Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shadrach Ford's Gift for his son Ben

Ben the Wagon Boy

Parts of Chapter 1 and all of Chapter 2 from Ben the Wagon Boy

All quoted material is in italics.

by Howard R. Driggs copyright 1944

Little Ben had a healthy, happy childhood in his Ohio home. Of course he could remember almost nothing about it; for when he was about five years old he was taken by his parents to another home by the Mississippi River. Nor did he learn, until he was older, why they had given up their home where he was born in 1837, and made the long journey to a new one.

It had all come about, as his parents [Shadrach Ford Driggs and Eliza Elizabeth White] told their questioning son, because some Mormon missionaries had come into the Ohio village, and converted a number of the people there to the gospel. Ben’s father and mother, his four grandparents, with some of his uncles and aunts and their neighbors, had been baptized into the new church. Others had made fun of them, and had caused trouble for them because they had accepted what they believed was the truth; so they decided to gather with other folks of their faith in the city of Nauvoo, in western Illinois.

Little Ben did recall how his mother cried when she left some of the friends who had come with her from Vermont. He remembered, too, the big covered wagon his father, with the good help of Mr. Woodbury, had made. He was all excitement when they hitched “Mack,” their black horse, and his brown mate to one of these “homes on wheels,” then drove away with their relatives and friends along the road that led towards the west. Nor did he ever forget Bones, their dog, who barked for joy because he was being taken along with his little master. . . . (pp. 2-3)

Three weeks . . .passed--days of travel, nights of camping out under the stars--and then the journey ended. As they neared the “Father of Waters,” the prairies of Illinois broke into rolling, wooded hills. Among these the little caravan wended its way until finally . . .they glimpsed the Mississippi [River] and then Nauvoo, the Beautiful . . .

How his parents and grandparents solved the vexing problem of getting settled, he hardly knew; but they were not long in finding or building homes in Upper Nauvoo.

His father bought a roomy house on a large lot--just the place for a lively boy to romp about. Across the road was a large wagon-shop, of which this skilled workman was soon made foreman. Not many months had passed before another baby boy came to give added cheer to this new home. Ben was, of course, delighted with Paul, as his little brother was named. . . .(pp. 4-5)

One of the places that claimed Benjamin Woodbury Driggs’ interest

. . .was the big wagon shop across the road from his home. It was such a busy spot, with the song of saws, planes, hammers and other tools making music all day long.

“Don’t get too close to these workmen,” his father would keep warning the interested boy; “and leave the sharp tools alone.”

“But I want to make me a wagon, Daddy. Why can’t I do it?”

This pleading usually resulted in Ben’s getting some boards, with a few tools, and a place out of the way where he could hammer to his heart’s content.

Then came a joyous day. His father promised to make him a little wagon--exactly like the big ones--for his birthday. It would have to be done after regular work hours, perhaps in the evening, when all was quiet at the shop. And Ben must promise not to bother the workers or tease his father while it was being made.

He was quick to promise. Away he went in high glee to tell his mother.

“Just think, a really true wagon like the big ones--all my own,” he exclaimed. “I can take baby brother for rides, Mother, and I can bring things for you from the store. Won’t that be fine?”

The mother agreed it would. In her heart she was about as happy as her little son.

It was nearly a month before the Maytime birthday would come. Ben could hardly wait. When his father really did begin to create the wagon, it helped. Day after day, as he could find time, the master workman put his skill into the creation. As it began to develop, he grew in interest in what he was making to gladden the heart of his boy. A day before the birthday the little wagon was finished--with a coat of paint to make it a thing of beauty.

On the morning Ben was seven years old, he woke to find his dream come true. There in the living room was his wagon. Tears were in the mother’s and the father’s eyes as the happy son gave them both a loving squeeze. Then out he went to run up and down the street and show his little friends the rare gift.

True to his promise, Ben did take his baby brother for many a ride. He also ran errands for his mother, most willingly, whenever she asked him to go. Ben and his dog, Bones, became a familiar sight around the streets of Nauvoo.

The boy, with his father’s help, soon rigged up a little harness, and trained the clever little animal to pull the wagon and the young master, but only around the streets near home. Knowing that Bones was fond of chasing cats, the father was afraid there might be a mad chase after one some day, with a broken wagon and an injured boy as the result.

