Dear friends and family: Good morning! I have been sharing some of our family history with members of our family, and after reading this very interesting and comprehensive history of our ancestor, Francis Lee, taken from the Samuel Lee Family History, and finding it very much a part of the history of the early Saints and the trials and problems they went through just to survive, I wanted to share it with you, my friends and family, in hopes that you might realize and understand the great sacrifices our early pioneers and Saints went through. It is lengthy, but well worth reading. I have added one verse of Come, Come Ye Saints as a midi. Hope it plays okay. Have a wonderful day, and know that you are loved. Your friend and brother. Jim
Francis Lee (taken from "The Samuel Lee Family History")
It was four o'clock in the morning of June 26, 1811 when Francis Lee came squalling into the world. His parents, Samuel and Elizabeth, were living amongst the Quakers. For the first years of his life, Francis was confined quite closely to the clearing on Todd's Creek. When he went with his father and mother to visit other settlers, it was on these trips that he learned the history of his family. He learned how his father had been a scout for the Quakers, and how dense the woods were when they first came to Ohio.
There was a saying that all Lees had quick minds. Going before him in school were Sarah, Nancy, Alfred, Ike, and Hyrum. He was made to understand that he was expected to equal if not exceed his brothers and sisters scholastically. There was a motivating force which caused him to study hard and achieve well in his school work.
Sarah had always been a second mother to Francis. She had cared for him when their mother was ill, and of an evening she had often read to him before he entered school. When Samuel Abernathy appeared on the scene and took over Sarah as if she were his own, Francis was openly jealous. When Sarah and Samuel Abernathy were wed, they mounted the seat of the wagon and drove off, his grief boiled over. He ran to the milk cellar, and there in the dark, he shed his tears. Presently he was comforted when Nancy slipped in beside him and they wept together.
Now that Sarah was gone, they all closed ranks, trying to patch up the hole which she left in the family. They all shared the labor which she once did. Now Francis worked more closely with Nancy than he had ever done before. In the evenings she would read to him from books which she borrowed from Mr. Sabine. He memorized many passages from her favorite poems, both old and new.
The next five years of Francis' life passed quickly. As he grew in strength and stature, he fitted into the farm work, often under Alfred's direction when his father was gone. Since his mother was ill some of the time, he often worked with her, keeping the garden free of weeds. When she felt weak, she sat on an old chair at the edge of the garden, and talked with him while he pulled weeds. Although he did not like the weed pulling, he loved to be with his mother. They talked about many things as she sat, not as an overseer but as a companion. At the age of eighteen, Alfred, mounted his horse and bade them good-bye to look for land for himself. Both Isaac and Francis had learned to work willingly without complaining. But they had always worked under the supervision of either their father or Alfred. Now, suddenly, they were left to work alone without direction. One week their father left home to help a neighbor clear a forty. Before he left, he had outlined the work to be done during the week. Neither Francis or Ike had had the experience of looking over a farm, seeing the work that had to be done, and acting under his own initiative. By Tuesday they forgot what their father had told them to do. On Wednesday some shoats rooted under their log pen and got away. The cows got into the corn while the boys were swimming.
When Samuel returned on Saturday night, he looked over the place and observed the havoc which had been wrought during his absence. When the boys saw his face, they were afraid. He took them out to the yard and looked about in silence. Finally he asked, "Where are the pigs?" "Well, gosh, Pa, it wasn't our fault they rooted under the pen." They walked down to the cornfield. It was a shambles. The sun had set and it was getting dark. "I suppose it's partly my fault," Samuel said sternly, "because you have never been in charge before. But you could have done better than this." Because he did not whip them, both Ike and Francis vowed in their heart that in the future they would try to be like Alfred. They worked hard during the rest of the summer, but it was not until the fall work was finished that they had trained themselves to see what had to be done and do it without being told.
The winter Francis was eighteen, his father agreed to work on the Bullskin road and Francis went with him. Those two weeks were a rigorous education for Francis. He learned not only to exist in camp life in which he had never before participated, but he also learned to chop frozen trees, slash the limbs, and with the team, roll them into a pile for burning. He was glad one day, however, when a messenger rode in from Chillicothe with the payroll and the message that the State was out of money. Work on the road, would for the time being, have to cease.
The night Francis returned home, his father had taken a contract to help build the canal. Francis hitched his team to a scraper which looked like a large scoop shovel. For twelve hours a day, he dug the fine earth and built the tow path, while his father cut down trees. The money they earned finally paid off the debt they had contracted when they built their new home.
Because their acreage was limited, there was no way for Samuel to get ahead financially. He did not like to farm, therefore he took jobs away from home clearing and, building log houses and barns. But these occupations were becoming obsolete as the settlers filled up the land and the steam saw mills made lumber practicable. Moreover the Indiana fever had eaten into Samuel's vitals, making him discontented with Ohio. Therefore the fall that Francis was nineteen he decided to go west. One evening a traveler came through, giving a glowing account of Indiana and the opportunities there. He said that, since Samuel was such a good ax man, he could cut land clear a section and sell it at a good profit. Many of the settlers were helpless because they did not know the difference between an ax handle and a dishrag.
Samuel and Francis spent the next few days getting their outfit ready. It was decided that Isaac and Eli should stay with the farm and Francis go with his father. With their wagon loaded with food and feed they were well equipped for camping when they headed west into the Indian wilderness.
Francis returned to Alfred's place in time to help with the summer work. He divided his time between Sam Abernathy and Alfred. Francis was working for Sam and Sarah the week the Mormon missionaries came through. A neighbor had hurried over to tell them the terrible news. When Sam came in from the field, Sarah told him about the Mormons. "Where are they going to hold their meeting?" Sam asked. "They've got the school house," Sarah grumbled. "I can't see why Mr. Johnson let them have it."
After supper Francis saddled his horse. Sarah hurried out and asked, "Where are you going?" I'm going to the Mormon meeting," Francis laughed. "I haven't had any excitement for months. "Francis, I forbid you to go as long as you are staying with us." Francis smiled at her. "Haven't you heard? I turned twenty this year." Before he swung onto his horse, he patted her arm. "You worry too much."
The rest of the summer was hectic. The first Mormon meetings set off a chorus of strident voices, people taking sides, those for and those against the Mormons. Sarah was shocked that Alfred would allow those men in his house. After the first meeting Francis knew that these Mormons had something which the old preachers did not have. Francis was glad when the missionaries held a meeting at the Johnson's. It gave him a chance to see Jane, whom he had met at a Methodist meeting some months ago. When he swung off his horse, Jane came running to him with her hands outstretched. "Francis, it's good to see you," she exclaimed. "Where have you been keeping yourself.?" He grinned. "Didn't you hear? I have to work for a living."
