Question: After a long life of service in the Church, how did John Somers Higbee close his five volumes of journals?
Answer: John Somers Higbee was born on March 7, 1804 in Tate Township, Clermont, Ohio to Isaac Higbee and Sophia Somers. He married Sarah Ann Voorhees on February 16, 1825 in Batavia, Clermont, Ohio. John was a cabinet maker by vocation.
John and Sarah, along with his parents, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1832. John and Sarah were baptized in May 1832. [John was later ordained a High Priest on April 4, 1841, by his father, Isaac Higbee.]
The family sold their property and moved to Jackson Co., Missouri, in February 1833, where they bought land and planted corn. John and Sarah had their four children with them. John was given a deacon’s license at a conference at Far West on July 6, 1838. The family suffered at the hands of mobs in Missouri.
John kept five volumes of journals during his lifetime. In them he wrote: “The mob kept threatening, so my parents, brothers and families moved to Caldwell Co., Missouri. Here my mother died thru exposure August 24, 1840. Now the State rose up against us and sent an Army who said, you are rebellious and must comply with our frontier opinions, called law….When they took our arms I was forced to sign a deed to all of our property in Jackson, Caldwell Co. to defray expenses of this….They then selected 57 of us to make examples of, took us to Richmond [Jail] in the Courthouse, under strong guard. [11 Nov 1838] After 29 days were tried and nothing found against us, we were ordered to leave the state, which we did January, 1838, going to Illinois in an old rickety one horse wagon. There were three families with us on this trip, and all that could, walked most of them barefooted over frozen ground, women as well as children. We traveled about 15 miles per day, our wagon breaking down on us every few days. After arriving at Quincy, Illinois, my father died from the fatigue of the journey. He was 75 years of age.”
John then writes: “May 1838 we moved to Nauvoo for a few years where some were mobbed again and homes burned. Soon after, the Prophet Joseph Smith and brother Hyrum were killed at Carthage Jail, 27 June, 1844.’ John was ordained a Bishop of the First Ward of Nauvoo on March 24, 1845. John left Nauvoo along with the other Saints in 1846.
“We stopped at Mt. Pisgah and planted a garden. Here my wife took sick and died, thru want and exposure, 15 June 1846, 41 years 30 days, leaving four children: John M., Silas, Sariah, and Harriet. About this time recruits were being signed up for the Mormon Battalion. I volunteered, taking (son) John with me. Drove teams to Council Bluffs, but when we got there, the Battalion had left 24 hours before. John M. cried because he could not go. I was appointed to take charge of the ferry across the Missouri River, a boisterous river, navigable most of the year for small boats. At Winter Quarters, on 17 August 1846, I married Judith Ball Tate, a widow from South Carolina.
“Traveled with the Saints to Council Bluffs, still in charge of the ferry. November 26 was asked to be Bishop of 19th Ward at Winter Quarters. Acted in this office till 1st of April, when I was again appointed hunter in Heber C. Kimball’s Company [Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company] going to the Rocky Mountains. Leaving my family, we started on the 9th of April for upper crossing of the Platte River. I was Captain over ten men. I was counseled to stop here and ferry the emigrants over till our families came along. Our families came on the 20th of August. We traveled with them, arriving at Salt Lake City the 26th of September 1847. I bought a house in the first fort for $40.00. Happy to be in a home.’
Shortly after arrival in the Salt Lake valley, President Young sent an exploring party into the southern part of the territory to look over possible settlement sites. Parley P. Pratt, accompanied by John S. Higbee and others, set out in the direction of Utah Lake sometime in December. They were the first party to launch a boat and try net fishing on the lake. In March, 1849, John S. Higbee led a party southward from Salt Lake City with the intention of planting a colony on the Provo River. The town of Provo was [Fort Utah] settled by John S. Higbee and some thirty others.
This party was stopped by the Indians, who required every one of the white men to take an oath that they would not drive the natives from their lands. After this oath was taken, a settlement was started at what was called “Old Fort Field,” now within the city limits of Provo. A fort was built and crops were planted, over two hundred acres being plowed the first year for wheat, rye and corn. Ten more families were soon afterward added to the colony. The Provo Branch of the Church was organized on March 18, 1849, with John S. Higbee as president, Isaac Higbee and Dimick B. Huntington as counselors. (Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Volume I, Chapter XXIII: County History, Continued Utah County)
From John’s journal: “We built a stockade fort for our protection against the Indians. The Indians stole from us and annoyed us very much. The first white man killed was the son of my brother, Isaac’s only son Joseph Higbee, a well-liked and promising young man…Some whole families lived months on fish, buttermilk and a few roots they could dig. Armed men had to herd, guard stock, go with teams to work and guard at night. In the fall of 1849 my brother Isaac was called to preside over Provo. I was sent on a mission to England, leaving Salt Lake City October 1849…
“I traveled in England 3,924 miles mostly on foot. January 8, I was appointed to preside over 333 Saints on board the ship Kennebec, sailing 10 January 1852. Among the passengers was Mrs. Jane Homer Grainger with her son Christopher and daughter Ann, and Ann’s daughter, Mary Ann Carr. Mrs. Jane Homer Grainger died and was buried near Cuba. [Her daughter, Ann, married John Somers Higbee on March 11, 1852 at New Orleans.]
“Arrived in Salt Lake City about 12 August 1852. In company with President Brigham Young, went on an exploring trip to Salmon River. October 10, 1857 was appointed Captain of 1st 102nd fifty of militia. Moved on to the Weber River 4 April 1858, and in February 1865 moved to Toquerville with my wife Ann, and children, Sarah Ann, Charlotte Jane, Sophia and Sabra (twins), Richard Tate, Isaac William. I bought a lot from John M. Myson in Toquerville. Had traded a wagon and $50.00 on an acre of land in Toquerville field. Owe him $100.00 in work.
“My daughter, Sophia [age 8] died 28 December 1865. Buried on 30th. I bought one acre land in the field from William Hill. My wife, Ann Higbee, worked in the Toquerville Store a number of years and anything a pioneer mother had to do.’ John and Ann had six children together.
John Somers Higbee closed his journal: “desiring that the record might be kept as a memorial in remembrance of me and that I may still do good on the earth while I remain on it, and when I have finished my work here on earth that I may be satisfied and prepared to dwell eternally in the heavens, is my prayer.’ Signed, John S. Higbee
John died on October 27, 1877, at the age of 73 in Toquerville, and was buried in the Toquerville City Cemetery. His wife, Ann, died on September 17, 1879 at Toquerville.
Source: “John Somers Higbee,’ FamilySearch.org; Excerpts from the Journal of John Somers Higbee, and “Notes of John Somers Higbee,’ FamilySearch.og; FindAGrave.