Libeus or Lebbeus Thadeus Coons, called by family members as "L. T.," a member
of Zion's Camp, was born May 13, 1807 at Plymouth, New York, the son of Thomas Coons and Elizabeth
Crandall. He married Mary Ann Williamson in Spafford, New York in 1832. On November 10 of that same
year he and Mary Ann were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He became a convert to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the early days of the
Church and moved to Church headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio in 1833. Shortly thereafter he was blessed
and set apart by the prophet Joseph Smith “...to nurse and heal the sick,”
to whom he often brought great blessings and comfort.
As was the practice of the early 1800s, Brother Coons studied
medicine under the direction of a doctor until ready to
serve as a physician himself. One of his famous patients was
Brigham Young. He continued to serve as a doctor and
as a surgeon almost 40 years before his death in Richfield,
Utah at the age of 61.
As a member of Zion's Camp he traveled to Missouri
in 1834, and when the first quorum of Seventy was organized in Kirtland,
Ohio, in 1835, he was chosen as one of its members, thus entering the ranks
of the General Authorities. As the Great Apostasy of 1837 swept Kirtland, he
returned to Missouri. Then, as the persecution intensified, he was driven from
the state first to Nauvoo and after the Prophet's assassination, to Iowa. While
in Nauvoo, he was chosen to be a member of the Prophet Joseph Smith's lifeguard,
presumably to provide medical care should it be needed.
In Iowa L.T. traveled far and wide by carriage tending to the sick
in Mills County while it was yet a part of Pottawattamie
County, and later when he helped organize Mills County.
He was called in January 1848 to serve as Bishop of the
Church at Bethlehem and “…the lower area."
The so-called lower area stretched south from Bethlehem
20 miles to include Plum Hollow, or today’s Thurman,
and other branches of the Church. Included in his
church duties, before organization of the county, were
those of a "Common Judge in Israel" in which he was asked to
hear “…all civil cases, cases of difference, debts, immoral
Brother Lebbeus Thaddeus Coons left a rich
heritage in Mills County, southwestern Iowa, despite his
short stay. He established the little town of Bethlehem in
1846, east across the Missouri River from what today is
Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Bethlehem, renamed
successively Sharpsburg, Junction City, and East
Plattsmouth was the site of a Missouri River Ferry which
ran almost continuously from 1850 until 1930. His little
daughter, Patience, reportedly was the first child born in
Iowa’s Bethlehem, in 1846.
Six months later, L.T. moved seven miles
east of Bethlehem to establish a new town called Coonsville.
Like Bethlehem, Coonsville was carefully surveyed with
streets running north and south, east and west. Main
Street and Broadway, crossing each other in the center of
town, were 80 feet wide. All other streets were 60 feet
wide. Each block was 336 feet square and divided into
only four lots. That was back in the days when
gardening was for the dinner table.
As his new town was being built, Bishop Coons was
called to go on mission in the eastern States “…to raise
means by donations and public contributions for the
purpose of establishing schools in this frontier
territory…” L.T. responded, taking his counselor, David
Gamet, with him. They visited, among other places,
Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, and Syracuse, New
A May 1849 letter, found in the Union Branch
(Coonsville) records by researcher Daniel Coons,
assigned Bishop Coons to visit, counsel, and preach to his
branch in Coonsville, Martindale’s Branch in Bethlehem,
Gardiner’s Branch in Plum Hollow (now Thurman), and
other branches in Dutch Hollow, Green Hollow,
Dawsonburg, and Big Grove (now Oakland, Iowa).
One may wonder how this busy doctor found
the time to volunteer help for others. Before Mills County was carved
out of Pottawattamie County in 1851 and legally established, Church
leaders (possibly Orson Hyde and
counselors in Kanesville/Council Bluffs) called for
volunteers to build houses for the poor. L.T. pledged and
donated 10 days of labor on those houses.
L.T. was elected August 18, 1851 in Mills
County’s first election to serve as county prosecuting attorney.
If he wasn’t busy before, a gang of 30 or 40 men on horseback,
with guns, probably Missouri Mobocrats rode into the new county,
and kept him busy. They stopped land and property sales, forced
courts to close, and jostled and threatened church members on the street.
Most good members of the Church simply moved out, since
they planned to move on to Utah soon anyway. L.T. sent his family
on to Utah. But he stayed in Coonsville until late 1853 or early
1854. He then moved 55 miles north to Galland’s Grove to
be near two of his married children. and to be near Chany Williamson,
brother of L.T.’s wife, Mary Ann. Finally he moved to the mouth of
Soldier River on the Missouri. There he farmed and
advertised in the Magnolia Republican:
DR. L.T. COONS, Physician and
Surgeon may be found at his home
near the Mouth of the Soldier,
when not away on county calls.
When members of his extended family moved to Utah in
1864, Elder Coons ended his long stay in Iowa and moved to Utah in
Libeus was married to two women, Mary Ann Williamson
and Ester Harvey though the records do not indicate whether these marriages
were sequential or plural.
After his arrival in Utah, he resided in a number
of places and finally died at Richfield, Utah, July 7, 1872, leaving a
wife, and a numerous family of children. He was a kind father, neighbor