his native Scotland, and there, he converted Margaret Crawford [in 1845] whom later he married and took to America where they raised their family and made their home in Utah.

<< End of Gladys's words >>

And Margaret Crawford did have a great posterity. Using, below is a visualization of just six generations that have descended from her. Each particular individual is either a blue square (man) or a pink circle (woman). Gray squares don't represent people. My particular line to Margaret is highlighted in yellow. Except for my own line, living people are not displayed. Otherwise, the only people displayed are those who have already passed away. This means the chart is only a portion of her descendants as of this writing (March 2017), and may be at least a few hundred people.

I am inspired by and grateful for Margaret's conversion to the church. My life would not be the same had she not made such a decision! What an amazing conversion!

Margaret Crawford Houston's Descendants - 6 Generations


Source of story:

Ancestors and Descendants of James and Margaret Crawford Houston, starting page 211

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My 2nd Great Grandfather - Edward Bunker, Jr - What Any Man Should Do for His Brother

This story was adapted by my father, Jim Hartley, which includes some parts from his brother Bill Hartley's (my uncle) work. To me, this story is a good example to learn from regarding charity, kindness and sincere prayer. Below are my father's words:

Edward Bunker, Jr. – What Any Man Should Do for His Brother

Edward Bunker, Jr.
1847 - 1915
Sometime around the beginning of the 20th Century, a young Chicago banker, Thomas N. McCauley, faced a frightening situation that his enormous wealth couldn’t resolve—he was gravely ill. According to his doctor, the only hope for recovery was for the young executive to spend six months to a year in the West, living in the open. Reluctantly, Mr. McCauley entrusted his extensive business affairs to associates and went west, accompanied by his doctor. For months the two men leisurely traveled about the Rocky Mountain regions in a covered wagon.

While on the edge of the Great Basin’s western desert, McCauley suddenly developed a fever of 102 degrees and severe chills. Fearing for his patient’s life, the doctor hurried the wagon to the nearest settlement: Bunkerville, Nevada, a small Mormon settlement near the southwest corner of Utah. For reasons unknown, the doctor harbored bitter feelings toward Mormons. But, the situation was desperate, so he swallowed his prejudices and appealed for accommodations at the humble home of a local farmer. It happened to be the home of Edward Bunker, Jr., the town’s most prominent leader and Mormon bishop, as well as the son of the man for whom Bunkerville was named.

The strangers had not known that the Bunker home often served as a hospital or hotel for people passing through those barren regions. While bishop from 1883 to 1908, Edward Bunker also served as the local doctor, setting about 40 broken limbs, amputating fingers, lancing sores, and once even successfully sewing on a boy’s foot that had been amputated by a mowing machine.

Mr. McCauley and his doctor were instantly made welcome. Their wagon and team were cared for, and the home’s parlor was quickly converted into a makeshift hospital room. Every convenience and comfort available in the little rural community were offered them.

Day after day the doctor and the Bunkers carefully nursed the critically ill patient. McCauley’s progress was slow. During the weeks that passed, the doctor spent his time either with the sick man or off by himself—he kept his distance from the Mormons. But, since McCauley was confined to his bed, he could observe many of the Bunker family’s daily routines. Particularly when the parlor door was left ajar, McCauley could see the family members come and go, interact, have meals, and hold their daily family prayers and devotions.

Eventually, Mr. McCauley’s condition improved enough for the doctor to allow him to resume the journey. On the morning of their departure, the Bunker family arose early as usual. Unknowingly they had awakened their guests, who could not help but overhear the special family prayer offered in their behalf. As was the family’s practice, Edward gathered his wife and children in the dining room where they knelt together. Edward reverently poured out his soul in supplication. Among other things, he fervently thanked God for blessing Mr. McCauley with a great recovery of health, and he invoked a special blessing on him for a full and complete healing. During the prayer, the doctor slipped quietly from the parlor with tears trailing down his cheeks. McCauley himself was nearly overcome with emotion.

After their prayer, the family went off as usual to attend to their daily chores. Edward came into the parlor to say goodbye to his guests. While shaking hands with Mr. McCauley, he expressed his great pleasure at “having been favored with the privilege of rendering an act of kindness,” then wished him and the doctor a pleasant journey.

