Lucy Walker Kimball, Autobiography
The account below is an excerpt from the autobiography of Lyman Omer Littlefield. Written as “a very interesting and important contribution kindly furnished for these pages [Autobiography of Lyman Omer Littlefield] by Mrs. Lucy Walker Kimball.”
Lucy Walker Kimball was born April 30, 1826, town of Peacham, Caledonia County, Vermont. She was the daughter of John Walker and Lydia Holmes. Her father was born June 20, 1794, town of Woodbury, Connecticut. Her mother was born April 18, 1800; married April 18, 1819. Father was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ in 1832; mother, two years later. They left Vermont in 1834 for the west. They found a small branch of the Church in Ogdensburg, New York; some of Brother Kimball’s first converts, preparing also to go west. My father was induced to remain with this branch until 1837. During the year 1835, the children who were eight years and upwards were baptized by Elder Abraham Palmer. They were full of faith, having been taught to pray by their parents, and received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and the signs followed them. Some spake in tongues, others prophesied; again others had the gift of faith to heal the sick, etc. One of this little band prophesied that before we reached our destination we would be surrounded by armed mobs with blackened faces, and would need much faith in God to endure the many persecutions and trials before us, and that some of our number would lay down their lives; others would see their brethren shot down before their very eyes. This was verified at the wholesale slaughter at Haun’s Mill.
Notwithstanding all this we did not falter in our faith, but started on our perilous journey trusting in God. We passed through Kirtland just after the Saints had left for the far west. When we arrived in Caldwell County we were surrounded by a mob of about forty persons with blackened faces. They hooted and yelled and looked more like demons than human beings. It was early one December morning when this occurred. They ordered my poor, delicate mother out into the deep snow, searched our wagons, took from us our arms and ammunition, pointed their guns at us children to intimidate us, and cursed and swore in a most frightful manner. One of the neighboring women had intruded her hateful presence into our camp, urging them to shoot. “Shoot them down,” she cried, “they should not be allowed to live!” The question may be asked, how did we feel under these circumstances? I can speak for one, I did not tremble–I did not fear them. They looked to me too insignificant and I felt to trust in One, (although but a child) who held our destinies in His own hands.
We continued our journey until we came to a settlement on Shoal Creek, five miles distant from Haun’s Mill; my father and another of the brethren went to the mill to hold council with Brother Joseph Young and others, as to what course was best to pursue under the circumstances. They were in a blacksmith shop when a mob appeared in sight, formed in line and commenced firing, without giving any warning whatever, upon men, women and children. The first ball fired by the enemy lodged in my father’s right arm. He returned the shot but found it impossible to reload. He then ran down the bank of the creek, and just before him one of the brethren in ascending the opposite bank, was shot down. He stepped under some lumber leaning against the bank, which afforded very little if any protection, but, in answer to prayer, their eyes were blinded, and, although they looked directly at him, yet apparently did not see him, passed on, declaring with an oath that not another Mormon was to be seen. He remained there until all was silent, then ventured forth to witness the dreadful scene of the massacre.
In the shop lay the lifeless body of the son of Warren Smith with his brains beaten out with the breech of a gun, and another of the same family with his thigh torn entirely away, and apparently mortally wounded. A little further on an aged man, Father McBride, lay weltering in his gore. It was not enough to shoot him down, but the murderers had found an old scythe with which they had mangled that venerable head in a most horrible and sickening manner. A young woman was also found behind a huge log, where she had fallen in a fainting condition with a wound in one of her hands, several bullet holes through her clothing and a volley had lodged in the log. If a man had on a good coat or a pair of good boots they were stripped from their bodies in a most brutal and inhuman manner, while the victims were in the agonies of death.
My father aided in dressing the wounds of those worse off than himself and to bury the dead as best he could with his left hand. His own arm was not cared for or scarcely thought of, in the midst of the terrible suffering of others, until it was in danger of mortifying. Besides, the country was in such a state of excitement, he had to hide from place to place, and came near losing his arm. Two weeks later he rejoined his family, pale and emaciated. My brother William had gone in search, having learned that his life had been spared, but was wounded. These two weeks were full of the keenest anxiety.
On the night of this fearful slaughter, a young man came running through the woods and deep snow, bare headed, telling us that an armed mob had surrounded those at the mill, and were murdering men, women and children, and would soon be upon us. This news caused a regular stampede in our little company, as some of our company had gone to the mill. Some of the women took their little ones in their arms, while others clung to their clothes; a loaf of bread and a blanket or two, were carried by older members of the family, and all rushed deeper into the snow and adjacent timber. Mother pleaded in vain for all to remain in camp, as there would be no possible safety in such a flight. The cries of the famishing children would betray them, besides they could have no fire, as this too would attract the attention of the mob.
