Jesse Nelson Perkins                 Mini Bio


Jesse Nelson Perkins

Jesse Nelson Perkins was the seventh of eight sons of Reuben and Elizabeth Petillo Perkins.  He was born in Jackson Co., Tennessee on 19 Feb. 1819 and grew up in that area surrounded by Perkins cousins.  He was six feet, four and a half inches tall.  While still a young man, the family of Josiah McClelland moved into the county.  Jesse fell in love with one of the daughters, Rhoda Condra McClelland.  However, at the age of eighteen, he, and an older brother, John Henderson Perkins, packed up and moved to Grundy (now Alphia) County, Missouri.  They had heard of new lands opening up in that area and these two went ahead of the rest of their family where each one claimed 160 acres in 1837.  A couple years later, their parents and most of the remaining brothers joined them in this new land.  In 1842, at the age of 23, Jesse married Rhoda C. McClelland in Grundy Co., MO. 

The Perkins boys had arrived in Missouri at just about the same time that the Mormons were being driven from the state and seeking refuge in Illinois.  One of Jesse’s older brothers, Andrew Houston Perkins, who lived in Hancock County, Ill. listened to the message of the missionaries and joined this new religion.  Soon, Andrew shared the good news of the gospel with his grandparents, Ute and Sally Perkins, who both joined the Church in Illinois too.  However, the family members located in Missouri heard such negative stories about the Mormons that they were not anxious to join them.  It wasn’t until after the saints fled from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters, Neb. That some of the other Perkins family members began to listen intently to the message of the gospel.  This began with his father, Reuben and some of Jesse’s brothers, but eventually, on his 29th birthday, 19 Feb. 1848, Jesse was baptized in Missouri.  Anti-Mormon feelings ran so high that Jesse and his brothers were forced to leave the state immediately and flee northward to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Their parents, who also joined the Church, were allowed to stay till the weather improved that spring before being force to also leave the area.  The flight of Jesse and his family was forced upon them so quickly that his wife, Rhoda, did not even have time to be baptized until 8 June 1848, after she arrived in Iowa. 

While the family was still in Missouri, their first two sons were born (John Henderson—9 Nov. 1842, who was named after his uncle, who, along with Jesse, had pioneered the way in Missouri for the Perkins family; and Littleton Lytle—13 Jan. 1847). 

The family gathered in Council Bluffs in 1848 and organized themselves in order to cross the plains, which they did the following year, arriving in Salt Lake on 18 Oct. 1849.  The trip west would have been especially difficult for Rhoda, who was in the first trimester of her next pregnancy and six months after their arrival she had her third son (18 Apr 1850) whom they named Brigham Young Perkins. 

Times were very difficult for all of the early saints.  The Cricket Wars consumed most of the crops in the first few years, and “Mountain Fever” claimed the lives of many settlers.  Among those who succumbed to the disease were three of Jesse’s brothers and many of their families.  Jesse’s parents survived and took on the responsibility of raising many of their grandchildren.

The Perkins families (Jesse, as well as his parents and younger brother) settled near the Great Salt Lake in what is now the area of South Bountiful, or Woods Cross.  Here they carved out a very good farm with a beautiful orchard.  They also built up a large herd of cattle.  Things went well and they loved their home in Bountiful.  Four more boys were added to the family before they finally had a single daughter (Heber Kimball—12 Apr. 1852; Jesse Nelson Jr.—28 Feb. 1854; Reuben Josiah—14 Oct. 1956; Franklin Monroe—26 Feb. 1859; Rhoda Elizabeth—20 Mar. 1862).  This last daughter was born during the Civil War, in which many of their Perkins and McClelland relatives back in Tennessee took part on the side of the Confederacy.

In 1869-70, Jesse N. Perkins was called to fill an LDS mission to the southern states. At this time he was able to visit his old home and share the gospel with many of his uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as the extended family of his wife Rhoda.  While he was received hospitably, fed and well treated, it does not appear that he was successful in converting any of them into joining the Church.

Jesse returned home just in time to visit with his father, Reuben, before that patriarch died on 25 Oct. 1871.  Jesse’s Mother, Elizabeth Petillo Perkins had passed away in 1866, shortly before his mission.

In 1875 Jesse was called by President Brigham Young to pack up his belongings and take his family to settle in the Hillsdale community (just south of Panguitch, UT).  It took a great effort to move all of their stock but they were obedient to the call to this area.  Jesse served as the Post Master for this community and the surrounding area.  They were able to go from here over to St. George, for the dedication of the Temple in 1877, where they spent two weeks in doing temple work for their Perkins ancestors.

In 1878, they were again asked to resettle to the Salt River Valley of Arizona.  This was a tough and barren land.  When they arrived, they found a dispute had split the LDS community there.  Jesse, was not involved with either group and was accepted and respected by both.  He was called by the Apostles to preside over the first Stake there.  He was also instrumental in diverting water from up-stream, out onto the “Mesa” which made that land good potential farmland and caused a move of the community from the settlement of “Johnsonville” or “Lehi”, to “Mesa”, where the town remains to this day.  By this time, Jesse’s cattle herd was so large that they needed better pasture than what was provided in Mesa.  His boys took the herd south near Tucson, but came down with Malaria.  As a result, Jesse sold his lands in Mesa and moved his family to Walker (now Taylor) Arizona where they arrived on 8 Jan. 1879.

Here Jesse built a nice home with two halves—one for him and his family, the other for his sister-in-law, Maria Tuttle, widow of his younger brother, Franklin Monroe.   Jesse took her as a polygamist wife in order to raise up a family to his brother. 

On 3 Mar. 1883, Jesse died in Taylor, from Small Pox, which he contracted in taking care of his dying son, John.  He lies buried in the Taylor cemetery.

                                                                                            Rhoda Condra McClelland

                                                                                                    Wife of Jesse Nelson Perkins.

Head stones of Jesse Nelson Perkins and Rhoda Condra McClellan Perkins in Taylor, AZ cemetery, carved by their son, Reuben Josiah Perkins.  The design represents the yoke of an ox team, denoting the tremendous effort of Jesse and Rhoda in settling Arizona as a Mormon Pioneer.  The markers are made of sandstone and have since sloughed off so much that they are no longer readable. 

Home of Jesse & Rhoda Perkins in Taylor, AZ.

(Home is still in the possession of his descendents—children of Jesse N. Perkins III).