Daniel W. Jones

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Daniel Webster Jones (August 26, 1830 - April 20, 1915) was an American and Mormon pioneer. He was the leader of the group that colonized what eventually became Mesa, Arizona, made the first translation of selections of the Book of Mormon into Spanish language|Spanish, led the first Mormon missionary expedition into Mexico, dealt frequently with Native Americans, and was the leader of the group that heroically wintered at Devil's Gate during the rescue of the stranded handcart companies in 1856.

Jones was born 26 August 1830 in Booneslick, Howard County, Missouri. Orphaned at the age of 12, he joined a group of volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War in 1847. Following the war, he remained in Mexico for a number of years, learning Spanish, and while taking "part in many ways in the wild, reckless life that was common in that land," still he longed for something. When a sheepherding expedition bound for California departed in 1850, he left with them.

While camped along the Green River in 1850, his pistol went off in his holster, piercing through fourteen inches of his groin and thigh. His companions left him, lame, but alive, in Provo. There, he studied Mormon doctrine and was baptized by Isaac Morley in 1851. The next year, he married Harriet Emily Colton, daughter of Philander and Polly Colton.

In the October 1856 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church President Brigham Young informed those gathered that a group of Latter-day Saint immigrants were then stranded on the plains of Wyoming. These were the Martin and Willie handcart companies, as well as the Hunt and Hodgett wagon companies. The next day, about 25 men departed from the Salt Lake Valley to find the immigrants.

The company found the Willie Handcart Company near South Pass. After reaching Devil's Gate, they still hadn't found the other groups, and Jones, Joseph A. Young, and Abe Garr were sent ahead to find the missing parties and help them in to the Devil's Gate area. After assisting them to a spot now known as Martin's Cove, it was determined that Jones, Thomas Alexander, and Ben Hampton would remain behind with the goods cached at Fort Seminoe, together with 17 teamsters detailed from the Hunt and Hodgett wagon companies. During that winter, they endured terrific privations which Jones later detailed in his autobiography, Forty Years Among the Indians.

In 1874, Jones was commissioned by Brigham Young to translate selections from The Book of Mormon into Spanish, in preparation for a missionary expedition into Mexico. This he did, with the assistance of Henry Brizzee and Meliton Trejo. Following the translation, the company, including James Z. Stewart, Helaman Pratt, Wiley C. Jones (D. W. Jones's son), R. H. Smith, Ammon M. Tenney and Anthony W. Ivins, departed for Mexico. The mission lasted from 1875 to 1876.

Upon returning, he was commissioned by Brigham Young to start a settlement in the Salt River Valley of Arizona. Originally called Jonesville, the settlement was later renamed Lehi, and was eventually incorporated into Mesa, Arizona.

After some conflict with the other settlers, Jones moved to the Tonto Basin area, where his wife and 14th and youngest child were killed when a shed fell on them during a storm in 1882. In 1890, he published his autobiography, Forty Years Among the Indians. He died on 20 April 1915, of gangrene after an accident. He was 84 years old.

Jones was the grandfather of Fay Wray, who played the female lead in King Kong, his last surviving grandchild. He is the great-great grandfather of Jeffrey Jones, the first Latter-day Saint senator in Mexico.

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