Diary of Wilford Woodruff

Excerpts from the Diary of Wilford Woodruff, LDS Apostle and President of the Church. Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898) was an early convert to the LDS church. He was responsible for converting the Luce family to Mormonism and led their party of 53 people in 10 wagons from Maine to Nauvoo in 1838. He became an Apostle of the church in 1839, and President in 1889. He was uniquely placed to know and report events that led to the conversion of the Luces, and later the execution of Jason Luce.

May 5 [1837].–While laboring for Joseph Young, Kirtland was visited with a sudden storm of wind and rain, a current passed south of the temple in the form of a whirlwind or tornado, which destroyed and injured several buildings, it crushed one of Joseph Young’s buildings, and removed the one we were in some ten feet, but no person was injured.

I felt impressed to go out upon a mission; the Spirit was upon me, and led me to go to Fox Islands; it was a country I had never visited. I named my feelings upon the subject to Elders [Heber C.] Kimball, [Sidney] Rigdon and others; they encouraged me to go. Elder Kimball blessed me, and said in the name of the Lord, I should be blessed and prospered on my mission, and do a good work. I proposed to Jonathan H. Hale to accompany me, which he did.

August 1.–We left New Rowley, and was joined by Elder [Jonathan] Hale, who accompanied us to Saco, Maine.

–18.–With Elder Hale, I started to fill my mission on Fox Islands; we walked to Portland, and spent the night at Mr. Samuel Hale’s.

–19.–We took the steamer Bangor eighty-five miles to Owl’s Head, where we arrived at sunset, without means to prosecute our journey further. We retired to a high hill, and bowed before the Lord, and prayed that he would open our way; the Spirit of the Lord rested upon us, and testified unto us that our prayers would be answered. As we arose from our knees, a sloop came into the harbor; we went to the captain, and enquired where he was going; he replied, through the channel of Vinal Haven; he took us on board and landed us on North Fox Islands, a 2 a.m. on the 20th. We wandered in the dark about an hour, rambling over rocks and bushes, found the house of Mr. Nathaniel Dyer, and were entertained. It being Sunday morning, Mr. Benjamin Kent piloted us to the Baptist meetinghouse, occupied by Elder Gideon J. Newton, pastor of the only religious denomination upon the island. At the door, I sent for the deacon, and told him I wished him to inform the minister that we were servants of God, and wished to deliver a message to that people. The minister sent word for us to come into the pulpit; accordingly, with valise in hand, we walked up into the pulpit, and took a seat on each side of him. When he closed his discourse, he asked me what hour we would like to speak; I told him at five; he gave out our appointment, and invited us to his house. I asked him how many schoolhouses were on the island; he said four, and gave me their names. I asked him if they were free for anyone to preach in; he answered in the affirmative. I took out my Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, and laid them all upon his stand; he promised to read them.

The hour of meeting arrived, and I preached to a full house upon the first principles of the gospel, and bore testimony that the Lord had raised up a prophet, and had commenced to establish his Church and kingdom again upon the earth, in fulfillment of his word, as spoken through the ancient prophets and apostles. This was the first discourse ever delivered by any Latter-day Saint upon this chain of islands; Elder Hale bore testimony. I gave out appointments for preaching in the four schoolhouses. The people came out in masses to investigate the principles which we taught. In fourteen days we preached nineteen discourses. Captain Justice Ames and wife were baptized by Elder Hale. Elder Newton, the Baptist minister, with his family attended twelve of our meetings, read the books, and was convinced by the Spirit of the Lord that our doctrine was true, and he had a hard struggle in his mind to know which to do, receive it or reject it; he finally resolved to reject it, and commenced preaching against us. He sent for Mr. Douglass, Methodist minister, on the south island, to come and help him; he had been long at variance with Mr. Douglass, but they became very friendly and united in a war against us. We continued preaching daily, until we baptized most of the members of Mr. Newton’s church, and those who owned the meetinghouse.

I followed Mr. Douglas to his own island, and commenced preaching to his church, and baptized a good share of his members, among whom were several sea captains. Ministers from the mainland were sent for, who came over and tried to put a stop to the work, by preaching and lying about us; but the work continued to roll on. They wished me to work a miracle to convince them that my doctrine was true. I told them they had rejected the truth, and they would see signs, but not unto salvation.

