Blake, William, 1864 (age 16)
William Blake was born in North Moulton, Devonshire, England, August 4, 1848, the youngest son of William and Sarah Barrow Blake. When a little over nine years of age, William secured work in a rope factory and received for a wage the sum of about three pence a week. Two years later he found employment on a farm for six pence a week and his board. During this time his parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At the age of sixteen William, with several members of the family, started on the long journey to Utah. As there was not sufficient money for the entire family to leave England at that time, his mother and two sisters, Sarah and Johanna, remained until such time that money would be available for their passage. Soon afterward Sarah died. Together with his father, his sisters, Jane and Catherine, and Jane's two daughters, William sailed from London on June 5th, 1864, on the ship, Hudson, bound for New York. They spent six weeks and three days on the ocean and landed in Castle Gardens, a New York harbor. Here they rested for a few days before boarding the train for St. Joseph, Missouri. The Civil War was raging and the bridge over the first river they encountered had been destroyed by the rebels. The emigrants were forced to wade across the river, carrying their luggage on their backs. From there, cattle cars in which the passengers stood up, carried them to St. Joseph, where Jane's youngest daughter sickened and died. From St. Joseph they traveled up the Missouri River on a steamboat to a camp called Wyoming, in the state of Nebraska, where they were met by ox teams which were to transport them to Utah.
The Blake family was placed with the William Hyde company which, on the sixth of August, began the journey across the plains. Those who were strong enough walked most of the way as the wagons were needed for luggage and provisions. Their food consisted of bread, baked along the way, beans and dried bacon. William said of this experience, "Not once on the way did I get enough food to satisfy my appetite. I was hungry all the time." One night some men from California camped near, and William's father, William Blake, Sr., recognized in this group an old friend, Thomas Short, whom he had known in England. This friend presented him with a bottle of whiskey of which he drank a little. Because of hunger and extreme weakness it made him ill, but in spite of this weakened condition, he continued on the journey. The young son realized that his father was very sick and did everything he could to lighten his load and comfort him. At night they slept together under the wagon. One morning about a week later when William awakened, the elder man seemed very still and finally the son realized that his father was dead. The same morning William Blake, Sr. was wrapped in a blanket and buried on the plains about one-hundred miles from Salt Lake City. Very carefully they marked the grave with heavy stones, feeling certain that if any of them should come that way again it would be easy to find. From then on William was the man of the family.
On October 26, 1864, they arrived in Salt Lake City, tired, hungry and bewildered. They camped on what was known as Washington Square, where the City and County Building now stands. Tents had already been prepared for their sleeping quarters and kind Saints had brought them food: beef, potatoes, vegetables, bread, butter and molasses. The youth and his sisters remained here for several days until friendly people came and took them into their homes. Jane and her little girl were taken into the home of Job Smith. Sometime later she lived in the home of Henry Bowden, an English friend of the family, whose home was in Cottonwood. Catherine, "Kate" as she was known, began working as a hired girl in the home of John R. Winder at Mill Creek. Some days later the wife of Henry Cumberland took William to her home where she washed and mended his clothes and gave him all the food he could eat. William paid Mrs. Cumberland a compliment by saying, "My own mother could not have treated me better." For a month Mr. Cumberland gave the youth work on his farm and paid him the wages of $4.00 per month and board.
About this time William visited a friend of the family, Philip Pugsley, who had previously come from England and in the meantime had accumulated much property and wealth. Mr. Pugsley owned a tannery and gristmill, and he offered to pay the young man $10.00 a month with board and lodging to grind bark for the tannery while his own son attended school. By the next spring he realized that William was a very good workman and was also honest and dependable, so he raised William's salary to $16.00 a month. During the first eighteen months the thrifty young man saved from his meager earnings, $100.00 which was sent to his mother in England so that she might have a few comforts while emigrating. During the time that William worked for Mr. Pugsley, he attended Church and was especially interested in Sunday School where he was given a prize for his perfect attendance. He was a member of the Nineteenth Ward. During the summer of 1865 he joined the Nauvoo Legion and spent three days on the west side of the Jordan River where the group was drilled and trained in military tactics under the command of Colonel Ross.
On April 5, 1866, William volunteered to go as a teamster for the Church to assist emigrants to Utah from a camp on the banks of the Missouri River. Before he left on April 25th, William was ordained an elder by Joseph F. Smith and received his endowments. On the banks of the Missouri River the young man was reunited with his mother and his sister, Johanna. Great was their joy, especially when they learned they were to ride across the plains in William's wagon. Along the trail the Indians became troublesome and often stole cattle from the emigrant train. William was allowed $40.00 a month for acting as teamster and with this money he paid the expenses of his mother and sister to cross the plains. The Blake family was assigned to the company of Captain John Holladay, a handsome young man who found Johanna Blake charming and very good company. The two were seen together often; she riding behind him on his horse or walking with him hand in hand. Sometime after they arrived in Utah Johanna and John were married. On the return trip to Utah William tried to find his father's grave, but the best he could do was to point out the approximate spot to his mother and sister.
On September 15th they arrived in Salt Lake City and left immediately for Wanship to visit with Catherine who in the meantime had met and married Henry Seamons. Johanna returned to Salt Lake City and William worked for his brother-in-law for about a year. He purchased a lot and small log house for his mother and lived with her during the following winter. Because of Indian hostilities, William was mustered into the service in Captain H. O. Young's company and served for a short time as a soldier in the Black Hawk War.
In 1870, while working for Mr. Cottam, William renewed his childhood acquaintance with Mary Lake who had recently emigrated from England. Their friendship ripened into love and on October 2, 1871, they were married. After a few years during which they lived in Salt Lake City and Wanship, they settled on land in Heber Valley which they had acquired through the Homestead Act. Twelve children were born to this couple over the years. Through hard work and sacrifice the farm was developed and the Blakes prospered. Their lives were happy and full. On April 25, 1920, Mary passed away, and in October of that same year William married Orabella Smith; she died August, 1933. In December of 1933 William was hit by a truck while taking his daily walk around the block. He was critically injured and died on December 18th, at the age of eighty-five. In some of his last writings he stated that he had seen Martin Harris and heard him bear his testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.