Henry Aldous Dixon was born on March 14,1835 at Grahamstown, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He was the son of John Henry Dixon, who was born May 28, 1786 at West Ham, Essex County, near London, England. His mother was Judith Boardman, who was born December 16, 1776 at Newberry Lancaster, England. His parents were among the early settlers of the Albany District in South Africa, having emigrated in 1820 from England.
Henry Aldous had one full sister, Ann Judith Dixon Hartman, who was eight years older than he. She was very found of her younger brother even after he had accepted the very unpopular religion of the "Mormons" and had gone to America. Mormonism and the 14,000 miles which separated them was insufficient to destroy this affection of brother and sister. She would have joined the church in later years except for her husband's objections. There were also four half sisters and one half brother. All were older than Henry Aldous and pretty well matured by the time he reached school age.
In his infancy and youth, much of Henry's care was entrusted to native servants. One of the boy's servants who had been in the Dixon home for a long time and to whom Henry A. had become very much attached, finally left the Dixon employ and went back to his native way of life. Instead of building a wooden or grass kraal (hut) in which to live, the native boy set up housekeeping in a cave
located not far f from the Dixon home. Henry A. thought so much of this native servant that he saved his pennies and bought bread and cakes to take to the old faithful servant in the cave. Through contact with this old servant and other natives in the neighborhood, he was able to obtain first hand knowledge of the living conditions, the way of life, habits, dress and customs of the natives.
Henry was a true lover of nature and spent much of his time on the open veldt, watching the habits of the many and varied birds and animals, and admiring the flowers and foliage. There was one small bird which was of particular interest to him. It was called the Honey Bird. When the natives would see this bird flying about them, twittering to attract their attention, they would get a bucket or container and some kind of weapon, and follow the Honey Birds. Sometimes the bird would lead the natives to an old hollow tree which would be full of honey, and they would be able to fill their containers. At other times, they would lead to a dangerous snake or animal of which the birds were frightened and wanted the natives to kill. Whenever the natives found honey, they always left the tree truck so the birds could get into the honey. They loved the honey and consequently were called Honey Birds.
One of his chief delights in later years was the drawing of all kinds of pictures of animals, birds, natives, houses and trees on the nail of his thumb. The children from the neighborhood would sit by the hours and watch him draw these thumbnail sketches and listen to his fascinating stories of Africa. Two of his stories, as told to his daughters, Maria and Sarah, when they were little girls, are interesting to relate: The natives frequently captured Boa Constrictors [edit: likely "pythons"]. A small goat would be tethered to a tree in the jungle where the big snakes were known to be. Soon as the snake was attracted to the goat and swallowed it, it would go into a torpid stupor. The natives would then approach the snake with a long pole, which they would place alongside the snake and lashed to the snake's body. By so doing they could hoist the snake to their shoulders and carry it to a cage for keeping until they could sell it to the white people.
The early settlers had a difficult time to keep their crops from being stolen by the thousands of monkeys which were noisy inhabitants of the trees around the clearings. To capture them, a squash would be hollowed out and filled with grain. A small opening would be made in the side of the squash just large enough for the monkey to see through and through which he could thrust his paws. The monkey would reach into the squash and get a fist full of grain, even when approached by the settlers and he could not withdraw his paw while he clenched the booty.
At the age of fourteen, Henry entered an Agency Office as a collector and copying clerk. He became an excellent penman, not only with his right hand but he was equally as proficient with his left hand. In his diary, the only way one could tell which hand he used was by the slant of his works. When one hand became tired through writing, he would shift his pen to the other hand and continue writing.
After he left the Agency Office, Henry A. served for some time in a retail and wholesale store. Then later he worked at blacksmithing and wagon making for a few years.
He grew up in a religious environment. By his parents he was taught and he strictly adhered to the practices and beliefs of the Chruch of England. His mother, Judith Boardman, was the daughter of the Reverend William Boardman, the first Colonial Minister of the Church of England, and also the headmaster of the Grammar School at Bothhurst [edit: likely Bathurst]. It was from this source that Henry received the background for his undying testimony of the Gospel and his abundance of faith which characterized his entire life.
