Bunkerville, Nevada May 4, 1903
Brother Joseph I. Earl,
By your request I will make some statements of my recollections of early times of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t think I can recollect near all the incidents that transpired, but I can give you some idea of what I saw and passed through. I am now nearly 80 years old. I was born in [Allegany] County, New York, November 29, 1823; six years, four months and seven days before the Church was organized, 6 April, 1830. My parents [Lyman and Wight] joined the Church in the fall of the year 1830. I suppose I was then an L.D.S. [Latter-day Saint], hence I can date my membership from near the beginning of the Church.
My mother went from Kirtland to Jackson County, Missouri in the summer of 1831, taking her three children including myself and two little sisters, our ages at the time being near seven, five, and three years; father Lyman being on a mission. In the spring of 1832, April I think, I was baptized in the waters of the Big Blue River three miles west of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, at which place we lived during the persecution of the Saints in Jackson County. When we were driven from Jackson County my father [Lyman Wight] was chased by the mob in a westerly direction and my mother and I and two little sisters were taken by John Higbee in a small boat down the Big Blue River–three miles–and across the Missouri River to Clay County, Missouri.
We were left on the north bank of the river with a number of others and heard nothing of father for three weeks, not knowing whether he had been killed or not. But we were rejoiced one morning in the latter part of December to find him in camp. He came through Jackson County in the night and across the river, I think on the ice. During our stay on the bank of the river we camped by the side of a big sycamore log about 6 feet in diameter. We laid a few poles on one side on top of the log, the other end on the ground, spread a quilt or two on the poles, then under the quilts and poles by the side of the big log my oldest brother was born–Lehi Lyman Wight–while a [howling?] mob was chasing father to kill him and we almost in a state of starvation.
But in answer to our prayers the Lord preserved us by sending us plenty in this way. Brother John Higbee, by some means procured an old Flint Lock shotgun, where or how he got it I never knew; I think most likely he went across the river in one of his skiffs and got it where he or some of the other brothers had hid it when the mob took our arms. Be that as it may he went out in the Big Bottoms bordering the river and killed eleven deer. I am equally at loss to know how he got ammunition. I recollect seeing him pound pieces of lead into round slugs and put them in the gun and when one of them slugs hit a deer what was left of him was ready for the frying pan. Brother Higbee found a number of wild bee trees, hence we lived on venison and honey. About this time my father came to camp and hardly rested until he went to Arthur’s Mill about six miles from camp and procured a wagon load of flour, bacon and cornmeal–all on credit so you see the Lord favored us again. Father rustled about among the saints and got the means to pay for the provisions. Now all this did not take us out of the cold winter weather and deep snows, so father went again to Mr. Arthur and succeeded in buying 40 acres of land and a large two story house with a number of other buildings on the same ground, thus we had room to shelter nearly all the camp. There were, however, many others at other places but all got places somewhere during the winter.
Now about this time father was called to go east to Kirtland for the purpose of collecting men and means to assist the Saints in Zion. I was now left alone again with my mother, two sisters and my baby brother. By this time I was 10, in my 11th year. I had the wood to get for fuel, cows to milk of which we had accumulated two, and all other chores, such as going to milk, shelling corn to carry to mill–wheat we had none–nor no team. I hauled the wood from the forest on a hand sled, near half-mile, and my grain to the mill on the sled one and half miles. I generally carried my grain on my shoulder a half bushel at a time. Hence, you see I was on a mission almost from the beginning, taking care of the family when my father was on a mission, which was nearly all the time. I went through with all without any trouble, upheld by good advice from my mother, and should say prayers.
Now I will pass over a portion of the time as there is a full history of all the movements and proceedings of the Church, Zion’s Camp, the organizing of the Twelve Apostles, and commence again with my memories about the time we left Clay County and went to Caldwell, Missouri. During the time we lived in Clay County I had a better chance to become acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith than at any previous time. Being a little older I could better understand what he would say and see deeper into the mysteries of the gospel and the reasons for the new and everlasting covenants. I could also see the difference between the principles taught by Joseph the Prophet and the sectarian priests.
