By Elijah Averett with additional history by his son, Murray Averett
My father, John Averett, was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. From there he moved to one of the Carolinas, and from there to Barren County, Kentucky. In Barren County he married my mother, Jennet Gill, and moved to Maury County, Tennessee. In the fall of 1829, he moved from Tennessee to Hamilton County, Illinois, and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From Illinois he moved to Caldwell County, Missouri. He was in the persecutions and mob troubles of Far West, Missouri. He was driven with other Saints to Illinois. He settled in Pike County and lived there until he died on April 19, 1847. My mother died on November 20, 1855.
I, Elijah Averett, was born December 12, 1810, with my twin brother, Elisha, in Maury County, Tennessee. We lived there until the fall of 1829, when we moved with our father to Hamilton County, Illinois. There, I met and married Cherrizade Grimes, February 9, 1830. In 1832 I volunteered as a soldier, and went to the Black Hawk War in Captain Biggeerstaff’s Company, Major Skeleton Battalion, and General Pasey’s Brigade. My brother, Elisha, and I were out 3 months and returned home on June 15, 1835. About that time Elisha Groves and Issac Higbee came along and preached Mormonism to us. All of my folks and myself joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints.
In the year 1836 my brother Elisha went to Far West, Missouri. That same year I moved William Rice, and Milton Homes to Salt River in Knox Co., Missouri and returned. In 1837, we moved to Far West, Missouri, and settled on Steer Creek. We lived there until the Saints were driven out. I went with the rest of the Saints to Illinois.
In August 1838, trouble commenced at Gallatin, Missouri on an Election Day. The non-members of the Mormon Church tried to keep the members of the church from voting and began to beat one of the brethren. From that time on, the mobbing began and it was mob after mob.
On July 4, 1838, the foundation of the Far West Temple was laid by Brother Joseph Smith and his council. My brother Elisha, Demick Huntington, and Cornelius Lot quarried rock for the Temple. Elisha, being Chief Mason, laid the foundation that day.
Elder Sidney Rigdon made an inflammatory speech against the mob, which caused a great deal of persecution. It enraged the mob so much that they began all kinds of depredations. It began in Daviess County, and they started driving our families out. We headed to Di-Ahman, thus named by Brother Joseph Smith.
(The following is an account of Elijah & Elisha Averett during the time of the mob attacks on Far West & Adam-ondi-Aham, Missouri. It is included because it gives a more detail account of Elijah and Elisha's involvement in the protection of the Saints. It is taken from the James Rollins Autobiography, BYU Special Collections, researcher Georgenia Stewart).
"About this time it seemed that something must be done to protect Adam-ondi-Ahman, the brethren, Joseph and Hyrum. David Patten's hundred men had equipped themselves at Far West for Adam-ondi-Ahman. But before starting for Di-Ahman, 10 young men were chosen and were well equipped. Their names are as follows: Jess E. Hunder, Darwin Chase, Chauncey L. Higbee, Joel Miles, Elisha and Elijah Everett (twins) Frank Higbee, James H. Rollins, Benson Williams Durith and sometimes Ira Miles were with us. We were taken by the Prophet and his brother to the west side of Adam-ondi-Ahman. They there gave us instructions and orders which were to go to Millport as speedily as possible, to see if the mob were there in force, as had been reported. But the mob had heard of our coming and had left with a cannon which they had threatened to blow up Adam-ondi-Ahman with. We saw no one as we entered Millport, but a woman sticking her head out of a window. On returning toward Di-Ahman, we met several men going to Millport armed with a hundred rounds of ammunition on each man. We did not harm them. We learned that the mob had left Millport with the cannon and was making their stop at the Methodist Campground, 25 miles distance. We returned and reported what we had seen and done. Then Joseph and Hyrum and David Patten's hundred traveled swiftly through their campground where we found the cannon in a very mysterious way. It was buried near the house and was discovered by Stephen Hale. The butt of the cannon had been uncovered by an old sow rooting the dirt away. Our men hunted under the house for balls and powder. We found sacks of powder there and also a cart to carry the cannon. It was taken to Di-Ahman the same day that we left Di-Ahman in the morning." From the autobiography of James Rollins.
