AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARY E. LIGHTNER
I was born in the town of Lima, Livingston County, state of New
York, April 9, 1818. My father, John D. Rollins, came from one of
the New England States; I think it was Vermont. My mother, Keziah
Keturah Van Benthuysen, was born in Albany, state of New York, May
16, 1796. She married my father in 1814 or 1815. Three children
were the fruit of this marriage, James Henry, myself and sister
Caroline, the youngest. When Caroline was six months old, my father
was shipwrecked on Lake Ontario during a terrible storm. Only one
person was saved out of all the passengers and crew.
When I was ten years old, we moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and lived
in a house belonging to Algernon Sidney Gilbert, mother's sister's
husband. We remained there two years, when we heard of the plates
of the Book of Mormon, being found by Joseph Smith. Soon the news
was confirmed by the appearance of Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer,
and Ziba Peterson, with the glorious news of the restoration of
the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They bore a powerful
testimony, by the Holy Spirit, of the truth of the great work they
were engaged in; and which they were commissioned by the Father
to present to all the world.
Quite a number of the residents of Kirtland accepted baptism. Mother
and myself also, in the month of October, 1830. A branch of the
Church was organized, and Father Morley was ordained an elder to
preside over it. He owned a large farm, about a mile from Kirtland,
and some three or four families went there to live, and meetings
were held there. A good spirit and one of union prevailed among
the brethren for some time. After Oliver Cowdery and his brethren
left there for Missouri on their mission to the Lamanites, a wrong
spirit crept into our midst, and a few were led away by it. About
this time, John Whitmer came and brought a Book of Mormon. There
was a meeting that evening, and we learned that Brother Morley had
the Book in his possession the only one in that part of the country.
I went to his house just before the meeting was to commence, and
asked to see the book; Brother Morley put it in my hand, as I looked
at it, I felt such a desire to read it, that I could not refrain
from asking him to let me take it home and read it, while he attended
meeting. He said it would be too late for me to take it back after
meeting, and another thing, he had hardly had time to read a chapter
in it himself, and but few of the brethren had even seen it, but
I pled so earnestly for it, he finally said, "Child, if you
will bring this book home before breakfast tomorrow morning, you
may take it." He admonished me to be very careful, and see
that no harm came to it.
If any person in this world was ever perfectly happy in the possession
of any coveted treasure I was when I had permission to read that
wonderful book. Uncle and Aunt were Methodists, so when I got into
the house, I exclaimed, "Oh, Uncle, I have got the 'Golden
Bible'." Well, there was consternation in the house for a few
moments, and I was severely reprimanded for being so presumptuous
as to ask such a favor, when Brother Morley had not read it himself.
However, we all took turns reading it until very late in the night
as soon as it was light enough to see, I was up and learned the
first verse in the book. When I reached Brother Morley's they had
been up for only a little while. When I handed him the book, he
remarked, "I guess you did not read much in it." I showed
him how far we had read. He was surprised and said, "I don't
believe you can tell me one word of it." I then repeated the
first verse, also the outlines of the history of Nephi. He gazed
at me in surprise, and said, "child, take this book home and
finish it, I can wait."
Before or about the time I finished the last chapter, the Prophet
Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, and moved into a part of Newel
K. Whitney's house (Uncle Algernon's partner in the Mercantile Business),
while waiting for his goods to be put in order. Brother Whitney
brought the Prophet Joseph to our house and introduced him to the
older ones of the family (I was not in at the time.) In looking
around he saw the Book of Mormon on the shelf, and asked how that
book came to be there. He said, "I sent that book to Brother
Morley." Uncle told him how his niece had obtained it. He asked,
"Where is your niece?" I was sent for; when he saw me
he looked at me so earnestly, I felt almost afraid. After a moment
or two he came and put his hands on my head and gave me a great
blessing, the first I ever received, and made me a present of the
book, and said he would give Brother Morley another. He came in
time to rebuke the evil spirits, and set the church in order. We
all felt that he was a man of God, for he spoke with power, and
as one having authority in very deed.
In the fall of 1831, in company with Bishop Partridge, Father Morley,
W. W. Phelps, Cyrus Daniels and their families, mother and myself,
my brother Henry and sister Caroline, under the guardianship of
Algernon S. Gilbert, left Kirtland for Independence, Jackson County,
Missouri. Soon, quite a number of the Saints settled in Independence.
Uncle Gilbert opened a store of dry goods, and groceries; while
his partner, Newel K. Whitney, kept one in Kirtland, where they
had one for several years before the Gospel came to them.
A two story printing office was also erected; altogether the Saints
were in a prosperous condition, both temporally and spiritually.
Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer and Thomas B. Marsh often spoke in
tongues in addressing the people on the Sabbath day, and I wanted
to understand what they said; so I made it a subject of prayer,
that the Lord would give me to understand what was the meaning of
their words; for they seemed to speak with great power. One evening
the brethren came to Uncle's house to converse upon the revelations
that had not been printed as yet, but few had looked upon them,
for they were in large sheets, not folded. They spoke of them with
such reverence, as coming from the Lord; they felt to rejoice that
they were counted worthy to be the means of publishing them for
the benefit of the whole world. While talking they were filled with
the spirit and spoke in tongues. I was called upon to interpret
it. I felt the spirit of it in a moment.
Terrible were the threats against our people, we were too much
united to suit the inhabitants of Missouri, and they did not believe
in our religion, or our way of doing business; then we did not believe
in slavery, and they feared us on that account, though we were counseled
to have nothing to say to the slaves whatever, but to mind our own
business. Soon a mob began to collect in the town and set fire to
the grain, and hay stacks in the yard of Bishop Partridge. All were
destroyed. Then they began to stone the houses, breaking the doors
and windows. One night, a great many got together and stoned our
house, part of which was hewed logs, the front was brick. After
breaking all the windows, they commenced to tear off the roof of
the brick part amidst awful oaths and howls that were terrible to
hear; all of a sudden they left and all was quiet. Soon after, I
saw Bishop Partridge tarred and feathered, also Brother Charles
From that time our troubles commenced in earnest. But just before
these troubles began, I went to work for Peter Whitmer, who was
a tailor by trade, and just married. He was crowded with work, and
Lilburn W. Boggs offered him a room in his house, as he had just
been elected lieutenant governor, and wanted Peter to make him a
suit for his inauguration ceremonies. Peter did make them, and I
stitched the collars and faced the coat. Mr. Boggs often came in
to note the progress of the work. As I was considered a good seamstress,
he hired me to make his fine, ruffled bosom shirts, also to assist
his wife in her sewing. I worked for them some weeks; during that
time, they tried to induce me to leave the Church and live with
them; they would educate me, and do for me as if I were their daughter.
As they had but one little girl about two years old, and two sons,
the eldest near my own age, nearly 14 years old, but their persuasions
were of no avail with me.
The mob renewed their efforts again by tearing down the printing
office, a two story building, and driving Brother Phelps' family
out of the lower part of the house and putting their things in the
street. They brought out some large sheets of paper, and said, "Here
are the Mormon Commandments." My sister Caroline and myself
were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the
commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said
if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said "They
will kill us." While their backs were turned, prying out the
gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were
turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop,
but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing
a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers
on the ground, and hid them with our persons. The corn was from
five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable,
and came very near us but did not find us. After we satisfied ourselves
that they had given up the search for us, we tried to find our way
out of the field, the corn was so high we could not see where to
go, looking up I saw trees that had been girdled to kill them. Soon
we came to an old log stable which looked as though it had not been
used for years. Sister Phelps and children were carrying in brush
and piling it up at one side of the barn to lay her beds on. She
asked me what I had. I told her. She then took them from us, which
made us feel very bad. They got them bound in small books and sent
me one, which I prized very highly.
I saw the first hay and grain stacks on fire, in Bishop Partridge's
lot, and other property destroyed. Uncle Gilbert's store was broken
open, and some of the goods strewn on the public square; then the
few families living in town went to the temple block, where the
bishop and his first counselor, John Corrill, lived, for mutual
protection; while the brethren were hiding in the woods, their food
being carried to them in the night. Some of our brethren were tied
to trees and whipped until the blood ran down their bodies. After
enduring all manner of grievances we were driven from the county.