I was now eleven years old. Father was again called on a mission, but returned shortly and we made arrangements to move to Caldwell County, Missouri. We moved to Caldwell County and settled about three miles from Far West–most of the Saints moved from Clay to Caldwell. Also we had a great many newcomers from the east so we began to number the Saints by thousands instead of hundreds. The county population increased to such an extent that it was thought proper to establish a settlement in another county; hence, we moved to Daviess County and our principle settlement at a place on Grand River called–afterwards Adam-ondi-Ahman, named by the Prophet Joseph Smith from the fact as the Prophet Joseph told us that it was the place where Adam offered his holy sacrifice. The altar was still there and not far from our house when we went there. Our family was among the first to move to that county and father bought land of one Adam Black; you will see his name mentioned in most of the church histories.
I wish now to give a description of the [Adam’s] altar, more particular the situation and also other things in the neighborhood including some things that are [cached] there. Please find with this a diagram of the place with notes of explanation. Adam-ondi-Ahman was visited a number of times by the Prophet Joseph Smith and I became still better acquainted with him being now 14 years old, I could comprehend and appreciate all or nearly all he would say. He was very kind and sociable with both young and old. We often bathed in the limped waters of Grand River, although but a boy I was invited to bathe with them. At one time we had a jolly time–yes and at other times. There was Joseph the Prophet, my father [Lyman Wight], Sidney Rigdon, and several others, our amusement consisted in part seeing Brother Rigdon swim. He was so corpulent that he was forced to lay on his back to swim, he would swim in that way until his shoulders would strike the sand bar then he could turn but would flop back in deep water.
But our time of enjoyment was short. The few people of [Gallatin] Daviess County refused to let the Mormons–as they called them–vote, they tried to prevent the brethren voting but John Butler with a few others forced their way to the polls with clubs and cans and voted. This created bad feelings and it went on from one thing to another until Colonel Lyman Wight called on the militia to quell the disturbance. Now the rest is in our histories and I will only relate what happened to us.
It is a well known fact that Brother Joseph the Prophet with my father and the others were taken to [prisoners] by the mob. Now when that happened, I was left alone with my mother and now two sisters and three brothers. My second brother was born in Clay County while father was on a mission and the other brother in Diahman after father was taken prisoner–born when the house was surrounded by the mob indulging in much loud and [incencious? or licentious?] talk, including their boasts of what they had done with [Joseph] Smith and Lyman Wight. You can guess the feelings of my mother, self and sisters–my youngest sister was six years older than my oldest brother, so you see she was old enough to understand being 10 years in her 11th year.
I was now alone with a sick mother and five brothers and sisters. But how it was I never knew, the mob left my riding pony and two cows. Some of the brethren–have forgotten which ones–took my mother and the five children to Far West on a sled–there was now snow on the ground. I got my pony and drove the two cows to Far West. There the brethren helped me to feed the cows and pony. Now while at Far West mother and I made several trips to the Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri–most of the trips with some of the sisters whose husbands were in prison with father and the Prophet. While in the prison with the prophet I got better acquainted with Brother Joseph and could appreciate his divine mission.
Now we were forced to carry out the governor’s order and leave the state regardless of our feeling about leaving the brethren in prison both in Clay and Ray County prison. Some of the brethren took mother and the children to Quincy, Illinois and I again mounted my pony and drove the two cows clear through to Illinois 200 miles keeping near the family so they could get milk as both of the cows gave milk and was a great help to us and others. When we got to Quincy we saw at once there must be something done for our support, so I at once applied to the Higbees to know what would be best. They were fishermen by trade–there was Isaac John, John M. and father Higbee–Judge Elias didn’t join with us–they had lost all in Missouri. But they told me if I would furnish the pony to haul the fish to market and haul them and pedal them out they would try to catch the fish and would divide equally with me, all of which I agreed.
Now to get a good place to catch fish. We all moved three miles up the Missouri River and located, by renting an old log house we made ourselves comfortable. The Higbee’s by some means got hold of some twine and [leand?] and fishhook and lines and by working night and day we soon had some fish for market and in a short time had our [seine] done, and then we caught all the fish we wanted and could eat fish ourselves. We had done without fish because we needed bread and a fishing outfit. But once supplied I made a good living for myself and family.
I had got away up now and I was most a man a little over 16 years. As soon as I got a little start I took mother and the children back to Quincy so the girls could go to school, but I continued to haul and pedal fish. It was quite as handy for me to live in Quincy, so you see I was still on a mission to assist the prophet and the rest. Our cows gave us plenty of milk and to spare, so I drove them back to Quincy because we could sell milk to help us along, and the Higbees had cows by this time.
