Written by Carol T. Floyd Granddaughter of William Riley Taylor
(Submitted by Debra Young, June 2011)
Margaret Jane Ellison was born 11 August 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois a daughter of John Ellison who was born May 23, 1818 at Yorkshire, England, and Alice Pilling who was born November 8, 1820 at Waddington, Yorkshire, England. Her parents came to America from England twelve days after they were married. They settled in Nauvoo where her father helped with the work on the temple, with much of the saints being asked to give a tenth of their income. Here Margaret Jane was born, the first child of a family of ten children. She was blessed by her father. After the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the troubles between the saints and the gentiles (non-Mormons) increased. On November 3, 1846 her father sold his lot and house for half the price he paid for it and the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Three sons were born to the family while they lived here, two of which died, victims no doubt of the epidemic summer complaints which took devastating toll of the infant population. In 1851, Margaret Jane with her parents and brother Ephraim left by steamboat for Winter Quarters. Heavy floods on the Missouri River detained them for three weeks in St. Joseph. Then they were able to continue the journey by open ferry, but it rained when they arrived and it was too late to join the company for Utah. They had to spend a winter there, making the best they could with what they had. On the 11th of June 1852, they started for Utah. Heavy articles of household furniture and implements were loaded in the wagons. Clothing, bedding, and small children were put in handcarts. On September 13th after traveling 99 days they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the Thomas Howell Company. The family rented a farm on the Jordan River and moved in the next day. The spring of 1853, 35 acres of wheat was planted to help feed the family and animals. The river overflowed destroying most of it. In October 1853, the family moved to Kaysville. They lived here the rest of their lives. It was in Kaysville in 1855 that Margaret Jane was baptized by John Blair, she was 13 years old at the time. It was in Kaysville that she met and eventually married William Riley Taylor.
William Riley Taylor was born in Caldwell County, Missouri on February 12, 1839, the son of Allen Taylor and Sarah Louisa Allred and was the third child of the family of 11 children. William Riley lived with his parents in Caldwell County, Missouri until he was three years old, when they were driven out by the mob. They went to Nauvoo, Illinois until they were again forced to leave their home and move to Iowa. They lived in Iowa and moved toward the Rocky Mountains in the Allen Taylor Company when he was 10 years old. William Riley was the oldest son of the family, since his older brother Issac Moroni, died the year before he was born. Thus he was responsible for driving two teams of oxen across the plains by himself. The hardships were many and the Indians were very hostile at the time.
The family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley late in the fall on October 15, 1849 and settled in Mill Creek Canyon. He then helped his father build a toll bridge across Mill Creek. The winter brought additional hardships some days they would only have bran bread and milk to eat. The milking was done by William Riley and one morning after milking the cows the night before, he again returned to milk and found their best milk cow of the herd dead with twelve wolves eating the carcass.
The next fall they moved to Kaysville, Utah and here they again began building a log house and began to prepare for another winter. They cleared the land of brush using the oxen and a wooden hand plow they had brought across the plains with them. There was a lot of work in this new and unsettled country. Besides doing all this work they had to fight off hostile Indians to protect their homes, families and animals. Not long after they arrived in Utah, Allen Taylor, being one of Brigham Young’s trustworthy captains while crossing the plains was asked to be the new Bishop of Kaysville settlement, a position which he accepted wholeheartedly. Of course all the Taylor family would attend to their church duties every Sunday. By now William Riley was noticing pretty girls and chose a pretty but small girl with black hair and blue eyes. Her name was Margaret Jane Ellison and she too had only recently arrived in Utah on September 13, 1852. She was only 10 years old when her family crossed the plains and she also knew the hardships involved. It was just eight years after arriving in Utah that William Riley Taylor took Margaret Jane Ellison for his bride on September 27, 1857. They were married by his father, Allen Taylor, the bishop of Kaysville. The groom was 18 years old and his bride was 15. Their marriage was later solemnized in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on June 20, 1860. This was before the Salt Lake Temple was finished, as it was started in the spring, April 6, 1853 but wasn’t completed and dedicated until April 6, 1893.
It is noted that William Riley had four brothers and six sisters and Margaret Jane had six brothers and three sisters. William Riley wasn’t an educated boy as he only had two winters of schooling which lasted only six weeks each winter, so he had to work hard doing manual labor and helped his father with their farming and other work. Both he and his father spent a great deal of their time and meager means in helping build the Salt Lake Temple, and both were happy and always blessed while they were doing this.
