Information Relating to the Period that John George Carlisle and His Family Were in Nebraska City, Nebraska, 1869 to 1876.
By Howard M. Carlisle
(April 8, 2001 more updates to follow)
John G’s descendants have never known for sure why John G. took has family to Nebraska around 1870 and remained through 1876. To gain some understanding regarding why the family left, I have read numerous publications including: Ronald Walker’s Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young; Roger Launius’ Joseph Smith III; two master theses (Voices of Dissent: The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Utah, 1863-1900 by Richard Lyle Shipley, and The Godbeite Movement: A Dissent Against Temporal Control by Grant H. Palmer); the 1868 to 1876 semimonthly issues of TRUE LATTERDAY SAINTS’ HERALD, the official organ of the Reorganized Church edited by Joseph Smith III; as well as portions of other books and newspapers. The SAINTS’ HERALD is especially important. It is extremely comprehensive with each annual edition containing more than 800 pages, many covering details on church and branch activities.
This report is divided into two parts: First, are known, documented facts about John G. and the history of his family. The second part contains information that is circumstantialSit may provide links to the Carlisle family but no direct ties can be made at this time. The reader will have to excuse me for this in-depth analysis for I have attempted to explore every reasonable possibility that could connect John G. and his family to any of the events occurring in Utah at the time. Sorry I got carried away, but I found this era of reform interesting, and I thought you might also.
Summary Factual Information Regarding John George and Other Members of His Carlisle Family:
John G. Carlisle: (In various places his last name is also spelled Carlyle and Carlile.) He was born in Nottingham, England, on November 5, 1828. He was baptized in that city on April 6, 1850, at age 21. He sailed to the U.S. aboard the Clara Wheeler with 420 other saints under the direction of President Henry E. Phelps. Initially leaving England on November 24, 1854, the ship was forced to return to Liverpool due to rough seas. It set sail again on December 7, arriving in New Orleans on January 11, 1855. (Twenty-one children and two adults died during the journey from measles.) The next day he traveled by steamboat (the Oceana) up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and soon found work as a wheelwright in Oregon, Missouri. That summer he was engaged by William Godbe to drive one of his 22 wagons loaded with merchandise and drugs to Salt Lake City. Godbe was a young, talented entrepreneur who made his first commercial trip to Utah a year earlier, bringing one wagon of merchandise. (Godbe was 22 at the time he hired John G., then age 28, to drive one of the wagons.) On September 25, 1855, when Godbe’s caravan arrived in Salt Lake City, he was praised for bringing much needed merchandise to the valley. The Deseret News reported, “We trust that the faith, good works and good health of the people will so abound that the stock of medicines will last at least until Utah becomes a state.”
Within a few years, through trade with the East Coast and by establishing the largest territorial chain of drug stores and retail dry-goods stores (including one in Logan), Godbe became one of the seven richest merchants in Salt Lake City. Later Godbe strongly opposed Brigham Young when Young forced most businessmen to combine their operations into cooperative mercantile associations (such as ZCMI), and when he set up cooperative societies known as the United Order in several small communities. Eventually Godbe expanded his protest, leading a movement that opposed Young on religious and philosophic grounds as well, resulting in Godbe and several of his followers (known as Godbeites) being excommunicated from the Church.
After John G. arrived in SLC, he wrote that he “commenced to work on October 27, 1855, for J.C. Litt at a wage of $15 per month.” Soon after, on March 7, 1856, his pay was increased to $40 a month, reflecting his value as an employee. (Notebook in my possession.)
Margaret Kewley: Margaret was born March 5, 1840, in Peel, Isle of Man, making her nearly 12 years younger than John G. Her parents (James Kewley and Ann Karren Kewley) were baptized Mormons three months after Margaret’s birth. Margaret was the third child in a family of eight She was baptized by her father in 1848. (The exact date is uncertain.) In 1856, when the family decided to emigrate to America, she was 16. Her two older sisters chose to remain on the Isle of Man. Her two other living siblings (Robert, 11, and Thomas, 3) came with the family. Thomas died during the journey.
The family left Liverpool on May 25, 1856, with 856 passengers, mostly Mormons under the direction of Edward Martin, who later was to captain the Martin Handcart Company that the Kewleys joined. After landing in Boston on July 1, they traveled by train to Cleveland and then on to Iowa City. It was during this train ride in Ohio when Margaret’s youngest brother, Thomas Kewley, died. The Martin Handcart Company was to follow the Willie Company on the 1,300-mile journey along the Mormon Trail in hopes of reaching their new Zion. (These were the fourth and fifth handcart companies to leave that year. In total, ten handcart companies made the crossing between 1856 and 1860.) The company experienced two major delays: The chartered ship was three weeks behind schedule in leaving England, and Iowa City was backed up with Saints eager to travel west, causing an additional three-week postponement because of the scarcity supplies, mainly suitable materials to build carts.
Once the Martin Company of 576 eager emigrants was given the go-ahead, the families loaded their possessions (limited to 17 pounds per person) onto 146 handcarts plus a backup of seven oxen-driven wagons, leaving Iowa City on the July 28. Their undertaking was a risky venture at best, knowing that the first three companies traveling in favorable weather required more than three months to make the journey. With this timetable, it was unlikely that the Martin Company would reach the valley until sometime in November.
