Building with Rock:
Celebrating the Life and Times of Edward Lloyd Parry
But it was not all work for Edward. During this time, he courted Elizabeth Evans and later married her on the 16th of August 1846. Edward was 28, and Elizabeth was 29. At the time, Edward stood about five feet, nine inches tall and weighed about 180 pounds. He had dark hair, sparkling dark eyes, a quick wit, and an affable disposition.
Before and after marriage, Edward was inclined to be religious. He attended the Church of England as well as other denominations. Remembering these church experiences, he wrote,
I could not be converted to join any of them as their teachings did not appear to be consistent or in harmony with the Gospel as taught by the Savior and His apostles. On hearing an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preach, I was converted to the truth, and wondered why I had not understood the Gospel in that light before.2
Edward and Elizabeth, as well as his father and a number of relatives joined the LDS Church. The new convert attended church and helped preach Christ’s gospel in the regions round about. Edward had steady work and income, and he gave generously to the missionaries who came from America to Wales. These missionaries came without any means of support, that is, they came “without purse or script.”
Eventually, Edward read a tract by Elder Orson Pratt which encouraged members to move to Utah. But because Edward gave so much of his money to the missionaries and to those in need, he was short of money for immigration. Yet through the kindness of others, including family and friends, Edward and Elizabeth left Wales for Liverpool, England where they boarded the sailing ship, Jersey. Edward and Elizabeth also received a loan from the Perpetual Immigration Fund.3
Eleven others from the branch in Wales boarded the ship that day, 5 February 1853. After six weeks on the water, they arrived at the port of New Orleans. Here they boarded a steamboat and traveled up river to Keokuk, Iowa.4 While in Keokuk, Edward worked to earn money.
His industry and skills were noted by his employer, Mr. Brown. Of this experience Edward writes:
I obtained work across the river from Keokuk, going and coming across on a little steamer every day. I gave such satisfaction to the man I was working for that he begged me to stay, offering me a city lot and to build me a house and give my own time to pay for it. I thanked him for this offer and told him that I had made up my mind to go to Utah and to Utah I was going.5
Edward and Elizabeth stayed at Keokuk for eight weeks. Eventually, the couple procured oxen and a wagon, joined a pioneer company led by Joseph W. Young, and left Keokuk during the first week of June 1853. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 10 October 1853. The company consisted of 402 individuals and about 54 wagons.6
Given leadership responsibilities when crossing the plains, Edward was captain of the guard. Part of his duties included going ahead of the wagon train and finding a place to camp each night. The camping spot needed to include sufficient feed for the cattle. He was also in charge of distributing weekly the company’s ration of flour.
After arriving in Utah and working for a living, Edward repaid his perpetual-immigration-fund debt in less than a year. After two years (fall of 1855), the couple moved from Salt Lake to Ogden where Edward continued to work. He was mostly paid for his labor with “wheat and other things.”7 This was at a time of great food scarcity for the saints, so Edward and Elizabeth shared their food and helped many who were suffering. For the rest of his life, Edward always showed concern and kindness to others.
While living in Ogden, Edward renewed his friendship with his first cousin, Ann Parry, daughter of Thomas Robert Parry (Edward’s uncle). Ann, who was seventeen years younger than Edward, was born 27 April 1835. Like many other Parrys, Ann joined the LDS Church in Wales and immigrated to the United States, leaving Liverpool aboard the ship Horizon on 25 May 1856. She arrived in Boston on 30 June 1856. At age 21, Ann then walked to Utah with the Edward Bunker Handcart Company in 1856.8
Because Elizabeth was barren, because polygamy was practiced, and because Edward and Ann felt an attraction, Edward and Ann married on the 19th of February 1857. This fruitful marriage produced 11 children.9
The same month Edward married Ann, Edward was called to work on the Salt Lake Temple. The call came from Heber C. Kimball, councilor to Brigham Young. Heber had known Edward earlier in Salt Lake, and he knew of Edward’s skill as a stone mason. Edward writes about this event:
The same month [as his marriage to Ann] I was called by Brother Heber C. Kimball to remove to Salt Lake City to work on the Temple. He placed his hand on my shoulder in his good old familiar way and said, ‘Brother Edward, I want you to pull up your stakes and come to the city to live and go to work on the Temple.’
Edward said, “I will if you say so.”
Heber said, “Well, didn’t I say so?”10
Edward, Elizabeth and Ann moved to Salt Lake, and three weeks after their arrival, Edward reported for work on the Temple. This move was in March of 1857. Edward was present when “the treasure box” was laid in the corner of the Temple. In fact, he spread the mortar for the box. Yet, in just five short months after his arrival in Salt Lake, work on the Temple was cut short because of impending doom. A United States Army was marching from the East to Salt Lake for the purpose of destroying the Church. Consequently, Edward’s time was now spent making preparations for war.
War was avoided between the Saints and Johnston’s Army, and by the 4th of July 1858, Edward returned to public work projects with his two wives and his four-month-old daughter, Elizabeth Ann. Life was orderly for the next four years, but in 1862, Edward was called to help settle St. George, Utah.
For some time, church leaders were thinking about settlements in Southern Utah. Early exploration was done by Parley P. Pratt and companions in 1849. Then in 1851 John D. Lee established a colony at the junction of the Santa Clara and Virgin Rivers. John was asked to determine how warm weather crops, including cotton, figs, and grapes, would do.
In 1854 Jacob Hamblin and others were sent into the region to teach Christ’s gospel to the Indians. In 1857 about 100 settlers were called to build up the area and settle in Washington. Then in 1858 during October Conference, additional families were called to Dixie. Yet in spite of the many that were called to Dixie, by June of 1861, only 79 families remained in the area.11
An unrelenting, year-by-year commitment from church leaders for settlement in Dixie continued, and Edward was called into this movement. Orson Pratt was asked to gather 30 to 50 families and to be part of the efforts. Apostle Erastus Snow was asked to provide regional leadership and to live in Dixie. Speaking to the saints who would be moving south with him, Elder Snow said:
I wish to say a word more to our brethren who are expecting to accompany me south. I do not feel it will be wisdom to load ourselves down with household furniture but if a woman wishes to take her rocking chair along, why let her take it for that will probably make her more comfortable than any other article of household furniture but leave the heavy furniture behind and go with that which will be useful to you.
I hope that all musicians that are called will take their instruments with them . . . also their music books. I also wish to say to the brethren and sisters that so far as practicable it is advisable to take school books along with them . . .
I wish our brethren to understand that it is their business to supply themselves with good tools to work in the ground such as shovels, spades, picks, and also a general supply of quarry tools will be wanted. If we have any on hand we want to take them along, all kinds of tools suitable to splitting and dressing the rock . . . and if for want of a team he cannot take them along let it be reported and we will take them along for it is the tools we want and not the manufactured goods. . . .12
Apostle George A. Smith (after whom St. George was named) worked tirelessly to find saints who would live in Dixie. Remembering his efforts, President John Taylor said:
I remember the struggles Brother George A used to have. He labored under difficulties being so very heavy and not as active as most men but he was a man of great energy. He would come down here and bring a few men and would settle them down and go back again. By and by he would bring some more down, all that he could pick up that would volunteer. By the time he came down again, he would find half of the others had gone. They did not want to stop. They thought the land was set up on edge and had never been finished, and they had all kinds of notions. Then he would return to the city and drum up a few more recruits and take them down. And by the time he got here, he would find that a good many of those he left had also gone. Finally, they became weeded out . . . . 13
The alkaline soil damaged some plants. Malaria was present. Regular flooding tore out dams and canal banks. The unrelenting heat constantly reminded the pioneers that drinkable water was in short supply. The ubiquitous wind dried the crops and seemed to harden the rocky, clay-packed soil. Indians were a concern, and there was a great sense of insulation.
Many of the saints had emigrated from European lands which were watered regularly with abundant rains, making their homeland green and fertile. Their ancestral homes were nestled among ancient roadways, plotted fields, mature trees and shrubs, rock fences, fresh-water streams, and established villages.
George Jarvis, who would soon be in charge of the temple scaffolding, tells about one of his first experiences in the new land. With his wife and children, he stopped the wagon, stepped to the ground, and announced, “Well, we are home.” His young, refined wife, who had known a comfortable home and the verdant hills of England, began to cry. Then she gained her composure, looked at her children, and said, “Don’t you dare cry. Father says this is home, so let’s get out and get started.”14
The difficulties caused by a harsh environment were not lost on Edward; he too felt the struggle. But he was naturally optimistic, and for him, there was no turning back even when the Parrys lost two children in St. George. Artimisha, 4, died in February 1871, and Minnie, 2, died in March 1871. Edward grieved deeply.
Of his work in St. George, Edward writes:
I had charge of the mason work on the St. George Hall, the Tabernacle, Brother Erastus Snow’s Big House, the County Court House, raised the Washington [Cotton] Factory one story higher, built a great many residences for private parties, among them, one for President Brigham Young, and was master mason of the St. George Temple, . . .15
Each building project presented challenges, but perhaps the biggest challenge was the St. George Temple, beginning with the foundation. President Young identified the spot where the Temple would be built, but it was found that the spot was over a bog. Some people asked President Young to move the temple location to solid ground, but Brother Brigham was unyielding.
