The Faith of Lucy Mack Smith

Between the end of January and the middle of May 1831, most of the New York Saints sold their possessions, packed their most precious material goods, and migrated to Kirtland and the adjacent areas. Joseph Smith and a few others went early and were followed by three separate companies—the Colesville Saints, members from Fayette and surrounding locations in Seneca County, and those from Palmyra-Manchester. A few others came later in the year.

The Colesville branch was the first group to leave. They arrived in Buffalo on 1 May to find that bitter lake winds had blown ice into the Buffalo harbor, which delayed them for eleven dreary days. They finally arrived in Fairport, Ohio, on 14 May. Over two hundred people went to Ohio, some by sleigh and stage coach, but most by canal barges to Buffalo and then by steamboats and schooners on Lake Erie.

Lucy Mack Smith
Lucy Mack Smith (1776–1856)

Meanwhile Church members in the Fayette vicinity also prepared for migration. With her older sons and husband already gone, Lucy Smith, a natural leader in her own right, organized a party of about fifty people (twenty adults and thirty children) to occupy a barge on the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. Another group of about thirty, organized by Thomas B. Marsh, took passage on an accompanying barge, and together the two boats traveled to Buffalo.

En route, Lucy “called the brethren and sisters together, and reminded them that we were traveling by the commandment of the Lord, as much as Father Lehi was, when he left Jerusalem; and, if faithful, we had the same reasons to expect the blessings of God.” 7 Although they suffered from hunger because some had brought clothing rather than food, they sang and prayed as they journeyed and left a favorable impression on the captain. Lucy took charge of the situation and prevented greater suffering.

When they arrived in Buffalo, they met the icebound Colesville Saints. After several anxious days in Buffalo, a number of the children had become sick, and many of the group were hungry and discouraged. They took deck passage on a boat, put their things on board, and obtained temporary shelter for the women and children until early the next morning. When they were back on board, Lucy persuaded the still murmuring group to ask the Lord to break the twenty-foot clogs of ice that jammed the harbor. She explained, “A noise was heard, like bursting thunder. The captain cried, ‘Every man to his post.’ The ice parted, leaving barely a passage for the boat, and so narrow that as the boat passed through the buckets of the waterwheel were torn off with a crash. . . . We had barely passed through the avenue when the ice closed together again.” The Colesville group followed a few days later. 8

8. Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp. 200–205.

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