Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 109–34.
Scenes in Nauvoo
In this fourth chapter, with articles published from 15 July to 1 October 1881, Helen Mar Whitney begins the fascinating story of Nauvoo, “considered one of the most beautiful [sites] on the Mississippi. “ Her story starts as her father and several other Church leaders depart for the British Isles on 18 September 1839. The family and many other Missouri refugees were afflicted with malaria at the time. This chapter provides insights about “folk medicine “ and the daily life of those brave women and children left behind to build a new city while their apostolic fathers and husbands initiated one of the most successful missionary harvests in the history of the Church (1839–41).
Among the sources used to tell the story of Nauvoo are extracts of letters written by Helen’s mother, Vilate Murray Kimball, newspaper articles about Nauvoo and the Saints from several non-Latter-day Saint sources, and entries from her father’s diary.
The call to build another temple is discussed and its progress outlined in this important chapter. Life and death along the Mississippi River fills the pages of the articles. One may forget that the city of the Saints was also a “river city.” Helen gives the reader word-pictures of the river boats plying their way up and down the great river, accompanied by the sweet melodies of the black singers on board those queens of the river. She also recalls the music of William Pitt’s band, the martial band under the direction of Levi Hancock and Dimick Huntington, and Stephen Goddard’s choir. The Saints’ sojourn in Nauvoo began in 1839 and ended seven short years later in 1846.
The site of Nauvoo from the river was considered one of the most beautiful on the Mississippi, and appropriately named Nauvoo, the beautiful. Previous to being settled by the Latter-day Saints it was called Commerce, or Upper and Lower Commerce, there having been two landings, which were quite a distance apart; the Prophet Joseph lived at the lower one, and our house was one mile from the river. When my father left us to go on his second mission to England there had been but very few houses built, and there were none within a half mile of us. We were surrounded with trees and hazel and other underbrush. The whole country was quite wild, and wolves being plentiful we were treated nightly to their serenades, commencing at sundown and continuing at intervals till morning. In the winter hunger made them very bold, but they were generally harmless. My first impression concerning the place was anything but pleasing; the circumstances attending my arrival there were probably the reason—the weather was excessively warm, and the bottom land being swampy, nearly everyone who had come there was sick upon the bank of the river; my mother being in delicate health, father took her, with their youngest child, up by water, sending me and my eldest brother by land in charge of a hired woman and the driver; we were two days on the way, and the journey was quite pleasant; we put up at night with Father John Smith’s family; Brother George A., their son, who was starting for England, accompanied us to Commerce on horseback, and I must say that he, being afflicted with ague, looked a more fit subject for a hospital than he did like a missionary. Our parents expected to be there nearly as soon as we were, but remained in Quincy two or three days longer visiting among their friends; each day William and I walked to the upper landing, which was two miles or more from the place where we settled, and there being no houses between made the distance seem still greater, and having to return at night without them I felt homesick and sick of the country. The contrast between that place and Quincy, where we had spent the spring and summer so pleasantly, and everything seemed so delightful to me that it made the dreary looking place anything but interesting; but the scene changed as it were by magic, through the persevering industry of the Saints, and soon instead of a forest the country was dotted over with houses, and gardens and flowers were under cultivation.
Shortly after my father’s departure for Europe, my little brother, upon whom we had depended to bring us water to drink as we lay sick with chills and fever, came in with his usual pail of water, and setting it upon the floor, laid down by it and said: “I b’eve I’s goin’ to have agu’ too”; and sure enough the little fellow was shaking with it.
There is an old saying that “misery loves company,” and we certainly had no lack of it in Nauvoo. Every remedy that could be thought or heard of was tried; we even resorted to tricks and strategems, some of which were ludicrous in the extreme and afforded considerable fun and amusement. We sometimes tried selling or giving the ague to the ones who were willing to risk their chances, and the purchaser sometimes had cause to repent his or her bargain; but like the doctor’s prescriptions they often failed. The following one had a striking effect upon me: when we began to feel the symptoms we were to start and run across the floor as if going onto the bed, but to go under instead, thus cheating the old gentleman, who would go as usual onto the bed. At that time my regular chill came on every other evening, and when I first felt the symptoms I started from the fireplace, but in dodging to go under the bed I gave my head a frightful blow, and I felt no more of the chills and fever for three weeks; but whether it was due to the blow on my head or my faith in the trick I could never quite decide.
The skin of a rattlesnake wrapped around the head was said to be an excellent remedy for the headache. One of our neighbors, Sister Bentley’s father, killed an old one near our house, and after dressing it they cut it in pieces, and I saw the meat fried and eaten by her father and husband; they invited me to partake with them, but I had no hankering for snake meat, though it was as nice looking as fish, but the thought of it and the sight of the pieces squirming in the frying pan made me feel quite nervous; but when the fever was on and my head distracted with pain, I was perfectly willing to have it bound up with snake skins, or anything else that would give relief. None but those who have passed through similar sufferings can realize our condition, as the days and weeks dragged on, and most of the Saints were destitute of the commonest comforts, and were wanting for beds and even covering, having been robbed in the state of Missouri, and the nights were very cold. We know how the ague weakens and reduces a person’s strength in two or three days, but there we had it for weeks and months at a time, and there was no alternative but to submit and make the best of it.
Wrapped in our shawls or quilts we would sit cramped and shaking to the very marrow, hovering over the fire, which only increased the shivering, but would not leave it as long as we could sit up, and when the fever came on the pain and suffering were so intense that the patient generally became delirious. Brother Joseph, seeing the condition of the Saints, especially those on the bank of the river, where the water was unfit for drinking purposes and they were dying like sheep, his sympathies were so wrought upon that he told them to make tea and drink it, or anything that they thought would do them good; and he often made tea and administered it with his own hands. That was the commencement of their using tea and coffee; previous to this the Saints had been strict in keeping the Word of Wisdom.
