Title: Holt, James
Dates: 1881 (inclusive)
Collection Number: UU_Ms0412
Summary: The James Holt Papers (1881) consist of a biographical sketch of Holt titled “Life of James Holt: Early Pioneer.” This is not a journal account, but rather Holt’s recollection of life events written in 1881 when he was 77 years of age. James Holt (1804-1894) was an early member of the LDS Church who settled in southern Utah.
Repository: J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
Address: J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections 295 South 1500 East Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0860 (801) 581-8864
Biographical Note/Historical Note
James Holt was born on 10 February 1804 in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Jesse and Elizabeth Davis Holt. He married Mary Pain in 1830. She died in 1845 and that same year he married Parthenia Overton. He became a member of the LDS Church in 1839 and moved to Nauvoo in 1840-1841. In 1845 he was chosen to join the James Emmett Company “to go to the Rocky Mountains, to preach to the Indians along the way, and prepare them to receive the Saints in the Valleys of the Mountains.” This company endured severe hardships and dissension arose among its members. The company broke up and many, including Holt, stayed in Iowa to farm. He left for Utah in 1852 settling first in Weber County and eventually in southern Utah, Mountain Meadows area, where he established a ranch and prospered. He died in 1894.
Birth: Feb. 10, 1804 Halifax County North Carolina, USA
Death: Jan. 25, 1894 Washington County Utah, USA
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF JAMES HOLT 1804-1894
I, James Holt, was born February 10th, 1804 in Halifax County, North Carolina. When I was five or six months old, my father started with a colony of his kindred, and others, and traveled to Tennessee and settled in Wilson County, near Lebanon. My grandfather, Isom Davis, was also of the colony. My memory, in regard to my relatives at that time, is very imperfect, but I will write a sketch of those I do remember, that perhaps it may help to give a clue for those who are in search of genealogy of any of those here named.
My grandfather Davis and my father settled together. My grandfather, James Holt, settled in Montgomery County, (Tennessee). Moses Read, my grandmother Holt’s father, settled in Dixon (Dickson) County, (Tennessee).
When I was about twelve years old, my great grandfather Read got up a dinner for his children and grandchildren. I sat at the head of the table, being the oldest of his great grandchildren. There were about 80 persons of his descendants present. The Holts, Reads, Harveys, Sillivants and Davises were all relatives.
My grandfather, James Holt, had two sons, Jesse and Laban, and six daughters, Mary, Sarah, Lydia, Anna, Elizabeth, and Patsey. Mary married Burgess Wall; Sarah married Balum Bull; Lydia married Levitt Morris; Anna married one Harvey and Elizabeth married one Sillivant. I never knew of Patsey’s marriage.
Laban went to the western part of Tennessee and married, but I never learned his wife’s name. My father, Jesse, married Elizabeth Davis, daughter of Isom Davis. She was the widow of Joshua Crossland and had three children by her former husband, viz: Joshua, Sarah, and Lucretia. She had six children by my father, viz: James, Nancy, Isom, Jesse Washington, Laban and Elijah. After my mother’s death, my father married her daughter, Lucretia Crossland.
My father was of a religious turn of mind and joined the Baptists, with my mother. He also joined the army and was in the War of 1812. During that time he and his family moved near Grandfather Davis’s about 8 miles northwest of Lebanon. After the war, he bought a millsite, near by what was called Barton’s Creek, where he erected a grist mill and a saw mill. There he resided, doing a flourishing business until his death, which occurred October 15, 1844.
When I was about 8 years old, there was quite an exciting time in religion. Father used to take me to church on horseback behind him, and young as I was, my mind was greatly impressed in regard to religious matters. About this time I had a very remarkable dream. I dreamed that my father sent me, in company with one of my brothers, to a neighbor’s about three miles distant, on some errand. It appeared that in going we had to travel through a dark and gloomy cave where there was neither light of sun, moon or stars. It appeared that all people traveled through this gloomy cave. After we had traveled in this awful gloom for some length of time, we emerged into the light of day, and great was the contrast. Upon the left I beheld a large building. When we came opposite this building, I saw a man come to the door who I thought was the keeper. He called to me saying “James Holt, you must come in here and be tried for your faith.” There was two or three steps to the building and I thought he took hold of my hand and led me up and into the building where I beheld a hook, somewhat similar to steelyards, suspended to a beam overhead. He said I was to be hanged upon that hook and if I had enough faith in God, I would not fall. But if I did not have faith in God, I would fall down in the dismal hall (pointing to a trap door in the floor) where there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I looked where he pointed and I beheld people in the greatest confusion, some groaning, some shouting, and all in a great turmoil. One person stood up in their midst, saying, “All is well with us. We are all right. We need no more revelation. The canon of scripture is full. We will all be saved. We need not fear.”
After I beheld this, the keeper took me and hung me upon the hook by the back of my vest. It soon began to rip and I began to sink towards the pit, but I began to call upon the Lord to strengthen me and increase my faith. Suddenly, my vest ceased to tear and I hung by the seam of my collar. The keeper now took me down, saying, “Well done. You have got most faith enough to save you and that is all any man will have, no matter how great he may be. They will only have faith enough to be saved, so you can go your way rejoicing.”
When I was about sixteen years old, I had a heavy spell of sickness which laid me up for about five months. I was brought nigh unto death, but the Lord preserved my life for a wise purpose in Him. My fever caused all my hair to fall out, and when it again grew it was mixed with grey.
In the year 1829, I became acquainted with a young woman, by the name of Mary Pain, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Pain, and on the 22nd of January, 1830, we were married. She was born July 16, 1814.
John and Elizabeth Paine had six children, viz: Mary, Nancy, Susan, John, Elizabeth, and William. Nancy married Andrew A. Timmons; Susan married one Hogges.
In the year 1831, I moved to Sumner County and took charge of my brother-in-law’s farm and business. His name was Theoderick Emanual Patton. My sister, Nancy’s husband, and I managed all his affairs and raised a crop and moved back to Wilson County in 1832.
In this same year, I went into partnership with my father-in-law and built a boat expecting to go down the Mississippi River to the Azoo (Yazoo) Country to live. In 1833, in the spring, we loaded up our boat with our families, provisions, furniture and etc. My brother-in-law was still carrying a few sacks of cornmeal and stowing them away, the table was spread and all things were about ready for us to sit down to supper preparatory to starting on our voyage, when the alarm was raised that we were sinking. The gang planks were not yet removed and we got our families out all safe, but the boat sank with everything else on board. There had been a check in one of the gunnel boards, but we had not anticipated its being laden heavy enough for the water to come above. But before we knew it, the water was pouring through this check, which was the cause of its sinking. However, we procured help the next day and succeeded in raising our boat. We repaired it by putting a new gunnel in. We saved some of our lading, but a great deal was damaged. However, we launched forth in a few days and floated down the river as far as the Ohio, where we encountered a great storm of wind which continued to rage for several days and caused our women and children to become seasick and we could go no farther. We landed about twenty miles above the mouth of the Ohio River on a strip of country called the Grand Chain. We landed on the Illinois side of the river in Johnson County. There we stayed for several years, but the place was very unhealthy. Here I lost two children.
In the month of October, there came a man to our section of the country to preach who claimed to belong to a church calling itself the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a new sect lately sprung up. This man’s name was Zachariah Wilson. Previous to this I had never believed in any denomination, for I could not see where they got their authority. They all preached about a God whom no one could comprehend. They believed not in revelation nor the gift of healing by the laying on of hands, according to the scriptures.
Now I looked for a church that was built upon the foundation that was laid down in the scriptures, with prophets and apostles to lead, and I had talked a great deal with my brother-in-law, Andrew A. Timmons, who believed as I did. I had tried to persuade him to preach, for he was a well educated man, but he said if he were to attempt to preach as he believed, the people would kill him.
Now this “Mormon” Elder (as this new sect was called by the world) preached in our place and I went to hear him. He preached the Gospel according to the scriptures; faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and baptism for the remission sins, the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost by those who were called of God; also the administering to the sick by the laying on of hands, and a great many other things which he proved by the scriptures. He then went on to show how the Lord had appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, how he was instructed of Angels form time to time and at last, when he had grown to manhood, how he had been led by the same heavenly messengers to obtain the sacred plates; how he had been inspired to give the translation thereof, and how he had been ordained to be a prophet, seer and revelator in this last dispensation; also how he had been led by God to organize the Church of Jesus Christ with apostles and all the appendages of the Holy Priesthood, with all the gifts following those who believed and were baptized according to the promises given in the scriptures.
Now I believed and rejoiced to hear the Gospel again preached on Earth as it was in the days of Christ. I went for my brother-in-law to come and hear a man who preached according to our mind. He came to hear him and after the preacher got through, he gave any one present the privilege to ask any questions, which was fair, and he would try to answer them. My brother-in-law asked him if he had a foundation for what he preached. He said yes. My brother-in-law said that was all he wished to know at present. After meeting I invited the preacher home with me. He said if anyone would open their doors to him he would preach again to them. One man said he could have his house to preach in, and I told him he was welcome to preach in mine, so he appointed to preach in this other man’s house on Thursday and at my house on Sunday. He went home with me. On Thursday he held meeting at this other man’s house. When he got through, a Methodist preacher asked permission to say a few words, and being granted the privilege, he arose and said there was no need of any more revelation, the canon of scripture was full and we needed no more addition to the Bible for it was perfect and he could prove it by that bucket (pointing to an old bucket close by, which had but one ear and no bail). Said he “That is a perfect bucket, is it not?” “Yes it is.” “Well as that bucket is perfect so is the Bible. I told you I could prove it.” I failed to see the point of his proof, but perhaps it satisfied him. He further went on and said the very words that the man said in the pit which I saw in my dream. I had not thought anything more about my dream for some time until now it flashed to my mind with great force. The next Sunday, Elder Wilson held a meeting at my house, at which time I was baptized and ordained to the office of Teacher. My brother-in-law did not join the Church at that time. He said I was like the sow that jumped at the swill as soon as it was put in the pen. He joined the Church the following spring and went on to Nauvoo, where I heard he apostatized through some false doctrine introduced by a few individuals who belonged to the Church, but did not understand the doctrine right.
In about three weeks from my baptism, my wife was baptized. As soon as I was baptized, persecution began. All manner of lying and reviling went on about those who belonged to the Church, but it only increased my faith, for so persecuted the Church in the days of our Savior. Soon after I was baptized I went and preached to my brother-in-law Hogges and his family. In quoting a passage in the Bible, his mother said it was not there. I told her it was surely there. She denied it, so I had her get her Bible and her son read it to her. She still denied saying it was made up between us. I preached to her every chance I got but she was so afraid she would believe and join that she sent quite a distance for a Baptist minister to come and baptize her. My father-in-law would never hear a Mormon preacher.
I now wished to sell my place and gather with the Saints, but I could get nothing scarcely for it. I finally sold to a man for two hundred and seventy-five dollars, although the same man had offered me one thousand dollars for it before I joined the Church. I gave Elder Wilson the most of it to help him home and for his family, as they had been driven and persecuted a great deal since he belonged to the Church.
In the spring of 1840, I started with my family for Nauvoo, the City of the Saints. I got as far as Pleasant Vale Stake, in Pike County, where one of my horses died. I was now left with a team, only having two horses and a light wagon to start with. Here I stayed the next winter and summer. I rented a farm and raised a crop. The following fall I hired a horse to put with mine and started again for Nauvoo, where I arrived all right. After I had been there a short time, I turned over my wagon to the committee of Nauvoo House and took a share in the same.
Soon after my arrival in Nauvoo, my only horse took sick, and hearing of a horse doctor close by, I went to see him. He said if I would give him half what the horse was worth after he was cured, and if I would get the medicine, he would undertake to cure him. I asked him how much medicine it would take and he said it would take about ten dollars worth. I asked him how much he would give me for the horse now, as he was. He said he would not give me one dollar. Well, said I, “I would surely be a fool to spend ten dollars for a horse that is not worth one dollar.” That night I asked the Lord to cure my horse, and if he would do so I would sell it and give half the proceeds to the Church for the building up of His Zion upon the earth. Next morning the horse was well, I went forth and sold him for two hundred bushels of corn and gave one hundred bushels to the Church.
I now went to work in the quarry, getting out rock for the temple and the Nauvoo House. I continued this employment pretty much all the time until the spring of 1844.
At the April Conference of the Church, I was ordained to the office of Seventy and set apart to take a mission to Tennessee, in the company with Jackson Smith, to preach the Gospel and also with a copy of Joseph’s views on politics, to have more printed and distribute them through our travels.
We traveled as the people of old, without purse or script. When we got to the Ohio River, the ferryman refused to set us over because we had no money to pay him. We went below four miles to another ferry and told the ferryman our situation. He was very kind and kept us over night and set us across in the morning, telling him we could recompense him more by speaking a good word for his ferry. We had not gone far beyond the forks of the road when we met a large train of wagons. The captain asked us about the ferry and we recommended him to the one we had taken as the most accommodating and he took the road leading to it.
We traveled on and came to a town peopled with Methodists. We tried to get lodgings but were refused on account of our religion. Late in the night, we spied a light that issued from a house in a field on one side of the road. We were led by the Spirit to the house. When we knocked at the door and it was opened, we apologized to the man for disturbing them so late at night, but we told him we were preachers of the Gospel as revealed to Joseph Smith and had been refused admittance back at the town on account of our belief. “Well, well,” said he, “Come in. We would not turn away even a dog in such weather as this.” They gave us food and lodgings and treated us well. The next morning after asking God to bless them, we bid them good-day and proceeded on our way. We continued on our way without much more of importance transpiring until we arrived at my father’s in Wilson County, Tennessee. After shaking hands with him, I gave him an introduction to my traveling companion, Brother Smith, but he refused to shake hands with him. He said he did not want to see any of the (Smiths). Although this Smith was no kin to the Prophet Joseph, the name seemed to displease him, for there had been a great deal of lying reports circulated about the Smith family which my father believed. I told my father that I had always been obedient to him when I was living at home with him, but if he could not entertain my fellow traveler and treat him as a gentleman, I should be under the necessity of going somewhere else for accommodation, and turning my back on my father’s house. This cut my father to the quick and, with tears in his eyes, he said, “James, take your friend in and make yourselves welcome.”
As it had been several years since I had seen my relations, I spent several days visiting them and teaching them the principles of the Gospel when they gave me the opportunity. My brother, Jesse Washington (Holt), being a class leader of the Baptist Church, in this place, gave us the privilege of preaching in the meetinghouse. The first meeting we held there were but few present, but after that the house was always filled.
A few days after we arrived there, I went to Lebanon (it being six miles away) with a copy of Joseph’s “Gospel Views of Politics,” to have some printed. I found an editor with whom I made a contract to have five hundred copies printed. He agreed to have them done on the 27th of June. I then returned and spent the time with my relations and the people of their neighborhood. When the day arrived, I left Brother Smith at my brother Jesse Washington’s and started again to Lebanon to see about the printing. When I got here, the editor told me that so many had borrowed the copy to read it that he had lost track of it, consequently he had not been able to print it.
When the people found I was there, several ministers of different denominations gathered around me and wanted to hear me preach. I told them that was the mission I was sent upon, to preach the Gospel, and if they would get me a place to preach in, I would accommodate them to the best of my ability. They procured me the Court House and had the bell rung. It was soon crowded to overflowing, for the word had flown throughout the town that a “Mormon” who was raised in the neighborhood was going to preach a sermon and they all felt a curiosity to hear him. There were also a great many ministers that were acquainted with me and who knew that my education was very limited, thinking to have some sport at my expense, came to hear me.
It was about two hours by the sun in the afternoon on the 27th day of June, 1844, and that I arose to address this large congregation and the Spirit of the Lord was upon me. I began preaching the first principles of the Gospel, faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins and laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, etc. In winding up my sermon I had the spirit of revelation come upon me, and I told that the enemies of the Church had taken the Prophet of God this day and put him to death as they had all the prophets of God in all dispensations of the world. “Now,” said I. “You may have this for a testimony of the Gospel, for if that is not true, Mormonism is not true.” After I said this, I looked through the window and the sun was just setting. I told them I had spoken to them longer than I had anticipated but if anyone wished to ask questions, I would answer them if they were fair. No one had anything to say, but all seemed struck with amazement, and their eyes were filled with tears. After I dismissed and went to the door, a man stepped up to me and said he would like to make an appointment in his place. (When) I asked him where he lived, he said near Jackson School House about 25 ore 30 miles from here. I told him to give out an appointment for Saturday at four in the afternoon and eleven o’clock on Sunday morning and I would be there and fill them.
Next day I went back to father’s and I told him that the prophet was slain and the Church was in difficulty, and I was going home. He said he did not believe anyone could know anything for a certainty at such a distance. I told him the Spirit of the Lord could reveal anything to man that was going on in any part of the world, and I knew that God had revealed the truth to me and I should start for home right away. I went to my brother’s to see Brother Smith, and I told him what the Lord had revealed to me, but he could not believe me. He said that my brother was leaving and he wished to stop and baptize him, but my brother wished to see the prophet before he joined the Church, and was thinking of going shortly to Nauvoo and Brother Smith thought to stop and go with him. So I bid them all farewell and started home. This was the last time I ever saw my father, and I have never seen any of the others down to the present time which is the first month in 1881.
I now went on to Jackson School House, which was on my way home, and filled my two appointments, and at Nashville I took a steamer for Smithland at the mouth of the Cumberland River. When I got there, there was no boat going up the Mississippi River to Nauvoo. I crossed the river on a ferry boat thinking to go to my former home about twenty miles below where I first heard the Gospel. After I crossed the river and had gone a few hundred yards, I saw a house off to the left and a man sitting on the steps reading. The house was a few yards from the gate and I felt impressed by the Spirit to enter. I did so, asking for a drink of water for an excuse. The man told me there was a cup and a bucket, to help myself. He never took his eyes off the paper he was reading. After I had drank a few swallows of water, I spoke to him saying, “You seem to be quite interested in what you are reading. Is it anything very special?” He said he did not know, it was concerning the death of the Mormon prophet. I asked him where the Mormon prophet lived. He said they lived at Nauvoo and were taken to Carthage and killed. I asked him if there was any truth in the report. He said it must be true for the Governor’s signature was to it. This confirmed my impression or the inspiration I had by the Spirit at Lebanon and I know had no cause to doubt if I had felt so disposed, but I had not doubted since it was the first revealed to me, but instead of weakening my faith, it only strengthened it, for I now knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Most High God. I now went on to the Grand Chain and there I got aboard a steamboat for Nauvoo and arrived home safe. I found the Church in a great uproar. The Prophets, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, were slain by a merciless mob and there was a great mourning and lamentations among the Saints. Some were following one and some another, thinking they were following the right one, and it seemed difficult to determine which was the right one until Brigham Young, the President of the Twelve, came and took his place at the head of the Church; the Twelve being the next in authority to the First Presidency. One Lyman Wight declared he was the right one to lead the Church and led off a small portion of the people. Then came Sidney Rigdon, who had been counselor to Joseph but had been dropped from the Quorum. He came and professed to be the one to lead the Church until the son of Joseph was old enough to take the lead and several other men led off a portion but the main body of the Church adhered to the Council of the Twelve.
James Emmett came after me to go with him. He said he had been appointed before Joseph’s death to choose a few families and travel among the Indians, and to the Rocky Mountains. Bishop Miller testified to me that Emmett had been appointed by Joseph as he said, and that he had the privilege of choosing who he pleased to accompany him, so I concluded to go. He also chose John Butler to go and he wished us to reveal it to no one, no even to our wives, where we were going, for everything was in such an uproar that he was afraid a great many would follow, and it might cause suffering.
John Butler had a friend by the name of (Billy) Edwards, whom he told, and this Edwards told others. Emmett was to go by boat and I was to travel by land and meet him at a certain place up the Iowa River, but before we met, it got rumored around to such an extent that a whole settlement on Bare Creek joined us. We traveled up the Iowa River and all met five miles above Kitchen’s Settlement, which was the highest settlement at that time on the Iowa River. There my wife died, in October, and was buried. The doctors gave her a dose of lobelia when her stomach was too weak to take it, and it caused her death; and I must say I have ever since been opposed to anyone administering drugs. She left a child about two months old, which William Kartchner’s wife took to nurse. She died on the 10th of February 1845. I lost another child at this camp at Kitchen’s Settlement. It was my oldest son, Leander. He died about a month after my wife in November. I must here state that I cannot give dates and particulars as I would wish, for in my moves I lost my journal and I have to tax my memory to a great extent, to remember even one hundredth part of all which I would like to relate.
We here organized a company which had increased to upward of 25 or 30 families. Emmett was appointed trustee in trust for the company, and I was appointed bishop with Henry Hinman and Jackson Steward as my two counselors, and we all came under a covenant to divide up everything equal. We sold everything which we did not need, and bought corn and teams, and everything was divided out equal. The provisions were rationed out daily, and each person received only half a pint of corn a day. On the first of January 1845, we started again, still traveling up the Iowa River, about fifty or one hundred miles, where we rested and made sorghum. It was a good place for our cattle to browse and rest. Here we were visited by Brothers Fullmer and Lyman who were sent by Brigham Young to stop us from going any farther at present, and have us go back, as he thought there were too many following us which would bring great suffering. Emmett agreed to go back and consult with the Twelve when he got his company in a place where he was certain they would be safe, as he didn’t feel they were safe here traveling in Indian country. Here, on the 11th day of February 1845, I married Parthenia Overton.
Great was the suffering of all the camp. The men hunted as much as possible and when they killed anything, it was divided among them, even a squirrel. When an ox died from fatigue or starvation, it was divided out to the people. They were greedy for it as if it was the best of beef. No one can have any idea of the suffering of this company, except those who experienced the same. Women and children suffered great starvation and fear, not knowing when they would be massacred by savages or unprincipled whites.
We resumed our journey in March and went to Vermillion, a French trading post, and before arriving, the French and Indians saw us and came to meet us to learn our intentions. After being informed, they escorted us to the fort where we arrived June 17th. Emmett went about fifteen miles to see the Indian chiefs who were drying their Buffalo meat for their winter’s provisions. They were of the Sioux Nation. After he told them his business (being able to converse with them in their own tongue), he returned with seven of their chiefs. One of the chiefs was named Henry, who had been to Petersburg College and had quite a good education and had settled down at this place. Emmett and those seven chiefs went to Henry’s house to hold council. They brought several bales of dried Buffalo meat as a present, which was very acceptable and we made a feast for them of the best we had. Emmett gave Chief Henry the Book of Mormon to read and after he had read the preface and explained it to his comrades, they all gave a great shout for joy. They danced, sang, shouted and had a joyful time. Emmett asked them why they were so happy. They told him that their great chief, who had died twenty years before, had told them that the whites would bring them, this very year, the record of their forefathers, and they had almost forgotten it until he presented them with this book, and they felt to rejoice. Emmett told them he was traveling through their country to preach the Gospel that was found in that book, and that it was his intentions to travel to the Rocky Mountains where his people wished to go and settle. They told him that it was a long way to the mountains; that he would have great waters to cross and great plains where there were no waters and when he got to the Rocky Mountains, he would find no buffalo; and his women and children would starve. They wished him and his people to stop with them and teach them to farm; anyway he must not go any farther this season, for it was late and he was perfectly welcome to take his men and hunt and kill all of the buffalo they wished. They could help him and they should not be molested in any manner.
We went out in a few days and killed two or three loads of Buffalo which helped us in our provisions greatly. After Emmett had been promised protection by the Indians, he took John Butler and went back to Nauvoo to have a council with the Twelve as he had promised.
We had peace while he was gone; the Indians treated us very kindly. When he returned, he told me that he had made everything right with the Twelve, that he had been rebaptized and Brigham had blessed him with all the blessings he had before and also greater blessings than he hitherto held. Brother Sherwood and another brother came with him and confirmed his words and we were all rebaptized by them. John Butler did not come back with them but came back the following spring. These brethren wished to go back by water if we could fit them up with a boat and they could sell their horses, which belonged to the Church. There was a Frenchman who kept a station near by for a fur company. He offered them thirty dollars for one and thirty-five for the other but Emmett thought the sum too small and bought them, giving fifty dollars for one and sixty dollars for the other, taking the means out of the company’s treasury. The Frenchman became very much offended because he could not get the horses, so he got the Indians drunk and incited them to attack us and gathered about half a mile from our camp and started towards us to kill us. One of their chiefs came on ahead to have a counsel with Chief Henry, who dissuaded him from the purpose and he returned with Henry and met the Indians near our camp in time to prevent them from attacking us, although they were in the act of raising their guns to fire at us, and some did fire and bullets whistled about our wagons, but no blood was shed. Our women and children were very much frightened.
The Indians were very angry at the Frenchman whom they now called a murderer and wished to kill him, but he kept forted up and dared not go out of the walls for some time. But they got a chance by fall to shoot him. They only wounded him at that time and he was taken by his friends to a doctor and he recovered. He then started to return and when he got to the little Zion, he was again shot by them and this time killed. So he fell into the trap that he had set for us.
In the spring we put in garden seeds and were preparing to plant corn and raise a crop, when John Butler returned from Nauvoo with James Cummings, bringing word from the Twelve for us to meet the Church at the Bluffs (Council Bluffs, Iowa). So, we broke camp and met the Church at that place. We went about twenty-five miles beyond and camped at Keg Creek. Some of the brethren went down the Missouri to work for corn. We obtained a load or two and were about ready to return with it to our families when word came for us to hurry up and join George Miller’s company which was waiting for us, ready to proceed to the Rocky Mountains. We got our families and crossed the Missouri River, joining Miller’s company, and were making for Pawnee, a trading station, but learned that the men had all been driven out by the Indians. We started to return when the men fell in with our company. Brother miller promised to haul their effects. The day before we were to arrive at the station, the men went on ahead to arrange things at the fort for our reception.
About noon, Emmett came to me and said he was impressed that something would happen to those men and wished to get my horse to go and overtake them. He went on to the fort and found the Indians collected to kill them. He told the men to make a feast for the Indians and treat them well and they would not harm them until he could go back to camp and return with help. He reached camp about one o’clock at night and called for a few men to go with him to the fort immediately. About twenty-five or thirty responded including myself. It was about fifteen miles to the fort. It was a perilous time. Women were clinging to their husbands and trying to prevail upon them not to leave them in their dangerous position, but we commended them to the Lord and departed on foot in the dead of night and arrived at the fort by the first glimmer of dawn.
We found the Indians asleep in a circle around their campfire. We surrounded them and pointed our guns at them ready to fire at a given signal. Emmett spoke to the chief and he arose with the well known “ugh”, at which the Indians all arose. Finding themselves in a trap, they shook hands all around, led by their chief, and silently took their departure. We now went back and met our teams which had been hitched up by the men and women of the company and arrived at the fort during the day.
We stayed there about two weeks, harvested grain and were ready to start, when a dispute arose as to the leadership. We had been increased by two companies, one led by Kimball and one called “Brigham’s Company.” Although they were all under the direction of Brigham Young, Miller wished to have the honor of being chief captain because had started first. Some of the brethren wrote to Brigham at the Bluffs to settle the dispute, who advised us not to go farther this season, but to find a suitable place to winter and he would advise us further in the spring. We camped at the mouth of the Puncaw River and built shanties to winter in. The grain we brought from Pawnee Fort was now divided up; six bushels of corn, forty pounds of flour and a few oats fell to my share. We made the oats into meal and tried to eat it but it was very poor indeed. Our method of preparing our grain, was to pound it in a mortar and make it into a soup, seasoning it with squirrel’s legs or a small piece of any other meat we might happen to obtain. The corn we parched and then pulverized in the mortar. We tried many things too in order to sustain life; even to make biscuits of Elm bark, but it was a poor substitute. We were poisoned from eating Gar eggs, and concluded they were not food for man. A great many roots that we obtained were good for food such as the lions root, artichoke and hog potato. The rations I received at Pawnee were very small for my family. I had at times five in the family, including myself, but going down the river to work and getting a few jobs around home and straining all my energy, we made out to live through the winter.
Many things turned up for our sustenance which would look almost like a miracle to some. There was one time during the winter that the Lord opened a way for me to get a few pounds of flour without much exertion on my part. It was as thankfully received at that time as fifty times the amount would be at different times. There was a man by the name of Dalton who had a cow and had been hunting for it for two or three days. He came to me one evening and offered me sixteen pounds of flour if I would get her for him, so I arose early the next morning preparatory to getting ready to start out on the hunt for a cow. I looked out and it seemed a dismal day to take a tramp in the snow. While I was looking out, I heard a cow bellow close to my shanty and I saw Dalton’s cow close by. She seemed to be waiting for me to drive her home which I soon did and obtained 12 lbs. of flour. He thought I shouldn’t have the full amount as I had not been to any trouble to hunt for her. However, I was very thankful for the small amount.
The next spring (1847), Brigham sent word for us to come back to the Bluffs. We were now without provisions and Emmett took a horse and started on ahead to obtain means to get provisions. He agreed to meet us at a certain place, but did not until we got to Mesquite Creek, near our journey’s end and we suffered greatly for want of food. But by hunting wild animals and fowls, we were kept from starving. At the Bluffs our company was broken up. Emmett and a few of us went down on the Waupause Creek, in Fremont County, Iowa, and took up farms. We sowed buckwheat, planted potatoes and raised a crop. There was a settlement close by where we obtained employment enough to get provisions to keep us from starving until our crops matured. My first child by my wife, Parthenia, died here on the 10th of August 1847.
We remained here for several years and began to accumulate means. There was all manner of wild fruit, grape, raspberry, blackberry, mulberry, strawberry, and nuts of all kinds that would grow in a cold climate; a great amount of wild game, deer, elk, coon, turkey and other fowls, fish, honey bees, all kinds of timber.
The Church went on to the Rocky Mountains, the first company arriving in Salt Lake Valley July 24, 1847, led by Brigham Young, who was now installed as President, with Willard Richards and Heber C. Kimball as his counselors and others chosen to fill their places in the Twelve.
In 1849 Brother Emmett started for California. He had some difficulty with his family and declared he would go where they would never hear of him. He left all his family but one daughter. He stopped a few days in Salt Lake Valley and Brigham had a long conversation with him trying to get him to stop with the Church, but for some cause unknown to me, he had rebelled and would no longer follow the Church. He went on to California where he died in 1854 or 55. His family never heard a word from him until his death although his daughter had written over twenty letters to him thus fulfilling his famous prediction. In 1850 Simpson Emmett, the son of Brother Emmett, started to Salt Lake Valley, taking with him his father’s family. Simpson had married Catherine Overton, sister to my wife. I took his farm, giving him $200 for it and if I could sell it in the future for a larger price, I was to give him the remainder when I met him in the Valley, as I contemplated going there as soon as I conveniently could.
One great drawback with Iowa was that is was a very unhealthy place. My family was sick a great part of the time and I was afflicted with the ague. I don’t think that I could have survived much longer had I continued to stop there, but the Lord saw fit to bring upon those afflictions in order that I might be gathered with the Saints.
In the spring of 1852, I made calculations to go to Salt Lake Valley where the Saints were peacefully living. I tried to sell my place but could only get three hundred and fifty dollars for it, including the farm I had got from Emmett. I sold to William Holloway and he was to pay me extra for everything else that I left and couldn’t sell, but when I got ready to start, he would not pay me another cent and I had to leave about 300 bushels of corn in the crib, a stack of oats, a storehouse full of meat, seven stands of bees, and several other things. But he never received much benefit form it, himself, for he bought a band of horses and started with them for California, thinking to get quite a sum for them but when he got on the Humboldt River (Nevada), a little over half way, he was killed by the Indians.
We started about the middle of July and went to Keg Creek, about eight miles away, left some of my stock and my three oldest children there to care for them, and I expected to return the next morning. But having a presentiment something would happen, I unloaded and started back about dark and arrived there before dawn and learned that William had fallen from the back of the oxen and broken his arm. Those steers were yoked together and left in the corral, and while his sister was milking the cows, William got to climbing upon their backs. He was thrown off; his arm was broken between the wrist and elbow. His wrist and elbow were both put out of joint. The joints had both been set and arm splintered by those who had bought the place.
I not started back to Keg Creek, taking all the children and all of my effects and arrived before night. The next day I got an old lady to attend to my son’s arm. I started again in a day or two and went as far as Mesquite, where I stopped about a week waiting for one Dr. William Smith to join us, as he wished to travel with us as a company as far as possible on account of sickness. He was not a Mormon and was going on to California. We were joined by a Brother Levi and his family, being then only three families. We crossed the Missouri River on the 27th day of July and arrived in two days at Ash Hollow having traveled all night the second night, as there was a camp of Indians on the South Fork. The doctor thought it wiser to travel in the night in order to get as far from them as possible. The next day we traveled only seven miles and the next day, July 31st, my son Franklin was born, and next day we continued our journey. Most of the traveling this year was on the north side of the Platte so we took the south, thinking it would be the healthiest, as there was a great deal of cholera on the north route. We had no sickness to amount to anything during the whole trip.
One day we were met by about five hundred Indians who blocked our road, but seeing our small number and thinking we were brave, divided and let us pass through. They spread their blankets. We gave them flour, sugar, coffee and a few other things we could spare. Some of them followed us for a day or two and helped drive our cattle.
There was another alarm when we were in a very unsafe place, as the Indians in that part of the country were a very bloodthirsty set. It occurred to us one evening as we had camped. In the distance we saw a lone horseman making his way toward us. We soon found it to be an Indian, so the doctor thought he would start a little strategy to frighten him away, for he had no doubt but what he was sent for a spy. There was a boy in the camp, one of Brother Lewis’s sons, who had a very freckled face. the doctor had him get in the wagon as quick as possible. He then put a little flour on the boy’s face and put him in bed between two white sheets. He looked almost like a corpse. The Indian came up and the doctor told him we had smallpox in that wagon. The Indian took one look at the boy and struck for the plains for dear life. He thought the boy had smallpox and they were afraid of the disease. The doctor gained his point and we never saw an Indian after that for two or three weeks.
We finally reached Salt Lake Valley and went about forty-five miles north of Salt Lake City to the bend of the Weber River, where Simpson Emmett lived, arriving there on he 27th day of October 1852, having been just three months on the way. I built me a house close to Emmett’s when we stopped during the winter. We had not been there long when my wife became sick with Mountain Fever for most of the winter, being so low that her child could not nurse, and it had to be raised by hand. My oldest daughter Mary Ann, also was stricken with the same complaint, and the rest of us had our hands full. It kept me busy tending the sick. My son, LeRoy, did the housework and William tended the smaller children. My wife’s sister, Simpson Emmett’s wife, did what she could for us but she had small children and she didn’t have much spare time. My wife hung between life and death for several days, but the Lord again blessed her with health.
Before spring I went to North Ogden and bought a farm from Aciff Rice for three hundred and fifty dollars, selling some cattle to make the first payment. The place was about ten miles from where I wintered, and being six miles from Ogden City which at that time consisted of only a few farms with people living upon their own farms. I raised a very good crop. In the fall the people in different parts of Utah were counseled by Brother Brigham to build forts in order to protect themselves against Indians. The people of North Ogden selected a place which was north, and joining upon my farm, so it didn’t put me to the trouble of moving. This place was presided over by Bishop Thomas Dunn. The people of the place began to gather and it was not long before we had a settlement, but the wall around it was never built because the Indians around here were not considered very troublesome, and the settlement was laid off in the form of a town, with building lots and streets at right angles.
In the fall of 1853, my children took whooping cough and Joseph succumbed to the disease and died in November after much suffering. He was a very bright boy for his age and we missed him greatly. In one week from his death, our youngest child, a daughter of about two months of age, died from the same complaint. During the winter, I was ordained to the office of a high priest under the hands of Bishop Dunn and appointed as one of his counselors. In February 1854 we had another girl which only lived one week. During the summer of 1855 I built me a more comfortable home. My daughter, Mary Ann was married to William Barker in October of the same year. During the summer there was very little grain raised, a great deal of the wheat being smut and a great amount of grain was destroyed by crickets and grasshoppers. Many people suffered for want of food before another harvest. During the winter the snow fell quite deep causing thousands of cattle to die. I lost all of mine but one yoke of oxen, one heifer and a horse. The winter has been known ever since as the “hard winter.” It surely deserved the name for it was hard for both man and beast.
In the fall of 1857 the government sent an army and Brigham (the Governor) called out men to prevent the army from entering the valley. He advised moving south, sixty miles, leaving a few men in each settlement to set fire to everything at word from headquarters, but for once faith was kept and they passed through Salt Lake City and went west about forty-five miles. I moved my family to Springville. Here my son, George A., was born on the 28th of May. After the army moved through, we were permitted to return to our homes. I found a very good crop of volunteer wheat growing on my farm. Although not having saved much grain, the Lord did permit me to reap a good harvest.
In January 1857, my eldest son, Leroy, married Ellen Lowe, daughter of John and Ann Lowe. In July of 1859, my son, William A., married Sarah Wardle, daughter of John and Sarah Wardle.
In the fall of 1860, I concluded to sell out and in the spring went to Ogden Valley fifteen or twenty miles eastward and took up a farm, but it being very cold there, the grain was frozen before ripening so I thought this was no place for me. As there was a call for volunteers to go south about three hundred and fifty miles, where the climate was warm enough to raise cotton, I concluded to go. So I sold my place and started in the summer of 1862, my son William taking his family and going with us. I bought a farm and settled in Washington County but I only farmed there two seasons having very poor land, also having to haul our cotton and molasses 50 to 100 miles north to exchange for grain as the country was very poor grain country. Here we lost another child, a girl of about two years of age. One the 26th day of October 1864 a son, Henry D., was born.
Having heard a great deal about Long Valley, which was situated east about 80 miles, I went to take a look at it and it seemed to be a very good place. I took me up a farm and moved to Long Valley in February 1865. I cleaned off a few acres of land and built a house and put in a crop. In the summer there was quite an excitement about the Indians, and we were required to fort up. I lived there two months, then as the Indians seemed to be peaceable, I moved back to my farm. During my spare time I built a house in the fort. I harvested a good crop and in February 1866 moved my family back to the fort. I rented a farm and put it in, also planted my own land, having no help but my son, Franklin, who was only 14 years old.
In June we got a letter from Erastus Snow (one of the Twelve and president of the southern part of Utah) advising us to move where we would be safe from the Indians. I moved to Virgin City, where we camped on the river under a cottonwood tree for about eight weeks. During that time I built a house in Virgin City and moved in.
In the month of February 1867, (we) moved to Mountain Meadows, about forty miles north of Washington and rented a farm from Simpson Emmett who had moved from the north some years previous and lived there. (End of journal)
Clara Holt Chadburn, a granddaughter, adds: “He took up and named the Holt Ranch and lived there until his children and grandchildren were married. Then President Anthony W. Ivins bought the place with the intentions of making a town there which has never materialized to the present time.(1939)
He was the father of 19 children, five of whom were living at the time of his death; Nancy, Franklin, Rachel, George and Henry. He set apart his own graveyard and he and his family are buried in this plot of ground at Holt’s Ranch.”
Note: Grandfather died January 25, 1894.
Page 13–Vermillion, a French trading post, is now the city of Vermillion, South Dakota.
Page 15–Pawnee, or Pawnee Fort, was 135 miles west of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Puncaw River is his spelling of Ponca River, just south of Vermillion.
Page 16–On his return, Bishop George Miller tried to advise Brigham Young to go to Texas. Young said the idea was foolish and visionary. Miller then apostatized or was cut off from the Church.
Page 17–Dr. William Smith, with whom James Holt traveled to Salt Lake, was Dr. William Isaac Smith, an uncle of Joseph Smith, who never joined the Church. He came West in 1852, as Holt says, and went on to California. His daughter later married Mr. Ganung, and moved to Arizona. She was one of the first settlers of Prescott, Arizona. Her daughter, Dr. Smith’s granddaughter, is now Mrs. Grace Chapman, county recorder, Prescott, Arizona.
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Deseret News April 18, 1894 page 3
JAMES HOLT Teasdale, Wayne County, Utah, April 9, 1894 – Not having seen a notice of the death of my father in your paper, I take the liberty of sending you a short sketch of his life. James Holt was born Feb 10, 1804 in North Carolina. He was the son of James and Elizabeth Holt. His parents moved to Tennessee when he was six months old where they made a permanent home. My father received the gospel in the year 1839 and was baptized. In 1840 he emigrated to Nauvoo, where he became intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. He was sent on a mission in the spring of 1844 to Tennessee, and was preaching on the day the Prophet was killed. He was filled with prophecy at the time and said: “Now they have murdered the prophet of God, he has sealed his testimony with his blood and my mission is ended for this time.” He immediately started home and on his way learned it was all too true. He left Nauvoo in the fall and suffered all the hardships of that trip. He stopped in Iowa until 1852, where he came to the valley and settled at North Ogden. He was counselor to Bishop Thomas Dunn for a number of years. He was one of the first to settle Ogden Valley, in 1862 he moved south and settled at Washington, and from there he went to Long Valley, and finely when the settlers were all run by the Indians, he went to the Mountain Meadows, finely settling at the mouth of the Meadow canyon, where he resided until his death. Which occurred on the 27 of January, 1894, he lacked a few days of being 90 years old. He was honest as the day is long, and a staunch believer in the Gospel, and was always on hand to respond to every call made upon him. He was the father of nineteen children, some having gone before. He leaves a wife, nine children, many grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and a host of friends to mourning his loss. He had a great deal of work done in the St. George Temple for his dead. W. A. Holt other children: (1) Hyrum Holt Born and Died 1831 or 1832 LDS Ancestral File has this child as Jesse Hyrum Holt 1831, Near Lebonon, Sumner Co, Tenn. Died 1834. LDS Temple Records for St. George has this child as Hyrum Holt Birth and death 1831 in Sumner Co. Tenn. A History of the Holt Family by William Alma Holt birth 27 Jul 1832, Wislon Co, Tenn Death 27 July 1832. (2) Jesse Washington Holt birth 15 July 1833, Johnson County, Illinois, Death Nov 1833 Johnson County, Illinois (3) Sarah Ann Elizabeth Holt Birth 27 Nov 1835, Johnson County Illinois, Death Jul 1835, Johnson County, Illinois (4) Leander Holt Birth 6 Dec 1836,Johnson County, Illinois Death Nov 1844, 5 Miles North of Kitchen’s settlement Iowa John James Holt Birth 22 Aug 1844, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, Death 10 Feb 1845, Iowa.