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Pioneer of Southern Utah and Las Vegas – John Steele papers

John Steele (1821-1903), pioneer of Southern Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: John Steele papers (Vault MSS 528). This collection contains three boxes full of diaries, notes, correspondence, dictionaries, surveys, bonds, certificates, horoscopes, and military orders related to a prominent pioneer of southern Utah and Nevada. The correspondence was to and from John Steele, other family members, and acquaintances. The materials document the activities of the Steele family, John’s militia and Mormon Battalion activities, his missions to England and to the Indians, his migration to Utah, and his life in Utah and Nevada. Also included is a dictionary of the Southern Paiute language created by John Steele. Materials dated 1816-1989.

John Steele was born March 21, 1821 in Hollywood, Ireland, to John and Nancy Steele. At the age of fifteen years, John began to learn the trade of boot and shoemaking, and started a business in Belfast. At age nineteen he met Catherine Campbell, and they married on January 1, 1840. Their first daughter, Mary Campbell Steele, was born on December 23, 1840.

Because of poor economic conditions in Belfast, John moved his family to Glasgow, Scotland where he found work. John investigated the Mormon faith and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1843, and about a month later he baptized his wife Catherine. Their family migrated to the United States in 1845 to join the rest of the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1846 John and his family left Nauvoo, and with other members of the church, headed for Council Bluffs, Iowa. There John enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, but did not make the journey to California. Instead, he and his family left Santa Fe to join the rest of the Saints journeying to Utah, and arrived in Salt Lake City on July 29, 1847.

In 1849, John was called by George A. Smith to go to Iron County, where he was to start an agricultural base for the iron works in Cedar City, and to defend the wagon train. They arrived in Iron County in 1851, where they founded the city of Parowan. That same year, John was elected marshal, where he served two years, heading several expeditions against Indians who were stealing and killing cattle.

After two terms as marshal, John was elected Mayor of Parowan in 1853. Shortly after this John was called as County Recorder, and also was asked to fill the vacant position of Judge of Iron County.

In 1855, John Steele was called to go to the Las Vegas Mission to investigate for Brigham Young the prospect of opening lead mines in the area. At Las Vegas, John set up a fort and started a garden. In 1856 he took over as Postmaster and also was asked to preside over the Las Vegas Mission. While there John and the other men did some investigating for Brigham Young into the prospect of opening lead mines in the area.

John Steele home, Toquerville, Utah, ca. 1900

In 1862 John moved his family to Toquerville, Utah. While there John was called on a Indian mission to the Moqui Nation [Hopi] in the company of Jacob Hamblin and others. He also served as a Major in the Battalion’s 10th Regiment under the command of Col. Daniel D. MacArthur of St. George. On April 15, 1868, John was commissioned as Justice of the Peace in Toquerville, and again in 1869. He was soon after elected to the office of County Surveyor for Kane County in 1873, and as County Assessor in March of 1874, and again for the year of 1875.

John and his son Mahonri Moriancummer were both called to serve missions to England in 1877. From his return in 1879 to his death on December 31, 1903, John Steele remained active in several Southern Utah civic and Church functions, acting as Bishop in Parowan and assisting with the construction of the Manti Temple.

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