Well-educated Edward Partridge was a successful hatter in Painesville, Ohio, with significant property holdings, and his community’s respect. He and his wife, Lydia, enjoyed their comfortable home, five children, and the teachings of Alexander Campbell, which gave them “much happiness.” Hence, when four strangers came to his door in the autumn of 1830 claiming that the true gospel had been restored, he dismissed them as imposters. But something—their message? the remark of one who said he was thankful there was a God in heaven who knew the hearts of all men?—motivated Edward to send an employee after a copy of their new scripture.
From that day his life would never be the same. Edward sacrificed all his property; his father’s family rejected him; his own family suffered extreme poverty and hardship; he personally became a victim of mob violence; and finally, his health broken, he died at the age of forty-six, less than a decade after he joined the Church. But like the merchant who sold all he had for the pearl of great price, Edward, the Church’s first bishop, never thought the price was too high.
What kind of a person was Edward Partridge? Early revelations refer to him as a man without guile “like Nathanael of old,” and commend him for the “integrity” of his heart (D&C 41:11; History of the Church, 2:302). Local townsmen trusted Edward’s inquiry at the New York scene of Mormon beginnings because of his reputation as “‘a man who would not lie.’”1 And Joseph Smith described him as “a pattern of piety, and one of the Lord’s great men known by his steadfastness and patient endurance to the end” (“History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons, 15 Sept. 1843, vol. 4, p. 320). That same steadfastness and patience were also characteristic of his wife and their children.
Edward Partridge was born 27 August 1793 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Practically nothing is known of his early life. He recalled that in his youth the spirit of the Lord strove with him a number of times insomuch that his heart was “made tender and he went and wept.” At times he would retire to a quiet place and pour out his soul in prayer.2
He learned the hatter’s trade, went into partnership near Albany, New York, established a branch store in Painesville, Ohio, and bought out his partner. In 1819 he married Lydia Clisbee and they became the parents of seven children: Eliza Maria, Harriet Pamelia, Emily Dow, Caroline Ely, Lydia, a male child that died in infancy, and Edward, Jr.
By the time Edward was twenty he saw “no beauty, comeliness or loveliness in the character of the God … preached by the sects of his day.”3 In 1828, however, he and his wife found personal satisfaction when Sidney Rigdon converted them to Campbellism. And then came the four Mormon missionaries—Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Petersen.
Although Lydia was soon baptized, Edward held back and went to Manchester, New York, to investigate the new religion. The Smith family had moved, but Edward viewed their farm and inquired among neighbors about their character. He located Joseph preaching at a meeting in his father’s house in Waterloo. When the Prophet invited comments from listeners, Edward arose and stated that he had been to Manchester, had observed the “good order and industry” exhibited at the Smith farm, noticed the sacrifices they had made for the sake of their faith, and having discovered that the Smith character was questioned upon no other point than that of their religion, he requested immediate baptism. The following day, December 11, Joseph baptized him in the Seneca River.4
Edward promptly left for Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to share “the joyful tidings” with his father’s family. But his family rejected both his message and him. Edward’s sister, Emily, ordered him out of the house, expressing the hope that she would never see him again. His parents sent a younger brother to accompany him back to Ohio, thinking him “deranged” and not capable of taking care of himself.5 (Emily, “Incidents,” p. 5; also Woman’s Exponent, 13:102)
Following his return to Painesville and within two months of his baptism, Edward Partridge was called by revelation to the office of bishop unto the Church.” 6 He was told to “leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church” (D&C 41:9). Four months later he was among those named to accompany Joseph Smith to Missouri, a place designated “the land of your inheritance” (D&C 52:24, 42).
Edward’s departure for Missouri came when some of his children were just recovering from measles; and Eliza, suffering from a severe case of “lung fever,” was so ill that her father had “no expectations” of seeing her alive again (Emily, “Incidents,” pp. 7–8).
From Missouri Edward wrote to Lydia, explaining that he had been called to “plant” himself in Jackson County and regretting that he would be unable to see her or bid farewell to his Ohio friends. He left the decision of coming to Missouri or remaining in Ohio to her, but warned her about “many privations here which you and I have not been much used to for years” (“Family Record,” p. 7).
Undaunted, Lydia and the children left Kirtland that same year—late 1831—with Isaac Morley’s family and others. A hundred miles from their destination, the ice-swollen Missouri River cast them ashore at Arrow Rock. Lydia, her five children, and the six Morleys were saved from disaster when a black family offered them shelter in a windowless room of their two-room log cabin.