My mother and Sister Davis (whose husband had died enroute, and whose loss was deeply mourned by all), remained in camp, called their children together, prayed with them, soothed their fears, and assured them that the same God whose watchcare had been over us during our journey thus far, was our friend still and would protect us. We went to bed feeling that we were safe, and God was our friend; but when the morning dawned and I looked into my mother’s pale face, I was positive she had not closed her eyes, and felt, child as I was, almost guilty that I had suffered myself to be lulled to sleep by her magic words of comfort, while she had kept a vigilant watch during that fearful night of keenest anxiety. Those who left camp returned exhausted and almost famished.
Early next morning a fine looking young officer rode into camp, and said he had come as a friend to save us from the fate of those at the mill. He referred to the dreadful scene with words of sympathy and regret. He said he was forced to join the military to save his own life, but had done and would do all in his power to save the oppressed. If we would follow him, he would lead us to a place of safety, to a friendly neighborhood, where we would find shelter from the cold storms of winter. We followed him, and here was where my father found us. James Flanagan, the young missionary who died with smallpox in England in 1848, was one of our company. He was an exemplary young man; in fact, an exception among men. His zeal for the cause of truth was unexcelled.
We left the state of Missouri in 1838 and went with the Saints to Quincy, Illinois, and to Nauvoo in 1841.
My father performed two missions to the Eastern States, emigrated with the Church in 1846 to Council Bluffs, and was appointed president of a branch of the Church in that locality. In 1850, he came to Utah and settled in Farmington, Davis County, where after many years of suffering, caused by the hardships he had endured, he passed away, October 18, 1869, aged 75 years, 5 months and 8 days. Thus ended the life of one whose great grandfather came from Scotland and was one of the first settlers in Connecticut. His grandfather, Jos. Walker, was born in Connecticut, town of Woodbury. His wife’s name was Elizabeth. They had five sons and several daughters. The sons’ names were as follows: Joseph, Simeon, Caleb, Timothy and Reuben. The names of the daughters I do not know. He subsequently moved to Peacham, Caledonia County, Vermont. He was over 95 years of age. His wife died at 90. His father, Simeon Walker, was born in Connecticut, town of Woodbury, and served faithfully his country in the revolutionary war, in which he was severely wounded by a cannon ball in the thigh, which produced lameness during life. I fancy I see him now as he comes down the hill from Peacham bowed with the infirmity of age and hardship, leaning on his staff. He takes me on his knee and tells me the story of the war, how he became lame, how bravely they fought for freedom, for liberty; “Liberty or death!” was the watchword.
My grandfather was one of the first settlers in Peacham. There they were compelled to stand guard to prevent being kidnapped by the Tories. After the Tories were subdued, he made a farm, married Mary, a daughter of Reuben and Beulah Miner, and had a family of nine children, namely, Solomon, Simeon, Abel, John, Charles, Ruth, Clarinda, Mary and Elizabeth.
William Holmes, my grandfather on my mother’s side, was born January 15, 1770, in Kingston, Plymouth County, Massachusetts; Lydia Adams, his wife, was born same town, county and state.
Lydia Holmes, my mother, was an only daughter, almost an idol in the home where there were seven sons. There was great grief in the hearts of her family and friends when she received the gospel and came west. Their sorrow knew no bounds when they received news of her death, which occurred January 18, 1842, at Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. I will state here, however, that my father and second brother, Lorin, came to Nauvoo in the spring of 1840, to attend conference and secure a home. At this conference, Orson Hyde was called to go to Jerusalem. Father concluded to leave Lorin with the Prophet until harvest, with the understanding that he then should return and help him through harvesting, but when the time came, the Prophet told him to write to father to hire someone in his stead, and at his expense as he could not part with him.
In the spring of 1841, father took his family to Nauvoo. My brother met us with an invitation to dinner, which we gladly accepted and were introduced to the Prophet and his wife, Emma, and the dear children who in after years I learned to love as my own brothers, and Julia, an adopted daughter, as my sister. During the summer mother was taken with chills and fever. At length, one after another of the children were attacked with the same disease until all were in a helpless condition. Mother was invited to spend a few days at the Prophet’s house, they thinking a change would benefit her. But she could not be content away from her afflicted family. At her earnest solicitation, they sent her home to her family by placing a bed in a sleigh, as the summer had passed and it was now good sleighing; they covered her closely with blankets and, beside, sent many comforts to those at home, as they had often done during her stay.
