Question: What happened to Eli Harvey Peirce while he was on a mission to England in 1858?
Answer: Eli Harvey Peirce was born on July 29, 1827, in Achland Chester County, Pennsylvania, son of Robert and Hannah Harvey Peirce. Eli was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842, at age 15, by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, Illinois. His parents had joined the Church in Pennsylvania and emigrated to Nauvoo. Their four-year-old daughter died in Nauvoo in 1844. After being persecuted out of Nauvoo, the family made their way to Winter Quarters. In March 1847, their oldest daughter, Mary, died at Winter Quarters.
Eli’s sister, Margaret Peirce, recorded the following story of when Eli and the rest of the family heard the Gospel and met the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“I was born 18 April 1823 in Aston Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. My parents were Quakers. My mother (Hannah Peirce)was well educated, a gifted writer and spiritually inclined. My father (Robert) was a prosperous farmer. My parents lived in various parts of Pennsylvania… In the ensuing summer, which was the year 1839, there came two elders preaching the Gospel of Christ…These missionaries were Elijah Avis and Lorenzo Barnes. From them we heard the gospel explained in it’s fullness…In January 1840 word came that the Prophet Joseph Smith was to visit our Branch on his way from Philadelphia. My father said, ‘Let us get our carriage and go to meet him.’ So James Downing, Levi Riter, Jacob Weilier and father (Robert Peirce) brought him to our home. My mother served a splendid supper, and then the neighbors gathered in to hear the Prophet’s discourse. I wish that I might describe my feelings at the meeting. Though they are fresh and green in my memory today, I cannot but fall short of expressing myself. So animated with loving kindness, so mild and gentle; yet big and powerful and majestic was the Prophet, that to me he seemed more than a man, I thought almost an angel.
“We were all investigating…it was a great joy to us to entertain Joseph Smith and hear his wonderful words of wisdom. It was not until 2:00 A.M. that we allowed him to retire to rest. After he had gone from the room my mother said ‘I don’t see how anyone can doubt his being a Prophet of God. Thee can see it in his countenance which is so full of intelligence.’ ‘Yes truly’ father replied, ‘He is a Prophet of God.’”
From Winter Quarters, Eli went to Utah in April 1847 in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company arriving in Utah on July 24, 1847. He was one of the youngest members of this pioneer band, being just nineteen years of age. He acted as teamster for President Young during the latter part of the journey. He was one of the Company sent to California that year to obtain seed grain. On this trip, he and his companions suffered greater hardships than on the pioneer journey. Eli’s parents emigrated to Utah in the Jedediah M Grant Company in June 1847, and arrived in Utah on October 2, 1847.
On November 21, 1850, Eli married Susannah Neff in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. They had four children together: Eli, Mary, Leonidas, and Susannah. His wife, Susannah, was born in 1831 in Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Neff II and Mary Barr.
Eli was postmaster of Youngsville (now Brigham City), Box Elder County, in the 1854 list of Utah postmasters published in the Deseret News. He was a farmer and was the second Bishop in Brigham City, Utah. In 1855, while he was Bishop of Brigham City, he built a large adobe home. This was the first two-story building in Utah, outside of Salt Lake City. In later years, this former Peirce home was the town hotel.
Eli married Emma M. Zundel on February 15, 1857 in the President’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah. He later rescued a company of California gold seekers, who had been lost on the Great Desert. In the spring of 1857, he was called to serve a mission to Europe. He left Salt Lake on April 23, 1857, together with many other missionaries who crossed the mountains and plains with handcarts. Eli’s fourth child with Susanna was born on March 27, 1857, just one month before he left on his mission.
While laboring as a missionary in England, he contracted a very severe cold, which he thought would take his life, but he recovered sufficiently to return to Utah. He died at his father’s home, in Salt Lake City, of consumption on August 12, 1858, at the age of thirty-one years, and was buried in the Brigham City Cemetery.
Eli’s wife, Susannah, latter married Willis Henry Boothe in March 1860, and had six more children. Eli’s second wife, Emma, never had any children, as they had only been married a few months before Eli left on his mission. Emma’s small journal records: “My Dear Companion departed this life on the 12th day of August 1858 in the Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.’ Emma later married again and had nine children.