In building the Temple, all obstacles were overcome in good order from the stages of ground breaking on 9 November 1871 to the dedication on 6 April 1877. (The story of building the temple is worthy of a carefully written and thoughtfully researched book.)
In the middle of the heroic temple project, Edward L. Parry was only one of many strong workers. From Edward and others the requirements for success included: faith, physical and emotional strength, vision, sweating, worrying, plotting, plodding, and encouraging, etc.
Edward relied on prayer and inspiration to guide him. One night he had a strong impression that all was not right with the scaffolding at the temple. The next day, he contacted George Jarvis. Together they inspected the ropes and supports. They soon located a main rope which was heavily worn and which would soon snap when pressure was placed on it. Through such vigilance, serious accidents were avoided.
Edward always called the masonry workers “my boys.” He taught the men to not argue with their leaders, and he always gloried in the loftiness of the project. Always tidy in his appearance, each day this meticulous Welshman wore a clean, white, starched shirt. He never entered a building without cleaning his shoes thoroughly, and when this could not be done, he removed his shoes.
One time on the roof of the Temple, Edward noticed a young workman placing an inferior stone on the wall. He discussed this situation with the young man. The man said, “Well, what does it matter. There is no stress on that stone, and it will be covered with plaster. Who will know the difference?”
“My boy,” said Edward, “three persons will know the difference.”
“And who would that be?”
“You will know; I will know; and the Lord will know. My boy, replace the stone.” The stone was replaced.
Soon after the completion of the St. George Temple, Brigham Young called Edward to Manti, Utah where Edward was chosen to be the master mason for that temple. In his autobiography, Edward reports with pride that he was privileged to take part in the placing of treasure boxes in the foundations of three temples.
While in Manti, Edward lost both of his wives, Elizabeth and Ann. Then after being a widower for three years, Edward lost his two youngest children during the same month (November): Hugh was 8, and George was 6. His painful grieving was intense, but he neither lost faith in God nor faith in the truths of the restoration.
Edward Lloyd Perry died in Manti on 26 August 1906 at age 88. Church headquarters sent two leaders to attend his funeral: Apostle John Henry Smith and Elder Seymour B. Young from the First Council of Seventy. Because Edward chose to do his building with rock and because he kept the faith, his achievements and life remain an inspiration even to this day.
1. Parry, Edward Lloyd, Autobiography.
3. President Gordon B. Hinckley explains the perpetual immigration fund: “In the early days of the church, when our people were gathering from the British Isles in Europe, our leaders set up what was known as the ‘perpetual immigration fund.’ The church loaned money to those who did not have sufficient so that they might gather to Utah. As they were employed, they repaid the loan and this became a revolving fund for so long as it was needed. “
4. “Keokuk is a city in southeastern Iowa and one of the county seats of Lee County. The population was 11,427 at the 2000 census. The city is named after Sauk Chief Keokuk, who is buried in Rand Park. It is located in the extreme southeast corner of Iowa where the Des Moines River meets with the Mississippi. It is located at the junction of US Highways 61, 136 and 218. Just across the rivers are the small towns of Hamilton and Warsaw, Illinois, and Alexandria, Missouri.” from Wikipedia.
11. Andrew Karl Larson, “Agricultural Pioneering in the Virgin River Valley,” (Unpublished Masters Thesis, Department of History, Brigham Young University, 1946), p. 146.
12. William E Berrett and Alma P Burton, Readings in L D S Church History, Vol II, Salt Lake City, Desert Book Company, 1955, pp 508-509.
13. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, (Liverpool and Los Angeles, Lithographed Gartner Printing and Litho Co., Inc., 1964), XXIII, pp. 13-14.
14. Juanita Brooks, “St. George, the City with a Heritage,” The Utah Magazine, I-II (August 1936), pp 13, 18, 38.
© Robert Allen Hackworth 2007
When reading pioneer stories describing the lives of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary feats, we are inspired by their skill, faith, and determination. This is true when learning about Edward Lloyd Parry.
Today when we measure his contributions, we sense our lives are richer because of his work. Each day, we can see and feel the beauty. This is because Edward Parry was the chief mason for the St. George Tabernacle and Temple, and for the Manti Temple.
Edward was born in St. George, Wales on 25 August 1818. There he grew to manhood. During this time, he become a stone mason and brick layer because his father, Edward Parry, was a well-to-do mason, and his grandfather and great grandfather were also masons.
Learning the trade along side his father, Edward began his apprenticeship when he was 12. This gentle Welshman writes about his early days:
“I passed my early manhood in the village of St. George [Wales] and the adjacent towns, working at my trade as a stone mason and brick-layer, which vocation I was naturally inclined to follow. I worked a great deal about the estate of Lord Dinorben. Also assisted in erecting a number of dwellings, vicarages, railroad bridges and churches.”1