32 William Warner Major Jr.

(1836-1894)

and Ellen Meek Major

(1850-1932)

 


                                         Son of William Warner Major and Sarah Coles

Homepage

Jill C. Major, Author

Sarah Coles Major and Children

Henry Vincen Major, Son

Bernard D. Major, Grandson

 

William Warner Major, Jr.  standing in front of Spring City house ca. 1884 

 

 

William W Major, Jr. was born in Leicestershire, England 29 May 1836. He moved to London with his parents, William Warner Major, Sr. and Sarah Coles Major when he was very young. Childhood memories included playing with his little brother, Henry Coles Major, who was born in 1837. In London he witnessed the baptism of his parents, aunts and uncles into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was six. That same year, 1842, his little brother died of measles. Church membership required great sacrifices. Later, his father went on a mission to Newbury and was involved in leadership activities, including the President of the Marlebone Branch.

At age eight on February 11, 1844, William Jr. sailed to America on the Swanton. In New Orleans he watched his father baptize the First Mate of the ship, Lewis Gaultor. With his family, William traveled up the muddy Mississippi River to Nauvoo, arriving there sometime between April and August 1844.

Nauvoo

Young William’s two years in Nauvoo were a time of prosperity. It included watching his father, an artist, paint portraits of many of the leaders of the Church. Some of these portraits were painted to be displayed in the Nauvoo temple for the short time it was open for members to receive ordinances. Another exciting event was the birth of another brother named Joseph Smith Major, because he was born in Joseph Smith’s office.

Winter Quarters

At age ten William Jr. left with his family and moved to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, arriving October 22, 1846. William Sr. was often busy with the Church presidency and leaders because of his position on the Municipal High Council of Winter Quarters. Young William missed his father when he went to St. Louis on a mission for the Church.

William heard his father preach many times with the Church leaders. Likely William was sitting in the Log Tabernacle in Miller Hollow watching his father preach with Brigham Young during the April 6th conference 1848.

Trek West

When Brigham Young’s 1848 company left Winter Quarters, William Warner Major, Jr. was twelve and by pioneer standards, man enough to help his mother with their two wagons. William Sr. was chosen as part of the presidency that led this great company west, so William, Jr. was assigned extra duties for his family. Less than 25 miles from Winter Quarters, three-year-old Joseph Smith Major wandered off and scared everyone. He and a four-year-old friend were found 2-3 miles away. They were picked up by others heading to the Great Salt Lake Valley and returned safely to their families (Jacob Peart’s Journal, May 23, 1848). It’s certain that a frightened William Jr. helped search for his little brother. During the trek William Jr. herded the oxen when they were pasturing. At one point, he let a "spotted ox and bald ox" straggle away from the herd, much to the upset of Thomas Bullock, their owner (Journal entry of Thomas Bullock, June 19, 1848, Church Collection).

Perhaps William Jr. was there on Saturday, July 8 when "some mean, sacrilegious fellow had cut down the Body of the Indian Child, cutting the ropes into fragments—scattering the robes & Skins & stealing the trinkets that were attached to it— bro. Major & Tom Johnson gathered the pieces, & again fastened it in the Tree... (Thomas Bullock Journal). A few days later, his father’s "horse got loose from the wagon and started off on full gallop, scaring the teams in five or six wagons, which broke away in a furious gallop; but we have occasion to praise the Lord that no lives were lost; nor was a single wagon upset, but a short time all was safely gathered into line again. On returning with the old horse, Major's dog started Goddard's team on a gallop for the second time. Directly afterwards Major's other wagon met with an accident, as the tongue bolt came out and the cattle were unloosed. Altogether this morning may be put down as the 'first day of the races' without any serious accident" (Thomas Bullock’s Journal, July 11, 1848).

On July 26, William may have been in charge of the oxen again when three went missing. One of the ox was found two miles away. At that time the company’s oxen were sick, some were dying and the Major family’s oxen nearly "gave out" (Thomas Bullock’s Journal).

On Sunday, August 6. "brother Major’s child fell out of the Wagon – the fore wheel ran over its fore leg, but praise the Lord, its leg was not broken... (Thomas Bullock’s Journal). This was probably Joseph Smith Major, since he was young and was probably riding, however, it could have been William Warner Major, Jr., since he may have been driving the wagon. There were other, more calm times, when William Sr. climbed to the top of hills or rises for a better view and sketched the surrounding scenery (Thomas Bullock’s Journal, August 10, 21, 23).

The Major family arrived safely in the Great Salt Lake Valley at the end of September 1848.

