Monday, August 5, 2013

Visiting Twelve Mormon Homes


Most who arrive at this post are hoping to learn more about their ancestor or ancestors and will be surprised or saddened to have to muddle through some Utah or Mormon history first. Sorry, but this part of the family story is completely intertwined with it.

This story begins with a handsome attorney named Thomas L. Kane who was born into a prominent, Philadelphia family. He was a strong abolitionist [someone involved in the movement to end slavery]. Thomas married his English-born, second cousin Elizabeth Wood. She was a beautiful and kind woman; a practicing physician who earned a medical degree in the United States and practiced until 1909. 

Thomas Kane's involvement with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in 1846 when he read Philadelphia newspaper accounts of the forced exodus of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across Iowa from their Illinois homes. Intensely interested in the account, Kane sought out local Mormon leaders and learned more of their western movement.  

 It was through him and the power of his father, a federal judge, that he obtained permission for the Saints, who were expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois to occupy the Pottawattamie and Omaha Indian lands in Iowa. Kane also instigated the famous Mormon Battalion which greatly benefitted the Church in the long run. Throughout his life he lectured, published and authored letters and editorials defending the Mormons. Thomas Kane also mediated disputes because of polygamy and Utah territorial issues. During the Civil War, Thomas became a Union Army Colonel.

After all of these accolades, Mr. Kane had a strong, personal friendship with the President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young. 

Because of Mr. Kane's friendship with Brigham Young, he often visited the Utah territory. President  Young invited Thomas and his wife Elizabeth and their two youngest sons to winter with him in St. George, Utah in 1872-1873. The invitation was accepted in part due to Kane's ill-health and the prospect of a comfortable winter situation. 


President Young and his entourage boarded a train in Salt Lake City and they traveled to Lehi, Utah which was the end of the rail line then. Here they boarded carriages and from Lehi they traveled on to Provo, Payson, Santaquin, Nephi, Scipio, Fillmore, Kanosh, CoveFort, Beaver, Parowan, Cedar City and lastly St. George. 

Mrs. Kane kept a journal of her trip and wrote very detailed letters to her father William Wood in Philadelphia. In 1874 Mr. Wood had Elizabeth's journal and letters published in a book entitled, Twelve Mormon Homes Visited in Succession on a Journey through Utah to Arizona. He claimed he published the book with the design of getting sympathy for the Mormons who were "threatened with hostile legislation" by Congress.

When President Young's group stopped in Scipio, Utah, Thomas and Elizabeth Kane and their two boys were invited to stay in my ancestor, Daniel Thompson and his second wife Lydia Ann Thompson's home. 

Elizabeth wrote, "Round Valley or Scipio is the poorest and newest of the settlements we stopped at, and has been much troubled with the Indians. The Mormons say "troubled with Indians" as we might say "troubled with mosquitoes." No one had been killed for four years back, though cattle had been driven off that year we were told.

The Bishop, [my ancestor, Daniel Thompson] came riding out to meet us, a handsome, kindly-faced man, mounted on a horse. We were taken to the house of his second wife, a little one-roomed log cabin, with a lean-to behind, in which the cooking was done."



A similar log home of the time


Elizabeth explained the home and its furnishings to the smallest detail, "The living room was given up to us. Its main glory consisted in a wide chimney-place, on whose hearth a fire of great pine logs blazed, that sent a ruddy glow over the whitewashed logs of the wall and the canvas ceiling, and penetrated every corner of the room with delicious light and warmth. There was a substantial bedstead in one corner, and curtains of old-fashioned chintz were tacked from the ceiling around it as if it had been a four-poster, and a neat patchwork counterpane cover the soft feather-bed. A good rag carpet was on the floor; clean white curtains hung at the windows; and clean, white covers, edged with knitted lace, covered the various bracket-shelves that supported the housewife's Bible, Book of Mormon and work basket, looking glass, and a few simple ornaments. Two or three pretty good colored prints hung on the walls. There was a mahogany bureau, a washstand, a rocking chair, and a half a dozen wooden ones, with a large chest.


Lydia's room would have looked similar to this picture.


The small, round table was already spread for our supper with cakes, preserves, and pies; and the fair Lydia was busily engaged in bringing in hot rolls, meat, tea, and other good things, while a miniature of herself, still fairer and rosier, about two years old, trotted beside her; now endeavoring to rearrange the table by upsetting plates." 


Lydia Ivie Thompson

The little girl Elizabeth is speaking about was Daniel and Lydia's daughter, Lilly who was about 17 months old. Lilly died two years later in 1874.

The Kane's traveled back through Scipio as winter was breaking up. They again stopped at Bishop and Lydia Thompson's home.

Elizabeth wrote, "Our pretty hostess, 'Aunt Lydia,' was sick; a little girl said, opening the gate into the enclosure in which both houses stood, "and Mother expected us this time."


The door was opened to admit us, by a slender, elegantly-dressed young lady.

"Mrs. Thompson?" I inquired, hesitatingly.

"No," she answered, smiling and blushing. "I am only a guest like yourself. Mrs. Thompson will be here in a moment: Sister Lydia is sick, and Mrs. Thompson thought some biscuits she had been baking would tempt her appetite, so she has run across with them. Here she is!"

"Sister Loraina [Lorinda] Thompson" looked like an elder sister of Mrs. Lydia's, but was no relation. She had a large family of children, but seemed not in the least disconcerted by the addition to her household of our fellow-guest, her husband and baby, although she had to entertain Mr. Staines and young Kimball also; and to care for the invalid next door."

Lorinda Bronson Thompson

Lorinda and the young girl prepared supper for their guests. Mrs. Kane recalled, Mrs. Thompson had a young girl to help her, but more than all, she had 'faculty,' and her meals were served with as much heat in them and coolness in herself, as if she had not both her rooms filled with guests and children."

Elizabeth Kane did not describe Lorinda Thompson's home as she had Lydia's, but commented more about Lorinda herself. She wrote, "I could not but express my wonder at her [Lorinda's] deft ways. She came in after her tea-things were washed up, and sat beside me with her knitting. She laughed when I praised her, saying that it was no wonder—she had 'had a girl to help her these three weeks'—but she never found the children in her way; they were a help. And so they were, the little eldest unrobing the younger ones for bed, or waiting at table without needing directions. They were well-trained, as well as healthy rosy children, and a little creature, who could scarcely speak plainly, sat on my knee, and caroled like a lark."

Being a physician and mother, Mrs. Kane would have appreciated healthy, obedient children.

It is easy to see through these writings that the Thompson's had prepared for Brigham Young and the Kane's visit for quite a time. I believe the Kanes felt very welcome in the home of the Thompsons. 

Rarely do we get such detailed glimpses of our ancestor's lives. I am grateful to Elizabeth Kane and her father for giving me this opportunity. .


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