Patience Delila Pierce was born 15 February 1809 near Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence, New York, the daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth (Taylor) Pierce. Her grandfather was a Revolutionary War soldier as was her husband’s father.
Her husband, Abraham Palmer, the son of Noah Palmer and Tirzah (Whitney) Palmer, was born in Sherbourne, Chenango, New York. They were married in 1825.
In 1834, two elders came to their home in St. Lawrence Co. bearing testimony that God had spoken again from the heavens and restored the fullness of the Gospel to the earth again. They were baptized on 14 February 1835 in a hole made through the ice.
Abraham Palmer was appointed president of a small Branch of the Church. In May 1838, the Branch, consisting of 8 families, started with their teams and wagons to gather at Far West, Missouri.
Patience Delila Pierce Palmer wrote, “It was in the Fall of 1838 when the eight families of us were on our way from New York to Far West, Missouri, where many of the Saints were gathered. In our journey we had our wagons searched by mobs and our books and guns taken from us. When we came to Shoal Creek, we could go no further on account of the surrounding mobs, so we camped there four miles below Haun’s Mill, the night before the massacre. At the mill, the Saints and the mob had made a treaty that neither party should molest the other. The day was beautiful and warm and in the afternoon the other sisters and myself were washing clothes in the creek. The children, with shoes and stockings off, were playing about when a boy on a horse came riding furiously down the creek. He told us that the mob was killing the Saints at the mill. What were we to do?”
“There were no arms in camp, so we were unable to defend ourselves. Without stopping to put shoes or stockings on our children, we hastily fled toward the woods and our husbands remained.”
“I had six small children at my side and a baby at my breast . We ran over brush and hill and hollows. As our children ran over the rough untrodden ground, stains of blood were left from their tender feet. We would stop for a short rest. Mothers would take off their clothes from their backs to lay on the ground for the children to stand on and warm their cold, raw feet. Once, for a rest while in the woods, we crawled under a tree that had fallen down. During the night we traveled through the woods and over burnt prairies. In the morning we heard the call of our husbands and returned with them to camp.”
“The mob at the mill killed 18. Instead of coming down to our camp as they had intended, they became frightened lest an army of Saints from Far West were coming down the creek, so they fled over a twenty mile prairie that night.”
“After our return to camp, our husbands went to the mill to prepare the dead for burial. While they were away, we saw a mob, armed and on horseback, approaching us. They rode down toward us to the brow of the hill a short distance away and stopped. Another sister and myself went to them and the captain with drawn sword advanced. I asked him what they intended to do with us. To our surprise, he said that his company would not hurt us, but told us to leave the vicinity, for a mob of furious men were coming. He told us of an unguarded back road from which the guard had been removed and also of a man who could act as a guide. He then requested us to promise we would not reveal what he told us, for if it became known, his life would be in danger.”
“We did as advised, broke camp, and started for the woods. When we had traveled about 15 miles, we stopped for several days waiting for orders from Far West. While we were there one of the brothers arrived with the news that the Saints had agreed to leave the state. We then moved on. Our food soon gave out and we had nothing to eat. My husband got some corn and then we ate it and it was all we had for three weeks. We would parch the corn and then eat it, but the small children could not do that; we had to partly chew it ourselves--it having been parched--and feed it to them. We lived in this way three long weeks before our corn gave out. Then we were without food of any kind for two days and a half. On the night of the third day we procured a sack of flour. We lived several days on spooncakes made by mixing flour with water and baking in dry skillets.”
“During all that time our children neither murmured nor complained. Had it not been for the help of the Lord, we never could have endured as we did.”
“The reason for our company living for three weeks on parched corn was not due to our having no money, for there was money in the camp. We repeatedly tried to buy provisions from the settlers as we moved along our weary way, leaving the state of Missouri. In compliance with the Governor’s extermination order, the whole county was stirred to a fever heat in persecuting the Saints, and the people would not sell us food. For example, my husband wanted to get a horse shod that had become so tender-footed that he could not travel further without shoes. He took him 5 or 6 miles in advance of the company to a small village. As he was not known, they shod his horse and took him in the house for dinner. While they were eating, our company passed. The women and larger children were walking, holding up their skirts while wading through the mud and slush, which was ankle-deep in many places as it had rained and snowed nearly all the time. The woman of the house, seeing us go by said, “I wish I could see old Joe Smith tied to a pile of wood, and I have the privilege of kindling it. O, I would say to the fire, burn slow!”
