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John Rowe Moyle

Question: What great sacrifice did John Rowe Moyle make to fulfill his commitment to work on the Salt Lake Temple?

Answer: John Rowe Moyle was a son of James Moyle and Elizabeth Rowe of Wendron, Cornwall, England. He was born in Wendron 22 February 1808. He was a stonecutter and mason by trade and had worked under Wm. Beer during the construction of the great Plymouth breakwater and in the employment of the British Government.

He married Phillippa Beer in 1834, a daughter of his Employer at the Island of Guernsey, England. They would became the parents of ten children, the last one being born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Three of their children died young.

In the year 1851, they heard the gospel from some L.D.S. missionaries and were converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The father, mother and eldest son, James being baptized. Their conversion was brought about by an article published by an enemy of the Mormon cause which gave a very outrageous account of the new religion, which so much aroused John’s curiosity that he determined to learn more about it. The first time he heard a Mormon speak, he was almost instantly convinced that the Mormons had the truth.

John’s son, James, following the trade of his father, an expert mason and stone cutter, was sent to Salt Lake in 1854 to prepare a way for the rest of the family. He was about 19 years of age, and through the operations of the Perpetual Emigration Fund, and his wages, was soon able to provide this means. John redeemed the contract after coming to Salt Lake by working on the Salt Lake Temple.

      John Rowe Moyle pulling a handcart - Handcart Monument Temple Square 

Two years later, 11 April 1856, the Moyle family and 30 more Saints left the town of Plymouth on an Irish steamer for Liverpool. John Rowe Moyle was in charge of the little company, having been President of the Plymouth Branch of the Church previous to their leaving.

On Saturday 19 April 1856, they boarded the ship “Escurling” at Liverpool with 707 passengers and ships crew, they bid good-bye to their homeland. They experienced the hardships and trials of the early Saints. They were six weeks on the water. They reached Boston the 23rd of May, crossing the mighty Atlantic in less than five weeks. Three days later they left Boston by rail for Iowa, arriving on June 2, 1856. Six days later, they being anxious to reach Utah, joined the Edmund Ellsworth handcart company and left Iowa in a company of 487 people, 100 handcarts, 24 oxen, 4 mules and 25 tents. This was the first handcart to brave the hardships of the Great Plains and only those who experienced such a trek can visualize what they had to pass through.

The handcart company was organized in divisions of ten, ten carts and one big tent with each division. John’s was the heaviest cart of his division of ten. John and his son, Stephen, now age fifteen, handled the family’s cart. Elizabeth helped to push a cart for a family that had very little help. The three young boys, Henry, Alfred and John, walked along as best they could. The family often spoke of their hunger on that trip.

They arrived in Salt Lake on September 26, 1956. They were so thin from the lack of food that their son, James, hardly knew them, and President Young shed tears when he saw them. The family were able to go live in a house belonging to a man by the name of Stephen Hales, up in the Eleventh Ward. John got work on the Temple Block, and John’s son, Henry, found a home with Jedediah M. Grant, the father of Heber J. Grant. Their daughter, Elizabeth, found a home with Joseph Young, Brigham Young’s older brother.

John and his family lived in Salt Lake for nearly two years, and then at the time of the threat of Johnson’s Army, they moved to Mountainville, later changed to Alpine. In leaving Salt Lake, John led old Liney, the first cow the family had ever owned. It was a cow that John had bought from the Church, which he selected from some cows that had been brought in from the Church Island out in the Great Salt Lake. The people who went to Alpine at that time were housed in the old log Church meeting house until suitable homes could be acquired or dugouts made.

      John Rowe Moyle home in Alpine
      Round Tower, Alpine, Utah

The Bishop told the men the next day to go out and see if they could find places to make dugouts or homes for the present. John chose his location outside the fort, quite a distance from the rest of the people and prepared a dugout. John said that before going out he offered up a prayer asking the Lord to direct him to the right place to build. After he located a good place, John dug a hole about three or four feet deep then built a wall about the same distance above ground. The top was covered with logs and brush with about a foot of earth on top. It took about two weeks to construct their new home. One very wet night, water dripped on their heads, so John set to work to build a better house. John helped build the round rock fort north east of Alpine. John served as President of the 68th Quorum of Seventy in Alpine.

John was an accomplished stonecutter and, because of this skill, was asked to work on the Salt Lake Temple. Alpine was about 22 miles away from the Salt Lake Temple, where he was the chief superintendent of masonry during its construction. To make certain he was always at work by 9 o’clock, Brother Moyle would start walking about 2 A.M. on Monday mornings. He would finish his work week at 5 P.M. on Friday and then start the walk home, arriving there shortly before midnight. Each week he would repeat that schedule for the entire time he served on the construction of the temple.

Once when he was home on the weekend, one of his cows bolted during milking and kicked Brother Moyle in the leg, shattering the bone just below the knee. With no better medical help than they had in such rural circumstances, his family and friends took a door off the hinges and strapped him onto that makeshift operating table. They then took the bucksaw they had been using to cut branches from a nearby tree and amputated his leg just a few inches below the knee. When against all medical likelihood the leg finally started to heal, Brother Moyle took a piece of wood and carved an artificial leg. First he walked in the house. Then he walked around the yard. Finally he ventured out about his property.

When he felt he could stand the pain, he strapped on his leg, walked the 22 miles to the Salt Lake Temple, climbed the scaffolding on the east side of the Temple, and with a chisel in his hand hammered out the declaration “Holiness to the Lord.’

Years later, John’s grandson Henry D. Moyle was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and, eventually, served in the First Presidency of the Church.

John’s character, his legacy of sacrifice, serves as a banner of faithfulness and an ensign of duty to his family and to the Church. John died January 15, 1889 in Alpine at age 80, and is buried in the Alpine City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “The Life Story of John Rowe Moyle,’;

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