The subject of this brief sketch commenced his earthly pilgrimage in Stockholm, St. Lawrence County, New York. He was the youngest child of a second marriage, and traces his lineage on his father's side thus: Silas Smith and Mary Aikens, Asahel Smith and Mary Duty, Samuel Smith and Priscilla Gould; Samuel Smith and Rebecca Curtis; Robert Smith (who came to America in 1638 from England) and Mary French who settled at Topsfield, Massachusetts in 1648. On his mother's side: Nathaniel Aikens and Mary Tupper, Solomon Aikens and Dorcas Whitcomb, whose parents came from England. Both of his grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War; Nathaniel Aikens serving under the direct command of General Washington.
Asahel Smith was a somewhat visionary man, he predicted that something would come forth in his family that would transmit his name with honor to posterity. When near his death in 1830 he was visited by his grandfather Silas's home by his son, Joseph, (the prophet's father), and grandson, Don Carlos, having with them the Book of Mormon and the tidings of the restored gospel. He received with gladness the testimony of his son, and remarked that he always had been expecting the coming forth of the true gospel. At this, his oldest son, Jesse Smith, became greatly enraged and conducted himself like a madman. Grandfather Asahel died a few days later, being over 86 years old. His wife moved to Kirtland with her son, Silas, in 1836, but died soon after, being 93 years of age.
I might say in passing, that Jesse N's father, Silas Smith, was baptized in the summer of 1835 by Hyrum Smith. Although he had been convinced for nearly five years, he refrained from taking
the decisive step owing to the opposition of his wife and older children, as well as other relatives.
Jesse N. was the youngest child of a second marriage. He moved with his father's family from Kirtland, Ohio in April of 1835, bound for far west Missouri, but was turned back at Huntsville by some parties who were fleeing from their homes and bearing Governor Boggs' exterminating order. His father died when he was scarcely five years old, and his mother moved to Nauvoo, where she was kindly received by relatives, and where she taught school for subsistence and from whom he received teaching, not only in the rudiments of education, but also the principles of the Gospel. He readily absorbed both. He labored for a time, with one Daniel Miles, one of the most trying and exacting, and meant spending long hours in the fields, and then being required to hunt cows in the dark and fearsome forest besides having to carry water some distance from the spring, when he wanted and really needed rest.
He was baptized August 13, 1343 by John Smith (father of the President, George A. Smith) who also confirmed him. He seems to have selected the best of company. He was acknowledged as
friend by the Prophet who made him welcome, and presented him with a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was familiar with the stirring events of Nauvoo, played soldier with the boys in the spirit of Nauvoo Legion, was present and heard the speech of Governor Ford on the day of the martyrdom, and saw the bodies of the Prophet and Patriarch when they were prepared for burial. He took the responsibilities of teamster in the great exodus, and herded cows after arriving in the valley. I find very little to indicate that he was ever a boyish boy. He seemed to be always
grown-up-I do not think he ever had a very large patch of wild oats.
His father was a very commendable character. He fought his country's battles in the war of 1812 as captain of militia. He was ordained first an Elder and afterwards a High Priest, 9 died September 13, 1839.
William Smith tried hard to dissuade his mother and family from going off into the wilds with Brigham Young. But they all expressed their purpose of doing so. Then he very dramatically shook the dust off his cloak as evidence that he was not responsible for their actions. With his mother's family, Jesse passed the summer of 1846 about six miles west of Nauvoo, until they were picked up by the Church teams that came from Winter Quarters (afterward called Florence, Nebraska) where they were arrived 30 November 1846. In the spring he was engaged felling good trees for the stock to browse on the swelling buds, before the grass started.
The family started West in Perigrine Session's company of 50 wagons on 30 June 1847 and arrived in the valley on 25 September 1847. Although scarcely 16 years of age, Jesse drove Uncle John Smith's two yokes of oxen in making this arduous journey.
It required no stretch of imagination to determine that there was a great scarcity of food in that barren land. The fact is they had no meat nor vegetables. Fruit was out of the question except a few service berries bought from the Indians. It is reported that a limited number of fish were caught in the Utah Lake, but the supply was far short of the demand. Added to the scarcity that already existed, they were faced with actual starvation when the plague of crickets began their destructive attack on the growing crops. Jesse became a soldier in the army which fought them. He saw the prospective defeat and was one of the grateful witnesses of the deliverance wrought by the beautiful white gulls. With his mother and brother, he tried farming in what became Davis County. In the fall of 1851 he and his brother were called to go to Parowan and help build up and strengthen that locality. It thus appears that while he was not yet 17 years old, he was counted among the strong men.
(For the information of those who are not well acquainted with the cricket plague the following story is inserted: Then came the crickets and proceeded to destroy the crops. The people fought them with every means within their power. They went forth with sticks and clubs; dug trenches into which they drove the enemy; and then burned them. They fought, and prayed. The situation became desperate. The whole people engaged in the contest. They dared not stop, as their very lives depended on the results of the contest. When they became too tired to fight they prayed.
And they prayed in the strength of their souls:
O Lord, look with mercy and compassion upon the situations of thy people. We have been driven from our homes by the ruthless hand of persecution; and here we are menaced by the destruction of our crops, and one thousand miles from any other source of supply, with no means of transportation. Thou, O Lord, art our only refuge. With thy mercy, and the strength of thy power, wilt thou come to our defense? This was the burden of their petition, and it was not offered in vain.