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Source: Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints

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Lyman O. Littlefield


of Latter-day Saints
Lyman Omer Littlefield, 1819-

Autobiography (1819-1848)

Source: Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints

(Logan, Utah: The Utah Journal Co., 1888)


Chapter II

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.26

Lyman Omer Littlefield, who has undertaken in this little volume to give publicity to many incidents connected with the experience of the Saints, is the second son of Waldo Littlefield and Mercy Higgins. His grandfather, Josiah Littlefield, fought through the war of 1812, for which service he drew a pension during the latter years of his life. He is a native of the state of New York, township of Verona, Oneida County, and first breathed the vital spark of life November 22, 1819. Counting up the years, it is easily determined that he is now nearing the "three score and ten," which so frequently fixes the limit of human life.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.26 - p.27

When his mind wanders back over the vista of the past to call up the time and place where he first heard a rumor of anything pertaining to the strange people now having a world-wide fame as Mormons, or, more properly, Latter-day Saints, the focus of his mind concentrates upon a spot in dear old Verona which was his home by virtue of its being the abode of his parents. In that neighborhood he made his infantile debut upon this terrestrial globe and there is laid the scene of his earliest recollections. But that halcyon period is ended now. The actors are scattered upon the wide globe, and those then so devoted in their friendships would be strangers now if chance were to bring them together. But, at such meeting, did some fortuitous chance reveal the parties' names, the intuitive powers would be instantaneous in throwing off feelings of restraint and prompting enquiries into the fortunes of each since the days of childhood had gone down forever in the great whirlpool of time.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.27

A golden bible--the rumor said--had been taken out of the earth in the western portion of New York State by a young man named Joseph Smith, who said an angel of the Lord had revealed it to him: that it purported to give an account of a great and enlightened nation of people, then extinct, from whom the American Indians were descendants. This strange rumor became the topic of much talk and wonderment through that part of the country.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.27 - p.28

Soon after hearing this rumor it was my lot to turn my back upon the hallowed scenes of that natal home--scenes still dear in memory--as my parents removed to Michigan, settling near the town of Pontiac, in Oakland county. Not only after our location there, two Mormon Elders came to our neighborhood and held meetings. Of course we knew they were followers of Joseph Smith, whom rumor had associated with the golden Bible matter concerning which we had heard in the state of New York. Naturally enough we felt a curiosity to see these strange men and hear more concerning their new religion.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.28

My parents were members of the Methodist Church and did not wish to exchange that faith for another; but they went to hear what these strangers had to say. Their little son Lyman was permitted to bear them company. It was winter and of course a sleigh was our mode of conveyance. Their place of holding meeting was in a log schoolhouse built in the edge of some timber and as we turned from the main road to drive near we knew that meeting had commenced, for we heard the speaker in a full and animated tone of voice enunciating his doctrines. It is said in the scriptures: "Blessed are they who know the joyful sound;" so the writer must just then have been one of the favored, for at the very first sound of Jared Carter's voice--for it was he who was speaking--a strange, unaccountable feeling came over me, and before hearing one word pronounced by him, there was something connected with the tone of his voice that convinced me he was a man of God and was telling the truth. The writer went in that meeting prepared to believe all the speaker said, and your humble friend has been a believer in what many call Mormonism from that hour.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.28 - p.29

After attending one or two more meetings and reading the Book of Mormon all she could, my mother was fully convinced of the truth of the gospel. My father did not believe so readily, but after a few weeks he, too, was convinced and my parents became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--they being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins and having hands laid upon them for the reception of the Holy Ghost. Quite a number of people in that vicinity embraced the new faith and a branch of the Church was organized and presided over by Elder Samuel Bent.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.29

In the spring of 1844 Elders Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight came there on a special mission. They were enroute for the state of Missouri and some eighteen of the brethren of that branch of the Church and three women got ready to accompany them. Among that number was my father, my brother Josiah and myself.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.29

The mission of these brethren was in the interest of the Saints who had a short time previous been driven from their homes in Jackson County, Missouri, by a ruthless mob, because of their religion. The object was to use their influence with the authorities and people of upper Missouri to have our brethren reinstated in their possessions and rights as citizens in Jackson County. A much larger company had been gathered from the branches of the Church organized in different parts of the eastern states, and had started from Kirtland, Ohio, having the same object in view.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.29

