Married Martha Jane Knowlton, February 6, 1841, in Illinois. Member Nauvoo relief society; secretary first relief society organized in Salt Lake. Personal friend of the Prophet and Patriarch, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Wrote a history of Joseph, including his mother’s memory of him. She had a fair knowledge of law, philosophy, history, poetry, chemistry and geology. Was a member of the board of Directors of Brigham Young Academy, Provo. An earnest and efficient Sunday School worker. She was the daughter of Sidney A. Knowlton and Harriet Burnham of Illinois, pioneers 1849, and was born June 3, 1822. Their children: Howard Knowlton, m. Mary Elizabeth Lusk; Martha Jane, m. Theodore Belden Lewis; Harriet V., m. Wilson H. Dusenbury; Mary Knowlton, m. Orvil Clark Roberts; Sarepa Elizabeth, m. Theodore Belden Lewis; Helena Knowlton, m. Catherin Ann Burt; Frank D., m. Elizabeth Sillers; Lewis Leville, m. Julie Alred; Don Rathburn, m. Elizabeth Hyslop.
High Priest; missionary to southern states; clerk in presiding bishop’s office at Salt Lake City for five years; secretary to Prophet Joseph Smith, with whom he became acquainted at Nauvoo, Illinois, April, 1840, and for whom he had unbounded trust and admiration during his entire life. Assessor in Utah County; school teacher at Salt Lake City and Provo; bookkeeper and accountant. Died January 16, 1908, at Salt Lake City, Utah.
Married Mary Elizabeth Lusk, September 15, 1872, at Salt Lake City, (daughter of John Nicholson Lusk and Cythis Ann Beeler of Schuyler County, Missouri.) She was born April 4, 1833. Their child: Edna Helena, born August 27, 1875. Family home, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Seventy; missionary to southern states 1867-69; bishop’s counselor. Farmer and stockraiser.
Aurilla, born January 22, 1809 Sally Ann, born March 16, 1811 John, born March 27, 1813 Phebe, born May 21, 1815 Howard, born May 6, 1817 George, born May 4, 1819 Betsy, born September, 1821 William, born September, 1823 Mary Ettie, born January 31, 1827 Uriah, born November, 1830 Elizabeth, born February, 1834
Silas Coray, my father, was the son of John and Phebe Coray (Phebe Howe) who resided in Luzerne County and state of Pennsylvania, at the time, when the entered into the conjugal relation. Their issue was:
Silas, born March 18, 1788, Providence, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Ira, born June 3 [or 5], 1791, Providence, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania David, born January 15, 1794, Providence, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania John, Jr., born June 3 [or 5], Providence, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
My grandfather (John Coray) was accidentally killed by a gunshot, soon after the birth of the youngest son.
My great-grandfather’s name was Elnathan Coray and his wife’s maiden name, Abigail Green, General Nathaniel Green’s sister. Children’s names were:
Gabriel Coray Isaac Coray John Coray (Grandfather) Silas Coray (Granduncle) Abigail Coray (Grandaunt)
My Grandmother, Phebe Howe Coray, after the death of her husband, married a man by the name of James Abbott, by whom she had five children; James, Austen, Stephen, Eleagon and Abiel. I continued to live in the place of my nativity, until I was nearly ten years of age, when my father moved to Pennsylvania. In the meantime, my sister Betsy died, and was buried in a graveyard near Burns, Allegany County, New York.
My father, having rather a roving turn of mind, changed his locality several times while we were living in Pennsylvania. We lived a while in Providence, Luzerne County, in Eastern, and in Mauch Chunk [Pennsylvania]. During this time, my sister, Aurilla, was married to Mahon Dusenbury; Sally Ann to Burrier Griffin, and Phebe to Lyman Knapp. And, while living in Providence, a very sad and distressing event occurred: my eldest brother (John) took rather suddenly sick and in a few days, died. He was the pride of the family, greatly beloved and highly esteemed by all that knew him.
In December, 1838, my father concluded to move to the western country, believing he could find a more desirable place in which to live, than in Pennsylvania. Accordingly, some time in this month, about the 1st, I think, my father and myself, also brother George, set out for the great far west.
