Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Ancestor Elizabeth Kemmish II

Up Mississippi by Packetship "Illinois"
January 1853

The story of my ancestor Elizabeth takes a significant turn January 1853. Elizabeth, her parents and family bid fair-well to Captain Kerr and some of the other Golconda passengers. With a baby sister only days old, the family boarded a packet ship called "Illinois".

This cargo ship took the family up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, Iowa. Joseph Smith had been dead for nine years.

"We lay three days at New Orleans. We then took passage up the river on a steamer. We were six days and one night in getting to St. Louis. That day we changed vessels and started for Keokuk. Next night we landed at Keokuk so our sailing was done with. We lay three days at Keokuk and then started for the plains. Such bad roads I have never seen. We went 13 miles from Keokuk and lay over. We lightened up and burnt boxes and goods. I threw away about 100 pounds of clothing, etc.

On Sunday, about twenty of us went across the Mississippi River to Nauvoo. We saw the ruins of the Saints' homes, the ruins of the Temple and we visited the Nauvoo Mansion. We saw Mr. Bidamon, the man who married Emma Smith. We saw Lucy Smith, the Prophet's mother, and also Emma. We also saw his three sons, Joseph, Frederick, and David. David was then in his 9th year and Joseph was 21. We also saw Mr. Bidamon's little girl about the same age as David. They were all playing together about the house." - James Rieie, 

In Keokuk Iowa, the Kemmish family and my sixteen year old 4x great-grandmother prepared to make a 1400 mile march to Utah.

Keokuk, Iowa

Keokuk, Iowa - 1850's
Around the first of June, the Elizabeth's Pioneer Company, "Ten Pound Company"set out on the Iowa trail towards Utah. This particular trail was mainly used by Mormons fleeing Illinois in 1846 and by other Mormons jumping off from Keokuk, Iowa in 1853.

The "Ten Pound Company" was a group of pioneers, consisting of thirty two wagons. Elizabeth walked the entire distance -1400 miles. It is hard to imagine that life in England would have been so bad as to warrant a trek like this. I can understand a person's religious convictions at the time. Realistically speaking, these people were duped and did not get the life they were expecting.

Pioneer Firewood
Elizabeth cooked for the company and when wood was not available she gathered buffalo chips to cook their evening meal.  Buffalo chips (also called Meadow Muffins) are lumps of buffalo manure that have dried into a hard mass. In modern Sioux language, Buffalo chips are called nik-nik, which means 'broken promise'. In American English, the term Bull Shit developed. That was an interesting piece of history that I was not expecting to find. Buffalo chips, like cow manure  burn readily and cleanly. They were used by pioneers and Indians as an alternative to firewood. In other parts of the world they are used for energy.

The company had a couple of cows, and one Dairy cow. The Dairy cow was just a matter of good luck for the family. Mornings, they attached a bucket of milk to the back of the wagon. Evenings, they had a little bit of butter.

James Rieie, aged 26, from Scotland was in the same company with Elizabeth. Below I included an entry from his private journal. (Our Pioneer Heritage) I publish his journal because Elizabeth walked in the same company as James. It is not known if they knew each other. Given the number of people that walked in the company, it is likely that they did know each other.

- Diary of James Rieie -

Outfitting the Ten Pound Company 
We crossed back to camp that night. This was about the first of June 1853. Near Montrose, we lightened up our loads. The understanding before we left Liverpool being, that each ten of the Ten Pound Company would have a wagon, four oxen, two cows and each could take 100 pounds of luggage besides being furnished enough provisions for the journey. But we had to take twelve in a wagon and consented to reduce our extra luggage to seventy-five pounds and if possible to fifty. There was no way to hire our extra luggage taken to the Valley so we burned our boxes and extra weight. We put our clothes in sacks. The captain of the company was Jacob Gates. There were 33 wagons in the company and 400 people. The four milk cows proved to be mostly dry cows or heifers. We had one milk cow among thirty-six of us and she died on the Sweetwater.

Across Iowa 

Across Iowa the roads were very bad and we greenhorns poor teamsters. I did not know how we could get through the Rocky Mountains with wooden axles, oxen and a stick across the oxens' necks to pull by. I had never seen any such outfit. American ways were all new to us. We had thirty pounds of flour each to take us to Council Bluffs. It had to last us thirty days. But it did not do us. When the flour gave out, there were chances to buy, so I called at a mill. They had no flour. I asked if they had corn meal. Yes, plenty. When they showed it to me, I said "That's not corn meal." They said it was Indian corn meal. "Oh," said I, "It's corn meal made from oats." "I wouldn't call oats, corn!" the man said. I bought the meal and asked how to cook it. They said the same as flour. But they did not tell us to sift it, so we cooked it, bran and all. It was not very good.

We got to Council Bluffs the 30th of June, but as the 4th of July was near, the ferrymen had to celebrate, so we did not get started to ferry until the 11th of July. All got over by the 16th inclusive. While laying near the Bluffs, I found the George McKenzies, late of Dundee and Aberdeen. I called on them and was invited to stop and sleep there. I did for four nights. It was so good to sleep with mosquito bar around the bed.

Council Bluffs to Utah 
When we did get started to cross the river, we had to cut willows, fill up the sloughs, make a road three quarters of a mile, to pull the boat up by hand. Then ere it got across, it had to be pulled up on the other side to the landing. In getting the ferrying done, I had overworked myself. When we did start the afternoon of July 16th I had to lay in the wagon sick, the only time I did ride from the Mississippi to Salt Lake. We got all our provisions rationed out to us at Council Bluffs. 100 pounds of flour, one pint of sugar, one pound of tea for 12, and 10 pounds of bacon to grease the wagon, one bucketful of salt for 12 and to feed the cattle. The salt, sugar and tea were all gone ere we got to Laramie. At the Bluffs I asked President Haight if I could take 25 pounds of flour extra with me, as I had seen that in coming from Keokuk to the Bluffs, a pound a day was not sufficient. Abruptly he said "We won't haul it for you sir." By the time we got to Laramie halfway from the Bluffs to Salt Lake some had all their flour eaten up. From then on it was divide, divide until within ten days travel to Salt Lake the captain called for all the flour in the company to be brought in and the last division was made which was two and one-half pounds each and had to last us to Salt Lake. From the Black Hills on our cattle began to give out. When they could no longer work they were driven ahead of the train. When they could not walk any longer, they were butchered for beef and divided among the company. But such beef! It did keep the most of us alive until we got to Salt Lake.

Death of Brother Crossland 
The only man in the wagon with me, a Brother Crossland from London, was taken sick on Green River with mountain fever and died west of Bridger. He was buried at the crossing of Bear River and Evanston. I had a rough time of it then having to take care of the cattle, get wood and water for the wagon, stand guard half the night each fourth night. When Brother Crossland was unmanageable by his wife, he being light-headed with the fever, I had to have the tent close to the wagon to be ready to help Mrs. Crossland to calm her husband. He said to me one day "If I die, I should like to write my own epitaph." "What would you write, Brother Crossland?....I should write, "I am murdered by the unwise procedure of the Ten Pound Company.'" He had pinched himself to save it for his children.

Captain Jacob Gates gave his horse, the only horse in the company, to Brother Waddington to go to Salt Lake to get us supplies. When Brother Waddington got plenty to eat himself, he took a long time to hunt up the authorities to send us help. We were at the west foot of Little Mountain, when Brother Waddington met us with two hundred pounds of flour. It was not much for four hundred starving people. As I was getting up the Big Mountain on the east side, Brother William Walker came past me with a watermelon rind in his hand. He handed the rind to me. Said he "Watermelon, watermelon!" This was the first watermelon rind I had ever seen. I ate the rind good! That night Brother Walker, as he slept in my tent, gave us six potatoes, one to me and the other five to Mrs. Crossland and her four children. That was all we had for supper. Parley P. Pratt brought out the melon and the potatoes to Brother Walker, his father-in-law. Next night we each got our half pound of flour that Brother Waddington brought out from Salt Lake.

When we got to Salt Lake we could buy plenty, and I still had one English sovereign besides some silver in my pocket. I have been disgusted ever since to hear about the precious gold. It, we could not eat, when there was nothing to buy. I managed to buy two pounds of deer fat at Bridger, but that was all the woman would sell. When Brigham heard how we had been pinched for food, he said that was the last of the Ten Pound Emigration Business.

But I do not think Brigham knew it all. A Sister Hannah Weaver Morgan, now Eakins of Kaysville, and still living there (1901) was hired to work for Isaac C. Haight, the fall we came in. She was then an unmarried woman. She told me herself that Mr. Haight had a sack of gold in the corner of the room she worked in, one foot high and six inches wide. She handled it and hefted it. When Mr. Haight landed he went to Iron County and built himself a palace. Now the part of the Ten Pound Company that I crossed in, the Falcon and on the plains, with me I kept an exact account of all our expenses from Liverpool to Salt Lake. I have the ship's fare, the extra provisions furnished, the cost up the rivers to Keokuk, the passage across rivers and bridges. The statement by Isaac C. Haight, for the cost of outfit-wagon was $70 each, yoke of oxen $75 each, and each yoke of the heifers the same. There was $50. worth of provisions furnished. I made it my business to get the cost of everything and recorded it all up.

The wagon and cattle when arrived at Salt Lake were clear of expenses as was stated in Liverpool they would be for the Ten Pound Company. That is, the part of the company that came in the Falcon. Other companies may have cost more. We were only three days at Keokuk. Some were there a month and some over two months. The men worked on the roads near Keokuk or helped Mr. Haight in getting the cattle from Missouri and Illinois. I worked one day at Keokuk in unloading a vessel of salt. We worked 14 hours at 25 cents an hour. We got $3.50, the biggest money I ever had made in one day. Only one man, Adam Smith, and I stood the full day's work. It was packing salt from the ship to shore. The cattle and wagons were sold in Salt Lake City and the company got three and a half dollars each in vegetables from the tithing office of Salt Lake City. Thus ended my journey from Aberdeen. We started the 12th of February and landed in Salt Lake City the 30th of September 1853. It was a rough journey, taking it all in all.

Elizabeth Arrives in Utah

September 30th, 1853 - Kemmish Family Arrive Salt Lake City

Elizabeth Kemmish and her family arrived in Salt Lake City Utah. Elizabeth went to work for a woman by the name of Ms. Remington. Records state that the work provided many busy hours for Elizabeth. If my judgement is correct, based upon records provided by the Church of Later Day Saints Database, the person she most likely worked for would be Jerome and Lydia Remington. There would have been several children to care for. When Elizabeth first arrived, Lydia Remington would have had two small children aged two and one years. Ms. Remington had two more children, on in 1854 and another in 1856. If this is the same Remington family that Elizabeth worked for, she would have had a lot of work as a domestic servant. They would provide her with room and board, and a very small salary. 

1854 - Mormon Church, Elizabeth meets future husband

In Church, Elizabeth met an Englishman twenty-two years her senior.
Hugh Moon was born in Eccleston, Lanceshire England August 5th. Hugh Moon had a lovely Canadian wife, Marie, and several children. He had been Joseph Smith's personal bodyguard in Nauvoo before Joseph Smith was arrested and shot in a jail cell. Hugh Moon was well acquainted with Brigham Young, a man that would eventually wreck havoc on their lives. 

Property owned by Moon Family
After Marie and Hugh Moon moved to Utah, they found the first years to be very difficult. They were especially difficult for Marie. Church authorities counselled Hugh to take more wives, and counselled Marie to permit it. Brigham Young insisted that Hugh take more wives. Polygamy had been whispered about when they lived in Nauvoo. The concept of polygamy was sprung upon the Mormons by Young after the people migrated 1400 miles to Utah. Marie questioned the very foundations of her new religion. She could not reconcile herself with her husband being married to other women. Marie Moon refused to permit polygamy, and for now, her husband was wiith her. 

Brigham Young was a son of a bitch. Hugh and his wife had to be disciplined for resisting polygamy, so Young punished they by sending Hugh out on mission work, keeping him away from his businesses and family. At the time they owned a few businesses, a flourishing whiskey distillery, factory for making bone buttons and cutlery handles. Marie was a good businesswoman and able to keep the businesses going after her husband was forced to leave on church business. 

Brigham Young decided that to hurt the family more, he would order the distillery closed. Marie broke into her own distillery, retrieved whiskey, and managed to sell it. In retaliation against Marie, Brigham Young ordered the entire distillery to be dismantled.

One would think that it makes sense that he would order a distillery closed. After all, alcohol is forbidden in the Mormon faith. Not so fast - Brigham Young operated his own distilleries. He later backpedaled claiming that he had to make whiskey for medicinal purposes. I call bullshit on that one. He shut down my ancestors distillery because they were not doing what he wanted them to do.

One evening, a dear friend of Marie came one day to tell her that her husband had been killed because he refused to enter into polygamous marriages. Some men had brought her husbands bloody clothes and told her that if she told anyone, they would put her where the dog's wouldn't bite her. She told Marie to tell Hugh to take more wives, or he would have the same fate. Marie and Hugh talked it over and decided that he must do it.

June 11, 1854 - Marriage

Council House
Completed in 1850, burned down June 21, 1883. 
Huge Moon married Elizabeth Kemmish. A few minutes later, he married Jennett Nicol. The ceremony took place in the first Mormon public building known as the Council House.

First wife Marie remembered the following years with heart-sickness. She was twice as old as the new wives. Now that Hugh was regularly sleeping with two much younger women, it appears that he started to like the idea of being in a polygamous marriage. He started to tell Marie that he needed to be in these marriages to have male children. Marie bore him two males, her husbands change of heart towards polygamy brought her additional sadness. She loved her husband, felt hurt, and never got over it.

1858 - Elizabeth's Family leaves her behind

After only five years in Salt Lake City, Elizabeth's family, father Charles Kemmish, and mother Elizabeth Wilkey Kemmish, returned to Harrison County, Iowa. All her brothers and sisters, except Jane who married Thomas Fowler, moved to Iowa. I do not know about you, but something about that just seems very strange to me.  I am curious if Brigham Young tried to convince Elizabeth's father to take more wives.  From the records, Charles Kemmish only had one wife, Elizabeth's mother. Would this be a reason he went all the way back to Iowa with his wife and family? It seems odd to walk 1400 miles only to walk 1400 miles back.

After further research, I discovered that Charles Kemmish left Utah because he was afraid of the Mormons. He was selling flour to immigrants, which is something Brigham Young specifically told the Mormons not to do. All Later Day Saints were forbidden from trading with the travelers. A group of pioneers from Arkansas were passing through the area. Charles Kemmish was planning on selling them flour, but did not have any available. By the skin of his teeth, he was almost a party to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Mormons, dressed as Indians, ambushed a wagon train killing everyone, women and children. It has a horrid event that made National News. There are still questions about whether or not Brigham Young knew about the massacre, or planned it himself.

Charles Kemmish was terrified, and wanted to get out of Utah quickly. The Federal Government were coming down hard on the Mormons. Escaped by lying to the Mormons and said he was leaving to set up a farm. He never returned.

St George, further south.
Saint George Mission - 1861

Seven years of marriage, Hugh and Elizabeth had five children together. Brigham Young decided to establish a new town in Saint George Utah. Three hundred and nine families were called by church authorities, uprooted again, and sent to establish this town. It is becoming clearer that when the church orders a Mormon family to do something, they must do it.

Marie stayed behind, but her two sons left with their father and his two much younger wives. This even caused Marie even more suffering because her boys were gone for years. Janett became a 'mother'to Marie's two boys. It took twenty-eight days to travel from Salt Lake City up the mountains to Saint George. Elizabeth, shy of her thirtieth birthday, said that this was one of the hardest experiences of her life. She was living in a tent and dugout for five years. While living in the tent and hole, she gave birth to two more babies. One of those babies, Ruwaine Moon, would be my 3x great grandmother. They were never able to create a home or farm in this area. From looking at the location on Google Maps, it must have been an inhospitable environment back in those days.

Route from Farmington to Henderson Creek
Elizabeth returned to Salt Lake city where she stayed a short time, them moved to Farmington, Davis County, Utah, December 7, 1866. This was the same property that first wife Maria, was living on. When Huge moved back with his wives - Maria moved out. At Farmington, Elizabeth gave birth to two more babies.

1870 - Widow at 33 years

Henderson Creek, Oneida County, Idaho, Elizabeth receives word to come to Idaho, her husband was very sick. Hugh died on the day of his daughter, Ruwaine's fifth birthday, September 23d 1870. When he died all three of his wives were at his side.

First wife Maria said that she liked the other two wives, but refused to accept polygamy as an institution, finding it utterly repugnant. Little Ruwaine, sadly celebrates her fifth birthday while her father lays dead in the house.

Hugh Moon wanted to be buried in Zion, which he concluded to be Utah. When he died, the weather was stormy, and it was difficult to carry his body by buckboard to Utah. The family trekked south and buried him. Years later when highways were being built, they found that the boarder was misplaced.  By mistake he was buried just across the boarder inside the Idaho territory. He is one of two graves in this fenced, private plot.

There are several blogs and stories about Hugh Moon. He was a fairly well known and prominent person in the early Mormon community. I found this comment, posted by another one of his decedents, Rachel.

Mural Depicting School in Farmington, UT

1872 - Elizabeth is 35
Elizabeth moves to Malad Idaho. With the death of her husband, and the sale of some farm equipment that failed miserably, she was left in poor financial circumstances and several children to feed. She married William T. Bell, to this union she bore her final son, William Charles Bell. She quickly separated from Mr. Bell and took her former name Moon.

During this time period Elizabeth's life was very difficult. Her children had to go out and work for other families. Without them she certainly would not have survived long. She worked at Henderson Creek, tending to animals, sewing, cleaning and cooking.

Malad Idaho, Farm

1st March 1900 - Death of a Daughter
2x Great Grandmother's Grave

Elizabeth was mother to many children. All of them outlived her except one. Ruwaine died March 1, 1900 at the age of thirty-four. She left behind two children and a husband. One of the babies she left behind was my great grandmother Marie, or as we called her "little grandma."

I never knew that old woman in a hospital bed, with thin, transparent skin never knew her mother. She certainly knew Elizabeth, and she certainly enjoyed finding the cookies and cinnamon cakes Elizabeth hid in the earthen crock.

Ruwaine married Oscar James Wells. She was one of four of the Moon girls to marry a man from the Erastus Nelson Wells family. Like her mother, she was a small woman with brown hair and blue/grey eyes. That description reminds me so much of my grandmother. The trait of beautiful blue/grey eyes passed onto many lucky people in our family.

There are stories that they were so poor, there was one pair of shoes for the entire family. They kept them by the door in winter months. Everyone would wear them whenever they needed to go outside. During the summer, they went barefoot.

July 1905 - A new house

Elizabeth's life has many hardships. In 1905, with the help of her children, she had a nice frame home built with a large living room, two bedrooms, kitchen and pantry. Ted and Amos jones laid the foundation and plastered the walls. John G. Evans did a lot of carpenter work. Henry Cottington painted and papered the home. It is wonderful how friends and family will pitch in and help when help is needed.

April 1914 - Elizabeth is Seventy-seven years old.

Elizabeth's brother James came to visit her. He was one of the twins born in 1851. She was overjoyed. She had not seen her little brother in over fifty years. He was the only living relative she had seen since her family moved back to Iowa fifty-six years prior. He came to see her with his wife Leone and their son Harry.

Elizabeth was always a small woman. She was known to be a good cook and a neat housekeeper. Her grandchildren boasted about the sweets she baked, and left hidden in the earthen crock. She was known to bake cookies and cinnamon cakes.

Eighty-three years, nine months, four days

When Elizabeth was born in Southsea England, Queen Victoria ruled England. When she died, January 15th,
1921, King George V was the English monarch. When she was born, Matin Van Buren was president of the United States. When she died, Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. When she was born, Charles Dickens was writing Oliver Twist, Hard Times and a Christmas Carol. When she died, American F. Scott Fitzgerald was in Paris working on The Great Gatspy.

Elizabeth Kemmish is buried in Malad City Cemetery, Plot 20 11. When Elizabeth died, my great grandmother Marie ( Little Grandma ) twenty five years old, and already a mother of three. When she died, prohibition had just went into effect.

Final Thoughts On My Ancestors 

As I finish up my search into the life of my 4x great grandmother, I found myself asking many questions on the way. First, she was a ten year old girl when she entered this religion. She was only sixteen when she crossed the Atlantic, and sailed up the Mississippi River. She went with her parents. I do not see how she had much say in these matters. I do not see how she could have had any alternatives in her life. Everything I found of her online indicates she was a nice person, and a very obedient person. 

There are some things about her story that both inspire me, yet bother me. First, I think that Joseph Smith was a lying charlatan. I think he knew very well that those initial "revelations" were completely made up. I think he wanted the prestige that came along with being a prophet. Unlike Muhammad, I do not think he suffered from epilepsy. I do not think those revelations were real to him. From the get go - he knew he was lying. 

Like many lies, some people get caught up in them. The lies become more elaborate, more intricate, and the person becomes an integral part of them. Once Smith started the lie, he had to maintain it. There was no other option for him. I have seen it happen many other times where a person's lie just grows, and becomes more intricate. 

In one sense, my ancestors suffered for decades based on a ridiculous lie. Their lives would have been much better if they were smarter. Hugh Moon moved around to horrible places because Brigham Young told him to do it. Elizabeth followed him around and lived in a hole and a tent for five years

In this process I started to feel like I was getting to know Elizabeth. I was knowing the details of her life, her family and her children. I know where she came from and where she went. I know that becoming a Mormon was never her choice. She was converted by her parents. She went to Utah because that is where her parents were going, only to be left behind five years later. I am wondering what did she have the power to choose? Her story makes me very sad. I am sad religion dupes so many people. I am sad that she had to live that particular life. The family was poverty stricken for decades, poverty that hit Little Grandma who never owned a pair of shoes until she married. Poverty that my grandmother felt when they had to rely on the Salvation Army for food and coffee. The family was dirt poor for many years.

Moon Circle - Farmington Utah

Moon Park is located at 1350 North Main Street. 


  1. My name is albert J. Wilson. My ancestor, Henry Errett and his brother Isaac arrived New York City in 1802. I saac acompanied by John and Sarah sloan continued on their trip to Ontario, Canada. In 1810 Henry was part of group calling themselves Scotish Baptists. Sophia Kemmesh was part of the group and later married Henry about 1811. Henry died in 1825, Sophia remarried a Mr Seuter. They later moved to wlliamsport Pa.

    1. Was Sophia born on the ship? That name sounds familiar.

  2. 1. So you are a jack Mormon.

    2. The hardships endured by pioneer women have not gone unremembered. This link may interest you:

    3. In 1838, my ancestor (1812-1891) walked the National Road from Philadelphia to St. Louis, where he soon married. He then sailed up the Mississippi to Hancock Co. IL, where he farmed a claim for nearly 30 years, before moving to Benham TX, where he is buried. He and his wife raised 10 children.

    4. Both of my wife's grandfathers homesteaded about 100 years ago, one in southwest OK, the other in central Nebraska. I have seen the ruins of the OK homestead, and the evidence of rural poverty is awful. My father in law did not live with electricity and plumbing until he was a college freshman. Nevertheless, he became an electrical engineer. A cousin of my mother in law, who grew up on a Nebraska cattle ranch, discovered the principle of magnetic memory, without which there would be no file servers or hard disks.



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