I will now give a short sketch of some of the incidents that happened to the prisoners on their way to Illinois. When we got back to Quincy we rented a house with five rooms so we could keep some borders and have a place for the brethren when they got out of prison which we believed from their letters, and the reports of some of the Saints which came in about that time would be the case. [Joseph Smith’s escape]. We did not have to wait long before we heard they were coming. They bribed the sheriff, and the brethren that were on watch furnished them horses. They all changed their names and started out as land seeker men from the east hunting homes. They left the main road and traveled through the sparsely settled country on by-roads and at times without a road. Now you will understand it–there were four other parties of land hunters, one in advance, one on the right, one on the left and one in the rear which reported when necessary to the main body in the center, but was never seen with them, i.e., more than one man of a party and that but for a short time.
Now with all their trouble they at times had some amusements. There was one instance which I will relate which they told when they got to our house in Quincy. They came to a ranch in an out of the way place and stopped for the night, told their names (fictitious ones)–the next morning they were looking about and walking around, all but Brother McRay who was in the house. The proprietor came in and was talking with Brother McRay and asked him his name, said he had forgotten it and it had the effect to cause Brother McRay to take a terrible cramp in his stomach, it came near throwing him into spasms. The man ran out where some of the other brethren were and told them that their friend was very sick. They went in and said Mr. Brown what is the matter with you, what have you been eating, and that relieved Mr. Brown to such an extent that he began to get better right away.
In the meantime the proprietor had brought in a jug of whiskey from somewhere and recommended Mr. Brown to take a glass of whiskey–thought it would help him–he done so, and the others thought they were disposed that way, which were nearly all, took some for fear the disease was contagious. After they got to our house in Quincy and we had beer or any stimulant of any kind to drink they would recommend to give Brother McRay some first, he has the cramp and can’t tell his name.
Now here in Quincy I still had a better chance to become better acquainted with the Prophet Joseph and had an increase of my faith in his holy mission being at an age when I could judge and see more perfectly that he was an inspired Prophet of God. We heard a great deal of what he said and heard him preach in Quincy. I now commenced going to school at the Quincy Academy and studied hard until the fall of the year. In the meantime Brother Joseph and others had gone up the Mississippi River to look at a place called Commerce. The place pleased them and they bought it and called it Nauvoo. Then we wound up our business and moved to Nauvoo and stopped in the house with the Prophet Joseph for several weeks. Then father bought land in the upper or northern part of Nauvoo at the steam boat landing at the upper stone house, and moved to that place about two miles from where Joseph lived.
I now come to that part of my story that you will be most likely interested in, which regards the doctrine taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith in regard to the plural marriage system. At first the doctrine was taught in private, the first I knew about it was in John Higbee’s family; he lived close to us and being well acquainted with him and family I discovered he had two wives. The next I noticed when in company with the young folks the girls were calling one another spirituals. Now the reason why the young folks was in advance of me, my work was in the machine shop 22 miles above Nauvoo where I spent nearly all my time. But when at Nauvoo in the winter of 1841 and 1842, I became fully initiated.
At this time I was ordained an elder and attached to one of the Quorums of Seventies and sent on a mission to the eastern states where I traveled and preached in company with Jedediah and Joshua Grant and in the time went to Kirtland, Ohio and spoke several times in the temple, leaving the Grant brothers in Virginia. From Kirtland in the spring of 1843 I went back to Nauvoo. I was on this mission thirteen months. Now although in my 20th year [I] would not be 20 until 29 November, 1843, I concluded to look about and try to pick up one or more of the young ladies before they were all gone. So I commenced keeping company with Flora Woodworth, daughter of Lucian Woodworth (called the Pagan Prophet).
I was walking along the street with Flora near the Prophet’s residence when he, Joseph, drove, up in his carriage, stopped and spoke to I and Flora and asked us to get in the carriage and ride with him. He opened the door for us and when we were seated opposite to him he told the driver to drive on. We went to the [Nauvoo] temple lot and many other places during the afternoon and then he drove to the Woodworth house and we got out and went in. After we got in the house Sister Woodworth took me in another room and told me that Flora was one of Joseph’s wives. I was aware or believed that Eliza R. Snow and the two Partridge girls were his wives but was not informed about Flora. But now Sister Woodworth gave me all the information necessary, so I knew Joseph believed and practiced polygamy.