The Willie Company of 500 preceded the Martin Company by ten days. Before reaching Fort Laramie on October 8, the Martin Company was already on food rations. They were eager to reach the Fort to obtain supplies scheduled to be sent from Salt Lake City. To their disappointment, none had been delivered. Ten days later on October 18, near Casper, Wyoming, they encountered blinding blizzards accompanied by the fierce Wyoming winds that formed drifts up to three feet high. Crossing the ice-choked Platt River was especially difficult, causing many, including Margaret’s father, to no longer be able to assist in pulling the carts. At the time, their ration of one pound of flour per-person per-day was cut to 4 ounces. Able to advance only a few miles during daylight, they were soon out of food, totally exhausted, and aware that they could go no farther. They huddled under their few pieces of clothing and little remaining bedding in a grove of trees at Martin’s Cove awaited whatever fate might be dealt them. Located two miles from Devil’s Gate of the Sweetwater River, Martin’s Cove was deep in snow, but it was out of the deadly winds that earlier had forced them to organize a burial squad for the 56 who had died since crossing the Platt.
When Brigham Young became aware of their dire situation, at the October 6 General Conference, he asked for volunteers to gather 60 wagons to save the stranded Saints. Eventually more than 250 wagons were required to complete the rescue operations. Their courageous efforts were described by one respected historian as “ . . . the most heroic mass rescue the frontier ever witnessed.” Due to continuing storms, crusted snow, and cold weather, it took lead rescue parties more than two weeks to travel the 300 miles to reach the forlorn saints in the Willie Company, first contacting them on October 21. Arriving in Salt Lake City by November 9, the Willie Company had less than half the deaths that occurred with the Martin Company. Reaching the Martin Company proved more difficult as they were farther away, rescuers were not sure of their location or existence, and weather conditions remained nearly unbearable. Some of the rescue volunteers had been gone for three weeks, and now they were short of supplies. On occasion, their progress was limited to two miles per-day because of weary teams and snow-filled mountain passes and ravines. The Martin Company, some huddled in Martin’s Cove and others stranded along the trail to South Pass, waited ten days before rescuers arrived, not reaching Salt Lake City until November 30. Those still alive—carried aboard 104 wagons—descended Emigration Canyon to be met by a solemn-faced Brigham Young and other church officials. One rescuer estimated that only one-third of the Martin Company survivors were able to walk.
John G. was one of the volunteers who participated in the rescue and likely met Margaret at the time. It is said that when he first came onto the handcart companies, he was so overcome with grief that “. . . he could not utter a word for some time.” One story claims that John G. brought Margaret down emigration canyon on his horse, but such an event seems unlikely given the condition of the survivors.
Of the 1,076 members in the two handcart companies, more than 212 died en route, making the death toll the largest of any migration West, exceeding five times that of the much-publicized Donner Party. Of those who finished the trek, many experienced such poor health that it plagued them for years. Margaret had her feet frozen, eventually losing several toes. Her mother (Ann Karran Kewley) died two years later on October 28, 1859, at age 49. Her father, James Kewley, remained in Salt Lake City, dying a decade later on December 26, 1867, at age 65. Margaret was always reluctant to talk of her experiences, stating, “They were too horrible to recall.”
Nearly three-fourths of the two companies were women and children. Many of the women were not only single but had no relatives in Utah. Most were in such poor health Brigham Young realized they would need special care for at least several months. As one response, he urged the male rescuers to marry the eligible women, many under a polygamous arrangement. John G. and Margaret were married within six months (April 18, 1857) in a civil ceremony performed by Elder James G. Willie, former captain of the Willie Handcart Company. At the time John G. was 28 and Margaret 17. They were later sealed in the endowment house on March 7, 1860. Early in their marriage, they experienced considerable anxiety when John G. went to Echo Canyon in the fall and winter of 1857-58 to prepare for battle with U.S. troops (Johnston’s Army) in the “Utah War.”
Living in Salt Lake City and Raising a Family
Little information is available on what happened to the family during the next ten years. We know they resided in Salt Lake City’s 17th Ward, probably from 1859 until 1866. This information comes from various sources. The most important is the 1860 census for Salt Lake City’s 17th Ward. (A “ward” at the time served as location within a city and was not an indication of religious preference.) This census lists John George Carlisle, age 31, as the head of household. The value of the family real estate was $900. Their personal effects had a value of $200. Other members living in the residence at the time of the census included Margaret, age 19; John E., age 2; Ana, six months; James Kewley, age 58; and Robert Kewley, age 14. Margaret’s father and brother were living with them at the time, following the death of Margaret’s mother.
We have other documentation that the family resided in Salt Lake City at that time. Official records of Salt Lake City’s 17th Ward contained on microfilm 26,698 show that two of John G and Margaret’s children were blessed in the ward. On page 36, Annie Elizabeth Carlisle, born 18 January 1860, is shown as being blessed on 1 March 1860 by Thomas Callister. Her parents are listed as John and Marg. Kewley Carlisle. On page 39, Lillian Carlisle, born 10 March 1862, is shown as being blessed on 1 May 1862 by A. Randle. Her parents are listed as John George and Margarett Kewley Carlisle. In addition, I have three issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book for 1866, all with “J. G. Carlisle” and “17th Ward” written on the front.
The next year they apparently moved west of the Jordan River to an area that was then Brighton Ward. In a letter to Brigham Young dated February 2, 1867, fourteen “undersigned members of the Brighton Ward” request that an officer be appointed “to preside over the ward as a Bishop.” One of the signers was “J.G. Carlisle.” As other evidence of their residing in the Salt Lake City area, I have two receipts, each for $1, issued by the Salt Lake City Post Office for quarterly rental payments on Box 225. These receipts cover the quarters from July 1 to Sept 30, 1867, and from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 1867. By this time, the Carlisle family had grown to five children. The first, John Edward, was born March 4, 1858, one year after their marriage. The other four children were born approximately two years apart. (Annie Elizabeth on January 18, 1860; Lillian K. on March 10, 1862; Margaret Agnes on March 29, 1864, and Heber James on October 10, 1867.)
