Samuel Roskelley…

Portrait of a Pioneer

First Temple Recorder

The Principal— A Drama by Samuel Roskelley

Biography of Samuel Roskelley

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  • Samuel Roskelley
  • Early Cache Valley
  • Regarding Samuel Roskelley
  • Letters

Samuel RoskelleySamuel Roskelley

Samuel Roskelley, president of the High Priests' quorum in the Benson Stake of Zion, is the son of Thomas Roskelley and Ann Kitt, and was born January 1st, 1837, at Devonport, Devonshire, England.

He was the youngest of six children, and received a fair education, preparing for a position under the British government. Attracted by the singing of the Latter-day Saints, in the fall of 1851, he came to their meetings and was soon convinced that they taught Bible truths, and he was consequently baptized December 3rd, 1851, by Elder James Caffall; confirmed December 7th, 1851, by Elder William G. Mills. Although but a boy, he took much interest in the doctrines of the Gospel, and accompanied the Elders and Priests in visiting other towns and villages to preach. Ordinations to the offices of Deacon and Priest soon followed, and by endeavoring to magnify these offices he won the love and esteem of the Elders and Saints and the ill will of his parents and relatives. He filled the positions of branch clerk, conference clerk and book agent, until he was ordained an Elder March 15th, 1853, by Joseph Hall, preparatory to leaving England for Zion, on the ship Falcon. He sailed from Liverpool March 26th, 1853, and landed at New Orleans; thence the journey was continued to Keokuk, Iowa, and he crossed that state and the great plains in Appleton M. Harmon's company, arriving in Salt Lake City, October 16th, 1853, without kindred, or friends, save those in the company he came with. In the spring of 1854 he hired out to President Brigham Young as a teamster, and boarded with his family; he was ordained a Seventy July 1st, 1855, by President Lewis Robbins, and was received the same day as a member of the 2nd quorum of Seventy.

He accompanied Bryant Stringam, Andrew Moffatt and others to Cache Valley, to put up hay for Church stock, arriving there July 28th, 1855. Being called by President Brigham Young, he left Salt Lake City Sepember. 12th, 1856, to fill a mission to Great Britain, and he crossed the plains with a missionary company, in charge of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. After his arrival in Liverpool he was appointed to the Welsh mission. May 16th, 1857, he was appointed to organize and preside over the Cardiff conference and he labored with zeal in that position until he was released to return home with European, Canadian and United States missionaries during the Buchanan Army invasion of Utah. Together with Elder John L. Smith he arrived in Salt Lake City June 22nd, 1858, in advance of the company, with dispatches for President Brigham Young. July 22nd, 1858, he married Rebecca Hendricks, of Salt Lake City, President Brigham Young officiating. He moved to Richmond, Cache Valley, and took up land for a homestead in April, 1860, and succeeded Stephen Goddard as leader of the Richmond choir in May of that year. The choir gained much public favor by singing "Hard times come again no more" and other songs of like nature.

Elder Roskelley assisted in getting out water ditches, hunting and guarding Indians, protecting and preserving horses and horned stock from the raids of hostiles, driving grasshoppers and burning them by millions, erecting public buildings, and all other labors incident to setting up a new country. He was ordained a High Priest and Bishop and set apart to preside in Smithfield Ward, Cache County, November 30th, 1862, by Apostle Ezra T. Benson, and Peter Maughan. Afterwards he was elected to offices of trust in the Cooperative and Canal companies, in which the people of the Ward were interested. He also acted in the following military offices, viz: captain of company C, 1st regiment of infantry; major of 4th battalion, first regiment of infantry; commissary of 1st regiment infantry, and chaplain of Cache Valley Brigade. He was elected and filled the important office of county superintendent of district schools for three terms, and assisted in obtaining city charter for Smithfield City and presided over its affairs for three terms as mayor; served as director in the construction of the U. & N. R. R. company, and operated as subcontractor in the construction of the S.P.R.R. With twelve days' notice he left Ogden April 13th, 1880, pursuant to a call from President John Taylor, as a missionary to Great Britain.