One of the favorite errands Ben liked to do for his mother was to go down Mullholland Street through the business part of town, and on past the lot where the great temple was being built, to Parley P. Pratt’s store. Shops along the way were full of interest. It was a stirring sight also to see the workmen shaping and placing the stones to make the stately building rise. Besides, at the Pratt store, there were some good things to buy. Ben always remembered the sweet molasses shipped up the Mississippi from New Orleans. It wasn’t quite so good as maple syrup, but it did make buckwheat cakes taste almost as good. Frequently he would bring a jug of this molasses home to mother.

Her caution to him was, “Now, don’t let the grass grow under your feet; and don’t try to hitch Bones on your wagon. He would likely run away and spill the molasses over everything.”

The thought of losing the sweets was enough to bring obedience about the dog. Ben did not always heed the advice to hurry home, however, and one day this brought real sorrow into his young life.

He paused near the temple lot to watch a workman carving a stone. The chip, chip,chip of the chisel, driven deftly into the hard substance, was so interesting a process that Ben forgot how time was passing. Nor did he notice that two of the other workmen had also paused to look intently at his little wagon.

What brought the boy back to himself was hearing one of these man say, “That wagon would be a mighty handy thing to haul our tools about the yard.”

Then to the startled lad he said, “Sonny, how would you like to let us have your wagon to help build the temple?”

“Oh, no,no, I couldn’t do that,” replied Ben.

“Isn’t your father the boss of the big wagon shop?” the man questioned.


“Well, we’ll talk to him about it.”

Frightened at the thought of losing his precious wagon,Ben sped for home with Bones at his heels. There, bursting into tears, he exclaimed, “Mother, you won’t let them take it away, will you?”

“What are you talking about, boy?” his mother asked.

“Some men at the temple asked me for my wagon to haul their tools; and when I said I couldn’t give it to them, they said, ‘we’ll see your father.’

“Perhaps they were just joking, Ben. Come, you’re late for dinner. Now eat something and you’ll feel better.”

But the boy could hardly eat anything. Finally his father came in and before his son could tell what happened, the two men appeared at the door.

In the kitchen with his mother, Ben heard one of them say, “It would be a great help, brother, to keep some of our best tools together and to take them from place to place.”

“Well, let me talk it over with the boy,” replied the father. “He is mighty proud of the little thing; but perhaps he will give his consent, if he sees things as we do.”

That night Ben and his father and mother had a good heart-to-heart talk.

“You see, son, everybody is giving something to help build the temple,” said his father. “I know just how you feel about it and I am not going to force you to part with your wagon. My heart is in it, and your mother’s, too. But just think about it. Ask your Heavenly Father tonight when you say your prayers to help you decide what to do. It is the house of the Lord that is being built. Perhaps even a little boy like you can help.”

Ben’s mother had only this to say, “I know you will do what is right.”

As she took him to his bed, she kissed his tear-stained face, patted his rumpled head,and walked away to let him say his prayer alone.

Next morning a little boy, drawing his wagon and followed by his faithful dog, made his way down Mullholland Street and over to the temple lot. Walking up to the man who seemed to be foreman, he said simply, “I’ve brought you my wagon to help the men build the temple.”

Looking into Ben’s frank face, the kindly man replied with feeling, “God bless you, boy. I know what this means to you. No one has made a greater sacrifice to help build the Nauvoo Temple. Your gift will help. God bless you.” He gripped the boy’s shoulder gently.

Ben bravely held back his tears, as he walked home with Bones by his side. (pp. 9-14)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shadrach Ford Driggs and John Taylor

Parts of Chapter 3 from Ben the Wagon Boy

by Howard R. Driggs copyright 1944

All quoted material is in italics.

Nauvoo might have remained a pleasant place in which to live had there not been some folk around the city and within it to cause trouble. These people, filled with some evil spirit, would not let the followers of Joseph Smith live on in the city they had built. Just why, no one seems even to this day to know.

“This is a free country,” said Grandfather [Henry] White. “My own father and uncles were in the army that Ethan Allen raised to help win our liberty. Why can’t the officers of the law protect us in our right to worship as we like?”

“Well, the sheriff is doing all he can, so they tell me,” spoke up Grandmother; “don’t you get yourself too excited, Henry. It will all come out right somehow.”

But mobs began to defy the laws and things grew worse.

Finally the leaders saw that to live in peace, the Latter-day Saints must find a new homeland farther West.

There was harder work ahead. Every home became a center of industry, with quilting, knitting and weaving and making of clothes. Every shop was as busy as could be, with most of the effort being turned to the making of covered wagons, ox yokes, chains, harnesses, saddles, and other equipment.

Something else must be had for this journey in the covered wagon. That was oxen. These patient, slow-moving animals were safer than horses or mules. They would draw heavy loads, and not be so hard to keep well fed on the grasses to be found along the way. As it became more certain that the saints must find new homes, they began to trade for oxen, or purchase them.

Ben’s father had only the two fine horses that had brought them from Ohio to Nauvoo. These, like the dog, Bones, were almost part of the family. But it was decided with a good deal of heartache that they must be sold to get money enough to buy several yoke of oxen. In looking around for a buyer, Ben’s father found one. Apostle John Taylor, who needed a horse, bought old Mack. There were tears in the eyes of Ben and his mother as this faithful animal was led away. . . .

Some weeks passed.

One day Apostle Taylor came driving old Mack, hitched to his buggy, up to the wagon shop. Calling Ben’s father out,he said quietly, “Brother Shad, I just drove over to say that you didn’t tell me all you know about this horse.”

“Well, Brother Taylor,” replied the father, “I always found him to be a good horse.”

“That’s what he is. He is a better horse than you said he was. Here’s ten dollars more for him. I feel that I owe it to you.” With that the fine leader drove away, leaving an abiding affection for him in the hearts of all the family.

It is small wonder that when the time came, as it did the next spring, that this pioneer wagon-maker and all his dear ones were ready to follow such honest and faithful leadership into the wilds of the unsettled West. (pp. 19-22)


Friday, April 22, 2011

Shadrach Ford Driggs

1813 - 1898

Shadrach Ford Driggs was the son of Urial Driggs and Hannah Ford Driggs, born August 28, 1813 in Range No. 10, Ashtabula County, Ohio, then a wilderness. His father was born in the state of New York. His boyhood years from six to ten were spent in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

One day Shadrach’s mother Hannah told her four children that if they would “go into the nearby woods and pick blackberries, [she] would make each of them a pie out of the berries they brought home. Of course, they were happy over the promise; so off they scampered with their little pails.

“‘Now be brisk, and get home by noon,’ [she] warned them.” The children agreed and disappeared among the trees.

Shad spent his time chasing squirrels so he had little to show for the morning. Shortly before the children were to return home he went to work. “He soon saw he couldn’t fill his pail [like the other children had] before noon. Then he decided to play a naughty trick. By the blackberry bushes were some pennyroyal leaves. . . .He slyly filled his pail nearly full of these sweet-smelling leaves. Then he worked fast and soon he had the leaves covered with blackberries. His brothers and sister could not imagine how he had filled his pail so quickly.

“When they all came home, [their mother] praised Shad for being such a good worker. And [she] made each a pie out of the berries they had brought. Shad’s was the biggest pie of all. When he cut into it, though, he got a surprise. It was full of blackberries mixed with pennyroyal leaves.” It was a good joke on Shad and taught him a good lesson!

The family then moved to Licking County, Ohio, where he made the acquaintance of a skilled cartwright by the name of Benjamin Woodbury and became his apprentice.

At Fredonia, Licking County, Ohio, he met and married Eliza Elizabeth White who had been born in Chester, Vermont. She was tall, lanky and of laconic [concise, using a minimum of words] speech. Their first two children, Benjamin Woodbury and Hannah Jane were born in Licking County, Ohio. Both the Driggs and the White families joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1840, where Shadrach became a foreman in a wagon factory where he built many of the wagons for the Saints to emigrate West with

, and “finally, after using up all the seasoned timber that could be obtained, he cut up the great cart that was used in moving rock in the Temple yard, and made two wagons out of it for himself and family to emigrate with.”

[When the saints left Nauvoo, the Driggs families] traversed the Iowa Territory to Kanesville on the Missouri, now Council Bluffs, where they tarried to repair wagons and raise crops. Then they moved 15 miles north to what was called Big Pidgeon Creek where they built a log house and a wagon shop and cleared the land for farming. Soon some 30 families made this area their home.

In the autumn of 1851, the call came, “On to the valleys”, so into the wilderness they departed leaving behind buried in the hills of Iowa, Shadrach’s father and mother, Urial and Hannah Ford, his sister, Ruth, and his daughter, Baby Ruth, who died at the age of five months.

They traveled painfully and slowly over the rough trails to Utah Valley

“and finally landed in Salt Lake City on October 2, 1852, and the same month moved to Pleasant Grove, where he has since resided.” They established a home just south of Pleasant Grove in a house built by a Mr. Lord. Here Shadrach built another wagon shop where he added the manufacturing of plows to his activities. "He has made and mended wagons ever since to within a few days of his death.”

