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To celebrate the study of the Doctrine & Covenants and Church History this year, Meridian is serializing The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.

To see the previous installment, click here.

To see all the installments, published in order, click here.

Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother—
Chapter 16
By Lucy Mack Smith

The Smiths move to Norwich, Vermont. Three successive years of crop failures. Removal of the Smith family to Palmyra, New York. They obtain one hundred acres of virgin land. Lucy goes to tea with neighbors in Palmyra. Record of Joseph Smith Sr.’s third and sixth visions: the vision of the beautiful garden with twelve wooden images; the vision of going to meeting on the Day of Judgment.

Spring 1814 to spring 1819

When health returned to us, it found us, as may well be supposed, in very low circumstances. Sickness, with all its attendant expenses of nurses, medical attendants, and other necessary articles, reduced us so that we were now compelled to make arrangements for going into some kind of business to provide for present wants, rather than future prospects, as we had previously contemplated.

My husband now determined to change his residence. Accordingly, we moved to Norwich in Vermont[1] and established ourselves on a farm belonging to Squire Moredock. The first year our crops failed, and we bought our bread with the proceeds of the orchard and our own industry. The second year they failed again. In the ensuing spring, Mr. Smith said that we would plant once more on this farm, and if he did not succeed better, we would go to New York, where the farmers raise wheat in abundance.[2]

This Norwich, Vermont home is the only New England house that remains where the Smiths lived. Don Carlos was born here.

This next year was like the preceding seasons. An untimely frost blighted the vegetation, and being the third year in succession in which the crops had failed, it well nigh produced a famine.[3] This was enough. My husband was now altogether decided upon going to New York. One day he came into the house and sat down, and after meditating some time, he said that could he so arrange his affairs, he would be glad to start soon for New York with one Mr. Howard, who was going to Palmyra. “But,” said he, “I cannot leave or you could not get along without me. Besides, I am owing some debts that I must pay.”

Both the home and the barn are original here in Norwich, Vermont. 1816 was called the “year without a summer.”

I told him I thought that he might call upon both his debtors and creditors and by so doing make an arrangement between them that would be satisfactory to all parties. As for the rest, I thought I could prepare myself and my family to follow him by the time he might be ready for us. He accordingly called upon all those with whom he had any dealings and settled up his accounts with them, but there were some who neglected to bring forward their books, consequently they were not balanced, or there were no entries made in them to show the settlement; but in cases of this kind he called witnesses that there might be evidence of the fact.

Having thus arranged his business, Mr. Smith set out for Palmyra, New York, with Mr. Howard. My sons Alvin and Hyrum followed their father with a heavy heart some distance. After the departure of my husband, we toiled faithfully until we considered that we were fully prepared to leave at a moment’s warning. We soon received a letter from Mr. Smith requesting us to make ourselves ready to take up a journey for Palmyra immediately. A messenger soon arrived with a conveyance for myself and my family.[4]

As we were starting out on this journey, several of those gentlemen who had withheld their books in the time of settlement now brought them forth and claimed the accounts which had been settled, and which they had, in the presence of witnesses, agreed to erase. We were all ready for the journey, and the teams were waiting on expense. Under these circumstances, I concluded it would be more to our advantage to pay their unjust claims than to hazard a lawsuit. Thus I was compelled to pay 150 dollars out of the means reserved for bearing our expenses in traveling. This I made shift to do and saved sixty or eighty dollars for the journey.[5]

A gentleman by the name of Flagg, a wealthy settler living in the town of Hanover, also a Mr. Howard, who resided in Norwich, were both acquainted with the circumstances mentioned above. They were very indignant at it and requested me to give them a sufficient time to get the witnesses together, and they would endeavor to recover that which had been taken from me by fraud. I told them I could not do so, for my husband had sent teams for me, which were on expense; moreover, there was an uncertainty in getting the money back again, and in case of failure, I should not be able to raise the means necessary to take the family where we contemplated moving.

