Charles William Kingston was born on June 26, 1884 in Croyden, Utah as the eldest of eleven children of Charles Kingston Sr. and Mary Priscilla Lerwell Tucker Kingston. When Charles was 3 years old, his mother gave birth to twin girls, Florence and Betsy. Charles and Betsy were very close growing up which played a major role later in his life.
Most of Charles' young life was spent in Wyoming. Charles recalls visiting a coal mine with his father once as a young 5 year old boy:
It seemed to me that we spent hours going down into that deep mine and out again to the light of day. This was a terrifying experience to me. I was expecting any moment that the roof might fall in and trap us in that deep hole. I never forgot this harrowing experience and I decided I would never in my life go into a coal mine again.
On June 26, 1892, Charles was baptized on his eighth birthday in the Weber River which he considered a high point in his young life. One year later, he had a dream that he told to his parents, which he felt foreshadowed the events of his life as he found his way out of the LDS church.
As a young boy on the farm in Wyoming, Charles was given many responsibilities over the years. He was responsible for grazing and milking cows, herding sheep and began to assist his father in his duties as US representative in the Wyoming Land office at a young age. These duties helped Charles to build many of the strong traits that characterized his life.
The standards he learned from his LDS religion also played a large role in his life as he was taught not to drink or smoke. Also to maintain high moral conduct, to deal honestly with people and have integrity in all ones dealings.
When Charles was a teenager in Wyoming, there was a big ranch within the jurisdiction of the Wyoming Land office owned by a Mr. Mosslander. Mosslander purchased a steam powered engine that was delivered by a rail line that ran right through his ranch, but neither he or any of his ranch hands knew how to unload it. There was an extra charge from the rail line for every day they kept the rail car, so he was interested in getting it unloaded quickly. He requested an engineer from the land office that would know how to unload the machinery, so Charles Sr. sent his teenage son Charles who had experience unloading heavy equipment. When Charles arrived, Mosslander asked him what he wanted. When he told him he was the one sent to help unload the steam engine, Mosslander started swearing, saying, "Who would send a boy to do a man's job? There's no way a kid like you can do a man's job!"
When he got through swearing, Charles told him, "Well, I came out here to do this job. If you don't want me to do it, I'll go back to town."
When he said that, Mr. Mosslander thought we'll show this kid what he's up against. So he asked him, "Do you think you can unload it?"
Charles said, "That's what I came out here to do."
So he said, "Okay," he told him where he could bunk down for the night and said, "In the morning I'll let you try."
Charles told him, "I haven't got that much time. I want to unload it now."
Mr. Mosslander started swearing again and talking loud and said, "What do you mean unload it now? It's only afternoon. That's a two days job. If you take these men out there now, I'm going to have to pay over time. I'm going to have to get all this put together. We'll start in the morning."
Charles told him, "I would still like to unload it this afternoon."
Mr. Mosslander thought, we'll just let this kid see what he can do. We'll let him hang himself. So he said, "Okay, what do you want?"
So Charles said, "I want twelve men. I want six good teams of horses." He told him the wagons he wanted. He told him how much, what kind of timbers and how long he wanted them to be. He told him everything he needed.
Mr. Mosslander told the men, "This kid here is in charge. I want you to do exactly what he tells you to do."
They got the horses, the men, wagons, the timbers, and everything they needed put together. They went out there to the rail where the engine was. Mr. Mosslander went out with them.
Mosslander thought something would break and he would go back and blame whoever sent the unqualified kid to unload it. Charles told them, "First, I want you to take off that starter engine." It was built in a way that made it top heavy, and he knew that if they tried to unload it without taking it off, it would tip over and break it. The men got the starter engine removed and off to the side without any issues.
Charles then set up a boom to lift cargo with the timbers and tied it with chains so that when the weight of it swung around, it landed out on the ground and didn't break anything. Mosslander started to see Charles knew what he was doing. They set the timbers up and lined them up so the horses would pull the engine over the side and slide it down onto the timbers. The job was completed and the men and horses got back to the main ranch in time for Mosslander to not pay overtime. Charles went back home, and Mosslander knew from then on that he was a much more qualified than he would have thought.
