Monday, July 21, 2008

Great-Grandpa John Bagley

Photo by Holgen Leue

Great-great Grandpa John Bagley was only eighteen when he left his family in eastern Canada. He joined with the Mormon pioneers to prepare for a trek across the plains from Illinois to Utah.

John was extremely trusted and took the responsibility of caring for a widow and her children in the wagon train. He drove the lead team of nine yoke of oxen into the valley in 1856 when he was just twenty years old. Later, Brigham Young requested that John accompany him in many dangerous situations as a body guard. At the age of 58 he wrote his life story in his own hand, recalling his adventures with Indians, wild animals, cholera, and starvation.

John's Journal

But there is one particular feat John is remembered for.

John had worked in a lumber mill with his father from the time he was a little boy. Four days after his arrival in Salt Lake Valley he started work on what would become six lumber mills in Big Cottonwood Canyon. He helped build roads, haul logs and build silver mines in Alta, and became known quickly for his ability and agility.

Photo: Lake Mary, Brighton, UT Project 365:185/366 Flickr

On July 23, 1857, nine months after John's arrival, 2,600 people (with 500 vehicles and 1,500 animals) gathered at the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon for a giant anniversary party. The first pioneers had settled the valley ten years before, and there was a celebration planned ten miles up the canyon in Brighton. The group followed Brigham Young and a long line of dignitaries in carriages and wagons. A marching company of 50 kids between 10 and 12 years old led the way up the canyon, along with a brass band that furnished music for the celebration.

At sunset a bugle summoned the campers to a central elevated spot where Brigham Young addressed them. On the morning of July 24, the flag was unfurled from a giant pine tree, standing on a peak. Prayer was offered, then singing, and afterward cannons roared. The Big Cottonwood Lumber Company, for which John worked, had constructed the road as far as Lake Alice, near Silver Lake, expressly for this occasion. Today there is a small chapel at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, in Brighton, close to where the celebration took place.

Photo by Blozan's Tree Climb

This is how John recalled the day of Celebration:
Brigham Young's tent was near a towering pine tree 100 feet high. That tree was selected as a flag pole for the unfurling of the Stars and Stripes. I had been reared in the timber lands of eastern New Brunswick, America, and was experienced in handling timber and logging, so I was selected by President Young to trim the tree for a flagpole.


Carrying my axe, I climbed to the top of the tree, trimmed the branches and cut the tip so there was a smooth top. I unfurled the flag, and much to the amazement of those below, I stood on my head on the top of the tree!

As I descended, I trimmed the other branches, and when I was among the trees that were not so lofty, I seized the branch of another tree and ape-like, swung from the flag pole and disappeared. The people below thought I had perished and were quite concerned until I finally appeared having made my way through the branches.
John Bagley

He sounds like a great, great-great grandfather to me!

I originally published this post last year, although I've tweaked it a little. You may even see your old comment!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Chancy said...

What a treasure to have this information and remembrances of Great Great Grandpa John.

gab said...

This is such a great story! I will share it with the kids...

gab said...

This is such a great story! I will share it with the kids...

gramakas said...

Wow I love that post. Those pioneers were truly amazing... thank goodness for the journals of those that kept them (I need to do a better job in that area). I love July for all the historical reminders both American and Mormon.

mama jo said...

i've always loved his story...he sounded pretty amazing...where did you get those pictures...

mama jo said...

i've always loved his story...where did you get those pictures?

kenju said...

I am amazed that he took the time to write all that down, but I am glad he did.

Keri(th) said...

Wow... what a man! Not surprising that he lived in Canada. (I'm just saying.) You're very fortunate to know so much about one of your ancestors. I think the knowing causes us to feel a solid connection to our roots. I'll have to have my Dad blog-stalk your story... perhaps we're distant relations.

Polly said...

One of my favorite stories of our ancestors.

Sheri said...

Great story! I had a great grandfather who was a stone mason on the Logan Temple. He did a hand stand on one of the towers, which I thought was remarkable, but a head stand on the top of a pine tree?! Is that even possible? Wow.

nimmy & girlies said...

Aaaaaaah!I never knew I was related to a pioneer!Thats cool. . .

Kay Dennison said...

What an interesting family you have, Marty! It's wonderful that the stories are being passed on the the new generations and the world via your wonderful writing!

moon said...

Terrific story!! Our history is so important and to have such stories from our own family. Nice to know u have canadian heritage also lol...
from one of your canadian readers!

i'm kelly said...

i love this story! thanks for posting!