About the Collection
Abraham Owen Smoot
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Abraham Owen Smoot was born on 17 February 1815 in Owenton, Owen County, Kentucky, to George Washington Smoot and Ann Rowlett. While still young his father died, and his mother soon thereafter remarried and moved the family to Benton County, Tennessee. There, on 22 March 1835, Abraham was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and immediately assumed stewardship over the local ten-member branch of the Church. The following year, on 4 February 1836, Wilford Woodruff ordained him an elder in the Church and Abraham “went forth to the vineyard of the Lord to cry repentance,” commencing a nine-month proselytizing mission in Tennessee, after which he journeyed to Kirtland, Ohio, to winter with the main body of the Church.1 Despite much opposition and threats of mob violence during this mission, Abraham boldly traveled from county to county, preaching in the streets and in the local chapels, baptizing those who received his message.
After a few months in Kirtland, Abraham returned to the South where he organized a company of saints and traveled to Far West, Missouri. He continued to perform missionary labors in that area, but the people of Missouri did not accept his message. A typical entry in his journal during this period reads: “Myself and my companion both spoke freely for the space of an hour and half, during which time we taught them the Gospel of the Son of God, which they would not receive….Alas! They refused our testimony concerning the things of God and turned away.”2 During the antagonisms with the militias of Missouri, which finally culminated in the expulsion of the saints from that state, Abraham surrendered as a prisoner of war, along with Joseph and Hyrum Smith. While imprisoned, on 11 November 1838, he married Margaret Thompson McMeans after Joseph encouraged the union, stating, “She is a woman of God and you will be blessed.”3
After settling near Nauvoo, Illinois, Abraham departed on another mission to the southern states, this time accompanied by his wife. During the ensuing year he traveled and preached throughout the South, bringing many souls into the Church. On one occasion he noted, “I gave a short exhortation and opened a door for the reception of the Gospel, at which time Mr. Wm. Robertson came forward giving his name for membership, and was received, and the ordinance of baptism was administered in the afternoon by myself.”4 He returned to Nauvoo in July 1842, but less than two years later again departed as a missionary to the southern states. After the death of Joseph Smith, Abraham gathered a group of saints from the South and led them to Nauvoo to prepare for the trek west. In Nauvoo he assisted in the completion of the temple and there, on 9 January 1846, married Sarah Gibbons and Emily Hill in polygamy.
In 1847 Abraham was chosen as captain of the fourth hundred of saints organized in Winter Quarter, Nebraska, to journey to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. His hundred, which actually comprised 317 people, was broken into two companies, led by George B. Wallace and Samuel Russell. They departed in mid-July and entered the Salt Lake Valley at the end of September. An example of how Abraham provided both temporal and spiritual guidance for his companies occurred on 1 August 1847, when he “called a meeting in his company of a Hundred and gave many instructions. He exhorted the brethren to obedience, so that they might be united.”5 The leadership displayed during this trek led to his appointment as captain of overland trail companies on three subsequent occasions, two of which primarily comprised merchandise and supplies for the growing communities of Utah
In Salt Lake City Abraham became a prominent citizen and church leader, serving as territorial justice of the peace, delegate to the constitutional convention of the territory, high councilman of the Stake of Zion, and bishop of the Fifteenth Ward of Salt Lake City. In 1851 he journeyed as a missionary to England, but after arriving was called to lead the first group of saints immigrating to Utah with the assistance of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. He arranged for their passage to Kansas City, Missouri, and then led them across the plains, arriving at Salt Lake City on 3 September 1852. After this mission Abraham continued his Church service as bishop of the Cottonwood Ward and Sugarhouse Ward, and in 1856 he was elected mayor of Salt Lake City. He also married two additional wives, Diana Tanner Eldridge and Anna Kristine Morrison.
In 1868, Brigham Young called him to move to Provo, Utah County, Utah. There he became a prominent businessman, presiding over the Provo Woolen Mills and the First National Bank of Provo; in civic and ecclesiastical affairs he served as mayor of Provo, and as president of the Utah Stake. He also presided over the board of trustees for the Brigham Young Academy in Provo and devoted much of his time to establishing that institution. As he stated shortly before his death, “I love that school and I can see what it means to our youth…It must live.”6 After a long and fruitful life, Abraham Owen Smoot passed away in Provo on 6 March 1895. He is remembered as “one of the most prominent and influential men in the history of [Utah]. A man of powerful mental ability, he led in the upbuilding and development of both Church and State.”7
1 A. O. Smoot. “Diary, 1837-1845,” 22 June 1837. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 7 April 1838.
3 Kate B. Carter, ed., Heart Throbs of the West, vol. 3 (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1939-1951), 126.
4 Smoot, “Diary, 1837-1845,” 12 December 1841.
5 C. Elliott Berlin, “Abraham Owen Smoot: Pioneer Mormon Leader,” Master’s thesis (Brigham Young University, 1955), 44.
6 Richey Melva, Register of the Abraham O. Smoot Collection (Provo, Utah: Manuscripts Division, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1976), 6.
7 Portrait: Genealogical and Biographical Record of the State of Utah (Chicago: National Historical Record Company, 1902), 344.
Berlin, C. Elliott. “Abraham Owen Smoot: Pioneer Mormon Leader.” Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Carter, Kate B., ed. Heart Throbs of the West. Vol. 3. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1939-1951.
Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1966.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901-1934.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 1 March 2004 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch
Nibley, Preston. Stalwarts of Mormonism. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954.
Nixon, Loretta D. Abraham Owen Smoot: A Testament of His Life. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1994.
Portrait: Genealogical and Biographical Record of the State of Utah. Chicago: National Historical Record Company, 1902.
Melva Richey. Register of the Abraham O. Smoot Collection. Provo, Utah: Manuscripts Division, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1976.
Smoot, A. O. “Biographical Sketches [microform].” MSS Film 920 no.z99 vol.2, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Papers, 1837-1892.” MSS 574, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Papers, 1837-1894.” MSS 896, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.