We now return to Elijah’s writing: About this time, General Doniphan came to quell the mob, but his breast-works were made out of wagons and other stuff. We had about 30 men and boys altogether. The mob imagined that they saw a great host of men, and retreated back across Young Creek. We lay behind our breastworks that night on guard. I had a shake of the Ague, and that night had a high fever. I lay between two haystacks all night. I shall never forget that night. Elise Williams crept down in the brush near the enemy and would shoot off his gun. At the soldier camp they would shout "Parade, Parade", and thus he tormented them all night.
In a day or so, our commanding officer Hinkle, held council with General Clark and his officers. They commanded three thousand or more soldiers. Hinkle promised the General and his men that if they would spare him, he would deliver up Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and all the leading men of the town. Hinkle told Brother Joseph that General Clark wanted to hold council with the presiding members of the church and if he refused we would all be exterminated, men, women, and children. So, the Presidency went out to hold council. But, instead of protecting them and holding council, the brethren were surrounded by a large force of armed men and taken as prisoners of war. Brother Joseph and twenty-six others were taken and hurried off to jail at Richmond at the point of bayonets. The decree of General Clark was that us Mormon’s had to lay down our arms, deed over our property, and leave the state or be exterminated. We also should not expect too ever see our leaders again. Their doom was sealed, and their dye was cast. General Doniphan said he would have nothing to do with it. He considered it as cold -blooded murder, and his hands were clear of their blood. We were called together and surrounded by a large force of ruffians, swearing they would blow our brains out "You God Damn Dannites". But the Lord delivered us out of their hands. Finally we were permitted to go around town. While we were in Far West, under guard, the mob were killing men, ravishing women, and stealing anything they wanted. I had about two hundred bushels of corn, which they had stolen and fed to their horses. Hundreds of others were served in like manner. We had to deed over our property, in order to defray the expenses of the mob army.
Some 3 or 4 days after we had laid down our arms, my name was called to go to jail at Richmond, but I had gone out home as I still had the ague. While at home, the mob would be around to see if we had any more guns, or anything else they wanted. They insulted women as they went. When my name was called, Brother Alexander Williams hurried out to my place and told me what was up. I had two good animals. We mounted them, and rode 15 miles. We hid up on a creek called Poor Tom at Brother Henderson's.
I stayed there about 3 weeks. Brother Williams would come around every few days to see how I was. The mob was after him all the time. I had sent my horse’s home so that the brethren could rig up my wagon and send my family to me with the calculation for us to go to Illinois. We started out and got to Haun’s Mill where the massacre took place. My horses, being bare-footed, could not pull the wagon up the hill. So I turned the team around and told my wife I was going home. If I died let me die. We got home all right. Times were better as the mob and soldiers had left to hunt for men to send to jail. They were after Brother Jesse D. Hunter. He was told to take his family and go on a mission to Illinois, along with Brother Louis Hunter. Brother Hunter had no team, so I took him and his family to Illinois to stay with his wife's father. I started back home and when I got to the Mississippi River it was frozen over. I lay at Brother Park’s home there for nine days. Finally, the river thawed enough for me to cross, and I started home. About halfway home, I met my brother, Elisha Averett, and many other brethren. They were going all the way home to Illinois. About 20 miles from home, I met my father and mother with their family going to Illinois. When I got home the neighbors had all left for Illinois, as Brother Joseph Smith had counseled them to leave. They had all left my settlement. I had no money to bear my expenses. I had two cows, one ewe, and one lamb left, which the mob had not stolen. I hardly knew what to do, but I knew I had to leave. Finally in a day or two there came along this Region that there had been so much fuss about, a rank mobocrat seeking what he could find. He offered me seven dollars for my ewe, and lamb.
By this time, the mob had taken Brother Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith and others to Liberty Jail in Independence, Missouri. There they wanted to kill them but the Lord would not let them.
