Thomas Griffin Winn

It happened last summer at the handcart site known as Sixth Crossing. We had crossed, in a little over an hour, the stretch of road that crosses and re-crosses the pioneer trails from Independence Rock to the old Sweetwater station. That part of the journey took the pioneers three or four days. One of my favorite spots along that stretch of pavement is variously called Ice Slough, Ice Springs or Icehouse Slough. That's where Eph Hanks killed one of the buffalo that was miraculously provided for the Martin handcart company.

At the Sixth Crossing handcart site, we had seen one of the movies they show there, discussed the artifacts and exhibits, and were about to leave. Outside of the visitors' Center is a large sign listing the members of the Willie handcart company and some of the rescuers. I was shocked to read that two of the rescuers were Thomas Griffin Winn and John Singleton.

It should be noted that most rescuers turned back before they reached South Pass. Only the most valiant and determined actually were at Rock Creek when James Willie and Joseph Elder stumbled into the rescuers' camp. I'm not sure where John and Thomas were when the handcarts were found, but we should note that many would-be rescuers were on their way back to Salt Lake when the handcart people were found. I haven't found a complete list of the rescue party that was at Rock Creek, so I don't know if Thomas and John were in that party or not, but I'd like to think they were.

John Singleton was one of my ancestors. As fate would have it he died in a blizzard near American Fork, Utah on Christmas day in 1865. Until I saw his name on that sign I had no idea any of my ancestors had been involved in the rescue of the handcart companies.

Thomas Griffin Winn

Thomas Griffin Winn was another of Grandpa Winn's great-grandfathers. I recognized his name from RoseMary's genealogy sheets but I didn't know much about him - even though, as it turned out, we had a small biography that had been written by some granchildren, primarily about Thomas' parents. We also had another written by one of his sons, William L. Winn.

First, here's the biography from the grandchildren:

John Winn, son of John Winn and Helena Moore was born in Mohawk Valley, Montgomery Co., New York, 23 Feb. 1804. He was the oldest of three sons. His parents died when he was a young child, and he was reared in the home of his uncle in New York.He followed farming as a young man.

John Winn at the age of 24 married Christina Finch, daughter of Thaddeus and Elizabeth Bailey Finch. She was born 23 Jan. 1799 at Goshen, Orange Co., New York. They moved to Blakely, Luzerne Co., Penn. Soon after their arrival there, two L.D.S. missionaries came to their home. Their preaching impressed John very much, and he began investigating this new religion. Not being fully satisfied, he went to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the church. He was soon convinced of the truth of this new doctrine and was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on 30 June 1833 by Oliver Cowdery, at Kirtland, Ohio. His wife was not baptized on this day, as she gave birth to her third son, William Henry. She was baptized at a later date in 1833.

John went back to his home in Penn. and began to dispose of his property and in the spring of 1836 moved to Kirtland. During their stay in Penn., they had four sons born to them:

Thomas Griffin, the oldest, born 20 Dec. 1829;
Walstein, 14 July 1831;
William Henry, 30 June 1833;
and James, 25 Nov. 1835.

On arriving at Kirt1and, they were counseled to continue on to Jackson Co., Missouri. They at once made purchase of land and a building lot, feeling they had located themselves where the Center Stake of Zion and the great temple would be built preparatory to the coming of the Savior. But to their surprise mobs gathered and drove them into other parts of the state. While located at Far West, Mo., another son, George Finch, was born 23 Dec. 1838.

The John and Christina Winn family was with the saints during their persecutions and mobbings in Missouri and Illinois. At Nauvoo, they helped in building that city and the temple. On 7 Feb. 1846, they received their endowments in the Temple. They were well acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and they were closely associated with the Lott family at the time the Lott family lived on the Church Farm near Nauvoo. John Winn attended the funeral services of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum. He was in Nauvoo when the mob bombarded the city and [many of the saints] crossed the Mississippi on ice. [Editor's note - these are two different persecutions - first the Missouri persecutions and expulsion in 1839, then the Nauvoo expulsion in 1846] Both James and Walstein Winn died from exposure during the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri, only six weeks apart. James died 5 Apr. 1839; Walstein died 17 May 1839. James was three years old and Walstein was seven. All their earthly possessions were left behind, and being practically destitute, they went to live with relatives in the city of Quincy, Illinois. [Editor's note - The people in Quincy were more than generous to the fleeing saints. Many took more than one family into their homes (usually one or two room log cabins) and clothed them and fed them.]

Thomas Griffin Winn at the age of 17 years went away to work to earn something for them to live on. He was away for two years, and during that time Mormon Elders came in his neighborhood. Their preaching so impressed him that he went home and urged his father and mother to prepare themselves to gather with the Saints in Salt Lake City.

Christina and her two sons, Thomas Griffin and George Finch – the oldest and the youngest - made ready, and in the spring of 1852, in company with Willis Lemon's father's family, the Pattison Griffiths family, and several other families, they started for Utah, arriving here in the middle of the summer of 1852.

