BAGLEY, Edward Alma

Edward Alma Bagley
(1847-1929)

Edward Alma Bagley was born at Southampton, York, New Brunswick, , the 10th of April 1847, the ninth of 12 children of Edward Cyrenius and Julia Ann Grant Bagley.

Southampton is a very beautiful town, as is all of New Brunswick. New Brunswick is a seaside Province of Canada, bordering on the state of Maine under the Provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec. Southampton isn’t too far from its capitol, Fredericton. The sea is New Brunswick’s neighbor, but wherever you travel in the province, you are never far from the tranquil loveliness of her lakes and the river. The threading Saint John River treads its way almost the length of the Province from its headwaters in Northern Maine to the turbulent Reversing Falls at Saint John.

Edward C., his father Richard, and brother were apparently ship builders and moved from Connecticut to Canada where the timber was larger and better for that trade.

It was here, about 1844, that two Mormon missionaries, Elder Crosby and Elder Brown, came to Southampton and set up a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After Edward and Julia Ann heard the gospel from the missionaries, their family accepted it wholeheartedly.

Wishing to be located with the Latter-day-Saints in Utah, most of the Branch except the Bagley and Phillips families left New Brunswick the 10th of May 1854. Julia Ann Bagley had recently given birth to a baby (Hyrum Alvin) and Sister Phillips was ill. She later passed away. Both of these families left a year later on the 21st of May 1855.

The Bagley and Phillips families went by way of Fredericton, St. John and Boston. From there to Buffalo, crossed Lake Erie to Toledo, Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis, arriving there by the 2nd of June 1855. From St. Louis, on board the Ben Bolt Steamer up the Missouri River to Atkinson. Then about six miles travel from the Missouri River, they arrived at the rendezvous point called Mormon Grove, the “fitting out” place for the Pioneers that year.

Alma was seven years old when his family, along with the S.M. Blavis Company of Saints, left Mormon Grove on June 18, 1855. This was the start of their long trek across the plains, by ox team. Just two days later, on the 20th of June, Alma’s mother, Julia Ann, died of cholera. She got up that morning, cooked breakfast for her family, and before sundown she had died and was buried by the side of the trail along with others. Seventy-five years later, when Alma was eighty two, he described his feelings the day his mother died. He said that the wolves howled and the mourning doves mourned, and then he cried just like he did when he was a seven year old boy.

On the 22nd of June, Hugh Gordon Phillip died and on the 23rd Edward’s son, Cyrenius, died. They stopped at the Minahaw to clean up the wagon, themselves, their clothing and to rest. On the 7th of July they began their journey again with Brother Balantine’s Company. Later another one of Edward’s and Julia Ann’s sons, George Ford, died. Without any more sickness and few accidents they arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley the 25th of September, 1855, with all in good health.

John, the second oldest son, came to Utah with the Branch of New Brunswick, a year earlier. He lived in the Salt Lake Valley working and waiting for his folks to arrive. The day the company of pioneers, which included his parents, were to arrive, he rode on horseback out to meet them. Imagine his grief and disappointment when he found that his mother and three brothers were not there.

His mother’s death had left a young baby, Hyrum Alvin, without a mother. The family spent the first winter in Provo, but later moved to Payson. Since the family was too large for Edward to care for alone, some of the children were placed with other families of friends. Hyrum Alvin was taken by the Lant family of Payson to rear. Alma lived with James McClellan, also in Payson.

As a boy, he herded cows a great deal. Sometimes he would herd all day just for his dinner. Quite often, he would get so hungry he would gather up squash rinds, potato peels, and other scraps of food to eat. He never forgot those experiences, and throughout his life he always hated to see any food wasted.

When General D.H. Wells came to Payson to inspect the Militia, Alma had joined it to aid in the , but would only have been 18 at this time. In the later years of his life (1920) Alma received a monthly “pension” check ($20) paid to veterans of the Black Hawk war. The certificate which awarded that pension stated that Edward Alma Bagley was a “Sergeant, Captain Caleb W. Haws’ Co. Utah Militia Cavalry, (Black Hawk War).”