While we were camped on the banks of the Missouri River waiting
to be ferried over, they found there was not money enough to take
all over. One or two families must be left behind, and the fear
was that if left, they would be killed. So, some of the brethren
by the name of Higbee thought they would try and catch some fish,
perhaps the ferryman would take them, they put out their lines in
the evening; it rained all night and most of the next day, when
they took in their lines they found two or three small fish, and
a catfish that weighed 14 pounds. On opening it, what was their
astonishment to find three bright silver half dollars, just the
amount needed to pay for taking their team over the river. This
was considered a miracle, and caused great rejoicing among us. At
length we settled in Clay County, where my mother married Mr. John
M. Burt, a widower with two children, his wife having died with
cholera at St. Louis in 1831. I stayed with Uncle Gilbert most of
the time until Zion's Camp came up in 1834.
Many of the brethren stopped with us, including the Prophet Joseph,
his brothers, Hyrum and William; and Jesse Smith, their cousin,
also Luke and Lyman E. Johnson. When the cholera broke out among
the camp, Uncle Gilbert, (who was preparing to go on a mission)
was among the first to die, then Jesse Smith. There were five who
died at Uncle's, and nine at a neighbor's by the name of Burgett,
this was in the month of June. The dead were rolled in blankets
and consigned to the grave, as the people were so frightened they
would do nothing for us, and our brethren were bowed down with sorrow
for the loss of their friends, and almost despaired of seeing an
end of the plague. But the Lord saw fit to heal the most of those
who had come up in the camp, and there were not many deaths after
the Prophet Joseph had administered to them. Uncle died on the 29th
of June, 1834; shortly after, the camp left for their homes in Kirtland.
I commenced teaching a few children in spelling, reading and writing.
I did not understand much about grammar, I had commenced its study
with Sabrina Phelps, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and two or three
others, in Jackson County, but was stopped by the mob, but I was
well versed in geography. I continued teaching for two years, and
met with good success. In 1835 on the eleventh of August, I was
married to Mr. Adam Lightner of Liberty, Clay County, Mo.
Shortly after this, our people moved to Far West, Caldwell County,
and soon had a flourishing town, and a settlement all around of
farms, etc. The brethren persuaded Mr. Lightner to go there and
keep a store for their accommodation, as the Church was not able;
for the most of them had been stripped of all they had. He concluded
to go and build a log house for his store, and leave me in Liberty
until it was completed. We soon left for Far West, my husband furnishing
the supplies for the brethren until they could harvest their crops.
It was customary among the Missourians to credit the farmers a year.
Mr. Lightner followed the rule, for he knew they could not pay until
they could earn the money.
In the meantime, on the 18th of June, 1836, a son was born to us,
we named him Miles Henry. In the latter part of 1837 we moved to
Milford, a small town about ten miles distant from Far West, to
start a branch of the store in that place for my brother, James
H. Rollins, to take charge of. Soon rumors of trouble began to circulate
among the people in the outer settlements and we deemed it prudent
to go back to Far West. Accordingly, we left the store in the care
of Mr. Slade, and most of our housekeeping articles, expecting to
send for them in a few days, which we were not able to do for two
or three weeks, then we found all of our provisions gone, our carpets
ruined, etc. Then the mob gathered in great numbers, threatening
our people, driving off stock, and committing other depredations
too numerous to mention. When our grievances became almost unbearable,
the brethren determined to try and defend themselves. As there was
but little powder in the place, they decided, as Mr. Lightner was
not a Mormon, to send him to Liberty for a keg of powder; Homer
Duncan accompanied him. They got the powder, and brought 20 yards
of carpet, rolled the keg in it, put it in a barrel and filled the
barrel with beans; on returning their wagon was twice searched by
ten men, who thrust their bayonets into the barrel, but did not
touch the powder. If they had found it two men would have been killed.
Both knew their lives hung on a thread as it were, and looked for
death every moment. But the Lord willed otherwise, and they arrived
home safely to the joy of the brethren.
After a while, teams were sent out into the settlements to collect
all the provisions they could. A number of teams went; two men were
appointed to take their guns and guard each wagon. Mr. Lightner
and George A. Smith were guards for one wagon. Plenty of provisions
were brought in, and taken to Sidney Rigdon's, and other places.
But our people were soon to hear the heart-rending news of a battle
between our brethren and the mob at Crooked River, in which Brothers
David W. Patten, Patrick O'Banion and Gideon Carter were killed.
It was about this time that seventeen men and boys were massacred
by a mob at Hauns' Mill, and their bodies buried in a well. This
news was heart-rending, for all felt to mourn for the loss of the
slain. Oh, what a time that was! For in the midst of sorrow, news
came that the militia (besides the hundreds of the mob), were marching
to destroy our city and its inhabitants. A part of the bloodthirsty
mob camped near the city and placed a cannon in the middle of the
road, intending to blow up the place. Then they sent in a flag of
truce, demanding an interview with John Cleminson and wife, and
Adam Lightner and wife. We went a short distance to meet them. We
saw a number of the brethren standing around the place of meeting,
well armed. As we approached, General Clark shook hands with the
two men, being old acquaintances, and remarked that Governor Boggs
had given him an order for our safe removal before they destroyed
the place. I asked my sister-in-law what we should do about it.
She replied, "We will do as you say; I was surprised at her
answer, as she was the mother of four or five children, and I had
but one. So I asked the General if he would let all the Mormon women
and children go out? He said, "No." "Will you let
my mother's family go out?" He said, "The Governor's orders
were that no one but our two families should go but all were to
be destroyed." "Then, if that is the case, I refuse to
go, for where they die, I will die, for I am a full blooded Mormon,
and I am not ashamed to own it." "Oh," said he, "you
are infatuated, your Prophet will be killed with the rest."
Said I, "If you kill him today, God will raise up another tomorrow."
"But think of your husband and child." I then said that
he could go, and take the child with him, if he wanted to, but I
would suffer with the rest.
Just then a man kneeling down by some brush, jumped up and stepping
between the General and myself, said, "Hold on, General,"
then turned to me and said, "Sister Lightner, God Almighty
bless you, I thank my God for one soul that is ready to die for
her religion; not a hair of your head shall be harmed, for I will
wade to my knees in blood in your behalf." "So will I,"
said Brother Hyrum Smith, and others. The first speaker was Brother
Heber C. Kimball, with whom I was not acquainted at the time. Then
the General pleaded with my husband, but it was of no avail.
The next morning the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were given into
the hands of the mob militia. A few days after, my husband's brother
came from Lexington for us to go to his home, forty miles distant.
As we found our people were not to be massacred, we concluded to
go with him for a time. Accordingly, Cleminson's family and ourselves
took a change of clothes and were ready to go, when we found a posse
was hunting for my brother Henry (who had not been married long).
So we got him in the back end of the wagon, and covered him with
a feather bed, his wife sitting beside him to uncover him for air
when no one of the mob was by. We passed through troops of five
hundred men, one half on the right of the wagon and the other on
the left. They did not molest us, as we feared they would. We had
a negro driver, and Mr. Lightner's brother, who was well known,
walked beside the team. I do not know what would have been my brother's
fate had they seen him. We soon left Far West behind and reached
Lexington in safety, though we had a hard time in crossing the Missouri
River at that place, large cakes of ice would almost upset the boat,
and we were in great danger of drowning. The ferryman said that
he never came so near going to the bottom before. The officers found
where we were, and came and took Henry and put him in Richmond jail,
with Joseph, Hyrum and other brethren; where they were treated like
brutes, and threatened to be shot every day or two. What their sufferings
were was only known to God and themselves. But General Doniphan
was disposed to favor the brethren as much as he possibly could.
About this time we decided to go to Louisville, Kentucky. We rode
day and night until we reached there. We took a change of clothes
for myself and babe, a shirt for Mr. Lightner, (we had left our
goods in Far West) took a quilt for a wrap, and that was all we
had. We expected to find an uncle of my husband's there, with whom
we could stay for awhile, as we had but little means; but in this
we were disappointed, for he had moved to Pennsylvania. We rented
a house of four small rooms for six months, and gave a gold watch
that cost two hundred dollars in New York City for the rent. We
bought a second hand bed and bedstead and two chairs, a kettle and
skillet, 3 or 4 plates and cups, and commenced housekeeping.
