My mother had four children; Elizabeth, John, William and myself. She removed from Virginia to Fleming County, Kentucky, before my recollection. Her mother, who was also a widow with her whole family, removed shortly afterward and settled near together on a creek called Locus Creek. As my father died before my recollection, I know nothing concerning his character, only from remarks frequently made by his relatives which was, that he was honest and industrious and had the confidence and goodwill of his associates, but not attached to any religious denomination. He left a house and farm which was rented till the heirs became of age, the yearly income of which was quite a help to my mother in making provisions for her family.
My mother was very affectionate to her children, for whose welfare she toiled by day and night. She also had the confidence and esteem of all that knew her. She was a believer in the Bible as far as she understood it. She was attached to the Baptist denomination in the former part of her life but in process of time, none of her own society being near, and a Methodist society being raised up in her neighborhood, she united with them many years. And finally, in the decline of her life, she was persuaded to change her state to that of a married life. Her husband, Leonard Wines (father of Brother William’s wife) being a strong Presbyterian, soon converted her to his faith. But my mother always taught me good principles and especially to have implicit faith in the Bible, for which teaching I have often since expressed to her my heartfelt gratitude. And my great mortification has been in later years, that I could not prevail on her to believe the system of salvation contained in the Bible as I have received and vainly know to be true.
My brother John died when he was about 10 years old. I can remember well the circumstances of his death and burial. My mother remained here on Locus Creek, Fleming City, until her oldest child Elizabeth was grown to the age of 16 years (weaving, sewing, etc., to support her family). When she, Elizabeth, was married to John Osborn, her cousin (son of John Osborn, my father’s brother) a worthy man who lived with and took charge of affairs pertaining to the family even after, until I was grown.
We shortly after this removed to Montgomery City, 20 miles distant and in a few years more removed to the state of Indiana, Monroe City, 200 miles North, in the year 1819. I was then 13 years old. This was a new country and we had some inconveniences to encounter, but few mills and little grain in the country. We had to grind our corn on a handmill. My mother was not neglectful in sending us to school when opportunity offered, which was generally in the winter season, and then in the summer we were employed on the farm. Consequently, we would forget during the summer nearly all we could learn in the winter interposition but Brother William and myself were very attentive to our books and embraced every opportunity to obtain knowledge. We, in our youth, lived together as agreeably as children generally do, but at times we would quarrel and contend very sharply. At such times our mother would visit us with her rod, and after shaming us for our conduct, would ascertain which was the aggressor. Then it would be, “Come Billy or David, take hold of your brother and hug him,” which we were sure to refuse to do until we observed the rod was coming; then we would fly at each other very ambitiously and hug, or kiss as she required. Our malignant and bitter feelings were then blown away with a hearty laugh.
In my 15th year the family, having settled in Owen City, [Indiana] we opened a farm in a heavy timbered country of beech, sugar tree, poplar and walnut. The first winter they gave me charge of school of about 20 or 25 scholars. This was quite a task as I was very young but I applied closely to my business and got along and gave better satisfaction than I expected. Shortly after, Uncle Robert, my mother’s brother who lived in Kentucky, wrote to mother requesting her to send me back to stay with him a season and go to school as he was owing her money for a farm. She consented and I went back and commenced my studies at school under the care of William Phillips, a good teacher. I also attended a school three months kept by Turner Anderson. I tarried about 12 months, applied closely to my studies and got a partial understanding of arithmetic, english, grammar surveying and bookkeeping. I then returned to Indiana to the society of my relatives and acquaintances with great joy, for it seemed to me to be a long separation, it being the first of my adventures from home. I now took another school in the same house I taught in before, and continued the business in that and two other neighborhoods for several years.
It was the custom in those days in Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana at Christmas to bar out the teacher except he would comply with the requisition of his scholars, which would be a treat of so much whiskey, apples or cider, and holiday. Consequently, I had to come in contact with this tradition or custom and as I felt a little proud of my authority, I would not yield to their wishes, and we had quite a frolic before it was settled.
About the year 1826 or [?] all the family except William and myself joined the Methodists, who were quite numerous and also very zealous at that time. Sister Elizabeth in particular was very much devoted to the cause of religion and it seemed that her whole soul was drawn out in reading, meditation and prayer. She was struck with the palsy and after being bled in her right arm she recovered the use of that side of her, but her left hand and arm, also her left leg, remained almost useless until a second and also a third shock returned about two years after, which proved fatal. She lived but a few hours.
The evening before her death she and I were at home alone, the rest of the family being at the sugar camp as she was well as usual and was very earnest in conversation on religion. As my mind was occupied with other matters I waved the subject but she pressed the subject home to me with such earnestness and interest, that to get rid of her arguments, exhortations and entreaties I retired to bed. Her last words to me were these: “I do not see how any person can lie down and sleep without having an interest in the Redeemer, not knowing that he ever will rise again.” She then retired to a secret place and prayed as she always did before going to bed and was struck before rising next morning. She was truly a good sister, a devoted and dutiful daughter and wife, and an affectionate mother. She left two sons, Levi Lewis and David Milton. Her conversation to me at that time made quite an impression on my mind and in those days I had many seasons of serious reflection and humble prayer though all was in secret.
And while on this subject I cannot refrain from saying that I look forward to the time with joy when I shall have the privilege of meeting and expressing to her, face to face, my gratitude for the deep interest she took in my welfare when I was enveloped in the vanities of the world. When the doctrine of “baptism for the dead” was first revealed, I was baptized without delay for sister Betsy, but though that was done ignorantly, I hope ere long it will be attended to by the proper person, her husband; John Osborn was a righteous man in his day, and died some 10 or 12 years after being highly esteemed by all that knew him.
