Lansing Ira Wakefield                   Mini Bio  



Lansing Ira Wakefield

An Arizona Cowboy

Brigham Young is well known for being the greatest colonizer in the world’s history.  In that role, he sent LDS families throughout the west to build up new settlements and to promote trade and development.  Shortly before his death, President Young sent a group of saints to create a series of villages along the Little Colorado River in NE Arizona.  With Winslow as a center for the communities, each settlement practiced the United Order and traded commodities for the common good of the whole group.

Joseph Buck Wakefield and his wife, Aretha Morilla Bates, along with his sister, Sarah Ellen Wakefield and her husband, Orville Ephraim Bates (a brother to Aretha) were two young couples who were called out of the Tooele, Utah area to go and colonize a new settlement in Arizona.  There were several families that obeyed the call and the mother of the two Bates children, Morilla Spink Bates, also went with the group in order to provide the mid-wife services for this colony.

By the time they departed Tooele, in the summer of 1878, the Wakefields already had three children. The oldest, however, died at birth, Tom was 5 years old and Lillian was 2.  Aretha was well along in her 4th pregnancy and the road was a rough one for a woman in her condition.  Joseph hurried his team to reach the place where the new settlement was to be built before the birth.

Upon reaching Winslow, this little group was sent to a large lake surrounded by good green grass where they were assigned to establish a dairy and distribute cheese and butter to the other settlements.  They arrived just in time to celebrate the birth of Lansing Ira Wakefield, who was born on Nov. 8, 1878, before there was time to build the fort.  They named the place Mormon Lake and built a colony called Mormon Dairy.

He was named after an uncle, Lansing Bates but usually went by the name of Ira--named for Ira Hatch, a good friend and missionary companion of his father.  After a few years at Mormon Dairy, the church dissolved the united order communities and the local saints were allowed to go where they wished.  The Wakefield and Bates families moved eastward to St. Johns, AZ.  Joseph took a job helping to build the railroad and they bought a farm outside of town, which they called “TL Ranch”.

From the time he was in his early teens, Ira worked full time for various cattle outfits.  Instead of taking money, he asked for calves for his pay and soon had built up his own herd within the larger outfits.  He had many close calls with Indians, and with quarrels between the Arizona cowboys and Texas Cowboys.  Ira was a mild, easy-going fellow and was never interested in fighting over something, although his best friend, another young 15-year-old Mormon Boy, was shot and killed when one night, he mistakenly rode his horse into a Texas cattle camp thinking it was his own outfit.

By his early twenties, Ira was an independent cowboy running his own herd in eastern Arizona from Showlow to the Painted Desert.  While in the vicinity of Taylor, he stopped in to visit a Bates cousin who lived there and was introduced to Rhoda Jane Perkins.  Rhoda was a tall, striking young woman who played her guitar and won his heart instantly.  He decided to call on her regularly, but her father, Reuben Perkins, did not believe his daughter should be in the company of any cowboys.  He asked the young stranger what his intentions were towards his daughter.  Ira responded just as plainly, “Well, sir, since you asked, I intend to marry her.”  Reuben still refused to allow them to date until he had received a letter from the Bishop of the St. Johns ward telling him that Ira was a fine young man.  After that, the courtship went fairly quickly and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 7, 1906.

The couple settled in Taylor and Ira leased a large section of ranch      land just east of town.  He was called to be the Bishop of the Taylor Ward and was serving in that position when their seventh child, Maxine, was born in 1919.  All nine children were born in Taylor.

Life was good for the Wakefields and they owned the first automobile in town; but when the depression came along, Ira lost his herd and his land due to having cosigned for a friend on a loan.  The bank took over his herd but hired Ira to continue running the cattle for the bank.

In 1944, during the war, Ira and Rhoda served a mission to the Zuni Indians at Crystal, NM.  After returning home, he was diagnosed with cancer and went to California to seek treatments.  That was unsuccessful and they decided to head north to visit their children in Oregon.  They got as far as Portland, where Ira died on Dec. 29, 1947.  He was buried in Taylor, AZ.