By 1869, none of the children had apparently been baptized although both John E. and Annie were older than eight. The only earlier church-related record I have for John E. is a “father’s blessing” given him by Charles W. Hyde in Salt Lake City on February 11, 1861, when John E. was just under three years old. (We have a copy of a patriarchal blessing Hyde gave to Margaret on the same date. It is likely that other members of the family also received blessings at that time.)
On August 23, 1869, David L. Smith baptized John E. a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Smith was the youngest son of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. Soon after John G. moved his family to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where they remained for nearly seven years. We have abundant evidence to support John E’s baptism as a member of the RLDS Church. Several original RLDS records are available that verify this, and John E. is also listed as a convert in Shipley’s history of the RLDS religion in Utah, one of the publications referred to at the opening. My primary source is Utah microfilm #4, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Records of the Rocky Mountain Mission, located in Special Collections at Utah State University. The microfilm record covers all RLDS missions and baptisms from 1863 (the year the Salt Lake City mission was formed) until 1910. On page 680 of the Record of the Salt Lake Mission Branch, John E. Carlisle is listed as convert No. 117. The line along the two-page, handwritten ledger reads as follows: “John E. Carlisle. Born: March 4, 1858. Birth place: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County. Baptized: August 18, 1869. Baptized and confirmed by D.H. Smith.” This can only be our John E. since the birth date is correct. However, there is a discrepancy between the two primary records, both handwritten. One shows his baptism as August 18, the other as August 23.
Due to the extensive RLDS microfilm records, mostly of baptisms, I searched only those portions covering the Salt Lake Mission Branch. The only other Carlisle I found was Samuel Carlisle, baptized in December 1885. The questions about the religious status of the other family members remain unresolved. Why were they not listed in the records? Were any later baptized in Nebraska City? Or was John E. the only family member to become a Josephite (another name for RLDS members)?
Regarding the timing of when the family left for Nebraska, we have always assumed that it was in 1869. This was before we knew the date of John E’s baptism which (as it turned out) was the same year. The departure date comes from an introduction he wrote in his diary when he left to serve as a missionary in the Southern States from 1881-82. On page one he wrote, “My parents when I was a little over eleven years old moved to Neb. City. We resided in Neb. City nearly seven years.” This is consistent with both his birth date and the August 8, 1876, date when the family returned by train to Utah. However, what is troubling is that this sentence and several other entries on the first two diary pages are in a different handwriting than the balance of the notebook. This writing is John E’s, but it is more similar to that of when he was in his latter years.
Again, the ten-year U.S. census comes to our aid. The 1870 census for Nebraska City’s First Ward (dated June 1, 1870) lists the following: John G. Carlisle, age 42, head of household, wagon maker; M. age 29, house keeper; J.E., age 12; A.E., age 10; M.A., age 6; J.H., age 3. (Heber’s initials are obviously reversed.) This pins down more precisely when the family went to Nebraska. It is an eight-month window from when John E. was baptized in Salt Lake City on August 18, 1869 to the Nebraska City census of June 1, 1870. Since the transcontinental railroad was finished in May 1869, the family could have gone by rail in the fall of 1869 or the spring of 1870. Given the distance and the season, it is unlikely that they went the 1,000 miles by wagon after August of 1869 or in the early spring of 1870
Other known dates of their residing in Nebraska are: a school book in the possession of John W. Carlisle has the date December 22, 1871, written on the cover; I have a book, Fourteen Weeks in Natural Philosophy (written by J.D. Steele) with “John E. Carlisle, Nebraska City, Sept 14, 1874,” written on the front page; and we have a copy of a letter from Nebraska City dated December 22, 1874, that Margaret wrote to her brother Robert, then living in Clarkston, Utah.
The details of their leaving Nebraska City are better documented. Diary records of James A. Little plus ordinance records of John E. all support that five of John G’s children (including John E) were baptized as Mormons by James A. Little, on June 18, 1876. On April 19, 1876, Brigham Young appointed Little to “take charge and preside over various branches of the Church in Iowa, Nebraska, De Kota and Minnesota” and part of Missouri. His charge was to “find many who have once tasted of the pure principles of the gospel who have turned away from the same, and who delight to argue and cavil with regard to the plan of salvation.” Excerpts from Little’s diary are as follows: (Information from Little’s diary came from a typescript located at BYU.)
June 16: I went by railway to Nebraska City, Nebraska, by invitation to visit Brother John Carlisle and family. I found them enjoying much of the spirit of the Gospel.
June 17: I spent the day mostly in reading and conversation at Brother Carlisle’s.
June 18: (Sunday): After we had eaten dinner a hymn was sung followed by prayer at the house when Brother Carlisle and family went with me to a place which had been prepared and baptized five of Brother Carlisle’s children, the oldest eighteen years and the youngest eight years old. We returned to the house where I confirmed those who had been baptized, ordained the oldest an Elder, administered to sister Carlisle for her health, blessed the babe, and assisted by Brother Carlisle administered the Sacrament. We were blessed with much of the Holy Spirit and rejoiced together.
June 19: I spent most of the day at Brother Carlisle’s. I returned in the evening to Council Bluffs.
