HOLBROOK, Judge Joseph Holbrook: Faithful Saint


I, Joseph Holbrook, being desirous of leaving on record a few of the incidents of my past life and also a genealogy of my forefathers that my children may be somewhat acquainted of the origin of their forefathers. And I have written it in the English language hoping it will prove a blessing to them and be held sacred in my family from generation to generation, as I shall embrace in it my experience and the knowledge I may have gained in the course of my days. And I pray the Lord to direct my pen, assist my memory, correct my judgment, and inspire my heart to do the will of God and preserve this history according to my desire to do good. That God may be honored, His Kingdom built up, and His name glorified in the midst of the Saints, I therefore dedicate these lines hereafter to be written unto the Lord, God of Hosts, even Forever and ever, Amen.

Judge Joseph Holbrook was born 16 January 1806 in Florence, Oneida, New York, son of Moses Holbrook and Hannah Lucretia Morton, the oldest of three children – Joseph, Chandler, Phoebe.

The wives of Joseph Holbrook were, Nancy Lampson, Hannah Flint, Caroline Frances Angel, Lucy Jones, and Louisa Hiatt.

Joseph’s father was a farmer and held a deed for one hundred fifty acres dated 30th September 1807. The property was located 33 miles from Utica and 16 miles northwest of Rome towards Sackets Harbor. The county was new, very heavy timbered with beech, maple, hemlock, spruce, some basswood. John Holbrook and Patience Fisher (The great grandparents of Joseph) settled in Sturbridge, Worcester County, Massachusetts. John Holbrook and Lucretia Babbit (grandparents of Joseph) bought his uncle Josiah Holbrook’s farm on Quinsburg River and lived there over sixty years. Moses Holbrook and Hannah Morton (parents of Joseph) settled in Florence now called Annsville, Oneida County, New York.

Joseph’s father built the first frame barn (30×40 feet) in the county of Oneida. In the construction of this barn Moses Holbrook spent most of the winter logging some ten miles from home on account of the scarcity of sawmills in the vicinity. In the month of February he came home about nine o’clock being very cold which lasted about 3 hours followed with a raging fever. He grew steadily worse for three days and died February 28, 1813 at the age of 33 years and 9 months. He was free of debt and left the family the farm with a span of horses, a dozen sheep, a few cows, a yoke of oxen, and some young stock, enough to make them comfortable as long as good care was taken of it. The farm rented out to Alvin Smith Miller and the family went to live with the grandparents (John Holbrook) a distance of 250 miles from their home.

Here Joseph attended school where he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and grammar. While going to school and living with his grandparents he did much hard labor, doing chores and working on the farm. The farm was a large one consisting of 700 acres. He lived here for seven years until he was twenty-one.


In Joseph’s own words, “After spending a few weeks with my mother I was selected to engage in a common school for the winter where my mother lived. I was examined by the committee of the township and obtained a certificate of qualifications and I entered upon my professional business of school keeping for three months at $9 per month and board. I had a good school of 40 students. They were mostly large and many of them backward – some of them twenty-five years of age. They made good progress for the time. I gained great credit as a school teacher. I had some six applications for the next winter but it did not agree with me so I resolved to return to Massachusetts.”


Taken again from his own writings. “One summer I read the history of Jesus Christ and the apostles through which was about as large as the bible. I was much attached to the idea of being religious of some kind or other when I could find any that would be likely to make me understand that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever for I often went into the woods by myself and prayed and I found peace in so doing and it seemed to me that something would be brought about that would do me good but how or what way I could not tell.”


Joseph married Nancy Lampson 30th of December l830 in the home of her parents (David Lampson and Sarah Bliss). The ceremony was performed by a minister of the Congregational Church. They located about 400 miles from the Lampsons where Joseph had purchased a farm at Weathersfield, New York. They arrived there on the 6th of February, 1831, and started their married life.


During the summer of 1832 Joseph heard vague rumors of a people who were called Mormonites, and after reading articles published in the Evening and Morning Star which was published in Jackson County he became deeply interested and desired to obtain a Book of Mormon and finally thru his cousin Mary Ann Angell and an Elder by the name of John Green he was able to borrow one. He started to read the book on a Friday night and the next day he could not content himself at work in the field so came to the house and read some more.

His wife was alarmed to think that he left his work to read what she thought to be nonsense, so he again went out to the fields to work. This was futile, however, so he went into the adjoining woods to pray and through inspiration again returned to the house and kept on reading and continued to do so even on the next day which was Sunday. He finished the book in two days and three nights and then returned the book to his cousin telling her that he believed it was true and that God was at the bottom of the work and that he would like to meet the elders.

