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James McBride, 1818-1876

Autobiography (1818-1846)
typescript, HBLL


My grandfather's name was James McBride; he was born in the state of Virginia--in which state he died at seventy or seventy-five years of age.

My grandmother's maiden name was Mary White. After her marriage to my grandfather, she gave birth to John, James, Philip and Thomas. Of the girls there were Isabelle, Mary, and Sarah--and I believe another girl, whose name I can not tell, but was the wife of McDougal. Perhaps the names are not given regular--but as nearly so as I can remember having heard them.

I believe my grandfather was of Irish descent.

My grandfather's name on my mother's side, was Thomas John. His wife's name was Ruth. After her marriage to grandfather John, she gave birth to James and also a son who was scalded and died when quite young, whose name I can not give. Of the girls, Sarah, Elizabeth, Hannah and Catherine my mother, are all I have any information of.

Thomas McBride, (my father) was born March, 1776; in London County, Virginia. At the age of about eighteen, he was married to Catherine John. At the time she was about sixteen years of age. I think they were married in Hancock County, Virginia--at least grandfather John lived in that county at that time.

To my mother were born, Rebecca, Ruth, Amos, Mary, Hannah, Elizabeth, Susan, Thomas, Sarah, Isabelle, James, Catherine and Dorcas. There were two other girls born in the family, that died when infants, and I think they were not named.

The first seven above named were born in the state of Virginia, in which state Susan died.

(1810) My father left Virginia in the Spring of 1810--and moved to New Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio; a journey of about three hundred miles. Taking with him all his children living except Ruth; who was living with her grandfather and grandmother John and remained in Virginia for some time after.

In the autumn of 1813, my father returned to Virginia and brought home with him, Ruth. I will now give you a short account of my father's trip. He rode a pacing mare called Snap--and not being able to furnish a better mode of conveyance, my sister Ruth, who was then about fourteen years old, was obliged to ride and walk in turn with father, a trip as you already understand of about three hundred miles, from Virginia, to Lancaster, Ohio.

Rebecca and Mary were both married in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Thomas, Sarah, Isabelle and myself were born in the same county.

(1820) In March 1820 father moved from Fairfield County, to Wayne County, a distance of about one hundred and ten miles. Taking with him Ruth, Amos, Elizabeth, Thomas, Sarah, Isabelle, and myself. There he took a lease on a school section of land for fifteen years--which was situated on one of the tributaries of the Mohegan, called the Red Haw.

The conditions on which the lease was took, was that my father was obliged to clear not less than twenty acres of heavy timbered land. The clearing was to be divided into fields of not more than seven acres each, lawfully fenced. He was also to put out an orchard of not less than twenty-five apple trees, and twenty-five poach trees each. A log house, and a double log-barn were to be built.

My father's circumstances were very poor. He had but little stock when he took the lease, and unfortunately lost part of that. But bone and sinew were put to chopping and grubbing--and the younger hands to gathering brush--whether boys or girls, it mattered not, the clearing must be done. The first year about five acres were cleared, and put in corn. Heavy frosts destroyed the crop, so the first year there was no income from the lease.

In three years, however, the eighty acres were about cleared, and a gradual income was realized.

Catherine and Dorcas were born in Wayne County.

Ruth, my oldest sister remaining at home, was here married to Perry Durfee; a few years after my father took the lease.

(1826) Amos McBride, married Keriah McBride--a daughter of Robert McBride, but no relation to my father's family. Elizabeth, afterward married a man by the name of James McMillen. My sister Sarah died about the year 1828.

Chapter 2

Go those whose eyes peruse these pages in search of the more particular history of my life--let me say, go back with me a few years, and I will endeavor to give you a plain account of my life, from my childhood.

(1818) I was born on the 9th, day of May A.D. 1818 in the county of Fairfield, state of Ohio. I was but two years old when my father moved to Wayne County. Of that early part of my life you have already read something in the first chapter of work. And perhaps I could not say much more than I already said that would be of interest to you about it.

While my father lived on the Red Haw, a branch of the Mohegan--on the lease--of which I have already given an account--came first to us the sound of the everlasting gospel, as revealed to man in these last days. It was the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; proclaimed by two elders, Thomas Tripp and Harvey Green. I was then about thirteen years old. My father, who previously had not felt to join any Christian denomination, now opened his house, and welcomed the elders to his home.