In about the year 1826 our family removed 30 miles west to Green City on the west side of White River. I was now 20 years of age. This being a new country and going out early one morning, I heard a hog squeal at some distance in the woods; I ran to relieve it (though without any weapons). I came to it in a thicket where a bear was on it eating it. I hollered, supposing it to be some smaller animal, it (the bear) left the hog and took after me. I ran about 60 yards, sprang up a small sapling. It coming close behind, hugged the tree and came up, took hold of my foot, my shoe slipping off, next took hold of my other knee, then the calf of my other leg and lastly took hold of my thigh leaving deep wounds on every place. I had nothing to defend myself with and death with its terrors stared me in the face. I cried to the Lord to have mercy and spare my life, promising to serve him the remainder of my days. The bear immediately left me and returned to the hog.
I returned home quite lame, having lost my hat, shoes and one leg of my breeches. I was confined closely about six weeks but got entirely well. I have ever looked upon that as a providential interposition.
Next spring following, I commenced making a farm. I was now 21 in March 31st, and on the 10th of April took a wife, Cynthia Butler, daughter of Thomas and Polly Butler. I now set out in the life afresh; dug a well and commenced fencing and breaking prairie and teaching school in the winter. On the 20th of February following my marriage, my first son was born, Thomas Jefferson. These were I think the happiest days of my life, as nothing seemed to cross my path, and my path and my course seemed to be onward to prosperity and happiness. I mean pertaining to this world, for this was the extent of my pursuit. I was surrounded by many relatives, my own and my wife’s likewise, and was in comfortable circumstances, got a small farm well- fenced and a separate enclosure set out with fruit trees; also a comfortable house. One thing however was lacking; good rail timber was scarce, and Uncle William Harrah proposing to purchase my farm, I concluded to try to better my condition by removing some three miles distant near Brother Williams, where there was good timber as well as soil.
I here purchased land, set out another orchard, fenced and cleared 15 or 16 acres, prepared two acres of blue grass lot for my sheep. I had four or five milk cows, three horses and a fine stock of hogs, and 10 or 12 beehives. I raised flax, provided a loom for my wife, both of which she used to good advantage. Fortune still smiled on our mutual exertions to get the comforts of life, and what added still more to our happiness and prosperity we had while living in this neighborhood, three children added to our family; Mary Elenor, born August 26, 1831; Elizabeth, born August 31, 1833; and William, born November 29, 1835. We had been blessed with good health until about this time. Little William when four months old was seized with convulsive fits. We tried several physicians but no effect.
About this time my mind was unusually waked up to reflection concerning my true state and standing before God. I spent much time in reading and serious meditation, and after giving myself up to prayer and yielding my will solely to be governed and dictated by the will of the Lord as revealed in his word and by his spirit which I desired to receive, the Lord condescended to manifest to me, according to my faith, that my sins were forgiven and my heart was filled with thanks and praises to my Father in Heaven for so great a deliverance, such peace, love to God and man and glorious sensations I never had felt before. I partially succeeded in waking my wife in making the same surrender of her heart to God, commenced family prayer, and exhorted all my comrades to go and do likewise; went directly to Brother William salutating him in the words of the psalmist, “O taste and see that the Lord is gracious.” He was thunderstruck; not knowing what to think or say, but after hearing me some time, wanted to know what sect of religion I was going to join. I told him that was something that had not concerned me as yet; indeed the idea of different sects of worshippers was very repugnant to my feelings.
There was in the settlement Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Campbellites, all were pleased with the spirit I manifested and would speak words of comfort, giving a recital of their former experience, but would caution me concerning erroneous principles held by this and that sect. This grieved me to see the jealousy which existed amongst them. In reading the scriptures I discovered that baptism was required of believers, as one of the foremost duties in regard to authority. I did not know or realize that it was requisite but my object was to receive baptism by a good man. Consequently, I set out (on foot) to see Uncle Aquilla Moss who lived 27 miles distant. I gave him my experience and feelings full, which he delighted to hear. Said he believed I was a proper subject of baptism, told me to attend a social meeting with him to be held soon, and he would present my case before his brethren and with their consent, baptize me. He belonged to the regular Baptists. I told him my mind was not decided in regard to particular creeds but I wished to be baptized there and then, which he declined doing. This was rather a damper. He cautioned me concerning wolves in sheep`s clothing, saying all is not religion that is called religion.
Well the Campbellites commenced preaching in that vicinity. I attended their meetings, they preached much truth, and evidently understood the order of the gospel, prophecies, etc., better than any I had become acquainted with. In short, they soon picked me up, and my wife also, and baptized us in a muddy little stream called Black Creek. The Campbellites were great champions for discussion and indeed, the other sects were afraid to come in contact with them. None of my relatives belonged to this sect, they were very unpopular in their eyes and in joining them we crossed the feelings of our friends very much, which was hard at that time for us to do.
We lived a year or two with these people, enjoying ourselves very well according to the light which we had received when George M. Hinkle came along preaching Mormonism. He was at that time a good man, and preached with a spirit and power that waked up everyone that heard him. He set all to reading their Bibles and Mormonism was the interesting topic and many believed his testimony. But to obey required a sacrifice that but few were willing to make. I had made a solemn covenant with the Lord to serve him according to the light he would give me; the testimony delivered fastened itself upon my mind with such weight that I would not, or dared not shake it off. My wife also believed the doctrine, but oh the cost, how could we foot the bill. We had so many endeavoring associations, such as parents, brothers and sisters. Our brethren and sisters in the church, our home, and it seemed that everything that makes life desirable must be torn from us if we obey this gospel. Yes, the thoughts of this created such a struggle in my mind as I never had experienced before, neither have I since. But after much reading, reflection and prayer, I went forward in the midst of a large congregation and gave my hand as a candidate for baptism, the only one at that time. My wife hesitated a few days but afterwards consented and we both went forward and were baptized in the same little stream we had been in before. So the saying went out that Osborn and his wife had been into every hold in Black Creek. This was in 1835. Two others of our neighbors were also baptized but afterwards apostatized.
