Volume 4 Chapter 23 | BYU Studies

Volume 4 Chapter 23


[Page 393]

Chapter 23

The Death of Don Carlos Smith—His Life and Labors—Special Conference at Nauvoo.

The Death of Don Carlos Smith.

Saturday, August 7.—My youngest brother, Don Carlos Smith, died at his residence in Nauvoo this morning, at twenty minutes past two o'clock, in the 26th year of his age. He was born 25th March, 1816, was one of the first to receive my testimony, and was ordained to the Priesthood when only 14 years of age. The evening after the plates of the Book of Mormon were shown to the eight witnesses, a meeting was held, when all the witnesses, as also Don Carlos bore testimony to the truth of the latter-day dispensation. He accompanied father to visit grandfather, Asael Smith, and relatives in St. Lawrence county, New York, in August, 1830. During that mission he convinced Solomon Humphrey, a licentiate of the Baptist order, of the truth of the work. He was one of the 24 Elders who laid the corner stones of the Kirtland Temple. In the fall of 1833, he entered the office of Oliver Cowdery to learn the art of printing. On the 30th July, 1835, he married Agnes Coolbrith, in Kirtland, Ohio. On the 15th January, 1836, he was ordained President of the High Priests' quorum. He took a mission with Wilber Denton in the spring and summer of 1836, in Pennsylvania and New York. On the commencement of the publication of the Elders' Journal in Kirtland, he took the control of the establishment until the office was destroyed by fire in December, 1837, when, in consequence of persecution, he moved his family to New Portage. Early in the spring of 1838 he took a mission through the states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and raised means to assist his father; and immediately after his return he started to Missouri with his family, in company with father and family, and purchased a farm in Daviess county. On the 26th September he started on a mission to the states of Tennessee and Kentucky, to collect means to buy out the claims and property of the mobbers in Daviess county, Missouri. During his absence, his wife and two little children were driven by the mob from his habitation, and she was compelled to carry her children three miles, through snow three inches deep, and wade through Grand river, which was waist deep, during the inclement weather. He returned about the 25th of December, after a very tedious mission, having traveled 1,500 miles, 650 of which were on foot.

[Page 394]

I extract the following from his journal—

On the 30th of September, 1838, in company with George A. Smith, Lorenzo D. Barnes, and Harrison Sagers, I went on board the Kansas (which had one wheel broken); the Missouri river was very low, and full of snags and sand bars. General Samuel Lucas and Moses Wilson, of Jackson county, Colonel Thompson, from Platt Purchase, and many others of the active mobbers were on board, as also General David R. Atchison. On touching at De Witt, on 1st October, for wood, we found about seventy of the brethren, with their families, surrounded by an armed mob of upwards of two hundred. The women and children there were much frightened, expecting it was a boat loaded with mobbers. We would have stopped and assisted them, but being unarmed, we thought it best to fulfill our mission. From this onward the "Mormons" were the only subject of conversation, and nothing was heard but the most bitter imprecations against them. General Wilson related many of his deeds of noble daring in the Jackson mob, one of which was the following: "I went, in company with forty others, to the house of Hiram Page, a Mormon, in Jackson county. We got logs and broke in every door and window at the same instant; and pointing our rifles at the family, we told them, we would be d—d if we didn't shoot every one of them, if Page didn't come out. At that, a tall woman made her appearance, with a child in her arms. I told the boys she was too d—d tall. In a moment the boys stripped her, and found it was Page. I told them to give him a d—d good one. We gave him sixty or seventy blows with hickory withes which we had prepared. Then after pulling the roof off the house, we went to the next d—d Mormon's house, and whipped him in like manner. We continued until we whipped ten or fifteen of the d—d Mormons, and demolished their houses that night. If the Carroll boys would do that way they might conquer; but it is no use to think of driving them without four or five to one. I wish I could stay, I would help drive the d—d Mormons to hell, Old Joe, and all the rest." At this I looked the General sternly in the face, and told him, that he was neither a republican nor a gentleman, but a savage, without a single principle of honor, or humanity. "If," said I, "the 'Mormons' have broken the law, let it be strictly executed against them; but such anti-republican, and unconstitutional acts as these, related by you, are beneath the brutes." We were upon the hurricane deck, and a large company present were listening to the conversation. While I was speaking, Wilson placed his hand upon his pistol, which was belted under the skirt of his coat; but Cousin George stood by his side, watching every move of his hand, and would have knocked him into the river instantly, had he attempted to draw a deadly weapon. But General Atchison saved him the trouble, by saying, "I'll be d—d to hell if Smith ain't right." At this, Wilson left the company crest-fallen. In the course of the conversation, Wilson said that the best plan was to rush into the Mormon settlements, murder the men, make slaves of the children, take possession of the property, and use the women as they pleased.

