History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, Chapter 38

Part 4 the Gathering in Ohio Chapter 38 Lucy Mack Smith leads a group of families from Fayette (Waterloo), New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, the gathering place for the Saints. They sing hymns and preach sermons along the Erie Canal. They arrive at Buffalo and the harbor is closed because of ice. The Saints murmur because of their ill comfort, hunger, and thirst, but Lucy continues to encourage and strengthen them. She calls upon them to exercise their faith and the way will be opened for them. The twenty-foot-thick ice bursts apart like the roar of thunder and they make their passage out of the harbor, then upon Lake Erie to Fairport, Ohio. Joyous meeting with the Prophet Joseph. Safe arrival in Kirtland.

Late April 1831 to mid-May 1831

Mormon FamilySoon after my husband and Joseph left for Kirtland, William, being one of the teachers, assisted the Church by calling on every family (as is our custom). He prayed with them and did not leave the house until every member of the family over eight years old had prayed vocally.

When the brethren considered the spring sufficiently open for traveling on the water, a time was set when the Church members were to meet at my house and set off for Kirtland in the same boat. When we were thus collected, we numbered eighty, including the children.

We went on board a boat which was owned by a Methodist preacher. His wife generally went on the boat with him and did his work, but when she found that he was going to take a company of Mormons, she refused to go and sent a hired girl in her stead. When we were ready to start, the people from all the surrounding country came in droves to bid us farewell, which they did, universally invoking the blessing of heaven upon our heads. Just before we shoved off from shore, an old brother by the name of Humphrey came from Potsdam. He had been brought into the Church by Don Carlos’s preaching at the time that he visited his grandfather in company with my husband. At this time, Brother Humphrey was the oldest elder in the Church and Don Carlos the youngest.

On account of Brother Humphrey’s age, I wished him to take charge of the company, but he refused to do so, saying that everything should be done just as Mother Smith said, and that I, with my sons William and Carlos, should have the entire dictation. “Yes,” the whole company responded together, “we will do just as Mother Smith says.” Just then Esquire Chamberlain came on board and inquired if I had what money I needed to make my family comfortable. I told him that I had an abundance of everything for myself and my children, but it was possible that he might find some who had been unable to provide sufficient means to take them through. “Well,” he said, “here is a little cash,” and handed me seventeen dollars. “You may spend it as you like.” I again told him I did not need it. “You can deal it out to such as do,” he said. I took the money and soon had reason to rejoice that I did.

After bedding him with our own acquaintances and giving our affectionate farewells, the boat was shoved off from shore and we were soon under fine headway. I then began to think how I was to set about the task which was laid upon me. I called the brethren and sisters together and reminded them, “Now, brothers and sisters, we have set out just as father Lehi did to travel, by the commandment of the Lord, to a land that he will show us if we are faithful. I want you all to be solemn and lift your hearts to God in prayer continually, that we may be prospered. And for the present, let the sisters take seats on one side of the boat and the brethren on the other, and we will sing a hymn.” They did as I desired, and when we struck into the second hymn, the captain cried out to his mate, “Do, for God’s sake, come here and take the helm and let me go, for I must hear that singing.” When we finished the hymn, he expressed his surprise and pleasure in the warmest terms and mentioned that his wife had left the boat because he had taken a Mormon company on board, which he regretted, for he thought she would have enjoyed our society very much.

At evening Brother Humphrey and Brother Page asked me if I thought it was best to have prayers twice a day. This pleased me, for it was what I intended before. We seated ourselves and sang a hymn, and the solemn music rose in such sweet melancholy on the clear air and died away so beautifully upon the water, that it melted every heart that heard it. And when we bowed down before the Lord in prayer, our souls burned within us with love, and we felt most sensibly that God indeed bestowed his Spirit upon men, even in these last days as in former days.

