Question: How did Joel and Eleanor Ricks’ decision to stay true to the Gospel affect future generations?
Answer: Joel Ricks was born at Donaldson Creek, Christian County (now Trigg County), Kentucky on February 18, 1804, the fourth child of Jonathan Ricks and Temperance Edwards.
In1827, when Joel was twenty-three years of age, he met Eleanor Martin. They were married on May 17, 1827 in Trigg County. Eleanor was born 20 December 1807 in Clark County, Kentucky, to Christopher Martin and Anna Turner. Joel continued to help on his father’s farm after their marriage, and it was there Joel and Eleanor had their first son. Thomas Edwin Ricks was born 21 July 1828, in the family home on the north side of Donaldson Creek.
On July 15, 1829, Joel traveled to Illinois on horseback looking for a place where he could have a farm of his own. He located a farm at Silver Creek in Madison County, consisting of two eighty-acre sections. He moved his family there in September 1829. Joel and Eleanor’s family grew to include eight children. In about 1839, Joel’s brother, Lewis, and other members of the Ricks family helped fund and build an “eighteen by twenty foot’ schoolhouse, which became known as the “Ricks School,’ and was built on Lewis’ land.
Joel was an early riser, meaning that he was up at 4 a.m., and when the neighbors saw the light in their house, they knew it was after 4 a.m., and Joel was already working. The family had a lot of horses, chickens, ducks, and geese which all had to be cared for. The boys learned to shoot and became good marksmen. Joel’s son, Thomas, became known as an outstanding marksman.
In 1830, a group of settlers got together and established the Silver Creek Christian Church. Joel and Eleanor continued to affiliate with this church until the fall of 1840, when missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came into the neighborhood preaching. Joel attended one of the meetings and soon felt that this doctrine agreed with his understanding of the scriptures. Joel and Eleanor were both baptized by Elder George Boosinger, on June 6, 1841. Joel was ordained a Priest soon after his baptism and an Elder in the fall of 1845.
In 1843, Joel, his oldest son, Thomas, and James Olive went to Nauvoo, the headquarters of the L.D.S. Church at that time. They wanted to meet with the leaders there and hear the prophet- leader Joseph Smith. Joel returned home impressed with what he had seen and learned. He decided to join with the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo. In 1844 many events kept the family from moving to Nauvoo, including the death of Eleanor, and Joel’s parents. In December 1844, Joel, Lewis, and their sister Elizabeth went to Kentucky to settle up their father’s estate. Everyone returned to Illinois in February 1845.
In 1845, Joel sold his farm in Madison County and moved to the Nauvoo area. James Olive, who married Eleanor’s sister, Sina, also joined the Church and sold their farm and accompanied Joel and Eleanor to Nauvoo. Joel’s only brother, Lewis, never joined the Church but stayed in Madison County, Illinois and raised his family there. Joel and Eleanor would be the only ones in either family to join the Church and go on to Utah.
In March 1845 Joel and James purchased two forty-acre farms jointly just outside of Nauvoo. When the Saints left Nauvoo a little over a year later, Joel and James were able to sell their farms and thus fared better than most of the saints in being able to sell their land.
Joel and Thomas worked hard to help complete the Nauvoo temple, even though they knew they would soon have to leave it. Joel and Eleanor were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple on January 21, 1846. Eleanor’s sister, Sina, and her husband became discouraged and returned to Worden.
Joel and Eleanor’s family now consisted of nine children, ranging in age from seven months (Josiah born in Nauvoo) to age seventeen. Thomas, age 17, had gone on ahead with Charles C. Rich and was to meet the family at Council Bluffs. In April 1846 Joel’s family left Nauvoo and crossed the state of Iowa and settled at Council Bluffs, on the east side of the Missouri River. Here they remained until the spring of 1848. Joel built a cabin and planted grain for their own use, as well as to aid the Saints who were to follow.
Brigham Young’s vanguard company left in the spring of 1847 from Winter Quarters. Joel sent one of his own teams and wagons to help carry the company’s supplies. By the spring of 1848, President Young was ready to send large numbers west. Joel Ricks promptly volunteered to have ten wagons and teams ready to go. Joel was in Heber C. Kimball’s Second Division. This was one of the largest caravans to cross the plains. Joel was made a captain of the sixth ten, over ten families. Joel gave Heber C. Kimball a horse to help out his family. As far as we know, Joel and Eleanor never saw any of their brothers and sisters or extended family again after leaving Council Bluffs.
On June 6, 1848, Joel and Eleanor’s oldest son, Thomas, was shot by Indians while trying to recover some cattle. Joel acknowledged the hand of the Lord in sparing his son’s life. Thomas carried the balls with him for the rest of his life because it was too dangerous to try and remove them. He was administered to by President Heber C. Kimball and others and promised he would live–and he did. On 24 September 1848, the Kimball trains rumbled into Great Salt Lake City by early afternoon. How grateful Joel and Eleanor were their family had all arrived safely. The trek had taken almost four months.
