|(John Bloomfield is
Great Grandma James’ father. This is an interesting story
because it is written by him and his two wives: Harriet
Wilkinson Bloomfield is Great Grandma James’ mother but
she died when Great Grandma was about five. Her father
remarried Elizabeth Barton who was a widow with children
and she tells her story in this piece also. -CBA)
John Bloomfield Jr. Autobiography
BY JOHN BLOOMFIELD JR.
APPARENTLY WRITTEN OVER A PERIOD OF TIME (THE LATEST REFERENCE IS TO 1913)
COMPILED AND EDITED BY DOUG BLOOMFIELD OF RAMAH, NEW MEXICOI am John Bloomfield. I was born at Bungay Field, Suffolk County, England on May 2, 1831. My grandfather was Richard Bloomfield and my grandmother was Elizabeth Smith. From this union there were born three children, William, the oldest; John, who was my father; and Robert, the baby. Uncle William married Amy Page and they had ten children. My father married Martha Riches; Uncle Robert never married. My mother and father, John Bloomfield and Martha Riches, had six children; five girls and myself. I was the youngest. We lived in Bungay, Suffolk County, England, during the years I was growing up. My father was a farmer and we lived a very comfortable life having those material things that made life very pleasant. I helped my father on the farm and visited with my Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert had acquired a great deal of property in Suffolk County and in London, England. He gave me to understand that at his death I would inherit all he owned. The year I reach my 19th birthday proved to be the crossroad of life for me. I chose the road that was to completely change my whole life and that of my posterity. I had heard the Mormon Elders preach the gospel and had decided in my own mind that it was the true church. Uncle Robert told me that if I was baptized into the Mormon Church, he would disinherit me. The realization that the gospel was true meant more to me than all the property and money in the world. I chose to be baptized into the church. Elder Job Smith baptized me at Homersfield, September 1, 1850. My father and mother were baptized with me on the same date. About this same time I got small pox, and the doctor said I could not peaceably live until morning. I asked my mother to have the Mormon Elders come and administer to me. They came and they laid on each side of me and talked to me for a long time. They anointed me all over with olive oil, laid their hands upon me, and prayed for me. They promised me I would recover and not one scar would be left on my body. The next morning I was up and walking around outside when the doctor came. When he first saw me he was frightened because he thought he was looking at my ghost. I calmly reassured him I was alive and completely well. About three months after my baptism I was ordained a priest on December 1, 1850, by Thomas Smith. I labored as a missionary in Norwhich conference. About two years later, while accompanying some Saints, there came upon us a mob who were waiting for us. They swore they would take my life; they threw me down and tried to choke me with my tie. But there was a Deliverer. When they had almost accomplished their desire, one of their own party attacked those who were holding me down, with a walking stick, saying that he was out to have some fun, not to commit murder. This called their attention away from me and they all attacked my rescuer, leaving me in the street alone.
In the year 1854, Elder Horace Jackson and myself gave notice that we would hold a meeting at the old gravel pit. A short time before the meeting was to begin, a sectarian minister gathered a large congregation and proceeded to our place of meeting. He then chose as his subject, "Who's on the Lord's Side?" and began speaking to the people, thinking in this way to prohibit us from holding our meeting. The meeting was well under way when we arrived; therefore, we waited until he had finished his discourse. When he walked off singing I took his place, choosing for my text the same subject he had spoken upon, and endeavored to show that those who were on the Lord's side were those who kept his commandments, also what those commandments were. The minister disappeared in the congregation. No sooner had he done so than rocks began whizzing around us; they fell at our feet and all around us. One brushed Brother Jackson's head and yet we were not hit once. One man filled his hat with rocks and advanced to within a few steps of us said he would hit me and threw all at me. The rocks fell all around my feet but not one hit me. The man crawled to my feet and picked up his hat and beat a retreat. This ended the disturbance, and we then continued speaking to a congregation of about 500 people; thanks to the minister for the same, for he gathered the people for us to speak to. This persecution, if so it may be called, served to strengthen my testimony as it proved to me that the Lord will protect His servants, if they will do His will. I labored in the Norwich conference until May 4, 1856, when with a company of Saints, I started across the Atlantic leaving Liverpool, England on the ship Thornton, arriving in New York on June 14, , after a voyage of nearly six weeks. There were 764 passengers on this ship. Elder James G. Willie was president of the group. I then went to Chanceville, Monmouth County, New Jersey, where I was ordained an Elder by John Taylor in 1857. While residing at this place I was promised a coat of tar and feathers like they gave Joseph Smith. I never did receive the coat. In this same year of 1857, I decided to get married. I chose as my bride Miss Harriet Wilkinson, whom I shall now introduce to you. She will tell you of our life together.
