Rufus Phillips Snell, 1840

Rufus Phillips was the 5th child of Cyrus and Rhoda Barnes Snell.

The ancestors of our branch of the Snell family emigrated from England about 1665. The family name is quite common today both in England and America and from its derivation (Anglo-Saxon, Snell--quick, swift, compare German, Schnell) would indicate an ancestry of the same name at least as far back as King Alfred's time (800 A.D.). Our family history in this country has not been carefully worked out, so that beyond a few facts, little is known until the opening of the 19th century.(I am working on this problem and will add more later. Alyn Olson.) Among noted connections of the Snells are Wendell Philips, the 'Silver tongued orator' and William Cullen Bryant, the first among American Poets.

Rufus, Ellen, and Emma

Biography of Rufus Phillips Snell in my possession. No one seems to know when or by who, this was written.

Rufus Phillips Snell, recalling in his declining years the joys of his childhood, speaks of happy hours spent looking through a great crack in the floor of his father's mill and watching the wheels go round. In a poem telling of these times he says--

"on the 27th day of the merry month of May,

At the foot of the hill by the old fulling mill

In the township of Sackville I was born."

This was in 1840 and Rufus was the 5th child to gladden the Snell home. In the poem referred to, he described the rustic joys engaged in by the youth of his native hills. But there was work in those days for boys as well as play, and the children of the Snell home were early taught its lessons. The mother, ambitious that her children might have more training in books than the "district-school of Sackville township' afforded, took them to Lowell, Massachusetts. Here she kept a boarding house and looked after a number of girls who had come with her to work in the great cotton mills. Rufus, along with the other children, was sent to an advanced school. One sorrow clouded the happiness of these days at Lowell. Lucy Hannah, the youngest child and only daughter, died at the age of 4 years.

At Sackville, in 1836, occurred an event which was to shape anew the lives of Cyrus and Rhoda Snell and their children. In that year, Lyman E. Johnson, Milton Holmes, and John Herrit, Mormon Elders, came with the message of the Restored Gospel. They made the Phillips home their headquarters and preached in a mill, improvised as a meeting place, belonging to Mr. Phillips. Within 3 weeks they had baptized 18 persons, among them Cyrus Snell and his wife. At Sackville, later Apostle Mariner W. Merrill received the gospel.

The spirit of 'gathering to Zion,' so dominant in the early days of the Church, soon led Cyrus and Rhoda Snell to set their faces toward Utah. Some difficulty was experienced in disposing of their property, but at length a purchaser was foound, and in April, 1853, the family set out on the long journey. Some of the Barnes family, close relatives of "Grandma" Snell, and once members of the Church, were at this time living in Wisconsin. To visit them and to break the monotony of the long overland trip, Cyrus Snell and his family remained here for a year. The time was further utilized in strengthening their equipment for the journey across the Western plains. The story goes that 'Grandpa' Snell and the older boys were almost persuaded to remain in the goodly land of Wisconsin, but that 'Grandma', using a long cherished right of woman, asserted her independence and matronly office so emphatically that he thought best to complete the journey.

The long migration, begun in April, 1854, was made practically without incident, except for an occasional scare from the Indians. The company was small, their outfit consisting at first of but 4 wagons, 2 horses, 10 yoke of oxen, and 22 cows. It was strengthened, at least in human material, at the Elkhorn river, by the addition of Elias Williams and family. These people had lost their animals and were dependent upon the good will of some more fortunate company for means of reaaching Zion. The route traveled was via Council Bluffs and the Platte River. After more than 4 mos en route, the company arrived in Salt Lake City, 27 Aug. My father, a boy of 14 years, having some trouble in one of his legs, had walked most of the way on crutches.

The winter following their arrival, the Snell family lived in Salt Lake City, in what was then the 7th ward. Here Rufus Phillips was baptized in March of 1855, and soon afterward the family moved to Spanish Fork. In this newly founded settlement a farm had been purchased and other arrangements made for a permanent home. Here young Rufus grew to manhood, working on his father's farm, building roads, herding stock, hauling timber from the mountains, and otherwise taking part in the activities of a pioneer settlement. That those were days of privations in illustrated by the fact that from 30 acres of wheat planted the first season, only 15 bushels were gathered in the fall, owing to the ravages of the grasshoppers. They were days of anxiety too, particularly when the Indians were troublesome. At such times, Rufus, in common with other young men, kept guard over the crops, animals, and lives of the settlers.

Coming from hardy stock and reared in the pioneer environments of Nova Scotia and the Great West, Rufus Phillips Snell became a man whose sturdy qualities well fitted him for service among his fellow citizens and in the Church.

