Jesse Walker Johnstun, 1820-1860
This week I learned a few things about the life of Jesse Walker Johnstun.
He was born in Ohio on Jan. 21, 1820. His father, James Johnstun, died when Jesse was 9, leaving his mother, Amity Welch, to care for seven children. Most of the children had to leave home and live with people they didn’t know.
While away from home Jesse learned the cabinet trade.
In 1838, Jesse’s brother told him that four members of the family had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and were preparing to move to Caldwell County, Missouri. Jesse met two missionaries and heard them preach. He was baptized and moved to Far West.
Interesting side note: One of the men he traveled to Missouri with was named Truman O. Angel, a talented architect who would later designed the Salt Lake and St. George Temples, along with the Salt Lake Tabernacle and Lion House, among many other buildings.
While in Missouri, Jesse was with a group of men who were taken prisoner by a Jackson County mob. They threatened their lives if they didn’t leave the county, but ultimately let the men go. Jesse was present later when Joseph Smith and other church leaders were taken captive and sent to Liberty Jail. He eventually ended up with the rest of the Saints in Nauvoo.
In 1846, Jesse enlisted and marched with the Mormon Battalion most of the way across the western United States. While he spent the winter in Pueblo, Col., with three detachments of sick soldiers, women and children, his brother William James went all the way to California and was even present when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. James was later called to serve a mission among the Indians in the American Southwest (Apache, Zuni and Navajo).
In 1848, Jesse married Betsy Ann Snyder in Missouri and settled near the Salt Lake Valley. Over the next decade the couple had five children. His daughter Amy L. Johnstun later married my fourth great grandfather, John Prosser Toone.
Jesse’s life was cut short at age of 40 when he was killed in a sawmill accident near present-day Kimball Junction/Park City in 1860. The accident was reported in the Deseret News on May 16, 1860.
It was said of Jesse that he was “esteemed as an honorable, upright man.” Today his grave is found in the Salt Lake Cemetery.