Parley Pratt Sabin was born 20 October 1848 in Clinton County, Illinois. The son of David and Elizabeth Dorwart Sabin, he was the eighth child of a family of eleven children. He came to Utah with his parents and brothers and sisters in 1850.
When about twelve or thirteen years old he helped his father in manufacturing the first cut nails in Utah, for which his father received a silver medal for their being the best nails made in Utah.
At the age of eighteen he enlisted in the Black Hawk War - a fight against the Black Hawk Indians. While still a very young man he was oiling a tumbling rod to the molasses mill in Payson, Utah, when his shirt caught on a set screw and turned him round and round and broke his leg. When healed one leg was shorter than the other which caused him to walk with a limp the rest of his life. He was 5' 11" on his left leg and 5' 9" on his right leg. His father had been stripping the cane and had a big cane knife in his hand, so he cut the belt and stopped the machine. After Parley's leg healed, he tried to go back through the machine the way he had been carried in before, but could not get in.
Parley's father, David, had a gun shop and as a young man, Parley worked in that shop helping to make revolving pistols and rifles. He helped in building the St. George Temple. He hauled lumber more than eighty miles.
He married Eliza Jane Bates. She was a sickly girl and did not live long after their marriage, dying while trying to give birth to their first child. He later married Octavia Jacosa Sims. They lived in Payson, Utah. Four children were born to them while they were living there: Octavia Caroline, who died while a very small baby; Pearl Elizabeth; Parley John; and Florette Mabel.
In 1877, Parley was called by President John Taylor on a mission to bring his family to Arizona to help pioneer this country. (Church Historian's Office, under date of 7 April 1877, page 3, Parley Pratt Sabin is listed among a group called on a mission to Arizona.) To prepare for the trip he made butter crackers which had to be pounded with a wooden mallet. Neighbors brought in food to help with the trip. Parley's brother-in-law, Samuel John Sims, with his family was in the group that left Payson. Also in the group were his mother-in-law and his step-father-in-law, Caroline Gill Sims Cochrane and John Cochrane, and Brother and Sister Killian. John Cochrane became ill on the way to Arizona, so when the group reached a small settlement in the northern part of Arizona where one of his children lived, he stayed there while the rest went on. He intended to join them later when his health improved, but he never made the trip. He died shortly after the others left.
It was in early spring when this group started this journey. Mud and snow were still on the ground. They crossed the Colorado River on a ferry boat. When the family reached the Black River, the water was up even with the river banks. Their only means of crossing the river was small raft which would only float two wagon wheels at a time. The wagons had to be taken apart to be ferried across. The raft landed about a half-mile downstream. It took two or three days to cross in this manner. When the task of crossing the river was completed, two soldiers met them and warned them to return to Fort Apache as a family had been killed by Indians. It would take three days to go back and it was three days on into the Gila Valley River Fort, so they decided to go ahead and try to reach the Fort. They hid during the day, traveling only at night. They never made a fire and always erased all signs. They hid in the willows in the day time. Jacosa drove while Parley sat with his rifle across his lap. When they reached the Gila River Fort the people were surprised that they had made it without harm.
Parley and his family lived in the Southwest corner of the Fort, which was rounded and had port-holes for guarding the surrounding country. While here they had one little room and their wagon-bed to live in. From here they moved into the town-site, a place called Curtis - after Parley's brother-in-law, Monroe Curtis.
Parley was disgusted with what he found there and said, "So this is the garden of Eden", and the name stuck. The place was no longer called Curtis, but Eden. When a post office was placed there, it was called the "Eden Post Office" and it is still called Eden.
It was a forbidding place. The ground was full of alkali, the water was brackish and the air was filled with mosquitos. Many of the people came down with malaria ("chills and fever" - as they called it). Parley would mix up a dose they called "Kill or Cure." It never killed anyone, but would cure those who had the courage to take it. Some thought the remedy was worse, or as bad, as the disease. After this he was nicknamed "Doc".
