Monday, March 14, 2011

Life Sketch of William Green Bickley

Dear family: Here is the life sketch of Great-grandpa William Green Bickley, father of Agnes Isadore Bickley Woodbury and grandfather of Jennie May Woodbury Lee, my mother. He was a great poet and musician, and it has been my feeling that he has been carrying on his work through me. Many of my poems have come to me from someone on the other side of the veil, and I have often felt so blessed, as there is no way I could write such beautiful poems. He died 15 years before I was born, and it is my heart feeling that he tutored me in the spirit world, and helped me gain an appreciation for the talent which Heavenly Father bestowed on me before coming to earth. As I ponder this thought, I cannot stop the tears from flowing. I am so thankful for this gift from Heavenly Father, and am doing the best I know how to share this gift with you, and all those on my heart thoughts list, in hopes that you and they will share them with their friends and family as I have done. I claim no honor for them, as they are Heavenly Father's gift to me, and I am sure, to Great-grandpa Bickley, too. Have a beautiful day, and know that I love you. Your friend and brother. Jim


Born at Smalley Hill Shropshire, Salop, England May 1, 1842. Son of Samuel Bickley and Mary Green. While a baby he had the misfortune of getting infection in one of his eyes and everything was done to save it, but he suffered for some time but it couldn't be saved. I have often heard him tell of how he could remember even though he was only about 4 years old when he sat without anything to deaden the pain while the doctor cut the cord and removed the eye. He said every time he thinks of it he could still feel the pain. He was paid in a way as the other eye had double strength and he became a great reader and a well educated man all his life able to converse on any subject. On Nov.13, 1849 his only full sister was born. She grew and married George Watterson and raised a large family and lived to the ripe old age of 82. She died 15 June 1931 in England. We don't know much about his life in England but he must have been fortunate enough to hear the gospel preached and was converted for at the age of 16 he was baptized and confirmed a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 24 Jul 1858. Although his mother pleaded with him not to come to Utah, the spirit of immigration was so great that he had to obey the call and at the age of 19 he came to America and arrived in Salt Lake City 1862 where he remained for sometime, working at whatever he could get to do, for a livelihood. I have often heard him tell of how he walked over fences delivering the mail from house to house the snow covering the fences.

He must have been born with natural musical and poetical ability. When he arrived in Utah, he composed the following poem for his mother to show her he still remembered her tender love and care of him during his terrible suffering with his eye and two broken wrists, he received when he fell on the ice as a child.


When to this earth I helpless came

an infant blessed with life's sweet frame

tho' loved and cherished by my friends

there's none whose love could e'er contend

like yours, dear mother.

When sickness made my body weak

who in my ears did comfort speak

and when my head was racked with pain

who watched me till 'twas well again.

'twas you, dear mother.

As year by year, I grew, whose care

protected me from every snare

whose council did my young mind lead

to call on God in times of need

'twas thou, dear mother.

Though now divided by the sea

I still will always think of thee.

I pray that God will always bless

protect and guard thee by his grace.

my dearest mother.

The next we hear of him is in Santa Clara, Washington County as a very young man. Brother Staley had organized a Swiss choir and when brother Bickley came, he organized a choir of English speaking people. He stayed there about a year and had an excellent choir. He must have traveled around the Dixie country quite a bit for the next we hear of him was in Pine Valley where on a cold day he stopped at a hut to get warm and found there a woman and a little boy. They had but very little fuel and no doors or windows to keep the cold out. The next day he procured a team and wagon and brought her a load of wood. His kindness and cheerful disposition won her love. She was married to a man who didn't appreciate her love and sacrifice. She hadn't had any kindness shown her since she reached this country and had had such a hard struggle for existence for herself and little son Henry Walton Hall, she longed to be free to marry this kind young man who had expressed his love for her. When president Brigham Young came down there she told him of her plight and the trouble she had. She wanted to know if she could be free and he told her if Job Hall, her husband, would give her to this young man whose name was William Green Bickley, she could be as free as she ever was. After she gained her freedom he wrote an acrostic to her name as follows.

Pine Valley Feb 2 ,1867. William Green Bickley

My own dear love, Jane Walton.

My thoughts are centered on the one I love

ye muses aid me from thy throne above,

oh, thou whose spirit haunts my every hour

whose voice to me is like a silver shower

neath thy enrapturing glance, I bow I own thy power.

Despite the dangers that beset my path

each one of which might hurry me to death

assisted by thy smile I’d brave their wrath

regardless of the frowns of men or hell beneath.

