THE FOUNDING OF ST. JOHN
As the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ, William Bickerton felt called to be a missionary focused on bringing his faith to Native Americans, whom he called Lamanites.
In 1875, Bickerton, inspired by God, came to the area with thirty-five families to create a colony. Calling it Zion Valley, their hope and desire was to establish a community based on the values and principles of the early Church depicted in the New Testament after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Embracing Christ’s teaching on prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven” The Church of Jesus Christ strived to do just that. Their vision for Zion Valley was to bring about a time of peace on Earth when all men and nature would come to know all the great things God has promised for mankind, and that the love of God would reign over all God’s creation. They would be light to the world, a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”
Their lives were not without hardships, as they worked to clear fields and plant crops. Many of these settlers had been miners, not farmers. They did remarkably well, though their biggest problems were the weather and broken promises by those back East who had pledged to support them until the mission was self-sufficient. Despite the challenges, more settlers arrived. And by 1877, Zion Valley was a promising settlement of almost 200 people, some church members and some not.
While the church community was growing, merchants also began building in the area. There was neighborliness among them, regardless of their beliefs, though this led to the start of secularization. When a group met to formally establish the town in May of 1878, it was named St. John after the state governor at the time, John P. St. John.
The church and its mission had always been Bickerton’s primary focus. As the area evolved from a religious colony into a more diverse town, what Bickerton saw was a successful community with his church at its heart.
St. John continues to be a special place as this unique legacy lives on: a blessed past and a promising future.