William Walton Burton Histories

From Autobiography of Mary Ellen Burton:

My grandfather William Walton Burton was a polygamist who had married 3 sisters, Rachel, Ellen, and Sarah Ann Fielding, daughters of Joseph Fielding. When the U.S. Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Law in March 1887 making polygamy illegal, the U.S. Marshalls came to Utah with instructions to arrest and imprison all men who had more than one wife. So the men went into hiding and if a Marshall was seen word was quickly and secretly passed so the men could flee. Many times they had to leave in the middle of the night. Father said often Grandfather would run out on foot, at night, after telling him where to meet, then Father, or one of the other older boys, would saddle two horses, or take the team and wagon, and take a round-about journey, eventually come to rendezvous or meet Grandfather at the appointed place. Then they would journey into the mountains for several weeks, leaving the families to get along as best they could.

Grandfather Ballantyne was not a polygamist so his home became a place of hiding when Marshalls were too close for men to get away. The home would frequently be searched to see of any polygamists were there. I recall one story (whether it was in the Ballantyne home or some other I don't know) but a man came running in and before there was time to hide him the Marshall was seen approaching the house; so the woman said "Get on your hands and knees!" He did so, and she sat on his back spreading her several full petticoats and skirt over him and began knitting. When the Marshall knocked she called "Come in." He entered and seeing no man demanded permission to search the house. So he quickly searched everything while she calmly went on with her knitting. Not finding a man, he departed and hurried on with his search of the area. Afterwards the man was more properly hidden.

To go on with Grandfathers' trips, it was on one such that he went to Star Valley in Wyoming and having learned that WyomingÍs Gov. Warren was protecting the Mormons, because they were home loving, law abiding and made good settlers, decided to move some of his families there. They established a large dairy, a mercantile store and a creamery where they made butter and cheese. Other polygamists joined in settling the beautiful valley; Calls, Gardners, Clarks and Caziers were some early settlers.

So with Grandfather having moved his families there I had many cousins who were Burtons. Ann and Carol were my age, and all of my sisters had cousins their ages so we had good times together.

The Burtons were taught not to quarrel, or swear, or lie, or steal, and to always use correct English. Work was very important to life and happiness. To say we would do something was as good as a promise.


Compiled and submitted by Josephine Burton Bagley, Burton Family Genealogist and youngest child of William Walton Burton

William Walton Burton, the fifth child and third son of James and Isabella Walton Burton was born the 23rd of March 1833 in the rapidly growing industrialized city of Bradford, Yorkshire, England. James was a Wool Comber and a Water Hawker. To find better employment, the family had recently moved there, from their ancestral home in Gayle of Hawes.

After his parents were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 4th of June 18442, the family attended meetings and were fond of hearing the Elders preach. On the 6th of May 1845, when William was 12 years old, he was baptized by Elder Elijah F. Sheets, a missionary. He observed early in life the importance of an education. Perhaps inspired by his Uncle Christopher Walton, head book keeper of a large firm, whom he admired because of his success and influence, he determined that all his leisure time should be spent in gaining knowledge. He confided his ambition to his father who gave him money to buy a book, ñReading Made Easy.î After learning to read he studied night after night by candle light, then found he could do better by arising early and studying before going to work. He even studied while he ate. He studied grammar, he practiced writing„not for publication but for self-improvement. He took a class in phonography and practiced until he could write up to 150 words per minute. This short hand writing he used all the rest of his life. He had a beautiful hand writing, was an excellent speller and a good mathematician.

When Willie was about sixteen he was ordained a teacher and asked to spend a few hours each Sabbath distributing tracts. This he did for about two years. At 18 he was ordained an Elder and called to be a missionary in Northern England, leaving home April 26, 1851. This was after his fatherÍs death, and it was a great sacrifice to his widowed mother, as her oldest son Robert had gone to America, she needed WilliamÍs help.

He was greatly blessed during his two year mission, and many faith promoting experiences occurred which are recorded in his autobiography, which was later published by the Juvenile Instructor under the title ñLittle Willie.î Upon returning home it was decided that he should go to America and join his brother Robert, and the two of them would work to bring Isabella and the other children to join them, with the Saints.

He sailed from Liverpool on the ship Windemere, on February 22, 1854, and was eight weeks and five days on the ocean. Forty cases of smallpox broke out on the ship, and thirteen died. The ship took fire, but was extinguished by a bucket brigade, in which William took part. Provisions gave out and the passengers were limited to one sea biscuit a day.

Cholera set in as they moved up the Mississippi River, and William became very ill with the disease. William felt he would have died had it not been for his faith, and determination to keep his promise to his mother to help bring them to Zion. He crossed the plains by ox team and arrived in Salt Lake City, September 23, 1854. He went to Kaysville, where he was kindly received by his brother Robert and family.

On the 28th of March 1856 he married Rachel Fielding. (Details of his romance and marriage to Rachel are told in his longer story.) Later he married her two sisters, Ellen, November 12, 1861, and Sarah Ann on May 23, 1870.

To William and Rachel thirteen children were born: Isabelle, Hannah, Joseph, William, Rachel, Sarah Ellen, James, Mary Eliza, Martha, Christopher, Robert I., Vilate Pearl, and Julina May.