My mother lingered until January, 1842, then passed away. Calling her children around her bed, she bore a faithful testimony as to her convictions that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that through him the gospel of the Son of God had been restored in its fullness, whereby we might return into the presence of the Father. She exhorted her children to never depart from the truth, but to live so that she might meet them in that world where there would be no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more tears of anguish at pronouncing the sad word good-bye. She then closed her eyes and her sweet spirit passed away, leaving a beautiful smile on her dear face. It did not seem to us that it was possible she was dead, but only in a sweet sleep. When at length we were forced to believe she would never speak to us again, we were in the depths of despair. Ten motherless children! And such a mother! The youngest was not yet two years old. What were we to do?
My father’s health seemed to give way under this heavy affliction. The Prophet came to our rescue. He said: “If you remain here, Brother Walker, you will soon follow your wife. You must have a change of scene, a change of climate. You have just such a family as I could love. My house shall be their home. I will adopt them as my own. For the present I would advise you to sell your effects, place the little ones with some kind friends, and the four eldest shall come to my house and be received and treated as my own children, and if I find the others are not content or not treated right, I will bring them home and keep them until you return.” I wrung my hands in the agony of despair at the thought of being broken up as a family, and being separated from the loved ones. But said the Prophet, “My home shall be your home, eternally yours.” I understood him not. However, my father sought to comfort us by saying two years would soon pass away, then with renewed health he hoped to return and make us a home where we might be together again.
Soon after he left, my sister Lydia, aged 8 years and 11 months, was attacked with brain fever. We had visited her several times and found that all that was done did not relieve her sufferings, and when we told the Prophet how very sick she was, he told the boys to put a bed in the carriage and he went with them. He told the family that they must excuse him, but he was under the greatest obligation to look after her welfare and had come to take her to his own house where he could see to her himself. He took her in his arms from the carriage and baptized her in the Mississippi River; but in a few days she too passed away. Everything that could be done was done. But she was to join her dear mother in the spirit world, and we were left more lonely than before.
Here allow me to say that our own father and mother could scarcely have done more or manifested greater solicitude for her recovery than did the Prophet and his wife Emma. They watched with us by her bedside and when all was over, accompanied us to her last resting place beside her mother. One after another were brought home until all the younger members of the family were there except the baby. Judge Adams and wife, of Springfield, Illinois, came to Nauvoo and desired one of the girls to live with them. We reluctantly consented for sister Jane to return with them, where she had a pleasant home until after their death, when she returned to Nauvoo.
My brother William married Miss Olive Hovey Farr, in the fall of 1843. They boarded at the mansion six months, then went to housekeeping and took the children with him. I begged the privilege of going with them! I thought it too great a task for his wife to assume so great a responsibility. The Prophet and his wife introduced us as their sons and daughters. Every privilege was accorded us in the home. Every pleasure within reach was ours. He often referred to Brother Lorin as his “Edwin.” He was indeed his confidential and trusted friend. He was ever by his side; arm in arm they walked and conversed freely on various subjects. He was with him when he was arrested at Dixon by Wilson and Reynolds, who were determined to take him down the river into Missouri, but were foiled in this attempt. It was in this case “Uncle Billy” Rogers as he was familiarly called, made himself conspicuous in his defense; declared, with an oath, that they could not come there and kidnap a man and take him away in that manner. He said he would be d—-d if Smith should not have fair play. They were forced to take him through the state by way of Nauvoo. Brother Lorin hurried on home, brought his favorite horse Charley, and met him on foot, weary and covered with dust. He warmly embraced him, mounted his horse, and rode into Nauvoo. As they drew near the city, the people turned out en mass to greet him. Brother Lorin went with him to Springfield to attend his trial, and had the exquisite pleasure of seeing him acquitted.
At the time he crossed the river and was actively making arrangements to go beyond the Rocky Mountains, he said, “I have the promise of life for five years, if I listen to the voice of the spirit.” But when Emma and some of his brethren besought him to return, he said, “If my life is worth nothing to you, it is worth nothing to me.” He well knew it was in the program that he must sacrifice his life for the principles God had revealed through him. Death had no terrors for him, although life was dear. I have often heard him say he expected to seal his testimony with his blood. He anticipated great joy in meeting his parents and friends beyond the grave. He believed that as soon as the spirit left the body, we were shaking hands with and greeting our friends.
He often referred to the feelings that should exist between husband and wives, that they, his wives, should be his bosom companions, the nearest and dearest objects on earth in every sense of the word. He said men must beware how they treat their wives. They were given them for a holy purpose that the myriads of spirits waiting for tabernacles might have pure and healthy bodies. He also said many would awake in the morning of the resurrection sadly disappointed; for they, by transgression, would have neither wives nor children, for they surely would be taken from them, and given to those who should prove themselves worthy. Again he said, a woman would have her choice; this was a privilege that could not be denied her.
In the year 1842, President Joseph Smith sought an interview with me, and said: “I have a message for you. I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me. He asked me if I believed him to be a prophet of God. “Most assuredly I do,” I replied. He fully explained to me the principle of plural or celestial marriage. He said this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family, that it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house, and form a chain that could never be broken, worlds without end. “What have you to say?” he asked. “Nothing.” How could I speak, or what could I say? He said, “If you will pray sincerely for light and understanding in relation thereto, you shall receive a testimony of the correctness of this principle. I thought I prayed sincerely, but was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not ask in faith for light. Gross darkness instead of light took possession of my mind. I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable. Oh that the grave would kindly receive me, that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother. Why should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father, I am only a child in years and experience, no mother to counsel; no father near to tell me what to do in this trying hour. Oh, let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.
The Prophet discerned my sorrow. He saw how unhappy I was, and sought an opportunity of again speaking to me on this subject, and said: “Although I cannot, under existing circumstances, acknowledge you as my wife, the time is near when we will go beyond the Rocky Mountains and then you will be acknowledged and honored as my wife.” He also said, “This principle will yet be believed in and practiced by the righteous. I have no flattering words to offer. It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.”
This aroused every drop of Scotch in my veins. For a few moments I stood fearless before him, and looked him in the eye. I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living sacrifice–perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds. This was too much, for as yet no shadow had crossed my path, aside from the death of my dear mother. The future to me had been one bright, cloudless day. I had been speechless, but at last found utterance and said: “Although you are a prophet of God you could not induce me to take a step of so great importance, unless I knew that God approved my course. I would rather die. I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light,” and emphatically forbid him speaking again to me on this subject. Every feeling of my soul revolted against it. Said I, “The same God who has sent this message is the Being I have worshipped from my early childhood and He must manifest His will to me.” He walked across the room, returned and stood before me with the most beautiful expression of countenance, and said: “God Almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that joy and peace that you never knew.”
Oh, how earnestly I prayed for these words to be fulfilled. It was near dawn after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud. The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that “I never knew.” Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage, which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the joy and gratitude that filled my soul. As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below, took me by the hand and said: “Thank God, you have the testimony. I too have prayed.” He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire.
The first day of May, 1843, I consented to become the Prophet’s wife, and was sealed to him for time and all eternity, at his own house by Elder William Clayton.
Today I have but one regret, which is that I have not been a more worthy representative of the principle of plural marriage, and that I have not lived a more perfect life. I can also state that Emma Smith was present and did consent to Eliza and Emily Partridge, also Maria and Sarah Lawrence being sealed to her husband. This I had from the Prophet’s own mouth; also the testimony of her niece, Hyrum Smith’s eldest daughter, (my brother Lorin’s wife), as well as that of the young ladies named themselves, with whom I was on most intimate terms, and was glad that they, too, had accepted that order of marriage. Instead of a feeling of jealousy, it was a source of comfort to me. We were as sisters to each other.
In this I acted in accordance with the will of God, not for any worldly aggrandizement, not for the gratification of the flesh. How can it be said we accepted this principle for any lustful desires? Preposterous! This would be utterly impossible. But, as I said before, we accepted it to obey a command of God, to establish a principle that would benefit the human family and emancipate them from the degradation into which they, through their wicked customs, had fallen.
In all this, God had in view a road marked out for me that I knew not, to struggle against the tide of opposition, prejudice and tradition, to aid in establishing a principle that would exalt mankind and bring them back into His presence. A tie has been formed that will guide me to the highest and most glorious destiny, if I continue to walk in the regeneration, which is the grand object of my life.
No one can possibly feel more deeply to regret than I do, the course taken by the sons of President Joseph Smith, knowing that they have been misinformed; that it is through prejudice, through yielding to popular opinion that they have been misled. They might heir their father’s priesthood, if they would take proper steps and honor the principles revealed through him. Thus they might be called to occupy prominent positions in this dispensation, to aid in forwarding the great work of redemption and to seek to bring every honest soul of every nation to a knowledge of the gospel of the Son of God. O, that they had eyes to see and ears to hear the sound of the gospel, and walk in the footsteps of their illustrious father, knowing as I do that he was the grandest personage that has stood upon the earth since the days of our Savior. O, that God would in His boundless mercy, His matchless charity, withdraw the curtain and let but one ray from His magnificent countenance shine upon them, that like Saul of Tarsus, they might turn to God and become his apostles in very deed. That they might also accept the many testimonies given by those whose lives have been pure and spotless, who have sought to aid in establishing eternal principles that will exalt the human race in the presence of God. How gladly we would have them in our midst, did they walk in the spirit of their father.
