Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Two Brothers: One Chose Death, the Other Chose Life

My father, Jim Hartley, originally shared this story and message at a religious devotional in April 2005. I thought this was phenomenal the first time I heard it. This has helped instill in me a greater desire to choose good over evil. I hope others can find it of worth as well. Below is my father's message he prepared for the occasion:

Two Brothers: One Chose Death, the Other Chose Life

Brothers John, Edwin, and Junius (left to right)
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864
There is a fascinating true story that is worth pondering. It’s about two brothers, John and Edwin. You see, one of them chose death and the other chose life. 

John was born in 1838 in Maryland. He wanted to be an actor. So, at age 17, John auditioned at the Charles Street Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. He received small parts from time to time, but it was another two years before he began performing regularly. John was particularly successful with various theatre companies in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond. Over time, he became a very popular and admired actor. 

His life radically changed in 1861, when the Civil War began. Because of his promise to his mother, John did not join the army. For a couple of years during the war, John left acting and pursued interests in western Pennsylvania’s oil fields. Later, he sold his interests and went to Montreal, Canada. Then, in March 1865, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to resume acting. He starred in the performance of “The Apostate” at Ford’s Theatre.

The next month, a new show opened at Ford’s Theatre, a comedy called “Our American Cousin.” John was not in that show. He didn’t intend to be. He had other business—to assassinate the President of the United States. 

During the performance on April 14th, 1865, John Wilkes Booth fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln. John escaped on horseback, first to Maryland then to Virginia. Federal soldiers tracked him down and trapped him inside a barn. John refused to give up and was finally shot to death.

John had become an agent for the Confederacy. For five months, he had been part of a conspiracy to kidnap President Lincoln and use him as a hostage to negotiate the release of Confederate soldiers who were being held in Union prisons. But, their attempt on March 17th failed. 

Nearly three weeks later, on April 9th, 1865, Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee surrendered, effectively ending the Civil War. John was furious. He and at least eight others conspired to assassinate President Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State, William H. Seward. Just five days after Lee’s surrender, John Wilkes Booth completed his final performance at Ford’s Theatre with the murder of the president. Fortunately, the others in the conspiracy failed in their attempts on Johnson and Seward.

John had a brother named Edwin Thomas Booth. Edwin was five years older than John. He too was a talented actor. Edwin honed his skills by barnstorming through California mining towns and touring Australia and the Sandwich Islands (known today as Hawaii). His first appearances as a star were in Boston and New York City in 1857. By 1860, Edwin was widely recognized as one of the world’s finest Shakespearean actors. 

The assassination of President Lincoln by his brother was a blow to Edwin’s spirit from which he never recovered. It even caused him to withdraw from acting for nearly a year.

Edwin was of a different temperament than his younger brother. He demonstrated kindness and selflessness, which were apparently foreign to John. For example, sometime in either 1863 or ‘64, Edwin found himself on an extremely crowded railroad station platform in Jersey City. A well-dressed young man, about 20 years old, was accidentally pushed by the crowd up against the train. Suddenly the train lurched forward. The young man was twisted off his feet and dropped dangerously into the narrow space between the platform and the moving train. Edwin Booth reacted immediately. He locked a leg and an arm around a railing. With his other hand, he grabbed the young man by the collar and pulled him up to safety. The young man immediately recognized the famous actor, called him by name, and shook his hand in deepest gratitude for saving his life. Edwin did not recognize the young admirer he had just rescued. But, several weeks later, Edwin received a letter of thanks from the office of General Ulysses S. Grant. The person Edwin Booth saved was Robert Todd Lincoln, the oldest son of President Abraham Lincoln.

President and Mrs. Lincoln had three children. But, only Robert lived past the age of 18. Robert graduated from Harvard Law School and served in the Union Army. After the Civil War, he practiced law. In 1881, President James A. Garfield appointed him as the secretary of war. He held the same post under President Chester A. Arthur. In 1889, he was appointed as the U.S. minister to Great Britain. The Republican Party wanted him as a presidential candidate in 1884, 1888, 1892, and 1912, but, each time he declined the offer to run. Robert Todd Lincoln died at age 83, a renowned lawyer, businessman, and statesman. We owe Robert’s noble life to the brother of the man who assassinated Robert’s father.

What a contrast between two brothers. John Wilkes Booth, the talented actor whose life became dedicated to death. And, Edwin Thomas Booth, a world-famous actor, who risked his life to save the life of another. Both brothers altered the legacy of the Lincoln family.

John and Edwin remind us of two other brothers, who, in a way, are like the Booth brothers—one brother, who chooses death and the other, who chooses life.

In the premortal world, there was a great council to prepare the Plan of Salvation for the spirit children of God. One “who was in authority” went before God and said, “…Here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost; and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).

Because he sought to destroy the agency of man and take all power and honor to himself, his proposal was rejected. So, he rebelled “…[and] was thrust down from the presence of God….  And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning!” (D& C 76:25-28) And from that time on Lucifer sought to destroy humankind (Moses 4:6).

Like John Wilkes Booth, Lucifer has an older brother who has a completely different temperament. Rather than death and destruction, Satan’s older brother, Jesus Christ, seeks life. In contrast to Lucifer, Jesus’s response to God’s plan was, “Father, thy will be done and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).

The ancient Apostle John taught us, “For God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: [Jesus is] come that [we] might have life, and that [we] might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

It is worthwhile to ponder the lives of the two brothers, John Wilkes Booth and Edwin Thomas Booth—one who sought death and one who sought life. The Booth brothers remind us of two other brothers, Lucifer and Jesus the Christ—one who seeks death and destruction and One who is the life and the light of the world, who gave His life to rescue ours.