Our money soon gave out and no work could be got that Mr. Lightner
could do, as he was a cabinet maker by trade. What to do we did
not know. Then I went from shop to shop to get work, many refused
because I had no recommendation. At last I told a kind looking man
that we were strangers and were destitute. He said he would give
me two fine shirts to make, and if they suited, he would give me
all the work that I could do. I finished them and carried them home;
he was delighted with them and did up a lot more for me to take
home. I asked him if he would pay me for what I had done. He offered
me 30 cents for the two shirts. He said that was all he paid other
women, and though my work was better, yet he could give no more.
A dollar was the common price for a fine shirt, and to get only
fifteen cents for one; I thought it was hard. I told him that I
could do no more at that price, and left him. I spent the money
for some cornmeal and molasses. We lived on that for days. I then
painted some pictures of flowers, and as good luck was on my side,
I sold them for just enough to live on for awhile.
One day Mr. Lightner was down at the wharf and met Francis Higbee,
who told him that our people were in Illinois at a place called
Commerce, and that my brother Henry was in Alton, Illinois; so we
sold what little we had and started for St. Louis with just enough
money to take us there, hoping to get work of some kind so we could
live. Our boat proved to be an old affair and we had to stop for
repair nearly every day, sometimes for hours at a time. I improved
the time in giving painting lessons to a lady on board, to the amount
of six dollars, which paid our passage to Alton. We met a member
of the Church there whom we had befriended in Far West; he was keeping
a boarding house but had a good many empty rooms. We asked permission
to leave our trunk with him over night, which he readily gave. We
then walked a mile, up hill all the way, and found Henry and wife
living in a small house with two other families.
Oh, how glad we were to meet with friends once more, and get a
square meal of victuals with wheat bread, for we had lived so long
on corn meal that both husband and child were ill. Next day we went
for the trunk; the man charged us our last half dollar for letting
the trunk stay in an empty room over night. We did not know what
to do; our boy was very sick and we almost gave up hope that he
would recover, for neither we nor either of the other families had
a cent to procure medicine with. Finally, a doctor's wife, hearing
of our distress, kindly gave us medicine that checked the disease,
for which she would take no pay.
As soon as my husband was able to be around so as to take care
of our boy, I went from house to house and procured a number of
scholars for lessons in painting. We went to board with a private
family at four dollars a week for both of us. I continued teaching
until I had sixty dollars, besides paying board. I felt quite rich.
Although in poor health, yet I traveled through the hot sun to different
houses, some a good distance from others, to get means to go to
Montrose, where I might find my mother, for I was near to be confined
the second time. So we took deck passage to Montrose (which was
opposite Nauvoo, across the Mississippi River) and found Mr. Burt
had moved ten miles from there, onto what was called the half breed
tract. We hired a team and went there, we found them living in a
small log hut, only one room in it. We were joyfully received, and
on October 18th, my daughter Caroline Keziah was born. When she
was three weeks old we moved to Farmington, ten miles from the half
breed tract, situated on the Des Moines River. Mother lent us a
bed, knives and forks, gave us a few quarts of flour (for she had
but little herself) and some other necessities, while an Irishman
gave us a bushel of potatoes and some squash.
We commenced housekeeping in two rooms, one Mr. Lightner used for
a shop, as there was no one there that could make furniture. The
people gladly let him have all the tools and lumber he wanted, and
would take his work for pay. We did well for nearly two years. I
obtained work from a tailor and earned all my clothes, and the children,
for we were anxious to save enough to get a home of our own, which
we did by building a frame house composing one large room, which
we expected to add to as we were able.
In the meantime he bought a great deal of choice lumber to season
for bureaus, tables, etc. Finding our house not in a healthy part
of the place, we sold it for two hundred dollars cash, and as he
wanted mahogany and some other things that he could not get at home,
he went to Montrose for them. He had been there but a short time
when a steamboat came in and brought the report that the bank where
our money was deposited had failed and we only got twenty-five dollars
for our hundred. We were about discouraged, but this was not all,
for on looking out one morning, he found his kiln, in which he was
seasoning his lumber, on fire. Not a plank was saved. What to do
to pay our debts and live, with winter coming on, we did not know.
While in this dilemma, Mr. Burt, my step-father, came over from
Nauvoo to visit us, he saw our situation and offered us a home with
him until we could do better. It seemed a "God-send" to
us, and we gladly hailed the opportunity. So in January, we, Mr.
Burt, myself and two children, crossed the Mississippi River on
the ice. It was late in the evening and he did not dare to take
his team. So we walked across the river and up the hill near the
Temple where he lived. Next morning the ice was all broken up, and
it was days before he could get his team across. On the 23rd of
March I was confined with my third child, we called him George Algernon.
Mr. Lightner had settled up his business in Farmington, paid his
debts by giving up all his tools, etc., which left us poor indeed,
but as some of the brethren owed us nearly two thousand dollars,
we thought we could get some of it to help us, but those that owed
us the most, took the benefit of the bankrupt law and refused to
pay us. One man offered to let us have a barrel of pork and a coffee
pot, if we would give him back his note of five hundred dollars,
which we held. We did this and was very thankful for it; but not
for long, for when we opened the barrel we found the meat sour and
full of weevils.
My husband could get no work, and I commenced teaching painting
to Julia Murdock Smith, to Steven Mark's daughter; and to Sarah
Ann Whitney. I also procured a lot a block below the Prophet Joseph
Smith's mansion; but as we could get no more work in Nauvoo. Mr.
Lightner found a job cutting cord wood, 15 miles up the river, at
a place called Pontusuc. He got a little log room with a floor made
of logs split in two, and very rough. The Prophet Joseph, on learning
that we were going to leave there, felt very sad, and while the
tears ran down his cheeks, he prophesied that if we attempted to
leave the Church we would have plenty of sorrow; for we would make
property on the right hand and lose it on the left, we would have
sickness on sickness, and lose our children, and that I would have
to work harder than I ever dreamed of; and, "At last when you
are worn out, and almost ready to die, you will get back to the
Church." I thought these were hard sayings and felt to doubt
them. But the sequel proved them true. Before leaving Nauvoo on
the 4th of July there was a general parade of the Legion; about
noon Emma came to me to borrow my dining table, as the officers
were to dine with her, and the Prophet Joseph came also, he said
the Lord commanded him to baptize us that day. Emma asked, "Why
is this? They have always been good members in the Church, and another
thing, dinner will be ready soon and you certainly won't go in those
clothes?" "No," he told us, and he wanted us to be
ready by the time he was, for he would not wait for dinner; as we
lived on the bank of the river, we were soon ready. Brother Henry
and wife, Aunt Gilbert and myself were baptized and confirmed. The
Prophet Joseph tried hard to get Mr. Lightner to go into the water,
but he said he did not feel worthy, but would, some other time.
Joseph said to me that he never would be baptized, unless it was
a few moments before he died.
It was with sorrowful feeling that I went to Pontusuc to live,
but by my taking in sewing we made out to live, and that was all.
A lady called on me and asked me if we had a cow. I said, "No."
She said if I would let her have my bedstead she would give me a
cow and two pigs. I gladly accepted her offer, and slept on the
floor until we could nail up a substitute. In a short time George
was taken sick and died. I was alone with him at the time; my husband
had gone to a neighbor's for assistance. An old lady helped me dress
him, and Mr. Lightner had to make the coffin, as he was the only
carpenter in the place. The two men that dug the grave, and a little
girl, were all that went to help bury my darling. I felt that the
Prophet's words were beginning to be fulfilled.
We then moved to a more commodious house. In 1843, my third son,
Florentine Matthias was born. When he was two months old, I commenced
teaching a few children in spelling and reading. I had not taught
long before I took a severe cold that caused inflammation of the
bowels. I was so low that my life was despaired of by two physicians.
Mother was sent for. She brought some consecrated oil with which
I was anointed. I felt better, and persuaded her to fix quilts in
a chair and let me try to sit up to have the bed made, for it had
not been made for over two weeks, but she was afraid to try it,
as the doctor said I could not live three days, but I pleaded so
hard they granted my request; by fixing quilts and pillow in a large
rocking chair, tipped back as nearly like a bed as they could; then
lifting me in a sheet, I was placed on it. Mother was so afraid
it would make me worse she put on my stockings and slippers and
wrapped me up in quilts while she made my bed more comfortable.
