John Zera Alger - 1852-1933
was born at
we moved south, Father helped to guard Echo Canyon, to keep the soldiers back,
until his trousers were all worn out; so he had to make a pair out of a piece
of stripped carpet he had to help him with his bedding. Those stripped carpet
trousers he wore back into
Mother had a brother by the name of William Pulsipher who lost his mind. He lived with us, because Father had a great control over him. One day Uncle William sat on a bench outside the saddle-tree shop that belonged to my father. Uncle Will sat for some time with his arm around me, looking at me. He talked a little but looked more. Then he shot up, went to the chopping block and raised the ax and was going to chop off his own head. In a frightened voice I called to Father, who came running and caught the ax before any harm was done. He asked Uncle Will what he was doing. Uncle Will replied, "Either Johnny or I has to have our heads cut off and I thought it had better be me." He had always seemed to think a great deal of me.
In my early youth many and many a time I gathered SEGO and other kids of roots for the family to eat. I was a peddler in my childhood days too. Father was a maker of splendid saddle-trees which were in great demand at that day. The soldiers was well as other men would pay my father's price for the saddle-tree and then give me a good price for myself for bringing them the saddle-tree. I also peddled hoops (a ridiculous thing the women wore in those days) which Mother made. I did not like to peddle hoops so well as the women paid me no bonus for myself as the men did for the saddle-tree.
the early fifties, Father was called to
I have always had a great love in my heart for the Indians. When I was a very small boy, one chilly fall morning, I slipped out of the back door and ran bare footed through an inch or two of snow, a half of a mile to play with the papooses. The Chief, Ba-zeel, saw me coming and came out to meet me. Picking me up he carried me into the wigwam where his squaw was working on a pair of moccasins. Ba-zeel held me on his knee, warmed my feet and, as Sonas the squaw finished the moccasins, he put them on my feet and proudly wore them home.
Some two or three years later I was old enough to herd cows with the other boys of the neighborhood. These boys carried a lunch, poor, but a lunch just the same, as they had to stay with the cows all day. A low dispositioned Indian discovered this fact and would come every day and take the little fellow's lunches away from them. I dug a hole in the river bank and hid my lunch. The Indian could not find it. This angered him for he had not got filled up on the other boy's lunches. He seized me by one arm and one leg and swung me out over the river telling me he would throw me in if I did not tell him where my lunch was. I would not tell, but was saved by my old friend Chief Ba-zeel who happened to ride up at that moment with about twenty of his men. He kicked the Indian several times and made him clean out. Then taking his own boy off his pony and putting him on his horse behind him, he placed me on the pony's back and told me to lead him to my father as he wanted to see him. This I gladly did and the bunch of Indians camped for a few days behind Father's home. The Indian who had been stealing the lunches never bothered the boys again. While at Fort Supply Father, as well as running the grist mill, cut out and built a sawmill. Later, when word reached them that the soldiers were coming, this mill was torn down. The wood part was set afire and the iron was thrown in the river.
Just before the move south Father lived at Payson for a little while. Here the following incident happened which made a great impression on me. James Bracken, with two other men, were out camping and chopping timber. All at once, Jim threw down his ax and started for town on the run calling to the other two, "Come on boys, the Indians are coming." The other two straightened up looked around asking, "Where Jim, where?" Jim replied, "I don't know. I can't see them but I know they are coming and I am going to town." The other two laughed at him and would not go. He went to town and gathered up a crowd of men and boys, and returned to where he had left the two men and found them both dead. They had been killed by the Indians.
the team of horses, a yoke of oxen and the two wagons he had received for his
In those days people traveled in companies as much as possible to insure protection against the Indians. When I reached the top of the little hill, in full view of the river crossing, I saw a four horse rig go over the side of the ridge into the river, horses, wagon, people and all. I did not spare my oxen but made them go as fast as they would go, pulling off my cowhide boots and extra clothing as I went. As soon as I reached the riverside I plunged in to assist in rescuing the outfit. I had learned to be an excellent swimmer and so was a big help although only a boy. The family was all rescued first, then all the rest of the day, I, with others dove into the river to recover the man's load of lead. The man's name was Sam Lewis. In the tip-over, Mr. Lewis' wagon was broken. I offered to trade wagons with him, knowing that although young, I could manage a broken wagon better with oxen than Mr. Lewis could horses. After we had traded wagons, Mr. Lewis told me he had a nice girl he would give me for being so kind as to trade with him. But I never got the girl.
helped dig foundations, hauled some of the timber and rock to build at St.