John Winn, not being as well grounded in the faith as his wife, did not emigrate to Utah with the Saints at this time. John and his third son, William Henry, came to Utah in 1856 - four years after his wife and two boys had left.

When they arrived, John found that his wife, Christina, had passed away two years earlier. He then married a woman known as "Widow Weeks" (Mary Ann Bauldry Weekes) ,who died soon after their marriage. NOTE--Christina Finch Winn and Malissa Lott Smith were very good friends. The Smith farm and the Winn farm joined. Malissa Lott Smith Willis is the mother of John Willis' brother Ira's wife.

Christina Finch Winn was a woman of high ideals, true to her religion and firm in her faith. She was an excellent housewife, always busy caring for her husband and five sons. She was an expert seamstress, and at times she made men's clothing to supplement the family income: She departed this life 10 July 1854, two years after her coming to Utah. She was among the first to be buried in Lehi's first cemetary. This cemetary no longer exists, but a large marker has been erected in memory of the dead who lie there. It is located on Highway 91 at 8th North in Lehi.

John Winn Died 1 Jan. 1863 in Salt Lake City at the home of Aunt Malissa Lot Smith Wilis at the age of 59. He was buried in Salt Lake City.

THE FIVE SONS: James and Walstein died in Missouri - 1839.

George Finch Winn, the youngest son, was born 28 Dec. 1839 in Farwest, Caldwell, Missouri. He was baptized a member of the L.D.S. Church in Lehi, Utah, in 1854. He resided in Lehi until the time of his death. In the winter of 1855, he was called to go out west of Utah Lake and herd cattle for the people of Lehi. While there in company with others (presumably the Weeks boys) the Indians came upon them and killed them. George was 18 years of age. According to Mathias Peterson, one of the early settlers of Lehi, he relates of the burial of these boys. He said that the bodies of these three boys were brought in from the lake and were buried in one large grave in Lehi's first cemetary.

William Henry Winn, the third son of John and Christina Finch Winn, was born 30 June 1833. He came to Utah with his father in 1856. He made his home in Lehi, Utah. He married Martha Evans 20 Oct. 1859. Fourteen children were born to this couple. He later married Agnes McOmie. Two children were born to this couple. He died 26 April 1884.

Thomas Griffin Winn married Elizabeth Hatch and later Elizabeth Andrea Hansen or Nielsen. Later he married Christina Victoria Otterbeck, and still later he married Jane Batt. Besides the 24 children born to Thomas Griffin and his four wives, he also raised an Arkansas boy and an Indian girl. He died at White Water, Colo., and May, 1904. Details of his death are limited as none of his family except the daughter he was living with knew of his death until some months later.

These biographies were written and compiled by Christina Winn Willes and Susie Winn Whipple, daughters of William Henry Winn and by William L. Winn, son of Thomas Griffin Winn—granddaughters and grandson of John Winn and Christina Finch Winn. (The place names and dates may have to be checked again.)


And here's the biography written by the son, William L. Winn:


John Winn, son of John Winn and Helena Moore was born in Mindon, Oswego Co., New York, Feb. 1804. He farmed as a young man; at the age of twenty-four, he married Christiana Finch who was born at Goshen, Orange Co., N. Y., Jan. 23, 1799. They moved to Blakely, Luzerne Co., Penn. Soon after their arrival there, two L.D.S. Elders came to their home. Their preaching impressed John very much, and he began investigating this new religion. Not being fully satisfied, he went to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the Church. He was soon convinced of the truthfulness of this new religion and was baptized on the third day of July, 1833, by Oliver Cowdery. He went back to his home and at once began to dispose of his property and in the spring of 1836 moved to Kirtland. During their stay in Pennsylvania, they had four sons born to them: Thomas Griffin, Walstine, William Henry, and James Finch.

On arriving at Kirtland they were counseled to continue on to Jackson Co., Missouri. When they arrived there, they purchased land and began making their home, feeling they had located in the center stake of Zion where the City and also the Temple of Zion would be built preparatory to the coming of Christ to reign as King of Kings. But to their dismay, mobs began to gather and soon drove them to another part of the state. While living in Farwest, Missouri, another son was born, George Finch Winn, to them, Dec. 28, 1838. They endured all the persecution of Missouri and during their drivings in the winter buried two of their sons, Walstine and James. They then went with the Saints and helped to build the city of Nauvoo and also the temple and on the 7th of February, 1846, received their endowments in the Temple. They were in Nauvoo when the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were killed and attended their funeral. They were living in Nauvoo when the mob bombarded the City, and they crossed the Missouri River on the ice leaving all their earthly possessions behind. Being destitute, they sought shelter with relatives in Quincy, Illinois.

