Nathan Williams Packer
1811 - 1875
By Edson Smith Packer
NATHAN WILLIAMS PACKER'S LIFE spanned the period of pioneering and expansion of the United States from the Ohio River to the Pacific Coast. In 1812, a year after Nathan was born, we fought England again and gained the freedom of the seas. In 1848 we fought and won the Mexican War, giving us the territory now included in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah as well as parts of Colorado and Wyoming. When the Mormon Pioneers first came into Utah in 1847, it was Mexican Territory. In 1865 the Civil War came to an end, but not the wounds that it caused ‑- it would take many more years to do this. During this war the Mormons far removed from the actual conflict were busy colonizing the West from Mexico to Canada and Wyoming to the Pacific Coast ‑- all of this growth after the mobs of illiterate and bigoted people had sought to destroy them from the face of the earth. This life was demanding of a strong, dedicated, capable and courageous people who would be called upon to endure and suffer many hardships, including the lack of meager necessities of life, food, clothing, shelter and tools to work with. The sickness brought on from living under such conditions left many of their loved ones buried along the way. Such were the life and the strength of Nathan Williams Packer who was one of them.
Nathan Williams Packer was born January 2, 1811. In 1811 Nathan's father, Moses, was a member of the Society of Friends at the Concord Monthly Meeting held at Colerain in Belmont County, Ohio. Nathan and his brothers and sisters were born with a Quaker birthright, as both their mother (Eve Williams)and father were members of the Society of Friends. At this time, there were three Quaker colonies or settlements in this area, one at Short Creek and one at Plymouth, Smithfield in Jefferson County, and the Colerain settlement in Belmont County. These Quaker settlements were not more than twenty miles from one another. The old Quaker Church at Mt. Pleasant where the Short Creek Monthly Meeting was held is still standing and is marked as a historical site on the maps of Ohio. The Concord Monthly Meeting held at Colerain in Belmont County is only about three miles from Jefferson County line. It is not known for sure where Moses Packer's farm was, whether in Jefferson of Belmont County. The County boundaries have been changed since 1811.
Nathan Williams Packer was the ninth child in a family of six brothers and six sisters. He was named after his great-grandfather, Nathan Phipps, an ardent Quaker, and his Grandfather Williams, the father of his mother Eve Williams.
Moses and Eve lived in Fayette County, Pennsylvania from their marriage in 1790 until 1801. Nathan's older brothers, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, James Dalton and his sisters, Margaret and Sarah, were born there. The family first lived on Salt Lick Creek in the eastern part of the county.
Nathan's father, Moses, made a request to be accepted into the Redstone Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends and was accepted there on 30 January 1801. Redstone was called Fort Redstone and was on the main traveled colonial road going into Ohio. This move took him to the western boundary of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The Moses Packer family later went to the Westland Monthly Meeting at Centerville in Washington County. Our branch of the Packer family was on its westward move again, and by 1803 when Nathan's sister, Hannah, was born, the family was in the Quaker community at Colerain in Belmont County, Ohio and members of the Concord Monthly Meeting.
Moses and Eve stayed in this area until about 1813 when he made a request to become a member or Friend at the Short Creek Monthly Meeting. For some reason he didn't go to Short Creek at that time, but went to Smithfield and was a member at the Plymouth-Smithfield Monthly Meeting for eight months, when he did go to Short Creek. Short Creek was a very thriving settlement. The Quakers had built grist mills and weaving mills along the Short Creek which supplied them with plenty of water. Moses and his family stayed in Short Creek about two years. While Nathan's mother and father were in this area his sisters, Hannah, Eliza, Mary Ann and Jane were born. Nathan was also born here in 1811. (See Map "Ohio ‑- North Central and Eastern Section")
In 1815 Nathan's mother and father moved their family again ‑- by now it had grown to thirteen members. This move took them into Richland County, Ohio ‑- a hundred miles to the west. Nathan's oldest brother, Aaron, was twenty-two years old and Nathan only four years old at that time. Like the rest of Ohio, Richland County was heavily wooded, making travel difficult. Streams and rivers were used wherever possible. Otherwise, trails were cut through the woods. Often old Indian trails were used. Most often the settlers took with them what they could carry themselves or put on a horse. Most furniture was made by hand after they had carved out a clearing large enough for a cabin and a "track patch" or garden and had erected their cabin of logs. Water was a necessity of life so most settlers were found on the banks of a creek, a river or close by. Nathan's father settled his family on a creek in the southwestern end of Richland County in Perry Township on a quarter section of land he bought at the Wooster Land Office in Wooster, Ohio, designated as SW 1/4 of Section 36, Township 19, Range 19. (See Map of Richland County, Ohio)
Here Nathan's father, Moses, was a member of the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting. At this time, Nathan's father was 51 years old and his mother, Eve, was 47. Nathan was to grow to manhood and marry here in Perry in Richland County. Nathan's younger brother, Jonathan Taylor, was born in Perry July 26, 1817.