When the evening service was ended, I went round among the brethren to ascertain how many of them had prepared themselves with food for the journey, and to my surprise I discerned that there was no less than twenty who had no more than two meals’ victuals on hand. This was unaccountable to me at first, but I afterwards learned that they had converted their substance into clothing. These all, as well as thirty children, I supported entirely by feeding them from meal to meal clear to the end of the journey. They would have been obliged to have turned back or else suffer for the want of proper sustenance, for those who had provided for themselves had done no more, although some of them might have supplied others and themselves. But they did not seem to consider that the  revelation  that they should help each other was binding upon them.

I soon discovered among the mothers in our company a carelessness with regard to their children, even when their lives were in danger, which gave me great anxiety. For instance, if children were on deck when the boat passed under a bridge, they could be thrown overboard or bruised in such a manner as was terrible to think of. I called the sisters together and tried to make them realize their children’s danger and their own responsibility. “Sisters,” said I, “God has given you children to be a blessing to you, and it is your duty to take care of them, to keep them out of every possible danger, and especially in such a place as this, to have them always by your side. I warn you now to attend better to your duty in this respect, or your children will by some unforeseen accident be taken from you.”

After this we received news by another boat of the death of a small child that had occurred the day before on the same river. It was killed by being on deck when the boat was passing under a bridge. I thought that this accident and what I had said, taken together, would rouse the sisters to greater attention, but in this I was mistaken, for they took no thought of either, and their excuse for their neglecting their children was that they could not make them mind. I told them that I could make them mind me easily enough, and since they wouldn’t control them, I should.

I then got the children together around me and said, “Now,  mark  what I say to you. When I come up the stairs and raise my hand, you must every one of you run to me as fast as you can and you must not stop a minute. Will you do so?” They all answered heartily, “Yes, ma’am, we will.” And to their credit I would say that they kept their faith better than some very great folks do in these days-for they never failed to do just as I told, not only in that but everything else, while I was with them.

When we got halfway to Buffalo, the canal broke and we were stopped from traveling. This circumstance gave rise to many evil forebodings and much murmuring and discontentment. “Well, here we are,” said they, “the canal is broke and we can go no further, and what’s next? We have left our good homes, and now we have no means of getting a living, and here we must starve.”

“No,” said I, “you will not starve, brethren, nor any such thing. Only do stop murmuring and be patient, for I have no doubt that the hand of the Lord is over us for good. Perhaps it is best for us to be here a short time. After all, it is quite likely that the steamboats cannot leave Buffalo Harbor because it is blockaded with ice, and the town is crowded with families who are waiting for it to break away so that the boats can start. Are we not more comfortable here in a habitation which is paid for, and we have not the expense of renting a house?”

“Well,” said the sisters, “I suppose you know best, but it does seem that we would have done better to have remained at home, for there we might sit in our rocking chairs and take as much comfort as we were a mind to, and here we are tired out and have no place to rest ourselves.” I could not help reflecting upon the contrast between their care, fatigue, and cause for complaint and my own.

While I was talking, a citizen of the place where we had landed came into the boat and inquired what profession we were. I told him that we were Mormons, or Latter-day Saints. “Ah!” said he, “that is a denomination which I never heard of before. Do they ever preach?”

“They do,” I replied.

“Have you any preachers on board,” he said, “that would preach for us while you are stopping here?”

I told him that there were some elders in our company and I would speak to them about the matter. I went immediately to Brothers Humphrey and Page to ask them if they would preach that day. They were glad of an opportunity of addressing the people, and gave an appointment for meeting at one o’clock that afternoon. At the appointed hour, a congregation of one hundred persons collected on a beautiful green bordering the canal. We had a very pleasant meeting, and our fainthearted brethren and sisters were much strengthened. The people were anxious to have the elders preach again, but the canal was repaired by eleven o’clock the next morning, and we proceeded on our journey and arrived at Buffalo on Friday, about an hour and a half before sunset. It was the fifth day after we had set out from Waterloo.

Here we met the brethren from Colesville, who had been detained a week in this place to wait for navigation to open. Since Mr. Smith and Hyrum were directed to be in Kirtland by the first of April, they had gone the remainder of the journey by land. I inquired of the Colesville brethren if they had told the people that they were Mormons. They seemed surprised at the question and replied, “No, by no means-and don’t you do it for the world, for if you do, you will not get a boat nor a house, and here you must stay or go back.”

