Samuel Roskelley, First Recorder at the Logan Temple
Fills Many Positions
Samuel Roskelley, lone convert from his family at the age of fourteen, filled many positions in the church during the nearly sixty-three years he lived and labored after his baptism. Ordained an elder at sixteen, he came to Zion the same year. Called personally by Brigham Young, he was back in his native land as a missionary when nineteen years of age. He married Rebecca Hendricks a month after returning from this mission and later moved to Cache Valley with the Hendricks family.
Called and ordained Bishop of Smithfield when twenty-four years of age by Apostle Ezra T. Benson, he served in that capacity for eighteen years. While Bishop, he was selected as the Major of the Smithfield Battalion and elected Mayor of Smithfield, receiving the first charter for the City of Smithfield. He was superintendent of Cache Valley common schools for six years and during this time was called to preach in all of the countries of the Territory in the interest of the common schools as a missionary, by President John Taylor. He left on a second mission to England in April of 1880. Served as president of the London Conference and returned in July 1881. All of these calls were filled honorably and efficiently and to the satisfaction of all concerned. He praised God for all of His blessings and expressed an abiding faith that divine providence was over all. He had suffered many trails, disappointments and bereavements.
High Priest President and Temple Mission
Called to preside over the High Priests of Cache Valley Stake, and set apart by President Joseph F. Smith, Wilford Woodruff, Erastus Snow and five apostles on August 6, 1882. He at the same time was called on a mission to the St. George Temple to learn the ordinances thereof. His wife, Margaret, was called with him for this mission. This call seemed to portend that which was to come, a call, which was to fill nearly all of the remaining years of his life. At St. George he not only was diligent in learning and performing his duties but in company with President McAllister visited most of the wards and branches of that area and preached to the Saints. He received the following letter as he was leaving St. George.
St. George Temple, 16 March 1883
President John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff:
As Samuel Roskelley is about to return home we cheerfully give him this letter of commendation. During his labors here he has applied himself diligently in the parts assigned him, and in the recorders department, for baptisms, and endowments, sealing, adoptions and anointing. His wife Margaret Roskelley has been faithful and is fully prepared for temple labor. Praying our Father to bless them in all the labors of life. With kind regards, I am,
Your brother in the Gospel,
John D. T. McAllister
Samuel Roskelley esteemed the foregoing letter highly and felt satisfied with his own labors, although anxious to be back with his family, expressed regret at leaving the Temple after seven months.
March 9th, 1884 he was appointed to superintend the carpeting, fitting up and preparing for use of Logan Temple. Thus he became familiar with this Sacred House of the Lord in which he was to spend most of his time for twenty-seven years. Let us read from his own pen of the events of this period as recorded for his posterity in his journals. Early in 1883 his journal indicates the important role he was taking in the preparing of the temple and the people for the wonderful work that was to be begun there in the near future.
Visits Temple Superintendent
Saturday, 24th March 1883
Several Brethren going to Logan invited me to go also. I went with Brother Thomas Hilliard and had a good visit with Superintendent Charles O. Card of the temple construction and with him went through the building and I was delighted with the progress and class of work being done.
Friday, 4th May 1883
I met the 11:40 p.m. passenger train at Smithfield station and met President Wilford Woodruff and escorted him to his house.
Saturday, 5th May 1883
I took President Woodruff and my wife Margaret and my son James to the Logan quarterly conference. In the evening in company with President Taylor, Cannon, Woodruff and several of the Quorum of the twelve, I visited the temple and am very pleased with the progress made on the building.
Monday, 4th June 1883
I went to Logan and conversed with Bishop Thomas Smith and President Moses Thatcher and received their unqualified promise of any aid they could render me in furnishing genealogical records for Saints.
Visits With President Woodruff
Sunday, 5th August 1883
Went to Logan to Conference and took the place of Brother James Leishman, the clerk of the conference for the forenoon as his family was sick. President Wilford Woodruff preached on the object of building temples and the class of work performed in them, a sermon replete with instruction to the Saints. President Erastus Snow preached in afternoon on a variety of topics suited to the times we live in. My wives, Mary Jane and Margaret were at the two days meetings. After the meetings were over we went to the temple and went through it visiting all the rooms. President Woodruff spent the week at Smithfield resting and recuperating, and I had a number of pleasant chats with him, and with him laid hands on a number of sick, blessing them.