He was nineteen years of age when he first heard some Mormon missionaries preach the Gospel. The missionaries were Leonard Smith, Jesse Haven and William Walker. He listened to their message with interest and became convinced of its truthfulness and divinity, but was denied the privilege of joining the Church because of his youth. His father forbade him to accept the Mormon religion and said he would be cut off without a shilling of inheritance if he did join the Church. Being a man of honor, Henry promised his father that he would not be baptized before he was twenty one years of age.
On March 14, 1856, the day that Henry became twenty one years old, he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by John Elliston, a local member who held the off ice of priest. Three days later, he left his home upon request of his father, and sought employment. which would provide him with the necessary funds to take him to Utah. Upon his affiliation with the true Church of Christ, he was compelled to give up his comfortable and happy home, leave his sorrowing and heartbroken mother and sister and his determined and stubborn father. He was confirmed a member of the Church and ordained a teacher by E. W. Kershaw at Uiterhage in 1856. In the same year he was ordained on Elder in Port Elizabeth.
On November 1, 1856 he set sail for London, England in the brig "Unity", which was owned by two Mormons, who later immigrated to Utah. They arrived in London on January 12, 1857. In company with 816 others, Henry took passage from Liverpool, England on the ship "George Washington". After twenty three days on the Atlantic ocean, the boat landed at Boston, Massachusetts in March 1857. Upon arrival in America, Henry was short of money to continue his journey westward, so he accepted the offer of an elderly couple by the name of Walker to drive and care for their oxen and wagon. In payment, the couple agreed to provide the equipment and necessities for the entire trip. This offer made it possible for Henry to leave immediately for Zion, rather than stay in the East and work until sufficient money had been accumulated to finance the trip West. He was a member of Captain Martin's company. In the same company was Maria Brooks DeGrey, a widow, and her four daughters, emigrants from Dudley, England. During the westward trip, Henry occasionally saw a pretty little girl of twelve years running along side the DeGrey wagon. Although his attention was attracted to her, little did he realize that one-day she would be his wife.
After traveling a wearisome journey of 1300 miles by ox team and wagon, the little band of faithful pioneers arrived in Salt Lake Valley on September 12, 1857. Three days later, on September 15, 1857, Brigham Young issued a proclamation regarding the Johnson Army invasion and immediately the Territory Militia was ordered to report at Echo Canyon to maintain the entrance of same by force of arms if necessary. On September 27, 1857, Henry joined the group in its effort to repel the army. Some ten weeks later, after the snow had piled so high that the movements of the militia through the canyon passes was virtually impossible, Henry returned to his home.
It was the purpose of the militia men to construct fortifications and beast work at the "Narrows" in echo canyon and on the heights along the entire length of this mountain gorge. Had the United States Army moved through the canyon, they would have received a shower of boulders, rocks and bullets they had never before experienced.
After his return from the Echo Canyon expedition in December, 1857, although previously baptized in South Africa, Henry was re baptized and re confirmed by Elder L. 1. Smith of December 12, 1857. This same month he was called for mission to the Rio Virgin and Santa Clara settlements in Southern Utah. The community of Washington was organized for the sole purpose of raising cotton. Here the first cotton in Utah was raised. The experiment was quite unsuccessful because of bad seed (several years old) brought from Texas, unskilled irrigation, and general dissatisfaction with the country. Even the most faithful were discouraged and saddened by the cotton failure.
In 1860 Henry returned to Salt Lake City and secured a job with the pick and shovel in Sugarhouse. One day Brigham Young noticed young Henry as he worked and stopped to have a chat. At the conclusion of their conversation, President Young asked Henry to call at his office, where President Young later asked him to go on a mission to England and his homeland, Africa.
Henry, grateful for the opportunity, gladly accepted. He served first in Southampton and the Reading Conference of the British Mission for about a year, then received a letter of appointment to the South Africa Mission.
On September 7, 1861, President William Fortheringham, John Talbot, Martin Zyderlaan, and Henry A. Dixon boarded the sailing vessel, "Barque Sydney", a vessel of 340 tons bound for Capetown, South Africa.
Most of the voyage was quite pleasant except for certain periods. Crossing the equator brought very warm and uncomfortable weather and heavy storm and rough seas near the end of the voyage. After having sailed for twenty four hours in the storm, the boat was found on the leeward of the position where it had been on the previous day. In three days they made only fifteen miles.
