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Barnabas Lathrop Adams

Question: What did Brigham Young ask Barnabas Lathrop Adams to look for as he surveyed the Salt Lake Valley the end of July 1847?

Answer: Barnabas Lathrop Adams, was born August 28, 1812, in Perth, Lanark, Upper Canada, the fifth child in a family of thirteen, born to Joshua Adams and Elizabeth (Betsy) Chipman. Barnabas’s father, Joshua, was involved in the Methodist faith. Joshua had built a gristmill, a saw mill, and a carding mill. It appears that Barnabas may have enjoyed the saw mill the most.

Barnabas was taught about the restored Church by John E. Page. He received the Book of Mormon, studied it thoroughly, comparing it to the Bible, which he already knew well, and after careful and fervent prayer, he received a witness to his soul that it was true. Elder John E. Page baptized both Barnabas and his older brother, Arza, and his wife Sabina (Clark). Barnabas was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on December 22, 1836.

Barnabas and Arza gathered with the saints in Kirtland and then Missouri in 1838. Almost immediately after arriving in Dewitt, Missouri, they were driven to Caldwell County. Barnabas and Arza suffered all the persecutions of the mob at that place, and they lost property and provisions. They left Missouri on March 7, 1839. Barnabas, and Arza and his family found a farm to rent for the next two years, four miles east and north of the town of Quincy, Illinois.

At a conference held on 4-6 May 1839, shortly after the release of Joseph and other leaders from Liberty Jail, Arza received a mission call to return to Canada. Arza borrowed $25 from Barnabas in order to pursue his mission and left on July 11, 1839 for Canada, leaving his wife Sabina, with the understanding that if she needed help, she should consult Barnabas.

Barnabas was ordained a seventy some time prior to his receiving his endowment on 3 February 1846. Arza returned from his mission on 5 June 1840. Only a few days later, he records leaving to help Barnabas raft timber down the Mississippi River to St. Louis. Barnabas had building lots in Nauvoo as early as 1841-42, which he probably never built on, as he was as yet unmarried. His residence was actually in Montrose, across the river from Nauvoo.

Barnabas married Julia Ann Banker, who was born in New York, on June 22, 1846. Julia’s parents remained Baptist, and were not particularly fond of the marriage. Nevertheless, they gave the newlyweds “over three hundred dollars in cash, one good yoke of oxen, beds and bedding, and wearing apparel enough for several years.’ Barnabas and Julia would have eleven children together. Barnabas and Julia left Nauvoo on September 16, 1846. In a letter to her family, Julia states that they arrived at Little Pigeon Creek on 17 October 1846.

Barnabas was chosen chosen to be in the first vanguard company of pioneers to go west with Brigham Young. Julia wrote that Barnabas “on the 7th of April 1847, left his home to join the Pioneers in search of a place for the Saints.’ Barnabas was often in the advance parties, seeking, marking, and clearing the trail. Barnabas suffered for several days with Mountain Fever (also called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), a disease caused by tick bites.

Barnabas was instructed by Brigham Young to make an initial survey of the valley to assess the availability of streams and if they would sustain establishing mills, whether timber was accessible for building, and if he felt the valley could sustain a settlement. He reported back to President Young, who was also sick with Mountain Fever. President Young reportedly said, “Well, if it suits Brother Barney, it will suit me.’

Barnabas helped build the fort which enclosed the first settlers’ homes as protection from the Indians. Barnabas and many others then set out on the return journey to Winter Quarters to get their families and lead others to the Salt Lake valley. Barnabas was a captain of fifty. They arrived at Winter Quarters on October 31, 1847. Barnabas, on reaching “home,’ found his daughter Julia Thankful had been born on August 1, during his absence, and was now three months old.

Companies began leaving for the Valley in the summer of 1848. Barnabas was again a captain of fifty in Willard Richards Company. Barnabas had been aware of the plight of the Saints and had come well prepared, bringing with him three yoke of oxen, three yoke of cows and 18 months of provisions. On entering the Valley on October 10, 1848, Barnabas and Julia and their young daughter paused at Mill Creek, remaining briefly before moving to the mouth of Little Cottonwood where they could build a home, and help supply timber to the sawmills at Big Cottonwood.

In 1850, Barnabas helped with a survey of Lake City (now called American Fork). Barnabas’ brother Arza became one of the first settlers of that town. Barnabas also selected a farm in American Fork. Here he kept his cattle and harvested hay. When Barnabas died, he had 72 acres on American Creek. In the fall of 1855, Barnabas brought from the east to Salt Lake, 50 head of heifers on shares with Dr. Bernheisel. It is understood that he also made one or more trips east for shingles. Choice wood for shingles was hard to find, and upgrading the blood lines of the Valley cattle was essential.

Barnabas married Hannah Chase in polygamy on 15 November 1856. Barnabas and Hannah had five children. In 1865 Barnabas married Elizabeth Nelson and had one child with her.

While engaged in getting out logs for President Young’s sawmill in City Creek Canyon, Barnabas had lifted the bed of a wagon whereby he seemed to have injured himself internally. Barnabas died suddenly on June 2, 1869 at the age of 56. Up to that time he seemed to posses the best of health. Barnabas was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “Barnabas Lathrop Adams, A Short History‘ taken from “Barnabas Lathrop Adams and His Descendants‘ by Kenneth L. Rasmussen, 2004,;

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