Aaron Johnson Sr 1806-1877 and Jane Scott 1822-1880

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF AARON JOHNSON SR. 1806

. . . by William Gallop—-

(Clerk under Bishop Johnson)

Aaron Johnson SrAaron Johnson, son of Didymus Johnson and Rheuma Stevens, was born at Haddam, Haddam, and Connecticut 22 June 1806.  His Grandfathers name was Stephen Johnson.

He moved into Middlesex County, Conn. about the time of the revolutionary war.  His forefathers on his Mothers side are supposed to have come from England about the same period.

Aaron Sr.’s childhood was one of toil and privation.  His parents were poor, but thrifty and had a large family were well, religiously taught.  But in consequence of their poverty and school facilities, the children received but limited education, (The subject of this sketch never having the advantage of but two or three terms of school winters before he was fourteen years of age.)

While very young, he was put at such work about the farm as he could do, such as driving a yoke of cattle hitched to a sled, hauling stones from the land or snaking logs off into piles to be burned.  At fourteen years of age he was bound out to Me. Schofield to learn a trade of making guns, at which he worked until he was twenty years of age.

During this term of seven years service, he gained the rudiments of a common education by studying at odd moments and attending night school.  He learned well in arithmetic by working problems with a piece of charcoal on the top of the bellows.

After his majority, he went to work for the Government, making musket barrels.  He joined the Methodist church in 1820 and was a faithful member of that denomination.  On the 13 of September 1827 he married Polly Zerviah Kelsey of Killingworth, Connecticut.

April 15, 1836 he and his wife wee baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  They visited the Kirtland, Ohio saints the following November and formed acquaintance with the Prophet Joseph Smith, which grew into the warmest friendship in later life.

He was ordained a seventy at Farwest Mo. in 1838 ordained a high priest and high counselor at Nauvoo, Ill. in 1842.  Took a mission in 1843.  Justice of Peace in Nauvoo, Ill. for four years.  President of Garden Grove, Ill. in 1846.  High counselor at Winter Quarters, Nebraska in 1847.  Took a mission, horseback, through Iowa, Ill., Indiana, Michigan and Ohio in 1848.  Bishop and President of Kanesville, and Pottawattomie Branch, Iowa in 1849-50, and went on a mission to New England States in winter of the same year.

At Far West, Missouri

He made another home, spending 500 dollars in cash upon it, which he was driven from in 1839, without receiving any reward for it and in addition to the loss of the property; he was compelled to lay down his weapons, in self-defense, to the state militia.  In Far West he was ordained a Seventy.  He moved from there in the general expulsion of the Saints from the state to Quincy, Ill. where he remained a short time.  On the 14 day of March 1839 he moved to Nauvoo then called Commerce, Ill.

During his first year at Nauvoo, he and his family suffered from chills and fever, very prevalent in that locality; for nine months he did not miss the shakes of this disease a single day.  In the meantime he built two log houses and made improvements besides doing all t he family work.  Then it was after the first year they enjoyed good health.  He remained in Nauvoo seven years, during which time he built two brick houses for himself and worked two years upon the temple there.

Served four years as Justice of the Peace; was one of the High Council; A staunch friend of the Prophet; and was with him at Carthage during his trials just previous to his martyrdom.

He took his first plural wife in Nauvoo in 1844, and the second in 28 January 1845.  In the spring on 1846, he left Nauvoo and his property worth $400.00 and received only $150.00 as remuneration.  He arrived at Garden Grove 12 May 1847 and made a home there.  In the next three years he made homes at several other places, including one at Winter Quarters.

aaron-johnson-1850He was Bishop at Garden Grove (or presiding officer), and cared for the poor and the families of them that went in the Mormon Battalion.  In the spring of 1850, he sold his property for $270.00 and started for Utah, in charge, of as Captain of about one hundred and thirty five wagons.  On the way up the Platt River, the company was visited with cholera, which made great ravages.  His first wife, Polly, and eldest son Willis Kelsey Johnson, died of cholera in a few days of each other.  The company arrived in Salt Lake City early in September 1850.

