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Memoir of John's daughter Elvira Egbert Carson
1809-1908 | Missouri
Memoirs of Elvira Egbert Carson, as given to H. Carson Healy, a grandson, during the summer of 1901 at Provo Bench, (Orem), Utah.
Grandmother has lived most of her life in Fairfield, Utah County, Utah where her husband and family had settled, previous to the advent of the Johnson's Army. In her later years she had a home near her daughter Caroline Crandall on Provo Bench. It was at this later place I had an opportunity to spend several days with her. She was in her eightieth year at the time but vigorous in mind and memory.
She had been born in Carlisle, Sullivan County, Indiana about seven miles east of the Wabash River, September 10th, 1821. A daughter of John Egbert and Susannah Hahn.
She called her parents Pennsylvania Dutch, but her father was born on Staten Island in New York, and her mother in Hagerstown, Maryland, a few miles across the line south from Pennsylvania State Line. Her mother's name 'Hahn'? suggests the source of this Pennsylvania Dutch idea.
Regrettably little is known of her mother's family. I am sure we would all be happy to know this wonderful woman more intimately, as we think of the experiences she went thru in those turbulent times, as raising a large family among the best. May we say under the most trying circumstances.
Her father (John Jr) as a boy had been apprenticed out to a devout Catholic cobbler that he might learn the harness making and shoe making trade, as was the custom of the time, the laws of apprenticeship were strict and unfortunate was the boy that got caught with an unkind overseer who had to learn a trade under such circumstances. It appears that there was trouble between her father John and the Priest over his Sunday chores.
There were some geese that had to be herded and when Sunday came the Priest would go to church and leave John to herd them; this may have occurred too many times with little or no recreation until finally he decided to declare his independence. . The geese were especially objects of hate so as they came out of their pen one Sunday morning several were killed and John disappeared, dropped out of sight, and never stopped to say goodbye to his parents, because he knew he would be promptly returned to his servitude by them. Just what happened or how he found his way to Western New York we do not know, but we do know that there were many useful things a boy could do for his keep on such a trip, as at the time there were many people headed westward who wanted drivers and caretakers for their teams.
He landed in Buffalo where he secured employment with a harness maker. A number of years later he owned a shop of his own.
In these times there was adventure in the air, especially along the rivers which offered easy transportation and where the first settlers made their homes. The Alleghency River starts on its meander to the South and West up near Buffalo and would be a temptation to any venturous youth as it empties into the Ohio which finds its way far to the West into the Mississippi. We have to use our imagination as to just what a red blooded young man would do. Somewhere along the Ohio in Kentucky we next hear of John falling in love with Susanna Hahn. Her parents were of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch stock as stated, and we may rightfully assume that they were progressive and industrious as we now find them more than 500 miles westerly from Susanna's birthplace, evidently in search of something better. Their acquaintance ripened into an engagement and John decided to go back to Buffalo and get his tools and supplies promising to return.
We remember that this section of the United States at the time (about 1802) was very much a frontier and tools were scarce and hard to secure, so the trip back to Buffalo seemed very necessary. After gathering his belongings and transporting them to navigable water, he built a raft on which to float them down the river but after he had shoved out into deep water the raft started to sink with too much weight and it went down with everything he had, and he barely escaped with is life. This was a heartbreaking loss and almost irreplaceable. Sorrowfully he made his way back to Susanna and told her he released her from all obligation to marry him as he was pennyless. Her reply was that she had fallen in love with him and not what he might have accumulated and assured him that with the cooperation of working together they need not change their plans, and right here we can read into Susanna's admiration and a noble character which later was given so strength and fortitude in the pioneering and rearing of a large family and in choosing to follow the truth and conviction of a soul.
They settled in Breckenridge, Harrison County, Kentucky which lies about sixty miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio, and here four children were born to them and here they had their first great sorrow for in 1812 they lost their eldest child, Grant.
In 1816 they moved over the Ohio river to the north and west in the state of Indiana. While on the way their son Jon was born. They settled in Carlisle, Sullivan County, which was about 175 miles west and north of Breckenridge, their first home, but like it they were favored with water transportation, it being only five miles east of the Wabash river which empties into the Ohio and kept them in touch with the doings of the day. In the sixteen years they lived here they had eight more children born to them.
These frontier folks were close to the soil and were a God fearing and fundamentally religious people, most everyone had the bible and they read it. They were governed by its teachings of faith, honesty and virtue. They were acquainted with the miracles of life in the birth and growth of their children; in the clearing of a forest and spring time mysteries. They were familiar with the stories of the birth of their nation, of Washington, and the American Revolution, and of Thomas Jefferson; also of the War of 1812, and of Andrew Jackson now President of the United States.
In 1831 and 1832 this whole frontier country was electrified by the news that a young man had found a golden book hidden in a hill in Western New York State that the book had been given him by an angel and that he had even seen God, himself, who had instructed him to form a new church. The Egberts had heard that there were missionaries in the Eastern part of Indiana and in Ohio who had a book that had been translated from these golden plates.
