Compiled by Jodi Keys and Ginny Eastham
Funded by LaBabe Rentz
Robert Dockery Covington was a college graduate, who helped on his father's plantation raising cotton and tobacco. His wife, Elizabeth Ann Thomas was born April 21, 1820 in Marlboro District of South Carolina and on February 2, 1839 she married Robert Dockery Covington. (1) John's parents moved shortly after their wedding to Marlboro County, South Carolina. (2) The next move came with Robert's parents, Thomas B. Covington, known as "Big Tommie" (3) and Jane Thomas. They settled in Summerville, Noxbee, Mississippi. They Established large plantations and they prospered, because of Jane Thomas's relatives, having settled there since 1834, also the rich soil and plenty of slave labor helped a great deal. This was the place where John Thomas Covington was born on August 4, 1840. (4)
It was three years later, on January 1, 1843 that John's sister Emily June Covington was born. (5) Around this time, Daniel Thomas had brought home a Book of Mormon. And after Robert Dockery Covington and his wife had heard Elder Clapp preach for two weeks, they were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on February 3, 1843, in noxbee County, Mississippi by Benjamin Clapp. (6) Although most of Elizabeth's family joined the church, Robert's family thought that he had lost all his reason. Little did Robert's parents, Thomas B. Covington and Jane Thomas, realize that the son whom they had greeted with open arms at his birth, August 2, 1815 in Rockingham, Richmond, North Carolina, would one day be disinherited by themselves. (7) In fact, in Covington books written by non L.D.S. authors, Robert's name isn't listed among the children. Although, his older brother James, who also joined the L.D.S. church and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. Nancy later returned to Mississippi in a state of disillusionment.
Soon after Robert had joined the Church, he longed to join the Saints in Nauvoo. At this time he was overseer on two plantations. (9) He set his slaves free, which was protested by the slaves because of their deep love for Robert. (10) Now preparations to leave got underway. On February 1, 1845 Sarah Ann Covington was born. John had a new baby sister. John Thomas Covington was not yet 5 years old, and stories have been told that he "baptized" many of his negro playmates in the muddy ponds (11) before his family left for Nauvoo. (12)
Robert Dockery Covington and Elizabeth Ann Thomas Covington received their endowments January 20, 1846 in the Nauvoo temple. (13) Soon John Thomas Covington lost his sister Cathrine Covington, born 1846 and died in 1846 in Nauvoo, Illinois. He also was to lose his toddler sister Sarah, born 1845 in Mississippi and died October 16, 1846 in Winter Quarters. (14) John had gone from a life of wealth and plenty, to a life of great needs and want, but these circumstances and happenings were not all that happened to this family. In 1847, Robert, Elizabeth along with children John and Emily started for Utah in the Edward Hunter Company under the direction of Captain Daniel Thomas. (15) Elizabeth was expecting again and the ordeals the Saints had to suffer had made inroads on her health. It must have been a trying journey for it seemed that the forces of the elements were pitted against them. The dust storms, the hail storms, lack of good water, and wood to burn, with Indians camped on the opposite bank of the Platt River stampeding cattle crossings often to beg or trade for food that was such a scarce commodity. Sometimes they swarmed in their camp like bees and would often help themselves to whatever was handy. Housewives would often be missing their camping and cooking equipment.
One day while the men were fixing broken wagons they stopped near some currant bushes. Robert D. sent his children John and Emily with buckets to gather what they could. They worked hard picking clean the currant bushes as they went. Just as they finished filling their buckets full of currants, an Indian stepped from behind a bush and gave a war hoop. The children dropped their buckets and fled to the camp. When they neared the camp they looked back and saw the Indian with their currants laughing at his huge joke.
On the morning of August 1, 1847 it was quiet, the beat was terrific. The party of immigrants had called a halt. Saints had not found wood to burn for 11 days and the water was unfit to drink. Some of the animals had died by licking alkali off the ground. They also had wagons to fix. Mrs. Sessions, the midwife was called to take care of Elizabeth Covington. Mrs. Sessions had a buggy so she drove back to the second hundred a distance of some 5 miles. She, Mrs. Sessions brought Sister Covington back to her camp and put her to bed with a new son, Robert Laborious Covington. This all took place in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. The Saints were halted here for the day and A.O. Smoot called a meeting and pleaded with the Saints to be more united and to trust in the Lord, and to consider these experience like a school, reading them for leadership positions. The saints had many hardships to bear during their track westward, some times traveling many miles only finding sparse food for their cattle and other animals, Indians often came into camp and would spread blankets on the ground wanting to trade or be fed, the Saints were counseled not to trade with them, but to feed them. Their was much sickness and death among the pioneers. Eliza R. Snow was a great comfort to the sorrowing, on one occasion she remarked, "Death makes occasional inroads among us. Nursing the sick, tending wagons was laborious service. The patient faithfulness with which it was born. To cosign loved ones to these desolate graves was enough to try the hearts of the strongest." On August 5, they camped 8 to 9 miles from Fort Laramie where the food was plentiful and the water was good, they stayed here for 5 days to fix wagons in need of repair, wash clothes, mend them and to bake. While camping here some bears near the camp disturbed their sleep. Two Indian women who were gathering berries nearby saw these bears and they left gatherings for the bears, some of the pioneers in the company witnessed this.
