The early years in 1840 brought many changes to the city of Nauvoo with the influx of new Church members and decision to build a new temple. Susan was approached by her Bishop in 1841 and asked if she would provide one of her teams (of horses) in helping with the construction of the temple. Susan agreed, on the condition that Faithful John be allowed to drive them. John was delighted that he could be part of the work and worked diligently to fulfill his and Susan’s responsibilities in helping with the temple construction.
After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Brother, Hyrum in 1844, along with the increased hostilities, it became evident that the members of the Church would again have to move and re-locate to another area. Plans were being made to relocate to the West to the area of the Rocky Mountains. John had fallen ill with malaria and was too weak to work. Susan’s resources were now meager and she had no rentals to draw from and with John being ill, there was no income.
In 1845, Joseph Lee Robinson and his wife, Maria approached Susan and asked her to become his Second Wife. Susan was concerned about her family with her two (2) young sons and Faithful John but was also concerned about their ability to provide for their needs at that time. After careful consideration, she consented to his proposal and Susan and Joseph Lee Robinson were married in November 1845.
Everyone was making plans to leave Illinois in the spring of 1846. Susan indicated to Joseph Lee (Robinson) that she still owned considerable land and property in Missouri and that it would provide much needed resources for the general migration of church members to the West. In early February 1846 (after the Nauvoo Temple was completed), Susan, Joseph Lee and Faithful John returned to Florida, Missouri where Susan still owned property. When they reached Monroe County, Susan was surprised to find many old acquaintances and friends who remembered her. They had not forgotten John Newton Burton, whom they still proclaimed their friend. Largely, for this reason, they dealt fairly with Susan. They (Susan & Joseph Lee) traded her lands for several heavy teams of oxen, cows, and other needed equipment. It was a sad ordeal for Susan and Faithful John as they visited the graves of both her parents and her husband. However, Susan felt tremendous gratitude for the resources left to her by her Father and Husband that allowed them to share with others in Nauvoo preparing to leave their beautiful city.
In the early summer (June10, 1846), six (6) wagons left Nauvoo that were provided by the Robinson Family (primarily from the Missouri properties owned by Susan). They included the lead wagon driven by Joseph Lee Robinson followed by a spring wagon with Susan, Maria (Joseph Lee’s 1st wife) and three (3) children. Faithful John followed driving the heavy wagon. Widow Laason came next. Father & Mother Thayer drove the fifth wagon and Brother & Sister (Ina) Johnson brought up the rear in the sixth wagon. Faithful John was approaching fifty (50) years of age but still fulfilled his full time responsibilities to not only Susan and her boys (ages 10 and 8) but now the entire Robinson family. Shortly after leaving Nauvoo during the first couple of weeks of their trek across Iowa, Faithful John was hurt while yoking a cow. Quoting Joseph Lee Robinson’s journal: “one of my drivers, the good colored man, a faithful member of our Church-and a saint if ever I saw one-who is the property of my second wife (Susan), while yoking a cow one morning was kicked on the knee. We missed his help mightily; but only a short time and all were well again.”
Faithful John was a great help to Joseph Lee Robinson with the teams, wagons and livestock that the Robinson family brought with them as they started across the State of Iowa. When they reached the main group of pioneers at Mt Pisgah who had left Nauvoo ahead of them, word was received that the government had asked for 500 men to form a battalion to help fight in the Mexican/American War. That would mean that 500 families attempting to cross the plains would be left without drivers or protectors. Calls were made for men and teams to return across the State of Iowa and bring those families to safety. Since Joseph Lee Robinson, along with others, sent teams and wagons time after time to retrieve the poor stranded families, Faithful John was a significant part of this rescue mission. Susan recorded one evening; “I imagine John will be home tonight with another load of tired, but thankful, folks.” He was also left with the family as Joseph Lee Robinson also made return trips. During these absences, Faithful John was considered a valuable advisor to Susan and the other Robinson family members. During one return trip of Joseph Lee Robinson from Nauvoo, he records on his return; “Dear lovable John was already unharnessing the horses being assisted by the boys in the family including Oliver, Sidney Rigdon (about 10 years old) and Eben.” Oliver and Eben were Joseph Lee and Maria Robinson’s sons.
In the spring of 1847 (April 5, 1847), the advance group headed by Brigham Young prepared to leave Winter Quarters for the Rocky Mountains. Faithful John was a member of the company and according to Joseph Lee Robinson’s journal was hired as a teamster. Joseph Lee records; “And it come to pass that I sent our colored man, John, with some feed grain and provisions to raise something for us to come to. He went as a teamster for a brother with the pioneers.” In the publication, 111 Days to Zion, based on notes and minutes recorded by William Clayton, the following is recorded; “Brigham noted there were a few non-Mormons in the camp (three blacks and Benjamin Rolfe) and said they would be protected in their rights as long as they conducted themselves well. Otherwise they would be left on their own.” As a member of this first company, Faithful John arrived in the Salt Lake valley in July 1847. He planted the seed given to him and undoubtedly helped with the initial establishment and construction of the City of the Great Salt Lake. In Oct 1848, the Robinson family arrived in the valley. Joseph Lee records; “We descended and entered the valley the first of October, 1848. I drove into the fort. The brethren had built a fort that they might protect themselves. The next day I went south six or eight miles to see some corn that John our colored man had raised, as he had raised some crops for us so that with what we had brought, we were obliged to make it do us until we could raise something the next season.”
The Robinson family settled in North Canyon (present day Bountiful, Utah) and later moved and established their permanent home in Farmington. He worked endlessly helping to provide the necessary food that they needed to feed and care for the large family. Susan was expecting her baby and on October 5, 1848 in North Canyon delivered a baby girl who was named Mary Jane Robinson. It was bitter cold and having no cabins or homes, her shelter was one of the wagon beds. John prayed fervently for their safety and care. Everyone was concerned that there would not be enough food to sustain both Susan and especially the new baby. They had established rations to help prolong them through the long winter until additional crops could be planted and harvested.
