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John Greenleaf Holman

Question: How old was John Greenleaf Holman when he served in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company to Utah in 1847?

Answer: John Greenleaf Holman, son of Joshua Sawyer Holman and Rebecca Greenleaf, was born at Byron Center, Genessee County, New York, on the 18th of October 1828. He moved with his parents when a child to Kirtland, Ohio, where at the age of six years he was taken, day after day, upon his Father’s shoulder to the Kirtland Temple site. There he assisted in the erection of that sacred building by carrying tools and water to the workmen. During this time, they had very little to eat, the principal ration being corn bread and water. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when eight years of age.

In 1838, he went with the so-called “Kirtland Camp’ on its journey to Missouri. Due to the persecution in Missouri, the family soon afterwards moved to Nauvoo, then later started for the West, stopping at Winter Quarters. At the time of the cholera epidemic (1846), his father, eldest brother and sister died of this terrible disease. His mother died there a few years later (1849).

In the spring of 1847, at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, John (age 18) was chosen by Brigham Young as one of the 143 of his Vanguard Company. He belonged to the “Fourth Ten’ of which Luke S. Johnson was Captain. He was also one of those who was sent back to Winter Quarters in October of that year and there remained until the spring of 1850.

On August 23, 1849, John married Nancy Clark, who was born in Marion County, Indiana, on February 26, 1829. To this union were born nine children. In June of 1850, with his wife and younger brother and sister, John started again for Utah, in the James Lakes Company, arriving in Utah in September of that same year.

Pleasant Grove home

Leaving Salt Lake Valley very soon thereafter, John, with five other families, started south to make a home. They explored the whole of Utah County, then decided to remain near a grove of trees on the banks of Battle Creek canyon stream, naming it Pleasant Grove, and here began the building of their homes.

In and around this locality, there was much Indian trouble, and John took an active part in defending the settlers. He made the Indians his friends and could pacify them when others could not. He visited them in their camps, and they in turn called to see him in his home. They nicknamed him “Mapage.’

In Pleasant Grove, John held many positions of trust and responsibility, both in civic and religious circles. He was a member of the City Council from 1855 to 1862 and was counselor to Bishop Henson Walker from 1853 to 1862, at which time he was called upon a mission to England and returned to Salt Lake City on November 8, 1865, in the Henson Walker Company. In 1868, he served as Captain of the last emigrant train when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Benton, Wyoming. This company consisted of 62 wagons and 650 immigrants, which arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 25, 1868.

John G. Holman was a captain in the Echo Canyon Campaign against the Johnston Army. As a contractor he worked on the U.P. railroad both in Weber and Echo canyons. (See Whitney’s History of Utah, volume 2, page 244)

On February 3, 1856, John married Rachel Stevens, who was born December 1, 1834, in Upper Canada. To them were born seven children.

In 1851, John helped to make the McArthur ditch, the first one taken from the American Fork River. Then in 1852, he, with George S. Clark and others, laid out and made a ditch from the mouth of American Fork Canyon to Pleasant Grove.

Sarah Loader, was divorced with five children, when she married John G., in 1875, and to them were born four children. Sarah was a sister to Tamar Loader, who married Thomas E. Ricks in 1857.

This branch of his family moved to Santiquin in 1878. Being an expert lumberman, John worked in the local canyon, managing the Johnston Saw Mills. While here, one night the camp encountered a terrific forest fire, and but for his cool presence of mind and persistent effort, property and people would have been destroyed. He took kerosene and poured it along the foot of the mountain, lit it, and the flames swept upward and met the other fire. Thus the camp was saved.

Still possessing the pioneer spirit and hearing that Thomas E. Ricks had been called to settle the Snake River country in Idaho (February 1883), John and his stepson went to Rexburg (named in honor of Thomas E. Ricks) in the spring of 1883. He secured title to a 2 ½ acre lot on Rexburg’s main street. They dug a big cellar and laid logs above it to make one large room, and planted potatoes, which were harvested and used for seed the following year. They then returned to Santaquin.

In 1884, John again went to Idaho, this time with his two stepsons, Bernice Rawlings Harris and Darwin Rolla Harris. John had prepared two good teams and covered wagons, loaded them with household good, sacks of dried fruits, seeds, tools, etc., a coop of chickens on the back, and a good cow tied at the side of each team.

With the two boys and their older sister, his wife, Sarah, and their three children, John drove as far as Sandy, Utah, where he arranged for Sarah and the younger children to lay over for two weeks before taking the train for Market Lake (Roberts), the nearest railway station to Rexburg. In Sandy, he secured work that he might earn some much needed cash, and sent them on their way to Rexburg to commence their new home. They arrived in Rexburg May 23, 1885, being some of the first settlers in that area.

With the help of an older brother, James Harris, the log room was finished. The family, mother and all, meanwhile camped in the cellar. The house finished, the boys went to the river and cut willows with which they made a shed for a cook house or summer kitchen, and also a shade over the west window of the big log room. Herein, just two months after their arrival, Sarah gave birth to their last son, Ezekiel Holman.

About Christmas time, John joined Sarah in Rexburg. John’s other two wives and families remained in Pleasant Grove. John did farming and gardening in Rexburg until the summer of 1886, when he was stricken with paralysis while at work in the field and was never again wholly well. In all, he suffered five severe strokes. He died November 5, 1888, at age 60, and was buried in the Rexburg Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts taken from a written biography of John Greenleaf Holman by Delbert Ray Shipman,;

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