Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People

Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People
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January 5, 2010

Robinson, John Rowlandson

John Rowlandson Robinson Jr.
Birth:  April 6, 1855 in Paragonah, Utah
Parents: John R. and Jane Schofield Robinson Sr.  
Married:  Emma Schofield Oct. 9, 1873, Salt Lake Endowment House.  They were both 19.
Death:  Feb. 9, 1939 in Paragonah, Utah.

Three references to him in Hole in the Rock by Miller: pp 59, 67, 162

Lula Bastian wrote the history provided to us by Judy Wade Cripps.  Judy can be contacted at  jcripps@accesswest.com

John R. Robinson Jr.  grew up in Paragonah.  He was the 5th of 15 children.  In 1855 his parents moved to the one-story fort.  One of his early school teachers was Mr. Decker.  He only received schooling during the winter months.  When he was ten he helped herd Lowder's cows and some cattle of his fathers up the dugway, to find feed, as they had no hay for them.  He was paid in red striped calico fabric, but his mother didn't think it was suitable for him.

John Rowlandson Robinson Jr.'s siblings and father

   His family moved to Panguitch for a short time, but troubles with the Indians there forced them back to Paragonah.  He started freighting to Pioche, in Nevada when he was 15, and that is how he earned enough money to get married.
    He met his future wife, Emma,  at a dance in Parowan.  After one of the dances he asked her if he could walk her home, but she refused.  She told her mother, "I am not going to go with that little John Robinson!"   John at the time was six feet tall, and eventually he must have risen in her esteem by the time he married Emma at age 19.  

When their first child Jane was a baby; they ranched out at Buckskin with Grandma Prothero, Hyrum Schofield, and one of John's best friends, James Dunton.  John started in the sheep business by renting the herd of his brother James, while he was on a mission, and by good management, became very successful, although at one time he only sold his wool for 4 cents a pound.

    Then in 1878 his life took a major turn.  At the quarterly conference of the Parowan Stake, held Dec. 28 and 29, his was one of the  names called to serve as a missionary "to settle where directed."  So in late October of 1879, he left with a company of 150 people and 100 wagons to settle the San Juan Country.  He took 15 head of cattle, all of which were lost before they reached their destination.  Others who went from Paragonah were William Robb, Henry Holyoak, and his friend, James Dunton. [Henry was married to  Sarah Ann Robinson Holyoak, who was JR Robinson’s half sister.  Her mother & father were married on the ship to America in 1842, Alice Coupe Robinson died in Pottatattamie County, Iowa May 30, 1847, & left Sarah & a brother Richard.  JR Robinson Sr married her sister Jane, at his first wife’s request, who was traveling with them, on August 24, 1847, They had 15 children, including the two from her sister. ]

     The winter of their trek was extremely severe. They went by way of Panguitch and through Escalante, building road as they went; and at times it almost seemed impossible to get through.  There were springs about every 10 miles across the desert, but when they could not travel that far, they were forced to use water found in holes in the rocks for camp water.

    John told of the difficulty they had in cooking beans in the hard spring water, and when the women asked him in surprise how he had been able to cook his beans, he told them he had used rain water.
There were only a few women in the company as he and many of the other married men had left their families behind.  At 50-mile Spring, one of these women, Mrs. Decker [Anna Marie Mickelsen Decker ] gave birth to a baby,  Lena Deseret Decker  who was born January 3, 1880 at Fifty-mile camp. They were fifty miles from the nearest settlement, one hundred miles from a doctor, and 150 miles from their anticipated home.  Both mother and child suffered no ill effects.  They camped at this spring on Christmas Day and held a dance around the campfire that evening.
    John was one of a group of men who scouted ahead for a place to build the road.  On one of these trips he found a turtle, colored with all the colors of the rainbow.  He tried to take it back to the company, but the colors faded when it died.

    Many of the group felt it would be impossible to build a road down through Hole-in-the-Rock, which was a hill of solid rock.  Several of the men wanted to turn back, but George Hobbs thought it could be done.  At this point Jens Nielson declared that the company must go on, whether "we can or not."  The majority voted to continue.  They camped at 50 mile Spring until the road down Hole-in-the-Rock was finished.  In some places a rut was made in the rock deep enough to hold one wagon wheel.  In other places, holes were drilled in the rock and pegs were inserted and covered with rocks an brush to make a foundation for a road [Uncle Ben's Dugway].  When it was completed, chains and ropes were attached to the wagons and as they were driven down the steep road, men and boys of the company controlled the wagons by holding back on the ropes and chains.

   The Hole-in-the-Rock road brought them to the banks of the Colorado River which was the next obstacle in their path.  They crossed the river with sort of a raft to carry their cattle and wagons across.  Here, one boy almost lost his life,but by the heroic work of the men, he was saved.  Soon they came to a lake where the women and children stayed until they made a road to a place they called The Cedars"
   John told how one night when it was bitter cold, they did not cook a hot meal for supper, but instead ate dried apples and only drank water.  They became very ill during the night, and after that, always cooked, no matter how cold it was.
    During the time they were building "The Cedars" road and after it was completed they had no trouble finding water for camping as they had plenty of snow to melt.  After traeling about 15 miles beyond the road, they came to the San Juan River on April 6, 1880, which was John's 26th birthday.  Here they gathered the rest  of the company and drew for lots in Bluff.
      They worked for two months building a dam across the river to get their water for irrigation.  John never developed the lot he receied in the drawing.  Two months after arriving, in June, John and some of the other men went back to the Colorado where they met men with provisions and merchandise sent out by the Church from Salt Lake.  They men paid for the supplies with labor and received credit for work they had done on the road.  John got a pair of boots.
  John came home to Paragonah in October of 1880, after a year's absence, making the return trip in only three weeks, compared to 6 months it took going to Bluff.  He had intended to return to the San Juan with his wife and four small children, but his father gave him five acres of land to remain in Paragonah.  While he had been on the San Juan Mission, his uncle Hyrum Scofield, farmed his land for him.

    He was interested in the Co-op cattle and sheep herds, and spent much of his time in Bear Valley looking after cattle and working on the sawmill.  He was instrumental in getting the Paragonah water system started and successful in all of his business ventures, because of his hard work and good judgement.  He also served as water captain for the field company, and in other responsibel positions.  He was director of the Bank of Iron County from the time it was established until it closed.  He held the position of High Priest in the LDS Church.
    He and his wife Emma were the parents of 10 children: Emma Jane born 1874; Mary Isabell born 1875; Margaret Alice born 1877; John Jr. born 1879; Hyrum born 1882; Sarah born 1884; Arnold born and died in 1887; Lula born 1888; Ellis born 1891; and Joseph born 1894.  Nine of these children lived to maturity, married and had families.  In 1957 he had 160 living descendants into the fourth generation, and many more great-great-grandchildren.
    John had an excellent constitution of body.  He was tall but well set and strong.  He had a mechanical genius and was very handy in the use of tools, but his great excellece lay in good understanding and sound judgement.  He was a self-educated man through extensive reading, which gave him an exceptionally good store of knowledge.  He liked very much to sit and converse with friends and neighbors on current events.
He died Feb. 9 1939 after suffering years from a heart ailment, leaving 8 sons and daughters, two having preceded him in death.  He had 33 grandchildren, and 44 great-grandchildren to mourn his passing.

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