Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
No picture available. Roger Orton

1799 - 1850-51

  • Born about 1799 in Genesco (?), New York
  • Married Clarissa Mary Bicknell about 1823; six children
  • Baptized about 1833
  • Participated in Zion's Camp 1834
  • Named to First Quorum of the Seventy 1835
  • Called to the Presidency the Seventy April 1845 but never set apart to the Office
  • Dropped from both Callings October 1845
  • Died 1850 or 1851 in Lee County, Iowa

   Grampa Bill finds Roger Orton an interesting but ultimately frustrating character, one on whom much time was spent, more, indeed, than his importance in Church history could justify. Still, little biographical data was gleaned.  Yet at the same time, a few incidents in his life are illuminated in great detail.

    Roger Orton was born about 1799, probably around Genesco, New York to Roger Orton and Esther Avery. He  was married about 1823 to Clarissa Mary Bicknell by whom he fathered six children.

    A few mathematical calculations back from known events will indicate that he was baptized about 1833. He was faithful in following the Prophet and on October 16, 1834, The Prophet Joseph Smith, along with Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Frederick G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, and Roger Orton, left Kirtland, Ohio, to visit the Saints living in Pontiac, Michigan. Again he was at the Prophet's side and marched to Missouri with Zion's camp. He was held in such esteem that he was appointed a Captain of the Camp (probably a Captain of Ten). Yet his performance left somewhat to be desired. On one occasion, during a sham battle (what we might call war games) in the exuberance of the moment he sliced open the hand of an opponent. Perhaps more revealing, through carelessness he allowed several horses to run off, slowing the march of the camp. Rather than expressing concern and attempting to catch the horses himself to right the wrong, he merely informed the owners and the owners had to retrieve the horses themselves. The horses were found some ten miles away. A day's march was lost and accordingly the Prophet Joseph Smith gave him a scathing rebuke.

    Settling in Missouri, Roger Orton endured the infamous persecutions and lost everything as a result.

    A perusal of the History of the Church will show him closely associated with the prophet. On several occasions it is merely the Prophet, perhaps Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon and Roger Orton taking some action... leading a meeting, writing petitions of redress, and on one occasion seeing a vision of the heavens, corroborated apparently, by the Prophet himself.

    By 1837 Orton was in Kirtland, Ohio where Daniel S. Miles presented a complaint against him for "abusing Elder Brigham Young, and for a general course of unchristianlike conduct." Orton being notified of the complaint and refusing to respond, "the High Council decided that he be cut off." Grampa finds no record of his restoration yet it is certain that he was restored to full fellowship for eight years later he was called as a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, indeed to the Presidency of the Quorum.

    Yet when he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April of 1845, he failed to function or even show up to be ordained. Let us read the minutes of the Council which met in October to consider the matter.

    Elder George A. Smith remarked that Roger Orton was one of the `Old Camp' and was selected a year ago to be one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy; but he had never received his ordination nor done anything to magnify his calling. It is not to be expected that we shall wait year after year for men to come forward and fill their offices. Brother Orton was one of the Old Camp, and we love him on that account; we always called him the `Big Major', and a first rate man; but he has not come forward since his appointment to magnify his calling.

Elder Joseph Young said: `Last spring I visited Roger Orton and apprised him of his appointment. He agreed to come as early as convenient, and receive his ordination; and I gave him to understand, if he did not come and act in his office, he would be dropped. Brother Orton has always sustained Brother Joseph and the church, but he has very little of the spirit; he has been in the church about twelve years, but never has been active since his discharge from the camp that went up to Missouri in 1834, It was by the counsel of the Twelve that he was appointed one of the Presidents of the Seventy. I have no particular desire to plead for him, but if his case can be laid over, I think he can be saved in that office, but I will be subject to counsel. I have considerable feeling for him; he lost all his property in Missouri, and has since addicted himself to drinking whiskey; that seems to have ruined him, but he may be reclaimed.'

    President Brigham Young arose and said, he would preach one of Dow's short sermons:----"If you won't when you can, when you will you shan't'. `I say if men will not act and magnify their calling, let more honorable men be appointed. Roger Orton is keeping a public house at Augusta and has had sufficient time to come and prove himself a worthy man in his office, but has not done it; and I say let a more honorable man take the crown. If he won't work now, when will he?'

    It was then moved that we drop him; seconded and carried unanimously.

    Roger Orton seems then to have fallen away from the Church or at least from association with Church leadership and the level of participation which would be recorded and annotated. He is said to have died in 1850 or 1851 in Lee County, Iowa.

    Smith, History of the Church, multiple citations, see index
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
    2005 Church Almanac, p.70

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