Secular offices and duties filled by Rufus were as follows: guard in the Black Hawk War; member of City Council of Spanish Fork for 14 years, (elected first in 1875 at the age of 33); City Marshall, Treasurer, and Mayor; County Commissioner of Utah County, one term; Director and Superintendent of the Spanish Fork Co-o[; School Trustee for many years.

To Rufus Snell, the Priesthood and its responsibilities always took precedence over every other obligation. on 17 Jan 1857, he was ordained a Priest by A.K. Thurber; on 29 Jan 1867 he was ordained an Elder by Philip Sykes; on 29 Dec 1873, he became the President of the Spanish Fork Elders Quorum, under the hands of George W. Wilkins; ordained a seventy, 24 Jan 1892 by William Stoker; High Priest and First Counselor to Bishop Henry Gardner, Spanish Fork First Ward, 7 Feb 1892 by A.O. Smoot; High Councilor in Utah Stake, 4 Apr 1896 by Abram H. Cannon; High Councilor in Nebo Stake, 20 Jan 1901 by Hyrum Lemon; President of High Priest's Quorum of Big Horn Stake, Wyoming, 26 May 1901, by A.O. Woodruff, this latter office was held until his death on 7 Sep 1917.

The spirit in which he served the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and in which he sought to be a benefactor to his children and grandchildren is illustrated by his action in leaving Spanish Fork to become a pioneer again in his old age. In 1900 the Church was seeking men to settle the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming, a vast arid tract unprized alike by savages and civilized men. Rufus had always wanted a foreigh mission but untoward circumstances had prevented his being called. When the Church now needed missionaries of the soil, he responded at the age of 60 to the associations that might mae old age happy, and spent the last 17 years of his life in self-denying effort to help his children get a foothold on new soil, and to reclaim the barren land as a colonizing enterprise of the Church. His labors and sacrifices in this new land undoubtedly hastened his death, which occurred at Cowley, Wyoming, on 7 Sep 1917.

Rufus P. Snell was the father of 14 children, 8 sons and 6 daughters. He married Ellen Celestia Hillman on February 8, 1869. She became the mother of l0 children, 7 sons and 3 daughters. She died on 11 Jun 1887 and the age of 36 years. On 22 Mar 1892, Rufus married Emma Ann Hillman Moore, a widow with four children, one of which had already died when they were married.Emma bore him 4 children, 1 son and 3 daughters, and was living when this was written in 1924.

Perhaps the finest tribute that can be paid to any one man, particularly to one who becomes a father and a grandfather, is that he set a worthy example in his own family and among his neighbors. This can honestly be said of Rufus P. Snell. those who knew him best loved him most. His sterling virtues should be a guide and an inspiraton to those who come after him and should help us all to remember his life as an example to us, his descendents.

Rufus Phillips Snell and Ellen Celestia Hillman's children are:

When Ellen died leaving 10 children behind,Rufus was devastated. Later, he married Emma Ann Hillman Moore and she brought 3 children with her to the family:

Rufus and Emma went on to have 4 more children together:

Hazel and Erma Abigail died young and had no descendants.

April 22nd, 1854 my father's family left Spring Prarie, in the eastern part of Wisconsin, and passed through that state, and the state of Iowa, and crossing the Missouri River at Council Bluffs, entered upon the great plains, enroute to Great Salt Lake City, which we reached August 27th being four months and six days on trip.

We had three ox teams, with three yoke of oxen to each team, and also one heavy carriage with span of horses. The latter, Mother drove a great part of the way. We traveled alone as an independent company all the way, being about sixteen hundred miles.

The following piece was written to preserve some of the incidents and scenes of that memorable trip.

One of Rufus many poems written about their trek to Utah

"Crossing the Plains"

(Written about the year 1898 in Rufus' own handwriting.

In eighteen hundred fifty-four, quite early in the spring
At Spring Prarie, near the shore, of great lake Michigan
We yoked up Buck and Bawly, and our journey did begin

Up hill and down, we traveled on, toward the setting sun.

