John Linford

John Linford was born on August 28, 1808 in Eltisley, England approximately sixty miles north of London. He grew up on a farm until as a young man he bagan an apprenticeship to become a shoe maker. When his apprenticeship was complete he started his own business in Graveley, England just a few miles from where he was born. He married Maria Bentley Christian on June 24, 1833.

During this time period the people of England were being prepared to hear and accept the gospel. Several apostles were sent to Great Britain as missionaries. Between 1837 and 1852 there were 57,000 convert baptisms.[1]

John can be described as being a “seeker”.  A seeker is someone who believes in Jesus Christ and knows the Bible and its teahings. They drift from church to church in search of the ordinances and organization that existed during the time of Christ. [2] It is not surprising that when John heard Elder Joseph Fielding preach he was greatly impressed. John and Maria were baptized on December 9, 1842.

John was persecuted for this choice especially from his relatives. They said, “If we cannot persuade him to give up Mormonism, we will starve him to it by withholding our work”. [3] Indeed they did this and his business suffered greatly. He remained faithful and served as a counselor then president of the Graveley Branch. The Linfords saved for years in hopes of gathering to Zion. The establishment of the Perpetual Emigration Fund made it possible for the Linfords to emigrate.

John and Maria had six children. Two died in infancy, three sons (George, Joseph and Amasa) emigrated with them. James was serving a mission and would come several years later.

The Linfords sold what they could and headed to Liverpool. They traveled to New York aboard the ship Thornton. The voyage from Liverpool to New York was mostly uneventful however they did experience some sea sickness. John kept a small black leather diary. One entry referenced his calling to be responsible to distribute food to his company. He  said, “I was called to take Part of this ward to see that they had theire water, Pork, Beef, &c. UnExpected to me as I am the same here not Ambisious. You will believe me if I say I did not ask for an office. I am well & All my family. and we enjoy ourselves first rate.”[4]

The Linfords made the journey from New York to Iowa City without too much trouble. They became part of the James G. Willie company. In Iowa City they had to endure daily thunderstorms without shelter, poor living conditions and extreme temperatures. John became sick and never recovered.

Although sick he still endeavored to fulfill his responsibilities. John was called to be a tent leader. “The tent captain was expected to give all his time and attention to his company, to make sure that all allotments of one pint of flour for each person were given every twenty four hours and to equalize as nearly as possible all labor, or to act as the father over his family.”[5] He wrote the names and ages of those in his tent in his diary.

His condition worsened and eventually he had to  be pulled in the handcart. As the company reached the Rocky Mountains snow began to fall. The snow was intense and they suffered greatly. His son Amasa recalled, “while father was sick and just before he died of starvation, Levi Savage emptied his flour sack to make him some skilly as it was called; after eating this he died.” [6] John Linford died at 5:00 am on October 21 on the banks of the Sweetwater River. The rescue team would arrive later on that day.

Before he passed away, John’s wife asked if he was sorry they had undertaken the journey. He said, “No, Maria, I am glad we came. I shall not live to reach Salt Lake, but you and the boys will, and I do not regret all we have gone through if our boys can grow up and raise their families in Zion.”[7]

What has come of the great faith and sacrifice of John Linford? His great great grandson, Mark Empey Linford said, “John and Maria’s decision to be baptized set the course for literally thousands of Linfords…To this day, most of John and Maria’s posterity is Mormon. This religion has been passed along from generation to generation.”[8]

[1] Linford, Mark. The Quiet Link of Faith. Salt Lake City, 2010, 12.

[2] Ibid.,15.

[3] Olsen, Andrew D. The Price We Paid.  Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006, 45.

[4] Allphin, Jolene S. Tell My Story, Too. Tell My Story Publishing, 2012, 65.

[5] Linford, Mark. The Quiet Link of Faith. Salt Lake City, 2010, 32.

[6] Olsen, Andrew D. The Price We Paid.  Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006, 137.

[7] Ibid., 476

[8] Linford, Mark. The Quiet Link of Faith. Salt Lake City, 2010, 2.