LIFE STORY OF GILBERT BELNAP
Gilbert Belnap was born on
Gilbert’s father was a sporting man
who raised purebred race horses. It is
said that Gilbert, who grew up around horses, inherited his great love for
horses from his father. On
Orphaned and with little education,
Gilbert had been previously bound, pursuant to an apprenticeship indenture
entered into on 13 January 1832, as an apprentice to William C. Moore for 9
years 240 days, to learn the trade of wheelwright and wagon maker. In 1834, Mr. Moore, who was deeply in debt,
Learning from a justice of the
peace, who asked Gilbert why he remained with such a drunken tyrant, that he
was no longer bound to Mr. Moore outside of
Upon his return home, Gilbert
learned that his oldest brother, Jesse, pursuant to the hereditary laws in
With his youngest brother Thomas (who was at that time about five years old) by his side, Gilbert struck out. After walking for three days and only thirty miles from home, they took up residence with a Christian preacher by the name of Stone, from whom Gilbert earned $5.00 per month, part of which went towards the board and education of Thomas. Thomas was later placed with a Quaker family by the name of Sing, while Gilbert remained with Mr. Stone until 1837.
During the boundary dispute of 1837
to 1839 between
Gilbert found work in
Gilbert then moved to nearby
In the winter of 1840-1841, Gilbert attended school in Kirtland and formed a close acquaintance with several Mormon families. He soon satisfied himself that they lived their religion better than any other people he had known. Prior to this time, Gilbert had sought to obtain religion among the Methodists and the “Mourner’s Bench.” In Kirtland Gilbert became converted to the truthfulness of the Latter-day Saint religion and determined to join the Church, although at some future date, feeling that there was plenty of time yet to do so.
After writing several letters to
reestablish contact with his siblings, Gilbert by prior appointment
rendezvoused with his older brother John on
Gilbert’s grandfather Jesse Belnap had promised to give $1,000 to the first one of his grandchildren to come see him. Because Gilbert reached his grandfather’s home first, Jesse gave Gilbert the money, which was deposited in the bank to Gilbert’s credit.
Returning to Kirtland, Gilbert
continued laboring for Mr. Crary. In the
winter of 1841, Gilbert met with a serious accident that fractured his skull in
three places and dislocated his right shoulder and left ankle. He was confined to his bed from
Gilbert was baptized into the
Before leaving on his first mission,
Gilbert again visited his grandparents’ home in North East,
Four weeks after returning to Kirtland, Gilbert commenced studies at a Kirtland seminary. When the seminary was forced to close, Gilbert resumed preaching the Gospel for about two months in and about Wooster, Wayne, Ohio, where his uncle Ira Belnap resided. Back in Kirtland, Gilbert attended school, where he boarded with the family of Reuben McBride, an uncle of both of Gilbert’s future wives.
On 15 May 1844, Gilbert set out for Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois in company with three companions. At Wellsville on the Ohio River, one of their number turned back; the rest boarded the steamboat “Lehi” for St. Louis. Gilbert, upon learning of other Latter-day Saints on board the steamboat who, due to lack of funds, had passage only as far as Cincinnati, agreed to pay for their passage to Nauvoo if they would pay him back as soon as their circumstances would permit. On the steamboat Gilbert also had charge of three tons of groceries donated for the building of the Nauvoo House, which he freighted through to Nauvoo under the direction of Lyman Wight.
Gilbert arrived in Nauvoo late in the evening of 1 June 1844 without a single coin in his pocket; that first night he slept in the open air on a naked slab. The next day he viewed the rising foundations of the Temple and other places within Nauvoo. Gilbert met the Prophet Joseph Smith for the first time on 3 June 1844. Gilbert’s account of his initial impression of Joseph Smith has often been quoted as one of the most eloquent first impression descriptions of the Prophet.
One family story relates that upon their first meeting, the Prophet tripped Gilbert. When Gilbert got to his feet he said to Joseph Smith, “If you can throw me down you cannot outrun me.” Joseph replied, taking Gilbert by the hand, “Young man, we have work for you.”
Within less than a week after arriving in Nauvoo, on 6 June 1844, Gilbert was baptized in the Nauvoo Temple as proxy for his deceased parents and older sister Louisa.
Soon after arriving in Nauvoo, Gilbert boarded at the house of John P. Greene, with whom he had labored as a missionary in 1842 in New York, and became a workman in the shop of Thomas Moore. Gilbert was also immediately employed by Joseph Smith to perform various special duties. He was also hired by Brigham Young to take care of his horses. That Gilbert was taken into the confidence of the leaders of the Church so swiftly after his arrival in Nauvoo reveals much about his loyalty and trustworthiness as a new member in the Church.
One of Gilbert’s special assignments was to attend a meeting of anti-Mormons held on 17 June 1844 in Carthage, the county seat of Hancock County, Illinois. Before going, Gilbert was promised by Joseph Smith that not one hair of his head would fall to the ground. In Carthage, Gilbert, upon hearing a Missourian boast about murdering Mormons, chastised the man, whereupon the Missourian thrust a hunting knife at Gilbert’s bowels. The knife penetrated all of Gilbert’s layers of clothing but did not injure him. The Missourian miraculously fell unconscious. Others called for Gilbert’s life, but eventually Gilbert was invited to sit in council with delegates from other parts of the country where he learned of plans from the gathering mob in Carthage to attack Nauvoo and kill Joseph Smith. After the meeting, Gilbert hurried back to Nauvoo, but not without close pursuit. Gilbert pushed his horse so hard that it collapsed broad-side in the mud just as he arrived in Nauvoo. Muddied, Gilbert rushed to the Prophet and reported on what he had learned.
The following day, Gilbert and Cyrus Canfield signed an affidavit regarding the threats they had heard made against Joseph Smith in Carthage. (See History of the Church, 6:502-3.) On 21 June 1844, affidavits made by Gilbert and several others were presented before the Nauvoo City Council. A man deputized to take the sworn statements to Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois was waylaid by the Carthaginians. As a result, Gilbert’s real name was made known to the Prophet’s bitterest enemies.
Less than two weeks later, Gilbert was in the entourage that escorted Joseph Smith and others to Carthage. In Carthage, Gilbert witnessed at least a portion of the legal proceedings against Joseph Smith. On 26 June 1844, approximately ten men, including Gilbert, stayed in the downstairs room of the Carthage Jail all night (Gilbert reportedly slept on the floor), where they remained until two o’clock the next day, while Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were upstairs.
At 2:00 in the afternoon of 27 June 1844, Joseph Smith came to the upstairs window of the Carthage Jail and admonished Gilbert and the other guards to return home for the sake of their own lives. He said, “Go home, brethren, you can do me no good.” Gilbert and the few remaining brethren in Carthage were expelled at bayonet point after Governor Ford had left for Nauvoo.
Governor Ford arrived in Nauvoo but without Joseph Smith, as promised. He stayed briefly in Nauvoo, then headed back to Carthage, on the way meeting George D. Grant bearing the news of the martyrdom. Grant was returned to Carthage by Governor Ford to give the Governor more distance between him and the people of Nauvoo.
Some time after Governor Ford left Nauvoo, Gilbert and Orrin Porter Rockwell headed back to Carthage on horseback as scouts, concerned about the safety of Joseph Smith. On the road to Carthage they met Brother Grant as he was coming to relay to Nauvoo, now for the second time, the news of the martyrdom. Chasing Grant was a mob, firing to stop him. Gilbert and Porter Rockwell dismounted and took cover and waited for Brother Grant to pass before shooting back. The first man chasing Grant fell and the mob retreated. Gilbert and Porter Rockwell were apparently the first Latter-day Saints who had not been in Carthage at the time of the martyrdom to hear the tragic news. Gilbert witnessed the procession on 28 June 1844 bearing the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith back to Nauvoo.
