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CHAPTER VII

MY YEARS AS PRESIDENT OF THE ST. JOHNS STAKE 
(1887-1922)

INJULY 1887, Apostles Francis M. Lyman and John Henry Smith were sent to St. Johns by President John Taylor and counselors with instructions to bring together the remnants of the Eastern Arizona Stake and the Little Colorado Stake and divide them into two new stakes. The matter was acted upon by the Stake Presidency and the High Council of the Eastern Arizona Stake. The Little Colorado Stake, presided over by Lot Smith, bad been disorganized for some time. The minutes of the priesthood meeting held at this time, as recorded in the St. Johns Stake record, state that Apostle Lyman remarked, "We have now sounded the death knell of the Presidency and officers of the Eastern Arizona Stake."

Quoting further from the minutes, Brother Lyman said, "The Presidency of the Church have nominated President Jesse N. Smith to preside over the western portion of this country to be known as the Snowflake Stake


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of Zion, and Bishop D. K. Udall to preside over the eastern portion to be known as the St. Johns Stake of Zion."

Very vividly I recall my feelings at that time. The clerk recorded: "Bishop D. K. Udall said, 'We are laboring for the redemption and salvation of the human family. If my life and labors in the past have warranted the general authorities and the saints in this land to place sufficient confidence in me, to honor me by adding to my responsibilities, by the help of the Lord I will do my best to fulfill the duties required of me. I shall do all I can to aid in furthering the work of God in this part of His vineyard'."

St. Johns Stake was comprised of the following wards: St. Johns Ward (including branches at Walnut Grove and Meadows); Amity and Omer wards were Joined and known as the Union Ward (subsequently named Eagar Ward); Nutrioso, Alpine, Erastus Ward (later known as Concho Ward); Heber Ward (later known as Luna), and Ramah Ward which was originally made by combining two branches known as Cebolla and Cebollita. Luna and Ramah wards are in New Mexico; the other wards are in Apache County, Arizona. St. Johns was headquarters of the new stake.

At a special conference meeting held in the Old Assembly Hall at St. Johns on July 23, 1887, David K. Udall was set apart by Francis M. Lyman as Stake President, with Elijah N. Freeman as first counselor and Win. H. Gibbons as second counselor. During this conference all the stake officers were chosen and set apart for their various callings.

My labors as President of the St. Johns Stake covered a period of nearly thirty-five years. One of the happy


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MY YEARS AS PRESIDENT OF ST. JOHNS STAKE 

customs we established and carried out through all the years of our stake work was that of making a summer visit to each ward. The priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations were all represented. On these trips we brethren enjoyed the company of our wives and co-workers. Almost without exception the following officers went with us: Ella, and members of her Relief Society Board, including Sister Mary E. B. Farr, the secretary; Sister Mary E. Freeman, President of the Stake Y.L.M.I.A. and some of her board; and during the first half of this period, Sister Emma B. Coleman, President of the Stake Primary Association. They composed a very progressive and efficient group of women who were good speakers and who added much joy and inspiration to our ward conferences. Often we had a group of twenty-five or thirty people, including a few of our children. It was before the day of the automobile. We traveled in covered wagons and "white tops." It took ten days or more to make the trip and bold our meetings in the wards of Eagar, Nutrioso, Alpine, Luna and Lee Valley (later known as Greer Ward), and a week or more to go to Ramah and Bluewater, by way of the historic Zuni Village. It took practically a month to hold our ward conferences in the wards already named and in St. Johns and Concho. A smaller group went to the latter wards as they were not large enough to take care of so many guests. We looked forward to holding ward conferences with all the pleasure of going on a vacation.

The beautiful White Mountain country with its sparkling streams and wild flowers and pine forests became to us a veritable picnic ground. We found time for dancing and other social activities as well as for the many necessary meetings. We tasted the joy of service mingled with true


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friendship. The warm welcomes and cordial hospitality showered upon us are cherished among our happiest memories. The Lord blessed us in our ministry as we taught the Gospel, and emphasized the need of educating our children. Soon after the first of every year, I made another visit to each ward to settle tithing and to audit other ward accounts and ward records. Sometimes one of my counselors went along and very often Brother Farr, our stake clerk, accompanied me. Usually we went on horseback, and often through deep snow. We made special effort on these visits to teach our people the law of tithing. We met with the boards of each organization and instructed them in record keeping when we inspected the minute books and financial reports. It is interesting to me to find that in making two visits a year to our wards for thirty-five years, I traveled approximately 25,000 miles--once around the earth in distance, and practically all of it by team.

