Joseph Lee Robinson, a convert to the Church, resident of Nauvoo, friend
of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pioneer of Utah in 1848, early settler of
Davis County, was a pioneer of southern Utah, and one of the founders
Joseph L. Robinson was born at Shaftsbury, Vermont, on February 18, 1811.
He was the son of Nathan and Mary Robinson. When Joseph was five years
old, his father moved to Rome, Oneida County, New York, where he acquired
a farm. There the boy grew to manhood, and there, on June 23, 1832, at
the age of twenty-one, he was married to Maria Wood. Four years later
his older brother, Ebenezer, brought the message of the Restored Gospel
to him, which he heard and believed. He was baptized by his brother in
In the fall of 1841, when he was thirty years of age, Joseph L. Robinson
moved with his family to Nauvoo. He was pleased that he had the privilege
of meeting and knowing the Prophet Joseph Smith, of whom he wrote in his
"We have long since believed and known that Joseph Smith was a true
Prophet of God, but now our eyes do see him and our ears hear his voice.
There is a power and majesty that attends his words that we never before
beheld in any other man."
Joseph L. Robinson made himself useful in Nauvoo. He built a home, acquired
a farm and was made bishop of the Ninth Ward of that city. He entered
wholeheartedy into all the activities of the Saints.
After the death of the Prophet, Joseph L. Robinson followed the leadership
of President Brigham Young and joined the Saints in their exodus to the
West. He left Nauvoo on June 10, 1846, "five years to the day since
I left the city of Rome, New York." He did not regret leaving his
home in the East and coming to Nauvoo. "I have never looked back
or seen a moment I was sorry for, but to the contrary I have always been
thankful to God for the privilege of hearing and obeying the Everlasting
Gospel." Arriving at Winter Quarters, Joseph L. Robinson built a
two-room log home. He was also made the bishop of the Second Ward in that
frontier settlement. During the winter he constructed an additional log
cabin for school purposes and hired a teacher to instruct the children
of the neighborhood.
In the spring of 1847 he helped to fit-out the pioneers who were to journey
west and seek a new home for the Saints in the Rocky Mountains. During
the absence of the pioneer band he relates, "We who remained behind
began with all our might, plowing, planting, sowing, and fencing."
Fortunately they raised good crops and had enough food to sustain themselves
during the winter of 1847-48. In the spring of 1848 nearly all the Saints
who had wintered on the west side of the Missouri River, departed for
Salt Lake Valley. Joseph L. Robinson and his family were among them. He
"I could only muster up teams enough to start three wagons, by hitching
up or yoking cows. We had faith in God and great love for his cause; we
knew that he was with his people, therefore we had joy and rejoicing,
even with our sorrows and tribulations. Nothing daunted or discouraged
The journey across the plains was long and arduous, but the heart of Joseph
L. Robinson was happy. "We are traveling in the wilderness,"
he wrote in his journal, "singing, praying, and rejoicing, because
God is with his Saints." There were difficulties on the way: "Many
of our cattle got afflicted and died. We had to use a great deal of precaution
to save enough to get through to the valley. I lost several, by breathing
the alkali dust, and one by wolves. . . . We traveled along, crossed several
streams, Ham's Fork, Bear River, through Echo Canyon to the Weber, up
and down over mountains. Surely it was rough and tumble, but through the
blessings of God we reached the last mountain before dropping down into
Salt Lake Valley. We halted and gazed with wonder and admiration, with
tears and joy. There was an emotion in our bosoms we cannot describe.
We descended and entered the Valley the first of October, 1848. We drove
to the fort our brethren had built to protect themselves."
As soon as Joseph L. Robinson arrived in Salt Lake Valley, in October,
1848, he traveled both north and south of the city, "six to eight
miles," in order to find a suitable place to locate. It appears that
he was more impressed with the country north of Salt Lake City as he took
his family to the vicinity of Bountiful and built a log cabin on North
Canyon Creek. The winter was very severe. "The canyon winds came
down cold and raw," he wrote in his journal. "We lost two cows,
but still we lived and rejoiced in the Holy One of Israel, believing he
would sustain us and never suffer us to perish."
In the spring of 1849 he had an interview with President Brigham Young
and asked him if he should remain where he was or go elsewhere.
"He told me my name was down for a bishop in Salt Lake City, but
that they could put another in my place. . . . He said that I should go
north; that I could do as much good there as here, and better for myself;
also that they wanted a bishop there."
On March 24, 1849, Joseph L. Robinson was ordained as the first bishop
of North Cottonwood (Farmington) Ward, and shortly thereafter established
his residence there. The boundaries of his ward were from Bountiful on
the south to Ogden on the north.
After having served about one year as bishop of Farmington, Joseph L.
Robinson was called by the First Presidency to accompany George A. Smith
and a colony who were being sent to the southern part of the Territory
to found a settlement. He was thus numbered among the first settlers of
Parowan. In 1851 he assisted President Young and a group in locating Fillmore,
the first capital of the Territory.
Having completed his mission in the south, Joseph L. Robinson returned
to Farmington in 1853. Grasshoppers attacked the fields of the settlers
that summer, and he lost all his wheat crop except twenty-eight bushels,
yet he did not despair. "We rejoice in the Holy One of Israel,"
he again wrote in his journal, "knowing that he will deliver us,
and feed us, if need be, as well as he did the children of Israel in Moses'
day." It was this firm, true, and abiding faith that brought the
Mormon pioneers of Utah through all their trials and difficulties, and
made them at last triumphant. Without that faith they might have failed.
With the approach of Johnston's Army in the spring of 1858, Joseph L.
Robinson loaded his portable possessions into "three wagons"
and moved with his family to Utah County. When peace was made with the
government a few months later, he, with hundreds of others, returned to
their homes. "We felt thankful that our God was with his people;
that he was fighting their battles, and that we had obtained so great
a victory." He found his crops growing nicely, wheat, hay, corn,
and flax; nothing had been destroyed.
In the fall of 1858 he went to Weber Valley and bought a farm and house.
He extended his holdings and labored hard to support his large family.
He joined in every move that would be for the betterment of the Church.
He noted that he had contributed to the building of schoolhouses, meetinghouses,
tabernacles, and temples, "and also in supporting the families and
furnishing the means to Elders laboring in the mission fields." He
sent teams back to the Missouri River to bring in the poor who had no
means of making the journey themselves.
On December 1, 1872, his beloved wife, Maria Wood, died at Farmington.
"She was not seriously sick but a few days, and when her time came,
she passed away without a struggle. She died as she had lived, a good,
consistent Latter-day Saint. She shall receive a glorious resurrection
and shall live forever."
When Davis Stake was organized on June 17, 1877, Joseph L. Robinson was
chosen as a member of the high council. Three years later, on October
24, 1880, he was ordained a patriarch by Apostle Franklin D. Richards.
The good and worthy man died on January 1, 1893, while visiting at the
home of a daughter, Mrs. A. B. Bybee, of Uintah, Weber County. He was
approaching his eighty-second birthday, and was ill only a few hours before
his death. The funeral and burial were at Farmington.