Written by Harriet Jane Lamb Stradling, great granddaughter
Born: 1801, Rowe, Franklin Co., Massachusetts
Died: April 14, 1874 Cedar City, Utah
Arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sept. 10, 1850 with the Thomas Johnson Camp.
Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont. Abel Lamb was not yet five years old. Abel had begun his earthly mission eighty miles away, just over the state line in Rowe, Franklin County, and Massachusetts. Joseph and Abel did not meet until young manhood.
At the age of twenty-five Abel married a Connecticut girl by the name of Almira Merrill. She was nineteen years old when they were married. He chose school teaching as his profession.
Meanwhile, the Smith family had moved to New York State, where fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith had his first vision. Also where subsequent events relative to the restoration of the Gospel took place. Under divine command, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was organized in 1830. The Church met the same fierce persecution as was showered upon the early Christians.
Abel Lamb was destined to put within reach of his posterity the greatest of all blessings. The greatest blessings were those of the true church, doing so soon after its restoration to earth. Joseph Smith Sr., the father of the Prophet, baptized him in 1833, in Lake Concison, New York. Ezra D. Landon confirmed him. His church membership meant parting with relatives. He joined in the series of Westward moves, necessitated by mob violence, which carried the Saints to the Mountains.
He and Almira had six sons and a daughter by 1836. At that time they left Lavonia, New York for Kirtland, Ohio. Here, the Saints were completing a temple, which was reared under incredible difficult circumstances. The members of the church were few in numbers, penniless, and constantly harassed by their enemies.
Abel was privileged to attend important meetings in this holy house. Don Carlos Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph, ordained him a High Priest.
In 1837 sorrow came to the family. Abel and Almira’s daughter Sarah died. She was buried in Lavonia.
In the year1838 the Lambs were living at the Diahmon (Adom-ondi-Ahman) settlement in Davies County, Missouri. At Diahmon settlement another daughter, Almyra, came to bless their home. During this same year they were driven by mobs to Far West. At Far West there where many perilous events that took place. They then went on to find temporary refuge in Quincy, Illinois. Quincy is where their nine-year-old child named Omer died.
Abel was called on a mission, which meant moving twenty miles east to Columbus, Ohio. In Columbus Abel organized a branch of the church, which consisted of one hundred and twenty-five members.
Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, and Almon W. Babbitt were sent as a committee to organize the stakes between Nauvoo, Ill. and Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph Smith records in church History for October 1840:
Tuesday 27--The committee organized a stake called Mount Hope at the steam Mills in Columbus, Adams County. The President and counselors were Abel Lamb, Sherman Gilbert, and John Smith. The Bishop and Counselors were Daniel A. Miller, Isaac Clark, and John Allen. Simeon J. Comfort was the ward clerk. As Stake President, Abel performed the Marriage ceremony for the above Simeon J. Comfont and Susan Wimmer.
Five boys were born to Abel and Almira between 1840 and 1845: Abel Jr., Aeneas, Levi, John, and William Miller. Only the latter children lived to be more than three years old. Four little mounds in Adams County, Ohio mark the resting-place of the other children
In February 1846, the main body of the church was driven by the guns and firebrands of the mob. They were driven from the United States into Iowa. Iowa was just a territory then. Ordinarily, the mighty Mississippi River would have barred the path of their wagons, but once again the Lord delivered them from their enemies. That night, it is said the surface of the mile-wide Father of waters froze solid at this place, which formed a miraculous roadway for the wagons of the refugees.
After the last of the Mormons left a Federal, Colonel Thomas Kane, who came through Iowa to Nauvoo in the autumn of the year said, "My eye wearied to see, everywhere, sordid, vagabond, and idle settlers; and a county marred without being improved by their careless hand."
"I am descending the last hillside upon my journey, when a landscape in delightful contrast broke upon my view. Half encircled by a bend of the river, a beautiful city lay glittering in the fresh morning sun. Its bright new dwellings set in cool green gardens that ranged up around a stately dome-shaped hill, which was crowned by a noble marble edifice. The edifice had a high tapering spire, which was radiant with white and gold. The city appeared to cover several miles. Beyond the city background, there rolled off a fair country, which was checkered by the carefulness of fruitful husbandry. The unmistakable marks of industry, enterprise, education, and wealth made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty."
"I saw no one…The town lay as in a dream...empty work-shops and smithies…In the gardens, marigolds, heart's lease, and ladyslippers tall, heavy-headed dahlias and love-apples... the fruited boughs of a young orchard had been roughly torn down. Fields upon fields of heavy-headed yellow grain lay rotting ungathered upon the ground. No one was at hand to take in their rich harvest. As far as the eye could see they stretched away…"
"In and around the splendid Temple...armed men were barracked...more or less under the influence of ardent spirits .... They told me the story of the Dead City. They said that it had been a notable manufacturing and commercial mart, sheldering over 20,000 persons. They had waged war with its inhabitants for several years and .... finally successful .... they drove them forth at the point of the sword...They boasted greatly of the prowess..."
The City was Nauvoo, Illinois. The Mormons were the owners of that city and the smiling country around. Those who had stopped their ploughs, silenced their hammers, axes, shuttles, and workshop wheels ... those who had put out their fires, who had eaten their food, spoiled their orchards, and trampled underfoot the thousands of acres of unharvested bread; these were the keepers of their dwellings, the carousers in their temple. Those whose drunken riot, insulted the ears of the dying.