When the boat was within a few miles of its destination, a heavy gale suddenly arose and carried the vessel forty miles further out to sea. The sailors became so fatigued in their battle against the elements of nature that the four young missionaries gave assistance by doing odd jobs. Provisions and water ran low and passengers were compelled to go on short rations of one biscuit per meal and two quarts of water per day per person.
While the ship was rolling and tossing in the rough waters, one of the Elders, who was very ill was told to get up because the ship was surely going to sink in the heavy storm. This did not bother the young missionary. He just turned over in his bed and told the companions that he had been set apart as an emissary to carry the Gospel to Africa and a little storm was not going to interfere with his carrying out his mission. Through the perspiration of the sailors and the constant prayers of the Elders, the ship successfully docked at the harbor at Table Bay on December 15, 1861.
In the January 7, 1862 issue of the Cape Argus appeared the following account of the arrival of the four Mormon missionaries: "Arrival of Mormon preachers for the Cape. Four preachers have just arrived in this colony from Utah, with a view of promulgating Mormon doctrines and winning converts to the Mormon faith. Two of the preachers are natives of Graham Town, who have been dwelling in Utah and who have returned to convert the colonial born. Their names are: John Tolbot and Henry Dixon. A Hollander named Martin Zyderlaan, also from the lake, is to preach in Dutch and convert the Dutch population. William Fotheringham, a Scotsman born but now like the other three a Mormon preacher and a citizen of the United States and direct from Utah, is, we understand, the leader. He assures us that the stories promulgated here, said to be by persons who have been disappointed after going over, are utterly untrue. He says all who have gone over are happy and prosperous, as is the State of Utah generally. He represents the soil as less fertiel than some of the United States but he says it yields in abondance and hemmed in as the Mormon people are by the hills, they live in peace and prosperity and no one can molest them from without. Of the truth of the Prophet's revelation, we adduce the following: (A revelation and prophecy by the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Joseph Smith, given December 25, 1832.) This pamphlet published in 1851, entitled the Pearl of Great Price by Joseph Smith, First Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is said to be verified by the war now raging in America. Utah, Mr. Fotheringham states, stands by the Union and will be prepared to pay its quota towards carrying on the war. Utah, situated 1032 miles from the frontier boundary, will be taxed willingly for the war and will stand by the Constituation to the last." (Copied from Cape Argus January 7, 1862. Published by W. R. Murry. Copied by nearly all the paper in the Colony.)
Elder Henry A. Dixon stayed at Capetown, Mowbray, and vicinity until January 12, 1862. His parents sent his passage money and he sailed for Port Elizabeth. One of the Church members, Brother Glensay, loaned him a horse for the journey to Uitenhage. The greatest part of his mission was spent in and around his birth place of Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, King Williams Town, Beaufort, Adelaide, Eastern Province and Durban, Natal Provience. He traveled without "purse or script", something which his father could not understand. Even though his father did not agree with his affiliations and activities in the new Church, he occasionally furnished Henry with clothes and a little money to buy the necessities of life. There were times when his diet consisted of syrupsugar and water and bread.
While Henry labored in Grahamstown, his birth place, he was shunned by many of his former schoolmates, some of his relatives and friends. It grieved Henry very much for he loved his Gospel and also wanted the respect of his friends. Most of his relatives and friends were glad to welcome him back home by offering him entertainment and listening to his message. It was the members of the Church who consistently provided the missionaries with food, clothing and a place to sleep.
