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December 4, 1934

The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith (1832-1914)

Edited by his daughter, Mary Audentia Smith Anderson

Chapter 2 continued--

Some of the older scholars and young men—the Clawsons, Kimballs, Hibbards, Cutlers, and a number of others—were quite proficient in the histrionic art, and entertainments of that character were encouraged and frequently enjoyed by the school. In these efforts Hiram B. Clawson was a leader, and perhaps the best of the dramatic players. He afterwards became associated with a theater in Salt Lake City which he managed for a great many years. Though I knew him well up to the time he left Nauvoo I have never met him in any of my several visits to the West. I understood that his brother John died not many years after they left Illinois.

There also attended this school the children of the Widow Sherman. Their names were Susan, Alma, and Seth. All these individuals are brought to mind by events which occurred afterwards and may be related later on.

There was a great accession in numbers of scholars in the fall and Teacher Monroe organized spelling classes which were known by numerals. I had been spelling in Class Number One when because of sickness I had to be away from school for a time. When I returned and the call was made for Class Number One to line up, I started from my seat to take my place as before. Teacher Monroe stopped me and said I did not belong in that class any more for he had reorganized it while I was gone. I asked why I had been excluded, and he replied it was because I was too small. I asked him if spelling went by size, and he answered, "Well, no—not exactly, but I have arranged that class for the larger pupils."

I was persistent and said, "Teacher, you know I can spell as well as Loren Walker, Henry Coltrin"—and I named several others; "I don't think it is fair to keep me out because I am smaller if I can spell as well."

He finally conceded that if I would get a Walker's Dictionary and study it I might spell with the larger class and I was jubilant. I knew right where I could get one for I had seen it in Father's library—a small book some four by five inches square, and perhaps an inch and a quarter thick.

Thus I was again enrolled in Class Number One. Perhaps the second or third Friday thereafter, when the class was ranged up to spell down there were several who seemed to be pretty evenly

President Joseph Smith as he appeared at the Maysville, Missouri reunion. W. H. Worden who furnishes the picture, believes it was taken about forty years ago.

matched. After exhausting the words in the spelling book Teacher Monroe gave out some from the dictionary, and still made no impression upon the number standing together. At last he gave out the word "cholagogue," before which they went down—one, two, three or more —until a good many had tried and missed. It came to me and I spelled it correctly.

Surprised, Teacher Monroe blurted out, "Why! Where did you ever find that word?"

"Why, on the end of Robinson's Row, in an advertisement of an ague cure," I replied.

Sure enough, the advrtisement was indeed there, in plain sight, and the word printed in large letters easily to be seen by any who passed up or down Main Street and took the pains to notice it. Mr. Monroe asked how many of them had ever seen it, and scarcely one could remember whether he had or not. The teacher took advantage of the incident to call the attention of the school to the value of using their eyes and taking better notice of what they saw.

My memory was ever excellent so far as the studies of geography, history, and spelling were concerned, but not so serviceable in the study of arithmetic. The intricacies of figures bewildered me. I could commit to memory the Sunday school lessons and lengthy declamations, had something of a taste for phrases, and could spell any word I ever saw to read it. I stood fairly well in most studies, and after this episode in the spell ing class I gained favor with the teacher who interested himself in my welfare and advancement.

For the purpose of assisting me, he and I entered into a personal correspondence, in which I wrote him a letter each week and received a reply. This continued during the latter part of the existence of this school and was not broken up until Mr. Monroe, with others, left the state of Illinois. I formed a strong attachment for him and he certainly did me great good.

