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Theodore Turley: A Biography
Richard E. Turley, Jr.

[This is another in a continuing series of newsletter articles that together will make up the first rough draft of a biography of Theodore Turley. The draft will undergo considerable revision before being published in book form. I invite all family members to read it critically, make suggestions, and offer additional information for possible inclusion. Feel free to e-mail me.]

14 The Journey to Kirtland, 1839

After spending more than a week with Church members in Springfield, Illinois, Theodore Turley and his companions were ready to move on. “Departed Leaving the Blessings of God upon Them,” Theodore wrote in his journal.1 Theodore had arrived in Springfield with George A. Smith and Reuben Hedlock, the two companions with which he had started his mission. While they were staying in Springfield, Elders Young and Kimball, whom they had passed earlier, caught up with them. Rather than split up again, as they had done earlier, this time the five missionaries decided to travel together, along with Roswell Murray, Elder Kimball’s father-in-law, who was on his way east to visit friends.2

In order to make it possible to travel together, the missionaries pooled their resources and those donated to them by local members. Elder Kimball wrote that “the brethren there gave us a horse and fitted up a wagon, and putting both horses to the wagon we all started together; they also gave us some money to assist us on our journey.”3 Elder Smith recorded in his memoirs, “Prest B. Young, H. C. Kimball, R. Hedlock[,] T. Turley, and my self and Mr. Murray (Brother Kimball’s father-in-law,) put our mites together and rigged up a two horse wagon and attached three horses to it.”4

Four of the five missionaries, including Theodore, were quite ill when they left Springfield on 11 October. Elder Smith recalled, “On the 11th, we resumed our journey Brother Young, Kimball, Turley and myself being very feeble. While at Springfield, I undertook to ascend the new State house, but was so weak and dizzy that on reaching the second story I had to go down. We all suffered considerably from sickness on the way, and arrived at Terrehaute on the 17th.”5

Theodore’s journal account of the trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Terre Haute, Indiana, is sparse. He wrote only, “Leaving Thence for Pleasant Garding [Garden]. Stopt at Br [Addison] Pratt;s on the 17th of October.”6 Pleasant Garden was located four miles past Terre Haute.7 Elder Kimball was more descriptive. Writing home a few weeks later, he recalled, “We continued on our journey five or six days until we arrived at Terre Haute on the banks of Wabash river on the 17th, during this time our axle tree broke twice, and we had to suffer hunger in consequence of having to cross large prairies, and the food we got was altogether johny-cake, and corn dodger, and poor bacon. I was very sick during most part of this journey; sometimes I thought I scarcely could live.”8

In fact, Elder Kimball was so sick that he and Elder Young would remain behind in Terre Haute, sending Theodore and his companions ahead of them once again. Elder Kimball recorded, “We put up at Dr. Modiset’s. I was here taken out of the wagon and laid upon the bed; the doctor, his wife, and Elder Young were obliged to watch almost all the night in order to keep a breath of life in me. Next morning the brethren [Elders Turley, Smith, and Hedlock, along with Roswell Murray] came to us; my feelings were for them to go on their journey and leave me and Brother Young with me. I requested them to lay their hands on me and pray for me, which they did previous to their departure. I was then not able to sit up; they left us in tears, some of them not expecting to behold my face again. In about an hour after the brethren departed I arose from my bed; and in a few days we started on our journey.”9

Elder Smith, with whom Theodore stayed during the night Elder Kimball almost died, gave a slightly different view of events:

We put up with brother Milton Stowe, a poor man who rented a room of Dr. Modisett, also a member of the Church. Dr. Modisett visited us while we were spreading our straw bed on the floor, and shed tears at the poverty of the Saints, and what the Elders had to undergo. He was reported to be worth $400,000 and owned the principal hotels in the City of Terre Haute. That evening he administered to Elder Kimball, whom with Elder Young he had invited home with him, an overdose of Morphene by accident. In the morning Prest. Young advised us to proceed on our journey with the wagon and horses and he would take care of Elder Kimball. On the evening of the 18th. we stopped with Elder Addison Pratt, with whom I left my horse, which had given out. We arrived at Pleasant Garden, Saturday 19th, here we found Elder A. W. Babbitt.10