“I am greatly indebted to you, Bishop Bunker,” said McCauley, “and I desire to properly compensate you for your merciful kindness and care of me, which is responsible for saving my life. I am a man of ample means and to reward you generously would be a great pleasure to me.” Edward kindly refused the offer. “No, I can’t accept anything from you,” he humbly said. “I have only done what any man should do for his brother.”

In response to Mr. McCauley’s continued insistence to grant some kind of compensation, Edward replied: “I am already amply repaid for my helpfulness to you. The only way you can pay me is by doing for some other person as I have cheerfully done for you.”

After returning to Chicago, Thomas N. McCauley was a changed man. He never forgot the debt he felt he owed to Bishop Bunker. In the following years, Mr. McCauley generously used his wealth and influence to help many others, particularly Latter-day Saints who were in need.


Adapted by James E. Hartley from the Edward Bunker Family Association’s Bunker Family History, Vol. 1, 1957 (edited by Josephine B. Walker, Delta, Utah); and William G. Hartley’s article, “Financier and Bishop Bunker,” New Era, November 1976, 10-11.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Miracle of the Flour Bin - Part II

Amanda Williams Clark
1835 - 1920
I shared a story called "Miracle of the Empty Flour Barrel" about a month ago. It is about an event in the life of my ancestors James and Margaret Houston when they were faced with the risk of starvation, along with other pioneers, because of massive crop destruction that occurred in Utah territory. James and Margaret were able to survive the ordeal and were greatly blessed because of their faith, obedience to counsel from church leaders and also because of a legitimate miracle involving flour.

Another ancestor of mine, my third-great grandmother Amanda Williams Clark, also lived in Utah Territory from its beginnings. She also experienced a very similar event involving flour and a miracle.

As background, Amanda arrived in Utah Territory as a teenager in 1849. She got married in 1850 at the age of fourteen to Riley Clark, and had sixteen children during her life. According to various records, she lived in Utah up until her death in 1920.

In the "Miracle of the Empty Flour Barrel" it is recorded that Brigham Young, the church leader then, had promised that those who had food, and divided or shared it with others who did not have food, would not miss what they gave away. That is, they would not go without because of their sharing and charity.

A small entry in Amanda's biography mentions her sharing flour with those in need even when she herself was very low on flour. While the biography does not indicate when the event took place, it appears Brigham Young's promise may have also applied to Amanda. Tucked away near the end of her biography the following is mentioned:

"During her pioneer days, [Amanda's] home was always open to strangers and friends alike. She was a generous woman, dividing her last bit of flour at night with someone and finding the same amount in her bin in the morning; or keeping her last yard of factory muslin that her neighbors in Manti might come in and unravel a few threads with which to sew. Her life was one of sacrifice and charity."

Just as James and Margaret Houston shared their flour until it was gone, Amanda did the same. Her flour would also miraculously return again.

Flour miraculously showing up in a barrel was also not isolated to my own ancestors. While I have no known relation, Warren and Almira Davis experienced a very similar miracle with flour in 1888. They also followed counsel given by Brigham Young and received a similar blessing as my own ancestors. Warren and Almira Davis's own "Miracle of the Flour Barrel" can be accessed here (

These stories help strengthen my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they also serve as a good reminder to heed the counsel given by our church leaders.


Amanda William's Biography (login may be required):

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Grandma Norma Hartley: The Angel with an Apron

Grandma Norma Hartley, 1982
This family story was adapted by my father, James Hartley. I am grateful for the great example my grandmother, Norma Miner Hartley, left about love and caring for others. It has inspired me to be a better person. Here are my father's words:

Norma Hartley: The Angel with an Apron

King Arthur had a magician named Merlin to look after him. Cinderella had a fairy godmother. But, Doug and Joan Carr had their very own real-life guardian angel.

In the fall of 1960, the Carr’s moved to Hayward, California. Doug had just completed his master’s degree and was beginning a teaching career at Arroyo High School in neighboring San Lorenzo. They had four young children, one first grader and three preschoolers. In addition, Joan was pregnant with their fifth child. As the season transitioned into winter, the Carr’s children were plagued with continuing rounds of ear infections, colds, and sore throats. Soon Joan caught a cold from the children, and it quickly went deep into her chest.

