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Complete story of John Elmer

Life Story of John Elmer: John Elmer is my great, great, great grandfather on my mother’s father’s side. He was my grandfather’s first ancestor to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He and his family crossed the plains to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. John Elmer was born on 22 SEP 1776, born to William Elmer Jr. and Mary Kibbe, in Orange County, Vermont. Nothing is known of his childhood except that he learned to become a good farmer and lumberman. He was married at the age of 25 to Sarah Peake, and they began to raise a family, eventually having 9 children- five sons and four daughters. He was noted to be a tall and genial man, and knew how to make shoes, farm, and was an expert shingle maker and logger. He made his family a very comfortable log home in which they were comfortable during the cold Vermont winters. He was a very tall man at 6 feet tall, and was recorded as having “great physical strength due to early life as a lumberman.” He was also a habitual tobacco user until the day of his baptism. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in July of 1831 when he was 55 years old. The story of his conversion is miraculous. It is told by several of his posterity that John loved to read and study the Bible, and he believed in the Savior and the priesthood. He and his wife would often sit and talk about the gospel of Christ, and often would discuss these things with their neighbors and friends. One day, while they were discussing Christ and His teachings, an elderly gentleman arrived at their home and joined the discussion. He seemed irritated at John’s tobacco use, but inquired about John’s belief in prophets, and John responded that he believed there should be prophets in the current day. The man informed him that he was correct in his thinking, and handed him a small card, on which was written a date. He informed John and his wife that some men would come on that date to preach the true gospel and the plan of salvation to them. They studied the card intently, and when they looked up to ask the man how they would know to recognize these men that were to teach them, and the man was nowhere to be found. Nearly 5 years later the first missionaries were sent by Joseph Smith to Vermont to his hometown. The missionaries began preaching the gospel and discussing the plan of salvation. John was reminded by his wife about the small card they had kept in a safe place –inside a trunk. They retrieved the card, and the date on the card matched that day exactly. John and his wife received the missionaries and their message with gladness, and asked the missionaries to baptize them – his history reports that, despite his love for chewing tobacco, he never used it again. It is family tradition that John and Sarah believed the mysterious gentleman who handed them the card was one of the Three Nephites. Both John and his wife Sarah were baptized the following day, and remained faithful to the end of their lives. Sarah’s life ended only 7 years later as the family was making their way toward Nauvoo, Illinois. She and their oldest son, Samuel, died of Typhoid in 1838 while traveling through Indiana. Samuel was 32 years old and left behind his wife, also named Sarah. John and the rest of his family settled for a time in Adams County, Illinois and built a small cabin. As soon as the roof was on, John and his able sons went out in search for work, as they were out of money. While they were gone their cabin caught fire and burned down with all their possessions. They earned enough money to purchase some clothing and begin rebuilding in time for the winter. Soon John met and fell in love with a widow who lived in Nauvoo – her name was Harriet Gould Brunson. She was a young widow who had recently arrived with her husband and 5 children to Nauvoo, only to have her husband pass away in 1840. Her late husband Seymour Brunson, a good friend of the prophet Joseph, had been a colonel in the Nauvoo Legion due to a decorated military career having served with honors in the war of 1812, and was a member of the High Council. It was at Seymour’s funeral on AUG 15, 1840, where the Joseph Smith gave a discourse on the doctrine of baptism for the dead for the first time. Harriet had been baptized by Hyrum Smith in 1831, which was the same year John and his wife Sarah had been baptized. John and Harriet were married on 24 March 1841 and his family moved in to Harriet’s home in Nauvoo. John and Harriet had a baby girl while they lived there, and named her Jerusha. Two years later John and Harriet moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa where they settled a small farm. They had another daughter, Lucretia in 1845. John’s daughter Wealthy, a widow herself, died at Council Bluffs, leaving behind her three sons and daughter in 1850. John and Harriet took Wealthy’s children in and Harriet was a good mother to them. In 1851 John and Harriet joined the Mormon Pioneers traveling west. They likely traveled with the John G. Smith Company. In 1852 there are records showing John received his endowment in Brigham Young’s office in Salt Lake City, UT. John was listed as one of the “Stalwart Mormon Pioneers” in that volume. He and Harriet moved to Ogden, UT for a short time, and then later moved to Payson, UT where they settled permanently until John’s death at about age 94. John was hailed as the best shingle maker in UT, and often described as a man of “pleasant temperament and a sense of humor; he was honest and a reliable citizen and member of the church.” John continued to work and teach logging and felling trees into his old age. It was said that even in his nineties his intellect was very bright and he could still converse on any subject. At about age 93 or 94 he lost his eyesight, but this did not deter him from continuing to stay active and involved with those around him. At about age 95 – on 11 Feb 1871- he was out teaching some younger men how to properly fell a tree, and due to his poor vision he did not see the tree falling, so he was unable to get out of the way in time. The tree accidentally fell on him, killing him. He was buried in the Payson Cemetery.

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