The East Phoenix Valley is replete with LDS pioneer heritage. The names of pioneer families adorn our streets, buildings and schools. We often casually pass by a geographic location without considering the history of the family for which the location was named, or why the family name was used. The inquiring minds of Arizona Beehive readers want to know! In each issue we now present the history of one “famous” Mormon family name. We hope you enjoy learning about these families, and encourage you to reach out to The Arizona Beehive with ideas for families to feature in the series.
The Pomeroy Family
One of the founders of Mesa, Frances Martin Pomeroy, was born February 20, 1820, in Somers, Connecticut.
Pomeroy worked on his uncle’s farm until, at 15, he struck out on his own, following the sea for about six years. Ultimately, he ended up in New Orleans, met Irene Haskells and, through her family, was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Pomeroy was baptized in 1844 and, soon after, married Irene. The following year, the newlyweds and her parents traveled to Nauvoo to join with the Saints there. The Pomeroys were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple February 6, 1846, just two days before its closing. In May, Pomeroy and his family joined the trek west.
Because of his large stature, tireless energy and strength, Pomeroy was one of 143 chosen by Brigham Young to pilot the route, so was with the first company to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.
Pomeroy took a second wife, Sarah Matilda Colburn, in 1853, and a third, Jassamine Routledge, in 1858. His first wife, Irene, died in 1860.
After serving a mission to California and living for a time in Weber, in 1864, he helped settle the Bear Lake Valley in Idaho, where he built the first saw, shingle and lath and grist mills.
In 1878, Pomeroy, now a father of 20, was called again by Brigham Young, this time to settle Arizona’s Salt River Valley. The Pomeroys traveled with a company of 74 people from nine families.
After nearly five months, they reached the Mogollon Mountains. They rested there, while Pomeroy, Charles Robson, George W. Sirrine and Charles Crismon went on to the Salt River Valley to select a place to settle. Nothing around Phoenix or along the river seemed suitable, but a higher area called “the mesa,” with its ancient “Montezuma” canal, looked promising. Although a surveyor told them it was impractical to even try, Brother Pomeroy and Brother Sirrine used their ingenuity and, with a spirit level and straight edge, they calculated the proper grade that would allow water to flow into the canal again. Construction began in February and by October 1878, the canal was completed and the colonists moved from their temporary camp into the Mesa townsite.
Pomeroy was made justice of the peace and elected a director of the canal and a trustee of the Mesa townsite. Indians living nearby called him the “Great White Chief,” and brought their disputes to him to settle. This likely led to him being set apart as an Indian missionary in April 1880. The next year he was called as the mission president and served until his death on February 29, 1882.
His impact on the Mesa area has continued, particularly as his descendants have followed his lead of faith and service. In 2012, in the Mesa Cemetery, more than 100 descendants and friends honored Pomeroy at the unveiling of a new headstone and memorial planned by great-grandsons, Pat Pomeroy, now deceased, lifelong Mesa resident, former city councilman and educator and Wayne, former Mesa mayor and owner of Pomeroy’s Men’s Stores in Mesa.