They then proposed raising some money by subscription, saying, “We know the people feel as we do concerning this matter, and if you will receive it, we will make you a handsome present.” This I utterly refused. The idea of receiving assistance in such a way as this was indeed very repulsive to my feelings, and I rejected their offer.

We set out with Mr. Howard, a cousin of the gentleman who traveled to New York with Mr. Smith. I had prepared a great quantity of woolen clothing for my children; besides I had on hand a great deal of diaper and pulled cloth in the web. My mother was with me. She had been assisting in my preparations for traveling. She was now returning to her home in Royalton, where she resided until she died, which was two years afterwards, in consequence of an injury which she received by getting upset in a wagon while traveling with us.[6]

Near this spot in Royalton, Vermont, Lucy Mack Smith would say goodbye to her Mother, Lydia Gates Mack for the last time.

When we arrived there, I had a task to perform which was a severe trial to my feelings, one to which I shall ever look back with peculiar sensations that can never be obliterated. I was here to take leave of that pious and affectionate parent to whom I was indebted for all the religious instructions as well as most of the educational privileges which I had ever received. The parting hour came. My mother wept over me long and bitterly. She told me that it was not probable she should ever behold my face again. “But, my dear child,” said she, “I have lived long. My days are nearly all numbered. I must soon exchange the things of earth for another state of existence, where I hope to enjoy the society of the blessed. And now as my last admonition, I beseech you to continue faithful in the exercise of every religious duty to the end of your days, that I may have the pleasure of embracing you in another, fairer world above.”

This parting scene was at one Willard Pierce’s, a tavern keeper. From his house my mother went to Daniel Mack’s, with whom she afterwards lived until her decease.

After this I pursued my journey, but it was only a short time until I discovered that the man who drove the team in which we rode was an unprincipled, unfeeling wretch by the manner in which he handled my goods and money, as well as his treatment of my children, especially Joseph. This child was compelled by Mr. Howard to travel for miles at a time on foot, though he was still somewhat lame.[7] We bore patiently with repeated aggravations until we came twenty miles west of Utica, when one morning we were preparing as usual for starting on the day’s journey. My oldest son came to me and said, “Mother, Mr. Howard has thrown the goods out of the wagon and is about getting off with the team.” I told him to call the man in. I met him in the barroom, where there was a large company of travelers, both male and female, and I demanded his reason for such a procedure. He answered that the money which I had given him was all exhausted and he could go no farther.

I turned to those present and said, “Gentlemen and ladies, please give me your attention for a moment. Now, as there is a God in heaven, that wagon and horses, as well as the goods that accompany them, are mine. This man is determined to take away from me every means of proceeding on my journey, leaving me with eight little children, utterly destitute. But I forbid you, Mr. Howard, from driving one step with my wagon or horses. And here I declare that the teams, goods, and children, with myself, shall go together to my husband and their father. As for you, sir, I have no use for you, and you can ride or walk the rest of the way as you please; but I shall take charge of my own affairs.”[8] I then proceeded on my way, and in a short time I arrived in Palmyra with a small portion of my effects, my babes, and two cents in money, but perfectly happy in the society of my family.[9]

The joy I felt in throwing myself and my children upon the care and affection of a tender husband and father doubly paid me for all I had suffered. The children surrounded their father, clinging to his neck, covering his face with tears and kisses that were heartily reciprocated by him.

We all now sat down and maturely counseled together as to what course it was best to take, and how we should proceed to business in our then destitute circumstances. It was agreed by each one of us that it was most advisable to apply all our energies together and endeavor to obtain a piece of land, as this was then a new country and land was low, being in its rude state. But it was almost a time of famine. Wheat was $2.70 per bushel and other things in proportion. “How shall we,” said my husband, “be able to sustain ourselves and have anything left to buy land?” I had done considerable at painting oilcloth coverings for tables, stands, etc. Therefore, I concluded to set up a business, and if prospered, I would try to supply the wants of the family. In this I succeeded so well that it was not long until we not only had an abundance of good and wholesome provision, but I soon began to replenish my household furniture, a fine stock of which I had sacrificed entirely in moving.