This was Moses Packer's last move; he lived in Perry for fifteen years where he died September 10, 1830 being 66 years of age. His death being recorded in the records of the Society of Friends in the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting. He was buried in the Quaker Cemetery at Middlebury, Knox County and as we have already stated it was only about three miles from the Packer farm. All the time Nathan's father, Moses, lived in Perry he was a member of the Alum Creek Society of Friends Monthly Meeting.
When Nathan's father died, Nathan and Elizabeth Taylor had been married for nearly two and one-half years. They were married March 31, 1828. Nathan was 17 years old and Elizabeth 16 years old.
Nathan had grown up under the influence of a Quaker mother and father and apparently he was deeply religious as he grew up, for he surely was in his later life. He must have been learning the trade of a millwright as he became very skilled in this trade. In this respect he followed the footsteps of his great-grandfather, Phillip Packer, Jr., who built a grist mill near Elkton, Maryland in between Chesapeake and Delaware Bays about 1731. He also later built a saw mill. Nathan Williams young bride, Elizabeth Taylor, was the daughter of Mary Shaffer and Samuel Taylor. She was born December 6, 1812 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
In Hazel Preece Norton's history of Nathan Williams Packer she describes Elizabeth Taylor as a very beautiful girl ‑- not only good looking but intelligent and refined. She was 5 feet 8 inches tall, very stately and slim. She loved beautiful things in life and was a good cook and seamstress; she could cord and weave. She was always a very busy person and a good housekeeper. She had a very keen sense of humor and wit and loved music, which talent she passed on to her sons and daughters. So far not much is known of Elizabeth's mother and father and their family. (Delma Bosworth, 2162 Santalema Drive, Idaho Falls, Idaho is working on the Taylor line.)
Nathan and Elizabeth settled down in Perry in Richland County, Ohio after they were married. Their first child, Lewis Williams, was born March 15, 1831, 6 months after Nathan's father died.
Nathan's mother, Eve, married James Skinner July 9, 1837 in Perry, Richland County. Her youngest son, Jonathan Taylor, had left home and had gone to Kirtland, Ohio. Two of her sons, Nathan and Jonathan, had joined the Mormon Church. She was left alone. After she married James Skinner we lose track of her.
By 1833 there was considerable activity by religious leaders in the area where Nathan Williams Packer lived, especially around Newville, 12 miles to the northeast of Perry. In the Newville area Sidney Rigdon and his brother, Thomas, and Alexander Campbell had been preaching since 1825. Sidney Rigdon later went to New York and joined the Prophet, Joseph Smith. They both later came to Kirtland, Ohio. Nathan became interested in the teachings of the Mormons and joined the Mormon Church, being baptized December 12, 1833. As they baptized by immersion in the rivers or streams, Nathan's baptism must have been a chilling experience at that time of the year. It is so far not known whether Elizabeth, his wife, was baptized at this time.
By the time Nathan had joined the Mormons he and Elizabeth had three children ‑- Lewis Williams, Martha Jane and James.
On September 4, 1836 Nathan and his family were still in Perry Township, Richland County, Ohio. In the Ohio Journal Records of the LDS Church we find the following items:
"Sunday, September 4, 1836 conference was held in the Perry Church, Richland County, Ohio with Henry G. Sherwood in the chair and George C. Wilson acting as clerk.
"Priest Daniel Cam represented the Church as having 37 members nearly all in good standing. Elder Henry G. Sherwood represented seven members near Granville, Licking County, Ohio all in good standing making 121 members in all. It was voted that James Huntsman, a Priest in the Perry Branch then off on a mission, should be ordained an Elder. William Werick, John McVay and John Jenkins were ordained Priests. Nathan W. Packer was ordained a Teacher and Jacob Werick a Deacon."
By this time Nathan's brother, Jonathan, had joined the Mormon Church. He was baptized March 19, 1836, and when Nathan was ordained a Teacher, Jonathan was in Kirtland with the Mormons there. William Hamilton Packer, Nathan's other brother that joined the Mormons, didn't join until later ‑- about 1850 and missed the early persecution of Nauvoo and Missouri. He went with the "gold rush" to California, then came back to Utah.
