Chauncey Walker West was the fifth of eight children born to Alvah West and Sally Benedict. He was born at Chenango, Pennsylvania, in Erie County, on 6 February 1827. That same year, Joseph Smith was reported to have discovered the golden plates of the Book of Mormon in Ontario County, New York. When he was sixteen years old, Chauncey Walker West joined the Mormon Church and, in 1844, he and his parents relocated to the Mormon settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois. At Nauvoo, he met and married Mary Hoagland. When increasing persecution forced the Mormons to leave their city, the West family also left Nauvoo, travelling further west to the Mormon settlement called "Winter Quarters," located outside what is now Omaha, Nebraska. During the severe Winter of 1846-47, both Alvah and Sally West died, and Chauncey, at the age of 19, assumed responsibility for the family.
The next Spring, Brigham Young organized the Saints into groups of 100 persons, each group making the trek from Winter Quarters to their new home at Salt Lake City. Chauncey West and his family were in the Second Hundred, which left from the Elkhorn River on 17 June, followed the Platte River through Nebraska and Wyoming, and crossed over the Wasatch Mountains, ariving in Salt Lake City on 29 September 1847. In 1852, he was sent on a mission to Asia, travelling to Calcutta, Ceylon, Bombay, and Hong Kong, returning to Salt Lake in 1855. In November of that year, he was appointed presiding Bishop of Weber County, and Chauncey moved his family to Ogden.
The Mormon Church at this time encouraged polygamous marriages. During his lifetime, Chauncey took nine wives and fathered 35 children. They made their home on an entire city block in the heart of Ogden. His estate included a large house and barn, and separate dwelling homes for each of his wives. He planted the rest of the block in orchards and vegetable gardens. On 18 July 1857, Chauncey Walker West received a commission from Gov. Brigham Young as Colonel in the Fifth Utah regiment. He served in the Utah War (against troops sent by Pres. Buchanan) and was appointed Brigadier-General in the Nauvoo Legion for his service in that war.
William Gibson and Janet Nicol were converted to Mormonism at their home in Paisley, Scotland, just outside of Glasgow. They brought their family to America in 1851, sailing first to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. In 1853 he received permission to bring his family to Salt Lake City. Their daughter, Jeanette, came with them from Scotland. She was married to Chauncey Walker West as his fourth wife on 10 July 1857 at Salt Lake City. He was 30 years old and she was 17. She was the mother of three children, only one of whom, Heber William West, survived to adulthood.
Jeanette Gibson West died at the age of 25 on 4 August 1865 at her home in Ogden.
The 1860s saw the opening of the West and the construction of the nation's first transcontinental railroad. Lorin Farr accepted a contract from the Central Pacific Railroad for the construction of the roadbed from Nevada to the east. Chauncey West was given charge of the Central Pacific's construction project. He was with the group of men representing the Central Pacific Railroad at the driving of the Golden Spike at promentory, Utah, on 10 May 1869. Bishop West died while on a trip to San Francisco to negotiate payment of funds (promised by Gov. Leland Stanford) for the Mormon laborers who constructed the Central Pacific Railroad line.
For more information on the building of the first Transcontinental Railroad, click here to visit the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum - stereoviews, engravings, maps, and documents illustrating the history of the first transcontinental railroad.
Chauncey Walker West is buried in the cemetery at Ogden. His large marker there is inscribed with the names of 15 of his children who died in their youths and, interestingly, just two of his nine wives -- Mary Hoagland and Jeanette Gibson.