August 8: After returning to Council Bluffs I found a letter from Brother Carlisle’s family in Nebraska City. Five of the family I baptized on the eighteenth of last June. They notified me that they would pass through Council Bluffs on their way to Utah this morning, and would like to see me at the station. I regret that I am too late.
After leaving Nebraska City on August 8, 1876, the family traveled by train to Ogden and then to Cache Valley, likely because Robert Kewley, Margaret’s younger brother, resided there. One of John E.’s schoolbooks from Nebraska City contains 16 diary entries made between Sept. 1, 1876 (shortly after their arrival in Cache Valley) and Sept. 17, 1877. Because these entries cover significant events in church history and the life of John E., several are included below:
Sept. 3, 1876: On the 12, 13, 14 and 15 [of September] underwent an examination to teach school.
October 23: At a school teacher’s meeting I prayed for the first time in public. [This implies that he was not active in the RLDS in Nebraska.] Have accepted a school position in Hyrum. [This was a one-room school.]
Oct. 30: Commenced teaching with 12 pupils and spent the winter in this work. The school is gradually increasing in numbers.
March 17, 1877: I witnessed the dedication of the ground for a temple in Logan.
June 24, 1877: My little brother Robert Bruce Carlisle died of scarlet fever. Fifteen months and twelve days old. [John G. had administered to a person with scarlet fever several days prior. Upon arriving home after visiting the sick person, John G. was met at the door by his small son. He picked him up and wrapped his arms around him, likely spreading the disease.]
Aug. 29, 1877: While on my Uncle Robert Kewley’s farm I heard of the death of Pres. Brigham Young.
Sept. 1, 1877: I went to Salt Lake City to attend the funeral of the venerable president.
From the above, one would have to assume that John G. and Margaret never joined the RLDS Church since they were not rebaptized at the time their five children were baptized by J. J. Little.
Possible Connections with William Godbe
Because of certain personalities and events that occurred in Salt Lake City at the time John E. was baptized, a sound basis exists for assuming that at least some of these influenced the Carlisle family. The connections, mainly in dates and timing, present the most likely scenario we have at this time of events that influenced John E. to become baptized a Josephite.
It would seem the Godbe would be the logical connection because he had engaged John G. to drive one of his wagons to Utah, and Godbe was excommunicated from the Church in a widely publicized trial in 1870, about the time of John E’s baptism. As noted, Godbe was a staunch Mormon as evidenced by his being a bishop’s counselor in Salt Lake City 13th Ward, the community’s most influential ward of that period. Also he was one of the territory’s leading citizens through his extensive business enterprises. With Godbe’s British background, he was inclined to be independent and challenge conventional ways which in time got him in trouble with Brigham Young. However, Young was always extremely fond of the young entrepreneur, appointing him as one of Salt Lake City’s councilmen and often seeking his advice. When gentile businessmen began to be take hold in Salt Lake City, Young charged that their only concern was to make huge profits, and he began a campaign to drive them out. His goal was not just to rid them from the territory but also to keep his kingdom economically independent. He took several steps to foster this self-reliance: In 1863, Young called for businessmen to come together and form community-wide mercantile institutions (such as the ZCMI). He felt in forming a near monopoly, the cooperative units could command lower prices from vendors through joint purchasing, and gain other economies through a common distribution network. The mercantile movement was somewhat slow to get underway, primarily due to opposition from Godbe and other community leaders.
Under the cooperative arrangement, current business owners could trade their inventories and other assets for stock in the institutions, making the cooperatives little more than joint-stock companies. Bishops were to set up retail stores in their neighborhoods and sell locally goods obtained from the cooperatives. In 1865, Young declared that Mormons should boycott Gentile merchants, reiterating his warning that “All Mormons who dealt with outsiders would be cut off from the Church.” This push for self reliance went to the extremes of Young urged farmers to grow mulberry trees with the hope of producing silk and to raise cotton for clothing. Such horticulture got underway, even in colder regions such as Cache Valley. Equally as radical was his socialistic experiment with the United Order where several communities were turned into cooperative units that shared work and material goods in common.
In time, Young became increasingly critical of wealthy Mormon merchants who failed to devote the bulk of their wealth to the Kingdom of God. Godbe originally accepted Young’s status as the all-knowing spiritual leader but, as Young extended his hand to gain greater control over all commerce, Godbe criticized him for going too far in directing the “minutest details of daily life.” He charged that Young had “transformed a religion that abounded with spiritual manifestations, to a materialistic theocracy.” Young’s commercial schemes, aimed at monopolizing the trade of the territory, caused Godbe to comment, “ . . . a more complete theocratic despotism it is difficult to conceive.” Later Godbe came to challenge the infallibility of the priesthood, and, beginning in 1866, he started expressing some misgivings about Mormonism
Godbe was not only a practical businessman but also an idealist. Thus, his wrangling soon gained the support of not only other merchants but also some intellectuals who were eager to profess their independence. Joining with the intellectuals, Godbe largely financed and helped develop two significant publications. One was the Mormon Tribune, a weekly newspaper that later was to become The Salt Lake Tribune. According to Walker in his book on Godbe, the original Tribune was “literate, high-toned, and principled” with an emphasis on theological and philosophical issues rather than news. With limited appeal to the citizenry of the time, within a year the newspaper became a more typical daily and lost much of its Godbeite rhetoric, although he and his followers wrote editorials and articles on occasion for years after.
