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About George Washington Gee
Little is known about George Washington Gee’s early life. It would necessarily reflect the hard work and toil of a child born on the frontier on the farm of his father and mother with what little formal education there was available at that time and in that area. He was thirteen years old when the family moved to Geauga, which would probably consist of setting up a new home and a clearing for a new farm.
We can find no indication historically of the reason for their move. To the author, the reason for their move is explained in the preface of this sketch since it was here the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was taught to this family. The father and mother of this family were baptized into this church in July of 1832, just two years after it had been organized. George Washington Gee, now eighteen years of age, also was baptized 17 FEB 1833 at Kirtland, Ohio.
Just what he really did immediately following his baptism we have no complete record as yet. There is a record in the book, "The Teachings of Joseph Smith” that suggests something about where he was and what might have occurred. It is found on page 20. The heading is, "An Epistle of the First Presidency to the Church in Thompson, Geauga Co., Ohio.11 (2nd paragraph) Kirtland, Feb. 6, 1833.
"It seemed good unto the Holy Spirit and unto us to send this our epistle to you by the hand of our beloved Brother Salmon Gee your messenger who has been ordained by us, in obedience to the commandments of God to the office of Elder to preside over the church in Thompson taking the oversight thereof to lead you and teach you the things which are according to Godliness," etc.
George W. was in Kirtland too with his father since he was baptized on 17 FEB 1833, which was shortly after this epistle was written. He may have returned to Thompson with his father. We have no indication as to just where the mother and the rest of the family were at this time. We might expect, however, that they were with the father in Thompson.
Church history tells us of the great difficulties that had overtaken the Saints in Kirtland at this time. From the Journal of John Smith, brother of Joseph Smith Sr. we quote, "The Spirit of speculation, a mania to make money became prevalent throughout the United States and many of the Saints joined wildcat schemes and forgot their Holy annointing to ministry of God. With this came the spirit of Apostasy and rebellion. It led the Prophet to exclaim, "It seems as though all the powers of earth and hell are combining to overthrow the church."
The temple was not yet completed. The faithful of the church were there suffering abuse and persecution striving to complete it. George was probably there doing just that. They, George and his father, were at the meeting held 7 MAR 1835 which was called for the blessing of those who had, assisted by labor or other means helped in building the house of the Lord. Their names are listed with those at that time. George Washington Gee also was ordained an Elder at this time.
On 16 MAY 1836 Church History records the arrival of the grandmother of the Prophet from St. Lawrence County, New York with her two sons, Asahel and Silas, and their families with other converts from that area. It was in this group that George found his life companion, Mary Jane Smith, cousin of the Prophet Joseph Smith. They were married on 5 FEB 1837. This was announced in the February issue of the "Messenger and Advocate" published by the church.
Due to the conditions in Kirtland, the Prophet had left there and settled in Missouri hoping to carry on the work of the Lord there without persecution. Other Saints were leaving as quickly as they were able to arrange their affairs.
George and Mary Jane managed to leave. They moved to Fredricksburg, Ray County, Missouri in 1838. Here their first child was born on 30 MAY 1838, a son named Elias Smith Gee. There must have been a little group of the Saints who settled here at that time. Fredericksburg, Ray County, Missouri is designated in history as a post office in the Fishing River Township. Their stay here must have been short. They were driven into Illinois.
From the "Autobiography of George W. Bean” compiled by Flora D. Home, we take this statement, "In the fall of 1839 the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri took place — the city of Quincy, Adams County, generally became the temporary lodging place for many of the persecuted people. My father having added to his lands and improved it for some time was possessed of several houses and cabins which for a short time were filled with some of these people. I remember especially George W. Gee and his wife who was the sister of Elias Smith, as well as the cousin of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
"Brother Gee taught school for our district that fall. I remember the shock it gave us when it leaked out that his wife was a cousin of Joe Smith. What a risk of contamination we were in. Of course he was soon dismissed."
When they were driven from Fredricksburg, Esther, Mary Jane's sister and her husband, Amos Botsford Fuller, were evicted from their home and their house burned when Esther had given birth to a child just three hours before.
We find the Saints collecting at a place in Illinois called Commerce, later called Nauvoo. This is where we next find George and Mary Jane.
In a record G. S, serial NV no. 25163-Pt 7, we find among other things Minutes of General Conferences and the High Council men who located in places just across the river from Commerce (Nauvoo) on the Iowa side of the river. In the minutes of a general conference of the Church held in Commerce, Hancock County, Illinois on 5 OCT 1839, we find this statement, "It was unanimously voted that a branch of the Church be established in the Territory of Iowa. Elder John Smith was elected President of this branch. "Some of the settlements that became a part of this Branch were Montrose, Nashville, Ambrosia, Zarahemla, etc.
George W. and Mary Jane and small son Elias Smith settled at Ambrosia, Lee County. As we read the minutes of the general conferences held at various times in these respective settlements, we find George W. Gee often called to be clerk, both in conferences and High Council meetings in this area until, in a conference held 7th, 8th and 9th of August, 1841, he was made Church recorder.
He represented 109 members from Ambrosia and 13 members from Keokuk as has been mentioned.
During all of this time, he and his family were residing in Ambrosia, Lee County, Iowa. It was a small settlement where a number of the members of the Church resided from 1840 to 1846 when the march to the Rocky Mountains began. A post office was established and George W. Gee was made postmaster. He was also made county surveyor.
Ambrosia extended from Montrose as far as Sugar Creek. At one time, this area was included in what was called the Half Breed Tract and was included in land purchased by the Church with intent to build a city, Zarahemla and for Nashville, Iowa.
In the Journal History of the Church under the date of 30 MAR 1840, a report of a short mission for the Church into the State of Tennessee is given by George. I am writing it just as it is given because I feel it supplies a touch of the kind of person he was and of his faith and testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel:
"MAR 30, 1840 — George W. Gee reported missionary labors as follows: I left my home last NOV 1839 to preach the Gospel in Tennessee trusting alone in the Lord to sustain me as I was alone and had never attemped to preach before. I commenced preaching in DeKalb County.
"The people were prejudiced in consequence of the falsehoods that had been written from Missouri by our most zealous persecutors, but on hearing, expressed their surprise to hear me contend so strongly for the Bible and its requirements; and that we should not be persecuted for preaching the very order of things which all Christiandom was earnestly praying for.
"On arriving at Overton County, I found Elder Julian Moses. We preached together for two weeks and baptized two. Then I went to Jackson County and preached almost constantly for six weeks. Doors were open on the right hand and the left. I have baptized ten in all and others are believing.
"Brother Moses joined me in Jackson County. We traveled and preached in many places but could not supply all the calls. The prejudice of the people appeared to give way on hearing for themselves.
"Our wants were well supplied. We never lacked for a comfortable place to lodge. We attained twenty-one subscribers for the "Times and Seasons" and the call was "books, books, books," but the common weapon of misrepresentation was used against us by many individuals.
We were invited to a public discussion of our principles which we accepted. This lasted three days. Myself and Brother Moses on affirmative and Reverend L. DeWitt and F. A. Stone (Campbellites) negative.
"The points at issue were: 1- The Book of Mormom is a sacred record and was translated by the inspiration of God and came forth in fulfillment of Prophecy. 2- That Apostles, Prophets and spiritual gifts; such as healing, diversities of tongues and their interpretation are necessary in the Church of Christ, according to his order.
"At the close of the debate we baptized one. There were others we think will obey the first opportunity.
"We arrived home on 28 MAR 1840."
John Smith was writing a letter to his friend George Albert in England, to which George Gee added the following postscript dated JUN 1840:
"I was laboring in the vineyard of the Lord about two months ago.
"I have bought land here (Ambrosia). I am engaged in cultivating the soil. All is well at present. The Saints are fast emigrating to this place and the work is rolling onward."
And in the Journal History of the Church under the date of 7 OCT 1841. we find this entry: "Council House of John Taylor at Nauvoo. (Business of the Meeting) "Voted 17 missionaries to be called to the various fields of labor." Among the names on the list that followed: "Elder George Washington Gee, called to fill a mission in Pittsburgh."
Two days after this call was made, Mary Jane gave birth to their second child; a son, George W. Gee, Jr., born 9 OCT 1841 at Ambrosia, Lee County, Iowa.
Shortly afterward, the father left to fill his mission call in Pennsylvania. Probably sometime in November, we do not have the exact date, not long after his arrival in his field of labor, he was called to administer to a child suffering from black measles. The child recovered but Brother Gee contracted the disease and passed away as a result on 20 JAN 1842.
In the Documentary History of the Church Vol. IV, page 500, we find an entry by the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Thurs. 20 JAN 1842, attended a special council meeting in the upper room of new Store, George Washington Gee died today.”
There is also a footnote with a brief history of George W. Gee's life. The views of which are already given in this sketch. I repeat the closing phrases of this note: “In the fall of 1841, he was sent to Pittsburgh where he died 20 JAN 1842 while in the discharge of his duties, having won the affection of all the Saints with whom he became acquainted by his integrity and perseverance.”
His opportunity for schooling had been limited but by his own exertion, he had attained an excellent education and had collected quite a respectable library.
His granddaughter, Ina Gee Hodson, once wrote a short history of his life. I repeat her concluding paragraph: "At his passing, his young wife was left with two small sons one about three and one-half years old and the other only three months old. These children were taken across the plains by their mother in 1852. The eldest died 10 AUG 1855 about three years after their arrival in the Valley. George W. Jr. eventually settled in Provo. He cared for his mother in his home until her death in 1878 and raised a large family of faithful Latter Day Saints.”
George Washington Gee's Timeline
August 13, 1815
Rome, Ashtbl, Oh
February 17, 1833
February 5, 1837
Kirtland, Lake, Oh
May 30, 1838
Fredricksburg, Ray, MO
October 9, 1841
Ambrosia, Lee, IA
January 20, 1842
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
April 28, 1983