On May 14, 1837 Nathan W. and Elizabeth Packer, along with John E. and Sarah Brown and George and Mary Ann Coon (Sarah and Mary Ann were Nathan's sisters) signed deeds to the land left to them by their father, Moses Packer, to Robert Chambers. This was in Perry, Richland County, Ohio.
In Delma Bosworth's records she has William listed as having been born in Vigo County, Indiana May 22, 1838. This indicates that Nathan and Elizabeth had left Ohio after May 14, 1837 and were in Vigo County, Indiana by May 22, 1838. Vigo County is on the western boundary of Indiana. When they left Ohio, they took four children with them ‑- Lewis, Martha Jane, James Dalton and Isaac Hopmire. Samuel who was born April 29, 1837 lived only one day.
The journey from Perry, Ohio to Nauvoo, Illinois was about 458 miles as the crow flies. Mary Ann Packer, their second daughter was born October 18, 1839 in Sangamon County, Illinois. Sangamon is 100 miles to the southeast of Nauvoo. This definitely establishes Nathan and Elizabeth and their family in Illinois in 1839. The next record we have of Nathan shows him paying taxes on a piece of ground designated as C 6.8 SEC 19 Hancock County, Illinois. It is believed that this was in Nauvoo or close to Nauvoo for it is recorded that on February 11, 1842 Nathan Williams Packer received a Patriarchal Blessing from Hyrum Smith, the brother of Prophet Joseph in the City of Nauvoo. In this blessing Nathan was told he was of the lineage of Joseph. Also in the Journal History it is recorded that in 1843 Nathan Williams Packer went on a two-month mission to Indiana with Ab Hunsaker. In 1844 they went on a three-month mission again into Indiana. In 1845 both Nathan and his wife, Elizabeth, received a Patriarchal Blessing from William Smith, also a brother of the Prophet Joseph. Elizabeth was told that she was of the lineage of Ephraim. In the general index file, box 32 it lists Nathan as having been ordained a Seventy October 8, 1844 in Nauvoo.
An attempt was made to find Nathan Williams Packer among other Nauvoo records, but the writer was informed at the Genealogical Library that most of the Nauvoo records were lost when a wagon carrying the records tipped over while crossing a river, spilling all its contents in the water. But we are grateful for the information we have been able to find.
Nathan and Elizabeth were driven out of Nauvoo with the rest of the Mormons in 1846. While they had lived in Nauvoo three daughters were born ‑- Elizabeth May 25, 1842 (she died when only two years old), Emma April 19, 1844 and Mary Eliza March 8, 1846. Mary Eliza was just a baby when they were forced to flee Nauvoo. Just when Nathan and his family left is not known but the next we hear of him he is in Andrew County, Missouri, northwest of St. Joseph.
Thomas L. Kane, in a discourse before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania March 26, 1850, made the following observation about Nauvoo. It is to be noted that he came upon Nauvoo just a few days after the Mormons were driven out by the mob. "From the place where the deep water of the river returns my eye wearied to see everywhere sordid, vagabond and idle settlers; and a country marred without being improved by their careless hands. I was descending the last hillside upon my journey when a landscape in delightful contrast broke upon my view. Half encircled by a bend of the river, a beautiful city lay glittering in the fresh morning sun; its bright new dwellings set in cool green gardens ranging up around a stately dome-shaped hill, which was crowned by a noble marble edifice whose high tapering spire was radiant with white and gold. The city appeared to cover several miles and, beyond it in the background, there rolled off a fair country chequered by the careful lines of fruitful husbandry. The unmistakable marks of industry, enterprise, and educated wealth everywhere made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty. It was a natural impulse to visit this inviting region. I procured a skiff and rowing across the river landed at the chief wharf of the city. No one met me there. I looked and saw no one. I could hear no one move. I walked through the solitary streets. The town lay as in a dream under some deadened spell of loneliness from which I almost feared to wake it for plainly it had not slept long.
"I went about unchecked. I went into empty work shops, rope walks and smithies. The spinner's wheel was idle, the carpenter had gone from his work bench and shavings, his unfinished sash and casing. Fresh bark was in the tanner's vat and the fresh chopped wood stood piled against the baker's oven. The blacksmith shop was cold but his coal and ladling pool and crooked water-horn were all there as if he had just gone off for a holiday. I could have supposed the people hidden in the houses, but the doors were unfastened. On the outskirts of the town was the city graveyard but there was no record of plague there. There were fields upon fields of heavy yellow grain lay rotting ungathered upon the ground. No one at hand to take in their rich harvest.
