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William Adams, 1822-1894

Autobiography for the Period 1822-1849

Source: Autobiography of William Adams, typescript, HBLL.

Written by Himself
January, 1894 - - - - - Age 72 years.

William Adams, son of Charles Adams and Catherine Mills Adams, born January 8, 1822, in Hillsborough County, Ireland. I being the second son of a family of eight children, five boys and three girls. My father was born in Bailieborough, county of Caran, and mother in Belfast, county of Antrim. My grandfather, Thomas Adams, practiced law in the town of Bailieborough, where he was born. I cannot tell at present but I expect to find out, if possible, where his parents came from. He belonged to the Protestant churches and I believe his parents must have emigrated from England or Scotland to Ireland after the conquest of William III, Prince of Orange, or when Oliver Cromwell overran the country.

My Grandfather Mills, my mother's father, was an excise officer under the British government, and I remember him well when I was a small boy. He was a pensioner and superannuated [?] on half pay. He also belonged to the Protestant religion and I believe he and his family to be of Scotch descent, as a big majority of the north of Ireland is descended from that nation. His wife's maiden name was Campbell, which name belongs to the Scotch.

I was sent to school when I was very young, and kept close attendance for eight years to the best in neighborhood, and finished off by going to the Belfast Academical Institution for nine months.

My occupation, after returning from school was of a general nature as my parents were engaged in several enterprises. They kept a public house and spirit store, also a bakery in the public square in Hillsborough, and partially owned three small farms close to the town which kept the family employed, besides several men and girls, constantly. My father's family had the reputation of being the most prosperous, enterprising in the town that they lived in until he took to drinking, became intemperate, and neglected his business. I took his place about the year 1838. From this time on until he died, he reduced in property.

The summer following my return from school, my uncle, James Adams, who lived in Carrickmacross, county of Louth, a dealer in flax and yarn, shipped them to Draughtery, had made considerable means at the business and was commencing to keep a spirit store in Castleburney, a small town twelve miles from where he lived, and wanted me to keep store for him which I did until the winter following, when I returned home to my father. I was in my seventeenth year. I worked for my father one year, keeping store in Lishburn three miles from Hillsborough, also following several occupations until the year 1843.

My parents, although not very regular attenders to religious worship especially my father. They were very anxious that their children should attend the Protestant church, so I was brought up to be religiously inclined, and in my reflections on the crucifixion and death of the Saviour. How I would have defended Him against His enemies, and the doctrine of everlasting punishment where sinners would be burning in hell for everlasting without end, which was the belief of the Sectarian religious denominations. Wonder and horror and amazement would occupy my mind at the suffering of sinners. Often my mind would run on these and other principles of the Sectarian world until the year 1840 when two elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, viz; Theodore Curtis of America, and William Black of Manchester, England, proclaimed that the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored to earth by a holy angel from heaven to Joseph Smith, a prophet of God in these last days. I believed their testimony. My heart leaped with joy and thanks to my Heavenly Father for again revealing Himself, and restoring the holy priesthood again to man on the earth. My age at that time was a little over eighteen years, and I was living home with my parents. Having received a common education I read and studied the scriptures and defended the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the best of my ability. I attended the meetings of the Saints every opportunity, and the more I attended the meetings my faith got the stronger. I cannot express the joy I had, when, at the testimony meetings that were held on Sabbath evenings, the gifts of the spirit were enjoyed, the speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophesying, etc. Hearing and seeing I could hold off no longer. I was baptized by Robert Hutchengson, who held the office of a priest, on Saturday evening, March 26, 1842, and confirmed by William Johnston, presiding elder of the branch, on the Sunday following which was Easter Sunday. My age was twenty years, two months and eighteen days. I felt thankful to my Father in Heaven for such blessings unto me. Peace and joy filled my bosom, and my friends and acquaintances turned against me because I had obeyed the gospel, and had become a Mormon. In the following summer I was ordained to the office of teacher, under the hands of Andrew Henry, who had been appointed to labor and preach the gospel in Ireland, and a few believed his testimony and were baptized. Elder David Wilkey of Paisley, Scotland was appointed to visit Ireland, and I was the instrument in raising a branch of the Church in Crawford Burn, county of Orin, which numbered about twenty members. I spent my time very pleasantly in attending to my duties in teaching and bearing my testimony to those I came in contact with. It was a great pleasure and joy on trying to convince people that the gospel was true.