Soon after my father left us Brother Charles C. Rich, who purchased five acres of land adjoining ours, and Brother Charles Hubbard, with their wives, befriended my mother and her children, and were truly brothers and sisters. Brothers Winchester, Benson, Uncle Joseph Young and many more brethren, with their families, soon became our neighbors, and were equally kind to us. During the first winter my mother invited them to hold meetings on the Sabbath day at her house, it being one of the most convenient in the neighborhood, though it had but one lower room and that was shared with Sister Pratt. The brethren and sisters enjoyed many glorious seasons together, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer for so pure riches, and they could say with truth, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”; even the children partook of that influence, and were glad when the Sabbath day came round.
The following amusing incident happened the winter that Sister Pratt was living with us. One Saturday evening she left a plate of large sweet cakes, or buns, upon her table by the cupboard when she retired, and in the morning the plate being found empty caused quite an excitement; we thought maybe they had been taken to pa or some of his brethren, who might be in want, as in Elijah’s case; but Sister Pratt, being more practical than religious, thought it more probable that they had been stolen by a rat than taken by a raven, and so made a search by having one of the planks of the floor taken up, and sure enough there we discovered the buns stowed away one upon the other, as neatly as if done by human hands.
The next fall, Sister Pratt having been provided with a house, Sisters Laura and Abigail Pitkin came to live with us, and remained until their house was built. They were among the Saints who were driven from Jackson Co., Missouri, and passed through all the trials in Far West, and were driven out of that state into Illinois. They supported themselves by working at the tailor’s trade. Were natives of New England, and like many of the Saints they had sacrificed wealth and worldly honors for the pure gospel of Christ. They had been carefully trained and educated in all that was necessary to make them good and useful citizens. When they obeyed the gospel they had a supply of linen of their own spinning and weaving, for bedding, wearing apparel, etc., sufficient to last them their lifetime; some of it was of the finest texture that could be woven in the loom. When Aunt Laura, as we called her, died she had a few articles left, which were sent by her request to her brother’s children living north of this city.
They were living in Quincy when my father started upon his mission, and being prostrated with chills and fever he stayed most of the time while there at their house, and they bestowed every possible kindness upon him and his brethren. They were always doing good and trying to stimulate others to faithfulness and good works; were refined, gentle and affable to everyone, as well as dauntless and unflinching in the cause of truth. They were also among the aged and infirm who were driven by brute force across the Mississippi River into Iowa. Sister Abigail had been an invalid for years, and she sank under all her accumulated sufferings, and was buried on the west side of the Mississippi. I remember the kind teachings and exhortations which I received from them in the midst of our trials and privations, they appeared cheerful even in their afflictions, and would talk upon the bright side; they taught me the principles of patience and forbearance—virtues which I was rather deficient in—and also to exercise faith in God. Their sympathies were often exercised in my behalf—being blessed with an elder brother whose happiness seemed never so complete as when tormenting his only sister, patience and forbearance were frequently put to the test; but if he thought anyone else was trying to impose upon her, he was ready to fight. Although father had left us so sick and in poor circumstances, we had seldom been under the necessity of calling upon the bishop; the second year we were in need of some assistance—winter was on us and I being shoeless, Aunt Laura asked me if I had not better go to the Lord and make Him acquainted with our condition, and she felt sure that He would move upon the heart of Bishop Vinson Knight, and I would get some new shoes. I heeded her counsel, and in a few days accompanied my mother and William to see the bishop, who was living in Upper Commerce, where the storehouse of the Lord was kept. We found him remarkably kind, and our wants were all supplied; he was sometimes rather gruff in his manners, being harassed by his many cares and had considerable to try his patience. In a few years from that time the two sisters became members of our family, and Aunt Laura, who came with us to this valley, often reminded me of this circumstance, particularly if she saw me troubled in temporal matters, she would ask if I had lost my faith in prayer.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 4,
15 July 1881, p. 26
The second winter after my father left us we were once more in the enjoyment of health. William and I attended school taught in a room belonging to Brother Winchester by Justin Johnson brother to Mrs. Marinda Hyde, who was living in our neighborhood. The next summer William went to live with an old friend, Dr. F. G. Williams, in Upper Commerce and by this means was able to clothe himself and help mother. While living there a circus came through and he knowing that I had never seen one came up to take me with him, but found me very sick, as I had been again attacked with chills and fever and was so delirious that I knew nothing about his coming. I mention this circumstance to show how long a time we were afflicted with this disease, after a short recovery we would be again taken with a relapse. Those who were strong enough wore it out in time, but many died because they were previously worn out and had not sufficient vitality to battle with this and other diseases brought on by suffering and privation and they died martyrs to the truth.
In the meantime the apostles were performing a mighty work in Europe and many of the Saints had come to Zion with songs of rejoicing bringing welcome messages from the absent ones, as well as many little gifts presented them by the Saints in England. This seemed to lessen the distance between us and to make the weeks and months pass more swiftly and our bodily afflictions were less tedious to bear. Brother William Clayton and his wife’s family, the Moons, were among them and also Thomas Walmesly and wife and many more who came over were among my father’s first converts. They had powerful testimonies to bear, one of them I will mention.
When my father first visited Mr. Walmesly he found his wife sick of consumption, and had been for several years and was reduced to a mere skeleton; and was given up to die, by the doctors. My father after preaching the gospel to her, promised her in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ if she would believe, repent and be baptized, she should be healed. She was carried to the water and after her baptism she began to mend, and at her confirmation she was blest, and her disease rebuked, when she immediately recovered and in less than one week she was attending to her household duties. I have heard her bear testimony to this miracle many times. They are now living in Bear Lake Valley, Oneida Co., Idaho. When they came to Nauvoo they found us sick and they administered to our comfort. Among those who came over were “well to do” people, and they had assisted some of the poor Saints to Zion. The majority of them were of the poor and meek of the earth, but none the less to show their love they desired to give some little token, if it was but a toy, and would insist upon the brethren taking them to the children. All who knew my father heard him speak of his little girl, and many and various were the things sent me, numerous handkerchiefs were among them, which generally had Queen Vic, as she was commonly called, and Prince Albert printed on them; her Majesty having lately been crowned Queen of Great Britain.
