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Sylvester Henry Earl

Question: Where did Sylvester Earl spent part of the winter of 1857-58 trying to prevent Johnston’s army from entering the Valley?

Answer: Sylvester Henry Earl was born on August 16, 1815, the sixth of nine children. While he and his younger siblings were born in the state of Ohio, his older siblings were born in either the state of New York or the province of Ontario, Canada. It was written of him that “he was about 5″ 6″ tall. He was strong, healthy, and robust most of the time, jovial and good-natured. He had a dark complexion with dark eyes and hair.”

Sylvester’s father was sick for twelve months before he died in 1822. Sylvester was just six and a half years old. His mother was left to care for seven living children (2 died before that time). At an early age, the burden of the family rested on him, as his older brothers married or were unable to help.

When Sylvester was 21 years old, two of his older brothers came to visit the family and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him and the family. He was inspired by their message and decided go with his older brothers and a younger brother to investigate further.

He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when he was 22 years old. He was baptized on February 29, 1837, by Elder Charles C. Rich. Immediately afterwards he migrated, in company with Elder Rich and George M. Hinkle and others, to Far West, Missouri, arriving there April 1, 1837. Soon afterwards he purchased a tract of land and several cows and prepared to make a home.

He was ordained an Elder by Hyrum Smith at a conference at Far West in November 1837, and started on a mission through Illinois, Ohio and Indiana on February 15, 1838. On the way he met the Prophet Joseph Smith (at Jacksonville) who gave him a blessing, promising him that he should never lack for words when preaching the gospel. After raising up a branch of the Church in Schuyler County, Illinois, he continued his journey eastward into Ohio, preaching and baptizing by the way.

His mother died, September 15, 1838, in Ohio, and was buried by him by the side of his father. He then returned to Illinois, bringing his two younger brothers (Wilmer J., and James E. Earl) with him to a place, where he had previously raised up a small branch of the Church. On January 28, 1839, he married a young lady by the name of Lois Caroline Owen, whom he had previously baptized. (They had a family of ten children. The first three were born in the State of Illinois, one was born crossing the plains, and the rest were born in the State of Utah.)

By this time the Saints were settling in Illinois. In April, 1841, he was sent on a mission to Indiana and Ohio, and after his return from this mission, he purchased a farm (near the city of Nauvoo) onto which he moved his family in the fall of 1842. In the spring of 1844 he spent several weeks preaching the gospel in the southern part of Illinois. Being impressed by the spirit of the Lord, he returned home and found that the mob had begun their depredations against the Saints near Nauvoo, his family being threatened that if they did not move away in three days they would be burned out.

Brother Earl, as a member of the Nauvoo Legion, was present when the Prophet Joseph Smith made his famous speech before the Legion, just prior to his martyrdom. Soon after the death of the Prophet, he moved his family into the city of Nauvoo.

In the fall of 1844 he was ordained a Seventy and became a member of the 10th quorum of Seventy. Later he was set apart as one of the presidents of the 20th quorum. During the summer of 1845 he worked on the Nauvoo Temple. In the winter of 1845-46, he was one of the guards of the Temple and also assisted in guarding the homes of the leading men of the Church.

Finally, on February 10, 1846, he took his family and, together with many others, crossed the Mississippi, starting on their long journey to the West. They all suffered much, and many being destitute of food, Brother Earl, together with nineteen of his brethren, were sent into Missouri, in March, 1846, to work for food. He returned two months later. He then moved on westward, crossed the Missouri River and prepared for the winter.

In April, 1847, he left Winter Quarters as one of the original band of pioneers for the Rocky mountains, arriving in Great Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. In August 1847, together with a company of about forty men, he started back to the Missouri river. The company being very destitute of food, he on one occasion traded his shirt to the Indians for buffalo meat; afterwards he made himself another shirt out of his wagon cover. The company continued the journey and arrived at Winter Quarters on October 21, 1847.

In June 1848, together with a company of Saints under the direction of Brigham Young, he again took his journey across the plains. On his arrival in the valley, he built a home for his family in the Nineteenth Ward, Salt Lake City. In October 1852, he was called on a mission to England. He started on this mission September 15, 1852, and arrived in Liverpool January 5, 1853. After laboring faithfully as a missionary in Great Britain, he returned to Salt Lake City in September 1855, having been absent from home about three years.

Soon after his return, he was ordained a High Priest and set apart as first counselor to Bishop Alonzo H. Raleigh of the Nineteenth Ward. In October 1855, he married Margaret Emily Jones, a convert from England. Together they had three children.

Together with his eldest son, Wilbert B. Earl, Sylvester spent part of the winter of 1857-58 in Echo canyon, together with others who were sent out to prevent Johnston’s army from entering the Valley.

In the fall of 1861 he was called to take his family and move into the southern part of Utah. He settled in Pine valley where he engaged in saw mill business and stock raising. Sylvester was a master carpenter and helped build the chapel in Pine Valley, Utah.

In December 1871, he moved part of his family to Middleton, near St. George, where he died on July 23, 1872. He was buried in the St. George Cemetery the following day. He was just 58 years of age.

Source: Excerpts from the “Life Sketch of Sylvester Henry Earl,’; “Sylvester Henry Earl’ in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia;

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