Sunday, 9th December 1883
Through a misunderstanding Brother Smart was not able to take me to Logan to the monthly high priest district meeting and as I did not learn it until very late, I walked to Logan, as I could not get time to go to my farm to get a team. I found our high priests meeting adjourned to the tabernacle where a Sunday school conference was being held. President George Cannon presiding, attended morning and afternoon meetings. In conversing with President William B. Preston after meeting he asked me to submit a list of names for temple workers when the temple shall be opened.
Sunday, 23rd December 1883
With my son William, I visited Benson Ward and talked to the Saints about three quarters of an hour in the afternoon on the ordinances necessary for the redemption of the dead and held a meeting of the members of the high priest quorum afterward.
Sunday, 6th January 1884
I took my wife Mary Jane to visit sister Hyde at Hyde Park. I attended meeting in the afternoon and spoke to the Saints ninety minutes on the temple ordinances.
Monday, 4th February 1884
By invitations of Brother Franklin D. Richards I went through the temple with the presidency and apostles and had a good view of all of it, some changes were suggested by President Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.
Monday, 11th February 1884
An exceedingly stormy day I rode to Logan and worked at the Tithing Office till the following Saturday, during the week I handed President William B. Preston a list of names from various parts of the Valley and recommended them as persons I believed would make good temple hands.
Thursday, 21st February 1884
With Bishop George L. Farrell, Elder James H. Martineau and clerk of the construction of the temple, Elder James A. Leishman, I visited and went through the temple at Logan and was highly gratified to see the building in so forward a state, the seats are nearly all made and ready for painting and several of the rooms are now being painted the last coat of paint.
To Superintend Carpeting and Fixtures
Sunday, 9th March 1884
During the day at Logan Brother Charles O. Card, the superintendent of the construction of the Logan Temple invited me to come to Logan and assist in a plan to fix the carpets, screens and other matters in the arrangements of the temple.
Tuesday, 11th Mar 1884
I went to Logan and consulted with Brother Charles O. Card, the superintendent and Truman O. Anjell, Jr., the architect, about things necessary for the temple to fit it up properly, and Wednesday with Brother Anjell I measure all the rooms to be carpeted and wrote a bill for the carpet for the building.
First Class Carpet 703 yards
Second Class Carpet 258 yards
Home Made 2264 yards
Total 3225 Yards
I also made out in writing a number of suggestions about the seating and many other things pertaining to the temple addressed to superintendent Charles O. Card and he took the same to Salt lake City to submit to the temple committee of the apostles and the church presidency.
Thursday, 13th March 1884
Got all the carpet on hand measured up and the lower rooms all fixed to commence to cut and lay it down, and had Brother James A. Leishman the clerk of the Logan Temple, write to Sister Libby Benson, the president of Cache Valley Stake Relief Society, to furnish a few sisters to sew up carpet for the temple rooms. I slept in the temple office on a cot bedstead made on purpose for me by Brother White, feeling thankful I had the privilege to labor in preparing the Temple of God for the Endowment of his Saints.
Friday, 21st March 1884
I took the team and went to Logan on temple business. Brother Charles O. Card, the superintendent of construction made a formal request that I take charge of the fitting up and laying carpets of the temple.
Sunday, 6th April 1884
Attended meeting of Saints in the afternoon and heard Brother George Barber talk after which I followed him for near forty minutes on marriage and the fashion of the day. After meeting Brother Preston Moorehead called on me and gave him some drawings made by Thomas Anjell, architect of Logan Temple, for some articles to be made for the temple at Logan.
Monday, 14th April 1884
I worked in the temple at the carpets and had sixteen of the sisters sewing on them also. My wife Maggie worked in the temple all week with me.
Sunday, 27th April 1884
Attended high priest meeting at Smithfield in the morning. Received a letter from Charles O. Card on the temple asking me to come back to the temple as soon as I can to push along the work.
Wednesday, 13th May 1884
I set my wife Margaret and Sister Benson and Lucy B. Cardon to making the veils for Logan Temple after I cut them out. In the afternoon President Taylor, Cannon, Woodruff and Apostles Erastus Snow and several others were present and went through the temple, and seemed well pleased in every particular so far as the building and its fixtures were concerned although we had much to do yet.
