Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, p.919
HARRIS, EMER (son of Nathan Harris, born March 23, 1758, Providence, R. I. and Rhoda Lapham, born April 27, 1759, Providence). He was born May 29, 1781, Cambridge, N. Y, Came to Utah 1850,
Married Roxana Peas July 22, 1802, who was born Dec, 5, 1781. Their children: Selina b. Oct. 10, 1803; Elathan b, Oct, 7, 1805; Alvira b. Aug. 7, 1807, m. Mr. Howles; Sephrona b, Aug. 17, 1809, m. Mr. Manchester; Nathan b. Sept. 26, 1811; Ruth b. Sept. 7, 1813. Family home New York.
Married Deborah Lott Jan. 16, 1819, in Pennsylvania (daughter of Zephaniah Lott and Rachel Brown), who was born Nov. 1799, in New York. Their children: Emer b. 1819; Martin H. b. Sept. 29, 1820, m. Georgeanna Aldous; Harriet T. b. Dec. 26, 1822, m. Judson Daly; Dennison L. b, Jan. 17, 1825, m. Sarah Wilson; Deborah. Married Parna Chapel March 29, 1826, who was born November 1792. Their children: Fannie M. b. Jan. 1827; Joseph M. b. July 19, 1830, m. Mary Pone; Alma b. June 6, 1832, m. Sarah Earl; Charles b, July 2, 1834, m. Louisa Hall; Rebecca b, Dec. 25, 1845.
Patriarch; elder. Brother of Martin Harris, one of three witnesses to Book of Mormon; obtained first bound copy of the Book of Mormon. Worked as carpenter on Kirtland temple; missionary in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Settled at Provo 1850. Died Nov. 28, 1869, Logan, Utah.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 19, p.452
Emer Harris brought this reddish brown chest to Utah. While the Mormons were being driven out of Missouri, the mobs were in search of all the published copies of the Book of Mormon. When they were found on a person or in his wagon, the man was tied to a tree and whipped, his books confiscated and burned. Emer Harris was determined to bring some of these books to Utah. He cut off the end of the old chest, thus making it to fit a certain number of books which he placed in the bottom, afterward covering them with two pieces of cloth making a complete bottom. He then proceeded on his journey. His wife, Parna Harris, who was as brave as a lion, marched ahead. She was met by a mob of 400 men on horseback. The captain said to her: "Madam, are you a Mormon?" She answered, "Yes, and I thank God for it." The captain said, "We will have to search your wagon." She replied, "You have driven us around so much I think you will find nothing but rags." Alma Harris, her son, who was only 8 years of age and barefooted, was placed in the captain's saddle on account of the deep snow. In searching the chest they imagined the books to be the bottom of the box and left them undisturbed.
Emer Harris, our worthy sire was born in Cambridge, New York, May 29, 1781. He was seeking for truth and joined the Church. He was called by revelation, found in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 75:30, to go and preach the gospel. His brother, Martin, presented him with the first copy of the Book of Mormon off the press. He immediately read it through, became convinced that it was the word of God, and was baptized along with others. He and his brother Martin labored together a year and raised up a large branch of the Church in Brownshelm, Pennsylvania. Emer Harris worked on the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples. During the trials and tribulations of Jackson County and Nauvoo, he suffered all the persecutions of the Saints, yet remained true to the faith.
He migrated to Utah in 1850, settling at Provo. He held the position of a Patriarch in the Church. He died November 28, 1869, at Logan and was buried there.
There were some Churches built by the way as they journeyed to this land (Missouri) and the people were warned of the danger they were in, if they did not repent.
And now when the elders had returned to their homes in Ohio, the churches needed much exhortation in the absence of the elders many apostatized: but many have returned again to the fold from whence they had strayed--And many mighty miracles were wrought by the elders--one in particular which I shall here notice--which was wrought by elders Emer Harris, Joseph Brackenberry and Wheeler Baldwin. Is an infirmity in an old lady who had been helpless for the space of eight years confined to her bed. She did not belong to this church, but sent her request to the elders--who immediately attended to her call, and after their arrival prayed for her, and laid their hands on her, and she was immediately made whole and magnified and praised God, and is now enjoying perfect health.
And thus the churches again prospered and the work of the Lord spread.
(John Whitmer Book of John Whitmer, typescript, BYU-A 11, 4)
(John Whitmer Book of John Whitmer, typescript, BYU-A 12, 2)
Emer HARRIS (1781-1869), the brother of Martin Harris, was born in Cambridge, New York. He joined the Church and became an elder in 1831. He moved to Kirtland that same year, and in 1839 moved his family to Nauvoo. He died in Logan, Utah.