Gilbert deeply loved the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was said that, for the rest of his life on each 27 June at the time of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, Gilbert would mark the fateful hour in silent remembrance of Joseph Smith. (Gilbert’s mother-in-law, Martha McBride Knight Smith Kimball, requested a lock of Joseph Smith’s hair from the center of the back of the Prophet’s head. This lock of hair, which was placed in a gold locket, remains today in the possession of one of Gilbert’s descendants.)
During the October 1845 General Conference, Gilbert was ordained a Seventy by Israel Barlow, joining the Sixth Quorum of Seventies. On 21 December 1845, Gilbert married Adaline Knight. Adaline was the third child born to Vinson Knight (a former Bishop in Nauvoo who was deceased at the time of the marriage) and Martha McBride (who earlier, in the summer of 1842, had been sealed to Joseph Smith). On their wedding day, Gilbert was one day short of this twenty-fourth birthday and Adaline was just 14 years old. They were married by Heber C. Kimball in Adaline’s father’s sturdy red-brick two-story home on Main Street, said to be the first brick house in Nauvoo (this home is still standing). Gilbert first met Adaline in that home when he accompanied Adaline's uncle, Reuben McBride, to the home of Reuben's sister Martha.
On 5 January 1846, shortly after their marriage, Gilbert and Adaline received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple. (There is no record of Gilbert and Adaline having been sealed to each other in the Nauvoo Temple at this time.) Adaline’s sister Rizpah and her husband Andrew Smith Gibbons were also endowed on this day. Three weeks after receiving their endowments, Adaline’s mother married Heber C. Kimball on 26 January 1846 in the Nauvoo Temple “for time.”
Following Joseph Smith’s death, Gilbert continued to be heavily involved in promoting the safety of the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo as persecutions against the Mormons continued. In the fall of 1845, Gilbert and another man, both on horseback, scouted out an anti-Mormon encampment of two thousand men. They waited until dark to return to Nauvoo and reported their findings to Brigham Young. On another occasion in the fall of 1845, Gilbert rode with 250 men led by Hancock County Sheriff J. B. Backenstos in an all-night defensive foray against an anti-Mormon mob, arriving at the farm of Edmund Durfee as it was burning. At daybreak, Gilbert and the others pursued the fleeing anti-Mormon mob.
On 23 December 1845, two days after his marriage to Adaline, Gilbert followed behind the retinue carrying off William Miller to Carthage. Miller, who was wearing articles of clothing belonging to Church leader Brigham Young when he exited the Nauvoo Temple, had been “arrested” in the mistaken belief that Miller was Brigham. Following the discovery of the mistaken identity, it was Gilbert who brought the “Bogus” Brigham back to Nauvoo, riding Brigham Young’s horse “Old Tom.”
In early February 1846, Gilbert and Adaline were forced to flee from Nauvoo. Gilbert, a trained wagon maker, had made their wagon with his own hands before leaving. He and Adaline also owned their own team of horses. Adaline’s mother Martha also owned a team of horses and a wagon, although not a new one. Gilbert took his mother-in-law Martha across the Mississippi on the prized black horse “Joe Duncan” that once belonged to Joseph Smith.
In Iowa, Gilbert, Adaline, Adaline’s mother Martha, and her brother James Vinson Knight briefly stayed with their McBride relatives, who already lived on the Iowa side of the Mississippi. (The McBrides were also the relatives of Gilbert’s future second wife.) While encamped in Iowa, Gilbert and Adaline made several trips with their wagon back to Nauvoo after provisions, crossing on the ice of the frozen Mississippi before it melted. The last trip they took to Nauvoo was on the back of “Old Tom.” By then the river ice was breaking up. When they came near the edge of a block of ice, it would tip and the horse would jump to the next block. Thus, jumping from once block of ice to another, they crossed the Mississippi for the last time.
Gilbert and his family continued their trek across Iowa to the Missouri River during the spring and summer of 1846. When the Mormon Battalion was mustered into service in July 1846, Gilbert’s services as a wheelwright and carpenter were much in demand. After the Mormon Battalion departed for California, Adaline drove their wagon team the rest of the way across Iowa to the Missouri River, stopping at Cold Springs, a temporary resting place on the west side of the Missouri River. With the departure of 500 able-bodied men, Gilbert was probably required to leave Adaline to help move the other Saints across Iowa.
Gilbert rejoined Adaline later in the summer of 1846 at Cold Springs. Joining them there were Adaline’s sister Rizpah and her husband Andrew S. Gibbons. From Cold Springs they moved to Cutler’s Park, a temporary camp of two large squares made up of two camp divisions, with Brigham Young’s camp on the south and Heber C. Kimball’s on the north. Since Gilbert’s mother-in-law Martha was now married to Heber C. Kimball, Gilbert’s family probably resided in the north square.
On 19 September 1846, word was received in Cutler’s Park that men with U.S. Army horses had been spotted along the Missouri River; it was presumed that they were waiting to kidnap members of the Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles. That night, Gilbert and George Washington Langley were sent by Hosea Stout on a reconnaissance mission to scout out the east side of the Missouri River in order to verify the presence of the possible raiding party, search for troop hiding places, and generally explore the surrounding land.
A few days thereafter, the Mormons moved to a new location they named Winter Quarters, where Gilbert built two little log huts or cabins--one for his family and one for his mother-in-law Martha. In late September 1846, Gilbert received a letter through William Cutler from his cousin Mary Belnap Paine in Nauvoo, describing the mid-September “Battle of Nauvoo.” (Mary, the closest relative in Gilbert’s own family to also join the Church, was baptized in 1841.) Mary and her husband Samuel Langdon Paine, Jr., a clerk working with the Trustees appointed to remain behind in Nauvoo and administer the affairs of the Church following the exodus, never rejoined the main body of the Church.
After providing his family with wood and other comforts, Gilbert and one other traveled to Savannah, Missouri for wheat that had been purchased by the Church. After a cold and disagreeable trip of six weeks, they returned in safety to Winter Quarters. During Gilbert’s absence, on 8 January 1847, Adaline gave birth in Winter Quarters to her and Gilbert’s first child, Gilbert Rosel Belnap. (Gilbert Rosel was born two weeks after two more births in the family--one to Adaline’s mother Martha, who gave birth to a son by Heber C. Kimball (this child died as an infant), and the other to her sister Rizpah, who gave birth to her first child, Martha Sarah Gibbons).
In early 1847, Gilbert and his brother-in-law Andrew S. Gibbons went to Brigham Young and volunteered to be in the first pioneer company to the West. President Young told these two newly married men that only one could come with him, and that the other must stay and care for the three Knight women and their young children. At Brigham Young’s suggestion, Gilbert and Andrew cast lots; Andrew won the draw. Later that spring, in June 1847, Abigail Mead McBride, the grandmother of Gilbert’s wife Adaline and his future wife Henrietta McBride, departed for Utah in the Edward Hunter Company.
In the latter part of the winter, Gilbert was called on a mission to assist the Saints who were stranded on the eastern borders of Iowa. Two weeks before he was to depart, however, Gilbert’s eyes became sore and soon he was entirely blind. The blindness, which was fortunately temporary, prevented him from service.
In the spring of 1847, Gilbert made another three-week trip to Missouri. He returned long enough to plant thirteen acres of corn and vegetables for his family, then returned again to Missouri to labor. He returned to Winter Quarters before the harvest of 1847, where he remained with his family until December 1847.
Accompanied by his brother-in-law Andrew S. Gibbons, who by that time had returned from the Salt Lake Valley, Gilbert went back to Missouri in December 1847 where he worked covering wagons until April 1848. While working in Missouri, he built a log cabin for his family in Fremont County, Iowa, which they moved into in the spring of 1848. Gilbert also established a shop for himself and obtained all the work he was able to perform. On 11 May 1849, Adaline gave birth in Fremont County, Iowa to her and Gilbert’s second child, John McBride Belnap.
