Joseph Bates Noble (1810-1900)

Noble, Joseph Bates, 1810-1900
Autobiography (1810-1834)
Source: Autobiography of Joseph Bates Noble, typescript, BYU-S.
Journal of Joseph Bates Noble
I am the son of Ezekiel Noble. My father was born in May, about the year 1785. My grandfather’s name was Ezekiel Noble. My father had a number of brothers and sisters. One of his brothers’ name was Harvey. He had also a sister, Unice Noble. My mother’s maiden name was Theldosia Bates. Her father’s name was Joseph Bates. My mother has brothers by the name Harvey Bates, John Bates, Joseph and Britewell Bates. My parents were married about the year 1805, and in 1815 moved to the state of New York, Penfield, Monroe County (May).

My sister, Sarah, was born in May, 1807, and I was born in 1810, January 14, and when at the age of 5 years, my father moved to the above mentioned place, where we lived until 1830. During this time my father’s family had increased until we numbered 11 in family. I will here give their names and the year of their birth. My sister, Unice, was born in the year 1813, Penfield, Monroe County. My sister, Rhoda, was born in the year 1815, in the same place. My mother gave birth to a pair of twins in the year 1817, both of them girls. The one she called Elonora Persillia, and Leonora Cordelia.

In the year 1819 my mother gave birth to another pair of twins and called their names Mary Sobia and Rebecca Maria. In the year 1822 John Noble was born. Harvey Noble was born in the year 1825. Robert Noble was born in the year 1827. These are the names of my father’s family.

When at the age of 14, my father, having a large family, and not much to help himself with, depended upon the labor of his own hands for the support of so large a family. I went to work by the month for Nelson Fullom for six months at $5.00 per month. I, with part of my summer’s work, bought a cow for my father and the remainder I clothed myself with, and from this time on till I was 18 years of age I was from home most of the time. Summers I worked on a farm and most of the time for Mr. Fullom, who raised my wages and save me many presents because of my faithfulness. Winters I went to school.

At the age of 18 I went to live with one Harrison A. Fairchild, for to learn to be a miller (or to tend mill). Mr. Fairchild moved to north Bloomfield and rented what was called Smith’s Hills, in partnership with Oliver H. Tomlinson. At the end of the year, Mr. Fairchild sold his interest to Mr. Tomlinson. I then hired to Mr. Tomlinson for one year. I have been able, by my good attention to business to give good satisfaction. I never had a word of difficulty with any man up to this day.

During this time I gave considerable to my father. I took delight in helping my father and in seeing them comfortable as to the things of this world. I did not, as many did at my age, spend a great deal of their time to no value. My mind was so directed (or led) that I enjoyed myself best when I was in a situation to help my father’s family. The steady course I took gave them great confidence in me and I had their confidence and blessing. I continued to work as a miller. By this time I began to get knowledge of the business and my wages were accordingly. I will say here that I became acquainted with a man by the name of Eben Wilcox while I was in the employ of Mr. Fairchild, and when to work for Mr. Tomlinson. Eben Wilcox had (3) the oversight of the mill as a miller. The mill was conveyed into other hands at the first part of the year. Mr. Wilcox and myself went to Avon, Livingston County, and hired to Mr. McMillen to tend mill. Mr. Wilcox has $26 per month. I got $18 per month.

We were in the employ of Mr. McMillen two years. McMillen then sold the mill to Mr. Norman Little. We stayed with Mr. Little one year. During this time I have been attentive to my father and family, really distributing my means for their benefit. (Note: Re has this marked out) bought them three cows, I remember, and hogs, and clothing for their comfort.) I took up for them 70 acres of land in the Genessee County, town of Sheldon, and built a good log house there, 16 by 20, and assisted in moving my father’s family to the before-mentioned place. I also helped them to clearing off the same season three acres of very heavy timberland that was put in wheat.