While John Egbert, from the experiences of his boyhood was disgusted with religion, he felt that this might be something different so he walked several hundred miles over the east of the state and secured a Book of Mormon. He read it eagerly and believed its message. One comment he made has come down to us that it made plain many passages in the Bible, that he previously could not understand.
Soon after, an Elder of the Mormon Church by the name of Allred, came to their home and explained this new religion and the father and the mother with some of the older members of the family were baptized. Their life was now to be associated intimately with the new faith. Little did they dream of the heartaches and the trials they were to pass thru in their next few years in following a leader who claimed to have communion with God and angels.
Like all who accepted the leadership of this new church, they got the spirit of wanting to go among the main body of Saints in Jackson County, Missouri had been designated to be the gathering place for the new Zion, they accordingly in 1833 set out for a new home with eleven of their twelve children. The going was hard and the trip was slow and especially trying with this large family and after several days travel through dust and mud, they began to wonder if their move was ill-advised and naturally they thought of turning back. It became a serious matter with them as the family was divided as to what to do. Two of the older boys were determined to go on whether the family went or not, so the parents decided to make camp along a creek nearby and reach the final decision the next morning. During the night there was a hurricane with a drenching rain; the tents were blown down and wagon covers were torn off and by morning there was not a dry rag in camp; they were all drenched to the skin, The boys who wanted to go on the night before, were determined as ever but Father Egbert made the Final Decision. He said the storm was a chastisement to them for ever thinking of turning back, and they would all go on together. We all ponder seriously as to what would have happened to us had this decision not been made, because good or bad it helped make us who we are and what we are. Our admiration and gratitude goes out to those two young men who stood firm and to the Father and Mother Egbert who with more mature judgement, decided to brave the future and not turn back.
A few more weeks found them settled just out side of Independence, Missouri, but they were not permitted to enjoy their new home long, as the mobocrats were soon busy. They had destroyed the printing press that had published the Evening and Morning Star, the first publication of the Church.
Oliver Cowdery, W.W.Phelps, John Whitmer, Algernon Sidney Gilbert, Bishop Partridge
and his two councillors had been sent to Kirtland, Ohio to preside and take charge of the Church work there. Every move by the Saints to establish themselves had been resented by the old settlers. Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen had been stripped, tarred and feathered on the public square and there was more trouble in the air.
The home of the Egberts being on the outskirts of the settlement was one of the first to be raided. The family on being appraised of the approach of the mob, hurriedly cut a bolt of homespun cloth then being woven on the family loom and hid it in the loft of their dwelling. The home was ransacked and any thing of value was taken. The barn was raided and one of their most valuable horses stolen and later the leader of the mob was seen riding him.
During the raid father Egbert asked one of the mob for some tobacco, the mobber replied he would rather give him a hot piece of lead, whereupon Grandfather opened his shirt, and bared his breast and told him to shoot. This display of nerve evidently cowed the bravado of the mobber
They were forced to leave their crops, nearly ready to harvest, and when they left for Clay County just across the Missouri River to the North where they had been invited to come and live by kindly people. And for about five years they were permitted to go about peaceably growing and in helping to build up the church. Wards and Stakes were organized and here we have information that Elvira and Robert were baptized by Apostle David W. Patten.
John Egbert was now approaching sixty years of age, and the worry of making new homes, providing for a large family, the common chills and fever or malaria that troubled so many at that time was preying on his constitution and he fell sick. His boys he depended on to help with the spring farm work had not returned from an extended hunt in the woods where they had gone to hunt for bee trees and honey. Spring time meant that their crops should be planted. Elvira now in her sixteenth year. Hitched up the oxen and plowed and planted twelves acres of corn. Corn was a very important part of the diet of those times and this incident was common to the children of the Saints, who felt that they were responsible with their parents to plant, to weed and to harvest the crops.
The harvest in converts by the Church missionary system was being felt in Clay County.
From all over the United States, Canada, and Europe they came and settled there. Their once kind friends the old settlers became alarmed as they could see they were fast becoming outnumbered.
The condition was aggravated by the enemies in Jackson County and by the preachers of the Christian Churches there. The Latter-Day Saints were friendly with the Indians and their enemies used this as an excuse to accuse them of collusion with the Indians to drive out the old settlers and take over the political control of the whole state. The main part of the Clay County people didnâ€™t want to resort to violence so they reminded the Mormons of their previous kindness to them and asked them to move to avoid possible hostilities.
The Saints had built for permanency and it was a real sacrifice that they were facing to give up their homes again, but it was the advice of their leaders that they do this, most of them got out of Clay County the best they could.