The following is recorded in the Five Branches of Love:
There was such a scarcity of grass on the hillsides that the cows were lessening in their supply. But Susan was amazed at her jar of meal. It seemed to remain about the same. She spoke to Joseph about it. I can’t understand it. The meal in my jar does not diminish. I take out my allotment and the next morning it’s just about the same. I can’t understand. Joseph said, I think, Susan, it is your imagination. I’m greatly concerned over your weakened condition and the demands of our hungry little girl. Yet I could not labor if I shared an ounce of my portion, and I know it is the same with each one of our family.
Susan said no more about it. Still, she knew she was not mistaken. She was watching closely now. A time or two she noticed traces of meal on the side of her jar. She must play detective. The family was all out in the sunshine for a short while one day. Susan came in quietly, and then stopped short. She had surprised colored John who was with trembling hand trying to spoon in a little meal into her jar. Susan’s throat and eyes seemed to work in unison. Tears dimmed her eyes and her throat seemed to swell until words could not come. “John, John”, she gulped. He was startled. “Missa Susan, you have a chile to feed; there am two of you all”. “But John, you must listen to me. We have to depend so much on your help, John, that you must not fail us. You must be honest”. His eyes were big. He was honest. What did Miss Susan mean? Finally he understood and he promised. Susan stood still for moments after he had gone. She shook her head slowly as her lips moved, GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN. She then prayed as she quietly stood there. Dear Father, help my POSTERITY, throughout all time, to have tender tolerance for John’s people, the colored race.
Faithful John was a pillar of strength to Joseph Lee and the family as they constructed homes, corrals, barns, granaries and the other facilities necessary for them to survive. Other significant activities and events occurred during their time in Farmington (or North Cottonwood as it was initially called). The fall of 1849 brought the plague of the crickets that could have destroyed the grain crop. Faithful John was undoubtedly involved in fighting them. Construction of three (3) homes for the wives of Joseph Lee Robinson was undertaken and completed along with the construction of a new meetinghouse that was completed in a one (1) week period. The Robinson family prospered from their efforts and all three (3) families were comfortable in their surroundings.
I n November of 1850, Joseph Lee Robinson was called to fulfill another mission to settle Southern Utah. Under the direction of George A. Smith, one hundred (100) men and some of their families were called to colonize the Little Salt Lake. Susan, William Parley, Sidney Rigdon, Mary Jane and Faithful John were selected to go with Joseph Lee Robinson. John seemed to age. He was now approaching fifty-three (53) years of age. One could almost read his thoughts. Another new country to settle, all over again. Sidney Rigdon (almost 13) and William Parley (age 14) were leaving their best friends (half brother & sister, Eben and Anna Robinson). On 10 Dec 1850, Joseph Lee along with Susan’s family left the remainder of the Robinson family in Farmington and began their trek south. Joseph Lee drove the first wagon and Faithful John drove the second wagon.
As the small wagon train proceeded south, additional pioneer missionaries joined them. They were to meet George A Smith and the rest of the company at Provo, as it was the last major settlement South of Salt Lake. Joseph Lee Robinson’s journal and Five Branches of Love Manuscript, record events as they passed between the Salt Lake Valley and Utah (Provo) Valley. “It came to pass that in ascending a long and heavy hill on the divide between Salt Lake and Utah valleys (most likely what is know as Point-of-the-Mountain today), our cattle refused to pull their load. John, our colored man, was singing away with all diligence, for he was a good Saint. The little boys (William & Sidney) were helping him but their oxen (cattle) refused to pull up the long hill and no coaxing could entice them. Joseph Lee came down to Faithful John and saw the situation. Wait John, called Joseph Lee. We will unhook the wagon, relieve them and then let them walk up the hill. If they find it is not too steep, I’m sure they will try again. If they fail, we’ll hitch the other team. But true to the plan, the animals found it was not to steep and pulled the load up.” They were able to proceed on to Provo without further trouble.
The main Company had already left Provo and was camped at Peteetneet Creek (Payson, Utah) waiting for the remainder of the company to join them. On December 21, 1850, the official list of the company was recorded and included all men and women over 14 years old. There were one hundred twenty (120) men, thirty (30) women and eighteen (18) children (all under the age of 14 years old). These children included Sidney Rigdon Burton (almost 13) and Mary Jane Robinson (age 2). Those listed as part of the adult company included Joseph Lee Robinson, John Burton (Colored), Wm Robinson and Susan Robinson. The Wm Robinson listed was actually William Parley Burton (14 years old).
The journey was slow, as the weather was getting colder. When they reached the Sevier River, the cold was intense and William along with others had to wade up and down the riverbanks to find a place to cross. William had his feet wet and with the excitement failed to notice his condition. Several hours later, he stumbled and fell and was unable to continue on. Faithful John carried William to Susan where others were summoned to help treat his frozen feet. Susan and Faithful John spent considerable time with him, as he was very sick even though they traveled on. They made their way past Pine Creek, Cove Creek, Beaver Creek, Elk Horn Springs, Yellow Creek and Red Creek. The George A Smith Company arrived in the Parowan valley on January 13, 1851 and immediately set to work establishing a community. The official record of George A. Smith (written by Henry Lund, Assistant Clerk and Private Secretary to George A. Smith) again records those that arrived in the Little Salt Lake (Parowan) from the Northern Settlements in December 1850. This record listed John Burton (Colored), Joseph L. Robinson, Wm Burton Robinson and Susan Robinson. John’s age was listed as fifty-three (53) years old.