Thursday, 14th May 1884
Today our recorder books arrived having been furnished by the trustee in trust of the Church. Seventy-eight record and index books, also stationary for the use of the temple, and I placed them in our cupboard made for the purpose. They are a handsome set of records and books. I kept everybody around me busy making and putting down carpet and cleaning, dusting and making the rooms ready for the work designed, till ten o’ clock on Saturday morning 17 May 1884.
At which time thousands of people had gathered at the gates of the Temple block seeking an entrance to the dedicatory services. I had had the entire charge of and arranging of the stands and large rooms of the temple, and when the doors were opened and the flood of people entered showing their tickets to the doorkeeper at the entrance, it looked almost like a sea of hands coming into the doorways. At half past ten o’ clock President John Taylor called the attention of the congregation and the proceedings of the dedication are about as contained in the following report. I occupied the third stand of the Melchizedek side of the house as president of the high priests quorum of the Cache Valley Stake of Zion with my councilors and many other presidencies of stakes of high priests quorum were present in the stand during the three days of dedication. We had a glorious time and one long to be remembered by the Saints who were privileged to be present, and although I was almost done out with working in fixing and preparing the building both for the dedication services as also for the use designed when fully completed. I rejoice much under the influence that prevailed in the building during the exercises. My wives, Mary, Mary Jane, and Maggie attended the dedication on Sunday, and Monday my sons, Samuel, James, William and Joseph attended the Monday meeting being repletion of the services.
On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 17th, 18th, and 19th the days of the dedication I was at work till time of the meetings and from then close till night.
Monday, 19th May 1884
While at work arranging the building for work on the 21st, I was summoned by telephone and a carriage sent for me to Apostle Moses Thatcher’s where President Taylor, Canon, Joseph F. Smith, and all the Twelve save Brigham Young, Francis M. Lyman and John H. Smith, also several of the brethren from various parts of the Territory were present, and the following named persons were selected by vote of all present to fill the offices opposite their names in the Temple at Logan.
Samuel Roskelley for Recorder, wife Margaret for worker
John Crouther, Engineer
William McNiel, Janitor
N. C. Edlefsen, for worker
On the same evening of the same day, Brother Charles O. Card and I with consent of John Taylor called upon persons to labor in the Temple.
Tuesday, 20th May 1884
President John Taylor and party came to the temple and examined the water arrangements and all other things he wished so as to see that all was ready for the work of tomorrow, and the carpet having arrived by express train in the afternoon. With Robert A. Bain I went to work at twenty minutes to six p.m. and by eight o’ clock next morning, I had the celestial floor nearly covered with the carpet although it was not sewn together, but it met the approval of President John Taylor as it was.
Set Apart and Blessed
Wednesday, 21st May 1884
A company of Saints met for baptism and endowments and at twenty-five minutes past eight the following named brethren assembled in the east rooms, east of garden and blessed twelve bottles of oil for anointing purposes: President Joseph F. Smith, Erastus Snow, Heber J. Grant, Daniel H. Wells, Angus M. Cannon, Patriarch John Smith, Apostle Erastus Snow was mouth, and afterward the same brethren blessed six bottles of oil for second anointings. When going into the font room shortly afterwards, I met President Taylor and his councilors and most of the members of the twelve when President Taylor said to me “We have just elected Brother Marriner W. Merrill President of the Temple and I want you to vote too.” So I put up my hand and voted, he and the other brethren then went into the garden and at twenty minutes past nine a.m. Brother Merrill was set apart to preside over the Logan Temple by President John Taylor, assisted by his councilors and the members of the twelve apostles. President Taylor then requested me to sit on the same seat Brother Merrill had just been sitting on to be ordained and the same persons laid their hands on me and President George Q. Cannon being mouth set me apart for recorder for this temple and blessed me with great blessings. Among them gifts of interpretation and discernment of the thoughts of the Saints, and reading and understanding obscure writing and genealogy, and then we commenced to work. Fifty-one were baptized for the dead and living, fifty-nine were endowed, one person ordained elder and nine persons received second anointings. Among the number endowed was my son James whose record was the first taken in the house of endowment. After the labors of the day was over, the Presidency expressed themselves well satisfied.
The day has been a blessed day to us who have had the privilege to labor in the house set apart for the performance of the ordinances of the Gospel. We have had a good time and rejoiced much.