Our experiences were varied. Once on our journey from Alpine to Eagar, we encountered a storm which delayed us. We were traveling a new road down toward Water Canyon, when darkness came on. There was no moon. We were "lost" so far as following the new road was concerned and we finally decided to stop and make ourselves as comfortable as possible in our "white tops" and covered wagons. We had a half dozen or more young children in the company and they wanted some supper. Dear Sister Coleman in walking around saw something white on the ground. She picked it up and like manna of old, it was a flour sack half full of bread and butter and cookies. No doubt some rancher had lost it that day. The next morning we found some wild-bee honey in a


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MY YEARS AS PRESIDENT OF ST. JOHNS STAKE 

hollow tree which delighted the children again. We drove on to our mill farm home, had breakfast for the big crowd and were at the Eagar School House in time for our ward conference at ten o'clock.

Another unusual incident occurred one summer soon after the turn of the century. Brother Warren Mallory, the superintendent of the Y.M.M.I.A., had a narrow escape from death while we were making the annual trip "around the stake." We were holding ward conference in Luna. He was to speak in the afternoon meeting and feeling the need of divine help he went to a secluded spot in the pines to pray. An electrical storm was gathering. Suddenly, as he knelt in prayer, he was struck by lightning. The metal in his pocket knife was melted and one shoe was burned and ripped from his foot. He was shocked, but otherwise unharmed. It was a sensational experience and made the entire community and its visitors feel very humble and thankful to the Lord for having spared Brother Mallory's life.

In my ministry the following brethren were associated with me as counselors: Elijah N. Freeman, William H. Gibbons, John T. Lesueur, Charles P. Anderson, W. D. Rencher, and John W. Brown. During the greater part of this time Elder Willard Farr was our stake clerk, and I doubt if a more faithful and more efficient one has ever been found in all of Zion. In the many things that my counselors and I planned and attempted, it was our policy to confer with the High Council on all matters of consequence--a most democratic practice in the Church, one that gives a stake presidency keen satisfaction in exercising leadership. It is seldom indeed that the decision of a High Council is disappointing.


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In our practical experience there was a mingling of successes and failures. Under our leadership we saw irrigation projects developed, land reclaimed, roads built, schools and post offices established. Periodically we endured alternate extremes of droughts and floods which made any financial progress uncertain, and the building of homes difficult. Many people became discouraged and asked to be released from their mission in our country. These requests were usually granted by the Church authorities From our stake many went to southern Arizona, especially the fertile Gila and Salt River valleys; still others returned to their old homes in Utah and Idaho. In the year 1904 our population was practically the same as it had been when the stake was organized seventeen years before.

St. Johns Stake Academy

In no other phase of our ministry did we put forth greater effort than we did in establishing and maintaining our Church school -- the St. Johns Stake Academy. While I was in England on my mission I had solemnly vowed if the Lord blessed me with children they should have all the educational advantages I could possibly give them. The memory of my vow urged me on in this undertaking.

Back in the year 1899 we first opened the St. Johns Stake Academy, with Elder John W. Brown as principal. He deserves great credit for his wholesome and forceful work. Pearl tells me that there were fifty of Brother Brown's students (now teachers themselves) in attendance at a Teacher's Institute in Phoenix in 1906.Three of our daughters were in this group. We had other strong principals in the school: Brother Cropper, F. A. Hinckley,


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Robert H. Sainsbury, W. D. Rencher, and M. 0. Poulson. Brother Poulson was our outstanding athletic leader who put our athletic teams to the forefront in the state of Arizona.

