A Summary of the Life of David H. Cannon (1838-1924)
David Henry Cannon was born on 23 April 1838 in Liverpool, England. His parents were George and Ann Quayle Cannon, both from the Isle of Man (an island between England and Ireland.) His parents were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 11 February 1840 by his uncle, the Apostle (and later Church president), John Taylor.
Two and a half years later on 17 September 1842 the family left for America on the ship, Sidney. At that time the family consisted of the parents, George and Ann and five children, George Q. (15), Mary Alice (13), Ann (10), Angus Munn (8), David Henry (4), and Leonora (almost 2). Two other children had died in childhood. David's mother, Ann, was expecting another child as they began their journey and was suffering badly with morning sickness. Her husband tried to get her to postpone the journey but she felt that uniting her family with the main body of the Church in Nauvoo was more important than her life.
As a consequence of her pregnancy combined with terrible seasickness, David's mother did lose her life on this journey. She was buried at sea. Four-year-old David had to be tied to the mast to prevent him from throwing himself into the sea after his mother. David remembered this devastating moment for the rest of his life.
The bereft family arrived in New Orleans suffering with fever but were later able to journey up the Mississippi to Nauvoo, Illinois where they joined with their fellow Saints. David's widowed father married again in Nauvoo to a young woman by the name of Mary White.
At the time of the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith, David H. said, "I remember my father standing at the gate at the front of the house, his arms kind of leaning on the gate; he turned and as he did so, said, 'My God, they have killed our prophet.'" At the time of the prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum's deaths the ground was very muddy and wagons got stuck in the mire so to get the bodies home they had to make a drag (kind of like a large sled) to get the bodies back into Nauvoo. David H.'s father made the drag they brought the bodies in on. He also made death masks of the two. (It was popular at that time to take plaster casts, called death masks, of your loved ones.) David H. said, "I remember going with my father at the time that this took place. A lock of the prophet's hair was caught in the plaster mask, and I remember Father taking some scissors and clipping the hair and then giving me the scissors to hold while he went on with this work."
David H.'s father died on 17 August 1844. He was working in St. Louis, Missouri which is about 200 miles down the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. One account says that he died of heat stroke. George Cannon's second wife, Mary, had a baby daughter, Elizabeth, a few months after the death of her husband.
In 1845 Charles Lambert, Mary Alice's new husband, was appointed guardian of the three youngest orphaned Cannon children: Angus, David H., and Leonora. The two older children, George Q. and Ann, were living with their Aunt Leonora and Uncle John Taylor.
The Lamberts and Cannon children stayed in Nauvoo until they were driven out by the mobs. They were quite destitute and couldn't accompany the Saints who left in the Spring. They stayed on the west side of the Mississippi until they could obtain a team to take them on to Winter Quarters. They suffered many hardships at that time. David H. was eight years old at this time and he tells of the miracle of the quail, "...we witnessed the power of the Lord in sending great flocks of quail that fed the saints who were fairly in a state of starvation, through being driven from their homes in this inclement season of the year without shelter or sufficient food to eat. These birds were caught by thousands."
The way was opened and they were able to go on to Winter Quarters, where they stayed to work for a few years until they had the means to cross the plains. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the middle of October in 1849 where they found that their older brother, George Q. had made about 6,000 adobes for a home for them before he left on a mission. He left just three days before their arrival.
On 17 February 1850 David H. Cannon was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder John White. In 1851 at the age of twelve David H. went to work in the Deseret News Office as an apprentice to the printing business. He was the first "printer's devil" in Utah territory. David H. also helped his brother-in-law, Charles Lambert, quarry rock and work on the farm when he had time from the printing office.
In May 1856 at the age of eighteen David H. was called on a mission to California and was asked to leave the next day. He had very little means but with the Lord's help he was able to get enough together to leave. After a journey which included driving a team for transportation, walking over the mountains, and working on a steamer for passage down the river, he arrived in San Francisco. After his arrival he joined his brother, George Q., and helped with the publication of the Hawaiian Book of Mormon and the Western Standard, a newspaper they had started there. He also preached in the country when he had the opportunity.
He was released from his mission in 1857 and traveled home with George Q.'s wife and baby on the southern route through what is now southern Utah. They arrived back home in Salt Lake City on 1 January 1858.
A year later on 15 February 1859 David H. Cannon married Miss Wilhelmina L. Mousley. A year later he left on a mission to England, assigned to the Manchester Conference. On his way home he visited Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and the gravesite of Oliver Cowdery. Both Martin Harris and David Whitmer gave testimony to David H. of the angel showing them the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. And he heard reports that Oliver Cowdery bore witness to the same and had rejoined the Church before his death.
On his way home David H. helped with the emigrating saints by procuring jobs for them setting poles for the Western Union Telegraph Company. He also helped select and purchase cattle for the emigrating saints. He took charge of the first company they organized, it comprised 270 people, 68 wagons and stock. The David H. Cannon company reached Salt Lake City on 16 August 1861. They buried four people and lost twelve head of cattle on the journey. David H. was just 23 years old at this time.
Less than two months after his arrival home David H. Cannon was among those called to the Dixie Mission during General Conference on 6 October 1861. Less than one month later on 3 November 1861 they started from Salt Lake City. On 3 December 1861 they arrived at the campgrounds one mile east of St. George, and moved onto their town lot in St. George in January 1862.
David H. Cannon spent the rest of his life in St. George. He always said that he had never been released from his mission to settle there. It was a hard life in Utah's Dixie. They worked hard to make the desert blossom as a rose and it did eventually but until they had replaced the dam on the Virgin River many times.
On 18 October 1867 David H. Cannon married Miss Josephine L. Crosgrove in Salt Lake City. And on 20 June 1877 he married Miss Rhoda A. Knell. A polygamous life was a hard life. There were a lot of people to feed and clothe as well as raising up a righteous family and keeping peace in the homes. David H. was a member of many committees, was a member of the state board of education and served at least two terms as sheriff.
David H. also spent many hours serving the Lord in various callings. He was a bishop, a high counselor, and a member of the stake presidency for many years which required traveling to visit the wards and branches throughout southern Utah and southern Nevada. And then after the building and dedication of the St. George Temple David H. served first as an assistant to then temple president Wilford Woodruff, then as an assistant to temple president John D.T. McAllister and finally on 28 August 1893 David H. Cannon received a letter from the President of the Church calling him to be President of the St. George Temple. He served diligently in this calling for over 30 years and had many faith-promoting experiences.
David H. Cannon lived a full and rich life, serving the Lord and loving his family. He died on 27 December 1924 and was buried in the St. George City Cemetery.
--Cynthia Burgess Alldredge
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