I was in the second story of the house, in a large room; there were
two more rooms on the same floor, and a hall. While lying there
a heavy storm came up and our house was struck by lightning, and
all of us badly shocked; the door casing was torn out and struck
mother on the shoulder and bruised her terribly. All were senseless
for some time. There were seven of us in the family at the time.
I was the first to come to my senses, and I found myself across
the foot of the bed, my head on one side of the foot post of the
bed and limbs on the other. As I looked around and saw the family
on the floor, I thought they were all dead. I called for Mr. Lightner,
who had gone into the next room; not getting any answer, I arose
and went through the hall, to find him on the floor as rigid as
a corpse. The window in the hall had been torn out and the water
was pouring in, in torrents. I took a small bucket and would dip
up the water and pour it over him as fast as I could, but it did
not do him any good.
Soon the doctor and two or three of the neighbors came in. They
had seen the lightning strike the house and as they could see no
one moving, they concluded that we were all killed, but when they
saw me they were frightened. The doctor got a quilt and wrapped
it around me and carried me to a neighbor's. This was about 4 o'clock,
June 6th, and it was nine at night before they could bring Mr. Lightner
to the use of his limbs. He said he suffered more in being treated
to live than he would in dying, but I who had been turned over in
bed for two weeks by the sheets (for I was so swollen and inflamed
in my bowels, I could not bear to have them handle me) was entirely
cured, and dressed myself and went about my duties. However, for
two years, when a storm came up, I was very sick while it lasted.
Our house was torn to pieces, the lightning had run from the roof
to the ground in seven different places. People came from a distance
to see it, and wondered that we were all not killed. A few days
after this, I went out to milk my cow; when about half done, she
stepped over the bucket and fell down dead. This was a great trial
to us, for my long sickness had used up our means. We were obliged
to leave the house and move into one close by. All of us came down
with the chills and fever; there was not one to do anything but
Mr. Lightner, and he had to do all the cooking and looking after
the rest of us. My case proved to be biliousness, with a fever,
in a bad form. I was again given up to die. We got a little girl
to stay a day, then Mr. Lightner took the baby on a pillow and rode
horseback to Nauvoo for mother to take care of it. I never expected
to see it again, the thoughts of leaving my little children in the
condition we were in, seemed more than I could bear. I thought of
all that the Prophet Joseph had told me, and felt in my heart that
it was all true. I prayed for help to get well, but the doctor coming
in, said there was no hope for me. But I dreamed that an angel came
to me and said if I would go to Nauvoo and call for a Brother Cutler,
that worked on the temple, to administer to me, I should be healed.
But we could get no team to go. I was in despair; however, my brother
was impressed to send for me, he felt that something was wrong,
so he sent a boy with an ox team after me. I was so glad, that for
a few moments I felt new life. But the people said I would not get
a mile from town when he would have to bring back my dead body.
But I said I wanted to be buried in Nauvoo, and pleaded with them
to take me there, dead or alive.
So after fixing a bed in the wagon, they placed me on it; the neighbors
bid me goodbye as they supposed for the last time (they were not
of our faith). We went a mile and stopped the team; they thought
me dying, all the children were crying. I had my senses and motioned
for them to go on. We went a few miles further, stopped at a house
and asked to stay all night. The woman was willing until she saw
me. She said I would die before morning, and she did not want me
to die in her house. Mr. Lightner told her that I would certainly
die if I was left in the open wagon all night. She finally let us
in. She made us as comfortable as she could and fixed me some light
food; after drinking some tea, I felt better and had a good night's
rest; but she was glad when we left, for she thought I would never
see Nauvoo. After traveling a few miles further, we finally reached
Nauvoo. They still thought me dying. Mr. Lightner asked Brother
Burt if there was an old man by the name of Cutler working on the
temple. He said "Yes." Mr. Lightner told him my dream;
soon they brought him, he administered to me and I got up and walked
to the fire, alone. In two weeks I was able to take care of my children.
But just previous to this last sickness, the Prophet Joseph and
his brother Hyrum, were taken to Carthage jail and men around Pontusuc
formed a company to go to Carthage; they said to protect the Smiths,
but I thought otherwise; also to go against Nauvoo if demanded.
I was called to make a flag for this company; I refused, for I felt
so low spirited I could hardly keep from weeping all day. I could
not account for these awful feelings. But there was no one that
knew how to make the flag but me, and I was compelled to make it
or suffer the consequence, for I was the only Mormon in the place.
In the afternoon of this same day this company started for Carthage.
The mob of men from Pontusuc, who had compelled me to make a flag,
and who were bent upon the destruction of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
as was already referred to in the last entry of my journal, returned
in the night. As soon as we were up in the morning eight or ten
men came to the door and called us to come to the door; when we
came, they told us that the Smiths were killed. They said that if
we attempted to go to the funeral we should be shot; I said, "You
can shoot me here if you want to," but an old man spoke up
and said that if I stayed home I should not be hurt, unless the
Mormons came against them; then I would be the first one to be killed;
and Mr. Lightner, too, unless he joined their side. We were obliged
to remain three months; when they thought I would not live to get
there they let us go. But when Mr. Lightner went back for our things
he had to give the most of them to pay rent and doctor bills, even
some of my clothes were taken for debts. In fact, we were robbed
of many things. But I felt thankful to be away from there with my
Soon after I got well, the temple was ready for giving endowments.
When spring opened, we went aboard the "War Eagle" bound
for Galena; but before we started, Brigham Young sent word back
from Winter Quarters for me to come on and the Lord would bless
me. I was destitute of clothes for myself and children, and not
a dollar to call my own, how could I go? And to add to my distress,
I was watched night and day. Someone had betrayed me. After reaching
Galena we did make out to get work and thought we should do pretty
well, vain hope. The last week in June, 1847, I was washing and
got a needle in my wrist, close to the pulse which broke off, leaving
half of it in my wrist. My hand was drawn up to my breast and the
pain was excruciating. I went to four different doctors, but could
get no help, neither could I sleep, only when I was perfectly exhausted,
and then only for a moment or two. It was September before I could
sew on anything.
On the ninth of February I had a son born; we named him John Horace
Gilbert. In about six weeks I was able to take in sewing for a tailor;
I made forty pairs of pants at forty to fifty cents a pair, for
which I received pay out of a store, no money. As Mr. Lightner could
get no work, it seemed impossible for us to live and pay rent. At
length a Mr. Houghton, editor of the Galena Gazette, learned of
our circumstances and offered us fifty dollars a month, and our
passage free, if we would go to St. Croix Falls and oversee a hotel
in which he was interested. We gladly availed ourselves of this
offer, considering it a blessing from God.
We found a man in charge, who was a good cook. We engaged him to
remain with us. We had about fifty boarders. We did well the first
month, but during the next month, Mr. Lightner was taken sick with
brain fever, and my babe with chills and fever. I had my hands full
for two weeks. I never undressed. I was on my feet all day and most
of the night. When Mr. Lightner got so he could sit up a few moments,
I began to hope our troubles were over, but vain were my hopes,
for my feet began to swell, and turned purple. I could not put them
to the floor. The doctors said one of them was mortified, and I
must have it amputated or lose my life. I thought of the Prophet
Joseph's prophesies, when he said if I went away from the Saints
I would suffer great tribulation and lose my children, and would
make property on the right hand, and lose it on the left; and when
I got very poor, and almost worn out, I should go back to the Church.
