[Letters written by Sally Randall from Illinois and Iowa to her family in New England reveal something of the personality and values of a common woman for whom almost no other record is extant. Born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, a daughter of George and Betsy Torrey Carlisle, Sally married James Randall, and the couple set up house in Warsaw, New York, about forty miles from Buffalo. Their older son, George, was fourteen and their younger son, Eli, ten years old when the family converted to Mormonism and laid plans to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo. In 1843 James traveled ahead to arrange housing for the family, and Sally and the boys met him in Nauvoo that fall, traveling, as did many Saints, on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Anxious to send her nonmember family news of her new home among the Saints, Sally recounts everything from the cost of flour to the new doctrine of baptism for the dead, enlivening the details with her own feelings and opinions. Her last letter speaks of leaving Nauvoo, and the Randalls did travel west with the Saints, though they settled temporarily at a Mormon camp in Iowa before moving to Utah in the 1850s.
The Sally Randall letters included in this chapter have been taken from typescripts on file in the Church Historical Department. Spelling and punctuation have been standardized.]
Nauvoo October 6, 1843
I take this opportunity to write a few lines to you, knowing that you are anxious to hear from us. We are all in as good health as usual. We had a very good journey and good luck. We did not leave Buffalo until Monday morning and got to Cleveland Tuesday before noon and left there the same day. The lake [Erie] was very rough Monday night. Almost all on board were sick. I was not very sick nor the children, but we had to keep pretty still to keep from it. Brother Williams was very sick. We got to Beaver [Ohio] on Saturday and left there Sunday morning. We landed in Nauvoo the 22 [September] about 2 o'clock in the morning.
I found James in as good health and circumstances as I expected. He has a lot with a log cabin on it and it paid for. The house is very small but I think we can get along with it for the present. He had a table and three chairs. We have no bedsteads yet, but shall have soon. We have a cow is all the livestock we have at present. Provisions are very cheap. We can get good pork for four cents a pound, flour for one dollar and fifty cents a hundred, sugar from 8 to 10 cents a pound. Cows are from six to ten dollars.
As for Nauvoo I cannot tell you much about it at present for I have not seen much of it yet, but what I have seen I think it has been recommended full as highly as it deserves. It is very sickly here at present with fevers and fever and ague and measles, and a great many children die with them.
I expect it is a hard place for poor people that have no money to get a living. There is so many poor that depend on their work for a living that they can hardly get enough to be comfortable. I am in hopes that we shall get some land to work in the spring. I think if we have our health we shall get along.
I saw Elder [Charles] Thompson and his family last Sunday. He and Julia [daughter] are sick with the fever and ague. They have another daughter. He says he hardly knows where its birth place was. It was neither in Ohio or Kentucky but somewhere on the Ohio River. His wife said she wished they had waited and come with me. His goods are now in the storehouse for freightage. For about sixty dollars he has moved about twenty miles from here. Brother Williams sends his particular respects to father and wanted I should tell him how much it cost me. It cost me twenty-two dollars beside what I paid for provision and that was but a little. I could not had better company than he was nor one that would have been more interested. I feel to respect him so very much for his kindness to me. Them people went from Alexander [New York] as we expected was all the company we had. The boats were all very much crowded that we were on. The last week we were on the water was the warmest weather. I think my butter was entirely melted and some run out, but did not hurt it. My cheese came full [aged] as well as I expected.
George is a little homesick I think, but he don't say much about it, but Eli is one of the contented sort. They have gathered some walnuts and hazelnuts. They miss grandfather's orchard very much. You may tell Mrs. Patterson that I have enough to eat yet and that is good enough, only I have no meat today, but may have tonight.
I don't want George to send any money in a letter at present. Give my respects to all inquiring friends. I think you will not complain of me this time for not writing a full letter and I hope you will do the same and that soon too. I have wrote till I hardly know whether I am in Nauvoo or some other place. I should have written before, but I waited to see Elder Thompson. I shall write no more at present.
I forgot to tell you we had a good well of water. I can work with it very well. We have two beef cattle to kill.
When George sends money I want it put in my hand.
Nauvoo November the 12 
I take my pen this morning to write a few lines to you, although with a trembling hand and a heart full of grief and sorrow, to inform you of our afflictions which are very great. It seems more sometimes than we are able to bear, but it is the Lord that hath done it. Therefore, let us try to be reconciled.
