JOSEPH SMITH LAMB
(1836-1901) Son of Abel Lamb and Almira Merrill
Written by Harriet Jane Lamb Stradling
During his infancy the family moved to Missouri, only to be driven out in the expulsion of the Saints from that place. Little Joseph’s early years were spent in moving from place to place with his parents as they heeded the call of the Church in those troubled times. They were privileged to have the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum, visit their home. They were witnesses to the building up of Nauvoo the Beautiful, from which they were driven by mobs.
Joseph was seven years old when the family arrived in Salt Lake City. At first they lived in the Eighth Ward, and he helped his father in the cooper shop, learning the trade in his youth. Being gifted musically, he learned to play the violin very well. In fact, Brigham Young once said that Joseph Lamb was his favorite dance fiddler.
When he was grown to manhood he fell in love with another native New Yorker, Harriet Cornelia Clawson, who was born in Buffalo. Their wedding took place in the Endowment House. The young couple settled in Salt Lake City, where six children were born to them. Two of them dyed in infancy.
Joseph was associated with some other young men as members of a dance band. One night Harriet went somewhere, leaving him home to mind the baby. While she was gone, the band members came for him unexpectedly, saying they were engaged to play for a dance. He protested that he had to stay with the baby, but they over-ruled his objections, picked up "baby, cradle, and all," and away they went to the dance. Harriet was very bewildered upon returning a little while later to find not only her husband missing, but the baby and cradle, too!
The family later moved to Farmington, Utah where Sydney was born. From there they moved to Monroe, which was then in the process of being settled. At first they lived in the Fort with the other settlers.
In about two years, danger from the Indians lessened enough that the people could leave the Fort and begin to build houses on the city lots which had been laid out. Joseph and Harriet, with their children’s help, built an adobe house on a lot on the East part of town. They later took up a homestead on the west side. Joseph worked as a cooper, making trips into the mountains with his older sons to cut logs for material to make staves for barrels, tubs, churns, and buckets. They boys peddled the finished articles around the town to help keep the family.
After living in Monroe for nine years, they received a letter from David P. Kimball, telling of the Mormon settlement in Mesa, Arizona, and of the natural advantages of that country. So after talking it over, they decided that it would be a good place to go with their now large family of children—Mark, Royal, Amy, Leonard, and Ruth having been born in Monroe. Gathering together an outfit consisting of one wagon drawn by four horses and another wagon drawn by a team of mules, they left for Arizona about October 15, 1880, having first sent for their two oldest sons who had been working in Frisco, Utah.
Traveling up the Sevier River through Marysville, Panguitch, and by Orderville, they came to Pipe Springs. It took two or three days to go over the Buckskin Mountains and on to Rock Springs. Finally, they arrived at Lee’s Ferry, on the Colorado River, where they camped all night before crossing the river on the ferry boat. Next came one of the most dangerous parts of the trip—the journey up Lee’s Backbone, which was a high rocky ridge of mountain with gorges running out from either side. The ridges between them looking like ribs of a skeleton projecting out from the central ridge or "backbone." It was hard work to drive along this part, which was just wide enough for a wagon along its to, with steep canyons dropping away on either side. It was so steep that it was necessary to block the wheels with rocks every time the horses managed to pull the wagons another foot or two on the trail. After conquering the Backbone, they traveled over sand and rocky hills.
There were eight living children in the family at this time. Some of them contracted typhoid fever, becoming very ill. Joseph and Harriet were afraid their little daughter Ruth would die when they were at Rock House on the Colorado, but she managed to survive. Harriet was a brave woman and nursed her children as best she could under the trying circumstances, with prayer and love. She tried to make them as comfortable as possible while traveling in the wilderness.
They pushed on around San Francisco Peaks where Flagstaff is now located, although there was no city there at that time—just one cattle ranch. The railroad had not yet got to this point. By that time it was November, and they traveled on to where the town of Williams now is, and then to Ashfork. All this time the children were getting worse with the fever and the parents thought Victor surely would die about the time they turned south through what is now called Lonesome Valley, but he, too, lived. They passed east of Phoenix, arriving in Mesa the last of November. The trip from Monroe had taken six weeks. In Mesa they were able to get butter and milk for the children. The sick ones were soon better. Some of the others then came down with typhoid fever after their arrival in Mesa. It was February before all were well again.
Their first home in Mesa consisted of their tents pitched on the northeast corner of block eleven, on the tithing property. They remained there for about two months. Then they bought block 26 from William Crismon for a hundred dollars, selling the west half to Edward Bloomer for fifty dollars. Joseph and his sons built an adobe house on the southeast corner of their property, and another building facing Main Street, in which they opened a story—the second one started in Mesa. The latter building was later occupied by a Chinese laundry.
Joseph filed on a quarter section of land, and later sold the relinquishment for a span of mules. He purchased another piece of ground and sold it for two hundred dollars, with which they bought goods to stock their store. Harriet helped clerk in the story, and in later years had a little shop where she sold thread, candy, and notions.
Their home was made pleasant by the row of fig trees along one side of the yard, an osage hedge along the other, and cottonwood trees along the back. Apricots and plums grew in the yard, and there was a big lawn at one side, with a large porch connecting indoors and out.
As a violinist, Joseph was in great demand to play for dances in Mesa and Lehi. With Hyrum S. Phelps and Joseph Bond, he furnished music for the community for many years. He and his sons also had a family orchestra. He and Roy played the violin. Roy was also an expert at the piccolo, Fred the guitar, and Mark the drum.
By nature, Joseph was mild, gentle, reserved, and unaffected. He was liberal to the point of sharing his last bit of food or clothing with anyone who might happen to be in need. Once they let an old man sleep in the room behind the grocery store, and he accidentally burned the house down. The family managed to escape with just the clothes on their back, and were able to save only the feather bed—which Harriet still had at the time of her death.
He would live at times in the Superstition Mountains where his sons, Victor, Mark, and Syd ran cattle. Joseph also spent some time with his other sons, Louis, Fred, and Roy, who mined at Goldfireld, twenty miles east of Mesa. Together they built a dance hall there, furnishing the music for it themselves. His daughter, Lillian, helped as cook. Her boys also worked there with the family.
Collins R. Hakes, and the Merrill brothers, Orlando and Orin, were the first to discover gold in the Goldfield area. They and Riley Morse owned the Mammoth Mine at Goldfield. They sold it to a large company for twenty thousand dollars, each receiving five thousand dollars as his share. Mammoth Mine was 1,100 feet deep and one of the best gold mines on this continent. Today it is filled with water. Four major mines were discovered in the Goldfield area during this wild and wonderful fourteen-year period of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. They were the Mammoth, the Bulldog, the Black Queen, and the Bluebird. Collins, his sons-in-law, Louis E. Lamb, and Lyman Leavitt, each owned a third interest in two other mines—the "Mabel Ann" and the "Old Joe." Collins and Louis worked the mines, while Lyman took care of the work at their home places. Few spots in the Salt River Valley, or in the nation, for that matter, can equal Goldfield for history, superstitions, lore and speculations of the past and future.
Joseph was staying with his sons at Goldfield when he unexpectedly died of heart failure at the age of sixty-five.