The Mormons in Nauvoo and its dependencies had been numbered the year before at over 20,000. Where were they? They had been last seen carrying in mournful trains of their sick and wounded, halt and blind, to disappear behind the western horizon while pursuing the phantom of another home. Hardly anything else was known of them. People asked with curiosity what had been their fate and their fortunes.
They were homeless. Their prophet was slain. They faced hunger, cold, hardships, and privation. Of the entire population of Nauvoo, only a disgruntled or wavering few left the Church to escape persecution. By 1850, there were11,380 people who reached Utah. There were 7,828 at Kanesville, Iowa who were making preparations to start for the Valley. Others were temporarily settled at Mount Pisgah, Garden Grove, and St. Louis.
Soon new converts from all nations swelled the stream of this "greatest migration in History." One hundred thousand Saints crossed half of the American continent on foot, horseback, handcart, and ox-wagon before the coming of the railroad to Utah in 1869.
Soon after their expulsion from the United States, the government sent a request for five hundred volunteers to help fight the war with Mexico. Lisbon Lamb, the oldest son of Abel marched away with this Mormon Battalion. He left his folks to work their way on to Council Bluffs, where they stayed until 1848. They strived to earn the means to outfit them for the journey to Utah.
They went next to Kanesville, Iowa where Abel set up a bakery. He sold bread, cake, pies, and crackers. With the help of his sons he was able to earn enough money by the spring of 1850 to leave with the Johnson Company of pioneers on the great trek of Israel to the West.
Week after week, mile after weary mile, through sand, mud, cold, heat, storms, and dust they went. When the company reached Independence Rock in Wyoming, Almira gave birth to a daughter, Zerusah. Such things as the birth of a child could not halt the company for a rest, because food supplies and the limited season of good weather determined the travel schedule.
The most difficult terrain was ahead. The wagons passing through Devil’s Gate, jolted down the long steep slope from Fort Bridger. They went up and down the precipitous canyons of the Rockies to the final descending slope where they could see the Great Basin with its blue salt sea to the west.
At first, the Lamb’s lived on Emigration Street in a house belonging to John Lot. Later, they built a home in Twelfth Ward. The house had one log room with two windows that had greased paper panes. Three chairs had been brought with them. They made a pine table to complete the furnishings. Cooking was done at the fireplace.
Abel had learned the cooper’s trade and brought tools along. He set up a shop on the East Side of main, between First and Second Street. His sons went into business with him. The first year they made beef barrel’s, hooping with strong willows called hoop poles, which were split and circled around to hold the staves in place. To advertise their product they ricked a pyramid of barrels by the road.
In a beautiful canyon in the Wasatch Mountains they found the timber necessary to their work. Abel and his sons made the first road into this area, which is still known as Lamb’s Canyon. It is famous for its scenic beauty. During the long remembered famine, the family lived up there. They subsist on sego lily roots, pigweed, beet greens, and a little flour at times.
When Johnston’s Army made the evacuation of the Salt Lake City area necessary, Abel remarked that he had been driven from his home so many times that it seemed perfectly natural.
Abel had a shop in the city just below where the bank now stands on South Temple Street. He also had a shop in Farmington. Brigham Young remarked that the Lamb boys were the most obedient in Salt Lake, and that he could always depend on them to do anything he asked. When they lived in Virgin and Brigham visited that town, he saw the barrels wrecked by the road and said, "There are the Lamb boys!"
Almira’s life was spent in service to her family. Her hours of toil were long and hard. For sometime after they first arrived in the Valley they had only one set of clothes for each person. So, this faithful mother washed and dried them on "wash day" while the others were asleep. Out of fourteen of her children, seven were born under conditions of danger or hardship. Seven were buried in their childhood. William, who was the youngest son, was accidentally shot at the age of eighteen. This last tragedy broke Almira’s health. She was not well from then until the day of her death. Truly, she exemplified the noble pioneer woman whom we owe so much to. She was a woman willing to sacrifice her all for the sake of the Gospel.
After Almira’s death, Abel married Elizabeth Esnuff. They had two daughters, Eva and Elizabeth. Eva Lillian died young, and Elizabeth who moved to Montana after she marriage. Marie Peterson Sanberg worked for them at the time of his wife’s death. He later married her and five children were blessed to this union.
In 1872 Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and George Q. Cannon ordained Abel a Patriarch. His health broke and for a time he lived with his sons Edwin and Brigham in Dixie. His wife ran a bakery. Later, they moved to a little home of their own in Cedar City. In Cedar City Abel’s wife and girls continued in the bakery business.
In April of 1874 a telegram called Edwin and Brigham to the side of their dying father. Abel said, "Boys, I have never given you a blessing and I am too weak to give it to you now, but I say to you Mormonism is true and God will bless you. Do right and you will be blessed. Do as you are told and all will be well. Have my daughter Almyra finish her mother’s work, it is her place."
At Abel’s funeral services, conducted by Bishop Hunt, the choir sang, "Come, Come Ye Saints," and "Oh my Father." The Prayer was given by John Chatterly. Twelve wagon loads of relatives and friends went to the cemetery. John Higbee dedicated the grave. Abel’s mortal remains lie in a beautiful spot under a marker erected by his relatives.
Down through the generation has come the tradition that the Lambs were gentle people. It was said of Abel that "he was a Lamb by name and a Lamb by nature, but he was also resolute and courageous, for he accepted the Gospel in a day of persecution and remained faithful to the truth, turning aside for neither dull duty nor sharp danger----."