Born on 13 March 1832 in South Wales, William Ajax was one of three children born to unwed parents, Thomas Truman Ajax and Rebecka Darkus. William and Frances Maxwell raised William and provided him with five years of formal schooling.
William joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of twenty-one. He then served for almost ten years as a Latter-day Saint missionary, serving several missions in Wales. In 1859 he was called to edit the Udgorn Seion, the Latter-day Saint Welsh publication. He later moved to England where he married Emma Hughes in 1861. William and Emma struggled with health problems, including one miscarriage, but they had nine children after immigrating to Utah.
In May 1862 William and Emma sailed to New York. They traveled to Utah in the Ansel P. Harmon Company, arriving in Salt Lake City in October 1862. William established a store in Salt Lake City, but when the firm of Watt, Slater, and Ajax failed a few years later, he moved with his wife and three children to Rush Valley, just west of Salt Lake City. There he first sold hay to the local mining community and then established a general store. His store was eventually known as the “Big Store in the Wilderness,” located entirely underground and measuring 100 by 80 feet. As one traveler wrote for the Deseret News, 14 July 1900, “Driving from Vernon to Clover Creek is encountered one of the most peculiar and unique buildings of modern times . . . known as the Ajax store.” The nearby town was officially named Centre, but with the success of the store it simply became know as “Ajax.”
William died 2 October 1899 in Centre, Utah. The store continued to do business until 1913, when the mining business declined. Centre is now a ghost town.
Blanthorn, Ouida, ed. A History of Tooele County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998.
History of Tooele County. Salt Lake City: Tooele County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1961.
Murbarger, Nell. Ghosts of the Glory Trail. Palm Desert, CA: Desert Magazine Press, 1956.