My husband and our two oldest sons, Alvin and Hyrum, set themselves about raising the means of paying for one hundred acres of land for which Mr. Smith had contracted with a land agent. In one year’s time, we made nearly all of the first payment.[10] The agent advised us to build a log house on the land and commence clearing it. We did so, and it was not long until we had thirty acres ready for cultivation.[11]

This “snug little cabin” was placed on the north boundary of the Smith property. It measured 20 x 30 feet.

Now the second payment was coming due, and we had no means as yet of meeting it. Alvin accordingly proposed that his father should take the business at home in his entire charge, “whilst,” he said, “I will go abroad to see if I cannot make the second payment and the remainder of the first.” By my son’s persevering industry, he was able to return to us after much labor, suffering, and fatigue with the necessary amount of money for all except the last payment. In two years from the time we entered Palmyra, strangers, destitute of friends, home, or employment, we were able to settle ourselves upon our own land in a snug, comfortable though humble habitation, built and neatly finished by our own industry.[12]

If we might judge by any collateral manifestation, we had every reason to believe that we had many good and affectionate friends, for never have I seen more kindness or attention shown to any person or family than we received from those around us. Again we began to rejoice in our prosperity, and our hearts glowed with gratitude to God for the manifestations of his favor that surrounded us.

I shall change my theme for the present, but let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopped our labor. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation, but whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remember the service of and the welfare of our souls.

Permit me here to relate a little circumstance, by way of illustration, of a friend of mine having invited several of her associates to take tea with her one afternoon.[13] She also sent an urgent request for me to call on her with the rest. The ladies invited were some wealthy merchants’ wives and the minister’s lady. We spent the time quite pleasantly, each seeming to enjoy those reciprocal feelings which render the society of our friends delightful to us.

When tea was served up, we were proffering some good-natured remarks to each other when one lady observed, “Well, I declare, Mrs. Smith ought not to live in that log house of hers any longer. She deserves a better fate, and I say she must have a new house.”

“So she should,” said another, “for she is so kind to everyone. She ought to have the best of everything.”

“Ladies,” said I, “thank you for your compliments, but you are quite mistaken. I will show you that I am the wealthiest woman that sits at this table.”

“Well,” said they, “now make that appear.”

“Now mark,” I answered them. “I have never prayed for the riches of this world as perhaps you have, but I have always desired that God would enable me to use enough wisdom and forbearance in my family to set a good example before my children, whose lives I always besought the Lord to spare, as also to secure the confidence and affection of my husband. I have hoped that we, acting together in the education and instruction of our children, might in our old age reap the reward of circumspection and parental tenderness-that is, the pleasure of seeing our children signify their father’s name by an upright and honorable course of conduct in life.

“I have been gratified so far in all this, and though I have to this time suffered many disagreeable disappointments in life with regard to property, I now find myself as comfortably situated as any of you are. What we have has not been obtained at the expense or the comfort of any human being. We owe no man; we never distressed any man, which circumstance almost invariably attends the mercantile life, so I have no reason to envy those who are so engaged.”

To the minister’s lady, I said, “I ask you how many nights of the week you are kept awake with anxiety about your sons who are in habitual attendance on the grog shop and gambling house.” They all said, with a look that showed conviction, “Mrs. Smith, you have established the fact.”

Reader, I merely relate this that you may draw a moral therefrom that may be useful to you.

Massive sugar maples on the Smith Farm yielded their sap to be made into maple syrup.

In the spring after we moved onto the farm, we commenced making maple sugar, of which we averaged one thousand pounds per year. We then began to make preparations for building a house. The land agent of whom we purchased our farm was dead, and we could not make the last payment. We also planted a large orchard and made every possible preparation for ease when advanced age should deprive us of the ability to make those physical exertions of which we were then capable.

