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Peter Wilson Conover

Question: Was Peter Wilson Conover one of those amazing pioneers who sacrificed and did so much to help the early Saints?

Answer: Peter Wilson Conover, was born on September 19, 1807, in Woodford County, Kentucky, to Peter and Hannah Conover.

From his journal we read: “The summer of 1822, my father sold out, and on the 22nd of April, we started from Woodford County to Illinois, a distance of five hundred miles….We lived on the farm until 1827, when I was married to Eveline Golden, daughter of Abraham and Sarah Houghten Golden. Eveline was born 25 May 1808. Joining my father’s farm, I had a farm of my own. My first child Aaron Houghten, was born 2 September 1828. My second child, Abraham Golden, was born April 1830. Charles William was born July 1832.

“In 1829, I was elected Captain of the Illinois Militia of light infantry. The Governor called for volunteers, and I was appointed aide to General Whitesides…My eldest daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, was born in June 1834. John was born September 4, 1836….When my son John was four months old, I moved my family from Morgan County to the center of the Rapids on the Mississippi River. I bought one hundred and sixty acres of ground and made me a farm. Jeannette was born 6 March 1838. [Hancock County, Illinois].

“The spring of 1839, I heard my first Mormon sermon by Elder Zenos H. Gurley. Immediately after hearing it, I received a testimony for myself of the truthfulness of this Mormonism… I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 27, 1840. I had been a Campbellite member before that. My wife, Eveline, was baptized at the same time. Daughter Catherine Ann was born December 18, 1840 in Nauvoo.

“Right after joining the church, I went to work on the Nauvoo Temple. The Prophet called me to get men to go with me to get some rock for the circle windows in the basement story of the Temple. I called for volunteers at a meeting held at my house. I soon had all the men I wanted. We worked all the week and got all the rock that was needed. I worked on the Temple until Joseph told me to go up to Black River to get lumber for the Temple, six hundred miles above Nauvoo. I started the 22nd of September. Up the river I remained just nine months and came down the river in twelve days in a small boat. Son Alpheus Alonzo was born just ten days before I reached home on the 12th of June 1842. The winter of 1842, I worked on the temple again.

“I held command of the second battalion of the second Cohort of the Nauvoo Legion at that time. I held command of the guard for six miles up and down the river. I had to relieve the guards every twelve hours. This was kept up for five months… My family still lived on the farm, but I was almost all the time on duty in the saddle. On March 20, 1844 Zerelda Louisa was born.

“When Joseph gave himself up to go to Carthage, I wanted to take command and go to protect him, but he said, “No, I do not wish you to go.” … After Joseph was murdered, we went to work in the Temple…before we had to leave our homes, as we were told we had to leave in 1845…

One trip I was returning with a load when Sheriff Beckenstoes was chased by a mob. O.Porter Rockwell, being close by asked the sheriff if he could shoot. The sheriff said yes. Rockwell fired and the man rolled away from his horse, dead enough. This man proved to be the man World [Frank Worrell] by name, the man that tried to cut Joseph’s head off after he was murdered.

“Soon after I was called upon to get out timber to make wagons for the Saints to cross the plains in. Myself and three others went to work and soon had enough timber ready to make two hundred wagons. We had to make kilns to season the lumber on. After we got the timber for the wagons, Brother Brigham called on me to go to Quincy and get four thousand pounds of iron for the wagons. I was gone four days on that trip. I had a wagon for my own use all ready for the cover when Brother Brigham came along and asked whose wagon it was. Someone told him it was mine. He came to me and told me that they had enough wagons, lacking one, to take the first company out. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you need that wagon take it, and welcome.’ That left me without one, but I soon had another one ready.

“In January [1846] my wife and I went through the Temple. About the middle of February 1846, I received a letter from the leader of the mob, telling me that if I was not out of there in three days he would burn my house down over my head. I wrote to him to come right along but to write his will out before he came, for as sure as my gun would fire I would kill him. But he did not come. I waited for him to come three weeks, then moved into Nauvoo. On May 10th, 1846, Eveline was born.’

It is amazing the experiences Peter had as he continued on West with the Saints. He cut logs, built houses, fenced farms, made corrals and sheds for the stock, planted crops, and guarded their cattle. Peter’s wife died on November 10,1847 at Winter Quarters, leaving him with ten children. “There I was left with ten little children, the youngest only two years old. What to do I did not know. One day as I was sitting beside the house, thinking of my hapless condition, and of my departed wife…Brother Brigham and Heber rode up to see me.’ They encouraged Peter to take a widow lady, Percilla Pearson, to the valley with him to care for the children. Percilla was good to the children and made clothes for them for the journey.

Peter’s family traveled in Heber C. Kimball’s Company in 1848. One day some Indians stole some of their cattle. Heber asked Peter to get some men and go after the cattle. Four of the young men came across the Indians first. “Thomas Ricks was shot and fell from his horse. I took ten men and went after Tom. We put him on a Buffalo robe and started for camp. There were about three hundred warriors up on a bluff and they started after us, yelling like demons. We stopped and laid Tom down…After laying Tom down, I yelled at the chief that we did not want to fight, but had come after one of our men that the Indians had shot, and we were going to take him home, and that if they did not let us alone we would kill some of their men. They believed me, for they turned and went back. I then sent two men to hunt a ford, then took Tom up and carried him to the river. We held him up at arms length, over our heads so that he would not get wet, I held the edge of the buffalo robe in one hand, my gun in the other, and my ammunition on my head. The water was up to my chin. After dressing Tom’s wounds, we broke camp…’

Peter made it to the Salt Lake Valley where he stayed until 1849, and was then called to help settle Provo, Utah. Peter had many experiences with the Indians in that area. On November 10,1850, Peter married Mary Jane McCarrel in Provo. They had thirteen children together while living at Provo. Peter died on September 20, 1892, one day after he turned 85, and was buried in the Provo City Cemetery. His wife, Mary, died April 2, 1896 in Provo.

Source: Sketch of the Life of Peter Wilson Conover, as told to Emma Lynette Richardson Conover (daughter-in-law). Peter Conover, autobiography, typescript, Family;

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