On the 18 September 1850, he and others came to and located Springville.  Just a few families came along with them.  The next year, 1851 he raised 600 bushels of wheat besides other crops.

The first work of a public nature was to build a fort around one acre and one quarter to protect the people from the Indians.  In 1851, much labor was performed in making water ditched, dams, and roads, into the various canyons.

He was appointed and ordained Bishop of Springville.  (The first one.)  He was elected Brigadier General of Peeteetneet District (Payson) of Militia.

In 1855 and 1866 he was appointed Major General of the Second Division of Utah Militia.  He took an active part in all the Indian wars of the territory, furnishing men and supplies, etc.  In 1861 and 62 he was appointed probate Judge of Utah county.  In 1861 he was chosen as one of the commission to draft a constitution for the provisional state, (Provisional State Government of Deseret (Utah).)

He took his last plural wife in March 1857, having at that time ten wives.  He served as a member of the legislature of Utah, from Utah County for seventeen consecutive years.  During the judicial usurpations and wrongs of Judge Cradlehaugh in 1859, Bishop Johnson and other officials of Springville were compelled to leave their homes and flee to the mountains to escape the unnatural provisions of the law.  The Judge was causing the arrest of our people and imprisoning them without trial.  A.F. McDonald and H.H. Kearns were confined in a loathsome dungeon at camp Floyd, a military Post, without trial.  Those that fled to the mountains did so to avoid the same fate and there they remained for some months when the excitement subsided and then they returned to their homes.

He was Postmaster for 17 years, also a High Counselor of the Provo Stake for 17 years, and held the office of Bishop of Springville for 17 years.

In the year of 1870, in consequence of failing health, Bishop Johnson resigned, and was succeeded as Bishop by William Bringhurst.  Bishop Johnson was a friend to the poor assisting them whenever applied to and many poor men in this country will say that Bishop Johnson gave him his first start in Utah.  He died on the 10 of May 1877 in his 71st year of his life.

The Autobiography of Aaron Johnson Sr.

taken from the “History of Springville” by Don Carlos Johnson (son)

In 1870 Bishop Johnson resigned his Bishopric in consequence of ill health.  He served the people long and faithfully.  He was a true friend to the poor.  He kept an open house for all travelers and was never known to charge for such accommodations as he could give.  Even the Indians, to whom he was an unfailing friend, always found food for man and horse at his house.  As many as forty, dusty braves have set at one time at his table.

When he was 61 years of age he had two dozen photographs of the smaller size taken upon the backs of which he wrote a concise autobiography and gave to some of his nearest friends.  This Autobiography is here added verbatim:

“Aaron Johnson, born in Haddam, Conn., June 22, 1806.  Joined Methodist, 1820; the LDS Church in 1836.  Ordained an Elder at Kirtland, Ohio, 1837.  Ordained a Seventy at Far West, Mo., in 1838.  Ordained a High Priest; and High counselor at Nauvoo, Ill., for four years.  President of Garden Grove, Ill., in 1846.  High counselor at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in 1847.  Took mission for the Church, by horseback, through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, in 1848.  Bishop and Pres. of Kanesville and Pottawattamie Branch, Iowa in 1849-50, and went on mission to New England in Winter of 1849.  Captain of a company of 135 wagons across the plains to SLC in 1850 Judge of Utah County for four years.  Bishop and Postmaster for Springville for 17 years.  High Counselor of Provo Stake of Zion for 17 years.  Member of the Legislative Assembly for 17 years.  Delegate to constitutional convention to draft constitution for state of Deseret.  Held three military commissions under Governor Ford of Ill.  Elected Brigadier General, Payson Military District in 1857, and commissioned Major General in 1866 by Charles Durkee, Governor of Utah.  Now in my 61 year when this picture was taken; have nine wives and 48 children.  Enjoy the best of health.  Still hold the office of Bishop, Postmaster and High Counselor and several ordinations and Major General, and still look forward and upward.

A. Johnson”

Aaron Johnson Sr. . . Died May 10, 1877 at the age of 71.

JANE SCOTT JOHNSON

(Second wife of Aaron Johnson Sr.)

