On June 1, 1801, Brigham Young was born in Whittingham, Widdham County, Vermont. At the same time, approximately 900 miles southwest of Whittingham, four-year-old Elisha Hurd Groves was growing up on a farm in Madison, Kentucky. No one could guess at the time the succession of events that would bring these two men together as they fled their homes and journeyed halfway across the country.
Hearing Life-Changing Sermons
At the age of 26, Groves married Sarah Hogue Case, a widow with four children.
A member of the Presbyterian Church, landowner in Indiana, and farmer, Grove's life changed forever in September 1831. "I heard two sermons preached by Samuel H. Smith and Reynolds Cahoon on the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I believed their testimony and commenced to preach it myself that fall and winter to my friends and relatives, and was baptized by Elder Calvin Beby March 1, 1832, confirmed by Elder Peter Dustin, and ordained an Elder under their hands a few days later," Groves wrote in a brief autobiography.
In spite of fierce opposition and persecution from family and friends, Groves wrote:
"I continued to preach the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints. My friends thought I was becoming deranged through studying. They sought every means to recover me from the supposed delusion, sending for ministers of every denomination for 50 miles around who were soon put to flight by the truth, in consequence of which my wife and all my former friends became my enemies. My life was threatened on every hand on which account I gave a horse and wagon to Brother John Simmons to remove to Jackson County, Mo., after which I took my valise and went on foot to preach the latter-day work. Immediately after, my wife, Sarah, applied for a divorce, which she got. She sold my land and robbed me of all my property which took place in the year 1833."
Seeking to join the body of the Church, Grove wrote, "I then went to Jackson County, preaching by the way and baptized some 30 persons . . . [In] November . . . we were driven out by the mob."
Traveling east into Illinois, Groves continued to preach the restored gospel wherever he went. Groves joined Zion's Camp and marched to Clay County, where he was ordained a high priest.
In the spring of 1835 Groves started for Kirtland, Ohio together with Isaac Rigby. Always missionaries, Groves and Rigby taught and baptized 75 people during the journey. Arriving in Kirtland on August 11, Groves went to work helping to build the Kirtland Temple. On August 27, 1835 he received his patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Senior, father of the prophet and the first patriarch in the Church.
Angels Around the Temple
Also living in Kirtland at this time was Lucy Simmons, a native of New Ashford, Massachusetts. At age two her father had died. When Lucy was five her mother, Leah, remarried and the family moved to Pomfret, New York.
Samuel H. Smith baptized Lucy on March 8, 1832. The rest of Lucy's family was also baptized, some of them in February 1833 by Brigham Young and his brother-in-law John P. Green. Lucy's sister Sarah wrote "that after they joined the Church, their friends turned against them."
In July 1835 Lucy received her patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Senior. At age 28 and still unmarried, Lucy was approaching spinsterhood while Elisha had remained single since his divorce. These facts did not escape the notice of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Groves wrote in his history that he returned to Kirtland "about the first of January 1836 . . . and on January 19, by the counsel of Joseph, I married Lucy Simmons."
In March 1836 the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, with Elisha and Lucy Groves in attendance. Murland Packer, in his history of Elisha and Lucy Groves states that "Brother Groves . . . spoke of Angels that appeared in the temple in Kirtland and of the cloven tongues like as of fire that set upon those that were in the temple . . . Sister Groves testified the same things."
By October 1836 they were living in Far West, Missouri and Lucy gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Mary Leah, named for Lucy's mother. In October of 1838 a son, John Simmons was born. He died as an infant and was buried in Far West.
The Groves's stay in Missouri was a short one. After the Groves purchased 160 acres in Daviess County, "in the fall of the year  the mob began to rage again." The family moved to Adam-ondi-Ahman "and remained there until driven out by the mob in December . . . In February ," Groves wrote, "[I] started for Illinois."
Settling first in the area near Quincy, where their son Samuel Elisha was born, Groves and his family moved from there to Nauvoo, where he continued preaching the gospel. One of the people Groves taught was a man named Charles Shumway.
Groves's message impressed Shumway and he studied, prayed, and thought deeply about the gospel and Book of Mormon but "he wanted to be sure." Shumway's son records.
"One night a mob broke into the meeting . . . to kill the missionary Elisha Groves. When Charles Shumway saw what they planned to do, it came to him all at once as if someone had spoken to him. The . . . missionary was telling them the truth, and he must defend him. He immediately stepped in front of Elisha and said, 'If you commit this terrible crime it will be over my dead body.' "Hindered in their purpose, the . . . mob backed away cursing and threatening, but none of them came forward to carry out the murder . . .The missionary and investigators were left in peace."
Soon afterward, Charles Shumway was baptized. He was a staunch and faithful member all of his life.
In Nauvoo, another daughter, Patience Sybil joined the Groves family in 1841. "In later years Sybil remembered watching the Nauvoo Temple being built and her father, Elisha working on the temple. She thought it must be the most beautiful building in the world." She also recounted being taken to the temple when she was ill with chills and fever. She was baptized there and healed.
Active in the life of Nauvoo, Lucy and her mother, Leah, both became members of the Relief Society.
On November 3, 1843, Leah passed away and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds. Among other tributes, her obituary in The Nauvoo Neighbor states, "Never was the name of a more generous, benevolent and sympathetic woman enrolled upon the records of the Church."
