As the news spread, by missionaries, by word of mouth, by letter from old friend to old friend, and by the pages of the Herald, that Young Joseph had come to the church, members flocked to the standard from everywhere. In the beginning of the year 1860, not knowing the events that were transpiring in the West, a group of old-time Saints in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began holding meetings to "converse upon the past" and interchange ideas about what might happen in the future. They had renounced all other leaders; some of them had been without contact with any branch of the church since 1845, when they went east with Sidney Rigdon. Some of the most prominent of these were Josiah Ells, Richard Savery, James McDowell, Joseph Parsons, and Matthew Smith.
Most of these joined the Reorganization eventually, and many of their children and grandchildren occupied prominent places in its history, among them Richard Savery Salyards, grandson of Richard Savery, for many years secretary of the church and closely associated with his father-in-law the third Joseph Smith. He was throughout his long life, an able defender of the faith.
Josiah Ells was the man, whom, with John Cairns, Joseph Smith had chosen from among all the strong debaters of the church to meet the great preacher, Reverend Dr. David Nelson of Quincy. He was a man of independent thought and action, for only men of this rare type were able to withstand the adverse currents that had lately swept over the wreckage of their one-time faith.
Ells was with the group who accompanied the Prophet part way to Carthage before he was assassinated, and who, with Samuel Bennett, was sent by William Marks to bring John Taylor, who had been fearfully wounded, home from Carthage after the tragedy. They made the trip at midnight, risking their lives to do so, and found the Carthage people reluctant to let Taylor go, as they believed their city would be sacked and destroyed once he was gone.
After the breakup at Nauvoo, Ells went to Pittsburgh with Sidney Rigdon and was chosen one of his counselors, but was never active in that movement, and when the meetings began to be held in 1860, he had stood alone for many years. These meetings had not continued long before W. W. Blair came to Pittsburgh, found this remnant, and told them a reorganization of the scattered fragments had been effected and that Joseph, the eldest son of the Seer, had been chosen President. Shortly before, speaking in one of the prayer meetings held by these old-time Saints, Josiah Ells had testified by the Spirit that before long they would hear something "respecting the kingdom." Therefore Ells and his wife were ready to accept the message when it came. He appointed a meeting, but no one came except himself, his wife, and one other. Undaunted, he kept on meeting, while one by one the old friends ventured out until at length the nucleus of the Pittsburgh Branch was formed. Ells became one of the early Apostles of the Reorganization.
Out in Etna, Scotland County, Missouri, a young carpenter by the name of John H. Lake lived with his wife, Maryette, and her widowered father, Duty Griffith. One day the old gentleman received through the mail a copy of a little magazine called The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, and while old Mr. Griffith rejoiced with his daughter that Young Joseph had at last come to take the Seer's place, young Lake looked on with horror, for he now discovered that not only was his father-in-law an, old-time "Mormon," but he had actually been living with a "Mormon wife." He hardly knew what to do. He could not in honor desert his wife and their young baby Oracy. He thought that if only he were not so poor he would take his wife and child and go to California, so far away that no one would ever learn of this skeleton in the family closet. Once there, he would see to it, he said grimly, that there would be "one woman who would keep her mouth shut." But he could not get away. The only thing was to live down his disgrace as best he could, study the question, and be able to show his wife how foolish it all was. He commenced his studies with diligence, and six months later was baptized with nine others by John Shippy. He became an Apostle in the Reorganization and baptized hundreds into the church he had once so bitterly scorned.
In Dodge County,1 Nebraska, in February, 1861, a young Englishman named Charles Derry sat reading the Herald. He was born in Bloxwick, Staffordshire, July 25, 1826, and had heard the gospel when he was but nineteen, but rejected it because of an unwise reference to the Baptist communion. Later, on October 3, 1847, he was baptized, and before the winter was over was himself a missionary, traveling without purse or scrip over his native land. For seven years he traveled thus, blessed by the gifts of the gospel and growing more and more convinced of the divinity of his calling. Then in 1854 he was counseled by the church authorities in England to emigrate to Salt Lake City. With joyful hearts the young missionary and his wife, Alice Stokes, who had been a member of the church in the days of Joseph, planned to "obey counsel." On the way the young mother died, and Charles Derry arrived in Salt Lake City with two babes, a girl of four and a boy of two. Nor was that all, for the whole experience was a bitter disappointment, and in 1859, with sorrow and "grief more poignant than death," Charles Derry and the young wife he had recently married left that church and, traveling by ox team, took up their way eastward again to Fontanelle, Nebraska. With his brother George and his mother, both of whom he had baptized before he left England, he found a temporary home, and told them his sad experience, thus successfully prevailing upon them to go no farther west.
