Question: Was Ozro French Eastman a member of the Church when he was in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?
Answer: Ozro French Eastman was born on November 18, 1828, in Windham County, Vermont, to James and Clarissa Goss Eastman. His parents were baptized in 1843, but Ozro, age fourteen, had not made the decision to be baptized.
Ozro’s father, James, was raised in New England. He was a carpenter and painter by trade, and also did some blacksmith work. He and his wife Clarissa had three living children. The Eastmans were devout Christians but had not united with a church until James met the LDS missionaries while in Boston on a business trip, and he and his wife soon converted. They left their comfortable home in Vermont for Nauvoo, via the steamboat Robert Fulton from Troy to Albany, New York, then railway and canal to Pittsburg, then steamboat on the Ohio. Ozro was therefore in Nauvoo at the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum.
Ozro’s father, James, served in the first company of the Nauvoo Legion, and James and Clarissa received their blessings in the Nauvoo Temple. In 1846, they left Nauvoo due to the persecution, and made their way to Winter Quarters. Ozro was seventeen years of age at this time.
At Winter Quarters, the family suffered with increasingly ill health. Months of chills, fever, and ague, combined with scurvy, at last resulted in the father, James, dying. The last entry in his journal, two days before he died, shows concern for his family. He implored, “I ask Thee, O Lord, to keep them, and not let them need.’ He had made a rocking chair for his wife Clarissa which she brought across the plains after his death.
James was concerned about his son, Ozro, who had not yet joined the Church, so before he died, James secured a wagon and team for Ozro and received permission for Ozro to accompany Brigham Young in the first company going West. Therefore, Ozro (age 18) became a member of Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847, and was in the 7th Ten, led by James Case. He helped build the fort and performed other duties required of him. In the fall, Ozro returned with Brigham Young to Winter Quarters.
On his return Ozro learned of the death of his father. He had died a few days after Ozro had left with the pioneer company. Before he died, James had everything prepared for his wife and daughter, Sylvia’s, journey to the west. In the summer of 1848, Ozro and his widowed mother, and sister Sylvia, joined the Heber C. Kimball Company and reached the Salt Lake Valley in September. Maybe due to the persecution and the loss of his father, Ozro was never baptized a member of the Church. He always said that he admired Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and other leaders of the Church for their integrity and courage, but for some reason never joined the Church.
It is said that Ozro established the first harness shop in Salt Lake City. He married Mary E. Whittle on February 22, 1857 in Salt Lake, and they became the parents of ten children. Mary was born in Canada, July 8, 1837, the daughter of Thomas L. and Mary Levi Whittle. Her parents had joined the Church and immigrated with the Saints. Ozro and Mary’s first eight children were born in the adobe house Ozro built when he first settled in the Valley. In 1863, their daughter, Clarissa, age two, died.
Ozro and Mary Etta Eastman
In 1873, they decided to move to Franklin, Idaho, which was in Cache Valley. Mary’s parents were living there as well as Ozro’s mother. They rented a three-room house, with one room being used as a shop for saddle making. Here their last two children, Lavinia and Franklin, were born. Lavinia died as a child.
In 1884 Ozro moved his family to Eagle Rock, later Idaho Falls, Idaho, where he again set up his harness and saddle business. Here, in 1894, their son, James, was drowned in the Snake River. In 1897 their son, Franklin, was accidently killed in Jackson, Wyoming.
Ozro died in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on March 26, 1916, at age 87. He was never baptized, and most of his children never joined the Church. Ozro was partially blind the last three years of his life. He was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho. Mary made her home in Idaho Falls until 1921 when she moved to Ogden to make her home with her daughter, Malola. Mary died on May 1, 1924 in Ogden and was taken to Idaho Falls to be buried by her husband, Ozro Eastman.
Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,’ Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Mary Etta Whittle Eastman Story,’ FamilySearch.org; “James Eastman Life Sketch,’ FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com