A History of the Cannon Family*

By David H. Cannon

My father and mother were George and Anne Quayle Cannon. They were born on the Isle of Man, across the channel from Liverpool, England. After the death of my grandfather and the settlement of his estate, my parents settled in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. They had borne to them, before the Gospel came, seven children. One child died at the age of four years; the other six were living at the time they joined the Church.

Elder John Taylor brought the Gospel to my father's house in January 1840, and my people soon after availed themselves of the opportunity of baptism. My father and mother were baptized on the 11th day of February 1840. I was next to the youngest of the children, my birth having taken place on the 23rd of April 1838, so that I lacked from the 11th of February to the 23rd of April of being two years old when the Gospel came to us. I was blessed by Elder John Taylor on the 13th day of February 1840.

My people sailed for America on the 17th day of September 1842 on the ship, Sidney. My mother and father, particularly my father, had some misgivings in regard to the journey to America. He having had one or two dreams when a young man which had impressed him that his wife would be lost at sea. Before the Gospel came to us, he had never contemplated coming to America, so these dreams had not given him trouble to that time. I want to say, however, in this connection that my mother was the religious one of the family, my father having belonged to no denomination. My mother, previous to receiving the Gospel, belonged to the Church of England. As my brother, George Q. and mother were going down to the dock in Liverpool they met a man coming up, and my mother said to George, "There is the man who will bring the Gospel of Salvation to father's house." When they got home, John Taylor was there and he proved to be the man she had seen that day.

My mother was ready almost immediately for baptism, but father, being quite a disciplinarian, insisted upon looking into it a little further. He shut himself up in his room and devoted himself to the perusal of the Book of Mormon, and after he had read it with a very prayerful heart, he said to mother, "That book is what it purports to be--a history of the ancient inhabitants of America." That was his conclusion, and he said, "We will go and be baptized." After which their immediate thoughts turned to the necessity of joining their co-religionists in America.

Now my mother, at the time they were going to leave the Land of their nativity, was in a delicate condition. She expected to be confined the last of October. Father tried to get her to consent to go by way of New York as she had two sisters and a brother there. He thought that if anything happened they might lay up with their kindred for a time, but my mother said, "No, George, if we go by way of New York and anything should happen to me, my children will fall into the hands of strangers, and I want to know they are in the bosom of the Church. We will go by way of New Orleans and direct to Nauvoo."

It was on the 17th of September when they started on their journey. After they were shipboard a few days, my mother was taken violently ill and remained in that condition. Everything possible was done for her during this journey, but on the 28th day of October, about three days before reaching New Orleans, my mother passed away and she and her unborn offspring were consigned to the ocean.

We reached New Orleans about the 1st or 2nd of November 1842. We were all sick with the fever and this somewhat delayed our journey to Nauvoo. My father, after coming to Nauvoo, married again, a young woman by the name of Mary White. This marriage took place either the latter part of 1843 or the early part of 1844.

At the time of the death of the prophet Joseph Smith, I remember my father standing at the gate at the front of the house, his arms kind of leaning on the gate; he turned and as he did so, said, "My God, they have killed our prophet." That was the time the prophet was martyred. He made the drag that they brought the body in on. At the time that the prophet and his brother Hyrum were lying in state, my father was the one who made the death masks of the two. I remember going with my father at the time that this took place. A lock of the prophet's hair was caught in the plaster mask, and I remember father taking some scissors and clipping the hair and then giving me the scissors to hold while he went on with this work. Of course, I was only a youngster, six years old in April, and the prophet was killed the 27th of June. However, I remember very distinctly holding the scissors at the time Father was removing this mask.

My father died on the 17th of August 1844, following the death of the prophet. He had a daughter born some few months after his death to the wife that he married in Nauvoo, making seven children that he left. There was some difficulty between us children and our new mother, but we won't blame her for anything that took place. My brother, George Q., had learned the printing business and was living with John Taylor. I might say, in this connection, that John Taylor's first wife was my father's sister, which is probably one of the reasons why he selected our home in England, as the place to come when he brought the Gospel to us. My oldest sister was married to a man by the name of Charles Lambert. My sister, Ann, was also living with John Taylor. Judge Stiles appointed Charles Lambert as guardian over my brother Angus, myself, and Leonora and we lived with them until the time we left Nauvoo.

