Joseph Rawlins

In reviewing the lives of those who came to Utah when it was yet a wild and undeveloped tract of land and, after spending a lifetime in the work of bringing it up to its present high state of perfection, have laid aside the cares of life and passed on to their reward, we should not overlook the name of Bishop Rawlins, one of the most prominent and influential men of his day in Salt Lake County.

He was born in Green County, Illinois, on April 9, 1923, the son of James and Jane Sharp Rawlins. Jane was born in Indiana and moved to Green County, Illinois, early in life. From there the family moved to Hancock County, Illinois, where our subject met the lady who afterwards became his wife, Miss Mary Frost, daughter of John and Nancy Pate Frost. Her father was a native of North Carolina, and her mother came from Tennessee. Mrs. Rawlins also was born in Tennessee. The marriage of our subject occurred in 1844. Three children were born of this union: Nancy Jane, now the wife of R. M. Kerr, a resident of Cache County; Mary E. was born on April 1, 1848, and died in 1861; and Joseph L., at this time serving as United States senator from Utah. They also raised a boy, Orson W., whom they have always regarded as a son, and he is at this time in the southern states on a mission for the Mormon Church. He makes his home with Mrs. Rawlins.

The year following their marriage Bishop Rawlins and his wife were converted to the teachings of Mormonism, and joined the Church. They came to Utah in a train of fifty wagons in 1848, leaving Omaha on April 12, 1848, and, after a journey of just six months, arrived in Salt Lake City on October 12, 1848. They at once moved to Mill Creek Ward where they lived about two years. For twenty years thereafter they made their home at Draper, nine miles south of Murray. During this time our subject crossed the plains seven times, bringing three companies of immigrants to Utah, and also served for three months as guard in protecting the United States overland mails, serving under Captain L. Smith with the rank of lieutenant. After discontinuing their residence in Draper the family moved to a farm containing fifty acres, in South Cottonwood Ward, and here the bishop lived during the remainder of his life. He was appointed bishop of this ward in 1879 and retained the position as long as he lived.

Politically the family have been Democrats for generations back. Our subject was, at the time of his death, serving his second term as county commissioner, being elected both times on the Democratic ticket; his son received his election as senator from that party.

During his lifetime the bishop was most active in all matters pertaining to the betterment of conditions in Utah; he assisted in constructing the East Jordan canal and held the office of president of the company as long as he lived. He also did considerable railroad contracting, assisting in building the first railroad to enter Utah and also the road across the Jordan Narrows. During the Johnston Army troubles he was captain of the guards sent out to guard the passes in Echo Canyon against the approach of the army; and also participated in fighting many of the Indian uprisings in Utah. His death occurred on October 3, 1900, and he was laid to rest amidst universal mourning, his manly and upright living, together with his charitable and hospitable nature, endearing him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

His widow is now living in Forestdale, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where she has a lovely brick residence. She is well-known for her work in the Church societies and enjoys the highest esteem and regard of all who know her.

Biographical Record of Salt Lake City and Vicinity

Draper Historical Society. The History of Draper, Utah, Volume One: People of Draper 1849-1924. (Salt Lake City, UT: Agreka History Publishing, 1999), pp. 516-517, Draper Library.

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