I told them I would let the people know exactly who I was and what I professed. “If you,” said I, “are ashamed of Christ, you will not be prospered as much as I shall, and we will get to Kirtland before you.”

While we were yet talking with the Colesville brethren, another boat came up which had on board about thirty  Mormon  brethren, and Brother Thomas Marsh was one of the company. He came to me and, perceiving the drift of our conversation, said, “Now, Mother Smith, if you do sing and have prayers and acknowledge that you are Mormons here in this place, as you have done all along, you will be mobbed before morning.”

“Well, mob it is, then,” said I, “for we shall sing and attend to prayers before sunset, mob or no mob.”

“Then,” said Marsh, considerably irritated, “I shall go into my own boat.”

I then called William and told him to tell Elder Humphrey and Elder Page that I would like to see them. When they came, we counseled together, and concluding that it was best to make what diligence we could to get onto our journey’s end, I requested them to go round among the boats and inquire for Captain Blake, and if they found him to bargain with him to take us to Fairport, for he was the captain of a boat that formerly belonged to General Mack, my brother of Detroit. They soon found the person in question, and he agreed to take us all on board the next morning. He said, however, that he would not be able to furnish us with fresh water, and also he was uncertain about starting, as the ice might not be out in a fortnight from that time. The morning after, we commenced moving our goods on board Captain Blake’s boat and were finished two hours before sunset. The captain of the boat that brought us to Buffalo went with us and said he would stay with us as long as we were there for the sake of religious instruction.

When we were fairly settled, it commenced raining. This rendered our situation very uncomfortable, for we were under the necessity of taking a deck passage, and some of the sisters complained bitterly because we had not hired a house till the boat was ready to start. In fact, their case was rather a trying one, for some of them had sick children.

I told them that I did not believe it would be an easy matter to get a house, for the other brethren had informed me that it was almost impossible, but they could not content themselves. In consequence, I asked Brother Hiram Page to try to get a room for them, but after a tiresome search, he returned and informed them that there was no vacant house to be found in the whole place. At this the women grumbled again and declared that they would have a house, let the consequences be what they might. “Well, well,” I said, “I will go myself and see what I can do for you, and a room you shall have if there is a possibility of getting one, on any terms whatsoever.”

The rain was still falling in torrents, but William went with me and held an umbrella over my head. I went to the nearest tavern and asked the landlord if he could let me have a room for some women to bring their beds into and sleep, that their children were unwell, and they were so much exposed that I was fearful for their health. “Yes,” said he. “I can easily make room for them.” At this, a woman who was ironing in the room turned upon him very sharply and said, “I have put up here myself and I am not going to be encumbered with anybody’s things in my way. I warrant the children have got the whooping cough or measles or some other catchin’ disease, and if they come, I’ll go somewhere else to board.”

“Why madam,” said the landlord, “that is not necessary. You can still have one large room.”

“Well, I don’t care,” said she. “I want them both, and if I can’t have them, I won’t stay.”

“Never mind,” said I, “it’s no matter. I will go somewhere else. I presume I can get some other room just as well.”

“No, you can’t though,” answered the lady, “for we hunted all over the town and couldn’t find one single room until we came here.” This instance of human nature carries its own moral, therefore it needs no remarks.

I left immediately and soon came to a long row of rooms, and as one of them seemed to be almost at liberty, I ventured to call and inquire if I could not rent it a few days. I found the proprietor to be a fine, cheerful old lady, probably near seventy years of age. When I asked her if she had a room which she could spare me at any price, stating the circumstances as I had done to the landlord before, she said, “Well, I don’t know. Where are you going?”

“To Kirtland,” I said.

“What be you?” said she. “Be you Baptists?”

“No,” said I. “We are Mormons.”

“Mormons!” said she in a quick but low and good-natured tone. “Why, I never heard of them before. What be they?”

