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Charles Allen Burk

Question: What challenges did Charles Allen Burk experience after serving in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Charles Allen Burk (Burke) was born on September 2, 1823, at Kirtland, Ohio, to John M. and Abigail Fellows Burk. His grandfather, Parker Fellows, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. His parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, when he was seven years old. Charles was later baptized by Peter Whitmer.

As the family traveled to Jackson County, Missouri, to join with the Saints, his mother died in 1832 of cholera in St. Charles, Missouri when Charles was nine years old. His family left Missouri because of mob persecutions, and eventually went to Nauvoo, Illinois, after first settling briefly in Montrose, Iowa. In 1835, Charles’ father, John, married Keziah Van Benthuysen (Rollins), the widow of John Rollins, who had three children from her previous marriage.

Charles was in the Nauvoo Legion and played a fife in the band. In 1844, after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo. When the Saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo, Charles, and his father John, built wagons. Charles and his father were listed as stonemasons and carpenters in Nauvoo. At Winter Quarters, Charles made coffins and assisted in the burial of those who did not survive.

In 1847 Charles, age 23, was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was in the 14th Ten led by Joseph Mathews, Captain. Once organized, this vanguard pioneer company consisted of 142 men, 3 women, 2 children, and 72 wagons. They traveled 1031 miles before reaching their destination. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847. By the 24th of July, the entire company had arrived.

Charles returned to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in the fall of that year. The group lived on unsalted buffalo meat for a period of 6 weeks while on the return trail. The following year 1848, Charles again made the trip to the Salt Lake Valley with his father, John, and the rest of the family in the Willard Richards Company. They arrived in Utah on October 10, 1848.

Back in the Valley, Charles worked for a Crosby family of the Mississippi Saints in the Cottonwood area, where he met and married Lydia Tanner on September 25, 1850, in Little Cottonwood, Utah. A few months later they headed, with many other Saints, to colonize in what is now the San Bernardino area of southern California. It was an arduous trip through hot desert country. On the way, Lydia gave birth to a baby girl in a covered wagon near the present day town of Barstow. She was only nineteen years of age. She had crossed the plains with her father, as her mother had died at Winter Quarters.

      A Grist Mill Iron County, Utah

While in California, Charles used his carpentry skills and also learned how to operate a grist mill. Charles and Lydia had two more children while living in California. They remained there until being called back in 1857 to defend against Johnston’s army.

Charles and Lydia briefly made their home in Parowan, Iron County, Utah, where he worked as a carpenter. They had one son while living there. Charles helped make one of the first gristmills in the area. Through the years he learned to fix clocks, guns, and do all kinds of repair work. In addition, he made furniture, rolling pins, fine clocks, kitchen cupboards, washboards, window sashes, and coffins.

In 1861, Charles and Lydia finally settled in Minersville, Beaver, Utah, where they had seven more children, making a total of eleven children for them. All lived to maturity except one son.

Charles died February 26, 1888, in Minersville, Beaver County, Utah, at age 64, of heart failure. He was buried in the Minersville Cemetery. Lydia died on June 26, 1910, and was buried in the Minersville Cemetery.

Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,’ Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Life Sketch of Charles Allen Burk,’;

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