Zerah Pulsipher–The Man Who Baptized Wilford Woodruff

Zerah Pulsipher was one of my ancestors–a good man who did a lot of great things. These are a few of his stories.

Everyone has a story. That’s what makes history so interesting—the experiences of people. Some of those people are our ancestors, which gives added interest when their stories are found. In encouraging us to keep a record, President Spencer W. Kimball said:

Your private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity. Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant. Your journal, like most others, will tell of problems as old as the world and how you dealt with them. …

Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life.

What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity” (Kimball, S. W., 1980).

While we take counsel from his words on what we should be doing—keeping records for ourselves and our posterity—we can learn to value our ancestors before us by looking into the records they have left behind for the exact same reasons he gave.

We hear much of the more famous Church members of the nineteenth century: Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, etc., but there is value in learning about lesser-known members of the Church who contributed to the rise of the Lord’s kingdom in our day—particularly our ancestors. Just as their leaders, these individuals had marvelous experiences, trials, times they didn’t act correctly, but moments that can inspire us today as well. As Maurine Whipple wrote in the introduction to her best-known work:

Most of the Mormon pioneers are gone now. …

Perhaps therefore it is natural for our generation to deify them. ….

But I believe we detract from their achievement when we paint them with too white a brush. These people of whom I write are my people and I love them, but I believe that what they did becomes even greater when we face the fact that they were human beings by birth and only saints by adoption. (Whipple, preface.)

In that vein, would like to share a few stories about one of my ancestors—Zerah Pulsipher.


You might be familiar with Parley P. Pratt’s conversion story—his autobiography has become somewhat of a Church classic, the story was produced as a short film used in How Rare a Possession and a Church history DVD collection or two, and Gordon B. Hinckley retold it when he issued his challenge to read the Book of Mormon in 2005. Elder Pratt was “called upon by the Holy Ghost to forsake [his] house and home [in Ohio] for the gospel’s sake” and was led to New York, where he came across a Book of Mormon. An old Baptist preacher “began to tell of a book, a STRANGE BOOK, a VERY STRANGE BOOK!” He then “felt a strange interest in the book.” When Pratt got his hands on it, he “read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.”

He continued:

As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life.

He recounted that when he had the opportunity to finish the Book of Mormon, he felt that:

I esteemed the Book, or the information it contained in it, more than all the riches of the world. Yes; I verily believe that I would not at that time have exchanged the knowledge I then possessed, for a legal title to all the beautiful farms, houses, villages and property which passed in review before me, on my journey through one of the most flourishing settlements of western New York. (Pratt, P. P., 2009, Kindle location 395-436).

When told in full, his story is truly one of the greatest conversion stories of our time.

Parley P. Pratt Discovers the Book of Mormon from the video “How Rare a Possession.”

Zerah Pulsipher had quite the miraculous experience as well. Pulsipher was a man raised in New England around the turn of the nineteenth century. Like many of those around him, including Parley Pratt, Zerah was  a seeker and felt to say many times that “the pure Church with its gifts and graces was not on the Earth, if so I had not found it, But I<f I> should be happy enough to find <it> in my day” (Pulsipher, Z. “Autobiographical Sketch #1). Still, he felt that he should practice Christianity as best as he could and built a Baptist meetinghouse for his community congregation in Onondaga County, New York where served as a minister.

Sometime in late 1830 or early 1831, Zerah “heard a Minister say that [there was] an ancient record or Golden Bible in Manchester near Palmyra” and stated that this remark struck him “like a shock of electricity [and] at the same time [I] thought it might be something that would give light to my mind upon principles that I had been thinking about for years”. This minister, identified by one of Zerah’s neighbors as Solomon Chamberlin, sparked considerable interest in the Book of Mormon in Spafford, but seems to have not left one in town (see Nielsen, Zerah Pulsipher Conversion). When a copy made its way into town later in 1831 Zerah got a hold of it and “directly read through it twice, gave it a thorough investigation and believed it was true” (ibid). His oldest son recalled that his father would get together “with the neighbors, Elijah Cheney, S[hadrach]. Roundy and others, would sit and read and talk day and night ’till they read it thru and thru. They believed it was brought forth by the power of God, to prepare the way for the second coming of the Son of Man. It was just what they were looking for. ” (Pulsipher J. “Short Sketch”). His wife added that: “We borrowed it, read and believed it, but did not know anything more about it. Was very anxious to knw more about it.” (Pulsipher M.).

That winter, a Mormon missionary named Jared Carter came into town to preach about Mormonism. Zerah recalled that:

As soon as he came into town I with two Methodist Preachers went to see him after a reasonable introduction I questioned him upon the Principles of the Ancient gospel with all its gifts Belonging to it if he believed it he answerd in the affirmative I asked him if he obeyed those Principles he said he did I asked him if he had ever Laid hands on the sick and they had recovered yes sd [said] he in many i[n]stances he Preachd the folloing evening to a crouded Congregation held up the Book of [Mormon] and Declared it to be a Revelation from god (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”).

Apparently, Zerah was watching intently to see if he could find fault with Brother Carter, but felt that he could not gainsay anything he said (see JD 8:38, Brigham Young, 6 April 1860). In continuing to relate the meeting where Jared Carter preached and what happened afterwards Zerah recorded that:

He sat down and gave Liberty for remarks the Congregation seemd to be in a maze not knowing what to to think of what they had heard I arose and sd to the Congregation that we have been hearing strang things and if true they were of the utmost importan[ce] to us if not true it was one of the greatest Impositions and as the Preacher had sd that he had got his Knowledge from heaven and was Nothing but a man and I the same that I had Just as good a right to obtain that Blesing as he therefore I was determined to have that knowledge for my self which I Considered it My Privilege from that time I made it a matter of fervent Prayer

I think about the sevent[h] day as I was thrashing in my barn with doors shut all at once there seemd to be a ray of Light from heaven which causd me to stop work for a short time but soon began it again but in a few minints another Light Came above my head which Causd me to Look up I thought I saw the angels with <the> book of Mormon in their hands in the attitude of shoing it to me and saying this is the great Revelation of the Last days in which all thing spoken of by the Prophets must be fulfild

The Vision was so open and plain that I began to rejoice Exceedingly so that I walkd the the length of my barn Crying glory hallalujah to god and the Lamb forever for some time and it seemd a little difficult to keep my mind in a proper state <of> reasonable order I was so filld With the joys of heaven

But when my mind became calm I cald the Church Together and informd them of what I had seen my Determination to join the Church of latter day Saints which I did and a Large Body of that Church went with me (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”).

Pulsipher Family History Book-Zerah's Vision

A depiction of Zerah’s Vision.
Used as the cover for the Pulsipher Family Book (Lund).

The fact that that the Pulsiphers were baptized aroused a great deal of curiosity in their community. Mary Pulsipher recalled:

It was not long before the news went all around: Brother and Sister Pulsipher was mormons. Some would not believe it till they come to See us. We had plenty of visitors. Some come to try to convince us it was all delusion. They thought they could reclaim us but went away discouredge. Others come to inquire. They Said if we had got Some thing better, thay wanted to know it. They would be baptised and Go home rejoiceing. (Pulsipher, M.).

