George Washington Gill Averett (1824-1902)

George Washington Gill Averett, 1824-1902
Autobiography (1824-1846)
Typescript, HBLL
Who was born in Murray County, Tennessee, January the 20th, A.D. 1824, living at the place of birth with his father and mother and brothers and sisters until sometime in the year A.D. 1830. He and his father and mother and family immigrated to White County, Illinois, somewhere near the Saline Salt Works. Stopping there only a short time, his father traded his farm in White County, Illinois for a farm in the joining county (Hamilton) only living there in the first named county for a short time, perhaps three months. Situated in Hamilton County, Illinois about 30 miles from Shownestown on the Ohio River and about nine miles from the county seat of Hamilton County, Illinois, south of the county seat in what was then known as the Mayberry Settlement. On the waters of the north fork of the Saline River and near a swamp called the Scaters made by the Wheeling and Tennilles Creeks, spreading out and making a vast swamp and lakes being in an island portion of the country quite secluded to the things of the more populous portions of the county.

His family lived a quite quiet, sober life seeming to appreciate the comforts and blessings that they enjoyed; having but small advantages of education, having to travel three miles for all the schooling that we as children obtained in this place. My father bought forty ares of land, most of the same in cultivation?, and being land that did not produce very heavy crops of grain, my father did not become very wealthy but seemed to lose means in place of making them, for many years raising some cotton and flax and manufacturing the same with our own hands into clothing for our own use for Sunday and for everyday. All us children always going barefooted in summertime, and the boys and sometime both boys and girls going barefooted both winter and summer except in very cold weather.

About the year A.D. 1832, my father went into the tobacco raising quite extensively and thinking to help himself and family by so doing, he bought several hogsheads of tobacco and shipped it and his own to the city of New Orleans, having the same appraised by the city inspection. It being condemned he lost a heavy load on all of his tobacco which hurt him financially in the following year. Two of my father’s sons and one of his son-in-laws, Elijah and Elisha and Eldridge G. Porter, in the year 1833 enlisted in the Black Hawk Campaign under Captain A. Bigerstaff of Hamilton County, Illinois. This matter somewhat frustrated my father in his calculation and he slacked his efforts in the tobacco raising business. And he took himself more to the raising of corn and wheat, sometimes having to borrow money to meet his promises and to pay his debts having to pay by interest for the same yet having plenty of farm land and stock land being poor.

By this time two of my sisters and one of my brothers married. Names as follows: Iannett to S.A.P. Kelsey, and Mary to E.G. Porter, and Elijah to Miss Chursadia Grimes. Things passing along for over two years without any remarkable event worth mentioning until about the year 1833 or 1834 when Obid Webb took without my father and mother’s consent my sister Sarry and married her and long after abused her by whipping her and abusing her in a most ridiculous manner.

Soon after this occurrence, about April A.D. 1835, the Latter-day work found most of my folk. Elisha Graves and Isaac Higbee Latter- day Saints come through our parts of the country and stopped at my father’s house and preached to me and to my father’s family all of them that was at home at that time, baptizing some of them; my father and mother and three sisters and two brothers during the time of the sojourn of graves, and Higbee. There come into the settlement William Ivy and Milton Homes and assisted them in their labors in that part of the country.

During the sojourn in that part of the country they baptized some 30 or 40 persons, male and female, and the power of the Lord was made manifest to the believers. Mostly they spoke with new tongues and gave the interpretation of the same. The sick was healed and the hearts of all the believers had cause to rejoice in the goodness of God and the writer of this biography had as a testimony given to him from his Heavenly Father of the truth of the Latter- day work. Although he was only a child about nine years old the Lord answered his humble prayer and made manifest his power by healing him instantly of disease. For the first time he ever had faith to ask the Lord for such a blessing, seeing and hearing my mother and sister and many other spake with new tongues and give the interpretation of the same. And many other manifestations of his power made manifest to his Saints in them days when they loved one another and sought the interests of each other, and the Lord blessed them that loved and worshipped him the true and living God.

About April in the spring of A.D. 1836, my sister and brother-in-law S.A.P. Kelsey and my brother Elijah, and Elisha and my sister Eliza Averett, in company with a number of these of our neighbors, emigrated to the Caldwell County, Missouri and settled on Steve Creek some two miles from Far West. The spring following 1837, my father and mother and my sister Pyvenia and my brother John and Murray Averett, all of us emigrated to Caldwell County, Missouri, and settled on Shoal Creek about one and a half miles from Far West, Missouri on a fertile spot of land. Cleared off some land and fenced and sowed to turnips some of the same. This country seemed to teem with all of the blessings that mortals had or to wish for. Convenient range one thousand of acres of grass and the fertile prairie suitable for mowing for hay and easy to be brought into cultivation, the country seeming to teem with all the blessings that our hearts could desire; honey, deer, turkeys, hens, quails, and the streams teeming with their furry? tribes by the thousands and easy to obtain many beautiful groves of beautiful timber and convenient wild fruit and nuts too numerous to mention.

