Reminiscences of Jane Walker
I well remembered when I was a little girl my father was moving from Vermont to Nauvoo with his family of ten children and my mother a brave delicate woman. When we arrived near Haun's mill they heard of the trouble at the mill. The company stopped to go and assist the brethren and sisters. It was at the time Brother Joseph Young, President Young's brother, came to father telling him that he had tried everywhere to get a wagon and team to go three hundred miles back after his family. His family was in danger of having their home burned. Father unloaded one of the wagons, let my older brother William go drive the team. Brother Joseph blessed him and told him that he would be saved in the kingdom of God and wear a crown of glory.
While they were gone, the brethren went to help the saints at Haun's mill. My father was shot through his right arm. He could not do anything to help for the bullets were flying like hail stones. Father started up the bed of a dry creek with another brother and a voice spoke, "You are the safest here." He looked around in the direction from which the voice came and saw a small hole in the bank with a plank standing in front of it. He stepped in behind the plank, and had hardly gotten in when the other brother was shot. The mob was all around hunting and swearing what they would do if they found D__ mormons. Father could see them plain and he prayed earnestly that the Lord would blind their eyes so that they might not see him. It grew dark and father came out and went to help bury the dead. He was so weak from the loss of blood. He was three days and nights with only the wild berries from the wood for food.
After the massacre, a young man came to camp to tell the women to flee to the woods, and that all had been killed at the mill. He said that they would share the same fate if they did not go. Some ran with their children, but mother told us that the Lord could protect us just as well in our wagons as He could in the woods. After praying to the Lord to keep us from harm she put us in bed. We slept all night, but I think that my mother did not sleep for she looked so pale and care worn in the morning. We started on our journey again and camped that night.
The next morning there was a mob surrounding our camp. They searched our wagons, took the guns and ammunition and threatened to kill every one little or big. A woman came with the mob. I can see her now. She was standing with one knee on a chair. She looked at us and said, "I would like to see every one killed big and small." I thought, "What a wicked woman you are." They finally ordered us to move on. We were just ready to eat breakfast so we had to go without. The mob followed until noon. We had to face rain and sleet so they did not enjoy the ride. They ordered us off the main road and said if we were seen again they would kill everyone. We camped in the woods that night and could not make a fire for fear of being seen. We had to make the beds on the ground with nothing but the canopy of heaven to shelter us. We went to bed cold and hungry. In the morning when we raised out of bed, the snow fell on our faces.
We at last arrived in Nauvoo. We all took ague fever and quite a number died. The Prophet Joseph Smith went to all blessing them and giving words of comfort. The four oldest of our family went with the Prophet Joseph Smith. They were William, Lorin, Catherine, and Lucy. Lucy afterwards married the Prophet in May 1843. We all were sick with the fever for nearly six months. My dear mother never did recover. She died in January. Father was very sick too.
The Prophet told him to get as good a home as he could for his children and to go on a mission and that his health would be improved. He said that if any of us children were sick or mistreated, that he would look after us and be a father to us. I well remember when father had been gone for a year, I was very sick and wasted to a mere skeleton. I could not speak nor move. The Prophet Joseph sent William and Lucy in a carriage after me. He said Emma was a good nurse and that I would get better. I was too sick for them to take me with them so the Prophet sent two Elders to baptize me for my health. I knew what was said and thought if I could live to get to the river, I would get well.
My dear readers, they carried me on a sheet to the river. When they raised me out of the water I felt perfectly healed. I could talk and walk. That has been a great testimony to me of the truthfulness of this work. No trials I have had to encounter has weakened my faith in this great and grand work of the Lord. I was taken to the Mansion to live with the Prophet's family until I regained my health. When I was well again he sent me to Springfield to live with Judge Adams and his wife. They were great friends of the Prophet. They wanted a little girl to stay with them for company. They had buried four children and had one girl and one boy left. The daughter was married and lived near them.
The daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Adams all died within three months. The son was nearly crazed. He shut the house and left. He had not thought of me for I was in my room upstairs. I did not know where to go so at daylight I tied up a small bundle of clothes and asked my Heavenly Father to help me find friends. I climbed out of the upstairs window and then down onto the shed. I did not know which way to go so I walked slowly. Soon I saw people coming in different directions. I looked at all that I met until I thought that I saw one who wore a good look on his face. I asked him if he knew of anyone who wanted a little girl. He seemed to be in a hurry, but he looked at me for a minute and said, "Yes, you are the one I am looking for." He took me to his home and I found that he was a good Mormon. I felt as if the Lord had answered my prayers and I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. This was in May. I stayed with them until they moved to Nauvoo in the fall. His wife was an invalid.
When we arrived in Nauvoo, I went to the Prophet's home. I remembered where it was for I had lived there before. I went to Springfield in 1844 and while I was there our Prophet was killed. My first acquaintance with the Prophet was shortly after we arrived in Nauvoo. He came to our house and said to my father, "Father Walker, you have just such a family as I always thought I would like to have." There were five boys and five girls.
The Prophet said that he would like the four oldest and would be a father to them. Father let William, Lorin, Catherine and Lucy go with the Prophet. Oh, how good he was to us before and after mother's death and the children had a good home as long as the Prophet lived.
William married Olive Hovey Farr. Lorin married Lovina Smith, the oldest daughter of Hyrum Smith. I loved to watch the Nauvoo Legion when they were drilling. The Prophet was riding a chestnut brown horse. The horse was so proud of his rider that he would hardly touch the ground with his feet. I thought that I had never seen anything so grand. The Prophet had Brother Sayers take me to Springfield in a buggy. When he kissed me goodbye he told me to be a good girl. I little thought it would be the last time I would see the Prophet.
Jane Walker Smith, wife of Lot Smith
(As published in the Ancestry and Descendants of John Walker, 1985)