Under his instruction and by the aid and personal example of Oliver B. Huntington, I made some progress in the study of elocution. It became our habit to read to each other from the standard books in use and other works, and in the late summer and fall we would go to a small grotto where a little stream ran out of the hills over a fall, across the road, and into the river, and there in the shade, one in the valley and one on top of the hill, we would converse together, in an effort to acquire accuracy of speech and to strengthen our voices. I owe much indeed to the friendship shown me at this period of my boyhood days by James M. Monroe and Oliver B. Huntington. It may be well in passing to note here that Teacher Monroe went to Utah with the emigration west, stayed for a while, and in attempting to get away was killed on the plains somewhere east of the Territory then known as Deseret. His alleged slayer was a man named Howard Egan who had lived a while at Nauvoo, running a blacksmith and wagon-making shop on the hillside west of the Temple, not far from the home of Bishop Edward Hunter.

Oliver B. Huntington left Nauvoo, presumably in company with his younger brother, John, going to Watertown, New York, where he subsequently married a lady by the name of Neal. A circumstance in connection with his residence in Watertown comes to mind which was interesting in its passing and may be of interest here and how.


It will be remembered by those familiar with that phase of current history that about 1848 what was known as spirit-rapping was introduced by the Fox sisters in western New York, from whence it spread practically all over the nation. It reached Illinois about 1850, when together with pencil-writing and other forms of spirit manifestation it began to be practiced in Hancock County, cropping out in the family of James Chadsey who lived on a farm in Sonora Township adjoining my father's land. I was working upon Father's farm at the time and in visiting the Chadsey home became acquainted with this spirit-writing business, Mrs. Chadsey being the medium.

My nearest neighbor was a man by the name of James Richardson, an early church convert from England. With his wife he lived on a small piece of land across the highway from ours. He had refused to go west at the time of the "break-up," and had turned agnostic. As these manifestations progressed on the Chadsey farm he showed an intense interest in the phenomena and finally became an ardent spiritist, so-called. He and I spent many an evening discussing the various phases of the subject and together used frequently to attend the seances held by Mrs. Chadsey. We procured certain works on spiritism which we read and discussed together. Occasionally we would experience a species of occult manifestation between us, but nothing happened which could be construed as immediately confirming by actual evidence the reality or truth of the theories advanced by those believers.

Our investigations had intermittently extended over a period of two or three years when a communication was received by Mrs. Chadsey purporting to come from this old-time friend, Oliver B. Huntington. The communication stated distinctly that he had died of cholera at Watertown, New York, giving the date of death, and expressing pleasure at thus being able to communicate with the living. It was signed plainly in the very handwriting of the man himself, which I readily recognized, for I had been in correspondence with him and knew it perfectly.

My friend Richardson and I had reached the point in our investigations and observances of the seances where we had decided to make a test as to the genuineness of the messages received by Mrs. Chadsey, and this communication seemed to afford us an opportunity. Without delay I wrote to Mrs. Huntington at Watertown, telling her that I had heard that Oliver was dead, giving the date and place, mentioning the disease which had borne him off, and asking her for a reply.

Owing to the fact that mails were then carried across country by stage and across lakes by boats, it was a full month before I received an answer. It came in the form of a letter from Mrs. Huntington's brother, who stated that his sister with her husband Oliver and their family had left Watertown some months before to go to Utah, and that at the last account he had received Oliver was living and well, and had not, to the writer's knowledge, even been ill. He added that he had forwarded my letter to them and they would doubtless answer it upon receipt. In due course of time I did receive a letter from Oliver himself, dated at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and confirming the statement that he was perfectly well and hearty.

This incident closed the investigations of my friend Richardson and myself into the current phenomena of spiritualism. He became extremely skeptical and I utterly disgusted with the so-called spirit manifestations as displayed by those declared to be mediums. I had seen table-tipping and had witnessed several times the pencil-writing performances, but came to the conclusion that, so far, my experience had proved there was absolutely no good in it or in any part of it. I had read Andrew Jackson Davis' Nature's Divine Revelation, and his Great Harmonia as far as the third volume, and had discovered some very good reasons, or so I considered them, to discard as evidence much of that which was presented. I had no desire to study further what seemed to me so unreliable and mystic a "science" as spiritualism at that time presented. Thenceforward I let it alone, regarding it as a matter of mental speculation unworthy the attention and investigation of an honest man who was not actually willing to be humbugged—a result which I certainly did not wish to invite.