Now while in the coach with Joseph he ask me a great many questions about my mission and about the other elders in my travels, more particular about the Grants and Apostle John E. Page. Page had charge of the Pennsylvania mission and I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with him part of the winter and with my father who was on a mission in New York State. While in conversation in the carriage I told the Prophet that a man by the name Brank was coming to Nauvoo. He looked troubled for a moment and said he had trouble enough with that man; Brank was an apostate. Then his countenance changed to one of inspiration and he said, “Orange, he will not come” and he never did come. That was a prophecy which seeing him and hearing the words I can never forget. It was proof to me that he was inspired.
Now as a matter of course I at once, after giving Flora a mild lecture, left her and looked for a companion in other places and where I could be more sure. I was now called on a mission to go up the river five or six hundred miles to make lumber for the Nauvoo house and temple. There was a number of families to go among which were one of the Bird family and the Hadfield family. Sister Bird wanted a girl to go with her as one of the family. I told her I knew of a girl that I thought I could induce to go. She was over in Iowa, across the river. I went over in a skiff, found the girl and she agreed to go at once. She was a daughter of Gideon Carter, that was killed in the Crooked River battle in Missouri. She had neither father or mother, so I thought maybe I had the right one this time.
We all boarded a steamboat and started for Black River, Wisconsin. Long before we reached our destination I got acquainted with the Hadfield family. There were two young girls. I had them away where I thought I could induce them to take up with me, now it remains to see how I succeeded. I at once commenced keeping company with Miss Sarah Hadfield and at the same time paid close attention to Miss Matilda Carter. Now it would be uninteresting to you to relate all the ups and downs I had in my courtship, so I will merely say I succeeded in marrying both of them, the other Miss Rosilla Carter I married some years afterward. All the foregoing is written to show or prove to you that plural marriage was practiced and taught by the Prophet and Apostles of that day.
In all of this time I did not hear President Brigham Young’s name mentioned in connection with plural marriage. The doctrine was taught me by other apostles, bishops and members of the church; Bishop George Miller, William Clayton, Davis Clayton, Bishop Isaac Higbee, John Higbee and others, also by Joseph Smith, the Prophet by President and Revelation. I think Brother Brigham Young was on a mission most of the time in the eastern country. He and Father were in Boston, Massachusetts when the Prophet and Patriarch was martyred. So you see President Young did not or was not the first to preach and practice plural marriage.
Now you can see from what I have written that I was with the Prophet Joseph Smith most of the time from the year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints was organized to the year of his martyrdom and can in good faith bear my testimony that he was a Prophet appointed to take charge of this dispensation and that he taught by inspiration and revelations direct from God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of the Father, the God of Israel. With me there is no hearsay, my information as you can see is direct. I have written all the foregoing to prove to you that I am warranted in bearing testimony of the truth of the gospel of this dispensation as taught by the Prophet Joseph. I will now say that I wish this writing kept for the benefit of your children, mine and the rising generation, that they may know and have a witness from one that has as near a perfect knowledge of the rise and progress of the church L.D.S. [Latter-day Saints], as any man (as I believe) now living in this the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 1903.
And I wish all to bear in mind that I have seen the majesty of the great Prophet under nearly all the circumstances of his persecution and the rest of the Saints that were with him.
Now from 1844 my writing will be on a different subject. I have the honor to address this to my friend and brother, Joseph I. Earl and my daughter, Harriet M. Earl Nee Wight.
Bunkerville, May 4, 1903 Orange L. Wight
I spoke in my last writing that when I wrote again it would be on a different subject. I will of course have to talk on some things that I have written and use some quotations from the Church Book and history. A number of persons have asked me to tell something about early times, which I have done to a small extent in the previous pages. Others have expressed a desire to know about our trip or mission to Texas, all of which I will try to touch upon before I am done.
In June 1831 many of the Saints moved from Kirtland to Jackson County, Missouri. My father, Lyman Wight, and Parley P. Pratt walked the entire distance, 800 miles, and preached by the way and organized a number of branches of the Church; hence added a great number to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mother, I and my two little sisters went by water most of the way, with other Saints. We went down the Ohio River from near Pittsburgh to the mouth of the Ohio and then up the Mississippi and Missouri to a landing called Yellowstone on a steam boat.
I don’t know whether I can describe the steamer correctly or not, but according to my best recollection it was a flat-bottomed arrangement with side wheels–something after the order of Fulton’s first effort–and a board shanty on it for cabin passengers. Mother was honored with a corner in the shanty; most of the rest of the Saints occupied the open decks without shelter. But we all got there without accident of any serious nature and in time to plant a garden which produced abundance by the time father and Parley P. Pratt got there.
