A special conference was held June 10-14, 1859, at Amboy, Illinois. On June 11, William Marks was recognized as a member of the church by virtue of his original baptism. He had been a high priest in the early church and was so recognized in the Reorganization. Brother Marks was immediately appointed on a committee to publish a hymnbook. This conference is also noteworthy because a letter was here presented from a man named Isaac Sheen, an old-time member of the church who had been engaged during the "dark and cloudy day" in the publication of an antislavery paper and in the activities of the Underground Railway in Ohio. Brother Sheen was considered a writer of parts, and he often contributed to the better-known magazines. He wished to know all the particulars about the organization, and W. W. Blair was appointed to reply.
The fall conference was held in the grain barn of Israel Rogers in Kendall County, Illinois, commencing October 6. Brother Rogers did stalwart service during these years, for he was a man of some substance and utterly devoted to the work of the church. He was born April 4, 1818, in Renssalaer County, New York. In 1840, while working on the Black River Canal in Booneville, New York, he overheard some of his fellow workmen talking of the restoration of the gospel. He investigated, and after a few sermons became convinced and was baptized by Elder Joseph Robertson.
In 1841 he had come west with his branch from New York, intending to go to Nauvoo, but something impressed him to stop at or near Sandwich, Illinois, in DeKalb County, where he bought and improved a good farm. He prospered financially, and after the death of Joseph, his hospitable home became the stopping place for missionaries of all factions. All were entertained, fed, and given shelter, but Rogers refused to unite with any until about 1850. Hearing that William Smith was preaching in Amboy, claiming to be guardian until Young Joseph came of age, he went there, and fellowshiped with him. He was ordained his counselor, but very soon became dissatisfied and retired to the operation of his farm. "These were dark days," he says. In 1859, E. C. Briggs, and W. W. Blair came to his farm. He received them at first rather coolly, but his wife1 became greatly interested. He soon was won to the cause in spite of himself.
In the fall of 1859 at the conference held in Rogers' grain barn, the entire conference membership was fed and entertained by Brother and Sister Rogers.2
Another prominent old-time Latter Day Saint who joined the church sometime during this period was James Blakeslee, an eminent preacher and proselytizer of the early days. He was born at Milton, Chittenden County, Vermont, July 18, 1802, and was baptized on July 19, 1833, by D. W. Patten at Ellisburgh, Jefferson County, New York. Joseph Smith (the third Joseph Smith) said, "As a preacher Elder Blakeslee had few equals and fewer superiors, and for the steadiness of purpose with which he preached and the integrity of his testimony he has never been surpassed." He had been an untiring missionary throughout his entire life. He also was connected with other factions, those of Rigdon and Strang, but found there only disappointment, although while with them he traveled and preached as he had previously done. Once in 1847 he had written: "I have traveled and preached most of my time for the last fourteen years, and now I am so poor as to this world's goods, and my children so far in the rear in their education, that I am under the necessity of staying at home and laboring with all my might to feed, clothe, and educate them, and this with my own hands, and which I am willing to do."
Less than three months after, he was in the missionary field again, preaching to large congregations with his usual zeal. We first find mention of his name in connection with the Re-organized Church at the Conference of 1858.
The letter which the conference of the preceding June had requested Brother Blair to write to Isaac Sheen must have produced satisfactory results, for at this conference he entered heartily into the work of the church, notwithstanding the fact that the church he had known in Nauvoo had numbered thousands and this little group could now be comfortably seated in a grain barn.
There are some men to whom publication and printing are almost second nature. Such a man was Isaac Sheen, and he immediately began urging the church to publish a paper. He felt that in no other way could the mission of Young Joseph--as yet unconnected with the church--be made known far and wide.
Among the humble group in the barn that day were men who had managed their own affairs with superior business ability, men who had moved ever so cautiously during the whole process of reorganization. They did not intend to hasten rashly into any losing venture, so the motion by which the first church paper entered the world was conservatively worded, "Resolved that this church publish a monthly church paper and continue it for six months." With Sheen as sole editor, The True Latter Day Saints' Herald was first issued from Cincinnati, Ohio, January, 1860, and succeeded beyond the highest hopes of even the sanguine Isaac Sheen. The first numbers had to be reprinted as time went on to supply the demand.
The Saints' Herald is still the official paper of the church, as it has been for over ninety years.
The little paper in its early years was a harbinger of hope to many an old-time Saint who had become disheartened and dis-couraged in the dark days following the death of Joseph. The price of the Herald was one dollar, and the postage upon it in that early time was six cents outside the State of Ohio, and three cents in the State.
In March, 1863, the Plant was moved to Plano, Illinois; from there in November, 1881, to Lamoni, Iowa; and from Lamoni to its present location in Independence, Missouri, in May, 1921.
This little paper was indeed as Charles Derry once termed it, "The Herald of a coming day."
1 Mahala Salisbury.
2 "My mind is turned back twenty-two years when my house would have held the whole church and more. I could feed the whole, and took pleasure in doing so, and that feeling has not gone from me yet."--Israel Rogers, Saints' Herald, Volume 29, page 130.