Sunday, July 27, 2014

Joel Ricks and Eleanor Martin

Joel Ricks, was born on Donaldson Creek farm in Trigg County, Kentucky 18 February 1804.  He married first Eleanor Martin on May 1, 1827.

After his marriage, he remained with his father working on the farm until July 15, 1829, when he visited the new state of Illinois for the purpose of looking up its advantages for settlers.  He made the trip on horseback and after going as far north as Madison County, he finally located a farm on Silver Creek, about 20 miles east of Alton.  He then returned to Kentucky and in company with a brother-in-law, Abel Olive, and cousin, William Ricks and their families, he again returned to Illinois on September 12, 1829.

Abel Olive secured a farm a short distance from Mr. Ricks and William Ricks, one further north in Christian County, where his descendents continue to live to the present time.

Mr. Ricks was a hard-working and industrious man and accumulated property quite rapidly, and soon became one of the foremost farmers of that region.

About 1830, Mr. Ricks and his wife joined the Campbellite (Christian) Church, with which they continued to affiliate with until the fall of 1840, when Mormon missionaries came into the neighborhood preaching their doctrines.  Mr. Ricks attended one of their meetings out of curiosity, but soon discovered that the new doctrine agreed in every respect with his interpretation of the doctrines of Christianity taught by the Savior, and his apostles, as recorded in the New Testament.  He therefore accepted the new religion and was baptized by Elder George Boosinger on June 6, 1841.

On March 20, 1842, Mr. Ricks started on a visit to Nauvoo, Illinois to see for himself what the new church organization was, and what manner of man was Joseph Smith, the prophet.  While at Nauvoo, he had several interviews with the prophet and with prominent Mormons and returned to his home greatly impressed with what he had seen.  In August 1845, he sold all his possessions in Madison County, and in company with James Olive, removed with his family to Nauvoo and was thereafter unto the time of his death identified with the Mormon organization.

Shortly after his arrival at Nauvoo he purchased a city lot on the Prairie some distance back of the Temple, for a town residents and also a farm at Appanoose.  At Appanoose at this time resided Ezra Allen and family of whom we shall have occasion to speak later.

During his residence at Nauvoo, Mr. Ricks was actively engaged in assisting to erect the magnificent temple.  During this period, the prejudice against the Mormon people in Illinois was very pronounced, being stirred up by irresponsible people, who hoped to profit by expulsion of the Mormons from the state.  Bands of lawless men roamed about the country and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Mormon property, burning homes, driving away cattle, and in other ways harassing the people.  Repeated appeals were made to the governor of the state, but as he seemed to be in sympathy with the outlaws, no redress was obtained for their wrongs.  Feeling that there was no hope of living at peace with their Christian neighbors, or enjoying their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, within the limits of the United States, they determined to seek a new home in the wilds of the unknown West.  This exodus was determined upon during the season of 1845 and began in the early winter of that year.  Leaving their possessions to their enemies, thousands of the Saints abandoned their homes in the dead of winter, and began the long weary pilgrimage towards the Missouri River.

Mr. Ricks, with several teams, crossed the Mississippi River at Fort Madison, on April 27, 1846 and was among the pioneers who crossed the territory of Iowa.  At regular intervals these companies tarried for a few days and plowed and sewed large tracts of land to be harvested by those who should come after them.

Arriving at the Missouri River near Council Bluffs in July, Mr. Ricks and family made a temporary residence on Silver Creek, where he planted and harvested a crop and made other arrangements to continue the journey westward.  In 1847, he sent out one of his best teams with a pioneer company, which left the Missouri River for the Rocky Mountains.  Under the leadership of Brigham Young, this company, after many hardships and trials, reached the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847, where they founded Salt Lake City.

Mr. Ricks remained at the Missouri River until the spring of 1848, when he joined the great company under the leadership of Heber C. Kimball. This company consisted of 2417 souls and 792 wagons and was probably one of the largest caravans that ever crossed the Great Plains.