At about the same time, Godbe was involved in establishing one of Utah’s first culture publications, Utah Magazine. It’s proclaimed mission was to foster the arts, homemaking, theories of modern thinkers, and essays on science, but because of the controversies inherent in the Godbeite movement, editorials soon surfaced critical of Brigham Young. The extremes the Godbeites went to challenge the Church are evidenced in the October 1869 issueCabout the time the Carlisle family was on its way to Nebraska. The editorial urged readers to avoid “blind obedience,” test religious teachings by the “light of your own souls,” and put aside “self-imposed mental tyranny” which was “far worse than African slavery.” Such charges were, of course, more than President Young could withstand. Stating that a “ . . . great and secret rebellion was under way,” he had Godbe and six other Godbeites suspended from church membership. Later, on October 25, 1869, just when Carlisle family likely left, a public trial was held with the twelve-man Salt Lake Stake High Council as tribunal. Godbe and two others were cutoff from the Church for questioning the prevailing norms of Zion and challenging church authority.
Godbe never questioned the credibility of Joseph Smith as a prophet, although he diminished the prophet’s position by declaring his role was that of a medium—to deliver God’s word to Earth. Godbe’s target was always Brigham Young. Godbe eventually came to accept universalian conceptsnthe belief that God is over all religions, not just the Mormon faith.
Earlier, in 1868, while visiting several well-known spiritualists on the East Coast, Godbe and a colleague claimed to have revelations from Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Solomon, apostles Peter, James, and John, and others. For many years they kept this information private, but after being excommunicated, Godbe took the lead in forming a new religion known as the Church of Zion. Neither Godbe nor any of his followers claimed to be the new prophet; instead, they were to take roles as counselors. Their belief was that when “the heavens spoke to him” a figure would come forth who would head up the new religion. Most assumed they had in mind Joseph Smith III, eldest son of the Church’s founder and head of the RLDS Church since 1860. Godbe apparently tried to get Smith III to assume the position, but he showed little interest, in part, because he was adamantly opposed to polygamy. It was 1875 before Godbe could get the Church founder’s eldest son to come to Utah, and then he came primarily to pursue missionary work. Smith III was always of interest to Utah Mormons, some even assuming he might head the church upon Brigham Young’s death. When Smith III never stepped forth, the Church of Zion presidency was offered to Amasa M. Lyman, a Mormon apostle for 25 years, who in 1867 was dismissed from the Mormon hierarchy. Later, he was excommunicated in 1870 when he aligned with the Godbeites.
At one of the initial meetings of the Church of Zion, seven hundred people attended, one out of every 20 citizens residing in the capital city. However, the charge that the organizers relied on spiritualism, a weak organization structure, and lack of a definitive doctrine soon turned off potential converts. Walker in his book, Wayward Saints, estimates that in April 1870, the most the new church could claim was a membership of only several hundred. The Church of Zion gained the reputation of being little more than a “loose confederation of liberal thinkers,” and it experienced a short existence. Godbe viewed it more as a philosophical endeavor, and, when a throng of followers failed to develop, he moved on to other organizational pursuits. Within a year he no longer referred to the name.
Godbeites were also active on the political front. They helped organize the Liberal Party, the first anti-LDS political party in Utah. It was much more enduring than the Church of Zion, existing until just prior to statehood or for more than 20 years. The Godbeites saw the party as a means of getting federal support to break Brigham Young’s tight hold on commerce in the Utah Territory and developing resistance to what they considered his oppressive leadership. Godbe had always kept one foot in politics. On more than one occasion he visited President Grant in Washington to support Mormon causes. In forming the Liberal Party, he joined with several gentile groups, mostly anti-Mormon leaders in Corinne, Utah. After municipal elections in February 1870, when the party garnered only 10 percent of the vote and dissension between the gentile leaders and the Godbeites accelerated (especially over polygamy), the splintered party lost most of Godbe’s support.
Godbe and his followers went on to form another organization to further publicize their philosophical beliefs. This new platform, known as the Liberal Institute, was similar to the nationwide Chautauqua movement that was popular at the time. The institute offered a series of lectures and educational forums devoted mainly to free thought and liberal ideas. In part, the founders’ goal was to change if not overturn the Mormon kingdom. Godbe provided most of the money to build an attractive Victorian building designed to accommodate an audience of one thousand. Over the years, the building (completed in July 1871) provided the setting for several prominent national speakers, such as suffragist Susan B. Anthony. However, a series of lectures by well-known spiritualists again caused the local citizenry to question Godbe’s motives, and attendance dropped off. After a decade, the building was used for popular entertainment to keep it financially afloat, and, in 1884, Godbe and the other leading investor sold it to the Presbyterian Church.
Godbe, the quintessential entrepreneur, made and lost several fortunes during his lifetime. His drug business faltered after ZCMI opened a series of drug stores, and other forms of Mormon mercantilism cut into his retail business. One of the early causes of Godbe’s disaffection from Brigham Young was Young’s opposition to mining. In 1871 when Godbe’s coffers were getting low, he went to England and persuaded several large investors into financing mining in Utah. Godbe quickly turning these ventures into another fortune. He later withdrew from polygamy by divorcing several of his wives, and in his latter years again became impoverished when the bottom fell out of the price of silver.
Did Godbeitism influence local practices and Mormon thought? Quite possibly more then he perceived. In the October 1870 semiannual conference, President Young stunned the audience by tendering his resignation as the church’s business or temporal trustee-in-trust. Those present refused his proposal although it was accepted at a later general conference in April 1873. At the same time, he resigned from the presidency of ZCMI and Deseret National Bank.