I bear witness of the Savior’s reality and of His love.  May we always follow the One who is the life and the light of all, Jesus Christ.

Aurandt, Paul, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, Bantam Books, New York, New York, 1977, 47-49
The National Park Service, Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, “A History of John Wilkes Booth”
Encyclopedia Britannica presents “Shakespeare and the Globe: Then and Now,” Biographies,
“Booth, Edwin (Thomas)” (
Goff, John S., Robert Todd Lincoln: A Man In His Own Right, 70-71 (
World Book Encyclopedia 1992: “Booth, Edwin Thomas” and “Booth, John Wilkes,” volume 2, 492
World Book Encyclopedia 1992: “Lincoln, Abraham,” “Lincoln, Mary Todd,” and “Lincoln, Robert Todd,” volume
12, 310-327

*The web links were functional at the time this message was original prepared in April 2005. As of July 2017, it appears they may no longer be functional.

* Image source: By Unknown - The Life and Times of Joseph Haworth (as "images/Fellow Actors/Edwin Booth/Junius, Edwin & John Wilkes Booth in Julius Caesar-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg"); the original is in the McClellan Collection at Brown University., Public Domain,

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Of Parades and Floats - My Father Jim Hartley

Jim carving the parade float
Summer 2002
My father, Jim Hartley, recorded a great story relating to a parade float and challenges surrounding a project he was involved with nearly 15 years ago. His experience has helped strengthen my faith in prayer and also God's loving concern for us as individuals. Below are my father's own words:

"In 2002 I was asked by our LDS stake leadership to be the co-chairman of a float committee for the stake’s entry in the Days of ’47 Parade. That parade is the third largest in the country with hundreds of entries. Frankly, I didn’t like parades and I didn’t know anything about building a float. They asked me to do it because my experience and skill with art. They assured me that we had the people and resources to build whatever the committee could imagine.

The parade theme was “Pioneers and Patriots: America’s Heroes.” Our three-person executive committee chose a Pony Express theme and I designed the float with a Pony Express rider emerging from billowing scrolls of red, white, and blue. On the front of the float ahead of the rider was a soaring eagle with a letter in its beak. We wanted the eagle’s wings to flap. We also wanted smoke to come out of the rider’s gun that was in his raised right hand and out of the flared nostrils of the galloping horse. We also wanted to broadcast bold western music from the movie, “How the West Was Won.”

An amazingly talented and diligent group of 89 people from all six wards in the stake made it happen. More than 800 labor hours went into the float. Many of the volunteers were people who would not normally affiliate with their Mormon neighbors. A few had health problems or were unemployed preventing them from doing anything they felt was purposeful, until they worked on the float. The project did a lot of good bringing many good people together.

I was assigned to carve the horse and rider out of immense blocks of Styrofoam. I had never done something like that before. I took 1.5 weeks of vacation from work for the effort. Equipped with a small electric Sawzall with a 12-inch blade, a power sander, a rasp, and a file, I blindly went to work creating a blizzard of white foam particles all over our backyard. Every day I became a foam snowman carving in daytime temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I had one smaller block of Styrofoam for the rider’s head—the final piece of the sculpture. But in my inexperience as a carver, I botched it in a big way and I didn’t have any extra foam. There was no room for serious mistakes and it appeared that I could not finish the job.

I was exceedingly dejected and I prayed about what to do. As I studied the destroyed head a voice spoke to my mind that said, “Turn it upside down.” I followed the curious instruction and in a bolt of inspiration, I could visualize that, with a few adjustments, I could still salvage the head. It worked. We were amazed to win the “Utah Award,” one of the parade’s five awards given to floats sponsored by religious organizations. I even got to drive the float in the parade.

The actual parade float for "Pioneers and Patriots: American Heroes"
Days of '47 Parade - Salt Lake City, Utah - Summer 2002

I had two other amazing experiences related to that float. First, I felt really bad when I discovered that we had overspent our stake’s budget by nearly $900. Second, I also felt bad that all our work would have a one-time purpose. I wished that there could be some other use for the float or at least for parts of it. For example, perhaps Boy Scouts could use the eagle. I made both concerns a matter of repeated prayer. Both concerns were resolved when we were unexpectedly contacted by the Uinta Basin Medical Center, a regional hospital in Roosevelt, Utah. From among all the floats entered in the parade, the medical center wanted our float for parades in eastern Utah. They replaced our name on the float with theirs and paid us “rent” of $1,000. The float won awards in two other parades.

I don’t really think that God cares very much about a parade float. But, I learned that He does care deeply for me and for worthy purposes."


Source: "James E. Hartley: My Story" written by Jim Hartley himself, November 2016.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From My Father - "Eternal Soup"

My father Jim Hartley
In Austria, 1973
This is an inspiring story my father, Jim Hartley, told the family when we were younger. This took place in Austria in 1973 when he was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I learned from this that if we exercise faith, Heavenly Father will take care of us in times of need. Below are my father's own words:

Not the actual "Eternal Soup," but
this is what it looked like Jim says
"While in Vienna, the value of the U.S. dollar dropped again and banks would not cash our U.S. checks. We quickly ran out of money and could not purchase food. With no other option, my companion and I made a big pot of soup out of oatmeal and our remaining vegetables. We had no other food and we lived on that soup three times a day for nearly two weeks. Miraculously, as we repeatedly added water to the soup over the weeks, it never spoiled, it never ran out of oatmeal and vegetables, and it always tasted good to us. We called it our 'eternal soup.'

Once again, the Lord took good care of us during difficult times. We were extremely grateful. But, once we could again purchase more food, I confess that we were also very happy to dispose of the remains of that miracle soup!"

Source: "James E. Hartley: My Story," written by Jim Hartley himself. November 2016.

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