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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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Sperry, Charles, 1846, Nauvoo and Iowa

I was born in Mecca in the state of Ohio, June 30, 1829. My father moved to Ohio from New York State when Ohio was a new country, where he opened up a farm and built a sawmill. We lived there until the spring of 1836 when he with his family moved to the state of Illinois, arriving in Adams County where my brother John had moved the year before. That same fall we moved to Laharpe, Hancock County, where I spent my boyhood days. My father bought a small farm, but built a house on the townsite, for it was a small place at that time. He worked at carpentering and millwrighting. During the winter he worked in the shop making spinning wheels and doing other mechanical work. I worked with him and learned the business.

In the summer of 1839 Father and part of the family joined the Mormon Church. There was a large branch of the Church built up in that town. During the trouble before and after Joseph Smith was martyred, mobs threatened to come and burn the town. It kept us constantly on the watch, guarding the roads to keep the mob out and I, although just a boy took my turn guarding the roads. The mob was a terrible menace to the inhabitants of Hancock County. They threatened to drive the Mormons out of the country. After they had killed the Prophet, burned our homes and fields, they drove off our stock and finally sent a committee to make a treaty with the leaders of the Church to have them leave the state. Finally terms were agreed upon which the mob never lived up to. They agreed to buy the property of the Mormons, which they never did.

After this agreement, when the biggest portion of the Saints had left and crossed the river, all that could go had gone, the poor and the sick were left, the mob came on them with a large force and cannonaded the town. The Mormons made a cannon out of a steamboat shaft and defended themselves as best they could. They did good execution with it, too. Two of our people were killed, a father and his son. The mob finally gained possession of the town (Nauvoo) and the Saints had to cross the river or be driven into it. There was great suffering as many were sick and without food or tents and were left on the west bank of the Mississippi River to starve. There is where a miracle was performed when the quails flew into the camp by the thousands. The sick put out their hands and caught them on their beds and the camps were sustained by that means.

In the spring of 1846 my father with his family left our home in Laharpe and started west, but before leaving, his daughter, Mary Ann Sperry Oatman and her husband, Roise Oatman, who lived in Whiteside County, Ill. came to see us, they being Rigdonites as they were called. They believed that Rigdon was the right man to lead the Church or at least to be the guardian of the Church until the Church became twenty-one years of age, when it could choose a leader for itself. Oatman tried to persuade my father not to go out with the twelve, but to go to Pittsburgh, Rigdon's gathering place. Oatman and his wife remained with us about a week. He and my father had many arguments respecting where the authority rested to lead the Church. Finally the day came when they were to start back home. They got to arguing at the breakfast table and they both got quite warm and in earnest in their argument and finally Oatman said to my father, "I see, Father Sperry, it is no use to talk with you. I prophesy in the name of the Lord that if you go west with your family, your children will go hungry and some will starve to death and your throats will be cut from ear to ear by the Indians." My father said, "Be careful how you prophesy in the name of the Lord ."

As I was saying, we left our home in the spring of 1846. We took our journey westward. We crossed the Mississippi and traveled part way through Iowa until we came to one fork of Grand River called Mt. Pisgah. There we halted for a time, built a house and made a garden on the river bottom. As it was considered best to have oxen rather than horses for teams, and as we had some horses, my brothers William and Aaron and I took the horses and went back as far as the Des Moines River, worked some in the harvest, traded one horse for oxen. William took the other and went back to Laharpe to settle up some business. Aaron and I took the team and started back to Mt. Pisgah some time in September. On the way Aaron took sick from which he never recovered, passing away the 15th of December 1846 at Highland Grove, Iowa. When we arrived home we learned that during our absence our dear mother had died in October and the rest of the family were sick with the chills and fever. We had not been home more than a few weeks before I was taken down with the same complaint. Brother Harrison was just able to look after the stock. We left Mt. Pisgah the latter part of October when a company from Laharpe came along, Captain Smith in charge. They came up with their wagons and Father told them there was a garden with all kinds of vegetables, and for them to help themselves, but he wanted them to put us in our wagons and take us along with them out of that sick hole.

Although a sickly place, Mt. Pisgah had some charm about it. I love it for two reasons; first because there lies my sainted mother, second for there I first met the girl who afterward became my wife. Captain Smith loaded us into our wagons and took us near to a place called Highland Grove. We hired a man to build us a house. In the meantime he told us that we could move into his house with him. While there, my brother Aaron died and my brother William came to us from Illinois. There was much sickness about this time, other than chills and fever. There was scurvy and blackleg, which were caused by lack of vegetables.

About one week after we moved into our new house, I continued to be quite sick, but as my chills would come on in the night I would get out some in the day time. Often the young folks would have dances in the houses near by. I would be invited to go and bring my fiddle but I was so very weak I could hardly crawl around, nevertheless, I used to like to go that I might be in company and see my girl; that used to cheer up my drooping spirits. One day in February the sun was shining brightly on the snow; I was out doors and I heard a squirrel chirping in the woods. I found the squirrel but he ran into a hole in a tree. I got my rifle and watched for him for I wanted some fresh meat and while standing by a basswood tree I picked off some twigs and buds and began chewing them. The squirrel came out of the hole in the tree and I took aim and my game came down. Before going to the house I pulled off a quantity of the twigs and buds and took them with the game, into the house. After eating the buds and some of the game, I began to feel stronger. I attribute that food to saving of my life, and that was the turning point in my sickness. I soon found more game. [Search Sperry for his account of 1847 and 1848.]

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.