|Vol. 4, No. 3 - September 2006
Joseph F. Buchanan
For sources, I found a brief history of the Mexican colonies in the Church History book, "The Story of the Latter-day Saints", by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard. Newel also mentioned a book by Estelle Webb Thomas, "Uncertain Sanctuary, A story of Mormon Pioneering in Mexico", Westwater Press, Inc. Salt Lake City and Chicago, 1980. He quotes from it in his writings. In addition to these, I also bought a book, "The Mormon Colonies in Mexico" by Thomas Cottam Romney, information from this book is referenced as "Romney". A lot of our family information in the colonies of Mexico comes mainly from the book, "Archibald Waller Overton Buchanan and Family" by Golden R. Buchanan. References to this book are marked as "Golden".
Here is a summary of the setup of the colonies: "President John Taylor himself, along with several other Church officials, visited Mexico in 1885, and by the end of the year hundreds of colonists, mostly from Arizona and New Mexico, were pouring into the Mexican state of Chihuahua. ...
"Settlement was not easy. The committees negotiating for land purchases seemed blocked at every turn, and the colonists continued to live in wagon boxes, tents and caves. Early in 1886 the negotiations were successful, and on March 21 the happy colonists held a grand celebration and named their new settlement Colonia Juarez, in honor of a Mexican folk hero whose birthday was on that day. Late that spring their hopes were dashed again when they received word that an error had been made in describing the boundaries of their purchase, and their legal location was about two miles to the north. They were allowed to harvest their crops but were forced to move to the valley of the Piedras Verdes River, which was narrow and rocky, with poor soil and scarce water. Chances for success seemed bleak. In the spring of 1887 the water level of the Piedras Verdes fell even lower. Then on May 7 an earthquake hit the region. ... It soon became evident, however, that the earthquake had opened fissures that increased the river's water by a third. The Mexican colony was saved. As the colonists put it, 'The Lord was in the earthquake.'
"In less than a decade more than three thousand Saints settled in Mexico. Three main settlements were established „ Colonia Juarez, Colonia Dublan, and Colonia Diaz „ and until 1895 George Teasdale, a member of the Council of the Twelve, presided over them. In that year a stake was organized, marking the success of the new place of refuge. Throughout this period the latter-day Saint colonies in Mexico existed as an isolated center of American culture in a Mexican environment." The Story of the Latter-day Saints, by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, pg. 386,387
[Note in the map at the right, the size of the small New Mexico piece is shown to be 50 miles wide, to give an idea of scale. Also, there are other colonies not shown, including a several in Sonora. Robert Newel Reynolds' document has a map with some more detail.]
Grandmother Caroline Buchanan explained their first migration to Mexico:
"We made our home in Mancus, Colorado for only a short time. There were many other exiles there. John Henry Smith and another apostle whose name I cannot remember, came there to hold a meeting and they counseled the brethren to take their families and go to Old Mexico, as the Mexican nation was allowing the Saints to go there with their families.
"After much talk and consultation one with another, the brethren began to prepare for the long journey. We left Mancus early in the fall. There were four families of us. My husband took mountain fever soon after we started on our way and I had to drive the team all the way. I helped unhitch the horses, get meals and tend my husband, as he became very ill and weak. At one time we almost thought we would leave him by the wayside, but the Lord spared his life.
"We passed through many experiences on that journey, and finally reached Colonia Diaz on Christmas Day . There we met other brethren and sisters who were also exiles for the Gospel's sake. We certainly passed through the narrows and endured many hardships." (Golden, p. 178)
[Another description of this journey was included in the previous issue of this newsletter, as related by grandfather Archie Buchanan's sister Anna Delilah.]
The twins Archie Earl and Carrie Myrl were born in March 1892. Archibald and Caroline only stayed in Mexico a short time, afterward returning to Utah in 1893. Here is Caroline's explanation: "At the time of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, my husband decided to go to Salt Lake for that event and also to see if he could get the rest of his family to accompany him to Mexico, but home and family and friends looked good to him, and he decided to come back for me and the children and bring us back to Utah." (Golden, p. 179)
From the history of Archibald's son, Eugene, we learn that Eugene travelled with Archibald and Caroline to Mexico. In Mexico, Eugene met and married his second wife, Persis Vilate Young in October 1891. They returned to Utah early the next year. A sad but beautiful story of their life was put together by Robert Newel Reynolds, which can be found on the web site. Newel also has some pictures related to the experience of Eugene swimming the Green River to get the ferry to bring the families across on their way to Colorado.
