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John Mathias Burk

Question: Where was John Mathias Burk’s home in Nauvoo located?

Answer: John was born on February 4, 1793 in German Flatts, Herkimer, New York, of Dutch ancestry. His great-grandparents were born in New York in the early 1700’s. He married Abigail Fellows on March 15, 1821 in Geauga, Ohio. They had two children: Charles born on September 2, 1823 in Kirtland, and a daughter, Abi Salina Burk, born April 8, 1825 in Kirtland.

It was in October 1830 that Joseph Smith sent missionaries from New York to preach to the Lamanites on the Missouri frontier. Those missionaries were preaching the gospel as they traveled. They stopped for a brief time in Kirtland, and John was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the fall of 1830, by Parley P. Pratt. Charles was baptized later by Peter Whitmer.

Heeding the Prophet Joseph’s call to gather to Zion, John, Abigail and their two children began the journey from Kirtland to Independence, Missouri. On the way, Abigail contacted cholera and died on November 8, 1832, near St. Louis.

John married Keziah Van Benthuysen (Rollins), a widow with three children, on January 22, 1835 in Missouri. John and Keziah had two daughters. In the Far West, Missouri records, John is listed as owning a public house (an inn). He also signed a petition, along with eight other prominent members of the Church (Edward Partridge, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Brigham Young, etc) addressed to the state of Missouri asking for protection in the laws and being able to worship as they saw fit. It was signed in Far West in December 1838.

After the Mormons were driven from the state of Missouri during the winter of 1838-1839, John’s family eventually settled in Montrose, Iowa where he was a member of the High Council in 1839. They soon moved to Nauvoo where their home was one block north of the Nauvoo Temple. He was the Bishop of the Nauvoo 2nd ward. At one time he was also listed as a member of the Nauvoo 5th ward high priest quorum presidency with President Edward Hunter and fellow counselor, Benjamin Covey.

After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo. When the Saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo, John, his son Charles, and stepson, James Rollins built wagons. They sold one to Orson Hyde for $75 in gold. With the money, they were able to make additional wagons. John is listed as a stonemason and a carpenter in Nauvoo. John’s son, Charles, age 23, went with Brigham Young in the Vanguard Company in the summer of 1847, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

Charles returned to Winter Quarters and then traveled to Utah with his father, John, and the rest of the family in the Willard Richards Company in the summer of 1848. They arrived in Utah on October 10 1848. John’s daughter, Abi, had two children who both died in Nebraska, and then she died coming across the plains in 1849.

Charles 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. While there, he used his carpentry skills and also learned how to operate a grist mill. After seven years, the Saints were re-called to Utah. Charles and Lydia briefly made their home in Parowan, Iron, Utah before finally settling in Minersville, Beaver, Utah, where he spent the remainder of his life. Charles died on February 25, 1888 in Minersville, Utah of heart failure.

John settled in Ogden where he died on June 8, 1853. He is buried in the Ogden City Cemetery.

Keziah died on January 24, 1878 in Beaver, Utah.

Source: “John Matthias Burk,’ by Yvonne Tarwater Jarvis; Material taken from records found in Nauvoo Land and Records office, much of it compiled by Susan Easton Black. Also some from journals of his step-children, James Henry Rollins and Mary Elizabeth Rollins.

  • Keziah’s two daughters, Mary Elizabeth & Caroline Rollins saved as many pages as they could of the Book of Commandments when the printing press was destroyed in Missouri. They hid from the mob in a corn field.

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