Samuel RoskelleyAfter his arrival in Liverpool April 29th, 1880, he was appointed to labor as traveling Elder, and succeeded Elder George H. Taylor as president of the London conference, introducing the gospel into many new localities. Being released to return to Zion, he left Liverpool June 25th, 1881, in charge of 775 Saints on the steamship Wyoming, and arrived at Ogden with the company July 15th, 1881. August 6th, 1882, he was set apart by President Joseph F. Smith as president of the High Priests' quorum in Cache Valley Stake. At the same conference he was called as a missionary worker to the St. George Temple. After filling that mission, he returned to Cache Valley. March 9th, 1884, he was appointed assistant to superintendent Charles O. Card in fitting up the Logan Temple for ordinance work, and on May 21st, 1884, he was set apart by President George Q. Cannon as recorder of the Logan Temple. He passed through many unpleasant circumstances during the anti-polygamy raid, and was arrested January 8th, 1889, by Deputy Marshal Hudson, charged with having many wives and children-more than the law allowed-but having at the time four living wives and twenty-two living children. Circumstantial evidence, however, were sufficient in the hands of a competent attorney to secure an acquittal. When the Cache Valley Stake was divided, in 1901, Elder Roskelley's home became a part of the Benson Stake, and at the first Stake conference held August 4th, 1901, he was sustained and set apart as president of the High Priests' quorum of said Stake.1

Andrew Jenson


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1. Andrew Jensen, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901, Volume 1,

Early Cache ValleySamuel Roskelley

On one of the last days in July of the year named, (1855) a little company of men and teams could have been seen making a wagon trail from Dry Lake Valley, over the ridge, and down what has since been known as "Sardine Canyon." No wagon road up to that date had been made into this beautiful Valley of Cache. Consequently, the keeping of the heavily loaded wagons from tipping over while the teams were pulling them along the hill sides and crossing the gulches required the constant effort of all the "loose men" with the company. Fortunately no serious accidents befell the outfit.

Once over the ridge and down the canyon with the larger part of the beautiful Valley in sight, it fairly filled the members of the company with a feeling of reverence that is easier felt than described. Hats were lifted involuntarily from the heads of their owners and the words escaped from several lips, “What a beautiful sight” at beholding the broad expanse of land between the grand mountains east and west, and to feel the inspiration arising there from.

The winding Bear, Logan and Blacksmith Fork Rivers, and the smaller streams flowing by willows, cottonwood trees etc., and the land! Well, it seemed to be without limit and water so abundant that a new world was opened up for settlement, as it lay stretched out on the north, east and southeast. The danger of wagons having a "tip‑over" came to an end when the company came to the bench lands and by sunset, the "creek" had been reached, camp formed, supper prepared and eaten and the necessary guards arranged for the night, for we were now in an Indian country. For although the Indians who generally roamed through this Valley were not considered hostile, the occasional loss of a horse, and the fact that when a beef was killed at our camp the Indians were in evidence, made vigilance necessary.

Next morning scouts on horseback were sent to look up the most desirable place for winter location, having in mind suitable dry places for stacking hay for such cattle and horses as were expected to be wintered in this Valley. Pending the return of the scouts the creek banks were thoroughly examined to find suitable crossing for the "outfit" to wade to the east side. Having safely forded the creek and scouts having returned and deposited their findings the teams moved forward in a north easterly direction to a spring where camp was located and by night several wagons were unloaded, tents stretched and things generally prepared for a stay on what was afterward known as the Church Farm.

There were several interests to be considered in the cutting and stacking of hay. The Church— represented by Bryant Stringham and Andrew J. Moffatt, also the Bakers and the Garrs; but arrangements were entered into by all concerned and the following morning saw men on horseback looking over the prospective hay fields on the river bottoms within a few miles of the camp. An abundance of grass was reportedly found for the purposes desired and soon the scythes, new and old, were gotten out— scythes ground and hung ready for use by those appointed to that labor; for remember no mowing machines were in the territory at that time.

All went well for a few days— grass cutting, rack making and merry‑making evenings were the order followed, when, lo! The afternoon of a beautiful day brought us a host of unexpected and very unwelcome visitors in the shape of a heavy cloud of half grown grasshoppers, hungry, ravenous and persistent; coming from the northeast. Without, seemingly any warning they dropped upon our camp and surroundings, literally covering everything— twigs, willows, grass, even the guy ropes of the tent bent beneath their weight and tents, wagons, harness, camp outfit, cooking utensils, in fact everything seemed to be filled with life. And whenever a move was made by human being or animal, grasshoppers seemed to assert a sort of pre‑emption right and resentment by flying in the faces of those who moved.

On the river bottoms, where a short time previous good grass suitable for hay had been selected for cutting, it was far consumed in a few days that there was nothing left but stalks, hardly fit for feeding purposes. Willows were left denuded of leaves and the tender twigs were consumed or dropped to the ground. Cottonwood trees shared the same fate, and but few days passed when vegetation seemed thing of the past, and the face of the country changed from the beautiful smiling landscape that first presented itself, to one of desolation.

