Monday, April 23, 2012

In Their Own Words: James Rowley Ransom

Below is a biographical sketch of James Rowley Ransom and his family. It came from a repository of bio’s held by William Leon Ransom, but I am unsure if he is the author.

On January 16, 1856, at Salt Lake City, Utah, James Rowley Ransom was born. Both of his parents were immigrants from England, and his mother, Elizabeth Rowley, was born in the Parish of Warfield, Shropshire, England. As a child, he went south to Lehi with his parents at the time of the southern movement. He said he could remember going to Camp Floyd, and passing through the east gates of Lehi Fort. Lehi was protection from the Indians at this time. His father, James Ransom, was born at Bexhill, Sussex, England

This family made their home at Lehi until 1862, when they were called by President Brigham Young to go and help settle Southern Utah. After a long and tiresome journey by ox team, they arrived at Virgin City. This family was in very poor circumstances and James had to start work very young to help with the support of the family. He went four years without shoes, then he got work mixing and carrying plaster for a man who was building a house. In return for his labor the man made him a pair of shoes. He was so pleased with them, he put them on and went skating with a group of boys and froze his feet.

Their food consisted of broom corn seed ground through a coffee mill and made into bread, and roots and greens gathered from the fields. Once they had ground sugar cane seed for their bread. This bread was quite dark and not nearly as good as bread made from broom corn seed. When his youngest brother, George, was born, a neighbor lady brought a couple of white bread biscuits to his mother. This was the first white bread James had ever seen. His mother gave him a piece of crust from one of the biscuits, and he said it was the best thing he had ever eaten. He was seven years old at this time.

On June 29, 1865, when James was just nine years old, his father was killed while peeling tan bark with a neighbor. The neighbor felled a tree which accidentally struck him on the head, killing him instantly. He was buried at Virgin City. This left James, who was the eldest, along with his three brothers, to care for their widowed mother. After a couple of years the family moved back to Salt Lake with an uncle, John Ransom.

James got a job herding cows across the Jordan River, along with Heber J. Grant and B. H. Roberts. In a short time the family moved to Huntsville, Utah. Here they made their home until he reached manhood. Here he got wood and hauled it to Ogden where he found sale for it. During the winter he worked at a sawmill. When the family moved to Huntsville, James worked for Bishop McKay, who was the father of David O. McKay. Many years later, when David O. McKay was an Apostle and was visiting a branch of the Church in Montana, one of James' daughters, Violet and her family were living there and attended the meeting. After the close of the meeting Violet shook hands with Pres. McKay and he made this remark about her father, "I surely do remember him. Your father was my guardian angel when I was a child."

About 1876, when he was a young man about twenty years of age, James went to Trenton, Utah, where he homesteaded a piece of ground and built a small frame house. Two years later his mother came to make her home with him.

While living at Trenton, he made the acquaintance of Agnes Elizabeth Austin, and on December 13, 1879, after nearly two years of courtship, they were married at Clarkston, Cache County, Utah, by Elder William VanOrden Carbine. Trenton was only a branch at this time. A ward was organized sometime later with James B. Jardine as bishop.

While they were living at Trenton three children, Mary, James, and William were born. On October 29, 1884, after the Logan Temple was finished, James and Agnes received their endowments and were sealed, as well as having their three children sealed to them. Apostle Marrioner W. Merrills was President of the Temple and performed the ceremony.

Trenton was their home for several years. While here he was road supervisor for quite a while. In the fall of 1887 the family moved to Cleveland, Idaho, and settled on Cottonwood Creek. They lived here for four years, then in 1891 James homesteaded one hundred and sixty acres under the Preemption Right on the divide between Cache and Gentile Valley at Cleveland, Idaho. Then he deeded half of this, which was eighty acres, to a brother-in-law, Robert Austin, so there would be another family out there with him. This is where he made his home throughout the rest of his life. He was one of the first school trustees at Cleveland.

On November 18, 1894, he was sustained as superintendent of Cleveland Ward Sunday School under the direction of Bishop John B. Thatcher. In April, 1899, he was called to fill a mission to the Northwestern States. The eldest daughter, Mary, was married by this time, and the two eldest sons, James, 17, and William, 15, were the sole support of the family while he was gone. In August of this year, their last child, a baby girl, was born. The family suffered many hardships and much sickness while he was away, but with the help of the Lord, they managed to get by. He was not released from being Sunday School superintendent during his absence, but Henry Larsen was called to act temporarily during this time. James filled an honorable mission and returned home in April 1901, and took over his duties as superintendent of the Sunday School once more. This position he held for a number of years.

On 28 January, 1903, he was ordained one of the seven presidents of the Seventies, 108th Quorum of Bannock Stake. He held this position for some time. He was an active ward teacher most of his life until his health failed.

On July 16, 1908, he and his wife were called by President Louis S. Pond of the Bannock Stake to the Logan Temple to receive their second endowments.

James and Agnes had eleven children, four boys and seven girls. All grew to maturity except the last one, Anna, who died at birth. Two of his boys filled missions, and one was called to the service of his country during World War I. He and his boys owned and operated a sawmill in Gentile Valley for several years.

All of his children grew up to be active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On April 21, 1921, a daughter, Elvina Ransom Hill, passed away, leaving a husband and one week old baby girl.

James Rowley Ransom passed away July 25, 1926, at the age of 70 years. 108 living descendants survived. He suffered greatly during his illness, never complaining, but faithful to the end. He was buried at Cleveland, Idaho.


  1. Elizabeth Rowley (1823-1897), James Rowley Ransom's mother, was born in Worfield, Shropshire England. I was surprised to see it spelled "Warfield").

    1. The person who wrote the sketch must have been writing from what they had heard someone say. Those kinds of errors seem pretty common in these old autobiographies and biographical sketches, which were likely written before internet was available to check on spelling and other facts.