Loving and kind thou art my dearest one

on my dark path thou art a beacon light

vested in thee, thou hast a benison

ever reminding one of woman's might.

Just be thy life and may the peace of god

attend thy sleeping or awakening hours

nor let the tempter lure thee from the road

each one must take to gain celestial bowers.

When these few lines you read from him who sues

a heart and hand of her to him most dear.

love, if you can, for is you thus refuse

this world to him will be most dark and drear.

oh, then if in your breast you feel love's dart.

not hide but bring it forth to cheer my heart.

They were married in Pine Valley March 21, 1867 and moved to a number of places. Eagle Valley and Clover Valley in Nevada is mentioned, going through the hardships incident to pioneer life. While in Eagle Valley on Jan.1,1868 he wrote the following lines to mother.


The seasons of another year have rolled away with rapid stride

What changes have we seen my dear since last we spent the Christmas tide.

Let us review our deeds and see what progress we have made in truth

Where e'er we've erred let’s try to be humble in future as was Ruth

As for myself I love what's right and wish to walk in wisdom’s path.

That I may live in virtue's light and in the end escape god's wrath

My love for you has stronger grown as day by day I see your face

The deeds of kindness you have shown have helped to make my happiness.

I pray that we may ever be united in the bonds of love

And may contending spirits Flee ,that we may taste of joys above.

What e'er occurs let us be one come we'll come woe let us rejoice

And always be subservient unto the glorious priesthood's voice.

Here on the Jan. 3, 1868 their first child was born. He was named after Father William Green. They also had a little daughter Mary Ann born and died before we hear of them again. He must have come to Minersville, Beaver County, Utah as the following lines were composed and sent to Mother 18 May 1868 from Minersville:

To My Dear Wife

I’m lonely since I’ve left thy side,

thou dearest one my only love,

there is no woe can me betide,

so hard as from thee to remove

I miss thy kind and genial smile

though others strive to make me gay

no pleasure can my thoughts beguile

I long to see thee every day.

I’m lonely since I’ve left thy side

I feel as if I had no life

I could have set me down and cried

the morn I left thee, my dear wife.

but soon I hope to meet again

and clasp thee to my heart once more

and hear thy lips pronounce my name

more sweet 'twill be than e'er before.

He finally moved his family to Minersville and made the adobes for a home. He traded his span of tricky mules for a yoke of oxen. He dug by hand the mill race located in the eastern part of Minersville and helped dig the canals often taking nothing to eat but dry bread to dip in water. They had two more children born to them, Christianna May in Minersville, Jan. 21 1872, and James Harwood either there or in Beaver, b.12 April 1874, wherever they located he used his talent for the uplifting of the community. He was an excellent musician playing the violin, flute, accordion, brass instruments, organ, and when the piano came on the market he played that perfectly.

They moved to Beaver City, Beaver County, Utah, and lived in a little log room 'till he could do better, he purchased a 4 acre tract of land in the north east part of town and built a brick home raised hay and potatoes and planted fruit trees and had a garden to help support his family. Later he purchased another 4 or 5 acre tract joining on the north which he planted to hay. He moved his family into the new home before it was finished. On Feb. 28, 1876, I was born. They had to tack up carpets and quilts to the doors and windows to keep out the cold. When I was still a baby, James Harwood, who was about 3 years old, woke up with membranous croup. They did everything possible for him, but he died. That was a terrible blow to them, as he was talking so cute and was Father's little man. On the 18th of December 1868, Bessie Isabel came to bless their home. She was their little flaxen haired lassie and the joy of the family, musically inclined from the first. Father was a very influential, self-educated man and had many responsibilities placed on him in the community. He also made himself useful in social circles. For a number of years, he with his son William, and daughter May furnished the music for the soldiers at Fort Camson to dance till the wee small hours of the morning. He played the violin, Will, the base viol, and May, the little organ which they always took with them. He also furnished an orchestra to furnish music between the acts of the theatrical plays put on in the old Field's hall. That made many happy hours for the rest of the family as he always got tickets for us. Many very pleasant evenings were spent in the home in musical socials with a room full of relatives and friends. Everyone loved to hear him sing the soul inspiring songs and delighted to hear his comic songs. He could sing the laughing songs, "The Little Gray Fat Man", "When I was a Baby, They Tickled Me So". Also, "The Charming Young Woman I met on the Train", and "The Crocodile", "They all come Home to Roost", and many others so well, they never grew old, he and mother often sang together.

