Elias Hutchings arrived during the nation's period
of anxious anticipation when the new government of the United States was
being formed. He was born to Abigail Stowell and Asa Hutchings on 20
Feb. 1784 at Winchester, New Hampshire. When
Elias was four years old, New Hampshire, where he lived, became the
ninth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, thereby putting
it into effect.
By the time Elias was 18 years old one sister and
six brothers had been born into the family. His father, Asa, died at this
time. Shortly after this Elias crossed the Connecticut River to the Vermont
side and went to live with his uncle.
"I then went to the state of New York," Elias wrote,
"and lived in different parts of the state until 1815. My occupation since
leaving the land of my nativity was that of hunting, trapping, and
fishing in the season thereof."
All America was his! What a profusion of wild life
and raw nature surrounded him. He had no game wardens and rangers to tell
him where he could set his traps.
Keeping the homemade buckskin pouch filled with powder
for his musket, and food for his stomach were the biggest concerns of the
day. Ferocious animals, savage Indians and battling the elements were daily
concerns. He loved the challenges which the natural habitat provided. The
leather pouch that swung from his shoulder by a leather strap, also contained
a bull's born used for convenience in filling the flintlock musket which
was sparked by using a flintstone hammer. His expeditions in hunting and
trapping took Elias into many states.
Quoting from Historical and Biographical Record it
says, "Elias Hutchings is well known all over the country as the discoverer
of the famous Mammoth Caves in Edmonson County, Kentucky which he accidentally
found while hunting and trapping in that state while following wounded
game into the cave."
In the History of Kentucky it says, "The Mammoth Cave
in Edmonson Co., Kentucky by about eighty-five miles southwest of
Louisville, was discovered in 1809 by a hunter named Hutchings while
in pursuit of a wounded bear."
Elias must have been astonished when the bear he
was chasing suddenly disappeared into that mammoth chamber of eternal
darkness. Little did he realize at the time what a vast discovery he
had made. Today, the central Kentucky cave is an
extraordinary thrill of surprises. In 1936 it was made into a national
park, covering more than 79 miles of hill country containing
waterfalls, rivers, and two lakes. In addition to its fantastic rock
formation, it is a place of amazing wonderment. For example,
one of the many unique marvels of the cave is the fish without eyes.
Elias Hutchings was married to Sarah (or Sally) Smith
(or Cox) in the town of Avery, Huron, Ohio on 29 Dec. 1816. Little is known
of the parentage of Sarah Smith. We know that her mother's name was Amy
Smith and that she later married John Cox. This maternal grandmother could
have been married twice, Smith being the name of the first husband, or
Sarah could have been raised by her mother's parents, the Smiths.
After the marriage of Elias and Sarah, they settled
about 15 miles south of Huron at Norwalk where their first four children
were born: Hovey in 1817, Shepherd Pierce in 1818, Erwin in 1820 and
Elias in 1821. In 1821 they moved to Chagrin in the
county of Geauga, about 5 miles north of Kirtland, Ohio.
Shepherd Pierce wrote in his history, "My father,
being cramped much with hard times was poor, destitute, and unsuccessful.
His property, when he could get some, was continually being seized
by law and sold for little or nothing. So the Gentile law
framed that the poor and unfortunate man was trampled down with impunity
for debt. He might be locked in jail and fed on
bread and water, deprived of his family circle, and still that would
not pay the debt. My father was never confined in jail but spent many days
behind the doors to keep away from the officers."
Those were difficult days in those early years along
the Chargin River. Two little boys, Erwin, 17 months, died and Elias Jr.,
13 months old, died a year later. They had six more children: William,
Willard, Joseph, Samuel, Lyman, Sally, Lovina, and twin
girls Mary and Martha.
In 1830 Elias and Sarah were taught the Gospel of
Jesus Christ. Quoting from his writing he said, "On Nov. 17, 1830, 1 and
my wife went down to the river of Chagrin, and were baptized by Priest
Caleb Baldwin, and were confirmed by Elder John Murdock into the L.D.S. Church
In the early spring of 1834 there was a great crisis
for the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri. False word had been spread
among the non-Mormons of the country that the "Mormons" were crossing
the Missouri River to take possession of their lands
and nearly all the country turned out to prepare for war. The Missourian
leaders issued a warning to their people: "All who will not take up arms,"
they declared, "and fight the Mormons will have to leave the country!"
