Williams, David Edward and Margaret Rees - Biography




            David Edward Williams was born at Llangallock, Carmarthensire, Wales on the 22 of November, 1822, the son of David Williams and Margaret Edwards.


            His parents were of very humble circumstances and worked in the coal mines for a living at an extremely low rate of pay. David’s father, David Williams, died when David Edward was nine years old and his mother died when he was eleven. David had the responsibility of providing for the rest of his family. David and his brothers worked in the coal mines just as their father had done. Just how the family was provided for, and the joys and sorrows they had, we may never know, but David turned out to be a wonderful man.


            In those days the children had little or no schooling. Whether or not David ever attended school is not known, but he did go to work in the mines at a very early age and they enjoyed no vacation those days. However, before David died, he learned to read both Welch and English. He said, “This what the gospel did for me.”


            At the age of 22, David Edward married Jane Reese on Sept. 13, 1845. She was born 20 Aug. 1823 at Marthyr, Tydfil, Glamorgans, Wales. They became the parents of seven children, all born at Marthyr, Tydfil, Glamorgans, Wales.


            It is very likely that the last two children died with cholera, as they both died in March of the same year. Then add to the tragedy, his wife Jane died 11 May 1858 only two months after the death of the children.


            This left David Edward with the oldest son, David Jr., age twelve, and a daughter, Lizzie, age seven and the youngest living, a boy Tommie, age three and a half years old.


            David’s family and friends were very much opposed to him joining the Mormons and when this tragedy came into his life, they said it was the judgement of God on him for his actions. What a blow it must have been to him after loosing his wife and family to be taunted by those who should have encouraged and helped him. How he ever endured it will be left for you to imagine because he never told us, but to his dying day, he prayed for his family and friends hoping some day they would see the light and he asked God to be kind to them. After the death of his wife and four children, David’s sister took the oldest boy, David Jr.


            Life in Wales was anything but pleasant for David, so he began to save and make plans to come to America with the Saints. His sister Ann came and brought his little girl Lizzie with her. This made David all the more determined to come to America.


            On May 20, 1863, David and his small son Tommy left Liverpool England for America. His relatives who had taken the oldest boy refused to let him come with his father to be a slave for Brigham Young. They would rather he be a slave in the coal mines, and he was.


            David arrived with his baby in Salt Lake City, Sept. 1863. After a short stay in Salt Lake, he traveled on to Beaver, some 200 miles south to join his sister and his daughter Lizzie.


            Upon arriving in Beaver County, David chose Greenville as the place to make his home and living. Shortly after arriving, his son Tommy died. How much can a man endure one will never know. He had buried his wife and five children and the sixth was denied the companionship of his father by prejudiced relatives. He was an outcast among his family and friends because he had accepted an unpopular religion. Now here he was in a new world with new friends and new environment. In short, it was a new way of life.


            In this new country where David found himself, the only way to make a living was from the soil. A business he knew nothing about, but he was eager and willing to learn. He took up a homestead on the banks of the Beaver River and began to clear the land and plant crops. He learned easily and did well.\, far better than most of his countrymen under the same circumstances.


            It was while living in Greenville on his newly acquired homestead that he became acquainted with a little Welsh girl by the name of Margaret Reese, who had come from Wales about a year and a half before. Though David and Margaret were both from Wales, they were not acquainted with each other until they met in Greenville. Margaret Reese was the daughter of David E. Reese and Mary Thomas. She was born 3 March 1845 at Llandllawdog, Carmarthenshire, Wales.


            Being the eldest of seven living children, she grew up through many hardships; never having had a day of schooling in her life. She could neither read nor write, yet when settlement time of the year came, she could figure in her keen mind and give the correct answer quicker than those figuring with pencil and paper.


            At the tender age of six, Margaret began working at the coal mines carrying water and other such small jobs that a child her size and age could do. Though the wage was only a few pennies a week, it all added to the family budget. As she grew older, she did heavy manual labor around the coal mines and iron foundries. She learned to balance heavy loads on her head as well as carry heavy buckets in each hand at the same time, an art she never forgot. Many a time she filled a large tub full of dishes and after placing it on her head; she would then pick up two buckets hot food and carry them to the church. Another example of her strength and ability through working in the coal mines was, she could stand with both feet in a half bushel measure and lift a two bushel sack of wheat weighing 120 pounds and set it on her head, a fete that very few men could do.


            At the age of sixteen, she was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Like most other converts, it was her greatest desire to come to Zion, so she began saving her money to pay her way. In May 1864, a group of Saints left the British Isles for America. Among them was a very dear friend of Margaret’s, Mrs. Eleanor Griffiths and her three small children. Margaret decided to come with them. On May 19, 1864, she set sail from Liverpool, England and was on the water for six weeks. She was the first member of her family to embrace this new religion; also she was the first one to cross the ocean and come to America. In the years that followed, her father, mother, and all her brothers and sisters accepted the Gospel and came to America.