We reached Perry, Pike County, Illinois, about the 1st of January, 1839. Here my father found his half brother, Stephen Abbott; and, as the country and things in general pleased him, he resolved to stop and make himself another home. After looking around for two weeks, to see what he could see, he concluded to return to Pennsylvania for the purpose of getting his family and bringing them to Illinois as early in the spring as possible. I went along with him, as far back as Jacksonville, Illinois, with the intention of going to college. Not being altogether prepared to enter college, I went into the preparatory department, where I continued until about the first of the ensuing spring.
In the meantime, I made the acquaintance of the notable, Henry Ward Beecher. The circumstances connected with the matter, being somewhat novel, I will make some mention of the same. On a certain sabbath, I attended service; Beecher was the minister on that occasion, and his earnest manner and rather bewitching eloquence made some impression on my mind and I concluded to attend meeting in the evening. There was preaching to be in a certain church and an inquiry meeting at the ladies’ seminary. Well, it so transpired that I, by mistake, went to the inquiry meeting. About as soon as I entered the room, I saw that I had gone wrong, for I had not the least notion of being catechized by preachers in regard to my religious feelings. I felt somewhat awkward, and in rather a predicament, as I did not wish to show myself illbred by leaving at once; neither had I any relish for being questioned concerning my anxious state of mind that I, per chance, might be in, in relation to my soul’s salvation.
However, after taking in the situation, I concluded to face the music and stay. Presently, Mr. Beecher came around to me, and whispering in my ear, inquired as to how I felt. I replied, that I had come there through mistake, yet I would like to see him in some place, where I could converse with more freedom than would be proper on that occasion. He said he would be pleased to meet with me wherever I wished, and it was agreed that I should call on him at his room in the college.
At the appointed time for seeing him, I knocked at his door and was invited in. He received me in quite a friendly and pleasant manner, and we soon fell into conversation. I told him I had no fixed religious views; that, if I inclined to anything, it was to universalism. I quoted the text, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1st Cor. 15:22. He undertook to elucidate this scripture, but his explanation only enveloped it in obscurity, and I was quite unable to understand the point that he endeavored to make.
I next gave him the 5th chapter of Romans to read. He appeared to be equally as much puzzled to simplify and bring within the scope of my comprehension this chapter, as the verse quoted from Corinthians. I asked him how he knew there was a God. He said, he was once praying in the back part of his garden, and the Lord came and stood beside, or near him. I asked him how he knew this, if he saw the Lord, or heard his voice. He said, “No,” but realized in some way His presence and that He was there. I told him I was willing to join any denomination that was right, but before taking such a step, I wanted some unmistakable testimony, something more divine than man is able to give. Being rather desirous to know of an absolute certainty that there is a God and one to whom we are amenable for all our acts and doings, I resolved to lay aside my studies, and turn my whole attention in the direction of getting religion, some testimony from God, and, if possible, to find out what His will was concerning me. So I prayed much– I would get up in the night and pray, and followed this up about two weeks. School closed for a two-month’s vacation, and I returned to Perry, Pike County, Illinois.
I soon met with my uncle, Stephen Abbott. As soon as he saw me, he exclaimed, “Well, Howard! What is the matter with you? Your face looks as long as a hoe handle.” I don’t remember just how I replied, but I think it was very religiously. As I had received no testimony of a supernatural kind, and had sought the Lord with all the fervency, and ardor of soul that was in my power, I was not very hard to win back to my former way of thinking. He kindly offered me a discussion between Abil C. Thomas (a universalist), a Dr. Ely, (a Presbyterian minister); also one between a Mr. Skinner, (Universalist) and Alexander Campbell (a Campbellite minister).
Although I had confidence in Mr. Beecher as an honest, well meaning man, I was forced to the conclusion that there must have been some mistake in regard to the Lord’s coming and standing beside him, for I had made every endeavor that I had the capacity of making to see something miraculous, yet had received no spiritual manifestation whatever. So I concluded from the reading of these discussions, etc. that the universalism doctrine was about as true as any of the isms.