Al, as he was called by his friends, was an outdoor boy and loved to ride wild steers and horses. Sometimes he would drop onto a wild horse as it raced through the gate and then choke it down when he wanted to get off. One day while he was a soldier in the Black Hawk War, he made a “deal” with another soldier and “exchanged” doing guard duty at Prattville, because of his riding a wild outlaw horse.

As a young man, he did much wagon freighting, especially to Pioche, Nevada. When the St. George temple was being built, he spent a month hauling a four-horse load of supplies to St. George.

In about 1867, Alma was working for George Rust at Payson where Sabra Jane Beckstead was also working. She described him as a splendid young man, honest, dependable, had no bad habits, and was well thought of by all who knew him. He was older than Sabra and would advise her as to how girls should best conduct themselves. She said he would not countenance anything shady and shunned the very appearance of evil. He was an ardent admirer of Brigham Young and once rode with the president from Nephi to Payson.

Alma married Mary Almeda McClellan on the 17th of September 1870, when he was 23 and she was 20 years old. She was the granddaughter of James McClellan and Alma had lived with that family when his family moved to Payson. He had also worked for her father, William, on their farm.

Alma and Mary built a home in Payson and had a farm on Spring Creek. Their first baby girl, Mary Adelma, was born at their home on June 12, 1871. When she was fifteen months old, she was kicked by a horse, died and was buried at Payson. Three more children were born to Alma and Mary while in Payson. They were Edward Carroll (February 28, 1873), Julia Estella (April 14, 1875), and Emma Retta ( March 10, 1877). Mary evidently returned to Payson from Grass Valley to be with family there for this birth.

In 1876, Edward Alma moved his family to Grass Valley. He and some of the other men from Payson felt that conditions were better in Grass Valley for raising cattle and dairying. And, they were encouraged by Church leaders to settle that area.

Alma settled at Greenwich, about four miles south of Koosharem, in a little log house. He eventually obtained six hundred acres of farm and meadow land and raised cattle. Sometimes he and his family and hired help milked as many as fifty cows each day. They used the milk to make cheese. He ran many cattle on the mountain in the summer time and fed them hay part of the winter. He was an excellent rancher and kept his barns, fences, and everything in good order. At one time he also managed a small store by the house in Greenwich.

As many of the pioneers, Alma had a very meager scholastic training, but he was a self-educated man. Apparently his wife, Mary, taught him to read. Through experience, reading, and study, he overcame these obstacles and became well educated. Alma was witty and a great entertainer. He could make splendid “stump speeches”. The thoughts seemed to crowd themselves into his mind so rapidly it was impossible for him to utter them fast enough. His speeches were well arranged and sometimes very humorous. He was a delightful person to be around, always relating humorous anecdotes, stories, and reciting poetry. No one ever knew when he would take the urge to give an impromptu speech. He loved parties, dances, and social gatherings and was often the life of the party.

Alma took an active part in the Sunday School at Greenwich and also in the Koosharem Ward. When the temple was completed at St. George, he and Mary took their family and had them sealed to them, on the 27th of October 1880. It took about seven days, by team, to make the trip at that time.

Mary gave birth to five more children after moving to Grass Valley. They were James Alvin, 14 April 1879; Cynthia Almeda, 28 April 1881; Rhoda Ann, 24 August 1884; George Alma, 6 September 1886; and Cyrenius, on 12 August 1889.

Plural Marriage (Polygamy)

Alma was ordained a Seventy by Francis M. Lyman at Koosharem on 26 November 1884. On the 10th of February 1885, he married a second wife, Christena Torgersen. She was born at Hougesund (Hoxaum), Rogeland, Norway 23rd October 1867. She had worked for the Bagleys for about a year prior to their marriage. Alma and Christena were married by Apostle Merrill at the Logan Temple. Alma and his wife Mary were anxious to live all the principles of their religion so they were willing to embrace the Higher Order of Marriage, and Christena was taken into the family as a plural wife. The principle of polygamy was advised by the leaders of the church at that time for some brethren in the Church.

