In the late 1870s, a man named William Flake purchased a large ranch in Northern Arizona on the Silver Creek. After the apostle Erastus Snow visited the area, families from Parowan were called to help settle the establishment now called Snowflake. John A. West and his family were among those called to this place.
Although most of the Snowflake settlers left Parowan in the spring of 1879, John and Mary Jane West were unable to leave until early November. It was a devastating journey. They encountered bitterly cold weather, snow and blizzards, a partially frozen Colorado River, sickness and exhaustion. Every night, more of their sheep and cattle died. Mary Jane lay on the brink of death. When they finally reached Snowflake in early January 1880, John and Mary Jane had lost almost everything. Joseph Fish wrote, “The winter of 1879-80 was the hardest winter ever known in these parts. A number of our brethren lost heavily, but John A. West sustained the heaviest loss by far.”
John West had been a wealthy man in Parowan. In Snowflake, he was practically destitute. He and Mary Jane lived with their large and growing family in a one room house with a dirt roof and one window. John tried his hand at raising sheep, but was unsuccessful. Funds were always scarce.
In the 1880s, the Santa Fe Railroad was expanding. Men were paid well for their work building the new lines. John West left his family for a while to work on the railroad. On his return, he and his traveling companion were attacked by bandits who demanded their money. “Do you think I am a fool?” John asked them. “I wouldn’t carry money when there are U.S. mails to carry it for me.” The bandits called John a liar and searched his wagon. When they found no money, they tied John and his companion to the wagon, destroyed their guns and rode off. John arrived safely at home, with his wages secured in the bottom of his grain sacks.
As he contemplated ways of supporting his family, John remembered the wonderful fruits that he had been so fond of as a missionary in Hawaii. This reminiscence led to the establishment of his exchange business. He bought butter, eggs, chicken and garden vegetables from his neighbors in Snowflake and sold them in California. From California came fruits, raisins and nuts. His business expanded quickly and John was, once again, a success.
Eventually, John and Mary Jane were able to build a large and comfortable home. The organ that they had brought from Parowan provided the entertainment for many social gatherings. The Wests loved to entertain and their neighbors loved them. John was often asked to teach dance classes. He was always glad to do so.
John suffered regularly from stomach troubles. As he grew older, he determined to make a careful study of the Word of Wisdom. Once he decided to adhere to its dietary guidelines, his health improved.
With most of their children grown and gone, John and Mary Jane determined to leave Snowflake. They sold their house and sent the money to their sons in Salt Lake City, who built them a comfortable, modern cottage. In September 1910, John traveled to Salt Lake City. Mary Jane stayed behind for a while to help her daughter with a new baby. She arrived in Salt Lake in February of the next year.
John enjoyed gardening in his back yard and had many lovely fruit trees. Soon, he was called to be the Stake Patriarch. Mary Jane often acted as his scribe. As always, they entertained. Many of their friends from Snowflake traveled to Salt Lake especially to see them.
Mary Jane’s health began to fail in 1914. She died on August 15. John was heartbroken, but he found comfort in keeping track of his children and grandchildren. His daughter Susan and her daughter Maurine lived with John and cared for him.
John remained remarkably healthy. His doctors told him he might live to be a hundred.
In September 1917, John started complaining of pain. His family gathered around him and he was visited many times by loyal friends. After five days, on September 28, 1917, John died of a strangulated hernia.
The connection between John A West and my dad is as follows: Eric Eastman – Blanche Savilla Jones – Amy Sophronia Whitney – Elizabeth Jane West – John Anderson West