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Philander Colton

Question: Does the house Philander Colton built in Nauvoo still stand?

Answer: Philander Colton was born on 11 October 1811, in Clarence, Erie, New York to Charles Colton and Polly Jones. Philander married Polly Matilda Merrill, from New York State, in Michigan on 3 July 1833, where their oldest son Charles E. and daughter Harriet Emily were born. This is also where they were baptized in 1838 as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Parley P. Pratt was the missionary who taught Philander and Polly.

They emigrated to Illinois before their next daughter, Eleanor Roseltha, was born in 1838 in Carthage, Hancock, Illinois. Philander was a brick mason and built a nice brick home for his family in Nauvoo, which is still standing today. Philander had a part in the construction of other brick homes in Nauvoo, as well as worked on the Nauvoo Temple.

Philander and Polly’s fourth child, Lamoni Andrew was born in 1842 in Nauvoo, as well as their fifth child, George Philander, born in 1844. However, George only lived a few short months, as he died on 15 April 1844 in Nauvoo. Their sixth child, Stanford Lorenzo, was born in 1845 in Nauvoo. Philander and Polly had their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple on 31 December 1845. With the upheaval caused by the murder of the Prophet Joseph Smith and severe persecution of the saints, Philander and his family were among those who had to leave their home and Nauvoo and go to Council Bluffs.

In July 1846, Philander, and his twelve-year-old son, Charles Edwin, left Council Bluffs as a part of the famed “Mormon Battalion.” Philander was in Company B of the Mormon Battalion. When they arrived in San Diego, California, Henry Bigler wrote: “Our brick masons [Philander Colton, Rufus Stoddard, Henry Wilcox, and William Garner] finished laying up the first brick house in that place and for all I know the first in California. The building, I believe, was designed to be used for a courthouse and schoolhouse. The inhabitants came together, set out a table well spread with wines and different kinds of drinks.”

Philander, and his son, Charles, left California with the Horace M. Alexander Company on 24 July 1847 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 16 October 1847. This small company of returning Mormon Battalion veterans traveled from Los Angeles via the southern route to Salt Lake Valley. It was composed of only five men and one boy: Horace Martin Alexander (35), Newman Bulkley (30), Charles Edwin Colton (12), Philander Colton (35), Dorr Purdy Curtis (28), and Abraham Day (29).

Philander then went from the Salt Lake Valley back to Council Bluffs to get his wife and the rest of his children. Philander and Polly’s seventh child, Bryon Oliver, was born in November 1848 in Council Bluffs. They crossed the Plains in 1849 with the Silas Richards Company. They left on July 10, 1849 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October 1849. About 100 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Council Bluffs.

Polly Colton

When the family came to Utah, Philandaer moved his family to Provo, Utah, where the remainder of his children were born. A son, Sterling Driggs Colton, born in 1851, was named after Starling Driggs, who was so much help to Polly at Council Bluffs while her husband was away in the Mormon Battalion. Philander and Polly had three more children born in Provo: Phebe Albina (Nancy) Colton in 1855, John Adelbert Colton in 1858, and Ernest Merrill Colton in 1859, making a total of eleven children.

In Provo, Philander Colton became a mason, plasterer, and brick maker. Those skills helped him build the Las Vegas Fort during his mission in 1856. He returned to his family after the mission dissolved.

In the fall of 1887 Philander sold their home in Provo and moved to Ashley Valley, settling near their sons. After lingering illnesses of several months, they were released from this life, Polly Colton on Thursday, August 13th, at 4:20 p.m., and Philander Colton at 4:30 a.m. on August 15, 1891. At the close of the funeral service, the remains were taken to the Maeser Fairview Cemetery, Vernal, Uintah County, Utah, where they were placed side by side in one grave. The funeral was the largest ever seen in the valley, 61 vehicles and 150 people being at the cemetery.

Newspaper article concerning the death of Philander and Potty M. Colton

Philander and Polly H. Colton, venerable and most estimable couple, were yesterday (16th inst.) laid to rest in the same grave, at this place. They had battled the storms of life together for over half century and when the message of death entered their home, they asked but to be taken together. So, true to each other in life, they plead that they be not separated in death, and this was granted them, for but thirty-six hours intervened their taking away.

Philander’s wife Polly became the subject of a musical story written by her great-great-great grandson, Stephen Kapp Perry, and starred his wife Johanne Frechette Perry in the New London Dinner Theater in 2000, entitled: “Polly: A One-Woman Musical

Sources:Pioneer Notes,’; Ricketts, Norma Baldwin, “The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West,’ 1846-1848, [1996], 169; Newspaper Article, taken from the Uintah Pappoose, Vol 1, No. 33, Vernal, Uintah Co., Utah, Friday, August 21, 1891: Death of Philander and Polly H. Colton, Editor Deseret News.

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