Vinal Haven, which includes both north and south Fox Island, is in Latitude 44°, long. 69’10”. The inhabitants are generally healthy and industrious, and hospitable to strangers, the people obtain most of their wealth by fishing, and fit out annually over one hundred licensed vessels, beside many smaller crafts. The north island is nine miles long and two wide; population 800, and contains a post office, a store, a gristmill, four schoolhouses, and a Baptist church. The land is rocky and rough, yet there are farms which produce good wheat, barley, oats, potatoes and grass; the principal timber is fir, spruce, hemlock and birch. The rasp [raspberry] and gooseberry grow in great abundance. Sheep are the principal stock.

South Fox Island is about ten miles long and five wide, and is a mass of rocks, principally granite, formed into shelves, hills, hollows, and cut up into nooks, points and ravines by coves and harbors; population one thousand. There are some small patches under cultivation, at the expense of great labor and toil. Many resident fishermen fish at Newfoundland, and bring them home, and dry them upon flakes; they annually supply the market with a great amount of codfish, mackerel and boxed herring. The latter island contains two stores, three tide sawmills, six schoolhouses, a small branch of the Methodist church and a priest. The timber is pine, fir, spruce, hemlock and birch, also gooseberries, raspberries, whortleberries and upland cranberries; bushes and timber grow out of the crevices of the rocks.

There is a great amount and variety of fish in the waters around these islands, viz.: whale, blackfish, shark, ground shark, pilot fish, horse mackerel, sturgeon, salmon, halibut, cod, pollock, tomcod, hake, haddock, mackerel, shad, bass, alewives [alewife], herring, pohagen, dolphin, whiting, frost fish, flounders, smelt, skate, shrimp, shad, cusk, blue backs, scollop [or scallop], dogfish, muttonfish, lumpfish, squid, five fingers, monkfish, nursefish, sunfish, swordfish, thrasher, cat, scuppog [scup], twotog, eyefish, cunner, ling eels, lobsters, clams, mussels, winkles [periwinkles], porpoises, seals, etc.

September 6.–The harbor was filled with a school of mackerel, which were caught in great numbers by the people standing upon the wharf.

While standing upon the farm of Eleazar Carver on the north island I counted fifty-five islands, many of which were inhabited.

October 2.–I left the island with Elder Hale; Captain Ames took us to Thomastown in a sloop.

–3.–We walked forty-six miles to Bath.

–4.–We attended a Baptist convention, and preached to a large congregation in the evening in Pierce’s Hall; the people listened attentively.

–5.–We walked thirty-six miles to Portland.

–6.–Walked ten miles to Father Carter’s in Scarborough, where I found my wife and friends well.

–9.–I parted with Elder Hale, who returned to Kirtland. I continued preaching through various towns on the mainland until November 2, when I again returned to Fox Islands, accompanied by my wife.

–15.–I visited the Isle of Holt, twelve miles east, and preached to an attentive congregation, leaving them the Book of Mormon, which they promised to read. I returned on the 16th.

I continued my labors during the winter of 1837-8, and nearly every person had attended my meetings, and taken sides for or against. Our enemies made attempts to break up our meetings.

January 15, 1838.–A company of sailors belonging to the United States revenue cutter, brought on shore a swivel and joined the mob, parading near the house where I was preaching, and discharged it several times, accompanied with small arms, with the intention of breaking up the meeting. Some of the mob gathered around to see what effect this would have. I warned them in the name of the Lord, and proclaimed the judgments of God that awaited the wicked, and shook my garments in the presence of the people, and told them I was clear of their blood; but they only heard my voice intermingled with the roar of cannon and musketry. Before I closed speaking, the sailors went back on board the revenue cutter. At the close of the meeting I baptized two, also one next day, and while baptizing, the mob again commenced firing guns. The Baptists and Methodists got up the mob. Mr. Douglas, the Methodist priest, when argument failed him applied to all the magistrates for warrants against me; they refused to grant them as he had no cause of complaint.

