The initiation of having a mural in St. John, Kansas to depict the settling of the region came from local resident, David Robinson. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ in St. John, he had reason to be particularly familiar with the early settlement of the region.
There were a few non-Mormon settlers already in the region in 1875, but their claims were widely scattered. It was the idea of Mormon Leader William Bickerton to bring a group of fellow Mormons to create a colony. Rather than scattering their claims at a distance from one another, they created what they named Zion Valley Colony. With promised support from members of their former community back in Pennsylvania, as well as some in West Virginia, they quickly went to work clearing fields and planting crops so that they could support themselves as quickly as possible. Many of these settlers had been miners, not farmers, but they did surprisingly well. The biggest problems for them were weather and broken promises by those they had depended on for help until they got the colony to a point of self-sufficiency.
In case your eyes are challenged in reading the plaque that currently appears in from of the Church of Jesus Christ in St. John, here is the transcription: "On April 12, 1875, an ox-drawn wagon train consisting of 35 families arrived at this place having journeyed from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It required three weeks for them to travel from the Eastern Borders of Kansas to their uninhabited destination. At a point of rendezvous a few families of Saints from Wilson County, Kansas, had joined them. The Leader of the Colony, William Bickerton, who was also President of the Church of Jesus Christ, had been moved upon by the Lord to establish this Church Colony, visiting the site the previous fall. He named it Zion Valley."
More of St. John's history to follow as the Series continues.