Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Laura Clark Baldwin

Female 1807 - 1842  (34 years)


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  • Name Laura Clark Baldwin 
    Born 28 Jul 1807  New Fairfield, Fairfield, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Female 
    Died 2 Feb 1842  Macedonia, Hamilton, Illinois Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID I342  Nielsen Hayden genealogy
    Last Modified 16 Apr 2016 

    Father Timothy Baldwin 
    Mother Polly Keeler Clark 
    Family ID F298  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Morris Charles Phelps,   b. 20 Dec 1805, Northampton, Hampshire, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 May 1876, Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 70 years) 
    Married 26 Mar 1826  Lawrenceville, Lawrence, Illinois Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    Children 
     1. Paulina Eliza Phelps,   b. 20 Mar 1827, Lawrenceville, Lawrence, Illinois Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Oct 1912, Parowan, Iron, Utah Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 85 years)
     2. Mary Ann Phelps,   b. 6 Aug 1829, Peoria, Tazewell, Illinois Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Apr 1912, Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years)
    Last Modified 7 Dec 2017 14:10:24 
    Family ID F98  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • A memoir of the life of Laura Clark Phelps and her daughter Mary Phelps Rich, written by the latter, is here.

      A memoir of the life of Laura Clark Phelps, written by Morris Calvin Phelps, is here.

      From "Courage a legend as she faced mobs," by John L. Hart, Church News, "Authorized News Web Site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", 19 Jun 2004:

      History sometimes turns on small, even unknown, hinges and personalities. Such is the case with Laura Clark Phelps, a little-known Church member of deep personal courage who stood up to mobs as she and her husband, Morris Charles Phelps, experienced the brunt of mob and civil persecution in Missouri from 1832-39.

      Laury, as she called herself, was born to Timothy Baldwin and Polly Keeler Clark in New Fairfield, Conn., on July 28, 1807. When she was about age 17, she met her future husband. He had come to Lawrence County, Ill., to visit his Keneippe relatives. They were married two years later, in 1826. They were living in the Chicago, Ill., area, when they heard news of a new religion and of a prophet who translated a book from gold plates. They heard further that their friends Isaac M. Morley and Edward Partridge had joined this new religion and missionaries were on their way to Chicago. Not long after, Elders Lyman Wight and John Correll arrived and found the Phelps to be eager listeners and believers who were baptized in 1831. (History of Morris Phelps, unpublished, compiled by descendants and written by Rose Openshaw.)

      Within a year the couple responded to the call to relocate in Missouri. They arrived in Jackson County in 1832, and made a home near Independence. They were given land on "a little prairie" outside of town where they homesteaded for a year and a half. In the fall of 1833, they had their first taste of mob oppression.

      Mobs were not unusual on the American frontier during the 19th century. Vigilante action was the unwritten law and it was broadly exercised at the whim of community leaders for various causes.

      The conflict began in Independence when the original settlers became alarmed as converts with different beliefs came pouring in and established essentially a well-ordered, free and closed community that contrasted dramatically with the existing open, unruly slave-state frontier. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Church History, p. 344-350.)

      In the first mob response, "between 40 and 50 persons in number, many of whom were armed with guns, proceeded against a branch of the Church, west of the Big Blue, and unroofed and partly demolished 10 houses; and amid the shrieks and screams of the women and children, whipped and beat in a savage and brutal manner, several of the men: while their horrid threats frightened women and children into the wilderness." (History of the Church 1:426.)

      The Phelpses fled with most of the saints in bitter cold to Clay County. While in Clay County on a rented farm, they were visited by Joseph Smith, who held meetings in their home and blessed their children. Brother Phelps was called on a mission to Indiana, Ohio and Illinois where among his converts were his wife's parents. He also stopped to help build the Kirtland Temple, and, receiving an inheritance from his parents, established a farm and started a store. (Phelps History.)

      Again the mobs came in a similar manner, and the Prophet advised, "We know not what we shall be called to pass through before Zion is delivered and established" (HC 1:450).

      They fled to Far West, Mo., where Brother Phelps purchased a farm on June 2, 1837. Sometime afterwards, between the end of October and the first of November, Joseph Smith arrived at the new settlement to conduct Church affairs. During that time, mobs again pressed forward. One day they began chasing Joseph and one of his brothers, likely Hyrum, and the two ran from the mob and sought refuge in the Phelps home.