I prayed earnestly for the Lord to spare me my limb, and in answer
to my prayer another physician said he thought he could save it
if I would let him try. After some days working over it, the pain
ceased and the swelling gradually subsided, until I could walk on
it once more. Oh, how thankful I felt to my Heavenly Father that
my foot was saved and I could work for the maintenance of my family,
(for Mr. Lightner was still in poor health and the house needed
a mistress). As soon as we gained strength we moved into a more
In the meantime, Aunt Gilbert came up from Nauvoo to live with
us, and she proved a great help to us, for we were away from all
our family relations. No one of our faith was near us, with whom
we could converse on "Mormonism." We were getting along
nicely and were prospering in worldly affairs, for all of our provisions
were furnished us by the company, and we could save our salary for
But on the twentieth day of September, at twelve o'clock, day time,
a stranger, purporting to be a physician from Quincy, Illinois,
came to the house and wanted to sell us medicine. He had a root,
he said, which would cure any kind of a cold, bleeding at the lungs,
and liver complaint. We did not want to buy any, but he gave us
a piece of root for Aunt, as she had the liver complaint, he ate
some of it (or pretended to) and said it would do us all good. So
Mr. Lightner, Aunt and myself tasted it, and gave a little to two
of my sons who came in at that moment, and tasted it also. In a
few moments we were all taken violently ill; at three o'clock my
two boys, (one ten years and six months, the other three years and
six months old) were dead. We thought Aunt was also dead; all three
were laid out and covered with a sheet. While Mr. Lightner and myself
were not expected to live from one moment to another. Two physicians
were in attendance, and gave us no hope that we should recover,
and it really seemed as though their predictions would come true.
But about nine o'clock in the evening Aunt came to life, but had
convulsions for two weeks. It took two or three men to hold her
while the convulsions lasted. The doctors were surprised at her
condition, for they and ten men had pronounced her dead five hours
before she came to life again. In the meantime, Mr. Lightner and
myself were getting some better. So the whole town turned out to
see justice done to the man who gave us the poison.
They put a rope around his neck, and raised the window at the front
of my bed for me to see them hang him. He was an elderly man, with
a pleasing countenance, but when they wanted me to look my last
on him I begged them to desist from their purpose and try him by
due course of law. Nothing but my deep sorrow and the fear that
I, too, would soon join my children in the spirit land, caused them
to desist from their purpose for the time being, so they confined
him in a building they thought secure. But he had a friend in the
place who assisted him to escape in the night. There was a light
fall of snow and they traced him for two or three days without finding
The next spring, a gentleman named Leach opened an office for land
entry, the first of the kind in that part of the country, at our
house. He had learned of our trouble, and being a resident of the
state of Illinois and having business in Quincy, he discovered that
the quack doctor was in Quincy, in a hospital, in a very bad condition.
Both of his feet were frozen till the flesh dropped off from the
bones. He told Mr. Leach that he got lost in the woods after making
his escape from jail, and would have died if some friendly Indians
had not found him and taken care of him until spring; then he was
taken aboard the first boat that went down the river in the spring,
where he reached his home, to be a sufferer all his days. Mr. Leach
said the man had escaped the vengeance of man, but had not escaped
the vengeance of God.
The next fall we moved forty miles down the river to Stillwater,
a town situated on the bank of Lake St. Croix. We resided there
until the next spring, when we moved to Willow River on the Wisconsin
side of the lake. On the 3rd of April my daughter Elizabeth was
born. The snow was two feet deep on the level. An Indian woman attended
me. As soon as I was able to travel, my husband bought a small farm
of sixty-five acres, opposite Stillwater; part of it was heavy timber,
the rest under cultivation. We built a four room house, and as it
was not finished, and our resources about gone, we concluded to
move; but in the meantime, Mr. Lightner bought a horse and cow.
In a week the horse was found dead in the stable. We hired a man
to drive the cow for us about seven miles. He drove her so fast
that she died the next morning. It seemed as though everything worked
against us. And as winter was coming, we concluded to accept an
offer we had of keeping a three story hotel for three hundred dollars
a year, and everything furnished. We were glad to get into a warm
house, for the winters were severe in that country. The work was
very hard on us, but the last of March we went back to our home,
and on the 9th of April, (my own birthday) my daughter Mary was
We stayed at home that season, then went to Willow River and kept
a boarding house for a Mr. Mears two years. Then I was called to
get to Farmington, Iowa, to attend the death bed of my only sister.
My baby boy was only four weeks old, and my health very poor. I
went by steamboat to Keokuk, and from there by stage. I stayed five
weeks, when she left me for a better state of existence. She left
four children; two boys and two girls. She died strong in the faith
of "Mormonism," so called; for that, I was truly thankful.
I returned home, taking the oldest girl with me, and left the others
with friends till I could send for them, as I was not able to care
for them at that time.
The next year we moved to Marine, on the Minnesota side of the
lake, and rented a hotel at five hundred dollars a year. After a
few years we purchased a two story house and large lot. Then we
built a five story hotel, for business was increasing at such a
rate that the house we were in would not accommodate the traveling
public. Besides, we had nearly forty regular boarders. Of course,
we went in debt a thousand dollars to get it completed and furnished
for occupancy. We were doing well and would soon have been out of
debt; in the meantime we had mortgaged the whole of the property
for the thousand dollars, expecting we could pay it in a few months
at least. However, the war of 1861 came on and we began to lose
our boarders by enlistment, and through that, we failed to pay the
mortgage when due; and after awhile, we lost the whole of our property,
which we had labored to obtain by many years of self denial and
We finally decided to leave a place where misfortune had followed
us on every hand. We went to Hannibal, Missouri, and stayed a year;
waiting for letters of information from my brother, who had gone
to Utah at the time of the expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo.
Not hearing from him, as we expected, and not considering it safe
to remain in Hannibal, as we were for the Union, and the majority
of the people there were slave owners, and sided with the South,
we went back to Minnesota, and on October 28th, 1862, my son Adam
was born, being my tenth child. At last the long delayed letter
arrived, informing us there was a large company of teams and men
being sent from Utah to Omaha to meet immigrants from England, and
that one would be sent for us. Oh, how glad we were, it seemed to
good to be true. We soon disposed of what little we possessed after
all our moving around and many mishaps.
On May 25, 1863, we embarked on board the steamer "Canada"
for St. Louis, and took up our quarters on the lower deck. All was
neat and clean and we slept on our baggage. On the 26th we commenced
taking on wheat, until the boat was heavily freighted. We had no
chance to cook. Charles and Adam were very sick with the measles,
and no chance to make them comfortable. We came to Rock Island Bridge,
which is a dangerous place for boats to go through. At the draw
of the R. R. Bridge, a number of vessels lay ruined nearby. Many
of our passengers were badly frightened, for we attempted the passage
five times before we succeeded in getting through. On the 28th,
seventeen horses were taken on the lower deck, which made the atmosphere
very impure. In the evening, five or six soldiers came aboard with
foul company. Brute beasts in the form of men fill the place, and
the scene is almost intolerable. On the 29th, we are lying at Montrose
unloading grain. Nauvoo lies on the opposite side of the river and
looks deserted enough. One corner of that once beautiful temple,
alone remained, a monument of former beauty and grandeur. It was
raining hard or I should have crossed the river to see it. But as
I looked at it from this point, and thought of what it once was,
blossoming forth in beauty, with a population of seventeen thousand
inhabitants, I felt to mourn over its present desolation. I thought,
"Can it be that I shall see the place no more? Where once the
Prophet stood and moved the hearts of the people to worship God
according to the new and everlasting covenant, which had been revealed
through him to the people in this generation, and where he gave
himself a martyr for the cause he taught."
One of our passengers has just saved a man from drowning, he was
sinking for the third time, when rescued. My oldest boy, John, was
quite sick, and throat very sore; the other children better, but
cross. On a Saturday we arrived in St. Louis; it was raining hard.
We went aboard the steamer, "Fanny Ogden," for St. Joseph.
We were to have a stove to cook by, laid in a supply of provisions,
and fancied we should be half way comfortable, but it proved the
reverse. We were transferred to the upper deck until the storing
of Government supplies was completed, then five hundred mules and
horses were taken aboard; consequently we had to remain on the upper
deck all the way from St. Louis to Omaha--wind and rain for company;
nothing but bread and dried beef to eat, as the deck hands had stolen
our vegetables. A soldier was put on board for home, who had lost
his leg in battle; another very sick. We sat near along box for
two or three days, that contained a corpse. Our progress was slow,
half the time on sand bars.