In the day of October, 1842, took to me Mary Ann Leach to be me wife. She was a daughter of Hugh and Ann Leech, and members of the branch. I was in my 21 year and she was about one year older than I was. She was a bonnet maker by trade, and carried on the business in Hillsborough. On the sixteenth of September the year following I had a son born, who was called Charles for his grandfather, Charles Adams.

Persecution was getting very strong against the Saints of this time. It was led by one Thomas Owney, a Methodist class leader, who made himself very officious in opposing the elders and disturbing their meetings. He was encouraged by the Marquis of Townshire, the landed proprietor in the county of Own. His estate brought him 100,000 pounds, or $500,000 per year, being confiscated by conquest on the time of William, Prince of Orange, to Mr. Hill, which is the family name of the present Marquis. Another man by the name of Mr. Parry made himself very conspicuous in persecuting the Saints, he being a clerk in the Marquis office.

My strongest desire was to gather with the Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois, and on December 31, 1843, left home with my wife and child, three months old, with a light heart, bidding my father and mother, brothers and sisters and friends farewell. We arrived in Belfast, ten miles from Hillsborough the same day and took passage on a steamer for Liverpool next day, first of January, 1844. Rueben Jedlock and Thomas Ward presided over the English mission, also Latter-day Saint emigration.

It was reported that a vessel would sail on the first week of January. I learned from the president that a vessel had been chartered and was now fitting up births for the emigrants, and would be ready to sail in about ten days for New Orleans. By the kindness of Walter McCallaster, a member of the church, my family and I were invited to go to his house and remain 'till the bark, "Fanny" would sail. This I accepted and was kindly treated by himself and family.

All was bustle making ready for the emigrants, as they were arriving every day. The majority were from England and Wales, a few from Scotland and fifteen from Ireland, four from Hillsborough, and eleven from Crawford as Burn branches. Everything being ready, provisions, water and baggage being on board, with two hundred and ten souls, men, women and children. We were towed out to Liverpool the twentieth of January, 1844, and steamer returned after taking us into the Irish channel. The company had been organized before sailing with William Key as president, Thomas Hall and Henry Aurdan his counselors, and a committee of twelve men to take charge of the provisions, distribute them to the company and take a general supervision for benefit of the company. I was chosen one of them and acted the whole voyage. We had a rough sea for three days in the Irish channel, with head winds.

The ship could not keep the course, but had to be tacked to the Isle of Man and then changed toward the coast of Wales. The passengers became alarmed, the captain said that if the wind did not change the ship was in danger of being wrecked. But on the morning of the third day the wind changed favorably, and we rounded the Welsh coast and entered the Atlantic ocean. The passage across the Atlantic was pleasant with the exception of a few days of storm, when we were tossed about and the storm came so furious that the waves swept over the ship. Many were alarmed, fearing we were all going to the bottom of the sea. We had prayer meetings daily and preaching meetings on Sundays, regular as when on land. We now had fair wind and were making from ten to twelve knots per hour and first saw the West Indian Islands after having been out three weeks from Liverpool. We were detained by calms opposite the island called Jamaica, also in the gulf of Mexico by head wind. We were driven back one hundred miles.

After all the difficulties which is the lot of mariners we landed in New Orleans about the first of March, being a little over five weeks from Liverpool. New Orleans was a wonderful city for negroes and mules, mud and cotton, and what astonished me was the amount of cigars that were strewn on the sidewalk. Some 1/2 to 3/4 used and none that were not used.

"The Maid of Iowa," a small steamboat owned by Joseph Smith, the prophet, and Dan Jones, who commanded the boat, was chartered to take the boat to Nauvoo. It took two or three days to load the baggage into the steamboat with other improvements and supplies which had to be attended to. On Sunday morning, I believe the 3rd of March, 1844, the boat left New Orleans for Nauvoo, Illinois, loaded down to the guards. The passage was very tedious, sailing against the current, which was very strong and the Mississippi River being swollen and very muddy, especially the Red River, and others emptying into the Mississippi from the west in which are all very high at this season of the year. In order to escape the strong current of the river the pilot would run the boat up soughs or bayous, running around and taking many hours and hard work to get her off, also breaking two shafts, and sending down to New Orleans to get new shafts. These accidents were very unpleasant as the company was very anxious to get to Nauvoo before conference on the 6th of April.

