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My life has been an exceedingly active, busy one, but when my
experience is compared with that of many of my brethren there is
perhaps nothing very extraordinary about it. I have seen the power
of God manifested in various ways, and have had all the testimonies
that I could ask for of the divine character of the work instituted
through Joseph Smith, with which I have been connected for almost
half a century. But I have never seen anything that I could call very
miraculous, nor have I sought for anything of the kind as an evidence
of the truth of God's work. To me everything has seemed to come along
naturally. And yet when all things are considered, my whole life
might be regarded as miraculous. When I reflect upon the precarious
condition of my health when a boy, and the indulgence with which I was
then treated, and then upon what I have been enabled to endure and
accomplish, through the blessings of God since, there is something
rather remarkable about it to me.

I was born on the 17th of February, 1815, in Owenton, Owen Co.,
Kentucky. Both the town and County in which I was born were named after
my great-uncle, Abraham Owen, in whose honor I was named. He was killed
in the battle of Tippecanoe, while serving under General Harrison, who
was afterwards President of the United States. Abraham Owen's sister,
my great-aunt, was Stonewall Jackson's mother, so that General Jackson
and I were second-cousins.

From my early childhood, almost from my infancy, I was afflicted with a
lung disease, and supposed to be in consumption. Indeed, I was so bad a
great deal of the time that my life was despaired of. When I was about
nine years old my death seemed so imminent that my burial clothes were
made. However, I rallied somewhat, but not to be able to do any work. I
had a great desire to live, and also to know if the Lord had a church
upon the earth, and I investigated the various doctrines professed by
those with whom I came in contact, but could never feel satisfied to
join any of the religious sects.

When I attained my twentieth year, and while I was still very sickly,
Elders David W. Patten and Warren Parrish visited the part where I
resided, as missionaries, and I became convinced of the correctness of
the doctrines which they taught and embraced the same, being baptized
by Elder Parrish and confirmed by Elder Patten. Brother Patten, in
confirming me, promised that I should be healed of my infirmity and
become a strong and powerful man. This prediction was verified to the
letter; I began to grow strong immediately.

The following spring I was ordained a deacon and placed to preside
over a small branch of the Church raised up by Elders Patten and
Parrish, and on the 7th of the next April I was ordained an Elder under
the hands of Brother Woodruff and started out with him preaching. I
traveled with him in Kentucky and Tennessee until the early part of the
following winter, when we left the South and went to Kirtland, Ohio,
where I attended school with him and studied Greek and Latin.

The change of climate and a little carelessness on my part brought
on an attack of typhoid fever and pleurisy, from which I suffered
severely, and it was thought that I could not recover. Brother
Woodruff, however, who was waiting upon me, called in Elders Brigham
Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and Hyrum Smith, and the
five laid their hands upon me and rebuked the disease and blessed me.
While their hands were upon my head I fell into an easy sleep, and when
I awoke my disease was entirely gone.

A few days after, I was advised by the Prophet Joseph to return to the
Southern States and raise up a company of Saints and emigrate to Far
West, Missouri. I accordingly went South, and in the month of May had
succeeded in organizing a company of two hundred souls with about forty
teams and started on our journey. The trip occupied about two months.
We immediately set about making homes and soon began to get comfortable

In January, 1838, I was called to fill a mission to the southern part
of Missouri and throughout Arkansas. During this mission an incident
occurred which I think worth relating. I was preaching one afternoon
in the court-house at Yellsville, where I had also held meeting in the
forenoon, when in the midst of my discourse I was interrupted by a
Baptist deacon, who arose and exclaimed: "That young man is not quoting
the scripture correctly."

I was speaking at the time upon the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
I was also enjoying an unusual flow of the Holy Spirit, and felt more
calm and collected at this interruption than I otherwise would have
done. I deliberately opened the Bible and read therefrom the very
passages which I had previously quoted verbatim, and cited the chapter
and verse.

At this the Baptist took his seat, but I had not proceeded much farther
with my remarks when I again had occasion to quote from the scriptures,
and lest I again should be found fault with, I opened the Bible and
read from it, when the deacon, a second time arose and declared that it
was not from King James' translation of the Bible that I was quoting,
but "Joe Smith's golden Bible," etc.

Several of the audience immediately ordered him to be still and let the
young man proceed, as they wanted to hear the preaching.

Again he became quiet, but soon broke forth in a perfect rage, said I
was lying, and denounced, in a rather incoherent manner, "Joe Smith"
and his "golden bible," and the "Mormons" as "chicken thieves" and "hog
stealers," etc.

A number of persons immediately surrounded him as if they intended to
thrust him out, and lest they should use violence I began to plead
for him, and requested them to allow him to retire quietly. I added,
however, that I was there on my Father's business, commissioned to
proclaim the gospel, and if he did not speedily repent the Lord would
rebuke him and the judgment of God would overtake him. At this he
turned and rushed from the room almost foaming with rage.

