Tuesday, September 7, 2010

George White Pitkin

  • Name: George White Pitkin
  • Born: May 17, 1801 Hartford, Vermont
  • Died: November 26, 1873 Millville, Utah
  • Related through: Dan's grandfather Lynn Crookston

George Pitkin was born May 17, 1801 in Hartford, Windsor, Vermont, the youngest of ten children born to Paul Pitkin and Abigail Lathrop. His middle name, White, was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother. In 1819, the Paul Pitkin family moved to Hiram, Ohio to take up new land in the Western Reserve. There George met Amanda Eggleston, whose family arrived about the same time. They were married on February 8, 1829. During the early years of their marriage, George was appointed as sheriff of Portage County and when his father died in 1823, he was appointed as the administrator of the estate. While living in Hiram, the Pitkins were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it grew in nearby Kirtland. On May 17, 1831, George was baptized by the Prophet Joseph Smith. His wife, Amanda, and his sisters, Laura and Abigail, also joined.

In 1832, the Pitkin family joined other church members in a move to Jackson County, Missouri, a designated gathering place. Having lost their first child, the family at that time consisted of George and Amanda, the two Pitkin sisters and Amanda's sister, Esther Eggleston. In Jackson County, George built a log house next to Peter Whitmer, Sr. in the Whitmer Settlement. Violence against the Mormons in Jackson County began with an attack on the Whitmer Settlement on October 31, 1833. A mob of fifty men tore off roofs and partially demolished ten houses. Researchers believe the Pitkin house was one of them. The mob beat some of the men and threw stones at women and children. The men fled for their lives and the women and children escaped into the woods. By mid-November, the Pitkins and many others had been driven from the county.

The Mormons crossed the river and spread out in a dozen different settlements in Clay County. It is not clear exactly where the Pitkins stayed that winter, but it was in the western part of the county.

The citizens of Clay County had been friendly and helpful, but eventually they asked the Mormons to leave so the area could avoid conflict. The Church had been able to purchase government land in the new county of Caldwell. The Pitkins traveled there and took up residence in the developing city of Far West for a three-year stay. A surviving record of Latter-day Saints living in the southwest quarter of Far West on March 25, 1838 includes George, Amanda and their children Martha, Ammon, and George. Also listed are sisters Laura and Abigail Pitkin and Esther Eggleston. In the summer of 1838, George Pitkin was elected sheriff of Caldwell County which had a population of 10,000. That position placed him in the middle of conflicts between the local mobs and the county militia, such as the Battle of Crooked River. Not long after, the extermination order of Governor Boggs forced the Mormons to abandon their settlements and move to Illinois.

In the spring of 1839, the Pitkins resided about 80 miles south of Nauvoo, but relocated shortly after. Records show that George had land holdings in Nauvoo, Illinois and in Lee County, Iowa, across the river. The 1840 census places them in Lee County, where they were listed as members of the Zarahemla Branch of the Church. In 1844, they were part of the Nauvoo 9th Ward, where George was ordained a high priest by Phineas Richards in December. Nauvoo grew into one of the largest communities in Illinois and a beautiful temple was completed, but anti-Mormon persecution continued. As conflict mounted, the Pitkins joined in the 1846 exodus. George took his young family across the Mississippi River where they managed to survive the winter. The winter of 1846-47 was spent along the Fox River in present-day Davis County, Iowa. It was there that Amanda and their youngest child died just days apart. George took his other children and moved on across Iowa where they spent the winter of 1847-48 near Kanesville. While there, George married Sarah Ann Huffman on November 14, 1847.

Sarah Ann Huffman was born July 5, 1827 to Hannah Johnson and George Huffman at Bertie, Ontario, Canada.  The Huffmans, originally spelled Hoffman, were of German descent. Sarah's mother and siblings learned of the Gospel and were later baptized. Geroge Huffman had died before this happened.  Later Sarah's family decided to join the main body of the church. Sarah Ann, at the age of nineteen, married a man twenty-six years her senior, and became a good mother to her husband's children. When Sarah Ann and George had been married about a year, preparations were made for the long and arduous trip across the plains to the valley of the Great Salt Lake Valley. They started out on the journey West with all their earthly possessions.  These were a span of oxen, one wagon, two cows, their food and seed, and the four children.

Sarah Ann was twenty years old and seven months pregnant with her first child.  Her baby was born in the "Black Hills" of Nebraska on July 30, 1848, two months after they set out on their journey. The tiny infant weighed four pounds and was named Harriet Vilate for a wife of Heber C. Kimball, in whose company they traveled.  (Heber C. Kimball was also a brother in-law to George, having married his sisters, Laura and Abigail.) Harriet Vilate was born in hostile Indian country on sacks of wheat laid crosswise for a mattress. The Pitkin family had to hide out and rest for three days, while the pioneer train moved on. When they started out again, they hid by day and traveled as fast as they could by night, until they rejoined the wagon train.