Through false promises, the Jackson County Saints
had been deprived of their arms six months before. (Let that be a lesson to you: Don't ever give up your arms!]
As a result of this invasion of the Missouri mob,
about 170 buildings were destroyed by fire. Homes and holdings were
plundered, and the Saints were beaten and driven north into Clay County.
The Prophet Joseph
Smith, learning of the plight of the church members in Missouri, at
once set about organizing a company of men, called "Zion's Camp" to go
to Missouri in defense of the branch there.
Elias wrote, "May 5, 1834 I started as one of the
Camp of Zion with my brethren afoot to the state of Missouri to lay down
my life, if required, in defense of my brethren that were driven out of
Jackson County, Missouri by ruthless mobs. I stayed about nine months and
returned on Feb. 3, 1835.
After Elias Hutchings left with Zion's Camp to make
its thousand mile march to Missouri, the responsibility for the care of
the family fell upon the shoulders of the two oldest sons, Hovey and Shepherd.
In his journal Shepherd stated, "This summer I and
my brother Hova (sic), who was one year older than myself, had to work
exceedingly hard to sustain the family. We chopped and cleared land,
fenced, dug wells, and in fact, though we were only 16
and 17 years old, we felt old and bowed down. Our backs were so lame
we could hardly stand erect."
Although a permanent peace was not accomplished by
the Zion's Camp movement, the worth of the 1000 mile trek was
proved to be one of the most worthwhile endeavors in the early history
of the Church. Nothing so completely reveals the worth of worthlessness
of characters as an expedition of this description. Men are thrown into
such relations with each other, that all that is in them, good or bad,
comes to the surface. It was a testing time for 205 men. From this expedition
of "sifting the wheat from the chaff' the Twelve Apostles and Quorum of
Seventies were chosen.
Elias Hutchings was rated as "wheat" in that expedition
because he was chosen to be one of the First Quorum of Seventies
ordained under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith with his two counselors,
Sidney Rigdon and Oliver
Cowdery on 28 Feb. 1835.
Elias wrote, "After I returned home I went to Kirtland.
On the 15th day of Feb. I received a Zion's blessing pronounced upon my
head for going up to Zion, under the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr.,
Joseph Smith, Sr., and Sidney Rigdon at Kirtland, Geauga, Ohio
Elias Hutchings continued, "In April 1, 1836, 1 started
East on a mission traveling through the state of New York and
Pennsylvania and through part of Canada. I returned from my mission
of about five months, baptizing nine into the church.
On Sept. 5, 1838, 1 left with my family for the state
of Missouri and stopped in Illinois on account of the trouble in Missouri.
In May 1840 we left for the Territory of Iowa. In 1844 1 was ordained Senior
President to the Third Quorum of Seventies.
Although Elias never mentioned the conditions and
circumstances that surely surrounded his destitute family, that period
of time, and years to come, were indeed difficult for the Hutchings family.
They, along with other Latter Day Saints endured many
trials and persecutions. They were driven, robbed and their property
"It seemed as if all Hell had burst asunder!" said
The summer of 1839 Elias moved his family from Naples,
Illinois to Iowa Territory up the Des Moines River to a little town
called Bonapart. The family was sick with fever and ague. Three of
the little girls died with canker, the twins, age eight and
Lovina, past nine.
We have his work that he left Iowa the 10th of Nov.,
1844 for Hancock County, Illinois. Here he died on Monday, 13 Jan.
1845 and was buried Tuesday, with other saints in the Nauvoo Cemetery.
Family records say that he was taken ill about 3:00
a.m. Sunday morning, Jan. 12, with cold chills and vomiting and lost
his speech, and died the following morning.
Sarah was left a widow in Nauvoo at the age of 51.
Only five of her eleven children lived to adulthood.
Sarah, with her son Lyman Smith Hutchings crossed
the plains to Utah in 1849 in the company of Ezra
Shepherd Pierce, William Willard and Hovey Hutchings
built their mother a little house in the 17th Ward in Salt Lake City.
Here she lived the rest of her remaining life in the comfort of her
little home. Her name is entered on the old church record as a
faithful member meeting her church obligations, such as paying her
tithing by knitting stockings and mittens.
Sarah died 28 Sept. 1863 at the age of 69 years and
was buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery. Just in recent years, a great
granddaughter, Irene Croft, and her husband, Russell, placed a little
gravestone to mark the spot of her final resting place.