George. And in fact I helped on every public building St. George at the
time. Once while the Tabernacle was
being constructed a crowd of boys were put under the supervision of Mr. Coplin to go to
the age of fourteen I made a trip to Beaver with two mules and one horse. I
worked on the fields until I had earned a load of flour with which I returned
to St. George. On my fifteenth birthday the telegraph wires were brought to St.
George. Mr. Ben Pattic had the contract of carrying
the mail from St. George to Calls Landing, on the
took the job and was not molested but once in all the time I carried it. That
once I will relate. I was going through what they called
the time of the Indian war I herded cattle and horses under Captain John Pulsipher at
took his team of fine horses, worth at least $300 and went. I arrived at
Gunlock all right, loaded my wagon with ears of corn, ready to start back early
the next morning. I tied my horses close to my wagon, then went to the cabin,
made a fire and started to prepare my supper. By this time it was good and
dark. I heard one speak in the Indian language then they turned and went back.
The thought struck me they intended to back out of hearing, then sneak up and
see what I had worth taking. I immediately kicked out my fire, caught up my
pistols and crawled between my horses. No one will ever know the suspense I
endured that night. All night long I crowded between my horses expecting every
second to have a band of Indians creep up on me. I would have actually been
relieved if the Indians had come, but they didn't and, of course, when daylight
came I was thankful. I hitched up my horses and returned to
How I first met my wife:
was helping my father build a house in
The next night, Saturday, there was a dance from which I mustered up courage to ask to take Miss Barnhurst home, and was not refused. The next night, I also took her home from meeting. This time she asked me in the house but just as I went to sit down her father said, "Look here, young man, you need not sit down. It's time you were going home." "But I like your girl and I want to get acquainted with her," I replied. "That's all right, but you must come in the daylight," was the reply. At that I took my leave but the next morning just as the sun was peeking over the mountain I knocked at their door. After a few days of persistent courting I persuaded her parents
let her and her twin sister go to St. George with me and get acquainted with my
people. They stayed in St. George two weeks then I took them back to
About the 4th of April, President Snow called me into his home and asked me how I would like to go on a mission. "If I felt that I was worthy to go I would be glad to go, but you know I couldn't preach a sermon if I was going to be hung,"
I replied. "Very well John,"
he repled, "we don't want you to preach, we are calling you among the Indians."
At this I said, "Oh, that's different, I'll go there."
He answered, "But we want you to take a wife with you."
you do," said
"Now Johnny, I know how it is with you and Miss Barnhurst. She will make you a splendid wife and she will go with you," President Snow replied.
Then he placed his hands on my head and gave me a wonderful blessing, telling me, among other things that not one hair on my head nor any of my company's should be touched if I would in all cases use my own judgement. Later events will show how this promise was kept.
the 20th of April, 1876, my wife and I, John McComal,
and James Pierce left St. George on our mission. When we got within about 20 miles of the
When we got to the river we did have quite a time to get the ferry man to row us across. It was very dangerous. He wouldn't even try to use the big boat, he knew it would be useless, so we had to make a good many trips to get all our things across. When it came to towing my wagon box across we had to go up stream quite a ways to start because of a very rough rapids just below the landing. We just got started good when we were struck by a whirlpool. When this let go of us it shot us straight for the bank we just had left. We climbed out, went up stream and started again but were again caught in a whirlpool and this time were carried past the landing and were rapidly being carried down to the rapids. The bank we were passing was very steep. No landing whatever. But just ahead I saw a bunch of willows. I tore my outer clothing from me, took the rope with which I was towing my wagon box in my teeth and sprang into the water. I swam for the bunch of willows, which was the means of saving us. Pulling the wagon box and boat out of the whirlpool up to the bank I had them where together we could manage them and finally got back up the landing. There were two horses we could not swim the river. These we had to tow across behind the boat. The last trip we took these two horses and my wife. I did not think they would cause us any trouble, but one of them tried to climb right into the boat nearly capsizing it.