We had wagons four, and cows galore, and oxen full a score
And horses two, which Father knew, had proven true, before
And on we went through slush and mud in sunshine and in storm
Up hill and down we traveled on, toward the setting sun

And soon old Mississippi's flood we safely passed o'er
Into the state of Iowa, where Saints few years before
Were fleeing from a ruthless mob, barefooted, picked and sore
Driven from home, the westward roam toward the setting sun

We soon arrived at Counsel Bluffs, and there we took a rest
Before us stretched a thousand miles of dready wilderness
Where the wild beast, and the wilder man hung around our...train
As on we moved up hill and down toward the setting sun

Our numbers were but few indeed, all told we were but eight
While savages upon the plains, by thousands lay in wait
Be as it may, at break of day, we cross the turbid stream
And travel on, uphill and down, toward the setting sun

With watchful eye and rifle nigh we safely travel on
Till in the distance we behold some object on the run
'Tis moving fast, perhaps a foe, old Buck and Bawly, Whoa
And now we cease to travel on, toward the setting sun

Stand by your guns, the watchword now, and keep your powder dry
Until we see who 'tis that comes, dont wink, nor bat your eye
They turn a bend, it is a friend, a wagon on the fly
Like Jehu sent, they're homeward bent, toward the rising sun

Our friends arrive, they shepherds were, bound for the land of gold
While at Loup Fork the savages, swoop down upon their fold
Two of their number were laid low, flocks scattered o'er the plain
And now they go, like the chased Roe, back to their former home

Turn back! Turn back! The strangers plead, if you, your lives would save
For just across the stream you'll find, the cursed indian brave
With faces black, and tomahawk, your scalps they'll surely raise
But on we move up hill and down, toward the setting sun

We reach the stream, tha boatman gone, our wagons we ferry o'er
While Buck and Bawly through the flood swim to the other shore
With Jess and Kate upon the lead, and Father with his gun
We trudged along up hill and down, toward the setting sun

We traveled on till close of day, and reached the very spot
Where savages, few hours before, such hellish deeds had wrought
A horrid sight, where man and beast, lay mangled torn and peeled
Putrid and stiff, in deaths embrace, on lonely battle field

The early dawn, and rising sun, we hail with sleepless eye
For through the night the howling wolf, kept up his mournful cry
And now in haste this cursed place, we gladly bid adieu
And travel on up hill and down toward the setting sun

Before our gaze, a hundred miles, the burly Buffalo
Those desert lords, in countless hoards were bounding too and fro
While the Antelope and prarie dog, fall prey to Nimrods gun
As on we move up hill and down, toward the setting sun

A dreary waste of wilderness, no wood nor friendly shrub
Of Buffalo chips we build our fires, over which to cook our grub
While the weary cook, eyes filled with smoke at night and early dawn
As on we move, up hill and down, toward the setting sun

Scotts Bluffs, we greet, and Chimney Rock, and staid old Laramie Peak
Whose crested head plays with the cloud, and lurid lightning streak
And scenery grand, on every hand, old Platte, with shifting sand
As on we move up hill and down toward the setting sun

Our countrys flag at Laramie's Fort we hail, with joyful cry
It's starry folds, to weary souls, brings tear-drops to the eye
A terror too, those boys in blue, to savage Indian band
Who roam the hills, with Savage yells, the Tomahawk to wield

Through blistering sand we slowly wind, as the Black Hills we climb
Old Tom and Dave, can scarcely move, the heavy load behind
Through hail and rain the top we gain, and thunders deafening din
With tired limb, wet to the skin, we hail the setting sun

Those Alkali plains at Sweetwater, strike terror to the soul
Where faithful beast, yields up the ghost, at many a poison pool
On Independence Rock we write our name and date whereon
We trudged along, up hill and down toward the setting sun

Through Devils Gate we safely pass, no Devil find at home
He'd just gone out upon a scout, perhaps at Washington
And while his majesty is out, we up the hillside climb
On Rocky Mountains summit stand, mid scenery sublime

And here, on Earth's backbone we stand, mid mountains, wild and grand
Ten thousand feet above the seas that wash Columbus land
While from their base, the waters chase the sunbeams to the stran...
As on we go, to depths below, towards the promised land

And soon we reach the very spot, made famous in later years
Where Alexander cooled his wrath, while Brigham coralled his steers
This brave old soldier, perhaps for fun, with lively Martial strain
Marched up Hams Fork and boldly then, marched down Hans Fork again

We soon arrived at Bridgers Fort, where Johnson in Fifty-seven
Drew up his hosts, to watch the Ghosts, while the snows came down from Heaven
His wrath to cool, he dined on Mule, and thought it mighty fine
While the Mormon Boys, shared all his joys, and guarded well his train

Over lofty peaks and craggy rocks, our winding road now lay
Where the black tailed Deer & Grizzly Bear, around our wagons play
Where waters splash, and wildly dash, to deserts far below
As on we bump, over rock and stump, towards the setting sun

Down Echo Canyons deep defile our winding trail row run
A thousand feet above our heads the Eagle rears its young
When Sun and Moon are seldom seen, so close the mountains...
As on we bump, over rock and stump, towards the setting sun

