History of Reynolds Cahoon


reynolds_cahoonOn Wednesday, May 1, 1861, The Deseret News Weekly published the following announcement:

“Died – at 12 o’clock noon on Monday, April 29, 1861, of dropsy, at his residence in South Cottonwood Ward, Reynolds Cahoon … has fought the good fight. Has kept the faith, and died in the hope of a glorious resurrection.”

Who was this relatively obscure man whose life spanned nearly 70 years? Many times, inconspicuous in history’s on Mormonism, Reynolds Cahoon seemed to have been involved in the crucial developments of the Mormon Church. Reynolds served at least seven missions before 1834, having such companions as Samuel and Hyrum Smith, David Patton, Thomas B Marsh, David Whitmer and Orson Pratt. He was a builder and was on the committees for the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, as well as in many other buildings the saints erected. He was a counselor to the bishop of Kirtland and later served in the presidencies of the Eartland, Adam-ondi-Ahman and Zarahemla Stakes. He was a charter member of the ill-fated Kirtland Safety Society, a captain of the Missouri “Danite” band, A member of “ the council of 50” and also belonged to Joseph Smith’s elite “Quorum of the Anointed.” He was notably involved in the events of the “final crossing” of Joseph Smith that, many believed, lead to Smith’s untimely death at Carthage, Illinois. He followed it Brigham Young west and continued involvement in the building projects, as well as serving As a counselor in the Stake High Priests quorum until his death. Two days, the biographies of more popular Mormons have overshadowed the names of the less known but equally significant at intrepid men and women.  The focus of this paper is to provide a glimpse of Reynolds Cahoon up through the Kirtland period.

As early as 1788, William and Mehitable Cahoon had it moved to Eastern New York and resided in the township of Cambridge, Washington County. This was the place of verse for all seven of their children.  Reynolds, the second child, was born on the 30th of April, 1790.

Twenty years later we find Reynolds Cahoon in Newport, Herkimer County, New York, west of his birthplace.  It was here that he married Thirza Stiles on the 11th day of December, 1810.

The following year, Reynolds Cahoon and his new bride left New York and moved to Hapersfield, Ashtabula County, Ohio. And by October 25th, 1811, they had purchased 50 acres of land for $300 and undoubtedly began the tiresome task of clearing.

The township of Harpersfield, in 1811, relatively primitive virgin soil and most of the homes in the area consisted of log cabins. It was most likely in one of these log cabins of five children.  William Farrington was the first born, next was Lerona Eliza, then Ptdaski Stephen, followed by Daniel Stiles, and last, while in Harpersfield, was Andrew.

In August 1812, Reynolds was called to serve in the war up 1812.  His service in the war was short lived in that he only serving 14 days before receiving and honorable discharge. Reynold’s son , William, later reminisced: “ my father…  was called by the government of the United States to go to Buffalo, New York to assist in driving the British from Buffalo, who had crossed Lake Erie from Canada and burn the city.  Upon arriving at Erie, they found that the British had crossed back over the lake and he was released and returned home again to work on his farm…”

By 1825, the Cahoon family moved to 30 miles farther west, near the town of Kirtland, where Reynolds commenced farming, and worked on the construction of a home for his family, as well as a home for his father, William, who had arrived in the area in 1822. It up here in-that Reynolds became an active at resident and, within two years of his arrival, he was listed as a trustee of Kirtland.

In the autumn of 1829, Reynolds moved his family into the town of Kirtland, and began the business of tanning leather, in connection with his boot and shoe making enterprise, which proved to be quite as successful, as was stated by his son William, “In this business he was much prospered and accumulated quite considerable property.”

On September 30, 1830, Reynolds and Thirza added a second daughter to their family, Julia Amina.

Earlier in that same month, in the township of Fayette, and new religious sect met in conference to transact business for a new Church. This organization, later to be known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon Church, was less than six months old.  At this conference a revelation was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to the “second elder,” Oliver Cowdery. Cowdery, probably Mormonism’s most eloquent speaker at the time, was instructed to “…take they journey among the Lamanites… declaring my gospel.” So he was to take with him Peter Whitmer Jr.  And in October, 2 more missionaries were added, Parley P Pratt and Ziba Peterson. It appears that these men did not leave New York until at least October 17, 1830.  After a short stop in Buffalo, the four missionaries continued their journey until their own rival in Ohio where they preached as they traveled through Ashtabula and other counties in northeastern Ohio.  The missionaries arrived in the Kirtland area “ about the last of October” or “the first of November.” In less than four weeks, the missionaries had converted approximately 130 persons, including Reynolds Cahoon and members of his family.

Speaking of his father’s conversion, William wrote: “During this time of great star was created about a ‘Golden Bible’ or Book of Mormon.  He soon became satisfied that the book was a divine origin, and that god had commenced this great and marvelous work as was spoken of by the inspired men of former days. He soon was baptized, October 12, 1830…  He was baptized by Parley P Pratt…” The baptismal date must be in error, since the missionaries had not left New York until after the recorded date that William provided.

This was the beginning of a long hard journey for Reynolds and his family. A journey that would bring much happiness, as well as hardships and trials.  With this religious inception, Reynolds devotion to the Mormon Church and its theology would be irreversible.

Reynolds, unlike most new male converts, was ordained to a priesthood office within six months of his baptism. In March 1831, Sidney Rigdon ordained of Reynolds and elder.  Then on June 3, the first day of a three-day priesthood conference held in Kirtland, Reynolds was ordained by Joseph Smith to the High Priesthood.  On the evening of June 6th, after the conference that adjourned, a revelation was given directing 14 pair of missionaries.  Reynolds Cahoon and Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith’s younger brother, were one pair that received instruction to take their “journey to the land of Missouri.”

The mission of traveling 1000 miles from Kirtland to Independence, Missouri was quite a task for Reynolds.  By this time, Reynolds was accustomed to missions, having preached in many of the towns around Kirtland, but this would be the most extended journey thus far. At the time of this mission to “Zion,” Samuel was 23 years of age and Reynolds was 41.  Reynolds left the house and his wife Thirza and their six children. Reynolds kept a journal of his early missions and tension and making entries until late 1832.  Reynolds and Samuel Smith departed shortly after the revelation was received, leaving Kirtland on June 9, 1831.  The trip was not easy for Reynolds and his young companion, and by July 14, they have run out of money as Reynolds recorded, “paid for our lodging, to the last money we had.” Reynolds continues, “We travelled on, not knowing what the day would bring forth… the people requested us to stop and preach… We found people very anxious to know the truths…  And we held many meetings on our westward journey.” During the rest of the trip they were “enduring much for the want of food and rest.” But they continued their journey across Illinois, and then traveled through misery, reaching a Lexington on the 4th of August. From there they traveled the last few miles into Independence.

Although they missed the dedication of the land of Zion of the temple site, which all current and prior to their arrival, Reynolds and describe his feelings as, “my mortal eyes beheld great and marvelous things such as I had never expected to see in this world…” The two men spent a number of days in Jackson County, “engaged in exploring that region of country,” then “the Lord commanded us to return home to our families.” After a memorable journey through Missouri they crossed Illinois and traveled through Indianapolis, walking much of the way on the “a national road” that was under construction.  While traveling on this road they found some of the workers willing to hold camp meetings where the missionaries could preach.

Reynolds must have been overjoyed to be back home after nearly four months of travelling.  But his joy it was curtailed with the news that his 11-month-old daughter, Julia Amina, had passed away four weeks earlier, on September 1.

Within two weeks of his return, Reynolds attended a conference in Hiram, Ohio, located approximately 30 miles south of Kirtland, At the John Johnson home.  While there, he was appointed to travel with David Whitmer and instruct the branches of the church on how to conduct meetings, as well as “obtain means” so that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon could continue the new translation of the Bible.

On the November 9, 1831, Reynolds and David Whitmer set out on their appointed mission to obtain money and property to aloud Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to finish the new translation of the bible.  They stopped again in Hiram to attend another set of conferences.

It appeared that the rest of November and most of December was spent in fulfilling missions by visiting the saints and obtaining what “means” they could. Reynolds was also involved in ordinations and other church business.

On the 1st of January, 1832 Reynolds was appointed to travel and answer charges leveled against the church by Ezra Booth, the first Mormon apostate.  On his return, Reynolds received a new companion, Orson Pratt. On this mission, Reynolds and Pratt were to visit the doubting members.  They visited the Saints in Painsville, Cardon, and Kirtland and found several members who had transgressed the laws of God and thus were excommunicated.

After Reynolds returned with Pratt, he was paired up with Thomas B Marsh to visit some of the branches west of Kirtland. Leaving on January 13, they visited the towns of Orange, Warrensville, Amherst, and others. In the meeting, Reynolds noted, that through the course of a meeting the branch “lifted their hands against some of their members.” Those members were visited and the next evening some of them were “cut off.”

On the 10th of February, Reynolds and Hiram Smith were set apart as counselors to the newly called bishop, Newel K Whitney. It was also decided at this meeting that several families should be “placed in a situation” so they might be able to sustain themselves as much as possible, and not be a burden to each other.  As a bishopric, they met often to discuss problems of the Saints and to consider how they should provide for the poor and needy.” And they also visited and “laid hands on the sick” at the council those who are in need of support.

During the spring of 1832, Reynolds and his family spent time plowing their land and planting corn. The remainder of 1832, Reynolds spent visiting branches of the church, and when appropriate, he gave saints “a recommendation to go to Zion.” He also was involved with Hiram Smith in managing accounts of stewardships according to the wants and needs of church members. Reynolds, as a member of the Kirtland bishopric, not only help in the management and distribution of goods, but also participated in the stewardship program.

In November 1832, Reynolds left Kirtland to serve in the eastern states on a mission with David Patton, and for a period of time, his son William travel with them, “preaching and baptizing in several places.” It was while on this mission that Reynolds was involved in the conversion of a family that would become very close friends to the Cahoon’s. While preaching near Orleans, New York, the missionaries converted the Alpheus Cutler family. Reynolds returned home in February, 1833 only to leave a short time later to travel east with David Patten.

In early May 1833, at a conference of High Priests, it was voted by the voice of the conference that Reynolds, Hiram Smith and Jared Carter should be appointed as a committee to obtain that means whereby buildings for the First Presidency, a school house, and a “house for printing” could be built.  Reynolds would later receive an inheritance or property adjacent to the temple lot as a result of his work on the committee. But within a month the committee’s building responsibilities or expanded to include a house of God. Of this committee, Heber C. Kimball observed, “these menus every exertion in their power to forward the work.”

Early in the month of June, Reynolds, Joseph and Hiram Smith, Brigham and Lorenzo Young left town in search of a quarry where stones could be found to be used on the temple walls. They were able to locate a suitable quarry about 2 miles south of the temple site where they loaded a wagon and returned to the temple lot.” The offense was taken down and Hiram Smith took a scythe and cut down the standing wheat, after which he and Reynolds began digging, by hand, a trench for the temple.  Six weeks later, on July 23, Reynolds met at the temple site and with 23 other priesthood holders, divided up in groups of six, each group layed one of the cornerstones.

During the winter of 1833-34, Reynolds and his family were not only busy with work on the temple, but they were also trying to build a new home for themselves, perhaps to create a larger living space for a growing family, as Thirza was pregnant again.  Not only did Reynolds children help with the construction of a new home, but Reynolds offered much needed work to a very poor and destitute Brigham Young that had just arrived in Kirtland. Young leader related that he was so impoverished that he had to borrow some boots and pants, have had no winter clothing except a three or four year old home coat.  Brigham Young related what it was like working for Reynolds:

I had worked through the winter was not the least prospect of getting 25 cents for my winters work.  I told brother [Reynolds] Cahoon I would work whether I could get anything for it or not…  I gained Brother Cahoon’s heart to the degree that if he received anything He always came to me, and said, ‘Brother Brigham, I have so and so, and I will divide it with you.’ Brother William F Cahoon and I kept working at the house until his father got into it.  When he had finished the house, he had paid me all that was coming to me.”

In May of 1834, Reynolds and Thirza watched as the oldest son, William, joined a Mormon army. This army had been commanded by revelation to help the members of the church in Missouri, who had over the past 10 months, been driven from their homes in Jackson County by non-Mormons of the area.

While her son William was in Missouri, Thirza gave birth to her seventh child, another boy, born on July 26, 1834. Shortly after this child was born, Reynolds saw Joseph Smith passed by their home and invited him in.  He asked the prophet to bless and name his new son. Joseph complied and gave the instant the name of Mahonri Moriancumer.  After the blessing, Joseph delay the baby on the bed, and turning to Reynolds he stated, “That name I have given your son is the name of the Brother of Jared; the lord has just shown (revealed) it to me.”

Life was a mixed blessing for the Cahoon family while living in Kirtland.  Once the temple construction had commenced, Reynolds spent most of his time in directing the finances along with the rest of the committee. Thirza did her share of personal sacrifice by taking in temple workers as boarders. One such a boarder described his experience while living with the Cahoons by stating, “It was a fine family and enjoyed myself in their society.”

Like most parents, Reynolds and Thirza have their problems raising children, and teaching them was a struggle for Reynolds and Thirza throughout their lives. The year of 1835 must have been particularly difficult for them as parents, four on August 10, the Kirtland High Council was called together to hear a complaint from Joseph Smith against Reynolds.  That charge as stated that Reynolds had “failed to do his duty in correcting his children, and instructing them in the way of truth and righteousness…” The Council agreed with Joseph Smith and approved the decision to have Reynolds make a public acknowledgment before the Church. Reynolds confessed his error and promised to make a confession to the church.

Apparently this did not resolve the problems that Reynolds and Thirza were having, because in less than three months, on November 1, of revelation was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith that stated, “Verily thus saith the Lord unto me, His servant, Joseph Smith, Jun. – Mine anger is kindled against my servant Reynolds Cahoon, because of his iniquities, his covetous and dishonest principles in himself and family, and he doth not purge them away and set his house in order.  Therefore, if he repent not, chastisement awaiteth him, even as it seemeth good in my sight, therefore goal and declare unto him these words.” The Prophet went “immediately” to Reynolds to deliver the revelation.  Reynolds acknowledged that what the lord hath spoken was true, and according to Joseph Smith he “expressed much humility.”

As a result of Reynolds labor and devotions to building the temple, he, along with others, received a “ blessing.” But working on that building committee was not a simple task.  Reynolds and the other committee members were in constant turmoil over providing for the needs of all those involved in the temple construction, as well as Saints a king and the items from the Kirtland store.

Reynolds continued to supervise the collection and distribution of contributions for the temple construction. Whenever conferences were held, the saints in the different branches were asked to assist in building the House of the Lord and missionaries were sent on missions to help raise money.  But, in spite of all the fundraising, during the three years that it took to build the Temple, the church was in class and financial distress.  Finally, the sacrifice paid off and the Kirtland temple was ready to be dedicated. It has been estimated that the temple caused the saints from $40,000 to $60,000 to build.

With the opening of the year 1836, of the Kirtland temple and the “endowment of power” promised them from on high.

The dedication of the temple was set for Sunday, the 27th of March. More than 1000 saints met at the temple for the dedicatory services, and because of space limitations, almost half of them had to be turned away. Reynolds was present and seated on the stand for this momentous occasion.

Before long, and the environment around Kirtland with began to sour.  The financial problems of the saints increased, especially after the temple was dedicated. Did the nation’s dropped off dramatically after the dedication, and at a time when the debts of the church continued to increase. Realizing the church had a cash-flow problem, the leaders decided to open a bank and thereby converting into cash some of the assets that the church and its members had acquired. In November, 1836, church leaders drew up articles for a bank, but much to their dismay, the charter was refused. Consequently, they organized a private joint-stock company of which they named, the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company. On January 2, 1837, Reynolds signed as a witness to adopt the articles of agreement for the Kirtland Safety Society and the company opened its doors for business. Reynolds was not only a charter member of the company, but he was a major stockholder. Within three weeks the Kirtland Safety Society began to have serious problems, it was announced that the company would no longer redeem its notes with specie. Within six months, Joseph Smith resigned as an officer, and in less than a year from its inception, the company closed its doors. There were many reasons for the failure of the company.  It devastated many of the Saints, including the Cahoon families.

It was during this period of economic distress that many members of this infant church apostatized. As a result of extreme financial difficulties the Kirtland bishopric, which at this time included Reynolds, Newel K Whitney and Vinson Knight, sent out a plea for this saints to pay their tithes. Along with these economic problems, some of the leaders were all closed to what they felt was an increasing concentration of authority at the top. In 1837-38, twenty-eight suits were brought against leaders of the church, including Reynolds. As the dissension and violence increased so did the pressure for the Cahoons to leave Kirtland.

During the winter of 1837-8, Reynolds received a new calling as a member of the Stake Presidency of Kirtland.  He served with William Marks and John Smith. This experience may have helped prepare Reynolds, for later he would be called to serve and two other Stake Presidencies.

By spring of 1838, any protection from local government officials had almost disappeared, when most faithful latter-day saints, including Reynolds, were removed from office. It was at this time that Reynolds and his family decided they could no longer stay in Kirtland. Tensions had increased between the faithful saints and those that had dissented.  Internal strife and persecution from non-Mormons forced the Cahoon’s to leave Ohio and travel to Missouri. They must have also had a very difficult time leaving the temple that had been the focus of the entire Cahoon family for the previous five years. The families packed up all their earthly belongings and left their comfortable homes behind.  William tells of the Cahoon departure:

In the spring of 1838, I with my family and my father, Reynolds and his family went from Kirtland to Missouri… I left behind me add good lot all paid for, for which I labored very hard to get, also a good seven-room house well-furnished and owned by myself… I could not dispose of it, so I turned the key and locked the door and left it, and from that day to this, I have not received anything for my property which is in the hands of strangers. However, we left it and went on our journey, pitching tents for a house.

Although the Cahoons may have thought that leaving Kirtland was the end of an era of sacrifice and spiritual feasting, they soon found out that their stay in Kirtland was just the appetizer.


In the spring of 1838 Reynolds his wife and family travel to Missouri, leaving behind their property and all they possessed in the hands of enemies and strangers.

Joseph Smith writes:

“Monday, June 7, 1838.  I visited with Elders Reynolds Cahoon and Parley P Pratt who had this day arrived in Far West, the former from Kirtland and the latter from New York where he had been preaching for some time and our hearts were made glad with the pleasing intelligences of the gathering of the Saints from all parts of the earth.

Tuesday 8th – I spent day with Elder Rigdon in visiting Elder Cahoon at the place he had selected for his residence and in attending to some of our private, personal affairs.

June 28th – At conference of Elders and members of the Church was held in this place today for the purpose of organizing this Stake, called Adam-ondi-Ahman.”

At this conference… “It was then moved, seconded and carried By the unanimous voice of the assembly, that John Smith should act as President of the Stake, Reynolds Cahoon was unanimously chosen first counselor and Lyman Wight, second counselor…  President john Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Lyman Wight then made some remarks…  After singing the well-known hymn ‘Adam-ondi-Ahman’ the meeting closed by prayer by President Cahoon.

Adam-ondi-Ahman is located immediately on the north side of Grand River, Davies County Missouri, and about twenty-five miles north of Far West and about eighty miles north of Indepenence.  It is an elevated spot of ground which makes the place as healthful as any part of the United States.  Overlooking the river and country roundabout, it is certainly a beautiful location. It is here the Mormons gathered by the hundreds; it sprung up overnight. Originally, it was called Spring Hill but Joseph named it Adam-ondi-Ahman as instructed by the Lord. “Because” he said, “It is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people for the Ancient of Days shall set, as spoken of by Daniel, the prophet.”

This town that was in making rapid progress when the Saints saw forming again, those elements which is threatened their peace. It is small wonder that righteous anger flushed their cheeks and alleged then instinctively to form the resolution, “that they would submit no more to such acts of despoliation, injustice and outrage.”

It was this sense of outraged injustice and inhumanity which led to the deliverance of the noted oration by Sidney Rigdon at Far West on Wednesday, July 4, 1838 in the course of which, there was expressed as strong determination to know more submit quietly to mob violence at acts of pillage.


A procession which comprised the infantry (militia), the Patriarchs, the President, Vice-President, Orator, Twelve Apostles , other officers and LDS members commenced their march at 10 o’clock a.m. They formed a circle around and the excavation and this day, July 4, 1838, the site for the temple at Far West was dedicated.

Thus, the Saints spent the day celebrating the Declaration of Independence.  Joseph Smith was president of the day, Hiram Smith, vice-president, and Reynolds Cahoon, acted as Chief Marshal.

The oration given by Sidney Rigdon proved to be very damaging and a potent factor against the Saints in the subsequent movements of their enemies.

In August 1838, which finally resulted in the exile of the Mormons from the state of Missouri. Their enemies of August 6, organized with a determination to prevent the Mormons from voting – the most sacred rite of American citizenship. The Mormons fought with desperate courage and not at last, overpowered my numbers, they withdrew to their homes.

Some of the leading citizens called upon the prophets and together they agreed to hold a conference at Adam-ondi-Ahman on August 9th. Both parties met in friendly counsel and entered into a covenant of peace to preserve each other’s rights and to stand in each others defense. For the saints, such men as Lyman Wight, Reynolds Cahoon, and others gave their pledge. The settlers were well represented and made their solemn promise.

In spite of the “pledge of peace,” Governor Boggs issued an “Order of Extermination” of the Mormons and an armed mob came upon them which resulted in that terrible massacre of Haun’s Mill. Without any notice of this order to the Mormons, this mob tore down and destroyed their homes, shot their animals, and killed their men, women and children.

At Haun’s Mill many were massacred.  At Far West and other settlements they were forced to move out on the snow-covered prairies. They appealed to the Missouri legislature for protection, but there was a few towns gesture. Their unexpected haste in leaving, the lack of preparation and the inclement weather soon resulted in widespread suffering with epidemics and a considerable loss of life.  Property valued at two million dollars was destroyed or confiscated. This was the beginning of the story of the trek of our ancestors, the Mormon pioneers.

Reynolds Cahoon and his son of William F tell us of the inhumanity to them and the outrages that “shock all nature and defy all description.” Realizing that it is contrary to the gospel for man to take vengeance into his own hands, they resigned themselves to whatever should follow, and it was not until a more positive and official testimony was wanted by the authorities at Washington, that their leader, Joseph Smith advised the saints to defend themselves by ” gathering together and knowledge of all the facts, sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of Missouri” and submit them to the highest tribunal.

The falsehoods promulgated against the Saints had blinded many honest men and women have for their sakes, the truth should be made known and then people of Missouri will someday be glad to make whenever amends they can for the wrongs suffered in that state, not because anybody will endeavor to compel them to do so, but because they will this team get a privilege to obliterate these mistakes of the past. Then the facts will be considered important and it should be on the record.  William F Cahoon made an affidavit of the “Missouri Wrongs.”

As the Mormons moved out of Missouri, those of the Mormon leaders who had escaped imprisonment or death struck if a course back across the state of Illinois.  Welcome word came that food, clothing, friendship and shelter awaited the refugees at Quincy. The Cahoon families were among those who found refuge there.


Fifty miles up the Mississippi River from Quincy, Illinois and a beautiful, green rolling ridge overlooked the mile-wide Father of Waters. At the foot of the ridge lay a low, level swamp land. This boggy, black-soiled peninsula pushed westward two miles into the path of the oncoming river. This forced the Mississippi to make along, lazy hairpin detour thereby surrounding the peninsula on three sides with its swirling, silt-laden waters. The Mormons learned that this swamp land was for sale and the terms were good. Obviously, it was not a likely site on which to build a city but because of the people’s poverty there was scarcely no alternative. Joseph Smith arrived from Missouri after six months of abuse as a political prisoner. He looked over the marshland and decided that “with a little hard work” they would make it both healthful and habitable. They gave it the name of Nauvoo, the Hebrew term meaning “Beautiful Place.”

Here at Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, our Mormon Pioneers settled and out of this swamp in that horseshoe bend of the Mississippi sprang up the largest city in the state of Illinois. In five years its population was 20,000 and more settlers arriving every day.

On January 19, 1841, came a command from the Lord “… I command you, all My Saints, to build a house unto Me… For a baptismal font there is not on the earth, that they, My Saints, may be baptized for those who are dead – for this ordinance belongeth to My house, and cannot be acceptable to Me, only days of your poverty wherein ye are not able to build the house unto Me.”

Reynolds Cahoon, who had been off a shaving as a counselor over the Branch in Iowa, was called to Nauvoo in October 1840 two assists in the superintendency of building a second great “House of the Lord.” Less than four months after the revelation was received, the cornerstones were named for the temple (April 6, 1841).

As may be supposed, the efforts in executing the great task placed upon the building committee did not always meet with the individual likes and dislikes of the people of Nauvoo. The burden was heavy and the difficulties, many. We find complaints at times, such as “Pulaski Cahoon was never appointed boss over the stone cutters shop… not all the sons of Reynolds Cahoon have paid their tithing… William F Cahoon has paid all his tithing, but some of the others have not…” etc.

The people were poor, but they labored diligently. That they were diligent in their efforts, is amply attested by history which tells us that this structure cost more than one million dollars. The Saints were poor and much of the time during its course of construction, they were harassed by their enemies. On many occasions, the members of the committee were called from their labors to the defense of their Prophet and at times they traveled day and night protecting themselves from the mobs. Quoting from the words of President Brigham Young: “This edifice was raised by the aid of a sword in one hand, trowel and hammer in the other, firearms at hand, a strong band of police, and the blessings of heaven.”

The Latter-day Saints were a happy people and welcomed their days of rejoicing together. They were loves of music. In 1841 the Nauvoo Brass Band was organized and several of Reynolds’ sons were members of that band.

The Prophet Joseph Smith had written many letters and petitions to the authorities of the United States relating to the sufferings of the people in Missouri, telling them that many had lost their lives and many had been robbed of an immense amount of property, and that in vain they had sought redress by all constitutional, legal and honorable means.

At a meeting of the citizens of Nauvoo, December 7, 1843, WW Phelps, Reynolds Cahoon and Hosea Stout were appointed to draft the preamble and resolutions. These resolutions were to be directed to the Governor of Missouri and to various authorities of the states of the United States, reciting the persecutions of the people of Nauvoo relative to the demanding of the body of Joseph Smith, as well as the common, cruel practice of kidnapping citizens of Illinois and forcing them across the Mississippi River and incarcerating them in dungeons or prisons in Missouri.

In her book “Reynolds Cahoon and His Stalwart Sons,” Stella Shurleff gives a detailed account of the last few days of the life of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and of Reynolds involvement with the Smith family. In one of the last entries written by Joseph Smith in his own journal, dated June 22, 1844 …  About 7:00 PM I requested Reynolds Cahoon and Alpheus Cutler to stand guard at the Mansion, and not admit any stranger inside the house. I asked O. P. Rockwell if he would go with me a short journey and he replied he would …

… About 9:00 PM Hyrum came out of the Mansion House and gave his hand to Reynolds Cahoon saying, “A company of men are seeking to kill my Brother Joseph and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life.  Goodbye, Brother Cahoon, we shall see you again.” In a few minutes Joseph came from his family, his tears were flowing fast.  He held his handkerchief to his face and followed his brother Hyrum without uttering a word.

  1. P. Rockwell rowed the skiff which was so leaky then a cat Joseph, Hyrum and Doctor Richards busy bailing out the water with their boots and shoes to prevent it from sinking. Sunday the 23rd, they arrived on the Iowa side of the river. They sent Rockwell to Nauvoo with instructions to return the next night with horses for Joseph and Hyrum and pass them over the river and they would be ready to start for the Great Basin in the Rocky Mountains.

About 9:00, Brother Bernheisel crossed over the river and Reynolds Cahoon also went to visit Joseph to explain to him as requested, regarding the governor’s a letter.  A posse had arrived in Nauvoo to arrest Joseph, but as they did not find him, they started back. In a letter written by Joseph to Emma Smith, his wife, he calls the place “Safety.”

At 1:00 PM Emma sent Rockwell to Joseph, requesting him to entreat Joseph to come back. Reynolds Cahoon accompanied him with a letter which Emma insisted that Joseph should come back. She also insisted that Reynolds Cahoon use every persuasion with Joseph to come back and give himself up. L. D. Wassan and Hyrum Kimball they were like wise persuaded by Emma to induce Joseph and Hyrum to start back to Nauvoo. These men went to Joseph as true friends to explain to him the Governor’s letter and to deliver the message to him from his wife, Emma. Reynolds Cahoon informed Joseph what the troops intended to do and urged him to give himself up in-as-much as the Governor had pledged his faith and the faith of the State to protect him while he underwent our legal and a fair trial. After much persuasion, Joseph decided to return to another, saying – “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself”… And after studying a few moments Joseph said to Hyrum, “If you go back I will go with you, but we shall be butchered”… then after a short pause, Joseph told Cahoon to request Captain Davis to have his boat ready at half-past five to cross them over the river.

We must conclude that Reynolds Cahoon was in Carthage when Joseph and Hyrum as the record states: “Joseph instructed Cahoon to return to Nauvoo with all haste and fetch a number of documents for the promised trial” and to further substantiate this fact, we are told that “Elder Cahoon returned (to Nauvoo) from Carthage for some papers. It appears that Reynolds did not go back to Carthage again this time; he sent these papers out by O. P. Rockwell. Just three months after the death of Joseph and Hyrum, Reynolds and several other Latter-day Saint men were “illegally arrested for treason” and forced to go to trial at Carthage.  Since the court was not ready for trial, the company proceeded to the jail where Joseph and Hyrum were martyred.

Reynolds returned to the Court House where, with Daniel Spencer, Orson Spencer, brothers Richards, Taylor, Phelps, Rich, Cutler, Scott, Hunter and Clayton, they were put under arrest and taken to Justice Barnes’ office. Here they were put under examination and asked if they wanted witnesses subpoenaed.  The reply, “No.”

DeBackman, the person who made the affidavit on which the writ was issued, made his appearance. Upon being sworn and asked if he personally knew the defendants or any of them, he answered that he did not and stated that he made the affidavit upon the strength of the rumors which he heard at the time and because of his great prejudice against the Mormons. He believed these reports and if think that the Mormon leaders were guilty of treason.

The examination was held before Justice Barnes, assists by Justice Bedell.  The court, according to law, dismissed the case and at 3:00 PM Reynolds and his friends started on their return home from Carthage.

At Malcomb, the people were under considerable excitement.  No friendly hand was offered them; only threats were used against them in the most lawless manner.  Reynolds tells the following:

“We found it altogether imprudent to let ourselves be seen, in the hospital threatened us saying, if they would ‘butt us out of town.’ After dinner we returned to a private room upstairs where we witnessed the increased state of excitement. We were waited on by a committee sent to confer with us and this committee expressed an unqualified terms of their entire disapprobation of the annoyance and pledged themselves to see us protected … their pledge was met and we arrived home safely.”


Obedient to the commandment, the Temple was completed.  It was dedicated quietly on April 30, 1846 by Joseph Young, brother of Brigham Young, and publicly on May 1, 1846 by Orson Hyde. Their zeal and sacrifices had not gone unrewarded, for from the date of December 10, 1845, when the Temple was closed for ordinance work, more than 5500 endowments had been given in the Nauvoo Temple. On December 10 and 11, 1845, Thirza and Reynolds Cahoon received their endowments. Reynolds and Thirza were sealed in “Celestial Marriage” in the Nauvoo Temple at 7:10 pm January 16, 1846 by President Brigham Young.

Reynolds Cahoon was one of the twenty Elders who went with President Brigham Young to the attic of the Temple in Nauvoo early that Sunday morning of November 30, 1845 and prayed that the Lord would hear their prayers and deliver them from their enemies until they had accomplished His Will in His House. They asked for blessings on their families and that the Lord would lead them to a land of peace.

Brigham Young ordered the evacuation of Nauvoo and the month of February, 1846 found the Mormons in full flight across the frozen crust of the Mississippi River headed toward the unknown west and the setting sun. Although the flight from Nauvoo was a retreat in disorder, Brigham Young rallied the pioneers at Sugar Creek, 7 miles west of the Mississippi River.  It was here on February 5, that Brigham organize them into “the Camps of Israel,” in captains of tens, fifties and hundreds.


On March 9, 1846, the Cahoon family left their beautiful city.  Reynolds and Brother Cutler were given instructions to “roll out their companies as quick as possible.” During the journey on March 14, Reynolds was thrown from his wagon, dislocating his shoulder.  William F and Daniel S Cahoon, sons of Reynolds, left with their wives and families.  They were members of the Nauvoo Brass band and traveled with the band, playing and numerous concerts throughout the various settlements of the Middle West to earn funds to help the migration.


On May 8, the Cahoon family arrived at Garden Grove, where they met their son, and brother, Andrew. He had been carrying mail for the pioneers between Nauvoo and Garden Grove. The ferryboat was completed June 29 and the next day Brigham Young and others of the advancing party crossed the Missouri River. July 6, the Camps of A Cutler and Reynolds Cahoon were about 3 miles from mount Pisgah and not until about three weeks later do we find them, “On the flats wanting to cross the Missouri; several are sickly. The hill on the west side of the river being very abrupt and steep, it required a doubling of teams and every man is requested to turn out with teams and help these people.

Bridges have been washed out, they have encountered great rains, and the progress very much retarded. It required the entire spring, summer and fall of 1846 for the main camps to cross Iowa and reached the river.  Brigham Young concluded they must make a temporary haven.  It was in September that the site was selected on the west side of the river and named Winter Quarters.

In December, Winter Quarters consisted of 3483 people living in 548 log houses, 83 sod houses or dugouts. On June 1, 1953, 106 years after the arrival of the pioneers at Winter Quarters an important ceremony marked the dedication of a bridge, honoring these brave Mormon Pioneers – a majestic bridge spanning the Missouri river at Omaha at almost the exact location of the Old Ferry Crossing.  The North Omaha Bridge Commission name of this branch, the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge. Dr Karren, chairman of the commission wrote: ‘The commission and the people of Omaha feel they have been greatly honored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith and giving approval to the name.”

Reynolds proved himself to be not only a great architect and builder but also indeed, a shrewd business man capable of engineering many complex problems. This is evidenced by the numerous financial difficulties he assisted in solving for his church and people. For instance, in the year 1846, it is recorded that he was “appointed to borrow money from certain individuals which is necessary to be pain on corn contracts. He is instructed to build a bridge, the contract to be paid in corn,” and again, “the Council in December voted that he be placed on a committee of three to build a House for the Omaha’s.”

January 25, 1847, Brigham Young organized his company. I. Morley was nominated president with Reynolds Cahoon and John Young as counselors, each as Captains of 100.  Winter Quarters was to be stockade, guards to be kept and the women, whose husbands were in the army, were not to be emigrated until after the pioneers.

May 19, 1848 was probably the happiest day in many, many long months for the family of Reynolds Cahoon, for on this day, into their camp at Winter Quarters their son Andrew arrived from a foreign mission and it lets him were the saints from Scotland, about 120 new Mormon emigrants. It was in Scotland that Andrew met the Carruth family where he and Mary Carruth were married.  Margaret and Janet were sisters of Mary, and on the advice of Brigham Young, Andrew was married to Margaret and Janet Carruth on the evening of July 17, 1848 by Brigham Young. The history of the Cahoon and Carruth families from this time until they arrive in the valley of Salt Lake his without particular event. Reynolds is speaker at the meeting July 21.  Many times they have difficulty with their cattle, mixing in various herds; many times their wagons are held fast in the rugged mountain passes.  At such times, “the boys put their shoulders to the wheels and helped each other out” … August 3, Captain Cahoon crossed the ravine up the Platte Valley. August 8th, Cahoon’s company ascended the hill and journeyed through the valley of the Sweetwater.

August 8, Cahoon’s company ascended the hill and journeyed toward Mineral Springs.  August 9 a very cold morning, Captain Cahoon gathered his cattle and resumed the journey through the long valley of the Sweetwater. September 12 President Young is about 2 miles in advance and President Kimball is at Fort Bridger.

They continue to journey through the long vale, over hard roads and through barren sagebrush.  September 13, Morley’s camp started first… Cahoon’s next; they crossed the Muddy Fork.  The mountains in the distance are covered with snow.

Margaret Carruth Cahoon says, “We arrived in Salt Lake Valley in the evening of September 23, 1848, which was about one year later than the first pioneers of July 24, 1847.” The families of William F and Daniel S Cahoon did not arrive in Salt Lake Valley until September 24, 1849.


The following stories pertain to certain activities and the life of Reynolds from the time he entered Salt Lake Valley until his death in 1861.  He continued to occupy many important positions in his Church and country; ever loyal to his convictions of the truthfulness of the Gospel principles of the Latter-day Saints Church.  He was affectionately called “Father Cahoon” and truly loved by all who knew him. He mingled with his people in all their political, religious and social affairs. In their festivities, he was honored on all occasions. He occupied the position of Counselor of the High Priest Quorum until his death. He gave counsel, instructed, led and guided his family, friends and loved ones, whenever the occasion presented itself.

The particular events of the next few months are firefly related – Reynolds taking a leading discussion in many problems such as keeping canyons and roads in repair, managing the Church Farm, acting as judge or counter of game for the extermination of ravens, hawks, wolves, foxes, etc. He is also appointed on the committee to erect a building for an “armory.” He is speaker at the general conference and at each conference is sustained as First Council to the High Priest Quorum.

On April 6 in the year 1851 at the general conference, the motion was read and carried by acclamation. “A motion to build at a Temple to the Name of the Lord Our God, in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

No definite information is given us as to the exact part Reynolds took in a building of the Salt Lake Temple. We know that he did the labor many years here; that he was present at the conference is discussing plans for its erection and with the same energetic he manifested in the infant days of the Church when he was one of the committee for the construction of the former Temples, he now appealed to the saints in Salt Lake to assist in building this temple.  He delivered them any Sermons and the Tabernacle when the Utah Legislature met December 12, 1853, the House of Representatives appointed him Sergeant-at-Arms.

Reynolds Cahoon was the first and only private owner of the lots were the Great Salt Lake Theatre was built. The location was the corner of First South and State Street, comprising a large portion of that block. One day Brigham Young came to Reynolds and said, “Brother Cahoon we need your lots, we must build a theatre.”

No doubt there were mingled thoughts in the minds of Reynolds and Thirza.  These lots were probably the only property they now owned. They were very valuable lots in the heart of Salt Lake City. Reynolds and Thirza had given everything from worldly value they had ever possessed to their Church. They had dedicated every moment of their lives for the Gospel’s sake.  When they left their beautiful cities of Kirtland and Nauvoo, their homes and property were left behind and many times they have said. “We have given all to God.”

Now they aged and could no longer do hard, laborious work for their own maintenance more for their Church. No, there were many things Thirza and Reynolds could not do to help build a city of Zion in the Desert, but they do to own this fine property just where this majestic “Play House” it could be erected, where drama of such magnitude as had never yet been dreamed of, would respond to spiritual tutorship under inspired leaders.

“Yes,” they are reasoned, “these lots can perform a mission for us, and ‘Give or Sell’ our Church shall have them. So on April 23, 1860, history tells us Reynolds Cahoon that conveyed his property to Brigham Young for the purpose of erecting the Salt Lake Theatre.

When we ponder on the value of this piece of property today, we may well remark,” sold or gave.” Let us relate the incident as grandmother Margaret Cahoon, one of Andrew’s lovely wives, has written it:

“During the year 1860-61, Andrew’s father, Reynolds sold his lots to President Young to build a theatre on. For his payment he received a number of oxen, wagon, cows and merchandise, etc. He also had a debt paid he owed in the tithing office which was several hundred dollars. He was well satisfied with the pay as he thought he got a big price for it.”

After the sale of the property, Reynolds and Thirza move to South Cottonwood (now Murray), Salt Lake Country, Utah. Here they I lived with their son, Andrew, who provided and cared for them until the time of their death. They both died at South Cottonwood, Reynolds dying April 29, 1861, and Thirza November 20, 1866.

At this date (September 1993) we would estimate that they have more than 20,000 descendants, who honor and respect them for their courage during perilous times, their faith and loyalty to their Church and to their God, for the sacrifices they made it so unselfishly, for the love they had for family and friends.  What a wonderful heritage they have left us!

NOTE: This history was written by Doug Cahoon and can be found in the book Reynolds Cahoon: Roots and Branches.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Doug Cahoon
    Aug 07, 2016 @ 21:04:49

    I wrote this back in 1993 for the book Reynolds Cahoon: his roots and branches. You might want to mention where you got this from.


    • Sue
      Aug 11, 2016 @ 01:32:47

      Hi Doug, Sorry for missing that. I don’t actually own that book and must have had this history given to me. I don’t know if I forgot to include my source, or if I just didn’t have the information. I have included your name as the writer of this history at the bottom of the post. Thank you so much for the effort and the time you have spent working on this history. It helps those of us who are his descendants come to know him and honor his good life.


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