Now comes a part of the story of our proceedings. The Saints began to come in from all quarters, held sensational meetings, became to some extent fanatical and argued they were the Lord’s favored people and the land was the Lord’s and it eventually would all belong to them. Now that exasperated the people and they were ready to add to what they heard, and all the efforts of those of the Saints–who could see the evil effects of the fanaticism–to reconcile the people of Jackson County proved in vain. Thus it went on from one thing to another until it ended in real persecution. After both parties became exasperated we, instead of making an effort to settle the difficulty by purchase, undertook to arbitrate it by force of arms; were conquered and driven from the county. Thus fulfilling the revelation, “If by purchase, behold you are blessed; but if by blood, lo, your enemies are upon you–and but few that stand to receive an inheritance.” D&C 63:30 and 31.
Now I can hardly blame the Saints for feeling like retaliating, but I do blame some of them for letting their anger get away with their better judgment and undertaking to regulate the citizens of Jackson County against the Lord’s advice. The anger was human which they should have put away and asked the Lord to guide them with His Holy Spirit. They should have left the business in the hands of God and tried to get what they could by purchase. After being conquered and driven from the county and Zion’s Camp had arrived, we undertook to purchase the lands, but it seems it was then too late, at least we could not make the deal. Now we were driven–I call it–or requested to make our place of gathering further north in the unsettled counties of Caldwell and Daviess Counties, Missouri. Although I have written something about our move to the above named counties I have not written all nor do I think I will in this. It is a matter of history about our trouble there very correctly written and fair as it goes–being in (1835-38), 12-15 years old I took part in the trouble in Missouri 1836-38 and in the winter of 1838-39. I was an eyewitness to nearly all that happened. It was different from the happenings in Jackson County. Here the mob commenced the trouble without cause or provocation by trying to prevent the Saints voting [Gallatin elections]. By the aid of some hickory clubs and canes cut from the crabapple trees the brethren succeeded in polling their votes. This exasperated the mob so that by the aid of plenty of bad whiskey they commenced destroying property–not right there but away and out of danger of the crabapple and hickory weapons that were welded in the hands of such men as John Buller, Jake Killian and others of like strength. They succeeded in driving several families to Diahman [Adam-ondi-Ahman], and spread reports throughout the county that the Mormons were destroying property, and doing all they could to raise an excitement both in Daviess and Caldwell Counties, and also in Ray County.
They succeeded to such an extent that caused many to leave their homes, and also caused the Haun’s Mill Massacre, beside abusing men and women wherever they could find them unprotected. Now when it came to my father, Colonel Lyman Wight, called on the militia to quell the disturbance and restore order; he did not call out the troops for one party or the other but to quiet the disturbance generally. But Colonel Wight being a Mormon, the mob took it for granted that he was on the Mormon’s side and tried to organize a party to oppose him. Now that was an illegal step for the Colonel was regular by elected and held a commission from the governor of the state.
The mob organized a company a few miles from Diahman and procured a cannon somewhere–I never knew where–an old iron piece about a six pounder. Father [Lyman Wight] sent one of the captains with a company to disperse them. When they found they were about to be attacked by the militia they buried the big gun and scattered corn over the ground so that the hogs would root over the ground and annihilate the scene. But one of the hogs rutted the ground off the muzzle of the gun. Some of the militia discovered it and in a short time exhumed the gun and appropriated a wagon and brought it to Diahman [Adam-ondi-Ahman] during the night and the next day the gun was mounted and placed on the hill near the temple lot and fired three times as a salute and to let the enemy know we had the gun and were ready for them.
Now the foregoing I have written simply to give my own version of the affair although it is quite correctly written in history, but being an eyewitness I thought you would likely like to have my version of the proceedings which led to general hostility and bad feelings between parties. Hence it went on from one thing to another until like all wars both civil and otherwise the soldiers became exasperated and began to appropriate and destroy property on both sides. And about this time Captain David Patten was sent with a company to disperse a company of mob that had gathered on Crook River by one Captain Bogart. Captain David Patten and Gideon Carter were killed; also several others were wounded, among which were Brother Hendricks and Arthur Millikin.
[Battle of Crooked River] In the action which occurred while trying to disperse the mob one of the mob was killed and some others slightly wounded. Now this gave the mob a chance to spread a report that the Mormons were attacking the citizens of Caldwell, Ray and Daviess Counties and killing the men and driving the women and children from their homes. As to the women and children they got frightened and ran from their homes without cause and to men being killed there was but one killed and that was in an action brought on by the mob firing on the troops that went there for the purpose of dispersing them in the interest of the majority of the people of the county and to restore peace, and if possible between parties.