Everything that could be said to blacken the character of the leaders and elders of the Church were now lied up, and many that believed at first but would not obey, now swallowed these lies as a sweet morsel and imbibed a spirit of persecution towards the Church.
In the fall of 1835, I rode up to Missouri (500 miles) to see my new brethren and make preparations for moving. I found them all over the upper Missouri, but chiefly in Clay County. I found some, John Patten and family in particular, of my former acquaintance. They strengthened me in the faith and encouraged me to come on, so I bought 20 acres of land and employed John Lemon to sow some wheat for me, let my horse and saddle go towards the land, and returned home by water in company with Lyman Wight and some elders who were going to Kirtland.
I found my family well, as also my friends, generally who were sorry to hear that I had bought land and still expected to go to Missouri, for they had flattered themselves with the hope that when I came to see the Mormons and learn what a degraded set of beings they were, I would come back satisfied to stay. But I sold my farm to Brother William and advertised my stock and other property for sale at nine months credit, expecting to move the next spring which I was hindered from doing in consequence of little William’s sickness. We did not move till the fall of 1836. Our relations used all their influence to hinder us from going, and when they could not turn me they tried to influence my wife to stay alone if I would go, but they could not prevail.
We set out with our sick child, with a span of horses and a light old wagon, one which broke down before we got 12 miles from home. But I got it fixed and took in a young woman by the name of Betsy Ann Persil, who had been baptized and wanted to go to Missouri. Our child mended every day and we got through safe, traveling all alone through a strange land. When we arrived, the Church was leaving Clay and settling in Caldwell and Daviess counties so we followed and stopped during the winter in Caldwell near Knobtown.
We enjoyed ourselves pretty well through the winter, though I had my grain to haul 60 miles after I built a house to live in. The gentiles were very friendly to us at this time. I had but little money, having left my sale- notes with Brother William to collect and send me by mail. But I bought pork on credit and borrowed a hundred dollars on credit to enter my land but I received my money by mail and paid my debts with interest. I bought land and commenced a farm in Daviess County, 12 miles north of Far West, cleared, fenced and put into corn eight acres. Also built a good white-oak log cabin the first season. Also dug a well some 35 feet deep, but got no water in the fall. I took a tour in company with Elisha H. Groves and Francis Case on Grand River some 60 miles north, bee hunting. We were from home six weeks and got about five barrels of beautiful honey. Though it rained about one week while we were out, the richest tree we found contained 11 1/4 gallons, though I heard of 20 gallons being taken from one tree.
Next spring, I commenced making rails, and fencing another field in the prairie. I enclosed, broke and planted in corn, potatoes, pumpkins, etc., 10 acres more. This proved to be a good season for crops. I raised 400 or 500 bushels of corn and vegetables in abundance on the 19th of April this year, which was 1838. We had another son added to our family and as I was afraid this would be my last son I called him after my own name. The health of my family was good except little William who was still afflicted, being entirely helpless. He was a great burden to his mother.
It was in this year that our persecutions and troubles commenced in Missouri. A detail of which I will not undertake to give but will merely relate a few incidents which transpired under my own observation. About the last October I concluded to go to Fort Leavenworth in company with Charles Stoddard to chop cordwood. Times had been rather squally but at that time the excitement was layed. The night previous to starting I had a dream, warning me of trouble, and also showing me that I would be delivered out of it. I related it to my wife who persuaded me not to go, but I shouldered my knapsack and ax and went on with Brother Charles. We got employment with a Mr. Grover, chopped about 2 weeks and began to hear awful reports of war and bloodshed in the vicinity of Far West. We had not told that we were Mormons so I told Charles I must go home and see to my family and he consented to stay a little longer and bring the money for our services. I told Grover I was tired chopping and thought I could make more to go home and bring my team and haul.
I set out to 60 miles to Far West, got about half way and the road was filled with mob militia. The rumor was that the Mormons were burning houses and taking stock and driving the old inhabitants out of their borders and on Thursday night next, Plattsburg was to be burned. I joined with them, having to pass through Plattsburg and told them I had a family near where the Mormons lived if they had not been burned out. Inquired where they expected to rendezvous. They replied near Hunter’s Mill. They told me to go on and get my rifle and meet them there which I promised to do but had not proceeded far through Plattsburg till I was overtaken by three gentlemen officers, who having had a dream, were talking very fluently. They halted, eyed me closely and commenced asking questions. I told them I lived a few miles from the Mormon settlement, had been to Fort Leavenworth at work and was on my way home and if my folks had not been burned out or driven away I would soon meet them at Hunters with my rifle. One of them swore I was a spy. I showed them my ax, clothes, etc., but all would not do; I must go with them. So I got on behind one of them and after traveling a few miles met a man that told them he knew me to be a Mormon. I then acknowledged it telling that when they first accosted me I was afraid they were a set of ruffians and would abuse me. But since I found them to be gentlemen, I could tell them the truth.
We arrived in the camps of the mobocrats late in the evening. It was soon noised abroad that they had taken a Mormon prisoner. They came from all parts of the encampment to see and ask me questions. Amongst others William Hunter and some others with whom I had dealings came up. They spoke in my favor. Said they believed if there were any honest Mormons that Osborn was one. To me, such information at that particular time was very welcome. After hearing this, their Colonel, Cornelius Gillium, told them the prisoner should not be abused nor insulted and told them to quit asking me so many fool questions. This was a great relief to me for they soon scattered though they had two men to guard me while they stayed in that place which was but two or three days; in which time they got together all their forces in the Platt country.
In their counseling they talked much of sending me to Far West with an express, giving them the privilege of taking their women and children out of the city as they felt loathe to kill them with the men. But all the men must be shot and the city burned and Joe Smith it seemed they all wanted the privilege of shooting, and several swore they would skin him and make razor straps, tugs and so forth of his hide.
