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William Heath Hudson

Question: What special service did Wilford Hudson perform on behalf of three Mormon Battalion members?

Answer: Wilford Heath Hudson was born 19 September 1818, at Corydove, Harrison County, Indiana, the eldest of five children of Robert Hudson and Damaris Lemmon.

Wilford was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Adams County, Illinois on 10 December 1840 by David Evans. Wilford married Juliana Graybill in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, on 29 November 1842. Wilford was in the 29th Quorum of the Seventy. He was ordained in October 1845 by Henry Newman. Two daughters were born to Wilford and Juliana in Nauvoo: Eliza Jane born 9 January 1844; Mary Ann born 17 April 1845.

Wilford was six feet two inches tall, weighed 205 pounds, and had blue eyes and curly auburn hair. He liked to wrestle for relaxation and often wrestled with the prophet Joseph Smith. In 1846, Wilford and Juliana were among those who were forced to leave Nauvoo with only the possessions they could put in their wagon.

Wilford and Juliana located at Mt. Pisgah. While they were camped at Mt. Pisgah, Wilford was a member of the Nauvoo Legion, and was among the first to enlist in the Mormon Battalion. The enlistment of the Battalion would allow the Mormons to continue their exodus in peace. Mormons would also be allowed to winter on Indian land. Of extreme importance to the destitute Church, was the money, which would help in the move to the Salt Lake Valley.

As a soldier in the Mormon Battalion, Wilford would participate in the longest infantry march in history, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California. He would march over 2,000 miles in unknown, rough territory, traveling up to 25 miles a day. Wilford was Private #47, in Company A. He was the wainwright (wagon maker) for his company and was responsible for repairing and rebuilding wagons.

When Juliana’s wealthy parents, Michael and Polly Graybill, learned that Wilford had enlisted in the Battalion, they went to Mt. Pisgah, and took Juliana home to “east of Council Bluffs.’

When they were discharged, the members of the Mormon Battalion were asked to stay in California, and to re-enlist. The majority, including Wilford, set out to rejoin their families on 20 July 1847. Organization for the journey to the Salt Lake Valley began by establishing captains of hundreds, fifties, and tens. They traveled northward some 600 miles to Sutter’s Fort. On 26 August, they camped two miles from the Fort. Here they gathered supplies, fixed wagons and prepared for the trip to the Salt Lake Valley.

On 7 September 1847, they met Captain James Brown, an emissary from the Church, who brought mail from some families and an express from Brigham Young. In his express, President Young advised the Battalion men not to continue unless they had one year’s provisions. If they did not have these supplies, they were to remain in California and work for provisions and stock, until the following spring. Wilford turned back to Sutter’s Fort, and went to work for Sutter.

When gold was found at Sutter’s sawmill on 24 January 1848, Wilford, with Sidney S. Willis, and Ephraim Green, went to Sutter’s sawmill. With permission of James Marshall, the foreman, they prospected in the tailrace. With his pocketknife, Wilford picked out the biggest nugget yet, worth six dollars, almost the equivalent of a Battalion private’s monthly pay.

Wilford and a Battalion member, Sidney, went into partnership with Brannan at Mormon Island. They charged other miners a toll of 30% on their diggings for having made the discovery. This practice was general in the mines. Many of the Battalion men had the firm conviction that the gold had been discovered to furnish them with money for provisions to return home.

If Wilford Hudson had been an opportunist, he would have stayed in California to make a fortune. Instead, faithful to his religion and his family, he again made preparations to start for the Valley in the spring of 1848. May and June were spent waiting, digging gold, buying wagons and supplies, and gathering in Pleasant Valley, California. The company eventually consisted of 45 men, one woman, 17 wagons and 400 head of stock. On 25 June 1848, a second exploration party of three men–Browett, Cox and Allen–left Pleasant Valley and did not return.

On July 5, a party of ten men was sent out to search for the missing men. These scouts returned after ten days, not finding the missing men nor an easier route. On 19 July, the bodies of the three missing brethren were found buried in a shallow grave. The company named the spot Tragedy Springs. Wilford cut a blaze on a fir tree and carved an inscription there: “To the Memory of Daniel Browett, Ezra H. Allen and Henderson Cox, who are supposed to have Been Murdered and Buried by Indians On the Night of the 27th of June 1848.’ The blaze became a famous trail landmark. (In 1921, a monument was built at the Tragedy Springs site by the Native Sons of the Golden West. When the tree with the blaze fell sometime later; the blaze was cut out and saved. It is now preserved at the Marshall Gold Discovery Historic Park at Coloma.)

Wilford also found a pouch made by Ezra Allen, which contained $100 worth of gold. Upon his arrival in Council Bluffs, Wilford delivered the pouch and gold to Allen’s widow. After a short rest in Salt Lake City, Wilford left for Council Bluffs to find his wife and daughters. The following year, 1849, Wilford and Juliana started for the Valley. Baby Amanda Elizabeth was born to Wilford and Juliana at Fort Bridger, Utah on 7 September 1849. They lived in Salt Lake for several years. Wilford married Mary Ann Hudson, Juliana’s sister, in 1850, as a plural wife. She would have twelve children. A fourth daughter, Juliette, was born to Wilford and Juliana in May 1850. Both Juliana and the baby died when the baby was one year old. Wilford and Mary Ann’s first baby, Emily Cordelia, was born on October 29, 1850 and died 3 May 1851.

Ground was broken for the Salt Lake Temple in 1852. Wilford had many faith-promoting experiences during the building of the Salt Lake Temple. Wilford told his family of holes left in the walls in preparation for latter-day inventions. For example, central heating was not in general use at that time, and air conditioning was unknown.

In 1852, Wilford and his family were called by the Church to help build up Grantsville. On 15 April 1852, Wilford arrived in Grantsville. Although Wilford and others owned land outside the fort, they built their homes in the fort. At one time, Wilford served as Mayor. He was also a Captain in the Nauvoo Legion. He was in charge of the Legion in Grantsville and with his men was responsible to guard against an Indian outbreak. Wilford served as Clerk for the Grantsville LDS Branch Presidency. By occupation, Wilford was both a farmer and a master carpenter. He built log cabins, made violins, churns and containers for molasses.

Wilford moved to his family to Coalville for a few years, but Grantsville was always “home.’ Wilford and his family returned there and built another house. Wilford died in Grantsville on September 6, 1905 just before his 87th birthday. He is buried in the Grantsville City Cemetery.

Source:Wilford Hudson,’ written by Helen G. Howard,;

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