Almon Babbitt was the returning missionary from Canada who had led the group of Church emigrants with which Theodore and his family had traveled to Missouri in 1838. Elder Babbitt’s work in Pleasant Garden impressed Theodore, who wrote that they “attended meeting with Br Babbott Saturday and Sunday Three times found Br B Doing a grea[t] work here.”11

Theodore and his companions soon met others of his acquaintances from Canada. He wrote, “Left on the 22[th] for Indianoplis on The way the 23 Day met Br Law and Hicks,s famely Ea[st] of Richmond Received 25 Doller[s] for to help us on our mission.”12 Brother Law was William Law, his long-time acquaintance from Canada, who would one day become a prominent Church leader, only to fall and become the leading figure in Joseph Smith’s death. The Brother Hicks mentioned was likely George Barton Hicks, born in Ireland, who migrated to Canada in 1820. According to a biographical sketch of Hicks, on “July 16, 1837, he and his wife were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Priest Theodore Turley and confirmed the same day by Elder Almon W. Babbitt.”13

Elder Smith gave a similar account of this segment of their journey. “On Monday 23rd we pursued our journey,” he recounted. “Our health was improving, and when I arrived in Montgomery Co., Ohio, I made out to see to read an advertis[e]ment in large print, by putting my nose close to the paper, the first words I had been able to see to read since my sickness. We met William Law, who, on learning that we had no money to pay our expenses, gave us $25.”14

The next major stop on their journey was Dayton, Ohio. Theodore recorded in his journal, “Arived in Dayton 26th where we found Br Taylor. Attended a Conference in Company with The Bretheren <at Br Houton s> 8 miles Est.”15 John Taylor, whom they met again in Dayton, had left well ahead of them from Nauvoo but had taken ill in Dayton three weeks earlier and had been forced to stay there in order to recover.16 George A. Smith wrote, “At Dayton we found Elder John Taylor, who started for England before we did, but was detained on the way by sickness. Being now able to travel, he got into the wagon with us.”17 Now there were five in their group: Elders Turley, Taylor, Smith, and Hedlock, along with Elder Kimball’s father-in-law, Roswell Murray, still on his way east to visit friends.

The next day, the group moved on. Theodore chronicled their movements en route to Kirtland, Ohio: “Arived in Springfield Ohio <27th Br Taylor Preached on Sunday and Then <The Same> night> Taried with Br Sawyer. Viseted Columbas <Prison> Visted it [in] company with Br Smith. Taylor & Hadlock. 480 Convict. <They> had comenced Building the State house18 The Sells for Each Prisoner 8 feet Long 4 feet wide Whe reched Lowdenvill on th30 {Thence to Worster <Lowdenvill> on The first Day of November. The Next Day Traveled to Lowdenvill <worcester> on The 30th.} Thence To Lowdenvill on The 30th. Thence To Wor[c]ester on the 1 of November. The Second Day arived in Strongvill. on The 3rd Thence to Cleaveland. on the 4th were we met with Brother Yong & Kimble arfter Leaving Them Sick in There[aHutter] [Terre Haute] Thence to Kirtland on the 4th.”19

George A. Smith wrote, “We arrived in Cleveland Sunday Nov. 3, where we met Prests. Young and Kimball, who had passed us in the stage the night preceeding. I stopped at Cleveland overnight, and visited my Cousin, Genl. Calvin C. Waller and my uncle Jabez Fairbanks, his wife Eliza being my mother’s sister, and was kindly received. I took the stage and arrived at Kirtland on the evening of the 4th.”20

