(1810-1886) Twin of Elijah Averett
By Charles Ray Averett, Jr., great grandson of Elisha Averett
Elisha Averett was one of the most spiritual and obedient children of our Heavenly Father. He was also a personal friend and an obedient servant of two of the Lord's choice prophets.
Born on 12 December 1810, Elisha was the 4th child and second twin born to John Averett and Jannett Hamilton Gill Averett. He was the twin brother of Elijah Averett. The two of them were close friends all their lives. The worked on many church projects.
John Averett was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, but moved to Barren County, Kentucky. In Barren County he met and married Jannett Hamilton Gill. After their daughter Mary was born, 28 Feb 1807 they moved to Maury County, Tennessee. In Maury County they had the following children: Jennett (20 Feb 1809); Elijah and Elisha (12 Dec 1810); Eliza (12 Jul 1814); Sarah (29 Oct 1816); Pyrenia (11 Feb 1819); John (15 Aug 1821); George Washington Gill (20 Jan 1824); and Patrick Gill (3 May 1827, who died the same day), and Alexander Murray (20 Aug 1828).
The family moved to Illinois. They lived in White County for a short time. Then they settled in Hamilton County in the fall of 1829. While here, both Elijah and Elisha joined the Mounted Volunteers of Illinois. They were called to active duty by the Governor of Illinois on 15 May 1832, to fight in the Black Hawk Campaign of 1832. Elisha was the Fifth of Captain in Ardin Biggerstaff's Company of the Third Regiment, First Brigade, Third Army. Elijah was a private in the same company. It's interesting to note that Robert Witt, the first husband of Dorcas Willis, was in the company of Captain James Hall, in the same Brigade. He was a 2nd Sergeant in rank. All three men were called to duty on the same day. They were discharged three months later on 13 Aug 1832. It's quite possible all three men knew each other since they all lived in the same county and served in the same Brigade. They lived only a few miles apart.
In the year 1835, two L.D.S. missionaries came to the Mayberry settlement on the North Fork of the Saline River, Illinois, where the Averetts were living. Elisha, most of his brothers and sisters, his parents, and several others of the community were baptized into the church on 6 June 1835.
In April of 1836, Elisha, Elijah,and their sisters Eliza, Jennet and her husband, Samuel Kelsey, and several friends and neighbors who had joined the Church migrated to Steer Creek, Caldwell, Missouri, near Far West. The following year Elisha's parents and others in his family moved to the same area. They rejoiced that they could help build up Zion.
One record states that this is where Elisha met Dorcas Willis Witt, the widow of Robert Witt. She was the mother of three children. Other records show Dorcas was the mother of five children. The last two children must have already died. Her fourth child, William is listed as dying in infancy. Her fifth child, Miles is listed with a date and place of birth, so he must have died prior to 1836.
Elisha served in the same regiment as Robert, and Dorcas lived a few miles from Elisha. They both joined the church at about the same time. They also moved to Caldwell County, Illinois, in the same company. It seems thatt Elisha must have known Robert and Dorcas. They were married in Caldwell County in 1838, about four years after Robert Witt's death. They lived there until the saints were driven from that state.
During the mobbings of the saints, Elisha and Elijah acted as "minute men" under the Prophet Joseph. Elisha was present at the time Governor Boggs read the proclamation, which said that the saints must leave the state of Missouri, or be exterminated from off the face of the earth.
On January 29, 1839, Elisha was one of approximately 176 men who covenanted with Brigham Young "to stand by and assist each other to the utmost of our abilities in removing from this state, and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy, till they shall be out of reach of the exterminating order of General Clark, acting for and in the name of the state." This document originated in Far West, Missouri.
Elisha and Dorcas settled in Nauvoo and belonged to the Nauvoo 2nd Ward. At about this time or a little before, Elisha suffered a severe head injury. He was hit in the head by a jagged stone thrown by a member of a mob while he was acting as bodyguard for the Prophet Joseph Smith. This happened in Missouri or Illinois. It is said the injury was so severe that a metal plate had to be put in his skull to preserve his life. Reports state that Joseph Smith was so grieved over the incident and so grateful to Elisha that he paid for the surgery.
