Welshman Dan Jones Was One of Zion’s Busiest Bees

Becky Bartholomew
History Blazer, February 1996

One of Utah’s more colorful founders was Dan Jones, so beloved by Mormon immigrants from Wales that he was called “the Welsh apostle.” As a speaker he was said to have captivated audiences for up to three hours at a time, wrenching tears and laughter from believer and nonbeliever alike. He saturated Wales with thousand of pages in pamphlets, tracts, and translations of Mormon texts so that anyone who read Cymric must have found it difficult not to be aware of Mormonism.

Jones was born in northern Wales in 1811. He went to sea as a teenager, sailing five oceans and learning a smattering of many languages, including Hindi. Arriving in America at age 29, he and a partner built the Maid of Iowa and began steaming freight and passengers up the Mississippi. After Jones dealt kindly with a passel of immigrants to Nauvoo, Joseph Smith said of him, “God bless this little man.”

In 1843 Jones became a Mormon. He was one of five men who stayed with Joseph and Hyrum Smith their last night in Carthage Jail. The next day, while Jones was away fetching a lawyer, the Smiths were shot and killed.

In 1844 Jones and his wife returned to northern Wales where they had small success reviving a handful of Mormon branches. Then they transferred to the urban south. There Jones began publishing his monthly magazine, the Udgorn Seion (“Zion’s Trumpet”), and baptizing converts by the score. Once an entire Protestant congregation was baptized after hearing Jones preach. On another occasion he disarmed, solely through oratory, a police band sent to arrest him for disturbing the peace. When the Joneses left Wales, 55 Mormon branches boasted 3,603 members.

In late 1848 some 2,000 Welsh converts sailed to America with the Joneses. By then the main body of Saints was in Utah, so Jones followed, arriving in the summer of 1849. Initially, he established his followers on the west bank of the Jordan River. He himself was soon on the road again, accompanying Parley P. Pratt to central Utah on a scouting expedition for likely settlement sites. During this 800-mile trip he met the Utah chief Wakara.

Wakara had asked Brigham Young to send settlers to Sanpete Valley, perhaps hoping that Mormon cattle could substitute for the bison Utes were traveling all the way to Colorado to hunt. In response, Isaac Morley colonized Manti. Two years later, with the Utes and Shoshones warring, Mormon settlers were advised to fortify their communities. So Jones added his Welsh group to the struggling Manti settlement. He helped build the fort, ran a store, procured and operated a wheat threshing machine, and served as Manti’s first mayor.

In 1852 Jones returned to Wales where he made 2,000 more converts by preaching in homes, schools, theaters, inns, chapels, blacksmith shops, rented halls, public squares, and on river banks and bridges. When he left Wales again, it was with a company of 700 English, Welsh, and Irish Saints headed for Boston.

Back in Utah, Jones for a time operated Brigham Young’s Great Salt Lake boat, The Timely Gull. In 1859 he settled in Provo. He was involved in a proposal to freight coal from Wales, Sanpete County, by wagon to Utah Lake and from there by boat to Salt Lake Valley, the latter leg under his direction, but nothing came of this project. He died in 1861, leaving three wives and six children and having lived several lifetimes in his 49 years.

Sources: Ronald D. Dennis, The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration (Provo: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1897); Wendell J. Ashton, Theirs Is the Kingdom (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1948).