Mosslander sent for engineers a number of times after that, and Charles was sent on more than one occasion to help him on his ranch. Mosslander grew to trust Charles and even suggested that he marry his daughter. Charles had other plans and declined the offer.
When Charles was 19, his father purchased a farm in Idaho and moved most of the things they needed to run the new farm to Idaho. Charles had been hired by a man in Evanston to complete other work there, so he stayed behind. His father loaded up everything they could on a train boxcar they rented, but they didn't have the money to pay freight for the horses and other animals Charles kept with him. Charles Sr. asked his son Charles to bring the horses and load the wagon with the remaining belongings and bring them to Idaho Falls by horse when he was finished.
Charles finished the work he was hired to do on Christmas Eve and on the 26th of December he left for Idaho with a team of four horses pulling a covered wagon, two colts tied to the back and a dog named "Brownie".
The first night Charles reached Randolph, Utah (39 miles). The second night he stayed in Garden City near Bear Lake (24 miles). That night a dense fog had filled the valley and the temperatures dropped well below zero. Charles wrapped a horse blanket around himself from head to toe and placed a coal oil lamp between his feet so the heat would rise up through the blanket to keep from freezing while he drove the horses.
The third night he stayed in Montpelier, Idaho (31 miles). A foot of snow had fallen by the next day and it was difficult to drive his horses through the snow. He drove all day and well into the night to reach his next stop in Soda Springs, Idaho which was 33 miles from Montpelier.
"This was thirty three miles of the hardest road on the horses I had ever experienced but I had a harder day ahead. I bucked snow all that day and far into the night, finding no place along the way where I could get feed for my animals. (22 miles) Even the two colts I was leading gave out and were ready to quit. Some places I had to get out and break snow ahead so the horses could pull the outfit through. This was the fifth day on the road."
After 17 hours, Charles spotted a ranch with a hay stack 22 miles from Soda Springs. Charles rested his animals and fed them. The next day the weather had improved but the snow on the ground was still thick on the dirt roads. He paid the man who owned the ranch for his hay and headed toward McCammon which was 23 miles away. He arrived late that night after another difficult day driving his horses through the unbroken snow.
"When I reached McCammon late that night I was encouraged to learn that the road was broke the rest of the way. It took me three days to travel the last seventy three miles to Idaho Falls because the horses were so worn out from bucking that snow, they did not care whether they moved or not. It was a real job to keep them going."
Meanwhile in Idaho Falls, Charles Sr was very concerned when his son didn't arrive after the storm and feared he had been caught up in the storm and froze to death. When Charles W. arrived in Blackfoot, Idaho, a man stopped him and asked him what his name was. When he told him his name was Kingston, the man said,
"I got a call from your father three days ago. He asked me to look you up. He feared you had frozen to death."
After 9 days and many challenges, Charles reached his father in Idaho Falls. He always had a determination that whenever he had a challenge before him, he would find a way to do it, no matter the odds.
Charles continued to herd sheep for his father's ranch. In the summer, he would graze the herd up into the mountains and he wouldn't see anyone for weeks at a time. One summer, 1901 or 1902, while away in the mountains, Charles dreamed he was herding sheep for his father and walking over a ridge and down the side of the mountain. Down in the valley below he saw a small log cabin. A young woman walked out of the cabin with a basket of clothes and started hanging them on a line out in the yard. He knew in the dream, it was his house and the woman in the yard was his wife, but he did not recognize her at the time and the dream ended. He felt very strongly that the dream was directing him to know what the future held for him in marriage.
