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Autobiography of Silas Richards - Pioneer 1849

Our Pioneer Heritage, K. Carter

Autobiography of Silas Richards – Pioneer 1849 – Our Pioneer Heritage, K. Carter

I was born in Highland county, State of Ohio, December 18, 1807. My father, whose name was Augustus, was the son of John and Lucy Richards; born in the State of Virginia, August 1, 1780. My mother’s maiden name was Francis Lee Daggett, daughter of Elmore and Elizabeth Daggett. She was born in Virginia, April 20, 1789. My father and mother were married in Mason County, Kentucky, September 6, 1804. Dudley Tiffin, their first child born in Mason County, Kentucky, September 26, 1805, died of dysentery in Hillsborough, Ohio. October 4, 1811. My other brothers and sisters were as follows: Elizabeth, Milton, Milverne, Juliet, William, Mary, Lucy Ann, Newton Daggett, John, Francis Ann, and Benjamin Franklin.
When I was about 15 years old we moved to Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio, where my father practiced medicine for a number of years. He had studied that profession with Dr. Edmondson in Chillicothe, Ohio before marriage and was a surgeon in the War of 1812. Here I was principal to carry on a farm in connection with my brother Milton, going to school in winter until I was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Elijah and Elizabeth McClenahan on the fifth day of November, 1829. Our fathers and mothers gave a large entertainment on that occasion and there were more than one hundred persons in attendance. I had a horse, a few sheep and hogs, and I split and shaved three thousand shingles to pay for my first cow, and my wife’s father gave her a cow.
On the twentieth day of December 1830, our first children (twins) were born. They were named Francis Marie and Elizabeth Ann; at that time we were living on a rented farm. About this time Dr. O. Evans, a rich friend, proposed for me to go on a large tract of his land in the north part of Shelby County, twelve miles from Sidney and four miles from any settlement. The land was in a state of nature, a part of it heavily timbered and a part wet prairie, producing a heavy crop of wild grass. He proposed to furnish me one thousand dollars and the land four years if I would improve it, buy, keep and sell cattle and horses; in short, make a stock farm. I moved on to it in March, 1831. At the end of the four years I was to return the thousand dollars together with one half of what I made in the operation. I was to have the privilege of keeping my own little stock with the increase for my own benefit. At the appointed time, I paid up and had five hundred dollars in cash to my share and had increased in property several hundred dollars. Our daughter, Sarah Jane, was born here May 30, 1833. In the fall of 1835, we moved to Illinois where my father-in-law had gone three years previous, a distance of four hundred miles and settled down in what became afterwards, Stark County, where I bought two hundred acres of rich timber, and part rich prairie, and by industry and economy I soon made a large farm and accumulated a competence for comfort, also a good house, barn and orchard.
Here our daughter, Isabelle, was born August 20, 1837. She died at two days old and was buried on the place. Our daughter Martha, was born here May 20, 1839; also our daughter Lucy, June 23, 1842. In 1839, the Gospel of Jesus Christ embraced by the Latter-day Saints, was introduced into the neighborhood, by Elder Joshua Grant and others, who had been driven from the state of Missouri the year previous, by mob violence sanctioned by the state government. Many of the Saints settled in this vicinity and a stake was organized at Walnut Grove, twelve miles from my place, and my house became a regular place of preaching. In the spring of 1840, myself and wife were baptized by Elder Peter Nichol, and a large branch of the Church was subsequently raised up in the vicinity, including my father and mother and most of my brothers and sisters, and two brothers and two sisters of my wife. In the fall of 1844, I exchanged my possessions here for a large and valuable farm near Nauvoo, Illinois and moved to it the following March. Having lived on my farm in Stark County nine years, during which time I filled the office of Justice of the Peace and Postmaster, and gave general satisfaction and honorable resigned both offices, previous to moving away.
I raised a large crop the year 1845, having seventy acres in cultivation and contributed liberally to building the temple in Nauvoo. This year mob violence was manifested in many settlements of the Saints in the surrounding country. Many of their houses and much grain and other property was burned by the mob and many families left destitute, and it became almost certain that the Church would be compelled to leave the place and preparations to this end were made.
