When they arrived in Parowan, Faithful John commented to Joseph Lee, “Look at de grass, Massa Robinson! Da animals jes’ laughin’ all ova dey fases.” The group surveyed the town and started construction of a meetinghouse. Faithful John again commented, “You all shu’do member de’ good Lawd.” After the tents were pitched and camps were set up for their families, Faithful John and Sidney, helped Joseph Lee and the other men of the Company to explore the canyons, find water and start construction on a meetinghouse. The main body of the meetinghouse was up at the end of the third day and George A. Smith told the others to start building their own shelters. The foundations of the first houses ever built south of Payson were now being laided. Faithful John was also instrumental in assisting with construction of most of the public buildings that were built in Parowan during those early years including the Old Rock Church that is still located in the center of the town square.
Joseph Lee Robinson completed his mission to Southern Utah in August 1851 leaving Susan, Faithful John, William, Sidney and Mary Jane in Parowan to operate their home and farm. Joseph Lee had acquired two strips of farmland, one in the upper field and the other in the rabbit field. Susan was expecting their second child (Solomon or Sollie) who was born only a few weeks after Joseph Lee returned to Farmington on August 27, 1851. When Joseph Lee returned to northern Utah, Faithful John again became a principal support and advisor for Susan and her family as he had been during the years in Missouri and Illinois prior to her marriage to Joseph Lee Robinson.
Joseph Lee returned to Parowan in his calling as a missionary to both the northern and southern Utah settlements. In the spring of 1852, he returned and took Susan, Mary Jane and Solomon with him as he toured settlements for 7 –10 days. While they were away from Parowan, Faithful John, Sidney, William and neighbors in their Ward redecorated Susan’s home during her absence. She was naturally delighted when they returned.
In May 1854, a Parowan Ward census was made and included the following in the Susan Robinson residence:
#373 Susan Robinson Age 45
#374 Wm Parley Burton Age 18
#375 Sidney Rigdon Burton Age 16
#376 Mary Jane Robinson Age 5 ½
#377 Soloman Robinson Age 3
#378 John Burton (Black) Age 57
In May 1856, Joseph Lee Robinson returned to Parowan to take his Parowan missionary family back to northern Utah. Crops in the north were doing poorly whereas those in the south seemed much better so Joseph Lee decided that the family should stay through the fall harvest with the exception of Faithful John who returned north to assist him. Sidney had been called on a mission to the Las Vegas settlement, so Joseph Lee and Susan arranged for James Tillford and William to work their adjoining farms together until the harvest. Faithful John was a great help to the Robinson Family in Farmington even though he was now approaching 59 years of age.
Susan and the remainder of the missionary family returned to Farmington in December 1856 to a grand homecoming by all of the Robinson family. Faithful John was always appreciative of the attention given to him by the entire family and they indeed appreciated his dedication and service. William Parley Burton was extremely homesick for Parowan and returned in the spring of 1857 to live with the Tillford’s (James and Rozilpha). This event was much to the distress of Susan who was constantly concerned about his general health. Sidney had returned from his mission to the Las Vegas settlement and had joined the family in Farmington.
In the summer of 1857, word came that Johnson’s Army was coming to the Utah Territory to put down the “Mormon Rebellion”. Faithful John along with the rest of the Robinson family started to evacuate their homes in Farmington and moved south in accordance with the church leaders direction. They ended up spending this “waiting time” in Utah County west of Payson in Bunkers Camp. When word was received in 1858 that they should return home to Farmington, Susan received a letter from her friend Margaret West that William was sick, as was Zilpha Tellford who was taking care of him. The message also indicated that William was looking for his mother to come. Susan felt strongly that they should return to Parowan as soon as possible and that perhaps they had not completed their original mission.
After returning to Farmington, Susan and her family including Sidney, Faithful John, Mary Jane and Soloman made preparations to return to Parowan to complete their mission. Since Susan, Sidney, Mary Jane and Faithful John were part of the original Parowan settlers, they were all welcomed back home, especially by William. Other friends gave Faithful John a warm welcome and he was, as always, appreciative of the recognition. Sidney was extremely happy to be back home. The history records; when they came in sight of the picturesque hills of Parowan, Sidney threw his hat and shouted, “Hurrah for Parowan and Home”.