Traveling became very hard and was going very slow due to the rough terrain, there were hills to climb and several wagons broke. In September, the pioneers crossed miles of sand and the winds blew very hard, here they saw fearful storms and sand, rain, and snow. They encountered pioneers going back East to help the remaining Saints travel West. These travelers camped all night with the party and gave them words of encouragement and of telling them about their new homes in the West. Their words were welcomed and there was a feast prepared by the women of the company that night.
The last miles into the valley were hard ones because of the cold and rugged mountains they had to travel. But arrive they did on September 24, 1847. The Robert Dockery Covington family arrived in the valley, the trip had taken it's toll though for Robert's wife was frail, the hardships had all but taken her strength. She hoped to get stronger, but the cold winter winds along with a severe cold only added to her troubles, and on December 7, 1847 she left her devoted family to carry on her good name. (16)
Marian Adair, a good person helped the family out by helping with the new baby, since milk was very scarce she fed the baby buttermilk and clabber. (17)
Robert Dockery Covington next married a widow, Malinda Allison Kelly, so John, Emily, and baby Robert had a new stepmother and stepsister Kate. (18) This family settled in the Big Cottonwood Ward in Salt Lake City. While they were in Big Cottonwood, Robert was able to teach school and was called "Professor Covington". This is also the area that they lived in when the locust infested Salt Lake Valley. Their crops were spared and they shared their food with their starving neighbors. (19)
In the fall of 1849, John Thomas Covington was only 9 years old when his father accepted a call to be a missionary in the Southern States. (20) And on December 28, 1849, a new daughter was born to Malinda and Robert, she was named Mary Ellen Covington. (21)
May Ellen Covington didn't meet her father till she was almost 7 years old and John was almost 16. That was in the spring of 1856, when Robert returned from the Southern States mission. (22)
Robert Dockery Covington took a plural wife on December 28, 1856. (23) Her name was Nancy Roberts. To this union was born three children Pheobe, Thomas, Malinda, when Nancy Roberts died, Robert's second wife Malinda mothered her children as well as those of Robert's first wife Elizabeth. (24)
This Covington family accepted a calling to settle Dixie and moved to Washington, Washington County Utah. John Thomas Covington found himself in new surroundings once again, and on August 1, 1857, the son of the Bishop of Washington Ward. John's next few years were filled with hard work, planting, harvesting of grains, corn, tobacco, and cotton. In 1858, Grape cuttings from California were planted as well as chinese sugar cane. And in 1861 peach stones were planted and the peach trees began to grow. (26)
Robert Dockery Covington's family prospered and built a spacious home, he, Robert D. had cut large stones from a nearby mountain and built a grand home for those day pioneers. The walls were three feet thick and built Colonial style. There were two fireplaces on each of the three floors. The upper floor was used for years as a dance floor for the young people, many people spoke of their generous and good hospitality. (27)
When John Thomas Covington was 22, he made a trip north for supplies and as he neared Washington he was met by his father who during the rest of the trip brought him up to date on the town news. Where upon he, John Thomas asked it there were any new girls in town, his father answered there were some new girls, but the prettiest was a little Swedish girl, and his father concluded, "If you don't marry her I trust I will."
It wasn't long after that and after a brief courtship he married the sixteen year old Swedish girl, hohanna Ludblad. They began a happy life together. From Washington the young couple moved to Cash County. They returned to Washington but moved again this time to Beaver to be near Johanna's mother.
John was a good musician after composing his own music for his violin, in night the whistling of a bird kept ringing through his head until he could not sleep. He arose and wrote the notes for his violin. This tune proved so popular he called it the "Ladies Favorite". He and his brother-in-law, Winslow Farr, wrote a song called "The Big Cottonwood Waters." Where ever he lived John and his violin were called into service. It was an unusual sight to see him playing his violin as he danced the square dances, with his partner clinging to his coat tail. Often he walked miles to play for a dance, after the dance was over he walked home. He was full of fun and took great pleasure in teaching his children to play and sing. He had an orchestra in his family. He with family and friend liked to gather around the organ and sing. While living in Adamsville John took as his plural wife Elizabeth Adams. She was a daughter of David Barclay Adams and Lydia catherine Mann. They were married in the Old Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah and at the same time his first wife Johanna was sealed to him. To the marriage John Thomas and Elizabeth Adams were born 13 children our heritage is brought through Junius Gilbert Covington their 12th child.