In 1885, on the occasion of my second visit to Utah, I was privileged to meet Oliver B. Huntington in his home at Springville, some fifty or sixty miles south of Salt Lake City. There I conversed freely with him as an old acquaintance and friend. He was then living with his third wife, his first and second having each in turn refused to remain with him when he attempted polygamy. I did not meet his first wife who was, I was told, a most estimable woman. Neither did I see the second one, a nurse of considerable local standing.

A Fight

A circumstance connected with the school held in the store building made an indelible impression upon my mind, both because of the incident itself and because of the men involved. The school was held in the upper room of the building, which stood with its end to the north, on the south side of Water Street. Directly opposite, on the north side, stood the store of William and Wilson Law. On the corner of the block opposite, west of William Law's house and adjoining his store, there was a sort of feed yard into which teams could be driven and fed while their owners were trading. Ephraim Potter, a clerk in that store, used to board at our house and I knew him quite well.

One noon I was sent on an errand to the store and there heard a conversation between Wilson Law and a brother in the church by the name of Uriah Chittenden H. Nickerson. They were discussing a tree which Nickerson had cut on a certain island on the Iowa side of the river, on which both he and the Law brothers owned land. Wilson Law accused Nickerson of stealing his timber, claiming that the tree cut had been on his land, that Nickerson knew it was, and that he proposed making Nickerson trouble over it.

Brother Nickerson replied that at the time he cut the tree he believed it to be on his own land, and still thought so, but not wishing to have trouble, suggested they get a surveyor, have the land surveyed, and if it were found the timber belonged to Law he would pay for it. They would get two brethren to appraise the wood and he would pay the amount decided upon as its value.

Law seemed not to agree to this proposal and Nickerson told him that if he preferred it that way he could take the timber, and pay him, Nickerson, for hewing it. He even added that if Law were still not satisfied, Law could take the tree and Nickerson would say nothing further about it, as he did not think it seemly to have contention between brethren over such a matter.

None of this seemed to suit Wilson Law and he threatened to prosecute Nickerson for stealing the timber. Just then the school bell rang and I ran across the street and up into the schoolroom. There were three windows in the north end of the building and my seat was at the western one. Soon I heard a commotion outside and looking out saw a number of men pouring out of the store, perhaps six or eight of them, and passing through a gate into the yard. Among these were Uncle Hyrum, Wilson Law, Potter, Nickerson, and some others whose names I do not now recall. Wilson Law was stripping off his coat and vest as he came, which he handed to Uncle Hyrum to hold.

I was curious to know what it all meant as I saw Wilson take off his cravat also, and roll up his sleeves. He was talking pretty loud, and though I could not distinguish his words I gathered that he was angry with Nickerson about the timber. I wondered why my Uncle Hyrum was holding Law's clothing for him, but soon discovered, for I saw Wilson Law strike twice at Nickerson, apparently with the intention of giving him a great thrashing. After the second blow Nickerson sprang forward. Using Law pretty roughly he would evidently have administered a severe beating had it not been for the fact that, seeing the way the conflict was turning, Uncle Hyrum and others interfered and drew the men apart.

I remember how excited I was and how ashamed I felt that my uncle had lowered his dignity by mixing in the quarrel between the two men. Wilson Law was a man of business and reputed wealth, while Nickerson was poor and hard-working. It seemed those surrounding the two men had taken sides with Law and were quite willing to see Nickerson punished, but when they saw it was likely that Nickerson would do what punishing was done in the melee they were then quite ready to separate the men and stop the fighting.

I heard Nickerson say, "And so this is your Christianity, brethren! When you thought I could be whipped you were willing to witness it, but when you found I could take care of myself you were ready to keep us apart!"