[Page 395]

A gentleman, present from Baltimore, Maryland, said he never was among such a pack of d—d savages before: he had passed through Far West, and saw nothing among the "Mormons" but good order. Then drawing his pistols, he discharged them, and re-loading, said, "If God spares my life till I get out of Upper Missouri, I will never be found associating with such devils again."

Shortly after this we were invited to preach on board, Elder Barnes and I preached. The rest of the way we were treated more civilly; but being deck passengers, and having very little money, we suffered much for food.

We continued our journey together through every species of hardship and fatigue, until the 11th of October, when Elders Barnes and Harrison Sagers left us at Paducah, after our giving them all the money we had, they starting up the Ohio river, and we to visit the churches in west Tennessee and Kentucky. Soon after this, Julian Moses gave us a five-franc piece, and bade us farewell.

We soon found that the mob spirit was in Kentucky, as well as in Missouri; we preached in a small branch of the Church in Calloway county, and stayed at the house of Sister Selah Parker, which was surrounded in the night by about twenty armed men, led by John McCartney, a Campbellite priest, who had sworn to kill the first "Mormon" Elder who should dare to preach in that place. The family were very much terrified. After trying the doors, the mobbers finally went away. We visited a number of small branches in Tennessee; the brethren generally arranged to be on hand with their money, or lands for exchange in the spring. Brother Samuel West gave us twenty-eight dollars to help defray our traveling expenses. We also received acts of kindness from others, which will never be forgotten.

[Page 396]

About this time our minds were seized with an awful foreboding—horror seemed to have laid his grasp upon us—we lay awake night after night for we could not sleep. Our forebodings increased, and we felt sure that all was not right; yet we continued preaching until the Lord showed us that the Saints would be driven from Missouri. We then started home, and, on arriving at Wyatt's Mills, we were told that if we preached there it would cost us our lives. We had given out an appointment at the house of Mrs. Foster, a wealthy widow. She also advised us to give it up; but, as she had no fears for herself, her property or family, we concluded to fill our appointment. The hour of meeting came, and many attended. George A. preached about an hour: during which time Captain Fitch came in at the head of twelve other mobbers, who had large hickory clubs, and they sat down with their hats on. When George A. took his seat, I arose and addressed them for an hour and a half, during which time, I told them that I was a patriot—that I was free—that I loved my country—that I loved liberty—that I despised both mobs and mobbers—that no gentleman, or Christian at heart would ever be guilty of such things, or countenance them. Whereupon the mob pulled off their hats, laid down their clubs, and listened with almost breathless attention.

After meeting Mr. Fitch came to us and said that he was ashamed of his conduct, and would never do the like again; that he had been misinformed about us by some religious bigots, and begged of us to forgive him, which we did.

We continued our journey to Columbus, Hickman county, Kentucky, and put up with Captain Robinson, formerly an officer in the army, who treated us very kindly, assuring us that we were welcome to stay at his house until a boat should come, if it were three months. We stayed nine days, during which a company of thirteen hundred Cherokee Indians were ferried over the river.

We went on board the steamer Louisville, and had to pay all our money for a deck passage. About ninety miles from St. Louis our boat got aground, where it lay three days. We had nothing to eat but a little parched corn. We then went on board of a little boat, The Return, which landed us in St. Louis the next morning. Here we found Elder Orson Pratt, and learned that Joseph was a prisoner with many others, and that David Patten was killed, and of the sufferings of the Saints, which filled our hearts with sorrow.

[Page 397]

The next morning we started on foot for home; at Huntsville, about 200 miles, we stopped at the house of George Lyman to rest. George A.'s feet had now become very sore from walking.