After Joseph and Hyrum were martyred, Elisha (and most likely Lucy as well), attended the meeting when Brigham Young spoke to the members of the Church on August 8, 1844, and testified that the priesthood powers were vested in the Twelve. "While he spoke, it appeared . . . that the Prophet Joseph was standing before them and that the Prophet's voice was speaking to them." The majority voted to sustain the Twelve as leaders of the Church.
Elisha and Lucy received their endowments in the partially completed Nauvoo Temple on December 24, 1845, and were sealed on January 28, 1846. Less than a month later on February 14 1846, "a mob came to their home and told them they must either renounce Mormonism, or they had only an hour in which to leave." Eleh T. Shumway Lazenby reported in her history.
"If they were still there at the end of that time, . . . the mob would kill the whole family. That night, during a terrible storm, without shelter or protection except some quilts hung about the wagon, [Lucy] gave birth to a child, . . . Sarah Matilda . . . A large camp fire had been lit on the bank of the Mississippi River that same night. The Saints were gathered on one side of the fire and the mob on the other. One of the mob shot and killed Elisha's only milk cow. They put her on the fire, and swore with terrible threats that any Mormon who opened his mouth would be served the same way."
A Prophet's Help Crossing the Plains
Finally able to put the Mississippi River between themselves and the mobs, the exiles slogged across Iowa to Council Bluffs, only stopping at Mt. Pisgah long enough to put in crops for those coming later. Groves and his family arrived in Council Bluffs before the departure of the Mormon Battalion on July 20, 1846. Two of Lucy's half-brothers, Samuel Thompson and James Lewis Thompson enlisted in the Battalion. Lucy agreed to take care of Samuel's children until he returned. Added to her own four children, Lucy now had the care of six children, under 11 years old.
The Groves family only stayed in Council Bluffs for a short time, but in October the baby, Sarah Matilda, died of cholera.* About the first of November 1846, the Groves family crossed the river to Winter Quarters.
On May 7, 1848, Lucy and Elisha welcomed a new baby girl into their family. Lucy Maria was just ten days old when her father guided their wagon into line to follow their friend, now prophet, Brigham Young, to the Salt Lake Valley.**
On June 5, Lucy, sick and still recovering from childbirth, fell under the wagon. The front wheel ran over her chest, breaking three ribs. Elisha grabbed her and pulled her from under the wagon, but not soon enough to keep the rear wheel from running over her leg. The company doctor, Dr. Sprague, set and bandaged the compound fracture.
A page from the Thomas Bullock journals where he details Lucy Groves's accident.
The children had to walk from then on, as a bed for Lucy took up all the room in the wagon. Mary assumed her mother's tasks —cooking, washing, and caring for the little children. But on the ninth day out, when it seemed that the leg was knitting satisfactorily and Lucy would soon be up, Mary accidentally stumbled over her mother's leg, breaking it a second time. This time the pain was so severe that Lucy cried out in agony when the bed jolted her at every step the oxen took. She finally told Elisha that he would have to pull out of the train and stop.
When Brigham saw the wagon pull to one side, he stopped the entire train and rode back to where Lucy was. With tears running down her cheeks she explained the situation and urged him to go on without them. Brigham reportedly said, "Sister Groves, do you think that even for a moment I would consider going on without you and leaving you here to the mercy of the Indians or whatever might happen? No. We will camp right here until we get you fixed more comfortably and I will promise you in the name of the Lord that you will go on to the Salt Lake Valley and live many useful years after you get there."
President Young then sawed off the tops and bottoms of the legs of the poster bed so there was nothing left but the frame around the mattress and the spring, laced across pioneer style. He fastened this bed to the wagon bows so instead of jerking with the wagon it would swing easily, like a hammock. He reset the leg and renewed his blessing to Lucy. He rode by her side for several days to make sure that she had no further trouble. Her daughter Sibyl often commented later on President Young's kindness during the journey. He would often ride by the side of the wagon and encourage Lucy and her family. "With his gentle kind manner," wrote Lucy's grandson, "he won the love of Lucy and her posterity forever."
The Groves family entered the Salt Lake Valley on September 23, 1848, more than four months after leaving Winter Quarters. Later they went on to settle in southern Utah. Elisha lived 19 more years and died in 1867 in Toquerville, Utah Territory. Though she always walked with a crutch the rest of her life, Lucy, as promised by President Young, lived a full, long life. She died at the age of 76 on July 20, 1883, in Virgin, Utah Territory. Elisha is buried in Toquerville Cemetery and Lucy is buried in Virgin Utah Cemetery.
Lead image from Getty Images, all others courtesy of Lois Thomas Bartholomew.
*Sarah Matilda Groves is on the list at the Winter Quarters Cemetery of those who died at that time, but her last name is misspelled and listed as Grover.
**After leading the pioneer company into the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847, Brigham returned to Iowa and on December 27, 1847 he was sustained as President of the Church at Kanesville (Council Bluffs), Iowa. In the summer of 1848 he led a large company of Saints to the Salt Lake Valley, which included Elisha and Lucy Groves and their family.
Arrington, Brigham Young, American Moses, pp. 157-8;
Thomas Bullock Journals 143-49 MS 1385, Church History Archives;
History of Elisha Hurd Groves and William Rees Davies and Related Families archive.org/stream.
Groves family history compiled by Sibyl Harris Mendenhall, daughter of Sibyl Groves
Charles Shumway Conversion, from the history of Elisha Hurd Groves as reported by Eleh Thompson Shumway
Elisha Hurd Groves Autobiography written by himself
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church Brigham Young, p. 217.