George has gone to try the realities of eternity. He died the first day of this month about 3 o'clock in the morning. He was sick three weeks and three days with the ague and fever. He had it every other day about two weeks, and then every day till he died. We did not consider him dangerous only about three days before he died, and then medicine had no effect on him at all. He was taken in fits the day before he died and had them almost without cessation as long as he lived. When he breathed his last he went very easy, but oh the agonies he was in before it seemed I could not endure. He was not well after we got here, nor he was not contented and the Lord has taken him from the evils of this wicked generation. I know he is better off than the rest of us, but it seems hard to part, but I think the separation will not be long if we are faithful. His father took his death very hard and so did Eli. When we thought he must go, Eli said he wanted to tell George goodbye. It seemed as though my heart would break, but the Lord hath given and he hath taken his own to himself.
I have one request to make and that is that you will not cast any reflections and say if we had not come here he might have been alive, for we don't know. I believe it was the will of the Lord that we should come that his body might be laid with the Saints.
My health is good and has been ever since I got here and James has enjoyed good health. Eli is not well. He has a chill and fever every other day and I don't know but the Lord will take him to be with George. It seems as though my dependance was all gone, as though I had but little to live for. O mother, place not your affections too much on George for life is uncertain and death is certain.
I delayed writing sometime for it seemed to me that I never could write again. It is not as sickly here as it has been, but there are a good many deaths now. People are coming in very fast. There was a boat load came in yesterday from England. I have not more to write at present. Give my respects to all inquiring friends. I want you should write soon.
Nauvoo April the 21, 1844
I take my pen once more after a long time to write to you to let you know that we are all yet alive and in as good health as usual. James's health is not good. Mine is about the same it was last spring. Eli is much better than he was last fall. He goes to school this summer. He went three months in the winter. He is well contented.
George was not contented. He said after he was taken sick he was glad he hadn't got to always live here, but I don't think he thought he should die. After I found he must go he could not speak so that I did not talk with him about dying. I don't know that he spoke after Monday. He did not make Eli any answer when he bid him goodbye. Oh what a trying time that was to me and it seems yet that I cannot be reconciled to have it so, but I have no doubt but he is better off than he would be here and will come forth in the first resurrection, which will be in this generation according to our faith. His father has been baptized for him and what a glorious thing it is that we believe and receive the fulness of the gospel as it is preached now and can be baptized for all of our dead friends and save them as far back as we can get any knowledge of them.
I want you should write me the given names of all of our connections that are dead as far back as grandfather's and grandmother's at any rate. I intend to do what I can to save my friends and I should be very glad if some of you would come and help me for it is a great work for one to do alone. It is father's privilege to save his friends if he will come into the Church. If not, some other one must do it. I expect you will think this is strange doctrine but you will find it to be true. I want to know whether Lettice was over eight years old when she died. Oh, mother, if we are so happy as to have a part in the first resurrection, we shall have our children just as we laid them down in their graves.
I wish you could have the teachings that we have here at the conference. The 6th of April it was supposed there was from ten to fifteen thousand people.
Charles Thompson has buried his Julia and the people that came on with me from Alexander have buried their oldest child about three years old. It is quite healthy here at present. There are a great many coming in this spring. I understand John C. Bartholf is coming on this fall.
Eli wants you should send his cow bell and the rest of his little things that was left and if my shears and gauge are there I want them sent. I have not seen them since I left. I have no news to write at present. I have not worked very hard since I have been here, but I have had enough to do. But I would have been glad to had some of mother's wool to spin last winter.
I expect you and the neighbors would like to know how we have lived. We have done very well. We have had a plenty of meat, milk, butter, flour, and corn. What fruit I bought has done very well. I have some left yet.
Now I want to know what father and the rest of the people thinks of Joseph Smith being president. If they want a righteous man at the head let them vote for him.
I shall write no more this time. Write to me and excuse me for not writing sooner. I received your letters about the first of March. Give my respects to all inquiring friends.
Nauvoo July the 1st, 1844
I take this opportunity to write to you to let you know that we are all as well as usual, and hope these lines will find you enjoying the same blessing. We have had a very wet season so far. It is hard times especially for poor people. I expect you will have heard of something of our trouble before you get this and will want to know the truth, and I will write it as near as possible.
