A Resident of old Fort Harmony
Aggatha Ann WOOLSEY was born 18 Jan 1814 in Danville, Boyle, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Joseph WOOLSEY and Abigail SHAFFER. Aggatha died 4Jun 1866 in New Harmony, Washington, Utah, and was buried 5Jun 1866 in New Harmony, Washington, Utah.
It was there that John D. Lee met Aggatha Ann. At the time he was employed as a postal carrier with routes that had criss-crossed the southern part of the state and continued as far north as the town of Belleville near St. Louis. When his assignment was changed, taking him through the area where his cousins, the Conners, lived, on a route north, he met the Woolsey family who lived nearby.
In 1831 John enlisted with his Uncle James in the local militia, responding to a call from the Illinois Governor to help put down an insurrection by Indians from the Sac and Fox Tribes in the northern part of the state. Following the bloody battle of Bad Axe on the banks of the Mississippi River, in which the bands of Sac and Fox were subdued, John returned home with Uncle James and became serious about the affections of one of the Woolsey girls who lived nearby.
He was persistent in his overtures until Aggatha Ann's parents gave their blessing to the marriage. John and Aggatha obtained a license in Kaskaskia on July 20, 1833, and were married three days later. He was twenty-one and she was nineteen.
John soon established himself as a most enterprising young man and a good provider. By the fall of 1834 they had moved to Fayette County near the residence of his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Josiah Nichols. It was during that time, while living at a site along Luck Creek in that area, that they first encountered missionaries of the Mormon Church. Both became convinced of the validity of the message the elders bore and the validity of the Book of Mormon which John described as "a star opening the dispensation of the fullness of times." They subsequently sold their property on Luck Creek and moved to the headquarters of the church near Far West, Missouri. There they were baptized on June 17, 1838.
John built a log cabin in Daviess County on Shady Grove Creek in an area known as Ambrosia, which was about twenty miles north of Far West. The new log house, though, served as their home for only a few months, as relationships between the Mormons and the Missourians were so explosive that co-habitation of the two groups was impossible. In a matter of just a few months after their arrival, open conflict broke out among the parties. Mormon forces dug in at Far West and were ready to resist to the end an overwhelming force of two divisions of Missouri Militia when President Joseph Smith received word of the Haun's Mill Massacre. Unable to reconcile such total waste of life to purposes and aims of the Church, he capitulated and was taken prisoner along with his force of eight hundred men.
After turning over his weapons to the Missourians, and signing an individual form deeding all his property to the state, John, with the promise that he would move from Missouri by the first of April in 1839, was allowed to return to his family. On arrival several hours later, he found Aggatha Ann sitting by a log fire in the open air, holding their baby, Sarah Jane. Nearby was the still smoldering remains of their home, nothing more than a pile of rubble. Having been told that John was a prisoner at Far West and would be shot, she was weeping as he rode up. "She was nearly frantic [when she saw me], and as soon as I reached her side she threw herself into my arms and then her self-possession gave way and she wept bitterly."
John and Aggatha Ann subsequently experienced the trauma and unbelievable hardships created by Governor Boggs' extermination order, fleeing Missouri along with twelve thousand other brethren and sisters in early 1839. They reached Fayette County, Illinois, and found refuge with Aggatha's sister and her husband, George W. Hickerson.
That same year, with faith unshaken, Aggatha supported her husband on his first proselyting mission to Tennessee. He was gone several months and on his return they began preparations to move to the new center of the church at Nauvoo, Illinois.
During the next five years they lived in three different houses in the city of Nauvoo. The last, from his descriptions of it, seemed to have been a huge dwelling of mansion-like proportions. During those years Aggatha was deprived of the presence of her husband for months on end while he was away fulfilling his missionary responsibilities. He established a pattern of conducting those assignments by leaving in the winter months, then returning to Nauvoo for a few months to spend time upgrading his property and providing for the family, then off again as a missionary.
Aggatha's family had followed the Lees' move to Nauvoo in 1840, and when not living in some of the Lee homes, they were living nearby. Joseph, the father, had died a few years before the move to Nauvoo. He was the only member of the family who had not joined the LDS Church. It is not known how many Woolsey children remained with their widowed mother, but Rachel Andora and the youngest member of the family, Emoline, were both unmarried. There may have been others living at home but those two were some of the younger children, and possibly the only ones remaining with their mother.
During that five-year period, although John was away from home much of the time as described, Aggatha Ann had the company of the Woolsey family. Rachel, and probably Emoline, were found in the Lee home as much, if not more than at their own residence. In fact John noted in his journals that Rachel lived with them five years prior to the time in 1846 when she became one of his plural wives. Aggatha thus had plenty of help during her husband's absences, enough to take care of the children and all household chores.
At the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in June 1844, life in Nauvoo took a dramatic turn for all its citizens. What had been at first minor incidents of conflict between Gentiles living in surrounding counties and the Mormons of Hancock County, particularly in Nauvoo, had developed into more violent encounters until finally there emerged a planned agenda of mob violence against the Saints, culminating in the murder of the prophet and his brother. Those vicious assaults continued until leaders of the Church were given a mandate to leave. They finally acquiesced and agreed to abandon Nauvoo on April 1, 1846 under the leadership of the new president, Brigham Young.
It was during those difficult times that the Lee family entered a new order or practice in the Church, sometimes known as plural marriage. It was said to have been inaugurated in 1841 with the sealing of Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith, with few in the Church aware at the time of this development.
In fact, there were four significant Church doctrines introduced by the prophet that year. With the concept of plurality of wives, another ordinance was introduced known as baptism for the dead. A third was a preparatory ordinance which came to be known as the full endowment, a rite to be performed in the temple. A fourth had to do with sealings of children to parents. Before the body of the Church departed Nauvoo, thousands of baptisms, endowments, sealings and a number of plural marriages were performed in the temple.
Thus, in the short span of less than two years, ten wives were added to the Lee family group. One could imagine few functions that could have added more confusion and disruption to the Church as well as to individual families within the Church, than the introduction of such a peculiar and controversial concept as that of plural marriage. The complexity of the lives of those who took plural wives was compounded tremendously by the immediate challenges they were facing because of mobs currently threatening the destruction of the city. The requirements of getting together an outfit, including wagon and team, for the removal of only one wife and a couple of children was challenge enough under such circumstances, but John D. Lee had to provide means for removal of ten wives and six children.
He was sealed to his second wife on February 5, 1845, and to the others that same year, with the tenth wife added in the fall of 1845. What was Aggatha Ann's immediate reaction? One could only speculate because Aggatha herself never wrote anything about it, nor did John make any comment of how he explained it to her. Brigham Young's response probably mirrored that of many of the brethren when they were informed of the doctrine and called to participate:
"Some of my brethren know what my feelings were at the time Joseph revealed the doctrine; I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave."
Once it become known to her, Aggatha Ann apparently accepted the idea as a revelation from the Lord to the prophet and part of a "celestial law." There was evidence of her acquiescence when just three months after marrying Nancy Bean, Louisa Free and Sarah Caroline Williams, John took as additional wives, Aggatha's sister, Rachel and her mother, Abigail. Mother Woolsey by that time had been widowed for more than five years, her husband Joseph having expired before the family's move to Nauvoo. She became a wife to John D. Lee but only in the sense that he was a provider and protector. She was by that time more than sixty years old; John later wrote that he married her "for her soul's sake." Aggatha, noting the need for her mother to have food, clothing and shelter, may have had that in mind when it was obvious that they must flee Nauvoo to live in the wilderness for an indefinite time. She could have been instrumental in bringing about the sealing.
A few months after the marriage to his tenth wife, Nancy Ann Vance, John and the family began the departure from Illinois on much the same terms that they had earlier fled Missouri. Two of John's wives accompanied him in that initial departure of February 12, 1846. President Young crossed the river three days later on February fifteenth. Aggatha Ann and seven others were left behind to continue preparing for the move.
There was much suffering that winter throughout the camps of the Saints. By December they were strung out for three hundred miles across the Territory of Iowa from the Mississippi River to the Missouri where they had established their Winter Quarters. Aggatha Ann lived through the biting cold and deprivation of those months to follow her husband in the spring of 1847 to a site some fifteen miles north of Winter Quarters. The assignment was to establish what became known as Brigham's Farm or as Lee wrote in his journals, Summer Quarters. Aggatha was mentioned from time to time in her husband's writings, with others in the family who helped prepare the ground to plant and later to harvest.
In the spring of 1848 the Lees crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Like almost everyone else Aggatha Ann walked most of the way. The Lee family had several wagons in the train, but of necessity most of the travel was on foot. That was especially so when, midway through the journey, the oxen began wearing down under the strain of too much weight to pull and insufficient feed to support such effort. Most of the family arrived in the Valley in tattered clothing and used-up strength. Aggatha had experienced the loss of her mother about three weeks before the end of the trip. Abigail died and was buried as they crossed the gently sloping plains of the Great Divide. The grave was near the site known as South Pass where the emigrant trail left the Sweetwater River and continued on to Pacific Springs and Fort Bridger. The site of the grave has been recently discovered.
During the following two years the Lees remained in Great Salt Lake City as it was then called. Despite the allusion in its name denoting size and splendor, Salt Lake City, in 1848, was nothing more than a dusty frontier settlement of a few hundred hungry souls living in makeshift shelters. Almost ten years later it had changed significantly but one immigrant still saw it as something less than an appealing urban community. Lately from the British Isles, when she caught her first view of the city she made the cryptic observation, "If this is the city, what must the country be like? I will not live here." But thousands who followed did stay and for the most part they came to love the place as much as the home of their faded memories which they had left behind.
Soon after arrival, John D. Lee and his family, including Aggatha Ann, had built log cabin shelters in the city near the old fort and also on their thirty-acre farm at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
During the next two years they were successful in improving the shelters, clearing the land, and building their flocks and herds. By 1850 John had almost completed a large frame house in town on one of the town squares, and was adding certain amenities at both the farm and city properties which would provide a more comfortable way of life for all the family, when he was asked by President Young to be part of a mission to southern Utah. After hearing what the president wished him to do, he replied, with some dismay and anxiety, that he would give $2,000 towards the missionary cause if he could be excused. But Brother Brigham persisted, John relented, and as usual, he followed the direction of counsel from the president.
While living in Salt Lake City Aggatha Ann gave birth to two children, a boy, John Willard, and a girl, Louisa Evaline. Two months after the birth of the girl, John was on his way south with George A. Smith and company to find iron ore and to pioneer the area for new settlements.
The Lee family remained in southern Utah for the next twenty years. Their first place of residence was at Parowan, then on to the site that eventually became Cedar City, then to Fort Harmony. In the 1860's, Lee had property in several different areas of southern Utah, had married by that time, nineteen wives, and fathered sixty-four children, eleven of whom were born to Aggatha Ann, his first wife.
One day in May of 1866 John was in the field with several members of the family planting corn, when about noon, word came from the house that Aggatha was in much pain and asked that John come to her. When he arrived, she was in so much pain that she thought she was on her death bed and asked John to forgive her of any past wrongs she may have committed in the heat of the moment. He assured her that he held no hard feelings toward her and that she was not yet going to die. That evening she felt better and said that if John would give her a blessing, she believed she would rest easier. Her health varied the next few days between feeling very feeble and improving. It soon became apparent that she was critically ill and failing rapidly. John remained with her Wednesday through the night, giving her several blessings. He said that her agony became so acute that at one point he prayed for a full half hour before she gained relief. He added, "I wept bitterly."
The following morning she continued to have severe pains in her shoulders, and "...her life is now despaired of." Her children were called to her bedside and taking the hand of each of them in turn, she told them of her love for them and bade each farewell. After that, she said to her sister, Rachel, "Will you be a mother to my little children?" Rachel fell on her neck weeping and kissed her, saying, "By the help of the Lord, I will be a mother to them." Each of the children came to her again and kissed her. Then the wives that were present did the same, and she said to them. "I love you all."
Through that night, she requested that John pray that she "might go to rest." In the middle of the night, he anointed her with oil and dedicated her to the Lord. She fell into a coma from which she made occasional recoveries but on Sunday, June 3, 1866, with her family gathered around, she breathed her last. John said she had suffered exceedingly but she died serenely with a peaceful countenance. The thought that he chiseled on her headstone was "The companion of my youth has gone to rest, she was a mother and a wife." Her grave is in a small, enclosed burial spot on property in New Harmony. Close by are the graves of Sarah Caroline's children who were killed in the terrible storm of 1862.