"Only two portions of the city seemed to suggest the import of this mysterious solitude. On the eastern suburb, the houses looking out upon the country showed by their splintered woodwork and walls battered to the foundation, that they had lately been the marks of a destructive cannonade. And in and around the splendid Temple, which had been the chief object of my admiration, armed men were barracked, surrounded by their stacks of musketry and pieces of heavy ordinance. They told the story of the dead city that had been a notable manufacturing and commercial mart sheltering some 20,000 persons; that they had waged war with its inhabitants for several years and had finally been successful only a few days before my visit, in an action fought in front of the ruined suburb, after which they driven them forth at the point of the sword. The defense they said had been obstinate but gave way on the third day's bombardment."
Where had the people gone who had built the beautiful city, the beautiful white marble temple crowned with gold which had just been completed? Where had the people gone who had left their homes, their shops, their mills, their unharvested crops? They had disappeared over the western horizon at the mercy of God and nature. Nathan and his family went with them.
Over the western horizon 200 miles to the west went the Nathan Williams Packer family. They were making out an existence in a little log cabin in Andrew County, Missouri when Nathan Taylor was born August 8, 1848. They were still there when Walter McFarland was born April 23, 1850. During this time in Missouri many hardships were encountered by Nathan and his family ‑- the lack of food, clothing and other necessities, physical suffering plagued them constantly to say nothing of the persecution experienced by them. Many of the Mormons had already crossed the plains by 1850. The only Mormons in Andrew County were a few families who went there to find work so that they could get enough money to buy supplies and equipment to cross the plains to Utah. No church records were kept in Andrew County.
In the latter part of April, and it must have been after Walter McFarland was born, Nathan Williams Packer and his family joined the David Evans Company crossing the plains to Utah. The perpetual emigration fund made it possible for him to get the needed supplies and equipment for the long hard journey. When Nathan and Elizabeth left for Utah, they had nine living children. The oldest, Lewis William, was 19 years old, the youngest, Walter McFarland, only about two weeks old ‑- what a time for Elizabeth, Nathan's wife, to start on such a rigorous journey. Their teams consisted of cows and oxen.
It is interesting to note that by the time the David Evans Company went through Fort Laramie, a stopping place for all immigrants going west, the pioneer trail west was well traveled. The offices at the Fort kept count of all traffic ‑- by 1850 they had counted 16,915 men, 235 women, 242 children, 4,672 wagons, 14,974 horses, 4,641 mules, 7,475 oxen and 1,653 cows.
The David Evans Company arrived in Salt Lake Valley in September 1850. The winter of 1850 was no doubt spent by Nathan and his family in Salt Lake where they could recover from their trip across the plains and await their assignment as Brigham Young and the other Church leaders were busy colonizing the west and especially Utah.
In the Spring of 1851, Nathan and Elizabeth were sent to Mountainville in Utah County. Mountainville was later changed to Alpine, and Nathan settled close to the mouth of American Fork Canyon.
When the first settlers came to the area around American Fork Creek, they found a few roving bands of Indians. These belonged to the family of Shoshones. The Indians found in this area were a low type and were eking out a rather meager existence. Their food consisted mainly of fish and game, supplemented with berries and roots. It is also related that when grasshoppers were numerous, quantities of them were caught and dried. Later they were beaten fine and made into cakes and considered quite a delicacy.
When many of the Saints were settled, or even before, many of them were rebaptized, believing that now they were away from their enemies and trials and hardships of the pioneer trail, they would have a fresh start in Zion and besides, most of the Nauvoo church records were lost in a river crossing. Nathan was rebaptized on April 14, 1851 and Elizabeth on April 13, 1851 ‑- both were baptized by John Crawford. While Nathan lived in the Mountainville Ward his name appears on the record as blessing some of the children in the ward. He baptized his daughter, Emma, January 5, 1853.
In the Early History of American Fork, page 98, we read the following: "In pioneer days about the only thing of any consequence that was not made in the home was the flour. In 1852, Lorenzo H. Hatch and Nathan Packer built the first real flour mill in Utah County at the mouth of American Fork Canyon. This pioneer mill was destroyed by fire after doing a very little grinding but it was soon rebuilt and was known for many years as 'Packer's Mill'."
Nathan was the second Packer to build a grist mill. His great-grandfather, Phillip Packer, Jr., had built a grist mill in Maryland in between Delaware and Chesapeake Bays in 1731, a hundred and twenty years earlier.
The Packer Mill was doing a good business when it burned down. In the Deseret News for February 7, 1852 there appeared the following article about the mill:
"The grist mill on the American Fork Creek burned on Saturday night, January 31, owned by N. W. Packer and L. E. A. Hatch. Said mill had been in operation only two months. Loss estimated at $1,400. Machinery supposed to be worth $600. Also grain burned in the amount of 120 bushels. The loss of the mill will be greatly felt in this part of the valley. It was doing a good business and was a good accommodation to the brethren. I understand Brother Packer is left destitute of almost everything and only breadstuff to last the week."
