ABIGAIL SMITH ABBOTT BROWN
By Shirley N. Maynes
Abigail Smith was born September 11, 1806 in Williamson, Wayne County New York to James Smith and Lydia Lucina Harding. The town of Williamson is near Palmyra, New York where Joseph Smith and his family had resided. James Smith was a native of Norwalk, Connecticut. He was a soldier of the War of 1812. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln appointed the Honorable Stephen S. Harding, a member of Abigail’s mother’s family, as Governor of the Territory of Utah.
Abigail was the youngest child in the family. Sadly, all of her brothers and sisters had died young. Her mother had also died when Abigail was six weeks old, and she was cared for through infancy by her Aunt Polly Harding.
After her father remarried, her stepmother, Mehetable Adams Smith, nurtured and cared for Abigail. Her father had received a good education in some of the finest schools. He taught music classes and was a farmer, and Abigail was very fond of her father. At age fifteen Abigail became very ill and remained so for many months before she finally regained her health.
When Abigail turned sixteen she went to Hornellsville, New York to visit relatives. While there she lived at the home of James Abbott. A warm attachment developed between her and his son, Stephen Joseph. When Abigail’s father came to take her home, it was decided by the mutual consent of both families, that Abigail and Stephen could marry. Their marriage took place on December 11, 1825.
Stephen and his nephew were proprietors of a cabinet making and painting business. During this period of time, the Abbotts were looking for a church to belong to and they finally decided on joining the sect called "Universalists". Although it came closest to what they were looking for, there was something lacking in their doctrine. The Abbotts had heard of Joseph Smith’s views on religion and his "golden plates", but their introduction or association with the Church did not extend beyond that point. This was to come later in their lives.
In about 1836, her father moved to Michigan. Abigail kept in touch with him through correspondence, but never again met with members of her family, including her father. Fortunately, many of the letters written between families have been preserved. Most of the letters were kind and affectionate; however, some are vindictive of her religious views and of the Mormon faith.
In the latter part of May 1837, the Abbott family decided to move to the Mississippi Valley region where they could establish a permanent home. The family went by boat down the Allegheny River and in five weeks arrived at Pike County, Illinois where Stephen bought a quarter section of farmland and forty acres of timberland. He cultivated the land and built a house for his family.
In 1839, Stephen and Abigail came in contact with the Mormon people who had been driven out of Missouri and began settling in Nauvoo, Illinois. After the Abbotts investigated this new religion, they were convinced to the truthfulness of it. They felt that they had finally found the religion they were looking for. The Abbott family became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Stephen was baptized on June 17, 1840 by Elder Joseph Wood and confirmed by him and Elder William Brenton.
In about 1842, the family moved to Nauvoo and bought a home and some land. Stephen was ordained to the office of a Seventy. He, along with George Miller, Lyman Wight and James Brown, was called by the Prophet to go on a temporal mission to gather funds for the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.
Later, he was called on a mission to Wisconsin. Before he left, he had placed a quantity of wheat in the mill at Pike County. He was depending on this wheat or flour to feed his family while he was gone, however, a man, who was a distant relative, stole several barrels of his flour. The loss was a great disappointment to him as he had to find other means to provide for Abigail and the children while he was away.
Stephen, in the company of a Mr. E. Thompson, a cousin, who was to accompany him on the mission, began floating cordwood down the Mississippi River. This work entailed exposure to cold and damp conditions and as a result, Stephen died on October 19, 1843, at age thirty-eight from exposure. According to Abigail: "He sleeps in an unmarked grave on the hillside overlooking the Mississippi River." Abigail was without the means to erect a monument or even a slab to mark his grave. She planted some morning glories on the spot where he was buried.
Abigail was stunned, heart broken and overwhelmed by this tragic event in her life. Winter was almost upon her and she had eight children to care for. Emily Abbott, the oldest child, who later married Edward Bunker, said: "She was wrapped up with her father, loved him dearly and grieved bitterly when he died." She continued by remarking: "Her sorrow over the loss of her father was nothing compared with the grief when Joseph, the Prophet was murdered. Although, she felt their home was spoiled when father was taken, the death of the Prophet resulted in the whole world being spoiled…such was the gloom among the people of Nauvoo."
In the spring of 1844, Abigail fenced a small tract of land near the Mississippi River. She began teaching private school to obtain the necessities of life. Abigail, along with her family, came down with Ague. Lyman Wight, an apostle, lived in an upper room of her house. From time to time he was visited by some of the apostles including Brigham Young. One time during one of their visits, Abigail asked them to administer to her and her children. As the apostles were leaving, President Young turned to Abigail and told her they would all recover. Many friends and relatives came to her aid at the time of her sorrow, including James Brown.
Before leaving Nauvoo, Abigail married James Brown. She was his second polygamous wife. Sarah Steadwell Wood was also married to James. Esther Jones Roper Brown was married to James but had not married him in polygamy. Stephen and James Brown were good friends and had entered into an agreement that if anything happened to one or the other, they would take care of the family that was left. The relationship between Abigail and James was more of protector than that of a husband. However, according to family history, Abigail and James had married in Nauvoo. James had high regard for Abigail. They had been good friends for several years.
In May 1846, Abigail was offered $10.00 for her house, lot, twenty acres of fenced land and her furniture. The buyer told her the money would ferry her across the Mississippi River. She had no other choice than to take the money.