My father’s health was quite poor, owing to a fall he got the winter before in which his side and some of his ribs were broken. The weakness continued to trouble him for years, even unto this day. I have bought for them three cows and many other necessary things for their comfort. Sometime previous to my father moving from Penfield, my eldest sister, Sarah, was married to David Graves. After living with him for one year, he went to visit his mother and brothers and sisters who them were living in Blackrock, four or five miles below Buffalo, New York. He was taken with a fever and died. My sister, soon after, had a son, and she called his name Theodore.

I continued to work at the milling business. Sometime in the fall of 1832, I heard for the first time the gospel preached by Brigham and Joseph Young, and Heber C. Kimball. I said in my heart, “that is truth according to the spirit that is in me, “for I was a person who thought much about the things of God, and often meditated and wondered in my heart, and asked myself this question; Where is the people of God? Where are they that exercised the faith before Him that our father’s did? I have, from the age of 12 years old, often felt after the God of my fathers, and have from time to time obtained by the whispering of this spirit a testimony of my acceptance with him. I have a proud heart, and from the good intention I gave from what was put into my care I gained the confidence of all. I took time in endeavoring to excell and minding my own business.

I was baptized in the fall of 1832, as also was Eben Wilcox, and some four or five others, who bore our testimony in favor of the work of God, that he had commenced in these last days by revealing to his servant, Joseph Smith, the keys of the Holy Priesthood, authorizing him to build up his kingdom on the earth. In the summer of 1833, I went to Kirtland, Ohio, to visit Joseph Smith, for as yet I had never seen him. The distance was 250 miles. When I arrived at Kirtland, I went to the house of Joseph Smith and told him I had come to stay a few days in the place. He was going to work in the hayfield. He invited me to go with him. I did, so, further said he would tell me all about it. I stayed nine days at the place, worked with the prophet six days. During my stay at Kirtland, Brother Brigham Young came from Canada to Kirtland and had some four or five very interesting meetings. The power of God was poured out upon us, so that we spake with other tongues and prophesied as the spirit gave utterance. Much good instruction was given by President Joseph Smith.

I left Kirtland sometime in the forepart of July, in company with Brigham Young and Edmund Bosley. We went to Fairport, 12 miles, and there went on aboard the steamboat to Buffalo. We had a pleasant voyage dots the lake, arrived in Buffalo. It was soon found out by some that we were Mormons (so called) and a youngerly man who had sometime previous been acquainted with Brother Bosley, came to us and wished to have an interview with us, pretending that he was apio’s to know the truth and to brace it. We were at a public house and he invited us into an upper room, Brother Young and myself alone. He asked Brother Young many questions. Brother Young explained to him the coming forth of this work–how the Lord had sent his angels to communicate his will unto his servant, Joseph Smith.

While they were conversing, I discovered that there was no light in him. I spoke to Brother Young and told him, “This man does not see the situation of the world.” He exclaimed in a rage, “I do, I do, I do. I’ll not see sinners going the downward road to perdition.” He then told Brother Young he wanted he should take a quantity of poison that he had prepared for that purpose, saying, “If it did not kill you, I will believe your testimony.” He was mad when he saw he could not accomplish the thing which he had undertaken, and threatened us with a mob if we did not leave the city straightway.

This was one of the students which was in the priest-factory, where they manufacture priests, but for some cause he was not able to bring a mob upon us. We had a pleasant time, and a good visit altogether.

[Zion’s Camp] In the spring of 1834, I settled up my business because there was a proclamation made by the servants of God that the strength of his house was wanted to go up to Missouri to redeem Zion, (or for the redemption of Zion). I accordingly volunteered, bid farewell to my father’s family and all my acquaintances for a season, and started on the first day of May. I arrived in Kirtland on the sixth, found the company had left, that they were to be in Woster that night, a distance of 50 miles. I hired Brother Johnson to take me with a horse and buggy to Wooster that night, which he did. We arrived there about 9:00 in the evening. I called up a public house and I found by inquiring that there was a company of Mormons who came in there that evening on their way to Missouri. My heart leaped with joy. I went to where they were. They were glad to see me, especially Elder Eben Wilcox. They began to fear that something had happened to me. I was some behind the time appointed.

