Joseph Buck Wakefield               Mini Bio


Joseph Buck Wakefield

Joseph Buck Wakefield was born on the 12th of June, 1852 in Kanesville (now Council Bluffs) Iowa.  He was the sixth of seven children who blessed the home of John Fleming and Susanna Garlick Wakefield.  His parents were converts to the LDS Church from Bedford County, PA, who faithfully moved their family to Nauvoo after their conversion.  With the rest of the saints, they experienced hardships that drove them from their home and across Iowa in terrible conditions until they made a temporary home on the shores of the Missouri River beneath the “Council Bluffs”.  Here the family stayed for about eight years before they were sufficiently prepared to make the arduous journey west.

When Joseph was only a year and a half old, his father, who had been in poor health, died, leaving a destitute wife who was then pregnant with her seventh child.  However, this determined widow spent the following year in making the necessary preparations and when Joseph was just three years old, they started the long trip to Utah.  Being so young, Joseph was allowed to sit up front beside his mother as she drove the wagon while the older children walked and the baby rested in the wagon within reach of the Mother.  To entertain the little fellow, his mother tied two long strings to his big toes and he held the other ends as if they were reins to a team of horses.  He often commented to people throughout his life that he was able to drive a team (of his own toes) all the way across the plains when just a toddler.

Upon reaching Utah, the Wakefield family went to Springville to settle.  This was a new town being built south of Provo, in the Utah Valley.  Here the family worked hard to produce a meager existence in the harsh environs of early pioneer times.  All of the boys grew up hunting and fishing in the nearby canyon of Hobble Creek.  Joseph also became an excellent swimmer by spending many summer days at Lake Utah.  In 1860, his widowed mother remarried a very good man named Rees Davis.  By him she had a son in 1861 when Joseph was about nine years old. 

Joseph grew to manhood in Springville and at almost six feet tall he was very athletically built and inclined.  He was known as a hard working man throughout his life.

About 1869-70, he went to work in the silver mines in Ophir, Utah.  While there, he met Aretha Morilla Bates.  She was the daughter of Ormus E. and Morilla Spink Bates.  Aretha had a brother, Orville Bates who had recently married Sarah Wakefield, Joseph’s younger sister.  These marriages brought these two families very close together.  Joseph and Aretha were married on Oct. 3, 1870 in the Salt Lake Endowment House.  They returned to Ophir where Joseph continued working in the mines.  Here their first child was born in 1872, but she lived only one day.  This loss was difficult to bear but they soon had a strong little boy, Joseph Thomas “Tom” born to them in 1873.

Joseph moved his small family to Fountain Green, Utah (near Ephraim) to work with his older brother, Erastus in logging and making shingles.  They were also joined in this endeavor by Orville & Sarah Wakefield Bates, and these families were very closely tied throughout their lives.  Here too Joseph & Aretha had their third child, a little girl, Lillian.

In 1877, these three families, along with Morilla Spink Bates, the widowed mother of Aretha Bates Wakefield and Orville Bates, were “called out” to settle a new Mormon colony in Northern Arizona.  They first arrived in Brigham City on the Little Colorado River, but were later sent to Mormon Dairy.  These were “United Order“ colonies that lived, ate and worked together for the common benefit of all.  The settlement’s purpose was to raise cows and make butter and cheese for the other settlements in northern Arizona.  The Wakefield and Bates families arrived there late in the summer of 1878 and lived in their wagon boxes until Joseph was able to build a small cabin.  They moved into their new home just a couple days before Aretha gave birth to her fourth child, Lansing Ira Wakefield, on Nov. 8, 1878. 

In addition to his work at the Dairy, Joseph spent a lot of time as a missionary to the Indians.  In this capacity he served with Jacob Hamblin and another very close friend, Ira Hatch (for whom their young son had been named). 

The little communities struggled and in 1881 they were disbanded. The saints were told they could move to any spot they desired.  Many returned to Utah but the Wakefield and Bates families moved east to St. Johns, AZ.  Four children were added to Joseph & Aretha’s family while they lived at “the Meadows” near St. Johns, and two more little girls were born after they moved to Navajo Springs, east of Holbrook.  Both of these last two died at birth.  Seven of their ten children lived to adulthood.  The Santa Fe Railroad was building a new line across northern Arizona and Joseph, as well as his oldest son Tom, took work building that line. 

Joseph’s sons, Tom & Ira, began running cattle south of Holbrook, near Taylor, AZ, where Ira soon married Rhoda Perkins, and Tom married her cousin, Eliza McCleve.  As a result, Joseph moved his remaining family to Taylor, where at first he ran a sawmill, and then served as town constable, and was also a postmaster for a time.

Joseph served many years as the Taylor Sunday School Superintendent.  He was known for his punctuality, for his fun-loving dancing and square dance calling.  He played a harmonica to entertain everyone and to provide dance music.

They lived in a very nice two-story brick home a short distance south of the Taylor chapel.  Joseph lived to be 76 years old.  He had a thick head of white hair and was often referred to by his wife as “old cotton-top”.  He was healthy all of his life, working almost until the day of his death.  Joseph suffered a stroke and died two days later on July 23, 1928.   He was buried in Taylor, AZ.

Back row:  Erastus, Lillian & Lansing Ira

Front row: Ella, Joseph, Julia, Aretha, Myrtle

Not pictured: oldest son, Tom and three daughters who died in infancy: Alpheretta, Herma & Celia Wakefield.

Aretha & Joseph B. Wakefield

Grave markers in Taylor, AZ