Our little Michigan company had to travel, of course, across a large portion of Michigan, across Indiana and Illinois to Quincy where we crossed the Mississippi River. During this journey our whole company walked almost the entire distance, as the teams were too heavily loaded to admit of our riding. Our feet were often blistered and bleeding; but all were patient and endured the fatigues without murmuring. Memory does not serve us whether it was in Indiana or Illinois that we camped at the residence of Brother Rich, father of C.C. Rich. The latter joined us upon our journey and as is well known, at a later date became one of the Twelve Apostles.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.29 - p.30

After crossing the river at Quincy we traveled to Salt River, where we formed a junction with the company from Kirtland. They were encamped at the farm of Brother James Allred. There we first looked upon the Prophet of the nineteenth century, Joseph Smith. And there also we beheld Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Parley P. Pratt, George A. Smith, Orson Pratt, Joseph Young, Martin Harris, Phineas Young, Zebedee Coltrin, and many others who have been men of note and usefulness.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.30

The meeting of the brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, at this juncture was cordial. Hyrum ever had been and was in after years a reliable staff upon which Joseph could lean with confidence. The ties of brotherhood that existed between them was strong and enduring and they mutually relied upon each other for aid when emergencies required it.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.30

The company at Salt River numbered 205 souls, and constituted what was known as Zion's Camp. There a complete reorganization took place, and we started on our journey rejoicing.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.30

We finally, through the providences of our Heavenly Father, arrived in Clay County in safety. We encamped just east of the town of Liberty, near the residence of Brother Burget. Here the cholera broke out in our camp and some eighteen or nineteen of the brethren fell victims to the destroyer and were buried at night by torch light so as to keep the fact of the presence of cholera from the knowledge of the inhabitants, and thus prevent, if possible, unnecessary excitement and trouble.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.30 - p.31

Being aware that a complete account of the many remarkable and very interesting circumstances connected with the journey of this camp has been fully written and will some day appear as a part of the Church history, the writer declines to dwell upon it here to any greater length. He was then a mere boy, only about thirteen years and six months old and his greatest regret at the time was that he was not a man in stature so that he might participate more in the performance of camp duties, as was the privilege of the men. He is not quite certain whether Bradford Elliot or himself was the youngest member of the company; but as Bradford, as report has it, has long since passed behind the veil, the writer is today the youngest man living who had the honor of traveling, with blistered and bleeding feet, hundreds of miles in one of the most important campaigns ever performed in the interest of the great and glorious latter-day work. But few of that faithful company are now remaining and when a few years more shall have rolled into eternity the residue will be gathered to that grand encampment of Saints now rapidly forming in the world of spirits.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.31

The Saints who had been cruelly and unlawfully driven from their possessions in Jackson County numbered some fifteen hundred souls. They had found friends and were permitted to settle in that region bordering along on the east side of the Missouri River, but were forbidden to recross to their former homes.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.31 - p.32

The Prophet Joseph used every peaceful, lawful and persuasive means to accomplish their reinstatement; but the mob spirit so predominated over the minds of the people that the voice of reason and the stern demands of justice could not make sufficient impression upon the people. He even petitioned to the governor of the state to have them reinstated upon the lands for which they had paid their money into the government treasury; but to no purpose. The Jackson County mob was rampant and bloodthirsty, and the authorities of the state did not feel disposed to encounter the turbulent tide of opposition which existed against our people so there was no alternative but to accept the situation, as unjust and cruel as it was, and leave the event with the Almighty.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.32

My father rented a farm about two miles west of Liberty on the way to the Liberty landing, of a Mr. Hawks. John Corrill was our nearest neighbor, and Bishop Edward Partridge, who had been tarred and feathered at Independence, and W. W. Phelps, lived in the neighborhood,--also John Burk and Henry Rollins (now of Minersville) lived nearby. Soon after our settlement there, my father let me go to the Missouri Enquirer printing office to learn the printing business. The paper was edited and published by Mr. Robert N. Kelley, who was politically a Democrat and religiously a Methodist preacher. There were one or two boys in the office who were Mormons. Mr. Kelley was friendly disposed towards our people and Mrs. Harriet Williams Kelley, (his wife) was a talented, kind-hearted and most estimable lady, in whom the writer ever found a friend and sympathizer.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.32 - p.33

Joseph used his utmost energies to accomplish what good he could in the interest of those who had been driven out of Jackson County, and after organizing a High Council and otherwise setting the Church in order, he and a portion of the members of the camp returned to Kirtland and the residue located themselves to the best advantage according to the opportunities that were presented.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.33

