Joseph Alva West was born 12 September 1851 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Chauncey Walker West and Mary Hoagland. His parents moved to Bingham’s Fort, Weber County in 1855 and subsequently to Ogden, Utah, where Joseph went to grade school. He later became a student at Deseret University (now the University of Utah) in Salt Lake City.
During the winter of 1865, Joseph, along with a number of other young men in the territory, was called by President Brigham Young to learn telegraphy in anticipation of the proposed Deseret Telegraph Line that was to connect Paris, Idaho and St. George, Utah. Joseph served as operator in the Ogden office, beginning in 1866 and in the Provo Office.
In 1867, again at the request of President Brigham Young, Joseph was sent by his father to Salt Lake City to study surveying under Jesse Fox. By 1868, when just 18 years of age, Joseph had become so proficient that he was qualified to act as Deputy Territorial Surveyor. He was subsequently elected surveyor for the City of Ogden, and county surveyor for Weber County. He became a civil engineer during the building of several railroad lines, making extensive surveys from Salt Lake City through central Nevada to California, into Oregon and Idaho. He also surveyed prospective railroad lines south to Los Angeles including three lines through Death Valley. The Deseret Evening News of February 25, 1881 said of Mr. West, “Joseph A. West is said to be one of the best field engineers in the west.” He was the chief engineer for projected lines all over the west, many of which were built.
Joseph A. West was a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was ordained an Elder on 17 Feb 1865. He was ordained a Seventy on 20 Mar 1869 and a High Priest on 21 Oct 1877. He served as a High Councilor in the Weber Stake for five years and as Superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in Weber Stake. He was also the editor for several publications for youth in his community.
On 4 Mar 1873, Joseph married, Josephine Richards, daughter of Apostle Franklin D. Richards & Jane Snyder in Salt Lake City, Utah. Together they had eight children, the last of whom, Charles Henry, was born in 1890 in Ogden.
In 1882, Joseph was called to serve a mission to England and left home on the 22nd of April. In June of the following year, he was appointed President of the London Conference and traveled widely throughout the British Isles including portions of Europe during his tenure there. He is said to have ascended Mt. Vesuvius as part of his travels.
In 1885, he was nominated and elected to the legislature. During his tenure, he served as part of a contingent sent to Washington, DC to ameliorate the escalating tensions between the people of Utah, their appointed governor, and the United States Government. This was a difficult time for Utah as the notorious Edmunds Tucker bill directed at polygamous marriages in Utah was before Congress. During his time in Washington, DC, Mr. West appeared before the full judiciary committee of Congress and made a two-hour argument against this bill. An extensive report of this argument was carried in the Utah newspapers.
On 24 Feb 1888, Joseph West married Sylvia Ann Child, daughter of Warren Gould Child and Martha Jane Elmer. According to family records, they were married in Juarez, Mexico. Their first child was born in San Francisco, California in 1890. They had 10 children, seven of whom lived to be adults.
In 1889, Mr. West went to Oregon to work for the Sumpter Valley Railway as chief engineer. From 1889 until at least 1910, Mr. West lived in alternately in Baker City, Oregon and in Ogden, Utah.
In 1911, the year Joseph’s last child, Fred Lawrence Albert West, was born, he published a family genealogy and history entitled, “Francis West of Duxbury, Mass. And Some of his Ancestors and Descendants: Including the Descendants of Chauncey Walker West, late of Ogden, Utah, and Abraham H. Hoagland, late of Salt Lake City, Utah”. A link to a copy of this book is available in “Google Book Links”.
On 17 April 1926, Joseph A. West died. He is buried, along with other family members, in the Ogden City Cemetery in Utah.
Of Mr. West, it was said that, “Anyone meeting Joseph A. West face to face would know at once that he is an individual embodying the elements of what in this country we term a "square" man--one in whom to have confidence, a dependable man in any relation and any emergency. His quietude of deportment, his easy dignity, his frankness and cordiality of address, with a total absence of anything sinister or anything to conceal, foretoken a man who is ready to meet any obligation of life with the confidence and courage that come of conscious personal ability, right conception of things and an habitual regard for what is best in the exercise of human activities.” (Noble Warrum, ed, Utah Since Statehood, Volumes 1-4, Chicago, IL, USA and Salt Lake City, UT, USA: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919.)