While on Elkhorn River, about 20 miles west of Omaha, this company was attacked by Indians. Thomas E. Ricks and a number of other young men crossed the river on horseback to drive in some cattle that were feeding there when the Indians opened fire upon them. Thomas was wounded and fell from his horse and was left for dead by his com­panions. As soon as the news was brought to camp, Mr. Ricks hitched up a team and crossing the river went out in search of the body of his son, supposing that he had been killed.  After looking around for some minutes he was set upon by two Indians on horse back. As soon as he saw them he turned his horses towards camp and tried to escape but they rode up on each side of him and one of them pointed his gun at Mr. Ricks and with the muzzle two or three feet from his body, pulled the trigger, the gun misfired. This was repeated two or three times and when the Indian found he could not kill him, he dropped back to the rear of the wagon where he stole a small trunk containing some clothing belonging to Mrs. Ricks, which he carried away with him. Mr. Ricks always felt that this escape on this occasion was providential. It trans­pired that Thomas had been rescued by some of his companions who had crossed the river and, finding him lying in the grass, had succeeded in carrying him away. The wounds that he received on that occasion he carried in his body as long as he lived.

As the departure of the company could not be delayed and as Mr. Ricks was determined to go to the Rocky Mountains with his company, a spring wagon was fitted up and Thomas was placed in it and was car­ried along in the pilgrimage westward. He recovered rapidly and was pretty nearly well before the company reached the Rocky Mountains.

On arriving at the valley of the Great Salt Lake, in September, Mr. Ricks located temporarily at Bountiful, about 12 miles north of Salt Lake City, where he erected a saw mill and remained during the winter of 1848-49.  In the spring of 1849, he took up some land at the foot of the mountains at Centerville, about 6 miles north of Bountiful, where he made him a home and continued to reside for nine years.  His former frontier ex­perience stood him in good hand and enabled him to prosper in this western wilderness.

Soon after locating at Centerville he engaged in the tanning busi­ness at Farmington, the county seat of Davis county, about six miles north of Centerville.

While residing at Centerville he passed through the famine period caused by the grasshoppers and crickets.  It was in the year 1854, when the crops along the fertile district lying between the mountains and the lake were growing nicely with the prospects of an abundant harvest that the grasshoppers came. They came in such numbers that the settlers saw at once, that unless something could be done to drive them away that everything green would soon disappear and that all prospects of a harvest would vanish. When it is remembered that the nearest settlement was more than a thousand miles distant this prospect looked gloomy indeed. Being of a religious temperament and having had occasion to rely upon the Lord before, all went to him in this instance, and strange to say the next morning soon after sun rise, the grass hoppers rose in the air like a cloud and in such numbers as to darken the sun, it seemingly being a habit with them to exercise after a night passed on the growing crops. While in the air a strong wind came down off the mountains and blew them suddenly over the lake where the myriads settled in the briny waters and were drowned, later when the wind changed from the west these grass hoppers were washed upon the shore in such number that for miles and miles they made a windrow two or three feet deep.  The crops were saved. This case was paralleled two or three years before when the crops were green and thrifty, thousands of millions of crickets came marching down off the mountains like, a vast army invading the plain. The settlers saw at once that unless some­thing happened that every green thing would disappear from the earth in a short time, but remembering the Lord and feeling sure that He would help them in the hour of trial they laid their case before Him. This time tens of thousands of seagulls carne out of the west, pouncing down upon the army of crickets and destroying them. The old settlers of this region regarded these occurrences in the nature of miracles, as remarkable as the flight of quails, which saved the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. The first legislature of Utah, in recognition of this, passed a law making it a penal offense to kill a gull within the limits of the state. This law is still on the statute books of Utah.

In the spring of 1858 when the territory was threatened with in­vasion by the United States army all of the Mormon settlers left their homes again and headed towards the desert region, towards Mexico.  Mr. Ricks with his family went with the rest as far as Nebo in Juab valley.  Fortunately the government was convinced of the folly of its course and peace was restored and the Saints returned to their homes. Mr. Ricks and his family reached Centerville early in July. It is a fact that in most of the settlements where crops had been planted that they had grown and matured without irrigation and without any care from anyone and were ready for harvesting on the return of the settlers.

The spring of 1859 settlers began to be attracted by reports of the richness of Cache Valley, located about 75 miles north of Centerville.  Mr. Ricks in company with James Quayle and Justin Shepard decided to go up and look over that region. Arriving in Wellsville about the first of June they found about 10 or 12 families who had built a few cabins and were engaged in putting in crops. They crossed to the eastern side of the valley and riding along the foot of the mountains they came to Providence Bench, overlooking the bottom lands of the Logan River, which at that time were covered with a dense growth of willows and cottonwood, and the sage brush flat where Logan now stands. Not being able to cross the river to the north side they rode down through what is now the College district and returned to Wellsville for the night.

Notwithstanding the lateness of the season they found snow several feet deep on the northern slope of all of the hills.

Cache Valley at that time was so cold that for several years after the arrival of the first settlers it was not an uncommon occurrence for frost to bite the wheat in July. Mr. Ricks decided to locate in the new valley and returning to Farmington began to make preparations for removal. About July 20, he took his wife Sarah B. and her family and started to Cache Valley where they arrived on the 23rd of July, making a temporary encampment on the present site of the Brigham Young College. Later he made his home and built a cabin on the corner that is now occupied by the Thatcher Brothers Bank building. After putting up hay for the winter he returned to Centerville and brought his other family to Logan and built them a cabin on the brow of the hill where Moses Thatcher's residence now stands. Since that time, Mr. Ricks has been identified with every step for the development of Logan and Cache Valley.

 In connection with Ezra T. Benson and others he built the first saw mill and grist mill in Logan, he also engaged in the tanning busi­ness which at that time was a very important industry for the early settlers. He was one of the first stockholders of the Co-operative In­stitutions which were organized in 1868, also the Deseret Telegraph Company, which was formed about the same time. He maintained for years a ferry boat on the Logan River on the west side of the valley, and later built a bridge there which he presented to the county. He served as Treasurer for Cache County for more than 30 years. He was always regarded as one of the foremost citizens of Logan, an honest, reliable, hardworking man. At the time of his death his descendents in the Rocky Mountain Region numbered 377 souls.

Eleanor Martin, Mr. Ricks' first wife, having been born and reared on the frontiers of civilization was in every respect a true wife and a noble woman. Her life was cast among the people and in a region where troubles and trials were the lot of all, but she never faltered in her duties or shirked a responsibility. She wore out her life in the finding and re­deeming a wilderness and we feel sure that in the great hereafter when justice shall be done to those who laid down their lives for the race, she will be counted among the noble ones. She died Feb. 18. 1882.

Eleanor Martin Rick's own account of the important events of her life is written on the first page of a book, which records Patriarchal Blessings given by her husband Joel Ricks. She lived in Clark County, Kentucky, until she was twelve years of age, when she moved with her father to Trigg County. Following her marriage to Joel Ricks in 1827, the events of her life follow closely those of her husband.  They were both baptized on the same day; they went through the Nauvoo Temple together, and they shared in the great exodus of the Saints from Nauvoo.

Her first Utah home was at Farmington. In 1857 she moved with her husband to Logan, Utah, where she arrived before the first surveying of the city had been completed. Joel and Eleanor are undoubtedly the only couple who have their names on the deeds of every piece of property on the west side of Logan Main Street between Center Street and First North.  In this area, about where the Bluebird now stands Joel built a large rock house.  Whenever LDS church authorities visited Logan, they went directly to the Ricks home where they were sure of kindly hospitality.  Eleanor kept an immaculate home and was an excellent cook. 

To illustrate her southern hospitality her grandchildren say that every fall their grandmother held a “Pumpkin Festival”. When the crop was at its best and the new molasses was ready for sweetening she sent word to all her grandchildren to come to see her during a certain week. Then she made dozens of pies and served her family and friends gen­erously. When she grew older and could no longer see to read her Bible and Book of Mormon, it was these same grandchildren who read to her.

Eleanor was trained in the arts, which grace the home.  A lace collar of netting, which is a keepsake of the family, is an exquisite example of her scale.  Her curtains and the deep valances on her spotless bed’s were edged with her knitted lace.  Those who saw them honored her white knitted bedspreads.  She wore fine blue and white counterpanes.  Her flowerbeds brightened the desert.

Eleanor was a descendent of James Martin and Sarah Harris, and of Thomas Turner and Catherine Smith.  Her lines include the Daubneys, Jennings, Overtons, Clairbornes Smiths of Virginia.

The following is an excerpt from the obituary of Eleanor Martin Ricks published in a Logan paper:
". . . She was the mother of eleven children and had ninety-four great grandchildren . . . she endured with her husband many of the hardships and persecutions heaped upon the Saints in early days. She crossed the plains in 1848, and even when in the midst of the desert one of her sons was shot down by savages, she did not murmur or complain. The greatest anxiety of her later years was that she might live to enter the Logan Temple and there do work for her dead that she could not do anywhere else. But the Temple was not completed, and hence her desires were not realized . . ."

However, as soon as the temple opened, through her husband's efforts, the work, which she had dreamed of doing, was accomplished, and a record of it was carefully preserved.

Note:  BYU has the Joel Ricks Family papers and histories in its Special Collections Department in the basement of the Harold B. Lee Library.

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