James Godson Bleak, 1829-1918, was born in Southwark, Surrey, England to Thomas and Mary Godson Bleak. He was a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while in England and traveled with his family to Utah in 1856 as part of the Martin Handcart Company. Before leaving to settle southern Utah, he was set apart as clerk and historian of the Southern Utah Mission, and he kept church tithing records for about twenty-five years. He and his family settled in St. George, Utah. Over the years he was very active in politics and civic affairs and was the postmaster and city recorder for St. George. He also held many jobs in the Church, such as: bishop, high councilman, stake presidency, stake patriarch, missionary to England, and was a Temple worker, chief recorder, and assistant to the Temple President in the St. George Temple for many years. He was the husband of four wives (Elizabeth, Caroline, Jane, and Matilda) and father of thirty-three children. He passed away in St. George, Utah in 1918.
Jane Thompson Bleak was James G. Bleak’s third wife and many of the original items in the collection bear her signature. Jane Thompson was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, December 1, 1845, to Joseph Lewis Thompson and Penelope Thompson. Her family moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1855, and she moved west with her older brother's family as part of the Eldredge Company. Her father was a friend of James G. Bleak, and when Jane arrived in Salt Lake City, she stayed with the Bleaks until her family could come. Shortly after this the Bleaks were called by the Church to help settle the Cotton Mission in Utah's Dixie. Brigham Young requested that James G. Bleak take another wife, which he proposed to be Jane Thompson. She joined her husband in settling the Cotton Mission and outlived him by 24 years, dying in 1935 in St. George, Utah.
The Bleak Family Organization was formed with the purpose of gathering together all known information regarding the family history, arranging family reunions, and arranging to make copies of James G. Bleak’s diaries available to members of the family.