It was late afternoon on the second day before we got everything across and it was eight miles to the next water so dark settled down about us good and thick before we were anywhere near our intended destination. I could look down on the left side of my wagon and see the ground, but on the right side it was so dark I could see nothing. I thought this a little queer as there was no moon nor any light to make it darker on one side of the wagon than on the other. I drove along however trusting that it was all right and the horses would keep to the road. Finally the horses stopped dead still and I dared not urge them on until I got out and examined the road. I found we were ready to start down a very steep hill. It was so steep that I thought I would rather make a dry camp than to try to go down it that night. When the other two men came up they wanted to know what was the matter I had stopped.
"I'm going to make camp," I replied. "Here's a place I don't care to go down in the dark."
"Oh, Pshaw! We're not going to make a dry camp. It can't be such a great ways on to water," they exclaimed and turned out around me to pass by and go on.
When they came to the steep place their horses also stopped. They got out and examined the road which decided them to make a dry camp also.
those days we just turned our horses loose to pick their own supper. So the
next morning, I was up early to hunt the horses. Their tracks led back the way
we had come. In going back the road after them I discovered why I couldn't see
the ground on the right side of my wagon the night before. There wasn't any.
For a long ways we had traveled right on the edge of the
When we were ready once more to start our journey, Mary said she would rather walk down that steep place. I told her I supposed it would be safer. My seat was our churn. I had no more than got started down when my brake broke and turned loaded wagon loose
onto the horses of which I was driving four with lines only onÜj _ Ü_the leaders. I sprang over the wheelers, caught them by the bits and whipped leaders with my hat to keep them out of the way. Horses, wagon, man and churn all piled up at the bottom but nothing was harmed outside of bruises, cuts, scratches and a general tanglement, thanks to the Father of us all who will always guard us if we do our duty while working for Him.
We arrived in Moan Coppy just one month to the day on which we left St. George.
Mary and I did not go into the fort but made us a little camp down by a small spring. I set the wagon box off for a bedroom and cleared a few of the willows away from in front of it leaving some around to form a kitchen, then I went to plowing and planting corn.
One day I saw a bunch of Indians coming over the hill on the other side from where I was working. I grabbed my gun and crawled through the willows to a place where I could see all that was going on in camp, where my most precious possession was, my wife. The Indians rode up, got off their horses, jabbered to Mary, examined everything in sight, then one big burly fellow started to crawl into her bedroom, the wagon box. She pulled him out and tried to talk to him but of course he couldn't understand. He pulled away from her and started to crawl back in. Again she pulled him out and again he crawled back. This time when she pulled him out one of the other Indians pushed him out of camp and he slunk off. One of the Indians saw a small looking glass
she had hanging up and what a time they had with it. One old fellow it frightened terribly and they got him to look into it only once. They wanted to take it away with them but Mary wouldn't let them have it. When Daniel N. Wells arrived with another company he advised us to move to the fort with the rest as the Indians were getting a little sassy. This we did.
a quarter of a mile south of the Fort lived a little
morning a deer was seen bounding over a hill not far from the fort. A young
Indian of the Hopi tribe named Lye snatched up a butcher knife and started
after it on foot. That same afternoon he returned with the deer on his
shoulders. Mary and I both saw him and we both saw him return with the deer. I
asked him how he caught it. He replied, "Him got tired. Me
catch him." The Orabai Chief's name was Tubie. When the
Above the Fort, north lived 30 to 50 Navajos. The main big Chief over this tribe was called Peacon. In this tribe was a young Chief called Jack, a son-in-law of old Peacon's. Jack came often to the fort with some of his young bucks and I enjoyed getting out and running races and wrestling with them. Jack was a nobel handsome young Indian and he and I became great friends. About two years previous to our going to Moan Coppy, Old Peacon had a son killed by some white men. President Brigham Young had paid him somewhere around $200 and he (Brigham Young) thought it was all settled with him. But the Old Chief still thought he had ought to have a white man to torture and kill. One day Peacon rode up to the Fort with about 20 warriors and demanded that we give up one of our men to pay for his son that had been killed. Of course his demand was refused. Then he threatened the entire camp but finally rode away without doing anything. However, the next day they returned all in their war paint and this time they meant business. But with them was young Chief Jack with his little band of followers.
Peacon demanded once more that a man be given him to torture and kill, or he would kill the whole bunch of us and we knew he could easily do it. When a man was refused him again he drew his men back a little distance from the Fort and held a council with Jack, the young chief.
