Biography of John Croft
Compiled by Dana Palmer
John Croft was born on July 16, 1836 in Primose Hill, Yorkshire, England to John and Ann Howland Croft. He was christened in Bingley Parish, in Yorkshire, England. His father, John, was a coachman.
When John was two years old, he moved with his parents to Wilsden, in Yorkshire. When he was six years of age,
his father, John Croft Sr., was killed by an accident on September 19, 1842 in Wilsden, leaving his mother to care for her 5 children. Soon after this, John was put to work in a worsted mill, working as a "half timer," eight hours a day so he could attend the national school at Wilsden for two hours a day. In 1848, on March 1, when he was twelve, his mother died, and he went to live with his eldest sister, Sarah, at Huddersfield. There he was put to work in a large tobacco
factory. He was the only employee of the establishment that did not use the weed. During this period, he attended night school and Sabbath school. At seventeen he was apprenticed to a joiner and builder, and at the end of three
years was released and went to Liverpool to work at his trade. He was a natural mechanic. After a few months of service, he was appointed foreman for the firm that employed him.
One day as John walked the streets of London, England, he observed that one of
two men walking some distance in front of him dropped something on the sidewalk and
did not stop to pick it up. Curious, he picked it up, glanced at it briefly, was interested,
and put it in his pocket so he could read it during his lunch break at work. On his lunch
break, he pulled out the pamphlets and began reading its contents. His friend leaned over
to him and asked, "Are you a Mormon?" John said, "No, I am not." His friend said,
"Well that tract you are reading is a tract of the Mormon Church which is distributed by
their missionaries, and I am a Mormon." He replied, "Well if it is. It has revealed more
truth to me that it has ever been my privilege to learn before in this short of time."
It was at this time that he first heard the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints, taught by one of the workmen. The pamphlet, turned out to be a
copy of the Millenial Star, a publication then being published by the Mormon Church in
England, started after the first missionaries arrived in England in 1837. Isaac Russell,
father of George Walter Russell, whose daughter, Mary Isabella married John's son,
George Albert Croft, was one of the first six missionaries to England. He helped preach to and convert John Croft and the parents of Amelia Mitchell and indirectly in the conversion of Amelia. John read the Millenial Star, immediately became interested in its contents and after duly investigating it, was baptized on June 27, 1856.
His employer was much displeased, when he learned what had taken place, and offered him substantial inducements to leave the Latter Day Saints and join the Episcopalians, but John declined the offer.
Giving up his situation at Liverpool, he went to Manchester, where he worked on the Exposition building, and labored as a traveling Elder in the Manchester conference. On January 1, 1858, he was made president of that conference.
|John Croft, as a young man in England||John Croft
probably in England
John met two very charming ladies in the Manchester Branch, Amelia and her sister, Jessie, both daughters of William and Jane Hornby Mitchell. These two girls, with their golden light brown hair, were very pretty girls and often posed for pictures painted by their brother, Arthur Mitchell. Two years and a week later, John became a married man, by banns, to Amelia Mitchell, on January 8, 1860 in Heaton Norris Chapel, Manchester, Lancashire, England. Amelia, daughter of William and Jane Hornby Mitchell was born May 3, 1840 in Manchester, Lancaster, England. Jessie Mitchell, Amelia's sister, and Edward Oliver III, a friend of John's were witnesses at the wedding. John presided in Manchester until released to come to Utah. Accompanied by his wife and her sister, Jessie, they emigrated on the "Underwriter" to America, leaving Liverpool on March 30, 1860, under the direction of Elder James D. Ross with John Croft and James Taylor being counselors. There were over 594 Mormon passengers on the ship, which number included the Edward Oliver Jr. and Sarah Holland and their nine children (of which Edward Oliver III who witnessed John and Amelia's wedding); Edward's sister, Emma Oliver, her husband, George Walker, and their daughter, Anne; and many other friends from the Manchester branch. After 32 days they finally arrived in New York on May 1, 1860. The company was blessed that only four people died during the voyage. George Q. Cannon was the acting Church Emigration Agent that year. On
May 3, 1860, they continued their journey from New York to Florence, Nebraska by train and arrived on May 8, 1860.