Following Godbe’s death in 1902, The Deseret Evening News stated that their longtime church adversary was “gentle in spirit, courteous in manner, liberal with his means, and tender and pleasant to all of his associates” and had “good and honorable intentions.” His warm personality was one of the reasons he had such a large following.
Were John G. and his family some of Godbe’s followers? Again, we have no direct linkage. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the family left for Nebraska at the height of the Godbeite movement, but surely, John G. was aware of the activities of his former employer. Also, as will be noted, Godbeites (especially those who became Josephites) often could not find work in the valley and were tormented by their neighbors, causing them to move elsewhere.
Edward W. Tullidge, the Literary Intellectual Reformer
Another possible personality who could have influenced the Carlisles was Edward W. Tullidge, the one leading Godbeite who was not a businessman. Tullidge was a well-known writer who tended to flip-flop on religion, going back and forth between Mormonism, the RLDS faith, and other denominations. Tullidge was baptized in England and became assistant editor of the Millennial Star in 1856 before coming to Utah in 1861. He became Utah’s first playwright with his drama Oliver Cromwell. He went on to write other plays but became better known for his histories of the Mormons in Utah. His goal was to become the premier chronicler of Mormon history.
Almost from the beginning, Tullidge associated with the Godbeites. His 70-page treatise of Godbeitism is generally used as the standard treatment of the movement. He was one of the Godbeites that Brigham Young suspended from church membership in 1870, although Tullidge urged Godbe to reconsider his position at the time of his trial and excommunication. Like Godbe, he was a universalian believing in “the Devine Mission of the world” rather than “the mission of any special prophet.” However, he always played down spiritualism and took little part in séances. In 1864, soon after the RLDS started missionary work in Utah, he almost joined the sect. His reason for not being baptized was that Joseph Smith appeared to him in a dream and told him to delay his conversion. In 1864, along with another Godbeite, E.L.T. Harrison, he started, Peep O’Day, the first literary magazine in the Intermountain West. Tullidge claimed that the magazine supported RLDS claims although the connection is difficult to discern except in an occasional editorial. The publication was terminated after just six issues.
Later Tullidge became Godbe’s companion in most of his philosophical endeavors and organizational undertakings. He was part of the Church of Zion (although he resigned over the issue of spiritualism just prior to his going to Nebraska in 1870), was an editor of Utah Magazine, wrote extensively for the Tribune, was a member of the Liberal Party, a frequent lecturer at the Liberal Institute, and one of Godbe’s sounding boards.
Tullidge’s literary efforts were as wide-range as his thinking. Besides writing for the Mormon Tribune and The Salt Lake Tribune, he authored pro-Godbeite articles in Harper’s, the Phrenological Journal, and other publications. For a time he lived in New York and wrote for the New York World. His initial books on Mormon history include Life of Brigham Young (1876), written apparently with Brigham’s permission; Women of Mormondom (1877); and The Life of Joseph the Prophet (1878). In 1879, when Joseph Smith III praised the latter book, Tullidge sold the copyright to the RLDS and was baptized a member. He was made an elder and the religion’s official historian. Later that year, Tullidge returned to Salt Lake City as part of the RLDS mission. In 1880 he started Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, an artistic and literary pursuit that emphasized local biography and supported Godbeitism. Three volumes were issued in the next five years.
Surprisingly, in 1883 he talked the Salt Lake City Council into commissioning him to write a history of the city, a 1,100-page tome that is a documentary chronicle of Mormonism and early Utah. In 1889, he followed this with Tullidge’s Histories, Volume II: Containing the History of All the Northern, Eastern and Western Counties of Utah. Also the Counties of Southern Idaho. Ever one to ignore past failures, in 1888 he started another literary magazine, Western Galaxy, that, like his earlier venture, lasted less than a year.
Tullidge was never as hard on Mormonism as many of the Godbeites. Depending on his company, he praised many of their efforts and gave outward impressions of being orthodox. As Mormon Church President John Taylor told him, “When in the East you are an apostate, because it is expected your book will sell better . . .. Here you are a Saint, because to be a Saint pays better.” His Chameleon capacity to change his views depending on his associates won him both friends and enemies.
According to Walker, in the summer of 1870, Tullidge left Salt Lake City “not for literary reasons but for a religious allegiance: he left Utah with a group of RLDS converts who were going east to be with fellow parishioners.” Since Tullidge left in the summer, this timing would eliminate the Carlisle family from being part of this group of converts. Apparently, Tullidge was not baptized as a Josephite at this point, but in 1879 as noted above.
One other possible tie may exist between the Carlisle and Tullidge families. John J. Little, the missionary who baptized five of the Carlisle children in Nebraska City in 1876, was married to Mary Elizabeth Tullidge, Edward>s sister. She was a talented writer like her sibling, authoring many articles in church and gentile newspapers and magazines. Knowing Edward’s associates and involvement in the RLDS Church, she might have played some role in her husband serving the mission in the Midwest in areas then considered the RLDS stronghold.
David L. Smith, the Charismatic Missionary
As noted, it was Joseph Smith’s eighth and youngest son, David L. Smith, who baptized John E. into the RLDS faith on August 18, 1869. Excerpts from David’s diaries as a missionary in Utah are contained in the Saints’ Herald. These excerpts provide details on the dates he was in Utah and baptisms he performed. As another source, Roger Launius’ book, Joseph Smith III, contains excellent information on David and the RLDS.