(Cannon & Cook Appendix, Far West Record (1983) 266, 3)
BURIAL: Burial Lot A_ 10_ 60_ 6
EVENT: EMER HARRIS
Early Missionary and Patriarch
Emer, being the oldest of eight children of Nathan and Rhoda Lapham Harris, natives of Providence, Rhode Island, witnessed the many moves and pioneering of his family as they lived in several counties of upper New York State, as the new frontier beckoned to them after the War for Independence.
Emer Was born May 29, 1781, in Cambridge, Washington County, New York. He was twelve years old when he moved with his parents and seven younger brothers and sisters to Palmyra, Ontario County (now Wayne County), New York, in 1793.
No doubt he worked alongside his father and younger brothers, Martin, Preserved, Solomon, and Seville, as they fenced and cultivated the acreage Nathan had purchased from John Swift.
In his later years, Russel King Homer, an early convert to the Mormon Church, was fond of telling his grandchildren experiences of his childhood. He said that when the farmers were clearing and leveling their land, they sometimes uncovered old burial mounds and unearthed heaps of human bones. The young boys used to use the longest ones for ball bats or to build little barns, corrals, and little rail fences.
Chipman Turner, an early resident of Ontario Co., New York, describes the pioneering efforts of the people who first settled the area. In the book Pioneers of Macedon, compiled by Mary Louise Eldridge, he told of the construction of their early homes: "The pioneer first secured a contract for his land and then raised a rude log cabin. He had a chimney built of sticks with straw mixed with mud for mortar. He made the roof of elm bark, the floor of split logs and the door of hewn planks. The small window was made of oiled paper. His household goods were brought on an ox sled over a rough underbrushed road to his new home. Often taking weeks to move from his former state." (pp.7-8).
An interesting anecdote is told of Nathan Harris, Emer's father:
"Mr. Harris was a noted hunter and fisherman. At one time in a single haul of a seine in 1792, across Ganargua Creek, resulted in a catch of eighteen fine salmon." At the time Mr. [Nathan] Harris came here only a trail led to his log cabin...
Northwest from the house on the west side of the road, was a spring in which Harris kept a pet trout. One day a friend possessed of a large red nose; called on a visit. A social glass was followed by a stroll over the farm and ultimately they came to the spring. The friend got down on all fours for a drink of water, while Harris looked on. As the red nose neared the water, out sprang the trout and seized it; while on the instant an upward toss of the head landed the fish full ten feet to the rear. Harris returned the trout to the spring and informed his bewildered friend that the time was propitious for fishing, and a fine lot was taken that afternoon. The name "Trout Harris," given in consequence of this incident, became widely known.1
At twenty-one years of age, Emer married Roxanna Peas, supposedly of Palmyra, New York. Their marriage took place July 22, 1802.
Nathan sold parts of his 600 acres to his Sons as they grew to manhood and needed land for homes and their growing families. Emer purchased 50 acres from his father for 200 dollars on January 2, 1806, and another parcel of land February 17, 1807, calling Emer a yeoman, meaning a landowner. The acreage and price were not stated. County records show that Nathan, and sons Emer and Martin, bought and sold land to each other several times.2.
Six children were born to Emer and Roxanna Peas Harris. Within a few years, Emer moved his family to Luzerne Couty, Pennsylvania, where in 1818 he and Roxanna obtained a divorce, ending their marriage of sixteen years.3 The records do not state the reason for this separation or any information about division of property or custody of the children. Some have supposed it was because of Emer's early affiliation with the Mormon Church, but the date of the divorce discredits this supposition.
On January 16, 1819, Emer married Deborah Lott, the daughter of Zephamah and Rachel Brown Lott of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.4 That fall, Emer purchased shares in a saw mill located on Mehoopany Creek, Luzerne County. He agreed to pay 300 dollars in three payments of 100 dollars down and 100 dollars each year for two years. The final payment was to be paid June 1, 1823. It was agreed that all or part of the payments could be made in lumber "at the market price" or in cash.5 Thus it was that the four children born to Emer and Deborah Lott Harris came into the world at Mehoopany Creek, near Windham, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
Emer Harris, Jr., was born in November 1819, "was dressed and died."6 Martin Henderson Harris was born September 29, 1820, "at Mehoopany Creek which empties into the Susquehanna River."7 A daughter, Harriet Fox Harris, was born December 26, 1822. Dennison Lott Harris arrived January 17, 1825, and when but a few weeks old was left motherless.