In the morning before starting they painted themselves with red and black stripes all over their faces. Gillium, calling himself the Delaware Chief, after marching out onto the prairies, called a halt and made a speech to them telling them that he expected to march into Far West that day, and he expected to prove to them that he was not a coward but that he was willing to fight in defense of their rights and to rid himself of a people whom he considered to be enemies of their country. Reminding them of the blood and treasure spent by our revolutionary sires (to purchase the liberty which we were now called upon to defend) urged them to be valiant and true to each other and also to American institutions, though he said he wished and intended to propose to decide the contest in a single combat between Lyman Wight and himself.
Here they brought in another prisoner, Asa Barton, whom they captured with his horses and wagon loaded with corn. He was badly scared and would tell them all he knew concerning the movements of the Mormons. They gave Asa and me the privilege of riding on horseback without saddles. We moved on and joined the main army on Goosecreek in fair view of Far West three-fourths of a mile distant. Here they had 40 or 50 prisoners which they had picked up in different places, suspicioned to be Mormons, but some were not. These were kept under guard. One man named McRary lay in a wagon almost dead, having had his skull broke by some of the gentlemen soldiers. I saw quite a body of soldiers move on towards the city. I looked and waited in great suspense to learn the issue, expecting to hear the report of firearms but nothing could we hear.
Finally, we saw them returning and when they got near we saw Joseph, Sidney, Parley and others of our brethren marching in front and about the time they crossed the creek, they commenced shouting and screaming as if the woods were filled with panthers. These prisoners they took to another place and put them under a much stronger guard. I with my fellow prisoners were liberated the next day, went and saw Joseph and his comrades put into a wagon to go to visit their families and thence to prison. Such a spirit as was manifested on this occasion could not I think be equaled on this side of the lower regions. I now started to go home but could not pass the guards around the city, so I had to go back to the gentlemen officers and get a pass by which I was enabled to pass the guards and proceed homewards.
When I arrived, I found all vacated. My family had gone with the rest to Diahman [Adam-ondi-Ahman], 12 miles distant. Two or three hundred of the militia camped the same night at my house. I went and stayed the night at Dr. Amos Stoddards (he and Franklin his brother being prisoners at Far West at this time) the mob helping themselves to corn and fodder, potatoes, chickens, honey and hogs without any ceremony. I started next morning to Diahman, got a half mile and was halted by a gentleman soldier; showed him my pass, he took it but could not read it so I read it to him. He said, Leave this place dam’d quick, with a spirit which savored strong of fire and brimstone.
I got to Diahman and by virtue of my pass got through the guards there, and found my family camped out in the snow and frost by the side of a big log. My wife seemed considerably cast down in spirits, our child was quite sick having been so much exposed to cold. Hundreds of brethren were here camped out in the cold which was truly a melancholy sight. They kept us guarded in here near a week before we could get out to go home. Finally our case was decided; we must all go into Caldwell County within 10 to 12 days, stay there during the winter and then leave the state. We all received a pass to that effect. We returned home, got things together a little and went across the prairie into Caldwell to look out a place to camp through the winter; the snow was six or eight inches deep. We found a little grove of timber in a low place, a small stream of water running through it about four miles southwest. There, seven families of our neighborhood pitched their tents for the winter. Judge Smith and two or three other men came round and told us to be gone against the next Tuesday or our houses would be pulled down and we drove by force.
Our little William died November 12, two or three days before the time set for us to go. We had sat up and watched him night after night alone, and he died in my arms when we were all alone.
We picked up what we could and went over to Bush Creek, made a half faced camp at first and afterwards made a log shanty. My horses stood out in the cold all winter, when I had a good stable at home. There was a committee of 10 or 12 men appointed and privileged to come and go through the county at pleasure in behalf of the Church to gather up lost stock, dispose of corn, etc. They were to tie a bunch of white ribbon on the side of their hats so that they might be known (which they always wore when in Daviess) but no other man was permitted to be seen in Daviess, only at his own risk. I gathered most of what corn I did get by moonlight, got some of my hogs, but lost the greater part of my property. Living on the road the brethren used all the corn they wanted and indeed hauled away two or three loads of stock corn. We enjoyed ourselves through the winter better than many would suppose. We had some good meetings, but some did not approve of it, fearing the mob would take notice of it and cautioned us not to sing too loud.
I sold my farm at a very low price, got Brother James Whitaker to fill my old wagon, make out a team of three horses, lent Brother Holt a yoke of oxen and selling Old Willhight what corn I had on hand at 50 cents per barrel and took it in calico at 37 1/2 cents per yard. I also let him have a fine sow and pigs for a few yards of calico. I was almost naked, having left my knapsack of clothing at home as I passed by going to Diahman. When we returned all was gone (I expecting to come back the next day) but Cynthia cut up a blanket and made me some pants.
Finally we got ready and started early in February 1839. Father Hoops’ family with several other families, Brother Stoddard also. We had a cold, wet time on the road but went on and stopped in Pike City, Illinois five miles east of Pittsfield. Cleared off a pasture for old William Cooper and planted it in corn, but did not raise much. Built a kitchen for his son Robert expecting to occupy it but did not stay long. The elders commenced preaching in the neighborhood and his (Cooper’s) wife began to believe and come to our house to ask questions, read the Book of Mormon. He got alarmed about his wife and the excitement ran so high in the father as well as the son that I left the premises and moved and built a small house of my own about a mile distant. I got nothing for the house which I built for Cooper.
