WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
CHARLES LOWELL WALKER
(blacksmith, stone mason, writer, poet, songwriter, publisher)
BIOGRAPHYCharles Lowell Walker was born March 17, 1832 in Leek, Staffordshire, England.
Charles was one of the foremost of the Mormon pioneer diary keepers in the nineteenth-century Mormon church, as well as being the "Poet Laureate" of the Cotton Country Mission.
His father's family was converted to Mormonism in Manchester, after which Charle's oldest sister Ann Agatha came to America, where she became a plural wife of Parley P. Pratt. The remainder of Charles's family immigrated to St. Louis in 1850, where his mother died of typhus fever. Charles had preceded them to St. Louis in 1849 with a friend.
Charles remained in the Illinois and Missouri area working, trying to find a means to travel to Utah. In April 1855 he was engaged to drive a horse team for P. Burgess, who was bringing a threshing machine and other merchandise to Utah. Charles arrived in the valley September 3, 1855. Being a large and well-built man, he went to work at blacksmithing.
From this time on, for the rest of his life, Charles kept an ongoing journal, in which he expressed his thoughts and feelings as well as keeping abreast of current happenings. He was not professionally trained in writing, being self-educated from reading in scripture and literature at home. However, his journal and other writings reflect Mormon issues as well as political and other areas of learning in a readable style like few other writings of pioneer culture.
On September 28, 1861, Charles married Abigail Middlemass, whose family had come from Pope's Harbor, Nova Scotia. In 1862, at the October conference, Charles and 200 other missionaries were called to go to the "cotton country" mission in southern Utah. He left with his wife on November 13 and arrived December 9, 1862. His first impression was that it was a "barren looking place... very windy, dusty, blowing nearly all the time." In what was to become St. George, Charles built up his holdings during the first six months he was there, "building me a home, fencing and grubbing my city lot, planting, irrigating and working in the blacksmith shop for B. F. Pendleton" and later with Melanchton Burgess....
As St. George grew, Charles became integrated into its society. He joined a literary club, which printed a small newspaper, "The Veprecula; he attended lectures on various historical, geographical, business, and scientific subjects; and discussed current concerns with others in the community in meetings. In the harsh circumstances of the desert country where nature was often unsympathetic, Charles continually calmed and counseled the pioneers with his prose, often in the form of songs, as well as using his talents for appropriate occasions such as funerals, marriages and birthdays.
Walker wrote the words to the Mormon hymn, "Dearest Children, God Is Near You".
Charles was also a part of the events of the period. On November 5, 1871, the people voted to build a temple, the first on in Utah, in St. George, and Charles was a conscientious worker on the temple. He wrote also on May 23, 1872, that the "mason work on the meeting house was completed.... I have worked on this building for over five years, from putting in the foundation to the capstone on the tower. Many weary toilsome days have I labored in the St. Geroge tabernacle, lifting the heavy rocks in the wind, dust, cold and scorching heat of this climate, yet I have felt happy and contented."
Charles L. Walker died on the evening of January 11, 1904. His funeral service was held in the St. George Tabernacle on January 13. The speakers were Elder James L. Bunting, President David H. Cannon, President Edwin H. Snow, and Elder James G. Bleak. Each spoke briefly of his faithful and exemplary life. He was buried in Plot B_7_3_5_EH of the St. George City Cemetery.
His life was an example of that type of men who sacrificed their personal pusuits to a large measure to contribute their talents and energy for their church beliefs.
REFERENCESDiary of Charles Lowell Walker, Volume 1
Book edited by Andrew Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson
Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1980
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Wikipedia article on Charles Lowell Walker
Short biography of Charles Lowell Walker
Charles Lowell Walker: Dearest Children
by Amy Tanner Thiriot, September 9, 2014
Find-A-Grave entry for Charles Lowell Walker