Also at about this time, Archibald's son-in-law and daughter, Harry and Helen Amelia Payne, and Harry's second wife, Ruth and their families, fled to the colonies in Mexico because "... the U. S. Deputies were after them." This move appears to have happened between 1890 and 1892. The history further states, "Here Helen worked very hard and did everything she could to help care for the family. She used her talents to make knit lace curtains, lovely doilies and woven rugs to beautify her home." (Golden, p. 73) They stayed until the Mexican Revolution came in 1912 and they were forced to leave their homes. Their oldest son, Harry L. Payne, is mentioned in the story of Archie Earl and Carrie Myrl's birth in an earlier Newsletter article (vol. 3, no. 3, September of 2005). I mistakenly said in that article that he was Archibald's son-in-law, Harry "M" Payne, but it was actually 13-year old Harry L. Payne who acted as a midwife in that birth (according to the Archie and Flo history). Years later, when Harry L. Payne had been married for about 10 years the Payne families had to leave Mexico (in 1912). Also married in Mexico were Harry L.'s sisters Elnora, married in Dublan in 1900, and Myrtle, also married in Dublan in 1909. Harry "M" Payne is listed as a Ward Clerk in the ward in Colonia Dublan and also as an assistant to the Sunday School Superintendent. (Romney, p. 100)
Around the turn of the century, the families of 4 other of Archibald's children were to Mexico: Sarah Elizabeth (then married to Peter Lemmon), Castina Maria (just married to Newel Knight Young), Ethelyn (met and married Mahonri Breinholt in Mexico) and Nancy Edna (met and married Robert Beecroft in Mexico). Following are their stories.
Peter Kimball and Sarah Elizabeth (Sadie) Buchanan Lemmon lived and raised most of their children in Glenwood, Utah. Peter was called by President Wilford Woodruff on Oct. 25, 1896 to take his family and help in the colonization of Northern Mexico. They settled in Colonia Diaz where their last child, Leo Whiting Lemmon, was born in 1899. Two of the children were recorded as being married in Mexico: Peter Kimball Lemmon (Jr.) in Diaz (1899), and Sarah Elna Lemmon in Diaz (1910). Peter K. Lemmon was mentioned as a counselor to Bishop William Derby Johnson of the ward in Colonia Diaz (Romney, p. 77). The revolution activities began in Mexico in 1910 and reached a point when "In July 1912 the American Government ordered all Americans to leave Mexico. On the 28th of July 1912 an order was issued by General Inez Salazar to the people of the Mormon Colonies to leave Mexico. Sarah Elizabeth, with her family, left Colonia Diaz for the United States, leaving behind all of the material things they had, including her home, which was later burned by the Mexicans." (Golden, p. 60)
Newel Knight Young came to Mexico with his family in 1891 when he was 13. He lived with his mother and two brothers in Dublan after his father and other wife returned to the states. Newel Young married Castina Maria Buchanan in Manti on July 13, 1898 and their first child was born in Glenwood, Utah. He was soon afterwards found back in Mexico because he married Geneva Cooley on November 19, 1900 in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. His and Castina's son, Newel Knight was born in Colonia Dublan in 1901. They moved to Colonia Pacheco in Fall 1902 where he would teach school. Their daughters Maria, Vernessa and Myrl were born in Colonia Pacheco in 1903, 1905 and 1907, respectively. The family then moved to Morelos (in Sonora, across the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains) in December 1908 where their son, Wayne Buchanan Young was born in 1909. The family suffered in the Mexican Revolution and left for New Mexico in 1911. A beautiful and well researched document about the family was written by Robert Newel Reynolds and is available on the website. His document also gives a better and more thorough description of the Mexican Colonies and the history of the church there. It also explains the relationship that the Saints had with Pancho Villa and the revolutionaries.