As near as we can learn, Jane Scotts family came from Scotland to Nova Scotia in 1705.  One Andrew Scott was at Fort Fontenac (Now Kingston, Canada).  We may therefore infer that when Evangeline and her fellow exiles were banished from Acadia, some of the ancestors of Jane Scott must have pushed up the St. Lawrence River.  We learn from good authority that Scotch people did trapping for pelts in New Brunswick, Canada.  Sir William Johnson, of Johnson Hall, led a company of English soldiers against the French at Lake George in 1755.  Met a Scotch family there.  When the war became too hot they moved to Mohawk Valley, New York, we have from one report.  A Scotch family made their way to Central New York where George Scott and Rebecca Robinson were born.  They were the parents of Jane Scott.  Now this Scotch lassie, Jane was born at West Pike, Livingston County, New York, 10 July 1822.  Often I heard my Mother tell of how she and other young people used to coast down the Hill Cumorah in wintertime, long, long ago.  When Jane was 16 years of age, she heard the Prophet Joseph Smith telling in eloquent terms of the new faith and she was converted, and baptized.

So leaving home and all her girlhood friends, she worked her way by cooking, on a log raft that floated down the Mongahela and Allegeney and Ohio rivers to Kirtland then the rallying place of the Latter Day Saints.  Jane journeyed from there down to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1843. Where she was employed as a schoolteacher.  One of her pupils was the late Joseph F. Smith of the LDS Church. (President)

Here Jane met Esquire Aaron Johnson and they were married and sealed in the Nauvoo Temple, 28 January 1845 by Heber C. Kimball and witnessed by Orson Hyde.

Aaron Johnson Sr. and family crossed Iowa in wagons constructed of wood and rawhide only.  They went to Council Bluffs and thence to Winter Quarters where in 1847 July 1, Don Carlos was born.  President Young sent Aaron back to Garden Grove to preside over a stake of Zion there.  There Aaron Jr. was born 22 May 1850 just before Captain Johnson left on that arduous journey across the plains. At that time 135 wagons led by Aaron Johnson were working westward along the Platt River, 18 persons died in just 17 days, of cholera.  Polly Zerviah Kelsey Johnson and her son Willis Kelsey were among the lost.  (The first wife and son of Aaron Johnson Sr.)

My mother Jane Scott sang an anthem over their lonely grave.  When Laura, Willis Kelsey’s widow reached Salt Lake in 1850, she gave birth to a son, Willis K. Johnson Jr. Sq, Jane my Mother, had to look after Laura’s baby and her own son Aaron Jr., for a time.  Now Jane lived in a fort until 1852, when Aaron Johnson Sr. now a Bishop, built a two story house on H.M. Dougall corner in Springville.  Here Mother taught kindergarten for a time.  Polly her first daughter was born 24 September 1854 but passed away soon.  Stephen came October 4, 1855; Mose (myself), April 14, 1860.  While living in the log cabin, Heber was born and died at 18 months of burns.  Now mother moved from the farm to the home up town on the old home lot.  In 1878, 56 years old, she laid down her burdens and went to her rest in the Springville Cemetery – – Springville, Utah.

*********************************

Bishop Aaron Johnson Sr. said this about Jane, “Jane was a young school teacher in Nauvoo, age 23, when I married her in 1845.  She was a gifted, capable, bright woman.  With her strength of character and keen intellect, it was no romantic whim that influenced her decision to accept the new doctrine.  In the early days of Springville she taught a private school for the Johnson children and those of some of the neighbors.  She remained a scholar all her life.”

Her descendants were very talented in the arts as she was also.  Aaron Jr., her son said this of her, “With Ma’s salt-rising bread, and the unnumbered squash and pumpkin pies she used to bake in the oven of our little Step – Stove, and her rare singing and story telling made our little home a rare place.  Please don’t get offended, it I say that our Mother sang sweetly.  She had taught school; also voice culture.  Many times when Brigham Young was a guest at our home in town he would ask my Mother to sing for him.  Ma’s singing was entirely free from intermittent stress and modern affectation.  My father could neither sing, nor whistle a tune, but he went to the limit establishing brass bands, orchestras, singing schools, dancing and harmless amusements.  Most of the songs that Ma sang to her four boys were very sentimental.  Many of her stories were from the bible.”