Harriet Wilkinson comments
I am Harriet Wilkinson. My father and mother are Nathaniel Wilkinson and Lydia Daines. They were married on October 26, 1831 at Wissett, Suffolk County, England. Of this union there were born four sons and four daughters, all of who were born in England. I was the sixth child. I was born July 4, at Chediston, Suffolk County, England. ....... I was 13 when the Mormon Elders first visited our locality. My mother attended their meetings and said it appeared to her that they were preaching the truth and she invited them home to dinner. She was very good to the Elders, making them welcome in our home. ....... In 1855 our family, in company with other Saints from our locality, left our homes to join the Saints in Zion, arriving in New Yolk on New Years Day, 1856. ....... We lived in Chanceville, Monmouth County, New Jersey for three years. It was here that I fell in love with my future husband, John Bloomfield. We were married November 11, 1857. On the 10th of October, 1858 a little girl came to bless our home. We called her Ellen Maria. ....... In 1858, my husband John and myself, together with my mother and father, traveled with the Saints westward to Omaha, Nebraska and remained there during the winter of 1859-1860. ....... This winter was to bring great sorrow into our lives. Our baby girl Ellen Maria, who had only been with us one short year, was called home on the 14th of October, 1859. As if this were not enough sorrow, my dear father passed away the same winter, leaving my mother with my sister Lydia and brother William to care for. ....... We remained in Omaha for one year at which time the whole company began the long journey across the plains. ....... I'll let John tell you of the hardships we went through:
John Bloomfield continues
On our trip across the plains we suffered the usual hardships of insufficient food and water and constant fear of attack by unfriendly Indians. One night I recall vividly: I was watchman over the camp, when I heard a wailing noise. I thought at first it was a panther, then was afraid it was an Indian call, but I listened and finally decided it was neither and went to investigate. Some distance from the camp, in a wash or arroya, I found a mother and newborn baby. The mother was dead and the wailing was the half starved, cold baby. There was nothing to identify either. I gathered up the baby and took it to camp where it was fed and cared for by the women. The next morning the men buried the mother, who seemed to have been dead several days. Our only guess was that she had strayed from another party and got lost and had had her baby all alone and then died. Just one of the unsolved tragedies of our early pioneer days. We arrived in Salt Lake City safely in the fall of 1860. We went immediately to the Church Office Building and inquired about some of my wife's relatives who had preceded us. We found they had settled in Hyde Park, Utah; we went there, reaching Hyde Park on October 9, 1860. It was certainly a joyous reunion.
In the next few years, a great deal happened to Harriet and me. First, we had another daughter born to us on September 17, 1861; we named her Elizabeth Salome. My mother and father arrived in Hyde Park in 1862 after the long journey from England. They left England April 23, 1862 on the ship John J. Boyd. They crossed the plains with Captain Isaac Canfield's ox train. My father gave his age as 62 and mother 61 years at that time.