On March 22, 1859, Sidney was married to Anna Maria Fish. A building lot was obtained and Sidney, William and Faithful John constructed a home along with help of other men, as was commonly the case. The 1860 census records Faithful John living with Sidney and Anna Maria in their new home.
On November 17, 1861, a council meeting was called to consider the building of a house for meeting. A committee was appointed to draft a plan. Two days later (November 19, 1861), the committee presented their plan for a building that was accepted by the council. The building was to be 54 feet by 44 feet outside, with three stories to be built of rock from the foundation up. Cost of the building was estimated to be $8,000.00 and would be constructed with funds raised by subscription. On November 24, 1861, General Minutes from the Parowan Ward, Parowan Stake (FHL Film #017995, 1861 – 1866) records the following: “It was decided to build the house in the center of the public square and Bishop Warren called for subscriptions. Eighty-two men came forward and subscribed a total of $7,495.00. The largest donations were $250.00 each from Ebenezer Hanks and Bishop Wm. S. Warren and the smallest was $15.00 from John Burton, African. Excavation began on the OLD ROCK CHURCH in March 1862 and it was finally completed in April 1870. Although Faithful John never lived to see the meetinghouse completed, it is evident that he was a prominent original pioneer and resident of Parowan, involved in the construction of the community, and an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
On May 27, 1865, Mary Jane (Robinson) was married to John Anderson West in the Salt Lake Temple. John had been called to serve a second mission to the Islands of Hawaii and was to take Mary Jane with him. However, they were delayed in reaching Salt Lake from Parowan and it was decided that they would go later. John decided to return to Parowan but encouraged Mary Jane to stay with her Father (Joseph Lee Robinson) and family in Farmington. It was during this stay that the last documented information on Faithful John is recorded. During the months of May and June, Mary Jane had received letters from her Mother (Susan), her Mother-In-Law (Margaret West), and one from Faithful John. The letter from Faithful John was dated June 28 (1865) and reads as follows:
I am glad that you thought enough of me to mention me in your letter. Tell Aunt Maria that I have not forgot her kindness to me. Tell your Father that I was glad he sent me a shirt for I was in want of one.
I understand that you have a good prospect of having plenty of fruit. Be so kind as to send me a little if you have a chance. I am suffering with chills and fever, but I feel good in spirits. I rejoice every day of my life in the spirit of Mormonism.
Give my respects to all the family.
Early family records (most that I think border on folk-lore) indicate that Faithful John remained with Susan until her death in 1876 when he felt that the boys (William Parley & Sidney Rigdon) no longer needed him. He decided to go back to Missouri and try to locate his wife. It was said that he left Parowan, traveling as far as Salt Lake City where he became ill and died and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. These records are included in their complete form in Appendix A to this history along with the comments/conclusions of the author as to why I think that they are fiction (inaccurate) or fact.
Faithful John is buried in the Parowan City Cemetery next to Susan McCord Burton Robinson and is listed as Burton Robinson.** They are buried in Block/Section 7, Lot 18, Site 3 (Susan) and Site 4 (Faithful John). His age at death is listed as 67 years, 7 months, 25 days and his Father is listed as James McCord and his Mother is listed as Elizabeth. Cause of death was “Indigestion”. The date of death is listed as 19 April 1876 and is the same documented date that Susan died. His actual death date was most probably in July/Aug/Sep 1865 time frame not long after his letter to Mary Jane Robinson West prior to her return from Farmington, Utah after visiting her Father. There are no subsequent recorded entries in any of the documentation that list or refer to him. His death age as recorded under the name of Burton Robinson of 67 years 7 months and 25 days would coincide with documented census records.
Faithful John Burton was a dedicated slave, servant, friend, family member, church member, pioneer and prominent settler of Southern Utah. He was a faithful, dedicated and committed member of the Burton and Robinson families and in my opinion his adopted descendants should be extremely proud to claim him as their ancestor. He truly demonstrated throughout his life the phrase that Susan thought of in the fall of 1848 prior to the birth of her daughter, Mary Jane Robinson.
GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN
**The name of Burton Robinson was inaccurately created and listed in the History of the Iron County Mission and Parowan The Mother Town (page 18). Documented records from the daily diary of clerks, Henry Lunt and John D. Lee record the correct name listed as William Burton Robinson, Wm Robinson and Wm Burton Robinson. This William Burton Robinson is actually William Parley Burton, age 14 who was the son of John Newton Burton and Susan McCord. Subsequent census records and cemetery records (Snowflake, Arizona) verify this information. It would have been extremely easy to see why Faithful John would have also been known as Burton Robinson having lived with and served both the John Newton Burton and Susan McCord family as well as Joseph Lee Robinson and Susan McCord Burton family during his lifetime. William Parley Burton went to Snowflake, Arizona with John Anderson West and Mary Jane Robinson on November 9, 1879. He died on 16 Dec 1891 in Snowflake, Arizona and is buried in the Snowflake Arizona Cemetery (Row U, Section 34, Space 2).
Excerpts of the Original History of Black John
When Susan McCord Burton Robinson, mother of Sidney R. Burton freed her slaves in preparation to coming west with the Saints, there was one slave called “Black John” who refused his freedom and begged to come with Susan and help her take care of her two little boys, Sidney and his older brother, William. John had been given to Sidney R. by his father, Captain John Newton Burton. He was very devoted to the family, showing his love by many acts of bravery and sacrifice. At one time, previous to the trip west, he swam the Missouri River with one member of the family named Laboma, a half-sister to Sidney R. and William P., that she might join and marry the man she loved and come with Saints to Utah. John was a devout Latter-day Saint and the fact that he could not hold the Priesthood caused him genuine sorrow.
Fact The Five Branches of Love clearly state that Faithful John was given to Susan and John Newton Burton as part of a wedding dowry by Susan’s Father, James McCord. He was never owned by John Newton Burton prior to their wedding. Susan’s father obtained a promise from her and John Newton Burton that should she sell or release their slaves that Susan would reserve John and keep him throughout her life. He also obtained the same promise from Faithful John, which he was faithful to throughout his life.
The record of John swimming the Missouri River to rescue Laboma (also spelled Lahoma) so that she could join and marry the man she loved has not been substantiated or proven. Laoma Elizabeth Burton was born 3 Dec 1833 in Monroe County, Missouri. Her mother (Sallie Allred) died on 2 Dec 1834 when Laoma was an infant. She apparently lived with her mother’s parents after her father remarried (Susan McCord). I have found no record in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa or Utah of Laoma being with Susan’s family. Since Faithful John left Winter Quarters with the first company (as a teamster) in April 1847, Laoma would have only been 12 – 13 years old for John to have rescued her. It is possible that Faithful John could have returned to the Missouri River between 1848 and 1850 as a driver or teamster of wagons sent to bring other pioneers to Salt Lake. Joseph Lee Robinson records in his journal that he sent men and wagons to do that very thing at the request of church leaders. Laoma did come west and was married to William J. Allred in 1850 (on the plains). They raised a large family and lived in Beaver, Utah where she died February 10, 1909 at the age of 75 years old. She is buried next to her husband in the Mountain View Cemetery, Beaver, Utah.
The original history also states that Faithful John was married, but had left his wife in Missouri. There is no knowledge of any children, but after the death of Susan (Parowan, 19 April 1876), when he felt the boys no longer needed him, he decided to go back to Missouri and try to locate his wife. He left Parowan, traveling as far as Salt Lake City where he became ill and died. He is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery.
The documented records (census, church & histories) with Faithful John’s name and information prove without a doubt that he arrived in Parowan at age of approximately 53 years of age. The histories and records show that he remained with Susan throughout his life and died in approximately 1865. He is buried in the Parowan City Cemetery next to his beloved Susan under the name of Burton Robinson. If he had, in-fact, lived until Susan’s death in 1876 (documented date) before attempting to return to Missouri, he would have been nearly 80 years old. The historical record also states that he still lived in Kentucky with the Simon Legree slave owner when his “wife and chillins” were sold up the river. In addition, there is no record of John Burton (Negro) or Burton Robinson being buried in any of the Salt Lake City cemeteries.