January 1817: The Smiths in Palmyra
1816 Norwich, Vermont. Joseph Smith Sr. had planted his crops three times that year and three times the crops had been nipped by frost and destroyed. One day, he came home, sat down and began to meditate. Shortly after he declared that if he could he would arrange his business and go to New York where they grew wheat in abundance. He was reluctant to leave his family, but Lucy assured him that if he went on ahead to make things ready, she could make the journey with the children.
Sometime that year, Father Smith set out with a friend named Howard for a new community in upstate New York called Palmyra. He went to work and prepared to send for his family. He rented a small home on West Main Street just where Stafford Road joined Main Street, and sent for his family.
After settling the last-minute demands of creditors, Lucy rode by sleigh to Royalton where she bid her mother a final tearful farewell — never to see her again in this life. From there, they loaded into a wagon driven by a man named Caleb Howard and began the 300-mile journey to Palmyra.
Howard would prove less than friendly. He forced Joseph, then only 11 years old, to walk. Joseph was still recovering from a serious leg operation and walking was difficult. When Alvin and Hyrum protested, Howard knocked them down with the butt of his whip.
Then, just a few miles west of Utica, New York, knowing that Lucy was out of money, he threw their goods into the street and attempted to steal their wagon. Lucy ran out, grabbed the reins of the team and in a loud voice announced to bystanders that she was being robbed.
Now with an audience, Lucy declared, “As for you, sir. I have no use for you and you can ride or walk the rest of the way as you please, but I shall take charge of my own affairs.”
She set out once more. Joseph was assigned to ride with another family making the same journey, but one of the older sons knocked Joseph out of the sleigh and they rode off without him. Joseph said he was “left to wallow in my blood until a stranger came along, picked me up and carried me to the town of Palmyra.”
Finally, in January 1817, 200 years ago this month, the Smith family reached Palmyra. Lucy records, “The joy I felt in throwing myself and my children upon the care and affection of a tender husband and father doubly paid me for all I had suffered. The children surrounded their father clinging to his neck, covering his face with tears and kisses that were heartily reciprocated by him.”
And thus the Smith family made their home in Palmyra, New York.
Glenn Rawson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he resides in Blackfoot. Watch Glenn Rawson on KPVI Channel 6 at 8:30 a.m. Sundays or listen to his stories on EZ Rock 95.3 from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.