But the mob didn’t wait to talk but fired on Brother Patten’s Company as soon as they came in sight, and the Mormons, as the mob called them, returned the fire in self-defense. The mob fled in almost every direction and seemed that every one of them had his own exaggerated story to tell. They also brought in and included all that the Saints were doing in Daviess County and other places, with the addition of much that the Mormons didn’t do, leaving out without mention what they done. The story multiplied as it traveled from one to another until by the time it got to the governor’s ears, a man not acquainted with the Saints would think the Mormons were the greatest desperadoes on earth.
Now when all these false reports got to the Governor [Lilburn] Boggs, he ordered out the Militia from various parts of the state and placed them under the command of Generals Clark and Doniphan with orders to drive the Mormons from the state or exterminate them. Now some of the foregoing is a matter of history but not all. At the time of the exterminating order and after we have a very correct history of the facts, I will now say something about our move to Texas.
Previous to the martyrdom of the great Prophet and Patriarch Joseph and Hyrum Smith, there were several parties sent to look for a location for the Church in case we were driven or forced by persecution to leave the state of Illinois. Father [Lyman Wight] was requested to take the company that were on Black River getting lumber for the Nauvoo House and temple–when we finished that business and go to Texas or somewhere in that country or to Mexico and look for a country beyond the bounds of the United States. Now Texas at that time was not a state nor a territory, but a province and had its own government. James Emmett was sent west across Iowa with a company and others were requested to look for a situation. Now the idea of the Prophet was to go to the Rocky Mountains and across to the other side if necessary.
Both our company and Emmett’s went on their journey to Salt Lake. Brother Emmett’s company disbanded before they reached the Rocky Mountains. Our company continued on in a south west direction until we eventually arrived in Texas, on the 5th of November in the year 1845. We continued on nearly south to the Colorado River four miles above the city of Austin, the capitol of the province of Texas. We remained there on the Pierdinales [?] River, at a place where we built large mills, both saw and grist mills and helped to outfit a number of companies going to California. While here we were visited by missionaries from the main body of the Church and informed that President Brigham Young was elected and sustained with his counselors as the Presiding Quorum of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
From this time on there was but little done towards looking for a suitable location to make a permanent settlement. We sold our mills and moved to Humetory [Humphrey ?] Creek near the Colorado River, built long large mills, both saw and grist mills on the above named creek, sold again and moved to the Nadina River, 40 miles west of the city of San Antonio. This was our last move as a company; my father died near this last named place in the year 1858. The company now broke up, divided the property and scattered, some went north to Winter Quarters and remained there and are there yet; others went to Utah and some stayed in Texas.
As to myself I had dissolved from the company two years and over before the death of father. I stayed about a year in Texas, wound up my business and then went north to Missouri State where my mother and sister had previously gone. From there we still went further north until we eventually stopped in Nebraska. My mother was very old and I found I could take care of her better than most of my brothers and sisters–they having large families and I, having lost by death my last wife, had only one daughter left to me, all the others being married now and gone. I and my daughter could keep a quiet house and have plenty of time to aid and give to mother the comforts she needed. Now I made it my duty and made up my mind to stay with my mother as long as she lived and done so, she lived until she was 88 years old. Mother was born in 1801, hence died in the year 1889.
Immediately after the death of mother I came to Utah with my daughter, who was now married, and stopped in Summit County over a year then came to Bunkerville, Nevada in the fall of 1891. I did some work here and returned to Summit County where I left my daughter and her husband. I then returned with my daughter and her husband to Bunkerville. I now at this time, October 1894, was rebaptized and confirmed a member of this branch. I was baptized by Joseph I. Earl and confirmed by Joseph I. Earl, Bishop Edward Bunker, Jr., and Edward Bunker, Sr., of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have made this place my home. I have a daughter, Harriet Earl-Nee Wight, living here who is a devoted Saint; for whom I have the greatest love and respect. Also four grandchildren, one granddaughter and three grandsons, inclusive. I have written all the foregoing from the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch in the year 1844 to show you what if anything I have been doing. I am well aware that I have not done much except to take care of my mother and bear testimony to the truth of the gospel and the divine mission of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. And I will here state that my father [Lyman Wight] preached the gospel and bore testimony that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, Seer and Revelator inspired of God, and was commissioned by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to take charge of this the last dispensation; also commissioned to ordain apostles, elders and all the other officers in the Church to preach the gospel in all the world and administer in the ordinances of the Church. Now I cannot say too much about my father as regards his belief in the work of Joseph, the Prophet, for it is a known fact that he joined the Church in the year 1830 and continued to preach and work for the Church until the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch.