That night the anti-Mormon group gathered in a mob. Because so many people came to the meeting, the Johnson's held it out under the trees, with lamps and lanterns furnishing the light. The first speaker had just finished when a most outlandish noise broke out. Men yelled, women screamed. The mob had sneaked up and surrounded the meeting, lurking in the darkness until the signal was given. Some pounded on dishpans; some rang cow bells; others hammered on steel bars. It turned the meeting into a panic. After a few minutes, Mr. Johnson and a few of the older men gathered in a knot and walked toward the intruders carrying lanterns. Little by little the mobbers gave way, cursing and yelling threats. Finally, in a fear of being seen and identified, the disturbers fled. It took some time before they could get the audience back in their seats to finish the meeting.
In order to prevent further disturbances, the people who were favorable to Mormonism met in small groups in each other's homes. By mid-winter about a hundred people were ready for baptism. When the Elders returned on their way back to Kirtland, Alfred made a pond where a great number of Saints were baptized. It was at this time, 10 January 1832 that Alfred and Elizabeth joined the church. Later Francis and Eli came in also. Francis was baptized the same year 1832, then Eli in 1833 and father Samuel in 1836.
That Autumn Francis helped Mr. Johnson harvest his corn. It was a great pleasure for him to sit at the same table with Jane Vail, although he always felt inferior because the Johnson’s seemed so rich and important. He learned that the Johnson family had come from Morristown, New Jersey, back in 1816. They were descended from a long line of patriots who settled in New York, many of whom fought in the Revolutionary War. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were well educated for their time, and they had trained their children in the graces and conduct of a gentle society.
Jane's mother was Mary Elizabeth Edwards, a grand old lady who had borne thirteen children and managed her home in a quiet, efficient manner. Many of the older children were now married and moved away to their own farms. But the younger children, Jane, Jacob, Susannah, Mary, and Juliette, were still at home. Because Jacob, Jane's younger brother was only fifteen, Mr. Johnson had to hire someone to help them get in the crops. At fifty-five he was still hale and hearty, but lately he had been suffering from rheumatism and could not work as well as he used to. Because the family often called their daughter "Jane Vail", Francis got up enough courage one day to ask her where the name came from. "Oh, I was named after my grandmother, my father's mother. She was Jane Vail, and my grandpa's name is Thomas. They're still back in Morristown."
Francis rented a farm near the Johnson’s home. It was pretty lonely, living way out there by himself. One day he rode over to Alfred’s place. To his surprise he found that his father had brought his mother and Eli from Ohio and settled them in a house near Sarah. Isaac had married Elizabeth Byres and was working the farm in Ohio. Nancy had married Wesley Robertson. Francis was glad to see his younger brother. Eli moved in with Francis to help with the farming.
Out on their farm, He and Eli worked hard. On the land they cleared off brush land saplings. They planted fall wheat which produced a good crop. Their rent to the owner was small because they had done so much clearing. Instead of buying land, they began to acquire cattle, hogs, horses and oxen. From Mrs. Whitehead they bought a used wagon which, with a little repair work, seemed as good as new.
At a meeting held at Johnson’s, the local members of the Church decided to emigrate to Missouri in the spring. The problems involved in such a large migration were many and grievous. To throw forty or fifty farms on the market at one time would depress the price of land, yet they had no alternatives. Mr. Johnson, Alfred, and many others traveled far and wide seeking buyers for their land, and some of them were successful, but many of them found that they would have to sell their land at half price.
In one way, Francis was fortunate. He did not own the land he was operating. Therefore he began immediately to convert their crops into cattle and horses. During the winter he accumulated kegs of salt beef and pork, farm machinery and seed. When the spring came, the Saints were as ready as possible. On the appointed day, Francis hooked up his team and pulled his wagon to the meadow where the Saints were gathering.
Because they were not properly organized, there was a great deal of confusion the next morning getting under way. It was raining. The roads were muddy, and the animals, used to grazing the open prairie were hard to drive. As the day passed, the people realized that they needed a better organization. On Sunday evening, Brother Johnson spoke to the assemblage. Since we are brothers and sisters in the gospel, we ought not to quarrel and fight. And we ought not to allow our children to tease and harass others. We should systematize our work so that every person, young and old, will have his own job. travelling is hard and the work is deadening, but if we seek the Lord in prayer he will help us.
They reorganized the camp, making Brother Johnson the wagon master, giving him full authority to guide, direct and discipline the members of the wagon train. After that things went better. They built rafts on which they ferried their wagons over the Wabash and the Illinois rivers. Many of the small streams they were able to ford. When they could not ford, all the men got together and built a bridge. As they moved ahead, the weather improved making the roads more solid. With training, the people did their work more efficiently; and under the benign guidance of their leaders, they learned to get along together. When they pulled into the dusty little community of Quincy, Illinois, they estimated that they had made good time in spite of the inclement weather. They figured that it was close to 300 miles from Randolph County to the Mississippi, and they had made it in twenty one days.
Because the season was still early, Francis rode with Alfred to see if they could find some land. They came to a place which once seemed to have been cultivated, but which now was abandoned. Upon inquiry they found that it belonged to Samuel Squires, a lawyer in Liberty. When they told him that they were a part of the Indiana contingent and well equipped, he said, "Why yes, I'll rent the land to you. Most of these Jackson County Mormons don't even have a bushel of cobs to burn."
The next morning Francis and Alfred pulled their wagons onto the land and began to plow. They hired boys and young men to take turns herding the stock, keeping the animals out of the fields. All through the summer Francis was so busy that he had no opportunity to see Jane Vail. Her father had gone further west and had secured a quarter section which he and several of the Jackson County Saints were tilling. Jane, the oldest girl now with them, had taken over the main burden of housework. During the summer she and Francis had seen each other only occasionally when the Indiana Saints gathered for a meeting. One afternoon in October, when the crops were harvested, she was setting the table for supper. She looked up and there was Francis standing in the doorway. "
Francis," she cried, running to him. He stayed for supper, talking animatedly with Brother and Sister Johnson as well as with the younger children. After the meal, at a signal from their mother, the younger girls took over and Sister Johnson suggested that Jane entertain Brother Lee.
In the twilight they walked arm in arm toward a patch of woods a quarter of a mile away. Seated on the grass at the foot of a giant maple, Francis said, "I've been waiting and hoping that I could get more together to offer you, but the future doesn't look very promising. I have wanted to ask you to marry me for a long time. I supposed you have known."
Jane did not look up. She pulled a stem of grass and bit off the juicy end. At last she said, "Yes, I have known. I have wondered why you hesitated so long."
Francis flushed. "Your parents are so rich and I am so poor... I wasn't sure..."
