William Wilkes


My paternal grandfather William Wilkes was born in Tewkesbury, England on April 25, 1827, about 102 years before I was born. He died on my Dad's ninth birthday with very few written records left behind, that I have found. My information comes from genealogical records and stories handed down and calculated dates.

Myrtle Pugmire had a copy of his obituary published in the Deseret News, which I read many years ago. Other than dates, survivors & etc. it said he was a good neighbor, kind, generous and loved by all who knew him.

In the Bear Lake County Records, County Court House, Paris, Idaho I found the following: "St. Charles Bear Lake Co. I. T. Nov. 15th 1880 This is to certify that the undersigned a Justice of the Peace of the County of Bear Lake Idaho Territory, did on the 15th day of Nov. A. D. 1880 join in lawful wedlock William Wilks and Jacobine Frederica Esterholdt with mutual consent in presence of W.L. Allred and John Wilks, Witnesses. L.B. Hunt Justice of the Peace Recorded at the request of L.B. Hunt Nov. 15th, 1880. J.C. Rich Co. Recorder."

Although he died twenty five years before I was born, I have talked to older people, who knew him personally mostly during the later years of his life and they picture him as a pretty easy-going friendly and generous individual, more concerned with making and keeping friends than with material possessions.

When I visited the beautiful, green and verdant city of Tewkesbury England, where he was born and grew to adulthood, I visualize a young man of courage and conviction, who was willing to risk all he had, or was, to leave the security and comfort of "civilization" to come to the "wilds" of Utah.

From there he went to the gold fields of California and back to a frontier community in Bear Lake County.

In the 1860 Census he lists his occupation as "brewer" and older people have told me of his famous "home brew beer". I don't know how his occupation affected his activity in the church, but it did not prevent him from being called on a mission to England for one year in 1879.

He married Elizabeth Haynes March 15, 1846, in Tewkesbury and to this union we have record of the birth of two children, Sarah Ann born August 4,1850 and John born October 3,1852.

He was baptized into the LDS Church sometime in 1848. William sailed to the United States 26 April 1855 on the "William Stetson". According to oral history passed down through the family, his wife and children did not accompany him at this time. They presumably came within the next year or so.

He married Elizabeth Crook about 1858 from Apperly, Gloucester, England. She had been married to Frederick Panting and was the mother of five children, only two of whom were still living, Christopher born 14 August 1850 and Jane born 7 May 1855. They had two sons, Charles born April 20, 1859 and William Richard born Jul 23,1861. Charles was born in Salt Lake City, William Richard in Logan. William was sealed to both wives September 22, 1859 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.

The Cache Valley census of 1860 lists the family of eight with the following ages: William 33, Elizabeth 33, Elizabeth 32, Sarah 10, William 8, Christopher Panting 10, Jane Panting 4, and Charles 1. (The census lists Charles as Charles Panting, but this seems an obvious error on the part of the enumerator.)

That they lived in very humble circumstances at this time is attested, by the fact, that Sarah told her granddaughter, Erma Pugmire that she never went home from school for lunch "cause there wasn't any, and that bread and butter tasted better than cake".

In later years she would, in fact eat bread and butter with ice cream. (One observation--of the many Wilkes names in all parts of the country, those three given names William, Charles, and John seem to occur as frequently as all others put together.

The origin of the Wilkes name as traced by registered research firm H.R.C. No.Y117 dated 13 Nov 1991 says the name is patronymic denoting "a son of William", first occurring in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379: one Thomas Wylkson registered therein. Robert Wilkes from Northampton is included in the "Registers of Oxford University in 1574" and Admiral Wilkes is featured in a display entitled "Wilkes and Liberty" in the British National Museum. From personnel observation there are many, many Wilkes listed in the Tewkesbury telephone directory.)

In about 1860 or '61 (to the best of my calculations) he, tired of the grinding poverty in Cache Valley, Utah heeded the siren call of GOLD in California. One Elizabeth (Haines) went with him and the other one (Elizabeth Crook Panting) didn't. (I think she was expecting their second child at that time).

When he returned a year or two later he settled in St. Charles, Idaho. The story I have heard was that the second Elizabeth (Elizabeth Crook Panting) and Grandpa had agreed that if he wasn't home before a certain date she was free to remarry. His oldest daughter told me he did return before the deadline, but she had married one of his best friends Dr. Craney. This fact did nothing to diminish their friendship of the two men!Aunt Mary and Aunt Lizzie told me many times that Mr. Craney would spend the night in Grandfather's home when he came to Bear Lake. Grandfather was certainly more broad-minded about the whole thing than I think I would have been.

They returned to settle in St. Charles, Rich County, Utah in 1864. (A later survey showed a slight miscalculation and St. Charles became St. Charles, Bear Lake, Idaho.) The family home in St. Charles was at today's address of 35 West 1st South. When I first saw the house, the north end had been cut out and with two large doors was used for a garage by Sam Wilkes. I have heard the story that relatives (members of the Crook family) staying with them had a child die there, and because it was a very hard winter the body was buried somewhere in the back lot, to be moved to the cemetery in the spring. They were not able to find the body when the snow went off the ground (or have they since according to best information I have been able to find).

Elizabeth Haines Wilkes died August 7, 1878 and was buried in the St. Charles cemetery.

On May 1, 1879 Grandfather was set apart for a mission to Great Britain. He was set apart on May 1, 1879 by Joseph F. Smith. He returned April 30, 1880 on the "Wyoming" and on November 15th of that year married Bine Frederikke Nielson Hemmert. This was the third marriage for both of them and they both had four children by the previous two marriages. Their first child of this marriage, was born when Grandfather was 54 and Grandmother was 31. They had eight more children, Dad being the 13th for both, was born when Grandfather was 68 and Grandmother was 45.

Violet Nelson told me that Grandfather did not have good health during the last years of his life.

William Wilkes died February 27, 1904 on Dad's ninth birthday.