Now to rehearse all that Lyman Wight done up to the time of his death would make a volume of quite large dimension. He died Wednesday, March 31, 1858 in Texas on a small river called the Rio Medio, halfway between Casterville and San Antonio (the name meaning halfway river in the Spanish language). Father was 62 years old when he died, being born in the year 1796, May 9, in Fairfield.
Now to give you an idea of his work, I will go back to the year 1830 when he became a member of the Church. Father [Lyman Wight] commenced preaching at once and organizing branches of the Church. He walked from Kirtland to Missouri preaching by the way, baptizing and ordaining officers of the branches that he organized. Thus on the mission he added a great many to the Church; I think I am warranted in saying several hundred. He arrived in Jackson County in the fall of 1831; worked among the brethren there and in the surrounding country and went on a mission to Cincinnati, Ohio about the last of the year 1831. Father raised up a large branch at Cincinnati, many of which came to Jackson County during the year 1832 and settled on the Big Blue River three miles west of Independence. Among those that came on were the Higbees; there was Judge Elias, Isaac and John Higbee. Isaac Higbee, after we came to Nauvoo, was ordained bishop of the Upper Ward at Nauvoo. It was Isaac and John Higbee that helped my mother and I all through the Missouri troubles and when we got to Quincy, Illinois, helped me to make a living for mother and now her five little children, of which I have written, while father was in prison in Missouri.
The Higbees that I have mentioned were all good men, at least I thought so. The apostate Higbees were the sons of Judge Elias Higbee. They commenced their career after their father’s death–which occurred late in 1842 or early in 1843. Their names were as follows, commencing with the oldest; Francis, Chansie, William, Jackson and Clinton; they with the Laws and Foster and others were responsible for the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch. I state these things as facts, being an eyewitness to their proceedings. Father [Lyman Wight] now stayed with the Saints until we were driven from Jackson County and assisted, as I have written, until he was called on a mission, January 1, 1834, to go on a special mission with Parley P. Pratt as messenger to Kirtland to report to the First Presidency and get their counsel.
Father returned to Clay County, Missouri, with Zion’s Camp of which we have a full history, hence I will pass on to other parts of father’s history. On July 3, 1834 the High Priests of Zion assembled in Clay County and organized a High Council of Twelve. Father was one of the members of that council so you see he stood high in the quorums even at that early day. Again on Thursday, November, 7, 1837 at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, a High Council was organized of which Lyman Wight was one of the members.
Again in 1839, October 19, Lyman Wight was appointed one of the counselors of John Smith, President of the High Council in Iowa at Nashville.
Thursday, April [8, 1841] Lyman Wight was chosen one of the Twelve Apostles to fill the vacancy caused by the martyrdom of Apostle David W. Patten, who was killed by the mob on Crooked River, Missouri. You can now see that father stood high in authority and membership from the beginning to the day of the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch. As to his other qualities as a citizen he also had a good reputation which is evidenced by his being elected colonel of the militia in Caldwell County, Missouri, by a large majority. And he was also elected judge of Gillespie County, Texas, and previous to this he was appointed by revelation one of the committee to collect means and build the Nauvoo House.
The reader may think that I exaggerate the qualities of my father, but I do not think so. Besides I think I have the best right to applaud the works of Lyman Wight of anybody living except one or more of the others of his children. As to my father’s excommunication from the church and maybe mine at the same time, I do not know enough about it to explain it; I did not belong to the company at the time nor had not belonged for several years. When father died I was living 40 miles from where he died and was notified at once and went to the place and assisted in the last rites and returned home. As I have said before, the company dissolved and divided the property. I got none of that dividend, not being considered one of the company. What the charges were against him or the rest of us I do not know unless it was for not being in unison with the Twelve Apostles or obedient to counsel. Not being present I cannot tell.
Along about this time I moved near 100 miles from the company, joined the Rangers (Texas Rangers) and again the U. S. Army and was sometimes near a thousand miles from the company in a westerly direction. When I returned from the service I took my family and went about 350 miles north. After about two and half years I returned to southern Texas, stayed there until after my mother with others went to Missouri State. In the meantime I went to California, was gone two years and came back from California to Missouri where my mother had stopped, sent for my family which was still in Texas, took charge of mother who lived with me most of the time until her death. And then as I have already written, came to Utah.