Hatch could understand and interpret all Indian language. He and I crawled out
back of the Fort near enough to where they were holding their council that we
could hear what they were saying. Old Peacon was in
for slaughtering us all right then and there but Jack, God bless him and his
posterity, pleaded for us. Finally Peacon grew angry
and said he would not talk any longer but was going to "kill." Ira Hatch went white. I was much darker in
complexion than Ira but I imagine I went whiter. Then it was that young Chief Jack's real
friendship showed. He rode squarely in front of old Peacon
and told him he would have to go over him and his small bunch of men before he
could get to the Fort. The Old Chief lowered his head and slowly rode back to
his wickiup followed by his warriors. He never
bothered us again. It wasn't long after this when Jim Brown called for a
volunteer to go to the river for flour. A trip of 75 miles
with a span of mules. I really felt like one of the men who wasn't married should take that trip but none of them
volunteered, so I went. The latter part of September Mary and I returned to St.
George to be married in the
affairs while he was gone.
That same spring we went to Panguitch to work in the harvest. I cradled grain, hauled and stacked it and then John Ray and I fixed up an old threshing machine that had been discarded two or three years before and we ran it as long as there was any grain to thresh.
we were in Panguitch, Young Chief Jack came through
with about 200 other warriors and chiefs on their return trip from
how to act and I was just as glad to see him. I had not forgotten, nor will I ever forget that he saved our lives at Moan Coppy. When we went to Panguitch we landed there with a small team and a wagon. When we left, in three months time, we left with four horses, harnesses and wagons loaded with flour and grain, two head of cows and yearling heifers. I bought a house and lot and sold it when we left.
went from Panguitch to St. George and stayed there
until the next spring, when we moved out to the
moved back to St. George and then to
the spring we went to
On the ninth of June, 1878, I got word from my wife that I was needed at home. When I got home I found my first child had just come into this world. We named her Mary Ellen.
started to breaking my mares. I got them so I could
handle them, by then the baby was two weeks old and we had to go show it to my
wife's parents at
left my wife and child in
went down to
teams to do the hauling and made a fair profit. A fellow came from Toker and wanted to start a saloon with me. I would not do it so I sold out to him making a good profit on my
went back to Cedar and bought a city lot and built a house. I just got the
house nearly finished when I sold out and went to Beaver Dam
I caught and killed 83 head of cattle, and sold the beef and hides. I had a permit from the county.
From there we went to St. George and bought a house and lot from John Moody. There my first son, John Zera, was born on August 30, 1880.
That fall and winter I hauled ore from the mines in Silver Reef to the river. I made two trips a day when most of the men just made one trip.
I went to the mouth of the Beaver Dam
We stayed there about two years, when the children and I took the chills and fever. I said if my wife came down with the fever, I would move out. My father had moved there by this time, also. A short time afterward, my wife took down with the fever. Inside of three days I was on the road again. I left everything we had.
took my family into St. George and then went to
I left St. George, I left with only $50 and one team of horses, harness and
wagon. When I got within 60 miles of
I put my wife and family and bed on top of the load. I took a bull-whip in my hand and went afoot to Castle Dale, where my grain was stored. There I sold my oxen and wagon to Orange Crealy also including the use of a team to move over onto my homestead. In a very few days I had a new house with a shingle roof, the only house in town with a shingle roof.
I bought me a small team of mares, then traded them to a horse man for two bigger horses. I plowed and put in a very good crop which I harvested in the fall. I bought a half interest in the threshing machine I had run the fall before. I ran it until the harvest was very near through, when I sold my interest making a very good profit on the deal. I went back and stayed through the
winter on my homestead. Early the next spring I took my family back to St. George for a visit, about three-hundred miles. On coming back I drove up to the house and left the wagon and harness standing by the house to unload. Early the next morning I took what money I had except forty dollars and went to town to pay all the little bills I owed. While in town, someone called my attention to a fire down our way. I looked up and saw that my house was on fire. I jumped on my horse and ran for the fire. I had a twenty-five pound keg of powder under my bed in the housed. I was afraid my wife would get hurt with the powder, trying to get things out of the house. I was riding a big stallion, and every jump I picked him up with the spurs.