They seem surprised that there was no issue from asserted plural marriages with their father. Could they but realize the hazardous life he lived, after that revelation was given, they would comprehend the reason. He was harassed and hounded and lived in constant fear of being betrayed by those who ought to have been true to him.
Since 1845, I have been the wife of President Heber C. Kimball, by whom I have had nine children, five sons and four daughters, have lived in the same house with other members of his family, have loved them as dearly as my own sisters, until it became necessary, as our children began to grow up around us, to have separate homes. Every mother has her own mode of government, and as children grow in years, it is more pleasant to have them under the immediate dictation of their own mother. I can truthfully state, however, that there is less room for jealousy where wives live under the same roof. They become interested in each other’s welfare; they love each other’s children. Besides, in my experience, I find the children themselves love each other as dearly as the children of one mother. In sickness, it has been a pleasure to minister to those in need of assistance.
I will say here, too, that it is a grand school. You learn self control, self denial; it brings out the nobler traits of our fallen natures, and teaches us to study and subdue self, while we become acquainted with the peculiar characteristics of each other. There is a grand opportunity to improve ourselves, and the lessons learned in a few years, are worth the experience of a lifetime, for this reason, that you are better prepared to make a home happy. You can easily avoid many unpleasant features of domestic life that through inexperience you otherwise are unprepared to meet.
The study of human nature is a grand study. I can only speak for myself in this regard. When I separated from others and went to a home with my own children, I placed many little safeguards around our home that experience had suggested, and my children grew into their teens without having heard an unkind word between their father and mother. When the father was there, everything was done necessary for his comfort. To make our home a pleasant one was the chief object of life. When absent I knew he was in good company and where he had a right to be. I stood in no fear from his associations with others, because I knew their purity of life. It is needless for me to say anything in regard to the life and character of President Heber C. Kimball. He lives in the hearts of the people called Latter-day Saints, and his acts and works are known abroad.
As time passed on he seemed to appreciate more than ever his wives and growing children. His last words to me were that he had been agreeably disappointed in my course of life, had appreciated my example as a wife and as a mother, that none had excelled me in the home life. Wherever my lot had been cast, there he had found a place of peace and rest. “Let me now thank you kindly,” he said, “for every kind word, for every kind act of your life, and when I am gone, which will not be but a short time, you shall be blessed and find friends.” He went on to say that if he never spoke to me again, I might rest assured that I had his most sanguine good feelings, his unbounded love and esteem. “What can you tell Joseph when you meet him? Cannot you say that I have been kind to you as it was possible to be under the circumstances? I know you can, and am confident you will be as a mediator between me and Joseph, and never enjoy any blessing you would not wish Heber to share.”
These words were more precious to me than gold, as they were his last, with the addition of “I leave my peace and blessing with you. May the peace of Heber ever abide in your habitation.”
I do not pen these facts thinking that others did not share equally in his esteem, as every woman carves her own niche in her husband’s affections.
Heber C. Kimball was a noble whole-souled son of God, and was as capable of loving more than one woman as God Himself is capable of loving all his creations.
Sister Vilate Murrey Kimball, first wife of Heber Chase Kimball, was one of the noble women of earth. She was dearly beloved by his wives and children, as well as by all who intimately knew her. Too little has been said of her exemplary life. She was as a ministering angel to those in distress, ever ready to aid those who had not been so fortunate as herself in regard to the comforts of life. She never seemed so happy as while seeking to make others happy. Every year it was her custom to invite all the family to dine at her table, and insisted that it was her privilege to wait upon and make them happy and comfortable. In her last sickness, she expressed her regret that she could no longer have the pleasure of seeing the family together as she had been in the habit of doing. On one occasion when one of her old time associates was urging her to come often, as she had done in her former years, she answered, “You must excuse me, as our own family has grown so large that by the time I visit them all, I want to begin the rounds again.” This shows the good feelings she cherished towards her husband’s many wives and children. Too much cannot be said in praise of her example. In her demise, Zion lost one of her noblest daughters.
Very sincerely, your sister in the gospel,
Lucy W. Kimball.