Day after day the same program was repeated. The hoppers would take flight about ten a.m., after their limbs would get limbered up by the rays of the sun, after the night's frost had cleared away, that crowd would pass on, to the southwest, sometimes obscuring the rays of the sun at high noon, and followed up in the afternoon by another lot equally numerous and anxious to obtain a repast on what their predecessors had not devoured.

The flight continued for some time between the hoppers and the sons of toil, who did their best to wield the scythe on some spot the least injured by the pests and many a hopper was covered up in the stack because they could not be gotten rid of. However, enough hay was secured to make some good stacks for winter use. After many days the pests ceased their flight and, strange to say, Saturday, as regular as the day came, not nearly two months, a heavy cloud would come up the Bear River narrows, divide at the junction of Bear and Logan Rivers and follow up the two streams and pour out refreshing rains over the Valley, washing away the poison left on the remnant of vegetation left us and our animals, and assisting nature to recuperate from the dreadful scourge inflicted upon every green thing. Was not this the hand of a merciful God caring for His creatures?

This was the commencement of the settlement of one of the finest Valleys of the commonwealth of Utah.

Samuel Roskelley


Channels of Communication from God to Man…

Perhaps I may be permitted to relate a circumstance with which I am acquainted in relation to Bishop Roskelley, of Smithfield, Cache Valley. On one occasion he was suddenly taken very sick— near to death's door. While he lay in this condition, President Peter Maughan, who was dead, came to him and said: "Brother Roskelley, we held a council on the other side of the veil. I have had a great deal to do, and I have the privilege of coming here to appoint one man to come and help. I have had three names given to me in council, and you are one of them. I want to inquire into your circumstances."

The Bishop told him what he had to do, and they conversed together as one man would converse with another. President Maughan then said to him: "I think I will not call you. I think you are wanted here more than perhaps one of the others." Bishop Roskelley got well from that hour. Very soon after, the second man was taken sick, but not being able to exercise sufficient faith, Brother Roskelley did not go to him. By and by this man recovered, and on meeting Brother Roskelley, he said: "Brother Maughan came to me the other night and told me he was sent to call one man from the ward," and he named two men as had been done to Brother Roskelley. A few days afterwards the third man was taken sick and died.

Now, I name this to show a principle. They have work on the other side of the veil; and they want men, and they call them. And that was my view in regards to Brother George A. Smith. When he was almost at death's door, Brother Cannon administered to him, and in thirty minutes he was up and ate breakfast with his family. We labored with him in this way, but ultimately, as you know, he died. But it taught me a lesson. I felt that man was wanted behind the veil. We labored also with Brother Pratt; but he, too, was wanted behind the veil…1

Wilford Woodruff



A Visit From the Spirit World—Samuel Roskelley

(Beginning with page two) …be right to do so. I destisted in my efforts when thus so gently rebuked, and he said to me, “well Sammy, you are pretty sick aint you?” I answered “Yes, and I should like to know how it is going to terminate, for I am getting tired of being as I am.” Said he, “I need some help in the position I am in and have permission to call either you, Frank Gunnell, Liney Farrell, or Brother Olsen to come and help me and I have come to learn what your financial condition is so as to know if you can be spared better than any of the other boys I have named. What is your condition and how are your families situated?” I told him as near as possible my situation and how my families would be left if I was the person called for. I asked what he thought of the situation? Raising his head from a seemingly thoughtful position he replied, “I don’t know, we’ll see pretty soon.” And bidding me good night he was gone in the twinkling of an eye.

Before long I began to recover and rapidly gained health and strength and was soon able to resume my usual labors. As the winter approached and the time drew near or the settling of tithing at Logan, I received a message from Brother G. L. Farrell that he was very sick and desired me to come and see him. The question flashed through my mind at once, “I wonder if he is the victim?” I felt that I had no faith for him, if I went to see him, as Brother Maughan’s words had left so deep an impression on my mind. But feeling that I should deeply regret it, should he pass away without my seeing him, I went to visit and administered to him. Although without faith on my part as all I could do was to ask the Lord if it was His will that he should be healed up, which seemed almost improbable as his head was very much swollen and a perfect mass of erysipelas scabs. He could talk it is true, but his tongue was very thick. Consequently he talked with difficulty. I parted with him with very strange feelings but hoped for the best, but I did not say a word to him nor had I told anyone up to this time of Brother Peter Maughan’s visit to me. Time rolled around and Brother Farrell got better which I was very thankful for.

