The Life of a Noble Pioneer, Enos Curtis, by Jaydene Buhler, July 10, 1998
(edited by Scott Hepworth)
Enos Curtis was born on 9 Oct 1783 at Kinderhook, Columbia, New York, the oldest child of Edmond and Polly (Avery) Curtis. The family Enos came from were evidently farmers and settlers. His ancestors on both sides were of English and Welch descent, most having left their homelands to come to the New World in the early 1630’s. They were either looking for religious freedom or wanted a new life and the ability to possess their own land. They most likely had strong religious feelings for they chose to settle in New England, an area known for its fervent religious interest. On the Curtis side of the family, Enos was the seventh generation to live in the United States. Most of his American ancestors lived in the area of New Haven County, Connecticut, a state known for it’s independent thinking people who gave freely of their creative energy and skills to build up the nation.
Enos’ father, Edmond Curtis (1763-1814), had been raised in Sharon, Litchfield, Connecticut. He was one of seven children. Apparently after the death of Enos’ grandmother, Lydia (Grannis) Curtis (1730-before 1806), his grandfather, Jeremiah Curtis (1728-1807), relocated in upstate New York, in Herkimer County, an area which was beginning to be settled. It is from a will left by this grandfather in 1807 that Enos’ parentage was established.
Enos’ mother, who was called Polly (1763-about 1789), was likely christened Mary, as Polly was often a popular nickname for Mary at that time. She was apparently the only child of Solomon (1719-1791) and Hannah (Petteneill) Avery, of Preston, New Haven, Connecticut. Enos’ parents were married on 2 Jan 1779, and lived on the eastern edge of New York at Kinderhook when Enos was born four years later. It is possible that there were other children born prior to his birth who did not survive, but such records are unavailable. There is also some confusion about whether Polly had other children besides Enos and his sister Clarissa, who was born in 1788. It is thought that their mother died not long after this little daughter was born. [My PAF shows other children, and no date for the death of Polly.]
The childhood of Enos Curtis remains a bit of a mystery. After the death of Enos’ mother, his father, twenty-five year old Edmond, apparently left his children, or at least his son, Enos, in the care of others and traveled west, to settle in Cherry Valley, Otsego, New York, where he met and married Martha Wilson (born 9 Oct 1768) in 1790. They eventually had eight children there. These half brothers and sister of Enos may not have been aware of his existence though they seemed to know of Clarissa as she is mentioned in her half brother Cordillo Curtis’s Bible. Enos would have been about five years old at the time of his mother’s death, making his and Clarissa’s care a challenge for their widowed father. Placing children of this age with relatives or willing neighbors was not an uncommon practice in frontier times. Whether or not Enos or his sister ever knew much about their father’s life cannot be determined at this time.
It appears, that despite his mother’s early death, someone in Enos’ past may have had a positive influence on him. He was especially known for his kindness. Somehow, he was blessed to receive a little education, probably typical of frontier times, in that he was able to read and sign his name.
In 1812, the United States was involved in another war with England. Much of that ware was fought in New York where the Curtis family lived. Many able bodied men of that state enlisted, coming to the aid of their threatened country. Edmond Curtis was no exception. Joining a cause he believed in, he fought valiantly for his country and gave his life during the decisive battle at Fort Erie, on 17 Sep 1814. He was fifty-one years old then, leaving Martha a widow at age forty-six.
By the time of his father’s death, Enos was thirty-one, married, and living in Pennsylvania. When Enos was twenty-two, he married fifteen-year old Ruth Frankin, daughter of John (1749-1831) and Abigail Fuller (1753-1834) Franklin of Sterling, Windham, Connecticut. It is not know how they happened to meet but they were married in New York City, on 15 Dec 1905 (just a week before the Prophet Joseph Smith was born). There is a question of whether they were living in that city at the time or if they had traveled there especially to be married.
Three years later, they were living in Pennsylvania, apparently at various time in Rutland and Sullivan townships, or their land was between the two townships in Tioga County, which is situated on the mid-northern edge of Pennsylvania, bordering Steuben County, New York. Here their first child, a daughter named Lydia, was born on 5 Feb 1809. She lived only 18 months, dying 9 July 1809, but was the first of fourteen children. She was followed by Maria (1810-1841), Martha (1812-1834), Edmond (1814-1815), Jeremiah (1815-1816), Seth (1817-1817), Simmons Philander (1818-1880), twins, John White (1820-1902) and David Avery (1820-1885), Ezra Houghton (1822-1915), Ruth (1825-1825), Ursula (1826-1902), Sabrina (1829-1890), and Celestia, born after Enos and Ruth joined the Church (1832-1891). Four of these children, two sons and two daughters, died young, and the other nine, six daughters and three sons, lived to grow up and marry.
I am descended from Ursula who married Araham Durfee and had Mahala Ruth Durfee who married Samuel Parker, Jr., the grandson of Alpheus and Anna Nash Gifford. This is the young couple whose grandparents had been close friends and neighbors, one (Alpheus Gifford) instrumental in the conversion of the other (Enos Curtis).