The city of Far West had just been laid out to be the city of Zion, and Caldwell County was recently being surveyed and opened for settlement, and it looked like there was a chance of planting and make their home of peace, without incurring the displeasure or envy of anyone. So the Saints moved there almost in one body. Hyrum Smith led a large group on from Kirtland and it wasnâ€™t long before there were as many as 15,000 saints in the neighborhood. This infuriated the Missourians and together with some apostates the expulsion of the Latter-Day Saints was openly advocated and the old spirit returned with increasing violence. The Latter-Day Saints had settled in several adjoining counties and were buying up the rights of the old settlers in the sparsely settled frontier. An election was to held at Gallatin, Davies County, Aug 6, 1838, where hostilities broke out. The Saints have been advised by a Judge Morin, a candidate for the State Senate, that there was going to be an attempt to prevent them from voting, On that day when a few brethren went to the polls, a Col, Wm. P. Penniston, who had previously led the mob against the saints in Clay County, mounted a platform and told about 100 old timers that if they allowed the Mormons to vote they would soon lose their suffrage. He accused the Mormons of the most ridiculous outrages, stealing cattle, and horses, also of scheming to get hold of offices of County and State; and he made light of the saints sacred right to worship God and their belief in prophets and in healing the sick There were only eleven or twelve of the brethren there but they were determined to vote and when prevented, fights followed and noses were broken. one of the Mormons by the name of John D. Buler filled with patriotic American indignation seized a club and knocked men right and left. The crowed disbursed and the brethren went home, hid their families in the brush and stood guard over their homes that night.
About that time two of the Egbert girls, Corilla and Elvira, were to meet two young men who were to influence the rest of their lives. They were William and John Carson; perhaps they had met before as the two families had landed in Jackson County about the same time. But now these young people were drawn together seriously in a most unusual way.
The roads leading to the towns occupied by the Saints were being guarded and the two boys were called to this duty. At night the young ladies made good company and at times they shouldered the muskets and did the duty themselves so the boys could get some rest. William was 21 and Corilla was 19 and soon after married. John and Elvira were to remain sweethearts for a few more months.
The battle at Crooked river had been fought in which the beloved Prophet David W. Patten had been killed,, several of the Saints had been killed at Hauns Mill and Govener Boggs had issued his infamous extermination order wherein all the Mormons must leave the state or die. They were not without friends however, the story of the inhuman treatment had been heralded in the adjoining states, and there were kind hearted people who extended sympathy in the state of Illinois, also in Iowa.
The Prophet Joseph, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P .Pratt, and others were in chains in prison. The plans of the leaders had been frustrated, the Zion of the dreams of the Saints had vanished; several of the leaders had turned traitor; where could they go for help? Read the stories passed on to us for an answer.
The Prophet advised them to go East and settle some place between Far West, and their old home in Kirtland. Who was to lead them? Thomas B. Marsh the President of the Twelve had turned traitor, there remained a majority of the Twelve and Brigham Young was next in line. He had been busy doing the things that came to his notice that needed doing. We now hear him pleading with the brethren to help him get the poor out of reaches of the mob among friends where they could get food and a chance to make a living. Friends were raised in Illinois, collections were taken up to help them and John Egbert and family did their share of moving and helping others. They located in Adams County near Quincy, Illinois.
In the meantime the Prophet Joseph had been released from Liberty Jail and had purchased for the Church a large tract of land at Commerce, Hancock County Illinois, about 40 miles to the North . He had been able to do this by giving his notes to new friends he had made. Some of the Egbert family had moved to Hancock County. Here we have record of Elvira being married to John Carson, Jan. 31,1841. And of returning to Adams County, and living for two years. They later moved to LaHarpe twenty miles East of Nauvoo. While here a day never to be forgotten is remembered. The Prophet Joseph had been arrested and taken to Carthage, the County Seat for trial. While in jail under the supposed protection of Governor Ford the jail was stormed by mobs, and Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed, John Taylor their friend, and now one of the Twelve Apostles was wounded.
On June 28th John and Elvira were deeply depressed, the cattle were moving, the horses winnowing, the dogs were howling; everything seemed to be mourning, so they took a walk out over their farm; while out they were hailed by a messenger on horseback and told the sad news of the Prophet's death. Another day that stands out in her memory was when the Saints had met on Aug. 8th following that sad day of June 27th, when the Prophet met his death, the Twelve were scattered mostly thru the Eastern part of the nation and only two were in Nauvoo. Brigham was in or near Boston, and it was several days before the sad word had reached them. As soon as it did they all hastened home to Nauvoo.
Sidney Rigdon had laid claim to the leadership of the Church, but his words had not rung true, but on Aug. 8th when Brigham arose and addressed the Saints assembled, it seemed in the words of Elvira â€œ That he spoke in the voice and authority of Joseph.â€? It seemed truly that the Saints recognized that the mantle of authority and leadership had fallen on Brigham Young. There was no doubt from then on, who was the true leader and whom they would follow.
Soon after this the family moved to Nauvoo and we find that their daughter Elizabeth was born there on the 24th of Oct. 1845. They were sharing the fortunes of the Saints and doing their share on the Temple and other public works, and in making preparation for the move to the Rocky Mountains, that had been decided on as the new gathering place. They were now on their way as we find them in 1846 leaving for Garden Grove, and they were on their way by planting crops for those to follow. They left Garden Grove for the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1851 and traveled in Captain Walton's Company as also did her father's family....
Her husband had preceded her in death Aug. 21, 1895. She passed away Feb. 12, 1908, near her daughter's home at what was then Provo Bench.
For many years the family meet in reunions on her birthday. Which gave her great joy, happiness and satisfaction, and enriched her later years.
Written by Carson Healy a grandson of John Egbert