During his mission Henry felt that he had a definite mission to perform as his life was spared many times that he might accomplish his work. At Port Elizabeth on Friday, January 9, 1863, the following incident was recorded in Henry's diary: "This morning myself and Brother Atwood took Brothers Talbot and Stickly horses to bathe. I rode Brother Stickle's horse, a very large one, out into the breakers; a very heavy breaker covered us. The horse came nearly failing over. I let go the reins and swan. I did not apprehend any great danger. After struggling a few minutes I found I did not make much headway. Several heavy breakers came in quick succession over me. I felt my strength failing me. I prayed the Lord to preserve me. I tried to find ground but did not succeed two or three times. I began to drown; a great quantity of water having entered my body. I felt resigned that it was the Lord's will that I should die. Called to Brother Atwood, held up my hand to draw his attention, as there was such a current. He made an attempt, rode in but was quickly washed off his horse, had to return. It was root hog or die. He thought I was gone; knelt down and prayed. I struggled, found ground. Brother Atwood took me by the hand. A breaker knocked us down. He led me out. Death depicted in my countenance. I felt so weak, could not move my limbs for him to dress me. He administered to me twice. Brought up a considerable water and bile. He laid me down and went and got a cart and brought me to Brother Slaughter's. Was very weak and had a severe headache attended with fever. Was administered to by President Forthingham and Brother Atwood. Got some better. "
Many times during his mission, Henry was threatened with being mobbed. On one occasion, while preaching on the street, a mob gathered to disturb him. One man, owner of the hotel, threw a monkey on his head, but Henry was not scratched. The crowd then began to shove and push, throwing loose objects at him and even hit him over the head with sticks. Finally one gentlemen, realizing the situation, took Henry by the arm and led him into his garden. The mob started to follow, but were stopped at the gate to the garden by another gentlemen.
Judge Noon has related many stories and incidents that happened to the early missionaries when he was living at Ispingo, near Durban, natal. On one occasion, Henry was holding a street meeting. The crowd started to ask questions. Because they did not receive answer to their questions in the confusion which followed, the mob became angry. Soon they were calling Henry all sorts of vile names, and it soon developed into a unmanageable situation. Judge Noon and his brother, realizing the danger Henry was in, rode through the crowd on their horses and picked him up bodily and carried him away to their plantation.
In the latter part of 1864, after having endured many hardships, Henry completed his mission in South Africa. He bade his parents and many friends goodbye and returned to his adopted homeland.
After his return from his mission, Henry renewed his acquaintance and friendships. He visited often the home of Widow DeGrey. The older girls were all married and only Sarah and her mother were at home. Sarah, now a pretty girl of 20, attracted Henry's attention and they were married January 21, 1865.
In the spring of 1865, Henry was called to go to Sanpete County with Captain Andrew Burt's Company to assist during the Indian troubles with Chief Black Hawk.
On his return to Salt Lake City, Henry, being a man of ability and industry, secured a good position as tithing clerk in the tithing office. The newly married couple then built a little log house on the same lot with Mother DeGrey. Here mother and daughter could enjoy the close companionship of each other, yet maintain their own home. Their home was a happy one. On November 14, 1865, their first child, Henry Alfred, was born. Their happiness was marred when on July 1, 1867, their tiny son was taken from them; but to fill the emptiness was another son, John DeGrey, who was born on July 16, 1867.
As tithing clerk, it was Henry's responsibility to find accommodations and employment for newly arrived emigrants. In the Gillispie Company, which arrived in Salt Lake City in September, 1868, was a young black eyed girl named Mary Smith. She desired work to sustain herself as well as the good people who brought her with them from England. Henry was very much attracted by her fine appearance and womanly ways, even though she was only seventeen. For months Henry kept watch of her, and finally succeeded in claiming her as his second wife. They were married April 13, 1869,
For seven years Henry worked in the tithing office and established himself as an honest, upright, ambitious and conscientious man. In 1870, the Woolen Mill at Provo was built and President Brigham Young selected Henry to go to Provo as bookkeeper, where he remained for the next nine years. In 1871 he moved his two wives and their families to a newly constructed adobe house on the corner of 3rd West and 2nd North, just one block from his work at the factory.
During the period when Henry was bookkeeper at the Woolen Mills, he acted as Utah County Treasurer. Then on October 9, 1879, although in poor health, Henry left his families to accept the second call to labor in the mission field in Great Britain. It was a great sacrifice to be called to make, especially for his wives who would have to support themselves and their children. Here again was evidenced the faith and courage our pioneer ancestors possessed.
Henry made the voyage aboard the steamship "Arizona" of the Guion Lines. During the voyage the ship hit an iceberg. The ship was heavily damaged and the lives of the passengers were in peril but the ship finally made port at St. Johns, Newfoundland. The passengers remained at St. Johns one week then continued the voyage aboard the "Nevada".