(1831) The first sermons preached on the Red Haw, by elders of this church, were preached in my father's house in April 1831, by the above named elders. Soon after, my father, mother and sister Isabelle were baptized and confirmed members of the church, by the same elders.

(August 1833) My father sold the lease; and in August 1833, accompanied by brother Amos and his family, and James McMillen and family, started to Jackson County, Missouri to join with the Church. The season being well advanced, he was not able to get further than to Richland, County, Ohio that season.

(1834) While there, Isabelle and Thomas both married.

My father stayed in Richland County, till the Spring of 1834; when accompanied by Amos and family, James McMillen and family, Isabelle and husband, James Dayley and family and Thomas and his family, he started to Missouri.

(June 1834) Having traveled about two months with ox teams, in the latter part of June 1834 we arrived in Pike County, Missouri.

The Church being very much scattered and unsettled, we remained in Pike County about two years.

(1836) In the spring of 1836, the company above mentioned, moved to Ray County, and there joined with a branch of the church. We stopped there about three months, during which time we suffered a great deal with ague and fever.

The howling of the mob were heard on every side, and it was decided that we should move to Caldwell County.

In September, my father, taking with him what of his children yet remained at home, and accompanied by James Dayley and wife, moved to Caldwell County, and settled about three fourths of a mile from Haun's Mill on Shoal Creek.

There, my father entered from government eighty acres of land and began to make a home.

A branch of the church was organized at Haun's Mill, presided over by David Evans.

(1838) I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by David Evans, in June 1838. At the same time James Haun and Isaac Laney were baptized.

Though many of the followers of the Prophet Joseph Smith had been beaten, tarred and feathered, driven from their homes and their property confiscated for the use of mobocrats, their persecutions were not yet to cease. Threats were made against the Mormons, the rights of citizenship were denied them.

The little few now fully realizing the dangerous situation in which they were placed, decided to adopt measures to defend themselves against the raids of the mob. It was decided that a guard should be kept at the mill.

Chapter 3

(October 30, 1938) One beautiful afternoon on the 30th day of October 1838, my father came home from meeting with the brethren at the mill. He talked with me, and told me the arrangements made. He was called to help to form the guard. I was sick at the time, with the every-other-day ague, and father said on my well day, I should take his place with the guard and that he would guard on the day that I was sick. That with himself and me, he wished to fill one man's place. You will remember my father was then in his sixty-third year. During the summer he had been very sick--but having recovered, appeared to feel very well; in fact I think he looked better than I had ever before saw him.

My sister Catherine was living at the mill with Hauns' family. Leaving only me and my youngest sister Dorcas, at home with father and mother.

Father was in good spirits, and his countenance wore a cheerful expression. Having shaved himself in his usual style, leaving side beards--and taking with him his guns and blankets, started on his return to the mill to join the rest of the guard. Mother, with sister Dorcas started to visit a neighbor woman, living about a quarter of a mile distant form father's place. This being the day on which I was sick, the next day I should have taken father's place with the guard. I was then in my twenty- first year.

The day was gradually passing--evening was coming on.

The large red sun so characteristic of an Indian summer, shone through the smokey atmosphere. All was still.

My father had but little more than got to the mill--in fact not more than thirty minutes had elapsed from the time he left the house, when a gun was heard--and another--followed by the deadly crack of musketry, which told too well the fate of all who fell a prey to the blood-thirsty mob.

Perhaps not more than six minutes had passed from the firing of the first gun, 'till the massacre was accomplished,--the bloody deed was done.

The firing ceased--the screams of mothers, daughters and the wounded, told the dreadful tale!

The bloody picture in the book of time; may it ever stamp with stigma the brow of that government that offered not a protecting hand to those who were ruthlessly cut down--wounded; or were made widows, and orphans, at the Haun's Mill Massacre.

The sun slowly sank beneath the western horizon--and darkness spread its broad mantle over the universe.

With a single exception, the dead were left lying where they fell--in fact there were none left that were able to take care of them. Whether dead or alive, all feared alike--all was uncertain--all was pain and sorrow.