It has been about three weeks since the fuss begun. In the first place there were six or eight apostates cut off from the Church and from that time the devil has been raging with all fury. They got up a printing press and went to printing all manner of lies and abominations that could be thought of against the prophet and the heads of the Church, and the City Council held a council and agreed it was a nuisance and ordered it destroyed and it was done. We have been expecting the mob upon us ever since.
The governor was sent for by Joseph [Smith]. He came to Carthage, the county seat about fifteen miles from here, and there he stopped. The mob were then gathered there and the apostates with them. I would like to give you all the proceedings of the governor but my pen would fail me. He sent for Joseph and all that were concerned in destroying the press and, said if they would come then they should be protected and have a trial according to law. They all gave themselves up and went, but instead of having a trial they were put in prison. The governor then sent and took away the state's arms and sent in a company of troops he said to protect us. The prisoners were all set at liberty except Joseph and his brother Hyrum and two of the Twelve, Elder [John] Taylor and Elder [Willard] Richards. And Thursday the 27th of June the governor came to this town and said he had dispersed the mob from Carthage and the same day about six in the afternoon was one of the most horrible crimes committed that ever history recorded! There were about one hundred and fifty of the mob made an attack upon the courthouse and the guards and went into the jail and the first one they shot was Hyrum. He was killed dead on the spot. Elder Taylor was badly wounded. Joseph then jumped out of the window. They shot him I know not how many times. The mob then fled as quick as possible. They were painted. There were some crossed the river the next morning and the paint was to be seen on them. There was only eight men left to guard the courthouse. The governor left this place the same day about sundown and took his troops with him. They got about four miles from here. They met a man coming to fetch the sad news and took him back, would not let him come. So we did not get the news till the morning.
If you can imagine to yourselves how the apostles and saints felt when the Savior was crucified you can give something of a guess how the Saints felt here when they heard that their prophet and patriarch were both dead and murdered, too, by a lawless mob. Never has there been such a horrible crime committed since the day Christ was crucified. It seems that all nature mourned. The earth is deprived of the two best men there was on it. They have sealed their testimony with their blood.
Joseph sent word to the Church after he went to prison to read the 6[th] chapter of Revelation and take particular notice from the 8[th] to the 12[th] verse. I have no doubt but that he knew he should be killed when he gave himself up. He told his wife when he left her he was going as a lamb to the slaughter and many other things give us reason to believe he knew what would befall him. He gave himself up to die for the Church that they might not be destroyed for it seemed all they [the mob] wanted was to kill him and they have done it. But I don't know as they will let us alone now, but I hope they will be easy a little while. They say there is nine more they are determined to have, and when it will end I don't know I expect.
There are many that will rejoice and think Mormonism is down now but they will be mistaken for the Lord has begun his work and he will carry it on in spite of all mobs and devils.
Now one and all of my friends as honest people, I entreat of you if you have any influence to use it now in our behalf among all people and in all places. I don't know how long we shall be permitted to stay here nor where I shall be next time I write if I ever have another opportunity. I am not sorry I am here at this time. I want you should write to me. I have not had but one letter from you since I came here. I have written you a long one this time. Give my respects to all inquiring friends. I have been braiding some this summer, but it is hard getting palmleaf. I intend to braid straw. I shall write no more at present.
Nauvoo January the 15, 1845
Dear Parents and Brothers and Sisters
I take the opportunity to write a few lines to let you know that we are all yet in the land of the living and in good health, and hope these lines will find you all enjoying the same blessing. I have delayed writing a long time. I did not get the letter you sent by Mr. Bartholf. They left it to Elder [Almon] Babbitt's and they say there is no letter there and for that reason I have not heard anything particular from you since you wrote last winter. I have not seen Mrs. Bartholf but once since they came here. They live about 20 miles from here. She was well suited. I got the other things you sent by them and was very thankful for them.
Mrs. Bartholf told me Eliza had a son. I wish them much joy and hope it may live to be a blessing to them. I suppose Mother Nickols feels better if she has got to be a granny.