By 1850, Gilbert’s family was ready to emigrate to Utah. They had secured two oxen for the trip, which they named “Duke” and “Dime,” and one cow, named “Beaut.” Gilbert had also built another wagon for their journey.
Gilbert departed for Utah with his young family, consisting, in addition to himself, of his wife Adaline and their two small sons, on 15 June 1850 in the Warren Foote Company, 2nd hundred. Gilbert served as the captain of the fifth ten. Also in the emigrant company were his mother-in-law Martha and James V. Knight. In the official record of the Warren Foote Company, Gilbert is listed as taking one wagon, four persons, four cattle, and no horses or sheep.
Shortly after starting their journey, a daughter of John Titcomb, about 10 years old, was run over by a wagon, breaking her leg between her knee and the trunk of her body. Gilbert performed his first surgical operation ever and the girl’s leg healed fine.
One week after departing for the West, Gilbert and Adaline’s second son, John McBride Belnap, took ill in the evening of 21 June 1850 with a cholera plague that was sweeping the camp. At the same time, Adaline and her mother Martha also became ill. The thirteen-month-old child died in the latter part of the night on 22 June 1850 and was buried in the morning near the confluence of Salt Creek and the Platte River, on the east side of the Saline Ford (near present-day Ashland, Saunders, Nebraska). Gilbert emptied his tool chest, which was made of oak boards and which dovetailed together with a tight-fitting lid, and placed the boy’s body, wrapped in a blanket, inside. John McBride Belnap was just learning to talk when he died. When Adaline would hold to his dress to keep him from falling out of the wagon, he would say in his baby way, “Take care.”
Gilbert and his family experienced many hardships while crossing the plains, primarily as a result of severe outbreaks of cholera, which were confined mostly to Gilbert’s ten. Along the way they witnessed the disturbed graves of many emigrants. As Gilbert’s family neared the mountains, one of their oxen became so weak that he could not get on his feet in the morning. They were compelled to hitch their milk cow Beaut in its place and drive on. The wagon was too heavy for the strength of the cow, so some of the load was put into Martha’s wagon. (One variation states that eventually the cow died; Gilbert’s wagon was sold for a trifle and his and Adaline’s things were moved into Martha’s wagon.)
Gilbert and his family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 17 September 1850. Two weeks later, they were sent by Brigham Young to settle in Ogden, Weber, Utah (which was then also known as Brownsville). Adaline and their son Gilbert Rosel walked most of the way. The family forded the Weber River near where the old Bamberger railroad bridge was later built (where 33rd Street and the Weber River formerly met).
Arriving in Ogden, Gilbert’s family first took up residence for several days within the old Goodyear Fort on the east side of the Weber River. This fort, called by its builder Miles Goodyear Fort Buenaventura, had been moved in early 1850 by Captain James Brown to higher ground a quarter mile southeast from its original location.
The first permanent home in Utah of Gilbert and his family was a dugout on the south side of Canfield Creek in Sullivan (or Bunker’s) Hollow (at about 30th Street and Madison Avenue) at the bottom of the hill. Gilbert made all the furniture for his family, including a table from the wagon box in which they had crossed the plains. In the 1850 United States Census, “Gilbert Belknap,” a cooper residing in Weber County, is listed as owning no real property.
Shortly after arriving in Ogden, Gilbert was coming home from the north part of the settlement with his mother-in-law Martha on his wagon, which was driven by oxen. As they were coming down the steep hill (along what is now Madison Avenue), the oxen could not hold the wagon and began to run (another version states the wagon hit a stump). Martha was thrown beneath the wagon, which ran over her. Martha’s lifeless body, found lying face down in the dust, was carried by Gilbert back to their dugout home and the neighbors gathered around to help revive her. After she recovered, Martha said that she saw her body as it lay in the dust and at the house, as if she was standing to one side with the rest of the people looking on.
After completing a small job of hewing logs for Captain Brown, Gilbert commenced planting a farm, sowing thirteen acres of wheat and a variety of other vegetables. Gilbert built a little log house of cottonwood logs (a little south of present-day 31st Street below Sullivan Road) near their first dugout home below the brow of the hill (on property later called Woodmansee’s farm), and in the spring of 1851 built over one mile of fence.
Soon after arriving in Utah, Gilbert began a life of almost continuous public service. In the fall of 1850, Gilbert was selected Marshal of Ogden by the Common Council. In February 1851, after Ogden was incorporated as a city, Gilbert was again appointed Marshal, remaining in this position until 1854. Gilbert’s first duty as Marshal was serving process on someone for traducing the character of Brigham Young and others. On another occasion, a company of men from Missouri arrived at Brown’s Fort after the ferry across the Weber River had been tied up for the night. They prevailed upon Captain Brown to take them across the river by offering extra money, but then after crossing refused to pay. A complaint was signed and Gilbert was sent to collect the money or bring the captain of the company into court. Gilbert took the captain, who was cursing the Mormons, by the coat collar and hauled him to the court house, where the captain paid all charges and was released.
Gilbert, appointed as the first sexton of Ogden, attended the burial of the first person in the Ogden City Cemetery, that of Charles F. Butler in 1851. Gilbert was released from this office on 15 April 1854.
On 14 June 1851, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s third child, Reuben Belnap. In July 1851, difficulty arose between the white settlers and a small band of Snake Indians, which resulted in the taking of several horses on both sides and the killing of one Indian. Gilbert reportedly led a group of settlers against the Indians and the band was driven into the mountains for that season.
On 26 June 1852, Gilbert was sealed by Brigham Young in the President’s Office in Great Salt Lake City to Adaline, his wife of six and one-half years, and to Henrietta McBride. Henrietta McBride, who had emigrated to Utah in the fall of 1851 and had settled in Farmington, Davis, Utah, was a first cousin to Adaline. She was the daughter of James McBride (brother of Adaline’s mother Martha) and Betsy Mead. Her father James had died on 13 August 1839 in Pike County, Illinois.
As plural wives of Gilbert, Adaline and Henrietta were very close. Their children were also very close. The children of one wife would call the other wife “aunt” and consistently referred to their siblings, from whichever mother and in whatever context, as “brother” or “sister.”
Gilbert’s two families initially resided together in a log house located on the south side of 6th Street between Franklin and Young Streets (on present-day 26th Street between Grant and Lincoln Avenues, about 200 feet east of the present 2nd Ward) in Ogden. (A natural spring in the immediate vicinity, known as Belnap Spring, was located just east of the Second Ward Meetinghouse on the northeast corner of 26th Street and Grant Avenue. In later years this spring was used by the 2nd Ward to water the grass.)
On 2 August 1852, Gilbert was elected to the office of Poundkeeper for Weber County. Shortly after her marriage to Gilbert, Henrietta lost her daughter Annetta (of whom Gilbert was not the father), who died on 26 November 1852 and was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery in the Gilbert Belnap family plot.
On 26 January 1853, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s fourth child, Joseph Belnap. On 5 February 1853, Gilbert was appointed Attorney for the First and Second Wards of Ogden. Gilbert was the only attorney in Ogden during the city’s first twenty years of its history. In the spring of 1853, Gilbert sold his farm to John Poole. On 31 August 1853, Henrietta gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s first child, William James Belnap. On 22 October 1853, Gilbert was elected and commissioned as First Lieutenant of Company B of Battalion of Cavalry of the Weber Military District of the Nauvoo Legion and of the Militia of the Territory of Utah. In the fall of 1853, Gilbert recorded that he built a small adobe house in Ogden. Presumably, this was an attachment to the west side of his log home on 6th (now 26th) Street. The east room of this house was a log cabin and the west room was made of adobe and faced north.
In the early days of settlement, Brigham City joined with Ogden in a Fourth of July celebration, which was held at the Hot Springs north of Ogden. Chester Loveland (who also came to Utah in 1850 in the Warren Foote Company) and Gilbert were picked for a wrestling match. Gilbert won the honors. At the high jump event, Gilbert cleared the bar at the six-foot level.
