William Elmer, son of John Elmer and Sally Peaque, was born in Norwich, Orange County (or Chitiendeu County), Vermont on 16 September 1820. His father was John Elmer, born September 22, 1778, in Sommers, Toland County, Connecticut. His mother was Sarah (Sally) Peake, born July 9, 1784, in Pomfret, Woodstock County, Vermont or Promfret, Lower Canada.
William and all of his father's family were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the July 11, 1835, in Vermont.
In the spring of 1838, when William was 18 years old, he, his parents and family, one wagon and one team of horses started west. Their goal was to move close to the church. When they had come as far as Orsen, Ohio, they stopped to rest. It was most unfortunate because here is where his mother and brother Samuel contacted typhoid fever and both passed away. It was hard indeed to leave them behind but after a short time they took courage and again started their journey. They settled about eight miles west of Nauvoo, Illinois.
After reaching Illinois, John and his sons began to build a cabin to live in. As soon as the walls were up and a roof on, father and sons went to work, as their supplies were running low. While away, the cabin, with all their possessions, burned to the ground. They managed to find enough work to buy more clothes and live through the winter.
In the spring John married Harriet Gould Brunson (a widow) and they lived in Harriet's home. Here they remained for eight years. Then they traveled westward to Council Bluffs, where they remained four years, until the year 1846.
In 1838 at the age of ten she started west with her parents and family (ten in all) with clothing, bedding and provisions, in a wagon drawn by a span of horses, there being no railroads at this time. Their first stop was Kirtland, Ohio, to rest. Here in Kirtland she saw the first Temple, her folks having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1838 in Greenfield, New York.
Hannah’s father traded his wagon for some ground and built a small log house and the family moved in, only to be told that they must leave the state (a distance of three hundred miles) in fifteen days. Her father had a little money and hired one of the settlers to move them, then let Mr. Sessions have his other horse to put with the one he had. They moved on, two and three families to a wagon. They were poorly clad, slept on the ground, many walked through snow and mud, and were half starved. The suffering was awful, but they finally got across the Mississippi River. They stopped with several other families at Quincy, Illinois, and rented a farm and raised a good crop.
In the fall they moved to Iowa and took up a farm on what was called “half breed land,” just eight miles from Nauvoo, Illinois,. They were very poor but managed to put up a log house which had no floor, and they made a fire on the ground. Her father and brother went off to work for food.
In the spring of 1840 her father fenced in the farm, put in a crop, and planted fruit trees. He finished the house and bought a cow, pig and some chickens. He taught school in the winter and farmed in the summer. All seemed to prosper for about four years, although there was much sickness and many hardships to endure. Hannah was sick for sixteen weeks with typhoid fever and had to learn to walk again.
Hannah was sixteen years old when the Prophet Joseph was killed and more troubles started. Her brother Mark enlisted in the army this same year, 1844, was sent to Mexico and was never heard from after. The year 1844 and 1845 found them still comfortable, as her father had been made Postmaster of String Prairie.
The Saint’s were driven from Nauvoo late in winter of 1845 and 1846. They camped at Sugar Creek about a mile from the Childs' home until the grass started to grow to feed their horses. They lived in wagons and tents and suffered untold hardships. They finally started for Council Bluffs, Iowa. Their horses were poor and the mud was terrible. Her brother Myron was married at this camp and Hannah was married in March, the same spring to William Elmer.
THEIR LIFE TOGETHER
On March 26, 1846, William married Hannah Polina Child in Lee County, Iowa. William was 26 years old and Hannah was 18 years old. When these two young people decided to marry they found that by crossing a river into another state their marriage could be performed free of charge. Since they wished to hold onto their meager means, they crossed to the other side of the river and were married by a preacher as they stood in the back of their wagon.
Hannah’s brother Myron and his wife rented a house with William and Hannah, and they all lived together and saved to continue on to the west. Hannah’s father, with his family, and the rest of the Saint’s left for Council Bluffs. The parting was hard for Hannah, as her little brother Asa tried to stay with her. Hannah worked so hard and worried till she had brain fever (an infectious disease characterized by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain) and was sick again for two months. There was no help to be had, except a small boy to run errands. All were sick or afraid of the fever. They had to haul water three miles from the river and endured many hardships. William went to Keokuk, Iowa, twelve miles to get medicine. He took sick on the way and had to be brought home. He lay beside her on the bed for three days burning with fever before help came. An over-dose of medicine nearly ended his life at this time.