February 13.–I crossed in the mailboat to Hampden and ordained James Townsend. We walked together through deep snows and visited and preached in the towns of Searsmont, Belfast, Northport, Frankfort, Hampden, and twice in the city hall in Bangor, to large assemblies, and returned to Fox Islands via Casteem and the Isle of Holt. Arrived in Vinal Haven March 8. Elder Townsend returned home.

March 22.–I accompanied Brother Stirrat, at low tide, on to a bar some forty rods from shore, to dig some clams. We were soon joined by Mrs. Woodruff and Sister Stone, who had a curiosity to see how clams were dug. The ground for about twelve rods nearer shore was several feet lower than the point we were on, but we were so busily engaged we did not observe the flowing tide until we were surrounded by water, and having no boat, our only alternative was to wade ashore and carry the women, which we safely accomplished amid the reflection that time and tide waited for no man.

April 4.–Mr. Kent [perhaps John Kent, husband of Stephen Luce’s sister Mary], the postmaster, showed me a letter containing two sheets of foolscap, signed by Warren Parrish and several of the Twelve, who had apostatized and been cut off from the Church. The communication was full of slander and falsehoods against Joseph Smith [Jr.] and all that stood by him. It was sent with the intention of breaking up the work upon these islands.

11.–I was visited by Elders Townsend and Milton Holmes, who attended conferences with me upon both islands, and bore their testimony to the people, but the spirit of opposition increased to a great height. I was warned by the Spirit of the Lord to leave for a season and take a western mission. After visiting the Saints from house to house, and praying with and encouraging them, I left on the 28th and went to the mainland with Elders Townsend and Holmes. Mrs. Woodruff returned to her father’s. We walked to Scarborough. I left May 7th, and walked to Bradford, where I left Elder Holmes, and proceeded to Boston.

May 11.–I gave out an appointment to preach at Sister Vose’s room, and I went to Cambridgeport to visit Elder A. P. Rockwood, who had been imprisoned in jail on pretense of debt, but in reality out of religious persecution. The jailor locked me in until ten p.m.; but while it disappointed a congregation of people, it gave me a happy visit with Elder Rockwood, conversing upon the work of God. On my return to Boston the people were waiting to hear me; I spoke to them a short time.

May 14.–I left Boston, and walked some thirty miles to Holliston; stayed at Deacon Haven’s, and preached. I walked to Providence, Rhode Island, from thence took steamer to New York, and arrived on the 18th. Met and attended meetings with Brother O. [Orson] Pratt until the 27th, when I went up the North River to Newburgh, and preached in several towns in New York and New Jersey, and walked across the country to Farmington, Connecticut, and arrived at my father’s June 11, 1838.

I commenced preaching at my father’s house. July 1st, I baptized six persons in Farmington River, including my father, stepmother and my only sister, Eunice; also Cousin Seth Woodruff, Aunt Anna Cossett and Dwight Webster, a Methodist class leader, who was boarding at my father’s.

When the Patriarch Joseph Smith, Sen., gave me my blessing, he said I should bring my father’s household into the kingdom of God, which words were fulfilled this day.

I confirmed those baptized, and organized this small branch of the Church, consisting of nine members, eight of whom were relatives. I ordained Dwight Webster a priest, and administered the sacrament.

July 3.–I started for the state of Maine, and arrived at Father Carter’s, in Scarborough, on the 6th.

–14.–My wife was delivered of a daughter at her father’s house; we named her Sarah Emma.

22.–I wrote to Thomas B. Marsh, an account of my labors upon Fox Islands and the eastern country.

–30.–I left Scarborough and returned to the islands. I preached several times to large congregations in the Methodist meetinghouse, in East Thomastown, and in the town hall in Camden, before crossing to the islands, where I arrived August 7th.

