Sketch of the Life of George Speirs
(Also found under memories)
THIS STORY WAS OBTAINED FROM:
A Utah pioneer of 1848
prepared by his daughter
Mary Elizabeth Speirs Reich
January 15, 1935
George Speirs was a pioneer of Utah, born at Bridge Water, Beaver Co., Pennsylvania, November 6, 1836.
He came to Utah with his parents, Thomas Speirs and Mary Cochran Speirs in 1848, when he was twelve years old. His father was a native of Scotland who came to America in 1826, his mother being born in America, near Portland, Maine, where her family had resided for a good many years preceding the American Revolution, in which her father took part.
Thomas and Mary Cochran Speirs became converts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through the teachings of Orson Pratt, and forsaking their good home, relatives and friends, and a prosperous business, they joined the Mormons and moved with them in the spring of 1839 to Commerce [Illinois], which place was later known as Nauvoo.
There, they, with their family numbering four sons; Adam, George, Orson and Harrison, and one daughter, Mary, endured many hardships, trying to make a new home in the new sparsely settled country, deprived of comforts and many necessities. Many of their company became ill of the “fever and ague”, but, quoting from memoranda of Adam Speirs, George’s oldest brother, “Through the providence of God, our family was preserved.”
Seven years of George’s boyhood were spent here, during which time he witnessed the rapid growth of Nauvoo, the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the desecration of the temple by the mob that finally drove the Mormons from the city in 1846.
George’s father thereupon acquired three teams and wagons, the family packed their household goods, leaving all bulky furniture, and started west, spending a year in “Montrose” [Iowa], then going on to “Winter Quarters” [Nebraska] where they passed the winter of ’47, George, with his brothers and sister, attending school in a log building erected under the direction of Pres. Brigham Young, Eli B. Kelsey being their teacher.
In July 1848 they started out again, this time on the much longer journey west across the plains to Salt Lake Valley, in the company led by Amasa M. Lyman, George helping with the driving of the teams. They saw thousands of buffalo and other wild animals and passed through large Indian villages— mostly Sioux—but were not molested by them. In fact, according to Adam, “We were treated better by the Indians than by the so-called Christians we had left behind”.
The family arrived in Salt Lake Valley October 17, 1848, the year following the settlement of the original pioneers. They began immediately “getting logs” from the canyons with which to build a shelter for the coming winter, which finally consisted of log sides and canvas top, which had been the tent they had brought along with them. The canvas roof was covered with willows. This expedient was made necessary by the fact that the sawmill was frozen during the whole winter, which was very severe, many cattle bing lost through lack of enough food for them, they having to depend entirely on what they could pick above thee snow, since the crops put in by the earlier settlers the preceding season had been largely destroyed by the crickets. Also many of their cattle were stolen by the Indians. However the family did not suffer much, having been able to provide sufficiently for themselves, even being able, but going on half rations, to help other less fortunate.
Being a blacksmith by trade, Thomas Speirs and his sons built a shop of logs secured in the canyons, and George spent the next several years helping in the shop and attending school in the old Council House, also exploring the surrounding country.
Also, during these years, the old Speirs home was erected, a two story adobe, on the corner of what is now known as 6th South and 6th East Streets, in the Tenth Ward, where a group of four of the first “gold diggers of ’49”, on their way to the gold mines in California, were entertained.
In the spring of 1854 George was called upon to fill a mission to the Pacific Isles, and became the first missionary from the Tenth Ward. He, in company with some seventeen or eighteen young men, including the late Joseph F. Smith, blazed a trail to southern California, now know as the Salt Lake Route. There were six weeks covering this course, after which George, with several of the young men who had accompanied him to California, left for Hawaii, where he spent over four years.
On February 11, 1861, George married Adeline Pamilla Harris, whose family had come to Utah also as converts of the Church, enduring all the attendant hardships, the marriage taking place in the Endowment House. Eight children were born to them, Adeline, George, Thomas, Mary, Lucy, Jessie, Annie and William, all of whom grew to maturity, married and had families.
George built a home for his family in the Tenth Ward on the corner of 6th South and 7th East, and during the early years of his married life, in partnership with George Pope, opened rock quarries in the small canyon south of Emigration [canyon], of which they held possession until the early nineties [1890’s].
Upon the occasion of the reunion of the “Trail Blazers”, which included a trip over the old trail, George was guest of the former Senator Wm. A. Clark, of Utah.
In 1904 George was made custodian of the old abandoned Copper Plant on the Jordan River near 10thNorth, where he established his residence, remaining there until his death on March 6, 1911. His wife died on October 6, 1898. All eight of his children and twenty-six grand children survived at the time of his death.
“A man of honor — his word as good as his bond,” was a fitting tribute paid him by Brother Chas. Simon.
From the obituary in the Deseret News of March 7, 1911
FOLLOWING a stroke of paralysis, George Speirs, pioneer of 1848, associate of President Joseph F. Smith in the mission to Hawaii nearly forty years ago, and who was a member of the party that made the first overland trip to Southern California by the course now taken by the Salt Lake Route, died at 6 o’clock yesterday morning at St. Mark’s hospital. He was in his seventy-fifth year and leaves a large line of descendants.
Mr. Speirs was born in Bridgewater, Pa., November 6, 1826. At an early age he was converted to the Mormon faith and was driven out of the east with the part of Mormons that arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1848, the year following the settlement of the original pioneers.
After taking an active part in exploration work he assisted in planning the journey over new trails to Southern California. He was a guest of Senator William A. Clark on the event of the reunion of the trail blazers which included a trip over the old trail.
Returning to Salt Lake, Mr. Speirs opened the Red Butte quarries, of which he held possession until the early nineties. In 1894 he was made custodian of the abandoned copper mill in North Salt Lake, where he made his home.
Surviving Mr. Speirs are a brother and sister, Harrison Speirs and Mrs. Mary Pendleton; eight children; Mr. D. P. Felt, Mrs. David Reich, Mrs. George Speirs and W. H. Speirs of Salt Lake, Thomas Speirs of Vernal, Utah, and Mrs. C. M. Ward of San Francisco; also twenty-eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at the Tenth Ward Meeting House at 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon under the direction of the bishopric of the Tenth and Twenty-third wards
Mission to Hawaii
Early Mormon Missionary Database (https://history.lds.org/missionary/individual/george-speirs-spiers-1827) Hawaiian Sandwich Islands April 1854–June 1858 Age Called: 17 Sandwich Islands Departed From Home: 7 April 1854 End Date: 3 June 1858 Mission type: Proselytizing Called From: Salt Lake City, Utah Notes: CR 100 160- Returned to Salt Lake City 6 June 1858 1854:105- George Speirs filled a mission to the Sandwich Islands. (Jour. Hist. of April 7, 1854.) Apr 7, 1854- The following person were then appointed and unanimously voted to go on missions, … To the Pacific Isles: … George Spiers