I shall now deviate a little from my subject, in order to relate another very singular dream which my husband had about this time, which is as follows:[14]

“I dreamed,” said he, “that I was traveling on foot, and I was very sick, and so lame I could hardly walk. My guide, as usual, attended me. Traveling some time together, I became so lame that I thought I could go no farther. I informed my guide of this and asked him what I should do. He told me to travel on till I came to a certain garden. So I arose and started for this garden. While on my way thither, I asked my guide how I should know the place. He said, ‘Proceed until you come to a very large gate; open this and you will see a garden, blooming with the most beautiful flowers that your eyes ever beheld, and there you shall be healed.’

“By limping along with great difficulty, I finally reached the gate; and, on entering it, I saw the before-mentioned garden, which was beautiful beyond description, being filled with the most delicate flowers of every kind and color. In the garden were walks about three and a half feet wide, which were set on both sides with marble stones. One of the walks ran from the gate through the center of the garden; and on each side of this was a very richly carved seat, and on each seat were placed six wooden images, each of which was the size of a very large man. When I came to the first image on the right side, it arose and bowed to me with much deference. I then turned to the one which sat opposite me, on the left side, and it arose and bowed to me in the same manner as the first. I continued turning, first to the right and then to the left, until the whole twelve had made their obeisance, after which I was entirely healed.

“I then asked my guide the meaning of all this, but I awoke before I received an answer.”

The scripture which saith, “Your old men shall dream dreams,”[15] was fulfilled in the case of my husband, for, about this time, he had another vision, which I shall here relate; this, with one more, is all of his that I shall obtrude upon the attention of my readers. He received two more visions, which would probably be somewhat interesting, but I cannot remember them distinctly enough to rehearse them in full.[16] The following, which was the sixth, ran thus:

“I thought I was walking alone; I was much fatigued, nevertheless, I continued traveling. It seemed to me that I was going to meeting, that it was the Day of Judgment, and that I was going to be judged.

“When I came in sight of the meetinghouse, I saw multitudes of people coming from every direction, and pressing with great anxiety towards the door of this great building; but I thought I should get there in time, hence there was no need of being in a hurry. But, on arriving at the door, I found it shut. I knocked for admission and was informed by the porter that I had come too late. I felt exceedingly troubled and prayed earnestly for admittance.

“Presently I found that my flesh was perishing. I continued to pray, still my flesh withered upon my bones. I was in a state of almost total despair, when the porter asked me if I had done all that was necessary in order to receive admission. I replied that I had done all that was in my power to do. ‘Then,’ observed the porter, ‘justice must be satisfied; after this, mercy hath her claims.’

“It then occurred to me to call upon God, in the name of his Son Jesus; and I cried out, in the agony of my soul, ‘Oh, Lord God, I beseech thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to forgive my sins.’ After which I felt considerably strengthened and I began to mend. The porter or angel then remarked that it was necessary to plead the merits of Jesus, for he was the advocate with the Father, and a Mediator between God and man.

“I was now made quite whole and the door was opened, but on entering, I awoke.”

The following spring,[17] we commenced making preparations for building another house, one that would be more comfortable for persons in advanced life.[18]

Notes

[1] This move was just across the Connecticut River into Vermont. It is between eight and nine miles from the cabin site in Lebanon to the home site in Norwich.

[2] “The Vermont newspapers advertised new land in the Genesee country [western New York] for $2 to $3 an acre” (Bushman, Beginnings, p. 41).

[3] The year 1816 was known in New England as “the year without a summer.” On June 8 that year, several inches of snow fell and ice formed on the ponds. Due to the crop failures, the next two years saw such a huge migration from Vermont, the state would not recover from the loss for a century. (See Bushman, Beginnings, p. 40.) This freakish weather is thought to have been caused by the huge volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia the previous year (see Bushman, Beginnings, p. 200).

[4] Don Carlos Smith was born to the Smith family March 25, 1816, at Norwich. This move from Norwich, Vermont, to Palmyra, New York, likely in November or December of 1816, was just over three hundred miles and would likely have taken the Smiths between eight and twelve days. Lucy now would move with eight children: Alvin, eighteen; Hyrum, sixteen; Sophronia, thirteen; Joseph, ten; Samuel, eight; William, five; Catharine, four; and Don Carlos, eight or nine months old.

