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Solomon Chamberlain, 1788-1862

Autobiography (1788-1850)
Holograph, HBLL

[This account was written by Solomon Chamberlain at Beaver City, Utah, July 11, 1858.] I was born July 30th, 1788, of goodly parents in Old Canaan, Connecticut. My father's name was Joel Chamberlin [Chamberlain], born in Tolland, Connecticut. Sarah Dean, his wife, born in same state. By her he had six sons and three daughters. When I was about 20 years old, which would be about the year 1808, I went to the house of Philip Haskins and took one of his daughters to wife, by the name of Hopee [Hope] Haskins, of goodly parents. By her I had one son, and two daughters.

My father was an honest, hard-working man, a farmer by trade, and earned his bread by the sweat of his brow, and accumulated considerable property, and died when I was about 8 years old, and my mother died about 10 years after. What little property I received from my father's estate did me little or no good, and I began the world like my father, earned my bread by the sweat of my face. I soon learned the cooper's trade and worked the most of my days at that. From the time my father died, till I was 19 years of age I lived a very wicked life. About that time, I had a vision of hell, and which alarmed me very much, and I reformed and had another of three heavens, and their glories, and the third one, far exceeded the others. My visions so alarmed me, I was in sorrow and repentance for many days, on account of my sins, I thought I would give all the world if I could find a man that could tell me what I should do to be saved. I sought much, but could find none. I thought I would go to the Presbyterian Minister and enquire of him, I accordingly went, and asked him what I should do to be saved, he appeared like a man astonished, he said I must wait the Lord's due time, and in His own due time he would bring me in. As all others had failed I thought I would go to God and plead for mercy, and if I went to hell, I would go praying, and I cried unto the Lord night and day, for the forgiveness of my sins. Like Enos of old, till at length the Lord said, "Solomon, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go in peace and sin no more." My heart then leaped for joy unspeakable, I now joined the Methodist Order, and thought they were the rightest of any on the earth.

About the year 1814 or 1815, the Reformed Methodists broke off from the Episcopal Methodists. I was in hope that they were right. [This last sentence was crossed out in the original manuscript.] I found them to be more right than the Episcopal, and joined them. About this time the Lord showed me in a vision, that there were no people on the earth that were right, and that faith was gone from the earth, excepting a few and that all churches were corrupt. I further saw in vision, that he would soon raise up a church, that would be after the Apostolic Order, that there would be in it the same powers, and gifts that were in the days of Christ, and that I should live to see the day, and that there would a book come forth, like unto the Bible and the people would [be] guided by it, as well as the Bible. This was in the year of 1816. I then believed in gifts and miracles as the Latter-day Saints do, for which I was much persecuted and called deluded. This vision I received from an angel or spirit from the eternal world that told me these things.

About the time that Joseph Smith found the gold record, I began to feel that the time was drawing near, that the Lord would in some shape or other, bring forth his church. I made some inquiry through the country where I traveled if there was any strange work of God, such as had not been on the earth since the days of Christ. I could hear of none. I was living about 20 miles east of where the gold record was found, on the Erie Canal. I had occasion to go on a visit into Upper Canada. I took boat for Lockport, when the boat came to Palmyra, I felt as if some genie or good spirit told me to leave the boat. This was a few miles from where the record was found. After leaving the boat, the spirit manifested to me, to travel a south course. I did so for about 3 miles. I had not as yet heard of the Gold Bible (so called) [Book of Mormon] nor any of the [Joseph] Smith family. I was a stranger in that part of the country, a town where I never before had set my foot, and knew no one in the town.

It was now about sundown, and my guide directed me to put up for the night, which I did to a farm house. In the morning, the people of the house asked me if I had heard of the Gold Bible [Book of Mormon]. When they said Gold Bible, there was a power like electricity went from the top of my head to the end of my toes. This was the first time I ever heard of the Gold Bible. I was now within half a mile of the Smith family where Joseph lived. From the time I left the boat until now, I was wholly led by the Spirit or my genie. The women spoke considerable of the Gold Bible that Joseph Smith had found. When she mentioned Gold Bible, I felt a shock of the power of God go from head to foot. I said to myself, "I shall soon find why I have been led in this singular manner."