About two days from Wooster we overtook the rest of our company. We numbered 205 in all, and we organized ourselves into companies of tens and fifties and hundreds, with captains over them, and a baggage wagon for each ten. We received much good instruction from President Joseph Smith from time to time as circumstances would permit. We traveled the more part of the way through an old settled country. Considerable excitement prevailed. Many questions were asked with regard to our motives, what we intended to do. We answered them as we thought best, or as we were instructed from time to time. President Smith would have us travel sometimes with arms on and sometimes without it. Sometimes most of us were in our own wagons, and then sometimes we were all out. We did not travel on Sundays. We stopped and held meetings. When we were near a village or town we would give notice for meetings. Sometimes we would have a Methodist preaching, Presbyterians and Universalist, and sometimes all in one day. We could easily make them believe or think that the company was made up of these different denominations and at the same time teach some of the items of our faith by such persons as had previously belonged to these different sects. They can give it the proper tone.

We were often countered by men on horseback and at ferry’s where one would think they need not mistake who it was. I never heard of our being numbered less than twice our actual number. Reports said we were a thousand strong. I have somewhere among my papers a brief sketch of places and distances, and of things that transpired on the way, which I intended to put in this journal, for there were many things said and done that to me were interesting and no doubt would be to my friends.

We travelled, I believe, 40 days. We arrived in Clay County, Missouri, without the loss of any. The Lord blessed us in a wonderful manner. We could see and feel that his care was over us. By his might and power we were preserved. Many were taken sick on the way. They were administered to and soon well. As soon as we arrived in Clay County there was sent to us a principal man of the county to learn our desire (or what we intended to do). We told them they well knew that our people had been driven from Jackson County, and from their lads. They had bought up government, and paid them cash for it. We had come to see the law put in force against those that had broken it, and to see our people reinstated on their land. They acknowledged it was right. They should (our people) be reinstated on their land. These men pledged themselves to use all their influence to bring about this thing. They told us the whole country was very much excited. They had heard that we were 2,000 strong, well armed with several pieces of artillery and that we intended to kill all, both great and small.

While in this place, President Joseph Smith received the word of the Lord, saying our offering was accepted, comparative to that of Abraham. Our hearts rejoiced when they heard this. A few were for crossing the Missouri River into Jackson County, or die trying. At this time there was stationed at the crossing, 500 men. Some two weeks previous to this time President Smith told us plainly there was a scourge coming from the camp. He said he had prayed, but nevertheless it will come. We thought it would come from our enemies who were threatening us continually, but just at the time when we were dismissed to make our own arrangements to get back, behold a cholera came on us with mighty power, and 14 of our best men fell, and I, myself, very narrowly escaped with my life. It was my lot to assist in taking care of four of them in one small room until they were dead.

I then, by the request of Brother Young and Kimball, went with them to the house of Peter Whitmer, in the village of Liberty, about two miles distant from our last encampment. I there was violently seized with the cholera, puking and purging violently, then cramping from head to foot, in a most powerful manner, with a burning fever in my bowels. In this situation I lay 40 hours. My voice and my hearing had nearly left me.

While in this situation Brother Brigham Young and Joseph Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Peter Whitmer, with some three or four more prayed for me. While I was lying on the floor they formed a ring around me. While praying in this situation, the veil seemed very thin between me and my God, and I realized things that I never before thought of. Such were the blessings of God upon me that I nearly had an open vision. Through the faith of my brethren who was in exercise for me, I got up and with their assistance put on my clothes and in two days I started back for the Ohio with Lyman Johnson, Sylvester Smith, Luke Johnson, Zebedee Coltren, and Aerubable Snow, and two or three others. Never had I experienced before such a manifestation of the blessings of God as at this time. I continued to gain strength very fast so that in six or seven days I could do my portion of walking, as we had but one baggage wagon. I would like to say here that President Joseph Smith and others strove with their mights to rebuke the destroyer and continued to do it until the Lord told him to go away, and then he left, and not till then. We continued our march travelling from 25 to miles a day. We arrived in Kirtland the first day of August, and found President Joseph Smith had arrived a few days before us, all in tolerable good health, although some of us were quite poor from fatigue and exposure.