For further reading, follow the link here to learn more about Zerah Pulsipher’s conversion story.

Missionary Work

Thus began Zerah’s work of spreading the gospel. The missionary labors of Zerah and Parley P. Pratt stand among the parallels that exist between these two leaders in the early Church. It is of even greater interest that both taught and baptized future presidents of the Church.

John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff–the third and fourth presidents of the Church.

While serving a mission in Canada, Elder Pratt was led to visit a man named John Taylor in Toronto.

John Taylor commenced a thorough investigation of the doctrines of the Church. “I made a regular business of it for three weeks,” he said, “and followed Brother Parley from place to place.” He wrote down and studied Elder Pratt’s sermons and compared them with the scriptures. At length, the Holy Spirit bore witness of the truthfulness of Elder Pratt’s message, and John and Leonora Taylor were baptized on 9 May 1836. He later testified that he had “never doubted any principle of Mormonism since” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001, p. xiv).

John Taylor would later serve as the third president of the Church, leading the Church for almost ten years (three as president of the Quorum of the Twelve and seven as President of the Church).

Zerah recorded that shortly after being baptized he “I remaind in that [place] Preaching in the regions around with Privilege of Baptizing <many> into [the] Kingdom.” (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2.”) He and another missionary, Elijah Cheney, traveled to the small town of Richland, New York, where he baptized Wilford Woodruff on the 31 Dec 1833.” Wilford Woodruff would later become the fourth president of the Church, leading it for over eleven years (two as president of the Quorum of the Twelve and nine as President of the Church). It has even been stated that President Woodruff “is arguably the third most important figure in all of LDS church history after Joseph Smith, who began Mormonism, and Brigham Young, who led the Saints to Utah and supervised the early colonization of the intermountain west” (Alexander, 1991, p. 331).

The story of how the newly-converted missionaries were led to this future president is inspiring and somewhat amusing:

while working in the field the spirit moved upon him to start out & go North & preach the gospel, he stoped & thought on it & finely conclouded to work on untill night & then he would more think more about it but the spirit soon told him to go north on a mission so he quit work & went home & told Mother to get his clothes ready for he was going on a mission in the morning. where are you going. I don’t know, only I am to go north. How long will you be gone? I don’t know that.

He got Bro. Cheney who had been ordained a decon to go with him. They travled two days, about 80 miles from home & just before sundown father looks ahead of them & said, do you see that little house in the clearing? Yes, well, that is where we are to stop. So they turned off to the house & father said to the lady, can you keep to travleing preachers of the great Later Day Gospel? Well yes she said, I guess so. We never turn away preachers. So they went in & she prepared supper for them. Directly her husband came in & they told him their buisness & father said do you think we cant get a meeting tonight? I guess so. I will go out & see about it. He gave out the word & lit up the school house & the breathern went to the sister in law what is the light for in the school house & she said Two men come here & said they had the great Latter Day Gospel & they are having a meeting to night. Bro. Woodruff said he didint want any supper & did not even take time to wash but went to meeting & when he got in father had the book of Mormon [in] his hand & was explaining it about how it was brought forth by the power of the Lord to bless this generation with. Father spoke about one hour & brother Cheney bore testemony & father gave liberty if anyone wanted to speak.

Bro. Woodruff said the next thing that he knew he was on his feet bearing testemony to what he had heard. The meeting was soon disimissed & they went home & had a long talk on the principles of the gospel. After the breathern retired he never closed his eyes that night but searched the book through & was ready to be baptized the next day. They another held another meeting & on the next day baptized several & ordained Bro. Woodruff a Priest & set him apart to preside over the little branch, then they felt their mission was filled & they returned home. (Pulsipher, C.)

On the other end of the story, Wilford Woodruff was exposed to many different denominations as a youth. From the teachings of an older friend, the whisperings of the spirit, and studying the scriptures he came to the conclusion that they lacked the spiritual gifts and authority that they ought to have. When he told that to the ministers, they said that he was foolish for believing it and that “these things were given to the children of men in the dark ages of the world, and they were given for the very purpose of enlightening the children of men in that age, that they might believe in Jesus Christ. Today we live in the blaze of the glorious gospel light, and we do not need those things.” In response, Wilford replied: “Then give me the dark ages of the world; give me those ages when men received these principles.” (Woodruff, 1889, p. 450; see also Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004, pp. 36-37.) He also related that:

In my early manhood I prayed day and night that I might live to see a prophet. I would have gone a thousand miles to have seen a prophet, or a man that could teach me the things that I read of in the Bible. I could not join any church, because I could not find any church at that time that advocated these principles. I spent many a midnight hour, by the river side, in the mountains, and in my mill . . . calling upon God that I might live to see a prophet or some man that would teach me of the things of the kingdom of God as I read them (Woodruff, 1895, p. 741; or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004, p., xx).

On December 29, 1833, Wilford Woodruff finally heard the gospel from authorized servants of God as the two stories intertwined. He recounted:

For the first time in my life, I saw an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was Zerah Pulsipher. He told me that he was inspired of the Lord. He was threshing grain in his barn when the voice of the Lord came to him and told him to arise and go to the north, the Lord had business for him there. He called upon Brother [Elijah] Cheney, his neighbor and a member of the Church. They traveled sixty miles on foot . . . in deep snow, and the first place they felt impressed to call upon was the house of my brother and myself. They went into the house and talked with my brother’s wife, and they told her who they were and what their business was. They told her that they were moved upon to go to the north, and they never felt impressed to stop anywhere until they came to that house. When they told her their principles, she said her husband and her brother-in-law both were men who believed those principles, and they had prayed for them for years. They appointed a meeting in the schoolhouse upon our farm.

I came home in the evening, and my sister-in-law told me of this meeting. I had been drawing logs from the shores of Lake Ontario (I was in the lumber business), and I turned out my horses, did not stop to eat anything, and went to the meeting. I found the house and the dooryard filled with people. I listened for the first time in my life to a Gospel sermon as taught by the Elders of this Church. It was what I had sought for from my boyhood up (Deseret Evening News, March 1, 1897, 1; or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004, p. 37).

The Baptism of Wilford Woodruff, from the video “The Great Apostasy.”

President Woodruff recorded his response to the first sermon he heard from Zerah Pulsipher:

He commenced the meeting with some introductory remarks and then prayed. I felt the Spirit of God to bear witness that he was the servant of God. He then commenced preaching, and that too as with authority, and when he had finished his discourse I truly felt that it was the first gospel sermon that I had ever heard. I thought it was what I had long been looking for. I could not feel it my duty to leave the house without bearing witness to the truth before the people. I opened my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my heart to understand, and my doors to entertain him who had administered unto us (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, introduction).


I invited the men home with me. I borrowed the Book of Mormon, and sat up all that night and read. In the morning I told Brother Pulsipher I wanted to be baptized. I had a testimony for myself that those principles were true. Myself and my brother . . . went forth and were baptized—the two first in that county” (Woodruff, 1897, p.1; or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004, pp.  37-38).