This was taken from A. Johnson Jr. history that he wrote.

Bishop Aaron Johnson’s train of wagons drawn by horse and mule, (135 wagons) teams.  The train reached “Great Salt Lake City” September 2, 1850.

“Brigham Young said to my Father, “Choose a number of families, go into Utah Valley and make a settlement, establish homes, and be united.”  So Captain Johnson and his son – in – law, William Miller rode down to Hobble Creek, on horseback, noting the difficulties that might be encountered in reaching the place, surveying the best possible routes, and here is Captain Johnson’s words expressing his delight of this beautiful place.  “The third day after we reached our destination, three of our party saddled, and mounted our horses, and rode to the foothills east, and looked across the beautiful Utah Valley, basking in the sunshine of a September afternoon.  We were surprised at the beauty of the scene.  We gazed with admiration upon the vast meadows spread before us, while the bunch grass along the foothills brushed the horses breasts.  Never before had I beheld a grander prospect.”

In a few days the company of 8 wagons of families were engaged in erecting a fort.  On one and a half acres the cabins were built around the fort, interlocking a building was put up in the center, for religious worship, socials etc., also for educational purposes.

The folks spent the winter in the fort.  A jolly crowd they were; almost like one big family.  Dancing, singing, story telling and innocent games were enjoyed.

(In all the hard times of these pioneers and there wanderings, we had good teachers and classes, for our children.  We always carried along a limited supply of textbooks, some literature and history, besides the Bible and other church books.)

The big Johnson home that Aaron Johnson Sr. Built later for his wives and children.  It was built of adobe, two stories high, had 30 rooms in it.  Two large rooms on the ground level, opening into the other, by means of folding doors, with leather hinges.  There was a huge fireplace in each end of each room.  Each wife had her quarters, and I had my private rooms.  There was a commodious dining room capable of seating 40 or 50 people, and a common kitchen, besides cellars and garrets.  The food after being prepared in the kitchen was brought to the dining room in a carry all constructed with a flat bed and four small wheels.  They entertained dignitaries, newcomers, stranded immigrants, and Indians.  Some have said that in the Johnson home, it was more like an institution.  There was such a system of organization that the affairs of the household ran with perfect smoothness.  Tasks were rotated, usually two wives working together with days off as their own.  Work was carefully planned ahead, this left time for reading, craftwork, and social activities.  Religious rituals of the church were strictly observed at all times.  The meals were served at one long table; ever child knew that hands and faces must be clean, and that good manners were expected.  Even the Indians were treated as guests, but they also had to wash up.  Every child knew that he must be quiet when he sat down to the table, it was not allowed to take a bite, or start dishing until the blessing had been said, and there was perfect order at mealtime.

Once in awhile you had a surprise dinner as you did one memorable Thanksgiving Day.  The wife whose turn it was to plan and serve the Thanksgiving dinner was for some unknown reason nursing a pet peeve.  Since she could not give vent to her feelings, she devised a way to relieve her suppressed emotions.  We all filed into the dining room anticipating the usual feast.  To our amazement, there was one squash pie at each place and nothing more on the t able.  Bishop Johnson sensed the situation, and with a knowing wink, and nod to the rest, you took your seat and the rest followed.  The special thanksgiving blessing was pronounced on the food.  Without a side remark or a complaint each one cheerfully ate his pie, and waited for all to finish and the signal to be excused was given.  One of the boys remarked to his father in passing, “But it was good pie.”

This home may have been like an institution, but there was much affection there, and live, companionship, and happiness.  There was freedom and understanding, intellectual stimulation and clever banter and there were opportunities to develop initiative and leadership.

This is an opinion given in 1853 by the Honorable L.H. Reed, U.S. Chief Justice for Utah said, “To those who suppose that any licentiousness or looseness of manners or morals prevail in Utah, they are very much mistaken.  The women are exceedingly modest and circumspect in their deportment.  I have had the pleasure of an introduction to a number of them who are sensible and agreeable and compare favorably with the well-bred ladies of the states.  From what I can learn, there is less licentiousness and vulgarity in this city and territory than in any other place equal in population in the U.S.  The men are jealous of interference in their domestic lives and seduction and adultery, if discovered are sometimes punished by death of the offender.”

