Utah History Encyclopedia


By David McAllister
Charles Lowell Walker was one of the foremost of the Mormon pioneer diary keepers in the nineteenth century Mormon Church, as well as being the "Poet Laureate" of the Cotton Country Mission.

He was born in Leek, Staffordshire, England, on 17 November 1832, the son of William Gibson and Mary Godwin Walker. His father's family was converted to Mormonism in Manchester, after which Charles' oldest sister, Ann Agatha came to America where she became a plural wife of Parley P. Pratt. The remainder of Charles's family emigrated to St. Louis in 1850, where his mother died of typhus fever. Charles had preceded them to St. Louis in 1849 with a friend.

Charles remained in the Illinois and Missouri area working, trying to find a means to travel to Utah. In April 1855 he engaged to drive a horse team for P. Burgess, who was bringing a threshing machine and other merchandise to Utah. Charles arrived in the valley 3 September 1855; being a large and well-built man, he went to work at blacksmithing.

From this time on, for the rest of his life Charles kept an ongoing journal, in which he expressed his thoughts and feelings as well as keeping abreast of current happenings. He was not professionally trained in writing, being self-educated from reading in scripture and literature at home. However, his journal and other writings reflect Mormon issues as well as political and other areas of learning in a readable style like few other writings of pioneer culture.

On 28 September 1861 Charles was married to Abigail Middlemiss, whose family had come from Pope's Harbor, Nova Scotia. In 1862, at the October conference, Charles and 200 other missionaries were called to go to the "cotton country" mission in southern Utah. He left with his wife on 13 November and arrived 9 December 1862. His first impression was that it was a "barren looking place...very windy, dusty, blowing nearly all the time." In what was to become St. George, Charles built up his holdings during the first six months he was there, "building me a home, fencing and grubbing my city lot, planting, irrigating and working in the blacksmith shop for B.F. Pendleton," and later with Melanchton Burgess. On 4 September 1863 Abigail gave birth to a girl, Zaidee, who later was to become a stalwart of the cultural community.

As St. George grew, Charles became integrated into its society. He joined a literary club, which printed a small newspaper, The Veprecula; he attended lectures on various historical, geographical, business, and scientific subjects; and discussed current concerns with others in the community in meetings. In the harsh circumstances of the desert country where nature was often unsympathetic, Charles continually calmed and counseled the pioneers with his prose, often in the form of songs, as well as using his talents for appropriate occasions such as funerals, marriages, and birthdays.

Charles was also a part of the events of the period. On 5 November 1871 the people voted to build a temple (the first one in Utah) in St. George , and Charles was a conscientious worker. He wrote also on 23 May 1872 that the "mason work on the meeting house was completed...I have worked on this building for over five years, from putting in the foundation to the capstone on the tower. Many weary toilsome days have I labored in the St. George tabernacle, lifting the heavy rocks in the wind, dust, cold and scorching heat of this climate, yet I have felt happy and contented."

Charles L. Walker died 11 January 1904. His life was an example of that type of men who sacrificed their personal pursuits to a large measure to contributed their talents and energy for their church and beliefs.

See: Karl and Katherine Larson, Ed., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, (1980).