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Clarissa Decker Young

Question: Was Clarissa Decker Young the youngest woman to go in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Clarissa (Clara) Decker was born on July 22, 1828, in Freedom, Catteraugus Co., New York, a daughter of Isaac Decker and Harriet Page Wheeler. Isaac and Harriet had six children together: Lucy Ann, Charles, Harriet, Clarissa, Fannie, and Isaac Perry Decker. Her mother, Harriet, separated from her father about 1842, and married Lorenzo Dow Young, brother to Brigham Young.

Clarissa’s sister, Lucy Ann Decker, married Brigham Young on June 14, 1842 in Nauvoo. Clarissa married Brigham Young on May 8, 1844. Clarissa’s brother, Charles, married Vilate Young, a daughter of Brigham Young from his first wife, on February 4, 1847 at Winter Quarters. Clarissa’s sisters, Harriet and Fannie, married two brothers–Edwin Little and Feramorz Little–who were sons of Susanna Young, sister to Brigham Young. Therefore, the Decker family was quite connected with the Young family.

Clarissa was almost sixteen at the time of her marriage to Brigham Young in 1844 and was his seventh wife. In 1846 Clarissa was involved in the exodus from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters. In 1847 Clarissa, age 18, now wife of Brigham Young, was one of the three original pioneer women who traveled with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company to the Salt Lake Valley. Clarissa’s mother, Harriet, was one of the three.

After her arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Clarissa remained with the saints while her husband returned to Winter Quarters. She was an example of patience and industry to the pioneer women who followed after the original company of pioneers. Clarissa had her first child, Jeannette Richards Young, in December 1849, when she was 21 years of age. She had four more children: Nabbie Howe, Jedediah Grant, Albert Jeddie, and Charlotte Talula Young.

Clarissa Decker Young was not a public woman. She took no part in affairs outside of her home, though her sympathies were with women who were doing charitable and religious work. She was a great reader and always kept in touch with vital subjects, especially those pertaining to literature and the arts. She was small in stature, of medium complexion, a loving wife, devoted mother, and a faithful friend to all needing her friendship.

Brigham Young had a combined vibrant energy and self-certainty, with deference to the feelings of others and a complete lack of pretension. By the time of his death, Brigham Young had married twenty-seven women, sixteen of whom bore him fifty-six children. He died on August 29, 1877, apparently of peritonitis, the result of a ruptured appendix.

Clara Decker Young died on January 5, 1889, in Salt Lake City in her old home on State Street, near the former site of the famous Social Hall. She was the last of the three original pioneer women of Utah to pass away. She is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Biograpical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 804;; “Brigham Young, 1801-1877′ original text corrected and edited by Dr. Larry C. Porter, Department of Church History and Doctrine, and Janet Rex, University Communications, 4/2001.

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