I soon made my way across lots, to Father Smith's and found Hyrum walking the floor. As I entered the door, I said, "Peace be to this house." He looked at me as one astonished, and said, "I hope it will be peace." I then said, "Is there anyone here that believes in visions or revelations?" He said, "Yes, we are a visionary house." I said, "Then I will give you one of my pamphlets, which was visionary, and of my own experience." They then called the people together, which consisted of five or six men who were out at the door. Father Smith was one and some of the Whitmer's. They then sat down and read my pamphlet. Hyrum read first, but was so affected he could not read it. He then gave it to a man, which I learned was Christian Whitmer, he finished reading it. I then opened my mouth and began to preach to them, in the words that the angel had made known to me in the vision, that all churches and denominations on the earth had become corrupt, and no church of God on the earth, but that he would shortly raise up a church that would never be confounded nor brought down and be like unto the Apostolic Church. They wondered greatly who had been telling me these things, for said they we have the same things wrote [written] down in our house, taken from the Gold record, that you are preaching to us. I said, "The Lord told me these things a number of years ago." I then said, "If you are a visionary house, I wish you would make known some of your discoveries, for I think I can bear them." They then made known to me that they had obtained a gold record, and just finished translating it here. Now, the Lord revealed to me by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost that this was the work I had been looking for.

Here I stayed 2 days and they instructed me, in the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. After I had been here two days, I went with Hyrum and some others to Palmyra printing office where they began to print the Book of Mormon, and as soon as they had printed 64 pages, I took them with their leave and pursued my journey to Canada, and I preached all that I knew concerning Mormonism, to all both high and low, rich and poor, and thus you see this was the first that ever printed Mormonism was preached to this generation.

I did not see anyone in traveling for 7 or 800 miles, that had ever heard of the Gold Bible (so called). I exhorted all people to prepare for the great work of God that was now about to come forth, and it would never be brought down nor confounded. As soon as the book was printed, I took 8 or 10 of them and traveled for 8 days, and sold one in that time. About this time I thought if I could see the Reformed Methodists I could convince them of the truth of the Book of Mormon. I accordingly went to one of their conferences, where I met about 40 of their preachers and labored with them for two days to convince them of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and they utterly rejected me and the Book of Mormon. One of their greatest preachers so called, by the name of Buckly, (if a mistake not) abused me very bad, and ordered me off from their premises. He was soon taken crazy, and died a miserable death. At this conference was Brigham and his brother Phineas Young. They did not oppose me but used me well. On my way home I stopped at their camp meeting, where I found one of their greatest preachers, whom I contended with concerning the Book of Mormon, by the name of William Lake, who utterly condemned it and rejected it, who spurned at me and the Book and said, if it was of God, do you think He would send such a little upstart as you are around with it? But he soon after died a poor drunken sot. While on my way home I stopped at a Free Will Baptist Church, and preached to a large congregation, and they received the work, but there was no one to baptize them.

The Church was not yet organized, but was soon after, April 6th, 1830. A few days after, I was baptized in the waters of Seneca Lake, by Joseph Smith, (and) emigrated same spring to Kirtland, Ohio, and in the fall of 1831, emigrated to Jackson County, Missouri, and in the beginning of the winter of 1833, was broken up by mobs, and driven out of the county and suffered the loss of all things, with hundreds of my brethren and sisters. (and) Settled again in Clay County and was there broke up and suffered the loss of 3 houses and my plantation. (and) Again settled in Caldwell County and was broke up and also in Daviess County, and was driven out of the counties in the coldest part of the winter and suffered the loss of all things. And great was the suffering of the Saints while in Missouri, that I was a witness to and many times had my life threatened, and sometimes been knocked down, and some of my blood spilt [spilled] by mobs. We were driven from the state of Missouri, and settled in Illinois, at Nauvoo, where we remained in peace for several years, and built a temple. On June 27, 1844, our Prophet and Patriarch was murdered, and about the year 1846 we were broken up and had to flee to the Rocky Mountains.