I also received a variety of pretty little china dishes and a box of wooden ones as well as china dolls; but during the time my father was absent his little girl had grown to be a large one and by her seniors was considered entirely too old to play with them and pride forbade that I should do what they thought improper so I gave many away retaining only the useful and those suitable for ornaments, but after I had laid aside my own dolls, etc., and childish enjoyments I remember the pleasure I took in making and dressing them for others younger than myself. I sometimes think it a mistaken idea in American mothers to want their daughters to become sedate and womanly before they have fairly reached their teens. We can never be young but once in this life and I like children to enjoy themselves while they can for they will grow old soon enough.
I will mention a little incident that happened the summer previous to my father’s return. The Prophet and two or three brethren had called at our house to hear a letter read from father, and when they rose to leave, Joseph, who stood by the bureau, where a couple of china dolls were standing upon two large salt cellars, which had also been sent from England to my mother, while he was talking took one up to look at, but in replacing it sat it upon one side, when it fell, breaking the head off; he merely remarked: “As that has fallen, so shall the heathen gods fall.” I stood there a silent observer, unable to understand or appreciate the prophetic words, but thought them a rather weak apology for breaking my doll’s head off. My mother afterwards mended it, and though like most of us it shows signs of age, and that it has passed through many ordeals, yet I have kept it, with two or three other little tokens which I received from England, and they serve as reminders of scenes “some forty years ago.”
My brother William and I received each a beautifully bound Book of Mormon from Uncle Brigham Young, with our names printed upon the back in gilt letters, and father sent the same to Brigham Young’s daughters, Elizabeth and Vilate. I have read mine through by course more times than any book I ever saw, and each time it has proved more interesting; I was never more deeply fascinated by a novel than I have been with the Book of Mormon. There is but one fault which I find with it—the print is so line that many times I have been forced to stop reading it; and this, I believe, prevents many from reading it who otherwise would, as some who are not of our faith but are friendly to this people, have mentioned this to me, and said it was the only reason why they did not read it. This I think is a great pity.
The following historical items are interesting and ought to be known by our sons and daughters, and by the world, who think we are a low, ignorant, degraded people, because our enemies say we are, forsooth. “The charter for the city of Nauvoo, including charters for the Nauvoo Legion and the University of the City of Nauvoo, was signed by Governor Thomas Carlin on the 16th of December, 1840, and took effect from the 1st of February. * * * The 24th section empowered the city council to establish within the limits of the city an institution for the teaching of the arts, sciences, and learned professions, to be called the ‘University of the City of Nauvoo.’ The 25th invested it with power to organize the inhabitants of the city, subject to military duty, into a body of independent military men, to be called the ‘Nauvoo Legion.’ The Legion was to perform the same amount of military duty as was then or thereafter might be, required of the regular militia of the state, and was at the disposal of the mayor in executing the laws and ordinances of the city corporation, and the laws of the state and of the United States, and was entitled to its proportion of the public arms. The Legion was exempt from all other military duty.” This act was considered a very liberal one, and the Prophet said: “I concocted it for the salvation of the Church, and on principles so broad that every honest man might dwell secure under its protective influence, without distinction of sect or party.” After laying this foundation for the gathering of the Saints, the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles exhorted those who had capital to establish manufactories in the city, that employment might be given to the poor and the laboring classes as they arrived; and the Prophet, with Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith, issued a proclamation inviting the wealthy to remove to Nauvoo and neighborhood, and establish and build up manufactories and to purchase and cultivate farms, that a permanent inheritance might be secured and the way prepared for the poor Saints who were desirous of gathering to Zion. An early ordinance passed by the corporation provided that “all religious sects and denominations should have free toleration and equal privileges within the city, and that any person ridiculing or abusing another on account of his religious belief should on conviction thereof before the mayor or municipal court, be fined in any sum not exceeding $500, or imprisoned not exceeding six months.
“On the 3d of February ordinances were passed organizing the Nauvoo Legion and the University,” and one was passed regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, with a view to prevent the introduction of drunkenness into the city. “On the 10th of March the state legislature passed ‘An act to incorporate the Nauvoo Agricultural and Manufacturing Association in the county of Hancock.’“
Those who say that the “Mormons” came out from civilization of their own accord and desire, to indulge in wickedness, idleness and degradation, should read and try to understand the truth concerning us. We never thought of withdrawing from the world until they compelled us to. We never desired to leave our homes and the graves of our loved ones to seek a desolate, barren and secluded spot like this. No; we desired to dwell in peace with the world and to benefit all mankind. But they would not let us live with them and enjoy the same liberty and rights which they were permitted to enjoy with us in our beautiful city; but we were driven away from them in a free country, and we endured suffering from fatigue, cold and hunger, and passed through heartrending scenes which no pen can describe, to seek a resting place Beyond the Rocky Mountains upon Mexican soil, because we loved our religion more than we did our homes or our lives. We have proved how we loved it and our husbands and children, and would to God that every good man and woman could see the door which is open for their deliverance, more especially the “downtrodden women” of the world. Now we are blessed with homes of our own and an abundance of God’s mercies, we invite our good sisters to come here and to put aside prejudice and open their eyes and ears and understand that the women of this Church “are the true sisters of charity,” for they have no desire but to benefit the human family, although the course which is taken towards us is calculated to tear open the old wounds, reminding us of the bitter wrongs which have never been redressed; but we know what a cup of bitterness awaits those who have persecuted and slain the innocent, and the worst feeling I cherish towards any one of them is pity, because “they know not what they do.”
