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George Washington Cummings

Question: How many of George W. Cummings’ children died at Winter Quarters while he was serving in the Mormon Battalion in 1846?

Answer: George Washington Cummings was born 8 October 1811 in Bath, Steuben, New York, son of Thomas Cummings & Lois Eaton. He married Phebe (or Phoebe) Jane Ferguson on 6 July 1833, in Nankin, Wayne, Michigan. Phebe was born 21 May 1815 in Vermont to James Ferguson and Philena Harcourt. Her family had moved from Vermont to New York, and then to Michigan.

After George and Phebe were married, they moved to Illinois. Here they were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1841 in the Mississippi River. Their daughter Angeline was born and died in January 1845. They lived for a time in the Nauvoo area, but were driven out with the other Saints in 1846. Their son, James (age 9), died in January 1846, just before they left. They journeyed to Council Bluffs, Iowa where George was enlisted in the Mormon Battalion.

George was mustered into Company E of the Mormon Battalion in July 1846 as a Pvt. and marched to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here he was assigned to Capt. Brown’s sick detachment and marched back to Pueblo, Colorado. In May of 1847 the sick detachment marched by way of Ft. Laramie to the Great Salt Lake Valley arriving 29 July 1847. Here George was released from duty, and didn’t have to go on to California.

George returned to Winter Quarters and learned that, during his military absence, three of his remaining four children had died: John, Harriet, and George. Phebe had suffered many hardships while George was gone. She lived one winter in a covered wagon where she and her children were taken down with the fever and argue. With the assistance of Isaac C. Haight and others, a sod house was built for the family at Winter Quarters.

When George returned from the Mormon Battalion, they moved back to Iowa and remained there until 1852. A daughter, Phebe, was born in December of 1848, a son, Reuben, in September of 1850, and another son, Franklin, in September 1851. Franklin died in April 1852

In the summer of 1852, George and Phebe immigrated to Utah in Isaac Bullock’s Company. They remained in Salt Lake City for a short time, and then moved to Nephi, Utah. In 1853 George and Phebe were living at Nephi, Juab County, Utah, where four more children were born, but all four died as babies. George and Phebe had only four of their fourteen children make it to adulthood. Then Cornelius and Reuben seem to have both died as young men. Charles and Phoebe both married and had families.

In 1853, George was called to ride the Pony Express from Nephi to Fillmore. Upon assuming his duties, a pistol was accidentally discharged penetrating his thigh. The ball was never extracted. His son, Charles, who at the time was a young man, took his place as an Express Rider.

In 1860 George was among the first settlers of Millville in Cache County. Here he died 12 July 1887 and was buried in the Millville City Cemetery, Millville, Utah. Phebe died 5 November 1902 in Millville.

Source: “George Washington Cummings (8 August 1811 – 12 July 1887),’; “Sketch of the Life of Phebe Jane Ferguson Cummings,’;

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