It wasn’t long after he and Margaret were married that he was called as a minute-man to go to Echo Canyon along with many other husbands and fathers to meet Johnson’s Army which was coming to Utah to destroy the Mormons. He was gone only three weeks when he met with an accident and had his elbow thrown out of place so he was released and sent back home to his young wife.
Margaret Jane was a wonderful homemaker and helper to her husband, no matter what he had to do. Their little pioneer cabin with log walls, dirt floors and roof was always clean and there was always something ready to eat when William Riley came home at nights, they were very happy and content.
They later moved to Sisterville (Slatterville near Far West, Weber County, Utah) where they were living when their first child was born, a boy, whom they named William Allen. He was born April 19, 1859, and then not long after this, they moved back to Kaysville and it was here that their second child another boy John Henry was born on January 4, 1861.
The next year William Riley and his father Allen were asked to go with other families to what was called Dixie by Brigham Young. This place was located in the southern most part of Utah and they were to go settle that country. So they loaded their meager means and roughly made furniture in their wagons and started out on their long hard trek of 318 miles by oxen to St. George. They left their home in Kaysville on May 29, 1862, and it took them several weeks before they reached St. George encountering Indians along the way.
Once again they set to work to settle the country and to prepare the ground to plant their crops in this fine productive soil. Their crops grew very abundantly the next summer in this choice warm country. The little settlement that William and Margaret settled in was called Harrisburg and it was here that their third child, another boy, was born December 24, 1862. He was named Joseph Ephraim. Before long they moved from Harrisburg to a little settlement called New Harmony, it was while they were here that the church started another temple in St. George. Again both Allen and William Riley were asked to help the building of the temple. It was started in the year of 1871 and was completed and dedicated on April 6, 1877. It was while they lived in New Harmony that two more sons joined the family, David Moroni their fourth son on March 30, 1865 and two years later their fifth son, Thomas Alvin on May 20, 1867. This made a family of five strong healthy boys.
The next year in 1868 they moved back to their first home in Kaysville in Davis County, Utah. It was here, in the next year that their first girl, Sarah Alice was born on July 17, 1869. Of course they were all very happy and proud of their first little daughter and sister. Naturally Margaret took great pride in combing her long hair into braids and dressing her in her long dresses and petticoats.
In 1872 they returned to the warmer climate in New Harmony, Washington County, here the next five children, all boys were born. They were James Edward the seventh child born April 2, 1872; Isaac Harvey the eight child born March 25, 1874; Charles Franklin the ninth born July 27, 1876; Loran Independence the tenth child born May 15, 1878; and the eleventh Lorenzo Jeddiah born on April 30, 1881.
Of course the Taylor family was just like any other normal American family. They had their ups and downs as every one does, and they had their faith tried many times. It is said God tries the hardest those he loves the most. It was one of those sad and trying things that happened to the William Riley Taylor family when on April 11, 1877 their little son Charles Franklin died of pneumonia in St. George. The parents had not yet recovered from this shock of losing a child when the Lord again called another little spirit home to Him. This time it was their fourth child David Moroni who had been sent to the well to draw water out; he lost his balance and fell in. He drowns before help could get to him on November 29, 1878 about 17 months after the death of David who was 13 years old. These two sudden deaths in the family in less than two years was a very sad thing, but the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Both William and Margaret knew that if they lived the Lord’s teachings and kept His commandments, they would some day be reunited with their loved ones when their mission in this life was finished.
The next three years were very busy ones for the whole family. They were putting in their crops and taking care of their horses and cattle, and preparing to make another move. The Dixie country was fast becoming so thickly populated that Allen and Riley Taylor decided it would be best for them and their families if they moved to another locality so there would be more room for their large families and livestock. They wanted to be able to have their young sons settle close to them. So they again loaded their wagons with their belongings and moved. The older boys drove the cattle, sheep and horses as they migrated from New Harmony to what was then known as Rabbit Valley. They arrived here on the 11th of November 1881.
William Riley bought the first large tract of land just as you enter the valley, which later was known by the name of Road Creek. Because it was late in the year when they arrived, the feed for the animals was scarce. They had to obtain some feed from their good neighbors in the little settlement of Fremont just north of Road Creek. By doing this and herding their animals on the hills most of the winter, they managed to survive the hard winter.
Early spring of 1882 found all of the boys and Riley out grubbing brush, which was as tall as a horse and hauling the many rocks off so they could start plowing the ground for the spring crops. It was a very hard and tiresome job all day long. But when Sunday morning came, Riley and Margaret would be in their white top buggy on their way to Fremont to attend to their church duties. Their youngest son Ren (Lorenzo) liked to ride horses very much and insisted on riding his horse instead of in the buggy with the rest of the family. He said that it made him sick to his stomach because of the swaying of the buggy.