"Well, you needn't wait any longer on that score. We certainly don't have much now."
Then will you marry me?" he asked.
"Why, of course."
The plans for the wedding were as elaborate as possible under the circumstances. Alfred's wife drove over and helped Sister Johnson stitch together the wedding gown, and Alfred saw to it that all of the Indiana Saints were notified. It was two o'clock when Brother and Sister Johnson drove up to the hall in an old surrey, with Jane Vail in the back seat, dressed all in white. The crowd opened up a path for Brother Johnson to lead his daughter into the building. Bishop Partridge performed the ceremony.
The reception in the afternoon and the dance at night brought together most of the Indiana Saints for the first time since they came to Missouri. It was a great reunion. Everyone had a wonderful time. So wonderful in fact, that they did not see Francis and Jane disappear from the dance and whip away in the darkness.
Francis and Jane Vail's first child was born 9 August 1836 at Liberty, Missouri. They named him William Henry.
Although it was late in the summer, Francis and Alfred prepared to move. Francis and Jane Vail hooked up the teams to the wagons and started north. Years afterward, Jane Vail remarked that their belated honeymoon was one of the most delightful trips she had ever taken. Perched on the seat beside Francis, her baby in her lap, they talked and laughed, sang praises to the Lord all the way to the new land. In the afternoon of the second day they pulled into a broad prairie near Shoal Creek.
"This is the area which the Brethren designated," Alfred said. "They are going to build a town off to the east. They unhooked their teams and the women began to unload the wagons. Although building houses was important, plowing the land was even more so. With all the horse power they could muster, Francis and Alfred broke sod. By working early and late the men, within the month, had one hundred acres broken up and ready for spring wheat.
Then they plunged into the woods, cut logs, and built two cabins. During the month, Elizabeth and Jane Vail cooked and washed, and tended the children under a canvas cover stretched over a ridge pole. The cabins, once the men started, went up fast. Before the beginning of cold weather the men had the structures up with sod roof and pounded dirt floor. Both Elizabeth and Jane Vail were glad again to have four walls about them and a roof over their heads. During the late fall the men Chinked the walls and adzed out timbers for their floors.
Far West and Nauvoo
With her quilts, her blankets, and her feather beds, as well as a few pieces of furniture which she had guarded with such care all the way from Indiana, Elizabeth set up housekeeping. Francis and Jane Vail too, had enough comforts to make their winter passable.
On April 25, 1838 Jane Vail gave birth to her second child which they called Electa Jane.
That spring of 1838 the Prophet Joseph, together with a few of the leaders made a swim on horseback around the county, inspecting the fields, admiring the livestock, and getting re-acquainted with the people. When his party stopped at the Lee's farm, Elizabeth came out and invited them in. Francis and Jane Vail and Alfred were out planting corn, but Tommy hurriedly summoned them in. Joseph shook hands with them all, congratulating them on the fine farms they were developing. During the conversation, Joseph mentioned that he was intending making a journey north beyond the Grand River to get acquainted with the country. Alfred offered his horses and asked if he might go along. Joseph accepted both readily.
Beyond the Grand River, they came to a little valley where Lyman Wight had homesteaded. Looking over the valley, Joseph said that this was Adam-ondi-Ahman where Adam gathered his posterity to bless them. Welcomed by Brother Wight, they remained at his home for the night. The next day the scattered Saints gathered for a conference where Lyman Wight was set apart as president of the stake.
All through the months of April and May the drumfire of Missourian criticism increased, and the old settlers did not restrict their resentment to words. Many of the Saints on the outlying fringes suffered whippings and burnings. Realizing that the land in Caldwell County was rapidly filling up, Joseph and the Brethren diverted the incoming immigration to De Witt at the mouth of the Grand River, to Adam-ondi-Ahman, and to Haun's Mill, located at the confluence of Shoal Creek and the Grand River.
So great was the Missourian threat that Joseph organized a company of Militia. Now that they were an organized county, they could organize Militia and draw guns and ammunition from the state. Both Alfred and Francis joined the militia, taking precious time off for drills (in the evenings).
While Francis had been assigned to guard Far West with his troop, Alfred was sent to Adam-ondi-Ahman. There the situation became extremely difficult because the Saints had been forced to flee hurriedly from their homes, abandoning their food, clothing and bedding. Lyman Wight sent a runner to ask Joseph for more men. In a hair raising gallop, he outwitted the Missourians at the road block and made his escape to Far West, finding Joseph riding along the lines of men, barricaded behind overturned wagons, house logs, and old barrels. The runner explained the straits into which the mob had forced the men at Adam-ondi-Ahman. Joseph pointed to the State Troopers surrounding the town. The runner could see that no men could be spared. Governor Boggs had mobilized the State Militia and promulgated his infamous 'extermination order.'
The next morning, Col. Hinkle, whom Joseph had appointed commander of the Mormon forces, came to Joseph with the message that General Clark, who was commander of the Missourian army, would like to hold a conference with him. Sure that they could work out a peaceable solution if the General were appraised of the facts, Joseph and several of the other brethren rode toward the Missourian lines. To their consternation, General Clark refused to see them and ordered their arrest. The soldiers closed in, putting the brethren in chains.
After that, things happened fast. Col. Hinkle, returning to the city, called all of the defending troops together, lined them up, and marched them to the square. There he commanded them to lay down their arms. Alfred, Francis, and many others of the militia men were outraged at this order; but when General Clark and a troop of horses came riding in, they realized that they had no choice. When the men were dismissed, Alfred and Francis, hurried to the school house to see if their families were safe.
As soon as the Mormon troops were disbanded, General Clark sent his men into town on the excuse that they were to hunt for goods which the Mormons were said to have stolen from the Missourians. They were also to search for hidden arms. With this as an excuse, the mobbers spread out through the town looting, smashing and burning. The women and children scattered in terror.
Finally Alfred and Francis found Elizabeth and Jane Vail huddled with the children on Wainwright's front porch. Francis decided to stay with the women and children while Alfred went to the farm to get a wagon. But the mobbers were there before him. Roving bands of half drunk men were going from farm to farm, smashing the houses, killing the stock, and burning the stacks on the excuse that they were looking for contraband. Alfred discovered that the mob had all their stock loose and started them towards the prairie.
Alfred worked for an hour catching a team and patching together harness to pull the wagon, which the marauders had overturned. When he finally got back to Sister Wainwright's, he found that the mob had come to her house and smashed everything. The women and children were hiding in an old cow shed where they were nursing Francis who had been beaten for interfering with the sport.
The next morning General Clark ordered every Mormon in Caldwell County to appear. He lined them up before a table where clerks took their names and the descriptions and houses. He had decreed that every man must sign over his land to the State or pay for the cost of the military expedition against the Mormons. Squads of mounted men herded the bewildered Saints together like cattle until they had signed their land away.
