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Dan Atwood

Question: How old was Dan Atwood when he and his wife joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and traveled from Connecticut to Utah? What notable contributions did their children make to the Church?

Answer: Dan Atwood was born in Willington, Tolland County, Connecticut, on November 4, 1787, of sturdy, industrious English, New England stock. Dan was the eighth child of Heman Atwood and Jerusha Case. When Dan grew to manhood he married Polly Sawyer on January 16, 1812. Polly Sawyer was born on June 12, 1790 in Connecticut to Asahel Sawyer and Elizabeth Ringe. They had eight children: five boys and three girls–Warren, John, Millen, Emily, Miner Grant, Samuel, Mary and Fanny Maria.

Dan was honest in his dealings with his fellow men and a firm believer in God and the scriptures. A few years after his marriage he moved to Mansfield where he rented farms for several years and in a few years was able to make a down payment on a farm of his own. He was assisted by his sons. They went into the brick business too, so before long they had paid for their farm.

When Dan and Polly’s son, Millen, returned to their home in 1844 and explained the Gospel to them, they could soon see that the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints coincided with the scriptures they knew, and in 1845, they were baptized into the Church. Their two eldest sons, Warren and John, never joined, but the rest of their children joined. In April 1850, Dan and Polly made the decision to join the Saints in Utah. They left their native state when Dan was sixty-two years of age.

They traveled to New York and then to Kanesville, Iowa, where they joined Wilford Woodruff’s Company in June 1850. Members of the family who went in that company were Dan Atwood and his wife Polly, daughter Emily and her husband William Branch and child, son Miner Grant and wife Mary Delilah Guilde, son Samuel, and daughters Mary and Fanny. Their son Millen came to Utah in Brigham Young’s first company of pioneers so when they arrived in Salt Lake City, on October 14, 1850 part of the family spent the winter with him. When spring came, Dan purchased a farm.

Dan Atwood died November 4, 1863 in Salt Lake City at the age of 76 years. Many of his children and descendants have been among the early and present-day stalwarts of the Church. Polly was known for her many good deeds and served in various Church callings. She displayed in a remarkable manner the works and gifts of faith and was much sought after by the sick and afflicted. She lived to be 85 years of age, dying on October 16, 1875 in Salt Lake City. There is a large picture of Polly in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneer Museum in Salt Lake.

Son, Millen Atwood

Millen, born 24 May 1817, recorded, “I then went to learn the mason’s trade with my eldest brother Warren. I remained with him until the year 1840. At this time the elders came preaching and testifying that the Lord had raised up a Prophet, Joseph Smith, who restored the Holy Priesthood and again set up his kingdom on earth. I being convinced of the fact, in the year 1841, on April 24th, I left for the city of Nauvoo in the state of Illinois and arrived on the 21st day of May. Sunday the 23rd I conversed with the Prophet and heard him preach. Some time in August in the same year I was baptized…On the 7th of April I was ordained an Elder and soon afterward I was called to go on a mission to preach and traveled through the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and Connecticut. Arrived at my father’s house July 18th, 1844 and remained preaching until March 17, 1845. [Taught and baptized my family]

“The Prophet Joseph having been martyred, the Elders were called home to build the temple. I responded to the call and arrived in Nauvoo the 7th of April and attended the conference, and on the 10th received my Patriarchal blessing under the hands of John Smith, Patriarch. About this time I was ordained into the Tenth Quorum of Seventies and commenced to work on the Nauvoo House until the mob drove us off. I went to work helping to make wagons for the saints to come west until February 6, 1846. We then received orders to leave Nauvoo immediately, crossed the river…and went to Winter Quarters. At this time I was living with President Brigham Young. I made two trips to Missouri after provisions which was accompanied by many hardships…Having been called upon to accompany my brothers to search out a location for the saints, we left Winter Quarters on April the 8th [1847] and journeyed westward 1031 miles. We arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake July 24th, remained here making improvements till August 24th. Then I returned to Winter Quarters arriving the 30th November.’

Millen was married by Brigham Young on April 20,1848 at Joseph Young’s house. On May 19, he started again across the plains to the Valley in President Young’s Company. They arrived in safety on September 19, 1848. In 1853 Millen was called to served a mission to England, and in 1856 was a counselor to James G. Willie on the ship Thornton, as a returning missionary, bringing 760 people from England to America. He was an assistant to James G. Willie, in the James G. Willie Handcart Company, which contained five hundred individuals. Millen did all he could to help the people in this Company.

Son, Miner Grant Atwood

Miner, born 18 March 1823, was set apart as Counselor to Bishop Leonard M. Hardy, in the Twelfth Ward in Salt Lake City, April 16, 1856. He served in this capacity for twenty-one years. At April Conference, 1857, Miner Grant was called, with about one hundred other Elders to go on a Mission to the Eastern States and Europe. This group was to make their way to Florence, Nebraska, with hand carts.

Miner Grant was later called by Brigham Young to serve a mission to South Africa, to settle some disputes there. “Early in May, 1862, while walking down Main Street, President Brigham Young, who was on the opposite side of the street talking or conversing with some of the brethren, said to them, ‘There is the man I want to go to South Africa and settle the difficulties among the Saints there.’ President Young called to Brother Atwood and told him what he wanted him to do. Without hesitancy Miner said, ‘If that is your wish, I am ready.’

On May 11, 1862, he was set apart for this mission under the hands of Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith. Ten days later on May 21, 1862 at 10:00 A.M. he bid farewell to his loved ones and started on a journey that was to take him more than half way around the world.’

Son, Samuel Atwood

Samuel, born 27 February 1825, and arrived in Utah in 1850 with his parents. In 1856, he was called to fill a mission to the Indians in Las Vegas, and on the Santa Clara, acting as second counselor to Rufus C. Allen, president of the Indian Mission…. Subsequently he spent two years (1856-1858) in the Dixie Mission.

On January 8, 1859, Samuel married Mary Jane Cornwall. He spent the winter of 1868-1869 on a mission to the eastern states. In August, 1870, he was called and ordained a bishop & appointed to preside over Kamas, Peoa, Rockport, Wanship and Parleys Park. Locating at Kamas, he held that position until 1877, when he was made local bishop of Kamas and held that office until 1902. Bishop Atwood, besides being a diligent church worker, filled many secular positions of honor and responsibility. He served as a delegate to one of the constitutional conventions in 1872 and also served as a member of the Utah legislature in 1876 and 1881.

Daughter, Emily Cornelia Atwood

Emily was born 1 March 1819. She married William Henry Branch, Sr. and had seven children. William was a carpenter and brick layer and helped build the tithing barn, President Young’s barn, President Kimball’s barn, E.T. Benson’s house, and several other homes and building in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1852, he was asked to go to Fillmore, Utah, with 22 other men, to start building the Territorial Capitol building for Utah. In 1857, he served a mission in Carson City, Nevada. In 1857, he went on a handcart mission with other missionaries to the Eastern States where he was assigned to Connecticut, and while there, baptized his father. He returned home in 1858 and worked at his trade of brick laying and plastering in Salt Lake City until 1861.

In 1861, William was called by President Young to settle Southern Utah. At the dedication of the St. George Temple, Henry was again called by President Young to fulfill a mission in England. In 1879, about two dozen young men were called to the Mesquite Flat Mission in Nevada, and William and his family went with them. William moved his family to Price in July 1884.

Daughter, Mary Elizabeth Atwood

Mary was born 10 October 1828. She married Orville Atwood, her first cousin, and had nine children. Orville’s father, Elisha Atwood was a brother to Dan Atwood. Elisha died in Nauvoo in 1844, and his wife died at Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1846. Mary and Orville settle in Salt Lake and were active participants in the activities of the Church and community.

Daughter, Fanny Maria Atwood

Fanny was born 7 October 1830. She married twice and had six children. Her first husband died in 1857 and left Fanny with two children. She remarried and had four more children. She settled in Salt Lake with her family.

Source: Dan Atwood Story, written by: Cora Warnick Atwood, Great Granddaughter-in-law; A brief sketch of the life of Millen, Son of Dan Atwood and Polly Sawyer, by Millen Atwood; Miner Grant Atwood, written by Lillie Knight, Granddaughter; Samuel F. Atwood, by Lorraine S. Stewart; Life Story of William Henry Branch and Emily Cornelia Atwood. All on


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