James Henry Martineau was born March 13, 1828, in Amsterdam, Montgomery county, New York, the son of John Martineau and Eliza Mears. He writes: “For several years I was a student in the Monroe Academy in Elbridge, New York, graduating with credits in English, Latin, grammar, chemistry, geology, philosophy, history, algebra, etc. In order to gain the education I served as janitor, taking care of the building for my tuition. I had to endure much scorn and abuse from those boys whose parents were wealthy and who looked upon me with contempt. While this to a sensitive spirit was hard to bear, it never for an instant caused me to falter in my purpose, but only made me more determined to succeed.
At the age of 16 I left school, engaging as a clerk in my Uncle Peter Martineau’s store in Sennett, Cayuga County, New York. In 1845 I decided to become a printer and entered the office of the Cayuga Tocsin published in Auburn, New York. Entering as devil, I soon became a compositor, and later ran the power press, one of the first brought into central New York.
About this time I had a severe trial, for our Editor was elected to Congress and he obtained for me an appointment as Midshipman in the Navy. This was my great ambition, as I had an adventurous disposition and a military spirit and this position would enable me to indulge it, for I could travel the world over as a gentleman and, should war arise, could see something of it.
But my mother was opposed to it, as I was her only son. She tried by every means to dissuade me, picturing possible wars, the danger of storms and shipwreck. Not the least in her eyes was the danger of contracting wicked habits. The more she said, the more I wished to see it, so she ceased and sat silently weeping. Then I yielded, and thus passed the turning point of my life.
When the Mexican war commenced in 1846 I enlisted in the U.S. regular army to serve during the war. Just two hours before I was to go to the front my mother came, demanded my release as a minor, and led me home. Refusing to return to the printing office, I went to Milwaukee, Wis., entering the office of the “Milwaukee Sentinel” as pressman, but soon enlisted again, and with many other recruits was sent to Newport Barracks. Serving in various ways on detached service until the war ended I was honorably discharged in July, 1848, and returned to Milwaukee.
While passing up the Mississippi River on July 6, 1848, my mother died. On my return to Milwaukee I engaged as clerk in the large bookstore of Hale and Chapman and remained there until the spring of 1849, when I decided to go around the world, first spending a year in the California gold mines, thence to China, India, Persia and Europe. My uncle, whose adopted son I now was, endeavored to dissuade me, offering me every inducement which his great wealth would permit and quoting the Proverb, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” I wanted my moss rubbed off and told him so.
In 1849 I started for California, but on my arrival at the Missouri River I was told that it would be impossible so late in the season to safely cross the plains and so I stayed in Western Missouri until the spring of 1850, teaching school. Early in 1850 I again started on my journey to the Pacific Coast, during which my life was twice miraculously preserved, and I arrived in Salt Lake City, July 22, 1850.
During the journey I had been told the Mormons were guilty of every kind of wickedness, but on my arrival in Salt Lake City I found that I had been so much deceived by these lying reports that I decided to remain in the valley during the winter to study the people and then go on to California in the spring.
But I went no farther, for two women, the wife of Elder P. P. Pratt and the widow of Don Carlos Smith taught me the gospel, and I was baptized Jan. 19, 1851, (Jan 8?)just where the Temple stands in Salt Lake City before I heard a sermon by a “Mormon” Elder.”
(This part of his story in his own words now ends, and we will give a brief summation of his life in the following few paragraphs. Look to more compelete histories by clicking on the History Index at the top of this page)
In March of 1851 he was sent to help settle Iron County in southern Utah now at the age of 23. He became a member of Iron County Militia and the first clerk of the county. He served as city councilor and alderman and as ward clerk. Eight months later he married Susan Ellen Johnson, a 15 year old daughter of Joel Hills Johnson.
They began raising a family that ultimately numbered 13 children, two being adopted. He later married a second wife, Susan Julia Sherman on 18 Jan 1857 and practiced the sacred principal of plural marriage. They had 8 children.
The families moved to Logan, Utah and later on 28 Jan 1874 Susan Julia died from appendicitis leaving Susan Ellen to care for her children as well. Susan Ellen and James Henry moved a number of times, and his activities as a surveyor kept him away from home much of the time. James Henry was sent to Arizona to survey some of the mormon settlements there and from there the families were moved to old Mexico where many mormons had settled. During the Mexican Revolution in 1919(?) most of the colonists were driven back out of Mexico and back into the United States.
Many of the Martineau’s went back to Mexico and their homes when it was safe to do so, but James Henry and Susan Ellen and some of their family went back to the Salt Lake Area and Logan.
They had 67 years of married life together.
James Henry was well-educated for the times and served in many civic positions. He also served faithfully in various capacities in the LDS church, which was obviously an integral part of his life. He served as a Patriarch in the Church, and as such gave many Patriarchal blessings. Some of these blessings have been made available and can be viewed elsewhere.
See Stories, Letters,Other Index.
In 1887 James Henry Martineau made a collection of thoughts about life and his faith which he titled “Keys of Wisdom and Knowledge” for the benefit of his posterity. He signed this as Patriarch, Prophet, Priest and King.
You can find this under Stories,Letters, Other Index. and it is also available in a publication titled Pearls, which can be purchased from the Nephi Family Organization. [Pearls Order Form]