The morning dawns, before us looms, a lofty Mountain range
And o'er its summit we just pass, before our journey ends
To end the trouble, our teams we double, and slowly move along
Over rock and stump, we thump, and bump, toward the setting sun

Up Mountain steep, we slowly creep, through dust and torrid heat
Our cows, they bawl and oxen loll, so weary they scarce can crawl
We soon upon the summit stand, mid scenery, wild and grand
Like one of old, in Bible told, we view the "Promised Land"

Sublime the scene, presented now, to weary travelers eye
A desert land, where mountains grand, salute the azure sky
And shimmering sheen, on lake serene, old Jordan, winding stream
And valley brown, with scattered town, a picture seldom seen

With wheels all tied, we slowly glide, to valley, far below
Where the Pioneers, for seven years had battled with the foe
And through their scattered town we pass toward the setting sun
On Jordans bank we pitch our tent, my song and story done!


The following was written by Rufus Phillips Snell, himself, in about 1906.

After arriving in Salt Lake City, Father bought a lot in the 7th ward of Salt Lake City and built an adobe house on it where Mother and part of the family lived through the winter, the younger boys going to school. It was here the subject of this sketch,(Rufus),was baptized in the early spring of 1855 by Jonathan Midgley.

Father and the older boys, however, had gone on to Spanish Fork the previous fall with the stock, etc., and had built a room in the old fort at that place. Being among the very first settlers there, leaving Salt Lake City soon after the April Conference, 1855, we moved to our new home, then a wilderness, its chief occupants being Red Men, black crickets, grey hoppers, howling wolves, and hungry buzzards.

Father bought a farm of S. Thompson about 3 1/2 miles up the river and near the mountain, and we commenced farming, herding stock, making canyon roads, getting out timber, making water ditches, breaking up new land, herding hoppers and crickets, watching Indians, killing snakes and many other things incidental to Pioneer Life.

Settlers began to come in and the next summer our city was surveyed by James C. Snow; having previously secured a charter.

City lots were rapidly taken up and houses began to be built outside the Fort. Father being among the first to build outside the Fort.

About this time the Town of Palmyra, lying about 2 miles westerly, was broken up by advice of Brigham Young and the people of that place, nearly all settled in our new city. Building materials being very scarce, and very few teams and wagons in the country, most of the families were compelled to live in "dugouts" - a cellar dug in the ground covered with willows and dirt. About this time our first City Election took place and our townsmen began to plow out water ditches, plant trees, build fences -- mostly willow -- plant gardens, etc., etc.

Thus was a city born almost in a day. (some missing text here) served the people of Spanish Fork in nearly every capacity from its Mayor down.

In the year 1869, February 8th,in the Endowment house, I took my first wife, Miss Ellen C. Hillman, daughter of Silas Hillman and Emily Cox. This union was blessed with 10 children -- all living at this writing -- 1906.END

Rufus Philip Snell, Sr. was born May 27, 1840 at Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. When he was 14 years old, the family traveled by ox team to Utah. Rufus walked most of the way on crutches, being afflicted with inflamatory Rheumatism. They settled in Spanish Fork, in 1854, before the town was surveyed. He worked with his father as a farmer and stockman. Rufus married Ellen Celesta Hillman, February 8, 1869. They had ten children as follows: Rufus Philip, Jr., Ellen, Rhoda, Adletta, John, Silas, George, Heber, Ira, and William.

Rufus held several important public positions. He was a guard in the Black Hawk War, member of the City Council 14 years, City Marshall, City Treasurer, Mayor, County Commissioner, Director and Superintendent of the Spanish Fork Co-op., and school trustee. His church offices included: President of the Elder;s Quorum, and a High Counselor in Nebo Stake.

Ellen Celestia Hillman, 1850

Ellen Celestia Hillman was born on 11 Oct 1850 at Coonville, Pottawattamie, Iowa. Her parents, Silas and Emily Ann, were stalwart members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who had been exiled from Nauvoo. Silas was a widower with 2 little girls when he married Emily, and she was a widow with a year0old daughter. Ellen Celestia was the first child born to her parents. The Hillman family lived in Coonville, about 15 miles south of Council Bluffs, for 18 months after Ellen was born. Heeding advice from Church leaders, and avoiding mobs who were pursuing Silas, the Hillman family crossed the Missouri River on 10 Jun 1852 with about 10 other wagons. They were assigned to the Allen Weeks Company, but left ahead of the main group.

The 1,000 mile trip across the plains was made more difficult by high waters on the Platte River, and by one or two Indian scares, but the Hillman family arrived safely in the Salt Lake Valley on 10 Sep 1852. They settled in Palmyra, Utah County, where Ellen's father taught school. Her mother taught her all of the poineer arts of nomemaking and fine needlework. Several more children were born, and Ellen did her share in maintaining the home.