We met as usual in the following winter to make the tithing settlement except Brother C. L. Olsen who had employed as bookkeeper by Elder Moses Thatcher, the manager of the Logan Branch Z.C.M.I.A. We had nearly got thru the work of making up the general accounts when Brother Frances Gunnell went home with an attack of Rheumatism. I thought perhaps a day or two nursing would release him of his aches and pains but in a few days we learned he had sent for a doctor and the doctor pronounced the case a very bad one of acute rheumatism and unless the patient could get immediate relief he thought the case world go hard. Reports brought us the assurance that he was at deaths door and could not live much longer unless relief came from some unexpected source as the doctor declared he was hopeless and could don nothing further for him but administer drugs to allay pain. I was all the time asking myself, shall I see Frank again in the flesh? It is possible he the victim? He is the third person attacked out of the four whose names were mentioned. I wonder how it will go with him? But I afterwards learned that a sudden change came over him during the worst of his sickness and he rapidly recovered. I did not have an opportunity of conversing with him upon the subject till the next winter when we met as usual in the old Logan Tithing office, made sacred to us by the many pleasant hours spent together and telling each other of tid-bits of our history now and again.

We had completed a long days work, it was near midnight. He and I were alone and preparing to go to bed in a little back room of the office and I brought up the subject of his sickness of the previous spring. “Ha!” said he, “a funny thing happened which I have said little about to anyone outside of my family. But I’ll tell you how I came to get around so quick after the doctor and everybody else had given me up to die. You know I was awful sick. I wanted to die and get out of my misery. The doctor had left medicine to be given me every so often to kill the pain but I could not tell any difference before or after I had taken it and I had taken so much of one thing and another I had got sick of it and lost all faith in its doing me any good. Well, one night about twelve o’clock my watchers had gone in another room to get something to eat and prepare for a nights siege with me. I was lying as still as I could for pain, pondering over the situation and wondering what would be the outcome. I silently asked the Lord if my time had come to take me out of my misery but if it had not come to give me ease and restore me to health that I might do my duty in the church and to my family. All of a sudden in comes Peter Maughan and after him came his first wife and my first wife. Said he, “Well Frank you are pretty sick aint you?” ‘Yes” said I, “I am, can’t you do nothing to ease a fellows pain?” “Well,” said he, “We’ll see. In the course of one-half or three quarters of an hour, we are now going to hold a council on your case and we’ll know more about it very soon whether its best to have you stay of come with us,” after so saying he led the way and all three went off without saying goodnight or anything.

Well in less than an hour I was as easy as could be. And from that time rapidly recovered. The recital of Brother Gunnell’s experience thrilled me from head to foot, brought fresh to my mind my experience with Brother Maughan and I related it to him before I slept because his experience corroborated with mine. He was quite surprised to know I had kept it from him so long and knowing as I did his situation. But said he, perhaps the thing has blowed over and we aint wanted on the other side now. The matter partially passed from my mind for a little over a year. In the spring I met Bishop Liljenquist on the street in Logan. He enquired if I knew Brother Olsen was sick and asked me to go and administer to him. “I did so although Brother Maughan’s visit came afresh to my mind and I was almost hoping against hope. As he was the last of the four mentioned and the others had passed thru a spell of sickness. I visited Logan again in a few days and learned Brother Olsen was dead. I attended the funeral and related the circumstance of Brother Maughan’s visit to me some time before.2

Samuel Roskelley


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1. Wilford Woodruff, General Coference, October 8, 1881. See Journal of Discourses, volume 22, page 334.

2. Samuel Roskelley, Account of his visitation by the late Peter Maughan and the events leading up to the death of one of the four men, made know to him, as perhaps being needed on the other side of the veil. Page one of this record seems to have gone missing… perhaps it will show up again to further flesh out this interesting record of events in the life of Samuel Roskelley.

NOTE: I have been much disturbed by the way the event was recorded in the Journal of Discourses as well as in other Wilfored Woodruff publications. I believe if you know anything of the man, then you know he did not ever lack in faith, and thus in providing this account of the events, taken from his own hand, one can see in it a clearer picture of the events. Despite the removal of page one of this record, which is penned in pencil, we still know enough of the events to make it whole.

Regarding the Temple Ordinances…

St. George, Utah,
8th June, 1887,

Samuel Roskelley,

Dear Brother;

Your letter of the 1st reached me last night, I arrived here last night to have an interview with S. Snow, as he will be here to attend conference.

