Jesse N. Perkins

Carson Valley, NV Mission

“Although nine missionaries were called to the Carson Valley Mission, only a minor part of the colonizing effort took place in Carson Valley. The work among the Indians there was mostly unsuccessful and was soon discontinued. There was also a group of missionaries appointed to the Cherokee Mission, but this was different from the other Indian missions. Four men labored with the Cherokees and succeeded in establishing a branch of the church in present-day Oklahoma.”


Establishing Zion:
The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869

Eugene E. Campbell

Signature Books; Salt Lake City, Utah
© 1988 by Signature Books.

Nevada History:


[From Nevada Historical Society Papers 1913-1916, vol. 1, State Printing Office, Carson City: 1917, pp. 178-183]





            [PRINTER'S Note—Under special Instructions from the Secretary of the Nevada Historical Society, this article, in regard to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization of words, is printed exactly as written]


            Mr. Wm Jennings: I was born at a place called _____ in Worcestershire, England, September 13, 1823, and emigrated to New York, America, in 1847. From there I went to Missouri, and emigrated to Utah in 1852. I came here not as a member of the Church, and found things in Utah rather quiet in those days, very little of Salt Lake City compared with the present time. On my arrival here I settled down on a farm at Cottonwood but stayed only a few weeks and then came into the City and commenced butchering. The people then were generally farming, & stock raising a little. The principle business was trading with emigrants and providing for them as they passed along—trading good horses for poor ones, good cattle for poor ones, &e. and furnishing them with flour which was cheap at that day—prices were—wheat about 50c a bushel. The following Spring flour went up to $6.00 and 7.00 per 100. The people then were cautioned not to sell the flour, and if I remember right Brigham Young advertised in the frontier papers for the emigrants to bring their flour for they were short here.

            It was on the 29th August 1852 that the revelation on Polygamy was first read publically in the Tabernacle and I was present when it was read. Immediately afterward, I believe, Mr. Spencer and some others started out on a Mission to Europe, and through the States I think, carrying that revelation with them.

            I don't know as I can state fully all the particulars of events just at that time, but I remember some of those principle points.

            There was considerable money in this country in 1852 & and valid coin that was made from gold that came from California and quite a lot of it from Carson Valley brought in here by the Reese Company. It was coined here in what was termed the "Church Mint" by John Kay from pure gold without any alloy and had a different stamp on it from that of the ordinary coin. The gold that came from Carson Valley from which coin was made was not as pure as California gold; for instance California gold was worth $18.50 to the ounce while Carson Valley was not worth over $11.50.[1] Afterwards this geld was all called in by Reese because it was not counted good nor of full value. There was a good deal of it passed through my hands, and finally they agreed to redeem it from me and Reese.

            In 1852 there was a mission got up here to Carson Valley by the two Reeses and others. I don't know whether the church had anything to do with his (Reese) affairs or not in buying out a mill at Genoa on Carson River. In the spring of 1856 I was called to go there. Started from here about the 1st or 10th of May. We went in wagons, Mr. Layton & myself, and we landed in Carson somewhere the latter part of June. We made a very nice trip along and we settled in Washoe Valley. The Mission that year was called to build up that country. There were a few ranches near us in Washoe Valley. Reese had a store up at Genoa on the Carson River and there was a little settlement in Jack's Valley. The Carson Valley people I think were mostly apostate Mormons before this Company went there. This was the first genuine Mormon settlement there. The Reeses were partially connected with the Church. Orson Hyde was sent out there as a Probate Judge that Fall. When we went there Orson Hyde was building a saw mill. There was quite a little company of men in Gold Canyon at that time which place was about 30 miles E. of us. I was as certain then as I am now that there was a silver mine in the locality of Gold Canyon, and the reason that I had for it was, that as they opened up Gold Canyon nearer to the summit little gulches were filled with very fine gold and this gold became lower grade all the time and they worked up more silver; and from what I had read my idea was that there must be a silver mine in that Canyon. In the fall of 1856 Comstock himself came into the Valley. I think he crossed the Humboldt country with a herd of sheep. I was the first man that met him and relieved him for he was pretty destitute. This was the man that afterwards discovered the Comstock Mine.  He went up to Montana and died there. I started for California in 1857 and then home. The Mormons were ordered home in the Fall of 1857 on account of the U. S. army being on the road to this place. This broke up that settlement. I came home in the Spring, but the majority came in the Fall being then ordered home. We sold out all we had. I sold my ranch in Franktown for a trifle. In the first place I bought out a ranche of Mr. Best, myself and Mr. Layton. We did not log it, but there were too many rattlesnakes, and then we moved to Franktown, a little town that we built up there. The settlements before us were only one or two ranches, in that valley. Part of our ranche, the Ophir Mills were after built on. I carried across the Slippery Fall that Spring in a pair of Saddlebags between $6000 & 7000.00 of gold dust about as much as I could pack; three of us traveling across the mountains from Carson Valley, and on our return we came over the way from Stockton and Murphy's Camp, by the big trees.