When we had all got together on our way up to Missouri every one put his money into the hands of President Smith and his council, and the commissary bought our provisions and distributed equally among the several officers. I put in $30 (or about that), and soon I had none. When through, we found the expense to be about $5.00 each. There was some money left in the hands of the presidency that was equally divided among all, $1.15 to each person. I obtained by loan, money to pay my expenses through to Ohio. There I had left my surplus clothes and some money in care of Eben Wilcox. This brother Wilcox was one of the four I mentioned of assisting in taking care of till they were burned. Never in my life did I feel to mourn like as on this occasion. I was sensible that a strong cord of friendship bound us together, but did not know that our hearts were so completely knit together as I found they were.

The circumstances in which we were placed made it the more trying. The excitement was so great that we always lay with our armor on so we were ready in a moments warning. One thing I was assured of–the God of our fathers was our defense. When our enemies gathered thick around us and ready seemingly to destroy us, the heavens gathered blackness and power, poured forth their thundering and lightening and hail storms, so that a little way off our camp trees were stripped the many leaves and limbs to the size of a man’s finger. How plain we could discern the hand of the Lord in our preservation.

I stayed in Kirtland one week to rest, and have my clothes washed. I then went to Fairport (fifteen miles), got aboard a steamboat, and in 24 hours landed in Buffalo, good passage (200 miles) by stage. I went to my father’s, [a] distance 40 miles. I found them all well; my mother’s joy was full at the sight of her dear boy (as she often called me). “Oh,” she says, “What have you accomplished? You have come very near losing your life. How poor you are. How you have tanned up.” Every kindness that I could expect from parents were shown me. They, with my brothers and sisters, welcomed me home.

I stayed with them three or four days, and then went to see the person that had won my affections–may I not say, had possession of my heart more than two years before I left for Missouri. I formed an acquaintance with Mary A. Beman (distance of about 20 miles from my fathers). My first introduction to this young woman was at McMillan’s, my place of boarding. She was teaching school in the neighborhood. Her father, Alva Beman, lived about 2 1/2 miles distance, a man well off as to houses and lands, and the goods of this world, very highly esteemed among men for his word. This man was well acquainted with the Smith family before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and was with Joseph at one time, assisting him in hiding the plates from the mob. He was permitted to handle the plates with a cloth coming over them.

This Mary A. Beman brought the Book of Mormon into the neighborhood the first I had ever heard of, by the request of an old lay by the name of Wilcox, who testified continually that a great change or overturn was about to take place in the world. This woman read the Book of Mormon and believed it was true. By her testimony and from reflections that came to my mind, I was led to believe that the God of our father’s was about to fulfill the covenant that He had made with them, how He would remember their posterity in the last days, though they would have dwindled in unbelief, and have mixed themselves among all people, yet they should be gathered home again and come to a knowledge of a covenant made with their fathers.

I found Mr. Beman and family all well. They all welcomed my return, especially my dear Mary, whose heart, like the fawn, leaped for joy. She was still engaged in teaching in a large district school. I told her my calculations were, as soon as I could I wished to return to Kirtland, Ohio. I had agreed with Joseph Coe to tend his mill for $300 per year. A house and lot and firewood sweepings of mill.

She was willing to have her lot cast with mine, although at this time was not a Mormon (or had not been baptized). I made my wishes known to her parents. They gave their consent and the time was set for our marriage. The whole family connection was invited to attend. We were married Thursday p.m., at 5, September 11, 1834. The more part of our relatives were present. The large commodious room was filled to overflowing. We had an excellent supper and pleasant interview with our friends. However, the thought of our leaving their society and moving off for the Ohio was sorrowful, for as yet the family were so closely settled down together that in one-half days’ drive they could all come together. So it had been for a number of years. They were in the practice of coming together twice a year for a feast. But now the scene is about to be changed. The youngest but two about to break the tie. They made liberal offers to me if I would settle down among them, but no, my eyes had seen the light that shone forth in the West and I felt determined to follow it. I prepared myself with a horse and wagon, and one week after our marriage we started for the Ohio. Her parents had given her a good fit-out from everything we could take and money to buy the rest.

In a little less than six days we arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, a distance of 200 miles, I must say one of the most pleasant times I ever before witnessed. I found things prepared for me as we had agreed on. We then went to Richmond, and I got such things we needed for keeping house nad went immediately to keeping house, having things very comfortable.

About this time the Lord manifested to President Joseph Smith that it was necessary to select (or all) twelve men to be apostles (or special witnesses) to form a quorum equal in authority to that of the First Presidency. It was then said to Joseph Smith, “Call a Seventy, and ordain them out of Zion’s land.” The names of the Twelve were, Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, P. P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Lyman Johnson, Luke Johnson, William McClellan, William Smith, Jerod Patton, John Boynton. I was one of the Seventies. I was appointed a mission in the spring after this ordination, but was [blank] at tending and preparing meal in Willoughby, New York. My wife gave birth to a daughter. We called her Miram. She stayed with us but a very short time. When two weeks old she died, in the spring of 1836.

A company of about 40 others was again called on a mission. I again made preparation to go. As we were about ready to start, a learned gentleman by the name of Sexas came to Kirtland and wished to teach a Hebrew class and other languages, if wanted. President Joseph Smith called the leaders together and said to us it was a favorable opportunity to get a knowledge of the Hebrew and other languages. The hand of God was in it. We right about and went to school. The next six months I gained considerable information on the Hebrew and Chaldee language, so I could read and translate tolerably well. I had at this time no knowledge of the English grammar. That was against me in making progress.

Source: Joseph B. Noble, “Early Scenes in Church History,” Juvenile Instructor 15 (March 15, 1880):112.

By request, I shall attempt to refer to some things, of which I have been an eyewitness, for the benefit of the numerous readers of the Instructor.

The first matter that impresses itself upon my mind is an incident that occurred directly after the expulsion of the Saints from the state of Missouri. We found shelter in and about Quincy, Illinois. Soon after this, President Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners in Liberty Jail found more liberty outside than they had for five months inside. I may tell you at some future time about certain things that happened at Liberty that came under my observation.

About this time a general conference was held at Quincy, at which some six or eight persons were called to go on missions, and I was one of the number.

We soon commenced to move our families up the river about fifty miles, to a place called Commerce, afterwards Nauvoo. Quite a number of us crossed the Mississippi River, to the Iowa side, to avail ourselves of some log cabins that had formerly been used as barracks for soldiers, at a place called Montrose.

Our exposure during the previous winter caused a great deal of sickness. I and some of my family were attacked with bilious fever. I think I can safely say that one half of the families of the whole people had more or less sickness, and many died. Two of my children were buried; and I was nigh unto death. So low was I that my wife asked me, in tears, if I was dying.

At this time Brother Elijah Fordham, a next-door neighbor to me, was very sick; indeed they were preparing clothes for his burial. In this trying hour the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he, with Brothers Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt and others, came to Brother Fordham’s house and commanded him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and walk. He immediately jumped from his dying bed, kicked off the drafts from his feet, and came into my house, following the brethren, and shouting, leaping, and praising God with all his might.

President Smith, while leading the way to my bed, made this remark: “Brother Noble, you have been too long with me to lie here.” As soon as I saw him the tears of joy burst from my eyes. In a moment he was by my bedside, and took my by the hand. Without waiting for the other brethren to get to my bed, he commanded me, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and walk. I arose, and while putting on my clothes I fainted. When I regained consciousness I was on the bed, and Joseph was standing close to me.

As soon as my eyes met his he said, “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” and again commanded me to arise.

While he was speaking I felt the healing virtue flowing through every part of my system. I immediately arose and walked, rejoicing and praising the Lord with all my heart, for His blessing resting upon me, by which I was made whole.

Brother Fordham was more active and stronger than I was. He never sat down in my house, but as soon as Brother Joseph had given directions to my wife concerning some nourishment for me, he left with the rest of the brethren. They went and administered to others who were sick, and called them up in a similar manner.

Joseph, at this time, rebuked the Elders for administering the form without the power. Said he, , “Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick, or let them cease to administer the form without the power.”