At Kirtland, Ohio, the former headquarters of the Church, stood the Church’s first temple, the only one that had been completed at that time, even though others had been announced in Missouri but not finished because of persecution. The missionaries spent a glorious few days in the Kirtland Temple, the House of the Lord. Theodore wrote, “Viseted The House of The Lord on the 5 Day with the Breatheren. On 7th allso. On the 9 Day attended meting in The Lords House. Much Gretified.” On 9 November, Theodore also wrote a letter to “my Fameley in the West.” In his journal account, Theodore recorded in detail the sacred experiences he had in the temple and the surrounding area, including his receipt of the endowment ordinance as it was administered at that point in the Church’s history. During the two and a half weeks they stayed in the Kirtland area, Theodore also attended a conference.21

His experiences in Kirtland would remain indelibly etched in his memory. In a life sketch written later, Theodore summarized, “whent to Kirtland with Elders B Young E C Kimbal G. A. Smith R. Hadlock & with E. Taylor received my washing & anointings under the hand of the Twelve.”22

Yet the missionaries did not find all in Kirtland to be pleasant. They encountered opposition from apostate Church members, and they experienced recurrence of the sickness–probably malaria–that they had brought with them from Nauvoo. Elder Kimball sent Joseph Smith the following account:

When we got to Kirtland being overcome by the fatigues of our journey, we were most of us taken sick again with the Chill fever, some of us were confined to our beds.–We remained there until the 22nd; some one of us preached in the house of the Lord every Sabbath during our stay there. We found the saints in a rather dis-organized state and disagreed, dwelling upon things that were past and finding fault. We found some few that were very kind to us and administered to us in our sickness, others felt disposed to cast reflections upon us, saying that our sickness came upon us in consequence of our unrighteousness; and when the brethren were suffering keenly from the effects of fatigue and sickness; these things were heaped upon them in an unfeeling manner, and when we were preparing to start on our journey, they would not administer to our wants nor help us on our journey, saying that they did not believe we were sent from God, and casting many other reflections upon us (that is many of them,) if it were necessary I could mention names. May the Lord bless and preserve those who did minister to our necessities, for the time will come when they shall be rewarded for their deeds of kindness.23

In his memoirs, George A. Smith left a similar account:

We staid in Kirtland until the 22nd, the Saints there were dead with a universal spirit of apostacy, which had dominion over them. Several families were very kind to us, but many considered that God was greatly displeased with us, or we would not be sick, and that we and the Saints in Missouri must be very wicked or we would not have been driven from our homes, and then afflicted with sickness on starting on a mission to preach the gospel. Prest. B. Young, H. C. Kimball, J. Taylor, T. Turley, R. Hedlock and myself bore testimony to the people in the Temple. Elders Taylor and Turley received an anointing in the Temple. We sacrificed our horses and wagon for what little we could get.24

They sold their wagon and horses for a good reason: The next stage of their journey would be by water.

[Next issue: “From Kirtland to the East Coast, November to December 1839”]

Draft of 3 October 2000
© 2000 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the October 2000 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 11 October 1839, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  2. Heber C. Kimball to Joseph Smith, Jr., 9 July 1840, in Times and Seasons 6 (1845): 859-60.
  3. Kimball to Smith, 9 July 1840, 860.
  4. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1, Church Archives, Family and Church History Department. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter “Church Archives”).
  5. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.
  6. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 11-17 October 1839.
  7. Kimball to Smith, 9 July 1840, 860.
  8. Kimball to Smith, 9 July 1840, 860.
  9. Kimball to Smith, 9 July 1840, 860.
  10. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.
  11. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 19-20 October 1839.
  12. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 22-23 October 1839.
  13. Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia 2:163.
  14. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.
  15. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 28-29 October 1839.
  16. Millennial Star 2, no. 2 (June 1841): 14.
  17. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.
  18. Across the page vertically, Theodore wrote the following four lines:

    on the 28 Day
    Viseted Columb[u]s

  19. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 27 October to 4 November 1839. During their travels on 3 November, the missionaries went by way of Willoughby, some riding in the wagon, the others traveling by stage. Journal History, 3 November 1839.
  20. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.
  21. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 4-21 November 1839.
  22. MS 13176, Church Archives.
  23. Kimball to Smith, 9 July 1840, 860.
  24. Memoirs of George A. Smith, Ms 1322, bx 3, fd 1.