John Henry Spencer is my great great grandfather.
John Spencer was born in 1835 or 1836 in Waddington, Yorkshire, England. He was the son of Richard Spencer and Mary Earnshaw – the ninth of eleven known children. His parents joined the Mormons in 1837 – and a few years later the family decided to make the journey to America. On 7 Feb 1841, the Spencer family sailed for America from the Port of Liverpool on the ship Sheffield. After six weeks at sea, the Spencer family landed at the Port of New Orleans on 13 Mar 1841.
From there the Spencer family journeyed up the Mississippi River and joined the Mormon settlement at Kanesville (now Council Bluffs, Iowa). It was there that Richard, John’s father, was killed while riding on horseback 22 Aug 1851.
John Spencer made the trek across the plains with his mother and siblings and arrived in Utah in 1852 with the Third Company under Captain Thomas C.D. Howell. The party left Kanesville, Iowa (consisting of 200 people) on 7 Jun 1852. They arrived in Salt Lake City on 27 Sept 1852.
It was here that John met and married Jerushia Kibbe Elmer on 4 Jul 1858. John’s brother, Richard, married Lucy Lodica Elmer on that same day. Sadly Richard died just 10 days later. On his death bed he asked John to marry his widow and raise a family for him. Accordingly, John and Lucy Lodica were married on 7 Oct. 1860. I should remind you here that the Mormons practiced polygamy – and John had two wives – Jerushia and Lucy. Lucy Lodica Elmer was my great great grandmother. John Henry Spencer was the father of 24 children, 14 by his first wife and 10 by his second wife. Both wives had children the same year in seven instances. Six of the children died in infancy.
According to the various oral family stories about John Spencer, he was said to have mastered the local Native American languages and was an interpreter between the pioneers and Indians for many years. He was appointed by his church to preside over the “Indian Mission” in Skull Valley in 1877.
Later in life, John was arrested for practicing polygamy (unlawful cohabitation). He was sentenced to four months imprisonment and required to pay court costs.
John Henry Spencer died on 20 Aug 1891 in Indianola, Utah of “black jaundice” – an old medical term for bacterial infection of the liver.
Sarah Elmer, his sister-in-law described him this way:
He was a man of splendid character and integrity. He taught his boys and girls to be good citizens and helpful friends. He accepted all the principles of the Gospel and tried to live them as consistently as he could under the trying times in which they lived. He was a kind, patient husband and father to his family and a truthful friend as I knew him and I knew him well, or even better, than any other relatives. He was fair and just in all his dealings.
John Henry Spencer is laid to rest in Payson City Cemetery in Payson, Utah County, Utah. He shares a headstone with his wife Lucy Locia Elmer Spencer.
I would like to thank my distant cousin, Blaine Spencer of Payson, Utah for getting me started on the Spencer genealogy.