Horace Martin Alexander

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About Horace Martin Alexander


Also containing a short sketch of Nancy, his wife, written and compiled in 1927 by his granddaughter, Lucille Walker. Horace Martin Alexander, my grandfather, was born near Cavesville, on a tobacco plantation, in Orange County, Virginia, February 15, 1812. His parents, James and Frances Ehart Alexander, had eight children, of whom Horace was the youngest. His brothers and sisters were: Willis, Adam, Willis 2nd, Fannie, Maria, James and Thorton.

When Horace was still quite young, the family moved to another plantation over in Kentucky, about two and one-half miles from Hillsboro, in Fleming county. In this home of luxury and ease the lad grew to young manhood. He had not been taught to work. A southern gentleman does not do that, only slaves and “white trash” need to work. It is interesting to note here that he was not fitted, either by nature or by training, for the life of a pioneer. When he was about nineteen years old, he left his home and went out to seek his fortune elsewhere, to the chagrin of his parents. It is thought that an unfortunate love affair was the cause of his leaving.

We next hear of him in Ohio, going with some other boys to torment the Mormons, who were holding a meeting there. Grandfather listened to the words of the Elders. After that he attended more of their services. Here he became acquainted with a devout Mormon girl, Nancy Reeder Walker. Through her influence he was converted. On September 14, 1834, he and Nancy were married. They were with the Mormons in their migration from Ohio to Missouri.

On September 1st, 1836 when their first child, Frances Evelyn was born, they were living on a farm near Liberty in Clay County, Missouri. When, after a series of persecutions in Clay and Jackson County, the Mormons realized that they could expect no protection from the state, they petitioned the legislature to assign them a place where they might live. It was on this territory assigned them that the city of Far West was built.

Here in 1837 and 1838 grandfather kept a store according to a day book he kept at this time. Some of the charge accounts of this little book are interesting: Saleratus 2 lbs. 30¢, Candles 25¢, Calico 50¢, flour 24 lbs. $1.25, Molasses 50¢. These items were paid for by pork.

Grandfather used to tell how friendly he and Joseph Smith were at this time. The Prophet, an imposing figure on his big white horse, would ride right into grandfather's store, and the horse would paw for what it wanted.

The Mormons soon became so numerous and so prosperous that the people of Missouri, and even Governor Boggs feared that they would soon own Missouri, because the Mormons were so united and thrifty, there was cause for alarm. The state militia supposedly called to quell the mobs, actually joined the mobs in driving the Mormons from Missouri. They had to pledge their property to defray the cost of the war. They had to leave the state before spring of 1839.

The expulsion began in February and by the middle of April no Mormons were left In Missouri. Whither should they go? Homeless, almost destitute, they camped in tents and wagons on the banks of the frozen Missouri River. Some had been forced to flee without sufficient clothing and bedding to keep them warm. Grandfather, who had achieved property in Far West, had to leave everything behind, even his big trunk. His wife was in a delicate condition. He must find a home for her and their two and one-half year old daughter.

How he ever succeeded in traveling way down the river to Alton in lower Illinois, Madison County, is not known. But here at Alton, in March, 1839, his day book records, a baby girl, Nancy, was born to them. What an experience for these two young parents. The family lived there about two years. On March 5, 1841, another daughter was born (our grandmother) Sarah Malinda.

Most of the Mormons on leaving Far West had gone up the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois, where they were treated with sympathy. They purchased a city of about twenty houses, called Commerce. Here they built the city of Nauvoo in a little over a year, a city of 15,000 people, 800 houses of stone, frame and logs.

What an achievement for a years work! What other people could have done such a thing? Here in 1841 they began to build their temple. Joseph Smith, in a revelation, called all the Mormons to bring their gold, etc, and come to Zion to help build the Temple.

In answer to this call grandfather left Alton and joined the Saints at Nauvoo. In April 1841, he and his wife and their three children were living at the home of a brother Ables. In Alton or earlier he seems to have learned carpentry for his day book records that he worked on the Temple beginning in March, 1842.

Once more he prospered. The little family was very happy. On October 15, 1843, their fourth child Dionitia was born. Soon after this, began the persecution which ended in the killing of the Prophet in 1844 and in the expulsion of the Mormons from Illinois in the spring of 1846. Bancroft’s history gives the idea that Joseph Smith’s aspiring to be President of the United States and his beginning the practice of polygamy were probably the chief reasons for the expulsion,

The Mormons were driven almost at the point of the bayonet. They were not given sufficient time to dispose of their home and lands, but had to trade them off for whatever they could get. Early in February they set forth, destination unknown, to find a place where they might be safe. Their first camp was on Sugar Creek in Iowa. Here there was much suffering. The autumn found practically all of the Mormons camped at Winter Quarters and Council Bluffs.

In the meantime war had been declared between the United States and Mexico. Brigham Young appealed to the government for work for his men, offering to help fight the U.S. battles. Accordingly, the Government called for 500 volunteers to be raised among the Saints. The Mormon men hated to leave their families to go off to war, but it meant that their monthly pay would help to buy the necessary outfits for conveying them across the plains. Grandfather, along with nearly all the able bodied, husky men of the camps, enlisted in Company B. His wife and children were left in the care of the church.

The Mormon Battalion began the greatest march of infantry ever known, July 19, 1846, from Council Bluffs. The Mormon soldiers didn’t buy an outfit of shoes and clothing with the $40.00 allotted them by the government for that purpose. Instead they sent it back to their suffering families.