My father rented some corn that had been planted before he arrived at Far West, raising some of the best corn and sod that I ever beheld raised on sod land. Everything seemed to grow and prosper in this land that was put into the ground and cultivated. Another blessing that this country offered was the very best of spring water in abundance. This land seemed to be a choice land in every deed and to the writer of these lines this land seemed to be a heaven in every deed. Everything seemed to smile with blessings too numerous for my pen to describe or my tongue to express. Although but a small boy I rejoiced exceedingly in this land of Zion and felt to give God the praise and to bow before him on my bended knees and to call on his great name for his blessing and to thank him for the light of the gospel and for the many great blessings which he was blessing on us within that goodly land of Zion.

During this summer of 1837, my brother Elisha Averett was married to a widow of the name of Dorcas De Witt, the widow of Robert De Witt who was killed in an affray or fight in McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois. Supposed to have been killed by a man by the name Bum Gamer and some other man, name forgotten by the writer. Dorcas De Witt had three children by Robert De Witt, namely Kizian, John and Sarry who all moved to Missouri in the same company that Elisha Averett did and many others at the same time emigrated? and settled in the neighborhood of Far West, Missouri during the summer of 1837.

About the months of July and August the mobbers of the neighborhood and joining counties of Ray, Clinton and La Fayette, Jackson and Daviess began to howl like so many bloodthirsty wolves, appealing to their neighbors for help and declaring that the Mormons and Joe Smith would overrun the country, and at the same time making all manners of lying, slandering reproaches against the Latter-day Saints and especially against Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Lord, having driven the Saints from time to time from Jackson County and Ray, Clay, and Clinton, robbing them of their homes and property. Each time, more or less being at the present time, only making themselves new homes in Caldwell County and Daviess, one of the joining counties.

In August of the year 1837 at the election polls in [Gallatin,] Daviess County, Missouri, some of the mobbers decided that the damned Mormons shouldn’t vote and in consequence of their undertaking to enforce the same, one of the Saints by the name of Butler and some several of the mob got into a fight. Butler getting the better of all who engaged in the fight, Butler coming out victorious in the skirmish by being an expert in welding his cudgel. This affair still enraged the mobbers still more in Daviess and the adjoining counties.

Sometimes during that fall a portion of the Saints who lived at DeWitt on or near the Missouri River was driven from their homes and full grown fields of corn, and would have been murdered if it had not of been that the hand of the Lord was over his people for good and his prophet Joseph was awake to his duties and went to their welfare with some of his brethren of the Saints and assisted them and guarded them to the city of Far West in Caldwell County, Missouri.

One of the mobbers, before the Saints left DeWitt, approaching the night guard (a man by the name of Alexander Williams) while on duty and firing their guns at him without affect and breaking to run he, Williams, fired his gun at one of them striking him near the mouth, and to use the language of Williams he made the mobber call on his God he thought for the first time in his whole lifetime, and it was stated that Williams shot his chew of tobacco out of his mouth.

About or soon after this occurrence, difficulty occurred betwixt the Saints and the mob in the neighborhood of Haun’s Mill and the two parties met together and held a treaty of peace, and agreed to be at peace with each other and before the Saints who was assembled at the treaty of peace. The mobbers, contrary to their solemn agreement, returned and commenced some 200 hundred of them to fire on the unsuspecting Saints, men, women and children, massacring them in a most brutal manner so much so that my ability is inadequate to describe the extent of the same after satisfying their hellish desires by the shedding of blood. And some of them mangling the bodies of the slain after death; one man, by the name of McBride whose body was horribly mangled by being cut to pieces with a mowing scythe. It was also told that some of the mobbers fired at some of the women of that place, shutting them in their place after they had done all the meanness by killing all the men they could find alive. They murdered two small boys to satisfy their hellish disposition. All of this shouting happening at or near the Haun’s Mill where there was a small….of houses and amongst the worst, one blacksmith’s shop in which the most part, as I am informed of the murder, was committed and after the affair was all over 17 of the slain was buried in an old well near the shop by the few men that was left and the women of the place.

Soon after this occurrence the mob grew more and more enraged. Some small skirmishes took place after this and some before. One bloody fight took place before at Crooked River where a number of the mob was killed and wounded and several of the Saints was wounded and one noble man of the Saints was killed, David Patten, and one of the twelve apostles, a noble spirit much lamented by all the Saints. One of the Madge family and one of the Henricks family was also shot and badly wounded at that encounter at Crooked River but both recovered after a long time suffering.

Sometime in the fall of A.D. 1837, the governor of the state of Missouri ordered the militia of the state of Missouri to go in numbers of some five to seven thousand to drive the Saints from the state of Missouri or to exterminate them indiscriminately. At the critical moment, Joseph Smith the prophet, seeing the militia and mob being moved against the Far West, seeming determined to massacre all the Saints, he in wisdom gathered his brethren together to protect the interests of the Saints; some three hundred in all able bodied men, old and young, to defend the helpless.

After several days maintaining their positions on the borders of the city with this handful of men compared to the numerous numbers of the mob and militia, there being a flag of truce placed betwixt the two armies there was a treaty of peace agreed upon and the mob and militia marched into Far West, Missouri; the treaty being on the conditions that the Saints lay down their arms and leave the state of Missouri and they shouldn’t be harmed. And so General Blake and his men marched into the city of Far West, Missouri and formed themselves around the Saints en masse and ordered them to lay down their arms with a promise that they should receive them again.