An early family story relates some of the humorous events that befell Gilbert as a new settler in Utah. Once, Gilbert made a harness out of rawhide. As a result, the straps would stretch and they would have to keep being tied up. On another occasion, Gilbert’s buckskin pants stretched after they got wet, so he cut them off. When they dried, they were, it is said, “a heap too short.”
During the summer of 1854, Gilbert raised no field wheat, but made one trip near Goose Creek Mountain (in the extreme northwest corner of present-day Box Elder County, Utah) with flour to sell to California-bound emigrants. He returned with little profit; the inconvenience, profanity, and drunkenness he experienced caused him to never attempt such an excursion again. On 7 August 1854, Gilbert was again elected to the office of Poundkeeper for Ogden City, resigning in April 1855 when he was called to the Salmon River Mission. On 24 September 1854, Gilbert received his first Patriarchal Blessing in Ogden at the hands of Patriarch Isaac Morley. Gilbert remained in Ogden during that fall and winter of 1854-1855.
On 24 March 1855, Gilbert was appointed Marshall and Prosecuting Attorney for Ogden. As early in the spring of 1855 as possible, Gilbert sowed ten acres of wheat. At General Conference on 6 April 1855, Gilbert was called to the Salmon River Mission. Gilbert was set apart as a missionary in Ogden on 26 April 1855 by Apostle Lorenzo Snow. On 15 May 1855, Gilbert dedicated himself and his family to the Lord, and on 16 May 1855, Gilbert, in company with 11 wagons and 27 men, left Adaline and Henrietta behind with three little boys and one little boy, respectively. At the time of Gilbert’s departure, Adaline and Henrietta were both pregnant. The summer of 1855, marked by disastrous grasshopper plagues, was followed by bitter cold and tremendous snows, resulting in Ogden’s “Hard Winter” of 1855-1856. It is evident from surviving correspondence that Gilbert’s wives suffered greatly during his absence. About this time, Brigham Young told Gilbert that as long as Gilbert shared his wheat with others, he would always have never less than six inches of wheat in the bottom of his wheat bin.
Gilbert worked hard at helping the Salmon River Mission succeed. He turned the first plow in that part of North America and raised the first picket of the fort’s walls. Gilbert built cabins, constructed fences, made a water ditch, constructed a windlass for digging a well, hauled and hewed logs, repaired wagons and wagon wheels, cut hay, grubbed willows, made various articles of furniture, made articles of clothing for his children, engaged in trade, made cooper ware, carved knife handles and combs, built corrals, made saddles, cooked, fished for salmon and hunted wild game for food, made a butter churn and churned butter, made snowshoes, and constructed a water wheel for a grist mill. On one hunting trip he climbed the Continental Divide. On another, on a mountain east of the fort, he killed one sheep weighing 72 pounds, which he carried back on his shoulder at least six miles.
Gilbert occasionally suffered physical hardships during his service at Fort Lemhi. In the spring of 1856, Gilbert contracted mountain fever. On other occasions at Fort Lemhi he suffered a cut hand and toothache.
As a missionary at Fort Lemhi, Gilbert learned the Shoshone language and assisted in the conversion of several Indians. At one Sunday meeting, Gilbert spoke to the natives in their own tongue and after the meeting fourteen were baptized. Gilbert also taught Indian children their ABC’s. Gilbert was rebaptized twice at Fort Lemhi: on 8 July 1855 and 9 November 1856.
Gilbert returned to Ogden at least twice on resupply trips for the Salmon River Mission. On 13 August 1855, he left for Ogden in company with six other missionaries to gather supplies for the mission, arriving in Ogden on 26 August. While in Ogden, Gilbert gathered supplies for his family, hauled wood for the winter, and gathered donations for the mission. On 17 September 1855, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s fifth child, Martha Jane Belnap. Three days later, on 20 September 1855, Henrietta gave birth in Springville, Utah, Utah to her and Gilbert’s second child, Oliver Belnap. (Henrietta had gone to Springville at the time of Oliver’s birth to be at the home of her mother at the time of confinement.) On 18 October 1855, Gilbert left Ogden with 5,895 pounds of flour and 87 bushels of wheat, arriving back at Fort Lemhi on 17 November 1855 after many hardships.
On 30 June 1856, Gilbert departed Fort Lemhi for Utah again, this time in charge of a company of eight other missionaries driving seven wagons. They arrived in Ogden on 15 July 1856. During the summer and early fall of 1856, Gilbert was very busy in Ogden preparing conveniences for his family. Departing Ogden on 13 October 1856, Gilbert returned to Fort Lemhi on 4 November 1856.
During the cold winter days of December 1856 and January 1857, Gilbert wrote an autobiographical account of his life up to that point. (This autobiography, the original of which is on file with the LDS Church Historical Department, is the primary source of much of the information on Gilbert’s life from 1821 through 1856.) Gilbert also kept a separate day journal of his activities at Fort Lemhi. (This journal was microfilmed by the LDS Church Historical Department in February 1996.)
At the close of his Fort Lemhi autobiography, Gilbert made a candid assessment of the failings of the Salmon River Mission, going so far as to calculate the tremendous amount of money expended in sustaining the remote mission outpost. What caused him the most difficulty, however, was the manner in which the temporal affairs of the mission were managed. The inconsistent application of rules of trade with the Indians, together with certain idle and improvident missionaries sharing from a common store, while his wives were suffering from want at home, caused Gilbert great sorrow.
Gilbert’s last Fort Lemhi journal entry recorded the departure of Brigham Young from Fort Lemhi in May 1857. On 5 June 1857, Henrietta gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s third child, Francis Marion Belnap. Gilbert appears to have returned to Ogden in the summer of 1857 on a third resupply trip for the mission, for on 17 July 1857, Gilbert was resealed to his wives Adaline and Henrietta by Brigham Young in the Endowment House, the same day on which Henrietta received her endowments (Henrietta had previously been sealed to Gilbert in 1852 but at that time she had not been endowed).
Gilbert’s mission president, Thomas Sasson Smith, signed a recommend addressed to Brigham Young for Gilbert to take a third plural wife (which apparently had been secured for him earlier in the year by Adaline while Gilbert was still at Fort Lemhi). For reasons unknown, the recommend, dated 28 July 1857 in Farmington, was not used.
It is uncertain when Gilbert returned to Fort Lemhi for the last time as a missionary. He was released in the fall of 1857 and returned home to Ogden in September 1857 with Joseph Parry. According to Gilbert’s son Reuben, when his father came home from his mission, he was wearing a pretty yellow suit consisting of a buckskin shirt with fringe at the elbow and trimmed with beads on the front; the pants had a fringe down the sides. The suit also had “red flannel trimmings.” Gilbert was also wearing beaded moccasins.
On 29 September 1857, ninety men from Ogden, including Gilbert, were called to defend the Saints against Johnston’s Army. The troops were sent north, leaving Ogden on 19 October, but finding no enemy, they returned to Ogden on 2 November. Soon thereafter, the men were ordered to Echo Canyon. Gilbert joined with Lot Smith’s company. The horses of the Mormon militia members were said to be fast wild mustangs captured in the desert near Delta, Utah. The militiamen raided and harassed Johnston’s Army as they marched across Wyoming, destroying wagons and supplies, stampeding cattle, and building roadblocks, without killing a man. One night Gilbert, with a group of other men, quietly placed lassoes around the tents in which U.S. soldiers were sleeping, then whipping their horses, they charged off, tearing the army tents down and leaving the soldiers in the rain with no place to sleep. Successfully keeping Johnston’s Army out of the valleys of Utah, the militiamen also took supplies to the suffering soldiers in mid-winter to help them stay alive.
