Our Family Legacy
Nathan Staker was born on a farm in Cataquera, Upper Canada. The first child of a thirty-two year old Dutch farmer, Conrad Staker and his eighteen year old, dark haired, and very beautiful wife Cornelia Schnack, who seems to have been a mixture of English, French, and Dutch ancestry. According to the records of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, as chronicled by to different writers, he was christened January 24, or February 28, 1802 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
To best knowledge the settlement of Cataquera had not acquired the name of Kingston at this time, but finally became Kingston, so it was the same place. It was a wild country, heavily wooded with a lot of lakes and streams, where fishing was good in the summer and skating was the principal means of transportation in the winter.
From his father Nathan inherited the characteristics of pride of country, love of family, thrift, and he was very spiritually minded. He had sterling integrity and a quick temper. When he grew to manhood Nathan met a very beautiful black haired French-Canadian maiden, Jane Richmond. She was born August 25, 1810, at Pickering, Ontario, Canada. Her father, a Loyalist, was David Richmond, and her mother was Merca Ray, also of loyalist parentage. They were married in 1827.
Nathan was raised a Methodist. He was a very religious young man and studied hard. He was a Bible student, a class leader, and very devout. Each winter during the relaxation from the farm labor, they would take part, with the neighbors, in social affairs and religious revivals. One of their hymns "Poor Mourning Soul in Deep Distress", was a favorite.
It seems he was never quite satisfied, even though he had become a Methodist Minister. A feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction with his professed religion, from a Bible standpoint, had of late taken possession of him. But Methodism was the best that he knew anything about and he tried to make the best of it.
About this time one of the small children grew very ill. (The following is a quote from a article in the October 1909 Improvement Era) As this particular winter season approached, however, of which I wish to speak, one of their little ones sickened and in spite of all their devoted care, grew steadily worse until he was at death's door. The parents were worn out with watching and the mother was discouraged and despairing.
They knew nothing of authority or priesthood, those potent agents which have won the aid and favor of the Almighty in these glorious days of the restored gospel, but Nathan believed that the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, and he tried to live for it. For two days he fasted and then retired secretly into the woods to pray. Kneeling down by the side of a log, he poured fourth his whole sole in prayer that God would stay the hand of the destroyer and give back to the stricken mother, the life of her little one. And gloriously was his prayer answered , for an angel came in person, and laying his hands upon his head, blessed him for his perseverance and faith and promised that his child should be spared, adding for himself, he should yet live to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring souls into the true fold. Now this had long been the secret ambition and Desire of his sole, but he had no idea at time that the promise of the angle meant anything else than the preaching of Methodism."
"After the angle departed, Nathan returned to the house. As he appeared in the door his wife, who sat by the bedside of the sick child grieving over it, looked up, and was awed and frightened by his appearance and expression. “What is the matter, Nathan?” she cried.
He tottered toward and with words, "Be comforted, the child shall live," he fell over upon the bed in a deep swoon. She thought for a moment that he was dead, and wringing her hands in anguish cried, "He has given his life for the child. Oh I have done wrong in clinging to my baby as I have done. I should have submitted without a murmur to the will of God."
After a time he revived and told her what he had seen and heard, and their hearts were filled with thanksgiving and a solemn joy. And as we get line upon line and precept upon precept so afterwards was the true gospel brought to them and you know Jesus says "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me". Then did they begin to understand in full the glorious promise made by the angel."
In speaking of this experience afterwards, he said that he seemed for the time being to be taken out of the body, for though the angel stood directly behind him, he could see him distinctly, and described him as a shining personage, with robes of exceeding witness, and the hands which lay upon his head were transparent and not only could he see the angel, but he could see himself kneeling beside the log. Never through all his life afterward could he speak of this glorious experience without weeping.
A short time after this event the gospel of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints was brought to them. When he heard Mormonism from such master missionaries as the Pratts and Brigham Young he embraced it. Nathan and Jane were baptized June 11, 1835, in Ontario, Canada.
Then did they begin to understand in full the glorious promises made by the angel. After joining the church they made the usual sacrifices to gather in Zion. He moved with his family to the states. The Stakers made their home in Kirtland, Ohio which was the headquarters of the church at this time and as the saints were very busily engaged in building the Kirtland Temple, he undoubtedly worked on it. Their fourth child, Alma, was born June 15, 1836 at Kirtland.
It had been arranged after a series of meetings of the Council of Seventy from March 6 , 1838 to July 5, 1838 that the Saints should move in a body from Kirtland, Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri. These meetings were attended by the Spirit of the Lord in rich abundance, with many manifestations of the Spirit such as visions, revelations and inspirations. These meetings took place in the attic chamber of the Kirtland Temple.
Thursday July 5, 1838 the camp commenced organizing on a piece of land in the rear of the house formerly occupied by Mathew Hillman, about 100 rods south of the House of the Lord in Kirtland. This movement was one of the greatest of its kind ever attempted in the history of the world and is known as Kirtland Camp. "After the tents were pitched and all things arranged, an enumeration of the camp was taken, when it was ascertained that there were in the camp 529 soles present (a few were necessarily absent), of which 256 were males and 273 females. There were 105 families all on the ground.
The spectators retired at a late hour and left the camp in quietude. The camp was quiet, the night was clear and the encampment and all around was solemn as eternity which scene together with the remembrance of those other scenes through which the Saints in Kirtland had passed during the last two years all presented themselves to the thinking mind; and together with the greatness of the undertaking, and the length of the journey, and the many other things combined could not fail to awaken sensations that could be better felt than described,
Of the men who, on Tuesday March 13, 1838 signed the constitution and the laws governing the Camp, I find listed Nathan Staker whose family consisted of two; Jared Porter whose family consisted of three.
On March 20, 1838 the seven counselors met and agreed that two good teams and one tent would suffice for eighteen persons. Men were selected as overseers of tents and wagon bosses. The man selected as tent and wagon boss for the to which Nathan Staker and his wife and four children were assigned was Andrew Lamereaux , who also had a wife and four children. I have been unable to learn who made up the tent division.
Jane Richmond Staker never got along with this Lamereaux family and a lot of ill feelings always existed, which was always frowned upon by Nathan. The Staker tradition has it, that on one occasion when a slough about fifteen feet wide was being forded, all the teamsters would start their teams into the sough then grab the back end of the wagon and wade through. When Nathan's turn came, he got the team and wagon in the slough, then taking a little run jumped over dry shod. Mr. Lamereaux was not a little vexed and ordered him to take water, threatening him with his riding whip and when Nathan made it dry shod Lamereaux spurred his horse across the slough and striking Nathan with the whip ordered him to wade back into the slough. At this wife Jane takes over, wrenches the whip out of the wagon-boss' hand and hit him in the face with it. Whether this is the correct version of the fray or not I do not know, but here is what happened according to Church History Vol. 3 page 128; Friday 17 July 1838 Nathan Staker was requested to leave the Camp in consequence of the determination of his wife, of all appearance, not to observe the rules and regulations of the camp. There had been contentions in the tent between herself and Andrew Larmereaux, overseer of the tent, and also contentions with his family several times on the road, and after the camp stopped in this place, the council became weary of trying to settle these contentions between them. Andrew Lamereaux having gone to Dayton to labor, taking his family with him, was not present at the council, neither was there any new complaints made, but the impossibility of brother Staker to keep his family in order was apparent to all and it was thought to be the best thing for him to take his family and leave the camp,"
So this was the end of the trail as far as the Nathan Staker family was concerned. This was not an uncommon occurrence, one other family having been asked to leave the camp the same day, and one the next day, the camp was beginning to break up. They were camped now about twenty miles beyond Springfield the county seat and one of the largest towns they had passed through. The camp stayed at this place were they took a contract to work on the turnpike and other work, such as raising levies, making ditches and other farm work. They did not leave this camp until August 29, 1838. On Tuesday September 2, 1838 they arrived at Far West and at their destination October 4, 1838.
Nathan Staker and his family went back to Springfield where they made there home until they started for Zion beyond the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of the two years he spent on a mission to his old home in Ontario, Canada where he went to try and convert the rest of his people and where, November 1, 1843, Aaron, their seventh child was born.
When he returned from his mission, he brought his mother and most of the family with them to Quincy or Nauvoo, Illinois. His mother, Cornelia Schnack Staker, however, went to live with her son Conrad E. Staker at Clayton, Illinois. This son was not converted and Cornelia, although I think she was converted never was baptized until she came to Utah.
Nathan and Jane both had Patriarchal blessings December 15, 1845 in Nauvoo given by John Smith and they received their Endowments February 6,1846 in the Nauvoo Temple.
In the early spring of 1846 the Saints were driven from Illinois and made their headquarters at Winter Quarters and Nathan and his family went to Pigeon Grove, Pottawattamie, Iowa. Why they chose this town? I have never found anyone who seemed to know, but I have a theory. Cornelia Staker Hart buried her husband Elias Hart in March 1846 at Berry, Pike, Illinois. Jared Porter a member of the Kirtland Camp took pity her and her fatherless children and as there were only three in his wagon brought her home with him to Pigeon Grove, where it seems he had a good home. He married her in polygamy and had one son by her. They left for Utah in about 1847 and she died of smallpox at Ft Kerney, Nebraska.
Now would it not be natural for Mr. Porter to offer his bother-in-law Nathan Staker his home to live in while they were preparing to cross the plains, and would it not be probable that Cornelia Staker Hary Porter and Jane Richmond Staker were both infected with the smallpox in the same house? Well, that is what I believe happened. At any rate the Nathan Staker family were living in Pigeon Grove, January 1, 1850. Here they built the wagons that were to bring them to Utah, while they were quarantined with smallpox and where grandmother Jane Staker gave birth to her last child Joseph Staker October 7, 1850. Where Jane died of smallpox February 11, 1852 and where John and William Staker became fathers in 1851.
They left Pigeon Grove and crossed the plains with the Henry Miller Company. Many of the people in the settlements through which they passed came out to see the long trains of "Mormons" as though they were a wild beast show. A small boy sitting on a gate was heard to remark "Why, I don't see but they look just like other folks."
While in camp, near a certain city or village, Brother Nathan Staker asked his daughter Sarah to take a tin quart cup to a tin shop and have the handle soldered on. The Tinner, knowing she was a Mormon, thought he would have some fun. So he winked slyly to the bystanders and said, "So you want the handle soldered to your cup do you." "Yes sir." "Why you are a Mormon ain't ye?" "Yes sir." "Then why don't you have faith that the handle will solder itself. Haven't you faith to heal your cup?" "No sir I haven't faith that I can mend my cup, but if you will put the handle on good, I have faith that it will stay on,"
The bystanders laughed and clapped their hands, and the Tinner was so amused with the answer that he mended the cup "good" according to her request, and refused any compensation for his trouble.
After a long and tiresome journey, the same as all the pioneers had, he arrived in Utah with his children in November 1852. The oldest child John was now twenty-five years old and Little Joe (Joseph Smith Staker), only two. Here they faced the many hardships which came their way and the father did the double duty of father and mother for five years.
John and William Staker and their families stopped in Salt Lake City, but Nathan and his motherless family went on to Pleasant Grove where he helped pioneer that town and held offices of both church and state and where later when he was living in Mt Pleasant, he and his wife would come back to in the fall. He to work in the molasses mill and she to cut and dry fruit by spreading it upon the roof.
At Pleasant Grove the Bishop introduced him to a widow of genteel bearing and told him she was the woman he should marry, and that is just what he did sometime latter. She was an English lady, Mrs. Eliza Cusworth Burton, a widow with two children who had recently come from England to Utah for the Gospel. Her children's Names were Martha and Joseph. (According to the parish register of Warmfield, Yorkshire, England, Joseph was christened Frend Burton, but was known as Joseph Friend).Their father had died just before she left England, he made her promise to bring the children to Utah.
The bishop had said that the marriage would mean a home for her and her children and a mother for his children. So they were married February 18, 1857. Nathan was considerably older than Eliza, a difference of twenty-three years But they got along well together and were happy and she was a good mother to his small children, and he a real father to hers. The older ones of the family had scattered out, some had married, some went away to work, and one boy Aaron had drowned in Spring Lake at the age of twenty-one. Nathan stood as proxy for her first husband Joseph Burton, when she was sealed to him, saying that he would not rob the dead.
While they lived at Pleasant Grove their first child James Benjamin, was born February 7, 1858. The next year they moved to Mt. Pleasant , Sanpete, Utah where they helped pioneer that country. They lived in the fort at one time, went through the Indian wars, grasshopper war, and passed through many hardships incident to pioneer life. The family also at one time lived in the United Order, to do that they were all baptized in the river by John Taylor Henigar.
Nathan got his portion of land in the North Field near North Creek. (Later he preempt it, paying the government $1.25 an acre to receive his deeds.) A little later he acquired a large farm east and north of Round Hills which he and his sons developed and improved and which he later divided with his sons Jim, Joseph, and his stepson Joseph Burton, who always shared equally with his own sons. He taught school for many years, receiving pay for only two of them and that was very little and in produce.
For more than two years he herded the town sheep herd in what was then Thistle Valley, and is now Indian, where he was in constant danger of being killed by Indians He was always kind and honest in his dealings with his red brothers, following the council and advice of Brigham Young, "That it was better to feed them than to fight them." Many times he gave his pot of mutton and dumplings to them and went hungry himself thus winning their friendship and respect.
Here in Mt Pleasant they were blessed with four daughters; Cornelia, who only lived a short time, Eliza Jane, Josephine, and Elizabeth Ellis. When Ellis was born her father was sixty-five years old and she often told about his long white beard and how as a child she sat on his knee at meal time and loved to follow him around the orchard when he was doing his pruning and grafting. Nathan was a good farmer and gardener and had the first and finest orchard in Mt Pleasant. He exchanged cheese and meat for fruit and shade trees with his son William in the Sugar House Ward, Salt Lake City.
In his early life he was a rail splitter and an expert with the ax. While working in the timber, he had the misfortune to have a tree fall on his leg. This caused him to have a slight limp and in later years he always used a cane. About this time in his life he had blood poison very bad in one hand which almost cost him his life. The hand was left quite badly scarred.
He was a God fearing, honest , industrious and hard-working man, raised a large family who loved and trusted him. He lived and taught; Do to others as you would that they should do unto you. He never went into debt and taught by percept and example the regular attendance at Church. He, his wife, and family never missed Sunday School or Sacrament Meeting unless they were ill. He was blessed with all the spiritual gifts that were promised the believers by Jesus Christ.
On July 5, 1874 he was ordained President of the High Priest Quorum by Elder Orson Hyde. All through his life he was very much against strong drinks and intoxicating liquors. He said his father drank and caused his mother so much sorrow that he would have nothing to do with it. This Sweet old blind mother, Cornelia Schnack Staker came to Utah from Illinois in 1876. She was ninety-three years old at the time (she was blind for fifteen years). She lived to be one hundred years, ten months, and twenty seven days old. She had ten children and lived to see them all die first. The last to pass away was her eldest son Nathan who died in the spring and she died in the fall. It was Nathan's pleasure and joy to convert his mother to Mormonism. She was baptized at the age of 95.
Grandfather Nathan was privileged to help raise the dead. When Eliza Jane, his oldest daughter by his second wife, was about eighteen months old, she followed him from the Day home, where her mother was visiting with Charlotte Meelland Day, and where they all had eaten dinner together, and from a narrow foot-bridge between the two lots , she fell into the stream which was swift and deep and it carried her small body rapidly down stream. When her mother found she was not playing with the Day children, as had expected, she hurried home to see if the baby was with Nathan. Everyone immediately began to search for Eliza Jane and she was found some distance down stream. All thought she was dead. Grandfather began to work with her saying she was not and could not be dead. Elder Orson Hyde, who had been to a Conference in Spring City, was just passing by and was called in to administer to her. He did not think the baby was alive but Nathan said, "I blessed this baby to live and be a mother in Israel and she will." They administered to her and she immediately began to breathe and within two hours was playing around the yard as though nothing had happened. She lived to be the mother of thirteen children.
Nathan Staker was a real self made man. When he came to Mt Pleasant he had an ox teem and a wagon with which he farmed for years, cutting his grain with a cradle and binding it by hand with its own straw, threshing it with a flail and cleaning it with the wind. Nothing was wasted. He would mix buckets of; a layer of chaff, then a layer of bran dampened with water, which was economical and at the same time nutritious and fattening. The family made their own butter and cheese, and cured their meat in the old smokehouse. They raised their own cows, sheep, and other animals and hay and grain to feed in the winter. They always had a good garden and raised all their green vegetables, always had enough and some to share with others not so fortunate. The sheep were most useful and highly prized animals as Eliza, recognized as the best knitter in the town, would card the wool and spin the yarn, from which she and the girls knitted all their warm stockings and mittens. They would spin the wool into fine thread and send it to the weavers to be woven into cloth, which although course, was warm and very serviceable.
Their first home in Mt Pleasant was made of logs which he cut in the mountains and hauled with his ox team. It consisted of one large room. The logs were chinked and the roof was made of dirt piled on top of willows, the floor was of hard packed earth. The second year it was floored with rough lumber and furnished for the most part with home made furniture, with woven raw-hide for seats of chairs and bedsprings, straw ticks for mattresses and home made quilts for bedding. A fireplace was at one end which served for both cooking and heating the house. The cupboard was made by putting shelves across one corner. Latter another Small room was added, but the next summer had to be taken to the farm to live in while the land was being preempted.
As time went on Grandfather built and furnished a large adobe house, which as far as I know is still standing in Mt Pleasant. Here the family consisting of three of Nathan's children by his first wife, namely; Aaron, Mary Ann, and Joseph Smith, and the two Burton children; Joseph Friend (Frendd) and Martha Ann lived, loved and were happy.
Nathan and his oldest son, James, Built a large planing and grist mill business and prospered financially.
They were interested in their ancestors and did a lot of temple work. They also paid the secretary of the Manti Temple to do research work for them. He in turn hired a lady (a Mrs. Beard), who was German to do research work for them in Germany.
How she did I do not know, but from a letter I received from Uncle Jim (now on file in the Salt Lake City library as a manuscript) I know that it was she who started the story that the original Nathan Staker was one of the Hessian Soldiers that were brought over here to fight for the British in the Revolution. How I was able to find this error and correct it is the theme of the manuscript before mentioned. They obtained a lot of names from Germany and had the Temple work done for them, all kinds of names, if they sounded like Staker or Rap they were accepted without question of relationship. These names are in the files of the Index Bureau in the Salt Lake City Genealogical Library. I think the Stakers were from Holland. (William Marchant Staker's findings).
Nathan Staker was a very charitable man, he ranked a lot above the average intellectually. He taught school, a lot of the time without pay. His store house of food was always open to those less fortunate than he and he gave generously to the Church for the building of Temples and Ward-Houses, but I think his crowning charitable act was to give up his own children whom he loved dearly to another man.
