Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Oliver Boardman Huntington
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Oliver Boardman Huntington was born to William Huntington and Zina Baker on 14 October 1823, in Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. He father was a religious man, but was convinced that the true church of God was not present on the earth. Around 1832 the family was first introduced to the Book of Mormon and William immediately believed it, and began sharing it with his neighbors. In 1835 Oliver’s parents and two siblings were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The next year they moved to Kitland, Ohio to join the saints, and Oliver was baptized there at the age of thirteen by Hyrum Smith. During the troubles at Kirland the Huntington house was used as a hiding place for the leaders of the church including Joseph Smith Sr., and for the Egyptian mummies obtained by the prophet.
Oliver’s family moved with the saints in 1838 to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Missouri where he was a first-hand witness to mob violence and persecution. After the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri the next year, the Huntingtons relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois. Shortly after their arrival in 1839, Oliver’s mother died. Life was difficult for Oliver and his family at this time, especially as church persecution increased.
In 1843 Oliver was ordained an elder and called on a mission to western New York, where he served for just over a year. While on his mission he learned to rely on the Lord. On one instance, after a difficult experience, he records in his journal: “There was plety [sic] of woods close at hand, and I soon saught [sic] the inmost recesses thereof to supplicate my God, and give vent to my feelings in a profuse flood of tears.”1 While on his mission he met Mary Melissa Neal, whom he married on 17 August 1845 upon returning to New York that same year. She would bear him three children over the course of their marriage.
On 11 July 1846 Oliver was called on a second mission, this time to Great Britain. He records the next day: “I was glad of the call—glad to be useful and actively engaged for the Lord in the ministry.”2 In England and Wales he labored alongside Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor, Orson Hyde and other prominent leaders of the church. After one missionary conference with these apostles he remarked that “it was a general time of joy, of rejoicing and praising our good Father! Every heart was full, and every countinance [sic] enlivening.”3 He served for one year before returning to the United States, arriving in New York on 11 August 1847.
In 1848 he migrated to Utah in the Brigham Young Company, departing from Winter Quarters, Nebraska on June 5 and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in late September. His wife, however, refused to accompany him. In 1849 he journeyed to New York to be with his wife and convince her to move to Utah. Finally in 1852 they, with their three children and her parents, crossed the plains in the Henry W. Miller Company, departing Kanesville, Iowa on July 8 and arriving in Salt Lake City in late September.
The marriage, however, did not last long and they were divorced. Oliver then married Hannah Mendenhall Sanders on 25 November 1852. They moved to Springville, Utah County, Utah, where she bore him nine children. Oliver also married Elvira Stesen in polygamy on 28 December 1856, but that marriage only lasted for four years before they divorced. In Springville Oliver worked as a school teacher and farmer. On 6 April 1855 Oliver was called on a third mission, this time to the Elk Mountain Mission, to preach to the Native Americans. This mission was disbanded after only a few months due to a massive Indian attack. In 1857 Oliver was called by Brigham Young to go to the Carson Valley settlement in Nevada and have them return to Utah to help face Johnston’s army. He also participated in exploratory expeditions to the Moab and St. George area of Utah.
In addition to being a school teacher, Oliver was a major beekeeper and hence honey and sugar producer in Utah. In 1892 he was chosen as president of the Utah Bee-Keepers Association. In this capacity he helped eradicate the foul brood disease that was plaguing the business in the late 1800s, and negotiated large contracts with honey distributors from the East. On 7 February 1907, Oliver passed away at home in Springville at the age of eighty-three.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 15 October 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, Inc., 1966.
Humphreys, A. Glen. “Oliver B. Huntington and his Bees.” Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 2002. 10 November 2003 available from http://www.utahhistorytogo.org/oliver.html.
Huntington, Oliver Boardman. “Autobiography.” MSS SC 2219, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Diaries, 1843-1932.” MSS 162, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington.” n.p., n.d. [BX 8670.1 .H925h in Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University].
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. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901-1936.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 31 October 2003 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/.
Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846-1849. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2003. 17 October 2003 available from http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/Biographies/image/21.html.