Four years after they arrived in Eden, another child was born, a girl whom they named Irene Mae. When the baby was a little over nine months old, Jacosa died of pneumonia, leaving Parley with four small children, the oldest less than ten years and the youngest a small sickly baby a little over nine months old. Grandmother Caroline Sims Cochrane, came to live with the family, but she was a cripple from rheumatism, so Pearl, the oldest daughter, was kept busy from morning until night doing the many things necessary for the young family - at the tender age of only nine years.
Parley helped to build the log school house, which also served as the church and amusement hall. He also helped build a dam and irrigation ditch, built a home, planted an orchard, had the town blacksmith shop and made all of the molasses for the settlement. At one time when a poor fanily, the Castos, came to town, he moved all of his things from the blacksmith shop to give them lodging.
About two years after Jacosa's death, Parley married a young woman, Sarah Cecelia Smith, who had a little girl, Alice. They were married in the St. George Temple and Alice was sealed to them.
Many of the men in the Gila Valley started freighting to help make a living, as it was very hard to live on what they could make on their small farms. Parley bought horses and wagons and fitted himself out with two freight teams and hired Mr. Truman Tryon to drive one team. He hauled ore from Tombstone to Wilcox where it was loaded on the train and shipped to the smelter. He would haul groceries and dry goods back to Tombstone. It was a two-day journey each way.
One time while he was away his wife, Sarah, became very ill with pneumonia. When she was well he moved the family to a small settlement called Wilgus, on the Turkey Creek at the foot of the Chiricahua Mountains. Sarah's parents and brothers and sisters moved with them. There Parley and Sarah's first child was born, a boy named Walter Leroy. The place was more healthful than Eden, but there was more danger of Indians. When the renegade Indians would get on the war-path and leave the Apache reservation, they would head for those mountains, as it was a good hiding place. They would steal and rob the ranchers and sometimes kill them.
Parley left one morning for Wilcox. It was in June and the evenings were warm. Sarah and the children were sitting on the steps of the small house where they lived when an old Chinese man by the name of Sam Coy, who cooked for the cowboys at the 3C ranch, came by. He had been up the canyon where there were some truck gardens to get vegetables. He told Sarah that some Indians had left the reservation and were coming that way. When he learned Parley wasn't home he asked Sarah to let him take her and the family down to the 3C ranch where there was a high adobe wall all around the house and corrals with port holes where one or two men could guard off a dozen or more Indians. But Sarah said she thought it was just another Indian scare and was probably like many others - not true - so she stayed home. But this one proved to be true. The Indians came to their ranch. They were after fresh horses as the soldiers from Fort Thomas and Fort Grant were close behind them.
Parley had left an old grey mare and a young animal home. The Indians tried to catch them, but could not and the two dogs kept them away from the house. Apache Indians are superstitious about killing a dog so a dog was a good protection. It was about 11 o'clock when the Indians left the ranch. They went up the creek where Sarah's people lived and there they stole two horses which were in the corral.
Parley was about half way between the ranch and Wilcox when a man at a ranch told him about the Indians, so he left Mr. Tryon and a small boy to take the loads on and he got a horse and went home. He passed two ranches on the way - one was burned to the ground and the other had been deserted, but apparently the Indians had not been there. It was about 4:00 a.m. when he arrived home.
The next day when the wagons and horses came back, the family's belongings were loaded in and the family went to St. David on the San Pedro River. Parley and Sarah had been there before to look the place over. Here Parley rented a small two-roomed house from Mr. Ruben Bingham. While living there, in August, Walter died. Parley afterward bought a ranch of about 300 acres from Philemon C. Merrill and his two sons, Thomas A. and Seth Adelbert Merrill.
Two sons were born while living on this ranch, Joseph Henry and David Hyrum. Here they had a five-room house, which was something special for those days as most people lived in one and two-roomed houses.
It was very hard to keep a dam in the San Pedro River and oft-times the crops would dry up for want of water, so when the McRae boys (John and Joseph Alexander) struck artesian water further down the river at a place then called Marquis, Parley filed on 160 acres of land. Being of an inventive nature like his father, David, Parley built himself a machine to dig wells with and started digging, first on his own land and then for other people. He sold his farm up the river to a Mr. John Doudle and moved to Marquis, which was afterward called St. David.