They walked across the plains with other pioneers in the John D. Ross company, with Amelia being pregnant with their first son. They left Florence, Nebraska on June 17, 1860 on the second wagon train of emigrants. John was made captain of the guard. There were 249 people, 36 wagons, 142 oxen and 54 cows. They were called together by Elder Ross mornings and evenings. Prayers were held before starting on the day's journey. In the evening they sang songs and sometimes held a meeting. On the Sabbath Day they rested. With only one team of oxen and a covered wagon with their belongings, they crossed the plains. Shortly after leaving Florence, one of the ox in the team died, and the other ox had to carry all the weight of their belonging forcing John, pregnant Amelia and Jessie to walk the 1,200 miles to the Salt Lake Valley. They experienced the dust, heat, thirst rattlesnakes, and the Indians. They traveled about 20 miles a day if all went
well. Amelia gathered buffalo chips in her apron to be used in making a fire for cooking and warmth and protection on the lonely, vast prairie through which they had to travel. Amelia is noted: "When we stopped at noon we baked a mixture of flour and water over a fire made of buffalo chips." Such was life for the pioneers as they crossed the wilderness making their way to a better life.
They arrived in Emigration Canyon and were met by Apostle George A. Smith,
Lorenzo Snow and Franklin D. Richards, who held an interesting meeting with the emigrants. They finally entered in the Great Salt Lake Valley on September 2, 1860, and
arrived in Salt Lake City the next day on the 3rd. John and Amelia resided in Salt Lake City in the Eighth ward for a short period.
Their first son, William Howland Croft, soon joined them on November 24, 1860, being
born at Pioneer Square in Salt Lake City. Amelia always was very proud of her first
child, William, and she had good reason to be considering the difficult circumstances in
which she carried him across the plains and bore him in this virgin and unsettled land.
Before going to Morgan County, since John had such experience as a builder, carpenter, and cabinet making (his trade in England), he helped with the building many
things. He worked as a carpenter on the Public Works doing projects such as: helping to
build the tithing office where the Hotel Utah (Joseph Smith Memorial Building) now
stands, working on the Lion House, working for the Walker Brother's Company, building one of the nicest homes in the valley, the Walker home. (The Newhouse Hotel later replaced the Walker home which was situated between West Temple and Main Street and south of Fourth South).
John Croft and his close friend from England, John Oliver (son of Edward Oliver
and Sarah Holland) took the contract to build the Bountiful Utah Tabernacle. Many of the
children of Edward Oliver settled in the Bountiful area, this gave both families the
opportunity to renew acquaintances and to acquire work at their trade. But life in this
barren wilderness was not always kind, and John Oliver became ill and knew he would
die soon. He requested that if anything should happen to him, that he [John Croft] was to
take care of his widowed sister, Emma, and her daughter, Anne. John agreed and
promised his friend he would take care of her if he should die.John and Amelia were asked by friends if they would go to the purple valley of Morgan County and help settle the area. They made preparations to leave immediately.Those were adventurous days and they were adventurous souls. They left and there in Morgan County, they began to build their home.
It was spring of 1861 when they moved to Weber Valley, which was then in
Davis County, settling at Weber City, now Peterson, Morgan County, with John Bond
and others. At that time there was probably a toll bridge through part of Weber Canyon
and the going was very rough. It must have been very difficult to move all their
belongings, and a wife who was still nursing to an unsettled wilderness. As they entered the valley, John and Amelia were met by Charles S. Petersen. He
urged them to remain in the new town, soon named "Peterson." They shared a cabin with
a family until John was able to build a log home of his own. There he followed farming
with occasional jobs of carpentry, for a livelihood. He experienced the usual vicissitudes
of pioneer life, sometimes being without flour for several months, and subsisting upon
pigweeds and potatoes. John obtained squatters rights for land and built a log home in Peterson.
John Oliver died shortly after their move in the spring of 1861 and John Croft
kept his promise and married Emma Oliver Walker on October 4, 1861 in Salt Lake City
Endowment House. Emma Oliver, daughter of Edward Oliver and Ann Swindale, had been previously married to George Walker in England. A daughter was born to Emma
and George on 30 Apr 1841 in Rolleston, Stafford, England, whom they named Anne.
