William J. Flake

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Like many early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, William Jordan Flake was called by Brigham Young to help settle an area beyond the Salt Lake Valley. In 1877, he was sent to the northern area of Arizona Territory. He moved his two wives and children along the trail and arrived in January 1878. In the fall, when Erastus Snow, an apostle, came to visit, they named the settlement Snowflake—Snow for Elder Snow and flake for William Flake.[1]

Flake was born on July 3, 1839, in North Carolina. When he was three years old, his family moved to Mississippi. In 1844, the family joined the Church of Jesus Christ and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Two years later they began their relocation to the Salt Lake Valley and arrived in 1848. His father was killed in a gold mining area of California a year later and his mother took her three children to San Bernardino. After she died in 1856, Flake and his siblings returned to Utah and lived with Amasa M. Lyman.

Flake married Lucy Hannah White when he was nineteen years old. Ten years later he entered into plural marriage with Prudence Kartchner. Flake was eventually the father of eleven sons and nine daughters. Instead of leaving for Mexico with the passage of the Edmunds Act of 1882, Flake decided to stay in Arizona and when tried for polygamy in December 1884, he pled guilty and told the judge about his family. He was sentenced to six months at the Yuma Territorial Prison. A few church members, who had been tried before him, pleaded not guilty and were sent to prison in Michigan for three and a half years.[2]

“Locals in the eastern Arizona town say that the day Flake was arrested, he invited the marshal in for dinner, and introduced him to both of his wives. They also say that, while in prison, he tried to be a positive influence on the younger inmates.”[3]

Within a year of his release in June 1885, his wives gave birth to three children, including a set of twins. The twins died at birth and the third child died from pneumonia. Prudence died in February 1896, and Lucy died in January 1900. Flake never remarried and died on August 10, 1932.

In 1959, Flake was posthumously nominated and then inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Hall of Great Westerners for his contributions as a colonizer and cattleman.

His descendants include former senator Jeff Flake and Professor Kathleen Flake.