Margaret became the first primary president of the new ward of Fremont, which was organized in the year of 1883. This new responsibility and her large family kept her very busy. William riley received all the ordinations to the priesthood, Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Elder, but all dates and places have been lost. He was ordained a seventy in February 1856. He was later ordained a High Priest on May 30, 1897 by Apostle Francis L. Lyman at Loa.
It was in the your of 1883 on July 21st that another of the Lord’s choice spirits was sent to William and Margaret and of course it was another son. This was their twelfth son and he was named Heber Calvert and was born in Fremont. Then about two years later the Lord again sent them another son, he was born on May 29, 1885, he was named George Irvin and was their thirteenth child. On June 4, 1887 they were once again blessed with the arrival of a new baby and you can imagine their joy when this baby was another little girl. She was named Susannah Janet and was the fourteenth and last child of this large and happy family of twelve boys and two girls. The girls always said they each had twelve big brothers to tease them but to William and Margaret they were fourteen of God’s choicest spirits that they had been permitted to have and to teach and of course they were very proud and happy about them.
After the Loa ward was organized the Taylor family joined it as it was closer to their farm on Road Creek. Then in later years, Riley bought a couple of city blocks in Loa and built a couple of two roomed housed on them. The family then moved into Loa but Riley and the boys still went to Road Creek each day to do their farming.
It had been quite a while since Margaret had been to Kaysville to see her parents, brothers and sisters so Riley decided she needed to have a rest and a good visit. So they put what they would need for a trip in the buggy and with their four youngest children Ren, Heber, George, and Susannah they went to Kaysville. This was quite an experience for these children as the train had come to Utah. They were going around the mountain just before entering the Salt Lake Valley when a train caught up with them. It scared the horses and they would have run away if Riley hadn’t put on his brake and held to the reins as tight as he could with both hands. This was the first time both the children and the horses had ever encountered a train.
They stayed in Kaysville a couple weeks visiting and enjoying the company of relatives and old friends whom they hadn’t seen for a long time. When they were ready to come home Uncle Matthew Ellison, Margaret’s brother gave Riley a pure bred buck ram to take with them. They made a box of wood and fastened it on the end gate of the wagon and put the ram in it to make the long journey back to their home in Loa. Of course the boys did a lot of walking and when they came to a grassy place they would pull grass and feed it to the ram. They had to camp along the road wherever night over took them.
Later when George was 13 years old, Riley built his family another new and much larger rock house on the east end of the block where the old log houses had been. It was made of large rocks that had been quarried out of the mountains. A couple of rock masons by the name of Anderson built it, but the boys had to be the mud mixers. This new home had six rooms, three upstairs and three downstairs and also a bathroom. Margaret enjoyed this larger and nicer home because of her large family. This house was very well built as it is still standing and being used today by a grandson and his family.
It was quite a hard task for Riley and his sons to be building a house and trying to put in their crops at the same time. So before long they sold Road Creek and bought a farm about two miles north east of Loa which is called Spring Creek. They bought this tract of land from a fellow by the name of Wilford Pace. This made it much better but it was still a long hard day by the time they drove their teams and wagons from Loa to the farm and did all the plowing with a hand plow. They usually plowed about an acre in one day and then rushed home to do their chores before dark.
William’s half sister Louisa Taylor who later married Heber Blackburn, came and helped Margaret quite a lot and she was also helpful in the ward organizations.
When Riley and the boys came in, their supper of hot biscuits, potatoes, gravy, and meat was always ready and waiting for them even though Margaret was a very busy woman. Besides all her housework and big family to take care of she was busy working in the different organizations such as a counselor in the Relief Society to Sister Bathsheba Grundy. Then later she was asked to be the president of the Loa Ward Relief Society a position she held for a number of years. This office took quite a lot of her time, for in those days when there was a death in a family the Relief Society always had to prepare the body for burial and sew the clothes for burial. She was also a great help among the sick. She was a midwife in Loa for a good long time and she assisted in bringing unnumbered babies into this world. There weren’t any doctors in those days in Loa, and the people had to rely on Patriarch Blackburn for most everything. Margaret was called from her house many nights to go and assist a neighbor and attend to the sick, but at the same time, she never neglected Riley and their family. They always had plenty of cooked food and clean patched clothes to wear even though she had to do her washing on an old wooden washer which the boys would all take turns turning for her. She made all of the soap she used for her washing which included clothes, lots of little dirty faces, and dirty dishes.