Now in all these ups and downs I have acknowledged the divine mission of Joseph the Prophet and principles of doctrine taught by him through revelation and other ways. Now I leave you to judge to what extent I was a prodigal. The only means I wasted was my time when I should have been at work for the benefit and furtherance of the work of this dispensation. But I have long since repented, or tried to, of the sin of idleness hence baptized and trying to live an exemplary life. I do not go to meeting much and my reason is I have become quite deaf and can’t hear what is said, but I do go sometimes and bear testimony, especially on each anniversary of the birth of the Prophet. At this writing I am quite feeble and write in rather an uncouth style, not being able to concentrate my mind on the subjects as I should do. But I wanted this my written statement in a shape that it could be copied and notes or statements added to or embodied in it, to suit the copyist so that the meaning and general sense of the subject is not changed.
I will now say something about my life in Bunkerville and also something in regard to my observations here and in other places in Utah. As to Bunkerville, I came here in November 1891. I came principally to see my daughter Harriet M. Earl (Nee-Wight) and her husband and children. Their names are respectfully, my son-in-law Wilbur B. Earl and my grandchildren: Joseph, Orange W., Orena and Silas Earl, all of which live in Bunkerville, Lincoln County, Nevada. Aside from seeing my family I went to work on a small grist mill as superintendent and worked until it was finished. Then went back to Summit County, Utah, and stayed there and in Uintah County in Vernal a little over a year and then came back to Bunkerville with my son-in-law Alma Crandel and my daughter Ada Crandel Nee-Wight.
While they were here in the fall of 1894 October, I was rebaptized. In the spring my daughter went back to Vernal, Utah at which place my daughter died. After doing some work here mechanically, I went to Vernal, stayed there and in Orangeville, Emery County, Beaver City, Cedar City, Utah and other places in all 15 months. All of this time brought me up to 1901, which time I have remained in Bunkerville up to the present time of A.D. 1904.
As to my observatory, I have seen a great deal of want of decorum in the towns I have visited in different parts of Utah and some of the towns of Nevada. Hence I feel like warning the young people of the Church, to desist from such indecorous and uncouth ways and look more to the interest of the work of this the last and closing dispensation of God’s work here on the earth. By doing so and studying the principles of the gospel they will be able to perform missions and convert many to the principles of the truth, instead of setting an example that will keep the honest in heart from investigating the true and everlasting gospel; hence instead of saving souls cause some to go to perdition.
Now I do not concentrate my remarks entirely on the young for I have seen much want of exemplary actions in the middle age and of older ones, and in this I do not shield myself for I can see much in myself that is not right, but hope to correct myself and follow the advice I am giving others. Who is better able to advise than one who has imbibed bad habits in my youth, and can see the evil of them in his age; hence all take warning and conduct yourselves in a way that will not only be an honor to you but to all connected with you. So when our work is done here below we will hear the words “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into My Kingdom.”
Would not them few words pay for all of our trouble in trying to do right? So let us concentrate our mind on right and expel any evil thought and in a little time we will have none but righteous thought then etiquette and decorum will follow, and we will have due respect shown to us by all classes of people who will feel that we are honored of God and all mankind.
I shall say but little more at present but expect if I live and God is willing, to write more in the near future. I will now subscribe this book to Joseph I. Earl, my friend and helper in my extreme age, and ask you my brother to look over all or any imperfections you may have seen in me, and I ask God to bless you and yours in the name of our Beloved Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen.
Orange L. Wight Bunkerville, Lincoln County, Nevada December 8th A.D. 1903
P.S. I also feel like mentioning Sister Mary M. Bunker and her entire family, all of which have extended aid to me in a substantial manner,
O. L. Wight
[Note: The original notebook containing this information was found recently in the St. George Temple and was given to Milton S. Earl, son of Joseph I. Earl. He requested that we type it. We have typed this as much as possible exactly as Brother Orange Wight wrote it. A few times the words were spelled as he had them and according to present day usage would be misspelled. Many of the words were written according to the sound and I would type them before I realized I should change them. We think this is a precious story of the Wight family’s sacrifices for the gospel and a heart warming testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. We hope you enjoy reading it as we have.
Winona Wittwer and Viola W. Squires Centerville, Utah October 26, 1966]