Joseph Buck and Aretha Morilla Bates Wakefield

and Morilla Spink Bates (Aretha’s Mother)

Mission to Northern Arizona

1877 -- 1881

from the book:

John Fleming Wakefield


Ancestors and Descendents


Melvin L. Wakefield

pp. 207 - 208


In 1876, a number of families were called from Northern Utah to help colonize Arizona and work as missionaries among the Indians.  Erastus [Snow Wakefield] was among those who left early in 1876 with the first company going to Arizona.  Probably that fall, Erastus returned for his family, also to take along with him on the next trip, his brother, Joseph [Buck Wakefield], his brother-in-law Orville E. Bates, and their families...

Grandmother (Morilla Spink) Bates, mother of Aretha and Orville, accompanied them to Arizona.  Her husband [Ormus Ephraim Bates] had died in 1870.  She was a trained midwife, who delivered all the babies in Brigham City [Arizona] and vicinity for years, and later, the same in St. Johns and The Meadows [two additional communities in NE Arizona].

The company arrived in Brigham City [present day Winslow], Arizona, 4 December 1877.  The Wakefields and Bates’ were later sent by Lot Smith to “Mormon Dairy”, or Pleasant Valley, some 20 miles southeast of the present Flagstaff, to take charge of 142 cows and the making of butter and cheese for the camp, under the direction of Jesse O. Ballinger.  The dairy furnished butter and cheese for three Mormon settlements: Brigham City, Sunset and Allen’s Camp.  They arrived at Mormon Dairy in September, 1878.

That summer was a hard one for mother Wakefield (Aretha). She later told of sleeping in a wagon bed with her clothes on.  Joseph managed to get a small house ready for her to get into just before her fourth child was born, 8 November 1878.  This child, a son, they named Lansing Ira: Lansing for a brother of Aretha, and Ira for Ira Hatch, an Indian missionary and friend of the family. 

Joseph spent much time as a missionary to the Indians, serving with Ira Hatch and Jacob Hamblin.  He often recalled the miraculous healings in the power of the priesthood among the Indians during a serious disease epidemic.

The people of this early Arizona settlement at Brigham City, established themselves under the United Order.  In September 1878, Erastus Snow found this community in a flourishing condition.  There was a fort 200 feet square, with rock walls seven feet high.  Inside were 36 dwelling houses, each 15 by 13 feet.  On the north side was a dining hall, 80 by 20 feet.  Adjoining was a kitchen, 25 by 20 feet, with an annexed bake house.  Twelve other dwelling houses were in use, as well as a cellar and storehouse.  Water was secured within the enclosure from two good wells.  South of the fort were corrals and stock yards.  In time discouragement became general, and in 1881, all were released from the mission. 

Many of the families returned at this time to Utah, but the Wakefeilds and Bates’ had moved to The Meadows, near St. Johns.  (Except Erastus, who had remained and helped in the distribution of the community properties.)  

Plat of the Fort at Brigham City, Arizona (Winslow)

Within the fort built by the early Mormon Pioneers, note the homes of:

Joseph & Aretha Bates Wakefield in the SW corner of the fort;

“Sister Bates” (Morilla Spink Bates) home in the row of houses just to the west of the fort;

Erastus Wakekfield (brother of Joseph) next to “Sister Bates”;

and the home of Orville E. Bates (Aretha’s brother) on the upper western wall. 

Above:  Joseph Buck Wakefield and his wife, Aretha Morilla Bates Wakefield

Below: Morilla Spink Bates

(Mother of Aretha M. Bates Wakefield)