To William and Ellen eight children were born: Mercy Rachel, Margaret, Heber, Hyrum, John, Lucy, Mabel, Reuben.

To William and Sarah Ann nine children were born: Thomas, Arthur, Alice Ann, Parley, Wilford, Emma, Ephraim, George, and Josephine.

Thirty children in all„fifteen daughters and fifteen sons„one daughter was stillborn, five died in infancy and a fifteen year old daughter was accidentally drowned. Twenty three children grew to adulthood, to take places of honor and responsibility in community, church and business life. The boys and some of the girls took an active part in the business enterprises built by the family.

Though they were very poor at first, and had many discouraging experiences, they were young and full of hope and faith, and the Lord blessed them. Quoting from a letter he wrote to Hannah on her 50th birthday, he said:

. . . but in looking back through all the dark days and hard times and experiences of the half century that has no become a part of the great chain of the past . . . I can see the hand of God has been over us through it all. . . . We have the Gospel. . . without this the wealth of the world would be nothing.

His early experience and training served him well and brought him success in his business ventures. Memories of his children who worked with him give us a view of this part of his life. His activities were numerous and varied: ñfarming and teaching school in Kaysville, 1854-55 and 1862-63; in Ogden he taught school 1863 to 1871; Superintendent of Weber County Schools for ten years 1868-1878; Bookkeeper for the first Z.C.M.I. in Ogden 1871-1879, during which time he divided his time between business and Weber Schools.î (Martha)

ñFather at one time was surveyor in Weber County; a court stenographer, member of Ogden City Council, one of the Board of Control of State Mental Hospital at Provo. He organized the firms of Burton, Herrick and White, (merchandising) but later confined operations to handling farm implements. For a time he was a pardner of D. H. Perry in the flour milling business.î (Robert I.)

In 1865 he was called to sere as a counselor in the old 3rd Ward Bishopric. In 1870-1886 he served as a High Councilman in the old Weber Stake.

To find a place of refuge during the dark days of the Polygamy underground he moved his younger families to Star Valley in Wyoming, and his business in Ogden was interrupted. These were lonely years for Rachel, and stress and struggle years for Ellen and Sarah Ann as the families labored to establish themselves in pioneering experiences. WilliamÍs first claim, near Smoot, was stolen from him on a technicality and Burton Ranch had its beginning as they set up their first home on the banks of Swift Creek in Afton.

After coming to Wyoming he was appointed to be a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Wyoming by the Governor.

In the early Star Valley [years], necessary supplies were difficult to get. In order to assist the people Father started a merchandise store. Its beginnings were small. (The first supplies were kept in a covered wagon then in one end of his home.) It grew to be a business of considerable importance with a store in Afton and one in Freedom, with a warehouse in Montpelier, Idaho. (Thomas, Arthur, Reuben, George)

In August 1900, in connection with George Osmond and David W. Rainey, they started a creamery. Later they bought OsmondÍs and RaineyÍs interests and Burton and Sons Creameries operated in Afton and Freedom and Smoot. (After fatherÍs death in 1918, the Creamery business was sold to Kraft Cheese Company.)

To promote improvements of the dairy herds, Father and his sons shipped into Star Valley many carloads of pure bred and high grade Holstein dairy cattle and sold them to the people. Largely due to this venture Star Valley does excel in having fine Holstein cattle. (Thomas, Robert I., Chris, Wilford, Ephriam)

The operation of the Ranch, Stores, [and] Creameries was carried on by his sons, but fatherÍs wise counsel was most helpful. (Thomas, Chrissie, Wilford, Heber, Ephriam.)

When Star Valley Stake was organized the 14th of August 1892, William Walton Burton was chosen First Counselor to President George Osmond. His home was headquarters for visitors of the Church and State, as well as friends and family during those early years, a place of warm hospitality and charm. While serving in Star Valley Stake Presidency, he was called to be a member of the board of Directors of the Fielding Academy, a L. D.S high school in Paris, Idaho.

There was always love and unity in our Family. As we remember father he was essentially a family man, happiest when his family were around him working together, visiting and singing songs. He was mild mannered, of simple tastes, never used profanity, or even slang, always kept himself in perfect control. He was a man of few words, with a sense of humor, which enjoyed a joke if its humor was clean. (Daughter Rachel, Sarah Ellen, Josephine, and George, Robert I.)

Father was a great man„great in character, full of faith, kind and wise„a leader among men and raised an outstanding family. (Alice)

Father was independent. One time after a ride with Will, he took very ill and seemed unable to walk. Wilford, anxious to help said, ñFather, let me carry you„ñ. But father said, ñ„Just steady me. I can still walk; no one can carry me as long as I can walk.î

William Walton Burton died the 27th of June 1918 in Ogden, and was buried in Ogden City Cemetery.


(Insert picture of Ogden home)


William Walton built this home at 2428 on Monroe Avenue in Ogden, Utah, for Rachel in 1883. It was to this home that Sarah AnnÍs children came from Star Valley to attend school, and were loved and mothered by Aunt Rachel.