James Jenkins, the son of Richard and Elizabeth Perks Jenkins, was christened December 20, 1803 at Presteigne, Radnorshire (Powys), Wales. Richard Jenkins worked as a butcher therefore he and his family lived on High Street, the road around which Presteine's business clustered. (1)

 

In 1825, Elizabeth Perks Jenkins died. It appears that Richard never remarried. He most likely hired servant girls to perform the domestic duties in his home, and one of those girls may have been Elizabeth Wright of Leominster, Herefordshire, England, a distance of thirteen miles from Presteigne. The youngest of five know children born to Thomas and Jane Wright, Elizabeth married James Jenkins on May 27, 1830, at Presteigne. (2)

 

James and Elizabeth became the parents of eight children, all born in Presteigne: Mary, born February 9, 1829, and died the same day; Ann, born July 19, 1832; Richard, born April 23, 1834; Elizabeth Sarah, born September 22, 1836; James, born January 30, 1839, and died May 26, 1839; Emma, born March 15, 1840; James II, born September 21, 1842; and Lucy, born June 12, 1843, and died June 26, 1846. (3)

 

In Wales, James worked as a thatcher (4). People living along the border of central England and Wales preferred black reeds for their roofing material. James wove the reeds together on top of the high pitched roofs until they made a lovely, smooth, water tight blanket. When his son, Richard, became old enough he joined James in the thatching profession. Their tools included a legget, a small, square tool that resembled a shovel and used to pack the thatch tightly together; a shear-hook for cutting the ends of the reeds to give them a quill pen effect; sheep shears for general tidying up; and crooks to secure the reeds to the roof timbers. In the United Kingdom, thatchers never stripped old thatch off the roofs, so many thatched buildings in the Radnor-Hereford area today owe their distinctive look to the work performed by James and Ricahrd more than one-hundred and fifty years ago. What people today would not see is the distinctive ornamental patterned ridge that identified the work as that of James Jenkins. James worked at his craft when the occupation of thatcher neared extinction. He is numbered among the very few men who kept roof thatching alive, and now thatched roofs are flourishing in England at the beginning of the third millenium.

 

Between 1830 and their emigration in 1855, the Jenkins family resided at a number of places. First they lived on Hereford Street, then they moved to Bank's End, next they moved to High Street, returned to Hereford Street, and finally ended back at High Street before their ambitious move to Utah.

 

In June of 1842, Thomas Morgan baptized James Jenkins a member of the LDS Church. Morgan later baptized Elizabeth and Ann Jenkins in November of that same year. Richard's baptism occurred August 1, 1844. (5)

 

In 1855, the family emigrated to Utah through the assistance of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. They had originally booked passage about the ship Juventa, scheduled to depart from Liverpool on March 31, 1855. (6)

 

At that time, all the family except Ann and Richard planned to sail to the states. The family delayed its departure because Richard had a scrape with the law and his father grew anxious to get him out of the country. Robert Jarrett, Richard's brother-in-law, paid for his passage to America. The family then sailed from Liverpool, England, on Sunday, April 22, 1855, on the maiden voyage of the Samuel Curling, captained by Sanders Curling of Thomaston, Maine. The ship had three masts, three decks, copper and iron fastenings, an oval stern, and a figurehead (7). Those who sailed that day included, James, his wife, Elizabeth, their sons, Richard and James II, and their daughters, Elizabeth Sarah and Emma (8). James' daughter, Ann, had recently married and did not emigrate with her husband until July of 1855. She lived in the New York City area for four years before arriving in Utah.

 

While at sea, a fierce storm came and ripped the sails of the Samuel Curling to shreds. The crew became disoriented and the ship floated for three days lost in seas of ice. During those three days, the ship's captain denied the passengers access to any of the ship's three decks. (9)

 

The captain became discouraged and confided to the company's leader, Israel Barlow, that he had never encountered such a horrific storm and that they had not seen the worst of it yet. Elder Barlow replied that there would be no increase in the storm's violence and that it was nearly over. This angered Captain Curling because his past experiences with storms taught him to anticipate a greater fury however, when he checked his barometer and other instruments he found Elder Barlow's statement to be accurate. Later, Barlow said he saw angels holding hands surrounding the ship and he knew everything would be well.

 

When the storm abated, Captain Curling put his ship on course, and the expert tailors on board repaired the sails. The Samuel Curling arrived in New York on Tuesday, May 22, 1855. After that voyage, Captain Curling secured Mormon passengers whenever he could. He said he felt very safe having them aboard his ship.

 

Most of the passengers left New York on May 23, 1855, in a train bound for Philadelphia. They arrived there on May 27, 1855. From Philadephia they traveled aboard the steamship Amazon, to Atchison, Kansas, via St. Louis, arriving there on August 4, 1855. James and his famly found themselves assigned to the Eighth Company under Captain Milo Andrus. From Kansas to Utah, the family traveled with a wagon and ox team.