In 1844 when Bishop Aaron Johnson Sr. was in Nauvoo.  He and his faithful wife, Polly were confronted with another momentous decision.  Joseph Smith had revealed to Aaron J., with other leaders the doctrine of plural marriage, which he had received by revelation as early as 1831, but was not commanded to put into practice until 1840.   The Prophet was reluctant to institute a social order, which he feared would bring a torrent of slander and persecution, but the Lord Commanded him and he must obey.  The Lord stated that he had given that same commandment to other leaders of his chosen people at critical times in their history to his servants, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon.  “If ye abide not that covenant then ye are damned.”

A. J. Sr. said he felt much like John Taylor did when he remarked, “With the feeling I had entertained, nothing but a knowledge of God and the knowledge of God and the revelations of God could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this,” and as Brigham Young felt when he first heard of the Doctrine.  “It was the first time in my life that I desired the grave.  I could hardly get over it for a long time.”

When Aaron discussed the subject with Polly, she too felt the same reluctance, but we finally realized that the Lord, in calling only a select few to practice this new order of plural marriage was providing an avenue whereby the choice spirits of Heaven, who had earned a high place in God’s Covenant race, could come down to mortality in great numbers at the most opportune time when their character, talents and testimony could do so much in establishing the newly restored gospel, and also to provide a hereditary lineage whereby other choice spirits could follow and build upon their great woks.  In each period, when the doctrine was not needed to advance His work, God had revoked it.

History seems to prove the value of this commandment when we realize the high percentage of great leaders in our church that trace their lineage to a polygamous family.

It seems providential also that this order was available to place so many women into homes where they could fulfill the purpose of family life who otherwise would have been left alone because of the scarcity of proper men for marriage.

It is not commonly understood that the practice of plural marriage was carefully controlled.  Only those members who received the sanction of the President of the Church were permitted to take more than one wife, and the President took into consideration the mental, physical and economic fitness of the individual before he gave his consent, also the man was required to receive the consent of his first wife.  This limited the practice to no more than 3 per cent.

In the year 1857 the Johnson army sent by the government was moving into Utah.  The rumors had been rife in Utah.  Soldiers stationed in various parts heard whisperings that the federal Government was about to send an Army to subdue the Mormons.  Word was passed to Utah that among the soldiers and men who drank and caroused it was common talk that they were boasting how they were going to Utah to get their share of pretty girls.  Another rumor was reported by Heber C. Kimball that common talk in one quarter was that all the women were prostitutes and that they could use them as they pleased.  In view of all these boasts and rumors of attack by an army, there was great concern for the safety of the young girls of the territory.  The General Authorities suggested that, in order to save the girls from “hell and damnation,” that some of the older leaders who could support more wives, have some of these girls sealed to them but of course only with the permission of the authorities.  In many cases the Parents made the arrangement.

It was at this time of panic and hysteria that A.J. had three young girls sealed to him.  Some of these teenage girls were girls who had come from other countries, being converted to the gospel, and their Parents had either died on the plains or their parents had not yet arrived.  These teenage girls were treated more like daughters, continued in school and socials and were scarcely thought of as wives.  Four months after the marriages Johnston began his march in Utah, but the attack was soon called off, and the scare was over.  Many of these young girls were given divorces and returned to their parents and later married younger men.  One of the girls chose to stay with Bishop Johnston.  After the manifesto was signed and Bishop A.J. had placed all his wives and their families on their own farm and home.  He visited them regularly and took interest in their welfare.  He once said, “It was my children’s noble Mothers who shouldered the biggest responsibility in the rearing of my children.      . . . We need the fortitude of our forefathers to help up meet the challenges and problems of our day.  God grant us strength to carry on this noble heritage that is ours.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike Kerr
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 03:47:53

    I have a relative who claims that Bishop Aaron Johnson shot and killed a couple of her male relatives during his tenure as Bishop. The brother and nephews of Hulda Theadocia Parrish were supposedly killed and the ward members then confiscated the Parrish property and left the widow Parrish and her 4 children destitute. To me this seems far fetched and there must be another explanation for the deaths. Can you clarify any details? Thanks. Mike Kerr (4 great grandson of Hulda Parrish)

    Reply

    • crstamping
      Apr 07, 2012 @ 18:39:03

      I personally know nothing of this incident, however, below is the account given in the book “Aaron Johnson: Faithful Steward” written by Alan P Johnson.