Joel Ricks located his family at the mouth of Bountiful Canyon, twelve miles north of Salt Lake City. Here he built an adobe house for his family. It is credited with being the first such house in the county. In June 1849, Joel moved his family to Centerville, Utah, six miles to the north. Joel purchased thirty-six acres and built a more substantial house beside a creek which became known as “Ricks Creek,’ where the family resided for nine years. Soon after moving, Joel engaged in the tanning business at Farmington, about six miles north of Centerville. With the help of his family, he also raised stock and ran the farm. On October 15, 1850, Eleanor gave birth to her tenth child, Joel Martin Ricks, who died just twelve days later, on October 27. In January 1853, Eleanor, age 45, gave birth to her eleventh and last child, Nathan, in Centerville. At the April Conference in 1852, Joel was ordained a member of the High Priests Quorum.
Thomas E. Ricks, and his brothers, served on many exploring expeditions as well as assisting companies of Saints coming to the Salt Lake Valley. Thomas is remembered for his contribution to the exploration of St. George, Utah; Cardston, Alberta, Canada; and the settlement of Las Vegas, Nevada and Cache Valley, Utah. He gave much of his time and resources to the founding of Rexburg, Idaho, and Ricks College, which were both named in his honor.
Joel and Eleanor’s second son, Lewis, helped settle the Bear Lake area. Two of their daughters, Sarah and Clarinda, married Silas Sanford Smith, who helped build settlements in southern Utah and Colorado. Daughter, Temperance, married Arza Erastus Hinckley, brother to Ira Hinckley, and helped settle places in southern Utah, Arizona, and Idaho. All of their sons and daughters had large families and helped settle various areas throughout Utah and Idaho. One of Joel and Sarah’s daughters, Ellen Jane, married Charles Wilson Nibley, who was in the First Presidency in 1925. Joel and Sarah’s son, Joel Ricks, Jr. became well known as an author.
On October 26, 1852, Joel entered into plural marriage, and married as his second wife Sarah Beriah Fiske Allen. Sarah was the widow of Ezra Hela Allen, who was killed June 27, 1848 by Indians in California on his way home from serving in the Mormon Battalion. Sarah had been at Winter Quarters since her husband had been killed. She finally made it across the plains with her two remaining children, arriving September 14, 1852. Joel and Eleanor knew the Allens when they lived in Illinois. When Sarah arrived in Utah, Joel invited her to stay with them, and a month later they were married. Joel and Sarah had six children.
In 1854, Joel moved to Farmington (the North Cottonwood Settlement) and built one of the first adobe homes in that area. Joel had a tannery business in Farmington, which he continued to manage until his move to Logan. In March 1855, Joel was serving as a councilor in the Bishopric in the Farmington North Cottonwood Ward.
In the spring of 1859 settlers began to hear reports about the richness of Cache Valley, located about seventy-five miles north of Centerville. Joel, with James Quayle and Justin Shepard, decided to go up and look over that region. When they arrived in Wellsville about the first of June, they found ten or twelve families settling there. Even though Joel was now fifty-five years of age, he decided to locate in the new valley. Joel later built a large rock house in Logan for his family. In the summer of 1859 Thomas, Joel’s son, decided to move his family to Cache Valley. Other families were not far behind. In November 1859, the Minute book of the Cache Valley Quorum of High Priests, records that Joel Ricks was made first counselor.
Joel and Thomas were both involved in many business enterprises in addition to their farming and cattle raising. Thomas did most of the threshing for the settlers in Cache Valley the first year. “By the spring of 1860, Joel, Hezekiah Thatcher, and Ezra T. Benson started a canal and millrace with water from the Little Logan River…They also constructed a sawmill and gristmill using the same millrace for both.’ In 1866, Thomas, William D. Hendricks, and William Hyde built a flour mill. It was named “Hyde, Ricks & Company.’ The name was later changed to Deseret Mills.
Joel was one of the first stock holders of the Cooperative Institution and also the Deseret Telegraph Company. He also owned stock in the Logan Canyon Road Company, of which Thomas was President. He maintained a ferry boat for many years on the Logan River on the west side of the valley, and later built a bridge there, which he later presented to the county. He served as Treasurer for Cache County for many years. In May 1877, Brigham Young designated a nine-acre site for a temple to be built in Logan. Joel and his family helped in the construction of this temple in whatever way they could.
Eleanor died at age seventy-four on February 26, 1882 in Logan. She brought eleven children into the world. It is a tribute to her that each of her children had a daughter named Eleanor. Joel was made a patriarch before he passed away at the age of eighty-four in Logan, having seen all of his grown children marry into good families. Joel’s second wife, Sarah Beriah Fiske died June 12, 1891 at the age of seventy-one in Logan. Joel died on 15 December 1888 in Logan, Cache County, Utah and is buried in Logan City Cemetery.
Joel’s descendants numbered 377 at the time of his death. Because of Joel and Eleanor’s decision to stay true to the Gospel, their family would grow to become one of the largest families in the Church. Joel’s funeral was held at the Logan Tabernacle. Apostle Moses Thatcher spoke and said that Joel had “gone to mingle with Joseph and Hyrum, Brigham, Jedediah Grant, Heber C. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson, Orson Hyde, Peter Maughan, and a score of other noble ones who have gone behind the veil.’