Monday, July 18, 2011

The Railroad Bishop and his descendents

The Sharp family originally came from Clackmanan in the county of
Clackmannanshire, Scotland. The family worked their hands in stone as quarrymen, stonecutters and coal miners since the earliest mention of Sharps in Clackmannan around 1500. The Sharps were allies or a sept of the Stewarts of Apin. Clackmannan means "Stone of the Manu" in Scottish Gallic. Manu is the Scottish version of the Irish Sea God Mananon Mac Lir. The Stone sits on top of a stone pillar in the town square next to the navel cross that bears the coats of arms of the Wallace clan. Clackmannanshire was the kingdom of the brother of Wallace and is the smallest county in Scotland. It was there that John Sharp was converted to the Mormon Church and along with his brothers, parents and in-laws began their immigration to America in 1848 to join the "Saints" in Utah where the kingdom of Zion was being built. John brought his wife Jane Patterson and their son James, then four years old. Adam Sharp the next oldest brother came with his wife Janet Cook Sharp, and Joseph Sharp the youngest had yet to marry. Agnes Sharp Patterson the sister of John Sharp also came with her husband Robert Patterson. John Sharp senior and his wife Mary Hunter Sharp were the parents that came with their children as well.

They made their way south into England and in Liverpool they took passage on board the "Erin's Queen" that arrived in New Orleans late in 1848. From New Orleans they made their way to Saint Louis by Steam Boat like many of the converts to the Mormon Church. There in Saint Louis they went to work for a year in the Coal Mines of Gravois Diggins or Grave Diggins to accumulate money to buy and outfit wagons for the journey to Utah. It was during the winter of 1849 that a Cholera epidemic broke out in Saint Louis killing nearly twenty percent of the population. It was there that the Mother of the family, Mary Hunter Sharp died and was buried. John Sharp went forth to the sick in the community to administer prayers and healing working tirelessly while still working in the mines. Joseph Sharp met a young woman named Janet Condie the daughter of another family of Mormons that had been working in the mines. They were married there and she joined her husband’s family for the journey to Utah. That spring the Sharp set out for Salt Lake City along the old Mormon trail which was on the southern bank of the Platt River opposite the Oregon Trail on the North bank. The John Sharp Company led their family and some sixty other Mormon converts on the journey. They spread out for many miles along the trail.

It was during their journey that John Sharp had an additional child named Mary after their mother Mary Hunter Sharp. The Sharps were described in several journals of the company as being tough, strong, sturdy and reliable. John Sharp was especially noted for his refined and mature judgment. Upon arriving to the Salt Lake Valley late in the fall, the Sharp family came down immigration canyon and instead of going directly into Salt Lake City they skirted the foothills around to what is known as Red Butte Canyon. There they found an outcrop of sandstone and quarried out a square section where they put the wagon boxes over the top and built a stone wall in the entrance to wait out the coming winter. My wife and I went for a small hike in Red Butte Canyon and could not distinguish the Sharp family quarry from the many WPA quarries started by President Roosevelt's programs in the 1930's. The terrain is much like it must have been and Sego Lilies still bloom upon the hillsides, which had been a much needed food source during the late winter and early spring. That spring John Sharp made fast friends with Brigham Young and the success of the family depended much on his patronage. John and his brothers began quarry stone for the Tabernacle, the Tithing House and many of the brown stone buildings from the time period. Soon the Sharp brothers were teaching many of the newly arrived converts the methods of stone quarrying along with many of their neighbors from Clackmannanshire and Fife. It was during that spring that John Sharp Jr. was born.
That spring John Sharp made fast friends with Brigham Young and the success of the family depended much on his patronage. John and his brothers began quarry stone for the Tabernacle, the Tithing House and many of the brown stone buildings from the time period. Soon the Sharp brothers were teaching many of the newly arrived converts the methods of stone quarrying along with many of their neighbors from Clackmannanshire and Fife. It was during that spring that John Sharp Jr. was born.

John Sharp next became the superintendent of the Church quarry where the huge blocks of granite were cut for the Salt Lake Temple and the massive wall around Temple Square, along with other structures on the grounds. (As a geologists son I knew that version of granite was called quartz monzonite and was one of the hardest variations of that stone. I did some stone carving in art school mostly out of Alabaster and some Sandstone which is very soft in comparison. Steel chisels would just beat the edges blunt on Granite and the secret of the tooling and carving of it has been lost until the advent of diamond saws and the like.)

Bishop Sharp represented Brigham Young at the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, since Brigham Young was unable to attend. Sometime after-word the Union Pacific failed to pay the Mormon railroad workers for their work on the railroad. It was John Sharp, Joseph A. Young and Apostle John Taylor, whom Brigham Young sent east to do battle in the courts for the LDS Church. Sharp played a key role in the construction of the Utah Central Railroad as well in 1869-70, and became it’s superintendent in 1871, and its president in 1873. He was also named vice-president of the Utah Southern Railroad Company when that company was formed in 1870. As the purchasing agent for the this railroad, he became acquainted with some of the Union Pacific directors in New York City and eventually was named a UP (Union Pacific) director, which position he retained until he died late in December the 23rd of 1891 at his home in Salt Lake City. John Sharp became known as “The Railroad Bishop” and he did well in life having risen in status from a childhood as a miner in the coal pits of Scotland.