The doctor diagnosed her with bronchial pneumonia. Her case had become so severe, in fact, that the doctor wanted to immediately admit her to the hospital. Joan pleaded with him not to do that. They had no insurance, they were struggling financially, and they had no one to care for the children. Very reluctantly, the doctor allowed her to go home—as long as she stayed in bed for ten days or so. 

Joan did what she could to obey the doctor. But, instead of getting better, her condition grew worse. Her fever was intense. Every breath she took was agony and every cough was excruciating. She couldn’t care for herself, let alone for the children and her husband. They desperately needed help. But, Doug couldn’t take time off from his new job. They had no family nearby. Being new to the area, they had no friends they could call on. Frantically, Doug turned to the only other source of help he knew of, his Mormon church. Unfortunately, they were so new in their ward, they really didn’t know anyone. Nevertheless, Doug found out who their ward’s Relief Society president was, described to her their dire situation, and asked if she knew of anyone who could help them.

Bright and early the next morning, there was a knock on the door. There stood Norma Hartley, a woman they had never met before. She wore an apron and had books and crayons under one arm and assorted paraphernalia under the other. Each weekday morning she came before Doug went to work. She would stay for several hours in order to nurse Joan and care for the children. She also fixed lunches and dinners and did a myriad of household chores before Doug came home each afternoon. Then she would return home to take care of her own family. She did this voluntarily for two weeks until Joan had sufficiently recovered.

The stories of King Arthur and Cinderella were, of course, fiction. But, for the Carr’s, Norma was, indeed, their very own real-life guardian angel! They even gave her a nickname: “The Angel with an Apron.”

Adapted by James E. Hartley from an article written by Joan Carr that was included in a booklet published by her LDS ward called "Chicken Soup for the Glenmoore Ward Soul."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Miracle of the Empty Flour Barrel

James and Margaret Houston
1817-1864 and 1825-1912
This is a true story about my third great grandparents, James and Margaret Houston. It has humbled me, encouraged me to be more charitable and also serves as a good reminder to heed the counsel given by church leaders.

James and Margaret Houston arrived in Utah Territory September 1848, a few months after the infamous “cricket war” and when the “miracle of the gulls” happened. During that time, pioneers were threatened with starvation because of severe crop destruction from drought, frost and crickets. Fortunately, James and Margaret arrived with ample provisions and were blessed to make it through the trying times of 1848. However, little did they know that events similar to those of 1848 would come back in later years with a vengeance -- but worse.

A severe drought during 1855 occurred throughout Utah Territory, and it apparently forced massive numbers of grasshoppers into the valleys. The grasshoppers' arrival was quite an intimidating sight:

 "The Deseret News reported one massive appearance in which 'the grasshoppers filled the sky for three miles deep, or as far as they could be seen without the aid of Telescopes, and somewhat resembling a snow storm.' These locusts were known to fly overhead several hours a day for a period of two or three weeks. When they landed they could be even more troublesome."

The noise from the grasshopper swarms was also noteworthy:

"To a person standing in one of these swarms as they pass over and around you, the air becomes sensibly darkened, and the sound produced by their wings resembles that of the passage of a train of cars on a railroad when standing two or three hundred yards from the track."

When the grasshoppers arrived, they fed on practically anything -- grass, wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, etc. Orchards and vineyards were also targets, and the grasshoppers would even eat the bark of trees. Grasshoppers would stay for weeks, even through bad weather.

Heber C. Kimball, a leader in the church and community, wrote describing the extent of the devastation in 1855:

"[...] The grasshoppers have cut down the grain, and there is not fifty acres now standing of any kind of grain in Salt Lake Valley, and what is now standing, they are cutting it down as fast as possible.

In Utah county the fields are pretty much desolate; in Juab Valley not a green spear of grain is to be seen, nor in Sanpete, nor in Fillmore.

In Little Salt Lake they are still sowing, also at Cedar City, that county being so much later the grain is not yet up, but the grasshoppers are there, ready to sweep down the grain as soon as it comes up.