            This little company of Saints were at Winter Quarters only a few weeks, when Margaret and her friend, Eleanor Griffiths, were fortunate enough to join the George G. Bywater and Thomas E. Jeremy Company. This company provided transportation only for their food and personal belongings. So Margaret and Eleanor had to walk every step of the way across the plains (about 1,000 miles). Most of the way they carried one of the three children on their backs.


            Margaret has often told how the Indians lined up on each side of the road as the wagons passed along but never once did any of them ever attempt to harm them. The people were ordered to walk straight along beside the wagons and mind their own business and never speak to anyone or pay attention to the Indians and no one would ever be harmed.


            The company arrived in Salt Lake Valley on Oct. 26. 1864. After a few days stay in Salt Lake, Margaret and the other Welch immigrants were assigned by Brigham Young to go to Beaver, where there was a colony of Welch people. This journey of two hundred miles was also made on foot, while their belongings were carried in a wagon.


            Life in Utah was very different from working in the coal mines in Wales. But she made adjustments to the new conditions very rapidly. She made her home with various families in Beaver, Greenville and Minersville. She learned general housekeeping, sewing, cooking, caring for children besides learning to milk cows and raise gardens. For about one and a half years, she did this sort of work before marrying David Edward Williams, a widower who had come from Wales in 1863.


            After a short courtship they were married. The ceremony took place in Greenville on Feb. 8, 1866 with David’s brother-in-law William Richards who was bishop officiating. Margaret was only nineteen and David was forty-three, but the twenty-four years difference in their ages made no difference in their happiness as a married couple. David was also kind, gentle and thoughtful of his bride. Margaret had often been heard to say, “I would rather be an old man’s sweetheart than a young man’s slave.” Together they worked hard to make a living and make each other happy.


            As soon as they were married, they built a little adobe house, 14 by 14 feet with neither windows, a door or a floor. A fireplace served for cooking and heating. A split log in one corner served as a frame to the grass, straw and rushes that were carefully woven into a mat for a bed on which were woolen blankets, most of them home spun. As the years went by, the little adobe house acquired the windows, the door, the stove, the bed, the table and chairs, and other conveniences of the times. David’s home was always as good as the best in the community and town people enjoyed coming there. Their farming operations were on the same level as the home buildings. It was very meager to begin with, the land was cleared, and the crops planted and harvested by hand. There were a few plows, but it was seen to that everyone had his land plowed. David cut grain with a scythe and Margaret bound it into neat bundles and it was carried in and stacked carefully to await thrashing, which was sometimes months. Potatoes were dug with a shovel and carried to the pit on their backs. They learned to cure their own meat, preserve good from a time of plenty to a time of want. All of this was entirely new to Margaret and David, yet they met each new problem, solved it and lived happily.


            As soon as David and Margaret were married, they began to prosper. Although they did their work by hand, they raised good crops. Beside the usual crops of hay and grain, they raised garden produce and hauled it to the mines to “peddle” as they called it. They also peddled their butter and cheese at the mines. This was good deal for the miners and the farmers. The miners needed the fresh produce from the farms and the farmers needed the cash market. David and Margaret took full advantage of all these opportunities. They tried hard to supply this market with exactly what it wanted when they wanted it. He was always honest in his dealings, gave a little more than good measure and his produce was just as he represented it to be. As a result, David always had a market for his load of produce. The people would often place their orders so he would know what to bring the next load. Often he could not supply the produce needed but would buy it from the neighbors and supply his customers.


Through this business of farming and peddling, David and Margaret made more money than they ever dreamed of making in the old country. The living conditions were so much better and they had all the butter, milk, eggs and meat they wanted. A thing that was a dream in Wales. They made good money but they did not waste it. They improved their home, provided the best for their children, and contributed to the community welfare. Besides liberal contributions to the church, school and the community projects, they bought stock in the Co-op Store in Beaver; also stock in the Beaver Woolen Mills. He also bought some sheep and kept them in the Beaver Co-op herd. The latter proved a very good investment. It not only brought in good returns, but it provided a business for his boys; and as they grew up they all became sheep men.


David often said, “I may not leave my family rich in worldly wealth, but if I can leave them a good name and a testimony of the Gospel, I will be happy.” And this he did. They all married in the Church and went through the temple. All of his boys filled missions. John R., James and George R. were bishops. Heber was a stake president. So David’s wish was granted. His children all had strong testimonies of the gospel and were outstanding citizens in the communities where they lived. They had a name to be proud of.


Besides providing for their family and home, David was a councilor to Bishop Lillywhite in the Greenville Ward for ten years and Margaret was Relief Society President for seven years. Both of these people had a remarkable gift of healing. Through the power of the Priesthood which he had, David has laid his hands on the sick and they have recovered, many times immediately. Margaret’s ability to analyze ailments and detect diseases were amazing, as also was her ability to treat and cure them. The services of Margaret and David were in demand all up and down the valley, especially when there was sick to be cared for.