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 5,
1 August 1881, p. 34
Lately in looking over some of my old letters I found one written by my mother to her stepmother who, previous to marrying my grandpa, we had learned to call by the endearing name of Aunt Fanny. She was then living in the town of Winchester Scott Co. 111. She had got this far on her journey from Kirtland to Missouri when she heard of the Saints being driven out. Grandpa left her there to go back in company with my father to pay a visit to his children in the state of New York where he died soon after. The letter contains items that may prove interesting to some of the old time Saints particularly so to Bro. Evan Greene and his wife Susan whom she speaks of; his mother as well as Aunt Fanny were sisters to President Brigham Young. It was a daughter of Bro. Evan Greene’s who first edited our WOMAN’S EXPONENT. This letter is dated “Nauvoo Feb. 16th, 1841. “Dear Mother:—I am glad to hear from you once more that you are yet alive and as comfortable as what you are. We had anticipated much pleasure in having a visit from you this winter but in this have been disappointed. I still hope that you will come the first opportunity. I have spent this day at Bro. John P. Greene’s; his children were all at home and I had a good visit with them; but there is a vacancy there, that never can be filled. I have not been there before, since the day that dear Sister Greene was buried. I regretted that you could not have come before she died, it would have been such a satisfaction to her and you too, but do not cast any reflections upon yourself about it for I’m sure that you would have come had it been in your power. Sister Greene and I had many a good visit together since we came to Commerce; although her health was so poor, yet I would sit down by her bedside and we would take sweet counsel together. We often wished that you were here with us. She has now gone to rest and we have nothing to regret but the loss of her society which is very great. She had everything for her comfort that she could have had, if Brother Greene had been worth thousands and you know he is one of the best nurses in the world. Her children were all as kind as they could be, especially Rhoda; she merits praise from every beholder. I never saw such unceasing care and tenderness as she manifested for her mother during her whole sickness.
“I shall not be particular to write all the news as Evan and Susan can tell you more than I can write. * * * I have not had any news from Victor since receiving those letters which I shall forward to you by Evan. I have perused them with great satisfaction and feel perfectly reconciled and thankful that father was there instead of here—If he had died here, perhaps the children would have cast reflections upon us for fetching him to this sickly country; so I feel that it is all for the best. As for myself and family we enjoy comfortable health this winter. I received a letter from Heber last week bearing date of Dec. 12th, he and Brigham and the rest of the brethren were usually well, with the exception of George A. Smith, his lungs are so affected that he raises blood; he is not able to preach. The work is still rolling forth in mighty power and persecution increasing as the work advances. Heber says if things continue as they have for a short time past, they shall be driven from the land—Joseph has been afraid of it by the spirit and has written for them to come home in the spring. He says they will make their escape and that is all.
“I have many anxious feelings about them but try to commit them into the hands of the Lord and look forward with anticipation to the time when we shall meet and rejoice together. We have many things to cheer and gladden our hearts while sojourning in this vale of tears. The Lord is again revealing his will to the Church through his servant Joseph; there has been a very lengthy revelation given of late concerning the building up of this place; also concerning all the different quorums in the Church. The Lord says there has been a day of calling and now cometh a day of choosing—I understand that the revelation is to be read at the April conference. I hope that you will be here. I must now close as I have promised Helen one page to write you.
On the 6th, of April 1841 the cornerstones of the Nauvoo Temple were laid which I had the privilege of witnessing,—it was a day the Saints had anxiously looked for and was ushered in by peals of artillery calling together the Nauvoo Legion consisting of fourteen companies and two volunteer companies of militia from Iowa. The military were first reviewed by Lieutenant General Joseph Smith then the procession was formed, and marched to the temple grounds in the following order, which I copy. Lieut. General Smith, Brig. Generals Law and Smith, aides-de-camp and conspicuous strangers, general staff; 2nd, cohort (infantry) ladies eight abreast, gentlemen eight abreast, 1st. cohort (cavalry).
The oration was delivered by President Rigdon. The S. E., corner was laid by the First Presidency; the S. W., by President Don C. Smith and his counselors of the high priest quorum; the N. W., by the high council representing the Twelve Apostles who were in Great Britain; and the N. E., corner by the bishops. The vast assembly then separated, the whole having passed off in harmony and no contention or discord having appeared. A great many strangers from other parts were present on this occasion and all lost sight of their prejudices and entered into the enjoyment of it with the Saints.
On the 1st day of July my father with President Young and Brother John Taylor arrived home from their mission; the families of the latter who were left in Montrose sick, were then living in Nauvoo on the flat enjoying a more comfortable degree of health. My brother, who was still living at the landing was the first to meet and embrace my father. The Prophet and many more were there ready to greet and welcome them home again, Joseph would have them go home with him to dinner and William hastened home to tell us the same; we thought this almost an unkindness for it seemed so long a time to us who were waiting and watching with impatience to see him but soon we discovered a company of horsemen coming with all speed and when my mother saw them she made a hasty retreat behind the door to hide her confusion, where in a moment after father found her overwhelmed in tears. Joseph it seemed had ordered several horses to be saddled while they were eating and by the time dinner was served, which was a hasty one, the horses were at the door and he with Brother Hyrum and three or four brethren accompanied my father home. My mother felt the presence of others at such a time almost an intrusion but Brother Joseph seemed unwilling to part with my father; and from that time kept the Twelve in council early and late, and she sometimes felt nearly jealous of him but never dreamed that he was during those times revealing to them the principles of celestial marriage and that her trials and sacrifices which she had flattered herself were nearly over, had scarcely begun, and they little realized the meaning of his words when he said “he was rolling off the kingdom from his own shoulders onto the shoulders of the Twelve.”