August 9 [1838].–I received a letter from Thomas B. Marsh, informing me of my appointment to fill the place, in the Quorum of the Twelve, of one who had fallen, and I was requested to come to Far West as soon as possible, to prepare for a mission to England in the spring. I immediately visited all the Saints upon both islands, and earnestly exhorted them to sell their property and prepare to accompany me to Missouri. Several immediately sold, but many were poor. Brother Nathaniel Thomas said he would furnish means to help off all the poor Saints who desired to go, and for this purpose went with me to the mainland on the 13th, and I assisted him in purchasing two thousand dollars worth of horses, harness, wagons and tents for the company. He paid about $1500 of the expenses himself, $1000 of which went to furnish conveyance for the poor. After purchasing the outfit for the company, I urged the importance of their starting as soon as possible, not later than the 1st of September.

August 19.–I left the town of Camden, where we had prepared our outfit, and returned to Scarborough to prepare my family for the journey, expecting to see the company in a few days; but here I remained in great suspense until October 1st, when Elder Townsend went to meet the company. They arrived in Scarborough on the 3rd, with their wagon covers flying.

The company stopped at the house of Sister Sarah B. Foss. We nailed down the covers and painted them, which made them waterproof.

–4 [4 Sep 1838].–We started upon our journey. My child was in the first stages of the whooping cough. Our company consisted of fifty-three persons; we had ten wagons, with a pair of horses to each. We had before us, at this late period, a gloomy land journey of two thousand miles, from Maine to Missouri. We continued to travel through rain, mud, cold, frost and snow, until we arrived in Rochester, Sangamon County, Illinois, December 19th, where I stopped and settled my family and company for the winter, being unable to proceed further. My wife had passed through a severe course of the brain fever while upon the journey; her sufferings had been very great. The spirit had left her body twice to all human appearance, and only been called back through the prayer of faith and the power of God. Our child had also been very sick, and I had become so thoroughly chilled through my whole system, in crossing the bleak prairies, that it was two months after I stopped, before I got sufficiently warmed to feel natural.

Brother Thomas buried one child [Clara Thomas, daughter of Nathaniel and Susanna (Luce) Thomas, died 5 November 1838 at Westfield, Ohio], and nearly all the company had been sick through exposure; some of them had stopped by the way [including, perhaps, the Luces. Wilford Woodruff Luce was born 7 November 1838].

I spent the winter laboring with my hands for the support of my family.

March 8, 1839.–I attended a conference at Springfield, Illinois.

–13.–I took my family and started for Quincy, where I arrived on the 16th. I dined with Emma Smith, at Judge Cleveland’s. I then went on to the bank of the river near Quincy, and saw a great many of the Saints, old and young, lying in the mud and water, in a rainstorm, without tent or covering, which suffering was caused by the unhallowed persecution of the state of Missouri. The sight filled my eyes with tears, while my heart was made glad at the cheerfulness of the Saints in the midst of their affliction.

[Autobiography of Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/WWoodruff.html, visited July 15, 2009.]

From a printed version

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 338
May 1859
May 27th I went to the office early this morning whare I was informed that James Johnson son of Luke Johnson was shot last night by one Gibson. There were 4 of them together, Jason Luce, James Johnson, Gibson & another one. Some words passed between Gibson & Johnson when Gibson drew a pistol cocked it & drew it upon Johnson when Luce took the pistol from Gibson & uncooked it & gave it back to Gibson. He then again Cocked it & few words passed & he drew his pistol & shot James Johnson. The ball entered below the Choller bone on the left side. Just escaped the Left Lung broke the upper rib went downward through the body. Dr’s France & Anderson was sent For. They [p.339] Cut out the ball on the right side of the spine of the back.

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 416
January 1860
20 Vary Cold and Frosty. I went to the office in the morning. I there learned that Joseph Rhodes was killed by Jason Luce last evening in Butchers House whare William Hickman lay. Rhodes Came to the House and said he wanted to see Hickman. Luce said [p.417] he could not. Rhodes swore he would or die on the spot and drew two pistols one Cocked in Each hand and presented them at Luce. Luce drew his knife and sprung at Rhodes and struck him in the Right Breast & the knife went through his body. Ormas Bates sprung at the same time and Caught hold of Each pistol and turned the muzzles up. Luce Continued to thrust the knife into Rhodes and he soon fell and as he began to Fall He snaped the both pistols but the hammer struck Bates Hand and did not go off. Luce Continued to stab him untill he had Eleven gashes through his body.

