Absalom Pennington Free, Sr

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Absalom Pennington Free, Sr

Birthplace: Burke, North Carolina, United States
Death: July 23, 1882 (84)
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, United States
Place of Burial: Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Andrew Free; Andrew Free; Andrew Free and Mary Polly Free
Husband of Elizabeth Betsy Free; Ann Hicks; Annie Free; Betsey Jerrold Free; Betsey Free and 1 other
Father of Louisa Wells; Emeline Young; Preston Strait Free; Hannah Corilla Wells; Tilitha Carry Free and 12 others
Brother of Elizabeth Free; Joseph Allen Free; William Hart Free; Leroy Free; Isaac Free and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Absalom Pennington Free, Sr

History of Absalom Pennington Free, by Mae Biesinger Rose: Mary Pennington and Andrew Free lived in Burk Co., North Carolina. Land had just opened up for expansion in St. Clair Co., Illinois in 1814 when they moved their little family to Belleville, near East St. Louis, Illinois, in St. Clair County. Absalom was their eldest child and would have been sixteen years old at the time. Their were eight children in the family when they moved to Illinois. Their names were: Absalom Pennington, born 1789; Betsey, born 1799; Allen, no date; Joshua Perkins, born 1803; Mildred, born 1805; John Page, born 1808; Joseph, born 1811; and William Hart, born 1812. Three children were born after arriving in Illinois--namely, LeRoy, born 1817; Isaac, born 1820; and Marjorie, born 1822.

Here in this new area, the family worked hard to clear the land of the dense growth and large nut trees native to this place. It is a tribute to their industry and determination for they became very prosperous farmers. Four years after arriving in Belleville, Absalom eloped with Martha Belcher, a pretty little girl of sixteen years. The family has enjoyed telling of this fairy tale like romance through the years. Absalom put a ladder up to her second story window from which she descended into his arms. Their happiness was to be of short duration however, for she died three years later leaving him with two baby boys, Andrew and John Belcher. This marriage took place in St. Clair Co., Illinois in 1818.

On August 3, 1823, Absalom took Betsey Strait to be his bride. She was the daughter of Hannah Thomson and Israel Strait, who was a teacher and had a school for boys. The Free, Belcher and Strait families were neighbors and had been close friends for years. Absalom and Betsey were the parents of twelve children.

The Free family was devoutly religious and worshiped God. It is easy to understand the enthusiasm they felt when word reached them that an angel was coming to visit their community. This term 'angel' was commonly used when referring to the Mormon Elder. This was in the summer of 1830, soon after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Free home was the largest in the neighborhood, so it was natural that meeting preparations should be made in their home. They listened, asked questions and visited, however they did not accept the gospel at this time. They became very fond of him and invited him to return if ever he was in their neighborhood again.

It was not long until this Elder did return, but he came with the chills and fever and needed care. Betsey tenderly nursed him back to health. During the two weeks he was convalescing he talked to her about the gospel and by the time he was well enough to leave, she was ready for baptism, but not her husband nor any other member of the family. However, the seeds were sown and when Elders Simon Carter and John Brown called on them in 1834 they were ready to listen. Andrew and Mary P. Free, Absalom and Betsey, and a large number of other relatives were baptized and became members of the Church at this time.

As soon as they became members of the Church they were eager to join others of their faith in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. They sold their property and moved to Far West where Absalom purchased land and built another lovely home. They were considered well-to-do. Persecution was great during this time in Church history. The Saints had been driven out of Jackson Co. in Missouri and the mobs were ravaging Davis Co. but there had been peace against the city of Far West. This was the beginning of trouble for the Free family. When Absalom joined the forces for defense of the city he left a sick son at home with the women folk who, with five other families, had to defend their homes and their lives.

Once when the girls were on guard on a ridge, they saw part of a mob harrasing an aged prisoner. They were shocked to find that it was their grandfather, Andrew Free, who the mob threatened to shoot unless he would renounce, as they said, "Old Joe and his d--mned religion". The faithful old Mormon bared his chest and told them to shoot, but he would never deny his religion which he knew to be true and of God. The leader declared with an oath that any man who could be that brave and true to his religion deserved to live. The mob released him and he returned to his home.

After the saints were driven out of Missouri in 1838 and 1839, the Free family returned to St. Clair County, Illinois, and remained there until they went to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1845. During this time they rented farms, probably near their old home. The period between 1834 when they joined the Church and 1845 when they went to Nauvoo, was a difficult one for this family. In addition to the heartache and sufferings and financial losses brought about through the severe persecutions in Far West, Betsey gave birth to six children, and death claimed four beautiful children--a son, 12 years old, a daughter, 14 years old, and twin girls, 1 year old. These experiences were very sad for them for they had great love in their family. The death of the twins possibly had a greater impact in the lives of the older children for they watched these little babies struggle for a year and finally die as the result of not being able to get the proper nourishment for them.

For a couple of years while in Nauvoo, things were a little better again for them. Absalom built another home (we have always understood it was near that of Brigham Young's) and they again began to prosper. Once again persecution drove them from it and from Nauvoo. The mob forced them to flee in 1846. Before leaving Nauvoo, Absalom went to go to the Nauvoo Temple and receive his endowments on February 6, 1846.

Andrew Free was in Nauvoo at the time they were driven out by the mob. He was regarded as too old (72) to make the trip across the plains even though he had a great desire to do so. The best information I have is that his wife, Mary Pennington Free died in 1839 possibly at the time they were driven from Far West. Andrew Free died in Nauvoo in 1850.

They crossed the Mississippi river on the ice in the cold winter of 1846 with hundreds of other members of the Church. They finally arrived at Winter Quarters where the homeless refugees made preparations to journey to the Rocky Mountains.

In Volume 9 of Heart Throbs, Absalom P. Free, age 50, his wife Betsey Strait Free, age 48, and their children are listed as being part of Brigham's First division of 1220 souls who left Winter Quarters, Nebraska, May 26, 1848 on their way across the plains. This company was well organized for safety and efficiency. It was divided into smaller companies. The Free family traveled in the 7th Company and Absalom was captain of a group of ten wagons.

There are several interesting stories that have been told in the family about experiences and/or events that took place while they were enroute to the Rocky Mountains. One of them: One day as the wagon was being laboriously drawn over the bumpy land, an extra sudden jar sent one of the little girls tumbling from the wagon seat where she was riding. Seemingly the wagon wheels had passed right over her little head. To the amazement of the horrified family, the child jumped up unhurt. The child's head had apparently fallen directly into a hole in the ground allowing the wheels to pass safely over without hurting the child.

Another story was of a runaway team. As the wagon train neared the Platte River, the animals who had not had a drink in a long, long time went crazy with the smell of water in the air and ran wildly and without control toward the water. Absalom, on horseback some distance away, sensed the danger to his son who was desperately trying to hold them back, and to his little daughter who was riding with him. He raced in front of the animals whipping them in the faces with his hat to startle and stop them. And not a minute too soon - for in a short minute they would have been in the river and all would have been lost. Absalom was given the steam and power to perform this feat by the Lord and he thanked God all the days of his life.

The majority of the Brigham Young Company arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake September 21, 1848. Each family received land when they arrived here on which they were expected to provide a home and a living for themselves. The Free family was located in and on the east side of what is now Liberty Park. They worked hard to clear the land, build a home and improve the property for farming. Some years later, in planning for the welfare of the Saints in this fast growing town, Brigham Young decided the best location for a large park would include the Free farm. This property was traded for several lots nearer the center of Salt Lake to the satisfaction of all.

Absalom was a farmer and stock raiser throughout his lifetime. He was active in the church and served as a Patriarch for many years. He loved his family and was proud of them. He was the father of twenty-one children.

March 5, 1857, Absalom was sealed to his third wife, Annie Hicks in the Endowment House. Annie, born January 8, 1837, in Barking, Essex, England, was a convert to the church of only two years, and had arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the belated Edward Martin handcart company the last day of November 1856. She was only 20 years of age when she married Absalom who was 59 years of age.

To this marriage was born seven children: Elanor, Louisa, Absalom, Frances, Joseph, Irene and Wenlock. Absalom's 4th and 5th wives; Sarah Jerrold Hyder and Betsy Jerrold Whitehead were widowed sisters with families. He respected and cared for them and their families but had no children by them. He died in Salt Lake City on July 22, 1882, at the age of 84 years.

NOTE: The above information and the photo showing Absalom Pennington Free and his first wife, Elizabeth (Betsey) Strait are from the following website:


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Absalom Pennington Free, Sr's Timeline

March 22, 1798
Burke, North Carolina, United States
August 9, 1824
Belleville, St Clair, IL, United States
April 28, 1826
Belleville, St Clair, Illinois, USA
June 9, 1829
St. Cliare, IL, United States
March 13, 1831
St. Cliare, IL, United States
April 5, 1835
Tazewell, IL, United States
October 5, 1835
July 7, 1838
St. Clair County, Illinois, United States
August 30, 1840
Belleville, St Clair, IL, United States
November 18, 1842