Daniel Webster Jones was born 26 August 1830 in Booneslick, Howard County, Missouri, and was orphaned at the age of 12. In 1847 he joined a group of volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War. Following the war, he remained in Mexico for a number of years, learning Spanish, and while taking part “in many ways in the wild, reckless life that was common in that land.” Still he longed for something.
When a sheepherding expedition bound for California departed in 1850, Dan left with them. That year, while camped along the Green River, his pistol went off in his holster, piercing through fourteen inches of his groin and thigh. His companions left him, lame, but alive, with a Mormon settlement in Provo. There, he studied Mormon doctrine, finally finding the answers he had long sought. Dan was baptized by Isaac Morley on January 27, 1851 and the next year, he married Harriet Emily Colton, daughter of Philander and Polly Colton.1
In 1856 word about the stranded Martin and Willie handcart companies spread through Zion. Brigham Young organized rescue parties, among which Dan was a member. After traveling through blinding snowstorms and rescuing first the Willie, then the Martin company, it was determined that Dan, along with two others and a number of teamsters, would remain behind at Fort Seminoe for the winter to safeguard supplies. The winter was long and hard, with Dan and his companions resorting to eating their leather foot mat at one point,3 but the party remained steadfast. Their dedication to their calling allowed the supplies to remain safe for use by other struggling emigrants.
In 1874 the first missionary expedition to Mexico was being planned and Jones was commissioned by Brigham Young to translate into Spanish selections from The Book of Mormon. Following the translation, he and a company of missionaries, including his son Wiley, departed for Mexico, proselytizing from 1875 to 1876.
Upon returning, he was commissioned by Brigham Young to start a settlement in the Salt River Valley of Arizona. Originally called Jonesville, the settlement was later incorporated into Mesa, Arizona. Dan eventually settled with his family in the Tonto Basin area. His wife and his youngest of 14 children were killed when a shed fell on them during a storm in 1882. In 1890, he published his autobiography, Forty Years Among the Indians. On April 20, 1915, he died of gangrene after an accident, and was buried in the Mesa City Cemetery.
Dan Jones remained faithful to the end, and his strong testimony can be summed up by his plain, yet powerful, words summarizing the time when he learned of the Book of Mormon: “It seemed natural to me to believe it. I cannot remember ever questioning in my mind the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet.”2
1Daniel Webster Jones (Mormon), Wikipedia
2The Unlikely Convert: Daniel Webster Jones, lds.org
3Pioneer Accounts/Dan Jones, trek.csnorth.org