Last February at the 2017 RootsTech family history conference hosted by the LDS Church, Salt Lake resident Michelle Oswald brought with her a family heirloom for identification. She approached exhibitors Glen Beckstead and Amiee Wilkinson, who offered to identify the unique item.
The item Oswald wanted identified was a large silver-plated sacrament goblet standing close to a foot tall. Its intricate engraving of Joseph Smith reaching up to a vine of grapes resembles a famous early LDS engraving of the prophet preaching among the American Indians.
“My grandmother, Alice Lucile Margetts Oswald, kept the cup in her beautiful china hutch with her dishes and other favorite pieces,” said Oswald. “The family legend was that John Henry Rumel, my great-great grandfather received the cup instead of payment for some work he had performed. John Henry Rumel was a plasterer by profession. He worked in homes, commercial buildings, church buildings and temples.”
The cup was passed down through the family from generation to generation until it ended up with Andrew Busby Oswald Jr., Michelle Oswald’s father. “The cup has most likely been in the family since 1894,” said Oswald. “The cup was always mentioned with respect and awe. The engraving was so detailed and the subject of the engraving was very special, Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians.”
Utah historian Ron Fox was involved in the research and eventual sale of the goblet. “The cup is in almost perfect condition,” said Fox. “You can see inside a little wear from its use as a sacramental cup. It most likely contained wine and was passed among members during sacrament services.”
Turning the cup upside down to look at the bottom shows engravings of clumps of grapes connected by an intricate network of vines. The engravings continue with several lines of text that offer some clues as to who the original owner was. It reads, “Manufactured by William Rogers and presented by him to C. H. Wheelock as a token of friendship in 1847.”
“When we researched the history of the cup we found that Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock was an early Church member baptized Sept. 1, 1839, at the age of 26,” said Utah historian Ron Fox. “Wheelock served three missions to England and was involved with missionary efforts there. He wrote the words to the familiar hymn ‘Ye Elders of Israel’ and gave the prophet Joseph Smith a pepperbox pistol in Carthage jail just before the prophet’s death.”
Fox explained that Cyrus Wheelock was in charge of a missionary district in Birmingham England where a man named William Rogers was converted and baptized on July 25, 1847, coincidently the day after the Saints reached the Salt Lake Valley. Rogers and his wife, Ann, had several children. Eventually they would all join the Church.
According to the website history.lds.org, the Cyrus H. Wheelock pioneer company left Keokuk, Iowa, in June of 1853 with more than 400 individuals and 52 wagons. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October of the same year. He settled in Mount Pleasant, Utah.
BYU Studies author Chad M. Orton indicated that Wheelock was part of a rescue party Brigham Young sent to assist the stranded pioneer companies including the Martin Handcart Company near the Sweetwater River (The Martin Handcart Company at the Sweetwater: Another look, Journal 45:3, 2006).
As for the creator of the cup, William Rogers, Fox said, “Rogers was employed as an engraver. He did silver electroplating. Birmingham England in the 1840s was growing in prestige as the origin of the silver electroplating industry. Rogers learned the trade there in his home village and used his skills to personally create the cup for Wheelock.
“On the Birmingham England village census in 1841 and 1851 William Rogers is indicated as a silver engraver. He left his home in England for America on the ship Synosure around 1855. The ship’s manifest indicates William Rogers as an engraver.”
After arriving in the United States Rogers lived in Boston, where the headquarters of American silver industry was located,” said Fox. He eventually ended up in Salt Lake City and later lived out his days in a small Community in Ogden. An 1879-80 Utah directory lists a silversmith named William Rogers located between Main and Young in Ogden. An ad in the in the Ogden junction newspaper states, “Situation wanted! A silversmith capable of handling all kinds of metals to the best advantage.”
Although a sacramental cup such as this was not uncommon for the time period, this one was expensive to make, said Fox. It would be an expensive gift to give because of the heavy silver plating that was done. Another unique element is the quality and selection of the engravings. The engraving of Joseph preaching to the American Indians was one of two images the Saints in England had of the prophet Joseph Smith.
The cup’s current owner Reid N. Moon said, “The most interesting thing about this cup is the rich history and story behind it. The original owner, Cyrus Wheelock had a close association to the prophet Joseph Smith and that makes this cup unique. The cup is covered in symbolism from the picture of Joseph Smith teaching the Indians to the detailed grape vines intertwined across the cup.”
RootsTech 2018 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28-March 3.