A few days after their return to Nauvoo the Prophet’s brother Don Carlos Smith died, and being an officer in the legion as well as a Freemason he was buried with Masonic and military rites. Those of the Masonic fraternity marched next to the family to the grave which was in a little grove at the foot of the hill southwest of the temple. My mother’s baby being too sick for her to leave I went in her stead and marched with my father in the Masonic procession; and may I be pardoned for saying it, but when he gave me his arm as we started from home that Sabbath morn I felt justly proud of the honor of walking with so fine a looking gentleman as was my father and not only that, but knowing that his constant humility and faithfulness to his duty, had won for him the love and confidence of the Prophet and all who knew him. Besides the sorrowing family of Bro. Don Carlos he had a host of sincere mourners and I felt deeply impressed by the grand and imposing ceremonies that I witnessed that day. The Legion and a large procession of citizens formed near the temple, and as they marched in slow and solemn order to the house of the dead the martial band with muffled drum beat to the notes of a dead march.
The following from Sister E. R. Snow’s poem describes the scene.
“I gazed upon the grand procession, till
It disappear’d amid the dwellings which
Stand thickly cluster’d near the river’s edge.
I listened! all was still the music notes
No longer sounded on the pensive breeze:
But hark! the notes awaken’d, and I saw
The mighty host returning with the same
Slow, melancholy tread! A hearse was borne
Along with solemn yet bold martial pomp,
That plainly signified a Mighty One.
One of no ordinary rank, had fallen!
* * * * * *
In nature’s temple with no other wall
Than the horizon, and no other arch
Than the broad canopy of heaven; shaded
With clust’ring boughs whose foliage waves around,
Is rais’d an altar to the living God.
There the procession march’d; it halted there.
And in the front of weeping relatives,
The hearse of him was plac’d who there in life
Had been a fervent constant worshiper.
His arms and armor on his coffin lay,
And other swords than his lay crossing there,
His brother officers, who form’d with him
The noblest military staff our fair
Columbia has to boast, were seated by,
In shining armor clad.”
In the morning I remember that the sky had looked somewhat threatening but it cleared away until near the close of the service, dark clouds began to gather over the city and as the procession was again forming to follow his remains to their last resting place, the rain fell in torrents but this did not prevent us from standing by his grave while his brethren, one by one, deposited therein a green bough, as a last tribute of respect to one, whose life had been free from blemish, and whom Zion deeply mourned.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 6,
15 August 1881, p. 42
A great change had been wrought during the time that the Twelve had been absent from Nauvoo—My father writing from there in July 1841 described the appearance of the city at that time—He says, “You know there were not more than thirty buildings in the city when we left about two years ago; but at this time there are about 1200, and hundreds of others in progress, which will be finished soon. On Friday last seventy Saints came to Nauvoo, led by Lorenzo Barnes, from Chester County, Pennsylvania, in wagons, living by the way. On the next day a company came in wagons, from Canada, all in good spirits, and in two or three days after, they all obtained places to live in. They are coming in from all parts of the vast continent daily and hourly, and the work is spreading in all of this land and calls for preaching in all parts. You will recollect when we built our houses in the woods there was not a house within a half a mile of us, now the place, wild as it was at that time, is converted into a thickly populated village.”
The following account which was printed in a St. Louis paper will show the thriving condition of the city in 1842. “The population of Nauvoo is between 8000 and 9000, and of course the largest town in the state of Illinois. How long the Latter-day Saints will hold together and exhibit their present aspect it is not for us to say. At this moment they present the appearance of an enterprising, industrious, sober and thrifty population, such a population indeed, as in the respects just mentioned, have no rivals east, and we rather guess not even west of the Mississippi.” Before the close of 1842 the population numbered about 15,000 and scarcely three years had elapsed since the Saints came there so nearly destitute of every worldly thing, and by their industry in spite of sickness and the many obstacles which they had to contend with, they had accomplished more than any other community had done in the same amount of time, but notwithstanding all these signs of industry, temperance and virtue the same spirit of jealousy and persecution which had been manifested towards them in Ohio, and Missouri was imbibed by a portion of the people of Illinois, and many false reports were circulated by them to injure the Saints, but often they had the opposite effect and enlisted the sympathies of many honorable people, and occasionally persons who visited our city would be so agreeably surprised that they would publish accounts which contradicted the false reports. The following one which was written by a Methodist minister who visited Nauvoo in the spring of 1843 gives such a fair description of our city and people as they were, that I would like to see it reprinted for the benefit of those who listen to all the rumors that are started about the “Mormons” and believe that they have sunk so much lower in the mire of corruption, since coming to Utah—he says—”At length the city burst upon my sight and how sadly was I disappointed; instead of seeing a few miserable log cabins and mud houses which I expected to find, I was surprised to see one of the most romantic places that I had visited in the West. The buildings, though many of them were small and of wood, yet bore the marks of neatness, which I have not seen equalled in this country. The far spread plain at the bottom of the hill was dotted over with the habitations of men with such majestic profusion, that I was almost willing to believe myself mistaken; and instead of being in Nauvoo, of Illinois, among Mormons that I was in Italy at the city of Leghorn (which the location of Nauvoo resembles very much), and among eccentric Italians. I gazed for some time with fond admiration upon the plains below. Here and there arose a tall majestic brick house, speaking loudly of the genius, and untiring labors of the inhabitants, who have snatched the place from the clutches of obscurity, and wrested it from the bonds of disease; and in two or three short years rescued it from a dreary waste to transform it into one of the first cities of the West. The hill upon which I stood was covered over with the dwellings of men, and amid them was seen to rise the hewn stone and already accomplished work of the temple, which is now raised 15 or 20 ft. above the level of the ground. The few trees that were permitted to stand were now in full foliage, and were scattered with a sort of fantastic irregularity over the slope of the hill.” This grove that he mentioned was where the Saints met upon the Sabbath