I was born on June 30, 1806 in Jefferson County, Ellisburg Township, State of New York. I was the son of Royal Barney and Rachel Barney. My parents were first cousins; their fathers were brothers. My father was the son of John and Ruth Shephardson Barney. My mother was the daughter of Thankful Marsh and James Barney. From boyhood I lived with my father and worked at farming. In February of 1825, just before I turned 19, my family moved from New York to Ohio. We lived in Amherst Township of Lorain County. I farmed and cleared land during the summer and taught school in the winter.
When I was 25 years old, I married a 26 year old widow named Lillis Ballou Comstock, daughter of Seth and Sophia Anderson Ballou. We were married on January 1, 1831. At that time I was working at a sawmill and cutting stone. That same year, on May 10th, 1831, I embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and was baptized by Simeon D. Carter. Also baptized was my wife, mother, sister Philanea, brother Orimel and brother Royal and his wife Sarah. In the fall of 1832, I was ordained a teacher and magnified my calling as such for about a year. I was then ordained a priest and was present at the 1832 conference held in the town of Amherst where I lived. On December 27th 1832, I saw the prophet receive the revelation which is the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants (First European edition - see Section 75). In the fall of 1833 I was sick with bilious fever which continued most of the time until May 1834 when we moved to Kirtland.
[About this time the saints who had gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes in Jackson County and the main body of the saints was now in Clay County. Threats of death were many. The people had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property and now many of their crops had been destroyed. In a revelation (section 101) the Lord gave Joseph Smith and the saints instructions about the situation. The Lord wanted 500 men to go to Missouri to help the saints there. If Joseph couldn't get 500, then less would do but if they got less than 100 men they were not to go. In May about 200 people left on this journey.]
On May 10th 1834, my brother Royal and I and about 200 others, went with Joseph Smith to travel to Missouri. This journey was called Zions Camp.
[At West Portage, about 50 miles west of Kirtland, they met and were organized into companies for the journey. Each company was divided as follows: a captain, two cooks, two firemen, two tent-men, two water-men, one runner, two wagoners and horsemen, and one commissary, twelve men in all.
"In many respects the daily routine of Zion's Camp was similar to that of other armies. Most able-bodied men walked beside the heavily loaded wagons along the muddy and dusty trails. Many of them carried knapsacks and held guns. It was not unusual for them to march 35 miles a day, despite blistered feet, oppressive heat, heavy rains, high humidity, hunger and thirst....Feeding the camp was one of the most persistent problems. The men were often required to eat limited portions of coarse bread, rancid butter, cornmeal mush, strong honey, raw pork, rotten ham and maggot-infested bacon and cheese." A major way in which Zion's camp differed from other military units was the great emphasis it placed upon spirituality. Every night before retiring, at the sound of the bugle they bowed before the Lord in prayer in their several tents, and every morning, at the trumpet's call about four o'clock, every man again knelt in prayer, imploring the blessings of the Lord for the day. On Sundays, the camp rested, held meetings, partook of the sacrament and often were privileged to hear the Prophet teach the doctrines of the kingdom. Of the trek, the Prophet Joseph said, "God was with us, and his angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering. We know that the angels were our companions, for we saw them." (History of the Church 2:273.)
As they traveled they endeavored to keep their identity unknown so as not to arouse opposition in the country through which they passed. As it was, they were followed by enemies and spies, and delegations approached them from time to time to learn the meaning of their journey. The following questions were frequently put and answered in this manner:
"Where are you from?" "From the East."
"Where are you going" "To the West."
"What for?" "To see where we can get land cheapest and best."
"Who leads the camp?" "Sometimes one and sometimes another."
Their journey took them through Dayton, Indianapolis, Springfield and Jacksonville, Illinois.
On June 4th the Prophet Joseph got up on a wagon and uttered this prophecy: "I said the Lord had revealed to me that scourge would come upon the camp in consequence of the fractious and unruly spirits that appeared among them, and they should die like sheep with the rot; still, if they would repent and humble themselves before the Lord, the scourge in great measure might be turned away; but as the Lord lives, the members of this camp will suffer for giving way to their unruly temper." Even this warning did not prevent some of the members of the camp from murmuring and find fault against their brethren. They crossed the Mississippi River and went into Missouri.