We were very much annoyed, also persecuted in towns along the river. News went ahead that a boat filled with Mormons was on its way to Nauvoo. Necessity caused the boat to land to get supplies. Men would rush onto the boat calling us foul names. "Joe's rats," was a common salutation we received; [at] Natchez, a town on the east side of the river, [someone] set the boat on fire. It was not discovered 'till we had left the place over half an hour, and the side of the boat was ablaze, also several beds and bedding. The fire was extinguished in a short time, with the loss of several feather beds and bedding. It was a narrow escape for the crew and passengers, also the boat.

Another town that we landed late in the evening, Captain Jones ordered that no person be allowed aboard the boat, but men came rushing aboard and would not be held back. Brother James Haslem went on the hurricane deck and fired a gun in hopes it would be a warning to the mob that we would be run over by them. But in quelling them they ran for firearms and fired several shots. Things looked serious, steams was got up as speedily as possible, the boat was shoved off and they landed three miles up the river and lay over 'till the next morning, but we were not molested. Many of the company were made sick by using the water of the river that was very muddy, which gave diarrhea, or bowel complaint. I was very sick and weak for two months after I arrived in Nauvoo on the tenth of April.

I cannot express the joy and pleasure we enjoyed in first beholding the city of Nauvoo, where we could behold the prophet of God, and we were not disappointed for he was with his brother Hyrum, leading men of the church and other prominent men of the city, to the number of two hundred or more, who were at the landing to receive us and make us welcome to the city of the Saints. I was very happy to behold the Prophet and Patriarch, and to have an introduction to them, and hear their voices and shake their hands.

The news of our passage coming up the lower Mississippi and the trouble we were in and the persecution we had to endure came ahead of us. Great anxiety was felt for the safety of the company, also the boats which were owned by the Saints. I will state one incident where the company was in imminent danger of losing their lives, and sinking the boat, and which also shows the hatred against the Latter-day Saints. The lower Mississippi had quite a number of first class steamboats running between St. Louis and New Orleans, that made the round trip every week. Each time they passed the "Maid of Iowa" we could have grand salute by cheering and laughing and calling us bad names. One of those boats (I forgot her name) tried to run us down, and would if Captain Jones had not been on the hurricane deck, as he was always on duty, made them shove off by hollering and threatening to shoot the pilot. This took place at night when the company was in their beds.

Brother John Harper, who married my wife's sister, and I had been in Nauvoo a little over a year, and stone cutter by trade and was working at the [Nauvoo] temple since he arrived in Nauvoo, took us to his room which he had rented from Bishop Miller, and made me welcome to the best he had. Though he was not flush of means and I as in the same situation, having nothing but a little clothing, having spent all my money except ten cents that I had left when I landed at Nauvoo, and so sick that I was not able to do one fourth of a days work in one day. In a couple of weeks I got considerable better in health and put in Brother Harper's garden and other jobs around.

The situation in Nauvoo discouraging to make a living, I was at lost what course to pursue. To leave the city and hunt for work was against my feelings. I considered with Brother Harper how the situation looked to me. He told me he thought I might get work at the temple, that the committee were anxious to push the work along as fast as possible, and that he had a few tools he could lend me, that I could get along at the present and he being a stone cutter by trade, he would give me all the help he could to assist me to cut stone. I was pleased with the proposition, and with the consent of [Reynolds] Cahoon, one of the committee, I went to work and continued to the fall of 1846.

Generally the Saints were poor, having been driven out of Missouri, and robbed of all their property, and the one that had some little property took up claims and bought land through Hancock County, and McDonald County, also in the Indian half breed tract in Iowa. Many claims were made but no titles were given as the land was reserved to the half breed Indians. The [Nauvoo] temple was built by tithing and other donations of the Saints and the committee had much difficulty to furnish the workmen means to live upon so that their families had many times to be . . . for food.