The first thing I met was our cat, with his tail about as big as a man's arm, and I have never seen him since. About two hundred yards from the house, I met my two little children by the side of the road crying. I had seen the powder explode about a half mile before this. When I saw my children and not my wife, it gave me a scare. But when I got to the house I found my wife trying to pull a three and a quarter wagon from the house. With my help we saved the wagon and harness. Everything was burned, we had nothing left but the clothes we stood up in and wagon, harness and a small trunk with a few clothes in it. I went to town and rented a small house. We used goods boxes for chairs and table. My cousin gave us an old stove. The neighbors gave my wife a few dishes so we started to keep house again. It was a new country and the people all very poor.
The next spring I traded my team and got a lot and house, here our third child Sarah Ann was born on the 24th of April in 1885. My homestead that spring started into an old swamp. I started to look for a good tract of land. I found a fine tract on the other side of the river. I fixed a survey outfit and surveyed a canal onto it. I started it about eleven miles away to see if the water would go over the summit. I took a spirit level and took long shots along the land until I found the water would go over the summit with about fifteen foot fall.
then went into
he had done the sighting and I had carried the staff, he became satisfied that
I was right. He went back into
We worked for about eight or ten days when a company of thirty or thirty-five men came from San Pete looking for homes. I stopped them and showed them our project. They would not go in with us until I proved to them that the water would go over the hill by running it in a plowed furrow over the first hill on the survey. They went out and looked at the tract of land and became fully satisfied and the project was all right and they went to work. We organized a company, they put me in general manager. I had no trouble getting all the help I needed to finish the canal. The first and second seasons after the canal was finished happened to be very dry seasons. Our canal was so large that the people on the balance of the river got uneasy and put an injunction on our canal.
with two other men, directors of the company, went to
We started right to work, the two of us, so as to be sure to preserve the reservoir right. While we were working, three men came by in a white top buggy. After sizing the situation up they offered us two thousand dollars if we would quit and give them the chance to take hold. I told them, "No" I was taking it for the Cleveland Canal Company and would not sell.
After we went back and told the Company what I had found, the president of the company was afraid we could not get the water through the main river, but would talk with the people on the other side and see. I told him I knew better, that we could take it through the river and have it measured out again.
He went and talked with the Huntington Company and others and they said, "No," we could not put it in and take it out as a whole. He came back to me and wanted me to let the people that owned the whole river make the reservoir. I said, "No, that reservoir sight belongs to me and Ray Cowley and unless the Cleveland Company will take it, I will build it myself and keep it."
He said, "Well, if you think you are able to, I guess that is what you had better do."
I looked around the found ten men belonging to our company who believed as I did in regards to taking the water out in an individual ditch. They said they would stay with me in whatever I thought in regards to the reservoir.
We fixed up and went to work. We did work enough on the reservoir to hold it for one year. Then we tried the Company again, to see if they would not accept of it. They refused unless I would let the whole river have it. We said, "No," and went to work on it again for another year.
We continued on it the same for three or four years. Then there was a man elected president of the company by the name of _____. He knew something about the laws of water transfer. With his influence and assistance of others who began to learn something about it, they decided to take the reservoir.
let them have it for just what it had cost us up to date, on the condition that
the company individually should own it. The company then went to work and
completed the reservoir, which gave them the best water right in the
country. We moved out to
hauled water in barrels five miles to build me an adobe house and make the
adobe bricks. It was the first adobe house in
living there I went to
fixed up and went to Grouse Creek early the next spring and bought something
over two hundred head of horses on very good terms, by the time we reached
took a beef contract. I borrowed sixteen thousand dollars from L.C. Slavens in
The snow fell in the early part of the winter from three to four feet deep all over the country. My cattle, strangers to the country, died off like sheep with the rots. I found as high as fifteen head dead under one tree. So I had to draw up twenty-five thousand dollars in order to fill my contract. This money I was paying six percent interest on. After I had paid all the money back, with four percent interest, I wrote a letter to L.C. Slavens telling him I had paid him all I could at present, that I was broke, but as soon as I could, I would pay him his interest.
He wrote me a long letter stating that he had kept tab on me the whole time and for me to forget the balance of the interest. This showed me that he as an honorable and just man.
then settled down and went to farming in
Our seventh child, Jane Elizabeth was born and died on April 8, 1897.
then traded for property in
Then after living in
I had sold my ranch to her which I had at
company was to ship one wagon with some traps in back to
have lived in twelve places in and around
is now April 24, 1930 and I am living here at
Four different times, since October 1926, I have attended Sacrament meeting and seen two great grandchildren blessed on each occasion. I have nineteen great grandchildren living, besides two who died as babies.