      "Laura hid them in her house behind the clothes curtain," wrote her husband later. "When the mob rushed in and their leader said, 'Where are they? We know they are here. We saw them come,' she answered calmly and with apparent unconcern. 'No, gentlemen, they are not here, but you are welcome to look all you want to.' She tried to look unconcerned while the mob made a hasty search and left." (From Morris Phelps diary, courtesy Daughters of Utah Pioneers.)

      Heber C. Kimball would later recall that in 1839, "my life was sought at Richmond, and...she interceded with my pursuers, who were nearly 30 in number, and actually convinced them that I was another person, altogether, and the pursuit was stopped." (Obituary, Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 9.)

      Trouble escalated as the settlers organized a militia to fight back, leading to what was known as the Battle of Crooked River. Following this, local authorities took prisoner Joseph Smith and other Church leaders, among them Morris Phelps. Left alone as the mob came, Laura Phelps ran out to protect her young daughter, Harriet, and said, "Shoot all the animals you desire, but leave my little girl alone." (History of Laura Clark Phelps by Morris Calvin Phelps.)

      With her husband confined to the Richmond Jail, Laura and the children left as refugees, expelled from the state by Gov. Lilburn Boggs' extermination order. She took her children in a wagon. It overturned "with my children under the load, but hurt them but little -- I can safely say this day I am not sorry I ever joined the Church...We have to be tried like gold seven times tried," she wrote in a letter to her family in Chicago.

      After finding her parents in Iowa, she made a home for herself and the children in an old horse stable. When she received a love poem from her jailed husband in which he compared her with his "star," she resolved to visit him and help him escape. So, accompanied by her brother, she rode a little mare some 150 miles through difficult and hostile Missouri to the Columbia Jail, to which the prisoners had been transferred.

      At the Columbia Jail, the case had been continued because no witness appeared against them. The jailer bragged that several prisoners died in jail of old age without the benefit of a hearing. On July 4th, 1839, the prisoners were to try to "gain our liberties or be in paradise before the close of that eventful day," wrote Parley P. Pratt, one of the three incarcerated. Laura Phelps did not participate, but waited at the jail. That dusk, as Richmond citizens continued their Independence Day celebration, the escape plan was enacted. When the evening meal was served, the prisoners caught the open prison door and thrust it wide. Morris Phelps, the more athletic of the three, grabbed the jailer while Pratt and the other prisoner, an ailing King Follett, dashed out. However, Phelps, who was weaker than he supposed, was held fast by the jailer and his wife, who was loudly sounding alarm.

      Laura Phelps later said she thought she was praying silently, but her husband heard her shout, "Oh, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, deliver thy servant!" He said hearing that, he felt strong as a giant, and "thus cleared" himself. (History of Laura Clark Phelps.)

      Parley Pratt and Morris Phelps both made good their escapes. (See Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 301-323.)

      Once again, Laura Phelps was left behind to fend for herself among hostile Missourians. The jailer and his wife threatened her with instant death but instead sent her outside to face a mob that had gathered. She faced the abusive group in silence, but the volume increased as a group of searchers returned with captured King Follett riding her mare and sidesaddle.

      During this, a little boy who watched became extremely distressed at the way she was being treated. He ran home and told his parents, the Richardsons, who took her into their home. Mr. Richardson later recovered her saddle and horse and after 10 days she rode with the mail carrier back to Illinois. Sewed into her skirts was the manuscript of Parley P. Pratt's Key to Theology.

      After a period of recuperation, the family settled in Macedonia, Ill., where Morris Phelps built a home. She, however, had in premonition a vision of what trials lay ahead for the saints and "she often said to me that she could not endure the trouble that was ahead," remembered her husband. (Phelps diary.)

      On Feb. 2, 1842, after suffering from overexertion and exposure, a fatal illness came -- likely pneumonia -- and she died suddenly, five months before her 35th birthday.

      Her days were shortened "by unparalleled cruelties" but "she manifested to the world that no sacrifice was too great for her to make for the cause which she espoused," said Elder Heber C. Kimball at her death. (Obituary, Times and Seasons.)

      In a family ceremony held May 6, 2004, about 70 of her many descendants gathered at city cemetery No. 1 in Nauvoo, Ill., and placed a marker in her memory. Among her relatives is Anne Clark Pingree, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, who spoke of her in a conference address in October, 2003.

  • Sources 
    1. [S381] "Courage a legend as she faced mobs," by John L. Hart. Church News, "Authorized News Web Site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", 19 Jun 2004.

    2. [S1252] Findagrave.com page for Morris Charles Phelps.

    3. [S381] "Courage a legend as she faced mobs," by John L. Hart. Church News, "Authorized News Web Site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", 19 Jun 2004., year only.