Our Family Legacy
Joseph Thomas was the first son of his mother, but the fourth child. Two years after his birth his brother William was born. And four years after that another little son was born. When this third son was born, Joseph and two of his sisters were at a neighbor’s home waiting for the news. At noon they were told they could go home, that they had a little brother. Joseph asked “How is Mama”, and was told she was all right. They were happy and skipped quickly home, only to find that their mother was dead. This was a tremendous shock to these little children.
Joseph was only six when his mother died and left him and his one brother and two sisters. His twelve year old sister, Sarah, took over the roll of mother.
His mother Elizabeth Walley was the second wife of his father. The first wife, Catherine Cuerden, the mother of eight children, had died many years before. His half brothers and sisters were grown and married. Three had died when children in England, two daughters came to America years later with their families, and two sons had come with the family to America. The oldest daughter of John and Catherine stayed in England.
When Joseph was seven he left home and went to live, first with one half brother or sister and then with another. From that day he never knew what it was to have a home that was his own until after he was married. He was pushed from one to another. When he was ten years of age he started working for other people and making his home with them while he did chores for his keep.
Not having the guiding hand of a mother he met with many pitfalls and trying times. He was allowed to run and do as he wished with no one to check on him. And so sometimes he got into mischief that he would not have had he known a mother’s love and direction that all children need.
One day while he was sitting on the curb in front of the store talking with some men, they looked up and saw his father, Grandfather Barton, coming down the street. In sheer devilment these men talked Joseph into taking a smoke. When his father saw him smoking, he walked into the store quietly, came back out with a package of tobacco which he threw at his son hitting him in the neck and said “don’t beg it”. So this was the beginning of a bad habit, which he later had to overcome, and the beginning of bad company and little encouragement to do otherwise. He always seemed to be with the gang that got into someone’s strawberry or watermelon patch or cherry orchard. Many an interesting story he tells of these escapades. And yet for all his mischief he was honest and truthful and trusted by all who knew him.
He tells the story of how when the polygamists were on the underground that he worked for the Bishop and many a night he spent under the bridge just outside of Kaysville with his horse tied near by and if a stranger crossed that bridge going into town he would ride his pony through the fields and before the stranger reached town by road, every polygamist knew that a stranger was coming. One morning when he came home from the watch at the bridge, the Bishop asked him if he were very tired and when Joseph said, “not very,” the Bishop asked him to take the horse and buggy and go down to the railroad depot and meet the morning train. He was told that there would be an old woman get off the train and he was to say nothing but he was to take her to Brother Rueche’s home.
When Joseph met the train a lovely looking old woman with a bonnet covering her lovely gray hair got off the train. He took her suitcase and helped her into the buggy without saying a word to her. When they were on the way the lady spoke to Joseph and asked him if he knew who she was and Joseph said, “Yes,” he recognized her voice as that of Wilford Woodruff. Wilford Woodruff, the president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, had come to Kaysville in disguise to officiate at the sealing of one of the daughters of Brother Rueche to President John Taylor. John Taylor was very ill and was in Kaysville to be protected from the Marshalls who were after the polygamists of the Church. Joseph was a witness to the wedding and when he asked them why they trusted him to do the work he was doing, they told him that he always had been a boy that could be trusted. He was also told that he was known as such a mischievous boy that he could tell the truth and still throw suspecting people off the track. Later Joseph went to the Rueche home each day to report to the other General Authorities on President Taylor’s condition. It was Joseph who carried the message of President Taylor’s death to town on July 25, 1887.
Joseph’s schooling was very meager, at that time schooling had to be paid for and one winter he and his sister Sarah worked for their schooling, he was to build the fire in the morning and bring in wood and coal, and Sarah was to sweep and dust after school, they helped each other. He has told how he didn’t have shoes to wear and would wrap his feet in strips of gunny sack and run to school to keep his feet from freezing and after he had the fire going, he would take the strips off and hang them by the stove to dry so that he would have them to wear home at night. These were his shoes even in the winter with the snow on the ground.
He only had nine months of schooling, three the first winter and six months when he was thirteen years of age. At that time schools were not graded but were classed according to the reader you were reading and one advanced as fast as they could master the readers. Joseph was a brilliant student and in the last winter he attended school he advanced to the fifth reader which was the last reading in the elementary school at that time.
As spring approached that year he was walking to school with his teacher and his teacher made the comment that now that spring was coming he would probably have to leave school and that he hated to see Joseph go as he said, “If any boy in Kaysville deserves and should have an education, you are that boy.” But Joseph told him that as soon as he was needed by his boss of the previous summer, he would have to go. That very afternoon he was called out of school and told that he was needed to help take the sheep to summer pasture and so he left school for the last time.
But although Joseph never had much formal schooling, he was quite well self-educated. He never had the opportunity to go on a mission, but he read and studied the scriptures until he knew the gospel and the scriptures very well. He was familiar with all the Church works and also kept up very well on scripture and later while living in Nevada and attending church there he would be asked to quote a passage without any forewarning. One time I remember Brother Roberts, a counselor in the Branch Presidency, was speaking at Sacrament Meeting and he started to quote a passage, then stopped and turning to my father said, “Brother Barton you know the passage I am referring to, please quote it for me”, and my father did.
For several summers during his teen years Joseph worked for sheepmen and cattlemen and spent the summers alone on the range, often not seeing any other person for many weeks.
When Joseph was a young man a friend came to him and asked him to go to a Gypsy Camp to have their fortunes told. Joseph didn’t believe in fortune telling, but he rode out with this friend. But the Gypsies were not interested in telling the fortune of the friend, they wanted to tell Joseph’s fortune. The friend became very angry and said, “Why won’t you tell mine, isn’t my money as good as his?” The Gypsy answered, “You have none.”
The two boys left for home, but hadn’t gone far when the friend’s horse became frightened and bolted and as he ran under a tree limb caught the fellow and his neck was broken. Joseph then went back and had his fortune told, although he was still skeptical.
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