Our Family Legacy
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF ELISHA AVERETT
Elisha Averett was one of the most spiritual and obedient children of our Heavenly Father. He was also a personal friend and an obedient servant of two of the Lord's choice prophets.
Elisha and his twin brother Elijah were born on December 12, 1810 in Maury County, Tennessee to John Averett and Jennett Gill Averett. John and Jennett Averett had 11 children. Elisha was the 4th child and second twin born. Elisha and Elijah were close friends all their lives. They worked on many church projects together.
John Averett was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, but moved to Barren County, Kentucky. In Barren County he met and married Jennett Hamilton Gill. After their daughter Mary was Born, 28 Feb 1807 they moved to Maury County, Tennessee. In Maury County they had the following children: Jennett (20 Feb 1809); Elijah and Elisha (12 Dec 1810); Eliza (12 Jul 1814); Sarah (29 Oct 1816); Pyrenia (11 Feb 1819); John (15 Aug 1821); George Washington Gill (20 Jan 1824); and Patrick Gill (3 May 1827, who died the same day), and Alexander Murray (20 Aug 1828).
The Averett family lived in Maury County, Tennessee till 1830. Elisha's father, mother, and family immigrated to White County, Illinois, somewhere near the Saline Salt Works. Stopping there only a short time, his father traded his farm in White county, Illinois for a farm in the joining county (Hamilton) only living there in the first named county for a short time, perhaps three months. Situated in Hamilton County, Illinois about 30 miles from Shownestown on the Ohio River and about nine miles from the county seat of Hamilton County, Illinois, south of the county seat in what was then known as the Mayberry Settlement. On the waters of the north fork of the Saline River and near a swamp called the Scaters made by the Wheeling and Tennilles Creeks, spreading out and making a vast swamp and lakes being in an island portion of the country quite secluded to the things of the more populous portions of the county.
His family lived a quite quiet, sober life seeming to appreciate the comforts and blessings that they enjoyed; having but small advantages of education, having to travel three miles for all the schooling that the children obtained in this place. His father bought forty acres of land, most of the same in cultivation, and being land that did not produce very heavy crops of grain, his father did not become very wealthy but seemed to lose means in place of making them, for many years raising some cotton and flax and manufacturing the same with our own hands into clothing for our own use for Sunday and for everyday. All the children went barefooted in summertime, and the boys and sometime both boys and girls going barefooted both winter and summer except in very cold weather.
About the year 1832, his father went into the tobacco raising quite extensively and thinking to help himself and family by so doing, he bought several hogsheads of tobacco and shipped it and his own to the city of New Orleans, having the same appraised by the city inspection. It being condemned he lost a heavy load on all of his tobacco which hurt him financially in the following year.
While in Hamilton County both Elijah and Elisha joined the Mounted Volunteers of Illinois. The Governor of Illinois called them to active duty on 15 May 1832, to fight in the Black Hawk Campaign of 1832. Elisha was the Fifth of Captain in Ardin Biggerstaff’s Company of the Third Regiment, First Brigade, and Third Army. Elijah was a private in the same company. Robert Witt, the first husband of Dorcas Willis, was in the company of Captain James Hall, in the same Brigade. He was a 2nd Sergeant in rank. All three men were called to duty on the same day. They were discharged three months later on 13 Aug 1832.
This matter somewhat frustrated their father in his calculation and he slacked his efforts in the tobacco raising business. And he took more to the raising of corn and wheat, sometimes having to borrow money to meet his promises and to pay his debts having to pay by interest for the same yet having plenty of farmland and stock land being poor.
In April of 1835, the Latter-day work found Elisha’s family. Latter-day Saints Elisha Graves and Isaac Higbee came to John Averett's home and preached the gospel and baptized the family, Elisha was baptized 6 June 1835. Then came William Ivy and Milton Homes and assisted in their labors of preaching the gospel in that part of the county. During their sojourn in that part of the county they baptized some 30 or 40 persons, male and female, and the power of the Lord was made manifest to the believers. Mostly they spoke with new tongues and gave the interpretation of the same. The sick was healed and the hearts of all the believers had cause to rejoice in the goodness of God and a testimony of Heavenly Father of the truth of the Latter-day work. And had many other manifestations of his power made manifest to his Saints in them days when they loved one another and sought the interests of each other, and the Lord blessed them that loved and worshipped him the true and living God.
About April 1836 Elisha and Elijah with their sister and brother-in-law S.A.P. Kelsey, their sister Eliza Averett, in company with a number of their neighbors, immigrated to the Caldwell County, Missouri and settled on Steve (or Steer) Creek some two miles from Far West. The spring following 1837 his father and mother and sister Pyrenia and brothers John and Murray Averett all emigrated to Caldwell County, Missouri, and settled on Shoal Creek about one and a half miles from Far West, Missouri on a fertile spot of land. They rejoiced that they could help build up Zion. They cleared off some land and fenced and sowed to turnips some of the same. This country seemed to teem with all of the blessings that mortals had or to wish for. Convenient range one thousand of acres of grass and the fertile prairie suitable for mowing for hay and easy to be brought into cultivation, the country seeming to teem with all the blessings that their hearts could desire; honey, deer, turkeys, hens, quails, and the streams teeming with their furry tribes by the thousands and easy to obtain may beautiful groves of beautiful timber and convenient wild fruit and nuts too numerous to mention.
His father rented some corn that had been planted before he arrived at Far West, raising some of the best corn and sod that they had ever beheld on sod land. Everything seemed to grow and prosper in this land that was put into the ground and cultivated. Another blessing that this country offered was the very best of spring water in abundance. This land seemed to be a choice land in every deed and to the Averetts the land seemed to be a heaven in every deed. Everything seemed to smile with blessings too numerous to describe or express. They gave praise to God and bowed before him on bended knee and called on his great name for his blessing and to thank him for the light of the gospel and for the many great blessings, which he was blessing on them within that goodly land of Zion.
In the summer of 1837 Elisha Averett was married to a widow of the name of Dorcas Witt, (she was a cousin of Joshua T. Willis) the widow of Robert Witt who was killed in an affray or fight in McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois. Robert Witt had come to McLeanboro when he was nineteen years of age. He became one of the blacksmiths for the town. Robert also served in the Black Hawk War in 1832. Elijah and Elisha Averett were also soldiers of the war and in the same county company as was Robert. The brothers were near-by neighbors to Robert and his family living in the Mayberry Settlement just nine miles south of McLeansboro. The Averett family had moved to Illinois from Maury County, Tennessee. The Witts became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints soon after it was organized. Robert Witt married Dorcas Willis on February 28, 1825 and they became parents of five children: Kissie Ann, John Wesley, Sarah Jane, William and Miles. Robert was killed in 1834, when Sarah Jane was three years old. Her father and his neighbor (Bum Gamer) were in the process of a heated argument and in the pursuit of this argument; the neighbor struck Robert in the back with a broadax killing him almost instantly. Dorcas was left with three children to care for. William born in 1833 and Mills born in 1834 had both died before 1838. Dorcas left Hamilton county with a group of Saints and traveled to Missouri. The Averett family was also part of this group. Dorcas was well acquainted with Elisha and Elijah as well as other members of the Averett family. The families had lived a few miles apart from each other and they had joined the Church at approximately the same time. In 1838, at Caldwell County, Missouri, Elisha Averett and Dorcas Willis Witt were married.
About the months of July and August the mobbers of the neighborhood and joining counties of Ray, Clinton, and La Fayette, Jackson, and Daviess began to howl like so many bloodthirsty wolves, appealing to their neighbors for help and declaring that the Mormons and Joe Smith would overrun the country, and at the same time making all manners of lying, slandering reproaches against the Latter-day Saints and especially against Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Lord, having driven the saints from time to time from Jackson County, Ray, Clay, and Clinton robbing them of their homes and property. Each time, more or less being at the present time, only making themselves new homes in Caldwell County and Daviess, one of the joining counties.
In August of the year 1837 at the election polls in (Gallatin,) Daviess County, Missouri some of the mobbers decided that the damned Mormons shouldn't vote and in consequence of their undertaking to enforce the same, one of the Saints by the name of Butler and some several of the mob got into a fight. Butler getting the better of all who engaged in the fight, butler coming out victorious in the skirmish by being an expert in welding his cudgel. This affair still enraged the mobbers still more in Daviess and the adjoining counties.
Sometimes during that fall a portion of the Saints who lived at DeWitt on or near the Missouri River was driven from their homes and full grown fields of corn, and would have been murdered if it had not of been that the hand of the Lord was over his people for good and his prophet Joseph was awake to his duties and went to their welfare with some of his brethren of the Saints and assisted them and guarded them to the city of Far West in Caldwell County, Missouri.
One of the mobbers, before the Saints left DeWitt, approaching the night guard (a man by the name of Alexander Williams) while on duty and firing their guns at him without affect and breaking to run he, Williams, fired his gun at one of them striking him near the mouth, and to use the language of Williams he made the mobber call on his God he thought for the first time in his whole lifetime, and it was stated that Williams shot his chew of tobacco out of his mouth.
About or soon after this occurrence, difficulty occurred betwixt the Saints and the mob in the neighborhood of Haun’s Mill and the two parties met together and held a treaty of peace, and agreed to be at peace with each other and before the Saints who was assembled at the treaty of peace. The mobbers, contrary to their solemn agreement, returned and commenced some two hundred of them to fire on the unsuspecting Saints, men, women, and children, massacring them in a most brutal manner. And some of them mangling the bodies of the slain after death one man, by the name of McBride, whose body was horribly mangled by being cut to pieces with a mowing scythe. It was also told that some of the mobbers fired at some of the women of that place, shutting them in their place after they had done all the meanness by killing all the men they could find alive. They murdered two small boys to satisfy their hellish disposition. All of this shouting happening at or near the Haun’s Mill where there was a small …of housed and amongst the worst, one blacksmith's shop in which the most part was committed and after the affair was all over 17 of the slain was buried in an old well near the shop by the few men that was left and the women of the place.
Soon after this occurrence the mob grew more and more enraged. Some small skirmishes took place after this and some before. One bloody fight took place before at Crooked River where a number of the mob was killed and wounded and several of the Saints was wounded and one noble man of the Saints was killed, David Patten, and one of the twelve apostles, a noble spirit much lamented by all the Saints. One of the Madge family and one of the Henricks family was also shot and badly wounded at that encounter at Crooked River but both recovered after a long time suffering.
Sometime in the fall of 1837, the governor of the state of Missouri ordered the militia of the state of Missouri to go in numbers of some five to seven thousand to drive the Saints from the state of Missouri or to exterminate them indiscriminately. Elisha and his brother Elijah acted as “minute men” for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Elisha was present at the time Governor Boggs read the proclamation proclaiming that “the Saints must leave the state of Missouri or be exterminated from off the face of the earth.” At the critical moment, Joseph Smith the prophet, seeing the militia and mob being moved against the Far West, seeming determined to massacre all the Saints, he in wisdom gathered his brethren together to protect the interests of the Saints; some three hundred in all able bodied men, old and young, to defend the helpless.
After several days maintaining their positions on the borders of the city with this handful of men compared to the numerous numbers of the mob and militia, there being a flag of truce place betwixt the two armies there was a treaty being on the conditions that the Saints lay down their arms and leave the state of Missouri and they shouldn't be harmed. And so General Blake and his men marched into the city of Far West, Missouri and formed themselves around the Saints en masse and ordered them to lay down their arms with a promise that they should receive them again.
As soon as the Saints left, and as soon as the mob and militia got possession of the city, they commenced to plunder the Saints’ property in every quarter taking goods and chattels in every direction pretending that they was their goods and said that the damned Mormons had stolen them from them, often claiming men's horses that they never had seen before and taking them straightway with them biding defiance to all opposition. Elisha's younger brother George was a witness of some of their thefts in the following manner: George and his younger brother Murray, being in a corn field gathering corn that they and their father and brothers had raised for their own use to make them bread and to feed their stock, the unprincipled mob came into their field of corn in great numbers, sweeping the corn as they went, asking no odds of the owner. And making their way up to George and making a proposition to the affect that they would make these boys haul their corn to their camp, and no doubt would have carried their hellish plans into effect had not there have been one among them that had more human principle that the rest of his kind, riding up right in the nick of time and telling them to leave the boys alone.
As soon as this opening presented itself, George and Murray hastily left for home taking with them what corn that they had gathered without waiting to gather a full load. Things moved on in about this manner more or less until the Saints left the county of Caldwell, Missouri for the safety of Illinois in cold weather thinly clad and poorly furnished with provisions in cold weather. In the winter and spring of 1838, leaving their homes in Caldwell, Daviess, and Clinton County to their enemies without asking for an renumeration whatever, John Averett, their father, leaving quite an improvement some two miles from Far West without any renumeration whatever. Elisha and Elijah also both left their farms and endured many hardships during the persecution of the Saints in Missouri and also in Illinois.
Early in the spring of 1838 Elisha with his father, mother, four brothers (Elijah, John, George, and Murray), and two sisters (Eliza and Pyvenia) landed with the body of the church in the state of Illinois, most of the church stopping in Adams County at first; renting land as they best could, the people of Adams County being kind to the Saints and especially the people of the city of Quincy, Adams County.
In 1839 Elisha and Dorcas, his wife, had a son named William. Two more children were born in 1841 and 1843, but both of these children died. They were buried at Nauvoo. Elisha was a member of the martial band of the Nauvoo Legion.
In January 29, 1839, Elisha was one of approximately 176 men who covenanted with Brigham Young "to stand by and assist each other to the utmost of our abilities in removing from this state, and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy, till they shall be out of reach of the exterminating order of General Clark, acting for and in the name of the state." This document originated in Far West, Missouri.
In 1839, the Averett families crossed the Mississippi river at Hannibal, Missouri and traveled to a place called “Pecan”. They rested there for two weeks before continuing on to Hamilton County where they had once resided. After several years in Hamilton County, the family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.
While acting as a bodyguard for the Prophet, Elisha was hit in the head by a jagged stone, thrown by a member of a mob. His injury was so severe that doctors had to place a metal plate in his skull in order to preserve his life. The Prophet was so shaken by what had happened to Elisha, that he paid for Elisha’s operation. There is no record that Elisha ever complained bout his injury.
12 October 1840 – A limestone quarry in an old streambed northwest of Nauvoo, but within the city limits, opened. It was located west of Main Street, between Hyrum Street and Joseph Street. Elisha Averett was a stonemason and struck the first blow for stone for the Nauvoo temple. Elisha and Elijah laid the foundation stones for the Nauvoo Temple. Elisha became the chief mason and his brother, Elijah and John and Truman Leonard, assisted him. These men were skilled in stone masonry and their trade was in great demand. Elisha was also one of the doorkeepers at the Temple. In the history of Illinois it lists: "Elisha Averett as leader of a band; later it became known as Averett’s Band." The Averett and Witt families were listed as members of the Nauvoo 2nd Ward.
From the History of the Church, by Joseph smith, we can read many bits of information about Elisha Averett:
"The Lesser Priesthood was organized in the City of Nauvoo, March 21, 1841 …Elisha Averett was chosen president of Teachers and James W. Huntsman and James Hendricks, Counselors…"
"October 7, 1842- This day the Teachers met in Nauvoo, and organized into a quorum by appointing Elisha Averett, president; James Huntsman and Elijah Averett, counselors…"
Elisha and his brothers Elijah, John, and George quarried rock for the Nauvoo Temple, and also worked on the construction of the Temple.
On February 6, 1843, Dorcas Witt Averett died in childbirth, along with her infant daughter. What a sad day for twelve-year-old Sarah Jane and her sister and brothers when their mother died. Kissie Ann Witt was sixteen; John Wesley Witt was fourteen; and William Averett was two. Elisha was a conscientious man, not one to shirk his responsibilities. He cared for these children displaying a great amount of love and kindness toward them.
Elisha and children buried Dorcas in the "Old Mormon Cemetery" located in the Parley Street Cemetery near Nauvoo. Elisha engraved on her stone: "Sacred to the Memory of Dorcas - consort of Elisha Averett - Died 6 Feb 1843 - age 33 years". This inscription was found in a book of graveyard inscriptions of the Nauvoo area.
A list of officers and laborers on the Nauvoo Temple 31 December 1844: A second crane was erected and rigged. Elisha Averett was the principal mason who worked from this crane. He was called the principal backer up, because he laid the stone on the inside walls and also the inside courses of the main wall. His brothers, Elijah and John Averett and Truman Leonard, gave Elisha assistance. The hands, who worked on the second crane, being Elisha Averett’s crane, were John Harver, Thomas M Pearson, George M. Potter, and William Cutler.
Tuesday, December 30, 1845 Nauvoo, Illinois: The weather was pleasant. A large number of people showed up at an early hour to the temple, ready to receive their temple ordinances. At 9:00 am, eighteen bottles of oil were consecrated in Brigham Young's room.
At 11:00am, Almon Babbitt came into the temple and reported that the marshal had left Carthage for Springfield, and there would be no more danger of writs. Bishop miller stayed in the temple all day, fearing that he would be arrested.
At 4:00 pm, Brigham Young left the temple and returned at 5:25 pm.
Parley P. Pratt spent time forming a schedule for a pioneer company of 1000 men to precede the main body of the church to find a proper location and put in seed early in the summer.
At 8:30pm, temple ordinances ceased. It was thought proper to have a time of recreation. A number of people gather in the east room (Celestial Room.) Brother Hans Hanson was invited to produce his violin, with Elisha Averett on his flute. He played several lively dancing tunes. Joseph Young soon started to dance joined by others. A French Four (square dance) was started. Brigham Young, Sister Whitney, Heber C. Kimball and Sister Lewis opened the first one. Soon the whole floor was covered with dancers. After an hour of dancing, several songs were sung. Sister Whitney, at the invitation of Brigham Young sang with the gift of tongues and her husband, Bishop Newell Whitney interpreted. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball also spoke in a foreign tongue. After conversations, the evening was closed by prayer offered by Brigham Young.
After the religious and spiritual activities of Christmas were over, the holiday became a time of gaiety. Parties and dancing were the popular amusements, and everyone joined in the fun. On Christmas 1843 Joseph Smith held a party at his home. He wrote: "A large party supped at my house, and spent the evening in music, dancing, etc., in a most cheerful and friendly manner." A New Year's party was held in his home the same year at which there was music and dancing until morning.
And so, while dancing was a favored recreation, the Mormons were encouraged to conduct and attend their own dances rather than public affairs. A party was provided after a hard day's work on the Nauvoo Temple, and we learn that "Accordingly, Brother Hans C. Hanson was invited to produce his violin, which he did, and played several lively airs, accompanied by Elisha Averett on his flute, among others, some very good, lively dancing tunes. This was too much for the gravity of Brother Joseph Young, who indulged in dancing a hornpipe and was soon joined by several others; and before the dance was over, several French-fours were indulged in. Brigham Young and Sister Whitney and Elder C. Kimball and partner opened the first dance. The spirit of dancing increased until the whole floor was covered with dancers."
Sarah Jane was baptized a member of the Church on December 19, 1845. She also received here temple endowments on the same day. Then on January 19, 1846, Elisha was sealed to Dorcas Willis Witt Averett with Sarah Jane standing as proxy. This was the day also when Elisha and Sarah Jane were married. Nauvoo Temple Records, P. 149. L.D.S. Historian's Office Salt Lake City, Utah. Dorcas had been dead for almost three years. Sarah Jane was now almost 15. Evidently it was thought by both of them to be old enough to become a wife and mother. She had been helping her older sister take care of young William and their older brother.
January 1846 Elisha Averett was ordained to the office of a High Priest, in Nauvoo by Elder Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Isaac Morley. On January 6, 1846 Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and their wives left the temple to attend a party at Elder John Taylor's home. He held a supper with that was prepared in the most sumptuous style. The dinner concluded around 8 pm. In the evening, at the temple, another dance was held. Hans C. Hanson, Jacob F. Hutchinson, and Levi W. Hancock played the violin. James Smithies played the bass viola, and Elisha Averett played the flute. After dancing two figures, Joseph Young addressed the group for quite awhile. Brigham Young returned to the temple at 10 pm and organized a French Four. Erastus Snow and Levi W. Hancock sang hymns. The dancing continued until midnight. Frost again fell overnight.
At this time there were great troubles for the Saints. A great exodus out of Nauvoo began. Elisha's knowledge of building was called on again, but not to build a temple. The temple was completed after most of the Saints had departed. It was dedicated privately under the direction of Wilford Woodruff the night of April 30, 1846. The next day it was dedicated publicly, which proved to the world that the predictions of false prophets and the threats of the mobs that the building should never be completed or dedicated …had fallen to the ground."
After completing his assigned tasks on the Nauvoo Temple, Elisha received many new and important tasks from Brigham Young and the other church leaders helping to prepare for the exodus to the Rocky Mountains.
Elisha and Sarah Jane crossed the Mississippi River on February 4, 1846. It isn't certain if Kissie Ann went with her sister. John Wesley Witt, the brother, left Nauvoo and worked on the riverboats on the Mississippi river. He came across the plains to Utah in 1850 and moved to Heber Valley, married and died there in 1907. William Averett, Sarah Jane's half brother, was reared in his early youth by his uncle and aunt, John and Eliza Harvey. He crossed the plains with them. After Elisha and Sarah Jane had arrived in Salt Lake, he lived with them for a period of time. Then he went to Heber City to live with his half brother, John Wesley Witt. William stayed with this family the remainder of his life.
While Elisha and Sarah Jane were traveling to Iowa with the Saints, the church leaders requested that Elisha and Elijah Averett, along with two companies of pioneers, go to Locust Creek and complete the job contracted by A.A. Lathrop. They were to make four thousand rails at fifty cents per hundred. Their pay would be one half in cash, the other half in ox bells. These two companies also were instructed to build a bridge over Shoal Creek for the benefit of their company and the companies that would follow. In the History of Brigham Young dated May 2, 1846: "Elisha and Elijah and their company of thirty men were sent to Missouri and received about one hundred dollars worth of grain and bacon in exchange for clearing land and building two barns." After returning, Elisha was asked by President Young to go to Garden Grove and help plant a garden for the saints who would be arriving in the area. Sarah Jane went with him.
27 March 1846 President Young, elders H.G. Kimball, John Taylor and others left headquarters on the Chariton river in carriages and on horseback, and after passing through one mud hole about six miles in length, arrived at Captain Elisha Averett's tent and assembled on council at the tent of George A. Smith. Father John Smith, Elisha and Elijah Averett and others met in council. Parley P. Pratt reported that his division of the camp had purchased about one hundred bushels of corn at twenty cents per bushel, mostly in trade. The price had risen since to twenty-five cents. Brigham Young counseled not to pay more than twenty-five cents. When it was decided that the Saints would leave Nauvoo, about twenty-five men were selected by the general council and called to be captains of hundreds, whose business it was to select one hundred families and see that they were prepared for a journey across the Rocky Mountains. Afterward the captains of hundreds selected their own captains of fifties and tens, clerks, etc.
Elisha and Elijah were selected by Steven Markham to help organize Pioneer companies. John Gleason was Captain of the first fifty, Elisha Averett was Captain of the second fifty, and Elijah Averett was Captain of the first ten. Elijah reported in his journal at camp in Richardson's Point, MO that he had been west about twenty five miles he reported other companies ahead, including Elisha Averett’s. Corn was thirty cents per bushel at Orson Pratt's encampment.
30 March 1846 Elisha Averett met in the main camp on the Chariton River, with President Brigham Young and others. President Young selected eighteen of the guard and Elisha Averett and a company of Pioneers to be attached to and encamp nearby, the first division of fifty.
30 August 1846 a story taken from "Our Pioneer Heritage" tells of Elisha's skills as a stone mason and also as a kind human being: When the two wagons belonging to Jefferson Hunt crossed the Mississippi river on ice the day following these rites in the Nauvoo Temple, In Matilda's wagon rode an elderly English couple, John and Jane Bosco, who were perhaps relatives or dear friends of Matilda's parents. When the families of the Battalion left Council Bluffs, following the brave band of volunteers, this couple remained in Matilda’s wagon. Matilda ministered to their needs on the difficult trek across the state of Iowa. The Tyler History of the Battalion says: "On 28 August an elderly English lady, Jane Bosco, who was traveling with Captain Hunt, died, and before daylight the next morning, her husband John Bosco, passed away. He was not a soldier. Their oft-repeated wish that neither should be left to mourn the loss of the other was realized. They were buried in one grave, and under the supervision of Elisha Averett, a stone wall was built around and over their resting place."
The Mormon Battalion was organized while he was at Garden Grove in 1846. Captain James Allen of the U.S. Dragoons with a requisition from the President of the United States for five hundred men to form a battalion of infantry and march through and be discharged in California at the expiration of one year. Brigham came back and called men to volunteer, which they did promptly and on the sixteenth of July the now famous Mormon Battalion was mustered into the service of the United States and started for Mexico via Santa Fe. Elisha Averett enlisted as a Musician in Company A under the command of Captain Jefferson Hunt.
The following is an excerpt on the Mormon Battalion for those who might not know what the Mormon Battalion was.
“Circular to the Mormons”
"I have come among you, instructed by Col, S.F. Kearney of the U.S. Army, now commanding the Army of the West, to visit the Mormon camp, and to accept the service for twelve months of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged. They will receive pay rations, and other allowances, such as other volunteers or regular soldiers receive, from the day they shall be mustered into the service. They will be entitled to all comforts and benefits of regular soldiers of the army. When discharged as contemplated, at California, they will be given gratis their arms and accoutrements for which they will be fully equipped at Fort Leavenworth. This is offered to the Mormon people now. This is an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States, and this advanced party can thus pave the way and look out for the land for their brethren to come after them. Those of the Mormons who are desirous of serving their country, on the conditions here enumerated, are requested to meet me with out delay at their principal camp at Council Bluffs, whither I am going to consult with their principal men, and to receive and organize the force contemplated to be raised. I will receive all healthy, able-bodied men from eighteen to forty-five years of age."
J. Allen, Captain 1st Dragoons
On July 13, 1846, Jefferson Hunt called out the first company of volunteers. Brigham Young then chose the officers for each of the companies. At 6 p.m. a farewell party was given for the volunteers.
On July 16, four companies gathered to hear the last instructions from Brigham Young and others in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church. On the 17th, more volunteers were called to fill the Fifth Company of the Battalion. On the 18th, Brigham Young met with the officers and instructed them to be as fathers to their men and to remind them to pray always. He promised the men that if they were faithful in their duties not one of them would fall in battle with the enemy, and that their only battles would be with wild beasts.
On July 21, 1846, the Mormon Battalion began the longest infantry march in history to the tune, “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
"The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defense of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion." (Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.)
While Elisha was away Sarah Jane was pregnant at the time and remained at Council Bluffs. She gave birth on December 14, 1846 to her first child, naming her Dorcas in honor of her mother. Many of the Averetts had come with the Saints and they watched over Sarah Jane.
Elisha in the Mormon Battalion was crossing the country on approaching western Missouri, Colonel Allen being desirous of showing off his Mormon boys to the Missourians, selected Levi W. Hancock and Elisha Averett as fifers, and Jessie Earl and William Pace as drummers at the head of the command. They did not ever recollect ever feeling prouder or weighing more. The march through the city and suburbs was about three miles of continuous marching, so when they were through they were wet as drowned rats from perspiration. The Battalion was fitted out with teams, wagons, old flintlocks and bayonets at Fort Leavenworth set out for Santa Fe, a march of over one thousand miles on foot.
They had only made a few miles and camped when it was learned that Colonel Allen was dangerously ill in the fort, and the next day brought word that he was dead. Here was unforeseen difficulty the command legitimately belonged to Captain Jefferson Hunt of Colonel Allen but after a council of war it was decided that Lieutenant James Pace was to return to Council Bluffs, see President Young, report progress, and ask advice etc.
The Battalion moved on to Hurricane Ridge (so called from a violent storm that overtook the battalion there demolishing tents and spreading havoc in camp so that they were compelled to lay-bye a few days for repairs) and camped. Here Lieutenant Smith of United States Dragoons and Dr. Sanderson overtook them. Smith claimed the command and a second council of war gave it to him, through the modesty of Captain Hunt who declined. The next day Smith assumed command and the Battalion moved forward, nothing further of note occurring.
At the crossing of the Arkansas River Lieutenant James Pace accompanied by John D. Lee and Howard Egan overtook the Battalion bringing new from the bluffs. Here we shipped water mostly in vinegar barrels to do us across the Semirone Desert 90 miles. Much suffering followed yet they got through safe and finally arrived in Santa Fe were they lay in camp several days. Here the Battalion was divided; all the sick and most of the woman was sent back to Pueblo on the outskirts of Mexico under command of Captain James Brown of Company C, and the Battalion was place under Lieutenant Colonel Philip, St. George Cook, and ordered to make a force march through to California to the support of General Kearney who had already gone there with only one company of Dragoons, with pack mules. They left Santa Fe with teams to make a force march through to Santiago, southern California. When about five miles out of Santa Fe (in sight of abundance of government supplies) we camped and were placed on "half rations." Our line of march took us through Albuquerque, Socora and many small Mexican settlements where we could buy onions and many other garden productions that added to our half rations, kept up in fair spirits, but on the River De Norte another detachment was selected and sent back to Pueblo under Lieutenant Willis, leaving the Battalion only about three hundred strong. Then we soon turned west leaving civilization, as it were, into the wilds of the desert, making our own roads and letting our wagons down over mountain sides with ropes as circumstances demanded.
On arriving on the San Pedro river, their rations were getting low, in the extreme, many were actually suffering for want of supplies; there is a vast difference in men, as to their ability of endurance under such circumstances, some can endure all manner of hardships, on half or quarter rations, while others require more.
Hunting parties were sent in search of game but the country was so poor little was accomplished until after we reached the San Pedro. Here we encountered wild cattle, and laid in an immense supply of beef, while traveling down this river, some of us engaged in fishing; a “Battle Royal” seemed to be raging in the command. In order to ascertain what was the matter, we simultaneously took to trees, when to our astonishment the whole command were engaged in a general "bull-fight."
It appears that a large herd of wild cattle were enjoying a quiet “siesta” in the tall grass along the San Pedro, where the command came in and surprised them; result, and open battle in which several mules were killed in the teams, five or six men were wounded by being gored and tossed up fifteen or twenty feet in the air, some of them seriously, and an innumerable number of wild cattle left dead on the ground. After the smoke was cleared away, the wounded cared for, camp was made and a fresh lot of meat added to our rations. This was the famous bullfight of the San Pedro and proved to be the only battle the Battalion engaged in during their term of enlistment.
We traveled a few miles farther down the river when our scouts returned and reported one of their number arrested and held in custody by the Senora commanding officer at Tucson, also instructions to Colonel Cook to keep around to the north or he would serve his whole command the same.
Here was an unexpected dilemma, we could only muster about three hundred men and the idea of attacking the whole army of the province of Senora, Mexico, would seem absurd, yet Colonel Cook made camp, issued a large supply of ammunition, put the men on drill in the afternoon, then decided to go by Tucson and "see if they would put his whole command under arrest." Consequently, the next day found en-march for Tucson distant about 60 miles, teams worn and gadded could not make much more than twenty miles a day. At our first camp we were met by an officer of the Mexican Army in Tucson and a posse, with a request not to come through Tucson but keep around and we would not be molested. Learning that one of the generals son's was in the posse, colonel Cook place him under a strong guard, than told the officer of the posses to go back to his general, tell him he was on the road to California, that he should pass through Tucson, that if our scout was not returned to him before midnight he would execute his son, than go after his scout. Hence a little before midnight of the day specified, the scout was returned, and the son released.
On the next day the Battalion marched into Tucson and found it evacuated by several hundred cavalry, infantry and artillery. The people were friendly and contributed much by way of beans, corn and fruit for which they took all they could get. We stayed here one day and replenished our mules, seized some government wheat, beans, etc., had a false alarm at night, which aroused the camp, but hurt no one. It was learned afterwards that our picket guard fired on a herd of cattle in the night killing one, supposing them to be cavalry causing alarm.
From Tucson we crossed a 90-mile desert. Consequently, we started in the afternoon. When fairly on our way the Mexican troops returned to Tucson, then followed us intending to give us battle by night; but colonel Cook marched late, built fires as if to camp, then moved on 3 or 4 miles, built another fire, them moved on and camped without any fire. From deserters we learned that the Mexicans, being reinforced from neighboring posts, decided to catch us on the desert, that they came and surrounded the second "campfire" but not finding us went back, thus we probably escaped being annihilated. Another evidence of divine providence in our behalf.
We arrived on the Gila River, safe from the desert and had a feast of watermelons, at the Pima Indian village, on Christmas Day. Lieutenant Rosecrance said he enjoyed the luxury of a piece of roasted “rattlesnake” with an old Indian chief, same day and place. From here we traveled down the south bank of the Gila river to the Colorado River without any particular mishap, save it be toiling through excessive sands, and an effort to boat some of our baggage down the Gila in some of the zinc government wagon boxes that resulted in a failure. In the standing of the wagon boxes on some of the sandbars and the loss of boxes and cargo thus shortening our rations again.
On reaching the Colorado River, a day was spent in fixing up some more zinc wagon boxes, with a view to having to ferry the river. The boats were made ready and loaded, and run aground, them it was discovered that by wading, the boats could be got across, than the teams were hitched up and the river forded before night, thus saving several days in ferrying. From here we entered upon another 90 mile desert, water was however obtained in two places by digging, sufficient for the camp, on reaching the main chain, or California mountains. We followed up a wash until it became too narrow for our wagons, not being able to get out, there was no other alternative except to hew our way through which was done, and we arrived at Warner's ranch the first settlement in California. The Battalion was concentrated on the bend above Los Angeles. On July 16, 1847 Elisha was discharged from the Army at Ft. Moore in Los Angeles, California. Elisha left in the Levi W. Hancock Company headed for the Salt Lake Valley. He went, with a party of other Battalion veterans, through central California to Sacramento, then across the Sierra Nevada. They met Captain Sam Brannan while they were crossing the Sierra Nevada, and his tales of the Salt Lake valley were so discouraging that some of the other men turned back; they arrived at Sacramento in time to be at Sutter's Fort when gold was discovered there.
On the return journey, Elisha and several other men were appointed scouts to go ahead and find the best roads or trails and good water holes. On August 1st, Sgt Daniel Tyler records: "We traveled fourteen miles and encamped in a beautiful valley where we found, cut in the bark of a tree, the name of Peter Lebeck, who was killed by a Grizzly bear on the 17th of October 1837. The skull and other bone of the bear, which was killed by Lebeck’s comrades, were still lying on the ground near by. The next day, a ride of fifteen miles brought us to Tulare River. Finding it impassable, we traveled five miles up it and encamped. On August 3rd, Elisha Averett returned from an Indian village, bringing with him several Indians, including a chief. A guide was procured from among them and we continued twelve miles farther up the river." The company went by way of Sutter’s Fort and to Fort Hall in Idaho than turned south and continued on reaching Salt Lake October 16, 1847.
The men were destitute and their clothing was in rags. Settlers in the Valley took pity on the men and donated clothing to them. Elisha found that his family was not in the Valley, as did others of the Battalion. These men formed a company and started back to Winter Quarters. Here again, the men encountered hunger, poor weather conditions and problems with the Indians. When they finally reached Winter Quarters in December 1847, they found their families were located at various settlements.
Elisha was ragged, gaunt from hunger and bone weary when he found Sarah Jane. She was so relieved to know that he had returned to her, to care about his appearance. They were happy to be together again. Elisha became acquainted with his new daughter. The Averetts remained in Iowa for over a year. Sarah Jane gave birth to Elisha born December 20, 1848.
The family made many plans and preparations in anticipation of leaving Iowa for the trek across the Plains to Salt Lake. On July 4, 1849 they left in the George A. Smith Company. Little Elisha was seven months old and Dorcas was nearly three. The family walked most of the way arriving in Salt Lake on October 27th of the same year. There were forty-seven souls and one hundred twenty wagons in the company.
Elisha, Sarah Jane and children settle in Salt Lake for about eight years. Elisha and his brother, Elijah, became stonemasons and did much of the work on the Salt Lake, Manti and St. George Temples. Sarah gave birth to four children while living in Salt Lake. She was active in her ward and a devoted wife and mother. The children attended school and church. A large garden was planted and cared for by the family. Life was hard for the settlers during the first few years in the Valley. Food was scarce until a crop could be grown and harvested. The crickets played a major roll in the reduction of the pioneers’ food supply.
At a meeting of the Nauvoo Legion Band, held at the home of Robert Burton on the evening of the 9th day of April, 1850, brother William Clayton made the following remarks: “I have a conscientious notion in organizing this band, which was organized by Joseph Smith under the name of the Nauvoo Band. The following new members were then voted on: Elisha Averett. The band adopted a straw hat for the covering of the head, a white dress coat and white pantaloons, a sky-blue sash and a white muslin cravat as their uniform, and a committee was appointed to commence negotiations for such a uniform.
Among the men that were called into the Mormon Battalion were the following musicians: Elisha Averett. Elisha Averett played the piccolo and fife. He could also play the violin.
8 March 1854 Elisha and Sarah's fifth child John Harvey Averett was born in Salt Lake, Utah.
6 February 1855 The Mormon Battalion held a party in the Social Hall, which was superbly fitted up for the occasion. The committee of arrangements consisted of Dimick B. Huntington, Elisha Averett, and Thomas S. Williams.
24 July 1856 Dimick B. Huntington and Elisha Averett had charge of ten cannons at the celebration up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Preceding the October conference of 1861, articles appeared in the Deseret News telling of the possibilities of Utah’s Dixie and encouraging all Saints who could do so to move in that direction. October 6th a list of three hundred and nine names, all heads of families, was read from the stand during Conference with the announcement that each had been selected to go south on a cotton mission. This mission assignment was for two years to raise cotton and other semi-tropical plants. Elijah Averett said his father (Elisha Averett) came home weary from a hard day's work in the fields and when he was told that he was called to Dixie he dropped into a chair saying, "I'll be damned if I'll go". After sitting a few minutes with his head in his hands he stood up, stretched and said, "Well if we are going to Dixie, we had better start to get ready." Most who were called felt to thank the Lord that they were worthy to go. It was cheering too, to look over the list of names of those who were to be their neighbors, for here were people of ability—many of them skilled craftsmen, others cultured and well educated. As they met to talk over plans and to consider necessary loading and equipment, their optimism increased until they felt that great things lay ahead. Their new home-to-be was like the Jerusalem of Nehemiah: "now the City was large and great, but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded." Before the first wagon left Salt Lake City, the new town had been named St. George, a postmaster appointed, a choir leader selected and plans for lighting the streets given some consideration. He settled in Washington and he helped build the cotton mill in Washington, Utah. He lived there until he was called to work on the Provo factory. From there he returned to the South and worked two years on the St. George Temple. The original plat of St. George shows Elisha Averett's lot at Main and Fourth South.
He then moved to Heber City, where Sarah Jane died 31 December 1875 giving birth to her fourteenth child, both mother and child died. She was forty-four years of age. Sarah Jane Witt Averett was faithful to her Church and a kind, loving wife and mother. He buried his wife after which he moved to Kane County and resided there with his children.
3 March 1877 Elisha’s son John Harvey married Susan Emiline Allphine.
Elisha and his brother, Elijah, helped to build Cove Fort and the Windsor Castle at Pipe Springs located in northern Arizona. They were also stonemasons for the Heber City Tabernacle, Fort Kanab and the Cotton Factory in Washington, Utah. "It was said of the Averett twins that when they had a hand in building anything, it was well built. As a public service for the communities in which they resided, Elisha and Elijah and George furnished the caskets for all their fellow townsmen free of cost."
Not long after burying his wife in Heber City, Elisha, now 65, continued to work as a ‘building missionary’ for the church. He went wherever he was called to use his special talents in the Lord's vineyard. He lived in Kanab for some time, and finally settled in Glendale, Kane, Utah. Elisha and his son John built the Kanab schoolhouse in 1886-87. After his mind began failing at the age of 75, he lived with his daughter Dorcas Averett Clark, assisted by his son, George. He died in Glendale, Utah on October 22, 1890 at the age of 80 and is buried there. His youngest son Byron was now 19.
Mrs. Chai says that she well remembers a remark made by her grandfather, Byron about his father: "My father, Elisha loved the Prophet Joseph with his whole being. There was nothing that he would not have done for him, even to the laying down of his life. I never saw him speak of the Prophet without tears coming into his eyes. He considered it a privilege to have been able to associate with him. This love was not only for the prophet, but also for the kingdom of God. He left his life as a testimony of his faith.”
George Averett, Elisha’s eighth child by Sarah Jane, stated that, “Elisha, besides being a personal friend of Joseph Smith, was also a body guard for the Prophet.”
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