As soon as I sold my sheep I started to move. I had a good team and it was not long before I overtook my father and brother-in-law, Samuel Alexander Kelsey. It finally commenced raining, blowing, and snowing. The mud came up to the axle in places. My wife, Cherrizade, waded through the mud up to her knees, while driving my two cows. We thought that the next day it would freeze, and be very cold. Finally we got to Illinois without suffering death. We crossed the Mississippi River at Hannibal, and went from there to Payson. There we stopped with a man named Rollins. I stayed there two weeks. We then went to Hamilton County and stayed there about three years.
What I have written is only a beginning of what the mob did and what the Saints had to suffer. The Missouri mob kept the brethren in jail at Liberty, but the Lord delivered them from the hands of the mob. They took Brother Joseph to Daviess County and the sheriff there let him go. He made his way to Quincy, Illinois and joined the Saints.
I had a good team and loaned them to two of my neighbors. One morning I saw one of them coming to my house. He came to tell me that the mare he had borrowed had broken her thigh. While talking to him, the other neighbor came and told me that the other mare had broken the spine of her back. I was left afoot, without a team, three hundred miles from Nauvoo. I saw it was for my good, so I determined that if I got another chance I would not let it slip. In about a year I got a team and rolled out for Nauvoo. I got there on training day of the Nauvoo Legion. The first year I farmed. Finally, the mob began their depredations, and we had to guard the city, the Temple, and brothers Joseph Smith, and Hyrum Smith. I went to work on the Temple and turned my team and wagon in for tithing.
While working on the Temple, we had to stand guard every night, every other night, or every third night at least. My brother, Elisha Averett, helped lay the foundation of the Temple and stood guard too. He and brother Plarer were the two main masons and both worked on it until it was finished. I worked on it about a year and a half. In 1842, the mobs from Illinois and Missouri got after Brother Joseph Smith. He would have to hide up from time to time. Posse after posse came after Joseph. Finally, Wilson from Missouri got Joseph, and took him up to Di-Ahmon and around. He tried to get him to Missouri, so they could murder him. The Lord delivered him through his Saints. He came to Nauvoo and got a writ of Habeas Corpus, and stood his trial. He came clear. The mob never let up until they got the Governor and militia of Illinois to come to Nauvoo, and disorganize the Nauvoo Legion. They took our arms away so that we couldn’t do anything. Joseph and Hyrum Smith gave themselves up to the Governor under the honor and pledge of the State of Illinois, and went to Carthage jail. While in jail on the 27th of June, l844, at about 5 o'clock in the evening, a mob of about 200 men armed and pointed black rushed the jail like demons. The shot through the jail door, killing Hyrum Smith. Joseph Smith jumped out of the window and was shot and killed. Each of them had four bullet holes in them. Brother John Taylor was shot four times, but escaped with his life. Brother Richards escaped without getting shot. The governor had gone across the Illinois River to Nauvoo, while the mob was killing these men in cold blood. As soon as he heard the news of their death he recrossed the river. The men were brought back to Nauvoo and buried.
After the death of Joseph, the mob was after Brother Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles. The work on the temple went on, but we still had to guard the Temple, our property, and ourselves. I stood guard, more or less for three years. I belonged to the New Police for 18 months. I still worked on the Temple until the stone work was done. I then worked on the roof until the framework was done. Later, I worked some on the Nauvoo House.
Finally the Temple was finished, so that the Saints could get their endowments. The Twelve Apostles went to give endowments, Brigham Young at the head, with Brother Kimball and brother Richards. My brother Elisha and I got our endowments the third day, and went to work in the Temple. My brother was doorkeeper, and I worked in the women's room for a while.
Before all the Saints could get their endowments, the mob got so hostile that the Twelve Apostles thought it best to leave for the mountains, where Joseph Smith had told them to go. The mountains was where Jospeh, and Hyrum were going if a few cowards would have let them. He had a company picked out to go with him; my brother was one of them that were picked. The brethren were across the river at the time Governor Ford came to Nauvoo, but Joseph's wife and some others thought they would all die if he did not come back. So, they returned and gave themselves up. Brother Joseph said; "I go as a lamb to slaughter, but I am as calm as a summer morning."
Brother Brigham Young told Brother Steven Markham to organize some pioneer companies which was done. John Gleason was captain of the first fifty and Elisha Averett of the second fifty. I was captain of the first ten. I was told to take my ten on the 8th day of ?, and ferry the brethren across the Mississippi River. I did this until President Young came to cross, and he told me to go with him, which I did. We camped at Sugar Creek. When most of the people had crossed the river, he organized the camp. I was appointed captain of the third fifty of the pioneers.
Brother Brigham called on Charles Shumway, and myself to go back to Nauvoo with him on business. We crossed the Mississippi River on the ice. Before returning from Nauvoo, we went to the Temple to get the brethren to leave there. We returned to camp before the start to the mountains. The President called on some men to go on ahead and work for provisions, make bridges, and hunt camping places. My brother and I were two of them that went. We rolled out with part of our companies and split rails, got corn and bacon for the camp, and made bridges so the camp could cross the streams and washes. There was a great deal of rain, and the creeks were very high. The camp went around the head of Grand River. We went across to Grand River, working for provisions for the camp and ourselves. We settled at the mill. Adam Black came to our camp very friendly. I went from there, to the camp at the head of Grand River. I stayed there for a few days. It rained every day. Brother Brigham let me have a horse so that I could go and get my family, which I had left behind in Nauvoo. I left Garden Grove with a sick horse on my way to Nauvoo. On the way I met Brother John Taylor. He laid hands on my horse and blessed him and he got well. We traveled together until I met my family. Brother James Rollins was bringing folks, so I turned back with my family and started for camp. They had left Garden Grove and went to Pisgah, Iowa.
I got with my brother again, and with the old pioneer wagon, we went ahead to the Papillion Springs across from the Missouri River. While at Papillion Springs, the Presidency was called upon by the U.S. Government for five hundred men to go to California to fight the Mexicans. Brothers Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball went back on the road and raised the 500 men. They organized them and sent them to Levenworth under their several captains: brothers Hunt, Hunter, and Davis. At this place Brother Holman and I were called upon to go to the Horn River and take our companies to build bridges across the river. With Brother Pack and his company, we built eight abutments nine feet high, and were called back to Cutler's Park. There I was taken sick and laid for nine months, five of the months I had to be fed. The camp moved to Winter Quarters, now called Florence, on the Missouri River. While I was there, I went back to Pisgah, and moved brother Jeremiah Robey to the Bluffs. Winter Quarters was a very sickly place. Many died with the Black Leg and other diseases.
On the 14th of January 1847, President Young had a revelation for the camp to go to the mountains, which they found in the Salt Lake Valley. The pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on the 24th of July 1847. The President returned with a part of his company and left a part in the valley. When he got back, he organized the companies, and they commenced moving to the mountains. While the camp was at Winter Quarters, I had moved to Honey Creek, across the river. There I built a house for my family. At the request of President Brigham Young, Elijah Averett drove the yoke of oxen, which brought the prophets wife, Mary Ann Angell Young, across the plains in 1848. Along with Allen Taylor, captain of the hundred, John Harvey, captain of the first fifty, and David Comes, captain of the second fifty, we crossed the Horn River. We also finished organizing the companies and rolled out for the mountains. We crossed the plains without any particular accident. We saw a great many buffalo. I went to the head of Sweet Water. There, the President lost a great many cattle. He let me have a wagon, and two yoke of steers.
I started back for my family with the company of Brother John Taylor, and fifteen or twenty others. We got home all right. The next spring, Brother George A. Smith started with his company. To help, I let my brother George Washington Gill Averett have one yoke of my cattle. I stayed until the next spring. George was captain of a hundred. In the spring of 1851, Brothers Hyde, and James Allred Sr. organized a company. Brother Aaron Johnson was captain of the hundred; I was captain of the first fifty, and Mathew Caldwell of the second fifty. After we were organized, Captain Blair and his company of gentiles joined my company. We totaled 84 wagons in all. We crossed the Missouri River and struck out for the mountains. We traveled on until we crossed a little river by the name of Salt River. Here, if I recollect right, the Cholera struck our camp. I lost 17 persons in my company. I had a touch of it myself. We traveled on and kept above for Carney (Fort Kerney).
We felt that the Cholera ought to stop. So brothers Johnson, Hunt, Hill, and I went out in the prairie and prayed that the Lord would stop the cholera. We had a testimony that it would stop. Johnson, Hunt, and Hill heard a stamping in the grass nearby but nothing was to be seen. We never had another case of cholera in our company. We saw a great many gentile graves on the road. The Cholera had slain them terribly. There were wagons, tires, clothing, guns, bedding, boots, and shoes scattered along the road. We got along very well. One buffalo ran through our camp. The dogs caught him, and the boys shot him. It rained pretty hard on us. While crossing the North Platt some of our wagons swam, but we got across all right. After this, one young man got lost one night and part of two days, but he came to camp all right. Nothing else happened, that I recollect worth mentioning. I only lost two heads of cattle in my company.
When we arrived at Salt Lake City, my company was disbanded and went wherever they wanted to. I was counseled by President Brigham Young to go to Sanpete County, Utah, where father Isaac Morley lived. I did so and in about a year I was appointed magistrate for Manti, Utah. About the same time, I was ordained a High Councilor by the authorities of the L.D.S Church, and served in the High Council. I lived in Manti for fourteen years, laying stone as a mason and farming. I did this during the Walker Indian War.
After Fort Ephriam, Utah was settled, I was called to go there as President of the Stake. I went and served there over a year, resigned, and went back to Manti. Finally we got a charter for a city council in Manti, and I was elected one of the City Council.
I was First Lieutenant in Captain ?'s Company No. at the time the Johnson's Army came to Utah. I sent a wagon and three horses to Salt Lake City. I got the wagon and two of the horses back, but never got the other one back. At the time of the move south, my brother, Elisha, moved to Manti. He stayed there until the Church moved back, and he moved back to Salt Lake City. At the time of the Indian outbreak, we built a stone wall around the city of Manti. I was superintendent of that work.
When the President sent a big immigration to Dixie, Washington County, Utah, I was one of them to go. I sold out, or rather gave my property away. Still I had a good outfit so I went. I bought a house and a farm in Washington and began to raise cotton. Then a big flood came and washed away seven acres of my farm. (The following account of Elijah's call to Dixie is found in Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 15, p.447. Preceding the October conference of 1861, articles appeared in the Deseret News telling of the possibilities of Utah's Dixie and encouraging all Saints who could do so to move in that direction. October 6th a list of three hundred and nine names, all heads of families, was read from the stand during Conference with the announcement that each had been selected to go south on a cotton mission. This mission assignment was for two years to raise cotton and other semi-tropical plants. Elijah Averett Jr. said his father, Elijah Averett, came home weary from a hard day's work in the fields and when he was told that he was called to Dixie he dropped into a chair saying, "I'll be damned if I'll go." After sitting a few minutes with his head in his hands he stood up, stretched and said, "Well if we are going to Dixie, we had better start to get ready.)
The following is by Murray Averett, son of Elijah Averett.
Elijah Averett lived in Washington for a number of years, during the time of the Piaute Indian outbreak. Elijah Averett was sent with one of the expeditions that were sent out against the Indians. His oldest son, Elijah Averett Jr. also went. Before they started out James Andrus had told the boys not to dismount while they were after the Indians. When the expedition came to a sandy hill, near Cannonville, Utah, near the head of the Pyrea Creek, the boys dismounted and walked up the hill. Averett was in the lead, and as he reached the crest of the hill, an Indian shot him. The rest of the boys became frightened and ran. One of them stopped behind a cedar tree not very far away and watched the proceedings. Elijah Jr. was the only wounded and soon sat up. Then two Indians came up to him and one the Indians took an arrow in his hand, and placed the spiked end at the top of Elijah's shoulder and pushed it down into his heart. Several days later, the whites came back and buried him, his hat over his face being his only covering except the ground.
While living in Washington, Elijah Averett was called to go to Salt Lake City and work on the Temple. He left part of his family in Provo, Utah while he was working. He worked on the Temple for a year or two, I am not certain just how long. Then President Young asked him to go south and build the fort at Pipe Springs. His brother, Elisha, was working there when Father (Elijah) came, but soon left and Father had to finish the Fort. He finished it in the spring of 1872. In April of 1872 they moved to Kanab, Utah.
When he first arrived at Kanab, all or nearly all of the people were living in a fort built on the bank of Kanab Creek. He lived in the fort until he could build a house up to what later became the town. He took up 160 acres of land on what was known as the Square Hole Bottom, which was south of the town a mile or two. The brethren thought he was taking rather too much land and he gave them eighty acres of it. He had previously given President Brigham Young a Soldier Script for 80 acres of land, which was given to him when he returned from the Black Hawk War.
He was acquainted with most of the men that were in the Mountain Meadow Massacre, and two of them lived in Kanab: George Adair, and Nephi Johnson. The massacre took place while Elijah was living at Manti.
While living in Kanab, President Young visited. He and Bishop Levi Stewart walked down to Father's house. Then the three of them went up to the Bishop's. Father farmed some, worked at the mason trade, and made tombstones while at Kanab. A number of rock houses that he built are still standing at this time. (December, 1927)
Father got together a small herd of cattle, 15 or 20 head, and turned them out on the public range. It was in the days when Tom Emmett, Wilf Holliday, Tom Turley, Ed Torrents, and others were stealing so many cattle. So he lost all of his cattle with the exception of one cow. It was found after he had moved to Springerville, Arizona. His son-in-law, Alonzo Lafayette Stewart sent him the money for her. His oldest living son, Elisha Averett, moved out to Springerville, Arizona, and gave rather favorable accounts of that part of the country.
While father lived in Kanab, there were two or three attempts and trials at United Orders. He joined in the first, which lasted only a short time. The following ones he did not join. Bishop Levi Stewart was at the head of one United Order, and John R. Young of the other. They were both running at the same time.
( This is an account of the Indian uprisings that occurred during 1865-1866. It is included because Elijah Averett Jr. was killed on an Indian expedition. Source: Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 16, p.292. During the terrible days of the Black Hawk War the towns of southern Utah suffered from Indian raids. Their cattle were being stolen, colonists killed and villages burned. The haunts of these Indians in eastern Utah where the Grand and Green rivers meet, history says, is one of the wildest parts of America. In the summer of 1866, an expedition under Captain James Andrus of Saint George, was conducted into this unexplored region with the determination to bring the Indians to peace. Levi Edgar Young in "Founding of Utah" says that for adventure and bravery this expedition has rarely been equaled in the annals of our western history. Lemuel Hardison Redd was an officer under Captain Andrus' command in this expedition. They followed Indian trails into remote parts that are still unknown. The command was waylaid by Indians. Elijah Averett Jr. was killed and others wounded. I wonder if our appreciation measures equal to the sacrifices and hardships endured to make our homes and our lives safe and happy).
After hearing the glowing accounts of Arizona from travelers and receiving letters from his son Elisha and his wife, Elijah decided to move out to Springerville, Arizona. He made a trade with John Stewart and was going to let him have his house and lot, but mother (Johanna) made such objection that he gave up going for a while. After a year mother gave her consent and he sold his place in Kanab to Alonzo Lafayette Stewart, his son-in-law. He left for Arizona on Oct 1, 1882. On the Little Colorado River we caught up with a train of 20 wagons with immigrants from Utah. All of the immigrants were going to find a place for a home. We went on to Springerville, Arizona, where Elisha, Sarah Ann, and her husband, Mormon Alma Shumway lived. Father bought a house and a lot in town. We lived there throughout the winter and sent the children to school.
In 1883 he bought a farm and gave $1,000 for it. The first year on the farm he raised over 100 bushels of wheat. The next season we lost some of our land that was taken by a surveyor. It was the best land in the valley. Father never did recover from the loss of the land. We lived on the farm the balance of our stay in Springerville. Father took sick with Choliria Marbis in August 1886 and died on Sept 1, 1886. His funeral was held at our house. Many people attended the funeral. At that time his funeral was the only Mormon funeral ever attended by Mexicans. He was buried in the Mormon burying ground south of town.