“During that never-to-be forgotten journey coming out of Missouri, we traveled through mud, snow, and ice nearly all the way. All except the little children were on foot as we had already traveled a thousand miles that summer to get to Missouri. Our horses were almost worn out and it was all they could do to slowly move our wagons.”
“One day a company of mobbers went to Far West, surrounded and called us to halt. The leader, with drawn sword, asked for the captain of our company. My husband stepped out to him. The leader told us he had orders from the Governor to search our wagons and take our guns and books. My husband told him our wagons had been searched and our guns taken from us and showed a receipt to that effect. Then they rode on, and as they did so, one man placed the muzzle of his gun almost against my breast and said, “I swore I’d kill a G__ D___ Mormon when I left home and now is my chance.” I looked at him fearlessly in the eyes and when the captain told him to put his gun down, he did and then rode on. One man, a more humane one, said as he passed me, “Good woman, you had better go and get into your wagon. You will catch your death wading through this water and mud.” Then they rode to the top of the hill they had just descended and simultaneously fired off their guns, making the air ring with yells.”
“One day, I remember, we traveled over a prairie. It was covered with ice, slush and snow. One step the ice would hold us up and the next we would break through over our shoe tops. Thus our feet were wet all day long. At night we camped by a stretch of water with timber and brush along its banks. We parched our corn, of which we made our supper, after which some of the men cut down brush to sleep upon to keep their beds out of the water that was running everywhere. Some slept in the wagons which was a little better as the covers had become worn and torn from our long traveling.”
“Next morning, I woke and looked around. My husband had a fire burning and was thawing out his clothes so he could put them on. I saw my little children covered with snow that had fallen during the night. Everything was dreary. Snow was sifting into my bed. I knew when I got up with my little ones shivering around the campfire, I would have nothing to give them to eat but parched corn; and realizing that our supply was becoming short, my heart sank within me and I burst into weeping.”
“What had we done to be thus treated by our fellow man? My husband’s father had suffered untold hardship all through the Revolutionary War; had fought and bled to establish American Freedom; so had my grandfather. They had labored and suffered that all men might enjoy religious liberty in this land, and there we were fleeing before a relentless and blood-thirsty mob, composed of American citizens sent out by the Governor to compel us to leave the state.”
“Marvelous to say, notwithstanding all this exposure and the privations we endured, our health did not fail nor our strength depart us, for the Lord was always with us and blessed us. We had a positive knowledge that Joseph was a Prophet of God and that we had been born of the water and of the spirit, and had received the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. That testimony is still with me to this day. I have been a member since 1835. Now I am 83 years old and still bear testimony that I do know that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that this Church and Kingdom is God’s work and will stand forever.”
“To return to where we were camped on the banks of a creek in the slush by our campfires eating our corn, we then moved on, exerting ourselves to the utmost to get out of the state of Missouri before the winter closed upon us. We found ourselves with only bitter enemies to depend upon for work and to supply us with our food. As we were traveling, one of the sisters became sick. We camped a few hours and a child was born. Then we moved on again and the mother and child were so blessed of the Lord that they thrived as well as if they had been in a comfortable home.”
“Our corn gave out, and as has been stated, we went without food of any kind for two and a half days. Then we got a sack of flour which was divided between eight families. This we ate in water cakes for breakfast one morning and then had no food of any sort until the next evening. During the next forenoon my husband picked up by the side of the roadside a box of pill labeled “for fever and Ague”. We camped about the middle of the afternoon, our teams being exhausted as well as ourselves. They only got prairie grass for feed and no grain. It was hard for them to drag our wagons along through the snow that had become quite deep.”
“After we camped some of the men went in search of food and I, unobserved by the rest of the company wended my way across a field to a small house which I entered. I found several of the family sick with fever and ague of very long standing. I produced the box of pills we had found. They were very anxious to buy them, so they gave me about 25 pounds of unbolted flour and a bucket of frozen apples. I hurried to the camp and distributed the flour and apples among the hungry families; notwithstanding we had only water to mix our bread with and no sugar for the stewed apples, but it seemed I never ate such a delicious meal. The brethern returned, having procured a little food.”
“That evening If my memory serves me right, we held a council to find out what was best to be done. The snow was getting so deep, the roads so bad, and our teams so worn; and ourselves in such a destitute and worn out condition, having traveled all the summer and fall, suffering so many hardships and exposures that it became impossible for us to go further.”
“Now came a serious question to consider. We all belonged to one branch of the church in St. Lawrence Co. N.Y. and when we started for Missouri we made solemn covenant that we would stick together until we reached the settlements of the Saints, but now it seemed impossible for all of us to get into one neighborhood for winter quarters. There were reasons for this. First, it seemed it might arouse the mob spirit to see so many of us together; notwithstanding, we had gotten out of the districts where the bitter feelings existed; second, it would be hard for so many of us to get in one township, so we agreed to part. We sang hymns of Zion, offered our prayers to the Lord, asked his forgiveness if we did wrong in separating for a while and invoked His special blessings upon each to guide us to food and shelter. That farewell meeting in the snow by our campfires will never be forgotten by me. The next morning, we separated; two families going together--each in a different direction to find homes for the winter. My sister, Ruth Crozier, with her husband and children went with us. We soon got a house to live in for the winter; and Mr. Palmer (being a carpenter by trade) took a contract to build and finish a frame church.”
“See how the hand of the Lord was over us that we might keep our covenants with each other and receive the necessities of life, also? The word soon noised about that Mr. Palmer was a Mormon preacher and he was asked to preach at their schoolhouse the following Sunday. An appointment was given out accordingly. Imagine our surprise on going to the meeting to find all our brethern and sisters of the company there, and to learn that we were all within two miles of the schoolhouse. Mr. Palmer gave employment to all the brothers to work on the church. Thus the Lord opened the way for us to get food and clothing. We held our meetings every Sunday and greatly rejoiced in the Gospel.”
“In March 1839 we again started to leave the state, ourselves and our teams being now recruited. We had bought food and clothing with the product of our labor, but could take but little of the former with us, as our teams were light, and winter was just breaking up. The roads were muddy and we encountered frequent storms, all of which made the journey unpleasant though not so bad as during the previous fall when mobs were tantalizing us and we were destitute and hungry, wading through mud, slush and snow.”
“At last we arrived at the Mississippi opposite the city of Quincy. There we found hundreds of families of Saints camped on the banks of the river awaiting their turns to cross on the one ferry boat that was plying back and forth carrying the exiled Saints from the cruel state of Missouri to the friendly shores of Illinois. What a scene; thousands of honest humble followers of Christ destitute of the necessities of life, fleeing before a relentless mob made up of our own countrymen backed by the cruel extermination order of the Governor, and all because we believed in new revelation that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
“I hope my young readers will stop and consider these things and ask themselves the question. Was not the Lord our Father with us? Yes, and He has never forsaken me to this day, and as I stand upon the brink of the grave and expect to soon meet my Maker: let me once more bear testimony that I know Joseph Smith to be a true Prophet of God, and Mormonism, so-called to be the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Abraham and Patience Palmer wrote a letter to Abraham’s sister back in New York in June of 1839. In it, they relate more about their experiences in Missouri.
“Through the tender mercies of our God, we are still well. It is now one year since we left that place, and various and strange have been the scenes through which we have passed. But we yet live and praised be the name of the Lord.”
“No doubt you have heard many things from Missouri, respecting our people. I will now tell you what I know of the transaction in as few words as I can. A mob of about 200 drove about 80 families from Hewitten the Missouri. (DeWitt in the Missouri?) They fired upon our brethern, but killed none. Thus we were left to be murdered by brutes in the form of men or defend ourselves”
“We had been smitten twice, yes, three times and had born it, but we said we would bear it no longer without resistance. Many of our brethern were shot and thrown into the brush while at work--their bodies left to be devoured and without doubt their bones lie bleaching in the sun. About the first of November we got to Livingston County, Missouri, and here 38 men with rifles surrounded our wagons and robbed us of 3 guns and gave us much abuse.”
“Then we passed on into Caldwell County. I went to a place 4 or 5 miles from our camp, where our brethern, forty or fifty, had collected to defend themselves at the mill from a lawless bandit. I had just returned to our camp when to our surprise, news came that the mob had fallen upon our friends at the mill and were killing men, women, and children. This was near sunset. The next moment we expected to share the same fate. No pen can describe, no tongue can tell. The horrors of the scenes found mothers weeping over their smiling babies and helpless children, which they soon expected to see strangling in death--yet, God was our deliverance. Well do I remember that dreadful night when in company with two brothers, we went in search of some of the survivors of the slaughtered men, women and children who had fled into the woods for safety, yea they hid themselves in the hole of the earth awaiting in solemn silence, the approach of day; their grief was beyond tears.”
“The mob which murdered our brethern was 250 in number; our brethern
40 or 50. No warning was given them. Two boys were killed.
Some of the wounded were shot again for fear they would not die.
One little boy was pleading for his father’s life, who lay bleeding with
wounds when one of the mob put his gun to the boy’s head and blew his brains
“Two women had their dresses shot full of holes. One was shot through the hand and many were wounded; and all this for our religion. The next night the mob told us we might have our choice; either to deny our Faith or leave the country, or death would be our portion. We chose the latter, preferring rather afflictions with the people of God than enjoying the treasures of the earth, knowing it is for righteousness sake. Many were cast into prison where some yet remain. Brother Joseph is set free. Our people were not the aggressors, but stood in their own defense. The governor called out troops to protect the mob and drive the Saints out of the State. Drive or exterminate was the order. O, my God, has it come to this that nothing but mobs law can prevail? We were all condemned to banishment without a trial.”
“We came back 75 miles through the snow and rain during the coldest time we had last winter to Hunkville, Missouri. There we stayed until spring where I took a job to build a meeting house. In April Isaac Pierce took my family to Illinois, but I stayed until my job was finished. I am now at work in this place on the State house at $2 per day.” --by Abraham Palmer
“If any of our friends ask you if we have denied the faith tell them NO: NO: nor would not for our lives, for if we should we would expect nothing to follow us but eternal damnation for we do know for a surety that it is eternal truth and the angels bear witness of it, and so do we. For we know that heaven and earth may pass away, but this work will stand forever. So my dear brother and sister I do entreat you by the grace of God to enlist in the work before it is too late. Oh, how I feel for the welfare of the souls of my friends.”--by Patience Palmer
After moving to Nauvoo, Abraham Palmer was called to work on the Temple as he was a carpenter and a joiner. He was also made a member of the Nauvoo police force. Patience Palmer received her patriarchal blessing in Nauvoo under the hands of Joseph Smith, Sr., the first patriarch.
Patience was present at the organization of the first Relief Society and was there set apart by the prophet Joseph as one of the visiting committee whose duties were to visit all the families. They were also to discover if any pecuniary aid was needed. During the winter of 1845-6 she and her husband worked in the Temple all the time that ordinances were given and they received all the blessings pertaining to that house.
In the spring of 1846 Patience became very sick. Apostle Heber C. Kimball was called to administer to her. Holding her by the hand, he said, “Sister Palmer, you want me to say something to you, and I will say in the name of the Lord that you shall not die and that I shall shake hands with you in the great American Wilderness.” The leaders of the church were about to leave for the west at that time.
She often related the scenes in Nauvoo at that time the two martyrs were brought from Carthage. She said you could meet no one but what they were weeping.
One day Abraham Palmer came home and said, “We have agreed with the mob to leave the state.” After leaving Nauvoo they moved into a little log hut that had been built by trappers. It had no door and there were large cracks between the logs. On the 10th day of December, in this little log hut in a snow storm which was driven through the cracks, Patience Palmer’s 10th child, William Moroni, was born. There were two families, consisting of 14 people, living in this hut. Then they went to Montrose. There, 15 families got into one house with several rooms. All the men at least found work and the women took in sewing and washing.
After their day’s work was finished, the men would work to build vehicles to go West in. They saved all they could to buy oxen and cows for teams. Thus, for two years they struggled on, traveling part of the time, and stopping to work part of the time. Very late in the Fall of 1848, this small company arrived upon Potawattomie Creek at an Indian village 50 miles from Kanesville (now Council Bluffs). The snow had become so deep they could travel no further. The houses in this village were built of grass and bark. Into these the 15 families went. On account of the deep snow they could not obtain provisions, but fortunately they found a cache of corn left there by the Indians. During the greater part of this winter they lived upon parched corn and hominy which they made by soaking the corn in lye water. The lye was some they made from ashes. This soaking was done to remove the hulls, then washing and boiling the corn without meat or butter. They also ground corn with two great stones, which the Indians had left.
The young men would sometimes kill pheasants which were always divided among all of them. On one occasion an ox broke through the ice and was drowned, but they pulled it out and used the meat. They saved their cattle by shoveling the snow off the tall grass and chopping down trees for them to browse on. There was an Indian hut 20 by 30 feet which they used for a meeting house.
In this colony of 15 families, 8 children were born during the winter and spring, including Patience Palmer’s last child, a son, named Hyrum Smith Palmer. Among the 15 families Patience mentioned the names Ferrin, Pettingill, Marsh, Warner, Clyde, Carpenter, David, and Pierce; the latter being the family of her brother, Isaac Pierce.
In the fall of 1849, all these families went to Kanesville where Abraham Palmer was appointed Bishop by Apostle Orson Hyde. He was also chosen to remain and fit out companies for the journey to the West. At last, in the spring of 1852, having built their own wagons and gathered oxen and cows for teams, they started for the Great Salt Lake Basin.
While the family was traveling to Utah, an epidemic of Pinkeye broke out in the camp. Among the children attacked was William Palmer, then a child of 5 years. A quack doctor prescribed a copper-sulfate application as a remedy, but the application proved disastrous, for the child was rendered totally blind. He was blind until he was 17 when he was miraculously healed under the direction of President Heber C. Kimball.
On arriving in Salt Lake in October, they went up into the main part of the city where they met Apostle Heber C. Kimball, who grasped them by the hand and said to her, “The last time I saw you, you were in Nauvoo in your sick bed and now here you are in the wilderness.,”--thus fulfilling the prophecy he had made.
In 1854 they moved to Ogden which then was but a small village. There Abraham Palmer was chosen counselor to Lorin Farr in the first Stake Presidency of Weber County. Patience Delila was made first President of the Relief Society in Weber Co. She worked diligently in this capacity, helping the poor during the grasshopper ravages. She and her assistants went from house to house gathering cast off clothing, remodling and distributing them among the poor.
During this time a tabernacle was built in Ogden. The Relief Society took useless rags and made carpet to cover the aisles and carded and spun wool which they colored with dye made from brush, bark, and ocher from Ogden Canyon to make enough carpet to cover the stand, vestry and prayer circle chamber.
In 1857 news came that the government was sending an army against them. In the spring of 1858 they were told to prepare to flee to the south. Their homes were to be prepared to be burned if necessary. The Relief Society distributed the carpet for wagon covers and the woolen carpet for skirts for women and shirts for men and children.
One could see trains of families by the hundreds leaving their homes, gardens, fields and everything. Abraham and Patience went to Spanish Fork where they lived all summer in a willow shack which they built. Then the government found out through Colonel Kane who was investigating that the stories of disloyalty of the Mormons were all lies and they soon made a treaty with the Saints asking them to return to their homes, which they did.
Later they moved to Sanpete County where some of their children were located and where Abraham Palmer died in May 1875 at Fayette. Patience then went to live with her son, William Moroni at Glenwood, Sevier Co. where she died 25 March 1894, and was buried beside her husband.
During her strenuous life she acted as a midwife and a doctor, administering help and comfort to all in need. Of the hundreds of women she waited on, she never lost one case or child, which she ascribed to the fact that a prayer was always on her lips for divine assistance whenever she waited on the sick.
She was also a school teacher of considerable success, having taught in Annabelle, Sevier Co; Deseret, Millard Co; and Chicken Creek, Juab Co.
She was very genial, had a kind disposition, and was beloved by all who knew her, especially the children. Truly a more righteous, patient, and humble woman never lived, for she devoted her whole life to the Gospel of Christ and has now gone to her reward.
Most of this story is taken from a story written by Ardean Palmer Hatch with excerpts quoted directly from the journal of Patience Palmer.
Abraham and Patience Palmer are doubly related to me. They are
3rd Great-grandparents to me through their daughter Ann Eliza and 4th Great-grandparents
to me through their daughter Susan Charlotte. This is because my
grandparents, Hyrum Grant and Myrtle Emma Clark Stephens were 2nd cousins