Eli talks and dreams a great deal about grandfather's folks and their apples, but when he wants an apple to eat he has to get a turnip. He is learning sword exercise this winter. As for myself I am not doing much of anything and yet have enough to do, but does not amount to anything. As to our living we have a plenty to eat and people can live as well here as anywhere, all excepting fruit that is very high this year. But provision is cheap: flour 2 dollars per hundred, wheat 50 cents, corn wt[?], pork from 2 to 3 dollars per hundred. Store goods are as cheap here as they were there although I have not bought anything but tea and a little sugar and hard work to get that, but people that have money can live as well as they please. But I think I have written about nonsense enough.
I expect you want to know something about the Church. It is peaceable times at present, but the mob characters and dissenters threaten of something in the spring, but we don't fear them much for we never shall be drove from here. We are too strong for them ourselves and besides that there is already ten hundred thousand of the Lamanites baptized into the Church and they are waiting very impatient to avenge the blood of Joseph and Hyrum. We have to keep men among them to keep them back or they would been here before this time.
I expect you will think this is not right but the Lord will not suffer his people to be always afflicted as they have been and he does own this Church as a people and there is no other Church on the earth he does own and if you don't believe it now there is a day a coming when you will know it. I think if you could know the great things that are revealed from day to day you could not stay away. I want father and mother to be baptized themselves and when the temple is done come here and be baptized for all of their friends. They can save their progenitors clear back to the apostles' day and if they don't do it some other one will and take their crown.
I expect the temple will be done in a year from this time so that they will be attending to the ordinances. It has gone on with great speed since the death of Joseph. If you knew what the Saints do I think you would not stay there long. If I could fly I would make you a visit once in a while and tell you some things, but I cannot write but a little and I must close for the present. Give respects to Brother Disbro's family. Tell them they are losing ground. My respects to all inquiring friends.
I saw Charles Thompson the other day. He seems to enjoy himself very well.
Nauvoo June the 1, 1846
Dear Parents and Brothers and Sisters,
I now take the opportunity to write a few lines to you to let you know we are all well as usual. I received your letter written in March and was glad to hear from you once more. We expect to start in a few days for the West. Where we shall go I know not, but we are going into the wilderness. We go as Abraham went, not knowing whither we go, but the Lord will go before us, and be our front and rearward. The Saints have been going steady since last February and are still going by hundreds. They cross the river in several places and cross day and night.
The [word missing] room of the temple is finished and dedicated to the Lord. It is a most splendid building. We received our endowments last winter with the rest of the Saints in the temple, but those things are not for any only such as belong to the Church of Christ and I am very glad that I am worthy to have a name with the Saints of God and enjoy the privileges that I now do and I would rejoice if my friends would receive the gospel and go with me. If I could even have one friend, it would be great consolation, but if you will not receive the truth, the more I shall have to do for our dead friends. It is my privilege to be baptized for all of our friends that are dead and I intend to do it, unless some of my friends that are living will come and help me, and the more I do the greater will be the crown.
You think there is no need of going from here, but the mob are threatening continually to come upon us. We heard they were coming today but I have not seen anything in the least, for I believe there is faith enough in the city to keep them back until the Saints all get away. We have to make a great sacrifice in order to get away. The most of the Saints are selling out although at a very low price. I expect the temple will be sold. The Roman Catholics talk of buying it.
Tell Mr. Disleno I expect he will make Mr. Holman's words true about going to Zion in his shirt. I think the time is not far distant when those that wish to be saved from destructions that are about to come upon this generation will have to flee for their lives. Tell Mrs. Disleno I have no notion of going to Wisconsin. I intend to follow the body of the Church and not be led about by every wind of doctrine nor by any false prophet that shall arise in these last days. Mr. Bartholf and family are going to [word missing]. I have not heard anything of Elder [Almon] Babbitt's going to France. He is one of the trustees of the temple.
I expect you have heard about enough of this kind of talk but out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and I will not trouble you much more. Lettice is married instead of coming to Nauvoo. I wish her much joy, but I do not think she has bettered her name. Eli goes to the prairie every day with the cattle to feed. We are going with a yoke of oxen and a mule. We have cows to drive. I don't know when I shall have another opportunity to write, but as soon as I have I will improve it, and I must close for the present so goodbye to all, earthly friends. Give my respects to all inquiring friends.