When a Mormon missionary stopped by the Taylor home in 1836, Leonora was more interested than was John. However, John was the one who finally decided to move from Toronto to church headquarters in Ohio, and it was John’s commitment that survived their temple worship experience there, when it was disrupted by several pistol- and bowie-knife-wielding apostles.
As half the church fell away in Ohio, the Taylors escaped to Missouri with the faithful, just in time for the 1838 Mormon War. John’s role became that of an advocate with Congress—to convince them that it was the non-Mormons who had sacked the county seat and burned their own homes, for instance. As a literary experience, this was good preparation for later editorships of church newspapers in Illinois, New York, and Liverpool.
From his personal letters and speeches, and from the diaries and reminiscences of associates, vivid images of Taylor’s life appear: his children crossing the Missouri River on the backs of oxen “bulls”; one of his ten plural wives packing a piano instead of a cookstove for the trip and then later regretting it; and Native Americans teaching him how to burn a cricket-infested field, gather the roasted insects, and grind the carcasses into flour.
Taylor’s eventual tenure as church president was spent “on the dodge” from federal marshals, and prior to that he often lived out of a suitcase, rotating from one of his sixteen families to the next. Among his greatest achievements was the settlement of as much territory as was colonized by his more famous predecessor, Brigham Young. Taylor was also a visionary man. His personal spirituality led the church through one of its most turbulent times; his revelations later inspired the Mormon fundamentalist schism, as well. This controversy, mingled with the drama of internecine power struggles and interpersonal conflict, makes The Last Pioneer suspenseful and largely unforgettable.
Samuel W. Taylor, grandson of John Taylor and son of Apostle John W. Taylor, was born in Provo, Utah, and studied at Brigham Young University. After serving in World War II, he and his family lived near San Francisco until he passed away in 1997 at the age of ninety. His works include Family Kingdom, Nightfall at Nauvoo, Rocky Mountain Empire, and Uranium Fever (histories); Heaven Knows Why, The Grinning Gismo, and The Man with My Face (novels); Take My Advice, Mr. President (short stories); Taylor-Made Tales (autobiography); The Absent-Minded Professor and Flubber (screenplays); and episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Bonanza (television).