For several years he traveled up and down the state as agent for the Kimball organ company and sold many instruments. Wherever he was, the evening was spent by inviting neighbors in to enjoy a musical entertainment.

He was called to fill a mission for the church, to England, his native country and left home Oct.16, 1889. When he received a blessing in Salt Lake City, before his departure from there, he was promised he would go in peace and return in safety. The promise was soon filled as he missed his train by a small margin, and got on one an hour later. They passed the train he should have taken, wrecked he humbly acknowledged the hand of the Lord in his behalf. On the voyage, he entertained his fellow passengers with music and songs which were well received. His parents had separated and his mother had married a Mr. Brown and had had another family and had passed to the great beyond. His father whom he couldn't find but he was welcomed by his 2 half sisters, Sarah Brown Makinson and her little daughter Lillie, and a maiden about 30 years old, Christiana Brown, who had been faithful to his mother till the last. He converted and baptized them and with mother's financial help, they emigrated to Utah and they lived with us in our home in Beaver till they both married. Sarah died in 1899 and Lillie several years later, and Christiana. They are all laid away in the Mountain View Cemetery. He filled an honorable mission and returned home in 1891. When he came to Beaver to make his home, he was ushered into service and loved to be kept in the harness. He worked with Robert Stoney, probably as organist for the choir. The following is taken from the history of Beaver by J.F. Tolton, published on 75 anniversary of the founding of Beaver City 1856 to the admittance of statehood, 6th of Jan.1896. "the dedication of the St.George Temple was an event of great moment to the people of Beaver. The stake had contributed liberally to its erection and now felt that it had joint ownership in the structure. The Beaver choir was invited as a body, to be present in common with other choirs in the temple district to furnish music for the services.

Some 40 members of the choir under the leadership of Robert Stoney and William Green Bickley, attended. During this period, Beaver not only had a choir of fame but also a fine brass band consisted of 14 members of which Father was one, playing the cornet. They furnished fine music for all national programs and celebrations as well as many other occasions. The instruments he played best and loved most were the violin, cornet, accordion, flute, organ, and when the piano came on the market, he played that perfectly and taught both the organ and piano having many students.

When he returned from his mission, he took up his labors again, both in civic and religious duties. He was appointed chorister, which position he held for a great many years. His daughters May and Bessie, acting as organists for his choir for a number of those years. He put his heart and soul into his work. He composed many of his anthems preparing words and music for the different voices in manuscript form. He composed the music and arranged the hymn "Sons of Michael", into a beautiful anthem. Also set his own music to many of the hymns in the hymn book, "Haste to the Sunday School" and "Call and Answer", arrangements were his contributions to the Sunday school song book. "Invocation" in the blue relief society song book he wrote also. But as only one verse was published, I will write it in full.


words and music, William G. Bickley

1- As we are here assembled to sing Thy praise, oh Lord,

and from Thy holy priesthood (sisters in their book)

to hear Thy sacred word.

We ask Thee now to grant us the unction of Thy love

so that our heart and voices shall reach Thy throne above.

2- We love to sing Thy praises, and come to Thee in prayer.

while from our hearts we thank Thee for tender love and care

and while we bow before thee, oh wilt Thou deign to lend

Thine ear, while we adore thee, our Father and our friend.

3-Preserve Thy chosen servants, be Thou their constant shield,

fill thou their souls with wisdom and give them grace to wield

The sword of gospel freedom, to urge its saving power

among Thy sons and daughters in sorrow's trying hour.

4-And when our task is finished, on earth, and we are free,

may we all be found worthy, to ever dwell with Thee.

in Thy celestial kingdom, among the ransomed blessed,

where Thou has said, "the faithful shall enter into rest."

Here are two of his best loved and enjoyed love songs:


When the balmy spring returns

breathing fragrance fresh and sweet

from the buds and mossy ferns

then my darling, we shall meet.

Yes, and sweet shall be our meeting,

loving be our words of greeting,

while our lips and hearts repeating,

darling, I love thee. darling I love thee

Though our fate should be to part,

there is comfort in the thought,

that I’m reigning in your heart,

and you love me as you ought,

Love, me oh, how sweet the pleasure.

that we are each other's treasure,

and can sing in joyful measure

darling, I love thee. darling I love thee.

And should sorrow cross our path,

and misfortune gather 'round.

so, we may escape god's wrath,

may our trust in him be found,

And when earthly life is ended

and our souls to heaven ascended.

we will sing sweet music blended.

"darling, I love thee."