Salt Lake

The Salt Lake period was the longest time William stayed in one place during his youthful years. It lasted ten years, from 1848 to about 1858. William Sr. continued to be busily engaged in Church service and art work in the early Salt Lake years. Then in 1853 William Sr. returned to London on a mission, where he died on October 2, 1854. The family heard the bad news in December of that year. William became the man of the Major household at age 18.

Perhaps more difficult than his father’s death was seeing his mother remarry a man 17 years younger than herself. Joseph Tickle Ellis was only seven years older than William Jr. Family tradition says that Brigham Young told Sarah Coles Major to marry Ellis. The same day Ellis married William’s mother, he scurried off to the land office and illegally placed the Major property in his own name (Salt Lake County Land Records). Thomas Bullock signed the record stating that William Warner Major, dead eleven months, sold Ellis the property.

Yet William Warner Major, Jr. was faithful to the Church his family had given so much for. On February 11, 1858 he received his endowments in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.

Spring City 

By 1860 Joseph Ellis, Sarah Coles Major Ellis, William Warner Major, Jr. and Joseph Smith Major, moved to Ephraim, Sanpete, Utah (Lever, History of Sanpete and Emery Counties Utah, 493-494). In 1859 they moved to Spring Town. According to census records, Sarah lived with Ellis. William Warner Major, aged 23, acquired property of his own on the southwest corner of the city and lived with his little brother, age 15, (1860 Census, Spring Town, Utah).

In 1861, Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Civil War began. Had the Major family stayed in Illinois, William likely would have fought for the North. However, these events little worried the people in the Utah Territory. In February 1862, William married Annie Marie Sena Christensen a convert from Denmark. Two years later, February 11, 1864, a daughter was born to them; they named her Sarah Celestia Major after William’s mother.

Annie Marie Sena Christensen Major Ellis

 

This picture was found in the records of Henry Vincen Major.  He recorded on the back "William Warner Major Jr.?"  Since the child is a girl it would either be Sarah Celestia from William's first wife, or Ellen Lavinda from Major's second marriage. 

 

Blackhawk War

Problems with the Native Americans erupted during the winter of 1864-65. A small group of Indians who were camping near Gunnison became sick with smallpox and several died. They blamed this tragedy on the Mormon settlers and Chief Blackhawk gathered his warriors to attack. By that time a fort had been erected around Spring City. William and Joseph Smith Major joined the militia. William was a Calvary Sergeant in Captain John Lehi Ivy's Company from July 20 to Aug 4 in 1865. He also served as a Sergeant in Captain Isaac M. Behannan’s Company, Utah Militia Infantry from April 1, 1866 to November 1, 1866 and as a Second Lieutenant in Captain M. Behannan’s Company from May 1, 1867 to Nov. 1 1867. Once the winter brought heavy snows the Indians couldn’t cross the mountains, so William’s service was terminated during the winters of 1865, 1866 and 1867.

 

Divorce

William’s marriage dissolved. Family tradition says that his step-father, Joseph Ellis, spread discontent to William’s wife. Possibly the trouble was that William refused to practice polygamy. A divorce ensued in 1873 after eleven years of marriage. Ellis married Annie Marie Sena Christensen that same year and together they had a large family. William’s son, Henry Vincen Major remembers his mother saying that he gave all of his earthly possessions to his first wife, including a fine home and all the property that surrounded. This home was probably made out of logs, as most of the early Spring City homes were.

Divorce decree of Cenia Christensen and William Warner Major, Jr.  Notice that Ellis testified at the court hearing.

 Contributed by Michael Larsen, gg grandson of Joseph Ellis

Ellen Meek Major

On March 10, 1875 William married again to Ellen Meek. Sometime after his second marriage, William decided to build another home. The result was the first two-story rock home in Spring City. It was made out of Oolite stone and for many years it was referred to as "The Major Mansion."  

 

 William W. Major, Jr., Ellen Meek Major in front of their home in Spring City, Sanpete, Utah ca.1884.

 

The following is the writing on the back of the photograph (above). It states:  "Woman is Ellen Meek Major holding Ellen Lavenda Major sister of Henrey Major.  Man is William Warner Major Jr.  Girl standing besides Ellen Meek is a cousin Lula Scott Holden.  Horace Legrand Major is the boy - Brother of Henrey Major.  House built 1868 called Major Mansion  Biggest home built then in Spring City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declaration of Intention

The same year as his marriage, William Warner Major made a trip to Provo, Utah.  His intent was become a citizen, the first citizen of the United States of America in the Major family.  He was a patriot who had served his country and he wanted the paper to show it.   This document was proudly kept and passed down from generation to generation.