David was 24 years old when he baptized John E. Even at this young age, he was far more attractive to the Mormons in Utah than Joseph Smith III. David reminded people of his dead father, both in appearance and in charisma. He had many of the prophet’s mannerisms, and it was said he could move crowds to “tears or laughter through his eloquent speech.” Many thought Joseph III would abdicate his position as Church President so David could take over. Some viewed him as the crown prince who would eventually bring the two branches of Mormonism together.
As noted, RLDS missionary work began in Utah in 1863 when two missionaries arrived at the request of several groups of dissatisfied Utah residents. Initially, the missionaries made numerous converts, many of whom disliked Brigham Young. Most left the territory, returning to the Midwest and beyond. Shipley notes in his master’s thesis that in 1865, one wagon train of Saints living in the southern part of the territory rendezvoused in Salt Lake City prior to going east. The train included 50 wagons and 60 families, an estimated 250 persons in all. The territorial officers (non-Mormon at the time) provided the procession a military escort as it moved through Salt Lake City. Heartened by the stream of converts, Smith III assigned one of his younger brothers, Alex Hale Smith, as a missionary to the Pacific Slope Mission, a region that included the Utah Territory. In the summer of 1866 when he arrived in Salt Lake City, crowds flocked to hear the prophet’s son. President Young was friendly at first, but soon warned his followers to avoid the “heretics.” As a result, crowds dropped off and Alex, having limited success, proceeded on to the West Coast.
In the 1869 April general conference, the RLDS approved sending Alex back to the area as Pacific Coast Mission President with David to accompany him as the evangelist who was more likely to attract large audiences and, hopefully, make mass conversions. They reached SLC by railway on July 15. A municipal law was now in effect prohibiting speaking in the streets. The Smith brothers met with President Young in hopes of obtaining the tabernacle for their meetings, but he turned them down. Through the Walker brothers, they arranged to hold their sessions in Godbe’s Liberal Institute building. In the three instances when meetings were held there, each time the audience exceeded the building’s one thousand capacity. Many had come to see the crown prince of the RLDS Church. In addition, David was more tactful than his other brothers, and thus drew less criticism from devout Mormons.
Dynamic as David was, his preaching never resulted in large numbers of converts. In his July 31 report, he listed performing only eight baptisms. In a letter written when they first arrived, Alex stated that “The first who take hold of the word are the poor.” In David’s August 30, 1869, report, he accounts for fifteen more baptisms, one of whom would have been John E. Regarding the fifteen David states, “and the best of it is, they are the leaders, the steadfast, upright, and refined people.”
The two Smith brothers left SLC on August 23, five days after John E. was baptized, and made a trip to Malad, Idaho, a community with a thriving RLDS congregation. (Since they left on August 23, it is more likely that John E. was baptized on August 18 as stated rather than the August 23 date.) The missionaries remained there for a few days before returning to SLC. In his diary account of Oct. 3. 1869, David noted performing twelve baptisms since his return. As was common, most of these converts soon left Utah for the Midwest. The October 6, 1869 Quarterly Report of the Salt Lake Mission listed 60 members in the branch with “85 having gone east since the last report.”
David’s frustration with his missionary efforts in SLC is evident from his diary entry dated November 11, 1869. He declared that Mormon Church policy “disbars a line from the pen of a Josephite from appearing in the public in all of the journals of the valley, save the Reporter published in Corinne. . . . It is a policy that takes away the employment of the Josephite, and comes down suddenly on him for debts, mortgages, emigration money and tithing, and wrests his property from him, if possible, sets a thousand slanders afloat in regards to him, dogs his footsteps, watches his door, sets the teachers to questioning his wife, cuts him off the church . . . .” Obviously disillusioned, on December 5, 1869, the two brothers boarded a train for San Francisco. David became extremely ill along the way, bringing his mission to a halt. He then returned to Plano, Illinois, where Smith III eventually nursed him back to health. After that, David suffered frequent bouts of ill health, primarily psychological, although he returned to Utah as a missionary on two other occasions. In the fall of 1872 when he was in Utah, he met several times with Amasa Lyman, the former Godbeite President of the Church of Zion. Lyman was obviously trying to revive the church by making David a member. On several occasions, they exchanged ideas, discussed the viewpoints of their religions, and engaged in séances. After these experiences, David’s preachings never seemed as mainstream RLDS. After one appearance, The Salt Lake Tribune declared, “Mr. Smith’s ideas are original and brilliant, his eloquence fluent, and his views cosmopolitan.”
Soon after, David showed continuing signs of emotional trauma. In February 1873, he suffered an apparent nervous breakdown, was permanently institutionalized four years later, and remained in this state until his death in 1904.
Could the ups and downs of the Carlisles in the RLDS Church have been associated with the young charismatic missionary who converted John E.? Obviously, his influence would likely have been considerable, but, as with Godbe, there is no evidence that the two ever saw each other again.
One other possible link to a missionary involves Edmund C. Brand. Except for the Smiths, he was the most prominent RLDS missionary in the Salt Lake mission between 1867 and 1872. He provided the continuity in Salt Lake City when a member of the Smith family was not there, and he accompanied the brothers throughout the mission when they were in Utah. Brand was sent from the same district in Nebraska/Iowa where the Carlisle family resided. Perhaps it was Brand who encouraged them to go to Nebraska City. In this regard, a May 7, 1870, letter from Brand contained in the Saints’ Herald is of interest. He notes that on that day he sent 75 adult and ten children converts by train to the Midwest. He paid $31 each for their travel or a total of $2,480. Since this was three weeks earlier than the 1870 census, the possibility exists that the Carlisle family was part of this party.