In the spring of 1904, Charles attended AC College in Logan, Utah to take an agriculture class before going back to help his father in the summer. Sometimes when Charles had extra time, he attended some of the dances in the nearby towns. At one of the dances in the spring of 1905, he saw Vesta Stowell there with the other young people. He immediately recognized her as the woman from his dream some time before. He asked around about who she was. He found out her parents had passed away and she lived with her sister. He also found out that a man named Ray Thurman had spoken for her and planned to marry her. Most everyone in the area knew Ray Thurman as the son of a wealthy Stake President in Afton, Wyoming. When Charles found out, he thought there would be no way she would every turn Ray down for him.
Charles realized it was going to be difficult to get acquainted with Vesta. He lived near Evanston, WY and she lived in Afton, WY. He was also very discouraged knowing Ray Thurman was courting Vesta, but he felt very strongly that the dream he had was from the Lord, so he decided to write her a letter.
Vesta didn't respond to the letter and Charles spent all summer back up in the mountains taking care of his father's sheep without much chance to meet anyone or hear what was going on with Vesta. When fall came, Charles heard that Vesta had enrolled in college in Logan, Utah. Charles still had almost 2 months before he was done with the sheep for the season, but he decided to go and register for classes in Logan to become acquainted with Vesta.
Charles finished out the season on the ranch and helped load up the sheep on a train for Chicago where he accompanied the livestock to sell in the area. At the end of October, when all was completed and he had returned to Wyoming, Charles went over to Logan to begin his class work, but he was almost two months behind the other students. He realized he was going to have to study hard to get caught up, so he dedicated himself to his school work. Charles says,
"I studied for five or six hours a day on those first lessons..."
One class he was enrolled in was Geometry. It took a lot of hard work to catch up to the other students. Eventually Charles caught up to the class and excelled above most the other students. Ray Thurman had also enrolled in college to be near Vesta. Nevertheless, Charles and Vesta did become better acquainted and Vesta decided to marry him the next spring.
The two were married on May 17th, 1906 in the LDS Temple in Logan Utah.
In December 1906, Charles was called to go on a mission to the Eastern States. Charles had a desire to travel without purse or scrip so he asked his mission president if he could. His mission president told him that the LDS Church had given up the practice and said he would have to get money from home to pay his expenses.
During his mission, Charles and his missionary companion had the opportunity to travel to Vermont where Joseph Smith was born. They saved what they thought was enough money to make the trip, however, they realized they only had enough money to get to Albany by train, which is 110 miles away from where they were heading. Charles quoted Doctrine & Covenants 84:78-86.
Charles writes to his companion,
"The Lord promises He will feed and clothe us and give us money and that not even one hair of his servants heads will fall to the ground unnoticed. Now I would like to test these promises out and it appears this may be the best opportunity we will ever have to make these tests to our own satisfaction. What a wonderful thing it will be to have the Lord feed us for a while instead of depending on a pocket full of money. What faith it will engender in our souls to have miracles happening to us every day."
Charles and his companion traveled without purse or scrip from that point on.
Charles talks about his experience,
"We stayed out in the field working without purse or scrip for about three months and sold more books than all the Missionaries in the conference put together, also distributed more tracts etc. The other missionaries in the conference decided they wanted to try going without purse or scrip so the president call...[us] in so we could take care of the meetings in New York City while all the others went out and traveled without purse or scrip as we had done. This practice was carried out every summer for many years after that in the Eastern States Mission."
In September of 1908, Charles' father wrote to President Joseph F. Smith asking if his son could return home a few months early so he could help on the harvest. His request was granted and Charles returned home that month. His father paid him 3 silver dollars for the season. In the spring of 1909, Charles and his father moved to Shelley Idaho to try their hands at a flour production operation. It was not a profitable venture and things began to strain the relationship between Charles, his wife and his father during these times. In the fall of 1909, Charles took out a loan to buy cows for himself, his brother and his father. They worked out a deal to share the work and the proceeds of the operation, but in time the deal fell flat and the business relationship was ended.
After this series of failed business ventures, Charles decided to move to his own farm with his wife Vesta and their young son Elden, who was born on October 10, 1909.