After serving in Lot Smith’s company, Gilbert, no longer a missionary, returned to Fort Lemhi once more. On 25 February 1858, two missionaries, including George McBride, a brother of Gilbert’s wife Henrietta, had been killed in an Indian attack on Fort Lemhi. Upon receiving word of the attack, Governor Brigham Young ordered a large relief expedition to escort the missionaries and their families back home. Under orders of President Young, Gilbert, perhaps part of an express of ten men that included other former Salmon River missionaries, returned to Fort Lemhi as an advance party sent ahead to notify the mission of the approaching larger relief expedition. Gilbert left Ogden for Fort Lemhi on 8 March 1858 and may have arrived with the express on 21 March 1858. Immediately upon arrival of the larger relief party, the express, including Gilbert, returned to Utah. During the return trip, one of their number, William Bailey Lake, was killed by Indians.
Gilbert arrived back in Ogden on 11 April 1858. While he was away on the Fort Lemhi relief expedition, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s sixth child, Hyrum, on 24 March 1858.
In April 1858, approximately three or four weeks after Hyrum was born and perhaps within days after Gilbert returned from Fort Lemhi, Gilbert and his wives packed a few belongings in poorly sheltered wagons and left their home as participants in the “Move South” on account of the approach of Johnston’s Army. Before leaving, they piled brush and straw around their home. Gilbert’s son Gilbert Rosel drove the sow and pigs. His family settled in Springville (another source states they settled somewhere between Provo and Springville) in Utah Valley. Adaline, who noted that this trip “was far from a pleasant one,” recorded that their tent was a quilt stretched by its four corners. Their baby Hyrum was ill for many years as a result of this strenuous trip.
Following the Move South (most residents of Ogden returned to their homes in July 1858; Gilbert’s obituary states he returned to Ogden in 1860), Gilbert moved his family to a new location in Ogden, on forty acres of land Gilbert had purchased on the east banks of the Weber River. (Their log house, on property located east of the river on the north side of the present-day 24th Street viaduct, was located immediately east of where the Swift Packing Company plant still stands.) Here Gilbert lived until he moved to Hooper. This house consisted of two log rooms, with Gilbert’s wife Adaline living in one log room and Henrietta in the other. The house, which stood approximately a quarter mile from any other house and only 6 or 7 rods from the Weber River, had a dirt roof and roof garden. The windows were covered with cloth. According to Adaline, a little rifle always hung on pegs over the bed.
While living at this home, Gilbert operated a ferry boat, a small skiff that would hold three or four passengers, across the Weber River. Anyone wanting to cross the river could take the skiff to the other side and tie it up, where it would remain until someone coming the other direction would bring it back and tie it up again. Gilbert provided this service without cost.
While living along the Weber River, Gilbert also ran a molasses mill. People would bring their sugar cane for milling and Gilbert would take a share of the molasses as pay, which he would sell. Gilbert also planted a row of box elder trees the length of his property along present-day 24th Street.
After Johnston’s Army had settled at Camp Floyd, Gilbert learned from a farmer who traded with the soldiers that there was a soldier at the camp by the name of Belnap. Wondering if the soldier could possibly be his brother Thomas, Gilbert loaded his wagon with produce and headed for Camp Floyd. The soldier was Thomas, whom Gilbert had not seen since they parted in Canada in 1837. Gilbert learned that Thomas was in one of the tents that Gilbert and others had lassoed one stormy night, leaving Thomas with no place to sleep.
In 1857 or 1858, the first sawmill, known as Wheeler’s Sawmill, was built in Ogden Canyon on the south side of the canyon and a little to the west of Wheeler’s Canyon. Gilbert and three others were the mechanics who installed the mill. Since a road had not yet been constructed through Ogden Canyon, the workmen on the mill had to go over North Ogden Pass into Ogden’s Hole and enter Ogden Canyon from the east.
On 25 March 1860, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s seventh child, Augustus Weber Belnap. On 31 October 1860, Henrietta gave birth in Farmington, Davis, Utah to her and Gilbert’s fourth and last child, Isadora Estella Belnap. On 26 November 1860, Gilbert was appointed Prosecuting Attorney for Ogden City by the City Council. Ten years after arriving in Utah, Gilbert is listed in the 1860 United States Census as a farmer having $700 in real wealth and $300 in personal wealth.
On 9 March 1861, Gilbert was appointed Prosecuting Attorney for Weber County. In a letter dated 8 December 1861 to his brother-in-law Andrew S. Gibbons, who was then living in Santa Clara, Washington, Utah at the time, Gilbert remarked that if he could have sold his place in Ogden he “would have moved south this fall” on account of the cold winter blasts in that part of the country.
On 17 February 1862, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s eighth child, Volney, who died on 14 March 1862 less than one month old. The second and last of Gilbert’s children to die young, Volney was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery in the Gilbert Belnap family plot. In June 1862, Gilbert’s son Gilbert Rosel was present with his gun at the Morrisite War, the only recorded local war in Weber County history, between the followers of the self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Morris and those who were loyal to Brigham Young. Gilbert Rosel took home to his father Gilbert a four-pound, rough, hand-cast cannonball as a souvenir from the war.
On 4 August 1862, Gilbert was elected Sheriff of Weber County. He held this elected office continuously for four consecutive two-year terms, from 1862 to 1870. (Gilbert’s son Gilbert Rosel Belnap later held this same office from 1885 to 1894, and again from 1897 to 1898. Three of Gilbert’s sons--Joseph, Hyrum, and Oliver--served with their brother Gilbert Rosel as Deputy Sheriffs. A grandson of Gilbert, Amasa Marion Hammon, Sr., also served as Weber County Sheriff.) The citizens of Ogden regarded Gilbert as an exceptionally fine officer of the law.
Following the “Battle of Bear River” in northern Cache Valley in January 1863, the company of soldiers under the command of Colonel Patrick Edward Connor stopped at Tabernacle Square in Ogden on their way back to Fort Douglas, where the wounded soldiers were given medical care in the old Council House which stood just north of the old Ogden Tabernacle. As Sheriff, Gilbert assisted in taking care of the wounded soldiers.
On 26 June 1863, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s ninth child, Vinson Knight Belnap. In 1864, Gilbert grew flax on his land near the Weber River.
About 1863 (dates vary between 1857 and 1864) Henrietta and her four children moved from Ogden to Huntsville, Weber, Utah in Ogden Valley. She was moved there by Gilbert to homestead land and care for a large herd of sheep owned by Gilbert. Her homesite is said to have been located across the public square from the first school. (Although the exact location of this homesite is unknown, it is believed to have been very close to the present Huntsville Park.) The home was a log cabin with only the skins of animals and pieces of cloth at the doors and windows.
On 1 February 1865, Gilbert purchased 170 acres of land in Ogden Valley. After a few years Gilbert sold the land and sheep, and Henrietta and her three youngest children moved back to Ogden with Adaline and her family. Some of Gilbert’s sons from his wife Adaline also herded sheep on the benchlands east of Ogden (where present-day Harrison Boulevard is, between 25th and 28th Streets).
On 22 June 1866, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s tenth child, Amasa Belnap. On 13 September, most likely in the year 1867, Gilbert, as a ranking officer, and other members of Company A of the Weber Cavalry left Ogden as an escort to meet President Brigham Young and company (who were believed to be camped at Huntsville). The party met up with President Young on 15 September at Blacksmith Fork after journeying up the south fork of the Ogden River.
In 1867-1868, Gilbert served as president of the newly organized Hooper Irrigation Company. On 25 January 1868, Gilbert posted a bond in Ogden of $275, promising to build a bridge over the Hoopersville Irrigating Canal. The bridge was to consist of five stringers 28 feet long, to be covered with three-inch pine plank 14 feet long, with a handrail on each side 3 feet high, such bridge to be completed by 1 March 1868.