The camp had been brought to the borders of Jackson County for a "trial of their faith." As soon as they arrived on Rush Creek, the cholera broke out among the members and continued for several days. The victims were seized suddenly and so powerful was the disease that within a few minutes some of the brethren were dead. About 68 members were attacked and fourteen died.] (Taken from Essentials in Church History.)
After Zion's Camp reached Missouri, and after extensive negotiations with Gov. Daniel Dunklin failed to produce results, the Prophet disbanded Zion's Camp. Zion would be redeemed at some future time.
According to order I tarried in this region a short time and then received orders to return home. I arrived home in August to my wife and two sons who were two year old Buren and one year old Olney. Olney was very sick when I arrived. He died a few hours later.
Many looked upon Zion's Camp as a failure, but it actually laid the foundation for the future expansion of the Church. Brigham Young, upon his return to Kirtland, was met by a man who asked, "Well, what did you gain on this useless journey with Joseph Smith?" Brother Young replied, "All we went for. I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County [in Illinois where Kirtland was then located.]" (B.H.Roberts, "Brigham Young, A Character Sketch," Improvement Era, vol. 6 [June 1903],p.567.)
The journey of Zion's Camp was fraught with difficulties that proved to be as a forge to mold men who would become leaders of the Saints' exodus from Missouri to Nauvoo, and yet later, from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Basin where, for a crucial growing season, the Church would be left alone to gain strength and begin to flourish.
In February 1835, from among those who had accompanied Joseph Smith to Missouri were called members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the Seventies. The Prophet explained that the trials and tribulations endured by the members of Zion's Camp were not in vain, and it was the will of God "that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time." (Documentary History of the Church 2:182.)
On the 14th of February, 1835, Brigham Young and his brother Joseph came to the house of President Joseph Smith and sang for him. While they were visiting with the Prophet on this occasion he told them that he desired to call together all those who were members of Zion's Camp, for he had a blessing for them. At this meeting he conversed with these two brethren on the scenes of their memorable journey and said: "Brethren, I have seen those men who died of the cholera in our camp; and the Lord knows, if I get a mansion as bright as theirs, I ask no more." At this he wept and could not speak for some time. He then said the Lord had called Brigham Young to be a president of the seventies.
A meeting was called for the 14th of February, and on that day all the members of Zion's Camp that could be called together assembled to receive such blessings as the Lord had promised them. President Joseph Smith then stated that the object of the meeting was to choose men for important positions in the ministry to go forth and prune the vineyard for the last time. He had been commanded by the Lord to prepare for the calling of the Twelve Apostles, in fulfillment of the revelation given before the organization of the Church. (Doc. and Cov. Sec. 18.) These twelve men were to be chosen from among those who went up in Zion's Camp, and the three special witnesses to the Book of Mormon were to select and ordain them. (Essentials in Church History.)
On February 28th, 1835 a meeting was called and selection was made from those who went to Missouri in Zion's Camp to create the first Quorum of Seventy. The men were ordained under the hands of the First Presidency. I was one of them. I was ordained by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer. I received my prophetic promises which I have fulfilled. My brother Royal was also ordained. On June 10, 1835, in company with John D. Packer, I was called on a mission and traveled on foot through Pennsylvania to New York State.
I returned home to Kirtland in the fall and did carpenter work on the temple. I built a large carpenter shop for the Church and studied the Hebrew language through the winter and spring. I received an endowment in the temple equal to the one received at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. I also saw the breakup of Kirtland.
We decided to move to Nauvoo, so with my wife and four small children we traveled as far as St. Joseph County, Michigan and stayed there for 2 years. Our fifth child was born there. I suffered much from chills and fever at this time.
Eventually we began getting ready to move on to Nauvoo. As we were finishing loading up, the Sheriff arrested me and put me in jail for safe keeping. I was charged with being an accomplice in kidnapping a girl and taking her to the Mormons for common stock.
I was in jail for 24 hours and while there a priest and some infidels came to visit me. I preached Mormonism to them and bore my testimony. This caused tears to run from their eyes. They said that if I was not released they would bring a writ of habeus corpus. I was soon released and taken to a tavern where I was informed that the girl had been found. She had run away to work. I was discharged and we went on our way to Nauvoo. Soon after we arrived in Nauvoo I joined the Nauvoo Legion, received a Captains Commission and exercised the same.