We had not been long in Huntsville before the mob made a rally to use us up, as they said, with the rest of the Smiths: and, at the earnest request of our friends, we thought best to push on, and started about ten at night. The wind was in our faces, the ground slippery, and the night very dark; nevertheless we proceeded on our journey. Traveling twenty-two miles, we came to the Chariton river, which we found frozen over, but the ice too weak to bear us, and the boat on the west side of the river. We went to the next ferry, but finding there was no boat, and knowing that in the next neighborhood a man's brains were beaten out for being a "Mormon," we returned to the first ferry, and tried by hallowing to raise the ferryman on the opposite side of the river, but were not able to awake him. We were almost benumbed with the cold, and to warm ourselves we commenced scuffling and jumping: we then beat our feet upon the logs and stumps, in order to start a circulation of blood; but at last George A. became so cold and sleepy, that he could not stand it any longer, and lay down. I told him he was freezing to death; I rolled him on the ground, pounded and thumped him; I then cut a stick and said I would thrash him. At this he got up, and undertook to thrash me; this stirred his blood a little, but he soon lay down again. By this time the ferryman came over, and set us across the river, where we warmed ourselves a little, and pursued our journey until about breakfast time, when we stopped at the house of a man, who we afterwards learned was a leader of the mob at Haun's Mill massacre. The next morning we started without breakfast. Our route lay through a wild prairie, where there was but very little track, and only one house in forty miles. The northwest wind blew fiercely in our faces, and the ground was so slippery that we could scarcely keep our feet, and when the night came on, to add to our perplexity, we lost our way; soon after which, I became so cold that it was with great difficulty I could keep from freezing. We also became extremely thirsty; however, we found a remedy for this by cutting through ice three inches thick with a penknife. While we were drinking, we heard a cowbell; this caused our hearts to leap for joy, and we arose and steered our coarse towards the sound. We soon entered Tenny's Grove, which sheltered us from the wind, and we felt more comfortable. In a short time we came to the house of Whitford G. Wilson, where we were made welcome and kindly entertained. We lay down to rest about two o'clock in the morning, after having traveled one hundred and ten miles in two days and two nights. After breakfast I set out for Far West, leaving George A. sick, with our hospitable friends. When I arrived on the evening of December 25th, I was fortunate enough to find my family alive, and in tolerable health, which was more than I could have expected, considering the scenes of persecution through which they had passed.

[Page 398]

The Visits of Don Carlos to Liberty Prison.

Don Carlos visited us several times while we were in Liberty jail, and brought our wives to see us, and some money and articles to relieve our necessities. He took charge of father's family in his flight from Missouri, and saw them removed to Quincy, Illinois.

His Ministrations to the Sick.

In June, 1839, he commenced making preparations for printing the Times and Seasons. The press and type had been resurrected by Elias Smith, Hyrum Clark, and others, from its grave in Dawson's yard, Far West, where it was buried for safety the night that General Lucas surrounded the city with the mob militia. The form for a number of the Elders' Journal was buried with the ink on it. The types were considerably injured by the damp; it was therefore necessary to get them into use as soon as possible, and in order to do this, Don Carlos was under the necessity of cleaning out a cellar through which a spring was constantly flowing, as the only place where he could put up the press. Ebenezer Robinson and wife being sick, threw the entire burden on him.

As a great number of brethren lay sick in the town, on Tuesday, 23rd July, 1839, I told Don Carlos and George A. Smith to go and visit all the sick, exercise mighty faith, and administer to them in the name of Jesus Christ, commanding the destroyer to depart, and the people to arise and walk; and not leave a single person on the bed between my house and Ebenezer Robinson's, two miles distant; they administered to over sixty persons, many of whom thought they would never sit up again; but they were healed, arose from their beds, and gave glory to God; some of them assisted in visiting and administering to others who were sick.

[Page 399]

Working in the damp cellar, and administering to the sick impaired his health so that the first number of the Times and Seasons was not issued until November. He edited thirty-one numbers.

He was elected major in the Hancock county militia, and on the death of Seymour Brunson, was made lieutenant-colonel.

He was elected on 1st February, 1841, a member of the City Council of Nauvoo, and took the necessary oath on 3rd February, and on the fourth he was elected brigadier-general of the second cohort of the Nauvoo Legion.

Personal Appearance of Don Carlos Smith.

He was six feet four inches high, was very straight and well made, had light hair, and was very strong and active. His usual weight when in health was 200 pounds. He was universally beloved by the Saints.

He left three daughters, namely, Agnes C., Sophronia C., and Josephine D.

