Back to Table of ContentsHistorical Background of Joseph Bryant Hawkes


In order for us to appreciate and better know our grandfather, Joshua, and his father, Joseph Bryant, it will help to know a little about the six men who preceded them in America. We will list them with their wives and show the child who is our direct ancestor and the general area they lived in. 

You will notice that in the years of the 1600's and 1700's the Hawkes family lived in the eastern seaboard states. In the following years of the 1800's and 1900's our branch of the family moved into the western part of the United States. 

Adam Hawkes, 1608-1672, together with his brother, John, came from Hingham, England, with the John Winthrop colony landing at Salem, Mass. in 1630, just 10 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Adam and Ann Brown Hutchinson Hawkes were living in Mass. when their second son, John Hawkes (1633-1694) was born.

John & Sarah Cushman Hawkes were living in Mass. when their eighth child, Ebenezer (1676-1766) was born. 

Ebenezer & Elizabeth Cogswell Hawkes were living in Mass. when their first child, Ebenezer (1702-1741) was born.

Ebenezer & Anna Breed Hawkes were also living in Mass. when their third child, Benjamin (1729-1772) was born.

Benjamin & Deborah Kimball Hawkes were living in Mass. when their fourth child, Joshua (1766-1854) was born. 

Joshua & Lucy Bryant Hawkes were living in Maine when their fourth child, Joseph Bryant (1799-1862) was born.

Joseph Bryant & Sophronia Alvord Hawkes were living in Far West, Missouri, when their fifth child, Joshua (1836-1914) was born. 

We see a significant turning point come to this branch of the Hawkes family. For 200 years this strong Puritan family had lived and prospered in the eastern seaboard states. In 1822, Joseph Bryant and his wife Sophronia Alvord were living in Lockport, Niagara, New York. Then, all of a sudden, in 1828, they move from Lockport, then on to Pontiac, Michigan, in 1829. Next, they moved to Commerce, Michigan, in 1834. Then, on to Far West, Missouri, by 1836, where our grandfather, Joshua was born.

Three years after leaving the state of New York in 1828, Joseph Bryant and Sophronia received a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in January 1831, while living in Michigan. The Church had been organized only 10 months earlier, April 6, 1830. Because of persecution, many of the saints eventually moved to a new settlement called Far West, Missouri. Joshua was the third child of the Hawkes family born into the church. Let's take a look at this new frontier town where Joshua started his mortal life August 20, 1836, the same year that the first temple of the LDS church was dedicated back in Kirtland, Ohio. 

Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, is located 40 plus miles north of Independence, Missouri, and in the near vicinity of Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Liberty Jail, and Haun's Mill. Most of Caldwell County in 1836 was a wilderness. By 1838 the county had a population of over five thousand people, of which more than forty-nine hundred were Latter-day Saints. The greatest concentration of saints was at Far West, which by that time had 150 houses, four dry goods stores, three family groceries, half a dozen blacksmith shops, a printing establishment, and two hotels. Many others lived in nearby communities and on the surrounding farms. 

In the summer of 1837, preparations were begun for the building of a Temple in the center of the town. The excavation for the cellar under the prospective structure was 120 X 80 feet in area, 5 feet in depth, and was made in about half a day. More than 500 men were employed in the work. Little else was done, however, than to lay the cornerstones on July 4, 1838. The southeast cornerstone was rolled in place on April 26, 1839. At the time, the apostles had met there prior to their departure to go on missions to the isles of the sea. Internal apostasy, persecution, and the "Extermination Order" prevented the completion of the temple at that time.

Joseph Smith came to Far West, March 14, 1838, when baby Joshua was 1 1/2 years old. Joseph Smith's house was located 200 yards southwest of the Temple foundation and remained there until 1886. It was the last residence to be torn down. Nothing remains now in Far West but a historical marker and parking lot next to the Temple site. The town was eventually turned into farm land. Joshua's mother died April 3, 1837, 7 1/2 months after Joshua's birth, and was buried in the local cemetery west of town. By 1886, the cemetery had fallen into disuse and was used as a cornfield. She and Joseph Bryant had been married for 17 years. They were married about 1820, when she was 16 and he was 21 years old. At her death, she was 33 and he was 38. 

Far West served as the main headquarters of the church from 1836 to 1839 and was the Caldwell County seat at that time. It was located center stage at the time of the most severe mob persecutions against the Church and its leaders. We wonder what thoughts and impressions were in the minds of the children as they were driven out of their homes in the cold early fall and winter months of 1839.

When Joshua was born he had two older brothers, Samuel and Levi, and two older sisters, Lucy and Alzina. His mother was sick from the time of his birth until she died April 3, 1837, just a few months later. His father, Joseph Bryant, then married a widow by the name of Phoebe Ann Northrop. She was 34 and he was 38. They had a son, Amos, born March 22, 1838. Amos would be the only one of this marriage that would grow to maturity. He and Joshua would become friends and the mainstay of the family for the next 70 plus years. 

Because of persecution, his father, Joseph Bryant, had to leave the state to avoid being sent to prison. The family was moved to Quincy, Illinois, by a Bro. Colman, where they lived for a few months.

The Hawkes family moved to Nauvoo by the fall of 1839. Joseph Smith was martyred in 1844 when Joshua was 8 years old. It is undoubtedly true that Joshua and his family knew the Prophet personally, and as a child "sat on his knee" as the saying goes. 


The foregoing information has been a historical introduction to the life of Joseph Bryant & Joshua Hawkes. The remainder of this history is taken from a personal diary Joshua wrote while serving a four month imprisonment starting October 19, 1888, in Boise, Idaho, for unlawful cohabitation. He summarized the events of each year in first person literary style. The following will reflect his writings and thoughts, mingled with other information to add some details that are important to his story. Proven source material will correct some admitted memory mistakes.


Home + Historical Background + Historical Summary + Life History + Missionary Journal + Post Mission Journal + Horseshoe Flat Celebration + Bibliography + Contact

This history was compiled in 1998 by using the nearly thirty reference materials listed in the bibliography, by Joshua's grandson, Percy Blaine Hawkes. Please email  any additional information, journals, corrections, suggestions, etc., so we may make a more accurate record.