For the first few years the school was conducted in the upper rooms of the Tithing Office in St. Johns. Then we were advised to erect a Stake Academy building. For

ST. JOHNS STAKE ACADEMY

ten years individuals and wards donated labor, materials and some cash. We schemed and economized in the work. Bricklayers received but $3 per day, a man and team $3, common labor $2 to $2.50. The workmen were paid in "chips and whetstones," often perishable tithing. Bricks were made and delivered for $10 per thousand. The building cost $14,000. At last it was completed--a Herculean task, accomplished only through the


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patriotic zeal of parents who were determined to give their children education beyond the grades. We looked upon this project with religious conviction.

The academy building was dedicated December 16, 1900, by Apostle Joseph F. Smith. It was a time of great rejoicing. From that time until the academy was discontinued, it was in use Sundays and weekdays and many evenings. It was our school, our chapel, and our amusement hall. How proud we were of the talent, culture and refinement of our young people in social dances, in operas and plays. The musical ability of St. Johns was known far and wide in our state. The academy had been worth all we put into it, at a time, too, when public calls were so many and our means so limited.

Every year we received some money from the educational fund of the Church, but even then the students paid a rather high tuition and we wonder how we managed to finance the education of our boys and girls. There was one time in the late nineties that we were not able to keep the school in operation. This is one of the miracles wrought on the principle of "Where there is a will, there is a way," and "An ounce of desire is worth a pocketful of money."

For several years we conducted a dormitory, buying Brother John T. Lesueur's two-story home for the purpose. We later sold it and it later passed into the hands of Bishop E. I. Whiting. This dormitory furnished a home at nominal cost for the boys and girls from other towns.

The academy building was remodeled and largely incorporated into the St. Johns Ward building when the new chapel was constructed.


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In the spring of 1921 our stake was saddened by the new policy of the Church in closing all stake academies and letting the high school education of its communities be provided by state funds. This was a shock to our membership. We bad come to look upon the school as a fixed institution; we loved it dearly for we bad built and nurtured it, through years of cooperation and sacrifice. The building was a marvelous building to us, and we had been very happy in having our children taught the Gospel within its walls.

*     *     *

St. Johns, Arizona, July 23, 1917

CELEBRATION COMMEMORATING THE 3OTH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE ORGANIZATION OF
THE ST. JOHNS STAKE

Under the direction of the stake presidency a fine anniversary program was carried out in connection with the regular Quarterly Conference of the St. Johns Stake. Apostles Heber J. Grant and David O. McKay were present, representing the General Authorities of the Church. It was a great honor to the people of the stake to have these two noble men in attendance at the sessions of the conference and the celebration. They were both in the full flower of manhood, and as they discharged the duties of their assignments the power of their apostolic calling was made most manifest. They gave due honor and praise to the leaders and the people of this frontier stake, for the accomplishments of the first thirty years of its history; and for two glorious days they taught the people and testified of the divinity of the Gospel of Christ, and of His goodness and mercy to the people who had settled the


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St. Johns Stake in compliance with the calling of the General Authorities. President Grant's singing was a noteworthy contribution at all of the meetings. The songs, "The Flag Without a Stain," and "Zion Prospers, All Is Well," were particularly stirring and impressive. Truly it was a time of rejoicing and spiritual uplift for the people there assembled.

A scholarly historical sketch of the stake was written and read on that occasion by judge George H. Crosby, Jr., who was the anniversary program chairman, from which we quote these excerpts:

President Francis M. Lyman was the first person to whom I spoke about holding this celebration, he told me to go oil and work up the celebration. He told me not to forget to honor President David K. Udall and say, "A stake president is one of the Church's seventy big men (there were then seventy organized Stakes of Zion), and a man who can for thirty years remain as president of a frontier stake under the adverse conditions that have existed in St. Johns is one of our big stake presidents." Brother Lyman continued, "Have the celebration, George, and I will come to it," then he hesitated a momentand said, "if I am alive." He has now passed to the Great Beyond, the last of the visitors who were with us the day the stake was organized.

Today we honor all, unnamed maybe, who have served faithfully as officers of this stake during the thirty years of its existence. We do honor to the original officers of the stake and especially to Edmond Nelson, who has been in the High Council for the full thirty years; Sister Ella Udall and her counselor, Mary E. B. Farr, who have presided over the Stake's Relief Society all that time, and above all, to President David K. Udall, who in prosperity and adversity, in trial and troubles, for thirty years has not only field the place as president of our stake, but has been our real and actual leader all these thirtyyears.