I went down to see the Corps. It had been washed and laid on a Board Naked. I never saw a Body so Cut up. The poliece took the body From Hickman to the City Hall whare I saw the Body. Luce gave himself up to the Poliece.
I spent the day in the office. Luce had his trial in the evening and was acquited upon the plea of self Defense.

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 480
August 1860
Aug 5 Sunday I met with my Quorum in the morning. A. O. Smoot Prayed & L W Hardy was mouth. The subjet was spoken off about Jason Luce & Lot Huntington & their party overpowering the Poliece & Jeter Clintons Court one day during the past week. The Mayor will take the matter up to morrow.
President Young Preached in the forenoon a powerful discourse. He spoke vary plain with regard to the Gentiles. He followed Brother Bywater & H. C. Kimball all of which spoke much to the Edifycation of the people.
I attended the meeting in the afternoon & herd President Young deliver one of the most Edifying discourses I ever herd in my life. His subject was “what are the pleasures of life.” He spoke of Eating & drinking as being two of the greatest pleasurs of the worlding but that pleasure ownly lasts while he is swallowing. He nomanated the various pleasures and a person would soon be saciated in any of them but if a man Enjoyed the spirit & power of God, the Holy Ghost and the gift of Eternal Life it was like a living well of water within him. He was Happy all the time.
I went home with President Young & took supper with him. I also had a social Conversation with D. H. Wells. The Twelve did not meet in the Prayer Circle as there were none of the Quorum in the City Except Erastus Snow & myself & Brother Snow did not [p.481] Come. In Conversation with President Young He said in speaking of the Twelve their business was to preach the gospel and they ought to be abroad preaching.

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.139
December 1863
Dec 7th 1863 I spent the fore part of the day in the office writing. Jason Luce killed a man in the street by the name of Samuel Burton from Origon. He cut his throat with a Bowe knife. He was immediately arested & imprisioned.
During the Evening G A Smith arived home bringing the Bodies of two dead men viz Ira Jones Willis & his son Cornelius John Willis. Both were turned over together on a load of wood in the Creek near Lehi. The waggon turned bottom side upwards & the men were rolled up in their blankets face downwards in the Creek with the wood on top of them. This was on Saturday night. Quite dark. The oxen Came unhitched & went h[ome. Were?] found at the door in the morning. The bodies were found sunday Morning.

8 The bodies of Brother Ira Willis & son were brought into the Historian office & Exibited to the Jackson County Saints & all others who Called in & were buried about 12 oclok Noon.
Jason Luce was Examined before Orrelius Miner Esqr & was Committed to be tried before the probate Court next Monday.

19 I preached the funeral sermon of Father Atwood at 10 oclok in the assembly rooms, then went to the Endowment House & sealed 21 Couple. We gave Endowments to 31 persons. I Attended the trial of Jason Luce.

22d I spent the fore part of the day in writing my report to the Legislature.
In the afternoon I attended the Court & heard the Judge Elias Smith Sentence Jason Luce, who had been tried for murder & rendered Guilty of Murder, in the first degree by a Jury of 12 men. The Judge Sentenced him to be shot on Tuesday the 12 of January. He made a few remarks & tryed to Justify himself [p.142] by saying that what he done He done in self defence &c. When he was taken down into his sell he wept like a child. He told his brother that if He was Executed he must remember that Wm Hickman was the Cause & that he was now deserting him. Hickman & party are holding out the hope to him that He will be reprieved.

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.150
January 1864
Jan 8 A Cold morning. I visited President Young and asked him if He had any Council to give R. Burton Concerning the Execution of Jason Luce Tuesday. He said no not one word. He knows what to do. It will want to be done in Private.

