Question: What happened to Alpheus Harmon when he was returning to Nauvoo from a mission? What did his wife and children do after that?
Answer: Alpheus Harmon (Sr.) was born 2 July 1798 in Rupert, Bennington, Vermont, to Martin Harmon and Tryphena Poole. Alpheus married Hulda Dimrus Vaughn on 1 February 1823 in Pennsylvania. Hulda was born on 11 February 1808, at Elizabethtown, Leeds, Ontario, Canada. Hulda was 15 years old and Alpheus 25 at the time of their marriage. Six children were born to them while they lived in Pennsylvania.
Family records say that Alpheus and Hulda were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, to be with the Saints. Here two more children were born to them. By August 1840, they were living in Nauvoo, where two more children were born to them. (The youngest one died in Nauvoo in 1844)
After his arrival in Illinois, forty-two-year-old Alpheus was called to serve a mission to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. He left his wife and children in Nauvoo. This was the last time his family saw him alive. He completed his mission in November 1842 and was returning home. Alpheus’ nephew, Orsey Harmon, (son of his oldest sister, Sarah, who married a Harmon) picked Alpheus up in his wagon. On November 17, on their way home, Alpheus and Orsey, got caught in a severe snow storm somewhere between Carthage and Nauvoo, Illinois. Alpheus and Orsey unhitched the oxen so they could fend for themselves, and then they started out on foot seeking help. The storm was so bad, they couldn’t find their way in the blinding snow. When the storm was over, both of them were found frozen to death a few miles away from the wagon.
Jesse Harmon, says in his journal, “In the fall of 1842 my brother, Alpheus, was called on a mission to Wisconsin. During the winter, my brother started for home and perished in a severe storm between Carthage and Nauvoo. Hearing the news of his death, I returned to Nauvoo.”
Statue in Burial Grounds
Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 17 Nov 1842
“Thursday. Nov. 17. There was a severe snow storm at Nauvoo this day and Elders Alpheus Harmon (who was just returning from a mission) and another man were frozen to death on the prairie between Nauvoo and Carthage. The Mississippi was frozen over.”
Alpheus is believed buried in the Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds in Nauvoo, Illinois.
On December 4, 1843, Hulda married Loren Elias Bassette, Sr., in Nauvoo. Loren had lost his wife and had five children to care for. He was not a member of the Church at the time Hulda met him. Hulda had ten children with Alpheus. Hulda and Loren had five children together while living in Nauvoo, making a very large family.
Henry Martin Harmon
Hulda’s twelve-year-old son, Henry Martin Harmon, was a witness to the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The family was living in Carthage, Illinois on the fateful day of June 27, 1844. The family had lived in Carthage since his mother’s marriage to Loren Bassett, a non-member. Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum had been in the Carthage Jail for several days and rumors were rampant that the Smiths would never be allowed to leave the jail alive. Mobs were reported organizing to attack the jail. Perhaps it was to watch for mobs that Henry stationed himself in the cupola of the courthouse. From there he saw the anti-Mormon mob make its appearance from the west. Leaving the courthouse, he arrived at the jail at about the same time the mobsters did. Their faces were painted black and most of them wore the uniform of the militia from the neighboring town of Warsaw.
Henry reported, “I saw the mob rush upon the guards who were stationed at the jail, when the guards fired on them, a scuffle ensued. Some of the mob went into the jail and I heard reports of the guns fired inside. Joseph Smith came to the window, and then went back, and in a few moments appeared again, and leaped from the window, when the mob fired upon him and he fell dead…’
Henry returned home to tell his mother of the tragic scene he had witnessed. Years later, Henry Martin Harmon told his sorrowful story again, this time to a recorder in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City, where his testimony has been preserved.
Alpheus and Hulda’s son, Ebenezer, started west with his cousins after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. While they were in Iowa, they joined the Mormon Battalion. He re-enlisted for another eight months upon arrival in California. It is family lore that after his discharge from service, he went to the Gold Fields of California and was lost track of by the family.
Hulda and Loren moved from Carthage to Floyd County, Iowa. They then went to Utah in the summer of 1863 in the Alvus H. Patterson Company: Loren, age 54, Hulda, age 55, Loren Elias Bassett (Age: 18), David Edwin Bassett (Age: 16), Harriet Cordelia Bassett (Age: 12). Their other two children had died in Illinois. Loren was converted to the Mormon religion while traveling with the wagon train. He was baptized on June 11, 1864 at Providence, Utah.
Loren and Hulda Bassett
The history of Providence, Utah, reads: “The early residents of Providence had no professional medical attention. Out of necessity, gentle, helpful, courageous women, without a lesson in nursing assumed the medical care of the community. They were women with families of their own, but with a natural talent for nursing and a sincere and tender devotion to the sick. These women were loved and trusted. The first of these nurses was ‘Grandma Bassett.’ She was remembered as being ‘one with a real good hand with the sick.’ Hulda Bassett and Elizabeth Bullock were called and sustained as doctors on 27 April 1868.’
In 1870 and 1880, Loren and Hulda were living in Providence, Utah. Loren died in June 1880. On October 12, 1886, Huldah died, and the following obituary was printed in the Deseret News: Deaths: Bassett–At Clarkston, Cache County, 12 Oct 1886 of paralysis: Hulda Bassett born Feb 11, 1808 at Quebec, Canada, baptized at Kirtland, Ohio in 1832, moved to Nauvoo in 1841 with her husband, Alpheus Harmon. He went on a mission and on his way home was froze to death, leaving her with nine  children. She was an eye witness to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, her home being then in Carthage. She afterwards married Lorin Bassett by whom she had four [five] children. She arrived in Utah in 1863. She was the grandmother of 67 and great grandmother of 32. She was full of zeal for the Latter-day work.’
Loren and Hulda are buried in the Providence City Cemetery in Providence, Utah. Their first spouses’ names are listed at the bottom of the gravestone.
Source: FamilySearch.org, See the book, “Gathering the Scattered Tribes of Hulda Dimeras Vaughn Harmon Bassett” by Cheryl Harmon Bills; familysearch.org stories and newspaper articles.
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