 

Children of William Warner Major, Jr. and Ellen Meek buried in Spring City Cemetery

William and Ellen bore their children: James William in March 17,1876, died when he was 18 months old. Horace Legrand was born August 4, 1878. Byron Quince born in March 1,1882, died at age 1 month 3 days. Ellen Lavinda was born March 20, 1883 and Henry Vincen on March 20, 1890.

 

 

James William Major Mar 7 1876    Oct 5 1877

Byron Q

Son of Wm & E MAJOR

Born March 1 1882

Died

Apr 4 1883

Sleep on sweet child/and take thy rest/God called thee home/he thought it best

 

Horace Legrand Major 

August 4, 1878

Aug 29, 1931

Spring City Cemetery

Death

In October 1894 William Warner Major, Jr. lay dying in the master bedroom of his home. He was 59 years old. He called his young son, Henry Vincen to his side and said to him, "Vince, always be good to your mother." This was the only memory that Vince had of his father. He was four years old. "I always lived up to that too," Vince said.

William Warner Major (Jr.) headstone

May 29, 1836

Oct 11 1894

Above pictures contributed by Ronald Arthur Major, son of Bernard D. Major

History of James and Ellen Meek Written by Agatha Nielsen Major about 1954

 

James Meek was born 8 July 1806 in England. His wife Mary Ann Wright was born 1 Feb 1817 in Cooks Derry, Ireland. He was living with his wife and their six children in Manchester, England when Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preached the Restored gospel to them. They joined the Church and left England for Utah when their youngest child, a daughter named Ellen, who was born 8 November 1852, was only about six weeks old.

They sailed aboard the vessel "Argo" which left Liverpool 10 January 1850, led by Jeder Clinton, who was returning from a mission. The journey was uneventful and the ship landed at New Orleans. Besides himself and wife Mary there were two sons, John and Matthew Meek, two grown daughters, [Elizabeth and Mary] one small girl and baby daughter Ellen. The two older daughters remained in Missouri where they married. [Editor's note:   They also had a son, Joseph born about 1848 who died in St. Louis. He was on the ship's records and the 1850 St. Louis, Missoui census.  Another child only known as "James Meeks' child" was born October 30, 1852 and died of convulsions when 9 days old according St. Louis death records.] The younger ones, Margaret and Ellen were taken by their parents across the plains to Utah where they arrived in 1854.

James Meek killed by Indians (written by Mattie Agatha Nielson Major)

The Meeks remained in Salt Lake until about 1860 when they were sent by President Brigham Young to Spring City, Sanpete County to settle. Ellen now 8 years old was baptized in Spring City in 1861. Spring Town was very young and the Indians were almost constantly making raids and threatening the peace of the settlers. Men and boys stood guard while others worked in the fields. Women assisted their husbands in the fields much of the time.

Father Meek worked hard to provide for his family. Daughters Margaret and Ellen grubbed rabbit brush and sagebrush which grew along the main street to clear the way for travel and to improve the looks of the town, especially when Pioneer Day, the 24th of July was celebrated by all the settlers of the town. Ellen helped her father with the farm work and herding the sheep. While doing this latter, she taught herself to read and write from a copybook which she had procured. She was not sent to school; likely her parents were unable to afford such.

Father James Meek was anxious to build a substantial house for his family, better than the log and adobe cabin. Hence, he went to the hills, south and west of town, with his oxen and wagon, where he worked at quarrying rock. Ellen went with him and for a time helped her father. At one time when the ox yoke was broken, Ellen went back to town and asked a neighbor man to take a yoke out where her father was working. The neighbor did as requested and the girl returned to help her father. Then Father Meek was advised not to take his young daughter with him to the stone quarry because it was feared that Indians lurking around might molest the daughter and her father. Ellen then remained at home. Soon thereafter a raid was made by Indians on the warpath, mostly led by Chief Black Hawk at this time. On August 13, 1867 James Meek was attacked and killed by Indians on the hills south of the cemetery.

 

The Day James Meek died from journal accounts

From an account by Marinus Lund’s we learn that there was an Indian threat in the area for several months:

During the month of April a company of minute men was organized at spring City Utah Sanpete Co. For the purpose of protecting the settlers from the Indians. The Co. was composed of ten picked men who were on duty at all times. During the spring and summer of 1867 everything moved quietly until the morning of August 13, 1867 when about twenty-men with teams left Spring City for the hayfield which was 6 miles southwest of town. Contrary to the usual custom the scouting ahead of the herd was not done that morning. A band of Indians who evidently had spent the previous night in the stone quarry hills saw the cow herd coming and in their effort to reach the herd the Indians encountered the hay teams. The minute men were guarding the cows and were attracted by the reports of the guns fired by the Indians in their attacks on the hay teams. William Scott [the son-in-law of James Meek] Sanford Allred and myself rode to the place where the firing was heard and we saw Andrew Johnson, a driver of one of the hay teams, with a arrow in his back. He had been shot by the Indians while on his wagon.

