William Farrington Cahoon 1813-1893

A BRIEF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF

WILLIAM FARRINGTON CAHOON

Son of Reynolds Cahoon and Thirza Stiles

(November 7, 1813 – April 4, 1893)

I, William F. Cahoon, am the first born, and oldest son of Reynolds Cahoon and Thirza Stiles. My father was the son of William Cahoon and Mahitable Hodges. He was the son of William Cahoon Sr. whose fore-fathers came to America from Scotland and settled in Rhode Island, and from thence scattered abroad in different parts of the land. I have no record of them. My father was born in Cambridge, Washington Co. of New York. He was married in the town of Newport, New York on the 11 day of Dec. 1810, to Thirza Stiles daughter of Daniel C. Stiles the son of John Stiles. In the year of 1811 my father (Reynolds) moved to the State of Ohio. On the 12 day of Oct.1830 was baptized by Parley P. Pratt and confirmed a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, at the age of 40 years.

In the month of March 1831 he (Reynolds) was ordained an Elder under the hands of Sidney Rigdon and went out to preach the gospel of Christ, calling on the people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. At the June Conference of 1831 he was ordained a High Priest under the hands of Lyman Wight, and in the same month with 24 others travelled to Missouri. They travelled in pairs. Reynolds companion was Samuel H Smith (D.C. Sec52 v30) Joseph’s brother, preaching by the way and returned in September. In the month of December,1831, was called and ordained a councilor to Bishop N.R. Whitney, under Bishop Whitney’s hands. In the year 1832 was called by revelation to be one of the three Committee to build the House of the Lord in Kirtland, and commenced in May, with Brother Hyrum Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph, to labor on the House of the Lord, by the counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith. They had not one dollar to help for the labor on the building, but according to promise they soon had means to forward the building. And in the month of July 1833 attended the Bishop and High Council in laying the corner stones of the Temple. From that time on, the work proceeded until the Temple was finished. The Church assembled on the 6th day of April 1836, when the Temple was dedicated to the Lord, and the Priesthood received their endowments there-in. In the Autumn of the year of 1837 was called and ordained, under the hands of President William Marks, as his councilor in the Stake of Kirtland. In the month of March, 1838 moved to Missouri. Was with the Saints in their trouble there till the winter following. Was driven out by a ruthless mob into the State of Illinois, and in a conference held in the city of Nauvoo was appointed, in company with Brothers A. Cutler and E. Higbee, a committee to build the House of the Lord in Nauvoo. This ends my Father’s callings and ordinations and a brief sketch of his labors in the Church up to the date of 1845. He was faithful and true. He remained and labored with and for the Church, was driven with them from Nauvoo and came out to the Salt Lake Valley with the people of God. On the 29th day of April1861 he died at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake Co. Utah, in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection on having fought the good fight and won the prize of Eternal Life, (A few lines written by his son Andrew and published in the Deseret News will be found in the last part of this record, at the time of his death)

I, William F. Cahoon, was born in Harpersfield, Ashtubulu Co. Ohio on the 7th day of Nov. 1813. When I was about 17 years old I was baptized. and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by Elder Parley P. Pratt. On the 16 day of Oct. 1830, I was ordained a priest under the hands of Oliver Cowdery, at a conference of Elders held in the Tower of Orange, Ohio. On the 25 day of Oct. 1831, and during the next 12 months I was occupied laboring with my hands making boots and gloves, gratis for the Elders who were starting out to preach, and for the support of my father’s family. Occasionally holding meetings and bearing my testimony to the truth of the work of God in the last days, also in visiting the churches exhorting the Saints to faithfulness and obedience to the commandments of God. On the 19 of Nov I started on a mission to the East in company with Zebedee Coltrin and John Boynton, with whom I traveled for a few days and then was appointed to travel with Fathers Reynolds Cahoon and David Patten. With the last I traveled as far East as Silver Creek in the State of New York preaching and.. (next 4 or 5 words not readable)… places. The Lord blessed our labors and we were greatly blessed laboring in God’s work. I arrived home from my mission on the 27 of Feb. 1833 and remained until the 21 March, when I was again appointed to travel and preach the Gospel in company with Elder Amassa M. Lyman. We traveled through the east part of Ohio, through Pennsylvania, and part of New York, preaching and baptizing with great success. The Spirit of the living God was with us and the Lord blessed our labours. On the last of August 1833 enlisted to go to the Land of Zion, Jackson County. On the 5 of May I started with the volunteer Company, under the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the delivery of the Brethren who had been driven from their homes by a ruthless band of mobocrats. We journeyed, pitching our tents by the way, and arrived in Missouri in the latter part of June. We numbered 205. A council was held there to determine what steps to take, when the word of the Lord came to the Prophet Joseph, saying, “the time had not come to take the sword in hand to redeem Zion.” Many in the camp murmured because we were not permitted at this time to restore our Brethern and Sisters to their homes and defend them there at all hazards, which greatly displeased the Lord, who a few days later a scourge was sent among us (the Cholera). Which took from us 16 or more of our number. This caused great sorrow and mourning in our camp (See section 105:14,15, etc. THIS WAS KNOWN IN HISTORY AS ZIONS CAMP) It is a fearful thing to fall under the displeasure of the Living God and to openly rebel against Him and murmur at the counsel of His servant, the Prophet. Shortly after our camp broke up, some returned to the churches in the East, and some were required to tarry and aid in defending the Brethern in their new homes they had chosen. It fell to my lot to remain.

During my travels with Elder Amassa M. Lyman, I was called by the voice of the Church and ordained to the office of Elder under the hands of John Gould at Westerfield State New York. During my stay in Missouri, where I remained until fall, I labored with my hands till I was taken sick with fever and ague. In the latter part of October I received my discharge and in company with Elder H. Riggs, I started for home by way of the rivers. For we were not able to travel by land. When I arrived on the 17th day of November 1843. This was a day of rejoicing to both parents and children. We felt to thank God for his mercy in preserving our lives and bringing us together again. As soon as my health would permit, I commenced going to school, and I attended all church meetings as far as I was able.

On the 14 day of Feb. 1835 a conference was called which lasted several days. On the 14 of the month the quorum of the Twelve Apostles was organized for the first time in this dispensation. At this Conference there was also organized the First Quorum of Seventies. I was called as one of the members of the First Quorum and was ordained to the office of Seventies on the 28 of Feb. 1832. The next season I labored on the Lord’s house, and continued so to labor until the Temple was finished and dedicated. On the 6th day of April 1836, I received my Washings and Anointing in the Temple in Kirtland. On the 17 day of Jan. 1836 I was married, tacking for my wife Nancy Miranda Gibbs, daughter of Aaron and Prudence Gibbs. She was born in Bensons, Rutland Co. Vermont, 27th July 1818. She was 17 years and 6 months old at the time of our marriage. We were married in company with 2 other couples by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in Kirtland, before a concourse of people. Several hundred witnessed the ceremony. It was done to establish the precedent of Public marriage by the church, instead of taking out a license from the county court, and the marriage notice being published several times in the church, which custom was allowed by the laws of the State. At the time we were married, there close to 3000 people, assembled within the church and on the outside of the church.

In the Spring of 1838 I went to Kirtland with my family, which then consisted of a wife and one child, which, was born on the 23 Feb. 1837 (a girl) whom we named Nancy Ermina. Also in the company was my father Reynolds Cahoon. We traveled to Missouri. When I started out on this journey, I left behind a good house of 7 rooms, well finished and furnished, a good lot and all paid for, which I had labored hard to get. I could not dispose of it so I turned the key and locked the door and left it. From that day to this I have not received anything for my property. It is now in hands of strangers. However we left it and went on our journey to Missouri.

We traveled by land pitching our tents by the way as occasion required. It being cold weather, we would sometimes get lodgings in a house. After a long and toilsome journey, we arrived in Far West on the 5th of May. We rejoiced to find the Saints prospering and in good spirits. I remained in Far West until Fall of the year laboring ,with my hands for the support of my family, and then I removed to Adam-Ondi-Ahaman, Missouri where I commence to build for myself a log house. I was compelled to stop on account of the mobbers who came upon us. This was a time of grief and trouble for us. The mob who infested this beautiful region of country, were constantly creating excitement after excitement, adding rumor to rumor until we were forced to watch them by night as well by day. We were so harassed that we were not able to build houses or even spare time to procure food for our families. We lived in such peril. Our fare was also poor. We could not get our corn ground. We had to punch holes in pieces of tin and grate the ears of corn on the tin to make meal for our bread. We had to live on this kind of food for 6 months.

After a great deal of excitement and some skirmishing, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, sent to his blood thirsty minions who surrounded us, his ever to be remembered and execrated inhuman order, the extermination of the Mormons or their eternal banishment from their homes, their lands, and from the State. In pursuance of which order all the surrounding branches of the church were either butchered in cold blood, old and young included, in one indiscriminate slaughter or else they, were driven into Far West. I and my family went into Far West and the mob at length concluded to strip us of all we possessed and then banish us from the State. I had given to me a pass which read as follows, “I permit W. F. Cahoon to pass from Davis County to Caldwell County, where the largest number of the Saints live, there to remain during the Winter and then to pass out of the State,” dated 10 Nov. 1838. Signed Reeves, Brigadier General. I was at Far West at the time of the arrival of the main body of Boggs Cut-throats (Minions) arrived. It was like opening the gates of Hell. For such creatures as they were could come from no other place, or at least they were inspired by the fiends of Hell, to accomplish the Devilish designs of the infamous scoundrel who sent them, Lilburn W. Boggs. I expect the Lord will reward him according to his works and give him his portion with his master, the Devil, Amen.

I, in company with the rest of the church there, were arrested and put under guard. We were forced to sign a deed of trust of all we possessed. I passed an examination of seven consecutive days after which I was permitted to return to my family at Adam-Ondi-Ahman. I found my wife in deep sorrow and weeping for she knew not what had become of me, whether I was alive or dead. My father was also made a prisoner at the same time and was under arrest several days. As soon as he gained his liberty we with our families moved to Far West, along with many more families of Saints. There we remained until the 4th of Feb; the time being nearly up for us poor exiles to leave the State and seek other homes somewhere in the wide world. We started and arrived at Quincy in the State of Illinois where we found a people who treated us with the greatest hospitality and kindness, assisting the Saints with food and giving them houses to live in. After stopping at Quincy about 5 weeks I went to live with a man by the name of Travis who gave me employment, towards whom my bosom burns with gratitude. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and. Jacob reward him and his family for their kindness to me and my family, when we were poor and forlorn, without a home or shelter. I remained with this family till the next fall. Then I moved to Montrose in Lee County, Iowa Territory. During this time the Prophet Joseph had escaped from Jail and had purchased a small location for the Saints to gather too, which he laid off in squares and named Nauvoo. I remained in Montrose until the spring of 1842. I then moved to Nauvoo and commenced working on the Temple of the Lord as a Carpenter and a Joiner. The Lord prospered me in my labors, so that I was enabled to build a small house for a home among the Saints. I was appointed time-keeper of the carpenters and Joiners who worked on the Temple. Soon after I moved to Nauvoo, the Saints began to gather from all parts of the world, and from the surrounding States in great numbers. Houses began to be built in all directions. The city of Nauvoo constantly increased in numbers and her borders enlarged under the wisdom and direction of God’s Prophet, Joseph Smith. Zion was greatly blessed and the Saints rejoiced in the truth and in seeing His purposes and plans carried out as they were revealed through His servant Joseph.

At length the storm burst forth and it seemed as if the Devil with all his forces were arrayed against the Saints of the most High, and he found plenty of help, for the Prophet was harassed on all sides, from foes with-out and traitors within the church. Some of those whom he had blessed turned and stung him, some under the garb of sanctity, but whose deeds were as black as Hell; faithless, rotten hearted wretches, who would sell their father’s soul for power and filthy lucre. For they did sell him who was a father to the people. The Prophet of God, the brave true hearted man among men, Joseph Smith, and his loving brother, Hyrum, the Patriarch. The same unrelenting fiendish hatred that possessed the people in Missouri followed the Church to Nauvoo and robbed the church of God, and the world at large, of two of the most God like men that have ever lived in any age. On the 27 of June at 5 pm, Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were brutally murdered in Carthage Jail. The particulars of this cruel and inhuman act are well known and will have to be atoned for by this nation. The murder of the Prophet seemed for a time to quell the mob spirit, of even the actors themselves, and Nauvoo increased faster than ever.

In the spring of 1845 I was appointed to superintend the raising of all the timbers for the Temple. We finished raising all the framing part of the Temple on the 23 August 1845. When the Temple was enclosed the cowardly wretches again commenced the work of devastation, but God himself interposed in behalf of His people. He manifested His power and filled the hearts of the wretches with such fear, that when a few horsemen appeared before them to give battle they fled out of the State. And when we saw the fulfillment of the words written in the Book of Mormon, that a people who will strictly obey the Revelations of God. He will bless and prosper them in the land.

On the 9 or 10 of September, the mob began to burn houses and destroy the property of the Saints, and kept up a continual screen of persecution till we left Nauvoo.

On the 23 of Sept. 1845, I was sealed to my second wife, Mary Wilson Dugdale Cassen, by Heber C. Kimball. I continued to work on the Temple and in the endowment rooms until the 23 February 1846. On the 4th of Feb. 1846 I began to repair wagons for our journey into the wilderness. For the country was wilderness at that time. I worked on the wagons for 10 days and on the 15th I and my family left in company with the Nauvoo Brass Band. My brother Daniel was along with us. We bid farewell to the beautiful city of Nauvoo– the city of Joseph- and started for the camp of Israel, which was on Sugar Creek in Iowa – where we joined Brigham Young’s camp. We had not a very easy time. It was very cold weather, wet snowy and frosty, but the Lord sustained us as we journeyed west, pitching our tents by the way.

We reached a place called Garden Grove and I was appointed to oversee the house building and to keep the pool of the workmen. We built houses and laid out farms. Here I remained engaged in this work until the 13 May. I left my family at this place and took my team and my brother Daniel’s Family and traveled first, in Brother Spencer’s Company, until the 19 of May, when I with several more of the brethren started back to Garden Grove for our families. We found them all well. We then started west. On the 24 May we camped with Bro Charles C. Rich and others. And on the 26th we arrived at the main camp. I remained at this place until the 7th of June 1846. I then started back with my team to meet my father’s family. I remained behind to get some wagons they had left a few days before, while they continued their journey. On the 12 of June we arrived at the main camp at Pisgah. I remained in camp 2 days and on the 14th began to prepare to go back to trade for oxen and provisions for our journey. On the 15th my brother Andrew, myself, F. Cutler, and some others started back for the settlement. We were kept busy travelling and trading until 6 July. We then started for the camp in the Wilderness. On the 12th brother Daniel came back to help us. We traveled fast to get back as soon as possible, but the camp had gone. On the 23rd we overtook Father Cutler’s camp. On the 31st, we crossed the Missouri river and on Saturday the 1st of August, we reached the main camp. On the 5th of Aug, we traveled to a place afterwards called Cutler’s Park, where I remained until the 21 March 1849, when my brother Daniel and myself started for Salt Lake Valley, where the Church had found a resting place. The pioneers led by Brigham Young entered the valley after a weary toilsome journey of 1000 miles from the Missouri river, on the 24th of July 1847. They built a fort and put in seed as soon as they arrived; then they laid out the city. In the meantime, during the time I remained behind I was busy all the time cutting and hauling logs building houses, sheds, barns fencing, shoemaking, in fact I was Jack of all trades, nothing came amiss. I was on hand either to work on a farm, haul wood, build a mill or attend meetings. During this time I went back to Missouri to work for provisions for my family and prepare myself for my journey across the prairies and mountains to the Salt Lake Valley. As stated above, I, in company with my brother Daniel and our families, started on the 21 of March 1849. We camped the first day out at Brother Burgess 6 miles out. At length we were on the way leaving civilization behind us and glad to get away from it. As we journeyed across the great plains, in the wake of the pioneers, we felt as if the God of Joseph was with us and blessed us and preserved us.. On our way we had the usual vicissitudes of the early travelers across the plains, such as fording rivers, and when we could not ford, making rafts and building bridges, killing snakes, burying our dead, guarding our cattle and travelling under difficulties. We traveled day after day for 6 months and on the 24th of September 1849 we entered the valley in company with my Father and Andrew’s family who came to meet us. Was it not a joyful meeting? Only those who have been separated from their families for a long time can tell.


From the time I entered the valley, most of my time has been spent working on the public works and for the carpenters on the Tabernacle, which will be built this year 1878. I worked and was foreman of the carpenters on the Tabernacle that was pulled down in 1877 to make room for the present Tabernacle that is being built this year 1878. I worked on the Woolen mill in Canyon Creek, on what is now the paper mill. In fact my time has been spent generally in the service of the Church. I rejoice still in the truths of the Gospel of Christ. I am happy in doing the will of my Father in Heaven. I thank God for preserving me in the truth and for the watchful providence that has been over us as people. We were driven out from Nauvoo at the point of the bayonet, into the wilderness in the extreme cold weather, homeless and friendless. Yes, God was our friend. He led us by His Almighty Power and with an outstretched arm. He has delivered us from our sorrow. He has turned it into joy. He has sanctified our tribulations to our good, and has blessed and multiplied us as a people, till we have become a great people. He has made the wilderness, we came to inhabit, blossom as the rose. Utah Territory has prospered, and the city (Salt Lake) is one of the most beautiful cities on the face of the earth, and the wonder of the nation who drove us forth from their midst. To God be all praise for it. He that hath done it using His Saints as the instruments of His will.
Written in the year 1878

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