Conditions were hardly better in Independence. They first rented a “log room,” ironically from Lilburn W. Boggs, who, as governor, later became a key figure in the expulsion of the Saints. Then a widow and her four children were invited to share the single room until Edward finished a two-room house near the temple site.
Threats and harsh language were heard in the summer of 1832, the year Emily was baptized. As conditions worsened, men gathered in the night. Windows were broken and houses shot at. A large haystack belonging to Edward was burned to the ground making a “tremendous blaze.” Brethren often gathered at the Partridge home “that they might be ready for any emergency.” Talk of mobs became “a perfect terror” to the children. Emily recalled her little sister screaming in the night with fear (“Incidents,” p. 24).
Emily and her thirteen-year-old sister, Eliza, had just gone to a nearby spring for water, when a large body of armed men came and took her father away on 20 July 1833. She remembered anxiously listening to the yelling and shouts from the village square. Then, frightened, she saw an acquaintance, Albert Jackman, carrying a hat, coat, and vest, accompanied by a grotesque looking individual. Fearful, Emily ran upstairs to hide. It was actually her father, covered with tar and feathers. (See “Incidents,” pp. 25–26.)
When the Latter-day Saints were forced to leave Jackson County in November 1833, the Partridges were among those huddled along the banks of the Missouri River.
After assisting others across the river, Edward located an old log cabin that had been used as a stable. Here, he and John Corrill moved their families, sixteen persons in all, for their two-year sojourn in Clay County.
In January 1835 Bishop Partridge was called on a proselyting mission to the East. To sustain the family in his absence, Lydia and Emily rendered lard in a nearby slaughter yard established by the exiled Saints on the banks of the Missouri River. (See “Incidents,” p. 81.)
As Edward traveled east with Thomas B. Marsh, his success was hampered by cold weather and people who were “not much believing.” Edward wrote that twelve below “was about as cold as we could bear and travel through [the] prairies.” After walking twenty-five miles on March 17, the missionaries stopped at a public house, but the proprietor refused them entrance because they believed in the Book of Mormon. “I told them that I would be glad to lay by the fire, and would work for him if he would let me stay,” Edward recalled. “But all would not do.” They finally found lodging a mile further. (“Family Record,” pp. 32, 36, 39.)
En route home, Edward arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in late April only to be called on another mission, this time to “obtain donations for the poor saints.” After traveling 2,000 miles, visiting twenty-five branches of the Church, and baptizing three persons, Edward came again to Kirtland on October 29.
But he soon found that his longed-for reunion with his family in Missouri would be delayed at least until the following year. The news was contained in a revelation:
“Behold, I am well pleased with my servant Isaac Morley [Edward’s last companion] and my servant Edward Partridge, because of the integrity of their hearts. … Verily I say unto you their sins are forgiven them; therefore say unto them in my name, that it is my will that they should tarry for a little season, and attend the school, and also the solemn assembly, for a wise purpose in me.” (History of the Church, 2:302–3.)
Edward remained in Kirtland until the spring of 1836. He attended the School of the Prophets, studied Hebrew, and participated in the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Then he left for Missouri, arriving on May 6 “thankful as ever … in being permitted to again rejoin my family” (“Family Record,” p. 48).
In less than two months, Clay County citizens urged the Latter-day Saints to leave. Edward moved his family to the principal settlement at Far West, Caldwell County, and for the third time in five years, began to establish a home. Then trouble erupted again. He recorded the “hideous shouting and yelling” of the militia when they arrested Joseph Smith. (“Family Record,” p. 56.)
Accused of treason, murder, burglary, arson, robbery, and larceny, Edward and fifty-two others were imprisoned at Richmond, Missouri, during most of the month of November 1838.
In January 1839 Edward recorded something of their experience at this time: “We were confined in a large open room where the cold northern blast penetrated freely; our fires were small, and our allowance for wood and for food scanty. They gave us not even a blanket to lie upon. … The vilest of the vile did guard us and treat us like dogs; yet we bore our oppressions without murmuring.” (“Family Record,” p. 53.) As soon as he was released, instead of returning home, he was forced to flee the state “because of trouble with false brethren” (“Incidents,” p. 167). By arrangement with King Follett, the family left most of their belongings behind, and journeyed to Illinois, “badly crowded in the waggon” (Eliza, “Autobiography and Diary,” p. 11).
When Lydia Partridge and the children arrived in Illinois, the banks of the Mississippi River were lined with curious people who, according to Emily, saw “a forlorn looking set of beings.” (“Incidents,” p. 170.) Lydia and the children lived in a rented room in Quincy until Edward found them.