In early 1868, Gilbert moved part of his family to western Weber County to the newly forming community of Hooper. It is said that Gilbert desired to move his family out of Ogden to avoid the corrupting “gentile” influences that were arriving with the coming of the Transcontinental Railroad. (As early as 5 March 1860, however, Gilbert and others had petitioned for the removal of large herds of cattle from the Weber Range, the grazing lands in western Weber County, so that it could be opened up for settlement.)
Gilbert’s wife Henrietta and her three youngest children were the first members of the family to move to Hooper in the early spring of 1868. In Hooper, Henrietta helped her husband establish the residency requirements on 160 acres which Gilbert was intending to purchase from the U.S. Government. The land was level, with no wood or water. Henrietta and her family used a wagon box for their first home, which was set on the ground among sagebrush. (The approximate site of the wagon box was 27 rods south and 4 rods east from the northwest corner of Section 18--about 40 rods north of the present Hooper LDS Chapel at 5000 South 5900 West.) It contained their bed, clothing, and meager supplies. Without a camp stove, their cooking and baking was done over a campfire in a frying pan, kettle, and bake kettle, using cut sagebrush for fuel. They had no artificial light, not even a candle. During the cold weather they would go to bed to keep warm. They melted snow for water or carried water from a distant spring.
During the summer of 1868, Gilbert built for Henrietta a log room. It was located on the western part of the 160 acres Gilbert was homesteading. This house later had an adobe room that sloped to the north.
On 27 June 1868, the 17th Ecclesiastical (Hooper) District of Weber County was created under the direction of Chauncey W. West. On that date, Gilbert was ordained the district’s first Presiding Elder. On 1 August 1868, Adaline gave birth in Ogden to her and Gilbert’s eleventh child, Adaline Lorinda Belnap.
In April 1869, following the birth of Adaline Lorinda Belnap, Adaline moved to Hooper. In Hooper, Adaline and Henrietta had their own homes. Adaline’s family initially lived in a government wagon box that was about three feet high. The wagon box was later replaced by a 10-foot by 16-foot log home, built by Gilbert from some of the logs from the house he built in Ogden. (Gilbert’s son Hyrum recalled a 12-foot square log house with a dirt roof and flags and rushes for rafters.) As conditions improved, the original log house was replaced by another log home, and the first home was used as a chicken coop. On one of these first log houses, Gilbert put a shingle roof--the first shingle roof Adaline owned--and trimmed it with some paint. Later, Gilbert built for Adaline a log home one and one-half stories high. Fifty feet from the home was a granary, built partly underground, used to store potatoes for the winter.
Gilbert’s son Hyrum recalled that his family had in their home wooden chairs, with seats made of strips of rawhide interwoven together. Their meals were cooked in a bake kettle suspended over the fireplace. The family owned a wooden cradle and a trundle bed which was shoved under the larger bed during the day. In the family’s earlier homes, Hyrum recalled that his parents slept in the beds and the children slept on the floor. In the larger home, Hyrum’s sister Martha Jane slept on some planks laid over the ceiling joists and in the summer the boys slept on the roof of the two-room house.
Sometime before 1869, it became necessary to get the payroll from Salt Lake City to Wells, Nevada to the railroad workers constructing the Transcontinental Railroad. The Sheriff of Salt Lake City suggested Sheriff Belnap be engaged to take the money. Gilbert disguised himself as an old miner to avoid attracting attention from bandits on the lookout for the payroll. The large sum of money was placed in gunny sacks tied to his horse. The first night Gilbert reached Kays Ward (now Kaysville, Davis, Utah). When it was getting dark he rode about one half mile from the main road and camped for the night. Gilbert tied his horse to his blanket so that he would be wakened if his horse got frightened. Several times during the night a group of robbers passed by him, paying no attention to the “penniless” old miner. Later on this hazardous undertaking, Gilbert had to seek water holes and live off the desert land. Gilbert successfully kept up his disguise as he encountered on the way other rough characters. It was said that he could “swagger with the best of them.” Gilbert safely delivered the payroll to the paymaster.
On 8 March 1869, Gilbert was invited to sit on the reviewing stand with other dignitaries of Weber County for an historic celebration as the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad were laid through Ogden and the first Union Pacific engine steamed into the city. The Belnap home on the Weber River was right near where the platform was built. Three of Gilbert’s sons--Gilbert Rosel, Reuben, and Joseph--helped construct the Transcontinental Railroad through Weber Canyon. A significant part of Gilbert’s 40 acres of land on the east side of the Weber River subsequently became the rail yards of the “Junction City.”
On 8 June 1869, Gilbert and 22 others petitioned the Weber County Selectmen’s Court for the creation of the Hooper (16th) School District and Precinct. That same month, Gilbert was elected as one of the first three school trustees of the Hooper School District. On 13 June 1869, Gilbert received another Patriarchal Blessing in Ogden at the hands of Patriarch John Smith. In 1869, Gilbert was again appointed City Attorney for Ogden and County Attorney for Weber County.
In 1869, Gilbert purchased from the U.S. Government 158 acres of land in Hooper in Section 18 of Township 5 North Range 2 West (this land was located in the northwest quarter of Section 18--the area which today lies north of 5100 South and west of 5500 West). In an affidavit dated 20 May 1869, Gilbert stated that he had lived on the land since 1 May 1868 and had erected thereon a log and adobe house measuring 16 by 30 feet, with a roof, floor, three doors, and four windows. He also stated that he had plowed and cultivated about 55 acres of land and had built thereon 500 rods of fencing, with a corral, nursery, and orchard. In 1869, Gilbert also purchased 80 acres in Hooper in Section 12 of Township 5 North Range 3 West.
As a result of problems with the Hooper Canal’s intake headgate, Gilbert and 121 others in May 1870 petitioned for the exclusive right to take water from the Weber River for irrigation purposes at a point farther up the river than originally granted. A counter petition was filed. The issue was resolved in favor of Gilbert’s petition in March 1872.
On 1 August 1870, Gilbert was elected a Trustee of the Hooper Irrigation Company. On 11 December 1870, Adaline gave birth in Hooper to her and Gilbert’s twelfth child, Mary Louisa Belnap. In the 1870 United States Census, Gilbert, “President and County Sheriff” and resident of Weber Valley, is listed as having $1,800 in real wealth and $500 in personal wealth. In the same census, Henrietta’s family is listed separately.
Gilbert was awarded the mail contract between Ogden and Hooper from 1 July 1870 to 30 June 1871, and again from 1 July 1871 to 30 June 1874. He was also awarded the mail contract between Salt Lake City and Bingham Canyon on 15 March 1872.
In 1871, Gilbert had put in book form all the ordinances of Ogden. On 6 April 1871, Gilbert’s wife Adaline was made president of the Hooper Ward Relief Society, a position she held until 24 September 1907--a period of 36 years. While Adaline served as president, a Relief Society Hall was constructed in Hooper.
On 5 February 1872, Gilbert was elected as one of eight delegates from Weber County to attend the State Constitutional Convention that convened in Salt Lake City on 19 February 1872 for the purpose of framing a Constitution and taking preparatory steps for the admission of Utah into the Union as a State. On 4 March 1872, Gilbert was appointed Census Taker for the 17th Ecclesiastical (Hooper) District.
On 1 April 1873, Gilbert was appointed as County Court Selectman for Weber County to fill the vacancy left by Henry Holmes. He was qualified on 10 May 1873. On 4 August 1873, Gilbert was elected to the office of County Court Selectman for Weber County. He held this office until 1876, when he became Weber County Assessor and Collector. Also on 4 August 1873, Gilbert was again elected to the office of Trustee for the Hooper Irrigation Company.
On 17 May 1874, Gilbert received notice of a meeting to be held two days later to establish the United Order in Hooper. On 5 June 1874, Adaline gave birth in Hooper to her and Gilbert’s thirteenth and last child, Lola Almira Belnap. At the time of birth of his last child, Gilbert was 52 years old.
