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William J. Despain
Salt Lake UT
William Joseph Despain
Written By: Carrie R. Despain
William Joseph Despain son of Solomon Joseph Despain and Ruth Amelia Newell was born 9 April 1849, in Calhoon County, Illinois being the oldest child in the family of 11 children.
When Joseph was 8 years old in 1851 he moved with his parent to Memphis, Tenn. And Marion Arkansas where they remained until 1861, at which time they immigrated to Utah, crossing the plains by ox train in the David H. Cannon Company. While in the South young Joseph was busy helping his father. He has told stories to his children of his exploits up and down the Mississippi river and of his playing and working in the timber.
When they arrived in the valley of the great Salt Lake Joseph was 18 years old. They camped in Pioneer fort at the 8th ward square. The authorities of the church met them and inquired what they could do. Solomon Joseph said that they been chopping cord wood for steam boats on the Mississippi and that Joseph was born with an ax in his hand so as Bishop Woolley was looking for choppers in Little Cottonwood Canyon they were sent up there. The 1st job young Joseph did was chopping timber in Hoggum Flat where there was an old saw mill in Little Cottonwood Canyon. He went to Grantsville, Tooele County, off and on for 3 years living with his uncle James Despain, Farming and helping in the harvest.
He married a young English girl by the name of Ann Hill daughter of Thomas Hill. Date unknown of the marriage but it must have been in the Endowment House in Salt Lake. They lived in Granite, Salt Lake County, Utah he having homesteaded 160 acres in the mouth of the canyon. Little Cottonwood a very beautiful place on the bench overlooking the valley. They lived very happy having 3 children - 2 girls and a boy. Her health was not very good - she having heart trouble from which she died leaving Joseph a young widower with 3 small children.
Joseph was always faithful in the church - always observing the word of wisdom and the other commandments and keeping himself clean and “unspotted from the world.” He worked some at odd jobs a little at the smelter but mostly in timber being a sawer and chopper, all the time working with his father in the saw mill. He was working for Charlie Burnham, chopping timber in Harker’s Canyon north of Bingham Canyon, when he met Sarah Catherine Egbert, a young girl who was helping her mother cook for the workers.
He married Sarah Catherine Egbert, daughter of Robert C. Egbert and Seviah Cunningham in September 1874. They were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah. They lived on his homestead in Granite. She having been born 29 August 1859 was quite young to take the responsibilities of a young family. They struggled on with many hardships filling their great mission of parenthood for here they had born to them 13 children, 9 boys and 4 girls. They belonged to the South Cottonwood Ward, the chapel being about 10 miles down in the valley near Murray, Utah. Although it was far away they attended to their meetings and to their church duties, taking with them the children, always setting them the example of regular attendance, of family and private prayers and righteous living. He was very refined, gentle, and kind always trying to do the right and honoring his priesthood and encouraging his children to do the same. He was called by those in authority to work in the church as Sunday School Supt. (1882-1883), Counselor in the 93rd Quorum of Seventies for many years also being a faithful ward teacher over the years. He was a Seventy and went on a mission to the Northern States laboring in Illinois, southern part. He was gone for two years, laboring faithfully and receiving an honorable release.
Most of his church work was done in the Granite Ward. For many years Joseph baptized all the children of the ward as they became of age.
For many years he worked in the saw mill. He made shingles, lath and pickets. He took most of his pay out in store trade and other trade, seldom seeing any cash. One summer he earned ($1700.00) and all he had to go into the winter with after his summer work was ($20.00), a barrel of molasses and a couple hundred pounds of flour.
He quit the saw mill business in 1887 working at the Lambert paper mill, granite quarry getting out stones for the Salt lake Temple, carrying supplies to the mines in Alta, quarrying out rocks for foundations in the valley, etc. and all the time trying to farm and cultivate an orchard he was getting started.
The paper mill was located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. He traveled on a cart with a horse night and morning. He had worn a beard up to the time he caught his beard in the rolls and someone grabbed him just in time to save his head from going in, part of his beard being pulled out. After that he was clean shaven the rest of his life, save for a small mustache.
When he carried supplies to Alta and camped in the mountains at many jobs he suffered untold exposure and hardships, having to wade thru deep snow, unbroken roads, up steep rocky roads, thru extreme cold and wind in all kinds of weather. In those early days before we had any modern conveniences our pioneers worked and toiled thru hardships our present generation will never know.
Joseph loved little children and he always had one in his arms or on his lap when he was around. They loved him too and would follow after him. He generally had one on his lap at the table and quite often fed or dressed the little ones.
His children all grew to maturity. Two of them died in the twenties unmarried. The other 14 married and had families. All were clean and free from tobacco and other contaminating things. All, except one, married in the temple to persons of good character. The married ones each had a family and most of them large families. Now 1950 his descendants are very numerous, children, grandchildren, great and great great grandchildren being numerous and increasing. The vitality of his descendants has been splendid. There has scarcely been a death among them, 2 or 3 by accident and 2 or 3 died young. Mostly all, if not all, of his adult descendants are active in the church and living good and honorable lives.
He died after a short illness April 22, 1918, being greatly missed by his family and friends. His wife Sarah Catherine Egbert Despain died 16 June 1933.