She would heat her iron on the old coal stove to iron their clothes. From the sheep that Riley sheared, came the wool that Margaret made into clothes for the family. She did this by washing and spinning the wool into thread and then weaving the cloth on her loom or knitting. She would also churn butter, make bread and cheese for her family and sold the extra to the neighbors. Some was sent to Salt Lake to help those that were working on the Temple.
The Taylor’s were blessed with a good living with their sheep, cattle and what they raised in their garden. At one time, William Riley owned more wild horses than any other man in the country, but none of them were used to herd their sheep. The boys helped with the sheep, always walking sometimes barefoot. They always had some very good sheep dogs which would do a lot of the work. They would winter the sheep south of Road Creek, then in the early spring they would take them up on Thousand Lake Mountain to what was known as Riley’s Spring. Here the sheep were sheared and lambing occurred here. After lambing, they were driven back over the north mountain, over the north end of Johnson Valley Reservoir, then out to Parker Mountain and eventually back to Road Creek again for the winter. This they would do every summer and someone had to be with the sheep all the time. There were many coyotes, mountain lions, and even bears which would steal a sheep or lamb every chance they got. The older boys and Riley would take turns herding them and sometimes the younger boys would help too. One time while Loran and Heber were up above Forsythe Reservoir, Loran sent Heber and the dog up around the sheep. When Heber came back, the dog wasn’t with him, so Loran asked him where the dog was. He said a big cat had killed the dog. When Loran went up there he was shocked to find the dog so badly hurt by a mountain lion that he had to kill the poor dog to get it out of its misery. That taught Loran a lesson he never forgot and he never sent one of the little boys to herd the sheep by themselves again.
There were quite a few Indians in the valley, but they weren’t very mean. Riley always said it was cheaper to feed the Indians than it was to fight them. However there was one time he became very angry with them. One night there were several Indians that came to the house with several nice big wool fleeces and wanted him to buy them. So he gave them some food for the wool. A few days later to his surprise he found five of his sheep without any wool. The Indians had pulled all of the wool off and sold it to him. Of course there is always something good in everything; at least that was five sheep he didn’t need to shear that spring.
All strangers were always welcome in their home and many nights Margaret would make beds all over the place for some one to sleep. One time an old fellow came and wanted something to eat and a place to sleep. So Margaret sent him a loaf of bread and a pan of milk. He ate as though he hadn’t had anything to eat for a week or more. When he finished he wanted more. They then took him out to the granary and fixed a place for him to sleep. When they went out to get him to come for breakfast the next morning they found the poor fellow dead. Riley thought that he had gone without anything to eat for so long that he had over eaten.
The boys were all horse riders, especially when it came to riding wild ones. The more they would buck the more they enjoyed it. It seemed like that was the way the boys rested after a hard days work into the field. In the fall they would cut grain with a scythe, and then the older boys would come along gather it into bundles and tie it with straw then collect it later for the thrashers. The thrashers were horse drawn and they got their power by hitching up six teams of horses and driving them around in a circle. This worked something like an old coffee mill. But it could thrash as fast as two men could pitch it into the thrasher. They could thrash about a thousand bushels a day. They would start as soon as it was light enough to see and work until way after dark. Later a fellow by the name of George Chapple (Chappell) bought a steam thresher and brought it into the valley.
Their lights weren’t as good then as we have them now. At first they used what was called a bitch. This was made by soaking a rag in mutton tallow or other kind of grease. This was put in a dish and fire made on the exposed end. This gave off plenty of black smoke which blackened up the house. Later they used candles which they made themselves but mostly the fireplace was their old stand by for both heat and light. After the coal oil lamps were invented, they really thought they had a wonderful convenient and bright light.
When the pioneers first came to Rabbit Valley their water supply wasn’t very good. They hauled it in barrels from Spring Creek for the house use. Then after this they made ditches and ran it to the different places for use in the house and to water the animals. But they began to worry for fear of it becoming contaminated with all the animals drinking in the ditches. It was in the year 1911 that the town of Loa bought an eight acre stream of water out to Road Creek from Riley Taylor and it was piped into town. This was really a blessed day for all the people of Loa when they could just turn on their taps and have water in their own houses, good clean, fresh water that they didn’t have to worry about being contaminated.
William Riley was called to act as counselor in the Bishopric of the Loa Ward in May 1897 a capacity he held for a long time. Riley and Margaret went to Salt Lake a number of times to do Temple work. At first they had to go by wagon, then in later years they would go to Salina and then go on from there on the train. This was a very enjoyable trip compared to the trip in the wagon.
William Riley was a very friendly man and was always making friends with someone. If he met a stranger he would always go up to him and shake hands, tell him who he was and ask the stranger what his name was. He would never do anything to hurt anyone’s feelings. If he knew he had he would go and ask their forgiveness before the sun would go down. Even the little folks of the town would come and visit him and Margaret and have some of her delicious home-made bread and butter and listen to the exciting stories that William Riley always had to tell. If there was a marble game in the middle of the road, he always had time to stop and join the boys for a game or two, and he always enjoyed it as much as the boys did. After he had told them stories and played marbles with them he always had to tease them awhile. Margaret always told him he was just a big over-grown boy. But they always enjoyed it and came back for more. He was always loved by everyone that met him.
On March 17, 1890 another one of their sons James Edward died of diphtheria at Fremont and was buried in the Fremont Cemetery. It seemed that when trouble strikes it usually strikes twice and it was a little more than a year later on August 13, 1891 when their son Thomas Alvin was out watering his field when he was struck and killed by lightening. His wife Hannah waited supper on him until way after dark, and then when he didn’t come she went to find him. He left a wife, a small son David Alvin, a little daughter Margaret Ellen, and a third son, Thomas Albert that was born a while after his father was killed.
Four of Riley and Margaret’s boys served missions. William Allen on a two year mission to England, and Isaac Harvey on a one year Improvement Era mission in Davis County, Utah. Loran Independence went to the North Western States on a two year mission from May 5, 1889 to October 6, 1900, and Lorenzo Jeddiah served on a two year mission to Great Britain from August 2, 1901 to October 3, 1903. After Lorenzo returned he acted as Bishop of the Loa ward for a number of years.
After their son Harvey’s wife died, leaving a baby daughter, Riley and Margaret took her and raised her as their own. This girl Zona, lived with them until they both passed away. All of their children who married were sealed to their companions in the various temples. Five of their sons and one daughter had the misfortune of loosing their companions and were married a second time. Their oldest son William Allen lived in polygamy and had a very large family. He was the father of 22 children. Five of their children had nine children in their own families.
William Riley was faithful to the end attending to his wife and to all of his church duties until at the age of 73 he passed away at his home in Loa of an enlarged heart on March 24, 1912 and was buried in the Loa Cemetery on March 27, 1912. Margaret still carried on helping the poor and the sick as long as her health would permit until she passed away at her home in Loa of urine poison at the age of 83 on August 25, 1925. She was buried in the Loa Cemetery on August 27, 1925. At the time of her death she and Riley had 121 grandchildren, but now no one has any idea what their descendants would number. No doubt it would be in the thousands. Both of these faithful pioneers lived a long and useful life in helping to build the many different communities in which they lived, helped their friends and neighbors when they were in need, and served the Lord faithfully to the end. How great will be their reward when He says to both of them “Well done my good and faithful servants enter into my joy and sit down upon my throne.” I am sure that they have inherited the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom.
They both received their Patriarchal blessings, William Riley on April 14, 1910 by John Taylor, and Margaret on September 28, 1901 by Elias Hicks Blackburn.
As of today, July 6, 1966, there is only one member of this large family left. He is the youngest son, George Irvin, who was 81 years old on May 29, 1966.
The Old Rock House
The old rock house stands tall and bleak
Against the sky
For it scarce can tell the story of so
Many years gone by
A broken fence, the weeds grown tall
Amid a dozen trees
Yet the black and white rock home stands proud
It has known better days than these
Now strangers may point with scorn and
Remark that its afright
But we who know, see beauty amid are
Humbled by its sight
Many came to visit, many came to stay
And they added to its good record before
They moved or passed away
I recall how my heart skipped a beat
And oh how we would squeal
Just spotting that house when we finally
Topped the hill.
There were times when laughter rocked
The walls and little children sang
With family reunions, love at home,
And bells on Christmas rang
Times they gathered around the table
And knelt before their chair
Thus rising early every morning they
Offered family prayer
Hot irons wrapped in towels, tucked in bed
To warm us from the cold
The whittling and singing and stories
The farm fresh milk with home made
Bread that Grandma used to bake
The gooseberry pie and hollyhock dolls
She showed me how to make
No enemies ever left this house nor
Stranger entered in
This house holds stories of compassion
And charity within
The hungry fed, the poor was clothed
The lonely found a friend
Their test of faith was giving and
They were faithful to the end
Now the worn rock stoop is a marker
Of days, that could not last
And recall to us sweet memories and
Silent yearnings for the past.
Carol T. Floyd - Granddaughter of William Riley Taylor,
The Builder of The Old Rock House