We met a steamer coming down, saying the rebels were gathering
in great numbers and would fire on us. We had a cannon and soldiers
on board for our protection; for myself I felt no fear. The captain
has built a breast work of sacks of grain and tobacco boxes; all
hands prepared for action. June 3rd all was excitement, and a sharp
lookout was kept, looking for the enemy every moment. At Lexington
the town was almost destroyed by cannon, houses partly demolished;
it was here my husband's brother, a Unionist, was killed. We passed
a gloomy night, some on trunks doubled up any way to get a few moment's
rest; but strange to relate, not a shot was fired at us, although
in a rebel community. We passed Liberty landing and Independence;
things remain about as they were twenty years ago. We stopped at
Kansas City; plenty of Mexicans were there, loading teams for Mexico.
On June 6th, we arrived at St. Joseph, all tolerable well, considering
that we had not had a chance to change our clothes or undress since
leaving Minnesota. We found the river banks lined with Sioux Indians,
who were being removed from Minnesota by the Government, for their
massacre of the whites.
June 7th, we laid all day at this place; in the evening the Indians
had a pow wow dance. We then boarded the "Emilie" for
Omaha--some Saints came aboard at the same time, bound for Utah.
I felt to rejoice, for I had not seen the face of a member of the
Church for over 18 years. Monday we landed at Omaha in a heavy rain
storm; rode to Florence, six miles, without a cover from the rain,
and stopped at a cabin, wet through. We had no fire and no chance
to make one, so laid down in damp bed clothes; next night had the
cholera and was sick three of four days, and my babe had bowel complaint
very bad. Thursday some immigrants arrived with the small pox. Two
are dead and ten more sick. One of the number spent the evening
with us; we shook hands with them; they said nothing about the disease;
the next day they were sent to the hills, where tents were provided
for them. On Saturday seven hundred persons from England arrived
here en route for Salt Lake. This is the gathering place for those
who intend crossing the plains.
Today, Saints from Africa and Denmark arrived here. Their tents
were scattered over the hills, and when the camp fires were lit
up at night the scene was beautiful to behold. It makes me think
how the children of Israel must have looked in the days of Moses,
when journeying in the wilderness; also to see some hundred mules
in an enclosure, all sleek and fat--looks like prosperity indeed.
The train of five hundred teams from Salt Lake are hourly looked
for. Three deaths occurred in the Danish camp, and some three or
four weddings. June 15th, the children have picked three dollars
worth of wild strawberries, that helped us considerable.
On the 20th my sister's husband, Edwin Brigham arrived to take
us out to the valley. We were glad to see him. Sunday we fixed all
day for a march in the morning. We started; Monday night we camped
out, and such a night--thunder, lightning and wind, but we slept,
or rather stayed in our wagons, did not get very wet, but felt rather
stiff--we cooked our breakfast, milked the cow, dried our things,
and were ready for another day's tramp. One company of 50 or 60
wagons is ahead of us, and a good many behind us. It is quite amusing
to see a corral formed and the cattle driven in to the center of
the corral of wagons to keep them safe; each man unyoking his own,
all done in the best order.
We had a good man for captain of our company. I don't think we
could have gotten a better one. We have meetings every evening.
July 3rd, passed a very hot day, up with the dawn, cook breakfast
with buffalo manure for fuel--do our work and travel sixteen miles,
hard wind most of the time. I was tired out when camped for the
night. One wagon upset in a mud hole, no one hurt.
July 4th. All Well. Caught up with the company ahead, John R. Murdock,
captain; had a dance in the evening. Traveled well the next day,
saw a variety of beautiful flowers.
10th. Nothing of interest has occurred, the weather very hot. Had
another dance, we are on a large prairie, saw a buffalo herd, and
passed through a dog village. Cunning little fellows, dodging in
and out of their burrows. Nothing of moment has occurred for four
or five days. The prairie is one vast desert as far as game is concerned,
except now and then a rabbit or sage hen. One of the brethren killed
an antelope and gave me a nice piece. Friday, camped at Pawnee Springs,
the water boils up from a great depth, there are four of them, but
I am told that a few weeks ago, there were but two. The flowers
are very pretty and of all colors.
18th. All well, warm when the sun is out, but chilly under a cloud.
22nd. Had a thunder shower, no sickness yet.
23rd. One man sick--at noon, a babe belonging to some of the Saints
from Australia, died very suddenly. We have had a hard time today,
traveling through sand hills, had to double teams.
24th. Mr. Lightner quite unwell.
25th. Very hot; traveled through a great deal of sand, saw plenty
of prickly pear, it does very well to look at, but not good to handle
or walk over. Three Indians came into camp, driving two yoke of
oxen, which our captain traded for, as they belonged to the company
ahead of us and will be given to their owners. One of our wagons
broke down, which delayed us three hours.
27th. He is better, but babe is very sick with canker and bowel
28th. Morning quite foggy, passed some natural curiosities, one
called the court house, from its resemblance to that edifice, also
a large rock formed like a church steeple and called the chimney.
This part of the country is the most barren and desolate that I
ever saw. Nothing to relieve the eye but sky and sand and hills,
expected to see some buffalo but am disappointed.
29th. Passed a small government train from the fort, often meet
a few persons passing along in this dreary place, as though they
were in the states.
30th. Passed a trading post, three tents and a few trees, which
did my eyes good, after seeing so much sand and barren soil.
31st. It has blown sand and dust, enough to choke one, all day.
Passed two deserted stations, and four graves of immigrants.
August 1st. Among the hills and rocks most of the day, and dust
an inch thick. Saw the telegraph station; it consists of two log
houses, outbuildings and a good well of water which was worth a
great deal to us. Nothing but hills and sage brush to be seen. No
grass save in patches along the river. Camped in dust as if in the
middle of the street in the states. Baked a shortcake, fried some
bacon and had tea for supper after dark. Tired almost to death--lost
the children's pet rabbit today.
2nd. A train of government wagons and soldiers passed us to settle
some difficulty with the Indians and gold seekers. Our train stopped
this afternoon to fix wagons and do our washing, the young folks
danced and played until twelve at night--we always have prayers
in the evening.
3rd. Saw some returned Californians, who spoke well of the Mormons
in the valley. We lost one of our cows from drinking alkali water.
Saw six more dead.
4th. Lost an ox. More sick from the cause. A child fell out of
a wagon and the wheels passed over both limbs, but was not much
hurt. Passed sixteen dead cattle, from the other train. This is
a heavy loss.
8th. Came to the telegraph station, quite a little place. Saw a
large freight train, had coffee, bread, and thickened milk for dinner.
We fixed up and passed through the aforesaid train; all well.
10th. Came to another station, crossed the Platte River Bridge,
which is a good structure. Camped on a large hill, more dead cattle.
The prospects look gloomy enough. Elizabeth crazy all night with
the toothache--been so for two days.
11th. The eleventh of August, the anniversary of our marriage--twenty-five
years of joys and sorrow have passed over my head since then. Years
never to be forgotten. Came to what is termed the "Devil's
Back Bone." It consists of a long range of rocks, and looks
as though they were thrown up from beneath, and pointing up like
ice in a jamb. It is a singular sight. A company of gold seekers
camped near us. Our company lost more cattle. Came to a saleratus
lake, which looked like ice in the distance. We cut out a great
quantity of it to take with us, as the captain said there was none
in the valley.
13th. Passed another station, also "Devil's Gate," which
consists of two mountains of rock so near together that a wagon
can pass between them. The walls on each side are perpendicular,
rather sloping on the other side, and so high that a man on the
top looks like a small boy.
15th. Had breakfast of bacon, fried cakes and coffee, traveled
on a good road for miles, then stopped--cook dinner. Wind blowing
gale of sand all over us. I think we will get the proverbial peck
of dust before we get through--our cow sick, no milk for two or
three days. Some sage hens and rabbits were killed today. We have
had fresh meat but once since leaving the Mississippi River.
16th. Sand and gravel all day, feel sick and cross; for if there
is a bad place in camp, we are sure to get it. Antelope was killed
17th. Saw mountains covered with snow in the distance; up and down
hills all day; heavy wind; camped in a good place for a wonder,
writing by fire light. Danes are at prayers by themselves--our folks
the same. While I, poor sinner, am baking bread. In fact, I don't
much like our preacher. He strokes his beard too much, and speaks
18th. Saw a lot of antelope; two were killed. The captain gave
me a nice piece. Saw a camp of immigrants close by, another not
far off. Camped on a hill for dinner. The hill was covered with
small black rocks. It is a beautiful day, ice formed in our buckets
as thick as a knife blade. More game was killed today, but little
or no sickness has befallen us so far, the captain says we are greatly
blessed to what some of the companies were. I hope we will continue
to be, until our journey ends. We have been in sight of snow for
two or three days. It looks cool for the month of August. We are
on the highest land on this side of the Mississippi. Here, on the
eastern side of the mountains the rivers flow toward the Atlantic,
and on the western side, to the Pacific. The scenery is grand. A
bear was killed weighing near four hundred pounds, and was divided
among our company of sixty persons. I could not stomach it. I don't
believe they were made for man's food.