After the death of the prophet, our troubles began in Nauvoo. We stayed there until after the fight. The mob gave us until ten o'clock the next morning to get out and we got out. We crossed the river the next day, hiring a man to take our wagon and what few personal effects we had down the river. The next morning Brother Lambert took me with him back to Nauvoo while he settled some business, and there we met a platoon of the mob. They asked him if his name was Charles Lambert and told him they had business with him. They led him down into the river and baptized him in the name of the Temple, in the name of the Lord, and everything else they could think of, baptizing him twelve times.

He still had on his wet clothes, but we went up into the town to find a man that had been owing us some money, and he turned out a yoke of cattle on this account. We called the team "Chance" and "Lucky" because we got them by chance and it was right lucky we did. We got together several animals--a bull, five oxen, and a cow.

We reached Winter Quarters that fall and during the winter the Indians killed our cattle leaving us with only a cow. This ended the thought of us starting with the pioneers for Utah in the spring of 1847. Brother Lambert, instead of starting on in the spring of 1847, went down into Missouri to work for a new outfit. In the fall of 1847 we came up from Missouri intending to start out in the spring of 1848. In crossing the river on the ice, returning to Winter Quarters our wagon broke through with everything we had in it; of course that ended the idea of coming to Zion that year. President Young was there, having come to get his family. He promised us that if we were diligent we would come out the next year.

We went into Missouri and in 1849 we came again and started and made the trip to the Valley. We got into Salt Lake City about the middle of October 1849. My brother, George Q., had started for California three days before we arrived in the Valley. He had made, before leaving the City, about six thousand adobes for a home. He went to California three days before we arrived in the valley, with the expectation of going to the Sandwich Islands in the spring. He worked in the mines that winter, and in the spring started for the Sandwich Islands where he filled a mission and translated the Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian Language.

In June 1850 I went to work in the Deseret News Office at Salt Lake City as an apprentice, the first to that business in the territory. The place of publication was a small building just east of where the imposing structure, Hotel Utah, now stands. Willard Richards was editor, Horace K. Whitney foreman, and Brigham H. Young was pressman and compositor. The publication of the paper began on the 15th day of June of the same year. The remuneration of an apprentice at that time was not great. Some wheat and corn came into the office in exchange for the paper, and this breadstuff was of more consequence to the printers than money at that time, because of the scarcity of food.

We were poor. You know when I say poor, I can hardly describe what I mean by that term. I heard a man say once that he got so poor he could scratch himself, but that wasn't the case with us. We killed the poorest cattle we had and we ate everything that was eatable about them. We even scraped the hair off the legs so as to save the hide to eat. We used to go down to the bottoms and dig roots. I don't know what kind of roots they were unless they were cane roots, as I remember, but they looked like boiled snails when cooked. The water in which they were boiled was thickened a little. This filled up though it didn't fatten.

My brother, Angus, in the spring of 1854, went East intending to go to West Point, but upon reaching New York, received a letter from President Brigham Young advising him not to go to West Point but to report to President John Taylor of the Eastern States Mission as a missionary. He spent four years in the mission.

On the first of May 1856 President Young left word at our house for me to come to his office. On May the second I went and he said, "We want you to go to California where your brother George is publishing the Hawaiian Book of Mormon." I was ordained a priest by President Young and George A. Smith and set apart at the same time for the mission. The next morning, May 3rd, I started from Salt Lake City.

When I left Salt Lake City, my stock in trade consisted of the clothes I had on, a pillow slip which contained a pair of pants, a black silk handkerchief, a pair of stockings, and a calico shirt. I had in my pocket a five franc piece which Sister Mary Alice gave me on leaving.

I walked from the city up to Hot Springs, which is four miles. I went from Salt Lake to Carson Valley with Elder William Jennings and his wife Priscilla Paul Jennings. He had just married her and was called on the Carson Valley Mission. When we got into Carson Valley, I spent two days mowing some wild clover. Then I went up into Washo Valley, where I worked a few days for Elder Orson Hyde, who was building a mill. I left there about the first of July and started across the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California.

As I was going from Washo Valley down to Carson Valley, I stopped at Johnson's Ranch. The woman there was churning and she gave me a drink of buttermilk. I told her where I was going and she told me that if I would go right up the mountain there I would save forty miles in going from there to Sacramento. She told me I would have to follow the blazed trees, that the path was not a clear one. So I took this Johnson's Cut-off as it was called, and in my anxiety to get along I lost the blaze of the trees, traveling after dark. I wandered about that night and the next day. The next night I began to think, I had been going all the time, but I had never stopped to think, and the thought, "What are you going for and what are you going to do after you get there," came to me. So I knelt down and told the Lord of my condition. I told Him I was lost and wanted to know if it was right for me to go on.

I have to go back a little to tell you some of the facts. I was quite a leader with the young people in the community where I lived. One night I said to a number of young people, "Let's go down to meeting tonight." Prayer meeting was being held that night and after we got to the meeting, one of the brethren got up and bore his testimony. I experienced a feeling then that I had never experienced before, and the first thing I knew I was bearing my testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel. I said few words, and I want to say now I did not know anything about the Gospel at the time, but the Spirit of the Lord revealed to me, and I bore testimony that the Gospel was true, but I did not know what it consisted of. When you talk about ignorance, I was more then than I am now. I mean as a boy I was more ignorant than I am as a man at this time.

Well, when I found that I was off the road and I had stopped to think, as I said before, I went to the Lord in this anxiety and I told Him that I knew this to be His work and if it was right for me, to go on this mission, to make it manifest by opening the way for me, and that if it was not proper I did not care to go on. I was very tired and hungry. There was hardly ever a time I wasn't hungry, but I was more hungry than common on that night. I lay down and slept as soundly as I have ever slept, and in the morning when I was refreshed, I started on and came to a little stream of water, for the snow was melting in the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There I washed my face and hands and knelt down again and told the Lord just as I had the night before, that if it was right for me to go, that the way be opened, and it should be as an enduring testimony to me.

I didn't go very far, after kneeling down and telling the Lord of my troubles, until I came out upon the main road, and opposite to where I hit the road was a finger-board nailed to a tree, and it said, "16 miles to Genoa" and on the other side it told how far it was to Placerville. I hesitated for a moment as I did not know what to do--if I went to Genoa I would be nearly as far from my destination as when I started from Washo. Something told me to go on, and I went on. I had not gone very far until I came across a stone on the side of the road and on this stone was a loaf of bread and a griddle cake. You women know what a griddle cake is. The loaf of bread, I suppose had been baked in a skillet; it was about four inches thick, and the griddle cake was a thin one. I gathered it up and didn't stop to ask where it came from. I thought about my prayer the night before and my prayer of that morning.

I went on my way and came to a place called Slippery Ford. There I met a company of fellows from Carson Valley--Henry Moutz, Charles Godfrey, John Vance, and a number of other men with whom I was acquainted. I was telling them of the troubles that I had had. They were traveling with pack animals. I told them about the time that I had for the want of food, and they said, "Why, you should have been with us; we had bread to throw away." That was the bread I got. Someone might say that there was not any manifestation of the powers of the Lord about that--the bread had simply been thrown away. I have traveled with pack animals since that time and I know what it is to throw things away. We don't lay such things down on a clean stone--one piece on top of another, but we cast them from us. This bread was laid upon a clean stone, as carefully as if they had known I was coming to get it. While the tempter said to me, "There is nothing miraculous about this," yet I have never doubted from that time to this but what that was a direct answer to my prayer.

I went on down to Placerville. I arrived there on the evening of the 4th of July 1856. They were celebrating in the town that day. I had no money. I spent sometime trying to get a place to stay. I slept that night in a livery stable.

The next morning I met Henry Peck. He owed me $1.50 and I dunned him for it and he paid me. I went down to the stage office and secured a ticket on the Opposition Stage Line that would leave Placerville on Monday morning. After I secured my ticket I went up the canyon to while away the day. I looked back towards Placerville and seeing a terrible smoke, returned and found the place on fire. The only two buildings that were saved in that town were the stable I had slept in and the telegraph office.

Placerville was built in the canyon and the fire swept the canyon. Boxes and barrels of crackers and all kinds of supplies were rolled out into the streets and were left. I was about in as good a position as anyone in Placerville as I had a ticket to carry me to Sacramento. I slept that night in the coach, and the next morning I was on hand when they got ready to start. I got some hardtack and put it in my pillow slip which I carried with me.

When I arrived in Sacramento I stopped by a watering trough and was soaking some of this hardtack to eat, when a man came along I had known in Salt Lake City. He asked me what I was doing there and I told him my story. I asked him if he knew of any Mormons in Sacramento, and he told me of a man by the name of J.H. Baldwin, who was one of our people. So I tied up my pillow slip and started for his home. When I got there, Mrs. Baldwin met me at the door and I told her my story. She then took me in and gave me a suit of her husband's clothes to put on while she washed mine. I put on my calico shirt with the blue stripe in it and I felt somewhat dressed up, too.