In this state of mind I continued until I went to hear a Mormon elder preach, by the name of Joseph Wood, in Roswell Perry’s house in the town of Perry. I took rather a back seat, as I did not wish to be noticed by anyone; soon Mr. Wood came in with a Bible and hymnbook under his arm, and took the seat arranged for the preacher. Having never seen him before, I eyed him very closely to size him up (in common parlance). Well, all I could discover was that he was above the medium size, rather good looking and had a very bright and intelligent countenance.
In a few minutes, he rose to his feet and after calling the congregation to order, sang a hymn and offered prayer. His voice seemed sweet in singing, and his prayer faultless, so far as I was able to judge. He sang another hymn, then read for the foundation of his remarks, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Hebrews 7:12. This text was new and strange to me, and I wondered what he would do with or make of it. He soon showed by weeding through the scriptures what he would do with it. He explained what the law was, and then how it was changed and in what manner. Well, by the time he got through speaking, I was satisfied that he was decidedly the most profound theologian that I had ever seen, but, as to how he came by his information was beyond my ken. His style of reasoning was exceedingly convincing, and his eloquence overwhelming. I was well prepared by this discourse to hear him again, or more upon the subject of Mormonism, “as it was called.”
In a short time, there was a two or three days’ meeting of the Saints and of course, I went. My father, as well as others of the family, were becoming more or less interested in the doctrines of Mormonism. Consequently, we all concluded to attend the meeting. There was considerable plain, strong preaching, which was not without its effect upon the mind of my father. So at the close of the meeting, he approached Elder Wood, and gave him a cordial invitation to go home with him and stay overnight. This was cheerfully accepted. After supper, and the chores all done, the family gathered around to hear what the preacher might have to say and to ask questions, such as the occasion might suggest.
Near the close of the evening, I well recollect asking this question: Can I know that Mormonism is true? I was willing to do anything, provided I could know that such was the fact. He said, most assuredly I could know, and it would be my duty to obtain that knowledge. He then quoted John 7:17: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” He then remarked that the Saints were entitled to the Spirit of God, and the spiritual gifts as found in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians. After listening a short time to his explanation of some points of doctrine, I told him he could baptize me in the morning. According to promise, on the morrow my father took brothers George, William, myself and Elder Wood about four miles to a creek, some six or eight miles distant from Perry and Elder Wood baptized first myself, next William and then George, and confirmed us by the water’s edge. This was on the 24th or 25th day of March, 1840. . . .and confirmed us at the water’s edge by the same individual, also, brothers George and William.
In some two days I received a testimony of the spirit to such a degree as to perfectly satisfy me that I had not made any mistake, that what was called Mormonism was absolutely the gospel, that Joseph Smith was truly a Prophet raised up in the 19th century to usher in the “Dispensation of the Fulness of Times,” clothed with the Melchizedek Priesthood with all the gifts and graces appertaining thereto.
On the 3rd or 4th day of April, 1840, I set out with a few others for Nauvoo, for the purpose of attending conference and to gratify a curiosity that I had to see the Prophet. Sometime during the conference, I took occasion to visit him, in company with Joseph Wood. He introduced me to Brother Joseph with something of a flourish, telling him that I was a collegiate from Jacksonville College. This was not true and was not authorized by me. The Prophet, after looking at me a little and asking me some questions, wished to know whether it would be convenient for me to come to Nauvoo and assist, or rather clerk, for him. As this was what I desired, I engaged at once to do so; and in about two weeks thereafter, I was busily employed in his office, copying a huge pile of letters into a book, correspondence with the elders as well as other persons, that had been accumulating for some time.
While I was employed in this manner, I had many valuable opportunities. The Prophet had a great many callers or visitors, and he received them in his office where I was clerking, persons of almost all professions, doctors, lawyers, priests and people seemed anxious to get a good look at what was then considered something very wonderful: a man who should dare to call himself a prophet and announce himself as a seer and ambassador of the Lord. Not only were they anxious to see, but also to ask hard questions, in order to ascertain his depth. Well, what did I discover? . . . . He was always equal to the occasion, and perfectly master of the situation; and possessed the power to make everybody realize his superiority, which they evinced in an unmistakable manner. I could clearly see that Joseph was the captain, no matter whose company he was in, knowing the meagerness of his education, I was truly gratified at seeing how much at ease he always was, even in the company of the most scientific, and the ready off-hand manner in which he would answer their questions.