Emer stated these events very briefly in his almanac (journal)8:
22 Dec. 1824 Dr. E.C. saw wife
17 Jan. 1825 had a child born
6 Mar. 1825 wife died
8 Mar. 1825 wife buryed
3 Apr. 1825 took the children to Lu Gary's wife.
A year later, on March 29, Emer married for the third time, Parna Chapell, daughter of Isaac and Tamison Wilcox Chappell, who were residents of Luzerne County and possibly neighbors of Emer's. Parna was then thirty-four years of age, a lovely spinster, willing to become the step-mother of Emer's three small children. She was the only mother they ever remembered, and they honored her with that title. The following January 21, 1827, Parna gave birth to her own little daughter, Fannie Melvina.9
That summer the family moved seven miles up Mehoopany Creek to a new farm. It was probably while Emer was living in this location that he had contact with his younger brother, Martin, who was acting as scribe for Joseph Smith from April to June 1828 at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in the translation of the Book of Mormon. Family tradition says that Emer walked twenty-five miles to hear more about the new "golden Bible" from his brother. The location of Emer's farm would have been about that distance from Harmony (now Oakland), Pennsylvania.
Martin's vibrant enthusiasm left a lasting impression on Emer. Subsequent contacts have been blotted out by time, but Emer was sufficiently impressed with the reports of the "new religion" that he found himself making his way back to Palmyra to learn more. He was with Martin as the first bound copy of the Book of Mormon came off the Grandin Press on March 26, 1830. Martin picked up the book and presented it to his older brother, Emer. 1 (The first edition was bound in brown pigskin. The book measured 11/2 inches by 41/2 inches by 8 inches, with no division or numbering or verses, but was divided into chapters, broken into frequent paragraphs. This volume is now in the Deseret Book Company vault.)
As one studies the geography of this area, one finds that travel across Lake Cayuga and canals made Palmyra within a few days travel from Emer's home in Pennsylvania.
The sixth of April 1830 was a memorable date as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized with the legally required six members at the home of Peter Whitmer, at Fayette, Seneca County, New York. On July 19, 1830, Parna gave birth to Joseph Mormon Harris, said to be the first child born to converted Latter-day Saint parents. 2 However, Emer's baptism did not take place until February 19, 1831, an event recorded in Newel Knight's Journal: "Bro. Hyrum Smith, wife and family, came to Colesville [New York] to live with me, but most of his time, as also that of my own, was spent in the villages around, preaching the gospel wherever we could find any one who would listen to us, either in public or private. A few believed and were baptized, among whom was Emer15
1830 FIRST EDITION OF THE
BOOK OF MORMON
The book pictured here is one of the first copies of the Book of Mormon printed in Palmyra, New York in March 1830.
After completing his translation of the ancient plates containing the record of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith contracted with Mr. Egbert B. Grandin of Palmyra to print 5,000 copies of the book for the sum of $3,000.00. The money for the printing was furnished by Martin Harris, who was one of the three special witnesses who testified to the book's truthfulness.
This particular copy of the first edition was given by Martin Harris to his brother, Emer Harris, who later gave it to his daughter, Elvira Harris Mosier, wife of Benjamin Moser (Elvira's mother was Roxanna Peas Harris).
Elvira Mosier gave the book to her son, Edwin P. Mosier, who inscribed his name in the book. Edwin's wife, Ruth Pierce Bryant Mosier, gave the book to her granddaughter, Lillian Franks Magee, wife of Bert Lee Magee. Their son, Reginald Herschall Magee, received the book from his parents. It was from Reginald that Deseret Book (through its agent in Glendale, California, namely William E. Rounds) obtained the copy and received verification of its transfer from generation to generation.
The small black book also shown here is a book of common prayer, owned by Nathan Harris, father of Martin and Emer. It bears his signature in two places, along with the statement: "His Book, Kirtland, Ohio, A.D. 1833."
These books are now in a vault at Deseret Book Co. in Salt Lake City, who gave permission to family members Madeline S. Mills, Belle H. Wilson and Madge H. Tuckett to take the accompanying picture in March 1979.
Harris, brother to Martin Harris, who proved to be a useful laborer in the vineyard 3" From this day forward, Emer, Parna, and family cast their lots with the body of the Church and participated in the subsequent trials, travels, and tribulations connected with it.
When the early gathering place for the Church was designated as Kirtland, Ohio, Emer and family complied with the directive in the early spring of 1831.
According to the Harris Journal:
Started for Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Traveled about seventy miles by land and took steamboat at Ithaca [New York] head of the Cayuga Lake. Traveled by steamer about 36 miles; thence through Palmyra, Rochester and Lockport by the Erie Canal to Buffalo, then took passage on the schooner "Constitution" up Lake Erie, intending to land at Fairport [Ohio] but on account of an unfavorable wind were obliged to pass by, and land at Cleveland thence 25 miles by land to the Isaac Morley Farm near Kirtland and near the little Chagrin River five or six miles from Lake Erie.