On November 6, General Clark ordered fifty-six more men arrested. Then as a final insult, he paraded all of the captives through the streets of Far West. The word went out that the next morning, Joseph, Hyrum, Sidney and several others were to be executed for murder, arson, and treason.
In the peace treaty which General Clark forced on the Mormons, he said that there were four items. The treaty had been signed, and now it was up to the people to abide by it. First, the leading men were to be delivered up for trial. That had been complied with. Second, every Mormon was to deliver up his arms. That had been done. Third, every man must sign over his property to the State. That had been accomplished. Now the fourth article stated that all Mormons must leave the state forthwith. He ended by saying: There is a discretionary power vested in my hands which I shall exercise in your favor for a season; for this leniency you are indebted to my clemency.
I do not say that you shall go now, but you must not think of staying here another season or of putting in crops, for the moment you do this the citizens will be upon you. If I am called here again in case of non-compliance with the treaty made, do not think that I shall act any more as I have done--you need not expect mercy but extermination, for I am determined the Governor's order shall be executed. As for your leaders, do not once think--do not imagine for one moment—do not let it enter into your mind that they will be delivered, or that you will ever see their faces again, for their fate is fixed--the die is cast--their doom is sealed. You have always been the aggressors--you have brought upon yourselves these difficulties by being disaffected and not being subject to rule--and my advice to you is, that you become as other citizens, lest by a recurrence of these events, you bring yourselves irretrievable ruin.
The cold and stormy weeks that followed were a slow hell for the Saints. Clark left a guard to "protect' the Saints, but they were the same mob who had persecuted them all summer. Drunk and disorderly, they inflicted upon the people every kind of insult and harassment which was calculated to break their spirit. Many families were reduced to such a state of poverty that they could hardly provide food for their families, let alone move to another state. And to what state could they move?
Alfred and Francis finally got their families back home. They repaired their houses, furniture, and implements. They hurriedly threshed all of the grain they could. They killed all the hogs the mobbers had missed and put the meat in brine. Afraid that the mobbers would strike again, they buried their wagons in straw and hid their animals in the woods.
Which way should they go? Without Joseph to guide them, they were hesitant and irresolute. They could not go west across the Missouri because that was Indian territory. Some decided to go north into the Iowa territory. But many decided to return to Illinois; the news came back from those who had already gone that the people of that state would welcome the Saints.
It was during these times that Brigham Young emerged as a great leader. With the leadership of the church disseminated by apostasy, arrest and death, Brigham took the lead in evacuating the unfortunate Saints from Missouri. His quiet call came through the grape vine to salvage everything possible and come without delay to Quincy where the ferry would carry them across the Mississippi River.
One afternoon a squad of mobbers rode into Alfred's yard. They banged on the door with their rifle butts.
"Where's your wagon," the leader demanded.
'Your boys have wrecked it," Alfred answered honestly.
'Where's your team?"
'You drove them off."
'Ye got any hogs?"
"All dead," Alfred confessed.
'When ye goin't leave?' one mobber demanded.
"How can we leave when we haven't a wagon or team?''
Ye can walk, can't ye?" They laughed. By the first week in December, the families had everything ready to go. A heavy storm roared across the prairie, dumping a foot of snow. Knowing that the mobbers did not like to get out in heavy weather, they decided to leave as soon as it stopped snowing. As evening descended, they frantically dug the wagons out of the straw. Francis hurried to the woods to retrieve the animals. By midnight everything was ready to go. Four neighbors made their way towards Lee's farm. They all crowded into Alfred's house and knelt in prayer. Knowing the woods so well, they threaded their way through the trees, using logging trails. Although the snow was heavy and the going hard, the storm was a blessing because it kept the mobbers inside. As morning came, they pulled into a patch of woods where their train would be less conspicuous
One of their greatest difficulties was finding feed for their hogs. They brought enough oats to last them for a few days, but they needed fodder. The fourth day they came to a farm where the men ventured to go and ask for feed. Fortunately the man allowed them to camp in his yard for a day and rest.
On the tenth day they pushed their jaded animals down the steep bank of the Mississippi River. The men went and bargained with the ferry man. Before dark they touched the eastern side and grasped the hands of their friends and neighbors who had managed to go before them. They drove to a vacant lot in Quincy, and scraping away the snow, they made their beds. For the first night in two months they relaxed, at last, feeling safe.
Brigham Young and a few of the other leaders worked incessantly to get the arriving Saints settled. Within the week Brigham came to their camp and said, "We have found you a place to go temporarily. Mr. Wilkins, down in Adams County has a place for you.' They all grasped his hand and blessed him for his care and goodness.
The move to Adams County was a blessing for the Lee brothers. Mr. Wilkin's two roomed log granary was crowded, but it kept them out of the storm. Mr. Wilkins and his wife were old and alone, his family having married off and left. He welcomed the strength of the two men. At once they set to work felling trees, splitting rails, and mending the badly broken down fences. They threshed the grain which still stood in the stack.
One day a rider galloped into the yard. "A message from Brigham,' he called. Elizabeth directed him to her husband who was splitting rails across the fields. Alfred took the note. It requested him, along with many other able bodied men to come to Quincy with team and wagon to help evacuate the poor of Far West. Elizabeth was astonished, but Alfred shrugged his shoulders.' I will go," he said.
With his wagon heavily loaded with food for himself and the people he would rescue, and with feed for the horses, he drove away, turning to wave good-bye to the family. In late January Alfred and the other men arrived in Far West. Brigham gathered them together and asked them to sign a resolution:
We whose names are hereunder written do for ourselves individually hereby covenant to stand by and assist one another, to the uttermost of our abilities, in removing from this state in compliance with the authority of this state; and we do hereby consider ourselves firmly bound to the extent of all our available property to be disposed of by a committee who shall be appointed for the purpose of providing means for removing from the state of the poor and destitute who shall be considered worthy.. This resolution dated--Far West, Missouri, January 29, 1839.
Alfred Lee's name appeared among the 214 names of those who pledged their support. It was late in April when Alfred made his last trip from Far West to Quincy. As spring came the mobbers in Far West became more violent. Even the negotiators were in danger, often having to hide in the woods to save themselves from the wrath of the mob.
It was with mute relief when the Saints knelt in humble prayer when they heard that their beloved prophet had escaped. When he finally emerged from the woods, thin and bedraggled, everyone gathered to welcome him to Quincy.
While Alfred was away, Francis found a farm which he could rent. He had moved there and was busy with the spring work. Alfred and his boys plunged into the farm work. Although it was late, there was yet time to get the ground ready for a crop. Although Isaac was only thirteen, he drove one of the teams and Alfred plowed with a team of Mr. Wilkin's oxen.