I told her that we did not acknowledge the name, but the world called us so, and I said so that she might know who we were, but our proper name was Latter-day Saints.

“Latter-day Saints,” said she. “I never heard of them before.”

“I am,” said I, “the mother of the prophet who brought forth the work and translated the Book of Mormon.”

“What!” said she with increased surprise. “A prophet in these days! Why, I never heard the like in my life. Will you come, if I let you have a room?” I told her that I wanted the room for the sisters who were with me, but that I would come with them and stay that day with her.

“You will come in and sit with me and tell me all about it. I don’t know why ’twas, but just as soon as I saw you, I felt as though I wanted you to stay with me and I could not bear to have you go away.”

I returned to the boat, told the sisters what the prospects were, and they made haste to the room, having their beds taken also. The old lady was very prompt in removing the furniture from the room, and as soon as this was done, she came to me and said, “Now come and sit down with me and tell me all about what you was talking about.”

I went in and sat down, and we commenced conversation. I explained to her how the Lord was performing a work which was designed for the salvation of the people, and in order that they might be saved, it is necessary for them to repent of all their sins and be baptized for the remission of their sins, and have hands laid on them that they may receive the Holy Ghost.

“Receive the Holy Ghost,” said she. “What do you mean by that?” I gave her an explanation in full of this and many other matters, and she was so inquisitive and anxious to hear, that she kept me up until two o’clock in the morning. The next day my sisters and I were up betimes, and the old lady was not at all behind us. She offered every assistance possible about our cooking and arrangements, and when breakfast was over and I was about starting back to the boat, she urged me to stay, saying, “I felt as soon as I saw you that there was something more than common, and I would have not let my room go to any person in the world but you.”

When we removed to the boat again, Captain Blake requested the passengers to remain on board, as he wished from that time to be ready to start at a moment’s warning; at the same time he sent out a man to measure the depth of the ice, who, when he returned, reported that it was piled up to the height of twenty feet, and that it was his opinion that we would remain in the harbor at least two weeks longer.

At this, Porter Rockwell started on shore to see his uncle. His mother endeavored to prevent him, but he paid no attention to her, and she then appealed to me, saying, “Mother Smith, do get Porter back, for he won’t mind anybody but you.” I told him that, if he went, we should leave him on the shore, but he could do as he liked. He left the boat, and several others were about following him; but when I spoke to them, they replied, “We will do just as you say, Mother Smith,” and returned immediately.

Just then, William whispered in my ear, “Mother, do see the confusion yonder; won’t you go and put a stop to it!”

I went to that part of the boat where the principal portion of our company were. There I found several of the brethren and sisters engaged in a warm debate, others murmuring and grumbling, and a number of young ladies were flirting, giggling, and laughing with gentlemen passengers who were entire strangers to them, whilst hundreds of people on shore and on other boats were witnessing this scene of clamor and vanity among our brethren with great interest. I stepped into their midst, “Brethren and sisters,” said I, “we call ourselves Saints and profess to have come out from the world for the purpose of serving God at the expense of all earthly things; and will you, at the very onset, subject the cause of Christ to ridicule by your own unwise and improper conduct? You profess to put your trust in God, then how can you feel to murmur and complain as you do? You are even more unreasonable than the children of Israel were; for here are my sisters pining for their rocking chairs, and brethren from whom I expected firmness and energy declare that they positively believe they shall starve to death before they get to the end of their journey. And why is it so? Have any of you lacked? Have I not set food before you every day, and made you who had not provided for yourselves as welcome as my own children? And even if this were not the case, where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? Do you not know that all things are in his hands, that he made all things and overrules them? If every Saint here would just lift their desires to him in prayer, that the way might be opened before us, how easy it would be for God to cause the ice to break away, and in a moment’s time we could be off on our journey. But how can you expect the Lord to prosper you when you are continually murmuring against him?”

Just then a man cried out from the shore, “Is the Book of  Mormon  true?”

