Written by LaRae Mathews
George Black Sr. came to Utah in 1847 with the James Pace Company. On September 15, 1850, he was called with thirteen other families to settle Spring City in Sanpete County. In 1852, Brigham Young sent them into the western country, now known as Millard County, because the Indians had burned their forts and tried to drive them out.
It was here, in the town of Fillmore, that George Black Jr. was born on May 23, 1854. He was the second boy and fourth child born here. His life was full of many exciting adventures and visions.
At the age of nine he became a herder of cows in the lonely sagebrush desert of Millard County. At this time the Indians were very wild. They would steal the cows and horses, and burn the houses of the white settlers. It was a sultry day in June. George was herding cows about three miles from town. He had been riding his horse for a long time, so he decided to rest a while. He got off his horse, and laid on the ground under some tall sagebrush to rest. After being there for some time he heard something move. Looking up, he saw an Indian just a few feet away. Not knowing exactly what to do, he decided to curl up closer to the sagebrush. The Indian walked over and took a hold of the horse’s reins. George’s heart began to beat faster. He wondered what would become of him if the Indian saw him. Soon the Indian started to move slowly away, leading the horse. He was breathless, still afraid of being discovered. He heard the Indian get on his horse and drive his cows away. George lay there for a while, not able to move; rising up he saw that the Indian was quite a distance from him; he began to crawl on his stomach toward town. Doing this for about two miles, he got up and started to run. As soon as he reached the village he rang a bell, sending an alarm that Indians were near. All the men left their work to come and see what was the matter. After they had all gathered around, George told them his story. The men jumped on their horses and left. Toward nightfall they returned, bringing with them the stolen horse and cows. If George had not taken precaution, his life as well as those of the village would have been taken.
In 1860 his father was called to go into the Dixie country and settle it. Two years later, in January of 1862, Apostle Erastus Snow baptized him. Four years later in 1866, his family was sent to settle Springdale, later known as Rockville. He was ordained a deacon here in the same year.
At the age of fourteen he went back to his former home, Fillmore, to visit. His uncle was taking a load of freight to St. George, so he was to return with him. Early one morning with a heavily loaded wagon and an ox team, his uncle started him toward Dixie alone, saying to him, “I will overtake you before nightfall.” Nightfall came, but no uncle had appeared so he unyoked the oxen and made camp with a ranch family about three miles south of Kanosh. The next day he drove to Cove Fort, where he made camp once more. The next day he drove to Beaver; his uncle had not shown up yet. Many of the settlers along the way wanted him to wait until his uncle came, but he felt he must go on; so early the third morning he took road again. It was very dangerous for a youth of this age because the Indians were on the warpath and had driven off the stock of the people about ten miles south of Beaver. He started to drive to the mountain known as Black Ridge. As he was nearing the top, he glanced around looking forward suddenly he saw a large Indian coming toward him. He was dressed in war paint and carrying his
implements of war. George was full of fear but decided not to appear as being afraid. The Indian started to stop him, but just then an emigrant train pulled over the top of the ridge a few yards ahead of him. The Indian slipped away in the underbrush. The emigrant train consisted of quite a number of men. When he reached the top they questioned him and were surprised to see such a young boy on this dangerous road. Fearing for his life, they sent several of their armed men with him to Red Creek, while the rest went to Beaver to await their return. They encountered several Indians, but nothing occurred. After reaching Red Creek, he continued on his journey alone, reaching his home in Rockville after seven days of travel. His uncle never caught up with him but came two weeks later.
Soon after this time his parent returned to Millard county, making their home in Kanosh were they owned a small ranch. Before he was sixteen, his father died leaving his family to the care of this young lad. Times were hard and they were very poor. He worked for several different people, riding and gathering cattle off the range, doing most work common to the people in the settlement. A short time before his eighteenth birthday he began working for the Church Co-op on their cattle range. He had many exciting experiences during his five years working on the ranch. At one time the Indians drove their cattle off. He and his best friend as well as companion, Culbert L. King, trailed the Indians several days to get back some of their cattle. They found the Indian camp. At night, while watched the other slept. Soon the Indians thought they were safe from being followed, so they went to sleep. The two young men noticed it so they rounded up their cattle and went home.