April 2, 1847--this day the Pioneers began to leave the Council Bluffs or Winter Quarters for the valley of the lake to make the road and hunt a place for the saints. I, being one of them and was unwell when I started, I suffered much of cold and hunger. When we got to Green River, I was taken sick with the mountain fever, the second time, and got a little better, and was taken down with the cholera, or cholera morbus, and was brought to the point of death, and for 6 days and nights I took nothing into my stomach but cold water, and that distressed me much. The road was new and rough, and we continued to travel, and it seemed I must die, and I longed for death, my fare was coarse, and scant. When we got to the valley many of us were out of provision, July 24th here we stayed about one month. August 26 we started for Council Bluffs, for my outfit to go back with, I had but 2 quarts of parch corn and 3 quarts of coarse cornmeal. I was sick all the way back, and suffered everything but death. Many times I had nothing to eat, and sometimes I had a little poor buffalo bull meat. We returned back to the Bluffs about the last of October, and found my family well.

In the spring of 1848, I moved to the valley. I shall have to omit many dates because of my negligence in recording them. The wife of my youth died at Winter Quarters just before I started to the valley with the Pioneers. I said, then all my happiness as to the things of this world is gone, and so it has proved to this time. I am now alone, except my little daughter 8 years old. I have endeavored to magnify my calling as well as I knew how.

Somewhere about the year 1850, I thought I would go to California, as gold digging was cried up very much, and get gold to make myself and family comfortable, as I was in poor circumstances. I accordingly went, the North route, and made my stand this side of Sacramento, on Weber Creek. I went up this creek about 5 miles, and began to dig for gold. I made one dollar per day, board was one dollar per meal in this place. This morning I found myself in the woods, and but one mule, to help myself with. I now found if I stayed any longer, I should have to sell my mule, and live on the proceeds thereof. As digging was poor at this time, and the large streams were so high, there could be no digging on them for a month or more. I now thought I would ask the Lord what I should do, as I was now alone, and far from home, I knelt down and asked the Lord in faith what I should do, and the voice of the Lord came unto me as plain as though a man spake, and said, if you will go home to your family, you shall go in peace, and nothing shall harm you. I rose up and started with my one mule, and left all that I had, a chest of clothes, and my rifle, in a store and said nothing to no man where I was going. I took the Lord at his word and put myself over the California mountains with no weapon but my pocket knife. This year the Indians were more troublesome than ever they were before or since. They were killing and being killed every night. I put my trust in God, and in the power of the priesthood, which carried me safe through, although I came all the way alone, me and my one mule. So the Lord was as good as his word in bringing me safe through.

I now will return back and speak of my ordinations. In the spring of 1830, I was ordained a Priest, under the hands of Hyrum Smith. I remained in that office about 10 years. I magnified it to the best of my ability. I then was ordained an Elder, and remained in that office until the first conference after the death of Joseph, by the council of Brother Brigham [Young] and under the hands of George Miller, I was ordained a High Priest and still remain in that quorum and the faith and confidence in the doctrine and principles of the Church are as good as ever they were, and in all the authorities of God's Kingdom, and am perfectly satisfied with all things as they roll along. I feel as though my years were not many more in this life, yet if I could live and be prepared to return to the land of my inheritance in Jackson County, it would rejoice my heart. I am endeavoring to live every day in a way that I am willing to meet the Judge of all the earth at any time. May God bless all that blesses the authorities of the Church of Christ and all honest hearted Saints, and may God curse all that curses the authorities of the Church of Christ and honest hearted Saints. Even so, Amen.