In later years, while living in Utah, Gilbert corresponded with his brothers and sister. Despite the untimely deaths of his parents and the great distances that ultimately separated him from his family, Gilbert and his siblings were able to keep in touch with each other.
On 6 October 1874, Gilbert was called to serve his third and final mission--a genealogy mission--to the United States. He left Ogden on 7 November 1874 and visited relatives in Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Canada. In Iowa, Gilbert visited Samuel Langdon Paine, Jr., the husband of his cousin Mary. In Michigan, Gilbert visited his brother John in Grand Rapids. He also made a trip to Chicago. In Ohio, Gilbert stopped to see the Kirtland Temple once more. He also visited his sister-in-law, Almira Knight Stoddard Hanscom, who had apostatized from the Church, and other McBride relatives. Gilbert visited his sister, Phoebe R. Belnap Wilson, in Williamsport, Lycoming, Pennsylvania, and may also have visited his brothers Jesse and William in Canada. In addition to contacting relatives, Gilbert also spent time preaching about the virtues of Utah and Mormonism. Gilbert returned home to Hooper in March 1875.
While in Pennsylvania on his mission, Gilbert attempted to draw out the $1,000, plus interest, that had been deposited on his behalf by his grandfather, Jesse Belnap. To Gilbert’s surprise, the money had been withdrawn by some of his other relatives. They had signed a paper stating that Gilbert was dead, because they hadn’t heard from him in such a long time. Gilbert chose not to sue his relatives to collect the money.
On 25 June 1876, Gilbert was rebaptized in Hooper by Lester J. Herrick; he was confirmed by Franklin D. Richards. On 16 October 1876, Gilbert and his wife Adaline left Hooper with three of their daughters, Adaline, Mary, and Lola, for a trip to Beaver and Southern Utah to visit Gilbert’s brother Thomas, who was stationed there at the time as a soldier at Fort Cameron. They returned to Hooper on 3 January 1877.
On 28 May 1877, the Weber Stake was reorganized. On that day the Hooper Ward was organized under the direction of Elder Franklin D. Richards. Gilbert, who had been serving as Presiding Elder in Hooper since 1868, was ordained the first Bishop of the Hooper Ward and a High Priest. One month later, the South Hooper Ward, comprising that portion of the settlement of Hooper that lay in Davis County, was split off and made a separate ward.
The story is told while Gilbert was serving as Bishop that two men in the ward started quarreling over a plow that one said the other broke. A Teacher’s Trial was held, and then a Bishop’s Trial. As Bishop, Gilbert listened to their story, each in turn, for hours. Finally, he said, “Brother Stone, how much would it cost to fix that plow?” Brother Stone hesitated, then said, “25 cents.” Gilbert gave him 25 cents and said, “Let us go home.” About four months later, Brother Stone came to Gilbert and said, “Bishop, will you take this quarter back?” Gilbert said “No.” Brother Stone said, “It burns my pocket.” Gilbert replied, “Let it burn your conscience so you will never quarrel over such trifles again.”
As Bishop, Gilbert was called at all times day and night to administer to the sick. Many were healed and devils cast out under his administration. Near the end of Gilbert’s tenure as Bishop, construction began on Hooper’s first brick meetinghouse. (This building was remodeled in 1913 and torn down in 1952.)
In 1877 and 1878, Gilbert served as Weber County Assessor and Collector, at an annual salary of $1,000. During 1879 and 1880, this office was divided by the county court into two offices, during which years Gilbert served only as County Collector. In 1881, the offices were again combined, and Gilbert served as County Assessor and Collector until March 1882, when the office was given to his son Hyrum. On 3 April 1882, Hyrum appointed his father Gilbert to be Deputy Assessor and Collector for Weber County. Gilbert continued tax collection while Hyrum was in Salt Lake City attending the University of Deseret.
Gilbert and Adaline’s last home in Hooper was a two-story adobe structure, built in 1880. It replaced a log house that was about the same size. On the ground level were two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and two porches. Two additional bedrooms were upstairs. On his farm in later years, Gilbert had a pond measuring approximately 14- by 20-feet that was filled with fish. He also had many beehives near a large orchard of about two hundred trees, as well as a large lucern field, pigs, cows, chickens, and geese, which were stripped of their feathers and the feathers used for beds and pillows.
In a letter, dated 11 August 1880, to his son Hyrum who was serving a mission to the Southern States, Gilbert wrote “My health has not been better for years . . . My wheat crop is better now than it has been for years past. In the family we will raise not far from two thousand bushels of grain and have harvested all within ourselves.” In another letter to Hyrum, dated 22 December 1881, Gilbert wrote: “Fifty-nine years ago today I made my first mark in the earth and however varied it may have been in early life, it certainly has not been an evil one. While the strength of manhood in my poor way has been devoted to the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and ere feeble steps shall mark my future course, or the light that sparkles from my dark eyes shall go out and gray hairs crown my brow, may the influence that I have and the Priesthood that I bear be used to induce my posterity to seek first the Kingdom of God and its future greatness on the earth.”
In 1882, Gilbert’s mother-in-law Martha came back to Ogden and kept house for Gilbert’s girls while they went to high school. In 1883, Martha moved to Hooper to stay with the wife of Gilbert’s son Joseph while he was away on an LDS mission. She appears to have remained in Hooper continually thereafter, living in a room of her own in Gilbert and Adaline’s house, where she remained until her death in 1901. Gilbert always referred to Martha as “mother.”
When the first brass band was organized in Hooper, with Robert Cox as band leader, the band memorized two tunes, “Nearer My God To Thee” and “Home Sweet Home.” Gilbert’s daughter Mary related that when she was 13 years old (about 1883), the band came to their home to play for her father. The band members stood outside and played those two tunes. The family members were all in bed, but they got dressed and Gilbert invited them into the house, where they played those tunes over and over again at Gilbert’s request. After inquiring if their instruments were paid for, Gilbert learned they were only partly paid for. Gilbert said, “Now boys, I’ll tell you what let’s do. In the morning you all get in your wagon; come here at nine o’clock and I will take my team and wagon and we will go from house to house and play those two tunes and I will ask for donations to pay for your instruments.” By five o’clock in the afternoon there were five wagon loads of wheat donated. When sold, it paid for the instruments and a beautiful navy blue suit and helmet for each of the sixteen band members. Each new tune the band learned, they came and played it for Gilbert.
Gilbert served as Bishop of the Hooper Ward until 20 April 1888, when he resigned because of failing health resulting from a paralytic stroke he had in 1874. He had served continuously as Presiding Elder and Bishop in Hooper for almost twenty years.
Only one of Gilbert’s children, his son Hyrum, followed Gilbert’s example of plural marriage. In the early 1890s, both before and after the Manifesto, Hyrum’s second wife Anna Constantia Bluth Belnap hid on occasion at Gilbert’s home in Hooper to avoid harassment.
On 21 December 1895, a large fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration was held at the old Amusement Hall in Hooper in honor of Gilbert and his wives. Approximately 200 were in attendance.
Like their husband, Gilbert’s wives were also engaged in public service. Adaline, in addition to her service as Relief Society President in Hooper for 36 years, was the only doctor and midwife in western Weber County for many years, continuing her practice until she was 70 years old. Henrietta had a natural ability to teach. She taught the first school in Hooper, initially in her home and later in a log room a short distance west of her home.
In the summer of 1897, Gilbert’s wife Henrietta went with her son Oliver and his family to Moreland, Idaho. In November 1898, Henrietta’s health failed and she returned to Hooper. She went to live with her daughter Isadora in Hooper, where she remained until her death.
Gilbert passed away at his home in Hooper in the afternoon of 26 February 1899 at the age of 77 years after an illness of about a year from which he had partially recovered but then relapsed. At the time of his death there were present at his bedside three daughters and six sons, his two wives, and his aged mother-in-law Martha.
