Skip to main content

John W. Hess

Question: What many accomplishments did John W. Hess achieve after having served in the Mormon Battalion with his wife, Emeline, in 1846?

Answer: John W. Hess, the oldest son and fourth child of Jacob and Elizabeth Foutz Hess, was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on August 24, 1824. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with others his father’s family, in March 1834, in Richland County, Ohio, where the family had moved in 1832. There were nine children in the family by 1835, but John was the only son.

Then John and his family moved with the Saints to Ray County, Missouri, where John’s parents had another son, born in 1837. After being persecuted out of Missouri, the family moved to Adams County, Illinois, where John’s parents had another son, born in 1839 and a daughter born in 1841, making a total of twelve children for their family.

While living in the Nauvoo area, John assisted in the building of the Nauvoo Temple and became a Sargent in the Nauvoo Legion. John was married on 5 November 1845, in Nauvoo, to Emeline Bigler. Emeline was born 20 August 1823 in Shinnston, Harrison, West Virginia to Jacob Bigler, Jr. and Elizabeth Harvey.

After being persecuted out of Nauvoo, the family moved again to Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. John bore the blunt of the trials and the burdens of the family, as his father was partly paralyzed and was unable to work due to the severe hardships he had passed through in Missouri.

On July 10, 1846, John and his wife arrived at Council Bluffs and decided to join the Mormon Battalion. John left his father’s family at Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. John was assigned to Company E, under Captain Daniel C. Davis. John’s wife, Emeline, enlisted as one of the four women to accompany each company as laundresses. After arriving at Santa Fe, New Mexico, John and Emeline were assigned to the Sick Detachment and sent back to Pueblo, Colorado, where they spent the winter of 1846/47. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, just a few days after Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company.

In the fall of 1847 John returned to Mt. Pisgah. Emeline remained in the Salt Lake Valley, as she was expecting their first child. John found his father had died while he was gone. John arranged to take his mother and younger siblings to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley July 27, 1848. John was grateful to be reunited with Emeline who had given birth to their first child, Jacob, while he was gone.

John settled shortly thereafter in Farmington, Utah. On 31 January 1862, his wife Emeline passed away at the age of 38, at the birth of her tenth child, who also died. In March 1865, John was ordained a Bishop serving in this capacity for 27 years, until he was ordained on September 22, 1882, as a counselor to the Stake President W. R. Smith. Upon President Smith’s death, John was made President on January 15, 1894. John filled one mission to the Lamanites and one to Pennsylvania. On February 8, 1900, he was ordained a patriarch by Elder Francis M. Lyman.

John was the husband of seven wives and the father of 63 children, his last child being born when he was 74 years of age. He was the Bishop of the Farmington Ward when the first Primary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized in Farmington in 1878.

John served three terms in the Territorial legislature, in 1858, 1860, 1876; was commander of the Davis County Militia for many years; and a delegate in 1895 to the Omaha Trans-Mississippi Congress.

From John’s journal pertaining to his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I relate this to show the kindness and simplicity of his nature. I never saw another man like Joseph. There was something heavenly and angelic in his looks that I never witnessed in the countenance of any other person. During his short stay I became very much attached to him, and learned to love him more dearly than any other person I ever met, my father and mother not excepted…The next time I saw the Prophet was at the Richmond courthouse, in chains, after the surrender of the city of Far West. I used to walk six miles every day to see him during his stay in Richmond Jail. Although a boy of about fourteen years, I became convinced beyond doubt that he was a Prophet of God, and that testimony has never left me.’

John died 16 December 1903 in Farmington, and was buried in the Farmington City Cemetery.

Sources: “John W. Hess,’; “Recollections of Joseph Smith,’ Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892); John W. Hess Journal;

No Comments yet!

Your Email address will not be published.