Question: What special gift did George Wardle have which was greatly appreciated by the early settlers in Utah?
Answer: George Wardle was born in Cheddleton, Staffordshire, England on February 3, 1820. His parents were Ralph Wardle and Ann Allen. George was sixth in a family of four boys and four girls. Elder George A Smith was the first missionary to preach the gospel message to George and his parents. He joined the Church in 1839, and two weeks before starting for America, he married Frances (Fannie) Rushton, also a member of the Church. His parents did not join until 1860, thirteen years after George arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Both of his parents died of Cholera and were buried in St. Louis, Missouri.
George and his wife had two sons born to them while living in Nauvoo, but both died as babies.
On Christmas 1843, the Prophet Joseph recorded: “This morning, about one o’clock, I was aroused by an English sister, Lettice Rushton, widow of Richard Rushton, Senior, (who, ten years ago, lost her sight) accompanied by three of her sons, with their wives, and her two daughters, with their husbands, and several of her neighbors, singing, ‘Mortals, awake! with angels join,’ &c., which caused a thrill of pleasure to run through my soul. All of my family and boarders arose to hear the serenade, and I felt to thank my Heavenly Father for their visit, and blessed them in the name of the Lord.’ (History of the Church, 6:134) George’s wife, Frances, was a daughter to Sister Rushton.
One historical sketch tells that George was one of the men who stood guard over Joseph Smith’s body the night of his martyrdom, and he told how black it was that night. They were still living in Nauvoo until the time of the exodus to the west.
George was a wheelwright by trade and helped build many of the wagons in which the pioneers crossed the plains. He had learned his trade from his father back in England. He and his wife were in Nauvoo at the time of the battle at Nauvoo. He was then driven with the rest of the saints from their homes to the bank of the Mississippi.
George’s wife Fannie, wasn’t well as she was expecting their third child any time, so they were among the last to cross the river. There were people owing George for work he had done for the, and one fellow had promised to pay him if he would return at a certain time to get it. So while they were waiting their turn to be ferried across the river, George decided to go back and collect the money promised him. When George got back to his wagon, he found his wife lying in a wet wagon and their newborn baby dying, one of eight babies who were born and died that night, September 6, 1846.
Later they crossed the river and were able to join the saints at Winter Quarters. There he was soon busily engaged in whipsawing lumber for coffins. In the spring of 1847, George was chosen by President Brigham Young as a member of the Vanguard Company to the Rockies, and he shared the same wagon with his early advisor, George A Smith. He was also one of the advance party with Orson Pratt who first looked down on the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on the morning of July 21, 1847, three days before the main body of the party entered the valley.
George was the first to start whipsawing lumber after arrival in the valley, and he and George A. Smith were among the first to plant potatoes. The following year, George returned with President Young to Winter Quarters and brought his wife with him back to Utah. While enroute, his son, Edwin, was born at the Platte River, in August 1848.
While in his native land of England, before joining the church, George was a student of one of the best music teachers in the country. This education in the field of music qualified him for an active career in that line within the church. George was a great musician, a beautiful singer, and was also a member of the Nauvoo Brass Band. He, with James Smithers, conducted the singing for the ceremonies incident to the laying of the cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple in 1853.
President Young asked George to teach dancing and to build a hall for that purpose. He started his dancing school in Marcy Thompson’s log house while Pioneer Hall was being erected. Among his dancing students were President Young, George Q. Cannon, George A. Smith, Joseph F. Smith and many other leading brethren of the church. He helped organize the first choir and brass band in Salt Lake City and was leader of the choir.
His first home in Salt Lake City was on the street called, at that time, Brigham Street. When land was allotted to the saints, his home was in the Sugarhouse Ward. He planted several hundred maple sugar trees the second year. In 1850, his son, Heber George Wardle, was born. Frances would give birth to eight more children, all born in Utah. In 1851, George took another wife, in plural marriage a widow, Lucy Crandall (Casselman), in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. She bore him four children, three of which died in infancy.
George just had his home and farm built up and in a high state of production, also the dancing school, choir and band going nicely, and was enjoying working on the temple when President Brigham Young called him to move to Provo and assist with organizing a tabernacle coir and dancing. Accordingly, he moved his family to Provo where he built another home. A while later he was called to move to Midway to foster music and dancing in that area. While here, he and John Watkins, with the help of others, built a small rock church and an all-purpose hall with a stage. He became the dancing master and choir leader.
George took another wife in plural marriage, Caroline Fisher, in the Endowment House on 15 December 1868. They were married by Daniel H. Wells. They had nine children together. George and his sons built some very fine homes in Midway, but again he was called to move, this time to Glenwood, Sevier County. He answered the call and once more had new homes to build. This time he built a large colonial style house, as his family now consisted of three wives and a number of small children.
George and his family were prospering once more, a music and dancing school flourishing, when one morning came a letter of appreciation and a request from President John Taylor for them to return to Midway. So he and his family pulled up stakes and returned to Midway. George soon brought order out of turmoil, and things went along smoothly for the space of a few years. Then, without any warning, another letter came from the church headquarters calling them to the Ashley Valley in eastern Utah.
So in the autumn of 1882, George sold all their belongings and started on the long, tedious journey for the Uintah Basin. After getting settled once again, George taught dancing and organized a school for vocal and violin lessons. Some of his pupils became leading violinists. He was a leader in music circles for many years until age and infirmities prevented him from continuing on with the work he loved.
George was the father of 12 sons and 12 daughters. His earthly existence came to a close on November 25, 1901, in Vernal, Utah. He was buried in the Maeser Fairview Cemetery in Vernal.