Newel Knight's group of the Colesville branch of about sixty Saints left for Kirtland in early April, 1831. The description of their journey closely parallels those of Emer Harris. It is likely they met by appointment at Ithaca and thereafter traveled together. Martin Harris group of fifty Saints left Palmyra May 27, 1831, and arrived in Kirtland in June, having been preceded by Mother Smith's group, who arrived there also in May.
Emer and family established a residence in Brownhelm, Lorain County, Ohio, and while attending the Church conference in Orange, Cuyahoga County, October 25, 1831, Emer was ordained a high priest by order of Joseph Smith. 16 At this same conference the following appointment was made October 27, 1831: "Emer Harris, scribe for Joseph Smith, while they are employed writing and copying the fullness of the scriptures; 'We do therefore most cheerfully recommend to you and the Grace of God, our beloved brother, Emer Harris who has been appointed and ordained to that office by this conference.' "17
Emer Harris was in attendance when the Church met for its conference in Amhurst, Ohio, on January 25, 1832, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was sustained and ordained President of the High Priesthood. Along with many others, Emer was called to fulfill a mission for the Church: "Wherefore, let my servant Simeon Carter and my servant Emer Harris be united in the ministry" (D&C 75:30). Emer left for his mission either just before or soon after the birth of his son Alma, who was born June 2, 1832.
An account of missionary labors given by Newel Knight was published in the Evening and Morning Star. It reads as follows:"Dec. 21, 1832 . . . brothers Martin and Emer Harris have baptized 100 persons at Chenango Point; N.Y., [south of Oneida Lake] within a few weeks past." 18 They also organized a branch of the Church with 70 persons at Springville, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania." 19
Letters from Emer's field of labor disclose many of his activities and his high degree of spirituality. The following is a letter dated May 7, 1833, written from Springville, Pennsylvania.
To: Mr. George James or Mrs. Parna Harris, Brownhelm, Lorain, Ohio. Dearly beloved Brethren: grace, mercy & pease be multlied unto you that are in the Lord. And to all that are sanktified in Like faith. I have had a desire for a long time to write unto you & also to hear from you. But more partickalar to see you that I might be filled with your company & impart unto you by the word of mouth of my travels and Labors since I left you of which I can tell but little with pen & ink. Brother Martin is with me & has been the grater part of the time since we left Kirtland. We have traveled mutch & Preached mutch. Eighty two have been baptised and many more have believed. We find no end to the call for our labours And many miracles have been done in the Name of Jesus Christ & signs follow them that believe... [Writing too blurred]......I have not been sick but the part of one day since I left you. I have not suffered by cold nor hunger, But have found many kind friends who have administered unto my necesetys. Altho we have found many apposers & bitter Enimyes, the Lord reward them according to their deed. The 24th of Last January Bro. Martin [Harris] was taken a prisenor on a fals charge of standen & went to prison a few days until we got Bail to answer to Cort the Last Monday in April, or we should probably have been to the Ohio before this time. But it is now put over until the next September tim; therefore we shall take up our journey Westward are long & go as the Lord shall direct until we arive in the Ohio. Whether the work be mutch or little on the way thither, we cannot tell, the will of the Lord be done, therefore, we cannot tell what time we may be expected there. The work of the Lord is prospering where ever we can hear. We are cretabbly informed that a man had wrote a letter from Canada to Ithaca where he lived two years ago that he belonged to a Mormonite Church of 250 members in Canada
Dear Brethern of Brownhelm, Pray for me that I may have my mouth open to speak sutch things as I aught to speak & that I may have a safe return to you in the Lords one [own] due time And I will try to pray for you. Truly it is a day of sacenefising & the tithing of his people but they that are tithed shall not be burned. Prias the Lord for his goodness. Continue in the faith unto the end . . . [writing too blurred] . . . Praise Him ye saints & give him all the glory. And we will praise him again when we pass over masoury [Missouri] Dear Brethern, I will send you a few lines composed by a sister of the Church of [Jesus] Christ a day or two after Bro. Martin was sent to jail on the occasion of his imprisenment. [Poem printed in Martin's history.]