Relevant Information from the True Latterday Saints' Herald
As noted earlier, I scanned nine years of the Saints’ Herald, the official publication of RLDS, an effort that involved my searching through more than 6,000 pages. Several editions contained an annual index, making the search for those years much easier. This undertaking resulted in useful information on both how the RLDS branches were organized and operated, and several references were found containing the Carlisle name.
The RLDS was slow to organize and especially dilatory in starting missions and consolidating the disenfranchised Mormons who refused to be followers of Brigham Young. This was especially the case in small church branches outside of the United States where converts were originally drawn to Mormonism by Joseph Smith. Thus, even in 1870 when the Carlisle family went to Nebraska City, the RLDS remained a loose confederation of small branches joined in larger districts located primarily in the Midwest and Europe, although some were scattered along places such as the U.S. east and west coasts. Church headquarters were in Plano, Illinois, 50 miles west of Chicago. (Later the headquarters were moved to Independence, Missouri.) As an illustration of how the branches were dispersed, the Plano Branch that included RLDS church headquarters had only 150 members. The Nebraska City Branch with 100 members was nearly as large, and some branches, such as St. Louis, Missouri, and San Bernardino, California, had over 250 members. Smith III when he became president in 1860 would have been an adequate leader under most circumstances, but he was ill equipped to pull together 10,000 church members scattered throughout two continents in branches that averaged 32 in membership. As a result, the branches were semi-autonomous and headed by elected leaders who were later approved by church authorities in Plano. Many of the branch meetings revolved around organizational issues, and it was not until the April 1876 conference (just prior to the Carlisle family leaving Nebraska) before a Book on Business & Parliamentary Usages & Rules was issued.
As other examples of the church’s loose central control and enormous flux in membership, at the RLDS 1872 semiannual conference, just one-third (103 of 281) of the branches made reports to the secretary. The branch reports were used to calculate membership, update financial records, etc. Using these reports and other information obtained previously, church membership that year was estimated to have increased by 1,897 new converts and reduced by 784 who dropped out. Four years later at the spring semiannual conference, 97 of 296 branches did not report. It was also noted at this conference that 35 branches have “never been on the church records but their existence is known through traveling elders, district conferences, etc.” Some branches had not reported for up to seven years. Total church membership was now estimated at 9,933.
Given this loose direction, the Nebraska City Branch was one that experienced considerable turmoil. In November 1869, close to when the Carlisles likely arrived, the branch had 101 members. During the next nine months, the branch was split over several unexplained issues. At the August 6, 1870, district meeting, the branch membership voted to disorganize. In the fall semiannual conference district reports, only one statement appeared regarding the Nebraska City Branch: “This district has no presiding officer and is not in good working condition.”
In the first district quarterly conference of 1872, the Nebraska City Branch reported 91 members. At the next conference, membership had dropped to 77 with seven disfellowshipped. The minutes of the meeting read: “Many unpleasant speeches were made causing bad feelings.” At this meeting, the branch president resigned. In the spring of 1873, the Nebraska City Branch of 46 members (now less than half of its former size) was transferred to the Fremont District located in Fremont, Iowa. The Nebraska City Branch membership remained at around 50 through 1876 when the Carlisles left.
Assuming any of the Carlisles attended church in Nebraska City, they were obvious caught in a branch with ongoing controversy during almost the entire period they were there. It is not clear what caused this volatility or why the membership dropped in half, but obviously, it was an uncomfortable situation for those involved.
Following are references from the Saints’ Herald regarding the Carlisles:
Death Notices (1871 p. 510): “Caroline E. Carlisle, wife of John Carlisle. Age 19 years, four months, and 13 days. Died at eight Mile Grove, Potawatomie Co., Iowa. Died June 27, 1871.” [The commonality of the John Carlisle name again prevents specific identification. However, any connection is unlikely since we know that the John G. and his family resided in Nebraska City at the time.]
Notices: (December 1872, p. 604) “WANTED: Carlisle (forgotten first name), a native of Isle of Man, a wagon-maker or carpenter by trade, emigrated from Salt Lake City in 1870. Any person having knowledge of his whereabouts address, Margaret Ragin, Sacramento, Cal.” [The name, year, and profession are consistent with John G. The Isle of Man is not, but it might be someone who is actually looking for Margaret and confused the two in terms of their birthplaces.]
Wanted to Know: (1874, p. 57). “Information is wanted at the Herald Office, Plano, Ill. of John Carlisle, formerly a member of the church, and supposed to be still. Should he, or any one knowing him, read this notice, they will confer a favor on the Editor of the Herald by sending his address, care box 50, Plano, Kendall County, Illinois. Jan. 10th 1873.” [The editor of the Herald is, of course, church president Joseph Smith III. The person he could be looking for might be John G. or even John E., but we also know of the other John Carlisles in the Church. Also, since John G. lived all seven years in Nebraska City, it is unlikely the Church would lose contact with him unless no one in the family ever attended the branch.]
Marriages: (1875, page 666) “ John P. Carlisle married to Sr. Sarah Hansen in Council Bluffs, March 11, 1875.” [Fortunately the middle initial is included so we know he has no connection to our family. On the other hand, it adds to the confusion by confirming that there were at least three different “John Carlisle” names on the rolls of the RLDS. In Early Members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Vol.II, compiled by Susan Easton Black in 1993 under the auspices of the Religious Studies Center of BYU, a John P. “Carlile” is shown as joining the RLDS in North Star, Iowa, on July 30, 1871, tying him to the person above. This same book contains John E. with only his baptism listed. See p. 62 of Black’s book.]
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