Alfred and the boys were clear across the fields when Mary came running to say her mother was awfully sick. Alfred hurried to her side. Within an hour the mid-wife came. Elizabeth was delivered of a fine boy whom they named Joseph Smith Lee.
Following Joseph's example, large numbers of homeless Saints moved to the new location which Joseph renamed Nauvoo. Many became ill with malaria, but Joseph, rising from a sick bed, went and administered to his people, healing hundreds of them. By draining the swamps along the river bank, they eliminated the breeding places of the mosquitoes, thus eliminating the malaria. From then on, Nauvoo truly became "the city beautiful."
Joseph desired to make Nauvoo an important river port, a manufacturing city, land center of culture. Most of all, however, he wanted to build the Temple which the Lord had commanded him to do. Knowing Alfred's loyalty and integrity from the Far West experience, Brigham asked Brother Lee to go to work immediately on the Temple.
Francis in Illinois
It was April before Alfred returned from Far West. One day a neighbor, Mr. Ormsby drove into Mr. Wilkins' farmyard. His wife, lying in the bed of the wagon, was ill and he was taking her to Payson. He begged Francis to take care of his farm until he could return. He said they were to live in the house, eat the food which was there, and do everything that needed to be done. Francis drove over to the place and found that it was in pretty bad shape because the old man had not been able to keep up with the work
Francis and Jane Vail took over as if they were the owners. Francis hooked up the teams, yoked the oxen, and began plowing. They found about forty acres of winter wheat which was coming along fine, but they needed ground for barley, oats, corn and hay.
Jane Vail found the house snug and comfortable with most of the things they needed for frontier living. They found meat in the smoke house; some potatoes, turnips, and onions in a cellar; and flour in the bin. Two weeks after they had taken over the place, Mr. Ormsby rode into the yard. Francis took him over the place and helped him to see what they intended to do. The old man was immensely pleased. His wife was so ill that they had taken a house in Payson, hoping that Francis would be able to handle the farm. Going back to the barnyard, they sat on a log and worked out the rental agreement.
One of the disabilities of the frontier farmer was that, although he could produce great quantities of grain and live stock, it was hard to get their produce to the market. The canals which the state had started helped some, yet it was a long haul from Western Illinois to the canal port. Therefore Jane Vail suggested that they get as many milk cows as possible and make cheese. It was concentrated and more easily transported than grain. Therefore Jane busied herself with the dairy stock while Francis ran the farm. Moreover, Jane Vail planted a large garden which helped with the food supply.
Francis occasionally obtained copies of the Times and Seasons which the Brethren were publishing in Nauvoo. They enjoyed the story which went around as to how the Brethren had fooled the Missourians. The Church had published the paper in Far West, but when the mobs came upon them, they put the press, the type, the ink and paper in a box and buried it in Brother Dawson's yard. In the spring the Brethren crept in unawares and dug it up, and transported it to Nauvoo. Now the press was in operation again.
Although Jane Vail was pregnant most of the summer, she went on with her work as most frontier wives did. Her time came the first week in January. Francis hooked up a sleigh and hurried to Payson for the midwife and he did not return a minute too soon. Battling a snow storm, he brought the midwife home in time. In the early morning of January 8, 1840, Jane Vail gave birth to a fine boy whom they called Samuel Marion.
At this time an important new doctrine was promulgated throughout the Branches. The Brethren explained that those who had died without a legitimate baptism were stopped in their progression until the work was done for them by proxies here on earth. Joseph went on to explain that the first purpose of the Temple was to provide an 'endowment" for the people who were here on earth; but it was also for the purpose of doing work for their dead: baptism, endowment, and sealing for time and eternity. For this reason he called upon all people to concentrate their efforts on finishing the Temple.
Since so many men were working on the Temple, it was necessary for others to sustain them with food and clothing. Francis and Jane Vail sat one evening after supper and discussed their duty. Should they give up this good farm and move to Nauvoo, or should they stay another year?
Since they had already contracted to run Mr. Ormsby's farm next year, Francis and Jane Vail decided that they would help by loading a wagon with food and taking it to Nauvoo. They loaded Francis's wagon with food and made the journey. When Francis drove up to the Tithing Office, Joseph came out. Francis dropped to the ground with his hand outstretched.
Joseph exclaimed, "Francis Lee! Welcome to Nauvoo! How are things going?'
'Very well, Brother Joseph. I've brought a load of food for the men working on the Temple."
When the last hogshead of meat and the last wheel of cheese were unloaded, Joseph took Francis into the office where they sat and talked for an hour. When they came out, Joseph said, 'I am impressed to tell you to remain where you are for the time being. I predict that the persecutions will become so fierce that all Saints will have to move to Nauvoo. In the meantime please help us with food as you have so generously done today."
The news came that Dr. John C. Bennett had been caught in an adulterous scheme. When he was excommunicated, he turned on the Prophet and the Church with all the hatred of his soul. So great was the persecution which he stirred up that Joseph was forced into hiding.
In November, back in Payson, Jane Vail again went into labor and gave birth to a son whom they called John Nelson Lee, 17 November 1841.
Francis did not renew the lease with Mr. Ormsby. He remained on the farm during the winter, converting his share of the crop into cattle and hogs. When spring came, he and Jane loaded their wagon and moved to Nauvoo.
Jane Vail was filled with joy when the men finished their house. It seemed to her that she had been living forever in a wagon. Now she enjoyed the music of the choir and the band. She loved the companionship of good and cultured people. In spite of the long hours of work, she found time to read a book and to embroider a pillow case. She went to a play and sat with men and women who were dressed in something other than the working clothes which most Saints had been forced to wear until now. Nauvoo was grand, a beautiful, cultured city. She wished she might be allowed to live here the rest of her life.
The next two years, however, were to be times of greater anxiety than they had ever before experienced. Francis, Eli, and Alfred were now working on the Temple. Francis hauled rock all summer, completely wearing out his wagon. Eli worked on a farm they had contracted to buy. In the winter he came in and helped on the Temple. Francis' house in Nauvoo was used for some time as the Post Office.
It was at this time that Eli Lee moved to Nauvoo. He had married Elizabeth Caroline Munjar at Wilmington, Ohio, 18 March 1838. He and the Munjar family made the trip to the new Mormon gathering place. Francis and Alfred were overjoyed to welcome them to Nauvoo.
