William was the second child and oldest son born to George Bentley Teeples and Hulda Colby Teeples on June 7, 1833, at Huron, Huron County, Mich.
A year later, his parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in 1843, they found themselves with the main body of “Mormons” in Nauvoo, Ill. He remembered Joseph and Hyrum Smith well and told of his grief over their deaths, although he was only 10 years old. He had already been through the hardships and persecutions, suffering near starvation in Far West, Mo.
He could remember the feeling of gratefulness he had upon taking refuge in Nauvoo, where his father worked on the temple and helped build up the beautiful city. He also remembered the despair he felt when they were driven across the frozen Mississippi River.
At the age of 15, William crossed the Plains with the Heber C. Kimball Co. in 1948, driving an ox team for Mary Fielding Smith, widow of Hyrum.
In 1849, William was a responsible young man, as his father left him in Salt Lake City in charge of the family and went to California, seeking gold and a “better’ location. He returned the same year, stating the real riches were in Utah. The family moved to various settlements in Utah, but William stayed mostly in Salt Lake City, working for Brigham Young.
William went to Goshen, Utah, where, in 1859, he met and married Harriet Betsy Cook, the daughter of Phineas Wolcatt Cook and Ann Eliza Howland Cook. Harriet had been born Oct. 28, 1838, in Richland, Kalamazoo County, Mich. They later moved to Salem, Utah, and then to Provo, Utah. He had learned blacksmithing when young, and in all these places he worked his trade. In the fall of 1863, he was called to help settle Bear Lake country in Utah. They lived in wigwams while building a log house. On March 31, 1864, their second daughter was born to them, the first white child born in Bear Lake Valley.
In order to be on the trail of people traveling to Oregon, the family located to Montpelier, Idaho, where he built a house and a blacksmith shop. Shoeing horses and mending wagons of the travelers kept William very busy. In the fall of 1865, William, Harriet and their two little girls moved to Holden, Utah, to escape another hard winter. Three years there brought them three sons and two more daughters.
While living there, Caroline Schofield, a young girl from Sunderland, England, came to live with some neighbors. When she fell ill and could not work for her keep, she was treated cruelly. William and Harriet took her in and cared for her, with Harriet nursing her through this confinement. Unable to turn her out when she recovered, Harriet suggested William marry her. This was done, and Harriet divided the house and all her possessions with Caroline. William was a kind and considerate husband to both wives and a loving father to nine children from Harriet and the seven Caroline bore.
They were established in a lovely home in Holden when a call came from Apostle Erastus Snow to go to Arizona and settle in that hot, barren place. They left in October 1878, arriving at Cooley’s Ranch near Show Low on Christmas Eve, where they pitched their tents for the winter.
William headed a scouting party of five men, coming by horseback to the Gila Valley to look it over. Upon their return, only Teeples’ report was favorable. Shortly, Hyrum Weech and Henry Dall arrived in their camp. They, too, were looking for a new home to bring their families from Utah and settle. William agreed to act as a guide for another trip to the Gila. He took John W. Tanner, Hyrum Weech and Ben Pearce, all of whom were favorable to settling here.
On March 17, 1879, a group of 28 broke camp and began the trek to the Gila to make their homes, arriving here April 8, 1879. The group was comprised of William R. Teeples, his two wives and nine children; J.K. Rogers, his wife and three children; William Thompson, his wife and one child; Earlton Haws, his wife and two children; John and Thomas Sessions (two unmarried men); and Henry Dall and Hyrum Weech, both of whom were married but whose families were still in Utah.
The first home in “Smithville” was actually two, constructed of rough cottonwood logs with a 20-foot breezeway between. This was roofed over and enclosed with window lattice and was an outdoor living and dining room for both families of William Teeples. The community’s first store was here, as was the first post office, with Betsy doing the clerking duties. William’s blacksmith shop was also at this location.
When a post office was applied for in the name of Smithville, it was to honor Jesse N. Smith, the Snowflake Stake president who had organized the group into a ward of the LDS Church prior to leaving Cooley’s Ranch. However, the request was denied as postal authorities said there were already too many Smithvilles. The employee noted there was no town of Pima within Pima County, so the name Pima was chosen by the employee, and Teeples became postmaster in June 1880.
If it could be said that if any one man was responsible for the settlement of the village we know as Pima, it would be William Randolph Teeples. He did not get to enjoy the area long as he passed away June 5, 1883, the result of chills and fever, just two days shy of his 50th birthday.