1-Near a sparkling rippling brooklet,

in a pleasant shady dell

dwelt a fair and dainty maiden,

darling little Clara bell.

Fawn like was her form in neatness,

from her eyes soft radiance fall,

on my heart was holy sweetness,

and I loved sweet Clara bell.


Though she left me sad and lonely

yet I cannot say farewell,

for when this short life is ended,

I shall see my Clara bell.

2-On a balmy summer’s evening,

we were straying side, by side.

when my tale of love I whispered

and she said she'd be my bride.

Stars were twinkling, moonlight gleaming

what my joy was, none can tell

as her eyes with love were beaming

and I kissed sweet Clara bell.

3-Now alas, the grave has hidden

her I loved, from mortal view,

and her soul has gone to heaven,

with the angels, good and true.

Though she's left me sad and lonely

yet I cannot say farewell

for when this short life is ended.

I shall see my Clara bell.

He could pick up a song anywhere and sing it right off by sight. He carried a little tuning fork in his pocket by which he got the pitch. He organized a large music class and taught them sight reading from charts. I have told in mother's history how they sold the old home and moved to town and lived in the cottage behind the store, years later. How they purchased the store and relief society hall and remodeled it and made a very happy and comfortable home and his office over the store where he had his typewriter and books and where he carried on his work as secretary for a number of corporations and canals.

He held the position of City Treasurer for many years, a member of the Stake Sunday School union for more than 20 years. Also worked in the ward Sunday School and put on many lovely cantatas and musical programs usually having appropriate services on Easter Sunday and Christmas. He was stake clerk for 15 years and traveled through the stake getting the reports direct so he could always have the reports in to headquarters on time. He traveled with a team and buggy.on April the 15 of 1915, he was guest of honor at a social gathering with a program of songs and speeches and readings, and a fine luncheon was served. He was presented with a beautiful gold headed cane costing $25.00 as a mark of esteem and appreciation. The following speech was given by Hon. J.F. Tolton. Dear bro. Bickley. The committee has expressed a desire that I voice their sentiments in bidding you a welcome to this gathering with stake and ward officers. On the occasion of paying our respects to our fellow and guest of honor Elder W.G. Bickley. Our purpose is to do honor to Bro. Bickley, and by our meeting together in fraternal friendship, remind him of the fact that we appreciate his long faithful service in the cause of the master, for though he has passed beyond the allotted days of man and his body bows with the weight of years, as the sturdy oak bends before the wintry blast, yet his heart is warm in the work of the Lord.

We seldom recognize the worth of one with whom we come in daily contact until distance, or change or environment severs the relationship: "A Prophet is not without honor save in his own country". This saying is just as true of and applies with equal force to the earnest servant as to one who foretells future events. For many years, our guest of honor, has served as chorister, as music organizer and director and as clerk of several organizations. His peculiar fitness to the latter calling has been fully demonstrated during the last 15 years while he has served as the clerk of the stake and of the high council. For this service, he has received on numerous occasions, the econiums of the presiding bishopric as well as the appreciation of the stake authorities for promptness in submitting reports for painstaking effort and responsive action to the call of duty. For these valuable traits of character, we hold the subject of kind remembrance and wish him continued success in life and peace and contentment of mind in release from the burdens of business and official activities. As a token of appreciation and memento of his association and service with the presidents and high council. We have resolved to present to our bro. Bickley this beautiful ebony cane, surmounted with a handle of gold, engraved with the following inscription "presented to W.G. Bickley, April 15,1915, by high council of Beaver Stake. In the selection of this cane, the committee had in mind the choosing of an article which would be symbolical of the character of the beneficiary. We selected ebony, to represent durability, strength of character, permanency, gold to denote singleness of purpose, endurance, freedom from dross. Its 'malleability for plastic thought, ductibility, for capability of being wrought to a tension of utility and service as enduring as time.

This memento is fitted to bear the weight of infirmity of man. In case brother Bickley needs to lean upon it for support in the future "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me "so wrote David of old. May the appropriateness to David’s thought follow brother Bickley through life, and this memento be a staff that will add to his comfort, in peace, is the wish of the donor and his fellow servants.

The other children having moved to make homes elsewhere left only me and our family and Will's boys and Aunt Christianna Willdon for them to visit so they spent many afternoons at our home and Father came very often to make a call on his rounds about town on different collections or other business for his corporations and we always enjoyed his company.

They made a trip once a year to visit Bessie and May and in 1917 on their way back from Salt Lake from April conference as usual they stopped off at Delta to visit Bessie. He was always a strong advocate of the organ for sacred music and was concerned that Bessie (she was an organist) had to play a piano for ward services. He suggested that he had a little time to spare and with the consent of the bishop Maxfield and chorister Avery bishop he would be willing to come and give his services in some way to help get an organ in the ward. The offer was accepted and arrangements made for his return. They went home to arrange his affairs and through correspondence with Bessie, letter dated 3 May 1917 giving instructions, also 15 May 1917, in answer to her response of his letter, stated that he and mother would arrive in Delta 26 May. They arrived safe and stayed for a few weeks presenting a sacred oratorio "King in Zion" which was very well done and the neat sum of $66.65 was realized. This was to be used as first payment on an organ for the church. They purchased the organ and it furnishes beautiful music for all church gatherings in the first ward hall. Some years before this as he was getting up in years he was released as chorister of the Beaver Ward and given a lovely testimonial and social. As many of his choir members as possible being present. They presented him with a comfortable rocker. On the 8 of Aug. mother sent for me as Father was sick. I hurried down and found him in awful pain. They had been doing some remodeling and painting and he had lifted a stove and must have hurt himself. The doctor was there and gave me orders just what to do and I went to work. I followed his instructions to the letter and a little after midnight he got easy and went to sleep. As I had a small baby mother insisted on me going home. So I went and in the morning I went to the phone and called her and she said he had a good night's rest and was feeling lots better.

After dinner I sent Jennie down to see how he was and she said he had just eaten a bowl of gruel and felt fine. He had dismissed his doctors and paid the painter and was feeling pretty well again. He was sitting down in the store and had gone to sleep. So mother got her mail and went up the two steps into her kitchen to look it over and there was a letter from Bessie who had been to the hospital with Elsie for an operation after having pneumonia. Mother called to him to listen to the letter but he didn't answer so she looked at the paper and soon called to him again but still no answer so she took the letter and went down thinking she had better wake him or he wouldn't sleep at night, but when she put her hand on his head, he had quietly passed away. That was a great shock for us all but a grand way for him to go, for he never could stand to sit around idle and a long sick spell would have been unbearable to him. All his life he had been a very busy man and I’m sure he has been busy on the other side. He passed away without having heard about the fine organ the Delta Ward had purchased through his help and suggestions. They had celebrated their golden wedding on 21 March and the memory of the occasion was still fresh in the people's minds. He had waited patiently on mother for a number of years in her crippled condition. I wrote in her history the details of the golden wedding.

He was well respected in the community and as he was a stockholder in the First National Bank, they draped the bank door with black crepe for 30 days. The following resolutions of respect were written and published in the press:

"Whereas the great ruler of the universe has seen fit to call brother Bickley from our midst, that he might continue his labors on the other side and whereas brother Bickley was a man among men, a man worthy of every trust and whereas Bro. Bickley will be missed at our council table because of his faithfulness honesty and industry--therefore be it resolved that while we regret his passing to his work on the other side, we are satisfied that he was well prepared for the work and ready to proceed at the call of his master.

Be it further resolved that the charter of this bank be draped in mourning for the period of 30 days and that we express to his widow and children our sympathy and that a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to Mrs. Bickley. Signed directors of the First National Bank.”

The funeral was held at the opera house which was filled to capacity with sympathetic friends and relatives. The floral offerings were profuse and lovely. The services were peaceful and inspiring. A number of his best loved songs were rendered by the members of his choirs he had led in Beaver. Our number being "only remembered by what we have done". The speakers were Elders George Parkinson, George Mumford and Bishop F.D. Farnsworth. He was laid away in his beautiful temple robes in the Mountain View Cemetery till the morning of the first resurrection. William Bickley was endowed 3 June 1863 at Endowment House Salt Lake City, Utah

Poem on his death remembrance card;

Gone but not forgotten

Weep not that his toils are over

Weep not that his race is run,

God grant we may rest as calmly

When our work, like his, is done.

'Till then, we yield with gladness,

Our Father to him to keep

And rejoice in the sweet assurance

'He giveth his loved one sleep'

1 comment:

  1. thank you for the post. William Green Bickley's sister Christiana Brown Willden, whom you mention, is my second great-grandmother. I recently found, while going through my grandmothers boxes of pictures, William Green Bickley's original mission journal. I have not had a chance to read through it, but hope it will give me more insight on my second great grandmother, Christiana. If you have any other information on Christiana please let me know. My e-mail is thanks so much for your post!