At another time, during the fall round up and sale, George was given ten thousand dollars in gold, which was tied in buckskin bags to his saddle. He was given instructions to deliver it at Nephi where it would be sent to Salt Lake City. He left Cove Fort about sundown. He had a good horse and would get a fresh one at Kanosh. The trail was a lonely one and full of many dangers for the young man. Toward midnight, off in the distance, he sighted a small, smoldering fire. It could mean several things: Indians, bandits, or even an emigrant train. His horse became very restless and alert. He looked at his pistol, then at his bags of gold. He made the horse walk very quietly to within one hundred yards of the fire. From there he could see two men standing by the fire with their horses saddled as if they were ready to ride. He uttered a silent prayer, then touched the spurs to his horse and rode as fast as the horse would go. When he passed the bandits a volley of shots passed him; he could feel the quick breeze it brought. The horse went faster and faster. Before the surprised outlaws could collect themselves he was on his way. They followed him until he reached Kanosh, but he went safely along. As the first streaks of dawn approached he arrived at the place were he was to get a fresh horse. Eating breakfast there, he resumed his journey and in thirty-six hours of riding he delivered the gold, having changed horses at several settlements.
In 1872 A.A. Kimball ordained him an Elder. Also, he was called to attend the school of the prophets in Millard Stake.
While he was living in Fillmore he became very ill with a high fever and it was thought he was going to die. The other men left. One of the three Nephites appeared to him, anointed him and gave him a blessing saying that he had a great mission to perform here before his time was up. When he awoke his head was oily.
On February 15, 1877 he married Esther Clarinda King in the St. George temple. The following May they joined the United Order to go and settle Circleville. He was chosen as one of the directors. Later that year he moved into Kingston, Piute County. Then in 1879 he moved to Grass Valley, commonly known as Coyote then or Antimony at the present time.
In 1883 the first Sunday school branch of the church was organized there with Henry McCullough as Superintendent, and Culbert King and George as counselors. The years rolled by and he became more active in the church.
On June 12, 1891 he received a call by President Wilford Woodruff to fulfill a mission in the British Isles. September came and it was time for him to leave. Clarinda and their three children, George K., Bertha and Collins, along with George’s brother John who had been working in Oregon, accompanied George by wagon to Nephi. The family then boarded a train and went as far as Salt Lake City to be with him prior to his departure to England.
On their return trip home, the baby, Collins, was sick. They stayed one night at Monroe with Uncle Nephi Bates. Collins was very sick and Clarinda stayed up, caring for him, and waiting patiently for a change to come over him. She did not want to lose him, but if that was God’s will she would face it. The wee hours of the morning came, and Collins passed away. It was a terrible shock to her, but she knew she had to stick it out bravely. A day later she brought his little body home to be buried. Out of the seven children born to them up to then, this made the fifth to die at an early age.
On September 4, 1891, George was ordained a Seventy by A. H. Cannon, and sent immediately to England to labor in the Sheffield district. A month later when he received the first letter from home, it bore the sad news that his youngest child was dead. He was so shocked and discouraged that he wanted to come home. Finally, through the comfort of prayer, he was able to fulfill his mission. It was full of rich and faith promoting experiences.
One of his companions was Senator Reed Smoot (he was later an apostle), who to his dying day paid tribute to George for his faith and patience in helping him to gain a testimony of the Gospel.
At one time George and his companion went into a spiritualist meeting, immediately everything stopped. They wondered what had happened. Finally the medium, which was calling the dead spirits, stood up and asked them to leave, saying, “You have a power greater than mine.” (That was the Priesthood).
Another time a very small girl lay dying. Her doctor said it would be impossible for her to live. George laid his hands on her head and promised her, by the Spirit of God, that she would live, and come to Utah to do the Lord’s work. She did, many years later.
