When considering early settlers of Mesa and Lehi communities, we might be inclined to imagine such personalities as those depicted in American Gothic. But is that fair when we haven’t ventured anywhere in their shoes or ships?
The Stapley name may be familiar; however, details of this family’s journey to settle here may be less familiar.
Until 1838, Charles Stapley and his wife, Sarah Bryant, lived in Kent, England, where their families lived for generations. As the economy in England shifted, landowners in Australia petitioned British parliament for help developing land. English Poor Laws assisted families to immigrate. Charles and Sarah decided to go.
The Stapley family made the treacherous three-month sea journey to Australia with their seven children. For more than a decade they worked as farmers north of Sydney.
After fourteen years in Australia, the Stapley family met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were baptized. Soon, the Stapleys prepared to gather to Zion. They sailed on the Julia Ann with Captain B.F. Ponds to California. Pond later wrote of a peculiar event of this voyage in his autobiography:
Up in the doldrums the vessel drifting in a dead calm, a storm gathered in the horizon of awful pretensions. It rose gradually, black as night, streak lightning shot occasionally from the gathering gloom…. It was terribly magnificent. The black cloud was like a wall across the sea from horizon to horizon, preceded by a streak of white foaming water as it was ploughed up by the rapidly approaching tempest. Yet not a ripple on the glassy sea, where our ship lay lazily rolling from side to side, unconscious of her threatened doom, for not having steerage way there was imminent danger of being struck aback and sent to the bottom of the ocean. But some few cable lengths to windward, the storm parted, clean cut, like the letter v, and passed on each side of us, with an awful roar, and lashing of the tempest tossed ocean….
This was a thrilling experience and sight to be witnessed but once in a lifetime, and never to be forgotten.
Fortunately, the Stapley family completed their final sea voyage, arriving safely to California. There, their adventure continued, including trails that led many of them to Arizona. A year later, while transporting more Zion-bound travelers, the Julia Ann sank after smashing into a submerged reef in the Pacific Ocean.
(Information from Shawn Tipson Johnson, “Biography of Charles Stapley, Sr. and Sarah Bryant”)