Apparently George Walker died sometime after the voyage in 1860 but before 1861,
mostly likely while crossing the plains, leaving Emma on her own in a wild country to
care for herself and her daughter. After John married Emma, he brought Emma back with him to Peterson and began to make her a home.
|The Croft Home in Peterson|
John and Amelia's second son, John Arthur, was born in Peterson on August 24,
1862. On 23 May 1863, Amelia's mother, Jane, and her brother, John Leslie, left
Liverpool, England on the ship Antarctic to rejoin the family in Utah. Amelia heard the
unfortunate news that her father had died in England the year prior (1862) due to an
accident and lack of medical attention. Amelia welcomed her mother, Jane and brother
John Leslie to stay with them at their home, but they first stayed with Jessie in Coalville
until she married John Boyden. Amelia's brother, Arthur, emigrated and joined them in
1865. The Croft household numbered anywhere from 5 to 8 people depending on where the Mitchell family was staying.
Needing to provide a place for Emma and her daughter, one of the first projects that John worked on was building Emma her own log home. Unfortunately John and Emma had only one child together, a daughter also named Emma born about 1869 in Enterprise but who died about 1880. Emma Oliver Walker Croft lived in her log home until her death on September 29, 1883. Near this house, John developed an extensive garden. It was immaculate in every respect. It consisted of some fruit trees, gooseberry and currant bushes, and a variety of vegetables, where practically all of the food of this character was raised. There was also an extensive group of beehives in this area.
Not many stories have been kept on Emma, but she was listed as a volunteer who walked from Enterprise to Peterson to help with the sewing of the handmade flag used for the fourth of July celebration in 1873. Emma's daughter, Anne Walker married John James Duke on 25 April 1870 in Salt Lake City.
John had always been interested in education. He favored a free school system, and for 20 years worked faithfully for its establishment. He helped to build the first school house in Weber Valley, and was elected one of the original board of school trustees. He opened the first Sabbath school in Weber Valley in 1863, and became first assistant superintendent of Sunday schools for Morgan Stake.
There was a baseball team in each town that would play each week and at the close of the season, the losing team would furnish supper and a dance for the winners. Eliza D. Rich remembers going to Peterson to the home of John Croft and eating a fine supper and afterwards dancing in the Peterson schoolhouse. Once when Richville lost, the super was at the home of William H. Dickson and the dance was held in the Richville school building.
George Albert was the third son born to John and Amelia. He came January 8, 1865 to their home in Peterson. As the family grew, so did the need for a larger home. John also wasn't satisfied with the amount of sunshine on the west side of the Weber River Valley in Peterson due to the high mountains to the west of his home. This resulted in the family moving the town of Enterprise on the eastside of the valley in about 1865. The next eight children were born in Enterprise, Morgan County, Utah.
|Home in Enterprise|
On October 16, 1867, John's brother, Howland Croft, left England with his family and sailed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the ship "City of Paris." What a happy reunion! Now all of the siblings of John and Ann Howland Croft were in America.
Charles Card was offering his home for sale due to his call to settle what became known as Cardston, Alberta, Canada. His home was located in Enterprise and received more sunshine than John's home in Peterson. John purchased this home from Charles Card and began to farm and cultivate the land. Their first child born in the newly purchased Card home in Enterprise was Emma Amelia, who was born on April 7, 1868. John's son, Frank, soon followed on April 20, 1870; then Walter Leslie, on May 10, 1873, and then James Herbert, on July 6, 1875. John made some significant changes to the Croft homestead in the late 1870's. He built a sawmill, added onto the house, built a granary, a blacksmith shop, a grinding room and a barn.
|John Croft, Enterprise farm|
From 1877 to 1878, John served as Justice of the Peace for the Peterson precinct. Another son was born on 29 July 1877 during this time, whom they named Alfred Mitchell Croft. Another son, Charles Milton, soon joined the family on October 8, 1879, while his father was working as a selectman for Morgan County from 1879 to 1881. John was a home missionary of the Morgan Stake for several years, and was first counselor to Bishop John K. Hall, of Enterprise Ward, from its organization up to the year 1888.
The railroad trains that went from Ogden to Park City stopped on the Croft property about a half mile west of the ranch house. The train was frequently referred to as the "Park City Special."
John started a boarding house at the mines near Como Springs, Colorado, in the spring of 1880 and at Franceville about the same time. His brother, Howland, who was still residing in Camden, New Jersey, was John's "banker" and a silent partner in this new boarding house endeavor. Howland and John were always very close. It is rumored that Howland bailed John out of many financial difficulties; apparently John wasn't a very good businessman.
John traveled back and forth to visit with his family in Utah and
on one of the visits, he brought his son, John Arthur, with him. While John worked on the
railroad, Amelia took care of the homestead. She frequently walked to Ogden to
purchase flour when needed, since John wasn't there to do it for her.
