“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A small settlement was planted there in 1864, but withdrawn during the Black Hawk war.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.