Four children were born while they were living there: Sarah Cecilia; Wallace Dewey; Theresa Constance; and William Roger. The artesian water proved not to be a success. A well would start decreasing and finally dry up, leaving orchards, vineyards and gardens to dry up and die, so Parley moved his family to a place called Pomerene, about 4 miles from Benson, on the opposite side of the river. Here he tried getting water from the river again and was quite successful this time.
He built himself a nice house near the church and school house. There he entertained leaders of the Church when they came to visit the Pomerene Branch. There he was a counselor to the Branch President, Powell Cosby, for many years. He helped in getting a school and in any other activities that took place, as well as in church activities. He was a 100% tithe payer all of his life. He always had a blacksmith shop and did all the blacksmithing that was done in every communuty where he lived as long as he was able to work. Even after he was unable to do much work, he would get up early in the mornings and go down to the shop. He seemed to love that old shop. He was a civil engineer and did all the surveying of ditches and land wherever he lived. His surveying was always very accurate. He invented and made his own instruments for surveying.
In June of 1924, Parley took a trip to Provo, Utah. There he obtained the necessary information to get a pension for his work in the Black Hawk War. He did not get the pension while he was living, but Sarah was able to get it, together with all back pay, which was a big help to her after he died.
A new chapel was being built in Pomerene and Parley was anxious to get his share of the work done. It was very hot and he was overcome with the heat. He took sick on August 8th and died 12 August 1924.
Thus ended the life of a good noble man.
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Other recollections of Parley Pratt Sabin
When a little boy about seven years old and Johnston's army came into Utah, he helped by moving around bonfires all night and slept during the day. This was to make it look like a lot of people were there.
He had an inventive mind. He made a little mill to squeeze juice (roll out) from cane. He would raise a few pink beans, then thrash them with a bean thresher he built in his shop. He made a grist mill and used it to grind corn and to make cornmeal for people. He would grind whole wheat flour for bread. His mill was made with stones and pulled round and round by horses ("stone ground"). If people had no money to pay for his work, he took a "toll" from what he ground.
Parley owned five acres of land on old Indian grounds and there were old arrowheads by the hundreds. At the time of an earthquake in St. David, the earth cracked and water came out, so they believed there was water there. They drilled and found artesian water- about 1888 - just after the first Mormon settlers came.
Parley made an air compressor out of wood to force air into artesian wells to try to get them to put out more water, but it did not work.
He told us how to make a telephone long before they were heard of in St. David. He had a phone from our house to the shop and on down to Grandpa Smith's. It was a gallon can with a hide of a goat stretched over it, with a wire through the center, and stretched to the shop where there was another can with hide stretched over it.
Parley made a horse-driven adobe mill, across the road from Mom's house, to make adobes. All they had to do was pull up a gate and out would come mud ready for the frames. There was a box about four foot square and five feet high. In this was put water and grass and dirt. There was a pole in the middle with paddles, with another pole out to hitch a horse to. The horse went round and round until the mud was ready. They took the dirt down about four feet.
(Grandfather David Sabin had a molasses mill at Salmon "Pondtown" in Payson, Utah. He invented a truss to cure a rupture. He would make a knob to fit into the rupture, put it on a belt to wear a while to make it sore, then he would put a healing salve on it. He healed a lot of ruptures that way. He invented a way to make fire with a compression pump. He had a little tinder box at the bottom of an air pump, and air was forced through a small hole with such force the friction caused a fire.)
The following is from the obituary of Sarah C. Sabin: "Parley followed a blacksmith's trade. In 1913 the Sabin family went to Pomerene (from St. David), where they helped to irrigate that area and establish homes. Parley Sabin surveyed canals at St. David and Pomerene with a homemade level, made up on a six-foot pipe turned up at the ends, containing water colored with ordinary bluing. Both ditches are still in use." (1940)