“That book,” said I, “was brought forth by the power of God and translated by the same power, and if I could make my voice sound as loud as the trumpet of Michael, the archangel, I would declare the truth from land to land and from sea to sea, and echo it from isle to isle, until everyone of the whole family of man was left without excuse-for all should hear the truth of the gospel of the Son of God. I would sound in every ear that he has again revealed himself to man in these last days, and set his hand to gather his people together upon a goodly land. If they will fear him and walk uprightly before him, it shall be unto them for an inheritance; but if they rebel against his law, his hand will be against them to scatter them abroad and cut them off from the face of the earth.

“God is now going to do a work upon the earth for the salvation of all who will believe it unto the uttermost, even all who call on him, and man cannot hinder it. It will prove unto everyone who stands here this day a savior of life unto life or of death unto death-a savior of life unto life if ye will receive it, but of death unto death if ye reject the counsel of God unto your own condemnation. For every man shall have the desires of his heart. If he desires the truth, the way is open, and he may hear and live. Whereas if he treat the truth with contempt, and trample upon the simplicity of the word of God, he will shut the gate of heaven against himself.”

Then, turning to our own company, I said, “Now, brethren and sisters, if you will all of you raise your desires to heaven that the ice may be broken before us, and we be set at liberty to go on our way, as sure as the Lord lives, it shall be done.” At that moment a noise was heard like bursting thunder. The captain cried out, “Every man to his post,” and the ice parted, leaving barely a pathway for the boat that was so narrow that, as the boat passed through, the buckets were torn with a crash from the waterwheel. This, with the noise of the ice, the confusion of the spectators, the word of command from the captain, and the hoarse answering of the sailors, was truly dreadful. We had barely passed through the avenue, when the ice closed together again, and the Colesville brethren were left in Buffalo, unable to follow us.

As we were leaving the harbor, I heard one man on shore say, “There goes the  Mormon  company! That boat is sunk in the water nine inches deeper than it was before, and  mark  it, she will sink-there is nothing surer.” Our boat and one other had just time enough to get through, and the ice closed again and remained three weeks longer. The Colesville brethren were left in Buffalo, unable to follow us. The bystanders were so sure we would sink that they went straight to the office and had it published that we were sunk, so that when we arrived at Fairport, we read in the papers the news of our own death.

After our miraculous escape from the wharf and passage into the lake, I spoke to Brother Humphrey and requested him to call the brethren and sisters together, that we had seen a great manifestation of the power of God in our behalf, and it was near time for prayers. I thought it would be well to sing a little, and then have a kind of prayer meeting, so that all could pray that felt disposed so to do. We sang and prayed, but we had not got halfway through, when I received a message from the captain requesting me to have the Saints stop praying, for, he said, “We shall all go to hell together. We cannot keep one single hand to his post, even if we should go to the devil, for they are so taken up with the praying of your children.” (He said “my children” because they all called me “Mother.”)

We soon, however, had a formidable difficulty to encounter. We began to feel the effects of the motion of the boat, which brought many of our number down upon their backs with seasickness. There was a cry for water, but the captain had told the cook not to furnish the passengers with water, except where arrangements had been made. Yet, the Saints, especially those who were sick, were in great anxiety. I went to the cook and handed him twenty-five cents, and asked him if he could not let me have some hot water occasionally for the sick folks. He complied very readily with my request, and I was furnished with the means to make them comfortable for a season.

We had not been on board long until the captain found me to be the sister of General Mack. He seemed highly pleased to find in me a relative of his old friend. From that time until I left his boat, I never lacked for anything, and I never was treated with greater respect than on this boat.

A short time before we arrived at Fairport, Brother Humphrey and myself went on shore, and I bought a quantity of bread and some molasses for the little children, for there were thirty on board that I supplied myself. After we went back, Brother Humphrey called me to one side and said, “Mother Smith, you must stop this slavish work or you will kill yourself, and from now on let those women wait upon their own children and do the work for themselves and their husbands. As for myself, I shall not stay on board much longer.” I told him I thought there was no danger of my injuring myself but, thanking him for his kindness, went on as before. They told me afterwards that he left us at the next landing, but I did not observe it at the time.