day to worship or to hold their public meetings. He continues—”I passed on into the more active parts of the city, looking into every street and lane to observe all that was passing. I found all the people engaged in some useful and healthy employment. The place was alive with business, much more so than any place I have visited since the hard times commenced. I sought in vain for anything that bore the mark of immorality; but was both astonished and highly pleased at my ill success. I could see no loungers about the streets, nor any drunkards, about the taverns. I did not meet with those distorted features of ruffians, or with the ill-bred or impudent, I heard not an oath in the place, I saw not a gloomy countenance; all were peaceful, polite, and industrious. I conversed with many leading men, and found them social and well-informed, hospitable and generous. I saw nothing but order and regulation in the society. Where then, I exclaimed, is all this startling proof of the utter profligacy of Nauvoo? Where in the name of God, is the immorality charged upon the citizens of it; and what dreadful outbreaking crimes have given men the license to depreciate this place as much as they do? Where is the gang of marauders, horse thieves and ruffians, the drunkards and vicious men of Nauvoo? Where are the horrid forms of human beings distorted with hellish rage and maddened ire? Where are the dark and diabolical superstitions? Where are those specimens of credulity and ignorance? Where are those damning doctrines of demons? Where in fine is this slough, this sink of iniquity of which I have heard so much? Surely not in Nauvoo! They must have got the wrong place, or willfully lied about it. I could but blush with disappointed shame for my friends who had so misinformed me, and very soon made up my mind, like the Queen of Sheba, not to believe any reports of enemies but to always like her, go and see for myself.” Here is the testimony of another Gentile who saw it at that time. In a letter he says, “Look and see what they have done at Nauvoo, during the comparative short time they have been there. If they are enabled to proceed as they have commenced their town ere long will become a mighty city. I do not believe there is another people in existence who could have made such improvement in the same length of time under the same circumstances.”
I wish there were more honorable men, who when they come among us could see one side as well as the other, and had sufficient moral courage when they go away to publish the truth about the “Mormons.” As far as ourselves are concerned it matters very little what our enemies think or say of us for we expect nothing better of them and we know that in the end they will be the sufferers. I think that we have shown to the world that we could live and thrive upon a desert land which they had never dreamed of inhabiting as well as subdue and dwell in peace with the savage without any of their assistance; but we know there are many honest souls who have not yet heard this gospel preached and if the servants of God who have enjoyed such great blessings and manifestations of His power should refuse to obey his mandates to go forth and warn the inhabitants of the earth of the judgments which are right at their doors, that they may repent &c, and gather up to these mountains where He has promised to protect his people, they would be under condemnation and could not escape the wrath of the Almighty. The Latter-day Saints when they receive this gospel understandingly are prepared for trials and to make sacrifices which thousands of them have done in leaving their homes and native lands, their friends and kindred ties that had to be broken, and many have sacrificed worldly riches and what was dearer than all, their good name. Oh how little the outside world know or can understand the motive that prompts the Latter-day Saints to gather from the different countries and nations to this far off land, among a people whom all manner of evil is spoken of, but they knew the voice of the true shepherd who has said “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved”; He has also said to His servants “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the counsels and they will scourge you in their synagogues and ye shall be brought before the governors and kings for my sake for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. Fear not them which kill the body but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body.” The world may prate about the ignorant Mormons but the lowliest among us and even our little children understand the scriptures and plan of salvation better than they with all their worldly wisdom.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 7,
1 September 1881, p. 50
The Prophet Joseph, being anxious to have my father nearer to himself and his brethren, our place on the hill was exchanged for one on the flat, where father built us a more commodious house of hewn logs containing three lower rooms and a chamber, which we moved into the fall after his return from Europe.
Our city was then in its infancy, and no sawmills or brick kilns had been built. We liked the situation of our new home much the best, being in the vicinity of the temple and grove where the meetings were held, and also the general traveling ground, as well as the Mississippi River, where we could go to bathe any evening without fear of intrusion.
In the summer season the water was very warm, but sometimes in the heat of the summer it was considered unhealthy, and the Prophet thought it advisable to abstain from indulging too freely during the sickly season.
For a time after we settled on the flat there were but few houses built between ours and the river, and “oft in the stilly night” waking from our slumbers we would hear delicious strains of music wafted by the breeze over our quiet city from some steamer passing up or down the river, as they were frequently accompanied by minstrels, sometimes colored people and their music was perfectly enchanting—“Behold how brightly breaks the morning,” “The Cracovion Maid” and “Home, Sweet Home,” and in many Ethiopian airs they excelled. The following verse will, no doubt, remind many beside myself of their most charming serenades—
“My skiff is by the shore
She’s light and free,
To ply the feathered oar
Is joy to me,
And as she glides along,
My song shall be,
Dearest maid, I love but thee!”
Negro melodies are always sweet, and there is something most exquisite in the sound of music from the water.
We hardly realized the extent of our blessings there, until we came to this far off desolate looking country. For a number of years my heart, despite of myself would yearn for the green woods and hills and delightful vales that we had been exiled from, and most of all was the view of the broad Mississippi, where we could see and hear the steamers as they plied up and down its quiet bosom. We did not know how to appreciate them, nor those beautiful rich prairies covered, as far as the eye could reach, with tall waving grass, and decked with wild flowers of various hues, with occasional groves and streams of water; nor the woodlands where grew a variety of native fruits and nuts, so near us that they could be had for the plucking; but here we had to go to the canyons and climb mountains to obtain the service berry and the few indigenous fruits of the country.
