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William Ezra Beckstead

Question: Where did William Ezra Beckstead decide to settle after he served in the Mormon Battalion?

Answer: William Ezra Beckstead was born 13 March 1827 in Williamsburg, Dundas, Ontario, Canada, to Francis Beckstead Sr. and Catherine Lang. William’s father, Francis Beckstead, was christened in the Old Dutch Reformed Church in Albany County, New York. Francis married Margaret Barkley, and they settled in the Albany, New York area, and started their family.

About 1803, William’s father, Francis Beckstead and his brother, Alexander, moved their families to Williamsburg, Dundas, Ontario, Canada. The brothers each procured 200 acre farms near Williamsburg, where they raised their families. Here several more children were born to the couple. Margaret died in 1816, and Francis married Catherine Lang, about 1817. They had ten more children, born between 1818 and 1835, in Williamsburg. William was one of those children, born in 1827.

In 1837-1838, when William was about ten years of age, the family met three Mormon missionaries. Francis and most of his children and grandchildren became converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being some of the first converts in that area. The farm was soon sold, and Francis and his family made preparations to gather with the saints in Missouri. There were 30-35 people in the company that left Williamsburg under the leadership of Christopher Merkley. William’s father, Francis, was second in command.

Before they reached Missouri they encountered great difficulties. On one occasion they were attacked by an armed mob, threatening them with destruction. They were camped near a stream but were unable to get any water, because the mob would fire at them. However a torrential rain came and dispersed their attackers. After about three months, traveling by ox team, they arrived at DeWitt, Caldwell Co. Missouri, the last week in September 1838. Mob persecution was at its height, and the town had just been threatened with destruction if they were not moved out by October 1. They lived in their wagons for a few days then moved on to Far West where they spent the winter. In the spring of 1839, they moved to the Nauvoo area and settled in Lima, Illinois. William’s father, Francis Sr., died in Lima, Adams Co. Illinois, in 1841, when William was about 14. His mother lived to make it to the Salt Lake Valley.

After the family had moved on to Winter Quarters, William Ezra Beckstead, age 19, enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, as a private. They left Council Bluffs, Iowa on 16 July 1846. He was in Company C, under Capt. James Brown. After walking hundreds of miles to Santa Fe, New Mexico, William was put in LT Willis’ sick detachment that traveled back from Santa Fe to winter in Pueblo, Colorado, arriving on 10 November 1846. In the spring, they headed to the Salt Lake Valley. He was in the group of Battalion members to enter the Salt Lake Valley on 29 July 1847, five days after Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company.

William then made his way back to Iowa, and on January 7, 1849, William married Mary Winn. Mary was born 8 September 1828 in Bedford, Tennessee, to Minor Winn and Nancy Wilson. William and Mary had their first three children in Iowa, and then traveled to Utah in 1852 in the Henry Bryant Manning Jolley Company.

William and Mary had four more children in Utah, and then in 1859 William decided to move to California. They had one more daughter there in 1860. Mary died in December 1864. In 1873 William married a widow lady, Dolores Garcia, who was from Mexico and had four children from her previous marriage. William and Dolores had five children together.

William Ezra was one of the early settlers in the Colton-San Bernardino, California area. William died 17 May 1909 in San Bernardino and was buried in the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in San Bernardino.

Source: “Biography of William Ezra Beckstead,’;

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