Now that they all lived in Nauvoo, the comradeship between the three Lee brothers was pleasant. All had secured houses, not luxurious, but adequate. They often met, had supper together, and then sat out under a huge sycamore tree in Alfred's yard to discuss their problems. One evening a neighbor dropped in with the news that Joseph had made a prediction. While over in Montrose, Iowa, installing a new officer in the Masonic Lodge, he said: “I prophesy that the Saints will continue to suffer much affliction and will be driven to the Rocky Mountains; many will apostatize, others will be put to death by our persecutors, or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease; and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. The threat of another move weighed down upon them with a strange foreboding.
When Eli came to Nauvoo, he found a house in the north part of the city on the brow of the hill overlooking the river. Alfred had built his house on Dobson Street, block off Durfee and about ten blocks north of the Temple. Francis bought a lot on Carlos Street between Partridge and Durphy. They all had generous sized lots where they kept a cow and raised garden stuff.
With the coming of the spring of 1844 the political situation in western Illinois was so bad that Joseph, more or less secretly, began preparations for going West. On February 20, (1844) Joseph instructed the Twelve to send out a party to explore California, and Oregon with the view of settling the Church there.
Although armed conflict was the last thing which the Saints wanted, Joseph alerted the Nauvoo legion, a body of 6,000 men, well trained and armed. Because of the lawlessness which existed around Nauvoo and within the city itself, Francis joined the police force to help curb crime.
Eli was forced to make a painful decision. Eli’s wife Caroline had decided to stay with her parents instead of moving west with the rest of the Saints. Eli left his wife and child and helped his brother prepare to move west.
All winter long the anvils rang from early morning until late at night. Everyone who could build a wagon did so and acquired provisions for the move which the Brethren said would take place in the spring. Both Francis and Eli urged Alfred to quit work on the Temple and make preparations for the move. But Alfred was adamant. Joseph had called him to work on the Temple and he would not leave until it was finished. The Lord will provide me with an outfit once my work is done." Eli helped Francis get his outfit ready to go.
In February Governor Ford played his last and most vengeful trick upon the Mormons. He wrote a letter to Brigham Young saying that the United States army, based down at St. Louis, was prepared to move into Nauvoo as soon as the ice went out of the river. In great alarm the Brethren gathered to assess the meaning of this last and most dreadful threat. If the army did move in, in all probability the Latter-day Saints would be held captive and none would be able to move west. Therefore the Brethren sent out an urgent call for everyone who could possibly make it to leave immediately. An extremely cold spell had frozen the Mississippi River solidly from bank to bank. Therefore, on February 11, 1846, the church leaders and hundreds of Saints following them crossed on the ice to Montrose, Iowa.
Feeling the urgent need to get on their way, Francis and Jane Vail prepared to move the next morning. Both Alfred and Eli came to help them make their final preparations. Finally about noon, they walked with them as they took their place in line of wagons, which clogged the road to the river. At last they were gone, their oxen sliding precariously on the ice.
Francis and his Trip West
When Francis Lee pulled his wagon across the ice and up out of the Mississippi river bottom, he did not stop at Montrose as many had done. The situation there was chaotic. Driving on further west he came to Sugar Creek which was as badly disorganized as Montrose. Although the weather was severe, Francis and Jane Vail moved on west of Sugar Creek the next day and made camp on the prairie. They pitched a tent, but the wind was so fierce that it blew down. It was necessary for the family to make their beds on top of the sacks of grain in the wagon box. With seven of them crowded into such a small space, they managed to keep warm. At this time, February 1846, Francis was thirty-five, Jane Vail was thirty-one; William Henry was ten; Electa Jane was eight; Samuel Marion was six; John Nelson was five; and George Washington was two.
Francis decided that to attempt to move ahead during the storm would be foolish. Therefore, they made themselves and their animals as comfortable as possible, waiting for the weather to moderate. They were not alone. Many others had pulled their wagons into as sheltered a place as they could find, determined to wait out the weather. Francis and Jane Vail, relatively comfortable and safe, plunged into the task of helping others less fortunate than themselves to acquire some sort of shelter.
When the weather moderated, Francis, along with several others, began their long trip west. As long as the ground was frozen, they made good time in spite of the cold. When the warm winds took away the snow, however, they were in trouble. In places the wheels sank to the hubs in the viscous mud. Often double teaming and triple teaming was necessary to drag the heavily loaded wagons out of the mud holes. Eventually, however, they came to Garden Grove. Here a few families were camped, and it was proposed by the Brethren to make this a stopping place for the Saints to rest their teams and repair their wagons. Francis pulled his wagon into the circle. For a few days he helped the other brethren to build a blacksmith shop. It was still too early to begin plowing.
Jane Vail was amazed at the rapidity with which her food supply diminished. Sensing the danger of hunger, Francis mounted a horse and started south. All about the prairie rolled away with no farms in any direction. When he had gone about ten miles, he came to a ranch. It turned out that Mr. Okelberry had been running this piece of land for over ten years. When Francis asked him for work, the man hesitated for a time. Until now he had run his stock on the surrounding prairie and his boys had kept the animals out of the fields. Now, however with the influx of the Mormons, strange stock ran everywhere. Asked if he could swing an ax, Francis replied, "Just try me." Mr. Okelberry needed a fence built around his cultivated acres.
For ten days Francis felled trees, split rails and cut posts. He had bargained to take food for his pay. Now he asked Mr. Okelberry if he could have a few days off. He took the hams and cornmeal which he had earned back to Garden Grove. Now satisfied that his family would be well fed, he returned to the Okelberry's for another two weeks. The rancher wanted him to stay all summer, but Francis said he could not. Packing the food on his horse, he walked back to Garden Grove. The first week in April was balmy, so Francis put in a week plowing ground getting it ready for spring wheat, oats and barley. As they harrowed each day's plowing, the men sowed the seed, taking advantage of every good day.
Monday morning, Francis pulled his wagon out of the circle and took to the road. Although the ground was still wet, it was not bottomless as it had been before. Now they forded streams, the banks of which were cut and slippery from other teams going on before. In some places the streams were too swollen to ford. Then the men stopped, cut timber, and built bridges. When they came to the larger streams, they built make-shift ferries, mere log platforms, on which they floated their wagons across. They tied up their ferries for later travelers. By mid-April they came into areas of good grass. Soon the animals began to regain the flesh they had lost because of inadequate feed. Many of the streams also were bridged by men who had gone before.
While Francis was working on Mr. Okelberry's ranch, Brigham Young and Captain Allen had come through, recruiting for a Battalion of troops to fight in the Mexican War. For that reason the number of able bodied men was reduced. When they came to Mount Pisgah Francis stopped again. By this time the brethren had most of the crops in, but they were sadly in need of houses and barns. For two weeks Francis cut logs, hewed and notched them while others lifted them to the walls. With united effort, these men erected enough cabins so that those who had been designated to stay would have a place in which to live.