During this season there were many added to the church. The brethren met together often, held fast meetings once a month and we enjoyed ourselves well. I never felt more engaged in the work than at this time. There seemed to be a cloud resting on the mind of my wife from the commencement of our persecutions in Missouri, for she supposed that the most of it came in consequence of the conduct of our leaders and found fault with me for spending so much time going to meeting. These things had an impression on my mind and I often remembered her at a throne of grace. Also our parents and friends who were as yet strangers to the blessings of the gospel with these matters handing on my mind I went to bed and dreamed that I was amongst my friends in Indiana, many of whom were seated with me around a large table, in the center of which was a dish of fowl cut in pieces and heaped up. We all continued to help ourselves and feast from this dish which I noticed never decreased, was still heaped up. I happened to cast my eyes downward and discovered that my right hand was separated from my wrist without any blood attached to it. Seeing it lying lifeless I took the other hand and laid it aside; then when I looked down again another hand was attached to my wrist perfect as the other, but not quite so large.
I related my dream next day to my wife, and also the interpretation as I understood it; that is, that the time would come that many of our friends would feast with us on the undiminished blessings of the gospel, and also that she would be taken from me and another fill her place. She thought this was a reasonable interpretation.
We still kept up a correspondence with our friends in Indiana by letter, and as they insisted on us going to see them we accordingly fixed it up and went to see them. Leaving Brother Elisha Hooper to take charge of our house, cows, etc. until we returned, expecting to come back the same fall, but the winter setting in sooner than usual we tarried until spring of 1840. Our friends received us with great affection and made us welcome to all the good things with which they were blessed. We occupied a house belonging to father Butler on an adjoining farm, took a school near 50 scholars and earned about $80. My own children attended school regularly this winter. Our friends during the winter had no desire further to investigate Mormonism, did not wish to agitate the subject. I told them I understood their policy that they thought if they said nothing concerning it during the winter that I would go to sleep and forget to go back to the church. But when spring came and I began to talk of returning they pressed us hard to stay. They offered me land to make a farm and land under cultivation to attend free of cost, etc., but this was not temptation.
On the 6th of March, 1840, Cynthia had another daughter and called her name Nancy Margaret after my grandmother whose name was Margaret. When the babe was four weeks old we set out on our journey to Illinois, 250 miles. It was with heavy hearts that we gave to our dear parents, brothers and sisters the parting hand. Brother William went a little ways with us. I had borne a faithful testimony to him as well as the rest of them of the work of God, but they treated it as a light thing, and I had to leave them as I found them and now when I came to part with them it seemed more than I could endure. I thanked him for his kindness to us during our stay. He was too full to make any reply but gave me his hand while the tears from his eyes, as well as my own, expressed the emotion of our hearts. This was our last interview; he was called behind the veil a few years after.
We had quite a tedious, disagreeable journey as the road was desperately bad, our horses swamping down to their bellies many times. I had to go off and hire oxen to pull us out. We returned and found our brethren in good health and spirits though one of our cows had died in the winter of the moraine. I raised a crop on Thomas Edwards’ farm that summer, taught a school in the fall and winter and next spring moved to Adams City, 4 1/2 miles northeast of Nauvoo 1841, as all the Saints were now counseled to gather to this place.
This was the spring of 1842. I built a log cabin and commenced clearing and making a farm. I found no difficulty in raising corn, buckwheat, potatoes, etcetera here as the soil was very productive, but it was quite hard to get clothing or merchandise; the mass of the poor being gathered here all wanting employment and but few capitalists. I had while here a severe attack of typhus fever. My wife’s health was very poor indeed, confined to her bed many times and our family getting larger. I found it the hardest place to live of any other I had tried. Jefferson had a severe spell of sickness here from which I did not expect he ever would recover. We had two added to our family while here; Rebecca Ann, born October 15, 1842, named after mother Hoops, an old acquaintance whose name was Rebecca who also officiated at her birth. Also John, named after my brother John, born February 8, 1844, a fine promising child but his sojourn with us here proved to be of short duration, his mother not being able to attend to him. Mary was his constant nurse by day and night, he died October 15, 1845.
Though we had to contend with poverty and sickness while at Nauvoo, the privileges I there enjoyed seemed a rich compensation. I have many times put a piece of cornbread in my pocket and walked to the city 4 1/2 miles to hear Joseph and others preach and felt that I was well paid for my pains. Yes, it was a perfect feast to me and I felt thankful that I ever enjoyed the privilege of seeing and hearing the prophet of God whose calling it was to lay the foundation of this Church.
I passed through the previous persecutions that were heaped upon the saints while at Nauvoo and saw with deep sorrow the lifeless bodies of Joseph and Hyrum in the Mansion. When our friends in Indiana heard that the Church was broken up at Nauvoo and going west, they sent a messenger named James Butler (my wife’s brother) with the offer of assistance in case we would now return. Cynthia being low in spirits [and] as the doctrine of plurality was leaking out troubled her very much, would willingly have accepted the offer had I consented to it. But I wrote them a letter thanking them for their good wishes and kind offer but declining to accept of it, giving my reasons such as satisfied me though I realized it would not be so to them. This was in the fall of 1845.
Early in the spring of 1846 I took my team and went down to Adams City, 80 miles, in company with John Allred and Elisha Hooper to chop and haul cordwood to try to make a fitout for our intended move with the Church; stayed about six weeks and returned with some clothing, flour, etcetera.
During my absence, Strang had been making some proselytes in our neighborhood and many had used an influence against the brethren going west so when I came home, I found my folks quite opposed to going west. We had a poor team and wagon and anything but a good fitout, but I was determined to go or try my trust and confidence in the Lord. I got all together, told them my faith and feelings, said I should go with the church though I went alone and gave them the choice to go west or east, telling them that if they wished to go east I would give them our fitout such as we had and I believe I could work my way through by driving team for someone that wanted a driver. I wished each one to have their free choice, and called on them to decide. Well, this preaching had the desired effect. They hesitated a little, then Mary says, I’ll go with father if the rest will, and so they melted right down and one after another spoke and expressed their willingness to go and also to obey my counsel in all things.