When we were approaching the landing at Fairport, the passengers, sailors, and even the cooks came round and took me by the hand and wept as they bade me farewell. After landing, with our things put on shore, the company were more disheartened than ever. Several of the men came round me, asking what was to be done. “Here we are,” they said. “We and our goods are without any shelter, and we have no hopes of houses here and no means of conveying ourselves to Kirtland. Even if we could get there, it is not at all probable that we should have a shelter. Now, won’t you set our wives to work and have them sew up some blankets into tents, and we will camp out here by our goods and watch them.”

I looked round at the sisters and found them sitting about, some crying, others pointing, others attending to their business, but the last was the fewest number. I told them I should not set their wives to work; they might do as they liked. “But yonder,” said I, raising my eyes, “sits a man, and I shall inquire of him for information and see what can be done by the way of settling ourselves.”

I came to the man and asked him how far it was to Kirtland. He started up and exclaimed, “Is this Mother Smith?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “We would like to know whether there is any chance of procuring teams to take our goods to Kirtland.”

“And is it possible that this is Mother Smith?” said he. “I have sat here three days and nights looking for you. Do not give yourself any uneasiness. Brother Joseph is expected here every hour, and in less than twenty-four hours there will be twenty teams on hand to take the goods from here to houses that are waiting to receive them.”

When he mentioned Joseph’s name I started, for I just began to realize that I was so soon to see my husband and three oldest sons. As I turned from the stranger, the first thing that met my eyes was  Samuel  coming towards me. We met in tears of joy, but before I could speak to him, Joseph came up and caught hold of my other hand. “Mother,” said Samuel. “I was warned of God in a dream to come immediately to this place to meet the company from Waterloo, and I was afraid that some dreadful thing had befallen you. Indeed, I feared that you were dead and that I should only meet your corpse.”

Joseph also seemed overjoyed to find me in so good health and said, “I was myself in great fear for your life, for Brother Humphrey came to Kirtland three days since and told me he thought there was great danger of your wearing yourself out before you got here. He said you had been a perfect servant to the company all the way along, but Mother, I shall now take you away from them and you shall have no more to do with it.”

As soon as this was spoken, the women gathered round me. “Oh, Mother Smith, what shall we do? You must not leave us. Can’t we go with you?” Joseph told them that they could go as far as Painesville and said, “Your husbands and the other brethren will remain until the teams come for the goods, but tomorrow I shall take her away from the whole of you, for she has done enough.”

The other women and I got into the wagons, and we were taken to Brother Partridge’s. When we arrived there we found an excellent dinner prepared for us. After this, Brother Kingsbury came and took me in his carriage so that I could have a good night’s rest, the which I had not taken since I left Waterloo. From here, I set out with my sons for Kirtland in Brother Kingsbury’s handsome and comfortable carriage, which Joseph had provided for the purpose before my arrival. Joseph and the brethren had also engaged houses in Kirtland and Painesville for the rest of the company, so that in a little while they were well situated and ready to commence business for the future support of their families.

The first house that I entered was Brother Morley’s. Here I met with my beloved husband, and great was my joy. Many of my readers know my present situation. These can imagine, perhaps, with what feelings I rehearse these recitals. But no, how can you? No woman lives upon the earth that could tell an experience like mine, and when I retrace my life in scenes like this, I seem again to press the warm hand that I then held within my own, and rest my weary head upon that affectionate breast that supports it now no more. But oh, my God, give me strength and be thou my God and help in every time of need, and support me yet a little longer, until my work is done, and then may the angels waft me to my home in heaven. But enough, I must not indulge my heart, for my tale of woe is to be told hereafter.

The evening after we arrived at Kirtland, we visited Emma. She was very much pleased to see us. She said she had heard of our situation and was afraid that we would be drowned on the lake. This evening she had a pair of twins brought in that was given to her a few days before. These children were taken to supply the place of a pair of twins which she had lost.

Go to chapter 39.

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