On the road again, Francis found that the going was easy, for the land had dried out and the grass had grown. Making twenty miles a day, they came into the ever drier, more hilly, area until they pulled into the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. From where they stopped, they could see the busy community of Kanesville, the town being filled with covered wagons, horses, cattle, and a few shanties. Saddling a horse, Francis jogged down into the river bottoms to see what the situation was.
He was alarmed by the crowded condition of the town. He stopped at the ferry where a half dozen men loafed about. In conversation with them Francis discovered that the Brethren had decided not to try to go west this fall because of the early snows in the mountains. Rather, they were working as speedily as possible to build a town ten miles up the river which they were already calling Winter Quarters. All of the men available were cutting logs and erecting cabins. They disclosed another startling fact: the town was disease ridden. Cholera and Malaria were affecting whole families. Francis made up his mind right there that he would not expose his family to such danger. He also found that Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were on the other side of the river helping to get the town laid out.
Crossing the ferry he rode north onto the Pottowattamie lands. Presently he met a man driving a span of mules. To his surprise it was Heber C. Kimball. They stopped and shook hands.
"I'm really at a loss to know what to do," Francis said. 'I saw Brother Rasmussen who says he is hauling feed from Missouri. I've got a good outfit, but I'm out of feed for my stock and food for my family. How would it be for me to go to Missouri?"
Heber stood looking down at the ground for some time. Finally he asked, 'How good is your faith?'
Without hesitation, Francis said, "My faith is as strong as the best of them. Why?' I'm glad to hear you say that, Brother Lee. We need food badly, and we will for some years to come. There are some farms down in western Missouri where we can buy grain and livestock. Maybe you are the one to send. You might even open a farm down there and raise feed for the thousands who will pass through here. You might run into some Missourians. They will hate the Mormons.
'Need they know that I'm a Mormon?"
'That's why I asked how strong your faith is. If you will go down there and raise grain and livestock for the Saints, I promise you you will be protected. Yes, you may go, Brother Lee."
Back at his camp, he explained the situation to Jane Vail. She agreed that she did not want to expose either herself or the children to the disease. The next morning they yoked up the cattle and started south. After a week’s steady travel, they came to an isolated farm. The man told them that this was Atchison County. The country pleased them because it looked like Far West. Turning east from Missouri they came to the banks of the Nishnabotna River. Following it down into Holdt County, they saw a cluster of houses in the distance, surrounded by hundreds of acres of grain, now ready for harvest. Stopping at a house a mile out of the village, they found the man was named Wakefield. Francis explained that they were from the East and were looking for land.
Mr. Wakefield said that there was plenty of land available. But would Francis help him with the harvest? Gladly they camped in Mr. Wakefield’s pasture. Through July and August, Francis helped the men of the community with their harvest. When the wheat was cut. Mr. Wakefield took Francis a few miles north where there was a choice piece of land with wood and water close. Francis decided to file on it. As they ate their lunch in the shade of a tree, Mr. Wakefield said, “Francis, I’ve been watching you ever since you came. You neither smoke, drink, nor cuss. That’s unusual for here. Are you a Mormon?”
Francis was stunned. Well, here it was. What should he do? Lie to save himself some trouble, or should he tell the truth and face it? “Yes, I’m a Mormon,” Francis said. Mr. Wakefield extended his hand. “So am I,” he said. “We have quite a little Branch here. Some of us came out here when the rest of the church went back to Illinois. We meet in each other’s houses. Will you join us?”
That fall with the aid of his neighbors Francis plowed up eighty acres and planted it to fall wheat. Then he built a cabin. Again Jane Vail set up housekeeping. She wondered how many more times she would have to do this before she found her final resting place.
About June 28, Francis brought a load of grain and other food to the store at Mt. Pisgah where the rest of the Lee family was waiting to head West, he went back to growing grain while his brothers moved west. As they pulled into the mountain canyons, many of the people were afraid. Having never before experienced mountains, they felt that the huge cliffs would fall in on them. Yet Elizabeth, Alfred’s wife, felt otherwise. As she looked up at the majestic peaks, she drew strength, from them. Early in the morning of October 17, 1849 they pulled out onto a flat ridge and before them lay the Valley. Presently they saw a string of wagons approaching them. When the two trains met, they discovered that it was Brigham Young and many of the authorities come to welcome them. They even had a band which struck up a lively air. To their astonishment the Relief Society sisters of Salt Lake prepared a grand feast with vegetables and fruits which they had not tasted since they left Nauvoo.
Salt Lake City 1849
It was the middle of September, 1850, when the Lees call came. From the stand in the bowery their names were read off to go to a new community called Tooele. They were glad to go. That night they had a grand reunion as Francis and Jane Vail and their seven children arrived in the valley. After two days they left for their two day journey to their new home. After arriving, Elizabeth and Jane Vail climbed to the top of the hill at the south. Gazing out over the dusty, sunburned valley, Elizabeth exclaimed, “This is a good valley. With water and muscle we can make this into a new Garden of Eden. I never want to move again.”
“The end of the trail,’ Jane sighed. “I have often wondered if we would ever find it. No more cooking over an open fire. No more sleeping on the ground. No more walking over rutted roads. No more salt meat. I never want to move again.”
The next summer the people of Tooele held an election at which time Francis was elected sheriff with Thomas Lee, Robert Skelton, and Harrison Severe as constables. John Rowberry was elected judge and Alfred Lee and Alexander Badlam were elected associate judges. In 1852, John was elected to legislature so President Brigham Young selected Alfred to the office of judge. It is interesting to note that he was ordained to the office.
The people of Tooele Valley were lying in the shade recuperating from a big July 24h celebration when George Kelsey rode up to Brother DeLaMare’s blacksmith shop. “The Federal Army is coming!” he announced. During the excited discussion which followed, the Tooele men decided to activate their militia. But word from Salt Lake cautioned them to keep their forces at home to defend the County in case the Federal Officers encouraged the Indians to go on the war path.
During the fall of 1857 the word came through that a formidable army was approaching the mountains with the avowed purpose of “wiping the dirty Mormons off the map.” General W. S. Harley was convinced the Mormons were in rebellion and must be whipped into line. The army was delayed by a small force under the direction of Brigham Young with General Danial H. Wells as the leader, by driving off the animals and setting fire to the supply wagons thus forcing them to hold over at Winter Quarters.
In late winter the word came that the Army had been able to replenish their supply of stock and would move through the mountains as soon as the snow melted. Therefore, in March 1858, Brigham Young sent out the order for everyone to move. The people of Tooele County piled everything they could take onto their wagons; gathered the cattle, horses and sheep from the canyons; crated up the hogs and chickens and were ready for the move. They vacated every house, piled straw and brush around them and prepared them for firing if needed. They had some difficulty at the Point of the Mountain because of all the traffic funneled into one line. Eventually, however, they got to Lehi. Here all of the Lees camped together. Many of the Saints, however, moved on to Provo, Payson, and Nephi, and some even went as far South as Parowan. Without fully unloading their wagons, the Saints camped awaiting the outcome of the controversy.