As soon as the Saints left, and as soon as the mob and militia got possession of the city, they commenced to plunder the Saints’ property in every quarter taking goods and chattels in every direction pretending that they was their goods and said that the damned Mormons had stolen them from them, often claiming mens’ horses that they never had seen before and taking them straightway with them biding defiance to all opposition. The writer of this sketch being a witness of some of their thefts in the following manner: he and his younger brother, being in a corn field gathering corn that they and their father and brothers had raised for their own use to make them bread and to feed their stock, the unprincipled mob came into their field of corn in great numbers, sweeping the corn as they went, asking no odds? of the owner. And making their way up to the writer of the same and making a proposition to the affect that they would make these boys haul their corn to their camp, and no doubt would have carried their hellish plans into effect had not there have been one among them that had more human principle than the rest of his kind, riding up right in the nick of time and telling them to leave the boys alone.

As soon as this opening presented itself, myself and my brother hastily left for home taking with us what corn that we had gathered without waiting to gather a full load. Things moved on in about this manner more or less until the Saints left the county of Caldwell, Missouri for the state of Illinois in cold weather thinly clad and poorly furnished with provisions in cold weather. In the winter and spring of A.D. 1838, leaving their homes in Caldwell, Daviess, and Clinton County to their enemies without asking for any renumeration whatever, my father leaving quite an improvement some two miles from Far West without any renumeration whatever, my brothers left similar ones near Far West. The foregoing brothers names were Elijah and Elisha Averett who endured many hardships during the persecution of the Saints in Missouri and also in Illinois.

Early in the spring of A.D. 1838 myself, father, mother, four brothers (Elijah, Elisha, John and Murray) and sisters Eliza and Pyvenia landed with the body of the church in the state of Illinois, most of the church stopping in Adams County at first; renting land as they best could, the people of Adams County being kind to the Saints and especially the people of the city of Quincy, Adams County. My father and my brother-in-law S.A.P. Kelsey crossed the river at Hannibal, Missouri and from there turned their course to Millville, Illinois and from there to Payson and there rented forty acres of land of one of the old settlers by the name of James Rollins, paying him for the rent of the same, the breaking of the same.

Now prepare for the crop that they must raise that same year of corn, being a bad bargain as it was attempting for one crop of corn and one crop of wheat but making the best of a bad bargain that we could. We raised some corn and worked it, breaking prairie and other pursuits such as we could obtain employment through that summer and fall. And in the spring of A.D. 1839, my father and mother, and my sister Pyrenia and my brother Murray, and my sister Mary Porter and her husband E.G. Porter moved from Adams County, Illinois to Pike County, Illinois and settled one half mile from a small place then called Fairfield, afterward being changed to the name of Pleasant Hill; living in the south portion of the above named county on the waters of the creek about five miles from the Mississippi River and on the second bottom of the same, a rich fertile county where my father bought forty acres of land and followed the pursuit of farming in the same neighborhood until his death. Some years after, my mother also died and finally, two brothers and two sisters and one of the sister’s children and many nephews and nieces died in the same neighborhood and most of them was buried in the McCullen graveyard.

About the year A.D. 1845 or 1846 my father sold out his possessions consisting of two 40 acres of land, one timber on the neighborhood of Pleasant Hill, Pike County sold to John Venabel, and moved about four miles near a village named Mountaineburg in same county. Bought 40 acres of land and improved the same, clearing out a small farm and building some buildings, living on same until the day of his death when on that memorable day, the 19th of April A.D. 1847, he was able to work hard at rolling logs and clearing up land for the spring plowing; taking sick about sunset and before late bedtime, came to his death leaving my mother alone and somewhat helpless on accounts of her health but leaving her some means so by good earning she was supplied with necessities of life for several years. Her daughter Mary Porter moving into her house and living with her when she was at home but some part of her time she lived with her daughter Pyvenia Harper.

Sometime before the death of my father I, the writer of this sketch by invitation of his father, took it in hand to learn the wheelrighting? business and worked for sometime with his father and succeeded in that business to that extent that he could do considerable work in that line before the death of his father. And after the death of his father he followed doing general work and job work for farmers through the county roundabout, the home of his mother and relations; sometime through the winter months taking my ax and going to the river bottoms to chop cordwood for the sake of being in company of the young folks of my acquaintance. Several times going to Nauvoo to spend a few months with his connection and the Saints his friends, having two sisters and two, and sometimes three, brothers and their children living in that city, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.

Situated about two hundred and ten miles above St. Louis, Missouri, and at the head of the Mississippi River, the city of Nauvoo being in a large bend of said river, a beautiful sightly situation in which city the Saints built an House the Name of Our Lord?, and dedicated the same to his name and done some work in the same for the living soon after the dedication of the same. And after the church was driven from their homes in that city, said [Nauvoo] temple was burned by some unprincipled wretch and afterwards torn down and hauled off the ground and the existence of the same as nearly possible obliterated…