PICKETT, John – A Fully Converted Pioneer

John Pickett

4 February 1825 – 27 September 1898

John Pickett was born at Much Hadham , Hertfordshire, England on February 4, 1825. He was the son of John Pickett and Sarah (Susan) Sapsed. Records show that John’s mother, Susan, died when he was seven years old. She was buried on March 19, 1833. The family lived on a farm which was called Moat Farm at Kettle Green. The farm was located a mile south west of Much Hadham. The farm was about 40 acres and they hired two men to help with the work. It is not known whether the family owned the farm or just worked the ground.

John was baptized a member of the L.D.S. church on December 25, 1853 after being taught by the missionaries. He was baptized by Elder John Fry and was confirmed by Elder W. Hert. John was very faithful in the church and was ordained a Teacher on March 30, 1854. He was ordained an Elder on September 3, 1854. On that same day he was put in as President of the Standon Branch of the church. He was appointed collector of the branch fund. A quote from the diary of Elder Stratford: “Sunday Elder John Pickett conducted the meeting for the first time. The Saints seem satisfied with his endeavors to instruct.” Elder Stratford, John Pickett and other missionaries visited the Stringer home often. They held some of their meetings there. Rosetta Stringer was baptized by Elder Edwin Stratford October 12, 1854 and conformed the same day by John Pickett.

No information is reported about the courtship of John and Rosetta but it is known that they made plans to immigrate to America and join the saints in Utah. John packed a few of his belongings and told his family that he was leaving home. He would be going to America. John and Rosetta boarded the sail ship “Chimborazo” which left Liverpool, England at noon on Tuesday, April 17th. At seven o’clock that evening the saints met for a testimony meeting and President Edward Stevenson’s instructions. They were asked to pray for fair and favorable weather and blessings to rest upon the captain and crew. There were 432 Latter-day Saints on board. Elder Edward Stevenson was appointed President of the Chimborazo Saints. The saints enjoyed themselves with much singing suitable to the occasion. Three marriages were celebrated on board that night. John Pickett and Rosetta Stringer were married by President Edward Stevenson.

Each morning aboard ship there was a lot of bustling around as the saints would prepare meals and clean, but all was orderly. President Stevenson issued 494 yards of nankeen for wagon and tent covers to the saints to cut and sew. The poop deck was covered with sisters and brothers engaged cheerfully in sewing the covers and tents. By the time the voyage ended the covers and tents were finished and ready for use. The ship docked at Philadelphia on May 22, 1855.

John and Rosetta made a stop at Mormon Grove and traveled to Utah in the Richard Ballentyne Company of 1855. Details of the journey are available in the journal of Brother Ballentyne. There were 402 individuals, 45 wagons, 220 oxen, 48 cows and 3 horses. They left Mormon Grove the morning of June 27, 1855. It was quite the morning. The cattle or ox teams were not used to pulling wagons. Most of the saints had never driven a wagon or even seen oxen. With green cattle and green drivers the fun started. It was amusing. The oxen ran away and wagons were upset. According to Brother Ballentyne it was a morning to remember. There were no entries in the journal for the first month of the trip but it does report a celebration held by the company on July 24th. They knew this day would be a day of rejoicing in the Salt Lake Valley. They desired to rejoice and be glad also. They camped early, gathered prairie flowers, made flags, etc and danced during the evening. On September 25, 1855 at 6:00 P.M. they camped on the Public Square in Salt Lake City. They were in good health and had made it to Zion.

They first lived in North Salt Lake. The next spring, April 3rd, John and Rosetta went to the Endowment House in Salt Lake City and were sealed to each other by Heber C. Kimball. Five months later on September 1, 1856, their first child was born. It was a boy that they named John Jeremiah after his great grandfather and also one of his uncles.

The family next moved to Springville, Utah where John served as Ward Clerk. One of his duties was to give out the flour and other provisions to the immigrants. When the flour gave out the bishop would tell him to go back and shake the sack or scrape the bin. He would do this and would always find enough flour for the next immigrant.

In 1861 John and his family were called to move to Gunnison, Utah. Their first home was west of where Gunnison now stands. It was a dug-out near the Sanpitch River. It was located a little distance south of the “Rocky Point”. They soon found that the dug-out was not a good place to live. The first winter was a hard one with a lot of snow. The next spring when the snow melted the ground turned to deep mud. Some of the dug-outs filled with water and their chimneys collapsed. The whole place became a “Hog Wallow” and that is how that part of the valley got its name. In September of that year President Brigham Young and his party came through Gunnison by ox team. Upon seeing the condition of the land, he advised the saints to move up on the bench and there build a permanent city to be called Gunnison.

At this time the Black Hawk Indians were very hostile and the saints were suffering many hardships as a result. They built a large rock fort in the centre of town and most of the people moved into the fort. John and his family lived in the fort until he could build the family a log cabin. This cabin was the first one built in Gunnison outside of the fort. It had only one room. Later he added three more rooms to accommodate his large family. (A total of five boys and three girls.)

John homesteaded a large farm south of town. He and his boys would either walk or ride horses out to the farm to work. They planted grain. When it was ripe and ready to harvest they would cut it with a cradle scythe and bind it into sheaves by hand. It was threshed by driving oxen over the bundles until the seed was separated from the stalks. This was then shoveled into the wind, which would blow the chaff away. They then shoved the precious grain into sacks for storage.

John was on the Muster Roll of men who served under Captain Martin Mortensen from Gunnison in the Black Hawk War. The men served from early April until November 1866. He also took his turn on guard duty on the Rocky Point. The men and boys were assigned at that location because it was the highest point in the area and from there one could see in any direction so that a party of Indians could not approach without being seen. There was a pile of straw there which could be set on fire making a smoke warning of the danger. The guard would then run to the fort for safety along with the other town’s people.

At one time John was called to go to St. George and work on the temple. He was not able to go at that time so he hired another man to go in his place. He paid the man $700.

John’s children went barefoot most of the time. Many winters they had no shoes to wear to school. John would make them shoes out of old shoes and boots. This was especially true after the older boys went to work and bought their own boots. John would take the leather from discarded boots and make shoe for the smaller children. When the telegraph line went through Gunnison every man had to furnish a pole and dig the hole for it. John did his part to help on these projects. He also helped to build the first public buildings. They included the tithing granary, the school house and the church building.

John had great power in Priesthood administrations, and saw miracles from that service. He was of a jolly disposition and was well like by everyone. He was ordained a High Priest on January 8, 1869. He died in Gunnison on Tuesday, September 27, 1898. He was buried in the Gunnison City Cemetery.

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