It came about this way. Eliza Cusworth Burton Day promised her husband, Joseph Burton, on his death bed that she would bring their children to Zion, raise them in God's own Church, having their sealing work done, and have their children sealed to them. She informed Nathan of this fact and he, knowing that by this act he would forfeit the right of fatherhood not only to his foster Burton children, whom he loved like they were his own, but also to his own Staker children throughout all the endless ages of eternity (that is his children born to him and his second wife Eliza Cusworth). Yet he did this, acting as proxy for Joseph Burton, and had them married for all eternity and their children sealed to them just as she had promised. I think that we may well paraphrase and say "Greater Charity has no man than that he give up his children to his friend." When asked about this later, Nathan remarked that he just could not rob the dead.
Nathan Staker had some cattle which ranged on the mountains. One day he found one of them dead, it being a fine fat steer he opened it and took out the tallow to use for candle making, which they did by running the melted tallow into a tin molds, into which a wick had been stretched, and cooling the molds until the tallow hardened, and then extracting the candles. (This candle making was one of the jobs I had as a small boy, and I still remember it with a lot of joy and satisfaction.) Nathan had a small pimple on his hand, into which he got some of the tallow. The steer must have been poisoned for blood-poisoning set in and they feared he would loose his arm. Dr. Wing treated it by burning with caustic a ring around the arm above the elbow. This treatment possibly saved his life but he suffered dreadfully for months.
And speaking of suffering, brings to my mind another instance. Nathan was always a little lame, due to an accident when he was a young man. while working in the timber, a tree felled had lodged in another tree. When he cut this tree, the first one slid down and hit him. He said it was a glancing blow on the shoulder, but it caught and mashed his heel and from this accident he suffered his whole life with an arm that he could not raise without pain and a heel that was partly cut off. No doubt it would have killed him but for the protection of God who spared him for the great mission which he performed in life.
His daughter Ellis was subject to the croup, having it so severely that at times they feared she would die. The nearest doctor at that time lived in Nephi and was not to be had most of the time. One night she was exceptionally bad and seemed to be choking to death. Nathan administered to her and immediately after taking his hands off her head she opened her eyes and said, "Don't cry I'm better."
Nathan's first wife Jane Richmond, who died at Pigeon Grove, Pottawattamie, Iowa, had a blessing from Brigham Young in which he said she would make the journey to the valley with the saints. Her death was a lamentation on the family's mind, they couldn't understand. When they finally reached the valley they went to see Brigham Young, telling him their feelings. He told them, "Your dear wife and mother did reach the valley, the valley of death, with six hundred or more who died on the way." He told them that she was called by our Heavenly Father for a purpose we cannot understand at this time, "Your mother has gone to the Highest Degree of Glory, to a much happier place than this."
Nathan had inherited a constitutional dread of death, but at his prayerful solicitation, the manner of his death had been shown him in a vision and he dreaded it no more. In the Improvement Era, October 1903, is a life sketch of Nathan Staker. "September 22, 1875 a remarkable and pleasant sight was seen in a dream by Nathan Staker, born November 28, 1801 in Canada, 'I saw in my dream, and behold I was walking in a very pleasant spread over with very beautiful trees and I was surrounded with the most beautiful countenance though not quite so fair as our present race and when I beheld their love and kindness to me and to each other and the beautiful order which they observed and when I remembered the disorder and confusion among my brethren who profess to be Latter-Day-Saints. I wept sorely and most bitterly and could hardly be comforted and felt to pray in my heart to God to be merciful to me and my brethren and give us this good order." by Nathan Staker.
Truly his was an ideal death of a patriarch. After a well spent life, his surroundings comfortable and peaceful, himself free from pain, with a heart full of love and blessings for neighbors and friends, and a family and retaining his consciousness until the last moment when he fell asleep. He passed away May 29, 1884 at Mt Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah and was buried there. His was one of the largest funerals ever held at Mt Pleasant.
His wife Eliza lived until 1914, she was a widow for thirty years. She lived to see her ninetieth birthday. She died in Fairview, Utah but was buried beside her husband in Mt Pleasant, and thus closed the life of two of our pioneers. "Truly blessed are they who die in the Lord, for their death shall be made sweet to them."
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