I have read your letter carefully. Now concerning endowments in all its phases: my own views are these— that we ought to follow out, as far as we can, the pattern laid down by our leaders. I consider that if there ever was any man who thoroughly understood the principle of the endowments it was Brigham Young. He had been with Joseph Smith from the beginning of the Endowments to the end; and he understood it if any man did. And before his death he required me to write in a book every Ordinance in the Church and Kingdom of God, from the first to the last; beginning with baptism to the last ordinance performed through every department of the endowments. I was several weeks doing this writing, and President Young corrected it all until he got through. Then he said to me, "Now, there you have a pattern of all the ordinances and endowments for every temple, we shall build, until the coming of the Son of Man." Now if I ever have anything to do, or to say, in any temple on the earth, concerning endowments, I would say: follow the pattern that President Young has set us; and not deviate from it one iota. And if we do that, we may have a hundred temples at work, and all the work and ceremonies will be alike in every temple. While on the other hand, if every man who is called to preside over a temple has his own way, and introduces his own form and ceremonies, our Temple work would be as diverse as the sectarian world and God would not approbate it.

Register of the Logan Temple OrdinancesBrother Roskelley, I have given endowments in Salt Lake City for twenty years, and I received my endowments under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I directed the fixing up of the temple in St. George for giving endowments under the direction of President Young; and since the rules are written for our guidance in all future time, I feel very strenuous that in our giving endowments we should all work alike, and not deviate from the written word.

You say, "we are told here so and so concerning sealings and adoptions." Who is it that has told you these things and given these instructions? I don't think it can be President Taylor, for neither he nor I have ever received such teachings from either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. But I have been taught right the reverse by President Young. He told me to have single women of my father's and mother's households sealed to me. I asked him "how many?" He said if there was not over nine hundred and ninety-nine to take them. I had some three hundred sealed to me by his instructions. I don't know whether I shall have to build them each a palace in the Celestial Kingdom of God or not. If I do, I shall have time to do it. I did as I was told. So in relation to adoptions, most, if not all, of the Presidency and Twelve, have had men adopted to them, and all these sealings and adoptions are for the salvation of the living and the dead. I have never asked any man to be adopted into my family that I can recollect of; but I have had a number of families of friends adopted into my family, as have other men, without any regard as to whether it will, in the future, cost me one dollar or a million. What we have done in this matter has been for the salvation of man. It may possibly be a correct doctrine that a man's kingdom will consist of only the fruit of his own loins. Yet Jesus Christ died to save the whole world and if we, as Apostles and Elders, do nothing for the human family only for the fruit of our own loins, we shall not do much towards magnifying the Holy Priesthood God has given us for saving the souls of man— either the living or the dead.

Brother Roskelley, we must not get our minds too puckered up in these principles. We are ordained and appointed Saviors upon Mount Zion and we must not be afraid to administer the Ordinances of Life and Salvation to our fellow man— living or dead, for fear it will cost us a dollar.

I have adopted this rule in sealings and adoptions: to take such as the Lord has given me, and leave the result in His hands.

I think there is a book in Logan Temple containing all the ordinances as directed by President Young. I should recommend following that strictly, that our work in both temples may be alike.

Now concerning what Joseph Smith the Prophet said about children: In the first place he said children would rise from the grave, as they were laid down, and their parents would receive as they laid them away. This, I believe. He conveyed an idea in the first place, that they would not grow, but after more mature reflection, he conveyed the idea that they eventually would grow to the full stature of man. It was a good deal upon the same principle that it was when he got the first revelation on baptism for the dead. He did not at first get the whole of it, but he went into the Mississippi River with myself and a number of others, and we baptized for the dead, without regard to males acting for males only, and females acting for females only, also without any recorder. But the Lord revealed more to him, and gave him to understand that there should be a recorder who should strictly record all the baptisms and ordinances and that man should act for man, and woman for woman. So with regard to his views on the Resurrection— they enlarged before he got through, and he said children would grow to full stature. That I believe.

Now anything I have said in this letter in giving my views in relation to what you have asked, need not be treated as a private matter, as you suggest. You may make whatever use of them you please.

There has got to be a welding link of some kind before we get through with this work that will adopt man to man and weld all dispensations from Father Adam down to the last Saint. But in all this matter, I do not go around electioneering to get men adopted to me. I don't want any of this work done for me, only what the Lord wants. Paul talked a good deal about adoptions, but we did not understand much about it until the Lord revealed it to Joseph Smith, and we may not, perhaps, understand it now as fully as we should. Still the sealings and adoptions are true principles, or our Prophets have been badly deceived.

I remain your Brother in the Gospel of Christ,1

Wilford Woodruff


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1. Wilford Woodruff to Samuel Roskelley, Letter Dated June 8, 1887. Samuel Roskelley was the recorder for the Logan Temple. The original is currently housed in Utah State University, Special Collections, COLL MS 65, Box 3, Book 4.