On January 22, 1846 I was ordained a High Priest, by Patriarch John Smith. Early in 1846 the Temple was so far completed that the Saints were called to receive their washings and annointings, endowments, sealings, etc., myself and wife among the number. Our stay at Nauvoo was of short duration for in the spring of 1846 we were expelled from the country together with the whole church by the persecuting hand of the enemies and we made our way into the wilderness, crossing the Mississippi River on May 4th, having been compelled by the hand of persecution to take anything we could get for our possessions, which was very little. Many did not get a thing. I only got $800.00 for mine which, one year before was worth $3,000.00. My property was reduced to ten yoke of oxen, three horses, four wagons, some cows and sheep, two Berkshire pigs and such household goods and provisions as we could haul. Five yoke of oxen and one wagon I devoted to the use of the needy, all of my father’s household were with me; also several brothers and sisters of my wife with their families, we took joyfully the spoiling of our goods and the sacrifice we had made for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We made our way in violent rainstorms and mud and arrived in the vicinity of Council Bluffs, Missouri River on the 24th of June in the midst of Indian country, and while stopping to replenish our provisions from the state of Missouri, a distance of fifty to a hundred miles preparatory to continuing our journey to the Rocky Mountains.
I bought the Catholic missionary station for the Chief Leframbois. It had been abandoned some years previous, by the Catholics. There were two large log houses on the premises, I gave one wagon, one yoke and one horse for it. There was perhaps, fifty or sixty bushels of corn standing on the place which I acquired. I took possession about the fifteenth of July and began to prepare for winter, putting up about fifty tons of hay. Our daughter, Elizabeth, died here August 16, 1846, having fallen a martyr to the fatigue and exposure incident to the move. She was in her 16th year. Hundreds of the Saints died in this region this year from exposure.
About this time I was appointed Counselor to Elder Moses Clawson who was President of this branch of the Church; also counselor to Daniel Miller and shortly after a member of the High Council of Pottawattamie County and in 1848, I was appointed Bishop. In the spring of 1849, I prepared to move to the Great Salt Lake Valley and was appointed by Brother G. A. Smith and E. T. Benson to lead a company to the Valley. We started for Winter Quarters, July 10, 1849. Fully organized Captains of ten were: Isaac Clark, Wm B. Huntington, Elam Ludington, Augustus Farnham, Moses Clawson, and A. P. Rockwood, Marshal. We had seventy-two wagons heavily loaded with our families, provisions, merchandise, household goods, farming and merchandise tools, etc. After a long and weary journey of hardship and fatigue through a dreary wilderness without any inhabitants except Indians, we arrived in Great Salt Lake Valley October 25th, a distance of over one thousands of miles, without any very serious accidents. There was only one death, that of a little sickly child. There was very little sickness on the route, though we encountered heat, cold rain and snow. In one snowstorm in Willow Creek, the snow fell 18 inches deep and we lost sixty-two head of cattle; pigs and chickens froze to death. Winter being near, I lost little time in locating my family on Little Cottonwood Creek twelve miles south of Salt Lake City, where I bought a small improvement for $150.00 or two yoke of oxen and $30.00 in merchandise. We raised our tent on the premises on November 4th, in a snowstorm. My first job was to put in five acres of wheat, and prepare for winter by arranging every comport I could and buying provisions.


I labored all winter, fencing and making other improvements. Soon in the spring I had made two hundred rods of fence and a crop of twenty acres planted from which I raised a competency for support. There were only eight families in our new settlement at this time, and I was appointed Bishop to organize a Ward. In 1850 our little settlement doubled in number and we built a comfortable adobe schoolhouse, and I taught the first school year 30 to 35 scholars and continued to do so for several winters.
In 1853, in consequence of Indian depredations and trouble, I thought it to be expedient for us to build a fortification and live inside the walls. We selected the site for the village, forty rods square, one and a half miles down the creek from my place. We built a wall of rock, clay and adobe twelve feet high around the sides, and twenty-three families lived in adobe houses. We called our town Union. In 1854 we built a large adobe schoolhouse in the center; to be used for school and meeting purposes. I built a large and congenial adobe dwelling house in Union, created stables, sheds yards etc., for my stock and all was comfortable situated.