The travel-weary Pitkin family arrived in Utah in the fall of 1848. They located on Cottonwood creek, south of the fort.  During that winter many of the families were without food, shelter or fuel. For most, a wagon served as a dwelling during the coldest months and later an adobe hut, roofed with unseasoned lumber and thatched with hay or frozen mud. Food was scarce among the settlers. Sarah Ann used to take the children into the field s to gather sego bulbs, roots, or anything edible to balance out their slim diet.  The pioneers had to share scanty rations, so that no one would starve.  Before the next summer, all were housed in log or adobe dwellings.  The fort was broken up and the people moved onto their city lots. Sara Ann's mother, Hannah Johnson, eventually trekked across the plains with her children and other pioneers and arrived in Utah in 1852.  She lived out the remainder of her days in Coalville and died at the age of 82.

Eventually the Pitkin family moved to Ogden, Utah.  Brigham Young urged people to move and settle different areas of the state. The Pitkin family lived there for two years.  Their first son, Jay Leonard, was born in Ogden in 1850.  In 1852 George and his family decided to see what opportunities lay further west. The family traveled to Oregon, where a second son, Jacob, was born, but died soon thereafter. The family then went on into California for a time, but eventually returned to live in Ogden for another two years. Later the Pitkin family was called to settle in Cache Valley, Utah, to help manage the grazing lands for the church herds.

That first winter was very severe and many of the cattle froze to death.  The cabins were poor protection again the cold winter, and they had to keep the seed potatoes in bed with them in order to keep them from freezing. In the spring of 1860, they and two other families were called to locate on the present site of Millville, which was chosen since it provided better protection from marauding Indians. The Pitkins lived in Millville for the rest of their lives.  George mainly taught school, basically the three R's - "readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic".  He also did his church duties and farmed on a small scale.

George White Pitkin died thirteen years later on Nov. 26, 1873 at age 72.

George Pitkin's wife, Sarah Ann, lived on for another thirty years. After her husband's death, Sarah Ann boarded unmarried schoolteachers to help with her income. She worked in the first Relief Society and was set apart by her church to lay out the dead and prepare them for burial. She organized and ran the kitchen in the Logan Temple, which she did for seven years.  She served as a midwife all of her adult life, and was nurse or doctor whenever her services were needed. Sarah Ann knew every birth and death in the community, and in a day when public records were not kept, people would verify dates from her memory.  Sarah Ann eventually died at the age of 77, on Jan. 30, 1904 of sepsis from a rose thorn that had accidentally lodged in her finger.  She was buried next to her husband in the Millville cemetery.

Eliza R. Snow could pay no finer tribute on Dec. 7, 1858 in honor of George White Pitkin: "These lines, dear Brother George, I write to you, Seasoned with kindness, fresh with friendship's dew. Prompted by motives based on true respect, I beg you'll pardon what has seemed neglect. The self-same motives prompt me now to write, What friendship's impulse freely may indite. Your parentage, your kindred I have known, And your acquaintance I am proud to own. My earliest recollection wreaths entwine, When youth's associations I review, In retrospective I remember you. But change has wrought, since then, with mighty hand, And we are here far from our native land. We heard the gospel of eternal truth, And left the homes most dearly prized in youth. We've suffered toils and hardships to secure, A rich inheritance that will endure, Pure light and glory shining on our way, Which upward points to everlasting day. What is this life?  It is a transient thing, A bird of passage over on the wing, A running stream, a moment flitting by, A conduit opening to the worlds on high. What is this state compared with that to come? Here is our pilgrimage, and they're our homes, This is our school wherein the lessons given, If well applied will qualify for Heaven. The pruning time has come and we are here, On Zion's ship with God at helm to steer. How blessed are those who are privileged to dwell, Here with the chosen ones of Israel, To know the times and seasons as they fly, And understand events while passing by. Fear not the future or regret the past, Maintain the faith, which holds your courage fast. It matters not while here, if rich or poor, If we at last eternal life secure. A king in cog, a God in embryo, Must feel what suffering is, must taste the woe, Must treasure knowledge through experience here, For usefulness in an exalted sphere, For even Gods through suffering learn to feel To sympathize in fallen mortal's weal, Thus oft through human erring good proceeds, 'Tis wisdom's earnings, gained for future needs. Thus God to you the past will sanctify, And in your storehouse, wisdom multiply, That from your lips its volumes yet  may flow, And to your kindred words of life bestow. And your experience will prove richer far, Than golden mines and ocean's pearl beds are. God deals our various lessons, which are given To qualify on earth, for courts in Heaven."

Thank you to Colleen Helquist who provided this history on her RootsWeb page and to the person who wrote a very long note in Family Search.

1 comment:

  1. here is a link to his entry on FindAGrave.com. it says he was body guard to Joseph Smith. thats cool