We got an old cloth coat and a few pounds of pork for our house and farm, by throwing in a good table and some other things too heavy to take. I had a little gray mare, and an old spavined horse; he had been quite lame but I would exercise faith in behalf of my old horse. And indeed it was not in vain, for he began to mend and when we started was about well, and he performed the journey beyond all expectation. I yoked up a cow and steer together and put on a wagon belonging to a neighbor, who took in a little freight for us, and we set out like Father Abraham not knowing whither we went, only as we were led by the track made by the pioneers.
By the time we got to “Garden Grove” it was the 6th of June and wisdom seemed to dictate that it was better to stop and put in a crop. I commenced and grabbed and put in about 2 1/2 acres of corn and an acre of buckwheat, built a cabin, etcetera. The soil was excellent and I raised almost enough to bread my family but late in the fall I sold my house and corn fodder, etcetera for a yoke of oxen and moved 40 miles south into Mercer City, Missouri where we found the people quite friendly and Jefferson and I made baskets through the winter for which we got provisions and some clothing. Here Cynthia had another daughter which we called Harriet Jane (as my wife had a sister to die whose name was Harriet) born February 8, 1847. In the spring we gathered up our effects and returned to Garden Grove having quite a little fitout for our journey, which we soon continued in company with father Hoops, John Allred’s and some others.
We did not arrive at Council Bluffs till the 5th of June. We drove up to Brother Amos Stoddard’s on Pigeon Creek. He showed me a spot of ground I could improve nearby, and Jefferson and I commenced girdling the timber, clearing and breaking the ground; we planted near three acres of corn then built a house and then broke and sowed an acre of buckwheat, potatoes, etc. Our crop did very well and we raised nearly enough to do us. However the blackbirds, gophers and mice were very destructive to our grain here. We remained here five years or till the spring of 1852 working and planning to get a fitout to the place of gathering for the Church, which we soon ascertained to be at Salt Lake Valley. This was another hard place to get goods or clothing though the soil was excellent. I made a farm of 15 acres, employed my time when not engaged in my crop in making baskets, taking most of them down to Missouri from 50 to 150 miles to sell for flour, bacon, clothing, etc. I also took three tours to Missouri, breaking hemp which was a cash business. I earned $30 each time.
Cynthia had another daughter while living here, Cynthia Adaline, born October 4, 1847. The health of my wife was very poor and it seemed that her constitution was nearly broken up. She could not walk at once over 1/4 of a mile till her breath was nearly gone. She was also depressed in spirits; she had but little confidence in our leaders. The doctrine of polygamy was repugnant to her feelings and the thoughts of going to the body of the Church with her daughters she could hardly endure.
We still received letters from our friends in which they would give us friendly invitations to give them another visit. (Also, I would remark that Jefferson about this time went back to see them, making him a present of a fine mare, saddle and bridle.) Also while there my brother William died after a short illness. In the fall of 1851 we concluded to go once more to see our parents and friends but were so hard up for change that we had to take in Sister Milam and child in order to get expense money, she wishing to visit her mother in the same county.
We started about the first of September, the weather was quite warm and we had quite a tedious journey. The route we went was near 700 miles through a sickly country. Little Adaline was first taken sick, then Sister Milam’s child and before we got through, both their mothers. But we did get through, alive, and once more after an absence of near 12 years, we embraced our parents and other near relatives with mutual joy and affection. We feasted on apples, peaches, grapes, sweet potatoes, etcetera, etcetera. My health and appetite were not very good. Sister Milam and child soon recovered but Cynthia remained unwell. She became worse and we were fearful she was going to die. She spoke to me on the subject and told me she would not hear the thoughts of seeing her children no more and desired me to retire and pray for her. I did so with all my heart and went to her and encouraged her with the assurance that she would recover and again see her children. She got better but stayed close in the house with her father and mother during our stay, which was about four weeks.
I visited all my relations and reasoned and testified concerning the Latter- day work but their hearts were closed and they seemed to have no desire to hear anymore on the subject. My mother had grown old so fast that I hardly knew her. She was almost overcome with joy to see me, told me it was two years that day since she had buried my brother; had been without a child during that time, had never expected to see me again but through the providence of God now enjoyed the pleasure. But her pleasure was of short duration; we soon had to take a parting hand. Father Butler gave us ten dollars, besides some four or five dollars more was given us when we went to start, nearly all were present the morning we started.
I never shall forget the time, our hearts and eyes were full. I could not speak a word but gave them all my hand as they stood in a circle; the last word I heard from father Butler was “God bless you Cynthia,” as he took her by the hand. My mother went with us 30 miles to see Levi L. Osborn, her grandson. It was truly with a heavy heart that I gave her my hand for the last time on earth, as I realized it would be, but I tried to comfort her with the assurance which I had that we would meet again in the Kingdom of God. Levi gave me an order to a merchant in Terrehaute for a pair of boots which I received and also needed. We came back on a nearer route but had quite a tedious journey, my young mare failing we traveled slow. The weather becoming quite frosty before we returned.
We found our family well; Josiah and Elizabeth Hammer, my daughter having stayed with them in our absence for they were married a short time previous to our starting, also Jefferson took a wife in our absence, Elen, daughter of Alexander Stanley. The Presidency of the Church of Salt Lake Valley sent Ezra T. Benson this fall to stir up the brethren in Pottawattomie in regard to moving and to organize them into companies. Consequently, the greater portion of the branch in which I lived concluded to make an effort to move. I took David and my horses and wagon and went down to Missouri in search of a fitout. We were gone near two months, teaming and also breaking hemp. I changed my horses and wagon for two yoke of oxen and a larger wagon. I here received a letter from my wife informing me that her health was very poor, not so good as when I left home, and thought it was better to relinquish the idea of moving this season.