In vain did the affectionate wife with aching heart and streaming eyes watch through the long, long night for the return of her husband.

(October 31, 1833) The 31st day dawned, and again the rays of the morning sun, kissed the landscape. As yet the extent of the massacre was not known.

Brother Amos having been detailed on the previous day to get wood for families, was on his way to the mill when he was told there had been serious trouble there. His home was about three miles from the mill, and as he was not detailed on guard, was not at the mill at the time of the slaughter.

He went on; and passing the mill a short distance, came to Haun's house. The first object that met his eye in human form, was the mangled body of my murdered father [Thomas McBride], lying in the door yard. He had been shot with his own gun, after having given it into the mobs possession. Was cut down and badly disfigured with a corn cutter, and left lying in the creek. Some of the women had dragged him from the creek into the door yard and left him there. One of his ears was almost cut from his head--deep gashes were cut in his shoulders; and some of his fingers cut till they would almost drop from his hand.

On further examination it was found that fifteen were murdered, and fifteen wounded--one of whom was a woman, Mary Stedwell, who in trying to escape, was shot through the hand, and fell behind a log. Several bullet holes were found in the log, directly opposite of where she lay. Alma Smith a small boy; and I believe one Merrick were the only wounded children that were yet alive. Of the wounded men, three afterward died. Making eighteen dead in all.

Isaac Laney a young man that was baptized into the church at the same time that I was, was in the black-smith shop, when the mob began to fire on them. His gun stock was shot to pieces in his hands. He then escaped from the shop, ran to the mill, and climbed down one of the mill timbers into the creek. That being the quickest way for him to escape danger. From there he went into the house, where sister Catherine, Mrs. Haun, Mrs. Merril and some other women were. They administered to Isaac, and put him under the floor. He had received eleven bullet marks in his body. I was well acquainted with Isaac Laney, and helped to take care of him until he recovered. He told me that when trying to escape from the mob, the blood gushing from his mouth would almost strangle him. While he was under the floor he said he suffered a great deal for want of water. The women not daring to venture out to get water until they felt sure the mob was entirely gone. Isaac recovered, and lived thirty-five years from the day of the Haun's Mill Massacre.

Chapter 4

A few rods south of the blacksmith shop, was an unfinished well, about eight or twelve feet deep; but no water was in it. This made the sepulchre for the dead. Fifteen murdered persons, including my father, were carried on a board, one at a time, and dropped into that well--by brother Amos McBride, James Dayley and Jacob Myers: the only three able bodied men that were present.

It was now plainly shown that there was no mercy for us. What few men, and boys that were of much age--yet alive--were under necessity of hiding away, to escape danger.

About the first day of November, being tired of lying out in the woods, I concluded to venture a trip to the mill. I was anxious to see the grounds on which the slaughter took place; and learn if possible, the general situation of affairs. Accordingly, with feelings that I can not here describe, I slowly wended my way to the spot. I walked over the grounds, noticing here and there the blood stained earth--and seriously reflecting on our then sorrowful situation. On the outside, the logs of the shop were defaced with bullet marks, and on the inside of the shop, the ground was scarcely visible for blood.

I traced the blood from the dead bodies of those who were carried and buried in the well. I went to the place and stood at the edge of the silent tomb of my beloved father. A silent prayer I offered to God, and turned away.

I went to a house in which a widow woman lived, by name [William] Napier--her husband was a victim of the massacre. She was yet there with her family. She advised me to be careful least the mob might come upon me, and kill me.

Having spent a few minutes at the house, I went into the mill, to look once again through it. While there a noise attracted my attention, and I saw the woman of whom I have just spoken--running and beckoning to me in an affrighted manner. I sprang to the door-way, and saw about thirty rods distant a posse of men, coming in the direction of the mill. I did not feel right in trusting myself in their hands--but rather than let them see me run to escape, I would have died. I therefore walked from the mill to the dam, crossed it, and quietly walked on until I was out of sight. Why they did not fire at me I can not tell.

A few days after, a company of men, commanded by Nehemiah Comstock took possession of the mill.

In that company was a man by name [Howard] Mopin, for whom, my father who was then a magistrate, had collected a judgment amounting to ten dollars and ten cents, just before his death. Mopin now threatened that my mother's house would be burned down over us, if the money was not forth coming. I heard of the treats made, and after reflecting for a time took the money and started to chance my fate with the mob. In as bold a manner as I could assume, I went among them. They did not bother me, and I soon thought myself quite safe. I found Mopin, and presented him with the money. He took it, and seemed somewhat effected, on learning the situation of my father's family. To renumerate me for my trouble, he gave me ten cents.

I was quite small for my age--was smooth faced, and very sickly--which perhaps in part accounted for me being allowed to depart in peace. Having ventured thus far, I decided that I would again return, and act as a spy.

One day having worked my way back into their midst, I discovered that a man by name Robert White, who was a member of the Church had turned traitor, and gave the enemy all the information he could about the Mormon families and their situations. The captain who was aside instructing his men, I overheard mention my brother Amos' name, as one having a gun--which he said was hid in a hollow tree. And if he refused to give it up when called for, they were instructed to shoot him down without further ceremony.

As soon as a chance presented itself, I left the camp, and as soon as I was out of their sight, made my way across the hills, to where Amos lived--and told him what I had heard. I advised him to go and get his gun, and demanded of him, to give it to them--as we were betrayed, and if he tried to keep his gun, he would lose his life. I then hurried away before the mob came. Amos done as I had advised him.

A few days after, brother Amos, James Dayley and David Lewis, were taken prisoners. They were kept a few days, harassed and tormented, and then set at liberty.

While Comstock's Company remained at the mill, they used it to do their grinding. They would shoot down our cattle and hogs--not caring how much they were needed by the widows and children that had been left to care for themselves. When they wished honey, they would take a hive to their camp, split it open with an ax, and help themselves. This was indeed hard to endure, but to resist was death.

The Governor of Missouri (Boggs) not being satisfied with the suffering already borne by the Latter-day Saints issued orders requiring them to surrender their fire arms, give up their principal leaders, and leave the state at a given time. The suffering caused by that exterminating order of Boggs', could hardly be described. Families were turned out of their homes, and the widows and orphans found themselves cast helplessly upon the mercy of the church. Some were without teams, and almost destitute of food and clothing. Thus exposed to the storms of winter, and travel a journey of more than two hundred miles.

It was now necessary to get rid of our home at the mill, in the best way we could. If we could get something for it, well and good, and if not, we were to leave it any how. The place was worth about one thousand dollars.

(February 24, 1839) We left Haun's Mill, on the 24th, of February; on our way to Illinois. The first day we traveled about nine miles--and then camped in a house which had been vacated by one of the brethren. The day had turned extremely cold--and we decided to remain at that place 'till the weather became more favorable for traveling. While there camped, we were informed that our guns, which had been taken from the saints at Haun's Mill, and at the surrender of arms at Far West, had been taken to Richmond in Ray County--and that we could get them by first describing them, swearing to the description--and paying a fee of sixty-cents for each gun. James Dayley and myself, decided to ascertain the truth of the matter, and if possible, get our guns. My main object was, however, to get possession of my father's gun--with which you may remember father was shot.

(February 27, 1839) Accordingly about the 27th, we started to Richmond--at the same time, the main body of our company started on their journey to Illinois. We had no horses to ride--no teams were traveling in that direction--consequently, we were compelled to go on foot.

And now, let me say--this was the beginning of the three hardest days suffering from fatigue that I ever experienced.

The first day about one hour before sunset we arrived in Richmond--and after describing our guns, taking the oath, and paying the required fees, we were directed into a room in which was stacked several hundred guns--all of which justly belonged to our people--but of which they had been unwarrantedly deprived. My father's gun was not to be found by us--but fortunately I got my brother Amos' gun--James Dayley got his. Having done all we could, we turned our faces in the direction of our company. Having traveled about ten miles on our way, at a late hour we stopped for the night, at the home of brother Pleasant Ewell who had been a good friend to many of the Saints-- and who gave us lodging, supper and breakfast.

At an early hour of the morning we were again traveling. After a hard days trip, just before sun set we came to a place where we were informed our company had passed about eleven o'clock that day. We were now on the road our company had travelled, which made us anxious to push forward. We had been without eating since early breakfast, so we arranged with the man of the place for our dinners, for which we paid twelve and a half cents each.