He also made coffins for the settlement. In the spring of 1853 they tapped several maple trees and made the first maple sugar in Utah.

Shadrach and Eliza White had eleven children. He also married Celia Harvey Taylor, a widow, in 1855. They had one daughter in 1857.

“His wife, Eliza, preceded him to the great beyond, February 1, 1896. They had eleven children, but their grandchildren can hardly be numbered. He also leaves a wife, Celia, surviving him.”


Driggs Family in America: Book Two, L. Lynne Driggs and Harry Stoddard Driggs, 1971, pp. 44-45.

Ben the Wagon Boy, Howard R. Driggs, 1944, pp. 7-8.

Shadrach Ford Driggs' Obituary, Deseret News, 5 Nov 1898, Salt Lake City, Utah, from Thursday's Daily, October 27, "Local and Other Matters", posted by Emily Farrer.

Note: The original bio I prepared has proper footnotes, but I haven't been able to get it to "copy" with them intact into blog format. If you would like the "original", just let me know and I'll email it to you.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Urial Driggs -- The Father of the "Mormon" Driggs

1780 - 1846

Urial Driggs was born April 29, 1780, not quite four years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His father and mother, Daniel and Ruth Graves Driggs, and their family lived in Connecticut. His early years were spent in the heart of the American Revolution.

Urial married Hannah Ford on October 26, 1800, at Farmington, Connecticut.

Sources give conflicting information, but it is thought that Urial and Hannah moved with Urial’s father Daniel and his family to Marcellus, Onondaga County, N. Y. The 1800 Census shows them there.

There were other moves to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and Astabula County, Ohio. When "Urial and Hannah Driggs [and their family] moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio . . . the family embrace[d] Mormonism in an all-out spirit of sacrifice. They withstood the jeers and persecution and opened their souls to the message and proved themselves to be of the honest in heart. . . .

About 1840 “they moved with many other Mormon families to Nauvoo on the Mississippi River. Four years later Joseph Smith and his brother [were] assassinated, and thousands of inhabitants of this beautiful city were thrown into a state of confusion and discouragement. All were expelled from Nauvoo when the law yielded to ignorant mob influence.

“They crossed the Mississippi River and entered Lee County, Iowa, with many other families. Urial [who was now 66 years old] could not make the difficult journey and died on the trail, and was buried along the trail. . . .His sons fashioned a coffin from a log and buried him near a large walnut tree. . . . His wife died less than a year later and was buried in the wooded bluffs north of Kanesville, now Council Bluffs, Iowa. . . .”

He is revered as the Father of the “Mormon” branch of the Driggs family.

Source: Driggs Family in America: Book Two, L. Lynne Driggs and Harry Stoddard Driggs, 1971, pp. 26-27.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One of Denmark's Beautiful Forests

Ellen Poulsdatter Christensen

In 2003 we traveled to Denmark to see the country of our Christensen ancestors. We spent a wonderful day in Copenhagen. The next morning we headed west from Copenhagen to Soro where we went (with help) to the equivalent of the forestry office to try to find more details about the place which Ellen Poulsdatter inherited and
which two of her husbands helped her to take care of. We didn't have enough information to make real progress so we decided to drive into the countryside just to get a sense of it. As we traveled, we carried a picture of a white tudor home that we had copied from Allen Christensen's book. On the road to Vedbysonder, we came to a home much like the one in our picture. I knocked and a woman in her forties answered the door. We were immediately drawn to her. Her spirit is the one that I carry with me as a memory of our "kind" of ancestors. She so wanted to help us find "the real" white, tudor home. And in her careful English she said, "I know how you feel. We went a year and a half ago to find my husband's grandfather's home in Sweden."

We drove on through the beautiful farm land to Slagelsee. Time was slipping away. Our plane left Denmark early the net morning. We had so few leads that I opted to have us go back to Ottestrup--an important place listed on our family records. It was there in the beautiful, old church and cemetery that we felt we were standing in places our ancestors would have walked.

With Ellen Poulsdatter Christensen and her sons Poul and Niels and her second husband Hans Christensen in mind, we looked at the beautiful surroundings of Denmark and counted with better understanding the gratitude we owe them to have been willing to join the Church and then leave all that we saw behind them for the gospel's sake.

On the side bar is a short history devoted to Ellen.