      Parrish-Potter Murders
      Events leading up to, and including, the murders During Aaron Johnson’s tenure as Bishop at Springville, a dreadful incident occurred outside the city’s walls that to this day remains enshrouded in obscurity and mystery. Despite an extensive search by the author for primary and secondary material pertaining to this matter, the little information that is available contains contradiction, confusion, and bias.
      Other secondary accounts include John L. Cradlebaugh, Admission of Utah as a State, Washington, D.C: Library of Congress, 1 April 1859, which includes depositions he took in the case; Juanita Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. U, pp. 624, 691-694.
      The catastrophe that came to be called the Parrish-Potter Murders involved the William Parrish family who, during the Nauvoo period in Church history, were zealous, active members; but by 1857 when they were living among the Saints in Springville, they had become disaffected from the Church. The nature of their apostasy is not known, but in Springville the family was no longer actively participating in religious functions. In addition, they were said to have incurred substantial debts to various people in the Valley.
      Early in 1857, word spread in Springville and Provo of the family’s intention to flee and avoid payment of their obligations. Several “council meetings” were held between January and March at Bishop Johnson’s home, attended by prominent civic officials such as Mayor Abraham F. McDonald and Chief of Police Wilbur J. Earl, as well as Bishop Johnson and others. It will be remembered that for many years the important meetings of the community were held at the Johnson home. Several years after the events to be described shortly, it was claimed that the Parrish family was the focus of these meetings, and that much discussion was held concerning their reported intention to leave the area. Because no minutes of the meetings have surfaced and the only accounts we have of them are clearly biased, it is impossible to ascertain what was said about the Parrishes at these meetings or even whether they were discussed at all. Two years later, one Abraham Durfee asserted in a legal deposition that threats against the family were made in the meetings but against the background of other accounts, his testimony appears confused and often self-serving.
      Furthermore, these meetings were convened, some said, at the direction of Church leaders at Provo, or even at the instance of President Young himself, but no proof of this has come to light. Nevertheless, fter the tragic events became public knowledge, many Church and civic leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, were accused of being directly or indirectly involved, and therefore, to one degree or another, responsible for the catastrophe. Bishop Johnson was among those accused, although no one claimed he participated in the murderous attack against the Parrishes.
      The night of March 14,1857 William Parrish and two of his sons, W. Beason Parrish (aged 22) and Orrin E. Parrish (aged 20), were leaving the city under cover of darkness, accompanied by Gardner G. “Duff Potter and Abraham Durfee. The roles of the latter two men, as well as their true sentiments toward the Church and its leaders, civic officials, and the Parrish family, are most puzzling, for on the one hand they appeared to be aiding the Church in reaching out to the family, on the other they seemed to be advising the family how to escape. Recorded testimony by Durfee and by Orrin Parrish throws into doubt, for instance, Durfee’s loyalty to any of the entities noted above.
      Apparently the five men left the city singly or in two’s to meet at a predetermined spot beyond the city boundaries. At this location, immediately outside the southeast corner of the city, one or more assassins attacked the men. Beason was fatally shot, then Potter-the latter apparently killed by mistake. Then a man emerged from the darkness and grappled with William Parrish, stabbing him repeatedly (one report noted forty-eight knife wounds) and cutting his throat. Such fury and bestiality appears to have been the work of someone obsessed with deep malice toward Parrish. Both Durfee and Orrin Parrish fled for their lives.
      When the alarm was raised and the bodies eventually brought to the school house, police authorities questioned Durfee and others; the following day a brief inquest was held, but no one was identified as responsible for the crimes. Subsequently, various men were accused either of committing the acts, being accessory to them, or of conspiring to conceal the identities of those directly responsible.