The Iowa Stake of Zion.

President John Smith was unanimously acknowledged as the president of the stake in Iowa, David Pettigrew, M. C. Nickerson, counselors. Elias Smith was sustained as Bishop and Joseph B. Noble and Joseph Mecham as his counselors.

A conference of the Church was held at Zarahemla, and the branches in Iowa, so far as represented, consisted of 750 members.

Shocks of an earthquake felt at several places in Spain.

Sunday, 8.—A water-spout destroyed twenty houses of Portpatrick, Scotland.

The funeral of Brother Don Carlos was attended by a vast concourse of friends and relatives; he was buried with military honors.

[Page 400]

The Zarahemla conference appointed George W. Gee, Church Recorder, and was addressed by Elders John Taylor and George A. Smith, on building the Temple, and on temperance.

Monday, 9.—The steamboat Erie was burned on Lake Erie, thirty miles from Buffalo, and eight from the shore, two hundred persons on board, of whom one hundred and seventy-five perished.

New Mission Movement Planned.

Tuesday, 10—I spent the day in council with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and George A. Smith, and appointed a special conference for the 16th instant. I directed them to send missionaries to New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; Salem, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, District of Columbia. I also requested the Twelve to take the burthen of the business of the Church in Nauvoo, and especially as pertaining to the selling of Church lands.

The department of English literature and mathematics, of the University of the City of Nauvoo, is in operation under the tuition of Professor Orson Pratt.

General Orders, Nauvoo Legion.

Headquarters, Nauvoo Legion,

City Of Nauvoo, Aug. 10, 1841.

It becomes our painful duty to officially notify the troops of our command of the untimely decease of that noble chief, Brigadier-General Don Carlos Smith—he fell, but not in battle—he perished, but not by the weapons of war—at his burial you paid him honor, but he is gathered to his fathers to receive greater honor.

In consequence of this afflicting dispensation of Divine Providence, the commissioned officers of the staff and line will wear crape on the left arm for thirty days. The commissioned officers of the second cohort will convene at General Smith's office, on Saturday, the 4th day of September, at 10 o'clock a.m., for the purpose of electing a brigadier-general, at which time and place the court of appeals will sit.

The legion will assemble at the usual place of rendezvous, in the city of Nauvoo, on Saturday, the 11th day of September, at 10 o'clock a.m., for the purpose of general parade. The militia officers of the county of Hancock, Illinois; and the county of Lee, Iowa, are respectfully invited to attend. The adjutants of regiments will form their respective regiments at 9 o'clock and at 10 o'clock; the adjutant of the Legion will form the line by regiments, and not by companies as heretofore. A special court-martial will convene at the usual place, on Saturday, the 28th day of August, at 10 o'clock a.m., for the transaction of business.

[Page 401]

Joseph Smith, Lieutenant-General.

A shower of meteoric stones fell at Iwan in Hungary.

Depression of the Times.

Letters from various parts of England and Scotland show that numbers are daily added to the Church; while shipwrecks, floods, houses and workshops falling, great and destructive fires, sudden deaths, banks breaking, men's hearts failing them for fear, shop-keepers and manufacturers failing, because no man buyeth their merchandise, many accidents on the railways, etc., betoken the coming of the Son of Man.

Visit of the Sac and Fox Indians to Nauvoo.

Thursday, 12.—A considerable number of the Sac and Fox Indians have been for several days encamped in the neighborhood of Montrose. The ferryman brought over a great number on the ferryboat and two flat boats for the purpose of visiting me. The military band and a detachment of Invincibles [part of the Legion] were on shore ready to receive and escort them to the grove, but they refused to come on shore until I went down. I accordingly went down, and met Keokuk, Kis-ku-kosh, Appenoose, and about one hundred chiefs and braves of those tribes, with their families. At the landing, I was introduced by Brother Hyrum to them; and after salutations, I conducted them to the meeting grounds in the grove, and instructed them in many things which the Lord had revealed unto me concerning their fathers, and the promises that were made concerning them in the Book of Mormon. I advised them to cease killing each other and warring with other tribes; also to keep peace with the whites; all of which was interpreted to them.

Keokuk replied that he had a Book of Mormon at his wigwam which I had given him some years before. "I believe," said he, "you are a great and good man; I look rough, but I also am a son of the Great Spirit. I have heard your advice—we intend to quit fighting, and follow the good talk you have given us."

