- Name: James Cowley
- Born: April 29, 1804 Kirkbradden, Isle Of Man
- Died: February 10, 1860 Farmington, Utah
- Related through: Erin's grandmother Margaret Udy Hanni
Matthias was born December 2, 1829 in Kirkbradden on the Isle of Man. His father was James Cowley and his mother, Isabella Cain Cowley. Father James Cowley was a miller by trade. Both father and mother were humble, moral, honest, industrious people.
It was here that the family heard about the church and was baptized. However religious bigotry in the community made it difficult for the Cowley family. It was not long after the family joined the Church that another member, John Kelly, gave the family a considerable blessing. He offered to finance the Cowley’s journey from their Isle of Man home to the United States to join the Saints in Nauvoo. The offer was made to repay an account Mr. Kelly owed Grandfather Cain.
Needless to say the offer was thankfully accepted. It came as a direct answer to the prayers of James Cowley and his wife. Like most other converts to Mormonism in foreign lands their desire was to gather with the Saints in Zion. There they could unite with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his loyal followers. Preparations were quickly made for the journey and a steamer taken from Liverpool. There the family stayed two or three nights with Matthias’ uncle, Charles Cowley, while waiting to embark on the ship City of Boston.
The journey was not an unpleasant one. A friendly captain was solicitous of his passengers’ welfare and made every effort to provide for their comfort. New Orleans was reached in five weeks and three days of ocean travel. Here the family boarded the river steamer Congress for the journey north to St. Louis. Soon after his arrival James Cowley was offered the tempting wage of ten dollars a day if he would stay there to engage in his trade as a miller. He was skilled in the milling of oatmeal, and men of such ability were scarce in St. Louis.
"No!" was the father’s emphatic reply. "I left my home and native land to join myself with the Prophet of the Lord, Joseph Smith, and the Saints in Nauvoo. I am going on. Bless your souls; I would not stop here for all of St. Louis".
The Cowley family’s next move was up the river 500 miles by steamer to Nauvoo. In a day or two of arriving James Cowley and family had their fondest hope realized. They were privileged to meet Joseph Smith. Some time was spent in conversation with the Prophet.
"We found Joseph Smith the Prophet to be just what a man bearing that title ought to be," the son later wrote for the benefit of his posterity. "He was loved by every good man, woman, and child who knew him. We then felt very well satisfied after seeing this man of God, the Prophet Joseph Smith."
After this memorable interview James Cowley went about seeking employment of any kind. None was to be had in Nauvoo, and he was directed to Warsaw, a Mississippi River town about twenty-two miles away. Here the father and son found work at a brickyard.
For six months both father and son worked hard at their jobs. By this time the people of Illinois were fully aroused against the Mormons. The little town of Warsaw saw its share of persecution. As the excitement against the Latter-day Saints reached a higher pitch, the inhabitants of Warsaw were ordered by mobocrats to take up the fight against the Saints. Father Cowley was ordered to take up arms with others to fight against his own people. Two armed men came to his house and took him by force to an office. Here they thrust a musket at him. He defied them, saying:
"Gentlemen! I shall never fight against my brethren, the Saints of Almighty God, no, never!"
The defiant father was ordered to remove his family out of town within twenty hours. He was desperate. He had no possible conveyance. So the mob made up his mind for him. He must leave immediately, and the family could follow later. They escorted him several miles out of town at the point of a bayonet. As they gave him his last prodding onward, they warned him that if he ever returned they would shoot him down in cold blood. A night guard was placed near the home to make sure he did not violate the order.
In the darkness, the weary, distraught father trudged on toward Nauvoo to find help from the Prophet and other Mormons for his stranded family. It was a long difficult walk back to Nauvoo. The next morning, just after daybreak, Father Cowley reached Nauvoo in a highly exhausted condition. After first getting some much-needed food and a little rest, he went on in search of the Prophet. To his beloved leader James Cowley told of his experiences and the plight of his family in Warsaw even then at the mercy of an enraged mob. As the tired father expressed the fear that tugged at his heart, Joseph Smith calmly raised his hands, and said reassuringly:
"Brother Cowley, they shall not harm a hair of their heads—Brother Cowley, God bless you!"
Father Cowley joined with the Nauvoo Legion, the militia of the Saints. The guns were all in use so he secured a pitchfork and marched with the brethren. For a short time thereafter the lot of James Cowley was cast close to that of the Prophet and his associates. He was present with others of the Nauvoo Legion to hear Joseph Smith make his historic statement:
"I am going like a lamb to the slaughter. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and man. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me ‘he was murdered in cold blood.’"
James Cowley saw the Prophet climb to the roof of an unfinished house in Nauvoo to make this heart-rending statement before going on to Carthage Jail. A few days later, on June 27, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.
That same night in Warsaw the villagers were much alarmed, fearing the Saints would come upon them in vengeance. James Cowley was still in Nauvoo. His worried wife and family heard the tumult in Warsaw’s streets, with men cheering and throwing their hats in the air. Matthias slipped away and ran into the midst of the crowd. He made his way through the noisy mob to where one of the men was making a speech. He heard the boastful speaker tell the crowd that the mob had succeeded in killing the Mormon "Joe" Smith and his brother, Hyrum.
Soon the speaker spied the startled boy among his listeners. With an oath he ordered Matthias to get out of his sight and to go home to his mother where he belonged. As the Mormon youth slipped away from the crowd, the mobbers set a group of schoolboys after him to pelt him all the way home with sticks, stones, and such rubbish as they could find along the way.
That same night mobbers attempted to burn the Cowley home three times with a torch. But it would not burn. It was about one o’clock in the morning when the mob desisted and went on to another Mormon home. After a few more days and nights of excitement and anxiety, welcome relief came. Father Cowley had sent a team and driver to remove his family and belongings to Nauvoo. The rest of the family were not long packing and left Warsaw behind, grateful for their deliverance from the mob.
|Farmington Rock Mill|
I don’t know why I had never seen this story before but I am glad I found it. There were quite a few more bits to the story that were really good but also made it really long, so if you want to read the whole thing click here. The part of the story where the mob tries to torch their house is also included in the book, Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996 published by the Church.
Later James and his family came to Utah and settled in Farmington. Willard Richards, an early LDS apostle, decided to build a small mill in the Farmington area in 1852, but after he passed away in 1854, his nephew, Franklin D. Richards, decided to build another larger mill. James Cowley was brought here by Willard Richards to teach the Saints how to make oatmeal. He worked at the mill until his death in 1860.
A little bit more about the mill - In the 1890s, steam-powered mills made their way to Utah, and the Rock Grist Mill closed down. In 1906 it was converted into one of Farmington and Davis County's first electric generating stations. The mill remained vacant from the 1920s to 1950s except for occasional families of the owners who would live off and on in the lower floor. From 1960-90 a German-style restaurant, the Heidelberg, found a home in the mill. It is now a pretty fancy private home. Last week when we found where this mill was we discovered that Dan goes running past it at least once a week and never knew it was there or what it was. I think it is cool that we ended up moving to Farmington where it turns out the Udy family has so much history. We even go to the Old Rock Church where a lot of ancestors must have attended.