Charles Hopkins writes the following in the same article: "Brethren about American Fork are you sorry for Brother Packer? If so, how much? Suppose it will cost the brethren living within ten miles of the burnt mill $3,000 in time, team, etc. to go some fifteen, twenty or thirty miles to mill the coming year. Again suppose those same brethren during the coming fortnight appropriate one-half of said time, team, etc. or $1,500 of the $3,000 to hauling timber, hewing, framing, raising, lumbering and drawing a few loads of lumber and helping start another mill for Brother Packer. What will be the result? Within a few days he will again have a mill to accommodate his neighbors who will save themselves $1,500 in the job by enriching the miller $1,500. Brethren does this look like economy; like being sorry for a friend's calamity, doing like as you would be done unto? When another mill built before harvest, and the neighborhood saves $1,500 by giving the poor miller $1,500 now while they can't do much else; yes, that is the doctor's prescription. Try it and see if it isn't the perfect 'fire cure all'."
The brethren rallied around Brother Hopkins call for help and the mill was rebuilt and known for years as "Packer's Mill." Nathan ran the mill for several years and then sold it to Daniel A. Allen and moved his family to Provo. His name doesn't appear in the Mountainville Ward after 1854. While in Mountainville, Nathan and Elizabeth added two more sons to their already large family ‑- Moses, born July 9, 1852 and Jonathan Taylor born the same year that Martha Jane, his sister, died, January 20, 1854. It was in about 1855 the Mountainville Ward changed its name to Alpine.
Sometime in 1854 or '55 Nathan and his family moved to Provo and they lived in the Provo Second Ward. In the records of the ward Nathan is recorded as being a member of the 7th Quorum of Seventy on March 17, 1858. On May 14, 1857 Elizabeth and Nathan's youngest and last child was born ‑- Edson Whipple Packer, my grandfather. They apparently named him after Edson Whipple who was the second counselor in the Provo Second Ward Bishopric and who later moved to Arizona.
Nathan's family along with others experienced some difficulties with the Indians in Utah County. Nathan's son-in-law, Benjamin Stewart, the husband of his daughter, Mary Ann, was killed by the Indians while still a young man in his early twenties. She later married Peter Preece.
In the spring of 1860 when Johnston's Army was moving out of Utah, a group of Saints was called to settle northern Cache Valley in Utah. The Nathan Williams Packer family was one of those called to go. At this time Nathan and Elizabeth had eight children at home ‑- James, the oldest, was 25 years of age and Edson Whipple, the youngest, being only three years old. The road up Box Elder Canyon was very bad and travel was difficult. Their wagons and oxen were in poor shape by the time they got to Wellsville and they had to stop there a month before going on. When they finally settled down, they were in Franklin, Idaho but at the time they thought they were still in Utah.
Because of Indian troubles, they were forced to build a fort for protection. They built their cabins in a square with the backs of cabins outside and the doors facing the inside of the square ‑- 60 rods by 90 rods. The cabins were built close together for greater protection. The corrals were built outside the fort. While the fort was being built, the settlers camped in their wagons. When the fort was finished, the families were assigned to a cabin by number. James Packer, Nathan's son, was assigned cabin number 12 on the north side behind the bowery. Nephi Packer, a son of Jonathan Taylor Packer, was assigned cabin number 80 on the west side and Nathan Packer was assigned cabin number 36 on the east side.
Inside the fort they built a schoolhouse ‑- a one-room log building with a dirt roof and dirt floor. A big stone fireplace was on one end and three small windows on one side. The benches were made of split logs with wooden pegs for legs. The building also served as a church and in cold weather as a recreation hall. The school teacher only had one book reader and one speller for the entire school. The fort and school were started on April 14 and were ready for use in August ‑- after three and one-half months of hard labor. On May 26, 1860 the first land was plowed, gardens planted, the town site surveyed and a ditch was dug.
In the beginning the pioneers experienced a cold winter of 1860-61. There was a lack of wood and constant trouble from the Indians. They were stealing horses, chickens, grain and almost anything they could get their hands on. The settlers hardly ever left the fort without some kind of protection. A watch was kept on Little Mountain night and day. The Indians continued to harass the pioneers by appearing in the settlement and demanding food and running off stock, and several of the settlers were killed by them.