After remaining a short time in Quincy, Edward moved his family to Pittsfield and finally on to Commerce (Nauvoo), where he “pitched a tent under a large elm tree” (“Incidents,” p. 173). After nearly a year, he moved his family to “the upper stone house” near the steamboat landing where several other families lived, including Hyrum Smith and Robert B. Thompson.
Even though he suffered from chills and fever, Edward struggled on as bishop of Nauvoo’s Upper Ward. “He did not feel as though he could spend time to be sick,” wrote Emily (“Incidents,” p. 174).
Eliza was the only one of the children healthy enough to hire out. She taught school in Lima, twenty-four miles away, boarding with a non-Mormon family. About two weeks before her teaching contract was to expire, word came that her sister Harriet was dying. After riding all night, Eliza arrived home a few moments before her sister passed away on 16 May 1840, at age nineteen.
Eleven days after Harriet’s death, Edward too died.
Many years later, Emily wrote of her father: “When I look and remember the great responsibility resting upon my father as bishop—his poverty and privations and hardships he had to endure, the accusations of false brethren, the grumblings of the poor, and the persecution of our enemies, I do not wonder at his early death; and when I remember his conversations with my mother, and can now comprehend in my mature years, his extreme weariness of soul, it brings to my mind a clause of his blessing, which says, ‘Thou shalt stand in thy office until thou shalt desire to resign it that thou mayest rest for a little season.’” (“Incidents,” pp. 79–81.)
If Edward’s path was marked with adversity, the scene did not change much for his family after he was gone. In fact, Emily later wrote that her mother had “suffered much through her children—not from their sins or wrong doings, but from their sorrows and afflictions.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” p. 3.)
But woven through the experience of this family was a toughness of personal character that strengthened the legacy of steadfastness and endurance bequeathed them by their father.
William Law cared for the family until their Nauvoo house was finished. And in August 1840 Lydia remarried, to William Huntington, a widower whose wife had died the previous year. Emma Smith needed help with her newborn son, and hired first sixteen-year-old Emily, then twenty-year-old Eliza too.
Although little Don Carlos Smith died a short time later, Emily and Eliza continued to live in the Smith home, where, in the summer of 1842, both girls “were married to Bro. Joseph about the same time, but neither of us knew about the other at the time; everything was so secret” (Emily, “Incidents,” p. 186). Eliza later reflected:
“A woman living in polygamy dare not let it be known and nothing but a firm desire to keep the commandments of the Lord could have induced a girl to marry in that way. I thought my trials were very severe in the line and I am often led to wonder how it was that a person of my temperament could get along with it and not rebel; but I know it was the Lord who kept me from opposing his plans although in my heart I felt that I could not submit to them. But I did and I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for the care he had over me in those troublous times.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” pp. 13–14.)
The sudden and violent death of Joseph Smith in June 1844 was particularly wrenching to his plural wives, since they were forced to bear their grief in silence. Emily attended the viewing when the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were returned to Nauvoo from Carthage. “I went with the rest, as a stranger, none suspecting the extra sorrow that was in my heart” (Emily, “Autobiography and Diary,” p. 3).
While living in Nauvoo, Emily, now married to Brigham Young, gave birth to one of the first children of a plural marriage in October 1845. At first she kept the child in hiding. After starting the journey west, however, her status as a plural wife became common knowledge. But with knowledge came prejudice. Some thought that “the Lord had given men plural wives for stepping stones for them and their first wives to mount to glory on.” At Winter Quarters, curious people would stop at Emily’s to see a “spiritual” child. One woman was astonished that the baby seemed intelligent. “There was a good deal of that spirit at that time,” confesses Emily, “and sometimes it was very oppressive.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” pp. 3–4, 19.)
The universal trials of pioneer life—illness, hard work, poverty, and death—exacted a heavy price from the Partridges. Emily was among the first to leave in February 1846. She later remembered the heavy snowstorm of the nineteenth and how cold she was as she sat on a log, hungry and dejected, with her infant clasped in her arms. Separated from family and friends, she had wandered from one fire to another, “some giving me food, others a place in their tent to sleep.” She noted that her husband “President Young had to look after the welfare of the whole people,” and therefore “had not much time to devote to his family.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” p. 3.)
Lydia and her second husband, William Huntington, took Edward, Jr., and two of the daughters, Emily and young Lydia, to Mount Pisgah, where William was called to preside over the settlement. Then he suddenly died, leaving his new family more or less on their own through the winter of 1846–47.
Eliza and Caroline, now plural wives of apostle Amasa Lyman, were also among the first to leave Nauvoo, crossing the Mississippi River amidst ice “in large pieces” that “threatened to sink our boat” (Eliza, “Autobiography and Diary,” p. 14).