John Sharp’s son James Sharp became a stock holder in the Railroad company as well as Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah from 1884 to 1886. His oil portrait can still be seen on the second floor of the City and County building. This is a quote from the Utah Herald in 1886 about James Sharp’s tenure as Mayor. “James Sharp was the Herald’s candidate for Mayor two years ago, and his record has been such that this paper is proud that it advocated his election and stood by his administration. The gentleman may retire with the perfect assurance that he enjoys the gratitude, the esteem and the confidence of the public he has served so faithfully, and with so much ability, intelligence and integrity. It is ever a pleasant thing to be able to conscientiously approve the course of a public officer when he retires, and in Mr. Sharp’s case it is doubly enjoyable.”

James Sharp had several children and it was and still is a tradition of the family to name one of the kids John. So it was that John Francis Sharp MD became the next person in our family to bear the name. He was sent to New York City to study medicine and there he met his future wife Luella Ferrin from Huntington, Utah, while both were taking singing lessons from the famous Opera singer Madame Von Klenner. They named one of their first sons Klenner or ‘Klink’ for short. Luella had been sent by the LDS church to study Opera as the lead soprano for the Salt Lake Opera Company and both sang later with the Tabernacle Choir. John Francis Sharp MD became the head surgeon at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah as well as the commanding officer of the MASH unit from Utah. Serving as the units commander for both the Poncho Villa campaign and throughout World War I. (I ran in to an elderly woman at a rest home I played music at a few years ago. She said she worked at LDS Hospital and remembered Dr. Sharp as a gentleman that always said good morning and held the elevator door open for her and anyone else in the Hospital.) The sister of John Francis Sharp was named Cecilia Sharp (my father’s aunt) she was a well know pianist. She was married to Mahonri M. Young the sculptor (1877-1957) he was also the grandson of Brigham Young. Their oldest son Mahonri Sharp Young became a well known Art critic, art historian, writer and former museum director. After the death of Cecilia Sharp, Uncle Hon married Dorothy Weir an educator and daughter of the american impressionist painter J. Alden Weir. Mahonri taught at the New York Art Academy and was a well known member of the Ashcan School, an art movement of social realism during the depression, depicting both the poverty and dignity of the working class of America. Mahonri Young influenced many artists studying in both Paris and in New York. He was a great mentor to my father Byron James Sharp and my Uncle Gil Sharp, he took them on many sketching trips through out central and southern Utah. He and Dorothy Weir would stay at the home of John Francis Sharp whenever they traveled to Utah, and my Uncle Gil later studied art and taught at the New York Art Academy with Uncle Hon. Mohonri made an interesting sketch at the family duck club of the time with my father and his dog. “Byron and Terry on a raft” It’s a sketch of my father as a teen with his dog poling a boat through the cat tail reeds along Farmington Bay of the Great Salt Lake.

My father, Dr. Byron James Sharp, flew a glider on D-Day during World War II. He later received his degrees in Geology, Paleontology and Mineralogy from the University of Utah. His art ability gave him an ability to make geologic and topographic maps, interpret aerial photographs and cross into many fields to make contributions of all kinds, despite resistance from so called area experts in the sciences. He mapped many of the energy and metal resources for ERDA (Energy Research and Development Agency) throughout the western United States. He published many papers such as the “Asteriod impact theory” and discovered many fossils one with his name such as Pseudoarctolepus sharpi a soft bodied Cambrian pre-trilobite from the Wheeler shale of Southern Utah. The research he is proudest of is his many papers and artifacts on “Early Man in the Americas”, for which he won a scientific award for “The Study of the First Americans.” He also did many water colors and sketches much like the type of subject Mahonri did, having been taught by him on their many sketching trips. My father told me stories of his older brothers and sisters, of which he was the youngest. My Aunt Marion Sharp Robinson was a famous Opera singer with a Fulbright and career in Paris. She sang for the Paris and San Francisco Opera Companies and sang in many of the most famous halls in Europe. She collected art and started the University of Utah’s Art collection with donations of her paintings, she wrote books and poetry as well as dealt in real estate for a while. Aunt Martha Sharp Toronto the next sister in line, wrote an interesting book called “A Cherry Tree behind the Iron Curtain” about her experiences as the wife of a mission President in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi and then the Communist occupation. My Uncle John Sharp was a B-26 Pilot and later a A-26 fighter bomber ace during World War II, later becoming the commanding officer of the Air Force base in Sacremento. (Now of Hill Air Force Base in Utah.)

My generation came next David Spalding Sharp, Douglas Spalding Sharp and my sister Dianne Elaine Sharp-Roberg are the children of Byron and Elaine Sharp. My children Dylan John Sharp, Daniel Brendan Sharp and step children, (Carol's kids) Kory, Chris, and Georgianna including the grandchildren (Aspen) hear these stories from us. I believe it is important to tell them that we lived and worked and have something to measure up to, remember and be inspired by those of our family that have gone before. Someday it will be their turn and you don’t stop loving someone just because their gone.

David Sharp
Glastonbury duo

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