Biography of William Leigh Walters

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Born March 22, 1835 in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales, son and fourth child of Walter Walters and Sarah Rees Leigh Walters. William had seven brothers and sisters named Mary, Ann, Sarah, Hannah, Daniel, Elizabeth, and Margaret. The family resided in the town in which he was born. He joined the LDS Church at age thirteen while living in Wales and was baptized in June of 1848 by Walter Rodge [Roach]. He was ordained an Elder in the year of 1867 and was rebaptized July 11, 1875 by Robert Leatham in Wellsville, Utah (the reason for rebaptisms according to Alma Sonne, Apostle, was because of lost records and also to renew covenants).

Later William was ordained a High Priest on August 18, 1883 by Bishop William H. Maughan. William's father and family immigrated to Utah, but William being married to Margaret Williams, remained in Wales. He and Margaret were married in Sion Chapel, Llanelli, Wales by William Thomas on February 9, 1855. During the time of their marriage they were to have nine children: Walter, Hannah, Daniel, Edward, William, Sarah Jane, John Bright, Margaret Ann, and Edmund. William Leigh Walters was the grandson of Daniel Leigh (see April 1961 Improvement Era issue regarding Welsh immigrants).

Another item worthy of note is that the family name Walters was previously Walter in the old country (Europe).William and Margaret and their children immigrated to Utah in 1866 in order to join William's father and family. When they arrived in Wellsville, they settled on a city lot in the east part of town and built a house that still stands and is owned by one of his brother Daniel's grandsons.

His wife Margaret died in Wellsville leaving him with their family to raise. Edmund, the youngest child, was taken and raised by an aunt, Margaret Thomas. Their son William was raised by James Parks. William Leigh Walters then married Sarah Ann Poppleton and she raised his daughter Margaret. Sarah Ann and William were married in Salt Lake by Daniel H. Wells on May 26, 1873. They had no children. William later married Mary Archibald Kerr Hendry in the Logan Temple on January 24, 1885 (in polygamy) and they had two children: Ida Kerr Walters Bair, born July 5, 1886 in Wellsville and Ann Kerr Walters Nielsen, born March 15, 1894 in Wellsville.

He was an excellent carpenter and among other things, he built houses and made coffins. His workshop was part of his home and he had a special place for all of his tools. On the north and south sides of the shop, shelves were arranged to accommodate the stacking of the coffins one above the other, to enable people to view them and make a selection. His wife Sarah lined the coffins, and both she and his other wife Mary dressed the dead. Several coffins were still in the workshop when he died. William was a religious man. Ida (a daughter) was very proud of him. He was distinguished and handsome and she still remembers how he would sit upon the stand at church and how proud she was of him. His hair was white as snow and he combed it straight back and it curled at the bottom. He always looked so clean and nice.

Ida was six months old (she believes) when he was caught for living polygamy and served time in the penitentiary. While there he did a lot of wood work. Ida remembers having a plain glass bottle in which he built a cross with the hairs that hung onto the cross. She also had several wooden rattles made by him (until her children broke them). He was a wonderful carpenter and was instrumental in designing the stairways of the Logan Temple.

He was a stern man. He believed everything had a place and when something was used, it should always be returned to its place. Also he insisted that good care should be taken of things. Ida could never remember being punished. All he had to do to reprimand was to speak. William read to his children often but she couldn't remember him ever playing with her. Things were very serious to him. Ida remembered tearing a Juvenile Instructor magazine and was sick about it but can't remember being punished for it. Just knowing it was wrong and that her father would disapprove was punishment enough.

Ida couldn't remember much about him but did recall how they used to have to hide him after her sister Ann was born. This was necessary since those still living polygamy were being sought by the marshals. In Sarah Ann's home there was a porch between the house and a summer kitchen or shanty, and inside the shanty was a stove and wash basin, cabinets, table and chairs. On the north side of it William made a big carpenter's bench and constructed it like a box the whole length of the shanty at just the right height for him to work on. It was enclosed with a little opening covered by a screen on each end. Inside the kitchen there a hole cut just big enough for him to crawl through, and the commode or wash basin was then placed in front of it. He would hide inside this bench while the marshals were in town. He kept a lot of tools with shavings etc. on top of the bench so it would appear to strangers that it was simply a work bench and not a possible hiding place.

Her father was the first man Ida had ever seen raise celery. He always had a beautiful garden. He was good to her mother, Mary, but Ida could not remember him ever giving money to her to help with the support of the children. However, money was a scarce item in those days. Sarah Ann made clothes for William and Mary's children and there apparently was love and affection in the family, with no enmity existing between the two wives.

After his stroke, Ida was staying with her father and Sarah Ann one time and Sarah Ann went out in the morning to milk the cows. She warned her husband not to try to move (he was paralyzed completely on one side and partially on the other). He would talk some but it was hard to understand him. Ida was left with him and he fell onto the heating stove. She lifted him off, being at that time only ten years of age. Since she was such a youngster and her father such a large man, Ida felt that she was aided by a power comprising more than just that of her own physical strength. Later, after this incident, William was able to get around a little until his last stroke.

William Leigh Walters died January 5, 1901 after being an invalid for four year years. The following is from a news clipping reporting his death.

Demise of William Leigh Walters of Llanelly [now spelled Llanelli], South Wales. It becomes our painful duty to record the death of Brother William Leigh Walters of Wellsville, Cache County, Utah who passed away after a lingering illness of nearly four years on January 5, 1901. He immigrated to Utah with his family in 1866. He leaves a large family and host of friends to cherish his memory. He died as he lived, a faithful Latter Day Saint.

He is buried on the southeast side of the cemetery in Wellsville, Utah.

This Information was obtained from Ida Kerr Walters Bair in 1962 and was compiled by Karen Payne.

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