In the north as far as Boxelder the scenery is the same.... and to look at things at this present time, there is not the least prospect of raising one bushel of grain in the valleys this present season.... I must say there is more green stuff in the gardens in G. S. L. City than there is in all the rest of the counties; still there is a great many of the gardens in the city entirely ruined.

Brother Wm. C. Staines told me this morning that he had 500,000 young apple trees come up and they are all cut down to the ground, and many gardens where the peach trees were full of peaches, every leaf and peach are gone."

It has been estimated that 70 percent of the cereals, vegetables, and fruits were destroyed, making 1855 stand out as a year of crippling losses. Research also shows the peak period of grasshopper invasions and devastation was 1855, being the worst year of the entire century. All this put Utah pioneers at risk of starvation and many suffered.

On top of grasshoppers, the winter of 1855-1856 was very severe. Animals such as cattle, horses, and sheep froze to death or died of starvation because of the scarcity of provisions. In various parts of Utah, snow was even measured to a depth of eight feet.

To further complicate things, an influx of 5,000 Mormon immigrants arrived in Utah Territory during 1855 to settle. This was a very large number given Utah's resident population was reported as being 11,380 in 1850. Furthermore, gold hunters en route to California passed through the valleys of Utah in relation to the California Gold Rush. A large number of these gold hunters were also destitute of food and had scant supplies.

The people in Utah Territory were encouraged to exercise faith amidst these challenges. The Deseret News remarked on May 23, 1855 that 'through faith and obedience they can prevail in the grasshopper war, at least as well as they did in the cricket war of 1848.'

The grasshoppers were finally gone by the time James and Margaret planted corn and potatoes on June 10, 1855 on their farmland in Salt Lake City. They were told by others that their crops would not mature. However, the crops did come up, albeit small in size, and they had something to harvest. James and Margaret were among the very few who had anything for the winter.

James and Margaret also had a very young family at this time. On December 1, 1855, Margaret Jr. was born. By the end of 1855, the names and ages (years) of their other children were as follows: Thomas (2), Joseph (4), James Jr. (5), John (7), and Elizabeth (9). 

In spite of the great challenges James and Margaret and other Utah pioneers faced, James and Margaret were generous with their harvest and shared with others:

"The corn was small and only nibbins, but James threw the corn into the loft. Winter came, and Margaret shared with others and still there was more corn. She kept dividing and it was wonderful how it lasted. She made corn cakes also, and divided them with others."

How is it that something like small "nibbins" of corn could sustain a large family through such hard times? How could this humble harvest also be divided among others who were in such great need and distress?

After the trial of faith, came the blessings.

Gladys Banks, a granddaughter of James and Margaret, recorded details of a miraculous event in the form of a skit. It is entitled "The Empty Flour Barrel" and based on a true incident in James and Margaret Houston's life.

<Start of skit>

The Empty Flour Barrel

Scene 1

(Margaret is seen standing at the flour barrel* with a pan in her hand bending over the flour barrel in the act of dipping flour out. Her husband comes in at this time. She is dressed in the pioneer style and as she bends low in the barrel to get the flour her stockings are seen below her skirt.)

(Enter James)

James: Well, well, Margaret. I saw your stockings when you stooped to get flour from the barrel.

Margaret: (Coming forward with a small amount of flour in the pan.). Yes, James, we will be needing some more. This is all we have and still you keep sending our friends in to get some flour or some bread. Only yesterday, I baked three loaves and Brother Black came last night and said you said he could get a loaf as his wife was sick and couldn't bake. Early this morning while you were milking, Sy Perkin's little Pete came and asked for a loaf, he said they had all gone to bed without supper because they did not have any bread. I gave them the second loaf. James, you sure beat the world in giving stuff away.

James: Margaret, do you know that Brother Brigham [Young] told us last night at our Priesthood [church] meeting that if we [who] had food would divide with those that did not have, we would never miss what we gave away? I promise you that as long as we divide our flour with our friends there will always be some in the barrel.

Margaret: James, how impractical you are. When the flour is gone, it's gone. I scraped all there was in the barrel.

James: We shall see my dear. But never let us turn a hungry child from our door.

