John Gandsworth Wilkins
Written by his 3rd granddaughter Debbie Wilkins Armstrong
John Gandsworth Wilkins was born on the 28th of July 1800 in Ballston, Saratoga, New York where he lived with his parents until he was twenty-one years of age. His parents were Edward Wilkins and Susannah McCrea. The latter was probably a niece of the famed Jane McCrea, a loyalist during the Revolution, who was scalped and killed by Iroquois allies of the British. John was the second child of eight children. He was born into a Presbyterian family. His mother's family were Elders of the Presbyterian Church in Ballston, New York. Little is known of his younger years, but it is possible that John may have heard of Joseph Smith years before joining the Church. He lived in the finger lake area of New York, in close proximity to where Joseph Smith lived as a boy.
John married Nancy Kennedy, the daughter of a well to do farmer from Scotland. Soon after their marriage they moved to Perth, Ontario, Canada, where John had a sawmill. He was what we would now call an engineer and was comfortably successful.
While there, they were introduced to the gospel and John was baptized Christmas day of 1836 by Elder John E. Page. The spirit of "The Gathering" coming upon him, he soon closed his business affairs there, and started for Far West, Missouri. He passed through all the mobbings and troubles incidental to the Saints at that place and were driven out in connection with them. They then moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Nancy had not, as yet, joined the church, but she believed it so her parents disowned her.
While there John helped in the building of the Nauvoo Temple. Nancy knitted socks, which she sold to help in the erection of that holy structure. A year after they moved to Nauvoo, they bought a farm a few miles from Carthage, there they had a nice home. They suffered persecution with the other Saints, their home being burned before their eyes. During this episode, Father Wilkins was put to a severe test. Said the mob, " Mr. Wilkins, we respect you as a citizen and neighbor; now, if you will only say Joe Smith is a false prophet, we will not burn your house." To this he emphithetically refused to do and his home was destroyed. His wife Nancy was still in bed after having just delivered a child, Oscar, just three days prior. They carried her bed out.
A short time later the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed, and the persecution of the Saints began to escalate even more. Despite this the Saints continued at great sacrifice to finish the temple. John and his wife Nancy were able to receive their temple endowments on Jan 23, 1846 just before they were driven from Nauvoo, crossing the Mississippi river on ice, and went to Council Bluffs. They lived for a time in a Punkaw Camp, but had problems with the Indians. their little girl Eunice Maria, got sick and died. Nancy was alone and took care of her burial. Because of lack of proper food, a son Edward, died soon after. From here they moved to Iowa, and John worked for the government, helping to put up the first grist mill at Fort Kearney, from which labor he realized sufficient means to purchase an outfit to cross the plains in 1851, arriving in the valley that same year. They traveled with the Captain Cooley Company.
Upon their arrival in Salt Lake, they went on to Provo where they lived the first winter in a wagon box. In the spring, John built a long three room adobe house. Later he built a nicer adobe home. They moved to the fort at Charleston until the Indians became a problem, and then they moved back to Provo where they lived the rest of their lives.
John was the first supervisor of Provo City. He assisted in building canals, wagon roads, sawmills, and in developing the county. He was a farmer and a stock raiser. He was a High Priest and President of the Bluff City branch. He also sent ox teams two different times for immigrants in 1860. He was a faithful member of the Church and supported it in every way.
1. Conquerors of the West pgs. 2720-2721
2. John Gandsworth Wilkins obituary--The Daily Enquirer, 1890-01-17, Obituary
3. Church Records of the Ballston Center Presbyterian Church listing both Wilkins and McCrea’s in their congregation.---found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah.
4. Obituary of Oscar Wilkins-- Eureka Reporter 1921-08-12 Tintic Pioneer Passes Away at Silver City--for approximate date of house burning.
5. Nauvoo temple endowment register
6. Pioneers and Prominent Men pg. 1247