[Page 402]

After the conversation they were feasted on the green with good food, dainties, and melons by the brethren; and they entertained the spectators with a specimen of their dancing.

Saturday, 14.—Sir J. M. Brunel, the engineer, with fifty ladies and gentlemen, made the first passage under the river Thames, England.

Sunday, 15.—My infant son, Don Carlos, died, aged 14 months, 2 days.

Conference met in Zarahemla, and was addressed by Elders Brigham Young and George Miller on building the Temple in Nauvoo.

Monday, 16.—Elder Willard Richards arrived at Nauvoo this morning.

Ebenezer Robinson succeeded Brother Don Carlos as editor of the Times and Seasons, with Elder Robert B. Thompson assistant editor.

Minutes of a Special Conference at Nauvoo—Important Action in Relation to the Twelve.

At a special conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in the city of Nauvoo, August 16, 1841, Elder Brigham Young was unanimously appointed to preside over the conference, and Elias Smith and Lorenzo D. Barnes were appointed clerks.

Singing by the choir; conference opened by prayer, by the president.

The object of the conference was then presented by the president, who stated that President Joseph Smith (who was then absent on account of the death of his child) had called a special conference to transact certain items of business necessary to be done previous to the October conference—such as to select men of experience to send forth into the vineyard, take measures to assist emigrants who may arrive at the places of gathering, and prevent impositions being practiced upon them by unprincipled speculators. The speaker hoped that no one would view him and his brethren as aspiring, because they had come forward to take part in the proceedings before the conference; he could assure the brethren that nothing could be further from his wishes, and those of his quorum, than to interfere with Church affairs in Zion and her stakes. He had been in the vineyard so long, he had become attached to foreign missions, and nothing could induce him to retire therefrom and attend to the affairs of the Church at home but a sense of duty, the requirements of heaven, or the revelations of God; to which he would always submit, be the consequence what it might; and the brethren of his quorum responded, Amen.

[Page 403]

A list of names of Elders and cities were read by the president, and a few were selected by nomination, and designated as follows: Voted that Elders Henry G. Sherwood go to New Orleans; Abraham O. Smoot to Charleston, South Carolina; Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester to Salem, Massachusetts; John Murdock to Baltimore, Maryland; and Samuel James to Washington, D. C.

On motion of Vinson Knight, seconded by Samuel Bent, resolved: that the quorum of the Twelve select the individuals to go and preach in such places as they may judge expedient, and present the same to the conference, with a view of expediting the business of the day.

The situation of the poor of Nauvoo City was then presented by Bishops Knight and Miller, and a collection taken for their benefit.

After singing, conference adjourned until 2 o'clock p.m.

All of the Twelve present at the conference went and visited President Joseph Smith to comfort him in his affliction.

Conference assembled at 2 p.m., and was addressed by Elders Lorenzo D. Barnes and Henry G. Sherwood, concerning the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the kingdom of God in these last days.

President Joseph Smith now arriving, proceeded to state to the conference at considerable length, the object of their present meeting, and, in addition to what President Young had stated in the morning, said that the time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes, and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations, and as they had been faithful, and had borne the burden in the heat of the day, that it was right that they should have an opportunity of providing something for themselves and families, and at the same time relieve him, so that he might attend to the business of translating.

Moved, seconded and carried, that the conference approve of the instructions of President Smith in relation to the Twelve, and that they proceed accordingly to attend to the duties of their office.

Moved, seconded and carried unanimously, that every individual who shall hereafter be found trying to influence any emigrants belonging to the Church, either to buy of them (except provisions) or sell to them (except the Church agents), shall be immediately tried for fellowship, and dealt with as offenders, and unless they repent shall be cut off from the Church.

[Page 404]

President Rigdon then made some appropriate remarks on speculation.

Moved, that the conference accept the doings of the Twelve, in designating certain individuals to certain cities, &c.; when President Smith remarked that the conference had already sanctioned the doings of the Twelve; and it belonged to their office to transact such business, with the approbation of the First Presidency; and he would then state what cities should now be built up—viz., Nauvoo, Zarahemla, Warren, Nashville, and Ramus.

Resolved: That this conference adjourn to the general conference in October next.

Closed with prayer by President Young.

Brigham Young, President.

Elias Smith,

Lorenzo Barnes,

Clerks.