We are now in Utah, but I don't see much change in the face of
the land for the better; but I can't see much, as I have been quite
sick for six or seven days. Crossed Green River Sunday evening,
it is a beautiful stream of water, and plenty of trees on its banks.
Two trains are close behind us, which make us hurry to keep the
front place, for the roads are so dusty we can hardly see our front
teams. Stopped at a station where our men were required to take
the oath of allegiance to the United States government, our wagons
were searched for powder, etc. I have not much to say for the past
week, as I have been very sick all the time, was administered to
by Brother's Stork and Martin--and was helped immediately. We saw
a stage pass twice yesterday, and more travel today--which makes
it look more like being in the land of the living. Snow all around
in the mountains, only think of it; snow near, and yet almost smothered
with dust. A stage passed with two of our missionaries, one was
Brigham Young, Jr. Arrived at Fort Bridger, a nice place, good and
substantial building. It looks comfortable. The days warm, the nights
cold. Last evening we bought some onions and potatoes, which were
quite a treat. They did us good, as we were getting the canker bad,
from so long a diet of salt pork, but I trust our journey is nearly
over. The earth at this place is of a reddish color, and the mountains
look somewhat greener than they have for some time.
31st. Passed through some mountains in a round about way, they
look solemn in their grandeur; rising one above another, and their
verdure of many colored hues and rocks of various shades looked
beautiful to me; if I had the materials and time I should paint
some of them. One of the curiosities of this place is a spring of
tar. The people get it for their wagons. The weather cold but pleasant.
Passed a mail station, also a field of grain. It looked nice, but
I should not like to live there. There were some singular looking
rocks, very large, they appeared like huge blocks of clay, sprinkled
full of pebbles, and inclined to be a red color. The earth in many
places looked like a burnt brick--near is a large cave in the rock,
it has a singular appearance. It is called the cascade. Some fruit
was brought in at famine prices--apples eleven cents apiece.
September 1st. Passed through Echo Canyon. The scenery is beautiful
to behold, such rocks I never saw. Saw a few houses and potato patches,
also a mail station which looks comfortable. I think from the appearance
of things, Uncle Samuel feeds his men and animals pretty well. I
feel weak today, from not having proper food (we have been on short
rations for seven or eight days) and breathing in so much alkali
dust. Camped near the town of Weber. Came over a narrow road on
the side of a mountain. It looked dangerous. Came to W. Kimball's
Ranch, he is rich in cattle and sheep.
September 3rd. Rained last night for the first time since we left
the Platte River. I hope it has laid the dust. I think it is the
fourth rain we have had on our journey so far.
14th. Camped at a station in dust enough to smother one.
15th. Arrived in Salt Lake City on Emigration Square. All well--went
through some of the streets; there were some beautiful houses, orchards,
and shade trees.
17th. Started south to Beaver County. My brother, Henry Rollins,
whom I had not seen for twenty years, with his wife Eveline, met
us, and conveyed us in his mule team south. Stopped at an old friend's,
in Springville, had a nice time--heard from a good many old friends.
Had plenty of fruit to eat. We traveled through a fine country.
Saw some boiling springs, and some large cold springs, so deep no
bottom has been discovered, and they are full of fish. We arrived
in Minersville September 20th, 1863, and found my dear mother and
sister Phebe, all well and glad to see us. We were thankful to find
a home and friends, after an arduous journey of one thousand miles
in an ox team--besides our trip on steamer from Stillwater, Minnesota,
to St. Louis, then up the Missouri to Omaha.
Mary Rollins Lightner, after 95 years, 8 months, 8 days of toil,
sorrow and joy, passed away, December 17, 1913. Her husband died,
August 19, 1885.
They were the parents of ten children, three of them now (June
1926), living. Elizabeth Turley, Los Angeles, California; Charles
W. Lightner, Ogden, Utah; Mary R. Rollins, Minersville, Utah.
Her descendants now living total 119 persons: 24 grandchildren,
76 great-grandchildren, 15 great-great-grandchildren, 1 great, great,
great-grandson, 9 years old. Source: Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Address
at Brigham Young University, April 14, 1905, typescript, BYU. TESTIMONY
OF MARY ELIZABETH LIGHTNER
Remarks by Sister Mary E. Lightner who was sealed to Joseph Smith
in 1842. She is 87 years of age.
Well, my young brethren, I can say I never was more surprised in
my life than to be called upon to speak to you young men who are
called upon to go into the mission field to preach the gospel to
the nations of the earth. It is true I have been in the Church from
its beginning. Just six months after it was organized, I joined
it. I have been acquainted with all of those who were first members
of this Church, with all of those who saw the plates and handled
them, with even those who saw the angel Moroni who came to them.
I am well acquainted with every one of them and I have known them
from the time that they came to Ohio until their death; and I am
the only living witness who was at the first meeting that the Prophet
[Joseph Smith] held in Kirtland.
The Smith family was driven from New York, and a small church had
been organized. Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson
were members. Well, I being anxious, though young, to learn about
the plates from those who knew all about it, my mother and I went
up to the Smith family the next night after they came to Kirtland.
As I went in, there were two or three others present. They were
all there, from the old gentleman and his wife to all the sons and
daughters. As we stood there talking to them, Joseph and Martin
Harris came in. Joseph looked around very solemnly. It was the first
time some of them had ever seen him.
Said he, "There are enough here to hold a little meeting."
They got a board and put it across two chairs to make seats. Martin
Harris sat on a little box at Joseph's feet. They sang and prayed.
Joseph got up and began to speak to us. As he began to speak very
solemnly and very earnestly, all at once his countenance changed
and he stood mute. Those who looked at him that day said there was
a search light within him, over every part of his body. I never
saw anything like it on the earth. I could not take my eyes off
him; he got so white that anyone who saw him would have thought
he was transparent. I remember I thought I could almost see the
cheek bones through the flesh. I have been through many changes
since but that is photographed on my brain. I shall remember it
and see in my mind's eye as long as I remain upon the earth.
He stood some moments. He looked over the congregation as if to
pierce every heart. He said, "Do you know who has been in your
midst?" One of the Smiths said an angel of the Lord. Martin
Harris said, "It was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
Joseph put his hand down on Martin and said: "God revealed
that to you. Brethren and sisters, the Spirit of God has been here.
The Savior has been in your midst this night and I want you to remember
it. There is a veil over your eyes for you could not endure to look
upon Him. You must be fed with milk, not with strong meat. I want
you to remember this as if it were the last thing that escaped my
lips. He has given all of you to me and has sealed you up to everlasting
life that where he is, you may be also. And if you are tempted of
Satan say, 'Get behind me, Satan.'"
These words are figured upon my brain and I never took my eye off
his countenance. Then he knelt down and prayed. I have never heard
anything like it before or since. I felt that he was talking to
the Lord and that power rested down upon the congregation. Every
soul felt it. The spirit rested upon us in every fiber of our bodies,
and we received a sermon from the lips of the representative of
Much has come and gone from me through the powers and vicissitudes
of this Church. I have been in almost every mob. I have been driven
about and told I would be shot and had a gun pointed at me, but
I stayed with the Church until it was driven from Nauvoo. The words
of the Prophet that had been revealed to him always have been with
me from the beginning to the end of the gospel. Every principle
that has been given in the Church by the prophet is true. I know
whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I
know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet
it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand
before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only
preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It
was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came
to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand
and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay
him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it, and told him
it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. He said in the
Book of Mormon it was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and
they were to adhere to these things except the Lord speak. I am
the first being that the revelation [D&C 132] was given to him
for and I was one thousand miles away in Missouri, for we went up
to Jackson County in 1841 .