In the following June, I met with an accident, which I shall here mention: The Prophet and myself, after looking at his horses, and admiring them, that were just across the road from his house, we started thither, the Prophet at this same time put his arm over my shoulder. When we had reached about the middle of the road, he stopped and remarked, “Brother Coray, I wish you were a little larger, I would like to have some fun with you.” I replied, “Perhaps you can as it is,” not realizing what I was saying, Joseph a man of over 200 pounds weight, while I scarcely 130 pounds, made it not a little ridiculous for me to think of engaging with him in anything like a scuffle. However, as soon as I made this reply, he began to trip me; he took some kind of a lock on my right leg, from which I was unable to extricate it, and throwing me around, broke it some three inches above the ankle joint. He immediately carried me into the house, pulled off my boot, and found at once that my leg was decidedly broken; then he got some splinters and bandaged it. A number of times that day did he came in to see me, endeavoring to console me as much as possible. The next day when he happened in to see me after a little conversation, I said, “Brother Joseph, when Jacob wrestled with the angel and was lamed by him, the angel blessed him; now I think I am also entitled to a blessing.” To that he replied, “I am not the patriarch, but my father is, and when you get up and around, I’ll have him bless you.” He said no more for a minute or so, meanwhile looking very earnestly at me, then said, “Brother Coray, you will soon find a companion, one that will be suited to your condition and whom you will be satisfied with. She will cling to you, like to cords of death, and you will have a good many children.” He also said some other things, which I can’t so distinctly remember.
In nine days after my leg was broken, I was able to get up and hobble about the house by the aid of a crutch and in two weeks thereafter, I was about recovered, nearly as well as ever, so much so that I went to meeting on foot, a distance of a mile. I considered this no less than a case of miraculous healing. For nothing short of three months did I think it would be ere I should be around again, on my feet, able to resume work.
I finished the job of copying letters. I was then requested by Brother Joseph to undertake, in connection with E. D. Woolley, the compilation of the church history. This I felt to decline, as writing books was something in which I had had no experience. But Brother Joseph insisted on my undertaking it, saying, if I would do so, it would prove a blessing to me as long as I should live. His persuasive arguments prevailed; and accordingly, in a short time, Brother Woolley and myself were busily engaged in compiling the church history. The Prophet was to furnish all the materials; and our business was not only to combine and arrange in chronological order, but to spread out or amplify not a little, in as good historical style as may be. Brother Woolley’s education, not being equal to mine, he was to get the matter furnished him in as good shape as he could; and my part was to go after him and fix his up as well as I could, making such improvement and such corrections in his grammar and style as I might deem necessary.
On seeing his work, I at once discovered that I had no small job on my hands, as he knew nothing whatever of grammar; however, I concluded to make the best I could of a bad job, and thus went to work upsetting and recasting, as well as casting out not a little. Seeing how his work was handled, he became considerably discouraged and rather took offence at the way and manner in which I was doing things, and consequently soon withdrew from the business.
Immediately after Brother Woolley left, I succeeded in obtaining the services of Dr. Miller, who had written for the press, and thus was considerably accustomed to this kind of business. Now I got on much better. I continued until we used up all the historical matter furnished us by the Prophet. And, as peculiar circumstances prevented his giving attention to his part of the business, we of necessity discontinued our labors, and never resumed this kind of business again.
I next engaged in school teaching, which was my main avocation for livelihood while I resided in Nauvoo.
Subsequent, some three or four weeks, to getting my leg broken, and while at meeting, the blessing of the Prophet came into my mind, viz: “that I should soon find a companion, etc. etc.” So I thought I would take a square look at the congregation, and see who there was, that possibly the fair one promised me might be present. After looking and gazing awhile at the audience, my eyes settled upon a young lady sitting in a one-horse buggy. She was an entire stranger to me and a resident of some other place. I concluded to approach near enough to her to scan her features well and thus be able to decide in my own mind whether her looks would satisfy my taste. She had dark brown eyes, very bright and penetrating, at least they penetrated me, and I said to myself, she will do. The fact is, I was decidedly struck.