On the 4th of May, I was called to take a trip through all the settlements in the territory, in company with President Young and about sixty others for the purpose of visiting and pacifying the Indians and instructing the people in regards to their safety and preservation. We traveled about six hundred miles in four weeks. We held many meetings in the new settlements giving the needed instructions; also visiting many Indians, holding council, distributing presents, making peace, etc. We went south as far as Ash Creek and planted a colony there called Harmony. On my return from the south I continued the assessing and collecting business until the end of the year when I was reappointed for the ensuing year and continued to fill the office for five years. The annual revenue of the County averaging 17 thousand dollars.
Following are some extracts from my journal:
February 6, 1855. Keziah Frances Brady, daughter of L. A. and Elizabeth Brady was sealed to me by Brigham Young.
May 20; No rain in the last month; the grasshoppers have eaten nearly all the growing grain and vegetation in this county. The adjoining counties were not quite so much injured. After crops were cut off many continued planting and sowing until the 1st of July. I planted corn twice on land that had been sown with wheat; the wheat and corn planted the first time, was eaten by the grasshoppers. I continued replanting corn until the 22nd of June and it made a good crop, being mostly ripe and cut up before the first frost came early in October.
Oct. 2nd; Moved with Keziah to Salt Lake City for the purpose of completing my collections more conveniently. I had built a house in the city in 1853, which I occupied.
December 2nd; Martitia Smoot was sealed to me by President Young; moved her to my house on the 7th, and took Keziah home to school.
January 9, 1856; began assessing and taking census.
March 20; Began gardening; planted potatoes, peas and onions etc. on the 22nd.
July 24; The anniversary of the entrance of the pioneers into this Valley in 1847. The day was celebrated in Union in a spirited manner; the inhabitants of the Ward all taking part of an excellent public dinner with speeches, music, songs, etc.
August 29; Moved daughters Elizabeth and Lucy to the city, where I am most of the time collecting taxes.
September 26; This morning rode out up Emigration Canyon six miles with Elizabeth, the first Presidency, the Nauvoo Brothers’ Band and a numerous concourse of citizens to meet the first company of handcarts that crossed the plains, led by Elder Edmund Ellsworth. While this company was partaking of refreshments consisting of melons and other things kindly furnished by those that went to meet them, the 2nd company, Elder D. D. McArthur’s came rolling up and joined the 1st, and all joyfully continued their course to the city. This was a joyful meeting; all hearts swelled with gratitude to God our Father. Tears of joy flowing from many eyes.
October 2-3; Attended the great State Fair with a portion of my family. Great display.9; I was baptized in the fount along with many other Bishops. I attended a meeting in the evening in Union and gave instructions to the teachers. 10; Commenced hauling rock, clay and sand to build an adobe house in Union to be 17 x 30 feet. 26; I preached in Union and baptized about 125 persons, assisted by several of the leaders. 27; Started five horse teams back east to assist the handcart companies. Our teams were loaded with food, provisions, clothing, bedding and free will offerings of Saints in Union for the benefit and assistance of the handcart emigration amounting to hundreds of dollars. 30; The mason work of my house was finished today.

November 3; Sent one wagon and two yoke of oxen loaded with corn and hay in charge of C. Nowlan and George Dunn for the relief of our teams on the plains. 9; Teams returned to Salt Lake City with 400 persons of the handcart immigration having been gone two weeks and traveled 280 miles in snow storms and hard winter; the immigrants have suffered much with cold and hunger; 67 persons died. 10; Bishop Ed. Hunter directed me to take three little orphan sisters to raise; Susannah age 11, Sarah Ann age 4 ½, and Martha age 2, the daughters of Daniel and Susannah Osborn who died on the plains. The children are very poor from suffering with cold and hunger and the want of proper nourishment and clothing. None of them were able to walk across the room without difficulty. Susannah’s feet were badly frost bitten, their only clothing being some remnants of summer apparel. They had no shoes or woolen stockings; they were very feeble and required much care and attention.
February 25, 1857; The ground has not been bare of snow since winter set in until now. The snow has been two feet deep in this Valley. At this date spring has suddenly broke in upon us in all its beauty.
March 4; Moved to Union and began making garden and planting fruit trees. 26; Went to the city with Wm W. Meguire and wives, Wm W. Morrell and wives, C. Williams and wife, Marion H. Brady and Keziah Frances, and they all got their endowments.
