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Philo Dibble

Question: Who was Philo Dibble, Sr., and what happened to him after he was shot at a Battle near the Blue River?

Answer: Philo Dibble was born June 6, 1806, the second son of Orator Dibble and Beulah Pomeroy in Peru, Berkshire, Massachusetts. Philo was quite young when his father left Massachusetts and moved to the town of Granby, Hartford, Connecticut. Here Orator died on March 5, 1817 at the age of 40. Philo, about age 10, and his brother, Philander, about age 13, were taken by Captain Apollos Phelps, living at Suffield, Connecticut, to be raised until they were 21 years old. Philo remained with Captain Phelps four or five months after he became of age.

A year after leaving his home, Philo, age 22, married Celia Kent, age 25. “My wife having some property in Ohio, we sold our possessions in Connecticut and removed to that part…We passed through Chardon, Ohio, and located three miles west of that city, at a place called King Street, which was within five miles of Kirtland. I there purchased a farm and entered into the business of buying and selling wild lands.’

In October 1830 Philo and his wife went to Kirtland and “On arriving there, we were introduced to Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Parley P. Pratt. I remained with them all day, and became convinced that they were sincere in their professions.’ Philo was baptized by Parley P. Pratt. “I spent that evening at Dr. F. [Frederick] G. Williams’. While in bed that night I felt what appeared to be a hand upon my left shoulder…I was enveloped in a heavenly influence, and could not sleep for joy.’

“Soon after this, Joseph with his father’s family, came to Kirtland, and said the Lord had sent him there…This was the first time I had beheld Joseph.’ Philo went on Zion’s Camp with the Prophet Joseph.

      Site of the Battle of the Blue River, Jackson County, Missouri

He then moved to Missouri where, on November 1, 1833, he was involved in a battle near the Blue River. “We all responded and met the mob in battle, in which I was wounded with an ounce ball and two buck shot, all entering my body just at the right side of my navel… The next morning I was taken farther off from the road that I might be concealed from the mob. I bled inwardly until my body was filled with blood, and remained in this condition until the next day at 5 p.m. I was then examined by a surgeon who was in the Black Hawk War, and who said that he had seen a great many men wounded, but never saw one wounded as I was that ever lived. He pronounced me a dead man…

“After the surgeon had left me, Brother Newel Knight came to see me, and sat down on the side of my bed. He laid his right hand on my head, but never spoke. I felt the Spirit resting upon me at the crown of my head before his hand touched me, and I knew immediately that I was going to be healed…I immediately arose and discharged three quarts of blood or more, with some pieces of my clothes that had been driven into my body by the bullets. I then dressed myself and went outdoors and saw the falling of the stars, which so encouraged the Saints and frightened their enemies. It was one of the grandest sights I ever beheld. From that time not a drop of blood came from me, and I never afterwards felt the slightest pain or inconvenience from my wounds, except that I was somewhat weak from the loss of blood. The next day I walked around the field, and the day following I mounted a horse and rode eight miles, and went three miles on foot.’

Philo was ordained a Seventy on April 26, 1839, by Apostles Brigham Young & Heber C. Kimball. In the spring of 1840 Philo moved to Nauvoo which was then called Commerce. During the next year his wife died and left him with 5 children (2 daughters and 3 sons). Philo married Hannah Ann Dubois (Smith), a widow with two children, on February 11, 1841 in Nauvoo at the home of Joseph and Emma. Emma prepared a nice wedding dinner for them. Philo served as one of Joseph’s bodyguards and was considered a close friend.

About a month after the martyrdom, George Cannon (not to be confused with apostle George Q. Cannon) who had made death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, died of heat stroke, and Philo obtained those masks. Over the next 41 years, he would protect and display them, often testifying of his firsthand experience with the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum.

Philo and Hannah received their ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple in December 1845 and were sealed in January 1846. They then left Nauvoo and headed to Iowa, along with other Saints who were forced to leave due to the persecution.

Philo was the only one of his family to join the Church and go West. Philo left Kanesville, Iowa on August 3, 1851 with his wife and five children in a freight train with only six other people in the Thomas Stephen Williams Company. [Philo Dibble (age 45), Hannah Ann Dibble (Age 42), Philo Dibble Jr. (Age 14), Philander Dibble (Age 13), Hannah Ann Dibble (Age 9), Loren Walker Dibble (Age 7), and David Dubois Dibble (Age 4)]. They reached Salt Lake on August 25, 1851, and settled in Bountiful, Davis, Utah. Philo’s three older children came in separate companies, but all made it to Utah. Philo later moved to Springville, Utah, in 1858.

While living in Nauvoo, Illinois, Philo Dibble had a dream that motivated him to create “a fine arts museum or gallery to be established for the benefit of the Mormon people.’ Philo had a dream in which he and others were standing under a tree. “I looked and saw Brother Joseph coming with a sheet of paper in his hand,’ he recorded. “The paper was rolled up. Joseph threw the roll into the top of the tree. The roll came tumbling down through the limbs, and all under the tree watched the roll to catch it, and I caught it. This was the end of my dream.’

Philo Dibble “felt that the sheet symbolized a canvas on which scenes of Church history would be painted by various artists. Being poor, he told Brigham Young of his plan. Brigham said, “Go ahead, and I will assist you.’

Brigham Young then gave $2 to Brother Dibble, who then went and bought the canvas. Philo commissioned artwork of early scenes in Church history; then he hosted several exhibitions. He later moved to Winter Quarters (today’s Council Bluffs, Iowa) and displayed art in the Log Tabernacle. After Elder Wilford Woodruff deeply praised the exhibit on April 7, 1848, he expressed a desire that the Saints would “fit-up a gallery in Zion.’

He held several exhibitions in Utah County, particularly in his home which was, in essence, the first Springville Gallery of Art. Through . . . panoramic painting of religious and historical subjects [by Robert Campbell and William W. Major], his exhibitions of art and death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, as well as magic-lantern slide presentations of famous paintings, Dibble created a climate of interest for the visual fine arts in Springville which would be fulfilled fifty-five years after his death with the establishment of the Springville Art Museum.

According to a grand-niece, once during his rounds through town, Dibble plunged his sacred “Cane of the Martyrdom’ into the ground at the corner of First East and Fourth South and said, “The school gallery shall be here.’ It is not known the precise date of the ‘dedication’ of this plot of land and prophecy of an art gallery, but it was certainly one of the earliest reckonings of an art museum in Utah. It was Dibble’s continual talk . . . about an art gallery that planted the seed in the community’s consciousness. This message would find fertile ground with his young artist friends, Cyrus E. Dallin and John Hafen, and it would eventually lead to the genesis of the Springville Art Movement by the end of the nineteenth century.

Philo also wrote a hymn entitled “The Happy Day Has Rolled On,’ and it appeared in the 1871 edition of the hymn book.

Hannah died on October 28, 1893 in Springville. Philo died June 7, 1895 in Springville, at the age of 89. They are buried in the Historic Springville Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts of Life History of Philo Dibble, Sr. (Mor M270 A1a#95 BYU Library); Philo Dibble, 1806-1895. Autobiography from Four Faith Promoting Classics, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), pp. 74-96; Life of Philo Dibble, Submitted by Zina Binks; All in; Springville Museum of Art: History and Collection, Vern G. Swanson;; “Mormonism has powerfully impacted art in Utah, speakers say,’ Church News, 11 June, 2015.

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