Brother Baldwin came home, and after we had supper he took me out for a walk and asked me how I happened to be there and I told him. He also said, "Do you know that my wife told me that if I brought any Mormons to this place again she would leave the house?" I told him that his wife had treated me with kindness and that I was at that time wearing his clothes, as she was washing mine, and that she could not have treated me better had she been my mother.

I stayed there that night and the next morning I went down to the Sacramento River. There were seven steamers along the levy. I went to each steamer and applied for a chance to work my passage down to San Francisco. I was turned down every time. At the last which was called J. Bragdon there was a Negro and a Spaniard throwing wood off a flat boat. I turned to and helped them. After awhile the mate came along and he said to me, "Young man, you have been working well. When the bell rings you go in and have dinner and you can go down with me." I had come across a fellow by the name of Bob Rose from Ogden and he was sitting out on the bank. I told the mate I had a partner out on the bank and he said I could bring him in. We continued to throw off wood until the bell rang, when we went in and got dinner. The wood was stored between the decks and they put us to carrying it from where we had piled it, around to the fireman. After we had been at that a short time Bob said he had had enough of it and went to the bunk in the forecastle. He had been gone but a few minutes when the mate came and asked me where my partner was. "Well," I said, "He complains of being ill and he has gone to lie down." He said, "Let's go and look for him." So we went and found Bob who was in the bunk all right. The mate said, "What's the matter with you and why have you forsaken your work?" Bob said, "I am sick." "Yes," said the mate. "You reminded me of a sick man when you ate your dinner. If you don't get out and work we will put you ashore." Bob got out and went to work.

The mate took me to his stateroom and gave me a berth and access to the books, and told me to make myself comfortable until we got to San Francisco, where I arrived at ten o'clock on the 8th day of July 1856.

I went to work as typesetter in the Western Standard Office where I assisted in the publication of the Hawaiian Book of Mormon and of the Western Standard, a paper they had started there. I preached through the country as opportunity afforded, until the Johnston Army was sent to Utah, when I was released to return home.

My brother, George Q., furnished me means and got me to take his wife and seven-month-old baby down to San Bernardino. We went by steamer down to San Pedro and from there to San Bernardino by stage. I fitted up an outfit and we came to Utah with a company of immigrants starting about the last of November. I camped in Cedar City on Christmas Eve of 1857 and reached Salt Lake City on the first day of January 1858. My brother, George, arrived on February 20 after which we hauled wood from Mill Creek Canyon for a time.

The move which was made on account of Johnston's Army took place in the spring of 1858, and in April I went to Fillmore where my brother, George, was taking the Deseret News plant with the expectation of publishing the paper. The following winter I went to work in the Mountaineer office, a paper that was published by S.N. Blair and James Ferguson, who were the editors and proprietors.

On the 15th of February 1859 I took to wife, Miss Wilhelmina L. Mousley, and in the following spring I went to work for John Taylor taking charge of the men working on a mill on the Weber River near Ogden. The following fall I went on a mission to England. In the spring of 1861 I took a letter of introduction to Major Shanley, agent of the Grand Trunk R.R. I expected to find him at Montreal in Canada. I came across on the ship called North Britain. When I got to Montreal I found that Major Shanley was in Portland, Maine and I went there to see him. My letter introduced me as an agent looking for a way to bring our people over in case the impending war closed the usual route.

After seeing Major Shanley I proceeded on west and reached the Missouri River on the 29th day of April 1861. Jacob Gates had been appointed to take charge of the emigration that year and he called me to his assistance. He sent me East to meet the first company of immigrants crossing the ocean that year.

While East I had some time on my hands so I went to Kirtland and called on Martin Harris, who was one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He took me into the Kirtland Temple and I read to him his Testimony as contained in the Book of Mormon, and I asked him if there was any possibility of him having been deceived in regard to the visitation of an Angel. He testified to me in all solemnity, although not a member of the church at that time, that the angel did appear with the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and testified that they contained a history of the ancient inhabitants of this continent and that they had been translated by the gift and power of God. There was a feeling accompanied his testimony, when he bore it, that I have never experienced either before or since in any man that I ever heard bear testimony.