Scene 2
(Same as Scene 1)

(Margaret making hot cakes and has some piled on a plate)

Margaret: Well, this is the last of the flour. Whatever will we do when it is gone?

(Enter Libbie)

Libbie: Oh, Mother, I am so hungry. May I have a hot cake?

Margaret: Yes, you may have one, but not any more, because Father and John have not had dinner yet.

Libbie: (She takes a cake in her hand and shakes her head as if in deep thought). Oh, maybe I'm not very hungry for I had breakfast this morning but Maggie Jones didn't. May I give this to her if I don't have any?

Margaret: Well, of all things, there it goes again. Yes, of course, Libbie child. (Pats her on the head). Take one to your friend and you have two if you want them. (Libbie takes a cake and starts eating it and joyously runs out with one for her friend).

(Enter John and Billie)

John: Mother, we sure are hungry. Got anything to eat?

Billie: Hmmmmmmm. Them cakes sure do smell good. My Ma can't make any. She hasn't had flour for a long time. My Pa is sick in bed.

Margaret: Yes, of course, John, boys are always hungry. (Shakes her head and looks at both boys as she gives them the cakes). Billie, you say your Pa is sick! Well, you had better take some cakes over to him and your Ma. (She wraps cakes that are left on plate in a clean cloth and gives them to Billie). Run quick, now, and take them to your Ma, Billie.

Billie: Thanks Sister Houston. I know this will make my Pa better.

Margaret: (At her wits end). Well, whatever will I do for bread for James? (She looks at empty plate). Oh, me, Oh, my.

(Enter James)

James: Well, my dear, is supper ready?

Margaret: Yes, when you milk the cow because that is all there is.

James: Where is the bread?

Margaret: You gave it all away and I used the last flour for hot cakes and ours and the neighbor's children ate them.

James: Have you looked in the barrel since you got the last flour?

Margaret: James, how stupid you are!

(Margaret goes to the barrel and scoops out some flour)

Margaret: James, your faith is a wonderful blessing. We will have supper after all.  (She rushes to his side with the coveted flour. They both look glorified).

(Enter Mary Brown)

Mary: Oh, Brother Houston, I wonder if I could borrow some flour. Jack has been working for Brother Knight and he promised to let us have some flour, but we haven't got it yet. We are right out now, but we will pay you back as soon as we can get it. They say you are the only ones in the ward [neighborhood] with flour.

James: Well, Sister Brown, you may get it if I have it. Get the flour, Margaret.

Margaret: James, you saw me scrape the barrel.

James: Margaret, there is flour in that barrel. Get it!

(She goes to the barrel and scoops out some flour which she gives to Sister Brown).

Margaret: The Lord has surely blessed us.

James: We shall never want as long as we divide with our neighbors.

<End of skit>

Overall, the fact that James and Margaret would share under such difficult and trying circumstances is a miracle in itself, to have such character and charity. The other miracle, of course, is that the family did not go without after they shared with others the little they had. Through faith, and obedience to the counsel given by church leaders, miracles were wrought. The empty flour barrel kept on giving and provided life-sustaining nourishment!


Skit Characters:

James Houston -- Father
Margaret Houston -- Mother
John -- a small boy (son)
Libbie -- a young girl (daughter)
Mary Brown -- a neighbor
Billie -- a small boy
Mary -- a friend
Time -- In Salt Lake in early pioneer time
Scene: A pioneer home with a large flour barrel, in corner stove, rude table and chairs. Yet it has an air of hominess about it.

* The flour mentioned in the skit may be referring to either corn flour or wheat flour. It is my opinion the family records point more strongly to the flour being corn flour.


Story adapted and information obtained from the following sources:

James Houston and Margaret Crawford Descendants and Ancestors. Pages 179, 246, 250-251, 283-285, 410-411

"Pestiferous Ironclads: The Grasshopper Problem in Pioneer Utah":

U.S. Census Bureau: Utah Resident Population

"Time Line: U.S. Migration, Mormon Emigration, and the Handcart Experiment"

"Miracles of the Gulls":

"The Grasshopper War of 1855 and the Provo Sugar Miracle":

"The Gold Rush of 1849"

Source of grasshopper images: