Elias Hutchings (1784-1845)

Elias Hutchings, born Feb. 10, 1784, State of New Hampshire, Winchester, Cheshire Co., who was the son of Asa, the son of Thomas, the son of Thomas Hutchings, and lived with my parents until I was about twenty years old.  Then I went to the State of Vermont.  There I lived with my Uncle Thomas Hutchings and then I went to the State of New York and lived in different part of the state until 1815.  Then I went to Ohio, the northeast part of the same.  My occupation has been since I left the land of my nativity that of hunting and trapping and fishing in the seasons thereof.

In 1816 Dec. 29, I was married to Sally Smith in the town of Avery, Huron Co. Ohio.  My wife was born in the town of Barnard, Somerset Co. NJ, Feb. 26, 1794.  In the year 1821 we moved to Chagrin, Cuyahoga Co, Ohio and in 1824 we moved to Orange in the same county.  Nov. 17, 1830, I and my wife went down the river Chagrin and was baptized by Priest Caleb Baldwin and was confirmed by Elder John Murdock in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

May 5, 1834, I started as one of the Camp of Zion with my brethren afoot to the State of Missouri, to lay down my life for and in defense of my brethren if required, that was driven out of Jackson Co. MO, by the ruthless mob, and stayed about nine months and returned home again in Feb. 3, 1835.

I could say I was ordained an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the 15th day of Dec. 1834, in the County of Monroe, MO, at a conference held for that purpose.  Four elders were ordained under the hands of James McChord, elder.  After my return home I went to Kirtland on the 15th of Feb., received the Zion’s Blessing, pronounced upon my head for going up to Zion, under the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr, and Joseph Smith, Sr, and Sidney Rigdon at Kirtland, Geauga Co. Ohio, 1835.  In the spring of 1835 I was ordained to the first Quorum of Seventies.

In March, 1836, I received my washings and anointings and endowments in the Kirtland Temple, Ohio.  April 21 I started to the East on a mission traveling through the States of Pennsylvania, and New York, preaching as I went and through a part of Canada and returning from my mission of about five months baptizing nine into the Church.

Sept. 5, 1838, I left with my family the State of Ohio for the State of Missouri and stopped in the State of Illinois on account of the trouble in Missouri and in May 1840, we left for the Territory of Iowa.  Oct. 1844, I was ordained Senior President of the Third Quorum of Seventies.  I left the Territory of Iowa the 10th of Nov. for Nauvoo, Hancock Co. Ill.

Elias Hutchings.

The above was copied from the original thereof which was written by Elias Hutchings himself.  Monday Jan. 13, 1845 he died and was buried Tuesday, Jan 14, in the city of Nauvoo with the Saints in Hancock Co. Ill.

Getting Acquainted with Elias Hutchings

Because of the numerous progeny of Elias Hutchings and the debt of gratitude his many descendants owe to this honorable man, a life history is compiled for the pleasure and benefit of the throng of his posterity now living and the multitudes yet unborn.

Had a complete autobiography of this adventurous man been authentically written, there would have been few books to equal it in realistic history. Varied and exciting circumstances surely surrounded Elias Hutchings in his early days of wandering; tales of astounding adventure; hazardous-critical situations to be sure.  From high points gathered, one can visualize that certainly, many valuable anecdotes of truth and humor have been omitted.  It is the desire of the writer to keep strictly to facts, but if at times environs of the day seem to be used somewhat extravagantly to help dress and portray the pictures, please conform to unity.

I first because acquainted with grandfather Elias several years ago when his treasured letter came into my hand:  “I, Elias Hutchings,” he wrote, “was born the 20 of February in Winchester, Cheshire, New Hampshire.  I am the son of Asa, the son of Thomas, the son of Thomas.  I lived with my parents until I was about 20 years old.”  Nothing more is said in the letter about his early childhood, but let us turn back the pages of time and visit, if we may, the birthplace, time and surroundings of that distant day.

Winchester in western New Hampshire, was incorporated in 1752.  It was granted by Massachusetts as Arlington.  The place has been settled scores of years.  During the French and Indian War all the houses were destroyed and the people took refuge in a garrison house.

The old Granite State is rich in beginnings in America.  Therefore, early living in New Hampshire is like a great unforgotten pageant.  Inherent echoes of long ago stir deeply within my soul.  My heart is filled with identification of emotional attachment.  There is an inward-searching and longing to know my people!  In my mind’s eye, I can readily visualize the sturdy frontiersman busy clearing his land and daring the dangers of the wilderness.  I thrill with sentiment and romance that surround the crude, pleasant homes.   I feel a vastness of breathless excitement when the ghosts of French troopers push down from Canada, aided by their Indian allies, to kill settlers and burn their homes.  I am delighted and feel life cheering when I see that the Hutchings family is safe!

I am awed by vision that unfolds time and February 20, 1784 comes the calendar.  Already the echoes of Paul Revere’s horses’ hoof beats are ten years past, the Red Coats have retreated and Elias Hutchings is born.  He arrived during the nation’s period of anxious anticipation and great anxiety when the new government was being made.  Elias was four years old when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the United States Constitution, thereby putting it into effect.  Did little Elias wonder what all the excitement was that day?

Only a few miles from his birthplace, the Connecticut River passes swiftly on the west.  This river rises near the Canadian border and separates the triangle-shaped state from Vermont.  About five miles south of Winchester, you can step across the borderline into Massachusetts.  (About eight miles Athol.)  The human-interest elements back of statistical research make genealogical research in New Hampshire a most fascinating pursuit.  One does not exaggerate or be over-optimistic in stating the childhood of the Hutchings’ household would have had a delightful environment.
By the time Elias was 18 years old, one sister and six brothers had been born into the family as follows:  Sister, Sophia born Feb. 16, 1786;  Willard, Feb. 8, 1789;  Esbon, Feb. 18, 1791 and died July 2, 1805, age 14;  Asa was next in line -born April 8, 1793;  Joseph, September 3, 1795; Hosea, November 3, 1797 and died September 12, 1799.  Just fifteen days after the death of little Hosea, another son was born, who was also given the name Hosea.

The bare facts of family record handed down on the family group sheet of Asa Hutchings and his wife, Abigail Stowell, reveal the sadness and sorrow that came to this family; Only three years after the death of baby Hosea, Asa, the father passed away on April 9, 1802, leaving Abigail a widow with six children.  Six months later, Hosea, number two, died at the age of three years and one month.  Then on July 2, 1805, the family was again saddened with the burial of Esbon.

Returning now to the letter of Elias Hutchings, we find the following: “I lived with my parents until I was about 20 years old, “  he states.  “Then I went to live with my uncle Thomas in the state of Vermont.”  At the time of Asa’s death, Elias would be 18 years old.  It may be assumed it was soon after this that Elias crossed over the Connecticut River to the Vermont side to live with his uncle.

On November 13, 1805, Abigail remarried to Colonel John Wood, who died February 9, 1818 at the age of 62.  To this union two children were born, Abigail and John.  Mr. Wood was a colonel in the Revolutionary War.  Abigail Stowell died August 20, 1838 at Winchester, New Hampshire.

“I then went to the state of New York,” Elias wrote, “and lived in different parts of the state until 1815.  My occupation since leaving the land of my nativity is that of hunting, trapping and fishing in the season thereof.”  Does one need to question today, what man with a Daniel Boone spirit of adventure wouldn’t give about anything he possessed to have an enthralling hunting ground like Elias had?  All America was his!  What a profusion of wild life and raw nature surrounded him.  He had no game wardens, no nosy rangers nor spying airplane-spotters to tell him when and where to set his traps.

Keeping the homemade buckskin pouch filled with powder for his musket and food for his stomach were the biggest concerns of the day.  Ferocious animals, savage Indians and battling the elements were considered just a part of the day.  He loved the challenges which the natural habitat provided.  The leather pouch that swung from his shoulder by a leather strap also contained a bull’s horn used for convenience in filling the flintlock musket which was sparked by using a flint stone hammer.

The expeditions in hunting and trapping lured Elias Hutchings into many states.  Quoting from the “Historical and Biographical Record,” Sacramento Valley, California, Published 1905, page 528:  “Elias Hutchings is well know all over the country as the discoverer of the famous Mammoth Cave in Edmonson County, Kentucky which he accidentally found while hunting and trapping in that state while following wounded game into the cave.”  The “History of Kentucky” published 1887 by W. H. Perrins, G. H. Battle and G. C. Kniffin, page 689 notes:  “The Mammoth Cave in Edmonson County, discovered in 1809 by a hunter named Hutchins while in pursuit of a wounded bear.” (The Hutchings name was spelled Hutchins at that time.)  The National Park Service states that a pioneer hunter named Houchins tracked a wounded bear into Mammoth Cave in 1798.)

It is useless to try to resurrect lost occurrences in unrecorded time, but thinking about the circumstances that surely would have surrounded Elias in the events of that distant day, are enough to fire ones imagination into worthy excitement.  It’s a wonder that wounded bear didn’t turn and devour Elias!  He surely must have been petrified with mute astonishment when the bear he was following suddenly disappeared into that mammoth chamber of eternal darkness.  Little did Elias realize at the time what a vast discovery he had made.  Today, the central Kentucky cave is an extraordinary thrill of surprises.  In 1936 it was made into a national park, covering more that 79 miles of hill country containing waterfalls, rivers and two lakes.  In addition to its fantastic rock formation, it is a place of amazed wonderment.  For example, one of the many unique marvels of the cave are the fish without eyes.

In the wanderings of Elias Hutchings, we next find him in the town of Avery, Huron Co. Ohio.  Here we find record of Elias being married to Miss Sally Smith on December 29, 1816, by the Justice of the Peace of Huron County.  Between the time of the discovery of Mammoth Cave in 1809 in central Kentucky and his marriage date, one can only surmise that this time was also spent in pursuit of furs and adventure.  All Elias has to tell us is:  “My wife was born in the town of Bernard, Summerset (Somerset) County, state of New Jersey on February 26, 1794.”  This signifies that Elias was ten years older than his wife, Sally.    When considering the importance of marriage, we are often left to wonder why there isn’t more data recorded to reveal the significance of anything so magnificent as the union of two completely different lines of ancestry being brought together.

Sally Smith, daughter of Amy, dear little grandmother of long ago, who were your people?  At the time of this writing, Sept. 5, 1964, there is still an argumentative debate in the family as to the authentic parentage of Sally (Sarah) Smith.  We know her mother’s name was Amy Smith and that she later married John Cox.  This maternal grandmother could have been married twice, Smith being the name of the first husband, or Sally could have been raised by her mother’s parents, the Smiths.

After the marriage of Elias and Sally, they settled about 15 miles south of Huron at Norwalk where their first four children were born:  Hovey born November 6, 1817; Shepherd Pierce, November 29, 1818;  Erwin, May 29, 1830; and Elias born September 20, 1821.

“In the year of 1821,”  Elias writes, “we moved to Chagrin in the county of Geauga--near the mouth of the Chagrin River.”  At this place the river enters Lake Erie.  Today the place is about where the town of Timberlake is located, and is about five miles north of Kirtland, Ohio.  This would be a move of about 80 miles.  It would be of interest to us today if we had a detailed history of that move.  Sally, age 27, Elias ten years older with four little children, all under the age of four.  Elias, Jr. would have been a tiny infant.

From this point in the history I will turn to the history of Shepherd Pierce Hutchings, son of Elias:  “Now while I was quite young,”  he writes, “before I could remember, my father moved into the county of Geauga near the mouth of Chagrin River where it enters into Lake Erie.  Living there a short time, we then moved up the river still farther into the township of Mayfield.  We lived there  a while then moved again a short distance but in the same township.  Here he farmed a year or so then moved down the river some few miles.  At this place my father bought some land to make a farm.  At this time I was eight years old, the year in which I commenced to work.  At that age I used to ride horses to plow in the corn field and received 5 cents per day.”

In 1823 Elias  was taxed in Mayfield (Range 10, Township 8) for one horse and two cows.  He was in Orange (Range 10 Township 7) in 1824 and taxed for two cows.    In 1825 he was still in Range 10, Township 7 but listed under Chagrin Falls, and was taxed for the two cows.  Also in Orange in 1824 and 1825 was Jacob Hutchings of Athol, his second cousin.  Jacob was taxed for a horse and 3 cows in 1824 and for 1 horse in 1825.

“Now my father, being cramped much with hard times, was poor and destitute and unsuccessful.  His prosperity, when he would get some, was continually seized by law and sold for little or nothing.  So was the Gentile law framed that the poor and unfortunate man was trampled down with impunity for debt.  He might be locked in jail and fed on bread and water; deprived of his family circle, and still that would not pay the debt.  My father never was confined in jail, but has spent many days behind the doors to keep away from the officers.”

Turning again to the family group sheet of Elias and Sally, we can add much more to the sorrow in the difficult days of those early years along the Chagrin River.  Erwin Hutchings died October 21, 1821 at the tender age of 17 months, and almost one year later October 18, 1822, little Elias, Jr. at the age of 13 months followed his brother in death.

William Willard Hutchings was born to Sally and Elias while they were living at Mayfield, then came the move to Orange, a few miles south in the same county near the Chagrin River.  Here the following six more children were born:  Joseph Stowell Hutchings, March 17, 1827;  Samuel Hutchings born September 12, 1826 and died July 7, 1827;  Lyman Smith, July 3, 1828;  Sally Lovina was born July 5, 1830 and twin girls, Mary and Martha, were born March 5, 1833.

Elias never told us in his letter the time when he first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Quoting from his writing he said, “On November 17, 1830, I and my wife went down in the river of Chagrin and were baptized by Priest Caleb Baldwin and was confirmed by Elder John Murdock into the L.D.S. Church.”

The February following the baptism of Elias and Sally, the Latter-Day Saints Church was taking root in Kirtland, Ohio, a few miles distant of Orange.  By March 26, 1833, three farms were purchased at a cost of $11,000, on which to build a State of Zion.  At the same time a council of High Priests convened for the general welfare for the part of the Church in Jackson Co. Missouri.  Oliver Cowdery and W.W. Phelps were among their leaders.

The early spring of 1834 was a great crisis for the saints in Jackson County, Missouri.  False word has been spread among the non-Mormons of the county that the  “Mormons” were crossing the Missouri River to take possession of their lands, and nearly all the county turned out to prepare for war.  The Missourian leaders issued a warning to their people:  “All who will not take up arms,” they declared, “and fight the ‘Mormons’ will have to leave the county!”  Through false promises, the Jackson County Saints had been deprived of their arms about six months before.  As a result of this invasion of the Missouri mob, about 170 buildings were destroyed by fire.  Homes and holdings were plundered, and the saints were beaten and driven north into Clay County.

Prophet Joseph Smith, learning of the plight of the church membership in Missouri, at once set about organizing a company of men, called “Zion’s Camp” to go to Missouri in defense of the branch there.  Elias writes:  “May 5, 1834, I started as one of the Camp of Zion with my brethren afoot to the state of Missouri to lay down my life in defense of my brethren if required that were driven out of Jackson County, state of Missouri by ruthless mob.  I stayed about nine months and returned again on February 3, 1835.  After I returned home,” Elias writes, “I went to Kirtland.  On the 15 day of February I received the Zion’s Blessing pronounced upon my head for going up to Zion under the hands of Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr, and Sidney Rigdon at Kirtland, Geauga, Ohio.”

In the year of 1831, because Elias Hutchings was unable to make payment on his farm, the Hutchings family was obliged to move off the land.  On this event, Shepherd Pierce, son of Elias has written:  “Now about this time my father was obligated to move off the farm he had bought because he had failed to make payment on the land though had had payed some considerably.  Because he failed to  pay up to the very strict letter of the law or bonds, he had to go and leave all he had done.  Thus he was deprived of all he had.  He was forced to sea to float the way the wind did blow-thus he moved up the Chagrin River some four miles in the timber near the Chagrin Falls and commenced to clear land by the job, at a certain price per acre.  Thus it became my daily task to chop and clear land month after month, and year after year, and to split rails.

After Elias Hutchings left with Zion’s Camp to make its thousand-mile march to Missouri, the responsibility for the care of the family fell upon the shoulders of the two oldest sons, Hovey and Shepherd Pierce Hutchings.  “This summer,” Shepherd Pierce states, “I and my brother, Hovey, who was one year and 20 days older than myself, had to work exceedingly hard to sustain the family.  We chopped and cleared land, fenced, dug wells, and in fact, though we were young, we felt old and bowed down.  Our backs were so lame we could hardly stand erect.”

Elias and his whole family suffered because of the unlawful persecution inflicted upon the early church membership.  Of this even it has been stated:

“The very flag of the United States of America received a strain of stigmatic disgrace when it allowed hostile men to go untried and unpunished because of savage, bestial violence used against people on account of their religious belief.  Even barbarous acts of inflection were inflicted upon some men, or the sons of men, who only a short time before, had toiled and bled in defense of their country in the Revolutionary War!”

“Although a permanent peace was not accomplished by the Zion’s Camp movement, the worth of that 1000-mile trek was proven to be one of the most worthwhile endeavors in the early history of the church.”

“Nothing so completely reveals the worth or worthlessness of character as an expedition of this description.  Men are thrown into such relations with each other, that all that is in them, good or bad, comes to the surface.”

It was a testing time for the 205 men.  From this expedition of “sifting the wheat from the chaff”, the twelve apostles and the Quorum of Seventies were chose.  Elias Hutchings was rated as “wheat” in that expedition because his name is listed as one of the First Quorum of Seventies ordained under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith, with his two counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery on February 28, 1835.

Many men from that expedition were later chosen as leaders of great responsibility in the great exodus from the confines of the United States; that trek of a thousand miles into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.  Also many of the early leaders who were later chosen in Utah Territory to head colonization and high positions of the church came from this group of courageous men.  Had Elias lived to come West, it is left to our imagination as to what achievements might have been his.  From traditionary history in the family, it is told that Elias was among the 20 bodyguards chose to protect the prophet in the Zion’s Camp March.

Elias wrote, “I was ordained a seventy in the spring of 1835 in the First Quorum of Seventies.  In March 1836,” he continues, “I received my washings and anointings and endowments in the Kirtland Temple at Kirtland, Ohio.”  Note:  “At that time,”  Church Authority says, “there were no endowments  given in the Kirtland Temple, or at any time, but there are those few who seem to think there could have been,:  It could have been that Elias was mistake in what endowment meant at that time, as there was some kind of washing and anointing given to missionaries prior to their leaving for the mission field.

Elias continues: “April 2, 1836, I started East on a mission traveling through the states of New York and Pennsylvania, and through part of Canada.  I returned form my mission of about five months, baptizing nine into the church.  On September 5, 1838, I left with my family the state of Ohio for the state of Missouri and stopped in the state of Illinois on account of the trouble in Missouri.  In May 1840, we left for the Territory of Iowa.  On October 1844, I was ordained Senior President to the Third Quorum of Seventies.  I left the Territory of Iowa the 10th of November for Hancock County, Illinois.”

Although Elias, in his writings, never mentioned the conditions and circumstances that surely surrounded his destitute family, that period of time, and years to come, were indeed difficult for the Hutchings family.  They, along with other Latter-Day Saints endured many trials and persecutions:  They were driven, robbed and their property destroyed.  “It seemed as if all Hell had burst asunder!” said Shepherd Pierce.

The summer of 1839 that Elias moved his family from Naples, Illinois, to Iowa Territory up the Des Moines River to a little town called Bonapart, “that the family was sick with fever and ague,” Shepherd Pierce tells us.  “Three of my sisters died with canker, the twins, age eight and Lovina past nine.”

It is not known under what circumstances Elias met his untimely death.  We only have his word that he left Iowa the 10th of November 1844 for Hancock County, Illinois.  Here he died on Monday, January 13, 1845 and was buried Tuesday with other saints in the Nauvoo Cemetery at Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois.

Sally was left a widow in Nauvoo at the age of 51.  Only five of her 11 children lived to adulthood.  She with her son Lyman Smith Hutchings, crossed the plains to Utah in 1849 in the company of Captain Ezra T. Benson.  Very little has been recorded in the life of Sally (Smith) Hutchings, but this we know, her life was not an easy one.  In the days of persecution, she and other unfortunate women suffered untold hardships.  Seven times during those struggling years, “death’s angel” called at her ill-provided home to take her little ones.

Shepherd Pierce, William Willard and Hovey Hutchings built their mother a little house in the 17th Ward in Salt Lake City.  Here she lived the rest of her remaining life in the content of her little home.  Her name is entered on the old church record as a faithful member meeting her church obligations, such as paying her tithing by knitting stockings and mittens.  Sally died September 28, 1863 and was buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery.  Just in recent years, a great-granddaughter, Irene Croft and her kind husband, Russell, placed a little gravestone to mark the spot of her final resting place.

Elias Hutchings and Sally Smith were the parents of eleven children:  Hovey, Shepherd Pierce, Erwin, Elias, William Willard, Joseph Stowell, Samuel, Lyman Smith, Sally Lovina, Mary and Martha.

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