Question: Did Orson Bennett Adams’ wife, Susannah, go with him in the Mormon Battalion?
Answer: Orson Bennett Adams was born 9 March 1815 in Alexander, Genesee, New York. He was one of over a dozen children of Elisha Bennett Adams and Asenath Lucy Camp. The family moved to Brown, Illinois, about 1827.
Orson married Susannah (Susan) Smith in 1836 in Morgan, Illinois, and they moved to Schyler, Illinois. They had one daughter in 1838, but she died as a baby. The family was living in Brown, Illinois, in 1840, and this was the year the family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had another daughter in 1841, but she also died. They then moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Orson helped build the Nauvoo temple.
In 1844, Orson and Susan, who had lost two baby girls, were given a baby boy, John Smith Page, whose mother had died, and who they adopted and raised. When persecution forced the Saints out of Nauvoo, Orson and his family journeyed to the Iowa Territory.
When volunteers were asked to join the Mormon Battalion to fight in the Mexican War, Orson was the second man who volunteered to go. He enlisted in the United States Army on 16 July 1846 at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Susan also went as a laundress and nurse (she had been raised in the home of a doctor). Their little boy was left with his grandparents to continue crossing the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
Orson became a Sergeant of the Sick Detachment of Company C, under Captain James Brown. Three sick detachments of disabled men, along with some women and children, spent the winter of 1846-1847 at Pueblo, Colorado. Then 213 of them, in company with some Saints from Mississippi, departed 24 May 1847 and arrived in the valley 29 July 1847. They were only five days behind Brigham Young and his Vanguard Company. Orson was discharged on 16 December 1847. He later received an Army pension.
Orson built a home on Mill Creek, Salt Lake, Utah Territory. In the second summer of the settlement, the crickets came and food was scarce. One morning Orson came in and announced to his wife his determination to go to the States for food and supplies. He asked for enough food for his first lunch, and trusted his gun and kind providence for the rest of the trip. It may have been on the trip back that Orson crossed the plains again with the Samuel Gully/Orson Spencer Company in May 1849.
In 1850, the family was living in Iron County, Utah Territory, where Orson was an engineer. In the winter of 1851, Orson took his family and their cattle and goods, in response to a call, to settle in Little Salt Lake, a colony known as Parowan. On the way from Beaver they had to cross a ledge where the wagons and an old brass cannon had to be lowered with ropes. They camped on the south side of the river until a fort was built.
After a short time at the fort, the Adams family moved to Red Creek and took up a homestead. “Times were hard in those first years at Parowan” said son John Adams. “The wheat was beginning to head but it was burning. The people held a meeting and prayed for relief. That night it snowed about twelve inches. The people were disheartened. They had water but the wheat all lay flat. During the day the sun came out and melted the snow. The wheat straightened up and they had a good crop.” Orson and Susannah had one more daughter on 3 June 1853, and named her Susanna.
In 1856 the family was living in Paragonah, Iron, Utah Territory. Orson ran a sawmill, and had an accident which cut off three of his fingers of his left hand. He then served a mission to the Spring Valley in the White Mountains of Nevada. After two years, he returned to Parowan worn out and discouraged. His report induced the authorities to give up the mission.
In 1859, Orson married seventeen-year-old Charlotte Elizabeth Gingell. Orson and Charlotte had two children, then she left him. She remarried and moved to Wyoming. Orson may have had additional wives in polygamy, but no additional children are known.
In 1860, Orson and his family were farming in Red Creek, Iron, Utah Territory. In 1861, Orson was called to settle at the confluence of Leeds and Quail Creeks. Nine families built the new settlement called Harrisburg. A small sandstone masonry house was built in 1863 for the family, and it is still standing. The family lived in this house until the early 1890s. In 1869, Orson became presiding elder of Harrisburg.
Susan died on 23 January 1892 in Harrisburg, and Orson moved to his daughter’s home in Leeds. He died 4 February 1901 in Leeds, Washington County, Utah. Susan and Orson are both buried in the Leeds Cemetery.