For two years we had wanted to go back to Salt Lake City and be sealed to each other. On November , 1862, Harriet and I journeyed to Salt Lake City where we were sealed to each other in the Endowment House for time and all eternity (1863-64). About this time the Indians began giving us a lot of trouble, and I was commissioned an officer in the Black Hawk Indian War. I was also sent back to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to help another company of Saints coming to Salt Lake City. On January 21, 1864, Mary Eliza was born to us. Another two years passed before anything of importance happened. On March 23, 1866, a son was born to us; we called him John Parley William. (Note: The following came with the other papers but was not part of this text. It does belong here, however: The story goes that when John and Harriet Bloomfield were expecting their second child, she stitched into her pin cushion the name John. On September 17, 1862 they had a daughter and named her Elizabeth. When they were expecting again she stitched the name Parley after the John in her pin cushion. They had another girl, named Mary Eliza on January 21, 1864. The next time they were expecting she stitched in William, they had a boy, so she named him John Parley William. JPW's dad lived nearly 50 years after his birth, so he couldn't be called John. The people here (Ramah) all called him JPW.) Two months after this, my mother passed away on the 3rd of May, 1866. My wife Harriet was with me on this earth only 11 years. On the 2nd of January, 1868, she left this world to join our baby girl who had died in Omaha. Three months later on April 1, 1868, her mother (Lydia Daines) went quietly to join them. In another eight months, on November 30, 1869, my father left this earth to join mother.
After so many of my loved ones had passed away, I was filled with sorrow and a great loss, facing the future with three small children to raise. If it hadn't been for my strong testimony and faith in the Lord, I am sure I could not have gone on. About this same time my good friend, Henry Ashcroft, was very ill. He called for Robert Daines and myself, who were his ward teachers, to administer to him. He knew he was dying, and he asked us if we would care for his families; we promised him that we would. Brother Ashcroft died May 9, 1867, at Hyde Park, Utah, age 32 years, 4 months, and 4 days. Almost two years later, on January 11, 1869, I married his widow, Elizabeth Ann Barton Ashcroft, who had three small boys. Brother Daines married Mary Glover Ashcroft, Brother Ashcroft's first wife. Here is Elizabeth. Let her tell you her story.
Elizabeth Ann Barton comments
I am Elizabeth Ann Barton. My father and mother were Josiah Barton and Margaret Woods. They were married in Pemberton, Lancashire, England, June 24, 1838. I was born June 3, 1839. My dear sweet mother, who was very small, died March 24, 1854 and left us there with our irate father. I say irate because after mother passed away, we children and the work were almost too much for him. He would come home sometimes in a very bad temper. There were times I thought he had been drinking and not just water. When he was in this temper, we had to all be at home and be good too. If we quarreled he would whip us very hard. My sister and I talked it over one day and decided we would tend the children while I hurried up the work; that way we would get through before father came home and sometimes saved ourselves from a whipping. We seldom would attend church.
Once or twice I went with a girlfriend and heard the Mormon missionaries talk; they usually spoke on the street. Once I went to a house where they were preaching to a small group. By the time I was 13 years old, I knew I wanted to join the Mormon Church, for I believed the things they told us at those meetings and felt it was a true gospel. On May 11, 1853, my sister Eliza and I were baptized by the Mormon missionaries. When my father found out about my baptism, he swore terribly and told me to go away. When I started away, he brought me back and whipped me so hard that I was very ill for days. He almost broke my fingers off trying to get my mother's ring from my finger. He had given me the ring the day they buried my mother. It was too large for me then and I put it on a string around my neck and wore it that way until my finger was large enough to keep it on. I had taken very good care of it, as it was the only thing of mother's that he ever gave to me. When he took it back, it almost broke my heart.
He wouldn't let Eliza, my sister, come with me anymore when I went out to shop for food, and threatened me if I did not hurry home in almost no time at all. He made me work harder than ever before. For over a year my father kept all of us children virtual prisoners. I was not allowed to go to any meetings and my father stayed at home to see that we didn't go anywhere. He seemed to take delight in punishing the other children along with me. Home never seemed the same to me after that. Eliza and I became scared of him and wanted to run away.
John Bloomfield continues
We continued to live in Hyde Park until October 2, 1876, when we were called to help colonize Arizona. I first located at Obed, now known as the Meadows. This was a very swampy place and soon every one was ill with the chills and fever, except Bishop George Lake and his wife Mary. Some became so weak that they were not able to help themselves, and the place was abandoned. Some moved to Joseph City just on the opposite side of the Colorado River. Some went to Brigham City, near Winslow, Arizona. In 1877, I moved to Sunset, which was then known as Lot Smith's Camp. It was while living here that I was ordained a high priest by Erastus Snow on January 27, 1878. We lived at Sunset for about four years. While we lived here we lived under the United Order. In 1881, I was called, together with others, to establish a colony at Cibola, New Mexico. When we reached Cibola, there were only two or three families living there. Others had become discouraged and left. A little later we’d all moved to a larger valley a short distanced away, and established a colony. We named the place Navajo, Valencia County, New Mexico. Some time later Brigham Young, Francis M. Lyman, Jediah M. Grant and the presidency of the St. John's Stake came to visit and encourage the people. President Young changed the name from Navajo to Ramah, giving the colony the name by which the Hill Cumorah was know in Book of Mormon days.