Thursday, 22nd May 1884
About ten a.m. President Taylor and his councilors and members of the twelve came into the temple and looked through a number of the rooms and at 10:20 the following named persons came into the recorders office where I was writing at the table: President John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff, Franklin D. Richards, Moses Thatcher, George Teasdale, Daniel H. Wells, John D. T. McAllister, Angus M. Cannon, L. J. Nuttall, David Cannon, Marriner W. Merrill, Bishop William B. Preston, Charles O. Card, Erastus Snow, and George W. Thatcher came in while President Taylor was talking. President Taylor turned to me as I was sitting writing and said, “I want you recorders to place on the records of the Temple that the Lord is well pleased and has accepted this house and our labors in its dedication, also the labors of this people in its building and beautifying and whatever [the] Saints may feel to place into it to ornament and embellish it will also be accepted. I state this as the word of the Lord and the Lord will continue to reveal unto us every principle that shall be necessary for our guidance in the future in all matters pertaining to our labors both spiritually and temporally.” He afterwards said, “God accepts us if we will do his will and He will sustain us and no power shall have power to do us any harm or injure us. I feel to bless you brethren present in the name of Israel’s God and your families shall be blessed and God will raise you up and lift you on high. I feel like shouting Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Glory to God for his kingdom and people shall triumph in the name of Israel’s God.”
The spirit and influence that filled the room brought conviction to the minds and hearts of all present that the words of President Taylor were true and faithful. From here on many of the entries in Samuel Roskelley’s diary are simply tabulations of the day’s activities in the Temple.
Samuel Roskelley, Friend of Leaders
We have noted earlier the close association Samuel Roskelley enjoyed with the Prophet Brigham Young, working for him and living in the Lion House, even assuming the responsibility of watching over Brigham’s families in his absence and calling them together for family prayers. Some of the important pages are missing. Now it is interesting to note that there were present and participating in the setting apart of Samuel for this office as recorder five men who were or were to become Presidents and Prophets of our great Church. Pasted into his diary are letters written to him by many of these leaders. Six of the nine presidents of the restored Church were friends of Samuel Roskelley. Although not mentioned directly, he must also have known President George A. Smith and President David O. McKay.
It has not been deemed advisable to list but just a part of the entries that pertain to Samuel Roskelley’s work in preparing the temple. Let us say that he faithfully gave credit to those who assisted him in this work A summary of the work done in the temple in June 1884 has such headings as new baptisms, renewal of covenants, baptism, and health baptisms as well as baptism for the dead. Also listed are endowments, ordinations, sealings, parents to children, adoptions, and second anointings, each for living and for dead and each total for male and for female.
Shortly after the work began in the temple a council of the apostles and others voted to give Samuel Roskelley 1500 dollars a year for his labors in the temple out of the tithing funds. Although this seems a small sum today it must have been very welcome to him at that time.
Less than a year passed before persecution of the Saints who were practicing the doctrine of plural marriage began to have an effect in the lives of the Saints. Samuel Roskelley spent a lot of weeks in the temple without leaving it night or day. Sometimes he would slip home under cover of darkness for a weekend visit with some of his family. He had a place he refers to as his hideout where he would go and then have some of his family come there to visit him. Perhaps some of his sons or daughters may know where this hideout was. He used disguises and various sorts of transportation to come and go and avoid the agents who were trying to seize the Saints. On one occasion he received a letter of warning from one Heber J. Grant of Salt Lake City. He consulted with the church authorities about giving himself up but was counseled against it. Many times he expressed his gratitude to our Heavenly Father for protecting him and allowing him to continue his duties.
His disguises, of course, were very opposite to his true character. He frequently covered himself in the bottom of a wagon, as one of his sons would drive him from place to place. Most of the time he would venture out only at night when detection was not to be easily made. Instead of becoming bitter because of his troubles he is constantly praising the Lord for his blessings. We recopy here one incident from his diary 29 March 1887.
A most remarkable circumstance took place. One I shall never forget to be grateful to my Heavenly Father for His overruling hand in delivering me from. I had spent the night from eight to ten at the house of Brother and Sister Townsend and went to the widows to sleep but my mind was uneasy for some cause and I could not rest. I heard the clock strike every half hour thru the night and at three o’clock I got out of bed and dressed in the dark so that a light should not attract anyone who may be passing at that unusual hour. I left the house as the clock struck half past three a.m., taking my usual route by Brother Preston’s lots for the temple. I had prayed before getting out of bed but before leaving the house I had again knelt and asked the Lord to preserve me in going to the temple and preserve me from the hands of wicked men. When I got to the foot bridge across the Logan and Hyde Park canal on the south side of the street I discovered dark objects at the corner of the fence on the southeast corner of the Benson block and in crossing the bridge I discovered that it was men and some had pipes in their mouths smoking. My heart “jumped in my mouth” in a second and as quick as lightening I thought, “I’m caught now sure, what shall I do, go back or continue up the hill or run, or what?” And as I got to the end of the bridge (east side) the thought came to me. Make straight for them and go on. I felt sure they were marshals but I followed the promptings of the Spirit within and the moment I received it I turned straight for them. They had by this time changed positions to the east side of the corner where they could see me, but be more out of my sight. I had my axe on my left arm and a pipe in my mouth and found five men, three with their backs against the fence looking east and two standing a few feet east of them and looking west. I walked between the five with my hand over my pipe, as it had nothing in it. Three of them were very scrutinizing and I suppose seeing my poor garb thought I was not the kind they wanted. As I passed the last two men I bawled out “Good evening gentlemen,” in a course tone of voice and they answered me “Good evening.” I thought I heard them whisper after I passed a couple of rods, so I stopped and struck a match on my right thigh and held it to my pipe as thought in the act of lighting my pipe but I could not hear their conversation. I walked on two or three rods and stopped and lit another match thinking some of them would follow me, but I made my way into the middle of the road and continued two blocks until I got to Sister Margaret P. W. Young’s house when I crawled through the fence and watched to see if they followed me, but not seeing anyone I went and knocked and gained admittance until daylight when I got Sister Young to go to the temple to see if the coast was clear, finding it so, I went to the temple in daylight for the first time in months. When I stopped a second time and lit a match, the suggestion came to me “They are watching for Brother Leishman,” which proved to be true for on seeing Brother James Leishman I learned that they had been searching his house between one and two o’clock and had also searched another house for him with out success and had seemingly come straight from raiding these houses to the place I found them. Brother Larson afterwards saw them near the fence at Brother Preston’s corner and they were no doubt out all night raiding and watching to catch someone. They looked like so many demons to me, and the feeling I had while going towards them and while passing them was simply awful. I feel that this was a direct interposition of my Heavenly Father in causing these men to not lay their hands on me, when in their power to do so. I never thought of fear while passing through it but after getting to the temple, every time I would think of it, it would almost make my blood turn cold.
Later he was finally arrested and brought to court but was releases. He gave all thanks to his Heavenly Father for bringing about his freedom on this occasion. His prayers together with all the temple workers he felt brought an answer from above. All of his friends and family were overjoyed at his release.
Sense of Humor Prevailed
That he maintained his sense of humor through all may be shown by this entry in his diary. “The month of June passed with an occasional breeze made by the marshals in hunting after our brethren and friends, the appointment of Mr. Peters as District Attorney for the Territory witnessed a little change for the better.”
Samuel’s duties in the temple and in the high priests quorum and for his family occupied his thoughts and his desires and an almost tireless devotion and effort. His only recreation seemed to be visiting with his family. The celebration of his birthday was the highlight of each year. All of his family that could would gather at the farm and sing and dance and eat, usually until midnight. Sometimes friends were also invited to be with them. Regardless of the hour of retiring, five a.m. would find Samuel Roskelley up and getting ready to go to the temple. He was so regular in the days when he drove back and forth each morning from Smithfield that farmers along the way would check their clocks by him or so we have been told by some of them.
Records Taken From the Temple for Safekeeping
On more than one occasion the records were taken from the temple to some hiding place lest they be seized by the marshals. Samuel’s sons were called on to help him in taking these precautions. He mentions a place of deposit in Logan and at a later time the records were taken to Smithfield. They were returned [to the temple] a few at a time. The following entry recalls the blessing given him when he was set apart [as Logan Temple Recorder].
Monday, 1st March 1885
I today took the record of ten male and ten female Laminates for baptism and it took me all day as the language had to be written, for I much question if the names of the dead Indians were ever before written, thus the work of the Lord is commenced among that people. These Laminates were baptized on Tuesday 2nd March 1885 and they continued the work of endowments Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, much to their gratification.1
1.The Roskelley Organ, pages 1-8.