He purchased a farm and ranch with a little cabin on the side of a mountain in Idaho where he dry-farmed wheat on a level bench in the hills. One day he went up on the mountains to bring the cows in for the night and as he was coming down the mountainside he could see his cabin off in the distance. His wife Vesta walked out of the cabin with a basket of clothes to hang them on the line. He realized he was reliving the dream he had had almost 10 years earlier, which he felt was confirmation that he was where he was supposed to be.
On January 12, 1912, their first daughter Orlean Harriet was born. One day in May of 1912, Charles went out to the garden he had planted across the creek about 200 yards from the house. His 3-year-old son Elden accompanied him as he had done at times in the past. They both walked to a place where the creek narrowed from 30 feet across, to about 12 feet across, where Charles had set a 2 foot wide plank as a bridge across the creek. Charles started working in the garden with his son nearby.
After about 30 minutes, Charles felt an urgent sense of danger and realized his son Elden was no where in sight. Charles immediately ran straight to the creek to a clearing about 50 feet downstream from the bridge. This was the only spot for a long ways where you could reach the banks of the creek because of the thick vegetation that lined most of the creek.
Charles arrived just in time to see Elden crossing the bridge with his head high and laughing, thinking to himself he was such a big boy to be able to cross the bridge all by himself. Just then, Elden slipped off the board and tumbled head first into the water. The flow was high from spring run-off and the little toddler tumbled head over feet over head as the water pushed him downstream. Charles jumped down into the creek in time to pull Elden out of the water. Elden was coughing and struggling for breath, but eventually was ok. Charles credited Heavenly Father for giving him the impression to go the creek just in time to save his son. Seconds later and he would have missed him.
Charles and Vesta had their second daughter Ardous Vesta on July 8, 1914. On November 23, 1916, Vesta gave birth to a son, Rulon, who died shortly after birth. It was a very cold winter and this was a very difficult time for the family.
The next spring, Charles became sick with 'quinsy' which is an abscess in the throat likely caused by under-treated tonsillitis. A doctor visiting him advised him to have an operation to have the abscess removed surgically, or the sickness would return every year. Charles asked the Elders from the local ward to come and administer to him. They promised him that Heavenly Father would help him know how to be cured without the surgery and he decided to not to get it.
Six months later, the next fall (1917), the sickness returned just as the doctor had foretold. Charles writes,
"I knew the Elder's administration had been the word [of] the Lord; so I wondered why I did not come out as the Lord had said.....I came to the conclusion that the Lord's word was right.... I put my trust in the Lord to lead me and as a result the thought came to me "The Lord is doing this [so] I will learn how to cure the quinzy in myself so that I can help others, [and be able] to save their lives."
Charles remembered a time in Morgan County, Utah when more than half the horses in Morgan died of a respiratory disease. Charles uncle had a number of horses that came down with the disease also. Charles' uncle saved the horses using a small mixture of olive oil and coal oil in the nostrils. Charles tried a small amount on himself which stopped the infection and quickly cured the sickness in himself.
The next year in November of 1918, Vesta went into town to get a pair of shoes repaired. The family was fairly isolated and they learned at this time that Spanish flu had been ravaging the United States. Charles writes,
"[Vesta] was coughing and sneezing with influenza hours [after she returned home]..... Later the whole family including myself came down with this dread disease. I did not want to use this new remedy on my wife and children so I tried it on myself and it stopped my attack of influenza with the first application. Then in the spring of 1919 came a second siege and I was not afraid to doctor the children and stopped the disease for them [also]."
Charles and Vesta moved their family to Ammon, Idaho so the children could attend school. Charles went back to work the farm on his own. In 1919, there was a severe drought and depression in Idaho. Farm prices plummeted and there wasn't enough water for dry farmers to grow enough crops. Charles took out a loan from the bank to cover operating and living expenses. The next few years the drought and depression continued. Charles went to talk to the bank. Many farmers were in the same situation and the banker advised Charles to file bankruptcy. Charles tried to sell his horses and equipment to the bank, but they refused saying they had no buyers to turn around and sell them to.