At April conference in 1844, Lorin Babbit and I were called on a mission to Ohio. We traveled on foot from Nauvoo to Chicago preaching the gospel along the way. We took the steamboat across Lake Michigan to Cold Water and then to Hillsdale. We preached and bore testimony of Mormonism along the way.
We took the cars to Monroe on Lake Erie, then the steamboat to Black River, Ohio, and thence to my father's place in Amherst where I once lived. While there I preached several times and held a debate with a Presbyterian from Oberlin. The majority decided in my favor.
I attended a conference at Kirtland and there received an appointment to "Trail" in Lorain and Huron Counties and lecture on politics and Joseph Smith's views on government. I went to my field of labor and did so successfully.
I received information of the death of Joseph and Hyrum, received a discharge of President Brookes and traveled home to Nauvoo and my family.
When I arrived home I found a different aspect of things from when I left. The Prophet and Patriarch were dead!
[The martyrdom was a terrible shock to members of the church. His death brought on a crisis in the church. Very little thought had been given to the subject of succession in the presidency. But soon these details were taken care of and the saints settled down to their usual duties and the progress of the church continued with greater strides than ever before. A number of quorums of Seventy were organized and missionaries were called to go to many places.] (Essentials in Church History.)
At the organization of Seventies Quorums I was appointed Senior President of the Second Quorum. I worked hard to help finish the temple.
[The enemies of the church thought that the death of Joseph Smith would end Mormonism, but other leaders were chosen and the progress continued. The enemy was very angry and decided to destroy all the "Mormon" people. In September of 1845 the saints were terribly persecuted. During the fall and winter months preparation went steadily on for all members to leave Nauvoo. Work continued on the temple. The saints would not leave until the temple was completed. Each room was dedicated as it was completed.
In December the ordinance work began and the building was occupied both day and night so the saints could receive their endowments.]
My wife and I were called in to receive our endowments and first and second annointings. We were endowed on December 17th 1845 and sealed on January 28, 1846. I worked in the endowment house for about 10 or 12 days. By the end of February 1846, 5,600 people had received their endowments and 2000 were sealed to their spouses. Then there were drums for war and extermination. With the rest I prepared to leave.
[Every available building had been converted into a shop to make wagons and other necessary things to leave the city. People were not able to sell their land before they left.
Most of the people had left the city by May. On May 1st 1846 the temple was publicly dedicated in the presence of about 300 people.] (Essentials in Church History.)
Lillis and I were now ready to leave. We had 5 children, the oldest was 14 and the youngest a baby. Our son Olney Ammon had died earlier in Ohio and our 2 year old Edson Alroy had died in Nauvoo.
We left Nauvoo, crossed the river and went to Farmington, Iowa. We lived in Farmington for about a year. While there I received many threats. One time a shower of rocks hit the house and broke all the windows. As soon as we could, we left for Winter Quarters.
[While in this area Edson entered plural marriage by marrying a second wife. she was 25 year old Louisa Walker. Edson was 41. They were married somewhere between Nauvoo and Winter Quarters on May 10, 1847 and sealed by Brigham Young in the recorders office at Winter Quarters on January 14th, 1848. This was the second marriage for Louisa. She had three daughters from her previous marriage, two of whom had died.
Louisa and Edson's first child was born at Winter Quarters. The child died a few months after it was born. Edson and his two families moved to Ferriville, Iowa where Louisa gave birth to her second child.] (From family information.)
I was finally able to make my outfit to go to Salt Lake Valley - Apostle Orson Pratt put me in as a captain over 10 men in the Stevens Company of fifty men. I took my two wives and 6 children and began the journey west (probably the spring of 1851). Nothing occurred on the way except a small Indian fight close to our wagons. Two Indians were killed.
We arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in August and I soon found work. I built a woolen factory about 15 miles west of Salt Lake and alongside the Jordan River. I also worked on a sawmill in Provo and worked on a bridge across the Provo River being built by the U.S. Government.
In the spring of 1856 I was appointed to go on a mission to Las Vegas, New Mexico. My 13 year old son went with me. We opened up a farm and planted seed but the crops were destroyed by the alkaline soil. We then received orders to travel about thirty miles and open up a lead mine. I helped prepare a furnace smelter but ran out of bullion. By order of the President I returned home in October.
After this mission I farmed in Provo, served as Justice of the Peace, was a member of the City Council, and was chosen as Captain of the Silver Greys.