I was there in all the tribulations and trials. I have been in
the houses that have been stoned. The rocks have been thrown criss-cross
in every direction. I have seen the brethren shot and ruined for
life. I saw the first martyr dead and a more heavenly corpse I never
saw or expect to see on the face of the earth. His face was so happy.
I have seen our bishop tarred and feathered in the streets of Missouri.
They took off his shirt and covered him with tar and then took a
pillow and turned the feathers over him. I looked at him and thought
if ever man was counted worthy to be a martyr, he was. His life
proved it for he lived an upright and honorable life and was beloved
by the prophet while he lived and after he died the prophet honored
him. Two of his sisters were Joseph's wives. Emma took them by the
hand and gave them to Joseph.
I asked him if Emma knew about me, and he said, "Emma thinks
the world of you." I was not sealed to him until I had a witness.
I had been dreaming for a number of years I was his wife. I thought
I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to take it from me for I felt
it was a sin; but when Joseph sent for me he told me all of these
things. "Well," said I, "don't you think it was an
angel of the devil that told you these things?" Said he, "No,
it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between
an angel of light and Satan's angels. The angel came to me three
times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey
that principle or he would slay me. "But," said he, "they
called me a false and fallen prophet but I am more in favor with
my God this day than I ever was in all my life before. I know that
I shall be saved in the Kingdom of God. I have the oath of God upon
it and God cannot lie; all that he gives me I shall take with me
for I have that authority and that power conferred upon me."
Well, I talked with him for a long time and finally I told him
I would never be sealed to him until I had a witness. Said he, "You
shall have a witness." Said I, "If God told you that,
why does he not tell me?" He asked me if I was going to be
a traitor. "I have never told a mortal and shall never tell
a mortal I had such a talk from a married man," said I. "Well,"
said he, "pray earnestly for the angel said to me you should
have a witness." Well, Brigham Young was with me. He said if
I had a witness he wanted to know it. "Why should I tell you?"
said I. "Well," said he, "I want to know for myself."
Said he, "Do you know what Joseph said? Since we left the office
the angel appeared to him and told him he was well pleased with
him and that you should have a witness."
I made it a subject of prayer and I worried about it because I
did not dare to speak to a living being except Brigham Young. I
went out and got between three haystacks where no one could see
me. As I knelt down I thought, why not pray as Moses did? He prayed
with his hands raised. When his hands were raised, Israel was victorious,
but when they were not raised, the Philistines were victorious.
I lifted my hands and I have heard Joseph say the angels covered
their faces. I knelt down and if ever a poor mortal prayed, I did.
A few nights after that an angel of the Lord came to me and if ever
a thrill went through a mortal, it went through me. I gazed upon
the clothes and figure but the eyes were like lightning. They pierced
me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I was frightened
almost to death for a moment. I tried to waken my aunt, but I could
not. The angel leaned over me and the light was very great, although
it was night. When my aunt woke up she said she had seen a figure
in white robes pass from our bed to my mother's bed and pass out
of the window.
Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, "Have you had a
witness yet?" "No." "Well," said he, "the
angel expressly told me you should have." Said I, "I have
not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before.
I saw an angel and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak."
He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his face
in his hands. He looked up and said, "How could you have been
such a coward?" Said I, "I was weak." "Did you
think to say, `Father, help me?'" "No." "Well,
if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for
that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge,
intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal."
I said, "If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak
to me?" "You covered your face and for this reason the
angel was insulted." Said I, "Will it ever come again?"
He thought a moment and then said, "No, not the same one, but
if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that."
And then he gave me three signs of what would take place in my own
family, although my husband was far away from me at the time. Every
work came true. I went forward and was sealed to him. Brigham Young
performed the sealing, and Heber C. Kimball the blessing. I know
he had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up.
I knew he had three children. They told me. I think two are living
today but they are not known as his children as they go by other
These are things I can testify to as the living truth, and I have
told it to the Josephites. There is a great deal said about this
church and the Josephites. I never knew of Joseph appointing him
to be the prophet. I have never known him to say it, and I have
known the boy ever since he was twelve years of age. I heard Joseph
say this: "I have rolled this kingdom off of my shoulders onto
the shoulders of the Twelve and they can carry out this work and
build up His kingdom." Said he, "I am tired. I have been
mobbed, I have suffered so much from outsiders and from my own family.
Some of the brethren think they can carry out this work better than
I can, far better. I have asked the Lord to take me away. I have
to seal my testimony to this generation with my blood. I have to
do it for this work will never progress until I am gone for the
testimony is of no force until the testator is dead. People little
know who I am when they talk about me, and they never will know
until they see me weighed in the balance in the Kingdom of God.
Then they will know who I am, and see me as I am. I dare not tell
them and they do not know me." These words were spoken with
such power that they penetrated the heart of every soul that believed
Now about these Josephites--I have not a word to say about Joseph.
He is doing a great work in the first principles. He does not believe
in endowments; he does not believe in some other things; and he
does not recognize this Church as the true church. But we have one
criterion to go by. Joseph said, "The servant cannot be greater
than the Master. If they persecute me they will persecute you."
Has his son Joseph ever been persecuted? Have they been whipped
and murdered in cold blood? They can go into the world as members
of the re-organized church. They do not believe the right one took
But let me tell you this gospel is going to spread, and you young
men who are going on missions, give your hearts to God, for He said,
"Young man, give me thy heart." And if you do give Him
your hearts and pray to the heavens above the spirit of God and
the Holy Ghost will rest upon you. If the great soul that rules
in heaven and on earth, and the inspiration of the spirit comes
down and rests in your bosom you will be able to speak the light
to the people and you will gain a great reward. Just speaking of
yourself in your own strength the spirit is withdrawn. You will
have no power that will reach the heart. It may tickle the ear,
but you must have the power of the Almighty. You must have the angels
to be your companions and rest upon you. Let them be your guide
in health and trouble. May you ever drink of the waters of intelligence
that flows from the throne of God. God Almighty will guide you and
direct you and you will walk in the paths of truth and you will
receive your reward as His servants for the good deeds you have
done on this earth.
This is my testimony and I hope and pray you will believe me for
I have received it from the servant's heart, and when that servant
comes he will own his people if they are faithful and humble. A
trying hour and darkest hours are in the future before us and it
is only those who are humble, contrite and honest before God and
endure to the end who shall receive the blessings. Faith will be
trampled down and there will be punishments come upon those who
are not honest. These are things I tell you and they are true and
you will see that they are if you live long enough. All I have said
to you about the future will come to pass just as sure as the sun
shines in the heavens. May God bless you and let you be on the alert
to receive the words of light that are given to you by His servants.
You will all be tried by darkness and the powers of darkness will
come to you, but put your trust in your Heavenly Father, let Him
be your guide and support for He is the everlasting light, worlds
I hope you will excuse me for being a little agitated but it is
a terrible tax for me to come and get up to speak. But I want you
to remember what I have said, that it is my testimony, as long as
you live. I want to say to you as I said before that Joseph said
if I was faithful, I should see greater things than the angel. Since
then I have seen other persons, three came together and stood before
me just as the sun went down -- Joseph, Hyrum and Heber C. Kimball.
It was prophesied that I should see Joseph before I died. Still,
I was not thinking about that. I was thinking about a sermon I had
heard. All at once I looked up and they stood before me. Joseph
stood in the middle in a circle like the new moon and he stood with
his arms over their shoulders. They bowed to me about a dozen times
or more. I pinched myself to be sure I was awake, and I looked around
the room to see where I had placed things. I thought I would shake
hands with them. They saw my confusion and understood it and they
laughed, and I thought Brother Kimball would almost kill himself
laughing. I had no fear. As I went to shake hands with them, they
bowed, smiled and began to fade. They went like the sun sinks behind
a mountain or a cloud. It gave me more courage and hope than I ever
[Sister Lightner stated that she had ten children; seven of them
were boys and she had raised three of them to manhood. She has one
daughter in the Church. Being asked concerning her husband, Sister
Lightner said: "My husband did not belong to the Church. I
begged him and pled with him to join but he would not. He said he
did not believe in it, though he thought a great deal of Joseph.
He sacrificed his property rather than testify against Joseph, Hyrum
and George A. Smith. After he said this, I went forward and was
sealed to Joseph for eternity."]