Whether or not a church suit followed this disturbance I do not know, but I confess that my opinion of my Uncle Hyrum received a decided blow and my regard for him was sadly damaged. I had thought him so upright and just that I had expected him to take the part of the humbler brother. What I had overheard between the two men in the store and Nickerson's statement that he was willing to do what was right and whatever any two of his brethren would decide was just in the matter, had made me feel that an advantage had been taken of him—doubtless because he was a poor man. Of course I may have erred in this conclusion or as to their motives, but I heard afterwards that when the survey was made the poorer brother was justified, for the tree was found to have been on his own land.

I met this U. C. H. Nickerson a good many years after, when he used to come down from Wisconsin to attend our Northern Illinois District Conferences. Once I conversed with him in reference to this trouble, which he remembered distinctly. One thing is certain: "Chit" Nickerson, as he was familiarly called, retained his faith in Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God, in the Angel's message, in the validity of the Book of Mormon, and in the integrity of the church instituted by the Prophet under Divine direction. He died in that faith, whatever may have been his wanderings before reaching the goal of the grave.

Mr. Kelsey

The next school I attended before the Saints left Illinois was conducted in the Seventy's Hall. The teacher was Eli B. Kelsey, who afterward became quite a noted elder in the economies of that faction of the church which was under the rule of Brigham Young.

I attended this school more than one term—probably in the fall of 1844 and the summer of 1845. The hall was located on Parley Street, the main thoroughfare extending between what was known as "the hill" and the ferry at Isaac Galland's estate. Among my schoolmates here were Henry Coolidge, Sidney and Wickliffe Rigdon, Edwin and Thomas Stafford, Joseph, Brigham, and Vilate Young, some the children of Heber C. Kimball, the children of David Yearsley (one of whom was named Elizabeth), Mary Tuttle, Titus Billings, and Edward and Lydia Partridge.

It was a good-sized school and there was considerable rivalry in the spelling classes. Usually Mary Tuttle, Henry Coolidge, and I would spell the rest down, and take turns in "leaving off head" to again spell our way up.

On the closing day of one term, when the class came to spell down the teacher announced the rule that but one trial at a word would be given each pupil, and that if the word were missed opportunity to spell it would pass at once to the next in line. The class had narrowed down to the three of us—Mary, Henry, and I. After a number of words went the rounds, Teacher Kelsey gave a word to Mary which she missed. He suggested that she try it again, and again she missed it. Without waiting for him to say "Next," I promptly spelled the word correctly. He reproved me for being too eager, at which reprimand I called his attention to the fact that he himself had broken his own rules as stated at the beginning, and in giving Mary a second trial he had acted unfairly to all the rest of us.

He commented that, being a lady, she should be given a second opportunity. To this I demurred upon the ground that no such favoritism should be shown in such a contest. Mary was in tears, and some confusion seemed imminent.

A number of spectators were present, and I proposed leaving to them the question as to whether or not I had been within my rights. To this Teacher Kelsey would not agree and undertook to adjust the matter by saying he would divide the prize between us three. I objected to that plan, stating that I did not care especially for the prize and certainly did not want it if it were not rightfully mine and fairly won, adding that he could dispose of it as he pleased. General feeling among the children had been that Mary was a favorite of the teacher's, and this incident showed that it was useless for us to contend against her.

Though I cannot fix the date in memory, I remember well the day when Sidney and Wickliffe Rigdon came to the school to say good-bye—the day before the family left for Pittsburgh at "the separation." It was at this school, also, that the teacher instituted a system of police regulation among the children for the purpose of preventing truancy. He appointed various ones as special police, the duties to last one week. During one week of my services in this capacity I had trouble with one of the Stafford boys who became very angry in play at recess and proposed to leave the grounds. I prevented his doing so but it was at the expense of a personal encounter between us. The result was the abandonment of the system, for the teacher thought his instructions were being construed too strictly and enforced too vigorously, and he was fearful further unfriendly conflicts would ensue.

An incident of a rather laughable character comes to memory as being connected with this school. Joseph A. Young, son of Brigham Young, was something of a fop as a boy. He was rather vain of his good looks, his white complexion, and curly hair which was inclined to the red in color. One day he came to school all nicely dressed up, and brought with him a vial of cinnamon essence or oil. With this he dabbed his handkerchief in order that a nice fragrance might attend his walk. Of course we were all duly impressed and anxious to have some. We asked him to share with us, which he declined to do, and kept dabbing it at intervals on his hair and clothes as fast as the air and sun would combine to cause it to lose its power. The former, at least was quite well saturated with it after a while, and we were quite envious as a consequence. This brought us no benefit, for he didn't share his treasure with us.

However, we were consoled next day when our comrade came to school, for his hair had been so badly burned with the essence that it had broken off whereever rubbed a little, and looked worse than if he had haggled it to pieces with the shears! So we had our laugh, but it was a laugh with him and not at him, for Joseph A. was a good-natured fellow and appreciated any joke, even when on himself.

A part of the education we received in the school kept in the Seventy's Hall had reference to our conduct and manners. We were taught how to stand properly, how to walk, how to enter a room either public or private, the art of being polite in company, and other useful things calculated to enable us to be at ease and carry ourselves with a degree of grace in the presence of others. We were taught to reverence age, to take off our hats and bow to elderly people when met, to avoid being boisterous in demeanor or harsh or loud in voice, and, in general, to behave ourselves properly at all times. We were expected to be kind to our associates, to avoid imposing upon those weaker and younger, to go to church and to conduct ourselves in a respectable manner while there, and to engage in no unnecessary affairs on Sunday, the rest day. We were expected to enter the schoolroom quietly, to take off our hats and hang them in places provided, to greet the teacher with a courteous bow, and to proceed at once to our seats. If called upon to hand a book to anyone, we were shown how to properly approach the person and how to present the article in a graceful manner. All these and a variety of other instructions respecting conduct were made a part of our daily practice and formed a definite part of our education at the time.

The Rigdon boys left Nauvoo, as I have said, before the term closed, and I never saw either of them again until in the fall of 1905 I met John Wickliffe in Salt Lake City. He had separated from his family and had joined the church in Utah. I learned that his brother Sidney died quiet [quite] a number of years ago.

Mr. Tripp

My impression now is that the school just described was the last I attended before the breaking up at Nauvoo. However, it may have been in the summer of 1847 that I attended one kept in a building erected and occupied by Lucien Woodworth, otherwise known as the "pagan prophet"—a gunsmith by trade. That school was taught by a Mr. Tripp, a fair, blue-eyed man with curly hair and a very pleasant and affable manner. Here I remember we came in contact with some rather rough and undesirable boys who belonged to the Bruce and Allen families. There were five of the Bruce boys and three or four of the Allens. They had an ally of their own stamp, one Arthur Foster, son of a neighbor who lived in the house where Uncle Samuel Smith had lived and died. Of these boys Tom Bruce and John Allen were the ring-leaders.

Near the school lived a family of new citizens named Kent, and not far below, another by the name of Elliott. These were quite good people who came in with the influx into the city of those who came to buy property cheaply from out-going Saints. There were two girls in the Elliott family and a small, partially-crippled boy in the Kent family. The latter was named Geoffrey, and between him and my brother, Frederick, there sprang up quite a friendship. Frederick was tall for his age and slender, very kindly in disposition, and especially tender and considerate of those who were weak or afflicted, or in any trouble with the boys.

Frederick got into the habit of carrying little Geoffrey Kent home from school on his back, which he could easily do as Geoffrey was very small and light. These rough Bruce boys and their little band took a notion to torment the little fellows and would run up behind Frederick as he was carrying Geoffrey, jostle against them to make them stagger or fall, or jump upon Geoffrey's back to frighten and annoy. Two or three times they had thus thrown the boys down, and once had hurt Geoffrey enough to make him cry.

I remonstrated with them; told them they ought not to do that for one or both of the little boys might get hurt. I asked them, politely enough, to refrain from annoying the children further. One of the older ones pertly told me to go to the devil. Tom Bruce and John Allen were about my age and size and Arthur Foster was a trifle smaller. These rowdies laughed at me when I told them they must quit bothering the boys or I would make them, and taunted me by saying they would do as they pleased and I couldn't help myself. To this I simply answered, "Well, we will see."

In the afternoon when school was out my brother picked Geoffrey up on his back as usual and the two started down the street, full of glee and jollity. They had gone but a little ways when one of these rowdy boys, which one I do not now remember, ran and jumped upon Geoffrey's back, very nearly throwing him off and frightening him to crying. This act aroused my indignation and I turned to the crowd of youngsters and told them that the next one who did that would get hurt.

It had rained in the morning and we had gone to school under the shelter of a large umbrella which I was carrying in my hand. It was still quite wet and heavy from the early shower. The boys held a consultation, the leaders urging Arthur Foster to make another leap at the boys, and promising him to keep me from interfering. So Arthur skipped up behind the boys and sprang upon their backs. He had no sooner reached the ground afterward than I struck him full across the back with the heavy, wet umbrella, just as I held it, folded up, in my hand. It was an old-fashioned one with heavy wooden staff, ribs of whalebone, and spreading wires of steel.

Arthur howled with pain, and I turned to the crowd of boys and told them that if anyone else wanted to try that game now was his opportunity, but that if any one of them did dare to touch either of the little boys he would be served as I had served Arthur. That was the end of the row, for apparently none cared to run the risk of being struck similarly.

Arthur threatened to tell his mother and I rather expected he would, but if he did my own mother did not hear of it, for a little while afterward, having occasion to use the umbrella, she found the stock broken and the wires bent. Showing it to me she asked if I knew how it got in that condition, and I replied, "It probably happened when I struck Arthur Foster with it, the day it rained."

"Well, you must have struck him pretty hard to break it like this," she commented. I told her I did; that I hit him just as hard as I could. When she asked why, I told her the whole story. She thought I should not have struck Arthur, but I told her I just couldn't help it; that the little fellows could not defend themselves, and that I had felt bound to do what I could to protect them after giving their tormentors fair warning.

The lads were not disturbed again and the balance of the school term passed off pleasantly, according to my recollections.

Home Study

There was an old Irishman who taught school in the Seventy's Hall for a term or two, I think about 1847. I was lamentably deficient in arithmetic; had worn out copy after copy of Ray’s Arithmetic in my various attempts to master its difficulties, but would promptly be turned back at the beginning of each term. I seemed to balk at "vulgar fractions," and did not succeed in getting beyond the merest rudiments of this most necessary branch of education.

I was desirous of mending in this particular, as my mother was engaged in keeping the hotel and I knew in order to be of help to her I should have some business qualifications, among them a working knowledge of figures. Mother encouraged me to attend this Irishman's school. Accordingly I went up, asked for an interview, and was told to come back at the noon hour.

At the appointed time I called upon the aged man and told him that I wanted to enter his school. He looked at me a bit, handed me a book opened at a certain piece of reading, and asked me to read it for him. Taking the book I did as requested, whereupon he remarked, "Young man, I can do nothing for you; a boy who can read like that can better teach me than I him."

I tried to explain that it was arithmetic I needed but failed to prevail upon him to take me as a pupil. Thus it happened that the term of school under Mr. Tripp was really the end of my boyhood schooldays.

It is but fair to add, however, that during the summer and fall of 1846, while the Mansion was being occupied by renters (first by William Marks and then by Van Tuyl ), Doctor John M. Bernhisel boarded with us in the Hugh White house. He had considerable leisure at his disposal and agreed to help me in the study of grammar. He consented to hear my recitations provided I would secure two copies of the book used, Brown's Grammar. This I did and during that season I studied with him, the arrangement proving [proved] to be a very pleasing and profitable one for me. It largely laid the foundation for what usefulness I have been able to exercise in the conduct of literary affairs afterward imposed upon me.

(To be continued.)

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