23 Land 1848-1849

                                                          William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author



At the first formal conference that the Major family attended in the valley, William was assigned to speak. "Sunday, 29 October 1848--The general conference convened, according to adjournment in the Bowery in G.S.L...The Afternoon meeting was addressed by President Brigham Young, Charles C. Rich, Heber C. Kimball, Wm. W. Major, and Willard Snow."1 The bowery was the only place large enough to house all the Saints for religious services.2 The members of the Mormon Battalion had constructed the 28 X 40 covering out of pine poles. Bows of trees were used to protect the congregation from a sudden rain storm or provide shade in the almost treeless valley. The congregation sat on wooden benches out in the open on this beautiful, autumn day. Brigham Young was a middle-aged man with no beard or moustache. Naturally wavy hair covered his ears. He stood at the hand-hewn pulpit and blustered "against persons who scatter off from the main body and denounced those who were trying to locate a farm on the other side of Jordan. He said that all such were operating against the will of God and if they did not cease he would grant to them their desires and let them go to hell!"3

By the end of 1848, three thousand saints had arrived in Salt Lake; however, this was only one fourth of those who had exited Nauvoo. There were still thousands to come. The Kimball/Marsden History of William Warner Major explains: "He lived in Great Salt Lake City five years. He traveled through the principal settlements of Utah, and made many interesting sketches of imposing scenery in those western wilds; also of many of the Chiefs and Braves of the tribes of the wilderness. He was diligent in attending to all his duties as a Counselor and in providing the necessaries and comforts of life for his family; and was ever ready to go or come at the bidding of those whose right it was to command him. It has been said, 'Brother Major was perfectly master of his temper.' In all his trials no person ever saw him betray what could be called, a bad temper. In this respect he was truly exemplary. His kindly disposition won for him many friends. Indeed he had few or no enemies."1




Salt Lake City Pioneer Map


William and Sarah were given an "inheritance" of land which was located on the corner of South Temple and Third East. (Joseph Ellis was written in because he obtained the Sarah Coles Major's property after his marriage to her. (Mystery of the Salt Lake Property) The blocks were each 10 acres and there were originally 8 lots to each block, making them 1 1/4 acre each.4 Their neighbors included Hosea Stout and Orrin P. Rockwell.5 Mr. Rockwell was very beloved by both the Prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, but he must have raised some eyebrows with his long braided hair which he never cut, because he believed it protected him from his enemies.

The winter of 1848 was very severe and food was scarce. The year before, the crickets had feasted on the harvest and even though the Saints were saved from starvation by the miraculous appearance of swarms of sea gulls, still there were many more people than supplies. The people who had surplus food were asked to give it to the bishop so that it could be distributed to the needy. People ate hawks, wolves, dogs, crows and even animals they found that had been dead for days. The Council decided to sponsor a contest to kill predatory animals which they called the "wasters and destroyers" because they were eating the already scanty food supply.


Big Field

The leaders of the Church were expected to earn their living "by the sweat of their brow" just as much then as now, so William continued to paint portraits, but he was also assigned or received an inheritance of a 5 acre farming lot to raise fruits and vegetables and perhaps cattle for his family. Using the same plan that was successful in Nauvoo, the Saints lived together inside the city and a farming area was designated on the outskirts of the city. This area, called Big Field, was set aside by Brigham Young in September 1848 and encompassed 4th west to 15th East and 9th South to 21rst South. William and Sarah's land was located on block 7, lot # 12 which is now on the corner of West Temple and Seventeeth South. (see map) The minutes of the proprietors of Big Field which met in the Territorial Hall were recorded for March 25, 1852: "On motion of Mr. Major, Mr. D. Spencer was appointed President of the Meeting, and G.D. Watt, Secretary." This meeting concerned the fencing of Big Field. A fence had already been constructed that surrounded the entire field. Some of the owners wanted to put up fences to divide their property from their neighbor's. It was voted that the current fence should be kept in good repair and that the owners had the right to fence in their own property. It is doubtful that William and Sarah ever had time to construct a fence. Church assignments continued to keep William on the move.                       

Map of Big Field:  Major's property on Block 7, #12--Corner of 17th South and West Temple