July 23; By invitation of President Young, I, with part of my family and 15 brethren of Union with parts of their families, forty-seven persons and sixteen wagons went to the Lake at the head of Big Cottonwood to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of the pioneers in this Valley. We had a very pleasant trip, mingling with thousands of the Saints and beholding and contemplating the sublime works of nature. The towering rocks, the mountain peaks, the lofty pines, the hundreds of acres of beautiful timber, the lake, also the manifestations of the hand of industry in making the road, building sawmills, and preparing for the vast assembly that rejoiced together made this a delightful and secluded retreat.
About noon of the 24th, when real enjoyment was the order of the day, Bishop A. O. Smoot, Judge Elias Smith, Judson Stoddard and O. P. Rockwell, rode into camp bringing the news that troops were coming from the states, sent by the General Government. It was the first tidings of war. Any other people would have been stricken with fear, but not so with these Mormon Saints. Their trust was in God. “The Lord of Hosts is with us.” Was the undaunted exclamation of every heart, and soon it was the burden of every speech. President Young proved himself equal to the emergency, as he had done on all former occasions and afterward, master of the situation as the sequel proceeds. To say that we were taken with astonishment would misstate the case. We had seen mobs marshaled against us from the beginning. We had also been told, by the Prophet Joseph, that some day, the United States would come against us in war, and that the Lord would deliver us, and bring glory to His name. General Wells was boosted high up on a large rock where he delivered an undaunted speech, and the jubilee of the people swelled into a sublime declaration of independence. Men and women alike shared the feeling.
November 16; Hundreds of men went into the mountains this week; twenty from Union to check the advance of our enemies who were threatening to exterminate us from the face of the earth. There are now about 1500 of the brethren out on that expedition.
December 2; Our brethren from Union returned. All were well. 3; We fed 280 men and their animals of Col. Hyde’s and Col. Pace’s regiments on their return from the mountains.
January 19, 1859; I attended a mass meeting in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. There were 2000 men in attendance. A number of resolutions were passed expressing the injustice of the U. S. Government towards us in sending an army against us, and our determination to resist mob violence and oppression. Elders Benson and Pratt arrived from England this afternoon. 22; Visited the Legislative assembly, and in the evening by request of Bro. Woodruff, chairman of the committee, I spoke of the rearing and management of sheep and the result of my experience with different breeds of sheep.
February 17; Warm spring-like weather; the ground is in good plowing order. We are gaining in health but we are unable to labor.
March 22; General order given for the Saints to move south because of our enemies. I accordingly prepared diligently for the move, packing a great amount of flour in boxes and barrels. One of my son-in-laws, Wm. W. Morrell, has gone southwest several hundred miles with a select exploring party to search out a county. The other, Marion H. Brady, was in the mountain with our brethren holding the army in check and I had their families with me the same as my own.
March 31; I started to Springville, 43 miles south of here, with a load of flour and wheat, and I continued to haul until the 25th of April when I had taken to Springville, and Payson 56 bushels of wheat and 2300 bushels of flour; also a quantity of household goods, farming utensils and other property. Having traveled 530 miles with my team in 25 days, it required a number of trips to get our families and stock all moved. We formed an encampment four miles south of Payson at some good springs in the midst of good stock range. Most of the inhabitants of Union, some forty families, gathered there. We set about erecting some temporary shelters, corrals and planting some crops, which crickets and drouth destroyed.
June 5; An agreement of peace having been entered into, we began our return move to our homes, and on the 12th had completed our return with our family and stock. 18th; Commenced our regular meetings and gave instructions relative to temporal matters.
October 6-7; Attended special Conference of Official members at the Tabernacle.
November 1; Started to Payson for my last load of wheat, having spent the most of the season moving to and fro though I raised crop enough to sustain us with what I had ahead. 20th; Went to Salt Lake City on business with the merchants in relation with their taxes. Winter has fairly set in.
December 6; Settled with the County Court as assessor and collector, and paid in full, as the law required, all that had not been remitted by the court. I had done so the previous years, the court refusing to remit much that I never received.
Keziah Frances, my second wife, and I were blessed with eight children; Francis Ann, Cynthia Ellen, Silas Newton, Eliza Snow, John Willard, Albert Franklin, William Ernest, and Leo Warren. Keziah Frances was only 14 years of age when we were married; I was 32 years her senior.
Note: On March 17, 1884, Silas Richards passed away in Union, Salt Lake County, Utah.
----Klea Mower Kapp


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