From Henry's journal kept while traveling to his field of labor we read the following: "Aboard the S.S. "Arizona", Friday, November 7, 1879. About 8:45 p.m. the engines stopped and we felt a sudden shock. We are about having our evening prayers. Before we could do so we rushed on deck thinking we had struck a vessel, when lo and behold, we had struck an immense iceberg. We were going at the rate of 16 knots an hours. The force was so great as to completely stove in our bulkhead or bow, leaving about 20 tons of ice on the forecastle bulkhead. Broke both anchors. One chain was tested to hold 12 tons. A shocking site to behold. A very large hole in her just above the water edge; 4,000 gallons of water in the bulkhead. Two or three sailors buried in the ice in the forecastle some time before they could get out. One hurt very badly. It was a clear night, the iceberg looked to be a bluish white cloud looming up about 50 feet. An awful grand sight. The boats were ordered to be loosed from davids ready if needed. Considerable excitement on board. A Presbyterian minister with satchel in hand was ready to look to No. 1. Some women were terribly excited. We were from 240 to 250 miles from St. Johns, Newfoundland, steaming 8 or 9 knots an hours. Notwithstanding her situation. The "Arizona" steamship of the Guion line is built in seven compartments. All luggage was removed aft to lighten her. I called the boys together during the excitement and prayed the Lord to enable us to avert the calamity that it might be no worse. We exercised our Priesthood, prayed for a calm and that we might live, also all on board get to our destination, also the vessel. We went below to our cabins, prayed frequently, according to the order of the Priesthood, for a calm sea and no wind, as this is apparently our salvation temporarily. During the night we went on deck and while alone, rebuked the winds and waves. We have a calm sea. Prayers answered. Also prayed for a vessel to come to our rescue if necessary and wisdom to be given Captain and Prince of Power and air to have control at this time. Committed ourselves to God. In talking to some of the passengers, I promised no lives should be lost, or the ship either, in the name of the Lord.
St. Johns, Newfoundland. Sunday, November 9, 1879: Having remained in sight of harbor all night, arrived about 11:00 p.m. This morning at 8:00, pilot arrived aboard and took us into port. Very rocky coast, only one entrance to bay and that very narrow, rocks on either side. Inside a nice, comfortable harbor, completely land blocked. Must have been over 150 vessels of all sizes at anchor. People flocked down to wharf by thousands. Several boats filled with small boys. Saw more boys than since I left home, all healthy and strong. I suppose them to belong to fishing snacks or schooners. The population appears to contain a great many Irish people, contains about 49,000 of the islands 96,000. The streets were crooked in steps as it was along the hillside. The damage done to the vessel was greater than I anticipated. The break extended below the water mark the whole length of the keel.
After a very rough voyage the missionaries arrived in November 1879. Henry labored in the Liverpool conference for about one year, then was released to return to his home because of ill health. On arriving in Salt Lake City in November 1880, Henry obtained employment as assistant bookkeeper for the H. Dinwoody Furniture Company. One year later he resigned to take the position ,of clerk in Z.C.M.I. Henry still owned his home in Provo, One of his families was living there, and the other family had moved to Salt Lake City. When Z.C.M.I. build their new wholesale house in Provo, Henry applied for the position of Manager. His application was accepted and he was installed as the first manager of the Provo branch of Z.C.M.I. He was then united with both his families. Everything progressed smoothly and Henry began to prosper.
In May, 1874, his father had passed away in South Africa at the age of 88, and Henry received a small inheritance from his father's estate. This inheritance Henry wisely invested in the purchase of two farms. One, the brickyard farm, was located on the present site of the Provo Brick & Tile property; the other was located about one mile north in Carterville.
From these farms Henry harvested all the vegetables and fruit his families needed, as well as provided pasture land for his cows and horses.
This peaceful happiness and prosperity was cut short when Henry was stricken with pneumonia on April 28, 1884. He was just in the prime of his life at the age of 49 but his life had been rugged and full of toil. He passed away six days after he became ill on May 4, 1884.
Henry Aldous Dixon's death was mourned by the entire community. He had friends without number. It was said. To know Henry A. Dixon was to love him. Mrs. Samuel Jepperson said she heard President Brigham Young speak in the old Provo Tabernacle and say of Henry A. Dixon, "Of all the men I know and trust, Henry A. Dixon is one man I could trust with all my wealth and with all the wealth of the land, knowing full well that it would all be accounted for in detail when desired”