To all the Brothers & Sisters in the Lord At Brownhelm, Lorain Co., Ohio, Springville, May 7th 1833 So I remain your unworthy Brother in the Lord [Signed] Emer Harris20
The following is a copy of the letter written from Springville, Pennsylvania, to Emer's wife, Parna:
Dear Wife, my best respects to you & the children and may the Lord bless you all. I have longd to hear from you and to know how you got along both timerally & spiritually but more to see you & our little son. Parna, I have not received any letter from you. When I wrote to Kirtland & directed them to write to you to let you know howl did & where I was & also to inform you that I woud write to you often. I have been to Windham. I have been also to the head of Towanda Creek, have seen all your folks But as Tacy said she would write to you I shall not say any more concerning them now. I will now speak of our old neighbours they are generally full of hardness & unbelief. Hatfield is firm in the faith, his wife has been Baptised. Jonthan Farm, Lenard Lott and Eligah Fossett Sen. are dead & Taylor has had a child drowned. Lydia Farr is married to Jessey Clapp they have a child 5 or 6 months old. My farm is sold for 550 Dollers I was to have one half of the pay this spring the remainder next but I shall not be able [to] get any mony at all on the accout of the dry wether so that their is no runing of Lumber to get mony, the dry wether still continues. Parna, I must now conclude my letter by sending you a few lines composed by a sister of the Church for you
1. Now come Dear handmaid of the Lord
Come listen to the gospel word
The Lord commands your Husband go
And says the gospel trumpet blow
2. Now he is cald to leave his home
Ore braud creation for to rome
An all the Nations for to call
And Preach the blessed news to all
3. The Lord stand by you in your fears
And he will wipe your falling tears
And teach you all his holy will
That He's the blessed Savior still
4. And he will guide you with his hand
And bring you to join Zions land
And if on earth you no more meet
Its there your joy will be compleat
5. Then O Dear Sister do not faint
The Lord will hear your souls complaint
O pray to him from day to day
And then your faith will not decay
6. He lives to hear your feable cryes
He lives to wipe your weeping Eyes
Then prais him in the highest strains
He is the King of Kings who reigns.
Farewell Dear Wife till we shall meet again, give my respects to all inquiring friends, so I remain your affectionate Husband [Signed] Emer Harris21
Midsummer 1833, Emer returned from his mission, having been gone "one year lacking eleven days." His son later wrote, "About Christmas moved onto a farm father [Emer] had bought about seven miles distant in Florence Township, Huron County, Ohio, by the side of the Vemmilho River."22 Here they were privileged to plant crops and harvest them for a few years before moving on. On July 2, 1834, a son, Charles, was born to them. 23
In the fall of 1835 Emer went to work on the Kirtland Temple. He was a skilled carpenter and joiner, having learned the trade early in life. He was responsible for making the window sash in the temple and for other intricate details within the sacred building.
Details are unknown concerning the lives and activities of Emer's parents, Nathan and Rhoda Harris, during those years when their three sons and one daughter were affiliating themselves with the newly established Church of Jesus Christ. In 1833, Nathan and Rhoda were in Mentor, Lake County, Ohio, just a few miles north of Kirtland, staying at the home of their son, Preserved, also an early baptized convert. Martin and Emer had established homes nearby while Naomi and her husband, Ezekiel Kellogg, were probably in Missouri.
On November 18, 1835, Joseph Smith, his wife, his mother, and his scribe drove to Mentor, where the Prophet preached the funeral sermon for "the father of Preserved Harris. The Prophet preached on the subject of the Resurrection."24
According to the Harris record, they moved again: "In the spring of 1836, gave up the farm and were moved by Moses [Judson] Dailey onto the Foy Farm about three miles from the town of Kirtland on the Chardon road. Rented the farm of ten acres for one year for 30 dollars. Summer cold and wet. Raised poor crops but had plenty of apples."25
Being near Kirtland, Emer and his family and his brothers and their families surely must have attended the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. However, in June following the dedication, Preserved was called before the High Council of Kirtland on charges of "a want of benevolence to the poor, and charity to the Church; and the hand of fellowship was withdrawn from him."26 In September the following year, Martin was dropped from the High Council. To see his two brothers reprimanded by the Church was a great sorrow to Emer, but he sustained those in authority and carried on his own life and works. Martin, having repented, was rebaptized on November 7, 1842, but Preserved never did reaffihiate himself with the Church.
In the spring of 1838, after the crops were in, Emer returned to Pennsylvania to get the pay for his property that he had left there; He returned in July with a span of horses and a light wagon. His son wrote, "[Father] bought "After searching the chest, they tapped the bottom and found it solid and soon were on their way. The precious books were undiscovered." another horse and a two horse wagon from [his] brother, Preserved.27
On September 5, 1838, Emer and his family started for Missouri, the new land of Zion for the Latter-day Saints. "Passed through Columbus the capital of Ohio, through Indianapolis the capital of Indiana and through Springfield the capital of Illinois. Crossed the Mississippi at Louisiana [Pike County, Missouri] and arrived at the house of Uncle Ezekiel Kellogg about the 12 of Oct."28
The mob ordered all Mormons to leave Missouri within one month and go east or they would put into effect Governor Boggs Order of Extermination.