The year was a very trying one and they were not able to save enough to start west, but in September, John, Hannah’s brother, came back and she was so happy to see him. Her first baby was born in three weeks and was named John after him. There was no help to be had so John and a neighbor lady took care of her. She got along splendidly and in two weeks took in two boarders to cook for at one dollar per week apiece.
William was making fifty cents a day, and they were able to save enough to buy a wagon and the things they needed to start west. In the spring of 1848 the two couples, each with a baby, started out. It was very stormy and muddy traveling and the Indians were hostile, but there was plenty of grass for the horses. It took three weeks to go from Des Moines to Council Bluffs, where the folks had stopped to recruit before starting for Salt Lake. A neighbor met them three miles out and said the folks were well, but little Asa had died. Both John and Hannah were heart-broken, for they had looked forward to this reunion. It took some time before she could be reconciled and enjoy herself. Little Johnnie was seven months old and the first grandchild – so much was made over him. The following spring the two couples returned to Des Moines to please John Elmer (William's father) and get the rest of his children, who had stayed behind. The trip was full of hardships and privations but they managed to persuade the rest of the brothers and sisters to go back with them. John was overjoyed.
They remained at the Bluffs until July 8, 1852, when they all started for Salt Lake, about three hundred families in all. They traveled in Company 16, Captain Uriah Curtis being in command. They had one wagon and one horse. When they got to the Platt River, cholera broke out. A great many died and many more were sick. Hannah did much to ease the suffering and help bury the dead. She finally contracted cholera herself and was unable to do anything until they reached the mountains. The high dry air seemed to revive her.
When they got to Salt Lake on October 2, 1852, the company was divided, part going south and the others north. The Elmers and part of the Child family went north to where Ogden is now. There were just two houses, a patch of oak and wild cherry bushes. They took up a farm at Harrisville, living in their wagons until houses could be built. During the fall and winter William hauled logs from the canyon and built a log cabin, the roof of which was made of poles and dirt, and into this house he installed his family. Hannah’s father ran Brother Farr’s saw mill day and night to get lumber cut for their homes. During this time he contracted brain fever from which he died. Soon after their arrival a daughter Cynthia Trephenia was born. This was on December 16, 1852. Many hardships faced them at this time. They made their clothing from wool they combed, cleaned, and wove. Food was scarce. They exchanged food with one another for variety with everyone becoming well acquainted with “Flour Lumpy Dick.” They tried some farming but were bothered with soggy low lands, which were not very productive.
In the fall of 1853 the Indian troubles commenced in that part of the county. The Saints were instructed to build a fort and gather into it for safety. This they did and built a twelve-foot Spanish wall around it, a good portion of which was done by William Elmer. This place was called Bingham’s Fort (now called Lynne). For protection a home guard was established. William was made Captain of cavalry Company A. When not on duty he often assisted others in building houses.
In the winter of 1854 William suffered from a severe attack of Mountain fever. He was sick for three months and it nearly proved fatal to him. By the mercy of God he was spared, but from the effects of the sickness he never fully recovered his normal physical strength.
Another daughter was born to William and Hannah on February 13, 1854. She lived to be just three years old, dying in 1857.
During the summer of 1855 the grasshoppers raided the farms, fields and gardens.
That winter all the children had scarlet fever, five down at one time. All survived but in the spring they all had measles and the baby, Hannah Paulina, thirteen months old, died. Poverty seemed nothing to this sorrow.
In the spring of 1856 they moved into Ogden where there were a few more people. They took up ground on the Bench, built a house and raised a fine garden. William kept the farm in Harrisville.
Late in the fall of 1856 William was called with a number of others to go back on the plains and help to bring in the hand cart companies of Saints who were blockaded by the deep snows. William was gone two months. It was a terrible trip, all were half frozen and starved, and many died. To this call he responded cheerfully and rendered efficient aid to the suffering emigrants.
Three scouts left Devil’s Gate to find the Martin Company, arriving at the Red Buttes camp on 28 October. (Painting by Robert T. Barrett.)
Hannah and the little boys (the oldest eight years) gathered the crops and dug the potatoes. She tended what stock they had. It was bitter cold and the snow was deep. Another baby, Polly Ann, was born December 6, just after William’s return. The house was not finished and wood supply was gone, but they gathered willows and dried them and managed to keep warm. There was no doctor or medicine to be had at this time.
The next spring they sold the farm and bought fifteen acres in Marriott close to Weber River. They cleared the land and planted ten acres of wheat, corn, potatoes, etc., and raised a good crop.
Hannah and small children went to the farm and helped with the vegetable garden and gleaned wheat. Just as the last of the crop was gathered, William was called to go meet Johnson’s army. During the year of 1857 he was commissioned a Colonel in the Nauvoo Legion by Brigham Young, who was then Governor of the State of Utah. With his men William marched to Echo Canyon to defend the people's rights, which were then invaded in the "Mormon War."
This left the gathering and hauling of the winter wood to Hannah and her little boys. Mary Ann tended the smaller children, and they managed very well, even to helping neighbors who were sick or ailing.
In 1858, due to the trouble starting because of Johnson’s Army protesting the Mormons, William was advised to take his family and move them south. He took them to Payson, Utah. They moved into a small log cabin, the only shelter available. The roof was not even completely closed in over their heads. While there Hannah gave birth to a daughter, Phebe Arinda, and Mary gave birth to a son, Levi James. Family history tells us that when the children were born kind neighbors placed their carpet pieces and blankets over the inadequate roof to make them more comfortable. During this same year William and Hannah's first son John Samuel passed away. William was subsequently commissioned major in the Nauvoo Legion, which office he held until the Legion was disorganized by order of the Governor of Utah.
It had been said that before leaving Ogden William stored some flour away in the ground for later use. In the winter of 1859 it was considered safe for him to bring his family back to Ogden. They moved into a small adobe home east of Washington Avenue. The winter was bitter cold with five feet of snow. William located the spot where he had left the flour and dug it up. Once again they were glad for “Flour Lumpy Dick.”
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cream
Heat milk to boiling - stir continuously. Mix flour, salt, and cream to pie dough consistency. Add by handfuls to hot milk until it thickens. Stir constantly. Dish up in bowls, sprinkle with sugar, serve with milk. Delicious!
We are told they used this flour most sparingly, making it last until spring.
Another daughter, Sally Rosabella, was born November 16, 1861, to Hannah. She died at the age of seventeen in the year 1878.
At this time William was given badly needed employment on the railroad and daughter Polly Ann in her family narration wrote, “With the first money my father earned on the railroad he bought me my first pair of real grown up shoes.” She was then 12 years old.
William was a hard worker being a man of great physical strength. He made shingles and is believed to be the first to make shingles in the Ogden area.
William’s farm land was in Marriott, Utah. Although he was always bothered by wet soggy lowlands, he did succeed in making his ground pay. Two more children were born to William and his first wife Hannah. They were Charles Asa, born August 17, 1869, died July 3, 1870, and Hyrum Barney born February 11, 1871. Charles Asa lived to be 11 months old, Hyrum Barney lived to be one year old.
After the Manifesto (a statement officially disavowing the continuing practice of plural marriage) it was necessary for William to be away from his family. This was hard on him. His health was failing and this proved to be one of his greatest trials. He was, however, able to spend his last years with his first wife Hannah in the small house east of Washington Avenue. He died true to the gospel and to his maker on December 15, 1895.
The funeral, which was largely attended, was held in the Second ward meeting house. Addresses were delivered by Elders Charles F. Middleton, Bishop Robert McQuarrle, Joseph Hall and others who were intimately acquainted with him for a great number of years. All the speakers bore testimony of his great worth as a man, a citizen, a soldier, a husband and father, and a faithful Latter-day Saint. His posterity was large, seventy-eight in all at the time of his death. He had sixteen children, fifty-five grand children and seven great-grandchildren, most of whom survived him. He was of a peaceful disposition, a patient sufferer in affliction. He was upright and honest in all his dealings with his fellow men. He assisted in bringing the railroad in Ogden and the first road in Ogden Canyon. He was formerly a Seventy, and at the time of his death was a member of the High Priest quorum. William Elmer was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Nauvoo Legion. He was loved and respected by all who knew him.
Hannah was made the administrator of his property. She allocated his twenty-acre farm in Marriott to his two sons Levi and Heber. They and their mother Mary Ann Gheen moved there to make their home. Hannah remained in Ogden until her death on May 22, 1897.
Ogden City Cemetery, Ogden, Weber County, Utah.
Burial: Ogden City Cemetery, Ogden, Weber County, Utah, USA - Plot: E-3-7-1E
John Samuel born October 13, 1847, died February 1857/1859;
Mark Alfred born December 16, 1848, married Mary Ann or Minnie Jost;
William Warren born November 22, 1850, married Martha Adelaide Hall;
Cynthia Tryphenia born December 16, 1852, married John Quincy Leavitt August 16, 1869;
Grandmother Leavitt was born at Bingham's Fort, Ogden, Utah on December 16, 1852 to William Elmer and Hannah P. Child Elmer. She told my sister and me this story when she was living in her old house in North Garland, Utah, a number of years after Grandfather Leavitt's death. "When we first settled in the fort there were many sacrifices to be made, many hours were spent walking along the fences pulling the wool from them. Sometimes, by hard work, I was able to get three bags in a days time. This my mother would wash, then card, leaving it for me to spin. After this was done, we would weave it into cloth, with which we could then fashion ourselves dresses." She said, "You can be sure I was always proud when I had a new dress. Our wash days were very complicated. we placed a large kettle, which we shared with all within the fort, near an open fire. A stove was an unknown luxury. We washed our clothes by hand, and ironed them with heavy irons. These were kept hot on large bricks which were heated in the fire for hours. In the fort we were often down to just one kind of food, many times we would make weary trips to our neighbors in order to exchange food with each other. We exchanged wheat, corn, or perhaps give a little sugar for a piece of butter. When we were fortunate, we were having a feast. We were always in danger of Indian attack. We would get a warning to keep quiet and we always obeyed the orders. Many times my parents, brothers, and sisters would kneel and pray for safety. A large fire on the horizon was terrifying to us, as we knew it meant Indians and trouble." This History presented by Granddaughter Cynthia Grace Wilde
Hannah Polina or Paulina, born February 13, 1854, died March 13, 1855;
Polly Ann born December 6, 1856, married John Moroni Daniel Taylor December 27, 1875;
Phebe Arinda born September 19, 1858, married Mark Hall December 7, 1874
Phebe Arinda Elmer (Hall)
Sally Rosa Bell born November 16, 1861, died 9 August 1876;
Sarah Josephine born April 15, 1863, married William Wallace Browning 22 June 1882;
Electa Ann born January 28, 1865, married Christopher James Brown September 3, 1884;Electa Ann Elmer Brown Tombstone, Ogden City Cemetery, Ogden, Weber County, Utah, Plot: F-4-43-2W
Charles Asa born August 17, 1869, died July 3, 1870; Ogden City Cemetery, Ogden, Weber County, Utah, USA, Plot: A-4-27-4E2
Hiram Barney born February 11, 1871, died May 21, 1872.
William married Mary Ann Gheen April 9, 1857, Salt Lake City (daughter of William Atkins Gheen and Esther Ann Pierce, pioneers 1850). She was born December 29, 1832.
Levi James born October 1, 1858, married Treen Louise Peterson February 20, 1895;
Esther Ann born December 27, 1861, married Francis Keyes October 27, 1878;
Amanda Vilate born July 5, 1863, married James Green Browning April 26, 1883;
William Heber born February 13, 1869, married Inga Peterson December 20, 1899.
Ancestral Link: JoAnn Stagge (Miller), daughter of Marvin Louis Stagge, son of Lura Minnie Parker (Stagge), daughter of Minnie May Elmer (Parker), daughter of Mark Alfred Elmer, son of William Elmer and Hannah Polina Child (Elmer).
Sketch submitted to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers by Cynthia Grace Wile in January 1968. It was noted under “Company Arrived With” Independent.
Sketch submitted to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers by Rhea B. Cazier.
Information sent from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. It appears to have come from a book.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868
Obituary of William Elmer, Deseret Weekly 19 January 1898 Utah Digital Newspapers Website
All Sons of the Utah Pioneers-Utah, Pioneer Companies
"Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah" by Frank Esshom
Painting by Robert T. Barrett
Ogden Standard-Examiner, March 7, 1976