Scott (who comments under the moniker SLK) shares this post. Later today I’ll post my own ideas about why this article is such a good model for other family historians; in the meantime, enjoy meeting Charles Price, another lesser-known Latter-day Saint. — AEP
Until lately I didn’t know much about Charles Price, my grandmother’s great-grandfather, but he is turning out to be one of the more easily documented of the “grandcestors,” for reasons that will likely become clear below. First, though, a biographical introduction; then, on to my recent discoveries about him.
Born in 1829 in Gloucestershire, England, Charles Price sailed for America with some of his brothers and sisters sometime before September of 1843, when he is recorded as living in Nauvoo, Illinois at the time of his sister Elizabeth’s marriage in that city. (His father had died in England in 1840, and his mother and two sisters had already emigrated in 1841.)
In 1846 the Prices – mother, children, in-laws and cousins — left Illinois as part of the Mormon Exodus. Charles’ mother was one of several hundred who died during the winter of ’46-’47 at Winter Quarters, just north of present-day Omaha; her children were mostly grown, but the two youngest, Charles and Lavinia, were likely looked after by older brother William, then in his late twenties, or sister Elizabeth and her husband, all of whom were emigrating with them — though one must wonder how much looking after 17-year-old Charles needed (or felt he needed). Before the end of 1847 they had all moved back across the Missouri to Kanesville (now Council Bluffs), Iowa, which was to become a major embarkation point for the emigrant trails to Utah, Oregon and California. (The Price family’s situation was not uncommon: many of the Saints were too poor, or too ill, to make the entire journey in one season; so they stayed for a time, marshalling strength and resources and planting crops, both for their own sustenance and to benefit the thousands who were expected to come the following seasons.)
While at Kanesville Charles married Elsa Mary Johnson on November 25th, 1847. They were both ludicrously young, but Elsa’s mother had also died at Winter Quarters the previous winter, and her father had already gone west with the vanguard company of pioneers; for Elsa, marrying Charles also meant gaining the protection of his extended family. They were at last ready to continue westward in 1852, and on July 8th a train of 63 wagons rolled slowly out of Kanesville, some 229 emigrants that included relatives of both Charles and Elsa (and their baby daughter, Mary Alice, my great-great-grandmother), bound for Salt Lake City.
If any of the Prices left a journal or memoir of the journey I haven’t seen it; but many who traveled with them that summer did, including one woman who in 1885 remembered Charles’ doughty older sister, Mary Ann:
in our company there were 4 women that drove teams over the Plains a Mrs Miller Mrs Chaffin Mrs Marry Ann Hyde better known as that time as Miss Price and myself we crossed the Platt River 13 times more times than would have been nesesary if it had not been for the Purpose of finding feed for our animals…
By July of 1853 Charles, Elsa and their growing family had moved south to Utah Valley (where Charles was promptly shot in the right leg, during the Walker War). Then in October of that year the Prices went further south, taking up residence in the new settlement of Nephi, in Juab County. There they stayed for the rest of their lives — Charles dying in 1905, Elsa in 1912.
Like early settlers everywhere, Charles Price lived close to the land: I’d previously found records of his cattle brand registered with the territorial authorities; but his occupation was listed in the 1860 census as “joiner” (carpenter). Only recently, however, did I discover that he had an additional long-term occupation.
In an old volume called the Hand-Book Almanac for the Pacific States: An Official Register and Business Directory for the year 1864, I found this listing under Juab County, Utah:
More digging turned up, unsurprisingly, more information (like the fact that county surveyors were elected to one-year terms). My next find was an old historical sketch of tiny Levan, Utah, about ten miles south of Charles’ hometown of Nephi:
In the spring of 1867 … a tract of land lying between Pigeon Creek and Chicken Creek and about three fourth of a mile West of the mountains was selected and plans were made for the laying out a new community.
In December of that year, Charles Price, the Juab County surveyor, surveyed the area, laying out in blocks 499 feet square. The streets were ninety feet wide, and there were forty-nine blocks in the first plot. Each person who obtained a lot received one half block. One block in the center of the plot was set aside as a public square. The first lots taken were primarily in the West part of the Town. The land West of town was laid out in plots for farming, with the land to the North designated as a “community pasture.”
Google Maps’ satellite view of Levan, Utah shows the town still looking very much as Charles Price laid it out in 1867:
I don’t know where he picked up a surveyor’s skills, but he did at least have a plan to work from: the utopian Plat of the City of Zion, first devised by Joseph Smith in 1833 and the template for every Mormon settlement in the West, beginning with Salt Lake City itself. Here, for comparison, is Smith’s original 1833 map:
Like all town planners in the Utah Territory, Charles would have adapted this map, or one like it, to local conditions and needs.
It is perhaps worth noting that in 1996 the American Planning Association recognized the Plat of Zion with its National Planning Landmark Award for that year.
“The planning and founding of more than 500 communities in the American West is regarded by many planning historians as one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of American city development,” said Bruce Parker, president of the Utah chapter of the American Planning Association.
. . .
“The Mormon communities were agriculturally sustainable. They were laid out in a grid of 10-acre blocks, with a community center containing cultural, school, religious and commercial activities. Farming was conducted in surrounding greenbelts outside the city. The plat provided for neighborhood structure (wards), modern zoning (separation of incompatible uses), and land use regulations (residences set back from the street with fine, well-maintained gardens, or groves in the front yard).”
On the surface, these settlements shared many characteristics of other American towns of the time (particularly those in New England), but there were also some significant differences. For example, farm families lived in town rather than spread out over the countryside, and were thus able to share more fully in the life of the community; and water, that perpetual bone of contention in the arid West, was a heavily regulated, communally-owned resource, available to all via a complex system of ditches that adumbrated enclosed water mains. Charles Price was part of that communitarian tradition, both as citizen and as town planner.
Continuing our review of his career, the Utah Legislative Assembly’s published County Financial Reports For the Years 1882 and 1883 contains this item:
Statement of amount paid to each county officer of Juab County during the fiscal year ending May 31, A. D. 1883:
Charles Price, county surveyor, . . . . . $28 50
Twenty-eight dollars was, as they say, “real money” back then, but even so, this was obviously no full-time career. Few elected positions were, however: for example, the mayor of St. George, Utah, a larger community far to the south, received about $40 per year in the 1890s. (Coincidentally, while researching this post I learned that this mayor was Charles’ brother-in-law, the same one whose marriage he’d attended back in 1843.)
By 1890 he’d been at it for quite awhile, long enough to have settled into a familiar pattern; perhaps dull (or not), but comfortable and certainly more peaceful than his earlier adventures — and then that summer his name appeared in a Salt Lake City newspaper and he found himself in the eye of a political hurricane:
PUT IT TO A FINAL TEST
As published in our issue of last Saturday, the Board of Canvassers on reaching the Juab returns received the annexed protest from the “Rev.” W. N. P. Dailey, one of the “Liberal” judges of election:
Nephi, Juab County, Utah,
August 5, 1890.
Dear Sirs — We beg leave, as judges of election, to call your attention to the nominee for county surveyor in Juab County, on the People’s ticket, Charles Price, who has been in polygamy since ’62, tho’ is not known now to be in such state, has never received amnesty from the President, nor had barrier, to our knowledge, effectually removed.
W. N. P. Dailey,
The Board of Canvassers ruled that they had no jurisdiction in the matter. They have no power to pass upon the qualifications for office. If the “Rev.” “Judge” Dailey were not blinded by “Liberal” zeal and personal vanity he would, perhaps, be able to see this point, and also the fact that he has been quite as assumptive and foolish as he wanted the Board of Canvassers to be.
The Deseret Weekly’s editorial thunders on for several more long, indignant paragraphs in rebuttal to Judge Dailey’s letter.
An explanation of the political environment might be helpful here. The Liberal Party, formed in 1870, was anti-Mormon and was also known as the “Gentile Party”; the People’s Party, formed that same year in opposition to the Liberals, was Mormon in composition. Both parties faded in the 1890s in anticipation of Utah’s admission to the Union, after which a fairly equal balance between Republicans and Democrats prevailed for some decades.
As for the “Utah Commission” addressed by Judge Dailey, it was created by Congress pursuant to the Edmunds Act of 1882 in order to oversee elections in the Territory. (What’s relevant here is that the Act prohibited polygamists from holding public office; likewise, Judge Dailey’s phrase “since ’62″ alludes to the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of that year.) That said, the judge, whatever other motives he may have had, was apparently a member of the Liberal Party and was thus, in the eyes of the Deseret Weekly at least, intent on making some political hay of Charles’ election.
(The editorial doesn’t make it clear, but Charles had been re-elected earlier that month, by a huge margin.)
Anyway… getting back to our topic, the Index to Public Documents, State of Utah 1901-1902 lists the results for the 1902 election for Juab County Surveyor as follows:
C. W. Reese, (D.) 1,361; Charles Price, (R.) 1,252; Neils Lundstein, (S.) 186.
“Neils Lundstein, (S.)” was evidently a member of Utah’s new Socialist Party; as the Utah History Encyclopedia notes, “Socialist Party locals were organized in various cities in Utah in 1901. The party grew out of the Utah Social Democratic party, which ran candidates in 1898 and 1900.” (The Socialists went on to have a fair amount of success in Utah during the Progressive Era.) At this distance, and given the different nature of the parties in those days, it’s hard to tell whether Charles might have won without Mr. Lundstein’s third-party candidacy, but those 186 votes almost certainly had some effect, and might have made all the difference.
I don’t know whether Charles Price held the office of Juab County Surveyor every year between 1863 and 1901, though it seems likely he did; what’s clear is that he lost the job in 1902. It must have been a disappointment to him, though at 73 he just might have been content to retire at last. (Or maybe he ran again in 1903.)
And that ends this, er, survey of his life and career.