On March 11, 1882 Amelia had another baby girl, and named her Annie Miranda.
I'm not sure if John was in Enterprise for the birth or not, but I know he was back in
Colorado by July of 1882 when his brother, Howland, and his family visited John and his
son John Arthur. A romance developed between John Arthur and Howland's
daughter, Annie while
visiting in Colorado. Back in Utah, John's oldest son, William Howland soon met Rose Jabezina Auger and they were married in Logan on May 31, 1883.
Probably in the summer of 1883, John again left for Colorado, but this time with his son, William H., William's wife, Rose, Hyrum Geary and his stepdaughter, Susie Oliver. They traveled to Cripple Creek and Como Springs in Colorado, where John was in charge of the boarding outfit. While there, he became acquainted with a Mr. Newton and a Mr. Patton, who owned the construction contract for the Rock Island Railroad from Denver to Kansas City, and became their boarding outfitter. While in Colorado, John bought a 160-acre homestead at Palmer Lake. He was fascinated by the beauty and potential and was possibly thinking of it as a future home for his family or just a good investment. But apparently when he went back to Utah, he never developed it, and I believe that the State sold it to someone else. It now is very valuable property.
Emma Oliver Walker Croft, wife of John Croft died on September 29, 1883. Their
youngest child, Jane, joined the family on June 21, 1886, but sadly enough she died the
same day she was born. Emma's niece, Susie Oliver (daughter of Edward Oliver Jr. and
Susannah Lord- Edward's first wife Sarah Holland died between 1860 and 1861),
became very good friends with John's daughter, Emma Amelia Croft. John Croft continued his work as boarding outfitter and traveled back and forth between Utah and Colorado. "Johnie" [John Arthur] gave Annie [Howland Croft's
daughter] an engagement ring in 1886. (I'm not sure whether they did marry or if they were just engaged the various sources differ on opinion, but it is my opinion they did not marry before John Arthur died.) John Arthur died on September 12, 1887 in Harrington, Dickinson County, Kansas of typhoid fever and was buried in Enterprise, Morgan
County, Utah. It is while John Croft worked on the railroad that he became friends with Colonel William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) in Kansas, because Cody furnished buffalo meat to the Croft Boarding Train.
After finishing the railroad from Colorado to Kansas City, Mr. Newton and Mr. Patton offered John an opportunity to work on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads which spanned from Kansas City to Galveston, Texas, giving him a third partnership in the contract. He probably would have taken it, but on October 8, 1890, his son, James Herbert, whom they called "Bert", was accidentally killed while breaking in a young colt on the "Ten Acre". The animal reared backwards on him (he didn't fall off) and the horn of the saddle punctured his abdomen. He walked up to the house and died.
With many recent deaths in the family, John felt he was needed at home in Enterprise. It
is recorded that he accumulated ~ $50,000 (which was a lot of money in that time) in the
boarding operation on the railroads. He returned to Enterprise, Utah, to his wife and family to help console their acing
hearts. After ten hard years working on the railroads, he felt it was time for some leisure,
so he asked Amelia, his wife, and Howland, his brother if they would accompany him on
a trip to England and France. Amelia declined stating that one trip across the Atlantic was enough. So in 1890, John and Howland traveled back to England and France. I am told they also went back to see family and gather some genealogy information. They brought back some valuable furniture from Paris, which was kept in the parlor room (the "no, no" room to the grandchildren).
After returning, John and Howland bought an 80-acre farm south of Farmington near the shore of the Salt Lake. They thought they had a promising oil site, but it didn't turn out for them. John built a one and a half story frame house on the property, farmed the land and then later sold it to his brother-in-law, John Leslie Mitchell.
In 1890 Edwin Williams sold the Peterson store to John for $900. With the post office being located in the Peterson store, the storeowner also held the postmaster position. So John became both postmaster and storekeeper for a time. Some of his children mentioned that he frequently slept in the store to prevent burglaries. He sold the store in July of 1899 for $1300 to brothers, Joseph B. & George Robbins. John also was a share holder in the Heiner hotel corporation with Daniel Heiner that was formed on 16 May 1890.