I had worked on the [Nauvoo] temple four weeks and had received no pay so very little tithing had been received at the temple door. By selling and trading some of our clothing and other things that we could best do without I was enabled to buy shorts from Brother Newel Knight who owned a small grist mill on the bank of the Mississippi River, run by the current of the stream. This might be considered hard fare to those who had been brought up to have the finest of flour, we were satisfied to have enough of that and not complain, as it was the desire of my heart to serve God and keep His commandments in adversity and prosperity.

The Prophet was very anxious to have the temple finished so the Saints could receive their endowments and encourage the workmen to not slack in their hands and the Saints to come forward and pay their tithing so the hands could be steadily employed. Several hundred of the elders that had been called to lay the claims of Joseph Smith before the nation were in their fields of labor. The "Views and Policy of Government," written by the Prophet was favorably received, and many of the newspapers commented upon them and recommended them to the nation as wise and sound policy which should be accepted by the saints.

Mobocrats and bad men from Missouri were busy stirring up the citizens of Nauvoo and the border county of Hancock, also a few apostates in Nauvoo joined with them, viz; William Law, Doctor [Robert P.] Foster, Chauncy Higbee and others. Their object was to kidnap the Prophet and take him to Missouri under the pretend of law, so that they might kill him. The above name apostates commenced printing a newspaper in Nauvoo called the Expositor, defaming the character of the prominent men of the city, publishing lie, and traducing their families. The city council declared it a nuisance, and ordered it to be abetted, which was done by the marshall and police of the city. I was there and saw it destroyed. I was an eyewitness, and took an active part to protect the city from any attack of the mob.

I belonged to Captain Folshawa Company of Col. Theodore Turley's regiment of infantry, Nauvoo Legion, drilled and stood guard and performed the duty of a soldier while the city was under martial law. Was close to the frame building where the prophet preached his great and last sermon, heard Governor Ford on the 27th of June make a speech accusing the Mormons of being disloyal to the government of the United States, and many other lies that I was aware of. At the same hour that Ford was haranguing the Saints of Nauvoo, the mob was assassinating the Prophet in Carthage Jail. News of the murder of Joseph was not received until the next morning, the 28th of June, it being stopped by the governor for fear that the Mormons would take his life in revenge for the murder of the Prophet. The bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were brought to Nauvoo the morning after the murder.

I am not able to describe the sorrow and lamentation of the Saints in beholding the dead bodies of the Prophet and Patriarch, butchered in cold blood by assassins and murdered under the promise of protection by the governor of the state of Illinois. The curse of God must have followed him, for I saw him at the legislature in Springfield, the capital of Illinois, not as a member, but having some from Peoria where he resided, and he had not influence enough to get a door keeper elected. He looked like a poor rejected creature, and short time afterward he died a pauper and was buried by public expense in Peoria.

Joseph had sent letters to the Twelve to hurry home to Nauvoo and among the first was Sidney Rigdon who hurried home from Pittsburgh and laid claim to be guardian of young Joseph, the eldest son of the Prophet, and was using his influence to get the Saints to sustain him. He began to organize the Church. Ordaining apostles, and preached to the Saints sustaining his claims as young Joseph's guardian, and appointed a day for a general meeting for the Saints to sustain him, his object was to [be] sustained before the brethren of the Twelve would arrive in Nauvoo. Brother Parley P. Pratt was among the first to arrive, and he and Brother Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, labored with Sidney not be in a hurry until the Twelve would arrive, but he was determined to have the vote taken according to his appointment. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball arrived one day before the meeting, and others had arrived previously so that nearly all the Twelve were in Nauvoo. William Marks, president of the stake, called the meeting to order, and took charge of the meeting. After the opening exercises Rigdon spoke of his claim as guardian to young Joseph showing the necessity of the office, which took between one half to one hour.

There was a great multitude attending the meeting, more than one half the crowd could not find seats, and stood on their feet. Never were so many at one meeting that I ever saw. I was sitting down and could not see the speakers on the stand. I was listening very attentively, so that I could hear every word.

