Pioneer families cross paths again in Nauvoo

After a separation of nearly 150 years, descendants of two pioneer families united recently in Nauvoo where their ancestors farmed, owned a gristmill, and assisted in building the Nauvoo Temple.

The reuniting of the Benbow and Carter families came about because a relative in Ft. Madison, Iowa, across the Mississippi River near Nauvoo, Ill., requested information for a book she was writing about pioneer progenitors who had trekked to Utah in 1847.Janice Woodroffe sent a letter to a Utah genealogist, Augusta B. Carter Wood. She had passed away, but the resourceful small town postmaster forwarded the correspondence to her daughters, Rosamond Ramstrom and Metta Tweedie. They arranged with other relatives in Salt Lake City to meet Janice at the Church's Family History Library where research could be substantiated for a book, now published, Our Benbow Heritage, by Janice Woodroffe and Louise Benbow Gray. Correspondence and family love prompted an invitation from the Benbows to the Carter family to hold a joint reunion of both families in Nauvoo in June 1993.

John Benbow is known to Church members as the minister of the United Brethren Church in England who brought almost all of his congregation of 600 into the Mormon faith after being converted by Wilford Woodruff. John crossed the ocean bringing his wife Jane, niece Ellen, and nephew Thomas to America. He encouraged his two brothers Thomas and William to make the journey.

In Nauvoo, John Benbow's niece met and admired an Englishman from her native Herefordshire, William Carter, who brought his grain to her uncle's gristmill. She became his first wife with Wilford Woodruff performing the ceremony.

William acted as a scout for Brigham Young's company as they crossed the plains. He entered Salt Lake Valley two days before the main party in 1847 and turned water from City Creek onto the land to irrigate and make it possible for him to plow the first furrows. He is given credit for being the first white man to initiate irrigation on the North American continent. Brigham Young later sent William to settle St. George where he used his same plow to cultivate the first half-acre there.

The William Carter Family Organization, now comprising some 350 people, has been headed for several years by Nelson Carter of Orem, Utah. Nelson and Mary Ann Carter Smith of Salt Lake City, with the help of many family members to research, document and verify genealogy records, published a William Carter genealogy that was distributed at the reunion at Nauvoo. This information extends back as far as 1490.

The data were also made available on computer disk. Eighty-seven family members traveled to Nauvoo coming from as far away as the Canary Islands, California, Canada and Alaska. T-shirts were made available to family members emblazened with a depiction of a riverboat. A river boat named "Maid of Iowa" was once owned by Joseph Smith and others in the Nauvoo area. A culminating event for the family was a ride on one of the maiden voyages of a new "Maid of Iowa" excursion river boat that now runs between Fort Madison and Nauvoo.

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