Mahonri Breinholt moved to Mexico with his family in 1891 when he was 8. They lived in Colonia Dublan at first and then moved to San Jose. He lived and worked in the area and at the age of 20 he met Ethelyn Buchanan and they were married in 1904 in Colonia Dublan. They moved to Pacheco where their son and daughter Ravell and Velda were born in 1905 and 1907. Then they moved to Juarez where Sterling was born in 1910. They went with their three children to Manti soon afterwards to be sealed in the temple. They returned to Mexico, then, as Mahonri writes, "Sterling was two years old when we had to leave Mexico on account of the Mexican Revolution. We had to leave all of our possessions except what we could carry with us. ... We stayed in El Paso, Texas for a couple of months and then went back to Juarez. Our possessions had been stolen by the rebels. The Revolution seemed to get worse, so we left again, never to go back." (Golden, p.163)
Robert Beecroft was born and lived in Utah and Colorado with his family until they moved to Mexico in 1889, when Robert was 16. His family lived in Colonia Pacheco. He met and married his first wife there, but she died 10 years later, leaving 4 small children. He married Edna Buchanan the next year (1905). Their first child, William was born in 1906, in Pacheco. They went to Salt Lake City in October 1908 where they were sealed in the temple. At that time he was called to serve a mission in Mexico City. Edna and their children did the best they could back at home in Pacheco, Mexico during this time. She relates: "Prior to Marva's birth [born in February 1909 in Pacheco], Robert was called to a Stake mission in Mexico City. Although it was nearly time to give birth to my baby and we were in desperate circumstances, I encouraged him to go, realizing that if there was a kind Father in Heaven, and knowing there was, He would take care of us and make it possible for us to get food and clothing until father and husband could return to us." [He was released on Nov, 9, 1910] - (Golden, p. 170)
Their son, Carl was born in 1911 in Pacheco and the next year they had to leave because of the Mexican revolution. Edna writes: "The Mexican Revolution took place the latter part of July , and I will never forget the day we received notice from President Junius Romney for every member of the Church to get some things into a trunk - one trunk per family - and be ready to leave. We stored our dishes, bedding, trinkets and everything we could in big boxes. Robert dug deep holes in the ground for the boxes. We never went back to see how things were because the Rebels ransacked and burned everything. We left Pacheco by wagons in one large group and went to the railroad in Pearson, ten or twelve miles East of Colonia Juarez. After a slow and worrisome journey with my small children, we reached the 'camp' the government had established for the refugees in El Paso, Texas. We were assigned sheds, with each family given a designated space. There was no privacy and the conditions were appalling and humiliating." (Golden, p. 171)
The Beecroft family stayed with Caroline in Utah for a while and then lived with other family. Following that they lived in Arizona and New Mexico for a few years. In 1917 they returned to Mexico and lived in Garcia and Juarez. Their daughter Valoise was born in Arizona in 1915 and their next two daughters, Ethel and Maurine were born in Colonia Garcia and Colonia Chuichupa in 1922 and 1925, respectively. Their youngest son, Douglas was born in Douglas, Arizona in 1927. In December 1930, Robert Beecroft was listed as a member of the High Council of the Colonia Juarez Stake. (Romney, p. 259) The family moved back to Arizona in 1932 where they remained. Their son, William Beecroft is mentioned as a member of a committee set up in Douglas, Arizona to see about claims for a settlement concerning property lost in Mexico. (Romney, p. 263)
Through all this, we can see that our relatives turned to the Lord for help and served in the church in their places in Mexico. They sought opportunity to visit the temples to receive the ordinances and blessings there, sealing their families for eternity. The Manti Temple was important to many of them because of the family in the area of Manti. The temple in Mesa, Arizona would be closer, but was not dedicated until 1927. Now there is a temple in Colonia Juarez, dedicated in March 1999, to serve the Saints there.
I believe that it is important to remember the sacrifice our relatives made during this difficult time. I hope this information has been useful in helping the family recognize that we all struggle in our lives and can find the help of the Lord when we look to Him for deliverance.