A request was sent to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City for aid. On January 22, 1863, Captain Hoyt was ordered to set out for Franklin with 69 infantries, two howitzers, a baggage train of 15 wagons and 12 mounted guards. Two days later Colonel Connor himself set out with 220 cavalries. They traveled in deep snow and zero weather and reached Franklin in four days. The day before the troops arrived a band of Indians under Chief Bear Hunter rode into Franklin and demanded wheat. The settlers gave them 24 bushels but they were not satisfied and threatened the inhabitants with tomahawks and performed a war dance around the Bishop's house.
Colonel P. E. Connor had determined to punish the Indians for their harassing of the settlers and their continued depredations against the immigrants on the Oregon Trail.
At 3:00 a.m. on January 29 the infantry was ordered to march on the Indian stronghold 12 miles north up the Bear River. They reached the confluence of Battle Creek and the Bear River about daylight. The Indians were located on the north side of Bear River. The Indians had fortified themselves in a ravine about three quarters of a mile long and from six to twelve feet deep. Steps had been cut out so the warriors could easily mount and fire over the rampart. In the bottom the tents were pitched in the willows. To the east the Indians had woven a network of willows, leaving loopholes through which they could fire without exposing themselves. Behind this barrier forked sticks were stuck into the ground for rifle rests.
The day was bitter cold and the Bear River was full of floating ice. The Indians appeared on the ramparts and taunted the troops ‑- one chief riding up and down waving his spear. As the detachment rode forward, it was met with a murderous fire. After a 20 minute engagement Colonel Connor could see that a frontal attack wouldn't work. So he ordered a flanking movement from the rear. While the flanking was going on the foot soldiers, with the help of the cavalry, crossed the Bear River and, although they were so cold they could hardly hold their weapons, poured a withering fire into the ravine.
When it was all over ‑- the battle had raged for four hours ‑- the time being about 10:00 a.m. In a hasty examination Connor counted 224 dead Indians including Chief Bear Hunter, Saquitch and Lehi. Chief Pocatello was reported as having escaped.
Colonel Connor's check of the battle casualties of the Indians was hastily done and inaccurate. Even before the wounded had left for Fort Douglas, Bishop Thomas sent out three men in a sleigh to the battlefield to see if any of the Indians had survived. What a sight greeted them! There were bodies everywhere ‑- eight deep in places. They counted over 400, nearly two-thirds of whom were women and children.
Chiefs Bear Hunter, Lehi and Saquitch were dead on the field. The party found two Indian women alive whose thighs had been broken by bullets, two little boys and a girl about three years old. The girl had eight flesh wounds in her body. The wounded Indians were taken back to Franklin where they were nursed back to health. The women left the next summer and joined a band of Shoshones. The children were adopted and raised in the Mormon faith.
The Battle of the Bear River was a massacre of the Indians. They fought to protect their tribal lands and there they fell ‑- men, women and children. It was one of the largest Indian battles in the United States and worse than the Custer massacre. Colonel Connor had ordered annihilation and that is just what happened, except for about twenty braves that escaped and the two wounded women and three children.
The Indians' stronghold was well stocked with supplies. One thousand bushels of wheat and considerable beef and other provisions were captured, as well as plenty of military stores and 175 horses. Many articles stolen from immigrant trains were found. Connor's losses were 14 killed and 49 wounded and 79 disabled with frozen feet. Nathan Packer was busy helping to take care of the wounded ‑- something in which he was quite proficient. Connor reached Fort Douglas again on February 4 and the whole operation had taken two weeks.
This battle of Battle Creek, as it is called, broke the power of the Indians and the settlers began settling surrounding areas. However, it was not over with yet. In mid September 1864 a band of drunken Indians rode into Franklin, and one Indian attempted to strike Mary Ann Alder in the head with a tomahawk as she was crossing the street, but Benjamin Chadwick was carrying a gun and shot the Indian just in time. This made the rest of the Indians angry and the entire band, numbering 300, galloped into town threatening to destroy the entire settlement if Chadwick wasn't turned over to them. When the demand was refused, they grabbed McCullen Hull.
Messengers, in the manner of Paul Revere, were sent to the surrounding settlements and during the night some 300 militia arrived and, when morning came, the Indians were surprised to see such a large force assembled. After a conference an agreement was reached. A couple of days later Chief Washakee sent back 100 horses which his warriors had stolen. The Indian trouble in the area was over.
As things settled down, families moved out to surrounding areas and began establishing farms and communities.
