Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Electing the Bishop, 1895

Electing the Bishop, 1895

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 01, 2009

“Agreeable to appointment notice previously given,” the minutes read, “the L.D.S. residing in Marysvale Branch met in the School House on Sunday March 24″ at 11 a.m.” This was a meeting with a particular purpose, and to mark the occasion, the stake presidencies of both the Sevier Stake (to the north) and Panguitch Stake (to the south) were in attendance.

Marysvale is a special place,  at least to me. It’s where my mother and grandfather were born; my great-grandfather, Jared Taylor, was one of its first permanent settlers. Marysvale is a tiny town in Piute County, Utah, at the top of the southern third of the state, and about midway east and west, tucked in a nook in the mountains. When the place was first described by Mormon explorers in 1849 it was a valley watered by the Sevier River, covered in tall grass with not a sagebrush in sight. It was also home to huge, ancient pine trees, similar to the California Redwoods, but of a species found nowhere else in North America (the last of those trees fell in a 1970s windstorm, with the wood salvaged for woodshop projects at the county high school). Today, while the contours of the land are still beautiful, residents fight sagebrush and bunchgrass the same as every other farmer and rancher in Utah, and almost no one remembers the ancient pines.

A small settlement was planted there in 1864, but withdrawn during the Black Hawk war. During its brief early settlement, gold was discovered in one of Marysvale’s creeks, a discovery Brigham Young tried to keep quiet. Word inevitably spread, and by 1868 people were begging for permission to return to Marysvale – “for the farming,” doncha know, although a few men were honest enough to say they wanted to hunt for the source of the gold. Permission was given – Brigham couldn’t have held them out long, anyway – but he asked that every inch of farm land in the area be taken up by Mormon settlers, in an effort to control potential mines by controlling the food supply. Miners from throughout North America rushed in, first for the gold, then for the silver, then later again for more gold.

Jared Taylor was one of those who hurried to the area, dabbled in mining for a few months, then made claim to a huge swath of farmland along the river at the north end of the valley, where he lived and raised his family, and served as presiding elder in the LDS branch. The branch was small, consisting of a few other farmers and their families, and the wives of a number of non-member miners, teamsters and railroad workers (Marysvale was the end of the line, the rail head for shipments of ore, sheep, lumber, and other products freighted by wagon from southern Utah and shipped by rail to northern markets).

Until January 1895, that is. Early in the month Jared’s horse stepped in a rodent hole and threw him to the ground. After a month of painful lingering, he died of internal injuries on 30 January, leaving a widow, a grown daughter, two very small sons, and a branch without a presiding elder.

The meeting of March 24, called to order by Jeremiah Dennis, the branch Sunday School superintendent and the man who had been leading the branch for the past few weeks, was called to choose a new leader – this time a bishop, to head the first full ward organization in Marysvale, and to transfer the congregation from the Panguitch Stake to the Sevier Stake. In other words, it was a big deal to the branch members – one of the biggest deals in their congregational history to date.

After a typical conference meeting, the women and children were dismissed, and the few men in the branch convened in a special Priesthood meeting. This is what followed:

Pres[ident]. [William H.] Seegmiller [of Sevier Stake] stated that our aim is to organize this Ward with a Bishopric &c and we invite you to join in making a selection. Coun[selor]. Horne offered prayer. Pres[ident]. Seegmiller asked those who desire to have a Ward Organization to raise their hands. All hand were raised. He then asked the brethren to nominate someone whom they can sustain as Bishop.

Bro. Jos[eph]. Howes motioned that we have Bro. Charles Archibald Pinney for Bishop of Marysvale Ward.

Bro. Isaiah Howes motioned that Bro. Joseph Howes be our Bishop.

Charles Nelson motioned that we have Bro. Wm. Howes Jr. for our Bishop.

The vote was

A. Pinney – 5
Joseph Howes – 8

Bro. Howes, when asked how he felt about the matter, said he felt disqualified in various ways to assume an important place. He violates the Word of Wisdom, cannot write, and would much prefer assisting to leading; but did not like to shirk.

Bro. Pinney did not feel to shirk from duty but was not seeking for office. He does not use tobacco nor strong drink.

Some remarks were made by Prest[ident]s Seegmiller and [Jesse W.] Crosby [of Panguitch Stake] & Coun[selor]. Horne, leaning towards selecting Bro. Pinney for Bishop. After which the vote was recalled, the boys not voting, when Bro. Pinney received 6 votes and Bro. Howes 3.

It was proposed that the vote be made unanimous for Bro. Pinney. All but Wm. & Isaiah Howes favored the proposition.

Bro. Pinney made a short speech and nominated Bro. Joseph Howes & Jeremiah Dennis [as counselors]. These Brethren expressed themselves as willing to serve.

The vote to sustain the nominations was unanimous except one.

The women and children were readmitted at this point for a second session of conference.

Sacrament was administered by Elders J[eremiah]. Dennis & A[rchibald]. Pinney after which Pres. Seegmiller made a few explanatory remarks, then presented the name of Archibald Pinney as Bishop of Marysvale Ward. While several did not vote, a large majority of those who did, voted to sustain Bro. Pinney as Bishop. Joseph Howes & Jeremiah Dennis were presented as Counselors to the Bishop, and sustained by unanimous vote.

Pres. Seegmiller spoke a short time, then called on B[isho]p. Pinney, who said he felt very weak; that a great responsibility had been placed upon him. Bro. J[oseph]. Howes was unable to express his feelings; desired the sustenance of the Saints, and hoped that we will press onward. Bro. J[eremiah]. Dennis said “do not expect too much of me; I am weak and need your support. Do not find fault with, nor criticise us, but sustain us in our labors.”

Marysvale Ward had its first bishop.



  1. It seems that the gold fever hadn’t died by 1895. A few years after that, my great-grandfather left relatively comfortable circumstances in Springville, and took his young second wife and several children down to Marysvale. The only clue I have about his business there is from the 1900 census, which shows his occupation as “miner.” He was 60 years old when the gold bug bit him. My grandmother was just three years old.

    But, they arrived too late to participate in the election of the bishop.

    Another family connection to this story: Jesse W. Crosby, the president of the Panguitch Stake, appears to be the son of another man of the same name, and therefore the nephew of Frances Crosby, my third great-grandmother. There’s a lot more to the story, and the family connections between the Crosby family and mine, but that would all be threadjack.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 1, 2009 @ 7:17 am

  2. Mark, your family may have participated in the gold boom at Kimberly (its own town, with jail and barrooms and gambling halls — there may have been a connection between the jail and those other two :) ) although Marysvale was the nearest permanent town so that events at Kimberly are often written about as events at Marysvale. U.S. Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest was born at Kimberly. There were also numerous ties between families in Marysvale and Springville — Bertlesen was probably the biggest such two-town family.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 1, 2009 @ 7:30 am

  3. it all looks so easy from our side: a worthy man is presented and we sustain him. it’s wrenching to see behind the scenes as proposed leaders doubt themselves and their capabilities but are compelled to do what they can to further the cause.

    Comment by ellen — May 1, 2009 @ 7:30 am

  4. Wonderful. I was unaware of the large pines. That makes me sad. Regarding the vote, Thomas Alexander wrote the following in Mormonism in Transition:

    Since a bishop held such an important position and the cooperation of members was essential to the proper functioning of a ward, authorities consulted local priesthood leaders for suggestions before they took the name of a candidate to the Lord in prayer for the confirmation of the spirit on a choice. In one case in 1899, for instance, George Teasdale and Anthon H. Lund asked the stake high council to ballot. After the ballot, however, consultation and prayer with stake leaders led to the conclusion that the man with the highest number of votes was not suitable since he seemed to lack leadership capabilities. The two apostles then returned to the high council, discussed the matter with them, [pg. 107] and agreed upon another man. In several cases the priesthood of the ward cast ballots. In one of these the visiting authorities chose the brother with the highest number of votes as bishop and the next highest as his first counselor. They passed over the man with the third highest number since he served on the stake high council and chose instead the fourth highest as second counselor. In another case the authorities passed over the man with the second highest vote since his brother had received the highest number. [n45: Lund Journal, August 6, 1899; Merrill Journal, April 23, 1900.]

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 1, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  5. I always enjoy your Piute County stories, Ardis.

    Comment by Researcher — May 1, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  6. More Piute County stories please!!!! Wonderful wonderful wonderful.

    Comment by Chad Too — May 1, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  7. And here I had fears that posting this might cause heartburn among some readers because of the election process rather than the call coming as a revelation from on high!

    This example fits in very well with the quotation J. provided, doesn’t it? (Thanks, J.) And while there may not be quite such a political-seeming process today, don’t visiting authorities usually still ask local leaders to suggest names for their consideration? Then when it comes to us, like ellen says, it seems so neat and easy, because most of us aren’t aware of all the behind-the-scenes considerations. And can you imagine the humility of Joseph Howes in publicly acknowledging his possible disqualifications, yet still being willing to serve?

    Piute County was my first big (and ongoing) research project, outside of direct family history — if anybody comes to this page after Googling family names, please check out my Piute County USGenWeb site, or email me at PiuteCountyQuery at aol dot com . Anything I have relevant to anybody’s Piute ancestors is freely available.

    Piute County — anyplace, I suppose, if you immerse yourself in the details — could furnish an endless source of stories for Keepa and my other outlets. Everything that ever went on in the wider world, I think, happened in miniature there. Thanks for inviting more!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 1, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  8. Fascinating! Thanks for this.

    Ardis said: “And can you imagine the humility of Joseph Howes in publicly acknowledging his possible disqualifications, yet still being willing to serve?”

    Yeah, that was interesting. (And he apparently went from highest vote-getter, to second place after the revelation of his issue with the Word of Wisdom, so maybe it “cost” him the election.)

    And yes, equally remarkable was Bro. Howe’s sentiment that he “would much prefer assisting to leading; but did not like to shirk.” This statement, to me, belies any notion that there was any sort of power-grabbing going on during this election “campaign.”

    Comment by Hunter — May 1, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  9. The comments of the newly-called bishopric are beautiful.

    Comment by Ray — May 1, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  10. I was thinking that I had a pretty early example of the ballot method, and just found it. In the Union Branch (Iowa), Records 1851-1852, LR 5201 21, LDS Archives, on July 9, 1851 Elder Snow came and combined several Branches. Snow proposed that they choose a Branch President. One was nominated, seconded and then affirmatively voted on. The same process went for the councilors.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 1, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

  11. I find the demographics interesting. In the first vote there were 13 total votes cast. The second vote excluded the “boys” and only had 9 total votes. Even if we assume the three men nominated did not vote, that is a pretty small number of priesthood holders for a “Ward”.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 1, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  12. J Stapley, #10,
    The nominating, seconding, and voting process went on in all of the early Iowa Branches, 1848-52, not just the Union Branch. I have researched all of the branch records that are in Salt Lake. I wasn’t aware that the process was still taking place in Utah in 1895.

    I’m curious to your connection to the Union Branch. Is this part of your Mormon healing project?

    Comment by Maurine — May 1, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  13. Fascinating, Maurine. And yes, back when I was concentrating on baptism for health, I tried to cast a fairly wide net (well, still trying to keep the net wide). It just so happens that there were a number of baptisms for health discussed in those minutes around the same time as that branch reorganization. Unfortunately, we had far too many great accounts to single out specifically in the text of our JMH paper (fall 2008); but it made it to the footnotes (as did you).

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 1, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  14. J Stapley, thanks, I’m honored.

    Comment by Maurine — May 1, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

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  16. Ardis-

    Great story. Another example of the “past being a foreign country.” How many modern LDS folks would see the “election” as strange?

    I checked the USGenWeb site. Truly impressive. Not many academic historians find themselves interested in local history. All the more room for those of us who realize just how facinating local history actually is, I suppose!

    Comment by Brandon — May 3, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

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