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Isaac Morley

Question: What settlement did Isaac Morley establish in Hancock County, Illinois in 1840?

Answer: Isaac Morley was born March 11, 1786 in Montague, Massachusetts, one of nine children of Thomas F. Morley and Editha Marsh. He served in the War of 1812 for three months and held the position of captain in the Ohio militia.

In June 1812, Isaac married Lucy Gunn in Massachusetts, with whom he had seven children.

Isaac was an early settler in the Western Reserve wilderness area of northern Ohio, and created a productive farm in the region near Kirtland, Ohio. While in this area, he joined the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement (Campbellites), under the ministry of Sidney Rigdon.

In November 1830, Isaac was among the first converts of the newly organized Church. He was introduced to the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith when Oliver Cowdery and several missionary companions passed through Ohio. He was ordained an Elder shortly after his baptism.

When Joseph Smith and his family came to Kirtland, Ohio for the first time, they lived with Isaac. He later built a small house for them on his farm, where Joseph and Emma’s twins, Thaddeus and Louisa, were born and died only three hours later on April 30, 1831. Isaac’s daughter, Lucy and her elder sister kept house for Emma while she was ill.

Up the hill from Isaac Morley’s farm was a small log schoolhouse. In June of 1831, the 4th conference of the Church was held in the school house.  It was during this meeting that the office of High Priest was restored.  Isaac was ordained a High Priest on June 3, 1831 by Lyman Wight, and was immediately selected for a leadership position. He was ordained, on June 6, as First Counselor to Bishop Edward Partridge and served until Partridge’s death in 1840. Also at this conference was recorded a visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

At another conference held in the schoolhouse in preparation for Zion’s Camp, Wilford Woodruff recorded these words from Joseph Smith:

“Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. ’I was rather surprised. He said ‘it is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’ Among other things he said, ‘it will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites, who will receive the Gospel and their endowments and the blessings of God. This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.’”

In June 1831, Isaac was asked to sell his farm and act as a missionary while traveling to Independence, Missouri with Ezra Booth. While in Missouri, Isaac first faced the violence generated by disagreements and misunderstandings between Mormon settlers and Missouri residents. In July 1833, a mob of about 500 men demolished his home and the printing office of William W. Phelps at Independence and tarred and feathered Bishop Partridge. Willing to be injured or killed, Isaac and five others stepped forward and offered themselves as a ransom for these men. After negotiation, the Missouri citizens agreed to stop the violence, and the Mormons agreed to leave the county by April 1, 1834. Isaac left Missouri and returned to Kirtland in early 1835.

In 1835, with Bishop Partridge, Isaac served a mission in the Eastern States. They returned to Kirtland on 5 November 1835; on 7 November President Smith wrote: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Behold I am well pleased with my servant Isaac Morley and my servant Edward Partridge, because of the integrity of their hearts in laboring in my vineyard, for the salvation of the souls of men’.’ Issac was in attendance at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836.

Richmond Jail Site

Isaac returned to Missouri with his family in early 1836, and helped establish the city of Far West. At a general church assembly on November 7, 1837, he was chosen as Patriarch of Far West and ordained under the hands of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith. He lived in Far West until he was arrested with fifty-five other Mormon citizens on the basis of the Extermination Order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs. The citizens were taken by the Missouri militia to Richmond, Ray County, to await trial. After being held for three weeks, all the prisoners were released by Judge Austin A. King.

Site of Morley’s Settlement (Yelrome)

Upon leaving Missouri with the expelled Saints, Isaac settled in Hancock County, Illinois, in a settlement called Yelrome (from the reverse spelling of “Morley”) or sometimes known as Morley’s Settlement. There he established a prosperous business as a cooper. In October 1840, Hyrum Smith appointed Isaac to serve as president of the Stake centered in Lima, Illinois, with John Murdock and Walter Cox as counselors. In March 1845, he was selected to be a member of the Council of Fifty.

However, in September 1845, his house, cooper’s shop, property and grain were burned by a mob. Morley’s Settlement, mostly reduced to ashes, disappeared. Edmund Durfee was killed in the attack on the Settlement. Isaac and his family took refuge in Nauvoo. From there, they moved to Winter Quarters, where Isaac’s first wife, Lucy, died.

Isaac emigrated to the Great Salt Lake Valley in June 1848 with Brigham Young’s Company. After Ute Indian leader Wakara invited Church president Brigham Young to send Mormon colonists to the Sanpitch (now Sanpete) Valley in central Utah, Young dispatched Isaac and James Russell Ivie as leaders of the first company of 225 settlers. Isaac and the settlers arrived at the present location of Manti in November 1849, and established a winter camp, digging temporary shelters into the south side of the hill on which the Manti Utah Temple now stands. It was an isolated place, at least four days by wagon from the nearest settlement.

Relations between Church members and the local Utes were helpful and cooperative. Isaac encouraged the settlers in their work and assured them that their community would grow to be one of the best in the mountains. The settlers and members of the Ute Sanpitch tribe referred to him affectionately as “Father Morley.” Isaac supervised the building of the first schoolhouse and the first gristmill in Sanpete Valley. The Sanpete Valley settlement grew and prospered and became known as a prime agricultural area.

Isaac served as a senator in the general assembly of the provisional State of Deseret. In 1851, 1853 and 1855, he represented Sanpete county in the legislative council of the Utah Territory.

During his last years, Isaac spent most of his time on his calling as a Patriarch, conferring priesthood blessings on thousands of church members. He died on June 24, 1865 in Fairview, Sanpete County, Utah, at the age of seventy-nine. He is buried in the Manti Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from William G. Hartley, The 1845 Burning of Morley’s Settlement and Murder of Edmund Durfee (Salt Lake City: Primer Publications, 1998 Reprint), iv. This booklet was written for the descendants of Edmund Durfee, but has historical importance for other Latter-day Saints whose ancestors lived in the area of Morley’s Settlement;

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