Monday, March 21, 2011

Edwin Pettit Autobiography, Part 1

[July 28, 2011. Here is a post with some notes about Edwin Pettit and his family.]

Edwin Pettit was born in Hempstead, New York (Long Island) in 1834. His family joined the church around 1840 and joined the westward migration of the Saints. His autobiography includes some remarkable experiences and stories. Some of them have been told often in his family and in the church. Here is the first installment.


Having been asked many times by my children and friends to relate some of my early experiences in the Pioneer days of the West, and particularly Utah, I have at last decided to do so, and will be as brief as possible, relating only those experiences which are stamped most indelibly on my mind.

Biography of Edwin Pettit

I am the son of Jesse and Mary Pettit. I was born in Queens County, New York, February 16, 1834. My father was a school teacher for a number of years; also a student of law. During the summer months he worked on his farm, which was very valuable, as it lay near the City of New York. He joined the Mormon Church about 1840. In the fall of 1841 my parents decided to gather with those of their faith at Nauvoo. Just prior to the time they moved West, an agent was sent out by the Mormon Church to trade land owned by them on the west side of the Mississippi River called Zarahemla, for the homes of those wishing to gather with the Saints. Father made a deal with this agent for some land, but while the agent was out, another man had gotten possession of the land, consequently, they never realized anything in exchange for their homes. We made preparations for leaving our home in New York; all our household goods—except what we desired to take with us—were sold at auction, or as it was then known, at “vendue.” We traveled sixteen miles by stage to the City of New York, and from there made our way by boat and otherwise across the country to the Mississippi River; traveled up the Mississippi River on steamboat; landed at Nashville, four miles below Nauvoo, in plain sight of the Nauvoo Temple. In company with my parents were two of my uncles and their families. The first house we occupied was owned by David Bennett. It consisted of two rooms, and we occupied one-half of it. Later on father bought a frame house of two rooms; one room on the ground floor, and one upstairs. The whole family, consisting of five boys and one girl, ranging from two years up to twenty years of age, occupied this house for the winter, which proved to be a very severe one.

In the spring of 1842, father and mother were both taken ill. The climate was very poor and unhealthy; this, together with the hardships we had undergone, and the worry and troubles they had had during the previous winter seemed to be too much for them, and they died within two weeks of each other, father on April 29, 1842, at the age of 49 years; mother on May 13, 1842 at the age of 44 years. They had never been able to get any land for the home which we had left, and this left the family almost destitute.

After the death of my parents, the court appointed a guardian to take charge of the children and all the effects. A value was placed upon all the household goods, and my oldest sister was charged up with everything and held accountable for all that was used. Consequently, everything was used up in a short time. My sister Mary kept house for the family, and we struggled along the best we could. Some of my brothers and I rented a piece of land and worked it to help get along. In 1844 my sister went on a visit to Long Island, and left me in charge of everything. I worked on the farm and did the cooking for the family while she was gone. She returned home and took charge of the family until she was married in 1845. When she was married my brothers and myself all moved into a better house, where we lived with her for a short time. Later on we boarded with our guardian, and we paid well for all we received, my brothers working at anything they could get to do.

To be continued...

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