[5] A family just ready to move was particularly vulnerable at the moment of taking leave. “Under ordinary circumstances creditors knew that the scarcity of money made collection impractical and waited patiently for credits to balance the account. Departure was, of course, the last opportunity to collect, and furthermore it was a time when the family, having sold all of its possessions to obtain cash for the trip, was most liquid.” (Bushman, Beginnings, p. 41.)

[6] From the writings of Joseph Smith Jr. we learn: “Although the snow was generally deep through the country during this journey, we performed the whole on wheels, except the first two days, when we were accompanied by my mother’s mother, Grandmother Lydia Mack, who was injured by the upsetting of the sleigh and, not wishing to accompany her friends west, tarried by the way with her friends in Vermont; and we soon after heard of her death, supposing that she never recovered from the injury received by the overturn of the sleigh” (Papers, p. 269). Lydia Gates Mack died in 1818 at the home of her son Daniel in Royalton, Vermont. Her husband, Solomon, spent his last days in Gilsum, New Hampshire, with Solomon Jr., and died in 1820.

[7] Joseph Smith Jr. describes the move: “We fell in with a family by the name of Gates, who were traveling west, and Howard drove me from the wagon and made me travel in my weak state through the snow forty miles per day for several days, during which time I suffered the most excruciating weariness and pain; and all this that Mr. Howard might enjoy the society of two of Mr. Gates’ daughters which he took on the wagon where I should have rode. And thus he continued to do day after day through the journey. And when my brothers remonstrated with Mr. Howard for his treatment to me, he would knock them down with the butt of his whip.” (Papers, p. 268.)

[8] Joseph Smith Jr. adds this commentary: “On our way from Utica I was left to ride on the last sleigh in the company (the Gates family were in sleighs), but when that came up, I was knocked down by the driver, one of Gates’ sons, and left to wallow in my blood until a stranger came along, picked me up, and carried me to the town of Palmyra” (Papers, pp. 268-69).

[9] Joseph Smith Jr. describes the last part of the journey: “Howard having spent all our funds, my mother was compelled to pay our landlords’ bills from Utica to Palmyra in bits of cloth, clothing, etc., the last payment being made with the drops [earrings] taken from sister Sophronia’s ears for that purpose” (Papers, p. 269). The distance from “twenty miles west of Utica” to Palmyra is approximately one hundred miles, about a three days’ journey.

[10] This would be the fall of 1817.

[11] . “When first purchased by Joseph Smith, Sr., and Alvin, the Smith farm, like much of the land in the area, was covered with a magnificent stand of hardwood forest. Many of the trees were from 350 to 400 years old. Maples, beech, hophornbeam, and wild cherry dominated, interspersed with ash, oak, hickory, and elm. This forest supported as many as 120 trees per acre, nearly all a foot or more in diameter. “Numerous trees in this ancient forest grew to tremendous size. . . . A few had diameters of 7 feet or more. . . . [Some] likely reached massive proportions of 9 to 10 feet in diameter. “The upper canopy of this forest . . . [reach[ed] heights of more than 100 feet.” (Donald L. Enders, “The Sacred Grove,” Ensign, April 1990, p. 16.)

[12] The Smiths could have moved into their twenty-by-thirty-foot “snug log house” by late fall of 1818.

[13] The following story was not printed in the 1853 version of Lucy Mack Smith’s history nor any succeeding versions. Surely Mother Smith wanted to draw the great contrast here between the kindnesses shown to her and her family before Joseph’s first vision and the mobocracy and hatred heaped upon them afterwards.

[14] This is Joseph Smith Sr.’s third recorded dream.

[15] Joel 2:28.

[16] Because Mother Smith did not record or could not remember her husband’s fourth and fifth dreams, they are lost to us.

[17] These contemplations began in the spring of 1819. Construction on this new and larger house would not begin until 1822.

[18] Joseph Smith Sr. was, by the summer of 1819, forty-eight years old, and Lucy was forty-four.