Sometime in the mid to late 1820’s, Enos and Ruth’s third daughter, Martha, became acquainted with Elial Strong from Vermont. They were married in early 1827 when he was eighteen, and she, following in the footsteps of her mother, was only fifteen. The Strongs apparently had a farm in the eastern neighboring county of Bradford at Columbia. Enos and Ruth became grandparents on 14 January 1828, when Martha gave birth to a son they named Ozias Strong. It is possible that Elial Strong was possibly from the same area of Vermont as Daniel Bowen (1801-1880) who was an acquaintance of the Strong’s, who was either visiting or lived in Columbia. Daniel was from Shaftsberry, Bennington, Vermont.
Evidently, some of the near neighbors of Enos and Ruth, in Sullivan, were Levi (1798-1860) and Deborah Wing (1794-1877) Gifford. Apparently, Levi’s older brother, Alpheus Gifford (1793-1841), who was an independent preacher, had at one time lived in Sullivan, then in Hector, Schuyler County, New York, then had come back to live in Rutland, Tioga County. It was possible that while in New York, he had been blessed to hear the gospel of the restoration preached. It is wondered if he somehow met with Samuel Smith, the first missionary and brother of the Prophet Joseph, for Alpheus was baptized in 1830. He took to heart the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph, in December 1830 (D&C 36:5-7) that those who had embraced the gospel and been ordained Elders should be sent forth as missionaries to preach the gospel and call people to repentance. It must have been early in 1831 when he was ordained an Elder at Kirtland, Geauga, Ohio.
It is believed that Elder Alpheus Gifford first taught the gospel to his brother Levi who then shared it with his neighbor Enos Curtis. Then Enos and Levi, and some accounts say, Alpheus, traveled to Bradford County, to tell Enos’ son-in-law Elial Strong and daughter Martha the good news. Elial was baptized in June of 1831. they must have then shared it with the Strong’s neighbor, Eleazer Miller (1795-1876) who was baptized six months later in December 1831 by Levi Gifford. They then taught others in the area who had an interest, such as Abraham Brown (1806-1838) and Daniel Bowen.
There are differing accounts about who was involved and exactly what happened after this. Though some members of this group had not yet been baptized, they were apparently very interested in the things Elder Gifford was teaching. They decided to travel north with Elder Alpheus Gifford to visit with the Prophet Joseph in Kirtland so they could learn more. It may have been on their return trip that they passed through the area of Mendon, Monroe County, and Victor, Ontario County, New York. Some accounts say it was mid-summary; others in the fall or nearly winter of 1831.
Earlier, in the prior year, 1830, shortly after the formal organization of the Church, in mid to late April, Samuel Smith came to the area of Mendon where the Young and Kimball families lived. Much of the following is drawn from Brigham and Heber by Stanley B. Kimball, Larson, Clinton F., et al, Brigham Young University Studies, Volume 33, pp. 397-399, Provo, UT, BYU Press, 1959-1996. “He (Samuel) happened to visit Tomlinson’s Inn in Lima, eight miles southwest of Mendon, and proceeded to interrupt the lunch of the first person he saw who, providentially was Phineas Young (1799-1879), an itinerant preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Reformed Church and Brigham Young’s (1801-1877) brother. Samuel talked Phineas into buying a copy of the Book of Mormon – perhaps the single most important copy ever sold. Phineas read the book and in quick succession so did his father, John Young (1763-1839), his widowed sister Fanny Young Carr (1787-1859), his brother Brigham, and ‘many others,’ most of whom accepted it. It is believed that Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868) also read the same copy.”
Shortly after this group had read the Book of Mormon, there came some missionaries, lead by Alpheus Gifford, from Rutland, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. He was traveling with his brother Levi and four friends – Elial Strong, Eleazer Miller, Enos Curtis, and Abraham Brown (some accounts say Daniel Bowen). Some of these men were apparently still investigating the new faith. Alpheus was possibly the only one ordained an Elder, though other records say Enos was also an Elder by this time. If this is so, he may have felt less experienced at preaching, as most accounts indicate that Alpheus was the leader. The group was sharing the gospel along the way as they traveled and in the course of this ‘mission,’ they came to the house of Phineas Young in Victor, New York. Some have thought that Elder Gifford knew that Phineas had a copy of the Book of Mormon and the visit was a follow-up, or perhaps because Phineas had read the book, he invited Elder Gifford and his companions into his home to preach to his relatives and neighbors.
Learning of this, five miles away, in Mendon, and prompted by curiosity, Heber and Brigham came to the meeting at Phineas’ while clapboard home to hear the Mormon Elders. That evening, they heard the simple, and direct message of early Mormon missionaries. They found that Elder Gifford’s statements and those shared by the others to be earnest, simple convictions of the new prophet, and the new faith. Elder Gifford related “that a holy angel had been commissioned from the heavens, who had committed the Everlasting Gospel and restored the Holy Priesthood unto men as at the beginning.”
How much Alpheus Gifford knew or told of Joseph Smith’s 1820 vision and Joseph’s calling to be the new prophet is now known, but the missionaries surely related how Joseph received and translated the Book of Mormon and organized the Church of Jesus Christ in New York in 1830. In Heber C. Kimball’s writings, he noted that Elder Gifford called upon all men everywhere to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; and these things should follow those that believe, viz., they should cast out devils in the name of Jesus, they would speak in tongues, etc., and that the Lord had restored these things was because the people had transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and broken the Everlasting Covenant. The accent was on new revelation from God and the reopening of the heavens.
One sermon was enough for both Brigham and Heber. Even though some of the preachers were not yet members, they still gave their witness and the Spirit penetrated Heber’s heart for he later wrote of that occasion, “As soon as I heard from them, I was convinced that they taught the truth, and I was constrained to believe their testimony. I saw that I had only received a part of the ordinances under the Baptist Church. I also saw and heard the gifts of the spirit manifested in them, for I heard them speak and interpret and also sing in tongues which tended to strengthen my faith more and more. Brigham Young and myself were constrained, by the Spirit, to bear testimony of the truth, and when we did this, the power of God rested on us.”
Years later, Enos’ son Ezra H. Curtis, told a little more about what happened at the time the missionaries came to New York where Brigham Young was living. After the meeting at Phineas,’ Brigham hurried home to his wife, Miriam, who was very sick in bed with tuberculosis. He went to his room and prayed to the Lord, asking that, “If this religion is true He would send the missionaries to his home, that they might pray for his sick wife and also explain the gospel to her.” The next night, as the missionaries were passing his home, they were impressed with the tidiness of his yards and said something like, “Any man who takes that much pride in his home is worth visiting,” so they called at Brigham’s home. Brigham was watching from the window to see if his prayer would be answered. He hurriedly opened the door and welcomed them in. They administered to his wife and she seemed more at ease. Brigham told them he had prayed for them to come and that he had faith that his wife could be healed.
Based on the time frame, it seems likely that before teaching the Kimballs and Youngs, the group of friends had already been in Kirtland. It is not known if while there they had met or visited with the Prophet Joseph Smith, but whether or not they did, apparently, by this time, Enos Curtis was thoroughly converted for records state that he was baptized in 1831 by Lyman Wight (1796-1858) who was in Kirtland during the early summer of 1831. How Enos Curtis met Elder Wight has not been recorded, but history says that Elder Wight was in Missouri by August 1831, so the baptism had to have taken place before this time. It is not known at this time exactly when Ruth Curtis accepted the gospel.
After the impressive visit of missionaries from Rutland, Tioga County and Columbia, Bradford, Pennsylvania, Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young talked about the things they had learned and experienced. As they were doing this, they had a spiritual experience together concerning the future of the Church. Of this they later said that the “glory of God shone upon us, and we saw the gathering of the Saints to Zion, and the glory that would rest upon them; and many more things connected with that great event, such as the sufferings and persecutions….” This encouraged them to plan a trip to the nearest Church branch 130 miles south of Mendon.
A group went in January 1832. Heber took his horse and sleigh and, accompanied by Brigham and Phineas and their wives, Miriam and Clarissa, traveled to the nearest branch of the Church to learn more about the gospel. This was at Columbia (now called Columbia Crossroads), Bradford County, Pennsylvania. This was the branch where Enos Curtis’ daughter Martha and her husband, Elial Strong, lived. Also nearby were their new friends and Elder Alpheus Gifford. Vilate Kimball stayed in Mendon to care for the children.
The Young/Kimball group stayed in Pennsylvania about six days, so that they could attend the Mormon meetings there. They heard the members speak in tongues, interpret, and prophesy. Heber C. Kimball’s account reveals that he was fully converted. For some reason, however, none of them were baptized at that time. Later, at the end of March, Brigham’s father John and his brothers Phineas and Joseph Young returned again to the Pennsylvania branch to seek baptism. Both John and Phineas were baptized 5 Apr 1832, Phineas by Elder Ezra Landon. It is not recorded who baptized John Young. Joseph Young was baptized 6 Apr 1832 by Enos’ son-in-law Elial Strong.
It appears that the Columbia missionaries, including Enos Curtis, with the new baptized Youngs, then traveled north again, back to Mendon, where on 14 Apr 1832 Brigham Young was baptized by Elder Eleazer Miller, and Heber C. Kimball was baptized the next day by Elder Alpheus Gifford. Elder Eleazer Miller has been baptized by Elder Levi Gifford, Alpheus Gifford’s younger brother and Enos Curtis’ friend. At this time, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were 31, Eleazer Miller was 37, Alpheus was 38, Levi was 33, Enos was 48, and Elial Strong was 24-30 (records of his DOB vary).
Many others who had heard the preaching came into the Church at this time. The missionaries helped them establish a strong branch in Mendon which included the following who had been taught by Alpheus, Enos, and their group of missionaries: John Young and Hannah B. Young, Brigham Young and Miriam Works Young, Phineas H. Young and Clarissa Young, Joseph Young, Lorenzo D. Young and Persis Young, John P. Greene and Rhoda Young Greene and children, Joel Sanford and Louisa Young Sanford, Fanny Young Carr (widow then, later married Vilate Kimball’s brother Roswell Murray), Isaac Flummerfelt and wife and children, Ira Bond and Charlotte, Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Murray Kimball, Rufus Parks, John Morton and Betsy, Nathan Tomlinson (in whose house Phineas had met Samuel H. Smith), Israel Barlow and mother, brother, and sisters.
Two months later, early in June, Elder Enos Curtis and his son-in-law, Elial Strong, and their friend Eleazer Miller, accompanied Phineas and Joseph Young as they set out on a mission to Canada. Phineas later wrote: “We labored in Canada about six weeks with great success, raised the first branch in British America, and returned home rejoicing.” (Elden Jay Watson, comp., Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844 [Salt Lake City: Elder J. Watson, 1968], pp. xxiv-xxv). Information from the book Heroes of the Restoration, Heber C. Kimball, Common Man, Uncommon Servant, by Jeffrey R. Holland, footnote 19, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1997.)
Apparently, after this mission, the Curtis family thought it best to stay in Rutland for they did not go to live in Kirtland as many others did. That fall, on 13 Sept 1832, their second daughter, Maria, married the afore mentioned Abraham Brown and settled in Guyandot, Lawrence, Ohio. There they had two children, Elizabeth (1833-1914) and Isaac.
By 1834, many Latter-day Saints had gathered and settled on Missouri land, first in Jackson, then in Caldwell and Clay Counties. But local feeling was rapidly growing hostile against the Mormon settlers. In a revelation, Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord to take a group of Elders to Missouri to see if they could stop the trouble. So was formed the famous Zion’s Camp march. Elial Strong was asked to join the group. Sadly, he was one of those who died of cholera on the journey. This was followed by another sad event late that year, 22 Dec 1834, when Elial’s widowed wife, Enos and Ruth’s daughter, Martha Strong, died, leaving her six-year old son Ozias Strong an orphan. It is very likely that he was taken into the home of his grandparents and raised by them, for he grew up true and faithful to the Church and his life intertwined often with theirs in later years.
It is not known when the Curtis family decided to join with the saints in Missouri. But their friend, Alpheus, and his wife Anna Nash (1800-1879) Gifford, paid honor to Enos when their ninth child was born on 14 Feb 1837 at Log Creek, Caldwell County, Missouri, and they named him Enos Curtis Gifford. By then, the Curtis’ and their children and grandson were likely living in Clay County.
During the late 1830’s, the atmosphere in Missouri became difficult in the saints. Many families lost nearly everything as mobs combined and angrily destroyed homes and farms. The Enos Curtis family was no exception. In 1839, Lyman Wight was given the assignment to gather statements of the losses of the saints. In a Redress Petition, Enos Curtis made statements concerning his personal losses. From their move from Rutland to Missouri, he lost $300. Because of being driven from Clay County to Caldwell County, he lost $150. He says that their home was plundered of clothing and furniture at a loss of $200. They lost their crops, including corn and potatoes totaling $100, cattle and hogs came to $50, two destroyed bee stands came to $8, and four muskets $40. He tallied the loss of their land at $409. Being driven from Missouri came to $500. The total of their losses was $1648. Enos signed the same saying, “I Do Certify the above account to Be Just and true according to the Best of my Knowledge, Enos Curtis” (Clark V. Johnson Dr., ed. Mormon Redress Petitions. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1992, State of Missouri, p. 175.)
His twenty-one year old son, Simons P. Curtis, gave an affidavit which follows:
“I, Simons P. Curtis, a resident of Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, certify that in the year 1838, I was a citizen of Caldwell County, Missouri, residing in the city of Far West. Also that I went in search of a lost steer, and passing by Captain Bogart’s camp, while he was guarding the city, I saw the hide and feet of said steer, which I knew to be mine; the flesh of which I suppose they applied to their own use.
I also certify that Wiley E. Williams, one of the Governor’s aids, who was gunkeeper, caused me to pay thirty-seven and a half cents to him. I also paid twenty-five cents to a justice of the peace to qualify me to testify that the gun was mine. The said Wiley El Williams is said to be the one that carried the story to Governor Boggs, which story was the cause of the exterminating order being issued, as stated by the Governor in said order. Simons P. Curtis (this was sworn to before C.M. Woods, Clerk Circuit Court, Adams County, Illinois, on May 9, 1839. (DHC, edited by BH Roberts, pp. 67-68)
Currently, in the year 2002, the guides who take visitors on a wagon ride around the north part of old Nauvoo make reference to the Redress Petitions filed by the Saints at the request of the Prophet. They indicate that they largest estimate of loss was turned in by a Brother Nelson who reported a loss of $5,000 for property and $500,000 for “loss of liberty.” In contrast, the smallest amount reported was 63 cents, by Simons Curtis. Apparently, the front site of his rifle had been damaged in a scuffle.
The dates here indicate that by 1839, the Curtis’ had removed to Illinois to be with the main body of the Church. After Maria’s husband, Abraham Brown, died on 12 May 1838, she must have come from Ohio to be with her parents, for within the year, Maria married Milo Everett (1814-after 1861), who had joined the Church in 1832, in Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York.
After all the years of struggle, their children had grown up and several were thinking of starting families of their own. In 1840, two of Enos and Ruth’s sons, Simmons and John, were married in Nauvoo. John married Almira Starr, of Connecticut on 13 May 1840, and Simmons married Emmeline Buchanan of Lexington, Kentucky on 4 July 1840.
Sadly, Enos and Ruth’s daughter Maria Brown died on 5 May 1841, in Nauvoo, leaving two granddaughters for Enos and Ruth to raise. Maria’s husband, Milo Everett, was ordained an Elder in 1842 by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, but he must have become confused during the upheaval of the Nauvoo persecutions and leadership changes, for he is listed as a member of the reorganized church in 1861.
In October 1841, son David married Amanda Ann Starr, younger sister to Almira. This marriage left four of the ten children unmarried, not counting grandchildren. Their youngest, Celestia, born after they joined the Church, was nine years old.
After a period of recovery and intensive building, things began to get tense again for the saints early in 1844. Lies were spread by several apostate groups who felt tremendous hatred toward the Church and the Prophet. Despite heartaches and hardships, Enos and Ruth Curtis remained faithful to the gospel and continued to serve wherever they could. Like the other saints living in or near Nauvoo, they especially suffered just before and after the death of the Prophet Joseph.
A touching incident occurred during the time of persecutions and martyrdom in which Enos’ sons were out on the prairies putting up wild hay. Becoming worried about his sons, Enos rode out in the night to get them. They had been asleep, but were awakened by the noise of a horseman coming toward their camp. They were very quite frightened as they lived with the anxiety and nervousness of a people who constantly feared the mob. Enos had a peculiar cough and as he rode toward them, he happened to cough, which caused them to sigh in great relief and say to the others who were with them, “Do not fear. It is father.” But the group had a real race with a nearby mob, who laid in ambush and chased them all the way home.
Violence continued to increase against the Saints. Ruth and her children used to hide in the woods to avoid the mobs. When it rained, they used a blanket as a tent.
Another story shows what effect their hardships had on Enos’ wife Ruth, who was only forty-five in 1844. This was preserved by a granddaughter, Chloe Spencer Durfee (1864-1964), who was born in Utah to Enos and Ruth’s youngest daughter, Celestia Curtis Durfee and her husband, Jabez (1828-1883). Chloe’s mother told her that while the mobs were doing their vicious raids, two or three families would gather together in one home for protection. On one such occasion, the mob came to the home of Enos Curtis, but the men were away.
The mob ordered the occupants out of the house. The family told them that Grandmother Ruth Franklin Curtis was ill and could not leave the house. The mob left but came back a second and third time and finally set fire to the house. The women carried Grandmother out on a sheet. As the men folks heard about the raid, they rushed back and carried Grandmother away in a wagon as she could not walk. The mob even chased the wagon, but they finally got away.
Some notes have been preserved which show Enos’s position and activity in the Church at that time, taken at Quincy, Illinois, on 1 Sept 1844, by Henry Pinney, Clerk.
At a stake conference at which Enos Curtis was president, it was resolved that Moses Jones, Silas Maynard and W.B. Corbitt be recommended to the High Priests’ Quorum to be ordained as high priests. Six were received into the Church by recommendations from other places. Brother Thompson was directed to be sent to hire a room to hold meetings in for the next three months. Elder Corbitt addressed the conference from Romans 2 and made some remarks on the late epistle of the Twelve. Elder McKensie also addressed the conference. Bros. Hollinghead and Corey were ordained priests. The Lord’s supper was administered; the minutes directed to be published in the Times and Seasons, and the conference adjourned three months. Enos Curtis, President. (Times and Seasons, Edited by Ebenezer Robinson, et al., 6 vols., p. 725, Commerce, Illinois, and Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-1846, Carmack, John K.)
So, between the mobbing times, they still tried to keep things as normal as possible and serve Heavenly Father by worshipping and carrying on the business of the Church.
Another affidavit was made by Enos Curtis concerning mob action in Illinois. This took place at Hancock County, State of Illinois.
“On the 25th day of October, A.D. 1845, personally appeared before me, E.A. Bedell, one of the justices of the peace in and for said county, Enos Curtis, who after being duly sworn according to law deposeth and saith—that on or about the eighteenth day of October A.D. 1845, in the Morley Settlement in said county he saw two houses and three stables burning and also saw two mobbets armed with guns going away from the same. And the deponent further saith that on Monday the twenty-first inst. he saw another house burning, said to belong to the widow Boss containing her potatoes and other vegetables. And further the deponent saith not. Signed, Enos Curtis. Subscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of October, A.D. 1845. Signed, E.A. Bedell, J.P. (DHC, edited by BH Roberts, p. 488-489.)
Being with their friends and leaders of the Church was very important to the Curtis family. Even though there were tremendous threatenings, the Curtis family remained in the Nauvoo area for nearly two years after the martyrdom.
An incident around this time further indicates that Enos was a main of faith. The Curtis family was traveling across the Mississippi River on a ferryboat with another family named Stowell going from Montrose, Iowa to Nauvoo. While on the river, a terrific wind came up. Because some other people had previously gone down the rapids below the ferry crossing, there was much anxiety and excitement. The people on shore began shouting and screaming for help. The wind became even stronger so much that it appeared that it would break the cable that controlled the ferry. When this happened, Enos Curtis raised his arm to the square and commanded the wind to take them to shore. It ceased its velocity and changed so the ferry drifted to shore and both families were saved. However, as soon as they were safely on shore, the gale began as fiercely as before.
After all the hard labor, it must have been wonderful joy to the Curtis family when the Nauvoo temple was finally completed. A day of rejoicing happened for Enos and Ruth on 1 Jan 1846, when they were able to attend the temple and receive their own endowments. Five days later they were sealed for time and eternity. Such comforting blessings were a great strength to the saints as they recognized they must again abandon their homes and face the unknown wilderness. Their twin sons, John and David, age twenty-six, and Ezra H., age twenty-four, also received their endowments early that year.
Not much later, on 4 Feb 1846, the main body of saints was driven across the Mississippi. Then the Curtis family was again without a home just as they’d been a few short years before in Missouri. Ruth was very ill when they crossed the Mississippi River and journeyed on to Council Bluffs. Finally, after a long cold tiring journey, the family stopped to gather with the saints again at Winter Quarters, Iowa. While in Iowa, Ezra Houghton, the Curtis’ youngest son, married Lucinda McKenny Carter (1831-1904) and Ursula Curtis, their fifth daughter, was married to Abraham Durfee (1826-1862), my great-great-great grandparents.
Enos and Ruth’s family as well as several of their married children’s families lived near each other in Iowa, working together making preparations to head west when the proper time came. On 26 April 1848, emigration records say that Brigham Young left Winter Quarters and organized a company in three divisions for emigration across the plains and mountains from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City. Enos Curtis, and two other unrelated men, Theodore and Joseph with the last name of Curtis, were numbered in one of these groups.
But before they were able to leave, Ruth came to the end of her suffering, when she passed away near Council Bluffs on 6 May 1848. When this occurred, Enos recognized that he’d have to face the journey west without his loving companion of forty-five years. This must have been a great disappointment to him, their children, and their grandchildren, as they sensed the challenges which lie ahead and how much they would miss her. Ruth Franklin Curtis, age fifty-eight years, was lovingly buried in that area. Brigham Young said of her, “She shall wear a martyr’s crown.” Then, a little less than a month later, the group left the Elkhorn on 1 June 1848, and began the long journey westward which lasted until 24 September 1848 when they finally arrived in Great Salt Lake, ready to start a new life.
Once in the Valley, sixty-seven year old Enos Curtis was likely feeling lonely and overwhelmed with the needs of his still large group of dependents. Yet he was ever willing to be a blessing to others who had more challenges than himself. He became aware of the situation of a thirty-seven year old widow, Tamma Durfee Miner (1813-1885). Sister Miner was an older sister of Enos’ daughter Ursula’s husband, Abraham, by thirteen years.
Tamma and her seven children, Polly, Orson, Moroni, Mormon, Matilda, Alma Lindsey, and Don Carlos, had come across the plains in 1850. Two of the Miner’s daughters, Sylvia and Melissa, had died previously. Despite their age difference of twenty-six years,
Tamma and Enos had quite a lot in common. Besides having both experienced the drivings and persecutions of the saints, they each carried a strong testimony of the truth in their hearts along with a strong desire to help build up the Kingdom of God on the earth. Also, each had lost cherished spouses in Iowa. Tamma’s husband, Albert Miner, had died of exhaustion and exposure on 3 Jan 1848, at Garden Grove. At that time, their youngest child was not yet two years old and the oldest, not quite 16. This put tremendous responsibility on Tamma’s older children to help the family survive and to accomplish their goal to come west.
After her husband’s death, in order to save for the trek, Tamma put her able children our to work for their board and keep. She also worked very hard for two years to earn money for wagons and supplies they needed for the journey to Utah. Coming across the plains with Captain William Snow’s company had taken tremendous effort and nearly all of her strength. In her own history, she said they had landed in the valley and were taken in for two weeks time by a family named Wilcox. They were without a home or anyone to hunt one for them. She felt so very grateful when with kindness, Enos Curtis came to her and said he would furnish her and her children a home. Winter was coming and that is what they needed. So Enos and Tamma were married 20 October 1850. The combined families all lived in a house built by Enos and his sons that first winter near the Jordon River.
Winter presented them with more challenges. Tamma said that she and her children all came down with erysipelas in the throat. This illness is a streptococcus infection of intense inflammation. It greatly weakened Tamma’s oldest son, Orson, so that he passed away on 5 March 1851, at the age of 17. This was a very sad day for the Miner/Curtis family. Orson was such a loving, kind, good-natured person. It was partly his determination and strength that had made it possible for the Miner family to make it to the Valley as he was the driver for one of their wagons on the trek. Apparently, Enos and his children managed to stay well despite close exposure to the disease.
Thankfully, the spring of 1851 brought the rest of the family health and new hope. Brigham Young sent several groups of men out to survey the area for new settlements. Among these were the twins, John White Curtis, David Avery Curtis, Enos’ 23-year old grandson, Ozias Strong, and 21-year old Albert Starr (1830-1901), brother of John and David’s wives. They returned to report on the conditions in and around the area of Springville. This looked to be an excellent place to settle.
In April, 1851, Enos and Tamma’s group, along with John and David and their families, and Ozias Strong, moved to Springville, where they got a farm and a place to build. Moroni Miner, a stepson of Enos’ recalled, when he was 100 years old, how hard the two families struggled there to build a home. They were so anxious to have one of their own, that they were willing to go through any hardships. They built two large rooms with a shop and a patio between them.
In Tamma’s history, she said they all got along first rate. This wonderful expression of a second wife says a lot. Enos was surely a very exemplary man, showing others how to follow the Savior. He treated his step-children well. Moroni said that Enos always treated them as a kind, loveable and patient father. Tamma said that he and his sons and her boys all worked together to grow wheat and grain and stock so they could pay their tithing. Through this marriage, Enos and Tamma were blessed with four more children. On 18 Oct 1851, a baby named Clarissa was born. Fourteen days earlier, Tamma’s oldest daughter, 19-year old Polly, was sealed in marriage to Dominicus Carter (1806-1884). Polly was his fifth wife. Brother Carter was from Provo. Eventually, they were blessed with eight children.
Enos had several skills that were a great blessing to his family and others. He was an excellent carpenter and could make chairs and other kinds of furniture. He was an excellent teacher took, for his stepsons, Moroni and Mormon, also became very good carpenters and builders as well. Enos also knew the skills of a wheelright. Such abilities were very important for those times. All of the Miner children said that Enos was like their own father to them.
But his concern went beyond his home and family. Enos was ready to help anyone. Regardless of weather conditions, he went any hour of the day or night to administer to and help the sick.
In 1852, Enos was ordained a Patriarch by Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, George A. Smith, and John Taylor. He was always closely associated with President Brigham Young. Their friendship was life long. Because of this connection, Moroni Minor, Enos’ stepson, recalls walking with his mother to President Young’s office when she went to him to seek advice. Another occasion of note happened in June of that year when Enos’ grandson, 34-year old Ozias Strong, married Mary Elizabeth Mendenhall. Eventually, they were blessed with a family of ten children.
On 23 February 1853, another child was born to Enos and Tamma. They named her Belinda. The Curtis family were always delighted to receive more children into their home. They knew the value of life and understood the purpose of it. Faithfully living the gospel was extremely important to them.
During the summer of 1853, the Indians had become a real problem. Back in November of 1851, some settlers had learned that certain Mexican’s carrying licenses signed by the James C. Calhoon, Governor and superintendent of Indian affairs of New Mexico, sometimes came into Ute territory to trade horses for firearms or Ute children and squaws. These unfortunates then became slaves to the Mexicans. The firearms were sold to the Navajos who were at war with the United States. This practice was considered kidnapping and a treasonous act by laws of the territory. When it was learned that such a group of men were in the Sanpete Valley on a trading trip, a warning was sent to tell them they were breaking the law. But they ignored the warning, saying they didn’t care and could do whatever they wanted. As a result, they were arrested and taken to court before a Justice of the Peace in Manti. The traders lost the case and were ordered to release their slaves and leave the territory.
But before these men left the area, they decided to avenge themselves. They spent considerable effort stirring up native Indians and sold them guns and ammunition, contrary to the laws of the territory and the United States. The result was that things became more and more tense for the saints in several communities. This was not too surprising as some native Ute Indians had begun to feel somewhat threatened by the Mormon disdain for slavery and the continual flow of new emigrants. And even more so, as pioneer settlements began to spread southward into traditional Ute lands, due to the invitation of Chief Walker or Wakara. However, other smaller groups of that tribe didn’t see things the same way he did and sometimes they simply changed their minds about what they’d previously said.
These feelings of hatred spread around various groups and the Indians became much less friendly. They began to steal grain from the fields and run off the livestock of the settlers. They especially liked stealing horses. Brigham Young’s policy that “it is cheaper to feed the Indians than fight them” had been helpful and previously had kept the Utes from causing them much concern. But by the spring of 1853, Indians even began shooting arrows at or near the settlers to frighten them.
On July 18, at Fort Payson, Indians came to get food and were given it as usual. Then some of them turned and shot Alexander Keel, who was standing guard. They later said they killed him because another settler, somewhere else, had interfered with an Indian who was severely beating his squaw. So began what was called the “Walker War.” The settlers were sure that more trouble was ahead and left their homes to gather for safety inside local forts. Then began a series of ambush attacks by the Indians on many settlers over the next few months. Eventually, scores of white people were killed as well as Indians including a Captain Gunnison who was in the area surveying for the government. This of course was very upsetting to the saints.
Right at the beginning of the trouble, President Young had sent a message to “Captain Walker” telling him he was “a fool for fighting his best friends.” With the note he had included gifts with the promise of beef cattle and flour if Chief Walker would encourage his people to make a peace agreement. Brigham Young tried several times during the next frustrating months to convince them to stop their aggression.
On 4 May 1854, Brigham Young and several apostles began a journey to central Utah to seek a peace treaty with the Indians. They took with them several other community leaders. The company consisted of 82 men, 14 women, and 5 children. They traveled in 34 carriages with 95 animals. Enos Curtis was one of those asked to accompany Church leaders on this important mission. The group arrived at Refreshment Springs by May 10, where they were organized to prepare for their meeting. They then traveled to Chicken Creek, near Levan, where they met with the Indians on May 12 hoping to effect a treaty. President Young was gracious as well as very generous with the Indians. After a long talk the Indians finally, realized that it was a mistake to continue the war. The peace pipe was passed around and a treaty entered into. Peace was finally established again.
President Young’s group then continued to travel southward visiting and speaking at the settlements along the way near Fillmore. As they went they saw that much work had done and that grain had been planted for the Indians which was an important part of the treaty agreement.
The group returned north to the Springville area again by late May. Tamma was grateful to have her husband back. Enos was happy to be home again and to share the good news. The settlers were very appreciative that things had been worked out with Indians. As a result, life in settlement became much less stressful and the people could concentrate on other important matters.
A little over a year later on 12 June 1855, Enos and Tamma received another gift from heaven. This time two bundles of joy came to their family. Tamma named her babies. Adelia and Amelia. However, the Curtis’s were only able to enjoy little Adelia for a few short months as she became ill before she was a eight months old and passed away.
In October of that year, Tamma’s 15-year old daughter Matilda was married to Enos’ son John White Curtis. She was John’s second wife. John’s first wife, Almira, was nearly an invalid; so Matilda raised her two children as well as bearing 14 of her own, four of these died young.
In the spring of 1856, Tamma notice that Enos did not have his usual vigor and he complained of not feeling well. He kept on working for awhile until at last he felt so miserable he couldn’t work. He tried taking something to help him and thought he felt better for awhile, but then he got worse again. Tamma said when he passed away on 1 June 1856 it was just like he was going to sleep. He was 76 years of age. The scriptures say that death is sweet to the righteous (D&C 42:46).
So ended the earthly journey of Enos Curtis, ever diligent and faithful to the last. Those who had known him always thought of him with great love and respect for he had always tried his best to be a good person. Family, neighbors and distant friends mourned his passing. Enos was surely welcomed by many previously departed loved ones as he passed through the veil to the other side.
Tamma was left a widow again after only five and a half of marriage. With Enos’ help, she had been able to raise her children in a much better way than would have been the case otherwise. Still living at home were her four unmarried her sons by Albert, Moroni soon to be 21, Mormon, age 18, Alma Lindsey, 14 years, and Don Carlos, age 12. Also, her three living daughters by Enos, Clarissa, age five, Belinda, 3 years, and Amelia, nearly a year old. She said that they continued to live in Springville City where they farmed and raised wheat and stock and paid their tithing.
The following year, 1857, John White Curtis, 5th son of Enos and Ruth, asked Tamma to be his wife. Possibly, he and his wife, Matilda, had discussed her mother’s situation and decided that by his marrying Tamma he’d they’d both be in a better position to help her. John, observing the example of his father, Enos, was also a person who cared for others who were in need. He and Tamma were married at April Conference in Salt Lake City. Tamma was seven years older than John. This made a rather unusual situation, for him to be married to both a mother and her daughter. But these two families had always worked well together to accomplish their goals. They really cared about each other. A happy event came to both Tamma and Matilda when each had little daughters in January of 1858. Matilda had Ellen on January 4, and Tamma gave birth to Marriette on the 16th, at the age of 45.
Tamma lived another 27 years, married to John White Curtis, longer than either of her previous marriages. She continued ever faithful in her labor of love to raise her children. She was blessed to be able to watch most of them grow up and accomplish good things and have families of their own. She died at Provo, on 30 January 1885, lacking just a couple of months of being 72 years old.
Before her death, she recorded the memories of her life. In those she said, “I do feel highly honored to be numbered with the Latter-day Saints.” The diligent and purposeful life of Enos Curtis expresses without words that he felt very much the same.