For further reading, follow the link to The Wilford Woodruff Conversion Story.

Callings and Ancestry

To continue the comparisons, both Parley P. Pratt and Zerah Pulsipher shared common ancestors with Joseph Smith and they were both called to high church callings by him.

Joseph told Parley’s brother in a letter that he “had a vision in which he saw that [the Pratt’s] ancestral line and his had a common ancestor a few generations back” (in Madsen, 1989, p. 107). The Pratts were never able to find the connection, but it was discovered later on by a man named Archibald F. Bennett: they both descended from John Lathrop. Lathrop was also the ancestor of Wilford Woodruff, Oliver Cowdery, Frederick G. Williams, Zina Huntington Young, George Albert Smith, Harold B. Lee, Orson F. Whitney, M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook, and other Church leaders (Larsen). “In fact one estimate concludes that one-fourth of the early Church members in America were descended from John Lathrop” (Madsen, 1989, pp. 107-108). Zerah was not among the group that shared that particular ancestor, but he and Joseph shared a common ancestry in Thomas and Susana Dutton—Zerah’s third great-grandparents and Joseph’s fourth great-grandparents.

Joseph and Zerah’s lines from the Duttons.

Parley P. Pratt, Joseph Smith Jr., Zerah Pulsipher

Elder Pratt was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1835 (see D&C 124:129) and Zerah Pulsipher was ordained as one of the First Seven Presidents of the Seventies in 1838 (see D&C 124:138-39). A Seventy is an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood drawn from the idea of the seventy elders Moses took with him to the mount to see God and bear witness of Him to Israel and the seventy Christ called to serve as missionaries during His ministry (see Exodus 24:9-10; Luke 10:1). “The primary responsibility of the seventies in the early days of the Church was to preach the gospel as missionaries. They were presided over by seven presidents” (Millet, Olson, Skinner, Top, 2011, p. 584). While serving as one of those presidents, Zerah had to exercise leadership under some interesting circumstances.

His son, Charles recorded that:

We moved to Kirtland in 1835…. [Later on] the mob violence became terrible and the leaders of the church had to leave Kirtland. They went to Missouri and sent for the rest of the people to come there.

During the winter of 1837-38, the Saints were left in charge of the Seventies at Kirtland, Ohio. All that had means had gone to Missouri, about five-hundred remaining. (“History of Charles Pulsipher,” in Lund, 1953, p. 64)

Zerah related that:

We who were the presidents, 7 in number Labored all we Could and attended Prayer in the Atick stores of the Temple one or twice every week that Lord would open the way to remove from that place

At one time while we were together on our knees I saw a personage stood between me and window he was drest in a long wite robe that Came down near his ancles he appeard to be near 7 feet high with grey hair that came down nearly on his shoulders I saw his hands and feet that were naked his face of a pleasing countenance I saw him turn his eyes from me to the others and then to me but did not turn his head he then spoke and sd be one and you shall have enough said no more and pasd away[.]

When prayer was finishd I informed them what I had seen and heard. they <were> Pleasd with the Revelation. (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #3”.)

Charles continued:

We had made a covenant that we would band together, and go up into Missouri together or die in the attempt. Our enemies heard of this and declared we should not roll out more than two wagons at a time.

Two days before we were to start, one of our worst enemies came to father, who was one of the councilmen and said, “I understand you are expecting to move in a few days.”

“Yes”, father said, “we are.”

He said, “I want you to come and camp in my pasture the last night, as there is plenty of feed for all your animals, and I will use all my influence to prevent you from being harmed” (in Lund, 1953, p. 64).

Zerah related that the Methodist meeting house in town had been burned and the mob was blaming this tragedy on the Seventies as a pretext to destroy the Mormons. This man: “the great leader of the mob who had once been a Mormon” had a vision of the actual people who had fired the house and informed the mob that it wasn’t the Council. While they weren’t convinced, he was, and he felt to help them out. “This man that had Led the Mob invited me to tak[e] all our teams and company and camp in <a> Clover field which was about 1 <foot> high I thankd him and embracd the offer the next day we all went out all in order” (Pulsipher Z. “Autobiographical Sketch #2”).

This company of over 500 Saints–known as the Kirtland Camp–made the 866 mile journey to Missouri over the course of the next three months in difficult circumstances. They were organized in much the same way as future camps that traveled to Utah: divided into companies of tens, with captains over each, ultimately responding to the Presidents of the Seventy. The camp was generally awakened at 4:00 am each day. At 4:20 the families would join together for prayers. By seven or eight o’clock they were generally on their way, traveling from twelve to twenty miles a day, often fighting against muddy roads and lack of money. They earned income by performing odd jobs along the way. Discouragement was enough of a problem that by the time they reached Springfield, Illinois, the company had been reduced to 260 persons (see Allen, J.B., Leonard, G. M., 1992, p. 125; Anderson, K. R., 1989, 1996, pp. 240-241).

Those who remained pressed on to Missouri despite warning that mobs were driving the Saints from the state and were directed by Joseph to settle in Adam-ondi-Ahman after being joyously received in Far West. The Pulsiphers lived there for a month, dealing with mob violence the whole time. When the mobs drove them out entirely, the family went to Illinois with the other Saints, suffering immensely along the way. Zerah settled in Nauvoo, helped build the temple and received his endowments there before crossing the plains.

His family was among the Saints the left Nauvoo on 2 February 1846. As they crossed Iowa, Zerah “frequently went forward to Pineer [pioneer] the way and organize places for the poor to stop that was not able to go any farther” (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”). He went with Parley and Orson Pratt to find the location for Garden Grove, a place where the poor could stop while the forward company went onward. He then settled in Winter Quarters, where the family suffered immensely again. Then, he traveled to Salt Lake during the year 1848, serving as a captain of 100 along the way under Brigham Young, and arrived in September of that year.

Obedience and Disobedience

Pulsipher Family Marker in Hebron, UT.

People are people and are prone to mistakes. Parley Pratt and Zerah both had theirs.

During the Kirtland era, there was a time where many leaders of the Church doubted Joseph Smith or totally apostatized.

Backbiting against Joseph Smith was common during the spring and summer of 1837 in Kirtland, particularly when he was away on business or on missions. Some men who held positions of trust in the Church rejected his leadership and declared that he was no longer a true prophet. When Elder Parley P. Pratt returned from a Canadian mission the apostasy was well under way. He was temporarily caught up in these difficulties and left a candid account of his involvement.

“There were also envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions, which caused much trouble and sorrow. By such spirits I was also accused, misrepresented and abused. And at one time, I also was overcome by the same spirit in a great measure, and it seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003, p. 173).

From other accounts we learn that:

When Joseph, battered by creditors, tried to collect payment for three city lots he had sold Parley Pratt in the inflationary delirium a few months earlier, Pratt exploded in rage and frustration: ‘If you are still determined to pursue this wicked course, until yourself and the church shall sink down to hell, I beseech you at least, to have mercy on me and my family.’… It took months for the Pratts to recover their composure and return to the fold” (Bushman, 2005/2007, p. 337).

He charged the prophet with “covetousness, and taking advantage of his brothers by undue religious influence” and complained bitterly to others. “One Sunday, Parley Pratt preached that Joseph ‘had committed great sins.’ After Rigdon defended the Prophet, Pratt left in protest” (Bushman, 2005/2007, p., 338). When he approached John Taylor and told him some the things he thought Joseph was in error about, he was rebuked by his convert:

I am surprised to hear you speak so, Brother Parley. Before you left Canada you bore a strong testimony to Joseph Smith being a Prophet of God, and to the truth of the work he has inaugurated; and you said you knew these things by revelation, and the gift of the Holy Ghost…. If the work was true six months ago, it is true today; if Joseph Smith was then a prophet, he is now a prophet (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001, p. 77).

He repented not long afterwards:

The Lord knew my faith, my zeal, my integrity of purpose, and he gave me the victory.

I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessed wherein I had erred in spirit, murmured, or done or said amiss. He frankly forgave me, prayed for me and blessed me. Thus, by experience, I learned more fully to discern and to contrast the two spirits, and to resist the one and cleave to the other (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003, p. 173).

As for Zerah, once he arrived in Utah, he continued to do many great things and some things that weren’t so great. He built a grist mill in the Salt Lake Valley and sold meal at low rates or gave free to those who had little or nothing. He moved to the Jordan area and during the the 1850’s and he recorded that “we built a Large Barn and made a farm over Jorden two miles off which gave us a good Chance to keep Cattle there was nothing <then> of a very extraordinary nature with exception of Br Brigham Preachd continualy to bring the Church to obedience but they were groing rich and careless” (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”). The timeframe he had in mind seems to be the Mormon reformation of 1856-1857:

Sparked by the preaching of Jedediah M. Grant, second counselor in the First Presidency, the reform was an effort to persuade the Saints to renew their dedication to righteous living. The leaders, deeply concerned about what appeared to be signs of moral and spiritual decay, traveled around the territory preaching repentance and rededicating themselves fully to the work of the Lord and to seal this rededication with rebaptism (Allen, Leonard, 1992, p. 287).

As a leader in the Kingdom, Zerah was not exempt from the fiery preaching and calls to repentance of the reformation. At a meeting of the seventies, when volunteers were asked for assignments and few offered assistance, President Grant arose and stated:

I feel that there are some things that greeve [sic] me. President [Joseph] Young was asked if it would not be well to send the Presidents of seventies out. He said No they would Preach the people to sleep and then to Hell. Now this shows me that the Presidents of the seventies[,] the first seven Presidents[,] are asleep and there is sumthing [sic] wrong with them. If this is the case that they would preach the people to sleep & then to Hell Then this body of Counsellors [sic] are guilty of Great sins either of omission or Commission, & I would advise Joseph Young to cut off his council & drop them & appoint men in his stead who are full of the Holy Ghost & will act with him & assist him….

I think that Brother Joseph ought to Cut them off & prune the trees around him. How can the body be kept awake & Healthy when the head is asleep & dead? It has been with great reluctance that I have voted for the presidents of the seventies for a long time. And I will say to these seventies if your Presidents have gone to sleep dont you go to sleep, but keep awake. If your Presidency have committed Adultery & done wrong & committed great sins that will damn them dont you do it but wake up.

Is there any man that is in that Council that has been ordained a counselor to Joseph Young? If so, I do not know it. But each man was ordained a president & is under as much obligation as Joseph Young is to magnify his Calling & do his duty. But they never think of such a thing of taking any burden upon their shoulders but leave it all for Joseph Young to do & he has to drag them along…. Who has established the president to take men who were in the battallion to be presidents? I would take men who were full of the Holy Ghost. I do not care where the hell they come from. This is what I want. I say again, the Presidents of the Seventies are asleep, and if they do not wake up, they should be cut off.

He spoke of each of the presidents about neglecting their duties. To Zerah, he stated: “And Zerah Pulsipher[,] if He would preach the people to sleep & [is] guilty of some abominable sins of commission or omission of committing Adultery or some great sins & ought to be dropped” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, October 7, 1856).

Two months later, the calls to repentance continued as Heber C. Kimball made similar statements about the Seventies, specifically noting Zerah, in a public meeting (see JD 4:139-140, December 21, 1856). Zerah later recalled:

I was not aware that I had become so dull and careless relative to my duty Till Br Kimbal Cald on me in public to awake to awake to my duty I began to Call more fervently on the Lord I soon saw that Br Kimbal was right and that I was holding a high and responsible station in the Church and asleep with many others.

… I with the associates of my Council went Before Br Brigham and informd him that if he knew of any others that would take our presidency better Magnify it for the intrest of the Kingdom than we Could he was perfectly at Liberty to Do so but he told us to go and magnify our caling ourselves (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”).

It seems that he made an effort to do so and live a life of obedience to the prophet and serving the Lord. He reported that “I had much labor too among the Seventies, remaining councilor. I was frequently out 4 or 5 evenings a week besides day meetings” (ibid. 23). He also practiced polygamy, as was taught by the prophets of the time.

At some point, however, reports show that he tried before the presidency for sealing men to women without proper authority.  One record states that:

In some manner, he exceeded the bounds of his authority in exercizing the Sealing Power, and was subsequently released from the Presidency of the Seventy. He was then called before the First Presidency of the Church April 12, 1862. It was there voted, that he be rebaptized, reconfirmed and ordained to the office of a High Priest. Subsequently he was ordained a Patriarch. Elder John Van Cott was chosen as his successor in the First Council of Seventies (Jensen, 1901, p. 194).

Wilford Woodruff added that Zerah was on trial for “sealing women to men without authority,” clarifying what the abuse was (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 12 April 1862). For further reading, click on the link to learn more about The Zerah Pulsipher Trial.

Hebron, Utah

In the fall of that same year, he moved to an area known as Shoal Creek in southern Utah. Previous to his moving there, his sons John, Charles, and William had settled in the region under assignment to find a place to herd the cattle and horses from St. George. Other families moved in in subsequent years due to being called to help and for protection during the Indian wars. During August of 1868 President Erastus Snow came with the county surveyor, George A. Burgon (who is my great-great grandfather on the other side of my family) from St. George, and surveyed the town site. It was named Hebron due to it being a herd ground, like the Hebron of the Bible. President Snow wanted to place the town across and further down the creek, where it would be easier to get water, but the people wanted it near the old fort where he predicted that: “It was to be very expensive and hard work to put the water up there and keep it.” This would turn out to be too true (Huntsman, 1929).

Old photograph of Hebron, UT

Satellite view of Hebron’s location.

The town grew, but it faced trouble: Indian conflicts, drought, disease, internal conflict, and natural disaster combined to make the already uninviting land uninhabitable. Most residents moved away or moved to the neighboring community of Enterprise, especially after an earthquake in 1902 that ruined most of the homes in Hebron. By 1910, the town was abandoned. The locals blamed the town’s failure on the spirits of Gadianton Robbers that they believed haunted their town location, making it impossible to live there (and making it doubly a ghost town by the early twentieth century). One inhabitant recounted: “As a child I remember of hearing the older folks talking about how evil spirits seem to hover about that part of the country. It was the people’s belief that way back in history, that strip of country had once been the hideout of the notorious Gadianton Robbers that were so much talked about in history. They felt their spirits still haunted the country” (Hunt, 1968, p. 33).

In reality, it was probably the earthquake, floods, cool climate, lack of water, and disunity that caused the demise of their settlement. As another inhabitant related: “[it] wasn’t exactly a paradise,” and “it was so cold, too cold to raise fruit and garden stuff.” Her grandmother, Mary Huntsman Leavitt, also added: “that place was not intended to be for human beings, only cattle and sheep.” (Brooks, 1982/1992, p. 43).

One book records that there was a

perplexing degree of strife that disrupted their community-building efforts. The town failed miserably in its United Order attempt in 1874. Family feuds erupted on occasion, such as when William Pulsipher struck Jefferson Hunt with a rock in 1879, causing “a gash one-and-a-half inches long on his head, besides some bruises.” The Huntsmans and Callaways had disputes, as did the Laubs and Barnums. Power conflicts also caused contention: St. George authorities stripped Zera Pulsipher of his influence as presiding elder after he tangled with the school board; Bishop George Crosby moved away after being “burned out” by “an outlaw”; and Bishop Thomas S. Terry resigned after ward “busy bodies” began to “complain and ask for another Bishop.” When Terry’s replacement, George A. Holt, selected his counselors, one refused to serve, and the congregation voted not to sustain the other. In 1893, Zera P. Terry summarized the problem: God allowed “self willed men to direct [the town] and the people have had to suffer. Our place and people have become the subject of the scoffs and jeers of their outside brethren & sisters.” Battles over land, death by neglect, and the enticements of non-Mormon mining towns also exposed rifts (Reeve, 2011, pp. 62-63).

As we read in the paragraph above, Zerah was a part of the conflicts at least once. Yet, at other points he helped restore unity to the divided community. When one of the Callaway children fell ill in 1866 and only “got worse” after being doctored and administered to, the elders gathered to take action. Zerah, who was their leader at this point, instructed that: “We must exercise more than common faith to stop the destroyer—we must humble ourselves before God and covenant to keep all his commandments.” They covenanted to do so, uniting their faith, and “the child was restored to health” (Hebron Ward Historical Record, 1862-1867, 1:83-85).

From the writings they left behind, both Zerah and his wife Mary Brown Pulsipher seemed to like Hebron, despite all its difficulties. Zerah wrote that “ I found it to be a very heathy Location and have enjoyed my self very well Considering the Obsurety [obscurity] of the place and the great distance we are from the abodes of of the White man in the very midst of the roving savage that Constantly are Travling those deserts” (Pulsipher, Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #3”). Mary wrote that “I have been in Hebron from the beginning. … lived in [my house] about 15 years and enjoyed my Self Wonderful well in it. Have had much joy and comfort in it. Have Seen the place grow and flourish.…. I never expect to find any place I like so well.” (Pulsipher, M.).

Location of Hebron in relation to state boarders.

It was at this remote location that Zerah Pulsipher died on 1 January 1872. According to the journal of John, during 1870:

Father had a severe fit of sickness which came very near taking him away. He saw a vision–Elder Kimball, who had died a few months before, in a carriage more beautiful than is known on Earth, called him to jump in and go along with them. He was informed that he had worked too hard and had not taken proper care of himself. He was about to go. But William’s faith, prayers and administrations prevailed with the Lord and father had permission to stay awhile longer. As soon as he had recovered, so he could be moved, William brought him back here to his better home, as he was aware it was not pleasing to us, for him to take father down to that hot country! So he would not consent to let him die there.

Zerah Pulsipher Grave Site

Then, on Sunday, 31 Dec 1871, John recorded that:

Father is sick–was taken last Wednesday with pain in his side, was annointed and administered to–which eased the pain, but he said he would not be with us long, had his children called from Pine Valley and St. George 30 and 50 miles away, to attend a family meeting Sunday Evening and when the time arrived the family was at Father’s house, which was the principal meeting of the town.… We had a very good meeting– singing, prayer and speeches by nearly all the brethren and some of the sisters, on the subject of Father’s history and his doing in life-the good counsel he has given, and the glory that awaits him in mansions that are prepared for him–where he is about to go.

He was weak not able to say much, but was intense in the object and prospect before him, and in the welfare of the family and friends he was about to leave behind. He wished us to sing: ‘This Earth was once a Garden Place’., which we did and meeting closed; yet most of us stayed with him.

He was not able to talk much more after he had finished on business and encouraged us to do our duty to those he was leaving with us and be firm and faithful in the Kingdom of God.

His breath grew shorter and shorter until he stopped breathing 20 minutes to eleven next night, he died!” (“A Short Sketch of the History of John Pulsipher, written by himself”).

Family Legacy

On one family history forum, one descendant of Zerah Pulsipher stated that: “it is my understanding that he passed away holding the Priesthood of a Patriarch…. I know he died in full fellowship in the church. He did a GREAT work and was a great influence for good in the church. He has one of the largest families in the lds church today” (kmblake, 2011).

One thing I noticed from the records is that how he was with his family came up relatively often. Because of that, and because, as David O. McKay would say: “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” I would like to close by mentioning a few things that were said about him as a father and husband.

He recorded that: “I… have Raisd a large family” (Pulsipher Z., “Autobiographical Sketch #2”), and indeed he did. He married Polly or Mary Randall when he was about twenty one. They had one daughter before she died about a year after they were wed. He then married Mary Ann Brown during the year 1815, when he was about twenty-seven. He wrote that she was “a very agreeable companion by whom I have a large family of kind children” (ibid, p. 12). Together they had eleven children, seven of which lived to adulthood. By 1879, Mary said that “I have 56 grandchildren and 75 great  grandchildren…. And increasing at a wonderful rate.” (ibid., pp. 31-32) In Utah, he obeyed the principle of polygamy, marrying Prudence McNanamy in 1854 and Martha Hughes in 1857, who bore him five children (see Cook, 1981). On the subject of polygamy, he stated that

Some women think that if their husbands get another wife they cannot love them any more, but they are under great mistake for he can love one hundred as well as the sun can shine upon each of them in a clear day, if God requires you to get them. Such idle thought should be banished from their minds forever. Why it is so, because it is God’s order, a man may love his wives just in proportion to their acts of kindness to him (ibid, 24).

Concerning his father John Pulsipher recorded in 1842 that:

Nothing of importance transpired with me, only that I had a good father who never failed to keep plenty of work laid out to keep boys busy, or as he said, “to keep boys out of mischief.” I sometimes thought he was rather hard with the children, but when I became older, I was thankful that he never let me go as some of our neighbors boys did, who lived without steady work, for they were soon taken to a steady home—the State’s prison (“A Short Sketch of the History of John Pulsipher, written by himself).

Zerah made a point to gather his family together on at least an annual basis to strengthen them in unity and in the gospel. He wrote: “The first was on February 1855, I called my children together at my house in Salt Lake. At the meeting I said, ‘I want to instruct you a little and give such advice, which I hope you will remember.” He would then teach them such things as: “get the Spirit of the Lord and keep it… When a man has a number of good children he loves all of them…. Never speak till you know what you are going to say. Never whip a child in anger, be sure that the spirit of the Lord dictates you when you groom your children.” He would then let the other members of the family speak, and “each child would bear their testimonies.” It was written that: “These meetings were held regular once a year and recorded until his death” (in Lund, 1953, p. 24).

It was noted in a patriarchal blessing given to Mary in 1875 that: “Thou shalt… go down to they grave… rejoicing that thy sons and daughters are mighty in Zion. Thou shalt reign Queen in company with thy companion over thy posterity to all eternity” (Smith, J. S., 1875, p. 1). As to how his children turned out, Mary recorded that:

I used to say when my children was Small if I could live to see my children Grow up to be honerable men and women, it would be all i ask for. I have lived to See them all Settled with good families, all tring to do what good they can to build up the kingdom of God. I feel verry thankful and much pleased with my children. (Pulsipher, M.)


So, you see, Zerah Pulsipher is one of the lesser-known men of the early Church who left a good example and influence on his descendants and others. He has an amazing conversion experience and helped many others to have their own, including Wilford Woodruff. He provided leadership to a group of saints during a time of trial, and continued to lead throughout his life. He wasn’t perfect, but did a great many good things. Foremost among these things was raising up a righteous posterity to pass his legacy on—a posterity that includes myself. Whether or not I’m righteous will be something to see at judgment day, but I do bless the name of my fourth-great-grandpa Pulsipher.

Further Reading:

Updated 2023-02-19

Works Cited

Alexander, T. G. (1991). Things in Heaven and Earth, the Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.

Allen, J. B., & Leonard, G. M. (1992). The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

Anderson, K. R. (1989, 1996). Joseph Smith’s Kirtland. Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Book.

Brooks, J. (1982/1992). Quicksand and Cactus: A Memoir of the Southern Mormon Frontier, 2nd ed. Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers; Logan: Utah State University Press.

Bushman, R. L. (2005/2007). Joseph Smith rough stone rolling: A cultural biography of Mormonism’s founder. New York: Vintage Books.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996). Our Heritage. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2001). Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2003). Church History in the Fullness of Times. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2004). Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cook, L. W. (1981).The Revelation of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants. Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore. Retrieved from https://byustudies.byu.edu/Resources/BioAlpha/MBRegisterP.aspx.

Hall, F. A. (no date given). “Sketch of Zera Pulsipher”. Unpublished, typed copy BYU.

Hunt, C. E. L. (1968). Memories of the Past and Family History. Salt Lake City: Utah Publishing.

Huntsman, O. W. (1929). “A Brief History of Shoal Creek, Hebron and Enterprise from 1862 to 1922”. St. George, UT: Dixie College History Department.

Jensen, A. (1901). L.D.S. Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press.

Kimball, S. W. (1980). “President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals”, Ensign, Dec 1980.

Kmblake (2011). Response #6 to Zera Pulsipher Question. Retrieved from https://familysearch.org/learn/forums/en/showthread.php?t=5952

Larsen, L. F. Rev. John Lathrop and the LDS Church (Mormons). Retrieved from http://larsenhistory.org/Rev_John_Lathrop_and_Mormons.html.

Lund, T., Lund, N. H., Holt, I. L. (1953). Pulsipher Family Book.  No publisher given.

Nielsen, C.N. (2014). Zerah Pulsipher Conversion. The Pulsipher Place, 11 January 2014. http://zerahpulsipherplace.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/zerah-pulsiphers-conversion/

Madsen, T. G. (1989). Joseph Smith the Prophet. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft.

Millet, R. L., Olson, C. F., Skinner, A. C., Top, B. L. (2011). LDS Beliefs: A Doctrinal Reference. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

Pratt, P. P. (2009) Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. Kindle Edition.

Pulsipher, C. “How Wilford Woodruff Was Converted

Pulsipher, J. (1862-1867). Hebron Ward Record, v. 1-2. Unpublished.

Pulsipher, J. “ A Short Sketch of the History of John Pulsipher, written by himself.”

Pulsipher, M. “Mary Brown Pulsipher Autobiography.”

Pulsipher Z. “Zerah Pulsipher Autobiographical Sketch #1

Pulsipher Z. “Zerah Pulsipher Autobiographical Sketch #2

Pulsipher Z. “Zerah Pulsipher Autobiographical Sketch #3

Reeve, W. P. (2011). “As Ugly as Evil” and “As Wicked as Hell”. In Reeve, W. P., Wagenen, M. S. V. (2011). Between Pulpit and Pew (40-65). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Smith, J. S. (1875). Mary Ann Brown Pulsipher Blessing. Unpublished.

Whipple, M. (1976). The Giant Joshua. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, Inc.

Woodruff, W. Journal of Wilford Woodruff.

Woodruff, W. (1889). Deseret Weekly, April 6, 1889, 450.

Woodruff, W. (1895). Millennial Star, November 21, 1895, 741.

Woodruff, W. (1897). Deseret Evening News, March 1, 1897, 1

Young, B., others (1855-86). Journal of Discourses26 volumes (JD). London and Liverpool: LDS Booksellers Depot.



  1. Richard Lambert · · Reply

    Dear Chad-
    I’m currently the president of the Wilford Woodruff Family organization.
    I’ve been doing some research on Zerah Pulsipher and would love to talk to you. My number (801) 671-4899. Please give me a call.
    Richard Lambert

  2. For those interested in this post, I have updated it (Jan 2013). For further reading, I am constructing a site about Zera Pulsipher to gather everything about him together online. It’s located at https://sites.google.com/site/thezerapulsipherproject/home.

  3. Great post- very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Daemon · · Reply

    My great grandmother is a Pulsipher. I can’t remember exactly where the cut off is but I am related to Zera. It would be a cousin connection then.

  5. I figured out the relationship 1st cousin 6 times removed.

  6. Thank you all, and Daemon, it’s always good to find other Pulsipher relatives. Someday I’d like to get a family organization going again.
    I also wanted to let readers know that I’ve started a whole blog devoted to Zerah and the Puslipher family at http://zerahpulsipherplace.wordpress.com/. Check it out–I’ll be adding posts here and there as I work on a biography of Zerah’s life.

    1. Daemon · · Reply

      Well if you ever do start a group for a Pulsipher family organization let me know. Although my last name is not Pulsipher it is a part of my lineage.

  7. Michelle P. · · Reply

    Wow! Thank you. Zerah Pulsipher is my great great great great Grandfather. I learned a lot from reading this blog post. I stumbled across your blog while preparing a YW lesson on the Restoration and watching the Wilford Woodruff conversion story video. I knew Zerah baptized him, and I knew Zerah’s conversion story, but I did not know very much about his missionary work or the rest of his life (thanks, Google!). I can’t wait to read your other blog about Zerah. Thank you so much! I truly appreciate learning more about my ancestor.