As a consequence many of them were almost naked before the 2,000 mile march was half over. Their path lay over an uncharted desert. In some places food was so scarce they had to kill worn out horses and mules to eat. At one time they marched a hundred miles without water. On the San Pedro River there was an encounter with a herd of buffalo. Grandfather barely escaped with his life. They reached San Diego January 29, 1847, and found the Stars and Stripes floating there.

Back at Winter Quarters on January 1st, 1847, Nancy in the crudest of log huts, gave birth to a son, Horace Martin Alexander, Jr. The weather was bitter cold. There was not sufficient bedding to keep the mother and baby warm and dry. The little lady was lonely. She called for her husband’s riding boots, which was all she had of him, and would hug them to her and weep. On the 28th of January she died. Three days later the month-old infant died too.

With Nancy during her illness was my grandmother, Catherine Houston, then an orphan girl of fifteen years. After the children went to live with Nancy's sister, Mrs. James Henry Rollins, Catherine was taken along too to take care of the children who loved her. Together they crossed the plains.

Grandfather, now a Corporal in the Battalion, received word of his wife’s death months later at San Diego. He could not go to his children until his term of enlistment expired on the 16th of July. When he was mustered out of service he did not wait for his company to march, but with a companion or two, set forth at once on horseback for the Great Salt Lake. They arrived in Salt Lake about October 16, 1847.

Grandfather, who had bartered the shirt off his back to get a pint of beans to keep himself and his companions from starving, had to half bury himself in the straw of Brother Hamilton's stable, while his companion went to the house of Hamilton’s to explain his plight. That night Sister Hamilton made grandfather a shirt out of an old skirt.

Grandfather here received word that his children, with one of the Parley Pratt Companies was well on its way to the Valley. So with a few other brothers he hurried forth again on horseback to meet them. It is thought that he sighted the emigrant train somewhere in Wyoming. It was touching, this meeting of the father and his motherless girls. It is small wonder that grandfather learned to love this young Catherine when he first met her thus, mothering his children. The party reached Utah early in November. On November 6th Grandfather began to work for Madison Hamilton. Catherine still continued to live with the James Henry Rollins' family and to take care of the little Alexanders.

On February 15, 1849, Horace and Catherine were married. At the same time, in obedience to the advise of his friend and leader Brigham Young, he married Martha Burwell, whom he had met in Salt Lake.

In 1853 Grandfather was called to help settle Parowan, Iron County. Carpenters were sorely needed. It was hard to have to leave their good comfortable home to go again into a new country, but they did without a murmur. They lived here eight years. There my mother, Helen Alexander, was born. They came back to settle in Springville in November of 1861. Here grandfather was made Captain of the “Silver Greys” a company of militia organized to guard the town during the Civil War.

For a few years both wives lived together in one house. Then grandfather secured a home for each as the families were getting so large. In 1869 when grandfather moved with Catherine and family to Provo to help build the woolen mills, Martha remained in Springville untill her death, many years later. In November 1875, grandfather sold his land to get money to go on a mission to the Southern States. He wished to convert his own people and also wished to see if he might get a share of his father's estate.

He found his parents dead, says his diary, and his brothers and sisters either dead or most of them moved to Indiana, Chicago, and other places. The estate, like many others, had been ravaged by the Civil War and had been sold. He found such misery and poverty there, in Virginia and Kentucky among those who had once been wealthy. He was very kindly received by his relatives, both of Kentucky and Virginia. In his birthplace, he found 1203 first cousins.

A nephew in Kentucky took him, in his fine barouche with his spanking bays, for a ride through Fleming County, Kentucky. The carriage was closed, and the horses trotted so fast they had gone a mile beyond his old home before he recognized the estate. Then he said he would not have known it but for the creek where he used to go fishing as a boy.

He returned from his mission in 1876. In September 1881 he died at his home in Provo. He was a man who loved honor and truth. He was fair, just and had a sense of humor. All who knew him loved and respected him.

Of his thirty-five children, eleven were still living in 1927. Several died at birth or a little later. The living are: Mrs. Max Kless of Springville, Mrs. Flora Bryan, Mrs. Celestine Humphrey, Mrs. Mildred Peterson, Mrs. Charlotta Gambell (Martha’s children). Mrs. Helen Harvey, W. D. Alexander and F. D. Alexander (Catherine’s children). Amasa Alexander and Albert Alexander (children of Julia Owens, divorced wife). Those of grandmother’s family who have passed away are: Mrs. Lucy Collett, Mrs. Leona Clar, Mrs. Maud West, Mrs. Susie Roberts, Miss Blanch Alexander, and Mrs. Fedonia Richards.

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Horace Martin Alexander's Timeline

February 15, 1812
Near Canesville, Orange, Virginia, USA
September 1, 1836
Age 24
West Liberty, Clay, Missouri, USA
March 24, 1839
Age 27
Alton, Madison, Illinois, USA
March 5, 1841
Age 29
Alton, Madison, Illinois, USA
October 18, 1843
Age 31
Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, USA
January 1, 1847
Age 34
Winter Quarters, Douglas, NE, USA
December 4, 1851
Age 39
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States
January 16, 1854
Age 41
Iron County, Utah, United States
March 4, 1855
Age 43
Parowan, Iron County, Utah, United States
October 31, 1858
Age 46
Parowan, Iron County, Utah, United States