On March 10, 1858 I left on another mission. Several other men and I were sent out into southwest Utah to explore the white mountain region. I took my son Alroy with me. I was chosen president or captain of the company; George W. Bean and Brother Frieze from Salt Lake were my Counselors. We traveled to Chicken Creek, crossed the Sevier River, then on to Antelope Springs, Meadow Creek, and Snake Creek at the foot of the White Mountains. On the way we were hit by a twenty four hour snowstorm that killed one cow and six horses.
We then went back to Meadow Creek. We set up a farm on Snake Creek, went to the Sink of Beaver, and then traveled the eighty miles home. I reported to Brigham Young and received an honorable discharge from the mission.
I worked in a woolen mill in Ogden for awhile and then in 1862 was "called" to go to Southern Utah. I was 56 years old, Lillis was 57, and Louisa was 40.
[At this time Lillis' five living children were married. Louisa had given birth to nine children. Four of the children had died as babies. The living children were ages 12, 10, 8, 3 and an infant. Her daughter from her first marriage was also still with them.]
[Edson and Louisa had a daughter named Martha Rosetta. In 1875 Edson and Louisa were living in Provo and 16 year-old Rosetta decided to go visit her half-sister in Nevada. While there Rosetta met John Eugene Davis who had come to Nevada 15 years earlier from Georgia. He was 14 years older than Rosetta and not a "Mormon". They went together for a while and then got engaged. They were married in 1875 by a Catholic priest. Two years later he joined the LDS Church and was very active in the Church throughout his life. John and Rosetta lived in Annabella, Utah and had 8 children. Their youngest child was Lorenzo Edwin Davis, born in 1899. Lorenzo married Vivian Ann Roberts and had 5 children, June born 1924, Carol born 1927, Gerald born 1931, Robert born 1937, and Stanley born 1939].
I lived the rest of my life in the St. George area. The winters were spent in St. George and the summers in Pine Valley. I did downstream ditch work for $200.00. When I was 70 years old, I built a fence around the tabernacle, donated $40.00 to the temple and paid $20.00 tithing. I helped build the temple and the next year I built a fence around the temple block and paid $20 tithing.
I attended the dedication of the St. George temple when I was 71 years old and then went into the temple and did considerable work for my friends that were dead.
[When the persecutions of the Mormons over the practice of polygamy became intense, Edson took Louisa to Annabella to live with some of her married children and he spent the rest of his life living with his first wife Lillis. He went occasionally to Annabella to visit Louisa.] (From Family History.)
On September 20th, 1883 when I was 77 years old, I received a letter from my brother Royal, his daughter Harriet B. Young, (wife of Brigham Young) and her son Howe Young. It contained a free pass and money to pay fare to travel to Provo and Salt Lake City. This caused me to rejoice with unspeakable joy to think I had a friend. Because of this I was able to go to Provo and see Lillis where she had been visiting for a year and a half. I got to see all my children and grandchildren. I also saw many old friends and neighbors. I had a good time in Provo.
I then went to Salt Lake City. I saw my brother who was very sick, and many old friends. I attended conference and a Seventy's meeting. My friends donated a suit of apparel to me. They gave Lillis and I a free pass back to the Milford terminus and money to pay our land fare.
We arrived back home in St. George about the 15th of October. We found our house swept and garnished by two young lady friends and our neighbors were there to greet us.
I stayed in Potatoe Valley (Escalante) for a short time. One time I got fruit trees and grape vine cuttings and went with my son Buren to Bluff City in San Juan County and spent the winter of 1883.
[When Edson was 82 Louisa passed away in Annabella, Utah. She died on April 15, 1888 at age 66 of typhoid pneumonia. She was buried in Annabella.]
In the spring of 1890, when Lillis and I were 84 years old, we received the means to go up north. My brother Royal, his wife Sarah, Harriet B. Young, and the Alice Wilkins family furnished the means to pay our fare. So we have friends indeed in time of need.
We went to Provo where my wife stayed while I went on to Salt Lake City to attend Conference. I went back to St. George and she stayed in Provo until fall, then came home by way of Escalante.
They all sent us the means in 1893 to go to the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. We were 87 years old and were not well so we thought it would not be safe to start.
We have both been unwell and sometimes sick since going the rounds. We are both here yet, trying to do our work which is May 1893."
[Lillis passed away in Provo, Utah on December 23, 1893 at age 92. Edson passed away on February 21, 1905 in Provo, Utah a few months before his 99th birthday.]
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