    1. Thank you Michelle. I’m glad to hear that the post is appreciated–it’s still one of my favourites that I’ve ever put up. And I’m glad to hear from other members of the Pulsipher clan. Work on the other blog is slow, but I hope to have some up on the Kirtland era soon as well as some about priesthood offices Zerah held.

  8. I am writing an article on Solomon Chamberlin, an early Mormon convert, and he writes in one account that in the summer of 1830:

    I carried them [Book of Mormons]to the reform Methodist Conference, [Manlius NY] there I found Phineas and Brigham Young with whom I had been acquainted before. I thought I could soon convince the whole conference of the truth of the Book of Mormon, but I soon found my mistake, for after laboring with them for two days, they rejected me. Phineas and Brigham Young used me well.

    I returned home and on the way preached it to the Free Will Baptist Church, and they received it, and soon after the Church was established a number of them were baptized.

    Manlius is about 35 miles from Spafford, and I believe that Solomon Chamberlin preached to John Gould, the Roundy’s and the Pulsiphers, and that he, perhaps is the “Minister” that Z. Pulsipher speaks of, but may have gotten the year wrong (1830 instead of 1831) when he heard him.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Grindael. I have been trying to puzzle out the timing as well, but I do agree that Solomon Chamberlin was the minister Pulsipher spoke of. In a more recent post on the conversion of Zerah, I included a quote by another Spafford Mormon by the name of Silas Hillman who stated in his autobiography that, “In the year 1831, a man by the name of Chamberlain came there bringing the Book of Mormon. He gave history of its origin, how it was obtained, and its translation…. And the men spoken of had the said translation printed and bound and it was called the Book of Mormon” (Silas Hillman Autobiography and Journal, cited in Rhean Lenora M. Beck, Life story of Sarah (King) Hillman and Her Husband, Mathew Hillman, and Their Children. [independently published, 1968]). From that quote, Solomon’s statement, and the Pulsipher autobiography, it definitely seems to line up that Chamberlin was the man who introduced the Book of Mormon to Spafford sometime between the summer of 1830 and the fall of 1831. The full article on Zerah’s conversion is at http://zerahpulsipherplace.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/zerah-pulsiphers-conversion/, and it does include a small section on Chamberlin.

  9. Thanks for the quote, it helped me out a lot with my research. But I’m still troubled by the date (1831), I still think it was 1830, because that was the year of the Conference that the Young’s attended in Kingston, and Manlius, and also Chamberlin. As for Chamberlin, you may want to update your information on him.

    He did not have any kind of vision about another book besides the Bible, and the angel that appeared to him (a woman) did not tell him that all the churches were corrupt and that there would be a restoration. Chamberlin’s later accounts concerning his early visions (to John Taylor in Nauvoo & his 1858 account) are unfortunately embellished to support the restoration.

    Though Chamberlin was a religious seeker in his early years, when he converted to Mormonism he stuck with it, going to Kirtland, then to Missouri and on to Nauvoo where he practiced polygamy, (after Joseph Smith’s death) and then with Brigham Young’s company on to Utah. His story is fascinating. He had trouble with one of his wives, and her gave to John D. Lee, and then offered to trade another wife and some children to Lee to get her back. His daughter went to Mexico and married into the Redd family and was involved with the Romney’s down there.

    His 1829 pamphlet was found by Rick Grunder in the late 80’s. You can read about it here, in an article by Larry C. Porter: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/6458/6107

    1. That does sound like a fascinating life. I knew some, but I didn’t know about his trading wives, and such. I look forward to reading your article. I use the pamphlet when I have a little bit more time and update the information on my blogs accordingly. I had read it a year or two ago, but had forgotten the details, and the way Larry C. Porter describes it, the vision with the Book of Mormon occurred separately, which is why I spoke of it the way I did. What you say makes more sense, however, since he did not mention that vision in the pamphlet. As far as timing, do we know when the conference was? I seem to remember Solomon dated it both before and after the organization of the Church, depending on the account, but that the Young accounts put it sometime after August of 1830, since it was after they visited Chamberlin in his home that month. We also know that Solomon was with Martin Harris in April of 1831, since he signed on an indenture that month, and, furthering the difficulties of timing in 1831, he claimed to be in Jackson County by the fall of 1831. If we take the Young accounts, it seems to me to indicate most likely late 1830 or very early 1831. It really kind of depends on how long the conference was and how long it took Chamberlin to get home afterwards. Overall, however, late 1830 makes the most sense to me.

  10. The Conference in Canada (Kingston), was about 20 August 1830, (Manuscript History of the Church, Phineas Young History) as well as the follow up in Manlius, New York, which would have been at the end of August most likely, which is only a short hop from Spafford. Another update for you, it was Mayhew Hillman, who had the reminiscence, not Mathew. It reads,

    In 1831, Elder Chamberlain came to Spafford, bringing the Book of Mormon, and preaching about the Restored Church. Sarah believed the message, and was baptized on 19 Jul 1832, joining the Spafford Branch which had been organized in January of the same year. In the late fall of 1832, the Spafford Branch was visited by Elder Orson Pratt in the company of several other elders. Mayhew Hillman was baptized on 10 Nov 1832. Libbeus T. Coon, (whom Sarah married for time after Mayhew’s death), was also among the fourteen people who were baptized at that time. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~famolson/mayhew-hillman-1793.html

    H. Michael Marquardt has been helping me with my research into Chamberlin and brought this to my attention, but I give you credit for the initial reference. (Thank you). This is something that is not well known, (except to you relatives), and is an important connection, for some very stalwart “Saints” came out of Spafford, as you document above.

    As for Chamberlin’s visions, it was not a separate vision, it was the same one (he dates it in the later accounts). He mentions that a woman appeared to him, and I have found out who it was, and verified that part of his story (except for the manner of her husband’s death afterwards) though he did die in 1827, two years before Solomon published the 1829 pamphlet. Larry Porter did some groundbreaking work on Chamberlin, but I’ve been able to add a lot to it and shed further light on his early life, and I hope others will be able to use what I provide to do more in the future. Here is another interesting tidbit about Chamberlin, which happened during the Exodus to the Salt Lake Valley,

    B. [Thomas Bullock] washes in the River, when Solomon Chamberlin sets the Prairie on fire. He has shown much selfishness & disobedience of the regulations for some time & altho’ orders are often given to be very cautious about fires, yet he built his fire in the midst of the dry grass & before he attempted to quench the flame away it went jumping & cracking through the dry grass. About 40 of the brethren went & thro’ much activity succeeded in putting it out before it had burnt many rods, which I trust will prove a strong lesson of caution to all. (Thomas Bullock, October 15, 1847)

    But balance that with this,

    It was remarked this evening that we have one man in camp who is entitled to the credit of being more even tempered than any of the others, and that is Father Chamberlain. He is invariably
    cross and quarrelsome, but the brethren all take it as a joke and he makes considerable amusement for the camp. (William Clayton, May 22, 1847)

    There is much more, I could write, but must get back to my research. I’ve enjoyed the conversation with you, and wish you the best. You have helped me to confirm something that I was pretty sure about.

    1. Fascinating. Thank you as well for the information you have provided. Best of wishes with your research, and I look forward to reading it when it’s published.