There was still another occasion. George had said that at this time the people were hard to preach to, because they had certain ideas and nothing could change their minds. One night he came home very discouraged. As he was climbing the stairs he noticed that a man was waiting for him at the top. As he reached the top of the stairs this man walked toward him, and then asked him who he was. George told him, and this man said, “I am John, the apostle to Jesus. I have been preaching the gospel for hundreds of years.” They talked awhile about the gospel, and John gave him points on what to do and how to be more successful. In a few minutes he disappeared.
When on his way back to Utah, the ship in which he and five other missionaries, as well as some converts to the church, where sailing, caught fire in the engine room, causing much damage. They were stopped in mid ocean thirteen hours for repairs. There were no lives lost. Their companionship went on and was caught in a terrible storm. It was wrecked causing the lives of many passengers. On starting on their journey again, the captain said, “I always feel safe when Mormon missionaries are on board my ships”.
On February 26, 1894, George was ordained a High Priest and set apart as a counselor to Bishop Culbert King by Mahonri Steel. Fourteen years later, September 10, 1908, he was set apart by Francis M. Lyman, as Bishop of the Marion Ward in Panguitch Stake.
He told many stories to his children, hoping it would give them more courage, and help them to believe in the church of Jesus Christ. One evening a dance was held in the old Antimony hall, but George did not go. About midnight someone came for him. Reuben Jolley was drunk and was shooting at the dancer’s feet. George went to the dance hall immediately, and sure enough the girls and boys were really jumping high, hoping they wouldn’t be hit by one of the bullets. He spoke to Reuben, and Reuben put down his guns and said, “You are the only one I have respect for” and left the dance floor with George.
One day while riding after cattle with Archie Hunter, a Pioneer of Antimony, they were caught in a rainstorm on the mountain and sought shelter under a large saw-log tree. He received a whispering message to move. He said to Mr. Hunter that they had better move. Mr. Hunter wondered what was going on, but George kept insisting. Finally they climbed into their saddles and were hardly fifty feet away when the lightening struck the tree, scattering it into many pieces.
Another time he and Mr. Hunter were riding in the mountains when a terrible blizzard storm struck. They were lost two days, not knowing how to get home or what direction it was. They prayed continuously, finally they found the way home, nearly dead from cold, exposure, and very little food.
On April 4, 1917, he was released from being Bishop and moved to Manti to live the remainder of his life.
One of his greatest gifts was the gift of healing throughout his life. He was called into the homes of the Saints to bless and administer to them.
The last twenty-three years of his life were spent in Temple work. Here also he received many Spiritual blessings. He bore testimony of having talked to people who formerly lived here on earth on matters concerning his own family records. In the genealogical magazines are some of the spiritual manifestations he received in the temple. At one time, year unknown, he met and talked with the Savior in the temple. George said that when he met Christ on the other side he would know him as one man knows another.
One time when George was taking tourist around the temple grounds, the tourist could hear singing from the temple, and they thought it was so beautiful. They asked him who was singing, but it was Sunday and no one was in the temple that day.
Before Clarinda died in 1923, she and George were married in the temple for his relatives who had died centuries before. On one of those times the President of the temple performed the ceremony, and when it was nearly over and George was asked if he would take this woman to be his wife, he did not answer. A few minutes later, he came to. They asked him why he did not answer. George said to them, “It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I saw the people we had been proxy for unite together and fall into each other’s arms. They had been separated all these many years, unable to be with each other.”
The later part of his life he became a night watchman in the temple. One day after a session was over in the temple and all the people were gone, George walked around to see if anyone else was there. He saw a man standing by the window looking through records. George went over to him ready to speak, and then recognized him to be his father in law, Culbert King. He kept turning the pages one by one. Then spoke and said, “Look here at these records of the King family. You notice that my side of the family it is very incomplete. I wish someone would see to it that they were done.” George did later on.
A few years later, after the death of his first wife, he married Mary A. Heaps in the Manti temple, just for time. Five years later she died. On December 5, 1932, he married Kathryn Miller in the same temple, for time and eternity.
Everyone loved George who knew him. He was a farmer and stock raiser, and served his fellow citizens for a number of years as Justice of the Peace.
On November 1, 1940, he died that morning, not suffering at all.