Shortly after Alma and Christena’s marriage, the Edmunds Tucker Bill was passed in the U.S. Congress, which prohibited polygamist marriages. Much persecution then ensued against those so married. Later, the Supreme Court of the United States also ruled against plural marriage. Shortly after that, in September of 1890, a revelation was received to discontinue plural marriage and on October 6, 1890 an Official Declaration was made for the Saints to comply with the law of the land.

A Mission

On December 31, 1885, Edward Alma left Greenwich to serve a Mission for the Church, at the age of 38. On the 5th of January 1886, he was set apart by Franklin D. Richards and the next day left for Council Bluffs, Iowa. It took five days and four nights by train to reach his mission headquarters, arriving there on the tenth of January. This put him back in the same area in which his mother had died all those years before, as his family began their trek to Utah. As all missionaries in those days, he traveled without regular funds from home and depended on the people in the area to which he was assigned for both food and lodging. He did work some to help those who assisted him.

While Alma was away on his mission, a daughter was born to Christena on the 27th of August 1886 and she was named Anna Christena. Soon after that, a son was born to Mary on the 6th of September 1886. He was named , George Alma. So while on his mission, Alma had an increase of two more children. He now had eight children by Mary (six living), and one by Christena. Later that year Alma was stricken with Malaria Fever and had to return home early from his mission.

Trip to Mexico

After Alma’s return from his Mission, the federal marshals were very active in trying to arrest those men in the Church who had plural wives. Even some of the women, polygamous wives, were arrested. Alma had evaded arrest but the family decided that he should take Mary and their children to visit her family in Mexico. That would get them away from the U.S. law for a time.

In the spring of 1887, Alma fixed up two wagons, one a very light one. He shod the horses and loaded bedding, food supplies and everything needed for the long trip. He took two rifles and plenty of cartridges. He turned the management of the store over to Lennert Gabriel de Lange and rented the farm to Jim McClellan (Mary’s brother) and John Hatch. John Hatch went with them to Lee’s Ferry, and then rode Old Phil, the big white horse, back to Greenwich. Will Cloward, his wife and daughter, went with the family as far as the Gila River.

They went by way of Antimony, up through John’s Valley, over the hump past Bryce Canyon and down into Tropic and Cannonville. A deep box canyon ran from there down to the Colorado River and Lee’s Ferry. They followed down to the Paria River, crossing it dozens of times. They finally left it and went out around a big mountain toward Kanab and then down to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado.

They had hoped to get across the river before the water got high, but it was just booming when they arrived. Brother Johnson, who kept the ferry, was out of sorts to have someone come when the water was so high, as it was very dangerous. They did not dare cross at the main ferry, but had to go up the river about one mile. They put the wagons on an old boat and made the horses swim. By rowing just as hard as they could to counteract the swift current, they landed about one half mile down from where they started. It was risky, for if they had failed to reach a sand bar, they would have gone down the Grand Canyon, for the rapids were just below.

After they got everything across the river, they had to pull up over Lee’s Backbone, a steep, rocky mountain, to get back to the road. They drove out to Navajo Springs, and stayed a day or two to straighten things up. While hay was available, they purchased it for the animals. Later on they turned them loose to graze for themselves.

From Lee’s Ferry they came into desert country. They followed up the Little Colorado River past Winslow, Arizona, and Joseph City, and then up the river to Pima, one of the principal towns of Arizona at the time. The family traveled up the Gila River past the town of Safford and some other little towns, and then off to the southeast, through a big open country into New Mexico, until they crossed the border into Old Mexico.

When the family crossed into Mexico, the first town they came to was La Ascension. The houses were all built of adobe with flat roofs. It was such a great distance to obtain any timber that they used very little of it in their buildings. The family had to travel up the river about seventy-five miles to the Mormon Colony at Juarez.

The family had traveled about 800 to 1,000 miles, going about fifteen miles per day. Unlike some of the pioneer movements of the past, they did this trip all alone, just their family.

While the family was in Mexico, Alma purchased a choice lot and with the help of Mary’s father and brothers, built a rough lumber house, which was better than the average house in town. After they left Mexico and returned to the States, Mary’s parents, Almeda and William C. McClellan, lived in the house until their sons built a rock house for them.

After being in Mexico for about one year, Alma decided they had better go back home to Greenwich. They left Juarez on 15 March 1888. Four days later they got in a snowstorm and had to camp in three or four inches of snow. It was naturally very muddy, and they were wet and covered with mud up to their knees. They came back by way of Lee’s Ferry and up the creek to Cannonville. On the afternoon of May 5th, 1888 they arrived back at Greenwich. It had been a long hard drive from Mexico, fifty five days, and Mary was worn out.

Back in Utah

Christena and her daughter hadn’t gone with them on this trip. While Alma , Mary and family were gone, Christena’s daughter, Anna Christena, died on 2 April 1888. This left Christena alone for a month until the family returned and the loss was very hard on her.

Very soon the marshal was after Alma because of his two wives. Alma kept his horse saddled all the time. One of the boys would watch and when they could see the marshal coming, they would warn their father and he would mount his horse and be gone. His horse would jump any fence. Sometimes he seemed to enjoy giving the sheriff a good run.

Mary’s health was not good after their return but on the 12th of August 1889, just over a year later, a son, Cyrenius, was born to Mary and Alma. On the 10th of September 1889, a daughter, Mary Ellen was born to Christena and Alma.

Mary’s health deteriorated after Cyrenius was born. One night when she was very bad, the sheriff came and Alma didn’t run that night, but went out and told the marshal about his wife and asked to be left alone until after her death. The marshal extended Alma this courtesy.

Mary Almeda McClellan Bagley passed away on the 27th of October 1889, leaving a family of seven living children. After Mary’s death, Alma and Christena were re-married so the marshal could have no more complaints. Christena, who had just turned 22 years of age, stepped in and took the place of mother with Mary’s children and her own child.

The ages or Mary’s children at her death were: Edward Carroll 16, Stell 14, James 10, Cynthia 8, Rhoda 5, Allie 3, and Cyrenius 2 ½ months. Baby Cyrenius was taken and cared for (needed to be nursed) by Joseph and Sinda Whitehead of Burrville. They had a son five days older than Cyrenius. They wanted to take him and raise him along with their son Fred. Alma consented to let him go with them for about two years, then he was returned to the family and raised with the other children. The Whiteheads always called him their son and Cyrenius occasionally stayed with them for short visits.

Further Church Service

Alma was ordained a High Priest and set apart as Bishop of the Koosharem Ward on the 27th of May 1891 by Francis M. Lyman. This position he held until March 19, 1904. During this time, he attended all conferences and business meetings possible at Richfield. He had to go to Richfield in a wagon and it took three days to make the trip.

General Authorities of the Church visited the valley for two days at a time, coming over from Richfield in wagons or buggies. They stayed in the humble homes of the people. Some of the visitors were: Heber J. Grant, James E. Talmage, George Albert Smith, Francis M. Lyman, Joseph F. Smith, and others. It was an honor for Alma and Stenie to host these men in their home.

Alma donated much to the church. At one time, an assessment of five hundred dollars was made to the Koosharem Ward. He paid half of it and allotted the other half to the rest of the ward. When he killed a beef, he would go in a sleigh or wagon and take meat to all the widows and to others in need. Also, he would cut large chunks of cheese to distribute. Very often he would leave money at the store for widows to buy clothing for their children. It was his delight to give to and serve others.

Alma loved people and developed a great interest in them. He was described as broad minded and charitable, and always had a spot in his heart for the poor or downtrodden. He would assist people with money or in whatever way he could. One poor man from Dixie (southern Utah) came to his home to sell molasses. Alma had already bought his years supply, so he did not purchase any from him. Later that day, Alma hurried and caught up with the fellow and said, “You have been praying that you would sell some molasses, haven’t you?” The man said that he had because he was so badly in need of money. Alma bought an extra barrel from him and gave a gallon to everyone who came to the house.