A few miles ahead, commenced a prairie--through which we would have to travel for about eighteen miles. The country through which we were traveling was a new country, and it was not thought strange there to travel ten or more miles without seeing a house. But with the hope that our company had camped at the edge of the prairie and we might overtake them, we travelled on. Darkness came upon us, we reached the prairie, but found no one there. The wolves howling around us in almost every direction. We were indeed tired--but to lie down in the cold, and trust ourselves to the hungry appetites of howling wolves, seemed hopeless, and we still traveled on. Repeatedly I proposed to my traveling companion to stop, but he would not consent to the proposition at that critical time. Slowly we trudged on, 'till at a late hour--when we saw, to our right--and about a mile distant a fire in the timbers. We left the road, and went in the direction of the fire. When we got to the place, we gathered wood to keep fire, and there camped for the rest of the night.

Before day dawned, the shrill Clarion of the dung-hill cock informed us, we were then but a short distance from a house. We went to the house and got our breakfasts; which were very acceptable to hungry, and weary foot travelers.

About eleven o'clock that day we overtook our company. We had traveled an average of about forty miles each day--and you are left to judge the good feelings we enjoyed, at again joining our friends.

After a tedious journey--and a great deal of exposure--from which many died, we arrived in Adams County, Illinois. At which place I built a house, about four miles east of Payson. I rented a piece of land which I farmed one season.

At that place Dorcas married Harrison Severe.

(April 1840) In the spring of 1840, about the last of April, I started to Nauvoo, Hancock, County. Taking with me my mother, and sister Catherine. Accompanied by Amos and family--James Dayley and family and Harrison Severe and wife--also a young man by name of William Pope, who afterward married Catherine.

At Nauvoo I got in with a man named Creamer, from whom I got a small place, and raised a crop of corn the first year. The gathering of the church was at Nauvoo.

(1841) In the year 1841, I rented a portion of a farm from a man named John Eagle, which I cultivated.

(July 26, 28, 1841) My circumstances were very good, and all went well until about July, when my mother was taken with the kings evil--from which she died about the 26th or 28th, of July 1841.

At that place Catherine married William Pope.

In the autumn of 1841, I moved north about two miles, and built another home. On which I remained about a year and a half, and then disposed of it.

(1843--March 7, 1844) In the spring of 1843, I bought a piece of land, about one mile still north, on which I built a home, and made some improvement. While on that place, I married Olive Mahetable Cheeney, on the evening of 7th, day of March 1844. Olive Mahetable Cheeney, daughter of Aaron Cheeney, and Mahetabel Wells, was born on the 16th, day of Mary, A.D. 1817, in Bloomfield, Cataraugus County, state of New York.

(June 27th, 1844) On the 27th day of June 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and Patriarch Hyrum Smith, were murdered at Carthage Jail Illinois.

Chapter 5

The hand of the assassin was not yet stayed. The persecutions of the saints were very severe and having long suffered the gross impositions of all who wished us evil, it was discovered that we would again have to move.

(January 28, 1846) Accordingly on the 28th of January 1846, the breaking up of the Church at Nauvoo began.

(February 6, 1946) My first son--Brigham McBride, was born at Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois on the 6th day of February 1846.

In order to keep affairs in the best possible conditions, it was necessary to organize the Church into companies. First headed by a captain, would be a company of one hundred families. These families divided into two companies of fifty families each. Over each of these was a captain. These fifties were divided into companies consisting of ten families, each ten having a separate captain. Of the ten of which I was a member, James Dayley was the captain.

(April 1846) In April 1846, we left Nauvoo, directing our course westward. A span of horses, (of very inferior quality) to a small wagon--a yoke of oxen and wagon, made up the traveling outfit for our entire company--to which was also added a widow woman and family. The first day we moved to the banks of the Mississippi--taking first a part of the company, their bedding, clothing and provisions and unloading it at the river. Then returning with the teams for those remaining behind-- and so on 'till at evening the company were all together. This was the way we traveled each day--and by this means we traveled about twenty-five miles in ten days--all camping together every night.