    2. Grindael, I was just transcribing a manuscript of a different attempt Zerah made in recording an autobiography. I thought you might be interested in this statement, for your dating: “At length the time came when god should bring to pass the things spoken by the Prophets Accordingly in the summer of 1830 I heard a Minister say in Public that a golden Bible on some ancient Peoples were found in Manchester N.Y. the sentence thrilled through my sistem like a shock of Electricity I therefore watched the movement of things and in sept. of 1831 the Book of Mormon was brought into the Town I succeeded in Borrowing it I read it through then times and thought Posible it might be true. In January following Jared Carter came to town.” (Zera Pulsipher autobiographical sketch, undated, MS 753.3. Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Typescript by Chad Nielsen, July 2014). Here, Zerah puts the date of Solomon’s visit in summer of 1830, which is closer to the time frame that makes sense from the other records.

    3. Grindaal, I would love to read any or all of your findings on Solomon Chamberlain/chamberlin. Solomon is my Great x4 grandfather. His story too has fascinated me. You have details that I have not heard and I would love to have anything you have. Thanks – Jan

      1. @ Jan,

        Noted. You can email me grindael@gmail.com anytime and I will send you a copy of my Essay when I finish it. Mike Marquardt has bee helping me and @chad, he gave me the same quote you have. (Same goes for you Chad about the email) I would love to have a picture of Solomon if any of you have one. I’m drawing one for the article, Chamberlin in his buckskins in the Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. I took a research trip to Lyons and saw his old house and spoke to the owner who told me it used to be bigger and a Tavern. I went to the Courthouse (with Mike Marquardt) and we found a Daybook for the Pilgrimsport Tavern (which was the Chamberlin residence). There are some Chamberlin’s mentioned in it, but I can’t verify if any of it was written by our Solomon. The only handwriting sample I have is from the Missouri Redress Documents. There are entries from 1828 to after the Civil War. It’s a fascinating book and I took pictures of all the relevant pages. I hope to have the article done and submitted for publication sometime next year. I promise to come back and post about it, or if you would like to email me, you can, and I’ll let you both proof it before publication. I find Solomon to be a fascinating person, a conundrum if you will, and hope that I can craft a good narrative of his life and experiences that helps to understand him a little better.

      2. Also, I have the sale documents for the Lyons house and they are some of the most beautiful documents that I’ve ever seen. They don’t allow pictures, but one of the workers there copied them for me. I know this has taken a few years to put together, but I really want to do him justice and get it right.

  11. Rod Tucker · · Reply

    Have just scanned over your information on Zerah. Now I have to go back and read it in its entirety as Zerah is my 4th great grandfather as well. Thank you cousin for all your hard work gathering and compiling this article.

    1. Thank you, Rod–I’m glad you appreciate it. I hope to continue gathering and compiling info on Zerah as I get the time.

      1. Rod Tucker · ·

        I look forward to keeping in touch. I erred though. Zerah is my 3rd great grandfather. Have you been able to visit the Hebron Cemetery?

  12. I haven’t been able to as of yet. I’d like to some day, but I rarely make it down that way.

    1. Rod Tucker · · Reply

      If you would like some copies of pictures I took there let me know. I could email them to you or something.

      1. I would love that. If you could email it to zerah.pulsipher.project@gmail.com, that would work wonderfully.

  13. dopeyarmyvet · · Reply

    Zera is my 5th great grandfathers brother (David Pulsipher). I have to say it has been very inspiring to read information about our ancestry.

    1. Are you descended from Daniel or Elias? Do you know anything about your Pulsipher line? I’ve been curious about David’s descendants for a while now.

      1. dopeyarmyvet · ·

        Elias. Ive been doing alot of research, and i have the pulsipher line back to Zera’s grandparents. I have alot more information on the Pratt line back to the Mayflower.

  14. Paula Erichsen · · Reply

    Zerah Pulsipher is my 9th great grandfather.

  15. Vicki Gelfo · · Reply

    Interesting reading here. I am a 4xgreat granddaughter of Zerah Pulsipher through his daughter Harriet, who was the child of his first wife, Polley Randall. I am very curious as to why there is so much information out there regarding Zerah’s many children with Mary Brown, but Polley Randall and Harriet rarely get an honorable mention. In fact, a fair majority of genealogies go so far as to say that Harriet died in 1812, which is definitely not the case. She died in 1878 in Green County, WI.

    1. Vicki,

      Thank you for commenting. I have been very curious about Harriet’s fate, since so many of the records state that she died then, but the family recollections make no such statement and there are no graves for her in the areas that they lived (while there is one for Nelson). Do you have any records about her life? I’m working on a definitive biography of Zerah in my limited spare time and would love to include more about her. I didn’t discuss her here because I have virtually no records about her to work from.

      It might be said that the big difficulty with addressing many of Zerah’s children is that there are so few records were made about their lives. Most of what I have been able to find here in Utah and online has been from Mary Brown’s family–particularly from her son John, but also Charles, Mariah and both parents. Zerah made at least three autobiographical sketches, but focuses mostly on himself and Mary’s children. That’s likely due to the fact that they were the majority of his children living with and around Zerah during the dramatic incidents associated with Mormonism (which was what he focused on). Polley does actually have a good mention there, with him talking a little about them getting married and a story about her visiting Zerah as a spirit after her death as something that led up to his conversion (again, his autobiographies are religious autobiographies). Harriet receives little mention, and I would imagine that she had moved out of the house around the time that Zerah converted to Mormonism, since she would have been in her early 20s by then. Also, most of Zerah’s autobiographical sketches were written after Zerah had moved to Utah and may not have been too happy that Harriet wasn’t in Utah with them. It’s hard to tell why she wasn’t mentioned more, since there just isn’t a lot about her that I have seen.

      Harriet wasn’t the only one who got the short stick of the historical record either–Zerah married two women in Utah as plural wives. One (Prudence McNanamy) was elderly at the time and didn’t bear him any children She wasn’t even mentioned in Zerah’s autobiographical sketches. The other (Martha Ann Hughes) was teenager who did bear Zerah five children. He only briefly mentioned that he married her, but said nothing about their children together. Mary Brown left an autobiographical sketch behind, but made no mention of Zerah’s other wives. Her children were older when Zerah was starting a family with Martha, and didn’t write much about them that I have seen. There was a little bit collected about Martha’s children from her descendants when a Pulsipher Family History Book was compiled in the 1950s, but I’ve rarely seen those presented or discussed outside of the book itself. When the book was compiled, they did not include a section for Harriet and Polley. I think it’s likely they just assumed Harriet had died as a child and didn’t reach out to anyone who might know more about her and her descendants. Again, if you have anything, I would love to get my hands on it and include it where I can. If you want to email me at chad.nielsen27@hotmail.com, I would love to hear from you.

  16. Chris Madison · · Reply

    Zerah is my 4th great grandfather. I love these ancestor stories

  17. Jack White · · Reply

    Thank you so much for these inspiring stories of Zera Pulsipher. It was so fun to read the comments from so many of his ancestors. I too am one of his descendants. He was my 4th great grandfather.

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