Colonel Kane, the Saint’s friend of earlier years, made a hurried trip West to confer with the military authorities. He prevailed upon Governor Cumming, who was stranded with the army, to come into Utah. He had been told that the Mormons were leaving their homes and that they would fire their houses the moment the first soldiers issued from the canyon. When he saw the empty houses, he drove out to the Point of the Mountain in a surrey to plead with the drivers of the last wagons not to leave.
When it was found that the Mormons were not in rebellion, a messenger was sent to President Buchanan and he realized he had been misled. He then wrote a “pardon” to Brigham Young, they rejected most of it, but accepted the pardon for having chased off the Army’s stock and firing their supply wagons. Finally on June 30, 1858 all the Saints returned to their homes to find their crops doing well due to the labors of the men left behind to irrigate and because the Lord sent more than usual rain.
Francis Lee and the Cotton Mission
In 1861 October Conference Francis and Samuel Francis Lee were called from the pulpit to move their families to St. George, or “Dixie”, to grow cotton. They packed and left with three hundred other families. Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow were in charge of the mission. Since the settlers before them had failed, Brigham warned the brethren to choose only well established men to make the mission as self-sufficient as possible. Samuel Francis was a cooper and Francis was a farmer.
Just after Francis and his family moved into Santa Clara, a company of Swiss Saints came in. Brigham had diverted them south because they were skilled in growing grapes. The brethren organized the men into groups, one group to select a site up the river for a dam and the other to construct a canal.
On Christmas Eve everyone within miles of Hamblin’s Fort gathered for a big dance and banquet. While they were spreading the feast on planks laid on saw horses, a few spatters of rain hit them. Francis and Samuel went home and it started raining steadily. The roof leaked so Jane Vail set pots and pans about to catch the drips. It continued to rain until the fourth day Jacob Hamblin galloped in and told them to move to higher ground because the rivers were overflowing. As they pulled out the water swooshed over their land. They were no more than settled on high ground when a rider galloped in to say the Swiss Saints were in trouble. They were staying in tents and had no wagons.
The people all moved to higher ground waited as it rained for two weeks steady. The side hills and mountains were stripped of their top soil. The gulches belched rocks, timber, sod and brush. When the sun finally came out they found their houses torn apart and stacked up a half mile away. Francis found Jane Vail’s stove stuck in the mud, the lids and the grate gone.
When the men went up the river they could find no trace either of their dam or their canal. They began again. Rather than attempting to farm, Francis and Jane moved onto the town site in St. George. He helped them build the first public building, called the St. George Hall. Samuel made barrels and tubs.
To make the situation almost intolerable, an epidemic of diphtheria broke out. Little Louisa Julliet, Francis’ youngest child, took the disease and died.
Because the great storm had dumped three or four years quota of water on the country all at once, nature compensated with a drought. To find grass for their stock, Pres. Snow and many others went on an exploration tour. They found a valley carpeted with grass up to a horse’s belly and called it Meadow Valley, now known as Panaca, Nevada. Francis and Samuel decided right then that they would move to this little oasis in the vast desert. Samuel was appointed Branch President and helped the members to select the lot they desired. They soon had forty acres of wheat before the winter. In the spring everyone planted gardens and crops. They lived in dugout, covered wagons, and willow shanties until adobe or lumber structures could be made.
A dugout home was described as being about 6 feet deep and 12 feet square, with a slanting roof. Crevices between the roof poles were small compact bundles of bushes held in place by a weaving of young willows. About a 6 inch layer of dirt, which had been excavated from the cellar, was then placed on the roof. There were no windows. The front and only door had one small pane of glass to light up the cool, cozy, room within. Beds were made by driving corner posts into the dirt floor. Blackwillow poles, split in two, were nailed closely together to serve as slats on the bed and fresh straw was used for mattresses. Comfortable pillows were made from the fluff of the cattails which were picked from the sloughs. To save space in the little room-of-all purposes, an improvised table was made by laying a large plank on top of the post of one of the beds. Two benches made of boards, a shelf cupboard, and a small sheet iron stove with two holes and a tiny oven completed the furnishings. This primitive shelter was quite comfortable. It was pleasantly cool in the summer, and was warm in the winter.
Unfortunately, the Saints were not the only ones who had their eye on this favored spot. Conner had sent a squad of soldiers from Salt Lake City, ostensibly to map a route to California. Finding rich ore, however, in the hills above Meadow Valley, they began mining. In order to save their homes from the ruthless miners who tried to evict them, the Mormons, too, took up mining claims. Rather than shooting it out, the miners took their case to court and won. However, the court gave the Saints the agricultural land and water.
Angry that the whites had come and appropriated their watering places and either killed or chased off all the game, the Indians became hostile. Although the Saints tried to pacify them by feeding them, trouble arose and five Indians were killed. Fearing a general uprising, all but six families moved. When they asked Jane Vail to move, she refused. “I have had my last move. I’ll die before I’ll go again.”
One day Jane was cooking supper for the men in her dug-out. Suddenly two Indians appeared. Crowding down into her house, one Indian demanded the rifle which was standing by the fireplace. Refusing, Jane tried to shoo him out. When the Indian tried to take the gun, Jane seized a stick of fire wood and clouted him over the head. He staggered to his feet and tried to fit an arrow to his bow. Jane attacked him again and broke his bow. He retreated precipitously.
Never having completely recovered from the death of his daughter, Francis aged rapidly. He had traveled a long way since he left Wilmington, Ohio. He had borne the burdens of the trail, having camped out much of his life. In the spring he had an attack of what they diagnosed as “stomach trouble” which laid him up for weeks. When he recovered he went to work irrigating. Tom Cook saw him sitting on the bank of the ditch. When he investigated he found that Francis was dead. It was July 17, 1866. (Jane Vail’s diary says that “Francis died of inflammation of the lungs.”)
Francis Lee was one of God’s great men, quiet, unobtrusive, solid, and faithful. He went to his rest filled with good works and the love and respect of all who knew him.
After Francis’ death Jane Vail wasted no time in vain mourning, vigorous and resourceful, she built a hotel. Since many travelers to and from California passed through the valley, she did a good business. She left the valley only once, to go back to Chicago to buy furniture for their hotel. This grand old lady lived on for eleven years after her husband’s death. She died July 13, 1875. Both she and her husband are buried in the Panaca Cemetery.