The few old settlers in Commerce had an abundance of apples, peaches and cherries, etc., but we were not allowed to stay there long enough to enjoy the fruit from our own orchards.
Had it not been for my kindred ties, and what was of still greater value, my religion, I am sure that I could not have reconciled myself to remain in this dreary and out of the way place, and there were many more who, had it not been for their faith in the promises of the Almighty, who they knew had guided his servants here by revelation, could not have held out under the many trials and privations that they were subjected to. There were a few whose faith failed them and they sought a more congenial clime. During our long journey here from Nauvoo, we had been accustomed to noise and bustle of camp life, and many a time I longed for some quiet spot where I could enjoy a little solitude; but after our journey was ended and the Saints began to scatter over the valley and our men were all gone to work in the canyons or digging ditches, building, planting, or doing whatever was necessary, we had quietness and solitude to our hearts’ content. No one who was able to work could afford to be idle, but I had been and was still very sick when we entered the valley and no one but my father thought it possible for me to live, and it was my misfortune to be an invalid for a number of years after, and oh, those long quiet days, sometimes it seemed to me they would never draw to a close. We lived then where we do now near the mouth of City Creek canyon, which was really the most romantic and delightful spot in the valley; there were two branches that ran through the city but after they were changed and all the willows and wild rose bushes which thickly covered them and kept the water cold as it came down from the mountains were dug away, there was nothing left to admire but the rugged snow capped mountains or to relieve the eye from the everlasting sagebrush and sunflowers. I remember with what joy I welcomed the whistle of the locomotive on the day that it first entered this valley; the first car, by the by, that I had ever seen or heard, as the Latter-day Saints had moved westward in advance of the railroads. There had been one commenced at Quincy, Illinois, before we came there from Missouri; but there was nothing more done to it until after we left the states.
When I reflect upon the past scenes and some of the incidents in the early history of the Saints and draw the comparison between then and now, and see their present prosperous condition, with our beautiful cities and farms with flocks and herds and rich pastures spread over this once desolate land, I am led to exclaim, Oh how weak and shortsighted we mortals are and how much need there is for revelation from a higher power than man to guide us. Could anything of a worldly nature induce me now to leave my home in this lovely city? No. I would not exchange it and the peace that I enjoy with this people for all there is east or west of these Rocky Mountains; at least until the time comes for Zion to return to inherit the lands whence she was driven, for to her I can say: “Whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
I seated myself to jot down incidents and scenes in Nauvoo; but before I am aware of it I find that my thoughts have carried me far away from the subject: but to continue:
Among the most pleasant of my early remembrances was the Nauvoo Brass Band which was organized in the year 1842 by Brother William Pitt and also the martial band under Bro. Levi W. Hancock and Dimick B. Huntington, as fife and drum major. Their beat drummer was Brother E. P. Dusette, with whom we were previously acquainted in Far West, Missouri. His performance on the drum I never saw equalled. Samuel D. Billings, eldest son of Bro. Titus Billings was nearly as good. In 1843 or near that time having become a member of the choir, led by Stephen Goddard, I became intimately associated with the members of the choir and brass band in the concerts of vocal and instrumental music given in our Nauvoo concert hall. I shall probably refer to them again, as we were associated from that time and journeyed together from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 8,
15 September 1881, p. 58
Soon after the return of President Brigham Young and my father from Europe, they were appointed chaplains to the Nauvoo Legion. Their uniform was of black cloth, with chapeaus and plumes of the same color. After the Prophet’s assassination, Brigham Young was appointed in his stead as lieut.-general of the legion.
We were living but a little distance from the training ground, where we witnessed many grand displays, as well as on the prairie, where they went to hold a three days’ muster.
I can call to mind many a pleasing reminiscence in the midst of our journeyings, while others have grown dim in the lapse of years, that have brought their various and trying changes to all, more particularly to the Latter-day Saints, who have been driven and scourged for many years. The Lord has various ways of bringing His children to repentance, and in having to drink deep of the bitter cup, we know better than any other people how to sympathize with others when they are called to suffer in a similar manner; and it has also taught us how to enjoy the sweets as they come, and I believe that we have been and are still the happiest people living, for the Holy Spirit has assisted us, and that with a clear conscience is of more worth than the whole world without it.
In dwelling upon the early scenes in Nauvoo, my mind reverts back to a time in Kirtland when our brethren were in the habit of training every Saturday, and I can remember with what joy and childish delight we would welcome that day, and I remember too how I used to love to hear the old patriotic songs, and to read or listen to the tales rehearsed concerning what was then called “the late war” with Great Britain, and also the revolutionary war, where our liberty was bought with the blood of our patriots.
We were believers in an unpopular religion; the founder was quite a young man, but was called an old gold digger. Our claims to the privileges guaranteed us by the Constitution, though gained through long years of hardships, suffering and privation, and the death of many of our heroic sires, were denied us, and my father and his brethren were obliged to arm themselves, and for weeks were not permitted to take off their clothes, and laid on the ground with their firelocks night after night to preserve the lives of the Prophet and their families from those wicked traitors who were threatening destruction upon them.
The place where they daily mustered was in a large meadow just behind our house, belonging to Brother Ira Bond, and oh! How much I enjoyed the training and music of their martial band; it seemed one continual holiday for us children, who had very little idea of the meaning of it.
Peace was restored for a little season, but we had been in Far West just three weeks when the brethren had to again rally together to defend themselves from the mobbers of Missouri.
We had moved into a portion of the public storehouse, where we remained until father built a small cabin, which he had intended for a stable when our dwelling house was finished. The storehouse stood on one side of the square where the Saints had dug the foundation for a temple. This was the gathering place, where the brethren mustered; they often came to our door for a refreshing draught of water and to rest in the shade of the house, as the weather was extremely warm.
