Aretha Morilla Bates                     Mini Bio


Aretha Morilla Bates

Aretha Morilla Bates was born 6 Feb. 1855 in Batesville, Utah, near the city of Tooele.  She was the fifth of nine children born to the polygamist family of Ormus Ephraim Bates and Morilla Spink.  Both of her parents were converts to the LDS Church from Jefferson County, New York in the far northern section of that state.  After joining the Church, they migrated to Nauvoo in time to buy a lot on the hill southeast of the Temple.  It wasn’t long however, before they were called upon to move west with the Saints, where they settled near Tooele.

In 1857-58 Johnston’s Army was sent by the US government to quail the Mormon problems and to institute the US control over the territory.  The Utah War was relatively short-lived but in June of 1858, the Army moved through Salt Lake and on to the West, establishing a permanent fort just outside of Tooele where the non-Mormon influence began to be felt by the local residents.  For the most part, the soldiers kept a healthy distance between themselves and the Saints but with their fort came a flow of money into the area that made the economy begin to grow.  Aretha was only three and a half years old when the military built their fort.  However, in 1860 (at age 5) with the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the soldiers were recalled, with Johnston himself, relinquishing his commission so he could join the Confederate Army, where he was killed at Shiloh.  

Her father, Ormus, followed the direction of his ecclesiastical leaders by accepting the doctrine of Plural Marriage.  As such, over time he married a total of seven wives.  Aretha’s family grew to be quite large with all of her half-brothers and sisters, most of whom lived near Tooele.

For the most part they made their living ranching cattle and sheep, as well as operating a dairy.  They also grew most of their own fruits and vegetables.   They found the land near Tooele was not as fertile as was Rush Valley to the south, so they moved their entire operation to the mouth of Ophir Canyon where their farming really prospered.

Soon, many deposits of minerals were found in the Oquirrh Mountains and one of Aretha’s half brothers, Cyrus, while herding sheep in Ophir Canyon, discovered a vein of almost pure silver that could be scooped up with a shovel without the need to even excavate.  He and his father went in 50/50 on the mine and soon thereafter sold it for $50,000, which was a pretty good sum in those days.  It made that side of the family pretty well to do. 

Many men came from miles around to work in the mines.  One of these was a young man from Springville, by the name of Joseph Buck Wakefield.  It wasn’t long before this young man found more “gold” in the daughter of Ormus, than in his land, and he and Aretha were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake on 3 Oct. 1870.  Her oldest brother, Orville Ephraim had recently married Joseph’s sister, Sarah Wakefield and these two couples remained very close to each other throughout the remainder of their lives.  Aretha and Joseph settled down in Ophir to work near her family.  Here their first daughter, Alpheretta, was born on 25 Jan. 1872, but died the next day.  This was a real tragedy to the young couple.

The family then moved to Erda Valley, not far away, where their next child, Joseph Thomas Wakefield, was born on 23 May 1873.

On 4 Aug. 1873, Aretha’s father died in Tooele.  This left all of his families a bit disconnected and needing to figure out how they would fend for themselves.  Aretha and Joseph, along with Orville and Sarah, went to live with an older Wakefield brother in Fountain Green, Utah, where their next daughter, Lillian Dade, was born.  But this stay was short as the two families were soon called by Brigham Young to pack up and settle a United Order colony that was just being organized in northern Arizona.  They were assigned to work at a fort on Mormon Lake called Mormon Dairy, where they made cheese and butter to be exchanged with the other colonies stretched out along the Little Colorado River.  Aretha’s mother, Morilla Spink Bates also moved with this group and she became the mid-wife who delivered the babies in the colony.

Shortly after their arrival at the Dairy, Aretha gave birth to her fourth child, Lansing Ira Wakefield, who was named after her little brother just younger than herself, Lansing Bates, as well as for a dear friend and church leader in Arizona, Ira Hatch. 

This colony struggled and was soon disbanded.  The Wakefields moved to St. Johns, Arizona where the Mormons were buying up land that was in dispute between Texas cow outfits and the local Mexicans.  The Wakefields stayed in St. Johns for a time and then bought a ranch north of town, called “The Meadows”.  Here they raised their children until they were mostly grown.

Aretha’s son, Ira, married a girl from Taylor and he moved there to set up his own cattle ranch.  Others of the family followed, including Aretha and Joseph.  She was called to be the Ward Relief Society President and held that position for many years.  She had ten children, but three of them died young.  Joseph died of a sudden stroke on 23 July 1928 and Aretha outlived him by only four months, passing away at her home in Taylor on 25 Nov. 1828.



Cabin of Ormus E. Bates near Ophir, Utah



        Headstones in Taylor, AZ

        Joseph Buck Wakefield

Aretha M. B. Wakefield



Aretha & Joseph