Autobiography

SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF
SOPHI M. BURGESS

I was born in Madison, New Haven Co., Connecticut on the 12th of April 1810. I am now 77 years old and as it is my birthday I have been looking over some of the circumstances and events through which I have passed during my long life. Is it possible I have lived to be 77 years old? Yes. The Lord has spared my life through many sicknesses and dangers seen and unseen. I hope and trust the hand of the Lord has been over me for good and it has been through his kind providence that I have been spared that I might do a work for my kindred dead which they cannot do for themselves while they lived on the Earth. I will try and briefly sketch a few of the leading items in order to show some of the locations and winding that have occurred with me during my history. I lived at home with my parents (when not engaged in teaching school) until I was about 20 years old. I then went to Vermont to visit some sisters and relatives who were living there in Rutland County. While there the fullness of the Gospel with the Book of Mormon as it had been revealed by the Prophet Joseph Smith was brought and preached and a Branch of the Church was raised up and organized of which myself, sisters, and their husbands soon became members. This was late in the fall of '31. We then went to Connecticut, our native place, visited and preached and raised up a small branch mostly of my relatives. After which we returned to Vermont, made preparations and emigrated to Kirtland, Ohio -- the gathering place of the new church. The Kirtland Temple was in progress -- we stayed there about five years in which time the Temple was finished and dedicated and we received our blessings therein. It was in this place that the Lord blessed his people abundantly with much instruction from our Prophet and Seer also with visions and the ministration of angels and etc. I was present when the Twelve were called, and chosen, and also the first Seventy, and had the privilege of hearing each in their turn, set apart, blessed and ordained to their several high and holy callings.

Soon after this I was married to Harrison Burgess on the first day of July 1835. He was a member of what is called the Zion Camp, and also one of the Seventy Elders. The Twelve and most of the Seventy were soon sent on missions to preach the fullness of the Gospel and gather in the believing Saints, that they might learn their duties, and be instructed more fully in the principles of righteousness. Thus things remained for a few years.

While I tarried with the Church in Kirtland, I was favored with an intimate acquaintance with the Smith family, from whom I received many favors and blessings. One circumstance, which occurred, I think is worthy of note in this brief and hasty sketch. Soon after my arrival at Kirtland I happened to be at the house of Hyrum Smith. His wife, Jerusha, was asking me about my home, and family I had left behind in order to gather with the Saints; and as soon as I mentioned the names of my brothers and sisters and etc. She said with a look of much tenderness, "You may have me for a sister, if you will accept of me." This kind and unexpected offer, met with a cordial response, and we, then and there, mutually formed the sacred relationship, which was to continue through time and eternity. She died in about three years after and at her burial, I was invited to act as one of the group of family mourners, which I did. Peace to her memory.

It was then counsel for the Saints to emigrate to Missouri which they did. The Prophet Joseph and his father's family went in the first com.[company] and we in the second. We settled for a time in Far West, Caldwell County and also in Davis County in what is known as "Adam Ondi Ahman." It was in this place that we were counseled to locate. It was a fertile beautiful country. Here was to be seen the Valley of Adam Ondi Ahman and also the remains of an altar where it is said that our Father Adam offered sacrifice and blessed his posterity. We built good log houses, and were living in great peace and happiness together, until a jealous, wicked mob, from the adjoining counties, sought our destruction; robbed, plundered, and murdered many, and finally drove us from the state. I myself was sick and nearly helpless while most of these cruel scenes were acted. None but God knows how much I suffered; but yet it seems to have been the will of the Lord that I should live to finish up my mission which I came upon this Earth to do. I was the first of my father's house and relatives to pioneer the way to an exaltation, by first gathering with the Saints, and obeying the ordinances of the Gospel. This to me is a source of great consolation.

Most of the Church came out of Missouri as far as Winter Quarters, stayed there and raised a crop, and the next season proceeded on for Illinois, found temporary homes among the good people of Illinois as best we could. We rented a house in Pittsfield, Pike County. It was there that my beloved sister, Clarissa (with whom I made my home while I stayed in Vermont, where I first embraced the Gospel) sickened and died. She left three children: Harriet, a girl eight years old, next Ruth, three years old; and the other a boy they called Jabes, one year old at his mother's death. These children were left in charge of their excellent father, Daniel Carter, and myself. I tried in every way possible to supply the place of their dear, departed mother. They were good children, and it was to me a labor of love to take care of them and try to make them comfortable. The girls continued to live with us till they were nearly grown. The boy died of measles and scarlet fever, when he was about five years old. The girls married, each raised large and respectable families. They have always shown me every possible kindness and in various ways have more than paid me for all I have done for them in their childhood -- though we have most of the time lived so far apart, that we could not enjoy each other's society -- still I consider them as my nearest and dearest relations, now left on Earth.

The Nauvoo Temple was at last finished and dedicated and prepared for the sacred ordinances of endowment. Myself and husband were among the first to receive ours; after which we were both called to labor in administering the ordinances to our brethren and sisters. I, myself, was privileged to act as one of the hands in the female department until the work was done.

It was in the Nauvoo Temple that my husband took another wife. I will here note her genealogy: Amanda Melvina Hammond, daughter of Benjamin and Almeda Longley Hammond, was born in Foxcroft, Maine (Penobscot County) May 1, 1827. Sealed to Harrison Burgess February 6, 1846. Second Anointing by Erastus Snow 1865. Died of cancer and erysipelas, August 8, 1882.

After the endowments were finished in Nauvoo, the Church emigrated to Salt Lake. Soon after my husband was called on a mission to England. He started June 3, 1848, was gone about three years, and performed a faithful, and acceptable mission, and returned in 1850. We were greatly blessed in his absence; insomuch that we had built a comfortable house, got our city lot fenced, made a garden and got many little home comforts, before he returned.

A Relief Society was at length organized in the 16th Ward; over which I was appointed to preside. Which I did to the best of my ability until we were called to go south and locate in Washington County, in what is termed Dixie; where the city of St. George and the Temple now stands. President Young counseled my husband and his brothers to take their families and go to Pine Valley, build a sawmill, and operate in the lumber business, which we did. Other families joined, and soon a Branch was organized with proper officers; presided over by William Snow as Bishop. And in 1880 a Primary association was established, over which I was called to act as president; which I did for six years until my advanced age and feeble state of health was such that I thought best to resign and give place to someone more able to fill such a high and important station.

A little previous to the St. George Temple being prepared to commence the work for the dead, I was informed that Dr. Alvan Talcott of Guilford, Connecticut had the names of my relatives in manuscript. I wrote him a letter and engaged him to copy and send them to me, which he informed me would do for one dollar a hundred. I then procured all the money I possibly could and sent to him and soon obtained several hundred. The blessings of the Lord seemed to attend all my efforts in this direction. And as soon as the work commenced I was on hand to go and get their baptisms and as many of their endowments as I could. I managed to get over 1,000 baptized and some over 100 endowed and sealed. My two nieces have kindly proffered to continue the work of endowments for my kindred who have received baptisms if I would prepare and send them the names which I have done.

My labors in the Temple at St. George were done in '77-'78 and '79, as circumstances would permit. I have not been able to go to the Temple since or in short to do much of anything since, either for myself or anybody else. A series of deaths in our family circle have followed each other in rapid succession; at last my husband died very suddenly, February 10, 1883. This entirely broke up our family circle and left me in my old age to battle the ills of life alone; and as my health is too poor to live alone, I have to live in families as best I can. I have means at present to pay my expenses, for which I am truly thankful. The people of Pine Valley are kind and do as well by me as they can. I must trust in the Lord for the future. I should have written more in this brief sketch if I had been able and had been posted with dates as I should have been. As it is, I beg of everyone who may chance to read it to excuse deficiencies and etc.

From a well wisher to the human family in general.

Sophi M. Burgess

Pine Valley, Washington County, Utah

April 27, 1887

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It is not to be reprinted or used for commercial purposes without written permission.

Copyright 2001 by Cynthia B. Alldredge


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