About October 27, Emer and his family started for Quincy, Illinois, a hundred miles east. Among their meager possessions was a chest containing copies of the Book of Mormon. Emer had fitted the books under a false bottom, lined with Fuller's cloth, in case they were searched by the mobs, who had threatened to destroy every Book of Mormon they found.
As a mob approached (said to be four hundred on horseback), Emer walked away from the wagon carrying his gun and ammunition, knowing that if the mob found weapons, it would mean punishment and loss of the gun, so much needed for protection and food. Parna, Emer's wife, was stopped by the mob and asked if she were a "Mormon." Her fearless reply was, "Yes, and thank God for it." She was told that they had authority to search her wagon. She told them to go ahead, saying, "You have driven us from place to place until we have nothing left but rags." The captain, who was on a beautiful horse, made the remark, "Well, you certainly are a brave woman, at least." He then took her little son, Alma, age six, and seated him upon his horse while he searched their possessions saying, "It is a shame to put him down in the snow in his bare feet." After searching the chest; they tapped the bottom and found it solid and soon were on their way. The precious books were undiscovered.29
They traveled on, as Emer's son Martin H. Harris recorded: "Arriving on the banks of the Mississippi about the 12th of November having traveled the whole distance through rain, mud and snow. Remained there until about the 22nd before we could cross on account of floating ice. At this time we crossed the river and went up to Whipple's Mill about one mile distant and staid there until about the first of December; when we moved into the home of John Gault near Rock Creek about eight miles north of Quincy, in Adams County [Illinois]."30
Emer became ill from exhaustion and exposure due to the terrible experiences of the expulsion from Missouri. He and his family remained near Quincy for about a year while he recovered from his illness. His sons took care of the planting and harvesting on the rented farm, noting that they bought two cows costing twenty dollars each.
The summer of 1840, Emer "went up to Nauvoo about 40 miles distant and bought a claim of 40 acres in the timber; about three miles northeast from Nauvoo. . . . This fall went up and cut some hay and commenced improvements and built a house. Early in the spring of 1841 we moved onto our new place. Made rails and fenced in about half of it. Broke up and planted and sowed some 8 or 10 acres."31
About this time Emer's sons Martin H. and Dennison joined the Nauvoo Legion along with hundreds of other able-bodied men and were present at the laying of the cornerstone of the Nauvoo Temple April 6, 1841.That summer Emer worked on the temple, continuing to do so until the expulsion of the Saints. He is credited with building the winding stairway.
Sorrow came to the family December 7, 1841, with the death of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Fannie Melvina. Life had been difficult for young children growing up in the many years of persecution and privation. This is forcibly brought to mind when one views the 1842 Hancock County Tax assessment of Emer Harris (tenant), Section 20, Appanoose Township.32
Money loaned none
Stock in trade none
Other personal property 30
Total Value $130.00
Emer resided in Appanoose Township, where the Church census of 1842 listed him, his wife Parna, and his son Charles (age eight years) in one household. The older sons were probably living and working elsewhere.
It was during the Nauvoo years that Emer's son Dennison was involved in reporting the mob's plots to murder the Prophet.33 (This story is told in detail in the history of Dennison Lott Harris, to follow.)
On June 11, 1843, Parna entered the water to be baptized by proxy for her daughter Fannie. This ordinance was performed in the Nauvoo font in the otherwise unfinished temple.
The Harris family along with all other loyal Latter-day Saints was called upon to endure the tragedy of the martyrdom of their beloved leader and prophet on June 27, 1844. Young Charles preserved the memory of the mantle of the Prophet falling on Brigham Young by saying in youthful phrasing, "It nearly scared the hell out of me." Perhaps it did, because for all his long life he endeavored to live the principles of the gospel.
Early in 1845, Emer took as a plural wife thirty-three year old Polly Chamberlain, daughter of a neighbor, Solomon Chamberlain, a stalwart in the Church since the days of Palmyra. To this union was born on December 24, 1845, a little daughter, Rebecca.36
Emer served as president of the Woodland Branch of the Church, Ward II, with thirty-six members. Once a week a general meeting was held in Nauvoo. All other meetings were held in the branch.
Parna Harris received her patriarchal blessing from John Smith October 21. 1845. This proved to be a great comfort to her as it pronounced a promise: ". . . that thou mayest be restored to sound health as in the days of thy youth, that thou mayest be made useful in thy family and in the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ."37
At last the long-awaited day arrived when the Saints in Nauvoo were privileged to go to the temple to receive their endowments. For Emer and Parna, it was January 30, 1846.38 This event proved to be a sustaining influence in the trials of the exodus so soon to follow.
The Harris family left their home along with other Saints expelled from Nauvoo in the fall of 1846. Eventually, Emer and his wife Parna, several sons, Polly, and the baby, Rebecca, arrived in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Once more Emer established a humble home and tried to make the best of difficult circumstances. He witnessed the calling of the Mormon Battalion at Winter Quarters in July, 1846, and the departure of the original pioneers on April 16, 1847, headed for the Rocky Mountains.
The Saints anxiously awaited the return that fall of members of the pioneer vanguard to report the founding of a permanent settlement in the tops of the western domain. Brigham Young and about a hundred men returned on October 22, 1847, to Winter Quarters, where Brigham remained until the following summer.
In early December, 1847, a conference of the Church was called, but because the building was not large enough to accommodate the crowd, Brigham proposed that a "Log Tabernacle" be erected. So on December 24 they reconvened at Council Bluffs in a hastily built 60-foot by 45-foot edifice that accommodated a thousand persons. It was here that the business took place of reorganizing the First Presidency with Brigham Young as president of the Church, with counselors Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards and twelve apostles.39
The conference lasted several days, and soon afterwards, Emer requested that Brigham Young perform the sealing ordinance for his previous marriage to Polly Chamberlain. This was done at Winter Quarters on January 11, 1848, witnessed by Heber C. Kimball and Newel K. Whitney, the Presiding Bishop of the Church.40
EVENT: About six months later, Emer received a patriarchal blessing from John Smith. An excerpt follows:
Thou has not fainted in times of disease and persecution when every evil thing has [been] spoken against the church of the Living God. Thou hast endured in faith. The Lord is well pleased with thee because of the integrity of thy heart. He will heap a multiplicity of blessings on thy head.... Thy testimony shall have great weight among all people because of thy candor. The simplicity of thy manner of communicating it, and because thou art alone, as it were, in thy father's house.. . . Thou shalt be able to control the hearts of thy friends and save them and reign over them, notwithstanding they think their counsel greater than thou.41
At the time this blessing was given, Emer was living at Kanesville, not far from Winter Quarters, Iowa. When the conference for the Church was held October 21, 1848, all assembled were surprised to see Oliver Cowdery and his family in attendance. Oliver had been absent from the Church, old friends, and associates for eleven years. During this time, he had been plagued by ill health and financial reverses.
He asked to be taken once again into membership in the Church he had helped, from the writing of the manuscript for the Book of Mormon, as translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, to the restoration of the priesthood and the organization of the Church. Upon being invited to address the congregation, he bore an inspiring testimony. He requested rebaptism and expressed a desire to join the saints in the Great Salt Lake Valley.. Emer Harris, along with the other Saints, sustained the action to accept him back into the fold. Soon afterward, Oliver was rebaptized.
Though Oliver did not live to join the Saints in the West, he "died the happiest man I ever saw,"42 according to his brother-in-law, David Whitmer.
Sorrow came again to Emer in the passing of Polly, sometime in the early months of 1849. So their young child, Rebecca, was probably placed in the care of her aunt, Naomi H. Kellogg.
On June 14, 1850, Emer's son, Martin H., left for the Great Salt Lake Valley with his step-mother, Parna, and young Alma. Other family members left earlier with the Kelloggs.43 Emer and his sons Dennison and Charles remained in Iowa. Perhaps they were asked by Church leaders to remain to assist later immigrants.
Emer made and repaired wagons while Dennison did the blacksmithing until the summer of 1852, when most of the Saints, including Dennison and his wife, Sarah, and his three little daughters, finally left Kanesville. The Harrises arrived in Utah in October, 1852, in Captain Cutler's company and immediately became involved in pioneering the State of Deseret. Parna and the older sons were established in Willard near Brigham City, Utah, but Harris homes were eventually established throughout the state."
Emer, then of Provo, Utah, was ordained a patriarch at the General Conference of the Church in Salt Lake City on October 8, 1853, and gave his first blessing in January 1854. This calling he fulfilled until the end of his life.
By midsummer of 1855, all of Emer's older cildren were married. That fall, on September 10, 1855, he was sealed to Martha Allen by George A. Smith. Martha was the daughter of Josiah and Olive (Negus) Allen. Martha was married in about 1823 to Hawley Decker Smith Markham, by whom she had two children. She was married again in about 1832 to David Henry Orser. They became the parents of six children. Martha became the "step-mother" Rebecca wrote of in her own life story.
On September 2, 1855, Emer was appointed to preside over fifty high priests in Provo, Utah.45 Distance and difficulty of travel prevented Emer's attendance at the funeral of his wife Parna, who died at the home of her son, Joseph, on June 4, 1857, at Ogden, Utah. After Martha's death in May 1860, young Rebecca went to work in the William Joseph Taylor home in Provo, Utah, and became the plural wife of this good man on November 24, 1860, in the Endowment House. From then until the end of his life, Emer spent time living with his married sons, Martin H., at Harrisville (near Ogden), Joseph and Alma of Ogden and Logan, Dennison and Charles at Willard, and later southern Utah, where they went to help establish settlements in "Utah's Dixie."
Early in 1867, Emer returned to northern Utah. On August 27, 1869, he traveled twenty miles to Salt Lake with his son Martin H. and his daughter Harriet H. Daley, who was to act as proxy for the women relatives as they performed sacred ordinances for their departed dead.
The following day Emer was sealed to Deborah Lott. Harriet H. Daley acted as proxy for her deceased mother. This sealing was performed by Daniel H. Wells and witnessed by Joseph F. Smith and Jonathan Lyon.46
For the next few years, Emer lived intermittently with his sons Joseph, Alma, and Martin H. He died while living with Alma in Logan, Utah, on November 28, 1869. Emer was eighty-eight years of age, not having seen his dear brother Martin for thirty-two years. Martin, now reconciled with the Church, arrived in Salt Lake City from Kirtland, Ohio, August 30, 1870, missing an earthly reunion with Emer by nine months.
Emer's earthly resting place is at the Logan City Cemetery, where an appropriate monument declares his virtues in the following manner:
Emer Harris, born at Cambridge, New York, May 27, 1781. A direct descendant of Thomas Harris who came to America with Roger Williams in 1631 for religious freedom. Through the influence of his brother, Martin, the witness to the Book of Mormon, Emer received the first bound copy. He was baptized into the Church in 1831 by Hyrum Smith. Called on a mission by revelation in 1832 [D&C 75:32] worked on Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples. Came to Utah in 1852. Pioneered Ogden, Provo, and Southern Utah. Was ordained Patriarch in 1853. The father of 15 children. Died in Logan, Utah Nov. 28, 1869 in his 89th year. (Inscription composed by Silas Albert Harris, grandson of Emer Harris, and father of the co-authors, Belle and Madge Harris.)
1Thomas L. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity, p. 204.
2"Farly Ontario Court Records," Lyons, New York, Deed Books B., p. 296 and D., p. 282, 1806, 1807.
3Franklin S. Harris, Sr., MSS 340, in Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; hereafter cited as "Writings of Emer Harris".)
4"Family Record of Emer Harris," March 19, 1868, (in a family publication, Martin Henderson Harris A Utah Pioneer, July 21, 1952), p. 1; hereafter cited as M.H.H.
5Deeds of Luzerne County, vol. 27, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, 1819, p. 346.
6M.H.H., p. 1.
8Writings of Emer Harris.
9M.H.H., p. 1.
10Ibid, p. 12.
11Frank Fssholm, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Pioneer Publishing Co., 1913), p. 919.
12Andrew Jensen, Supplement To Church Chronology, 1906-1913, May 2, 1909, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1914), p. 28.
13lncidents from "Newel Knight's Journal" printed in Scraps of Biography (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883); pp.65-66.
15Stanley B. Kimball, "The First Road West," Ensign, January 1979, pp. 29-30.
16Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. I, (Salt Lake City, Utah: L.D.S. Church), p. 219.
17lntroduction to Church History, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter cited as Historical Department.)
18"William W. Phelps," Evening and Morning Star, vol. I, #9, Independence, Missouri, Feb. 1833.
19Writings of Emer Harris.
20Franklin S. Harris, Sr., in Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
24Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. II, p. 317.
26Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. II, p. 445.
29Private letters, papers, and traditions of the Harris family in possession of Belle H. Wilson.
30M.H.H., p. 13.
32lntroduction to Church History.
33The Contributor, vol. V.
34Nauvoo Baptisms for the Dead, alphabetical file, Genealogical Department of the L.D.S. Church (hereafter cited as Genealogical Department).
35Harris family oral tradition.
37John Smith to Parna Harris, Patriarchal Blessing, Oct. 21, 1845, Historical Department, vol. 9, p.435.
38Nauvoo Temple Endowment Records, Jan. 30, 1846, Genealogical Department.
39Preston Nibley, Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1937), pp. 112-13.
40Early Sealing Records, special collection of Genealogical Department, F 183374, p.727.
41John Smith to Emer Harris, Patriarchal Blessing, July 19, 1848, Historical Department, vol. 9, p.303.
42Stanley R. Gunn, Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder and Scribe (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1962), p.209.
44Private letters, papers, and traditions of the Harris family in possession of Belle H. Wilson.
45Journal History, September 2, 1855, Historical Department.
46Endowment House Sealing Records, special collection of Genealogical Department, Aug. 28, 1869.