Zina Elizabeth Brown had been using a locked trunk as a coffee table for several months before she found someone who could open it. When in early 1979 Betty finally looked into the trunk, she found, among the clothes and keepsakes of her grandmother, two diaries of her great-great grandmother, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs, one dating in the 1890s, the other, the Nauvoo one here printed, dating 5 June 1844 to 21 September 1845.
Zina Diantha—one must often use both names to separate mothers and daughters in the six-generation chain of Zinas—saw and reported events at almost every stage in the history of the Mormon movement from Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo to settlement in the Great Basin. Her diaries, some very sketchy, some quite detailed, were preserved initially by Zina Card Brown. The larger collection was in the keeping of Mary Brown Firmage, her daughter, who recently donated them to the Church Archives for preservation there. Mrs. Firmage has done, and continues to do, extensive research into that family, her project leading towards a long biographical study of the women, particularly the Zinas. Her help with this present project is gratefully acknowledged. Among all these family papers, this Nauvoo journal of Zina Diantha seems to demand particular attention, containing as it does so much more than just personal events in the life of its writer. Nauvoo, itself, as seen through the eyes of the bright, observant, deeply committed woman, becomes alive through details she provides. She describes the tumultuous year following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith with an accuracy which checks out almost to the last jot with the documentary History of the Church and other diaries of the time.