I was troubled, layed my case before the Lord and dreamed that night I was traveling westwardly on foot, carrying my wife on my back, being very weary and faint. I came up to an open space of ground where there was quite a company of my brethren. When I arrived in their midst my wife suddenly dropped from off my back. I did not mention the dream to my wife nor any other person, but kept and pondered it in my heart. We got home safe and found my wife, though feeble, in better health than I expected. We commenced fixing up and by the 2nd of June found ourselves on the bank of the Missouri River with quite a comfortable fitout, except clothing; three yoke of oxen and four cows, some of which we worked occasionally. I took a bed cord and wound it across the wagon box on which we put a bed for Cynthia to lie on. I was organized into Captain Howel’s company. Jefferson and Josiah Hammer being in the same ten of which Brother Whitehead had charge.
We moved on quite comfortable, Cynthia getting along full better than we had expected for two or three weeks but she began to grow worse as the weather became hotter. She had been troubled with convulsive fits at times, which now returned harder than formerly. She gave birth to an infant, though not living, revived somewhat and lingered along about two weeks and departed this life July 2, 1852. She suffered much in her last illness, though she had her senses till the last. She realized that her time was come, was worried at the thought of having her body left on the plains, exposed to devouring wolves; her last dying request was, take good care of my little children for I expect they’ll have a hard time (speaking to Jefferson with the rest of us for all were present).
The brethren were very kind to us in this our affliction. Though there was no boards to be found in the camps of which to make a coffin, they took pains to go over the river, nearly a mile distant and bring timber to lay over the corpse then filling the grave with dirt to preserve it from the wolves. That was on the river Platte, 250 miles west of Missouri River.
Thus terminated the life of my old and worthy companion, a life which had been checkered with many afflictions, hardships and anxieties. But they have passed away and now she is, I hope, where the weary pilgrims are at rest. We lived together 24 years, two months, and 22 days, during which time she brought me 10 children; four boys and six girls. And justice here requires that I should say she was a kind-hearted and affectionate wife and mother; was truthful, industrious, cleanly and strictly virtuous. She received and cherished the first principles of the gospel, maintained her standing in the Church but in consequence of her previous traditions, the weakness of human nature and the powers of darkness, her confidence was shaken in the Presidency of the Church because of polygamy. It being taught and practiced by them. But notwithstanding, these things have presented a gloomy picture to my mind. I was comforted with the promise in my patriarchal blessing that if faithful, I should have power to redeem and bring her forth in the First Resurrection.
We arrived in Salt Lake Valley September 9, 1852, all in tolerable health and spirits. After resting a few days I moved on north to Brother John Porter’s. Got a house for my family and 20 acres of ground to sow in wheat, the most of which I broke and sowed that fall, having also to haul my winter’s firewood from the mountains. On the 20th of November I took a wife whose name was Prudence Oaks, who had like myself lost her companion on the plains the summer previous. Mary Elenor was also married on the same day by Uncle John Smith to David M. Perkins. I took a school during the winter and earned produce nearly enough for the use of my family but lost three head of my cattle in the winter and I also paid on yoke on property tithing.
We passed the winter very agreeably, my wife being kind and agreeable, but in the spring, learning at conference that it was or would be the business of the oldest son of a deceased father to do his work, she became dissatisfied saying she never would have married had she understood doctrine as she now did. I could not reconcile her so we separated without much ceremony, though I felt much mortified at the thoughts of such an occurrence. I shortly after moved some 20 miles further north onto Weber River where Jefferson had wintered.
. . . I feel to record here a few of the sayings of Joseph Smith, our martyred prophet, which I was privileged to hear, at different times, which were very interesting to me at the time and think they may be equally so to my children in a time to come. I well knew by the spirit of revelation before I gathered with the Church at Far West that he was verily a prophet of God and every time I had the opportunity of hearing him I listened with intense interest and attention to every word he uttered. I settled 10 miles north of Far West in the year 1837. There was then but a few houses in that place. The same fall father Smith and family, Joseph and Sidney and others arrived. Notice was given and nearly everyone gathered to see and hear the Prophet. There was no meeting house and a wagon was provided for a stand. Therefore the first sight I had of Joseph Smith was then on that wagon box. He had quite a green or boyish appearance at first, but he had not spoken long till he assumed a more manly appearance, even that of a man of God. He spoke of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, the patriarchs and some of the prophets, telling what keys each one held, and the work he accomplished in his day down to Jesus and the apostles.
Now says he, having told you so much about these ancient men of God, I will proceed to tell you something of myself. Some of you have known me and heard my testimony, but many of you have not. You have heard many things about me and what I have been doing, some things were true and some were not; the world had called me a fool. Well I don’t wonder at it. I suppose I have acted to them like a fool, the Lord has shown me many things concerning the ancients of this continent, with their record and my mind was so much absorbed in regard to these things and the great responsibilities resting upon me as a servant of God, and having had but little experience in regard to worldly matters, I do not blame people for thinking me a fool; indeed, we are all fools. We know but little, hence the necessity of the Lord teaching us something.
Says he, I bear testimony to you in the name of the Lord, that the Book of Mormon is true and the testimony I expect to meet in the day of judgment. For this testimony I have suffered persecution, but I expect to suffer much more. If I obtain the glory which is set before me I expect to wade through much tribulation. He told us that Peter, James and John, having held the keys of the kingdom in their day had come and conferred the same upon him and his brethren. He quoted the saying of the Savior that the time would come when “every secret thing should be proclaimed on the housetops.” Thus I have proclaimed these secret things, it not on the house top, it is upon the wagon top.
In the conclusion of his discourse he reproved the brethren who had purchased government land and dividing it and selling it out at a high price to their poor brethren, and other matters of speculation and iniquity which was going on in the Church. Now says he, you call me a prophet. If I am it is my privilege to prophesy which I will do, and when you go home, write it down and remember it. You think you have suffered much already by the hand of your enemies, but if you don’t cease this thing and take a different course and be more faithful, your enemies will again come upon you in greater numbers and you will not find a resting place in the state of Missouri.