Nathan Packer, along with several other families, namely the Robert Homes', Joseph Nelson's and the William Davis', decided to settle the area that became known as Bridge Port. It was across the Bear River located at the mouth of Deep Creek about two and one-half miles northwest of Preston and about 12 miles north of Franklin. It was located on the west bank of the Bear River and was on the old Oregon and Montana trail. Riverdale was several miles to the east on the river. Some of the descendants of Nathan and Elizabeth still live in Riverdale.
There were several families settled at Bridge Port. It became an important post on the Oregon Trail for it was where the immigrants to Oregon and miners to Montana crossed the river. The Gilmer and Salisbury stage line maintained a station there. Nathan W. Packer built his cabin in Bridge Port and later Leonidas Clinton Meacham built a cabin on the other side of the river several miles to the east in Riverdale. Two of the Packer boys, Nathan Taylor and Edson Whipple, married two of the Meacham girls. Nathan Taylor married Mary Elvira ‑- he was 20 years old and she was 17. Edson Whipple married Sarah Avilda ‑- she was 16 years old and he was 19. Sarah Avilda is my grandmother.
On July 1, 1864 Ben Halliday started stage service from Salt Lake City to Montana and on August 8, 1864 he began a tri-weekly stage from Salt Lake City to the Dalles in Oregon. Both stage lines went through Bridge Port. Nathan Williams Packer built and operated a ferry at Bridge Port that helped the travel to the north. The Oneida County records show that a license was granted April 12, 1869 to Packer and Davis to operate a ferry on the Bear River at Bridge Port. Later Nathan started to build a bridge across the Bear River right close to the ferry. This was no small undertaking but Nathan knew what he was doing. The bridge was built on logs which were driven into the river bed by a huge homemade pile driver. Nathan built a huge frame that was thirty or forty feet high, and a large log hammer was raised up by a team of horses and then tripped thus gradually driving the log piling into the river bed. This shows the ingenuity and skill of Nathan Packer as a millwright. The bridge was then built on these pilings. The bridge was operated as a toll bridge. In the Oneida County records for July 6, 1875 a license was issued to the Packer Bridge Company allowing them to charge a toll. The immigrants and other travelers headed north or south were thankful for the accommodation of the bridge.
On June 21, 1957 at 10:30 a.m. some members of the Nathan Williams Packer family and civic leaders and citizens of the area gathered to dedicate a monument erected in memory and honor of Nathan Williams Packer where his bridge spanned the Bear River. The dedicatory prayer was given by his grandson, Eastus W. Packer, who is a country poet of distinction and has published a book of remarkable poems, mostly about life in Riverdale. The last words of the prayer are worthy of inclusion in this history. He said, "We are grateful to Thee for the heritage of the Packer family, for a grandfather who was interested in building bridges and boats that others may cross in safety."
In the Franklin Ward records there are several entries listing Nathan Williams Packer as having performed a number of ordinances. He blessed his daughter, Mary Ann, September 2, 1866, blessed William Jones Roberts May 18, 1864, and blessed Thomas Mendenhall September 24, 1865. On August 28, 1864 he confirmed his son, Edson Whipple, a member of the Church. He was only seven years and three months old at the time.
On October 22, 1866 Nathan Williams took unto himself a second wife, Mary Jane Winn. Our generation knows very little about her. At this time Nathan was 55 years old.
In the census for Cache County, Utah for 1870, it lists Nathan W. Packer and his wife, Mary (Mary Jane Winn), as living in Bridge Port with their daughter, Julia, four years old and a son, John, two years old. In the LDS Church index file, two sons are listed ‑- John and Marion. In the report of his death in The Deseret News, November 8, 1875 it states that when Nathan Williams went for a load of willows, he had one of his little boys with him. This would seem to verify the fact that Nathan and his second wife, Mary Jane Winn, had two sons and a daughter. At present I have been unable to find any trace of the children or Mary Jane, his second wife, after Nathan's death.
***** Note by Larry M. Packer *****
Quite a bit more information regarding Mary Jane Winn has been found which I'll insert here. Her parents met and married in Nauvoo where one or two of their older children were born. The family left Nauvoo with the rest of the saints but remained in Iowa for a few years where Mary Jane and other children were born. The family then came to Utah in the early to mid 1850's and settled in Cache Valley in the Franklin area. We read of the Winn family herding cattle in the Preston area in the mid 1860's and then later living at Battle Creek which is just up the river from Bridgeport (THE HISTORY OF A VALLEY by the Cache Valley Centennial Commision pp. 67 & 71).
Mary Jane married Gabriel Mayberry who was some 28 years her senior when she was 16 and they had a child named Julia Ann that was born in January of 1866. Evidently Mr. Mayberry was not a very good husband or father, as he was soon gone from the picture.