Soon after the departure of Joseph, an opening was presented for the Saints to settle in the two new counties of Caldwell and Daviess. Caldwell joined Clay County on the north and Daviess lay still north, joining Caldwell. Splendid opportunities were afforded the brethren in that new region for pre-empting land and making themselves homes, which opportunity they availed themselves of and went to work with energy to make themselves comfortable.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.33

That country abounded in delightful locations. A high rolling prairie, with a black loam soil, interspersed with groves of timber and producing in many places heavy crops of delicious grasses for stock grazing or for the cutting of hay, and watered here and there by clear streams of running water--made it a desirable region for settlers on the public domain. Upon a delightful and sightly location the city of Far West was surveyed and soon a beautiful and thriving town sprang up as if by magic. The Latter-day Saints, with their habits of industry and thrift, in a little time were established in comfortable and happy homes and the voice of praise and thankfulness to the Almighty was heard in their abodes and in newly erected places of worship.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.33 - p.34

In August, 1836, the Saints commenced settling in Caldwell County. My father moved there and selected a place about two miles south of Far West, on the road leading to Liberty, Clay County. In addition to opening a farm, he formed a partnership with Mr. Calvin Graves, and purchased a stock of dry goods and family groceries and commenced business in Far West. Also, they took a stock of goods to Grand River, in Daviess County. In both of these places they were selling many goods and prospering. About this time the writer left the printing office and clerked in the store at Far West.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.34

Father purchased a farm on Dog Creek, about half way between Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman, which was generally called the "half way house," where he moved his family, but still continuing to sell goods.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.34

During this time the work of the Lord had wonderfully progressed in Kirtland, Ohio. The temple had been completed and dedicated to the Lord and great blessings had been received therein by the Saints. In consequence, Satan began to work in the hearts of many prominent men there. They run after the things of the world and became lifted up in the pride of their hearts. At length they became rebellious and conspired against the Prophet Joseph. In relation to this it is stated as follows in the Biography of Lorenzo Snow:

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.34

"Five of the Quorum of the Twelve were in this apostasy. Wherever the spirit of speculation--a grasping for the things of the world--obtained, the light of the Spirit of God departed, and impenetrable darkness ensued. Some even became so blind as to seek to depose the Prophet of God. At length the hostility of the belligerent party assumed such a threatening attitude that late in the autumn of 1837, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had to flee for their lives; and at a moment's warning started for Missouri."

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.34 - p.35

The arrival of Joseph Smith and his first counselor, Sidney Rigdon, at Far West was a cause of great rejoicing among the Saints. They had fled from the intrigues of a dangerous conspiracy in Kirtland, originating in the bosoms of those very men who had been blessed with the enlightening influences of the spirit of God, which flowed to them through the channel of the gospel which the angel from the courts of glory had revealed to the very man whom they persecuted; that man who had given them his confidence, placed them in positions of prominence and trusted them as true servants of God's kingdom, and personal friends. Truly, "a Prophet is not without honor save in his own country and with those of his own household."

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.35

Joseph had escaped from the machinations of his own brethren, it is true, and the snare they set for his feet, but he was destined not to find much peace in Missouri. A few months, at most, were all the time allotted him for a partial rest from the turbulence and sufferings to be inflicted by a powerful foe. But then--as was ever the case with him--the whole energies of his soul were absorbed in the glorious latter-day work to which he had been called by his Divine Master. Of this great man the humble writer of this little volume had been an admirer ever since the time he first looked upon and watched his career in Zion's Camp. And here, in Far West, his admiration and respect for him personally, as well as for his calling, was heightened day by day. We watched his intercourse with the people, and listened to his preaching from the stand, with sentiments of profound respect and pleasure. There was something in his manner, his countenance and spirit that was not associated with mortal man that we had ever looked upon before.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.35 - p.36

Sidney Rigdon was a fine-looking man, polished in address and powerful in oratory; but he was far behind Joseph in the possession of those magnetic powers of the mind which attracted the multitude, and chained the attention of his auditors. In comparison, Rigdon's eloquence was delightful, like the ripple of the merry brooklet that glides over its pebbled bed or dashes down a narrow declivity; but the testimony of Joseph struck through the heart, and, like the thunder of the cataract, declared at once the dignity and matchless supremacy of the Creator.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.36

There were various causes which produced dissatisfaction with the people of the adjacent counties against us. In Caldwell and Daviess Counties we were strongest at the polls and enabled to elect the men of our choice, as is the right of American citizens everywhere. We elected to the Legislature, John Corrill, a member of our Church. At the polls at Gallatin our opponents tried to prevent our men from voting, by mob force, but our brethren stood for their rights like men, and cast their ballots. This took place at the August election of 1838.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.36

On the 4th of July, 1838, the cornerstone for a temple was laid on the public square at Far West. A liberty pole was erected and the stars and stripes unfurled to the breeze. An address was delivered on that occasion by Sidney Rigdon, to which our enemies took great exceptions, and from which much excitement resulted in Caldwell, Daviess and Carroll Counties.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.37

Chapter III

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.37

We will here give place to a very interesting and important contribution kindly furnished for these pages by Mrs. Lucy Walker Kimball, as follows:

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.37 - p.38

Lucy Walker Kimball was born April 30, 1826, town of Peacham, Caledonia County, Vermont. She was the daughter of John Walker and Lydia Holmes. Her father was born June 20, 1794, town of Woodbury, Connecticut. Her mother was born April 18, 1800; married April 18, 1819. Father was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ in 1832; mother, two years later. They left Vermont in 1834 for the west. They found a small branch of the Church in Ogdensburg, New York; some of Brother Kimball's first converts, preparing also to go west. My father was induced to remain with this branch until 1837. During the year 1835, the children who were eight years and upwards were baptized by Elder Abraham Palmer. They were full of faith, having been taught to pray by their parents, and received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and the signs followed them. Some spake in tongues, others prophesied; again others had the gift of faith to heal the sick, etc. One of this little band prophesied that before we reached our destination we would be surrounded by armed mobs with blackened faces, and would need much faith in God to endure the many persecutions and trials before us, and that some of our number would lay down their lives; others would see their brethren shot down before their very eyes. This was verified at the wholesale slaughter at Haun's Mill.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.38

Notwithstanding all this we did not falter in our faith, but started on our perilous journey trusting in God. We passed through Kirtland just after the Saints had left for the far west. When we arrived in Caldwell County we were surrounded by a mob of about forty persons with blackened faces. They hooted and yelled and looked more like demons than human beings. It was early one December morning when this occurred. They ordered my poor, delicate mother out into the deep snow, searched our wagons, took from us our arms and ammunition, pointed their guns at us children to intimidate us, and cursed and swore in a most frightful manner. One of the neighboring women had intruded her hateful presence into our camp, urging them to shoot. "Shoot them down," she cried, "they should not be allowed to live!" The question may be asked, how did we feel under these circumstances? I can speak for one, I did not tremble--I did not fear them. They looked to me too insignificant and I felt to trust in One, (although but a child) who held our destinies in His own hands.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.38 - p.39

We continued our journey until we came to a settlement on Shoal Creek, five miles distant from Haun's Mill; my father and another of the brethren went to the mill to hold council with Brother Joseph Young and others, as to what course was best to pursue under the circumstances. They were in a blacksmith shop when a mob appeared in sight, formed in line and commenced firing, without giving any warning whatever, upon men, women and children. The first ball fired by the enemy lodged in my father's right arm. He returned the shot but found it impossible to reload. He then ran down the bank of the creek, and just before him one of the brethren in ascending the opposite bank, was shot down. He stepped under some lumber leaning against the bank, which afforded very little if any protection, but, in answer to prayer, their eyes were blinded, and, although they looked directly at him, yet apparently did not see him, passed on, declaring with an oath that not another Mormon was to be seen. He remained there until all was silent, then ventured forth to witness the dreadful scene of the massacre.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.39

In the shop lay the lifeless body of the son of Warren Smith with his brains beaten out with the breech of a gun, and another of the same family with his thigh torn entirely away, and apparently mortally wounded. A little further on an aged man, Father McBride, lay weltering in his gore. It was not enough to shoot him down, but the murderers had found an old scythe with which they had mangled that venerable head in a most horrible and sickening manner. A young woman was also found behind a huge log, where she had fallen in a fainting condition with a wound in one of her hands, several bullet holes through her clothing and a volley had lodged in the log. If a man had on a good coat or a pair of good boots they were stripped from their bodies in a most brutal and inhuman manner, while the victims were in the agonies of death.

Lyman Littlefield Reminiscences (1888), p.39

My father aided in dressing the wounds of those worse off than himself and to bury the dead as best he could with his left hand. His own arm was not cared for or scarcely thought of, in the midst of the terrible suffering of others, until it was in danger of mortifying. Besides, the country was in such a state of excitement, he had to hide from place to place, and came near losing his arm. Two weeks later he rejoined his family, pale and emaciated. My brother William had gone in search, having learned that his life had been spared, but was wounded. These two weeks were full of the keenest anxiety.

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