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James Thomas Strong


James Thomas Strong

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James Thomas Strong, son of Jacob and Sarah Hill Strong, was born in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, on September 2, 1841, receiving his blessing from the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Shortly after James's birth, the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were martyred at Carthage Jail as a result of the intense sentiment against the Mormons. This feeling was prevalent for many months, often being shown in the form of mob violence. The Strong family endured all the mobbing and persecution that was inflicted on the Saints at that time; and finally in the summer of 1849, with the other Saints of that country, left their home and migrated westward cross the plains to Utah. On this perilous journey they endured many hardships, being caught in a snow storm and not arriving in Salt Lake until the month of October. Here the family spent the first winter in the old fort that surrounded Pioneer Square, and in the following spring moved to the Tenth Ward where they made their home.

The troubles of the family were not yet over. The crops had failed in 1854 due to the invasion of the grasshoppers which returned the following year and destroyed practically all vegetation. The year 1856 was accordingly very crucial, and the winter that followed was one of the severest in all history, leaving its mark deeply imbedded on the little colony of people. After this, conditions began to improve, and the people enjoyed increased prosperity.

Although little is known of his early life, we can readily see the youth of James T. Strong was filled with hardships. It was a life of continual toil, filled with many trials, but through which a young boy emerged into a fine and stalwart man of excellent character.

During the celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the arrival of the Pioneers at the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon, word arrived that General Harvey, with a large number of troops, had been ordered to Utah. Accordingly, on the 15th of September 1857, Brigham Young ordered out a large number of militia to Echo Canyon and other points to intercept the soldiers and prevent their access to the valley.

James T. Strong was one of the number called for this purpose. When the citizens of Salt Lake abandoned their homes and moved southward, hearing of the approach of the army which they thought had been sent to destroy them, James T. Strong remained in the city as a detailed guard and witnessed that army pass through the city to the west side of the Jordan River where they camped for the night. Matters, however, were soon adjusted, and the people again returned to the city and took up their respective occupations. James T. Strong had little chance to receive an education, and such a one as he received was largely the result of diligent study from purchased or borrowed books. Nevertheless, his education was both broad and liberal, and in later life he taught a class in the old Tenth Ward Night School.

Early on, he formed an acquaintance with Elizabeth Swaner, who in April 1861 became his wife. They purchased a small tract of land in the Tenth Ward and endeavored to make their livelihood from their laborious work on the land. He now faced the problem of choosing a career, and early on devoted his attentions to becoming a jeweler, mastering the profession under the guidance of Ephraim J. Swaner, his brother-in-law.

Another invasion of the grasshoppers in 1868 left the little family destitute, and James Strong sought employment on the railroad in Echo and Weber canyons where his leg was broken. He then returned to his home and devoted his attention to his land and to his work as a jeweler.

He was very active in his church duties, serving as ward clerk for a period of thirty-five years, always performing his duties efficiently, and retiring only when he became too feeble to perform the arduous task. He was also prominent in the priesthood, holding the position of high priest at the time of his death.

He was the father of eleven children and was always a lovable and pleasing person. He lived a life full of service to his little family and humanity in general. As old age came upon him, he grew feeble and was finally called from active life on January 7, 1912.