Alma helped to bring Dan Throckmartin and his family to Koosharem from Arkansas for the sake of the gospel. His son-in-law, Sidney Rust, had converted the family while there on a mission. He felt very sorry for poor people and he often helped them with money or whatever way he could. He was not selfish, even though he had considerable means.

Alma Bagley was a man who loved the Lord and “in six days, he did all his work and on the seventh, he would go to the house of prayer and offer up his devotions to the most high.” He was not ashamed to “pray night and morning every day” as the song goes. No matter who was in his home, or if he was on a round-up in the mountains, he always remembered to pray. Every morning and night, before eating, they all knelt beside their chairs at the table and Alma would pray. Every member at the home had to kneel by the side of their chair, while he prayed. Then we would be seated at the table and he would ask the blessing on the food. He was a man of great faith and God-given power to magnify the same among the sick and afflicted. He was a man who was always on time and would never neglect his duties. He believed in the old adage, “That which is worth doing, is worth doing well.”

Edward Alma always enjoyed blessing and naming babies. He loved children dearly and often remarked, “There’s nothing sweeter than a baby unless it’s two babies.” He loved to sing songs and entertain children. His daughter, Rhoda, tells us that one song he used to sing to them was “An Old Chicken Coop, Without a Chicken in it.” She also relates that in the winter, he liked to go from Greenwich to Koosharem, in his sleigh, with the beautiful sounding sleigh bells on his horses. After school he would pick up his children, as well as other children and take them for a sleigh ride around town.

An Added Family

Over the next several years Christen gave birth to seven more babies. So in all, Christena and Alma were blessed with nine children. Of these, Anna Christena passed away at 18 months of age and Lorenzo at 16 years of age.

Though Alma grew up in very humble circumstances, he worked hard and became quite well to do for those times. He managed a store in Greenwich for a while, but his main livelihood was farming and dairying. In early days, instead of putting his money in the bank or some investment, he kept it in a buckskin bag under the carpet or under the floor. In later years, he was a director of Richfield Commercial and Savings Bank and kept his money in the bank.

When the children married he gave generous gifts to them; each daughter received one thousand dollars, and each son received a good team of horses with new harnesses and a new wagon so they could start their farming operation. He did this for each of his fourteen children.

A nice home was built with rock at Greenwich. It was started in 1899 and finished in 1901. Later they built a nice brick home in Koosharem and lived there during the winters. Isolated as they were, the people had to provide their own recreation. Old time dances, theatricals, ball playing, horse racing, picnics and outings were common forms of amusement. The big celebrations were held at Cedar Grove on the fourth and twenty-fourth of July. Their M.I.A. celebrations were held at Fish Lake. Families would get together and go camping at Fish Lake for three or four days at a time.

Final Years

In 1922 Alma made a trip to visit some of his own children as well as brothers. He visited his daughter, Cynthia, in Orem. They went to Charleston. Utah to visit his brother and then went on to Salt Lake City to visit another brother. Alma then went to Idaho to visit a brother and he enjoyed his visit there as well. He was very interested in searching out the records of his forefathers and was visiting relatives for that purpose.

Alma was returning home and got as far as Richfield, when he had a stroke. This occurred on the July 3rd, 1922. He remained in the hospital for a week and was then taken home and confined to bed most of the time for the next seven years. During these years, he and Christena lived in their home at Koosharem where he was faithfully cared for by Christena. For a while he could walk with the help of a cane but was paralyzed on his left side. He used to call his left leg the Democrat and would say “if it wasn’t for that old Democrat leg,” he would be alright.

At the time of his stroke his youngest daughter, Helen, was 16 and his youngest son, Talmage, was 13.

He was a man of sound judgment and very determined in what he thought to be right. He was the father of eighteen children (nine with each wife). He had three small girls, a boy of sixteen, and a married son pass away before he died. It can be said of him, “He fought a good fight and kept the faith.”

He suffered much in the latter part of his life, and on the 29th of May 1929, at the age of eighty two, he passed away and was buried in the Koosharem Cemetery. Thus ended the life of a great Utah Pioneer.

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