Edward Bunker, her son-in-law, helped the family cross the Mississippi River. From the west banks they witness the "Battle of Nauvoo". The Abbotts and Bunkers then journeyed to Garden Grove, Iowa and it was here that Edward Bunker enlisted in the Mormon Battalion as Private in Company "E" under the command of Captain Daniel Davis. Before he left, he had built a cabin for Emily and her family. James Brown enlisted in the Battalion as Captain of Company "C".
While her husband was away, Abigail taught school and took care of her sick children. She also cared of Emily during her confinement with her first baby. Emily gave birth to a baby boy on February 1, 1847. Water for the home had to be carried from a quarter of a mile away. Firewood was gather each day and cut into logs to maintain a fire throughout the day. The cabin was cold and with sick children, they needed the warmth that a cozy fire could provide.
During the winter, Abigail received $22.50 from Captain James Brown and Edward sent Emily some money. These funds helped to sustain the family. In October 1847, the women and their families moved to Mosquito Creek, a point farther west near Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Captain James Brown wrote several letters to Abigail while he was gone with the Battalion. On August 6, 1847, after he had brought the three sick detachments from Pueblo, Colorado to Salt Lake, he wrote to her giving her instructions on how to bring the families to Salt Lake. He related: "My expenses have been high and not being able to draw my pay in time to assist you to come last spring, you must wait with patience and I will assist all of you within my power, for I am anxious to see and hear from you." He told her he had sent to her by the hand of Andrew Shupe and Franklin Allen one wagon, harnesses, four mules and four yoke of oxen. He also gave Franklin Allen $30.00 to give to her. He asked her to bring flour and meal so they would have something to eat when the families arrived in the Valley. He also told her that he had quartered his company in this beautiful valley where there was an abundance of salt water as well as sweet water. He related that the valley "looked very much like the one the Lord spoke of in the scriptures where the Lord’s people were to build in the tops of the mountains." He went on to say: "I hope I shall see you with the rest of our friends flowing in it."
In 1849, Abigail planted a crop, but before it was harvested, she sold it and came to the Salt Lake Valley. She left Mosquito Creek, July 4, 1849, in the George A. Smith Company, and brought all of her children, except Emily Abbott Bunker, with her. She never lost one dollar’s worth of property on the four month trip which speaks highly of her care and management.
After arriving in Salt Lake she moved to Ogden, Utah. In 1850, Abigail received, from James Brown, a tract of land in the southern part of the city facing what is now Washington Avenue. Here her home was built and she dwelt with her family until the children were grown and married. When her daughter, Phebe Abigail was grown, James Brown took her as one of his wives. Abigail was very much against the marriage and she divorced James. She then sold her home and lived with her married children visiting them all as a ministering angel greatly beloved and respected by them and her grandchildren.
At Christmas time, when Abigail was eighty years of age, she gathered a group of young people to her home in the evenings and taught them Christmas carols. On Christmas evening, Abigail procured a wagon and accompanied the young carolers as they sang their carols throughout the homes of the community. The event brought much joy to the young people and endeared her to them.
Abigail Smith Abbott Brown died July 23, 1889 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Abigail Zundell at Willard, Utah. At the time of her death she possessed a little property, which by common consent of the heirs, was donated to the erection of a modest monument to her and her husband, Stephen Joseph Abbott, whom she left on a hillside grave near Nauvoo, Illinois. Abigail is buried in the Willard City Cemetery, Box Elder County, Utah.
James Brown was born September 30, 1801 in Rowan County, North Carolina. His parents were James Brown and Mary or Polly Williams. He died on September 30, 1863 and is buried in the Ogden City Cemetery, Weber County, Utah.
Stephen Joseph Abbott was born August 16, 1804 in Providence, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. His parents were James Abbott and Phebe Howe. He died October 19, 1843 and is buried near the Mississippi River by Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.
Children of Stephen Joseph Abbott and Abigail Smith Abbott Brown:
Emily Abbott born September 19, 1827 in Dansville, Livingston County, New York
Charilla Abbott born July 4, 1829 in Hornellsville, Steuben County, New York
Phebe Abigail Abbott born May 18, 1831 in Hornellsville, Steuben County, New York
Lydia Lucina Abbott born February 25, 1833 in Hornellsville, Steuben County, New York
Abiel Abbott born July 10, 1835 in Hornellsville, Steuben County, New York
Myron Abbott born December 1, 1837 in Perry, Pike County, Illinois
Cynthia Abbott born December 28, 1839 in Perry, Pike County, Illinois
Abigail Abbott born February 23, 1842 in Perry, Pike County, Illinois
Information obtained from a history on Abigail Smith Abbott Brown written by Lois E. Jones and Myron A. Abbott, Jr. — Compiler’s files.
A letter from James Brown written to Abigail S.A. Brown – dated August 6, 1847 – obtained from Lois E. Jones – Compiler’s files.
A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War by Sgt. Daniel Tyler – Roster of Company C – p. 121 – The James Brown Company entering the Salt Lake Valley – pp. 195-202 – Captain James Brown Returning to California – pp. 315 and 316.
Heart Throbs of the West – Daughters of Utah Pioneers Publication – Daughters of Utah Pioneers Headquarters – Salt Lake City, Utah – Vol. 1 – p. 441 – Abigail and Her Children Crossing the Plains.
History of Captain James Brown written by Gladys Brown White – obtained at the Utah Historical Society – 300 Rio Grande – Salt Lake City, Utah.
Family Group Sheets – L.D.S. Family History Library – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Salt Lake City, Utah.