I heard a voice speaking, I was surprised, and jumping to my feet, expecting Joseph the Prophet was speaking, having heard him often in public and private, so that I was quite acquainted with his voice. This was a strong testimony that the Twelve Apostles were the rightful leaders of the Church and that the mouth of Joseph had fallen on Brigham Young. Out of that vast multitude about twenty votes for Rigdon to be guardian of young Joseph until he should come of age, he then being a boy of ten or eleven years of age. Rigdon, Marks, and these that sustained him were cut off from the Church, and the Twelve were sustained as the successors of Joseph the Prophet. Through the sad ordeal and persecution that the Church had passed through for about six weeks nothing was done on the [Nauvoo] temple, or the quarry, until the middle of July, when the stone cutters, quarrymen, and other workmen were called to commence work, and many others were employed, as the Twelve were determined to rush the work on the temple and have it finished by the time appointed by the Lord, so the Saints could receive their endowments and blessings. Thereupon a number of elders were sent out on missions to gather tithing and donations to build the temple of the Lord, and a great deal of by Jesse Baker, president of the elders quorum, and acted as clerk till the Church left for the west.

I labored on the temple until the fall of 1845, and in January, 1846, about the middle of the month, my wife and I received our endowments. In the fall and winter of 1845, I labored in the wagon shop presided over by Father Bent, as he was called, and Sidney Roberts, superintendent. I earned the wood work of a wagon, but had no means to buy iron. I let Brother James McCelland have a yoke of cattle to help him and family to go west. He was one of the old settlers of Payson, Utah County. They were returned according to agreement. On the first of March [1846] I started for Catona on the steamboat "Uncle Tobby" to try to earn an outfit to go west, worked all summer for a Mr. Casson, who took contracts to build houses. I earned considerable means if I had not been cheated out of half of my earnings. In the fall Brother John Harper and I took a contract to quarry and dress stone for Mr. Champion of New Diggins, Wisconsin, ten miles from Galena, Illinois. Brother Harper changed his mind, and gave the contract for me to fill. I contracted with Brother Wilson Lund to quarry the rock, and we with our families moved over to New Diggens and worked and filled the contract with Mr. Champion and he with me satisfactorily.

In the spring of 1847 I took steamboat and came to Keokuk and from there to St. Louis where I worked for the Gas Works cooking pipes the greatest part of the summer. My wife, with my eldest boy (my second boy died in Nauvoo, 1845, being four months old) joined me in St. Louis and remained till the fall. Then I returned to Keokuk, expecting to work at stone cutting, but business was very dull, and the prospect not very encouraging. I brought up several hundred dozen of eggs with the calculation of shipping them to New Orleans. On my way down I sold the eggs in St. Louis and was paid for my troubles. While in St. Louis I hired out for six months to cook at a hemp mill near Springfield, Illinois, for twenty dollars per month. I did very well, made some money, and was very careful to horde it up and not spend it needlessly as I was very anxious to gather with the Saints. In May following I went to work on the state house in Springfield, Illinois, and continued till the following spring. It being the year 1849.

My wife and I had been saving with our means and had saved four or five hundred dollars in money, and considered that now was the time to make a move to gather with the Saints.

I had felt very uneasy and troubled at being so far away from the gathering place of the Saints. I repaired to a sacred spot and made a covenant with the Lord that as soon as I got means I would gather with the Saints, and I asked Him to prosper me and bless me in my labors. He answered my prayer, and I was determined to fulfill my part. My eldest brother, Thomas, had arrived from Ireland, and pressed me not to go to Utah but stop and go into business, as it looked very favorable for making money in Springfield, but nothing would stop me. I bought a new wagon, one yoke of good cattle and six cows. I spent a couple of weeks breaking the cows to work, and got them used to be handled and yoked. Close to the first day of May, 1849, I started on my journey to Utah in company with Thomas Judd and family. Henry Barney and family, four wagons in all, we had a prosperous journey with no accidents. We ferried the Illinois River near Bradstown, to traveling through Rushville, Schuyler, McDonough and Hancock Counties.

We stopped in Carthage and examined the jail where Joseph Smith and Hyrum were assassinated. There had been very little improvement made since I resided in this vicinity. I passed a five-acre lot that I had farmed for two years, also my house and lot in the city of Nauvoo. I have never received a cent for either of them.

The journey through Iowa was pleasant. We kept on the old Mormon trail, passing Pisgah, where several families of the Saints resided and many had died through the hardships encountered by being driven from their homes, and by the hard frosts and colds they experienced on their journey, seeking a home from the persecution of wicked men, and mob violence in the states of Missouri and Illinois.