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History of John Elmer

Our first Elmer ancestor to hear the Latter Day Saint gospel message taught by three missionaries sent to Vermont, were John Elmer and his wife Sally Peake. John Elmer was born 22 Sept, 1776 in Norwich, Orange, Vermont. His parents were William Elmer and Mary Kibbe. They never heard the gospel. John’s wife Sally Peake was born 9 July 1784, Pomfret, Woodstock, Vermont. They had nine children, four girls and five boys. Sally died in 1838 in Indianna. The story of the conversion to the gospel of John Elmer and Sally Peake was written by Frank William Elmer of Mesa, Arizona. It was told to him by his grandmother Sarah Leicht, wife of Ira Bartlett Elmer, Son of John and Sally. John and wife were interested in living a good Christian life, trying to understanding the scriptures. They made a habit to study the Bible. They read and discussed it with friends, neighbors and realatives. He knew apostles, prophets, and evangelists were in the former day church and thought if the true church was on the earth, there would still exist the same authority of the Priesthood. One day while visiting with neighbors, who had come to visit them, they were discussing scriptures and the different faiths near them. They were not satisfied with the doctrines set forth by some of their ministers. During this discussion a stranger joined the group and listened. John was a habitual tobacco user. He was chewing all the time while they were talking. This seemed to annoy the stranger. He stood directly in front of John, handed him a card and said, “On this date the servants of the Lord will come to you and tell you of the true church and the laws you must live to have the blessing of health.” While they were reading the card the man left. No one saw which way he went, he was not heard of by any one else in the neighborhood. It was thought he was one of the Three Nephites or John of Old. Nearly five years after this incident, the first Elders sent out by the Prophet called at the home of John Elmer. They stated their business and talked on the first principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, and baptism, the Godhead and concluded with the revelation on the Word of Wisdom. This reminded John of the card that was given him by the old gentleman. On the card was the exact date the missionaries taught them the laws and principles of the gospel. He and his wife were baptized the next day in July 1831 by Hazen Eldrege and Abram Butterfield. They began preparations immediately to join the saints in Nauvoo. John Elmer was a timberman; he cut and hewed logs to build their homes. They were comfortable both in the summer and the extremely cold winters of Vermont. When the snow covered the fences, they could travel in their sleighs over them. John floated logs down the river, and was noted as the best shingles maker. He also was a farmer and a shoemaker. John with some of his children and their families and other relatives journeyed from their homes in Vermont to Illinois. They lived for a time in Adams county. Sally did not live to reach their destination. She died in Indiana in 1838. He was ordained a High Priest in 1848. Through persecutions they went to Lee County, Iowa, traveling by team. It was here that his daughter Wealtha died in 1850, leaving her children to her father’s care. In Nauvoo, John married Harriet Gould Brunson, the widow of Seymour Brunson. Two daughters were born to John and Harriet. Jerusha (who married John Spencer) and Lucretia who was born and died in infancy. Harriet was a good kind mother to Wealtha’s children. She was very neat and industrious, and an expert with her needle. In her later years she sewed many balls of carpet rags for friends and neighbors. She did so well she could not keep up with the demand. John Elmer arrived in Utah in 1851 (see note from the church below). John and family first went to Ogden with his son William. Then he moved to Payson. He did much to settle the valley, inhabited by Indians. He was one of Utah’s first shingle makers, and was noted as the best here as well as in his native state. Here he also made shoes and farmed. He was a man of large stature and great physical strength, genial temperament, pleasant humor, honest, upright and sympathetic. He lost his eyesight a short time before his death. He died 11 February, 1871 in Payson Utah and was buried in the Payson Cemetery After his death, Harriet went to Filmore where her two sons Seymour and Louis Brunson lived. In a history of John Elmer, written by Ora L. Dixon, John was listed as having completed his endowments at Winter Quarters on 6 May 1848. The history also had him arriving in Utah with the “Lyle” Curtis company in 1852. NOTE: there was no Lyle Curtis company. There was a Uriah Curtis company, in which the rest of the Elmer family arrived. The LDS church, when compiling records of all Utah pioneers discovered that he couldn’t have arrived in Utah in 1852, because he received his endowments in the office of Brigham Young on the 30 March 1852, so he must have already been here. The following is a note that Bryan Chapman received while communicating our family history data with the church history department (while compiling records of the pioneers): With regard to John Elmer in the pioneer database: Although your family information places John Elmer in the 1852 "Lyle" Curtis (probably Uriah Curtis company), stronger evidence more contemporary to the time shows that he came in 1851, not 1852. He and his wife, Harriet, were endowed in Brigham Young's office on 30 March 1852. This is positive proof that he came to Utah in 1851. One might argue that he could have returned to his family that spring after receiving his endowments in Salt Lake. A group of missionaries left Salt Lake on 5 May eastbound, but he was not listed among them. Also his advanced age (73) argues against him doing that. Generally it would take young missionaries traveling at a good pace 6 or more weeks to travel the 1000 miles back to Florence. He would have had little time to rest his stock and resupply for the return trip to Utah. I think the evidence is strong that he came to Utah in 1851 and stayed here to greet the rest of his family who came in the 1852 Curtis company. We see these kind of errors in family biographies frequently. We don't discount family biographies out of hand, but always try to look at primary facts (like endowments, etc.) to see if the biographical statements hold up. In this case, they don't. You may see the record of John Elmer's endowment on 30 Mar. 1852 on FHL film 183393. It is so noted on the IGI.

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