 

As the company traveled along the Missouri River, cholera broke out and took the lives of many saints, including Elizabeth Wright Jenkins. Although many of the dead had been disposed of in the Missouri River, James went upstream some distance accompanied by a few other travelling companions and buried his beloved wife in a grove of trees on the river bank where Leavenworth, Kansas is now located (10).

 

The family walked the entire distance from Kansas to Utah. Hot weather seems to have been their greatest enemy. At one point, the company came to a forced halt and fifty men searched for a Sister Fox who had wandered away to look for her dead child buried at Mormon Grove. Captain Andrus could not delay the company's travel any longer due to a shortage of provisions. Luckily, a train of non-Mormons found Sister Fox and took her to Fort Bridger, where she joined another Mormon party and enjoyed a happy reunion with her family in Salt Lake City. The Milo Andrus Company arrived in Salt Lake City on October 24, 1855. After a brief sojourn in Springville, James Jenkins settled in Nephi, Utah in December of 1855.

 

When James first reached Nephi, he lived in a one room log cabin that he shared with his sons, Richard and James, and daughters, Elizabeth Sarah and Emma. He later replaced this log cabin with an adobe house finished on March 11, 1857. Samuel Pitchforth laid the adobe at the cost of sixteen dollars and fifty cents. He also did the rock work for which he charged two dollars and fifty cents (11).

 

On October 10, 1857, Samuel Pitchforth recorded trouble in the Jenkins family. Elizabeth Sarah Jenkins had married William Cole, and some unknown source applied pressure on Emma Jenkins to marry William in polygamy. James voiced his opposition to this, stating that if he were a young girl he would not go int a family, but have a single man (12).

 

Early in the morning of December 9, 1857, Samuel Pitchforth collected James from his home. He walked him to the house of Bishop Bryan, where they ordained James a High Priest. On February 8, 1858, James received a call to serve as the clerk of his High Priest quorum (13).

 

On December 27, 1861, James married Ann Grimshaw Jackson in the Endowment House. He had Ann, her mother, and her sister sealed to him.

 

Ann Grimshaw was born to Jon Hedges and Martha Grimshaw in 1806, in Manchester, Lancashire, England. She left her first husband, Benjamin Jackson, as well as three of her grown children for the sake of the gospel. She came to Utah in 1856 with the ill-fated Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. She made the trek across the plains with two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, and three sons, Joseph, Samuel, and Nephi. Joseph died soon after the family arrived in Utah (14).

 

James took up farming in Juab County. He also knew blacksmithing, which he taught to his son, James. A staunch member of the LDS Church, James belonged to the first and second Prayer Circles of Nephi from 1880 to 1882. George Teasdale, later an LDS Apostle, personally chose James for the circle (15).

 

Following the death of Ann Grimshaw Jenkins on March 27, 1873, James went to live in the large home of his son, James Jenkins II. There he had his own room and took walks around the yard with the use of his cane (16).

 

James Jenkins has been described as possessing hot temper. It has been said he was strict and stern, as many of his children and grandchildren after him (17).

 

James Jenkins died of old age on November 17, 1892, in Nephi, Juab, Utah. His final resting place may be in the old city cemetery in Nephi.

 

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(1). Presteigne Parish Register

(2). ibid.

(3). ibid.

(4). This is found in the Presteigne Parish Registers, 1841 Census, and Emigration Book B.

(5). Early Church Information File

(6). Emigration Book B, 147, FHL 26, 690.

(7). Conway B. Sonne: Ships, Saints, and Mariners: A Maritime Encyclopedia of Mormon Migration, 1830-1890, (Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1987), 178.

(8). Emigration Book B, 174, FHL, 26, 690.

(9). Kate B. Carter: Daughters of Utah Pioneers (Salt Lake City, 1955) biography of Joseph Darbrough

Reynolds, 53.

(10). Kalee Jacobsen Pollard, History of Emma Jenkins Cole, unpublished, 1.

(11). Samuel Pitchforth, journal entry March 11, 1857.

(12). Ibid, October 10, 1857.

(13). Ibid, February 8, 1858.

(14). Alice P. McCune, History of Juab County, (Daughters of Utah Pionners, 1947), 71

(15). Nephi Prayer Circle minutes, LR 600322. These records are kept in the LDS Church Historian's Office and are not accessible to the general public.

(16). Charles Jenkins, History of James Jenkins, unpublished, 1.

(17). Ilene P. Anderson, interview 1982. Miriam J. Dall also related a story about the Jenkins temper. "Oh yes, one day my grandfather returned home late from school and his father gave him a good whipping."

 

Shepherd, Jerry. Biography of James Jenkins. Courtesy of www.welshmormonhistory.org.