There is no record that Elisha ever complained about his injury. In fact he was always very much involved in church activities most of his life. About the year 1885, when he was 75 years old, this injury took its toll. He gradually lost his mind. His family cared for him like a child until his death on 22 October 1890.
Nauvoo Events in Elisha's Life
The years in Nauvoo were very busy eventful days. There was much happiness and sorrow. William was born to Elisha and Dorcas on 31 July 1839, in Quincy, Adams, Illinois. He was born shortly before they settled in Nauvoo. Another child was born to them in Nauvoo, in 1841. All we know about her is that she died in infancy. She must not have lived long or was stillborn
According to the History of Illinois, in the section called "Nauvoo Township", p. 401, we Read: "As early as 1840, the first band was organized in Nauvoo with E.P. Duzette as chief of music. Levi W. Hancock was fife major. Later, this band with Elisha Averett as leader, became known as Averett's band…"
From the History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, we can read many bits of information about Elisha Averett:
"The Lesser Priesthood was organized in the City of Nauvoo, March 21, 1841... Elisha Averett was chosen president of Teachers, and James W. Huntsman and James Hendricks, counselors…"
"October 7, 1842 - This day the teachers met in Nauvoo, and organized into a quorum by appointing Elisha Averett, president; James Huntsman and Elijah Averett, counselors…"
On February 6, 1843, Dorcas Willis Witt Averett died in childbirth, along with a daughter. There is no record of this child or her name. She must have died soon after birth. This information comes from family tradition and from the Averett Family History, written by George Washington Gill Averett, brother to Elisha. Dorcas was buried in the "Old Mormon Cemetery," located in the Parley St. Cemetery, near Nauvoo.
On her headstone, which was probably engraved by Elisha, we read: "Sacred to the Memory of Dorcas - Consort of Elisha Averett, Died 6 Feb 1843 - age 33 years". This inscription was found in a book of graveyard inscriptions of the Nauvoo area.
"January 1844 - Elisha Averett was ordained to the office of High Priest, at Nauvoo, by Ezra Taft Benson and Isaac. Morley." He received a Patriarchal Blessing by John Smith, probably at Nauvoo, in 1844.
"28 June 1844 - Elisha Averett was appointed leader of the Nauvoo Legion band."
"7 October 1844 - Elisha Averett was sustained unanimously as president of the Teacher's Quorum.
Elisha was appointed chief mason on the Nauvoo Temple. (It’s cornerstone was laid 6 Apr 1841; it was dedicated 1 May 1846) His brothers Elijah, John, and Truman Leonard assisted him. This list of names appeared on December 31, 1844. It also listed the hands who worked on Elisha Averett's crane as John Harvey, Thomas M. Pearson, George M. Petter, and William L. Cutler.
Although a High Priest, Elisha was again sustained president of the Teacher's Quorum on April 7, 1845.
On December 13, 1845, Elisha was one of 25 males to be endowed in the Nauvoo Temple. On the 27th of December, he was engaged as the doorkeeper of the temple. That same evening, Joseph Smith relates that after the Twelve met in council, they selected 17 more persons who would be called upon to labor in the Temple the ensuing week. Elisha Averett was one of those men.
That month there was a party held in the temple. The party was probably held in a part that wasn't yet finished. Elisha Averett played the flute. Brother and Sister Kimball, Joseph Young, Erastus Snow, and Bishop Whitney were in attendance.
A dance was held later in the temple. Elisha Averett played the flute. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were in attendance and danced.
On January 19, 1846, Elisha married his stepdaughter, Sarah Jane Witt, in the Nauvoo Temple. Dorcas had been dead for almost three years. Sarah Jane was now almost 15. Evidently it was thought by both of them to be old enough to become a wife and mother. She had been helping her older sister take care of young William and their older brother. Both Elisha and Sarah Jane had taken out their endowments in December. Sarah Jane took her endowments out six days after Elisha had. Elisha had Dorcas sealed to him the same day and they did ordinations for other members of their family.
In the Nauvoo Temple records, we find that Elisha and some of his brothers and sisters were sealed to Brigham Young. His work has been re-done, sealing them to their own parents.