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MY RELEASE

Extracts from minutes, St. Johns Stake Conference, April 28, 1922. Record Book B, page 350. 

High Council Meeting:

. . . President Clawson said that he and President Rey L. Pratt, of the First Council of Seventy and president of the Mexican mission, had come to St. Johns to meet with the people in this Stake Conference. He spoke of events of the day and said it is a crime for the nations of the earth to sink billions of dollars in the sea, as they are today in the destruction of great ships. It is more than wasteful.

The speaker said: "We are happy to be with you. President Udall has been your president for some thirty-five years. How do you feel towards him? High Council can sit in judgment upon the souls of men. You can cut him off the Church."

High Councilor S. E. Lewis said that President Udall is a man of faith and integrity, a man of God. High Councilors Jacob Hamblin and J. M. Richey said that the president is an honorable man, worthy and conscientious and sympathetic. High Councilors Edmond Nelson and M. Christensen had many words of commendation for the president. High Councilor Orson Wilkins had always looked upon President Udall as being a wise and good man. High Councilor Albert Jarvis appreciated the leadership of President Udall.

President Rey L. Pratt was delighted in being here tonight. Appreciated the kindly expressions of the brethren towards President Udall. Had a great deal of sympathy toward the brethren who had pioneered this country and the entering into the valleys of the mountains. Prayed the blessings of the Lord upon the people here. We must throw a safeguard around our young people.

President Clawson had listened with a great deal of interest and appreciation to the remarks of the brethren toward President Udall. He is held in high esteem by the leading authorities of the Church. The losing of the dam had


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been a great calamity to the people here. You have had the desert to conquer and great hardships to overcome.

President Udall said he felt very deeply the words that have been spoken in his favor.
Benediction by Elder Edmond Nelson.

(Signed) Willard Farr, Clerk.
April 29, 1922, Record Book B, pages 353-354:

President Udall said that President Clawson had requested that he use a portion of the time. He told about some of his ancestry and the emigration of his parents from England. He told bow the people in Nephi built a wall around the fort of nine blocks, a wall fourteen feet high and six feet wide at the bottom. He spoke of his mother's death in 1863, leaving two sons and two daughters. At the age of twenty-three he went to Europe on a mission. He moved to St. Johns as bishop of the ward, arriving here on the 6th day of October 1880. He recounted the story of the purchase of St. Johns. He bore testimony to the truthfulness of the Gospel. "My deepest concern in regard to this Stake of Zion is pertaining to the priesthood. We are not doing our duty. We may fail, but the Church will not, nor will this place fail."

Page 355: President Clawson announced that tomorrow afternoon we expect to make some changes in the authorities of this stake and some of the priesthood, and effect a reorganization. The leading authorities have the greatest confidence in the integrity of the authorities here, but it is thought wise to make a change.

April 30, 1922. President J. W. Brown rejoiced in the privilege of attending this conference. Thankful he knew that the Gospel is true and that he knew Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. He is thankful that there is going to be a change in the officers of this stake. "I have upheld President Udall as president of this stake. He is a good man, a virtuous man, an honest man, and I pray that the Lord will bless him."

President Charles P. Anderson has a testimony that we have the true Gospel and that this is the Church of Jesus Christ.


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Page 358: President Clawson: "These men and women (all of the stake officers) who are now released have the absolute sanction and blessing of the leaders of the Church. President Udall has been true to this people. He would be taken out and shot down before he would betray his people. The Lord will remember the people here, who will have a better time in the future."

*     *     *

[ Note: April 30, 1922, Levi S. Udall was selected, sustained and set apart by President Rudger Clawson to succeed his father, David K. Udall, as president of the St. Johns Stake of Zion. He selected as his counselors Jacob Hamblin and L. R. Gibbons, and a complete new set of stake officers were then installed, together with new bishops in the St. Johns and Eagar Wards. ]


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Arizona Pioneer Mormon:
David King Udall: His Story and His Family, 1851 - 1938

Published by Arizona Silhouettes
Tucson, Arizona
1959