Eliza arrived at the Missouri River on July 1, and two weeks later her first child was born in a wagon. “I have named him Don Carlos [probably for the Smith baby she tended in Nauvoo]. I am very uncomfortably situated for a sick woman. The scorching sun shining upon the wagon through the day and the cold air at night is almost too much of a change to be healthy.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 14 July 1846.)
She became so ill that for many days life seemed near its end. “I am now like a skeleton, so much so that those who have not been with me do not know me” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 8 Aug. 1846). Her illness left her practically bald, forcing her to wear a cap.
Eliza’s main joy was her infant son, and on October 15 she received the added comfort of a log house, “the first house my babe was ever in. I feel extremely thankful for the privilege of sitting by a fire where the wind cannot blow it in every direction and where I can warm one side without freezing the other” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 15 Oct. 1846).
In this “comfort,” her December 6 journal entry noted that her little son, now six months old, “has cried all day but I cannot see what ails him.” Six days later the child died, and she grieved:
“My sister Caroline and I sat up every night with him and tried to save him from death for we could not bear to part with him, but we were powerless. The Lord took him and I will try to be reconciled and think that all is for the best. … I still have friends who are dear to me. If I had not I should wish to hid this world farewell, for it is full of disappointments and sorrow. But I believe that there is a power that watches over us and does all things right.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 12 Dec. 1846.)
In the spring of 1847 Eliza and Caroline were joined at Winter Quarters by the rest of the family from Mount Pisgah, and the following year they all traveled to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving in October 1848. Their first home was a log room in the fort. “We are glad to get this much of a shelter,” wrote Eliza, “but … the dirt roof lets the water through and the dirt floor gets muddy” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 17 Oct. 1848). By the following year Eliza and Caroline moved into a wagon furnished With a stove—an exchange of discomforts, for a late spring snowstorm in 1849 sent them back to the fort.
Emily was having an equally difficult time. In 1852 her oldest child, Edward Partridge Young, died, and her youngest, Caroline, Was so ill that I could hardly tell whether she breathed or not. I think I came the nearest giving up at that time than I ever did before or since,” she recalled. (“Autobiography and Diary,” p. 5.)
Three days after Christmas in 1874, her journal records exhaustion. “Have been washing but could not finish. I am not able to wash or do any hard work. Nor have I been for about six years. There seems to be no way for me, but work, work.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” p. 4.) As her illness continued, she had to struggle harder against feeling neglected and poor. But the death of Brigham Young in 1877 brought her situation into another focus:
“How often it is the case that when a friend dies if they ever had a weakness or imperfection it seems to exist no longer. … When I compare my situation with some others I think I have no reason to complain. … I mean to accept my situation with as good grace as possible. I know the Lord will over rule for the best and it is better to fall into his hands than into the hands of the world.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” p. 37.)
For Eliza, Caroline, and now their youngest sister Lydia, all wives of Amasa Lyman, life in the Great Basin was also lonely. Amasa was away much of the time on Church assignments, leaving domestic responsibilities to those at home. In 1860 Caroline and Eliza both gave birth to children. When Caroline became ill, Eliza nursed both babies but fell ill herself. Eliza records their helplessness:
“Not even flour in the house to eat or soap to wash our clothes with. We were at last reduced to the necessity of calling on the missionary fund for help to take us through our sickness,” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 26 Aug. 1860.)
After Amasa returned from a mission to Europe in the early 1860s he moved his family to Fillmore in Millard County. About this time, amidst efforts to establish themselves in a new community, Eliza noticed that “Bro. Lyman seemed to feel uncomfortable in his mind and I thought many times did not enjoy that portion of the spirit of the Lord that a man in his position should. I did not know what was wrong with him but I could see that he was very unhappy. He left his family mostly to their fate or to get along as best they could, although he was with them.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” July 1863.) His condition would worsen until it would end in his apostasy and excommunication 12 May 1870.
Eliza’s anxiety increased as she feared for her children’s faith. In April 1867 her son Platte was called on a mission to England. “This was a great trial to me as he was not nineteen years of age and had never been away from home and knew nothing of the traps and snares that are set to catch the young and inexperienced and he had no one but me: to counsel or help him.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” April 1867.)
After seeing Platte off in Salt Lake City, she returned to Fillmore. “It looked desolate and lonely. I felt as if I were returning from a funeral. I had a family on my hands but had no one to provide for us.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” May 1867.) At first she taught school, and later worked in the cooperative store, concerned because it took her from her family during the day.
The decade of the 1870s added more trials. In January 1875, Eliza and Caroline nursed their youngest sister, Lydia, during the painful sixteen-week illness that ended her life. Eliza took two of Lydia’s children and Caroline raised the other. Then Eliza added another child, one of Platte’s, whose mother was unable to care for it.
In 1878 their mother passed away at the age of 85. Caroline and Eliza nursed her “night and day for six weeks,” and even prepared the body for burial “as not a person offered their assistance” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 9 June 1878).
In 1879 Eliza took over the care of her dead daughter’s newborn boy and traveled across the Colorado River into southern Utah with her sons Platte and Joseph, who had participated in the famous hole-in-the-rock expedition into the San Juan country the previous year. “The road was as bad as could possibly be and be traveled over at all, but the Lord preserved us from accident and we arrived in safety at our journey’s end.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 5 Nov. 1880).
The mother of five children, two of whom preceded her to the grave, Eliza died at Oak City, Millard County, on 2 March 1886. A few years earlier, she had written introspectively:
“It may be that many things that cause us great sorrow here may prove to be a great blessing to us when we know more of the Lord’s dealing with us. I have no desire to live my life over, thinking to better it, for with the knowledge I then had I have always tried to do right. … I pray my Heavenly Father in the name of his Son Jesus, to help me to live so that I can be saved and exalted with the sanctified in his Kingdom and be crowned with glory and everlasting lives. And I also pray that this blessing may be extended unto my children and their posterity that we may rejoice together to the endless ages of eternity.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 20 Apr. 1880.)
Her sister Emily survived her husband Brigham Young by twenty-two years and Joseph Smith by fifty-five. Reflecting, like Eliza, upon her life, she regretted her lack of formal education yet felt she had gained experience that money could not purchase. A plural wife when public opinion against that principle “was like an avalanch burying all such beneath its oppressive weight,” she counted it a special blessing. (Emily, “Autobiography and Diary,” 8 Jan. 1881.) In 1898, on the fifty-fourth anniversary of Joseph Smith’s death, she wrote: “Sad and sorrowful has been the long years since that terrible day. Lonely and desolate have been the days without [his] society. When, Oh when will there be a reunion of the loved ones?” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 27 June 1898.) The following year, at age seventy-five, she died in Salt Lake City.
Edward, Jr., the only Partridge son to grow to maturity, was six when his father passed away and labored hard to help care for his mother and sisters. After crossing the plains, he filled a mission in Hawaii in 1854–57 and was named to the Salt Lake Stake high council upon his return. He managed Amasa Lyman’s Farmington farm until the family moved to Fillmore. In 1869 he was elected probate judge of Millard County, an office he accepted “with reluctance not feeling competent to fill it” (“Autobiography and Diary,” 19 Feb. 1869).
While Edward was still adjusting to the shock of this appointment, George A. Smith came through Millard County, organized a stake, and appointed Edward bishop of Fillmore. “This is something that I have always had an instinctive dread of since I have had understanding sufficient to know what the office of a Bishop was,” he wrote (“Diary,” 9 Mar. 1869). But he filled the calling with distinction and received several subsequent important responsibilities. He served as a counselor in the Millard and Utah Stakes, and president of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian) mission from 1882 to 1885. In secular affairs, besides probate judge of Millard County, he served as acting mayor of Fillmore, a member of the territorial legislature, Millard County recorder, and a member of the state constitutional convention in 1895. At the time of his death in 1900 he was president of Utah Stake; he had two wives and seventeen children.
The last of the Partridge children, Caroline, died in Millard County in 1908.
From the day Edward Partridge accepted the gospel in 1830 until the death of his last child seventy-eight years later, his family seems to have passed through continuous travail. What gave them stability to withstand the recurring storms of adversity that descended upon them, especially when so many close associates experienced many of the same trials but did not survive in the Church?
Perhaps part of the answer is found in Edward’s statement: “I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit.” As a result, “my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me.”7 Perhaps this was the anchor to his soul.
Whatever his motivation, the legacy continued with his family. Among his living monuments is an unbroken line of bishops and other Church leaders to the present day. Two living General Authorities—Elder James E. Faust and Elder S. Dilworth Young—claim his ancestry. Tangible monuments to Edward Partridge are the old and new Church office buildings in Salt Lake City, the architects of which were a grandson (Don Carlos Young), and a great-grandson (George Cannon Young), respectively. Furthermore, Edward’s descendants played a prominent role in colonizing Millard and San Juan counties in Utah, and the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming.
But the greatest Partridge legacy is intangible—the “steadfastness and patient endurance” that face hardship, trials, and adversity without flinching.