He had four drunken sons in the town and he proceeded to hunt them up
to incite them to mob me. Just then a fire broke out in the Baptist
meeting house, and on hearing the alarm I adjourned the meeting for one

In the audience was a Major John Houston, a brother of the celebrated
Sam Houston, who was in command of a military post near by. He had
boarded a few days at the same place that I had, and had therefore
become somewhat acquainted with me.

He followed the deacon and advised him against molesting me, telling
him if he persisted in it he would have to take him in charge. The
deacon concluded to desist but raged, and cursed "Joe Smith" and the
"golden bible" and the young preacher, and everything connected with
him as he proceeded home, and on entering his house, almost immediately
fell dead and turned black.

In this condition he lay for two days, no one, not even his own sons,
daring to go near him until, a Campbellite preacher, who also had
happened to be one of my audience, and who had heard of his condition,
came to me and informed me of it. I went with him to Major Houston, and
through his influence some persons were employed to go and bury the
dead man.

Within a week from the time of the deacon's death his wife also died,
and his sons kept up their drunken spree until they had run through
four thousand dollars of the money which their father had left and also
other property.

Many of the people of the town regarded this series of calamities as
the judgment of God, and even the Campbellite preacher admitted to me
that it had very much the appearance of it.

Soon after these events transpired I returned to a place about twenty
miles distant, to fill a previous appointment, and while there Major
Houston was taken sick with the cholera. He felt that he was going to
die, and wanted to have me sent for. I had conversed with him many
times upon the subject of religion, and, though he professed to be an
infidel, I could see that he was pricked in his heart but was too proud
to acknowledge it. Shortly before he died he made a request that I
should preach his funeral sermon, and on my return to Yellsville I did
so, and I think I never had more of the Spirit of God in preaching in
my life than I did on that occasion, infidel though he pretended to be.

I returned from this mission in the summer of 1838, and soon afterwards
the troubles of the Saints with the Missouri mobocrats recommenced,
in which I became earnestly engaged. After Far West had been besieged
by the mob militia under General Clark and we had been compelled to
surrender our arms, I was taken prisoner in company with many of my



On the 11th of November, while still a prisoner of war, I was married,
which might be considered as a proof that I had not lost hope. I
was fortunate in securing a wife who was zealous and devoted to her
religion and ready to sacrifice or endure anything to further its

After the troops were withdrawn from Far West I visited my farm two
miles south of the town, to look after my stock which I had left there,
and found that all my earthly possessions save my real estate had been
confiscated by the army.

On visiting the late camp-ground of the army I found the heads of
eleven of my oxen which had been butchered, and there was no trace left
of my sheep, swine, etc.

Brother John Butler, who had been obliged to flee to the north to save
his life, had left his family in my charge. He had a span of very poor
horses and an old wagon. I loaded the wagon up with his wife and five
children and what few goods I had left, which consisted of one trunk
full of clothes besides what my wife and I wore. I managed to find one
of my horses which the mob had taken and used in such a shocking manner
that his back was skinned almost from his withers to his tail. This
animal I hitched on ahead of Brother Butler's horses, and by those of
us walking who were able to do so, we slowly made our way to Quincy,
Illinois, in the depth of winter. On arriving there I went to work
carrying the hod up a four-story building - really the first hard work I
had ever done, to make another start in life, while my wife assisted by
taking in sewing.

In the month of July I removed to Montrose, opposite Commerce. In May
of the following year I went on a mission to Tennessee, from which I
returned the following October, and again the next year, I went to
Charleston, South Carolina, being instructed to introduce the gospel
there. I spent all the money I had in renting halls and publishing
placards announcing my meetings, but although I had large audiences,
and numbers of persons came to me, Nicodemus-like - by night, to inquire
about the gospel, I failed to make one convert. I returned to Nauvoo
from this mission in 1842.

In the summer of 1843, I took a trip through southern Illinois and
north-western Kentucky, in the interest of the Nauvoo House, and
in May, 1844, I again went south to Tennessee to electioneer for
Joseph Smith as candidate for the Presidency of the United States. On
arriving at Dresden, Tenn., I rented the court-house to hold meeting
in, and while in the act of preaching to a good-sized audience, a mob
gathered outside and a shot was fired at me through the window. The
bullet passed near my head and lodged in the ceiling, and immediately
afterwards a few brickbats were also thrown through the window.
Considerable excitement followed and the audience began to scatter,
when a man by the name of Camp, somewhat noted as a fighting character,
arose and called on the fleeing people to stop. He told them if they
would only sit and listen to the preaching, he would go out and look
after the persons who were creating the disturbance. About two-thirds
of the audience again became seated and he went outside and procured a
shot-gun, with which he patroled around the courthouse the remainder of
the evening, and there was no further trouble.

Another meeting was announced for the following day, but before it
commenced a lawyer of the town laid his plans to break it up. I had not
long been speaking when he, at the head of a mob of two hundred men,
marched into the room and demanded that I should cease speaking, as
they had come to attend to my case.

In this emergency, and for the only time in my life in public, I made
use of a masonic sign calling for help, when lo! a number of persons
sprang up to assist me. The lawyer was commanded to give his reasons
for interfering with me, which he proceeded to do by delivering a most
abusive and slanderous speech. I finally commanded him to sit down and
he did so very suddenly, and the masons who were present, who were very
numerous and influential, gave him to understand that he would not be
allowed to molest me. I continued my remarks, and at the close of the
meeting Mr. Camp took vengeance on the lawyer by knocking him down and
kicking him around the court-house yard.

From Dresden I proceeded to Paris, in the same State, where I
contracted for the publication of 1,000 copies of Joseph Smith's
"Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States." After the
printing had been done and paid for, the printer informed me that if I
attempted to circulate the pamphlets it would be likely to land me in
the penitentiary, as the views expressed therein, in regard to freeing
the slaves, would be considered treasonable and contrary to law. On
consulting a lawyer of the place, a boyhood friend of mine, I found
that he held the same opinion, and I therefore suppressed the whole

I was at Father Church's, on Duck river, in Hickman Co., Tenn., when I
received the news of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, six days
after the consummation of that bloody deed. I immediately proceeded
down Duck river to the Tennessee river, by canoe, and, on arriving
there, in company with three other Elders, purchased a skiff, and made
my way to Paducah on the Ohio river, from which place I took steamer to

On arriving in Nauvoo I found that Sidney Rigdon was striving to
establish his claim to the leadership of the Church, and proffering
various unheard-of offices to such persons as would rally around his
standard. However, on the arrival of President Young and the other
Apostles from their missions, his claims were soon set aside.

I was present at the meeting held in Nauvoo on the occasion when
President Young assumed the leadership of the Church, and can testify
with hundreds of others that he spoke by the power of God on that
occasion and that he had the very voice and appearance of Joseph Smith.

The following autumn I was sent by President Young to Kentucky,
Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi to raise means for the
building of the Temple and also to induce the Saints scattered through
that region to migrate to Nauvoo and make preparations to journey
westward. I returned to Nauvoo in the summer of 1845, bringing a
large number of the Saints with me. I also left many others partially
prepared to follow, who were subsequently gathered up by Elders John
Brown and Wm. Crosby and led westward, by way of Arkansas, to Salt Lake

After my return to Nauvoo I labored on the Temple until it was so far
completed as to admit of the ordinances being performed in it, when I
had the blessed privilege of entering it and receiving my endowments
and having wives sealed to me. I also at that time had the son of my
first wife (who, I should have mentioned, was a widow when I married
her) adopted to me by the Priesthood, and he has ever since borne my
name and been recognized and treated as one of my own sons.

I labored about three months in the temple in administering the
ordinances of the house of God to others, and in April, 1846, I left
Nauvoo and started westward with quite a large company of my southern
friends. On arriving at Winter Quarters I was ordained a Bishop and
appointed to preside over a Ward, and spent the winter in building
cabins to shelter the people and in looking after the wants of the
poor. In the spring of 1847 I was appointed to organize and lead
westward a company of Saints having one hundred and twenty wagons. I
chose as my assistants Major Russell and Geo. B. Wallace. We arrived in
Salt Lake Valley on the 24th day of September.

Thus passed the first twelve years of my connection with the
Church - twelve years of rough but not unprofitable experience for me,
considering the many lessons I learned and the satisfaction I enjoyed
in contemplating my labors. During that period I had become strong and
healthy, and through the blessings of God, had been enabled, with the
help of my wife and boy, to earn a subsistence and accumulate some
property, notwithstanding the many missions I had filled and the losses
of property I had sustained.

Since that time I never have performed a regular preaching mission
abroad, although in 1851, I was sent to England, for that purpose; but
on arriving there it was decided to have me return to lead the first
company emigrated by the Perpetual Emigration Fund across the plains,
and after a stay of thirty days in that country I did so. I filled
various business missions, however, in which I crossed the plains
thirteen times with ox and mule teams.



During my experience I have seen the power of God manifested upon
various occasions in preserving my life; indeed, considering the many
narrow escapes I have had, it might be almost thought that I have had a
charmed life.

On my return from England in 1853, on board the new steamer _Pacific_,
we encountered a severe storm, in which the deck was swept clear of
rigging, the deck cabin, one of the wheels, both wheel houses and
the bulwarks. The steamer was entirely submerged in the sea at one
time, and had she not been very well built she would never have come
to the surface again. It looked like a precarious time, but I felt
an assurance that the vessel would be saved, and in the midst of all
the excitement which prevailed among the crew and passengers I felt
quite calm. I had seventeen thousand dollars in gold in my possession,
and I did not even fear that I would lose that. Our preservation,
however, was certainly providential, for the vessel was in a terribly
dilapidated condition, but we finally arrived safely in New York with
the wrecked vessel, after a voyage of sixteen days.

I subsequently had a very narrow escape on the occasion of the _Saluda_
disaster. I had purchased the supplies for my company to make its
overland journey with, except cattle, at St. Louis, and had decided
to go farther up the river to buy the stock, when Eli B. Kelsey came
to me to consult me in regard to chartering the _Saluda_ to convey
an independent company of Saints up the river. I went with him to
examine the boat, and on finding that it was an old hulk of a freight
boat, fitted up with a single engine, I strongly advised him against
having anything to do with it. He seemed to be influenced in making
choice of it entirely by the fact that he could get it cheaper than
a better one; but in my opinion it seemed folly, for in addition to
the danger of accident, the length of time likely to be occupied in
making the journey would more than counterbalance what might be saved
in the charge for transit. However, he decided to charter it, and then
both he and the captain urged me strongly to take passage with them,
offering to carry me free of cost if I would only go, but I could
not feel satisfied to do so. I followed a few days afterwards on the
_Isabella_, and overtook them at Lexington, where the _Saluda_ was
stopped by the float-ice and was unable to proceed farther. I went on
board of her to visit the Saints (who were in charge of D. J. Ross, Eli
B. Kelsey having gone ashore to purchase cattle), and left just before
the last plank was drawn in, preparatory to attempting to start. I
had not walked to exceed two hundred yards after leaving the _Saluda_
before the explosion occurred, and on turning to look in the direction
of the the ill-fated boat I saw the bodies of many of the unfortunate
passengers and various parts of the boat flying in the air in every
direction. Fortunately for the Saints on board, they were mostly on
the deck of the boat and pretty well towards the stern, and they
consequently fared better than those who were below, or on the forepart
of the boat, which was blown entirely to pieces. As it was, however,
upwards of twenty of the Saints were lost or subsequently died of their
wounds. My own preservation I can only attribute to the providence of
the Almighty, for if I had remained a moment on the wharf to see the
boat start, as would have been very natural for a person to do, I would
have been blown into eternity as those were who stood there.

I shall never forget the kindness of the citizens of Lexington in
caring for the living and burying the dead. The Lord certainly inspired
them to do all that sympathy and benevolence could suggest in aid of
the afflicted. The city council set apart a piece of ground in which
to bury the Saints who had died, and William H. Russell, the great
government freighter, and many other prominent citizens did all they
could to comfort and help the afflicted survivors. Besides their
devoted attention, their contributions in aid of the Saints amounted to
thousands of dollars.

The disaster described is really the only accident of any consequence
by water that has befallen a company of Latter-day Saints in emigrating
from the old countries, and there was much reason to believe that
Providence was in their favor to a great extent even in that case, or a
much greater number would certainly have lost their lives.

I remained at Lexington about eight days looking after the interests of
the Saints and purchasing stock, after which I returned to St. Louis,
where I met the company of Saints I was to conduct across the plains.
On reaching Atchison, our starting point for the overland journey, the
company was stricken with the cholera. There were over forty cases, and
of these some fifteen proved fatal. Numbers were healed instantaneously
through the prayer of faith when the Elders laid their hands upon
them, although apparently near death's door; others gave way entirely
to fear, failed to exercise faith and soon died. After we had started
upon our journey and when the last person who had been afflicted had
recovered, I was prostrated with the same dread disease. The train
was stopped and the whole company fasted and prayed for two days for
my recovery, but I continued growing worse until my limbs and the
lower portion of my body were apparently dead, but then the faith of
the Saints and the power of the Almighty prevailed in my behalf and I
recovered. I had, however, lost seventy-five pounds in weight within a
few days.

Another remarkable instance in which the providence of the Almighty
was manifest in my preservation occurred in the following May. I was
emptying a small keg of powder and standing in a stooping position
right over it, and as it did not run out very freely I shook the keg,
when it exploded. The staves and pieces of hoops were scattered in
every direction, some pieces being afterwards found at least eight rods
distant. I was blown into the air and my face and hands most terribly
burned. It was a marvel that the staves of the keg were not driven
through my body, but it did not appear that a single one had struck
me. The whole of the skin came from my face and hands, yet, wonderful
to relate, there is not now a mark of powder about my face, and my
eyesight, the loss of which I was most fearful of, was not at all
impaired by it.

This series of narrow escapes which I have related I passed through

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