Shortly before he passed away, Gilbert, according to his son Hyrum, gave the following advice to his sons: “Now then boys, whatever thing you do or enter into must be done on the square, no underhand work or chicanery. If you do, it will fall through and you will come out worse in the end than you were in the beginning.”
Gilbert’s funeral was held on 2 March 1899 in the Hooper Ward chapel. Speakers were Austin Cravath Brown (son of Alfred Brown, who traveled to Utah in 1850 in Gilbert’s ten and died of cholera shortly before Gilbert’s son John McBride Belnap died), Charles Parker (Gilbert’s counselor in the Hooper Ward), Henry W. Gwilliam, Bishop Robert McFarland of West Weber, and Bishop William W. Child, who succeeded Gilbert as Bishop of the Hooper Ward. Opening and closing prayers were offered by George H. Fowers and Anthon C. Christensen, respectively. A funeral cortege escorted Gilbert’s remains to Ogden, where he was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery.
Gilbert was described as being 5 feet 7 inches tall, broad-shouldered, with “black curly hair and snapping black (or brown) eyes and a very determined expression around his mouth.” A non-relative of Gilbert, who described him as having a dark beard, dark hair, and dark eyes, recalled that was “a fairly good sized man at least 5 feet 10 inches in height, with square shoulders. He walked briskly and was a man of quick action.”
Gilbert was also said to be kind and thoughtful in his disposition and very slow to get angry. Gilbert’s daughter Mary never remembered hearing her father speak a cross word in her life. Rather, if he were angry or annoyed, he would always say, “It beats the devil.”
On 5 September 1899, six months after Gilbert’s death, Gilbert’s wife Henrietta passed away in Hooper at the home of her daughter Isadora at the age of 78 of stomach cancer. Her funeral was held in the Hooper Ward chapel and she was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery, next to her pioneer husband of 46 years.
Gilbert’s last surviving wife, Adaline, lived with several of her daughters in Idaho and Salt Lake City, until she died 10 June 1919 in Salt Lake City. Her funeral was held in the Hooper LDS meetinghouse at which Apostle David O. McKay spoke. She was buried on 15 June 1919 in the Ogden City Cemetery, next to her pioneer husband of 53 years.
Gilbert, survived at the time of his death by his two wives and 15 of his 17 children, eventually had 160 grandchildren, the last of whom was born in 1920. (Gilbert’s wife Adaline also reared to adulthood a boy, Eli Roy Stoddard, whose mother had died shortly after he was born.) Gilbert instilled in all of his children his own strong sense of patriotism, devotion to principle, and intense dedication to the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of Gilbert’s children who lived to adulthood were sealed in the Endowment House or an LDS Temple and had large families of their own. His descendants, who now number approximately 9,000, have been born in almost every state of the Union and in at least a dozen foreign countries. Many have excelled in medicine, law, business and finance, sports, government, music, and art. Most remain active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Belnap Family Organization, which represents all descendants of Utah Pioneer Gilbert Belnap, is today one of the oldest and largest non-profit family organizations in the United States. Over the past century, temple work, books, and other major genealogical research and restoration projects have been completed through the Belnap Family Organization. Gilbert’s descendants continue to gather at bi-annual reunions, having held their first family reunion in Hooper in 1904. The Belnap Family Organization publishes annually the Belnap Family Crier. In 1968, the Belnap Family Organization was awarded a Certificate of Honor for “Best Family Organization Setup” by the LDS Church. Members of the Belnap Family Organization remain active in preserving, perpetuating, and promoting an understanding of Gilbert Belnap’s tremendous pioneer heritage.
(Written by Brent J. Belnap. Submitted on behalf of the Belnap Family Organization to the Sons of Utah Pioneers in 1996.)
Name: Gilbert Belnap
Born: 22 December 1821, Port Hope, New Castle, Upper Canada (now Port Hope, Durham, Ontario, Canada)
Died: 26 February 1899, Hooper, Weber, Utah
Parents: Rosel Belnap and Jane Richmond
Pioneer Arrival: 17 September 1850
Company: Warren Foote Company, 2nd Hundred (by wagon)
1st Spouse: Adaline Knight
Married: 21 December 1845, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois
1st Spouse's Death: 10 June 1919, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
Children: 1.Gilbert Rosel Belnap, born 8 January 1847, Winter Quarters, Nebraska; married Sarah Jane Cole, 30 November 1867, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 25 January 1929, Ogden, Weber, Utah
2.John McBride Belnap, born 11 May 1849, Fremont County, Iowa; died 22 June 1850, near Salt Creek Ford (present-day Ashland, Saunders), Nebraska
3.Reuben Belnap, born 14 June 1851, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Lucien Vilate Hammon, 11 January 1870, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 20 October 1923, Ogden, Weber, Utah
4.Joseph Belnap, born 26 January 1853, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Minerva Permilia Howard (Fisk), 26 April 1875, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 1 April 1922, Preston, Franklin, Idaho
5.Martha Jane Belnap, born 17 September 1855, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Levi Byram Hammon, 11 January 1870, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 21 March 1923, Roy, Weber, Utah
6.Hyrum Belnap, born 24 March 1858, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married (1) Christiana Rasmussen, 20 September 1883, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and (2) Anna Constantia Bluth, 7 February 1888, Logan, Cache, Utah; died 18 September 1938, Ogden, Weber, Utah
7.Augustus Weber Belnap, born 25 March 1860, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Mary Read, 21 April 1886, Logan, Cache, Utah; died 15 March 1948, Salem, Madison, Idaho
8.Volney Belnap, born 17 February 1862, Ogden, Weber, Utah; died 14 March 1862, Ogden, Weber, Utah
9.Vinson Knight Belnap, born 26 June 1863, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Sarah Emily Hardy, 20 October 1886, Logan, Cache, Utah; died 23 April 1920, Ogden, Weber, Utah
10.Amasa Belnap, born 22 June 1866, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married (1) Lillian Rosamond Garner, 20 October 1886, Logan, Cache, Utah and (2) Julia Rosabell (Rose) James, 11 December 1901, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 28 April 1929, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
11.Adaline Lorinda Belnap, born 1 August 1868, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married John Alexander Lowe, 18 November 1891, Logan, Cache, Utah; died 9 June 1934, Franklin, Franklin, Idaho
12.Mary Louisa Belnap, born 11 December 1870, Hooper, Weber, Utah; married (1) Joseph Heber Lowe, 18 December 1889, Logan, Cache, Utah and (2) Charles Robert Robbins, 13 August 1941, Logan, Cache, Utah (divorced 7 March 1945); died 2 May 1950, Smithfield, Cache, Utah
13.Lola Almira Belnap, born 5 June 1874, Hooper, Weber, Utah; married David William Coolbear, 8 August 1900, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 14 June 1921, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
2nd Spouse: Henrietta McBride
Married: 26 June 1852, Great Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
2nd Spouse's Death: 5 September 1899, Hooper, Weber, Utah
Children: 1.William James Belnap, born 31 August 1853, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married 22 December 1873, Eliza Ann Watts, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 20 December 1932, Hooper, Weber, Utah
2.Oliver Belnap, born 20 September 1855, Springville, Utah, Utah; married (1) Margaret Ann Manning, 6 January 1881, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, (2) Emily Desire Shurtliff, 31 July 1895, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah (divorced 19 July 1898) and (3) Anna Barbara Leuenberger, 6 June 1901, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 30 March 1929, St. George, Washington, Utah
3.Francis Marion Belnap, born 5 June 1857, Ogden, Weber, Utah; married Lillis Subina Robinson 26 December 1878, Hooper, Weber, Utah (sealed 11 January 1883, Endowment House); died 15 December 1932, Hooper, Weber, Utah
4.Isadora Estella Belnap, born 31 October 1860, Farmington, Davis, Utah; married John Francis Stoddard, 14 August 1876, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; died 3 January 1931, Hooper, Weber, Utah