Sanford Allred. who was armed with a cap & ball pistol, went to Spring City to report. William Scott left me and rode down until I asked him to wait for me. I had nearly reached him when he said, "Look behind you." I then discovered Indians were right behind me. I fired at them and they rode away. When I reached Scott I asked him where he was going. He said he was afraid his father-in-law, James Meek, had been killed.

A little later I met William Blain who had been shot through the ear by the Indians. Mr. Blain told me not to get scared. I showed him the nearest way to town and told him to go as fast as he could as the Indians were all South of us then. I then met Jack Allred who was trying to locate his horse that had been taken by the Indians as he was crippled. I told him I would go along and help him. I suggested the Indians might kill him to which he replied that he didn’t care. We went east where other minute men were stationed on top of a hill. At the bottom of this hill two Indians rode by without seeing us. When we arrived at the top of the hill I dismounted and tied any horse to a cedar tree. Just then three more Indians rode by. I shot at them. Captain John Hitchcock asked me if I was shot. Jack Allred said I had hit an Indian through for sure.

We caught the mule that he had been riding. This mule had been stolen from Peter Oldroyd at Glenwood during the fight in March 1867. I then rode towards Spring City and met members of the Militia who were coming to the rescue of the herd and hay teams. The Indians had stolen 28 head of horses and started to the mountains with them. We followed up the trail south of Bill Allred Canyon and the militia had a small engagement with them on the mountain side. The Indians were following the top of Horseshoe Mountain. About then my horse gave out. Thomas Coats and a tame Indian from Moroni arrived at the top a little later to find the Militia men had returned to Spring City so we turned back too, arriving at Spring City at about 9: oclock at night. Here we learned that William Scott’s father-in-law, James Meek had been killed...

John Frantzen remembered that fateful August 13th in his journal as follows:

I was up very early that morning as I intended to haul two loads of hay that day. I hired a young boy, Ephraim Allred, to help me. We were the first who started for the meadow in the morning and went alone, had no idea whatsoever that they were any Indians in the neighborhood....They were perfectly still till the herd came, then they came out in sight. They started in full force for the cattle, and as there were quite a number of teams on the road to the hay meadow they run after them and shot trying to kill as many as they could...The Indians were closely pursued, so much so that they had to leave the horses and stock..."

H.S. Ivie, an eyewitness to these events, gives his grisly version of James Meek’s untimely death in the following account:

"About 9 Oclock as reported on the morning of the Spring City fight I was riding down to the hayfield with Sidney H. And James R. Allred when about half way between the stone quarry and the meadows we heard some shooting. Christian J. Larson who drove a pair of good running horses was not far behind us. About eight Indians on horses came from toward Pigeon Hallow toward him. He had a small boy with him. He turned his team around and went back as fast as he could. The Indians was riding along beside the wagon shooting at him and the boy. They shot several holes through his clothes also shot his gunstock in two but him or the boy wasn’t hurt. The main lot of Indians had been hidden in the cedars above the stone quarry south of the road. When we saw what was up we turned and drove back till the horses got out of wind.

The Allreds unhitched their horses and went to where the fighting was going on

Two men from Ephraim came along and one of them took me on his horse over the hill then let me down. Then Con Rowe who came up then took me on into town.

When we got to the foot of the stone-quarry hill, we saw James Meek lying by the road dead; he had been shot through the right breast and under one eye; his pants and hat had been taken; his pipe lay by his side and his ox team was out in the brush a short distance from the road.

A short time later Indians came to the Meek home begging food and wearing the clothes they had taken from Mr. Meek’s dead body. "

Clara Robinson Allred remembered in later years "seeing blood on the running gear of the wagon that brought Brother Meek home." (Watson, Life Under the Horseshoe, 16).

 

James Meek burial (written by Mattie Agatha Nielson Major)

" Father Meek was buried in the old cemetery. Mrs. [Mary Ann Wright] Meek passed away in 1886.