Joseph found that the Book of Mormon had shed new light upon the Bible. It, the Bible, literally became a new book to him and in the absence of the Elders he studied both books diligently. He prayed constantly about the matter and received a marvelous manifestation in answer which he has recorded in his own words. The Abraham Morton family opposed him in every way and said he was bringing disgrace on the family in defending the Mormons and their beliefs. Nevertheless when he met two elders (Aaron C. Lyon and Lenard Rich from Warsaw) one night as he was going to milk his cows and they informed him a meeting was going to be held at Warsaw he decided then and there to attend.


Joseph was so certain that he wanted to be baptized that he took clothes for that purpose along with him to Warsaw and was granted permission being baptized on Sunday morning Jan. 6, 1833, along with his aunt Pheobe Angell by Lenard Rich. Meetings were held during the day and evening. Windson C. Lyon spoke in tongues and many wonderful testimonies were born. The next morning Joseph’s wife Nancy was convinced that the Gospel as taught by the Mormons was true and applied for baptism. She was baptized by Lenard Rich and confirmed by Aaron C. Lyons Monday Jan. 7, 1833. Joseph was then ordained a teacher by Aaron C. Lyons. Upong returning home he met with opposition on all hands and from every side and quarter but this only served to keep him all the more faithful and diligent in spreading the Gospel.

In the course of just a few months the elders along with the help of Joseph were instrumental in bringing 85 people into the Church. Many had the gift of tongues, interpretation, gift of prophecy under the influence of the Holy Ghost. They met together often to preach, exhort and speak to one another of the things of the kingdom which gave them love for one another, strengthening of their faith etc.

In the journal written by himself, Joseph gives in detail accounts of the trials they went through. In November 1838, the mob burned his house, stole his cattle, and used about 300 bushels of grain. His wife was in very poor health from exposure, as they had no home, they lived among friends as best they could. The mob was searching for him so he had to leave and hide. He was gone three months and returned to find his wife with a baby daughter, born one week after he left.

In July 1842 his wife Nancy died at Nauvoo, leaving him with four children. He married Hannah Flint January 1st, 1843. She was a school teacher. The hardships he was called to go through undermined his health and he had a severe sickness but through faith and prayers of the saints he was healed. He had been sick a year at Winter Quarters.


June 1848, they left for Utah, arriving in Salt Lake City September 20th, 1848. March 1850 he moved to Sessions settlement later known as Bountiful, Utah. Jan. 16, 1851, he was appointed first Judge of Davis County. With the help of Daniel Carter and Orman Leonard they organized the county into school districts and precincts to hold elections, highway districts for roads and appointed water masters for irrigation purposes, etc.

December, 1856, he resigned as Judge as his health was poor. From his journal

“I have served six years and have taken nothing from the public treasury for services and have done all I could to promote the public good. The court house was built from the taxes as most of the officers served without pay. It is the first courthouse built in the territory and cost $6,000.00, Henry Miller taking the job of building. It was nearly paid for during my term of office. The county has been divided into districts and all has prospered.”

He served in the state legislature from 1859 to 1862 inclusive, it being held at the courthouse in Salt Lake City. January 20th, 1864, he was again appointed Judge of Davis County. There was a company of “Silvergrays” formed in the south portion of Davis Co. and mustered into service on the 8th day of August 1857, from members of the Nauvoo Legion. They were called the “Mountain Sharps.” He was chosen captain. The company consisted of men over 45 years of age and stationed in Bountiful City for home guards.

He served as first counselor to Bishop Seth Taft in the 9th Ward in Salt Lake in 1849 before coming to Bountiful. He then served as counselor to Bishop John Stoker of Bountiful for four years. He was one of the three who supervised the building of the wall around Bountiful City. He was one of the first stock-holders of the Davis Weber County canal. He helped with the first state fair. He was the father of three daughters and eight sons who grew to maturity. He died November 18, 1885 at Bountiful, Utah.

His journal is one of the most faith-promoting stories one can read and shows what loyalty to God and his church was given by those sturdy pioneers. “Not what we give, but what we share; the gift without the giver is bare.” When the tabernacle at Bountiful was being built he had an amusement hall being built at the same time. just over the east side of the block from the church. He gave his shingles to the church and his own building stood for years with only slabs as covering. He doesn’t mention it in his journal but says, “If one gave more than another, it is because they had it and the ability to do so, and they do not wish to be lauded for having done that which according to the scripture was their duty to do so.”

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