There is a degree of confusion about this man and the reader
is warned that everything here might be incorrect. The History of the
Church mentions a Jesse P. Harmon, a Jesse D. Harmon, and a Joseph
Harmon. Grampa Bill believes these are all the same man and has combined
their entries with that of the Jesse Pierse (sic) Harmon who is found in
the Ancestral File. There is also a Jesse Perse (which I have come to believe is the correct spelling) Harmon found in
the Ancestral File. His information is scanty and though I believe
it refers to the same man, information here will reflect that of the former but with the spelling of the latter.
Before continuing let us explain. Jesse D. Harmon
is listed in the First Quorum of the Seventy but not as having served in
Zions Camp. We are told that all members of the original First Quorum were selected from
among Zions Camp veterans. And Joseph Harmon is listed with Zions Camp
but not with the Seventy. I believe them both to be the same man and the
victim of a transcriptionist's error. Jesse P. has several entries which
dovetail very nicely with Joseph and Jesse D. Never do any two of
these appear at the same time to indicate that they are separate individuals.
We have selected Jesse P. as the correct name since the Ancestral File
gives the middle name. It does not list a Jesse D. or a Joseph that would
fit. Rightly or wrongly, we proceed with these premises.
Jesse P. Harmon was born August 11, 1795 in Rupert,
Vermont to Martin Harmon and Tryphena Poole, the seventh of twelve children
born to this couple.
At the tender age of eightteen, Jesse enlisted in the United States Army to help defend the nation during the War of 1812. He would have numerous close calls but survived the conflict. The British sought to use Indians as allies in fighting the Americans. On one occasion, Jesse was slightly wounded by an Indian tomahawk. Another happenstance occurred as Jesse and several companions sought refuge in a log cabin. A cannonball exploded through the walls, dismembering several and killing everyone therein except Jesse. At the Battle of LaColle's Mill, Jesse and his brother Martin came under fire from the enemy. Martin was mortally wounded and died in Jesse's arms. He was buried with full military honors. Jesse returned to New York but the country was moving westward. He soon removed to Erie County, Pennsylvania.
Jesse married Anna Barnes on April 29, 1819 in Conneaut
Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania. The couple had four children, all born in Erie County. While residing in Erie County, the family was visited by Orson Hyde while on one of his many missions. He taught the family about the Gospel. Anna, who was deeply spiritual, was the first to accept the new doctrines, being baptized May 29, 1833.
Jesse joined the Church somewhat later but by 1834
he was a volunteer with Zion's Camp, the expedition to provide relief to
the saints in Missouri. Since Zions Camp originated in Kirtland, Ohio,
we may surmise that by this date Jesse and Anna were living in the environs
of that city.
In 1835, Jesse was ordained a Seventy and called
to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy. Shortly after the return to
Kirtland the Great Apostasy began to afflict Kirtland and great abuse befell
those who sided with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Jesse remained stalwart during this time of trial and signed the Constitution
of the Kirtland Camp when the faithful members or Kirtland and more especially the Seventies evacuated that city and moved to Zion.
Missouri also proved to be a place of trial and persecution
and Jesse suffered the ignominy of the expulsion, eventually settling in
Nauvoo, Illinois. There he was appointed Orderly Sergeant in the Nauvoo
Police Department and later as an officiator at the Nauvoo Temple. Jesse also joined the Nauvoo Legion in which he roose to the rank of Colonel. In July
of 1843 Elder Harmon was involved in the daring Maid of Iowa mission
in support of Joseph Smith when an armed company of men sought to kidnap
As a policeman sworn to uphold the law and keep the
peace, Jesse was called upon by the City Council of Nauvoo to destroy the
printing press of the infamous Nauvoo Expositor, a scurrilous rag
attempting to bring down the Church and disturb the peace of Nauvoo. On
June 17, 1844 Jesse along with the Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum
Smith, Orrin Porter Rockwell and others were arrested by Hancock County
authorities from Carthage, Illinois concerning this matter. It was while thus incarcerated that Joseph and Hyrum were martyred. A year later, officials finally got around to trying Jesse and the others. After a protracted trial all were found innocent.
Though allowed to return to his family in Nauvoo, the persecution of the saints continued. And again, the saints were obliged to leave their homes and take to the trail as refugees. Jesse and his family joined the trek west. His beloved wife Anna succumbed to the hardships of the trail and died January 16, 1847. The entire family was sick and Jesse's son Ansil was the only one able to attend Anna's funeral. Their daughter Sophronia died ten days later. Jesse gathered the remainder of his family about him and as the spring and summer gave relief to the frigid winds of winter, made his way westward. He would become the honored patriarch of a pioneer family and died in Holden, Utah in 1877.