Though Margaret never learned to read or write, she had a most remarkable memory. She could remember dates, names and places correctly. She could quote scripture exactly as read to her. She could figure in her head as rapidly and as efficiently as most people could on paper.


They both contributed their success and happiness to living the gospel. David often said he enjoyed the blessing of home, of peace and plenty, of love and contentment that his family in Wales could only dream of. All of this was as a result of accepting the gospel. The thing for which his family scorned him for.


One of the highlights in the lives of the people in Greenville was conference in Salt Lake City. Though the distance was some two hundred fifty miles, and had to be made with a team and wagon and took two to three weeks to make the trip, most of them attended. As soon as one conference was over, they began making plans for the next.


They would load their wagons with produce to sell and buy supplies to last the family the next six months. Among these supplies were cloth, shoes and medicine for the family, supplies for the house and farm. The al would visit with their friends from various other states. They would also learn about their loved ones they left behind from the new arrivals from the “old country.” All this was heart warming and thrilling. Few people missed this pilgrimage to Salt Lake City.


Life in Greenville was no always pleasant. It had its unhappy moments. One of the causes was Indians. It was not so much the tribe that threatened the settlers as it was the individuals who molested the people. At times they became a nuisance. Brigham Young always said it was cheaper to feed the Indians than to fight them. The Indian was no fool and soon learned the art of getting an easy living. The not only came to the house for a sandwich, he wanted a sack of flour and a cured ham to take back to squaw and papoose. David’s kind and diplomatic nature proved helpful in solving some of the trouble. The Indians often referred to him as “Great White Bishop.” Though Margaret was not so tactful in dealing with the Indians, her method was usually as forceful. One day an Indian came and wanted something to eat, she prepared not only a sandwich but a lunch to take with him. While standing at the door, he saw several cured hams hanging from the ceiling. He demanded one of the hams. Of course Margaret refused to give it to him. He said he would get it anyway. She told him not to come through the door. He ignored her warning and came through. As he did, she met him with a kettle full of boiling water. After going through what might have looked like a war dance, the old Indian too off, never to bother her for any more hams.


Another occasion, a drunk Indian threatened to kill his squaw. She came to Margaret’s house for protection. Margaret let her in and put her in the cellar. There was a door in the floor that led to the cellar. After putting her down there, she replaced the rocking chair, rocking the baby when the old Indian came. “Where is my squaw?” he demanded. Margaret did not know. “No savy.” From the door, he could see all the contents of the room and could see that she was not there. He looked all around the house, the yard, the corrals but could not find any trace of the squaw, so he left bewildered. She remained in the cellar until the Indian had gone away, then Margaret let her out and gave her some food to eat. She kept her there until the next day so the old man had time to sober up, then let her go. She became a life-long friend of Margaret’s and always wanted to do things for her. She was always giving her little things that she thought Margaret might like. She said “white woman saved my life.”


While cutting wood in the hills out of Greenville, David was struck in the eye by a small splinter of wood, which after months of pain and torture, caused him to loose his eyesight. He went to the Manti Temple and was administered to and promised his sight would be returned. It was, limited however, but for five years he was able to see. Then he lost his sight again, this time it was never restored. The last six years of David’s life was spent in total darkness. Though he had to be led every place he went, his life was far from useless. He continued to bless the sick and raise them from their beds. Some of the most effective teaching in the principals of the gospel was after he lost his sight. This handicap never darkened his spirit nor his home. He had a wonderful voice and could sing in both Welsh and English. This he did a lot. He would gather his grandchildren on his knee and teach them to sing.


 David loved his team of horses and they loved him. Old Charley would come on a run as far away as he could hear him call. Even without the use of his eyes, David was efficient in building and repairing fences. Through all his trials and sorrows, David was never a burden. He always loved his wife and often told her so.


His life came to a pleasant close on January 31, 1901 in the little home that they had worked so hard to make and where they had raised eleven children, laid two more away in their graves while they were still babies. He was buried in the little cemetery on the hill at the edge of the town that he had helped to build and loved so well.


After the death of her husband, Margaret was a widow for seventeen years. She always kept her own little home and much of the time, had one of her grandchildren living with her for shot periods of time. She died on January 6, 1917 at the age of 72 and was buried by the side of her beloved husband in Greenville, Utah. Near the end, the last words she spoke were “I want to go to David Williams.”


Margaret and David were unaware that they spent their lives fulfilling a prophecy of Jeremiah, uttered thousands of years before, “That the Lord would gather the children of Israel from among the nations and would bring them to Zion. That he would take them, one of a city, two of a family and bring them to the tops of the mountains.”


To this union, thirteen children were born, six boys and seven girls, all at Greenville, Beaver County, Utah.



Submitted by Sadie Sydenham, Feb 1997


(Copy obtained from DUP Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah)





Williams, David Edward

Reese, Margaret


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