Thomas Griffin Winn, eldest son of John Winn and Christiana Finch was then 17 years of age and in connection with his parents had passed through all this persecution. He was born Dec. 20, 1829, in Blakely, Luzerne Co., Penn., and was baptized April 1, 1839, at Farwest, Missouri, while his parents and brothers were staying at Quincy, Ill. Thomas went to work on the Erie Canal, near Lake Erie, N. Y. He labored there for nearly two years and while there two L.D.S. Elders held meetings in that vicinity. Their preaching so impressed him that he returned to his home in Quincy and told his parents to get ready to go to Utah, and if they refused to go, he was going anyway, but if they would go with him, he would support them as long as they lived. After some persuasion they decided to follow the other members of the Church and in the Spring of 1850, in company with eight or ten other families, started for Utah, arriving in Salt Lake City, July of the same year.

He immediately settled at Lehi 30 mi1es south of Salt Lake City where he soon met Elizabeth Hatch, born January 19, 1837 in Lincoln, Madison Co., Vermont, and on the 3rd of June, 1854, they were married at Lehi. Two daughters were born to that union; Elizabeth C., born Sept. 8, 1855, and Adeline, born Dec. 8, 1857 at Lehi.

In the early winter Thomas was called to go out to Green River and meet Captain Willey's Handcart Company snowed in and camped on the banks of Green River. The snow was deep and the weather extremely cold and those poor emigrants were so badly frozen many of them lost their fingers and toes. James Reid, father of Robert Reid, was among that number. I have heard my father and him tell of the terrible condition they were in. The odor from those poor frozen people was so rank that the teamsters who were hauling them had to pull down the wagon cover between them and the people, so they could stand to sit in the wagon and drive their team. This caused the teamsters to suffer greatly with the cold and many of them froze their feet and ears.

In the fall of 1857, he was called· in connection with a number of others to go out and meet the U.S. Army, led by General Johnson, and to hinder them in every way so as to keep them in the mountains until winter snows came and made it impossible to travel. They were ordered to burn the grass, drive off their cattle, set fire to their supply wagons and in many other ways hinder but not to kill anyone only in defending their own lives. They hindered them so much that the army decided to stay at Ft. Bridger for the winter. While away on that mission, his second daughter was born.

During the winter of 1857, he married Elizabeth Andrea Hansen [Nielson]. She was born April 17, 1840 in Bornholm, Denmark. Seven children were born to this union. They were: Jeramiah, Julia, Martha, Wm. L., Sylvia, Mary L., and George. He was called to go and help settle Cache Valley and accordingly set out on March 29, 1860, arriving here on April 1st. While traveling from Lehi to Smithfield, the first son took ill on the way and died and was buried in the Brigham City Cemetary.

Soon after their arrival here a branch of the state Militia was organized and Thomas Winn was made Captain of the Cavalry and Thomas Ricks Captain of the Militia and each year they would meet on the old church farm now known as College Ward, and there they would be drilled in military training. These men were expected to be ready at a moment's call to quell any outbreak of the Indians or gangs of outlaws that might be roaming over the country. During the Summer of 1860, there was a band of renegade Indians led by an Indian Chief named Pugwenie who had been causing a lot of trouble stealing the horses and cattle from the settlers and running them out of the country. Chief Pugwenie was arrested and brought down to the Bishop's for trial. Soon his followers came down, rushed into the house and called for him to to come. He jumped up and ran. Thomas Winn and Samuel Cousins were placed as guards outside. As they passed the guards, the Indians fired at them. They returned shots at the Indians, and Chief Pugwenie fell mortally wounded. Samuel Cousins was also a shot through the breast but recovered. He [Thomas] was elected to the office of policeman and acted in this office for 22 years.

During that time he had many thrilling experiences of which I will mention only one at this time. There were many reckless characters roaming over the country headed for California, Oregon and Washington. Many times they would steal the people's horses, cattle or anything they could get away with. On one occasion, two men stole a horse belonging to big Sam Merrill. (I am writing this just as Sam related it to me). Sam and father followed them and overtook them camped on Bear River north of Preston just as it was coming daylight. They had hitched the horse up and was about to start when Thomas stopped them and began to unhitch the horse. The men were sitting on a seat in the wagon with drawn guns and threatened to kill any man that would attempt to take that horse. Sam became so frightened that he said, "Let them have the horse." But Thomas with gun in one hand unharnessed the horse with the other and with his gun leveled on those men, led the horse away. This was just one among many of such incidents.

In May 1874, he married Christina Ottobeck. Twelve children were born to this union.

In the spring of 1875, Thomas was called to take the Church cattle and the spare cattle of Smithfield up into the Treasureton Country and herd them. On their return in the fall, he had to take them to Salt Lake City. His vocation was farming and along with other responsibilities, he looked after the farm and was known as a very successful farmer. He assisted in laying out the townsite of Smithfield and helped in every public improvement. In 1887 when the U. S. Government was waging war against plural marriage, he went to St. George where he obtained employment for two years. When the trouble eased down, he came back to his old home. He purchased a farm in Gentile Valley, but because of his ill health he was forced to retire. He had several serious attacks of dropsy, but finally improved in health, so he decided to visit his daughter in Grand Junction. While there, his old ailment returned and in May, 1904, he passed to the great beyond at the age of 75 years.

Written by Bishop William L. Winn, a son

This picture of Thomas Griffin Winn appeared in Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah

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