I well remember the morning when the first of the mobbers entered the city; we were attending school, which was taught by Brother Jesse Haven and his sister, who had lately come there from Massachusetts. She was a very sweet lady and greatly beloved by the scholars and finally by all who became acquainted with her. After we came to Nauvoo she was married to Brother Israel Barlow, who was among the first “Mormons,” and they are now living in Bountiful, Utah. The schoolhouse was a large, fine building, with an entry, which the Saints had built on the outskirts of the town. When the mobbers came in they passed by the schoolhouse, and at the sound of their bugle the excitement was so great that we were allowed to go to the windows to see them pass. Soon after this the school had to be closed, in consequence of the mobbing. During a portion of the next winter we attended one taught by William Huntington in a private dwelling house in the central part of the city. I never realized any danger, but, fired by the spirit of war, my eldest brother, with my assistance, prepared for it by making wooden guns, swords and flags, and the latter were hoisted to the topmost part of our fence or cabin, where they could be seen fluttering in the breeze, and at the martial sound of fife and drum we would start to our feet and march with as much enthusiasm as though we belonged to a regiment of soldiers. We realized no danger, were probably too young; besides, we were at headquarters. Many of the Saints had fled to Far West for protection; not even when the city was surrounded by the mob we never knew that we were conquered; nor that there were such fiends in a land that boasted of freedom, professing Christianity, but no consideration of justice or mercy could move their stony hearts. Polygamy did not cause that, as it had not been revealed.
After many of the Saints had been massacred, and others died through want and sickness occasioned by their brutal course in the dead of winter, the rest fled for their lives to the then hospitable state of Illinois, where for a little season they enjoyed peace and the privilege of organizing their men into a legion.
Once more we could celebrate the glorious and never-to-be-forgotten day of our nation’s independence, the Fourth of July, which was ushered in by the welcome peals of artillery, and our martial and brass bands playing the soul-thrilling airs that will never cease to inspire the heart of every true son and daughter of freedom.
Every act of our people from their first organization until the present time—although they have been so cruelly persecuted and driven from their homes, and many sealed their testimony with their blood, and finally were driven from out the United States—has proven our loyalty to the Constitution, though opportunities for forming other ties were not wanting, which any other community under like circumstances would have accepted; but we had brought with us the beloved stars and stripes, which we had never deserted, no, not even when Governor J. W. Shaeffer, to gratify his spleen, prohibited the mustering of the Nauvoo Legion. Our people considered it nothing more nor less than a silly farce, which was gracefully submitted to, as all other similar requirements have been, thereby taking their own weapons from out their hands; but when required to give up our right to “serve God according to the dictates of our own consciences,” and to accept of others’ notions and ideas of virtue and morality, that is quite another thing; and though they may howl and continue to heap upon us their contemptible falsehoods, and call us bad names, they need not flatter themselves that the “Mormon” women are so ignorant of the law, or so weak and simple-minded as to be hoodwinked by any man, not even a “Mormon.” Our enemies know as well as we do that we have broken no law in practicing polygamy, it being a Bible doctrine, and we revive it as coming from the Almighty, who sanctioned and honored it by bringing forth our Savior through polygamous lineage, and He declared that He was “the root and the offspring of David.”
If people calling themselves Christians will persist in denying this part of the scriptures, they had better burn up the whole. Before my father ever heard that such a principle had been revealed to Joseph Smith he said to some friends in my hearing that if “all things were to be restored again as they were in the beginning,” as the scriptures declare them, the principle of a plurality of wives must also be restored; and he was heard to repeat the same when on his second mission to Europe, but he said he hardly expected it would come in his day. And when he heard it taught by Joseph Smith, he said the shock was similar to that of an earthquake; and when he commanded him to take another wife, if it had been his death sentence he could not have felt worse, and there were others who felt similar; and if it could have been just as acceptable in the sight of God, they would have chosen death. The few humble Saints who heard the principle from the Prophet’s lips knew that he was a true Prophet of God, for the Holy Spirit bore witness to them that the principle was from Him, and they knew too that Joseph Smith would never have had the courage to introduce such a doctrine, much less to command men to enter into it whose traditions made it so obnoxious to their natural feelings, if it had not been commanded by the Almighty, for he was fully aware of the jeopardy in which he placed his own life by doing it, and I know that life was very dear to him, as much so to any man living, and that he was a devoted husband to his first wife, Emma; and a more affectionate father never lived; but he also knew that if he disobeyed that command that he would be destroyed, and would also forfeit his eternal salvation.
If the few who believe this principle to be a righteous one can afford to endure it, certainly the stranger ought to leave us to ourselves to work out the “problem,” for we know that with God’s help we shall do it in spite of them. We realize the greatness of the undertaking, and also that many sad mistakes have been made because of the foolishness of fallen man, but that does not prove the principle to be incorrect. We have been commanded to “try all things and to hold fast that which is good,” and we are trying to obey as far as it is possible in our weak and sinful states, and if it affords any pleasure to our enemies to hurl their wicked darts, and continue to waste their ammunition upon us they are at liberty to do so. We have learned long ago to keep cool, which is the most aggravating of all, and I believe that sensible people will in time become disgusted.
If those who call themselves Christians would come to us with a spirit more in accordance with their profession, if we could not all see alike, we might at least be friends; but the unrighteous and inhuman course taken to root out what they please to call “The Twin Relic,” only arouses in our hearts a more determined spirit of opposition, and fills every virtuous and sincere “Mormon” woman with indignation, and we tell them with the same spirit that inspired the heroic defenders of liberty at Bunker Hill, when they said to the infatuated monarch of England, “We have chosen (religious) war in preference to voluntary slavery” to their false ideas and the humbuggeries of acknowledged Mormon-eaters and virtue and life destroyers.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 9,
1 October 1881, p. 68