Elizabeth Ann Barton continues
John, let me tell a good joke on you. On one of the journeys when John was called to settle up a new place, we were traveling in a company and had some ox teams. John had a yoke of oxen. At night when camp was made the oxen were turned out to graze. Next morning when some of the men went to bring in the oxen, they ran across a long horn skull of a steer. They kicked at it and one of the horns fell off, so they got both horns. They then had the idea of playing a joke on John. they fitted the horns on over the horns of one of his oxen, drove them into camp and told John that his oxen was lost but they found another and brought it in place of the lost one. John looked at it and said: "It looks like my ox, but mine never had such horns as that." They told John to hitch it up and take it. He refused, telling them the Lord would not bless them if they stole. They delayed all they dared to, but finally had to pull off a horn. With everyone laughing, John was resolute in his honesty and was just going to turn the ox loose when they had to give in and show him the joke.
John Bloomfield continues
In 1885 when so many men were being arrested and tried for polygamy, Peter Nielson and I, with our families, left Ramah for Old Mexico. We camped first near Colonial Diaz. We then moved farther in and rented some land near Casas Grandes, where a number of families were camped. We raised a good crop of corn and cane. We also had some nice gardens there. The church was buying land near or at what is now called Conial Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. We lived here about five years and then moved to Sonora, later called Colonial Quxaca, Sonora, Mexico. We lived here for some time when Elizabeth and I decided that we would move back to Ramah. We had lived in Mexico for nine years, and with Apostle George Teasdale and Alex F. McDonald and others we assisted in the colonization of the country. We moved back to Ramah in 1894.
We stayed in Ramah a short while, then moved to Kirtland, San Juan County, New Mexico in 1900. Here we planted more fruit trees and berry bushes. Elizabeth said: "I can't see what good all this tree planting will do." I told her it would teach our children how to take care of themselves, and even if we didn't get to harvest the fruit, perhaps our children or our grandchildren would. I have made it a practice in my life to always plant fruit trees and berry bushes whereever I went. We sold our home in Kirtland to my son-in-law, Jesse Biggs, and moved back to Ramah in January . Some of our children needed our help there. I am home in Ramah. My dear wife Elizabeth has now left me for the Great Beyond; she passed away September 15, 1913 at 73 years of age. I have traveled a long way in my life and I have worked hard ever since I can remember. I have gone where ever the church has called me to go. I have had many wonderful experiences, and I have made lots of friends, many many of whom have stayed at our home through the night or through a storm, or just until they were strong enough to travel on their way.
We have raised good honorable children; all of them have a good testimony of the gospel. I hope their children will be so blessed. I am now left alone, and I realize that I haven't many years left to live. But before I go, I wish to tell you how much the Gospel means to me. I gave up a lot in material things for the Church. I and my loved ones have gone without, we have suffered privation and want, sometimes barely existing. It hurt me most to see my family go without. But I know that the material things of this life are unimportant. The thing that really counts is to prepare ourselves for the life after death. If we could only be as faithful as our Father Abraham. He was called to sacrifice his son Isaac, but because of his faithfulness, the Lord sent an Angel to stay his hand before he had to take his son's life. Remember, it is only a step to the great beyond. Live your lives so that I will always be proud of you. Always stand for that which is right. Be honest in all your dealings. Try always to serve your God, with all your heart, might, mind and strength, and in so doing you will prepare yourselves for a glory that defies the description of man. This is my humble prayer for you. Amen.
—John Bloomfield died January 7, 1916 at Ramah, McKinley County, New Mexico, age 84 years 8 months, and 5 days.