James Meek was buried in the Old Spring City Cemetery. His headstone reads: 

SARED TO THE MEMORY OF JAMES MEEK

BORN JULY 4 AD 1806  KILLED BY INDANS AUG 13 AD 1866 AT SPRING CITY UTAH 

DEAR IS THE SPOK

WHERE FATHER SLEEPS

HIS MEMORY LIVES FOR

EVERMORE O, WHY SHOULD

WE IN ANGUSH WEEP HE IS

NOT DEAD BUT

GONE BEFORE

James Meek Headstone showing Militia Marker

Reads:  JAMES MEEK

UTAH

PVT INF UTAH TER MILITIA

INDIAN WARS

JULY 4 1806    AUG 13 1867

Family history passed down through Bernard D. Major, Great Grandson of James Meek, says that this headstone marks the burial place of a young Indian girl that James Meek and Mary Ann Wright Meek adopted.

Above pictures contributed by Ronald Arthur Major, Great Great Grandson of James Meek

Ellen Meek  (written by Mattie Agatha Nielson Major)

There was not time to spend in idle grief. The toilers had to keep busy to survive. Ellen did a good part to make crackers, called hardtack for the minutemen who were standing guard for the town. Ellen endured many privations in those days from fear, overwork and lack of sufficient food, as did many others when grasshoppers took most of the grain. Ellen was always kind hearted, willing to assist those in need of consolation and help. She would sit up through the nights in the homes of those who had passed away.

When she was a young woman she met and married a fine man, William Major, also born in England. The wedding was held at the home of the groom’s mother, Sarah Coles Major Ellis on 4 March 1875. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Reddick N. Allred. Of the friends who were guests at the wedding were Annikea Larsen Borresen, her son Lars Halvor Larsen and daughter Maria J. Borresen, later Mrs. Alvin Allred, still living in her 90th year. These two, Ellen and Maria, were friends devoted to each other throughout Ellen’s life.

 

 Ellen Meek Major about 1885

 

 

As for the skills of the Pioneer Woman they were unexcelled. She carded wool and spun it into yard, then knitted it into clothing of various kinds. She was an excellent seamstress, mostly being self taught. In many quilts she made were works of art. She kept a fine garden, cared for its planting, irrigation, weeding and harvesting, and willingly shared of her vegetables and fruits with those less fortunate. She did heavy farm work, manual labor also kept her home neat and clean, and did her family’s cooking. She raised poultry and farm animals to be self-sustaining. Her husband died in 1894. [Ellen was 44. Then her children were Horace, age 16, Ellen, age 11 and Henry, age 3].

Pension for William Warner Major's service in the Blackhawk War (written by Mattie Agatha Nielson Major)

Even though the memories of her childhood during Indian raids brought her sorrow, she enjoyed attendance at the Black Hawk encampments and reunions with early day friends and acquaintances. She greatly admired Con Rowe and his brother Allen Rowe and their wives who were sisters, Hannah Swasey and Lura Swasey Rowe and that admiration was mutual. More on the Adventures of Con Rowe  with the Indians. 

In her declining years Mother Major was thankful to receive a pension for the services during the Black Hawk War of her husband, William. She had put forth much effort to procure the Veterans Pension and she tried to assist others in procuring their pensions.

 

 

 

Five children were born to Mother Major including William and Byron who died as babies, Nellie who married Norman Justensen and had one son Stanley; Horace who married Bertha Fox. Horace passed away on 9 August 1931.

 

 Ellen and Horace Major about 1885

 

 

Henry Vincent who married Agath Nielsen of Moroni, daughter of Niels C. Nielsen and Isabel E. Warner. They are the parents of four children as follows:

Arthur who died when 18 months old on 10 July 1920.

Warner who married Lena Hurdsman. Their children are LaMar Warner, Anna Gay, Charles and Sherry Major.

Bernard who married Eva Hollingshaus. Children: Ardith Jean, Ronald Arthur, Pamela Rae, Kenneth Alois and Bruce Henry Major [Michael Bernard Major wasn’t included because he wasn’t born when this was written.]

Geneal who married William Burr. Their children are Leonard William,

Vi Etta, Kenneth Vince and Gaylene Burr.

 

 Top row:  Lena Hurdsman Major, Eva Hollingshaus Major, Bernard Major, Bill Burr

Bottom row: Warner Major, Mattie Agatha Nielsen Major, Henry Vincen Major, Geneal Major Burr

Mother Major passed away 9 July 1932 after a short illness in her home being cared for by her devoted son Vincent and his wife Agatha. At the bedside also were her dear friends, Maria J. Allred and Mrs. Allred’s sister Christena B. Ellertsen, who she dearly loved.

Her descendants living mostly in Salt Lake City do honor to this toilworn pioneer mother who devoted her life to bringing comfort and joy to the souls of her family and friends. May our Heavenly Father bless her soul and ours and help us to be worthy to be reunited with those who have made homes in the desert west and made the path more pleasant for us.  

 Ellen Major

Nov 8, 1852

July 9, 1932