Manti—”History doesn’t tell us this man did anything exceptional in his life,” Larry Bessey said of his great-grandfather, Anthony Wayne Bessey, who was honored Saturday during the 33rd Settlement of Sanpete observance sponsored by the Manti Chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP). “But he was a pioneer.”
Larry Bessey, who lives in Palm Springs, California, speaking at a ‘Tribute Program’ at the Red Church in Manti, said that as a pioneer, Anthony Wayne Bessey dealt with the vicissitudes of the frontier. Simply going through such experiences made him and other pioneers exceptional, Larry suggested.
Each year, the Settlement of Sanpete program honors a pioneer family who helped settle Manti. Descendants from around the country are invited to Manti for family-history programs and tours of homes where their ancestors lived.
The observance on Saturday attracted about 50 descendants of Anthony Wayne and his wife, Susan Matilda Lane. People came from Salt Lake, Sanpete, Sevier and Emery counties in Utah, and from Las Vegas, Portland, Green River, Wyoming, and Madison, Wisconsin among other locations.
Anthony Wayne Bessey was born in Maine in 1835, one of four sons of Anthony Sr. and Thankful Stearns Bessey.
According to Jane Braithwaite of the Manti DUP, Thankful was a descendant of some of the earliest settlers in America. Her ancestors were part of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, Braithwaite said. Some of those ancestors moved to Maine after the Revolutionary War.
Anthony Sr. and Thankful, along with Anthony Wayne, converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints while in Maine. None of their other sons embraced the church, Larry Bessey said.
In 1856, at age 21, Anthony Wayne married Susan Matilda Lane in Maine. Six months later, the parents and the newlyweds headed for Utah. They traveled by train to Nebraska and by wagon the rest of the way. Anthony Sr. died along the way. His wife, Thankful, continued on the trek with her son and daughter-in-law.
The family went first to Salt Lake City, where they were assigned to help colonize in Manti. They arrived in Manti in 1858. Anthony Wayne lived in the community for 45 years before dying in 1903 at age 68.
Saturday’s events began with short talks and music in the amphitheater of the Pioneer Heritage Garden across the street from the Manti Temple, where Anthony Wayne was a long-time temple worker.
Then Barbara Jensen of Manti, a great-granddaughter and one of the oldest descendants of Anthony Wayne and Susan Matilda Bessey, led a procession to the Manti City Cemetery, where Jensen placed a wreath against a monument marking the graves of Thankful, Anthony Wayne and Susan Matilda Bessey.
During the program at the Heritage Garden, Larsen read an obituary that suggested Anthony Wayne Bessey was not just a pioneer but an exceptional citizen.
The obituary noted that Anthony Wayne Bessey had been mayor of Manti and had served four terms on the city council. He had also been a high councilman in the Sanpete Stake.
Barbara Jensen spent many years in Ephraim, but after retiring from teaching, she moved to Manti. She said each time she went into the city building to pay her utility bill, she noticed her great-grandfather’s portrait hanging with pictures of other mayors of Manti over the years.
She said she had passing thoughts about running for city council herself. Finally, she decided to file for office but was pretty sure she wouldn’t win. But win she did. And, like Anthony Wayne, she ended up serving four terms.
Anthony Wayne and Susan Matilda had one daughter and four sons. One son died at age 20, but the other four children married and had families of their own.
At the program at the Red Church, representatives of each of the four families talked about their family backgrounds.
Chad Beach of Salina talked about the daughter, Susan Matilda, and her husband, Daniel Marion Beach, being called to settle on the other side of the Manti Mountains in the tiny town of Molen, Emery County.
“I marvel at what our ancestors did, just to survive,” said MelRee Jensen Zamorana of West Jordan, a granddaughter of Nephi Bessey.
The typical pioneer had a lot of jobs and occupations over a lifetime. She said her grandfather, who lived in Manti, had been a section hand for the railroad, rock mason, plasterer, owner of an auto repair and tire business and had been deputy county sheriff. While he was deputy sheriff, she said, his wife cooked and delivered meals to the jail inmates.
Robert Bessey of Manti said that while his family located other family members, found speakers for the Tribute Program and prepared the printed program, the observance wouldn’t have come together without the Manti DUP, which arranged the program in the Heritage Garden, identified the location of family-member homes in Manti and served lunch to all the visitors.