& Amelia Croft Family Group, about 1907
While in Morgan County, John assisted in surveying Weber City and Enterprise,
and helped to construct the ditches that supply those places with irrigating water. He was
watermaster of the Enterprise Bottom ditch, and the original promoter of the Enterprise
Bench ditch, the latter seven miles long and mostly on the mountainside starting from
North Morgan to a half a mile beyond Enterprise Cemetery. It is the longest irrigating
canal in Morgan County. By means of it, several hundred acres of arid land have been
made valuable for farming purposes. Originally, the canal didn't work well because
other farmers upstream in North Morgan and Stoddard siphoned off the water. The water also had low velocity, seepage was excessive and washouts were frequent even when the water escaped the thieves upstream. In order to circumvent the water theft problem, John installed a large pump powered by a gasoline engine, on the Weber River just south of
the mouth of Roswell Canyon in about 1904. Experts from Fairbanks-Morse and Company who manufactured the pump, tried frantically to make the pump function as written in the contract, but failed. So the outfit was returned to agent, George A. Lowe Company in Ogden. The cost of construction was over four thousand dollars. Currently, powerful electric pumps installed on the "Field Ditch" irrigate most of the land. John Croft was about 60 years ahead in his thinking
On January 11, 1900, under the direction of President Snow, Elder Abraham O.
Woodruff filed an application for the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming. He organized an
exploration committee of men who would visit the land, and establish a colony there. In
February a meeting was held, one in which, John Croft who was the committee secretary,
was present. This group of 14 men traveled by way of Butte, Laurel and Red Lodge,
Montana into the Basin by teams. After leaving Red Lodge they camped for the night at
Eaglesnest, about 16 miles down the Shoshone River from Cody. They were met there
by Colonel W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), whom John Croft knew from the railroad operations in Kansas. They had a group picture taken, but John was sick while in
Burlington and did not return with the company for the picture. John was probably a
major factor in action taken by Colonel Cody to relinquish his water rights in the
Shoshone River to the Mormon settlers against vigorous opposition of his partner. Cody
had just started the settlement of the Town of Cody, Wyoming, and was anxious to have
the Mormons as neighbors.
Alfred Croft, one of John's grandsons reported that one-year when Buffalo Bill Cody came to Utah and was
having a circus, John gave his grandson enough change to go and attend. John said that if he were able to go to the circus,
Buffalo Bill would have a seat for him on the front row.
|John with oldest son,
& grandson George Howland Croft
On April 9, 1900, another meeting was held by President Snow, which organized the
company that would settle the Big Horn Basin area. John was not present at this meeting due to
his departure to Camden, New Jersey, where he attended his brother, Howland's
Howland died on April 27, 1900 in Camden, New Jersey of diabetes and was buried April 30, 1900. John also suffered from type 2, adult on set diabetes, and probably would not have survived the rigorous winter in Wyoming and therefore his trip to Camden, New Jersey may have saved his life.
At the turn of the century, when he was 64 years old, John seemed to be having disabling medical problems as indicated by his illness at Burlington, Wyoming during the Big Horn Basin inspection in 1900. Most of his health problems during the last ten years of his life were related to that disease and its complications. He had terrible sores on both legs from the knees down. He kept these sores anointed with Vaseline and the legs were wrapped with cotton bandages. Amelia kept the bandages washed frequently but infection was inevitable.
Commenting on John's diet and how it related to his health problems, specifically, diabetes, Amelia often said, "Grandpa eats too much oatmeal mush," and later, "Grandpa Croft was killed by eating too much oatmeal mush." Amelia's English mush was prepared with heavy cream every breakfast.
John died on October 9, 1909 in Enterprise living a full life. The funeral was held
at the Croft farm home parlor. He was buried in the Enterprise Cemetery plot two days
later on the 11th.
Among his other labors, he searched for and discovered artesian wells and coal mines and spent thousands of dollars in their development. He always was a liberal donor for public purposes.
John left a great legacy, one to be proud of. We owe so much to this great, noble pioneer, who
helped open up the west by helping in the construction of the railroads and made it possible
for many Mormon pioneers to come to the Utah
Amelia continued to keep house for her son, Walter, after John died, until April 1913, when Walter married Sarah Eliza Smith Warren. Then she went to live with her daughter, Annie in Morgan.
Amelia departed life at the home of her son, Charles Milton, in their parlor room, in Salt Lake City, on October 5, 1926. She was buried two days later on October 7th, 1926 in the Enterprise Cemetery next to her husband, John.
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Boyden's talk". Unpublished funeral minutes, 1960.
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