John William Hess was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, on 24 August 1824 to Jacob Hess and Elizabeth Foutz. He married Emeline Bigler in 1845 and was a member of the Mormon Battalion. He also participated in plural marriage. Hess became the second bishop of the Farmington, Utah Territory, ward in 1855 and served in that capacity until 1882. In 1882, he became first counselor in the Davis Stake presidency and served as stake president from 1894 to 1903. Hess died on 16 December 1903.
 “John William Hess,” The First Fifty Years of Relief Society website, accessed 11 July 2019, https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/john-william-hess?letter=H; Horace J. Knowlton and Ford Clark, “History of Farmington,” typescript, 27 July 1921, 5, CHL; Farmington Ward Manuscript History, 17 June 1877, 11 June 1882, CHL.