When Ellen was 9 years old, her family moved to Spanish Fork, where her father continued to teach school. The people were very poor and Silas had difficulty collecting his pay from the parents of his pupils. Many times the Hillman family had very little food to eat. When Ellen grew old enough, it became necessary for her to seek employment. She went into the home of a distant relative, Bishop Harrington of American Fork, where she worked as a housekeeper for several years. The work was very hard, as the Bishop's wife was an excellent housekeeper and had the reputation of being the best in Utah. In those early days before the railroad came, the bishop's home was open to all traveling church members. Guests stayed overnight and were provided with excellent meals, so there was always plenty of work for cooks and housekeepers.

Ellen married Rufus on 8 Feb 1869 in the Salt Lake Endowment House. She was 18 years old and Rufus was 28. Rufus and Ellen set up housekeeping in Spanish Fork, They worked hard to provide a good home for their family. Rufus had one of the best farms in Utah County and was active in civic and religious affairs. He was a guard in the Black Hawk war, was a member of the Spanish Fork City Council for 14 years, and served as City Marshall, Treasurer, and Mayor. Ellen supported him in all of his undertakings, creating a peaceful and loving home, entertaining associates, and managing the household alone when his duties required his absence. She became the mother of 10 children, seven sons and three daughters. She worked hard caring for her large family. All but one lived to adulthood.

When Ellen was 36 years old, she gave birth to her tenth child, William Henry Snell. She died in Spanish Fork 10 days later on 11 Jun 1887, of complications of childbirth. She is buried in the Spanish Fork Cemetery. Ellen's daughter, Rhoda, told her grandchildren that her father was devastated by Ellen Celestia's death. Many times, she saw him weeping at the site of Ellen's grave. Rufus wrote this poem expressing his feelings toward his beloved wife.

Two Pictures of Life

Once I met a lovely maiden,
And I won her for my own.
We were wed, and many children
Came to bless our humble home.
Love and Joy were in our bosom,
Peace and plenty reigned supreme.
Angels smiled upon our dwelling;
Life was like a summer dream.

But the scene was changed to mourning.
Death, who guards the way to life,
Called one pleasant summer morning,
Snatched from me my darling wife.
Oh! What anguish filled my bosom,
Grief, beyond my power to tell,
Loving hearts so quickly severed,
Scarcely time to say farewell.

Then sore trials came upon me--
Days seemed lengthened out to years.
Children crying for their mother,
None to soothe their bitter tears.
All my soul was rent within me,
As the gloomy halls I trod,
In the lonely midnight hour,
Pouring out my heart to God.

Now this life is slowly passing,
Footsteps tottering on the way,
Towards that great Eternal City,
Drawing nearer day by day.
There where life is ever vernal;
And sweet flowers gently wave,
May I dwell in bliss eternal
With the ones I dearly love.

Emily Ann Hillman Moore

Rufus married Ellen's cousin, Emily Ann Hillman Moore on 22 Mar 1892, about 5 years after Ellen's death.

A source for this family is: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, Snell, Rufus Phillips

Write-up on Rufus & 2nd wife Emma from Wyoming history:

Ellen Celesta died June 11, 1887, following the birth of her tenth child. Nearly five years later Rufus married Emma Ann Hillman, cousin of his first wife. They were married March 23,1892. Emma Ann was born January 28, 1863. Her father's family was poor. She never had a pair of shoes until she had earned enough money to buy them. Her first husband was Ira Moore and they had the following children: Ira, Winifred, Myrtle, and Geneva. Four children were born to Rufus and Emma Ann: Leroy, Hazel, Minerva, and Erma.

In the spring of 1900, Rufus joined the Mormon Colony which had begun the construction of the Sidon Canal. He intended to investigate and assist his sons in establishing homes in this area. While he was at the Sidon Canal construction camp, Apostle Abraham Owen Woodruff called him and asked him to settle permanently with the colony. Accordingly, the following year although he was 61 years old, he sold his property in Utah and moved his family to Lovell, where they remained a short time. He purchased a ranch on Crooked Creek and the family lived there one year. In 1904, he built a two-room log house in Cowley which was the family home until 1909. Then they moved to a new brick house which Rufus built on the same block. Rufus produced the first sugar beets grown in the Shoshone Valley in 1901. He served as President of the High Priest's Quorum in Big Horn Stake for 16 years.His many poems indicate that he loved nature and observed it closely. After suffering five years from the effects of a stroke, he died September 9, 1917. Emma Ann died September 2, 1932.