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Dennis, Hyrum James - Biography





Hyrum James Dennis was born 27 December 1843 at Lloyd’s Mill, Hancock County, Illinois. His father’s name was Phillip Dennis, and his mother’s name Mary Hayes. Phillip was a blacksmith at Lloyd’s Mill.



When Hyrum was nine months old his father died, and two weeks later his mother, at Nauvoo, Illinois, leaving his, their first and only child, an orphan. (The only obtainable record is Ref., 18 September, 1844, Nauvoo Neighbor Newspaper: “Died Mary Dennis, week ending September 16, 1844, aged 32 years.”) As Hyrum would have been nine months at that time, we consider that to be Mary Hayes Dennis. She had worked before marriage for Captain William Horner and Nancy his wife. When Mary knew she could not live, she gave her young babe to the Horners, telling them to bring him to Utah with them, and “not let him die.”



At five years of age, Hyrum came to Utah with his foster parents. (He was never adopted.) When he was 15 (1858) they moved to Springville. From there they moved to Provo where they ran a mill for five years. They were great friends of the John Hoover family and were identified with them in the milling trade.



In 1866 Hyrum met and married Claudia Jones, daughter of Captain Dan and Jane Melling Jones. Bishop William Miller married them. Claudia was seventeen, an orphan with a brother Dan five years younger. Their first child, Mary Jane, was born June 27, 1867, at Provo, Utah. The second child, William Albert, was born April 4, 1869.



Hyrum was working with his father Horner in the grist mill and standing guard around the old fort Provo, but the Indians became so troublesome they had to move into the Bowery with five other families, leaving the mill. At this time families were colonizing Wasatch Valley. This place attracted William E. Horner, and in 1869 he moved his family there. Hyrum and Claudia and their two babies went with them. They located at the lower settlement of Midway, where the two of them ran a grist mill. On account of the Indians the two settlements, North and South, were put together and called Midway, where it now stands today.



In July 1871 Horner moved to Heber where he ran the Hatch Mill. Hyrum continued on in Midway, running the James Ross Grist Mill for years until Bonner Brothers took it over.

Six more children were born to Hyrum and Claudia as follows: Hyrum James, 1871; Dan Joseph, 1873; Phillip, 1875; Robert Ernest, 1879; Edward Ray, 1882; Claudia Merling, 1885.



During the Indian uprising Hyrum went with others to Echo Canyon as a guard, and he was at Promontory Point working when the Golden Spike was driven. When he went to be married to Claudia, Mrs. Horner told him of his real parents, that they, the Horners, were only his foster parents, which was a great shock. But it was better to be married under his own name of Hyrum James Dennis. But it was not so easy to establish it; people who speak of them even today lovingly call them Hy and Claudy Horner. It was a hardship to me when I, their youngest child, used to go for mail to that little one-room post office, the postmaster would squint his one bad eye, cock his head and glare at me through the time window with his good eye, then run through the packet of letters and whine, “Horner and Dennis, Horner and Dennis.” People would pass by the other mills to come to father’s because he made the best flour, but mother said it was because he was so generous. He would feel sorry for them and not take out his portion of the grist. She often had to borrow a pan of flour from the neighbors to tide them over until he felt them well enough off to pay. He would give his last dime or the shirt from his back to others less fortunate. But father would retort they came to get some of mother’s perfect biscuits, and native black currant preserves or fresh things from her garden, for they would often bring their families and stay for days if the mill happened to break down. It was the same at threshing time.



They took up a farm two miles south of Midway, built a home on it, moving there in the fall of 1885. Hyrum continued to run the mill a year or two longer, then went to farming. They went to Helper, Carbon County, to put up ice for the railroad, and were there when Cox’s Army went through. This was during the great depression of President Cleveland’s time. Hyrum and Claudia and family lived in a tent by the side of the road, with none too much worldly goods, and there were hundreds of men tramping by looking for work. But each hungry man that stopped by their door received a bit to eat and a cheering word. Going back to the Valley they stayed on the farm until 1898 when they moved to Provo so Mother could be under good doctor’s care. She died in Aird hospital, December 9, 1903, and was buried in Provo Cemetery. Hyrum continued to live at 55 East 6th North, Provo, until 1905 when he went to the Uinta Basin to pioneer with his son Dan and family. Returning to my home in Grandview Ward he died there September 22, 1917, of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried beside his wife in Provo cemetery.


Jones, Claudia


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