At this time there were great troubles for the Saints. A great exodus out of Nauvoo began. Elisha’s knowledge of building was called on again, but not to build a temple. The temple was completed after most of the Saints had departed. It was dedicated privately under the direction of Wilford Woodruff the night of April 30, 1846. The next day it was dedicated publicly, which proved to the world that the predictions of false prophets and the threats of the mobs that the building should never be completed or dedicated…had fallen to the ground." (Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, p. 247)
After completing his assigned tasks on the Nauvoo Temple, Elisha received many new and important tasks from Brigham Young and the other church leaders helping to prepare for the exodus to the Rocky Mountains
Preparation for the Exodus to the Rockies
"14 March- 1846 Camp at Richardson's Point, Missouri. Elijah Averett reported that he had been west about twenty five miles. He reported other companies ahead, including Elisha Averett's."
"27 March 1846 - President Young, Elders Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, and others left headquarters on the Chariton River in carriages and or horseback. After passing through one mud hole about six miles in length they arrived at Captain Elisha Averett's tent and assembled in council at the tent of George A. Smith. Father John Smith, Elisha Averett, Elijah Averett, and others met in council. Parley P. Pratt reported that his division of the camp had purchased about one hundred bushels of corn at twenty-five cents. Brigham Young counseled them not to pay more than twenty cents."
When it was decided that the Saints would leave Nauvoo, about twenty-five men were selected by the general council and called to be captains of hundreds. Their business was to select one hundred families and see that they were prepared for a journey across the Rocky Mountains. Afterwards the captains of hundreds selected their own captains of fifties, tens, and clerks, etc.
"28 March 1846 - Captain Elisha Averett with his company of pioneers and others built a bridge sixty feet long over Shoal Creek."
"30 March 1846 - Elisha Averett met in the main camp on Chariton River with President BrighamYoung and others. President Young selected eighteen of the guards and also Elisha Averett and a company of the pioneers to be attached to, and encamp nearby the first division of fifty. The council voted that Brother Elisha and Elijah Averett, with two companies of pioneers should proceed on to Locust Creek. They needed to proceed to complete the job contracted by A.A. Lathrop. The job was to make four thousand rails at fifty cents per hundred, one half cash, the other half in ox bells, and to build a bridge over the creek for the benefit of the camp.
After having been detained at the camp on Chariton River for ten days due to incessant storms, President Young and the brethren decided, on April l, 1846 that the time had arrived to move forward again. The first and fourth fifties commenced moving about 9:00 a.m. President Brigham Young and the historian,Willard Richards were among the last that left the ground. After traveling six miles they crossed the bridge over the east fork of Shoal Creek. Captain Averett’s company built the bridge where they found Benjamin F. Johnson and company. The companies passed on about one mile and camped on a rise in the prairie. They camped in central Iowa.
"13 April 1846 - A letter was written to Elisha Averett and John S. Gleason, instructing them not to build the bridge over the west fork of Locust Creek, but to complete their other contracts, then pass on to Miller's Mill (now Council Bluffs) on the Grand River. They then were to take jobs of work where they could get meal and flour in exchange for labor. Then they were to leave as much corn as they could spare on Locust Creek.
In May 1846, Elisha and Elijah must have received instructions to go to Missouri to work, in order to get supplies for the Saints. We read in The History of Brigham Young: "2 May 1846 - Captain Elisha Averett reported that the feelings of the Missourians were softened toward the Saints, and that he and Brother Elijah and their company of about thirty men had received about one hundred dollars worth of grain and bacon in exchange for clearing land and building two barns."
4 May 1846 - The council wrote to Captain Elisha Averett and pioneers, advising them to return to the camp in Garden Grove and assist to put in crops. "Do for the best, but hasten to help us with the crops, for on this depends the salvation of this people, temporally and spiritually. Such are the whisperings of the spirit to me." (The History of Brigham Young)
The Mormon Battalion
In June 1846, the U.S. Government sent representatives to the Mormon people, asking for their assistance in the war against Mexico. On July 1, 1846, Captain James Allen from Fort Leavenworth, arrived in Council Bluffs. He met with President Brigham Young and members of the Council to make known to them the request of the federal government. The Mormon Battalion was formed. Elisha Averett volunteered and became a member of the Battalion. He was a Musician of Company A.