After the dismissal of the meeting, instead of going for my dinner, I remained on the ground and presently commenced promenading about to see what I could see. I had not gone far before I came square in front of the lovely miss, walking arm in arm with a Mrs. Harris, with whom I was well acquainted. They stopped and Mrs. Harris said, “Brother Coray, I have the honor of introducing you to Miss Martha Knowlton, from Bear Creek. I, of course, bowed as politely as I knew how and she curtsied, and we then fell into somewhat familiar conversation. I discovered at once that she was ready, off hand, and inclined to be witty; also, that her mind took a wider range than was common for young ladies of her age. This interview, though short, was indeed very enjoyable, and closed with the hope that she might be the one whom the Lord had picked for me; and thus it proved to be.
I shall not go into all the details of our courtship; suffice it to say, every move I made, seemed to count one in the right direction. I let Brother Joseph into the secret and showed him a letter that I had written, designed for her. He seemed to take uncommon interest in the matter and took pains to see her and talk with her about me, telling her that I was just the one for her. A few letters passed between us; I visited her at her home, proposed, was accepted, and on the 6th day of February, 1841, we were married at her father’s house. Brother Robert B. Thompson performed the ceremony.
I will say in this connection that what the Prophet said in regard to the companion which I should soon find has been fully verified. A more intelligent, self-sacrificing, and devoted wife and mother, few men have been blessed with. She became the mother of twelve children, seven sons and five daughters, and lived to see them all grown up to man and womanhood, educated, intelligent, virtuous and religious. In this great work, she acted well her part. In February 1840, she embraced the Gospel and soon became well acquainted with the Prophet; and as such, greatly venerated him. I have frequently heard her say that he himself was the greatest miracle to her she had ever seen; and that she valued her acquaintance with him above almost everything else. She lived a consistent Latter-day Saint life up to the time of her demise, which event occurred on the 14th day of December 1881. Her age, when she passed away, was 59 years, 6 months and 11 days.
September 3, 1840, I was ordained under the hands of Joseph Smith, the Prophet to the office of an elder.
October 20, 1840, I received a patriarchal blessing under the hands of Hyrum Smith, as follows: . . .
. . . In the year 1840, father Joseph Smith, Patriarch, pronounced a blessing upon the head of my wife, then Martha Jane Knowlton. . . .
. . . In October 1840, Brother Joseph professed me his office for a schoolroom, which I willingly accepted, and soon engaged in the business of teaching the young ideas how to shoot. I was now boarding with Brother Robert B. Thompson and with whom I continued for some considerable length of time. It was while boarding here that I was united in marriage to Miss Martha Jane Knowlton. The next day after the ceremony I took my wife home with me, that is, to my boarding house, where we continued to live until the fall of 1841.
Sometime in the spring of 1841, Brother Thompson built a room of considerable size and rented it to me for a schoolhouse. I then took my young wife in with me as an assistant school teacher. We continued teaching together until fall; when I left Nauvoo and went to Augusta, a small town on Skunk River in Iowa, not far from Burlington, for the purpose of selling goods, or exchanging them for grain for the Nauvoo House. To do this business, I was employed by Lyman Wight. I stopped in Augusta until all the goods were disposed of, which I think was sometime during the following August (1842). While here my son Howard was born April 10, 1842.
I will mention now the death of my father, which occurred on the 22nd day of January, 1841. The circumstances concerning his demise are about as follows: he was hauling a load of logs on a sled and for some cause, unknown to me, the sled upset and getting entangled in some way in the lines, he was unable to jump far enough to escape being caught by the legs. The team, not stopping, dragged one of them over one of his legs, which mangled it so badly that a physician who was called immediately told him that the limb would have to be amputated in order to save his life. But my father refused to have this done, saying when he went, he would go altogether.
After winding up my business at Augusta, I returned to Nauvoo and engaged again in schoolteaching. When I had taught one or two quarters, I was called to go on a mission. My father-in-law, Sidney A. Knowlton, was called at the same time. We got ready and started about the 1st of November , and went as far east as the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania.
We were gone six months without accomplishing much, as it was a time of heavy persecution, the time when John C. Bennett apostatized and published his expose’ of the spiritual wife doctrine as he called it. While on this mission, we were turned out of doors late in the evening, by a man by the name of Brown and had to lay out of doors on a cold, frosty night, on account of which I took cold in my eyes and the effects of which lasted me many years. In fact, I can’t say as I have yet altogether recovered.
1843. I engaged again in teaching school soon after my return from the mission and followed this business most of the year. About the 1st of July of this year, my wife had a peculiar dream and, believing that it had significance, she desired me to accompany her to Brother Hyrum Smith’s for the purpose of getting him to interpret it. We went the next Sunday to see him, but having company, he was not at liberty to say much to us; he said, however, if we would come the next Sunday, he would interpret the dream, but wished to see us by ourselves, when there was no other one present. Accordingly the next Sunday we went, but found as many at his house as the Sunday previous. He said to us, come again the next Sunday and probably it will be different; but in a day or so he called at our house, and invited us to take a ride with him in his buggy. We accordingly did so. When we had gotten far enough out of town to converse safely, without attracting attention or being understood, he commenced rehearsing the revelation [D&C 132] on celestial marriage and carefully went through with the whole of it, then reviewed it, explaining such portions of it as he deemed necessary. This was on the 22nd of July, 1843. The dream was in harmony with the revelation and was calculated to prepare her mind for its reception. She never doubted the divinity of it, nor rebelled against it. And while still in the buggy, Brother Hyrum asked my wife if she was willing to be sealed to me. After a moment’s thought, she answered yes. He then asked me if I wished to be sealed. I replied in the affirmative and after telling us that he knew by the spirit of the Lord that it was His will for us to be sealed, he performed the ceremony, then and there.
In the fall of 1844, I procured the music hall for a schoolroom. It was large enough to accommodate 150 students and I succeeded in filling the room, or nearly so. In running the school I had my wife’s assistance, and also Brother John M. Woolley’s. Sometime in the winter following, Mother Smith came to see my wife about getting her to write the history of Joseph, to act in the matter only as her, Mother Smith’s, amanuensis. This my wife was persuaded to do and so dropped the school. Not long had she worked in this direction before I was requested also to drop the school and turn it over to Brother William and Woolley and help her in the matter of the history. After consulting President Young, who advised me to do so, I consented and immediately set to with my might. We labored together until the work was accomplished, which took us until nearly the close of 1845. (In the margin) Call to write the Smith history.
In January, 1846, myself and wife received our endowments in the Nauvoo Temple and were resealed over the altar by President Young. We had Howard and Martha Jane, the only children we had at that time, adopted to us, and after which, myself and wife were adopted to Patriarch Hyrum Smith and his wife Mary.
In the month of May 1846, I left Nauvoo, in company with the main body of the Saints, for a new location somewhere west; but how far, I had not the remotest idea, neither had the Saints generally, and I doubt if there were any that knew very much about the matter. I got as far west that year as the Missouri River, where I spent the winter assisting my father-in-law in taking care of his stock.
The next summer (1847), I helped to put in and raise a corn crop. In the fall I went to Fort Kearney, on the Missouri, and took a contract of hauling 26 thousand bushels of corn. The government, or gr. master, swindled me in the settlement, so that I made nothing.
In 1848, I moved to Nishambotany River. My wife tended ferry and I got five or six yoke of unbroken steers and broke them for their use, and broke prairie that season, besides raising a crop of corn; by this means we made a little raise; bought a wagon, a good yoke of oxen and several cows. In the spring of 1849, I moved up to Kansville, put in a fine garden, and eight acres of corn. In August, I sold out to Brother Orson Hyde and moved up the Platte River to Fort Kearney, near Grand Island and wintered. The next season, I reached Salt Lake City.
In the winter of 1850-1851, I went into the General Tithing Office where I continued as a clerk four years, on a salary of $1,000 a year. I next sold out my premises to Elder Hyde for $1,000 and moved to E. T. City in Tooele County. I next moved to Provo (1857) and lived here until 1871, doing various kinds of work, farming, clerking, school teaching, building a sawmill and sawing lumber, running a molasses factory and hauling lumber to Fairfield, etc. etc. I was getting on pretty well, until I undertook the sawmill, which resulted in embarrassing me not a little.
In 1871, I homesteaded a gr. section in Juab County and moved on it. Here, I lived continuously until the fall of 1880, when I returned to Provo, bringing with me a sick wife. . . .