Question: What special request did Emma Smith make of Charles Bird in 1844?
Answer: Charles Bird was born September 19, 1803 in Flanders, Morris, New Jersey, the second child of Benjamin Freeman Bird and Meribah Reeves. He married Mary Ann Kennedy on March 22, 1826 in Pennsylvania. (They had fourteen children in all, their first six children being born in New York.)
In 1834 a team of Mormon Elders came to the area, and Benjamin, his second wife Margaret, and several of the married children of Benjamin and Meribah, including Charles and his wife, were baptized. They moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and Charles and his wife Mary Ann Kennedy, became personal, close acquaintances with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife Emma.
Charles Bird represented his father’s large family at the meeting of the Counsel of the Seventies in the attic story of the Kirtland Temple. He pledged the support of the Bird family in what later was to be known as the Kirtland Camp. This camp of Saints, who were faithful to the Lord’s Prophet, took the trek to Far West, Missouri, ending their seven-month march by camping at the site of Adam-Ondi-Ahman.
In January 1839, the Bird families were residing at Far West, Missouri, and were aggrieved participants in the scenes of murder, rape and pillage which have since proved to be one of the worst persecutions ever imposed upon any people. They eventually gathered at Nauvoo with the rest of the Saints.
In January 1840, Benjamin purchased some property on Main Street from the Prophet Joseph Smith for $300. They built a nice two-room log cabin with a root cellar, and dug a well. In the spring of 1843 they built a two-story brick structure. (Later, they sold the property to Jonathan Browning, who added his gunsmith and blacksmith shops.)
The Bird families often attended parties and socials at the Mansion House. There were several occasions where Benjamin played a friendly game of croquet with his friends and neighbors, which included Joseph, Hyrum, Wilford Woodruff and Heber C. Kimball. His sons Phineas, Charles, James and Samuel all had their families at Nauvoo.
Because Charles, and wife Mary Ann, had become so close to Joseph and Emma, the Prophet invited Charles to be one of his personal bodyguards. In 1839 the Prophet had called Charles to the First Quorum of the Seventies. He was ordained by Joseph Young.
Joseph’s bodyguards used the system that when it was Charles turn to take over on guard duty, one of the men previously on duty would ride to the top of the hill and take off his hat and wave it. Charles would wave back to let them know that he had received the signal to come and take over. Charles had been on duty the day before the Prophet was murdered and had gone back home for fresh clothing and supplies. The day the Prophet was killed, the messenger rode to the top of the hill, dismounted his horse, knelt on the ground and bowed his head, Charles knew by the sad motion that the Prophet was dead.
After the death of the Prophet Joseph, the Birds along with the other Saints worked under armed guard to complete the Temple. Most of the Birds received their endowments on the third floor rooms of the Nauvoo Temple. Nauvoo Temple records indicate that Charles Bird was an ordained Temple worker, which means that he worked night and day to assist those Saints who desired to receive their special endowments to do so, before the mob could destroy their Temple.
Emma was so concerned that the mobocrats would dig up the body of her husband, the Prophet Joseph, and desecrate his grave for the $1,000.00 reward that was pending for him “dead or alive,’ that she had ten men bury the remains of her husband and Hyrum in the basement of the Nauvoo House. Because at least ten people knew that they were buried there, her concern continued to mount, until one night she appeared at the home of Charles Bird and asked that he be one of the four trusted men to help her re-bury the bodies in a secret tomb near the old Spring House, near the Old Homestead. Charles used his team and wagon. Charles and the other three loyal friends dug up the coffins from the Nauvoo House, put them in Charles’ wagon and drove them across the street to the old Spring House and secretly re-buried them.
Emma’s trust and confidence in these four men was so complete that she did not tell anyone, not even her own children, where Joseph was buried, until on her death bed some fourteen years later. What a special tribute to the integrity of Charles Bird and his reciprocal love towards Joseph, Hyrum and Emma.
Benjamin and his sons and their families were present at the meeting after the martyrdom when Sidney Rigdon claimed that he was the guardian of the Church. They witnessed President Brigham Young transfigured into the voice, appearance and personality of the Prophet Joseph Smith and felt the Spirit bear witness to their souls that the Twelve should preside.
Because several of the Birds’ were weavers by trade, Benjamin and his sons and their families were asked to remain at Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters and assist in the outfitting of the emigrant Saints. Many had been driven out of their homes without an opportunity to take the necessary clothing and other items that they would need to make the long trek into the wilderness. The Bird family set up a woolen mill, of sorts, similar to the one that they had at Nauvoo, and thereby assisted in the emigration of thousands of homeless Saints.
In 1850 the Brethren invited the Bird families to come west. They emigrated with the Milo Andrus Company. Charles’ wife, Mary Ann Kennedy, after leaving her comfortable home in Hampton, New York experienced the apostasy of the Kirtland and Far West eras with six children under the age of 11 and at the time was six months pregnant. She bore a child before reaching Nauvoo, bore three children at Nauvoo, one at Winter Quarters, one at Council Bluffs, and another in Salt Lake City. At one point, her toes on one foot became so seriously frost bitten that she had to have them amputated without anesthesia. She died October 1, 1867, in Mendon, Utah Territory.
Charles settled at Springville, Utah, then moved to St. George to help with that settlement, lived there a short time and then came back and lived at Cottonwood, Salt Lake County. While living there he married Sarah Ann Dunsdon, on February 15, 1853, in polygamy, married by President Brigham Young. He served as counselor to Bishop Smoot for four years. In the spring of 1859, he and his family moved to Cache Valley and settled in Mendon. He was among the first families to settle there. His home was always open to any immigrants until they could get a place to live. Charles helped start the first woolen mills in Utah. He held the office of city mayor from 1872 until 1876.
Charles died September 29 1884 in Mendon, Cache, Utah Territory, and is buried in the Mendon Cemetery.
References: Family Bible of Benjamin Freeman Bird; The Documentary History of the Church; Numerous family histories and family records in the possession of C.J. Stratton, FamilySearch.org
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