It is interesting to note that William Bailey Maxwell was a private in Company D. Years later Maxwell's granddaughter (Laura Anis Maxwell) would become the wife of Elisha's son (James Lafayette Averett).
Elisha marched on foot from Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Southern California. Then they went on up through California, across to Fort Hall, Idaho and on to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Then they went back to the Missouri River and to Iowa, where he had-left his family. This was a trip was about five thousand miles in one season. He returned very destitute for clothing and provisions. He walked in cold winter weather with nothing but moccasins for shoes, when he returned to his family.
The following excerpts on the Mormon Battalion were written and researched by Brion Zion. It has been included for those who might not know what the Mormon Battalion was.
"Circular to the Mormons"
(Presented by Brigham Young and Captain James Allen on July 1, 1846 at Council Bluffs, Iowa)
"I have come among you, instructed by Col. S.F. Kearney of the U.S. Army, now commanding the Army of the West, to visit the Mormon camp, and to accept the service for twelve months of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged. "They will receive pay rations, and other allowances, such as other volunteers or regular soldiers receive, from the day they shall be mustered into the service. They will be entitled to all comforts and benefits of regular soldiers of the army. When discharged as contemplated, at California, they will be given gratis their arms and accoutrements for which they will be fully equipped at Fort Leavenworth. This is offered to the Mormon people now. This is an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States, and this advanced party can thus pave the way and look out for the land for their brethren to come after them. "Those of the Mormons who are desirous of serving their country, on the conditions here enumerated, are requested to meet me without delay at their principal camp at Council Bluffs, whither I am going to consult with their principal men, and to receive and organize the force contemplated to be raised. "I will receive all healthy, able-bodied men from eighteen to forty-five years of age."
J. Allen, Captain 1st Dragoons
On July 13, 1846, Jefferson Hunt called out the first company of volunteers. Brigham Young then chose the officers for each of the companies. At 6 p.m. a farewell party was given for the volunteers.
On July 16, four companies gathered to hear the last instructions from Brigham Young and others in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church. On the 17th, more volunteers were called to fill the Fifth Company of the Battalion. On the 18th, Brigham Young met with the officers and instructed them to be as fathers to their men and to remind them to pray always. He promised the men that if they were faithful in their duties not one of them would fall in battle with the enemy, and that their only battles would be with wild beasts.
On July 21, 1846, the Mormon Battalion began the longest infantry march in history to the tune, "The Girl I Left Behind Me."
"The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defense of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion. - Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
While Elisha was away he was greeted by a new daughter, Dorcas. She was born 14 December 1846. The Elisha Averett’s stayed in Iowa until about 1849. Their son, Elisha, was also born in Pottowattamie County, Iowa, on 20 December 1848. They migrated to the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived there sometime before October 1850, when their daughter Sarah Jane, was born in Salt Lake City.
The following is part of the history of Elisha Averett as written by Mary Ann Price Chai:
"Orson Hyde called Elisha to move to Dixie and settle, and the family answered the call. While there, he helped to erect many buildings for public use and with his twin brother was a mason on the St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples. They were also instrumental in the building of Cove Fort, Kanab Fort, Dixie Cotton Factory Windsor Castle in Pipe Springs, Arizona, Heber Tabernacle, and many other public buildings. It was said of the Averett twins that when they had a hand in building anything, it was well built. As a public service for the communities in which they resided, Elisha, Elijah, and George furnished the caskets for all their fellow townsmen free of cost."
The births of Elisha and Sarah Jane's children show that they moved around a lot. Most of their moves were as a result of church assignments. Dorcas and Elisha (Jr.) were born in Pottowattamie County, Iowa. Sarah Jane, Cizza Ann, John Harvey, and Elijah were born in Salt Lake City; Emily in Manti; George in Salt Lake City. Robert Wesley was born in Heber City; James Lafayette, Lucy Lavina, Jannette Eliza, and Byron were born in Washington. They moved back to Heber City sometime after Byron was born. It was here in Heber City that his beloved wife, Sarah Jane died on 31 December 1875 while giving birth to her 14th child, David. David followed her in death on 4 January 1876.