We find that in October of 1866 Nathan Williams Packer married Mary Jane in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City. Just how this came about I'm not certain, but it was a polygamous marriage and may have been requested of Nathan by Church Authorities (or maybe not). Nathan and Mary Jane lived at Bridge Port and Elizabeth moved back to Franklin. Over the next nine years five sons were born to Nathan and Mary Jane; John, Francis, Parley, Lorenzo and Ezra. Julia Ann, Mary Jane's first child, lived with them also.
Sometime after Nathan's death in 1875 Mary Jane took her five living children and moved to Richfield, Sevier County, Utah, where it appears that her father was now living, it is also thought that her mother had died while in Cache Valley. Within a year or so after arriving in Richfield she married a Jeremiah Haun who died shortly in 1878. Mary Jane herself did not live much longer as she died in 1881 or 1882 in Richfield. We lose track of some of the children at this point, and her descendants that we know of did not continue for long. Julie Ann never married and died in 1922 in Richmond, Utah. John married, moved to Vernal, Utah and had two children but no grandchildren. Francis was last heard of living in Redmond, just north of Richfield. Parley and Lorenzo had died young and nothing is known of Ezra, the youngest.
***** End of note, Larry M. Packer, September, 1997 *****
Apparently polygamy was too much for Elizabeth and she moved to Franklin with her four sons, Walter, Moses, Jonathan and Edson Whipple, leaving Nathan Williams and his young wife, Mary Jane Winn, to live alone in Bridge Port in the old homestead. Elizabeth spent the last few years of her life living with her son, Nathan Taylor Packer, who lived in Riverdale.
The last three or four years of Nathan Williams' life he was quite feeble and had a difficult time getting around and doing his work. Here again he reminds us of his great-grandfather Phillip Packer, Jr., who also was quite feeble during the latter part of his life. He injured his back in a fall in a saw mill.
Nathan went out on Friday, October 27, 1875 with his son, John, who was eight years old at the time, to get a load of willows. They went about 2 miles from their home. John said that his father would get a few willows and put them on the wagon and then sit down and rest. He finally got a small load and started home. When he got into the middle of the Bear River he lay down on his back, spoke to the horses to "git up" and died without a struggle. The horses stopped for several minutes and then went to the shore and stopped again with the hind wheels of the wagon still in the water. His small son, John, thought for some time that his father was asleep but as he could not awaken him he concluded that he was dead. After remaining with his father for some two hours, he started and walked back to the farm and reported what had happened. One of the stock tenders of the Gilmer and Salisbury Stage Line went and brought the team and wagon and Nathan's body home.
Nathan had earlier told his son, James, that he wouldn't live through the winter and he also told one of his neighbors that when he died it would be on a load of wood. He had placed himself on the load of willows in such a manner that he could not be thrown off.
The following was said of him: "He has acted as president of the settlement of Bridge Port on the Bear River for three years and has always been a firm believer and a strong advocate of the Latter-day work bearing testimony to all with whom he conversed in support of Joseph Smith's and President Brigham Young's mission. He left fourteen living children and upwards of thirty grandchildren. He was a man of great patience in all the afflictions and privations which he was called to go through."
The funeral was held in Franklin, Monday, November 1, 1875. There was a large attendance at the funeral ‑- Elder Jeremiah Hatch from Smithfield and Bishop L. H. Hatch spoke at the funeral and had the sermon on the resurrection read, which was preached at the last conference.
Nathan's first wife, Elizabeth, who had shared all of the hardships and raised a large family while pioneering most of her life, was to live twelve years longer when she passed away May 17, 1887 and was laid to rest beside the man with whom she had traveled 2000 miles over pioneer trails. They both maintained their patience in face of adversity and their strong faith in God throughout their life, an example to all who follow after them.
NOTE: This history was compiled August 1976 by Edson S. Packer. Our grateful thanks to him for all his research, time, effort and travel to bring Nathan and Elizabeth to life for us.
2Pa. Census 1790, 1800.
Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy.
Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy.
History of Richland County, page 551.
Aspden vs. Aspden, pg. 138-143.
Warren Packer, Phillip Packer Family in America.
History of Richland County, Ohio, pg. 196.
Land Records of Richland County, Ohio.
History of Richland County, Ohio, pg. 197.
Tax Records Hancock County 1842.
Journal History of Nauvoo, LDS Church History Archives.
Journal History of Nauvoo, LDS Church History Archives.
History of the Mormon Battalion by Sergeant Daniel Tyler, pg. 64-65.
From the history of Nathan Taylor Packer.
Journal History, LDS Church History Archives.
Early History of American Fork., pg. 14.
.Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy.