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Arnold Potter

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Salisbury, Herkimer, NY
Death: Died in Council Bluff, Pottawattomie, Iowa, United States
Place of Burial: IA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of David Potter and Elizabeth Potter
Husband of Almira Potter
Ex-husband of Elizabeth Ann Birch
Father of Wallace Edwin Potter; George A. Potter; Mary Adeline Potter; Elizabeth 'Eliza' Ann Potter; Harriett Orselia Potter and 4 others
Brother of Catherine Richmond; John Potter; Benjamin Franklin Potter; Martin Potter; Willis Potter and 6 others

Managed by: Gwyneth McNeil
Last Updated:

About Arnold Potter

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...Arnold Potter (January 11, 1804 – April 2, 1872) was a self-declared Messiah and a leader of a schismatic sect in Latter Day Saint movement. Potter referred to himself as Potter Christ..."

"...Potter was born in Herkimer County, New York. At age 19, he married Almira Smith. By 1835 Potter had moved with his wife and children to Switzerland County, Indiana. On November 10, 1839, Potter and his family were baptized by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..."

"...On March 16, 1856 Potter received a call to serve as a missionary in Australia from LDS Church president Brigham Young. Later that year, Potter left California for Australia on the ship Osprey.

Potter later claimed that during his trip to Australia, he underwent a "purifying, quickening change" whereby the spirit of Jesus Christ entered into his body and he became "Potter Christ, Son of the living God"...."

"...By 1861 Potter and some of his followers had left California with the intention of settling near Independence, Missouri, the traditional location of Zion for the Latter Day Saints..."

"...In 1872 Potter announced at a meeting of his church that the time had come for his ascent into heaven. Followed by his disciples, Potter rode a donkey to the edge of the bluffs, whereupon he leapt off the edge. Potter died in the attempt to ascend into heaven and his body was collected and buried by his followers...."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'Arnold Potter', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 January 2011, 04:51 UTC, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arnold_Potter&oldid=405828853> [accessed 18 February 2011]

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The History of Arnold Potter; Written by Ruby Potter Valantine

· 16 March 2014 ·

Before beginning the history of Arnold Potter, it seems fitting and proper to give a brief resume of the Potter Family in America.

Our earliest ancestor George Potter. Very little is known of him. Where or when he was born, his wife's name, exactly when he came to New England or the date and cause of his death. We know he was admitted as an inhabitant of the Island of Aquidneck (presumably Rhode Island) [near the town of Coventry; directly west of Warwick near the center of Rhode Island, is a reservoir and town named Quidneck, Aquidneck may refer to this area] on December 6th, 1638. Later, he and twenty eight others signed the compact of loyalty to King James of England. Among the signers were Robert and Nathaniel Potter. This compact was signed April 30, 1639. Robert and Nathaniel are presumed to be brothers of George. He died under strange circumstances because on September 7th, 1640, eight men were appointed to look into the cause of his death. No further mention was made of this inquiry so he must have died a natural one. One son was born to him about 1639 or 40 and was named Abel. George's widow married a Nicholas Niles who bound out Abel to William Daulston on February 4th, 1646, for a period of eighteen years.

Abel was born at Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He married Rachel Warner who was the daughter of John and Priscilla Holliman. The Warner line has been extended to one William Warner born about 1550, [it] also connects to a Dover line. Priscilla was the daughter of Ezekiel Holliman, who was a companion of Roger Williams [the founder of Rhode Island colony] and worked with him. They baptized each other into the Church Williams founded. The Holliman line extends to 1525, along with an Oxton line to about 1561. Abel had eight children, the youngest Ichabod and Job (twins) were born 1692 after their father died. Nothing is known of Job's first wife. She may have died when her son John was born about 1716. In 1725, Job married Meribah Carter and had a large family. There were three John Potter's in Rhode Island born about the same time. Because of this, there were mistakes made by reputable genealogists. For one thing our John was given as the son of Job and Meribah. My sister Myreel and I, had corresponded with a Mr. Hubbel in Ithica, New York whose family had married into the Potters. He gave us the first inkling of John being the son of an unknown mother. A Mr. Sears did work for me and showed conclusively where all records pointed to John as the son of this unknown mother. It took much money to convince the genealogical society that they were correct. Even yet I often get a sheet from them with John listed as one of Meribah's sons. All our earliest ancestors were admitted as free men after being in this country for a few months. Also all of them appeared to be very industrious, acquiring farms and other property. All of them also bought and sold various parcels of land, much of it being deeded to their sons, and all of them left wills. Abel moved from Providence to Coventry, Rhode Island in 1743. John, the son of Job, was admitted as a free man in 1739. He married Phebe __?__ and very early began to buy and sell land. In looking over these old land transactions, the Potters seemed to be doing business with everyone in New England at that time. The Children in each family married into other well known families until almost everyone was interrelated. All of them seemed to be industrious, well known and liked and who held positions of trust in the community. Numerous deeds were found, showing the great activity of Job and John Potter. John was mentioned many times in these deeds as son of Job, thus identifying him. We only have record of four sons born to John and Phebe, but there might have been others. One son David was born in Coventry, June 26th, 1760 [and] was our direct ancestor.

When David was only sixteen years old, he was for a time in Saybrook, Connecticut where he enlisted February 1st 1716 for ten month to serve under Captain John Ely's Company of the State Troops in the Revolutionary War. He helped for six months in building Fort Trunbull [Sp?, Fort Trumbull is in New London, Connecticut; which is very close to Saybrook, Connecticut]. Later they marched to White Plains [New York?] and were in battle there, and from there retreated to North Castle. He was discharged December 1st, 1776. In 1777, he was drafted from Coventry to serve for one month. Several times later, he was drafted to serve a month or two at a time, he was in the battle of Rhode Island, also in Butts' Hill. In 1779 he was in Brooklyn, Windham County , Connecticut, and from here he enlisted as a paid substitute for a Doctor Baker for three months. Returning from his war services, he resided in Coventry for five or six years. He married Elizabeth Vaughn in 1785. We have the Vaughn's allied families back to the time when they came to New England. Some have been extended into England. The Sweet's, Jeffrey's and Periam's which we have to 1400 or earlier. The mother of Elizabeth Vaughn, was Catherine Godfrey. Through her line, we have a line of Godfrey's and a very long pedigree line of Scotts and allied lines. This line extends to ancient times in England and branches off into an extensive Spanish line back to around 900 A.D.. Another branch goes into more of English nobility. It is most interesting to study these pedigrees and to realize that we, their descendants, have a part of their blood flowing in our veins. It is to be hoped that we have inherited their better qualities. Just because they happened to be royalty does not make them more desirable as ancestors. The humblest farmer or artisan might have had more sterling qualities to pass on to us. Even so, it is pleasant to know we have these noted ancestors as part of our family tree. Studying these people is intensely interesting and I almost feel that I know them personally.

Our New England ancestors possessed the true pioneer spirit. Opening new territory, living under the stern laws of that time and imbued with the religious fervor that was everywhere. Some of our ancestors were Quakers and suffered much sever persecutions, some married into the Roger Williams family and followed him. All of them signed the Compacts that were made between King and colonizers in the New World. We can be proud of these early sturdy citizens. Many, besides our David Potter, fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War. The Potters who remained in New England became some of the country's most valued citizens, holding positions of trust and were Doctors and men of learning. Many of them had the urge to migrate so that many went to Vermont, New York, and states farther west. Phebe, when her husband John died, went into Vermont with her son John and disposed of her property back in Coventry. It seems probable that David and Elizabeth also went into Vermont before going to New York. Before leaving Coventry, David deeded his homestead farm of one hundred sixty acres to Job Lawton on February 24th, 1791. Dower released by Elizabeth, his wife.

They first settled in Pittstown, Renssalear County, New York. They resided here from 1791 until 1802. Here the following children were born: Cathrine, Benjamin Franklin, John, Martin Willis Amasa, David Jr., and Jemima. The family next moved to Salisbury, Herkimer county, New York and lived there for thirty years. The following children were born there: Polly, Margaret, Erastas, Arnold, and Elizabeth. David's wife, Elizabeth died here February 5th, 1831. Mr. Hunnell saw her headstone used as part of a fence at a farm there. After Elizabeth died, David went to Cotton Township, Switzerland county, Indiana to be with his son Martin. He died there May 13th, 1828.

Arnold the subject of this sketch, was born January 11th, 1804 in Salisbury. We know nothing of his early life except that about 1822, he married Almira Smith, birth and parentage unknown. They were the parents of five children. The first one was born in St. Lawrence County New York and the others were born in Herkimer county. Harriet, born August 8th, 1824; William, May 30th, 1826; Ann, July 25th, 1828; Sarah Delight, September 9th, 1830; John H., November 9th, 1832. His wife died perhaps after the last child was born. What Arnold did after his wife died [and before 1939] is not known, nor where he went. There is only one item known about him. On June 11th, 1831, he bought from his father in Salisbury, one hundred acres of land and paid him two hundred dollars. We only have knowledge of one of his family, Sarah Delight, who married William Mangum and went to Utah. Her Great Granddaughter Delta I.M. Hale now lives in Blackfoot Idaho. She knows nothing of the other children.

Arnold heard the message of the gospel while he still lived in New York and was baptized a member of the Church November 13th, 1839. He believed implicitly in the principles of the Church and became an ardent missionary. He traveled out to Ohio, where his nephew Amasa Potter was living at that time and taught them the gospel. We also found mention of him being in Sullivan county Indiana about this time. We think he must have gone to Nauvoo before too long, as he was there in 1843 when he married our grandmother Elizabeth Ann Birch. She, with her mother and two brothers had come from Radonshire, Wales, to Nauvoo in 1841. We have found Birches and Craven's back to around 1620. Elizabeth was almost twenty years younger than Arnold and it seems the marriage, at least on her part, was one of convenience and necessity, rather than deep love. Weather any of Arnold's children were with them, we do not know. Both Arnold and Elizabeth were in Nauvoo during the last trying days of the church the and the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum. They took out their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple February 2nd, 1846, but weren't sealed to each other. When they left the stricken city and had proceeded into Iowa, Elizabeth's mother, Ann Craven Birch, died and was buried in Lee county Iowa. They stopped somewhere with the company of saints and from there Arnold made a trip into Salt Lake city. He left the Elk Horn on June 1st, 1848 and arrived in Salt Lake the 20th to 24th of September 1848. The next year he went back and he and Elizabeth made the long trip together. Through the courtesy of the Historical Society in Salt Lake, I was able to get some information on the trip. They came in the third company of that year under Captain Silas Richards. There were one hundred wagons. They left the Elk Horn river about July 10th, 1849. They had a stampede on July 29th, but it wasn't serious. Captain Richards discovered a new ford across the Loup river opposite an old Pawnee village, better than the others. They forded one hundred wagons, cattle sheep etc., in one half day. They found a man who had wandered away from another company and saved him. They were at Independence Rock on September 23rd. They were in a terrific snowstorm October 2nd. They had twenty-two head of cattle frozen there. They camped at Fort Bridger about October 20th and arrived in Salt Lake October 27th, 1849.

They first settled at Mill Creek near Murray. Here their first child, Wallace Edwin was born April 14th, 1850. When just a child, his parents made another long trip down to San Bernardino, California, with a group of saints under the leadership of Elders Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich who went there to build up another city as a stopping place for people coming from Los Angeles to Salt Lake. A boy George A. was born to them April 25th, 1853, but he died as a baby. Their third child, Mary Adeline was born September 7th, 1855. March 16th, 1856, Arnold was called to go on a mission to Australia and New Zealand. With several others and his nephew Amasa Potter, they embarked from San Francisco August 30, 1856 on the ship "What Cheer" bound for Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. They arrived October 26, 1856. They were in good health. Arnold Potter stayed in Sydney until some other Elders came and then went to New Zealand. Eighteen months later, he returned home a very sick man. He reached San Bernardino September 18th, 1857. The extreme zeal that he put into his missionary work, as well as his sickness left him with mental delusions about religion. He claimed to have received new revelations about the church and that Christ had come back into his body. He attempted to preach his new beliefs to the people there in San Bernardino and managed to get a few followers. Finally, he was dis-fellowshipped from the church. Most of this information was received from the Journal history of the town. The majority of the people returned to Utah the fall of 1857 as President young had called them back because of the threat of war from Johnston's Army, camped in Wyoming. So we had no more information about Arnold Potter from that source. In writing to Salt Lake about the above, brother Alvin G. Smith said, "the fact that Arnold Potter journeyed across the plains in 1849 and then crossed over the desert to California and then as a voluntary missionary went to New Zealand, establishes him as a hardy pioneer. The untold hardships and adjustments required of a person undertaking such treks is explanation, if not excuse, for many a failure at the end of a hard trail. We call them failures, but when all the facts are unfolded, a merciful judge may interpret it in another light.” therefore, I don't judge, but have a deep compassion for my grandfather Arnold Potter. If we knew everything about his life, we might more readily see why his mind broke the way it did.

In the spring of 1858, his wife Elizabeth, with the two children Wallace Edwin and Mary Adeline, left San Bernardino, in company with the Brown Family, and perhaps others, to return to Utah. Arnold gave her a good outfit for the trip, but it still proved a most difficult one, Brown's wife had a miscarriage and she and the baby died on the way and were buried in Nevada. When others got to Beaver, Utah, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl, Eliza Ann July 5th, 1858. Elizabeth had separated from Arnold and she married Francis Brown six weeks later .

Now, Arnold was alone in San Bernardino. He remained for a few months, then began a trip back to where the early saints had been. Through a friend of mine, whose sister had married a Potter out in Iowa, I was able to learn a few more facts about his later life. A paper called the Nonpareil and issued in Council Bluffs, Iowa, had one story of him. That he had lived in Salt Lake for a while after leaving California. There were several articles about him in the paper and in some books because he was known on account of his eccentric ways. From the story printed at the time of his death, it said he first went to Independence Missouri, but people were quite hostile to him there. From there, he and his followers went to a small town called Saint Marys -- twelve miles south of Council Bluffs. A flood from the river washed this town away and they moved into Council Bluffs. Here, he lived with a family by the name of Kimball, near fifteenth and Sixth Avenue. The people here were very fond of him. He was kind to children and seemed a quite nice old man. Unfortunately, he was the butt of thoughtless people and always took it sadly. He dressed in white robes. He had white hair, was rather stocky in build and medium height. He was a scholar, very intelligent and a fine musician.

The family had always maintained that he had remained in California for he sometimes sent gifts to his son Edwin -- one time a fine violin and another time seven hundred and fifty dollars. According to the Nonpareil story, he had no money, his followers took care of him. I suppose we will never know the complete truth.

He died in Council Bluffs April 2nd, 1872 and was buried in the Fairview Cemetery there. I went with Leta Harris (this relative of the Potters) to this cemetery, but could not find his gravestone. In the older part of the cemetery many of the markers had fallen down and others, being made of soft sandstone, showed no traces of the names that ha been carved on them. We know, however, from his obituary in the paper, that he was buried there. Also from the Potters who still live there in that vicinity, for they had heard of him often. His services were conducted on a beautiful spring day, the flowers beginning to bloom everywhere and the song of the birds singing his funeral song. The earth was bathed in the sun's warmth and all nature seemed to say "Goodby Arnold. Someday, we will understand. Until then, we judge you not."

https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/5882018

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Arnold's History - Convert to Apostate

Arnold Potter (January 11, 1804 – April 2, 1872) was a self-declared Messiah and a leader of a schismatic sect in the Latter Day Saint movement. Potter referred to himself as Potter Christ.

Potter was born in Herkimer County, New York. At age 19, he married Almira Smith. By 1835 Potter had moved with his wife and children to Switzerland County, Indiana. On November 10, 1839, Potter and his family were baptized by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

In April 1840 Potter and his family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois to join the main gathering of Latter Day Saints. On April 24, 1840 Potter was given the Melchizedek priesthood and ordained to the priesthood office of elder by Joseph Smith, Jr. On June 1, 1840 Potter received a patriarchal blessing from church patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr. He married Elizabeth Ann Birch 10 December 1843 in Nauvoo Ill. Potter settled in Sand Prairie, Iowa, where Potter was the presiding elder of the church. In January 1845 Potter became a seventy in the church.

In 1848 Potter traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as a Mormon pioneer. By 1856, he had moved his family from Utah Territory to San Bernardino, California. On March 16, 1856 Potter received a call to serve as a missionary in Australia from LDS Church president Brigham Young. Later that year, Potter left California for Australia on the ship Osprey.

Potter later claimed that during his trip to Australia, he underwent a "purifying, quickening change" whereby the spirit of Jesus Christ entered into his body and he became "Potter Christ, Son of the living God". During his time in Australia, Potter wrote a book which he said was dictated to him by angels; it was described by Potter as the book from which all people were to be judged at the Final Judgment.

Potter returned to California by October 1857. A Latter-day Saint observer described Potter's re-appearance in the community:

Wednesday 21 October 1857—Arnold Potter, who calls himself Potter Christ, appeared in our streets today with a brand on his forehead which had been put in with India ink. The words which can be read at quite a distance, are “Potter Christ—The Living God—Morning Star”. To the right of the inscription is a star, below a cross. He appears very desirous of winning followers. It is said there are several apostates about to join him.1

By the spring of 1858, Arnold's family now numbered 2 children and Elizabeth was expecting a third. Apparently, she didn't have faith in Arnold's revelations and his special calling, for she left him in San Bernardino and returned to Utah with the children. Arnold provided Elizabeth with a team and wagon and bade them farewell, never to see them again.

By 1861 Potter and some of his followers had left California with the intention of settling near Independence, Missouri, the traditional location of Zion for the Latter Day Saints. They settled at Saint Marys in northwest Mills County, Iowa. When Saint Marys was destroyed by flooding in 1865, they moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Potter spent his days wandering the streets in Council Bluffs wearing a long white robe and became a local oddity.

One newspaper interviewed Dr. W. H. Nipps, who had known Potter Christ at this time. He said: "The converts were few but devout. The men wore long black robes, and the women dressed like it was a sin to be pretty. They held enthusiastic prayer meetings.

At one time Potter decided it was time to make his 'ascent.' Some packing house workers made up a purse to buy the self designated holy man some golden slippers befitting the occasion. Some other kind soul donated a donkey, and before long the entire Potter Christ group made a pilgrimage to the bluffs from which Potter was to leave for his home in the heavens. Apparently the weather or the signs were not right for the ascension, because Potter never took off, and there is no report of the descent from the bluffs."

In 1872 Potter announced at a meeting of his church that the time had come for his ascent into heaven. Followed by his disciples, Potter rode a donkey to the edge of the bluffs, whereupon he leapt off the edge. Potter died in the attempt to ascend into heaven and his body was collected and buried by his followers.

Sources: 1. Manuscript History of the San Bernardino Settlement, LDS Church archives.

References - Manuscript History of the San Bernardino Settlement, LDS Church archives. - Steven R. Parkes. Arnold Potter: From L.D.S. Convert to Pioneer to Missionary to Sect Leader (unpublished manuscript) - Russell R. Rich (2d ed. 1967). Those Who Would Be Leaders: Offshoots of Mormonism (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Potter

- above info also found in a history of Arnold Potter compiled by Alvin C. Rencher, Mary Ann Chapman Richey, An Arizona Pioneer, 2008 http://www.ancestorpages.com/fr_arnoldP.html

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Arnold Potter's Timeline

1804
January 11, 1804
Salisbury, Herkimer, NY
1824
August 8, 1824
Age 20
St Lawrence, New York
1826
August 30, 1826
Age 22
Salisbury, Herkimer, New York
1828
July 25, 1828
Age 24
Salisbury, Herkimer, New York
1830
September 9, 1830
Age 26
Salisbury, New York, United States
1832
November 9, 1832
Age 28
Salisbury, Herkimer, New York
1850
1850
Age 45
Mill Creek, UT
1853
April 25, 1853
Age 49
San Bernardino, CA