In his despair at finding conditions so far from what he had expected, his mind turned to the opposite extreme, and he tried to call himself an infidel. Sometimes as he worked in the field or at the anvil of his blacksmith shop, these old experiences in England would suddenly loom up before him, and he would try to account for them in the godless world his new philosophy was endeavoring to construct. He found it hard to relegate them to the realm of chance. When he met an old Latter Day Saint he felt the bond of brotherhood again, and although he told himself he was now an infidel, yet there seemed something about that old-time gospel bond that still held.
One Sunday afternoon, February 20, 1861, he walked slowly over to such a friend's home for a visit and a talk about old times. As soon as he entered, this man, whose name was Clark, handed him a little paper--the eleventh number of the first volume of the True Latter Day Saints' Herald. "Heigh, Brother Derry, here's a paper for you!" he said, and Derry opening it started to read it aloud. He read it all, and as he read, the same sweet pervading influence that had warmed his heart so often in old England, stole over his heart, speaking conviction to his very soul. He borrowed the paper, took it home, and read it to his wife, and then fell upon his knees for the first time in years, as he was "wont to do ere dark clouds obscured his vision." While in prayer it seemed to him the darkness of his western experience rolled away, and the awful experiences he had suffered became nothing but memories. At this time, Charles Derry wrote the hymn, "O Lord! Around Thine Altar Now" (which has been in our hymn books since 1870), a prayer of thanksgiving for the new light that had come into his darkened life.
Derry could not wait for the church to come to him, he must needs go to it. The next Sunday with a sack of cookies in his hand, and not a cent in his pocket (for he had been forced to leave most of his possessions in Utah, in order to make his escape, and getting a new start had been difficult indeed) he started on foot through eighteen inches of snow for western Iowa. As he passed through Fremont, the snow was found to be melting and becoming an uncomfortable slush, but he pushed on and that night, by consent of the owner, slept in a wagon at Elkhorn Bridge. He was twenty miles on his way. The next day the United States mail coach overtook him and gave him a ride into the small village of Omaha. He wended his way to the Missouri River, where he was told the crossing was unsafe as the ice was expected to go out any moment. Four inches of water already covered the river surface. After a little hesitation, he offered a silent prayer for safety and started across the treacherous river, making the Iowa side in safety. Within twenty-four hours the ice went down the river. Seven miles through the mud brought him to Council Bluffs (then Kanesville), a somewhat larger place than Omaha. Before leaving home, someone had given him the name of one Latter Day Saint who lived in Kanesville. The name was Isaac Beebe, a stranger to him, but still his only clue to finding the people he sought.
As he walked up the main street, tired, muddy, and travel-worn, he saw a man cutting wood in a yard. He approached him and asked if he knew where Isaac Beebe lived. The woodcutter straightened himself up to his full six feet of height and said, "Right here in this body." Derry told him that he had traveled as much as sixty miles through snow, slush, and mud in the last two days, and requested the privilege of shelter for the night, saying he had a few cookies left for his supper, and with an appraising eye on the woodpile, he would cut the rest of the wood to pay for his bed, as he had no money.
"Come in; we are told to entertain strangers, for thereby we may entertain angels unaware." The stranger assured him he was no angel, but only Charlie Derry, but he was made at home, given supper and lodging, without resorting to the woodpile to earn his way. He was told that two Reorganized elders, W. W. Blair and E. C. Briggs, were only ten miles east. Early on the morning of March 1, the next day, he continued on his journey through the muddy roads. Travel was slow. When he had gone ten miles, he felt so tired he determined to ask for an opportunity to rest himself at the next house. He soon came to a cabin by the roadside and made his request, and was received in kindly fashion by the lady of the house. He soon learned that this was the home of the Campbells, and that the missionaries were expected momentarily. In about a quarter of an hour they arrived. He was among friends. At the home of the Campbells and that of Jairus M. Putney,2 he found a Saint's welcome. He attended the services held by the two elders and witnessed baptism in Keg Creek.
When they left that neighborhood, he went with them to Farm Creek, and was entertained at the home of Calvin Beebe, a brother of the man he had met in Kanesville. The following Sunday, March 3, after a sermon by W. W. Blair, he felt he could no longer delay, and was baptized in Farm Creek near the Beebe home, just two weeks from the day the little Herald fell into his hands.
The confirmation took place immediately, and with his hands still on Brother Derry's head, Brother Blair asked what office he held in the other church. Derry replied, "I have not come for any office, but simply to be a member in the kingdom of God." But Brother Blair said: "It is my duty to ordain you an elder." Whereupon, without taking his hands off his head, he proceeded to also ordain him to the office of elder.
The community in which he found himself were brethren in truth. When he returned, Philip Gatrost went with him, with team and wagon to bring his family to western Iowa. By the following April--one month later--he was in the mission field, preaching and baptizing.3
On December 3, 1861, in Little Sioux, Iowa, Silas W. Condit baptized a young Irish schoolteacher named James W. Gillen. He was a handsome young fellow with a winning personality. And he needed it, for he had made his own way in the world since he was twelve. Born in County Derry, Ireland, March 18, 1836, he had been left fatherless before he was six months old. When he was four, his mother with her five children emigrated to Canada and found a home in Montreal. She died, leaving "Jimmy" an orphan of nine years. His brothers and sisters stayed together until he was able to earn a living, but this was not long, for he started to learn the nail maker's trade when he was but twelve. From then on he looked out for himself. He worked at his trade and in a foundry until 1853, and learned the trade of making paper. Then he hired out as a farm laborer, with the privilege of attending school in the winters. For three winters he continued his studies in Essex County, New York, until he was able to enter an institute at Fort Edward, New York, for six months. Smitten with the westward fever, he went to Boone County, Illinois, passed a teacher's examination before Judge Fuller, superintendent of schools, and taught school in Illinois for two years. He then went on west to Harrison County, Iowa, in 1858, where he purchased two hundred and seventy-six acres of land and entered the employ of the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad at Saint Joseph as shipping and receiving clerk. The next year on the opening of the Platte Valley Railroad to Atchison, he went with the first train to Winthrop and remained as shipping and receiving clerk until the commencement of the Civil War, when he returned to teaching school in Harrison County. He was not long in the church before he became an elder, later married Nancy A. Moore,4 daughter of an old-time Latter Day Saint family, and became one of the most loved of early Latter Day Saint missionaries, occupying in the Quorum of Twelve for many years.
On a farm near Plum Creek, seven miles north of Sidney, Iowa, lived a man by the name of John Leeka. John Leeka and his family had joined the church at Bentonsport, Van Buren County, Iowa, under the ministry of Joseph Ball and Truman Gilette in March, 1840. Sometime later he had moved into Nauvoo and resided there until the exodus in 1846 which they joined, going west under the leadership of Brigham Young as far as the Missouri River, though they had been advised by Emma Smith not to do so. In western Iowa his confidence wavered, and saying nothing to anyone he quietly folded his tent, took his family into the unsettled country near by, and turned his attention with success to business. He soon felt that all forms of religion were to be rejected, although he treated all professors of Christianity with respect and kindness.
The Civil War came, and Brother Leeka remembered a prophecy made long ago in Nauvoo about the coming of civil strife. It was rumored in the neighborhood that a young woman named Hendrickson had a paper with a copy of that prophecy in it. He sent to borrow it. Sister Hendrickson, with all the generosity of a Latter Day Saint on such occasions, sent it willingly and with it a half dozen others. John Leeka read the prophecy and all about the coming of Young Joseph. He sent for Charles Derry, and he and his wife with others were baptized.
In 1860 Brother W. W. Blair was preaching in a simple little school building in the new country around the town of Galien, Michigan, where the family of James Blakeslee had settled. One day, a stranger came in, but his behavior did not betoken much interest. His face wore a studied attitude of indifference, as though he just "dropped in." He was a large, powerfully built man, with the visible imprint of superior cultural advantages upon his rugged face, now beginning to show the trace of age. The sermon began, and the stranger looked about, straightened up and began to pay earnest attention; soon great tears coursed down his cheeks, and his powerful frame trembled with emotion. Blair turned to Brother Blakeslee as he sat down and asked who the stranger was. Blakeslee did not remember ever having seen him before, but immediately at the close of service approached him, as it was the morning hour on Sunday, and asked him home to dinner. He was surprised when the stranger readily accepted the invitation. He introduced himself as Ezra Thayre,5 and before the next Sabbath, he and his kindred had been baptized. Ezra Thayre had known Joseph Smith, as a boy; had employed him when Thayre was a bridgebuilder in New York; he had known Oliver Cowdery as a schoolteacher in Palmyra; had joined the early church; and still had the Book of Mormon he purchased from Joseph Smith in Auburn, New York. He told how as Joseph Smith stood before him in that log house back in New York, holding his copy of the Book of Mormon in his hand, and told his story in a "boyish and uncultured way," "such a power" seized upon him as enabled him "to know that every word that that lad said was true." He wanted that very book and no other, and so purchased, and still had it.6
Instances like these might be multiplied almost indefinitely. As the months went by, the news of the coming of Young Joseph went into every corner of the country where a Latter Day Saint of other days had found his way. And in almost all of these centers a faithful few welcomed the message and the renewed hope brought by the Reorganization.
In July, 1861, Young Joseph issued his first epistle, that he might further facilitate the work of gathering. This epistle recites the events leading to his acceptance of his prophetic calling, and then closes with this stirring appeal:
I would not that men should hastily run without tidings, nor do I ask that any should place the stake of their salvation upon an earthly arm. "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, and maketh flesh his arm." I ask and desire that all may place their stake of salvation upon the author and finisher of our faith--upon the promises and principles of the Gospel, pure as preached from the Saviour's lips, for in him was no guile, and in his teachings there was no deceit.
In the name of the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, I now call upon all the scattered Saints, upon all the broad earth, to arise and shake off the sleep that hath bound them these many years, take on the armor of the just, calling on the name of the Lord for help, and unite once more for the emancipation of the honest in heart from the power of false doctrines and the shackles of sin.
In the name of bleeding Zion, I call upon all those who have been wandering in by and forbidden paths, and have been led astray by wicked and designing men, to turn from their scenes of wickedness and sins of convenience--to turn from their servitude to Satan, in all his seductive devices; from vice in every phase, and from the labor of sin, the wages whereof are ever death--unto their true and delightsome allegiance, to the principles of the gospel of peace--to the paths of wisdom--to the homage of that God that brought the children of Israel out of bondage; to turn and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon; to lay hold anew upon the rod of iron which surely leads to the tree of life; to remember that those who live to the Lord keep his commandments, and that the promises are unto the faithful, and the reward unto those that endure unto the end.
And in the name of the Lord of hosts, I call upon all the inhabitants of the earth to repent, believe and be baptized, for the time cometh when the judgments of God are to be poured out upon all nations, and the besom of God's wrath shall smoke through the land; when men shall know that there is a God in Israel, and he is mighty to punish or to save; that the prayers of those under the altar have been heard, and a swift retribution is to come, when the despoiler will be despoiled; when those who denied justice shall be judged, and the measure meted unto others shall be meted unto them; when the prisoner shall go free, the oppressed be redeemed, and all Israel shall cry, "Glory to God in the highest be given, for he that is long-suffering and slow to anger, has arisen, and shall bring again Zion." Amen and amen.
Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.7 Nauvoo, Illinois, July 19, 1861.
From that time the Saints began to gather in from all places, and the certainty that the movement would succeed became more and more apparent.
1 Maple Creek near Fontanelle.
2 March 1, 1861, W. W. Blair records in his Memoirs, page 47, that he "met at Brother Jarius M. Putney's ten miles east of Council Buffs, Charles Derry, formerly a Brighamite, but who until late had abandoned all religions. He seems to be a good man and claims to be seeking after truth."
3 Autobiography of Charles Derry, Journal of History, Volume 1, page 423, seq., and Volume 2, page 15, seq.
4 Their son, J. Arthur Gillen, occupied as president of the Quorum of Twelve from 1922 to 1934.
5 Ezra Thayre, see page 83.
6 Saints' Herald, Volume 33, pages 278, 279, sermon of W. W. Blair at Lamoni, Iowa, April 6, 1886.
7 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 2, pages 123, 124; Church History, Volume 3, pages 294, 295.