The family wasn't satisfied in Adamsville but was undecided where to go. Elizabeth was anxious to move to Wayne County where her people had gone. But Johanna said she thought it would be better to move where they have more relatives. So it was decided to go to Orderville, they left Beaver April 15, 1877 and they joined the United Order. John and his wives were good workers. He worked in the gardens and fields but most of his time was spent in herding sheep.
The Indians were bad at this time. He exercised great influence over them. He with other were often called on to make peace with the Indians. The united order owned a great deal of the Buckskin Mountains. They had a big dairy there also used it for range for their sheep. The Indians resented this and claimed the land for their own. They were very ugly and the white people were in constant danger from them.
Brother Covington was herding sheep on Buckskin Mt. when the dog, "Queen", as prized imported dog, which the order had traded a cow for, was shot while on duty with the sheep. Reports reached John that "George" an Indian with a mean temper was making threats against him. One day, while out with the sheep he crossed a deep wash, when he reached the opposite bank he came face to face with "George". John was unarmed but putting on a bold front said, "I hear you were going to kill me, now is your chance." George impressed by his bravery would not shoot and later proved to be a friend.
About the time the united order was broken up John married his third wife Lydia May Carling a daughter of Isic Van Wagoner Carling and Mariam Hobson. She was born March 1, 1866. There were seven children born to this union.
When the united order was discontinued Brother Covington, Jonathan Heaton and George W. Adair rented the order sheep. During the summer the sheep were herded in the mountain during the winter they were herded "out in the sand".
When Brother Covington drew out from his partnership, he bought a dairy ranch that had belonged to the order. The ranch was located at the mouth of Dairy and Main Canyon's.
Two of John's families lived on the ranch in the summer milking cows, making cheese and butter. Late in the fall they moved into town for winter. Brother Covington raised wonderful gardens in the ranch. His was a generous nature he would give sacks of vegetables to anyone who called. Often he would start for Orderville with a load of vegetables for his families. But everyone he met he stopped to talk to them, but by the time he arrived home the wagon would be almost empty. His home though humble was always open to everyone.
At the time of the raid on the polygamists he and his son-in-law, Thomas Chamberlin were arrested and sent to the penitentiary for having more than one wife. He served six months in the "pen". With his violin for company. One morning he wasn't feeling very well and didn't get up at the regular time. He was still in bed when the doors were unlocked for breakfast. When he tried to open his door it was locked again. The other prisoners said, "Now you won't get out" John took his violin and played "The Methodists Prayer" he fairly made the violin talk. When the guard came along he found he corridor crowded with prisoners listening to the music. The guard swore and said, "Covington, if you stop that violin I'll let you out." So, he got his breakfast with the rest. (28)
In 1902 John, Elizabeth, Lydia and families moved to Torrey, Wayne County, Utah. There he lived until 1908 when at age of 68 he died after playing the violin most of the night. This violin was passed to his son, who's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have fingered and played the heirloom. An heirloom with a legacy that was given us roots, strong roots that have shaped our lives and our children's lives. Without these ancestors' vision and dedication we could not nor would we have done the things that have been meaningful in our lives. What greater wish than to become ancestor of their stature and influence, which would be our best gift to our children. (29)
1. Eckersley, Leona "Family Group Sheet of Robert Dockery Covington."
2. Unknown, "History of Robert Dockery Covington."
3. White, eurie Covington, Covington Cousins page 55, 1956
4. Source 2.
5. Sources 1 and 2
6. Covington, Robert Docker, "St. George High Priest Record"
7. Source 2
8. Covington William Slaughter, The Covingtons, page 44, October 1941.
9. Meeks, Lourie (John Thomas Covington's Granddaughter), "History of John Thomas Covington"
10. Sources 1 and 2
11. Sources 9 and a list of Deaths and burials in the camp of Israel at Caler's park after Sept. 1846 pg. 2
12. Source 2
13. Source 6
14. Source 1 and a list of Deaths and burials in the camp of Israel at Caler's Park after Sept. 1846 pg. 2
15. Source 2
16. Source 1 and 2
17. Source 9
18. Source 1
19. Source 9
20. Source 9
21. Source 4
22. Source 6
23. Source 6