Not long after burying his wife in Heber City, Elisha, now 65, "continued to work as a 'building missionary' for the church. He went wherever he was called to use his special talents in the Lord's vineyard. " He lived in Kanab for some time, and finally settled in Glendale, Kane, Utah. After his mind began failing at the age of 75, he lived with his daughter Dorcas Averett Clark, assisted by his son, George. He died on 22 October 1890, at the age of 80. His youngest child, Byron, was now 19.
Mrs. Chai says that she well remembers a remark made by her grandfather, Byron about his father: "My father, Elisha loved the Prophet Joseph with his whole being. There was nothing that he would not have done for him, even to the laying down of his life. I never saw him speak of the Prophet without tears coming into his eyes. He considered it a privilege to have been able to associate with him. This love was not only for the prophet, but for the kingdom of God. He left his life as a testimony of his faith."
George Averett, Elisha's eighth child by Sarah Jane, stated that, "Elisha, besides being a personal friend of Joseph Smith, was also a body guard for the Prophet." He also stated "that he moved to Glendale and helped provide a home for his father, his younger sister, Jannette, a-Lid Byron, his youngest brother."
Following is a copy of a newspaper article of the Deseret Evening News, November 5, 1890:
VETERAN LAID TO REST
Elisha Averett, of Glendale, Utah, died in this place Wednesday, October 22nd, after a protracted illness. Old age and the hardships that he had been subjected to in consequence of being numbered with the Saints in their early days superinduced the illness. He was born in Tennessee in the year 1810. He joined the Church and shared in its persecutions. He volunteered as one of the Mormon Battalion, served in the same. He was honorably discharged in California and returned to his family in Iowa. From there he emigrated with his family to Utah, and lived in Salt Lake City until 1862, when he was called to Dixie. He settled in Washington where he lived until he was called to work on the Provo factory. From there he returned to the South and worked two years on the St. George Temple. He then moved to Kane County and resided there with his children until his death. The funeral services were held in the meeting house. Bishop R.J. Cutler and James Loinhead were the speakers. These brethren, had a long acquaintance with Brother Averett. They knew him when he used to play in the martial band in Nauvoo. They bore testimony to his unwavering faith in the Gospel and the implicity confidence and love he had for the Prophet Joseph Smith as also for President Young. He would haved have been willing to lay down his life for them, had it been required. Peace to his remains.
Respectfully, James W. Watson, Glendale, Kane Co. October 24, 1890
The following sources of information have been used to write this history of Elisha Averett:
1. History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 3, p.251, 253; Vol 4, p. 312, 354; Vol. 3, p. 169; Vol. 7, p. 13D , 298, 253, 545, 554, 555, 557, 564, 570.
2. Averett Family History, by George Washington Gill Averett, printed August 1953, by Robert E. Duff.
3. "Highlights of Elisha Averett's Life" by Mary Ann Price Chai, submitted to the Mormon Battalion. Visitor's Center, San Diego, California.
4. A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War 1846-1847, by Sergeant Daniel Tyler, printed in 1881.
5. "Biography of George Averett" by Myrl and Georgenia Averett.
6. History of Illinois, "Nauvoo Township", p. 401.
7. Black Hawk Campaign of 1832 (State of Illinois), p. 278, 280, 273, 274.
8. Headstone inscription from the Parley St. Cemetery (the Old Mormon Cemetery), Nauvoo.
9. Exodus to Greatness, by Preston Nibley - Deseret News Press, 1947.
10. "History of Elijah Averett" - Averett Lines and Related Families, by Christine Shumway Soloman Walser, 1974, p. 13-15
11. Copy of original Patriarchal Blessing given to Elisha Averett, by Evan M. Greene, Escalante, Utah, January 27, 1888
12. Deseret Evening News, November 5, 1390
13. The newspaper Wasp, of Nauvoo, Illinois, dated February 1843, found by Eugene F. Shurts, of Morton, Illinois.
This information was collected and compiled, and this history of Elisha Averett was written by Charles Ray Averett, Jr., son of Charles Ray Averett, son of James Lafayette Averett, son of Elisha Averett, March 1989.