In 1922, Charles went back to the farm heartbroken. He parked all the equipment around the homestead. He hung the saddles and harnesses up in the barn and turned the horses loose into the hills. He walked away from the farm with nothing but a whole lot of debt.
Rather than file for bankruptcy, Charles' believed his core values would not allow him to take out bankruptcy. To him it would be a betrayal of trust. If someone thought enough to loan them money, they were going to pay it back. Charles signed over the deed for the farm back to the bank and signed a note for the balance due. It took him 10 years, but he did pay back every dollar he owed.
Some time later, Charles traveled back to the cabin in the hills to find the machinery and harnesses had been stolen and the home ransacked and destroyed. It was a sad end to the young family's first homestead.
After a number of odd jobs around Ammon, Idaho, Charles started working for the OSL Railroad on August 8, 1922. Charles quickly moved up the ranks becoming Acting Mechanical Foreman for the Idaho Falls location. Charles character is illustrated by the story of the "2-Hour Job" that earned him his first promotion.
Charles continued to progress, moving to the Union Pacific Railroad and becoming the Lead Car Inspector in Idaho Falls in 1929. One of Charles writings became a featured article in the Union Pacific Magazine, September 1929 when he wrote "Is a 100 Per Cent Workman Possible?" as well as "Love Your Work".
One month after Charles started working on the railroad in 1922 he was in a serious accident where a car jack hit and broke his jaw. Charles saw this as a wake-up call from the Lord since he had been working tirelessly day and night for a number of years. Charles says,
"It took this accident to wake me up from where I was at, to have a chance to rest my body so my mind could work."
Charles eventually recovered and worked up the ranks so by 1926 his position allowed him time off. Charles states,
"I was given a job with an annual pass and two days off each month and two weeks off each year. I knew that this job came to me as a precious gift from the Lord so I decided to dedicate this time to the Lord's service. So I went to the Temple each month where I spent those two days in the Salt Lake Temple working for the dead and studying the temple ordinances."
While spending time at the Salt Lake Temple, Charles re-made an old acquaintance in a man named Charles Zitting who used to work for Charles' family as a boy on the farm in Idaho. During this time around 1928, Charles' sister Betsy, who was living in Salt Lake, had confided to her sister Florence that her husband Charles Owen had begun living plural marriage. Betsy told Florence that she heard Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith in person say that plural marriage was "just as important today as it ever was". Florence's husband was the bishop of the 1st Ward in Idaho Falls and was quite concerned, so he wrote a letter to Joseph Fielding in Salt Lake asking him why he would make such a statement. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote back saying, "That woman [Betsy] is a dirty liar!"
Calling Betsy a liar was a great insult to the Kingston family because they prided themselves on honesty. Charles was living in Idaho Falls when he got word of the accusation, he made his way down to Salt Lake City to visit Joseph Fielding Smith's office. He was not very happy about Smith's accusation, Charles states,
"I went into Brother Smith's office in the church office building and I asked him about that and he got very angry. He would not have got angry unless that was the truth because he knew in denying it, it hurt him too; but he told me that woman is a liar. Now I thought he was going to be mad enough to throw me out of the office. I said, 'No Brother Smith, that woman is not a liar. She might have been mistaken about what she heard, I don't think she was, but she is not a liar because she is not that kind of a woman.'"
Charles then went to see his sister Betsy Owen. He asked her about the situation and discussed some of his concerns. His conversation eventually led him to John Woolley. Charles went out to John Woolley's home to speak with him in Centerville, Utah. There he learned of Woolley's account of many of the things that had happened for the past 40 years in the LDS church. This triggered a series of events that changed his life forever.
Charles used his days off to come down to Salt Lake City to continue meeting with John Woolley, Lorin Woolley, Joseph Musser, Leslie Broadbent, Charles Zitting and Louis Kelsch. Charles began to publish documents and be associated with many of the men associated with the "Fundamentalist" movement and counted many of them as dear friends.
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