Well I did not write down the prediction on paper, but I did in my memory and have thought of it thousands of times since. At that time we were well treated and apparently much respected by the Missourians. All was peace and goodwill but two years had not passed away till all the Church that could get away were safely out of the state.
I will mention a few instances of his commenting on or explaining the scriptures. On the stand (upon the bench at Nauvoo) he read the 24th chapter of Matthew in the German Bible. When he came to the 14th verse, he read it thus: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached for or against all nations and then shall the end come.” He called on a learned German in the congregation to say whether he had read the verse correctly; he said he had. Joseph then observed that he considered the German translation of the scriptures more correct than any other and furthermore he believed the German people were more honest than many other nations. Again in commenting on 1st Corinthians, 13th chapter, 31st verse, he read it thus: “Thus I have shown unto you a more excellent way,” for, said he, the translators make the apostle swerve from the truth in order to do away or invalidate the true organization of the gospel ordinances with its spiritual gift and office.
I will also give Joseph’s explanation of the parables contained in Matthew, 13th chapter; 31, 33, 42. The grain of a mustard seed represented the Book of Mormon, which was hid in the ground, which was thought by the world to be the least of all such productions. The leaven hid in three measures signified the testimony of the Angel Moroni to three witnesses; viz. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. The Pearl of Great Price of the treasure hid in a field was fulfilled in the finding and pointing out of the place where the city of Zion or New Jerusalem will stand and the brethren in the west selling all they had and purchasing that land. He said it was plain to be seen that all these parables had reference to the coming forth of the kingdom in the last days.
In conclusion, he says, “Jesus asks the question, have you understood these things.” His disciples say, `Yea Lord.’ And I say too with all my heart, Yea Lord.” So much I remember of Joseph’s commentary.
I will also here state two or three incidents in the life of Joseph which may be entertaining to some. While the church was at Kirtland, Ohio, through Joseph’s counsel they instituted a bank [Kirtland Safety Society] and let out money to the gentiles as well as the brethren. The elders had raised up a branch of the church over in Canada and Joseph went over the lake to see and preach to them, and while there came a man with a bill of their Kirtland money. Joseph was the president of the bank, and he presented it to him and wanted him there and then to redeem it with the specie. Joseph told him he was not prepared to do so there but to come over at another time and it would be done. This did not satisfy him; he abused and insulted him with many words, calling him a swindler and imposter, etcetera.
Joseph listened a while patiently and then says he, “Repeat that again.” He did so, another time, he continued again. Now, says Joseph, I only want you to say so once more and then I’ll give you such a whipping as you’ll never forget. He then began to open his eyes and sneaked off. Some of his brethren almost apostatized in consequence of the prophet’s proposing to fight. This was told me by an elder from Kirtland.
There was an apostate by the name of John Eagle, a large man and quite a bully. He kept a grocery in a little frame house on a side hill at Nauvoo. The city council passed an ordinance forbidding the sale of liquor. Joseph being the mayor sent a writ by an officer to bring him before the council, but Eagle refused to have him serve the summons, he being afraid of him. He returned the writ to Joseph. “Well,” says he, “I never did send a man to do anything which I was afraid to do myself and I believe I can take him.” So he went up to the grocery where there was quite a crowd of men. Eagle saw him coming and suspecting his business, squared himself, striking at him, but Joseph dodged the blow and then was his turn. He knocked him down the second time before he was willing to stand. He served the writ and afterwards sent a few men and tipped over his little house and poured out his liquor. This was frequently spoken of at Nauvoo though I saw nothing of it myself.
I will tell another story as related to me by Ira N. Spaulding of east Weber. He lived near Joseph at Nauvoo. He got into Joseph’s carriage to ride with him down to his store one day and while in the carriage there came a man who held a note against Joseph. He talked kindly to the man and begged him to wait a short time for the money as he could not pay him then but good words would not satisfy him. He abused him shamefully, calling him every mean name he could think of. He said, Joseph did not appear to be much irritated in his feelings but after hearing him a while he turned his head to Spaulding and said, “That’s enough, hold the lines.” He just stepped outside the carriage and knocked him down as flat as a beef, not speaking a word and come into the carriage and traveled on.
Joseph’s explanation of this saying of the Savior: “No man putteth new wine into old bottles but new wine must be put into new bottles, lest the bottles break and the wine be spilt,” etcetera. He said the Jews anciently used bottles made of the skins of sheep and other animals. The wine, when new, would ferment and swell; so would a new bottle stretch and swell. But to put new wine into an old one that had stretched all it could, the bottle was liable to burst and spill the wine. He explained the new wine to represent new revelation. He said he had seen this saying of the Savior’s exemplified in this church many times by those who had been gathered out of other churches, who were so full of ancient revelation on the Bible that when a little more was given they could not find room for it. Consequently, it was lost to them. They would turn away and leave the church. Joseph Smith was the first man I ever heard try to tell who was meant by “The Ancient of Days” in the Book of Daniel. He said it was Father Adam and, says he, if you don’t believe it, then get the Holy Ghost and see what it will tell you.
In one of his discourses at Nauvoo he said at one time he inquired of the Lord how long or how many years it would be till he could come? He said the answer he received was this: “My servant, Joseph, if you live to be eighty-five years old you shall see my face.” In reading his history I find that at the dedication of the temple at Kirtland, which was in the year 1836, he prophesied that 56 years more would bring the winding up scene of this generation, which will bring this important event to take place in the year 1890 or 1891.
[Thursday, on the 12th day of June 1893, at 4:45 p.m. passed from earth a loving father and a devoted husband and a true Latter-day Saint at the age of 86 years, two months and 12 days. He was strictly honest, generous, full of charity, temperate and his patience was spoken of by all who knew him. The funeral was held on Thursday, the 15th, in the Montpelier meeting house conducted by Bishop Clark. Discourses were delivered by President Budge and William Rich. —-David M. Osborn, his oldest son.]