From there I went to Richmond, Missouri and called upon David Whitmer, who was the other surviving witness. I told him my purpose and asked him questions similar to what I had propounded to Martin Harris. He showed me the manuscript from which the said Book of Mormon had been printed. I was sufficiently acquainted with printing to know that the manuscript had been in the hands of a printer. And he also testified that an angel turned the leaves of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and as he turned them, testified that they contained a history of the ancient inhabitants of this continent, and that they had been translated by the gift and power of God.

Upon asking for his opinion regarding Joseph Smith and his prophetic power, he said he regarded Joseph Smith as one of the greatest prophets that had ever lived if he had only let the women alone. He thought that Joseph Smith had failed through his transgression.

I asked him about Oliver Cowdery, whom I understood to have been his brother-in-law, and he told me that Oliver Cowdery, when on his death bed, had born testimony to the truthfulness of the Gospel and that he had laid his hands upon his own head, saying to the people assembled there, "Peter, James, and John have laid their hands upon this head and conferred the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood." There was a feeling accompanied this testimony which was similar to the one I experienced with Martin Harris. David Whitmer was not a member of the Church at the time which I make reference to.

I met the company that was coming across the sea a New York May 18, 1861. My being sent was rendered necessary because Elder Claude V. Spenser was going to remain in the East for a time before proceeding to Florence. We came to St. Joseph and embarked for Omaha on the Missouri River. Upon reaching Nebraska City, J.R. Craiton came on board the steamer and wanted to hire men to set telegraph poles from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City. He said he wanted from 75 to 80 men and I told him that I did not have the right to contract with him to furnish the men, but when we got to Omaha, if he would make an appointment I would have the President who had charge of the immigration meet him and enter into a contract with him to furnish what help he wanted.

Jacob Gates and myself went down and met him at Omaha, at the appointed time, and arranged to furnish him 75 men. We arranged what the salaries of the men would be and they were to be delivered to Salt Lake City not later than the 15th day of November. Half of the money that was to be paid to these men was advanced to them to apply for the emigration of their families.

I assisted Jacob Gates with the work until the first of June at which time the first company was fitted out and I was appointed to take charge of it. This company consisted of 270 people, 68 wagons, and some stock. We reached Salt Lake City on the 16th day of August 1861. We buried four people on the plains and lost twelve head of cattle.

On the 6th day of October 1861 in Conference I was called to come to Dixie and on the 3rd day of November 1861 I started from Salt Lake City with my little family. We arrived at the old camp a mile east of here on the 3rd day of December. In January we moved over into this spot where St. George now stands.

On the 14th day of March 1862 I was called as a member of the High Council in this mission and in the winter of '63 and '64 I was called among the Moquis Indians to spend some time as a missionary with Jacob Hamblin and company. On the 18th day of October 1867 I took to wife Miss Josephine L Crosgrove. In '74 and '75 I was called to be a counselor to Elder Erastus Snow, who was the President of the Southern Mission and I held that position until April 1877 when I was made bishop of the fourth St. George ward.

On January 9, 1877 I was called by President Young to labor in the St. George Temple. I was set apart April 17, 1877 to assist President Woodruff in the performance of the higher ordinance in the House of the Lord. I took to wife Miss Rhoda A. Knell June 20th, 1877.

In May 1884 I was called to Logan to attend to the dedicatory services of the Logan Temple and to assist in opening it for ordinance work. I baptized the first fifty people who were baptized in its font.

On the 14th day of June 1884 John D.T. McAllister was called to preside over the St. George Temple and I was set apart by John Taylor to be his assistant. On the 14th day of April I was called to be second counselor to John D.T. McAllister, who was the President of the St. George Stake.

On the 21st of February 1893 I was called by telegraph to take temporary charge of the St. George Temple, John D.T. McAllister having been called to assist in the opening of the Salt Lake Temple.

On the 28th day of August 1893 I received a letter signed by President Wilford Woodruff and Counselors calling me to be President of the St. George Temple. In September of that year I was called as first counselor to Daniel D. McArthur who was the president of the St. George Stake and I held that position until the 14th day of June 1901 when I was made senior member of the high council, which position I still hold.

Today I am honored as President of the St. George Temple, Senior member of the high council, and member of the stake board of education.

*This story was given by David H. Cannon at a meeting of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in St. George, Utah, on February 19, 1922.

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