      Bishop Johnson was one of those accused of plotting against the family and of helping to conceal the names of those involved in the attack. Other major figures who were accused include Mayor McDonald, Police Chief Earl, and Police Captain Hamilton H. Games (Carrens or Keams). Eventually all these accused officials were exonerated, as no evidence was ever produced to prove they had acted against the family or obstructed justice. But unfortunately for them all, the actual murderer(s) were never identified and brought to trial, so the matter was never satisfactorily laid to rest.
      Depositions taken two years later, in 1859, by Federal Judge John Cradlebaugh were inconclusive, to say the least; the few who testified showed themselves quick to implicate a score of Church and civic leaders while obscuring their own guilt. No reliable evidence was presented incriminating Aaron in any way, and along with others he was completely exonerated.
      Even though “frontier justice” sometimes led normally law-abiding settlers to take matters unto themselves, murdering two men who might be slipping away from their debts is about as close to mob mentality as one might imagine, and it is hardly typical of the Springville community during any period of its history, nor of men like Aaron whose lives were noted for integrity and respect for law.
      As for the notion expressed by a few that the apostasy of the Parrishes led to the attack against them, or that the community banded together to punish them for attempting to flee their debts, even anti-Mormon historian Thomas B. H. Stenhouse scoffs at the idea. In The Rocky Mountain Saints, published only sixteen years after the murders, he writes:
      There could be nothing possible in the ‘apostasy of Parrish, and the proposed departure of his family from Utah, to tempt such [good] men as these [in Springville] to harbour thoughts of Deadly violence or to countenance it in others.
      Of the leaders in the city accused of involvement in the murders, Stenhouse writes, “they are not men of bad habits; not riotous, nor drunkards”. Of Mayor McDonald, for example, he says,
      [He] is a thorough Scotchmen, a Gaelic Highlander, born and reared with the best surroundings of Presbyterianism, a man of unfailing honesty, strict integrity, and truthfulness, and blessed with as sweet a wife as every honoured man with her love.
      Bishop Johnson, according to Stenhouse, “is a very quiet, inoffensive man. He has a well-regulated and, for aught the public know, a peaceable home, with ten excellent wives and a long string of children.” He concludes with this important observation about these and other reputable men whose names became associated, in one way or another, with these unfortunate events:
      It is to be hoped that of all this they are innocent, for it is painful to see men who have every quality calculated to command respect dragged into such frightful positions.
      This is the author’s feeling as well. Establishing innocence or guilt requires reliable evidence of which none has ever been produced. We should add the hope, however, that such information will come to light. Only then might we formulate a reasonably clear picture of this tragedy and of events leading up to it. It is probable, however, that if reliable documentation did exist at one time, it has vanished, leaving us without the means of unraveling what is perhaps Springville’s greatest and most troubling mystery.

      Reply

    • Connell O'Donovan
      Sep 01, 2016 @ 04:39:55

      Mike Kerr – I too am a descendant of Huldah Theodotia Parrish and would like to chat with you about her. I am publishing a long article on Aaron Johnson’s involvement in the Parrish murders of 1857. My email is odonovan@ucsc.edu I look forward to hearing from you!

      Reply

  2. Trackback: Brief History of Aaron Johnson and William Hymas « Book Of Rememberance
  3. Trackback: Brief History of Aaron Johnson and William Hymas « Book Of Rememberance
  4. Mandie
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 17:16:43

    I am a descendant of Aaron Johnson and Jane Scott through Aaron Johnson Jr. and Lousia Meletiah Whiting. Thank you for this wonderful summary.

    Reply

  5. Jenna
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 21:46:20

    Where did you get a copy of the biographical sketch of Aaron Johnson’s Life?

    Reply

  6. Howard L. Porter
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 20:49:59

    It was here, but I think it came from crstamping – above. It is very well done.

    Reply

  7. Karma Collins
    Dec 08, 2014 @ 01:46:47

    I happened on this wonderful place by accident and spent hours reading some of the histories. I am a distant relative of some of the people on the list and had so much fun. I know it was valued time spent on providing this for so many.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply

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