            That lode was not discovered when we were there. I think Comstock came in that country in 1856[2] and the Indians got all the sheep. He worked in the gold mines in Gold Canyon getting out gold. When we got in Carson Valley there was little to do, and most of the people went to digging gold. I also went there, having nothing else to do, and done very well.

            Orson Hyde stayed down there in Franktown and built a large lumber mill in the fall of 1856. He came home either in the Fall of 1856 or early in the Spring of 1857, after selling his mill. The irons for the mill were brought from California.

            When we came back here matters were in rather a poor state. Some of our people were out on the road trying to hinder the progress of Johnson's Army; the cry was that they were coming in here, they were on the Sweetwater River in August I think. There was plenty of time for that army to come right in here but they traveled up & down Hams Fork and what for nobody could find out, and finally they settled down in Bridger. Col. Van Fleet was the Quarter Master of the army, and he came in here, when I remember hearing him, in the Social Hall, say that he believed there were 10,000 troops of our people out there on the Sweetwater, when in fact there was about 100, perhaps only 50, and they were actually afraid to move their army. Fort Bridger is about 20 miles this side of Green River. Our people were camped between here and the Sweetwater. In 1856 there were considerable settlements started on the way down to the Missouri River. We had started what they called the "Express" and they were making settlements along the road of this Express.       

            After the word came that the Army was on the way here, the Carson Valley Mission was abandoned. I think there were about 50 wagons went from here to Carson, probably about 150 or 200 people, the time that I went. Reese was about the only one that went before me. The Mission was called in 1856 to establish that country. The name of the Mission was the Carson Valley Mission. The people settled all along the Carson River, and there was quite a settlement in Washoe Valley, that is about half way between there & Truckee. There were a few went out there as early as 1852[3] but I forget who they were. Reese was then merchandising and trading. There was quite a little town established at Genoa. Nixon went out there in 1856 merchandising and then Reese quit merchandising. There was quite a number of houses built through that country by the Mormons in '56. It was not a nice fertile valley—too much frost, still small grain was grown pretty fair. We were troubled a good deal by Indians while we were there as they would steal the cattle, and several skirmishes were had with them. I don't think there were any killed, it being a hard country to get at them, and I expect there was more loss in trying to fight them than otherwise. We hunted them and tried to frighten them.

{Additional Commentary about Jesse N. Perkins, added by Lionel Nebeker}

Jesse N. Perkins (according to his son, Brigham Young Perkins) was one of those missionaries called by President Brigham Young, to go to Carson Valley in 1855.  His record is somewhat vague but indicates that they had two major objectives: 1) to share the gospel among the Indians and 2) to work on behalf of the “government”.  By referring to the government, that should be understood to mean the territorial government as directed by Brigham Young.  At this time, the area known as Nevada was a part of the Utah Territory and Brigham Young was the US Territorial Governor.  The “government” was trying to keep the peace between the Mormon settlers and the miners who had recently moved into the area to seek precious ore.  Complications were arising and so, under the direction of Apostle Orson Hyde, missionaries were called to go to this vital area and to secure it for the peace of the inhabitants of the Great Basin.

Carson Valley was a beautiful and fertile agricultural region and the last stop along the immigrant road to California where travelers could replenish their food and supplies before crossing the mountains.  As such, it was a very important boon to the Saint’s economy in providing cash to be spread around the residents of the Great Basin.  President Young had previously sent settlers to build up this area, but as precious metals were discovered in the area, more and more California prospectors began filling up the area and competing for control of the community.

In protest to the administration of Governor Young, the miners petitioned Washington for the creation of a new Nevada Territory to be separated off from Utah and to have a separate administration, which petition was granted.

The Carson Valley Mission lasted only a few short months and then the men were told to sell off whatever they could, most of which went for a huge financial loss, and return to Utah.  Word had been received that the US Congress was approving a military expedition to march against the Mormons and President Young wanted the missionaries from Carson Valley to return to help defend Salt Lake, should that action become necessary. 

The Carson Valley mission was recalled, but Jesse N. Perkins, along with the other missionaries, was “called” to go next to the wintry plains of Wyoming (1856) to help with the rescue of two pioneer handcart companies who were struggling for survival. Much has been said about the terrible conditions those poor people had to endure, but less has been written about the difficulties of their rescuers.  The depth of the snow on South Pass and Rocky Ridge was about 13 feet in some areas and this had to be dug out to allow the men to work their way toward the Willey and Martin Handcart companies.  Jesse served in this action with his teams and wagon, in successfully bringing these cold and hungry immigrants to the Salt Lake Valley.

The following year, 1857, with the approach of Johnston’s Army, Jesse was again “called out” to spend that winter in Echo Canyon, resisting the entrance of the army into Utah Territory.  This mission he also faithfully fulfilled until its conclusion when he returned to his family in Bountiful.