Jan 11 1864 I Called upon Brother Burton & then I Called at the Court House and had another interview with Jason Luce who is sentenced to die tomorrow. He still feels sure that He will not die. He thinks that he has the testimony of the spirit of the Lord that He will live & not die. He said that he was innocent of many things that the people thought he was guilty off. He said that he had never killed any person or had any hand in the death of any person except Rhodes & Bunting & said that he Could not fell that he was guilty of murder in the death of Either of them. He had killed them in self defence. He said Wm. Hickman had advised him to do many things that made his flesh Crawl but he had not followed Hickmans advise in these things. He told the Jailors (which I did not Hear) that Hickman once asked him to go & knock an old man in the Head for no other purpose ownly to obtain an old mare that was not worth more than $30. And He feels that Wm. Hickman has betrayed him and done him much injury & he looks upon Hickman as a vary bad man. He said he would like to see me tomorrow. He thought to day [p.151] was the time appointed for his Execution untill I told him it was tomorrow.
I went to the Council & spent the afternoon & attended to the business of the day And in the Evening I again Called upon Jason Luce in Company with John Sharp, T. B. Stenhouse R. Burton & many others. G D. Watt being present acted as reporter in taking an account of what Jason Luce would reveal unto us in his last moments.
I Called upon Governor Reed & asked him if he would Commute Jason Luce sentence to the Penetentiary for life as Hickman had held out this promise to Luce. Soon Hickman & Wilford Luce Came in for their answer & Mr Reed told them He Could do nothing in the premises that He Considered that He would be Commiting Crime to Change the sentence of Luce unless he had better ground than any thing He had seen.
So when I arived at the prision in the Evening I told Jason Luce there was no chance for him to live & I wished him to prepare to die. He then spent more than an hour giving us an account of what He had done & what he knew. He said in the Case of Drown & Arnold that Hickman was responsible for their death. He killed them with the help of one or two others. He said Wm. A Hickman robed Carpenter’s store took the goods in his waggon & carried them to Huntingtons & from Huntingtons to his house over Jordon & then told Furguson if he would kill Carpenter He would Clear him that He Should not lie in Jail one day. Furguson killed Carpenter & was Hung for it & Hickman made him believe that he would be liberated up to the last minute. Luce said that Hickman Murdered [ ] for no other purpose ownly to obtain his gold watch & money & thinks he has the watch yet.
He said that Hickman was at the head of a Band of thieves. They have stolen as high as 100 Head of Cattle at a time from Camp Floyd & gone out onto the prairie & divided them & taken them to different parts of the Territory. Lute also said that Hickman had many men around him that Had to be fed & that men under him would go onto the range & drive up a Beef & kill & Eat it & sell the Hides or make them [p.152] into Larretts or throw them away as the Case might be without any regard to whom might be the owners. Luce said that Hickman had been his ruin and the ruin of others and in all these things He had Carried his point by declairing that President Brigham Young had given him Council to do all these things (which is a Cursed lie). Luce made many other remarks which was reported by G. D. Watt.
12 At Eleven oclok I Called at the prision & was with the prisioner untill a few moments before his Execution. His Mother Brothe[rs?] wife & 5 children visited him last night also this morning. He had gotton a woman with Child who was not his wife. He requested his Brothers to take care of this woman & if they were permitted to take more than one wife to take her to wife. He had a vary hard time to part with his wife Children & Friends. He felt to Confess all of his [crimes] and ask the forgiveness of God & all men for all his Crimes. He had worn his garments up to within an hour before his death. I advised him to take it off which He did. He Converse with me untill abut 12 oclok. He asked me to pray with him that he might have strength to go to his Execution & pay the penalty of his Crimes. I prayed with him according to his request & then bid him good by as did others who were with him.
He then walked to his place of Execution. There was a large number out side the wall & some one hundred in the Court House pl[aced?] at the windows to witness the Execution. Jason Luce sat in a Chair with his feet maniceled. He addressed the people a few moments Renounced Wm. A. Hickman as his betrayer bid the People good by. Sherif Burton drew the Black Cap over his face & at a given signal 5 Balls was shot through or near his heart & his spirit left his body without a groan or hardly a movement of his body. His Corps was taken to the gate & Exhibited to the Croud. It was then taken to his Brothers House & laid out.
13 The body of Luce was buried to day in the [p.153] burying ground. A subscription was taken up to day for his Family & some $300 was obtained $175 in money. I spent the afternoon in the Council Chamber.

For more excerpts from Wilford Woodruff’s journal during this period, see the Hickman Museum.

%d bloggers like this: