Question: How old was John Wheeler when he was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?
Answer: John Wheeler was born February 3, 1802 in North Carolina, to William and Lucy Ellis Wheeler. John married Martha Willis on August 7, 1824, in Hamilton County, Illinois. Their first six children were born in this area. Martha’s parents were Merrill and Margaret Cherry Willis.
John and Martha became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about 1841. On January 4, 1842, Martha gave birth to a son at Montrose, Lee, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. On December 18, 1842, Martha’s father died in Nauvoo.
John and Martha’s next child, a daughter, was also born in Montrose in 1844. John and Lucy were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple on February 3, 1846. John was ordained a Seventy while living in the Nauvoo area. After being forced out of this area, John and Lucy moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Their son, Joseph, was born there in October 1846.
In 1847, John, age 45, was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was in the 11th Ten led by John S. Higbee, Captain. It wasn’t until the 16th of April that the company was officially organized into the hundreds, fifties, and tens, with captains appointed and they started on their way. Once organized, this vanguard pioneer company consisted of 142 men, 3 women, 2 children, and 72 wagons. They traveled 1031 miles before reaching their destination. Some members of the company traveled ahead and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as early as the July 21, 1847. By the 24th of July, the entire company had arrived.
After arriving in Salt Lake Valley, John worked hard to build a home for his family. Martha, and their seven children, were on their way to the Valley with the Abraham O. Smoot – George B. Wallace Company. Members listed were Martha (age 37), Thomas Jefferson Wheeler (Age: 15), Mary Margaret Wheeler (Age: 13), William Wesley Wheeler (Age: 11), Daniel D. Wheeler (Age: 7), John J. Wheeler (Age: 5), Lucy Ann Wheeler (Age: 3), and Joseph S. Wheeler (Age: Infant)
They left Winter Quarters in June 1847. There were 223 individuals in the company. John met them when they arrived in the Valley in September 1847. Martha’s mother and other members of the Willis family were also in the Company.
In 1850, John and Martha were living in Provo, Utah County, Utah, where another daughter, Martha, was added to their family, making them a total of ten children. Their oldest son, Merrill, served with the Mormon Battalion.
In 1860, John is listed as living in Carson Valley, Utah Territory, with his twenty-nine-year-old son, Henry, who is listed as a miner. In 1861 John was highly commended by the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society for his fine stock exhibited at the fair in Salt Lake City.
The Seventy Membership record for John states that John then went to California. FamilySearch records have John’s death date as December 6, 1891. There is no documentation for his death place, and no grave record can be found.
Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,’ Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; FamilySearch.org, Sources; Church Membership Records; Seventy Quorum Membership Records, 1835-1846; Census Records; LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.
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