Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Charles Nephi Smith (1824-1897)

Charles Nephi Smith was born on March 14, 1824, in Hereford, England. At the age of fourteen months, he was taken from his mother and given to the care of his grandparents who reared him. Even so, his childhood and youth were not without love and kindliness, as his grandparents loved dearly.

As a boy, he attended Sunday School and divine services in the Episcopal Church. When sixteen years of age, Charles was persuaded by some friends to accompany them to hear the words of a strange preacher just to have some fun. The strange preacher, in the person of Wilford Woodruff, was most interesting and instructive and failed to provide the amusement the young men intended to find. Charles, from that very hour, felt strongly impressed with the philosophy of the young preacher. He resolved to give up his former associates and seek further light and understanding pertaining to salvation as he had heard it that memorable day, and it was a memorable day for Charles, because life seemed to take on a new and totally different aspect.

After much investigation of this new and strange religion, Charles was baptized in the year 1840 by William Parson. Like other new converts, Charles felt the urge to be with the Saints in America. So strong was this desire that he could not resist even though it meant possible feelings with his grandparents. When he did tell his grandparents about his membership in the new Church and about his desire to go to America, they were furious to think that their grandson, who was as a son to them, should leave them and his home to follow those "awful Mormons". His grandmother, when she saw his determination, tied his meager clothing into a bundle, threw them out the door and told Charles, "Go! And never come back".

It was a happy day when Charles secured passage on the ship "Emerald", yet beneath his happiness at the prospects of an ocean voyage to a new land, was a loneliness and sadness that his parting from his dearly beloved grandparents should be such as it was. He must have felt that once in America, he would never return to his loved ones in England.

The Saints who left England at that time aboard the ship "Emerald", were in the charge of Parley P. Pratt. After an uneventful trip across the ocean, the boat docked at New Orleans in the year of 1842.

From New Orleans, Charles proceeded to St. Louis, Missouri, where he secured employment in a brickyard at the wage of sixty cents per day. Charles was compelled to walk five miles to and from his work each day. This, besides the strenuous work he had to do at the brickyard soon proved to be too much for Charles and he was forced to accept medical attention at a charitable hospital. it was while he was bedridden that Charles heard the shocking death news of Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. Charles was greatly saddened. He had left his native land and those who were dear to him, and was now lying in a hospital, sick, and weary, without friends to care for his well being.

Soon as he was well enough, Charles went to Nauvoo where the Saints were located. There he found that for which his heart longed. He was warmly welcomed and even found a very good friend, George Spillsbury. The two young men made plans to go in one of the companies going to Salt Lake Valley. They had two oxen, two cows and one wagon with which to begin the journey westward. The wagon was old and had been put together without one piece of metal. Hickory saplings had been wound around the wheels to act as tires. However. this crude conveyance carried the group safely to the Great Salt Lake Valley.

The trip was not without incident. Many were the hardships and disappointments. Sickness and death were ever prevalent to further dishearten the pioneers. One incident, which caused much excitement and concern, occurred as the company was traveling along the Platte River. The oxen who were thirsty and over anxious to reach the water, ran away down over a steep path into the river. The wagon with all its contents, was upset in the river. Sister Spillsbury and her one week old baby were drenched in the cold water before they were finally rescued. No harm came to either mother or child. (This infant grew to maturity and was a faithful pioneer in a Mormon colony in Old Mexico.)

After their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Charles found employment and later met and was married to Eliza Needham in 1855 by President Brigham Young. Two years later he married, as his second wife, Maria DeGrey. To them were born eleven children. Eliza bore no children.

Trouble from the outside world, so to speak, continued to come to the Saints. When Johnson's Army came to molest them, Charles was one of a group chosen to protect and hold the entrance through Echo Canyon to the Valley. Then, too, much anxiety and concern was caused the pioneers because of the practice of plural marriage. In 1857 when the saints left Salt Lake City to escape marshal law, Charles moved his families to Springville. The following year they returned to their home.

In 1861, Charles was one of a group of men called to take their families and colonize the southern part of Utah. Faith and the desire to obey the call from their Prophet of God was greatly evidenced when these men and women accepted the challenge to clear the land of sage brush and rocks, plant corps, build homes and fight molesting Indians. After having had, only a few years hence, experienced the hardships of the great trek across the plains, those pioneers had to have much faith and perseverance to leave their homes in Salt Lake City and travel again to a barren section to build other communities.

On the journey to their destination in Dixie, the company had to ford the Rio Virgin. In mid stream Charles oxen stopped to drink and the wagon began to sink in the quick sand. Despite his frantic efforts to urge the oxen onward, they completely ignored Charles. He was trying to save his outfit but the wagon box floated down stream. A number of men, who were working on the opposite bank finally
came to his aid in time to save the occupants of the wagon Eliza and one of Maria's sons, Joseph, who was then four years old. The men carried Eliza and the young boy to the bank and they secured the wagon box to a cottonwood tree.

After years of toil and a meager subsistence, Charles and his family began to feel encouraged as they gazed upon their fields of corn and grain, their orchards and the small garden patches. Charles built a small home in the community of Grafton, which consisted of but a few families with their farmlands. The Indians gave them trouble by driving off their cattle and horses and killing some of the citizens. About four years later the people in Grafton were advised to move to Rockville for protection.

In 1867, Charles was ordained bishop of the Rockville Ward and faithfully fulfilled that calling until 1891 when he was honorably released. Durning that year Charles moved his family to Monroe where he built another home. He continued to be as active in his church as his age would allow. At a conference held in Salina, Sevier Stake, he was set apart as a patriarch of the church by Frances M. Lyman. In 1875 Charles was called on a mission to Canada, but was unable to complete it because of ill health. Six years after his release as bishop, in 1897, at the age of seventy three, Charles departed this life, leaving behind a fine posterity.

From the time Charles had first heard the gospel in England from the lips of Wilford Woodruff until his death, his sincere desire had been to seek more knowledge of the Gospel of Christ and to be of service whenever called. He was a good father who set a worthy example for his children to follow. Because he had missed having his own mother and father, Charles tried more earnestly to be an understanding and kind father. To his neighbors and associates he was an honorable, hard working and a generous friend.

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