Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ephraim Twitchell and Phoebe Melissa Knight

Ephraim Twitchell, son of Joshua Twitchell and Sarah Miller, was born May 19, 1803, in Dummerston, Windham, Vermont. The Twitchell families of America had descended from Benjamin Twitchell, who came to America from England in the year 1630.  When Ephraim was ten years of age, his parents with all the children moved from Vermont to the Ohio Valley, settling in Meigs County. When Ephraim was eight years of age in 1811, his father Joshua died from a war injury. Two years later, in 1813, his mother Sarah died from a stroke. Ephraim, being the youngest of the family, grew to manhood in the care of brothers and sisters.  Here in Ohio, he became a farmer and a stockman as well as a shoemaker. When he was twenty years of age, he married Phoebe Melissa Knight of Massachusetts. Two of their children were born there in Bedford, Meigs, Ohio: Anciel and Celestia Ursula. Their third baby, Eunice, was born February 15, 1830 in Schuyler County, Illinois, and died the same day. The following year the family moved to Springcreek, McDonough County, Illinois, being among the first settlers there. Phebe bore five more children while they were living in Springcreek.

In the spring of 1842, Ephraim and his wife and family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. In a short while, they were being persecuted by the mobs. One day, while Ephraim was away from home, Phebe was in bed with a new baby, a son named Joshua. The mobs came and carried mother and child out of the home and into a nearby orchard and left them there. Thankfully, they were not killed. Ephraim then took his family and moved to Nauvoo to be with the body of Saints. They were unable to sell their home so Ephraim buried a container of written information at each corner of the land in case any member of his family might return. After they moved to Nauvoo, their daughter, Amanda, was born on November 29, 1844. A little more than a year later, their oldest daughter Celestia died. This same spring of 1846, they were driven from their homes with the other saints and located in the vicinity of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here, in the spring following, they farmed for a season on government land. They raised a large crop of potatoes and about one thousand bushels of corn. This helped to provide food for the saints that would come later.

In the early spring of 1848, Ephraim and his family took part in the most remarkable religious emigration of modern times, to Utah. They accomplished the long and hazardous journey across the plains with ox teams. On the way, at Winter Quarters, when the call came for the Mormon Battalion to help in the war against Mexico, Anciel, their son, was one of those who joined the Battalion and marched all the way to California.  Anciel's wife Louisa had her own team and wagon and she went along with the Twitchell families.  James Ephriam their forth child and second son, was a boy of 13 years, yet he drove an outfit of two oxen and took his turn like his father standing guard during this perilous journey. The other two brothers, Edwin and Orin, were 11 and 9 years, and their task was to drive the sheep across the plains.

Ephraim and family came to Utah in what is known as the Ezra Chase Company, arriving in late September 1848, in what is now the city of Ogden, Utah, then called Brown's Settlement. There was already an old log shack on the site, which had been erected by mountain men and trappers. Ephraim built a log cabin for their protection that winter, this being the first of the kind erected at that place. Sarah Celestia, their daughter was born here October 22, 1848, the first white child born in Ogden. It was a terribly cold winter with a great deal of snow, and they were very short of food supplies.

Ephraim Twitchell was a man of strong character, very energetic and a thorough American. In the spring of 1849, the family became influenced by the California Gold Rush. They left Utah and went to California (their son Anciel had remained in California after being discharged from the Mormon Battalion). Ephraim's brother Joshua and his family joined them on this trip. While crossing the Humbolt River in Nevada, they had to use the wagon boxes for boats, paddling them across and swimming the stock. In their further journey, coming to the Sierra Nevadas, they drove over the hard snow as on pavement. This was known as Donner Pass where three years before the Donner Party had perished by the winter storms. The winter of 1849-50 was passed on the Sacramento River at Vernon, where Ephraim took up a placer claim from which he took out one hundred and fifty dollars of gold, then abandoned the claim. Ephraim aided in the erection of the first American house built in Sacramento, receiving ten dollars a day for his labor. Going from that place to the now historic Sutter's Mill, he received at first twenty dollars a day. Later he was offered a large sum to haul logs to Sutter's sawmill with two yokes of oxen and an old Spanish cart, but he refused the offer as he was anxious to become established in a home of his own.

 In 1852, while carrying eight hundred dollars in fifty dollar gold "slugs" in a belt buckled around him, he was attacked by the noted Mexican bandit, Joaquin [pronounced Wah-keen], who had just broken out of Stockton jail. Ephraim saw him in time, however, to draw his pistol in advance of the robber, who then gave spurs to his horse and rode off without his expected booty.

The families were in Sacramento for about a year and they decided to settle in San Juan Bautista, Monterey County, California. The land there is a black rich soil and records show that they were there in September 1851, where they farmed and raised some cattle. Ephriam was an Elder in the Church and the President of the branch in San Juan Bautista. They held services in Joshua's home, as he had a large house. Then in 1856, Ephriam and family moved to San Bernardino, California. This is the first time the two brothers, Ephriam and Joshua, were ever separated any distance as they were very close as brothers.

One day as Ephraim was going to town in his wagon, he saw a man walking along the road carrying a satchel and a cloak. He invited the man to ride with him. The old man said, “Take your family back to Utah where the body of the Saints are.” Ephraim answered, “My boys will not go with me.” The stranger then said, “Yes they will, every one of them.” After they had stopped at an inn for dinner, the old man disappeared, leaving his cloak on the wagon seat. It was kept in the family for many years.  His words proved to be true, for the entire family moved back to Utah in 1857, and there Ephraim continued to be identified with Church work. They settled in Beaver, being among the first to pioneer the town and county of Beaver. 

They went by wagon train to Milford, Utah, and on to Beaver as some of the first settlers to make their home there. Phoebe Melissa died the next spring and her grave is said to have been the first in the Beaver Cemetery. 

Ephraim's family located on Indian Creek, which enters Beaver on the north (later called Manderfield). The Indians were thick and hostile. They took advantage of the settlers and expected to pasture their horses in the fields, and they would help themselves to a share of everything, food and all. They would steal and drive away the animals. The settlers never knew when their families were safe. Ephraim and his sons knew the language of the Indians and acted as interpreters on many occasions. Ephraim served in the Black Hawk War in the command of Captain Hunt, having many exciting experiences in combat with the Indians in that action. It was decided to call the Indians together and help feed them at the tithing office yard and hold sort of a Pow-Wow and appoint a recognized chief from among them. Most of the Indians agreed to this and were much better. Ephraim was the first Presiding Elder of the Church at Indian Creek, Utah, for several years. He later returned to San Bernardino on a mission for the Church. 

Ephraim later re-married; Sarah Hadden, 7 January 1860 and they had several children. He died at Beaver, Utah 23 Dec 1872, he and Phoebe Melissa are both buried in the Beaver Cemetery.

Phoebe Melissa Knight was the fourth child of Silas Knight and Eunice Higley. She was born June 14, 1804 at Tolland, Hampden County, Massachusetts. In 1810, at the age of six, Phoebe moved with her family to what is now Meigs County, Ohio. Three years later, the ten-year-old Ephraim Twitchell moved into the same area with his family, and the two were married in 1824. Phoebe's older sister Eunice Ursula had married Ephraim's older brother, Joshua, and the two families kept close ties throughout their lives. Both families, the Knights and the Twitchells, had moved to Ohio at about the same time and knew each other, and worked together.

Joshua Twitchell Jr. and Ursula Knight were married first. He was 22 years old and she was 19. They were married on June 24, 1816, only about 4 months before Joshua Sr. died. Ephraim Twitchell and Melissa Knight were married much later on March 1, 1824 in Pomeroy (where the Knights lived then, close to Bedford) Meigs County, Ohio. He was 21 and she was 20. The other daughter of the Knights, named Harriet, married Mr. Hysell. They all lived in Ohio for a long time. All of these families lived close to each other, and eventually traveled all the way to the West together. (However, Harriet and husband came to California a few years after the Twitchells.)

Melissa's parents, Silas and Eunice Knight, died in Ohio in 1839, and Melissa received one hundred dollars from the sale of land from her father's estate. Ursula received the same. These two couples, Ephraim and Melissa, and Joshua and Ursula, stayed together, traveled together, loved each other, suffered together, and helped each other although Joshua and Ursula and family remained in California as did Harriet and her family.

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