Elam Luddington Autobiography

An Autobiographical Statement of Elam Luddington

Folio I

My father, Elam Luddington, was born in East Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, in the month of November, about the year 1777.  He had three own sisters.  One, named Rachael, married John Roe of Fair Haven, and had three sons, Willis, Freeman and Miles.  Her husband was quite a wealthy merchant, and tavern keeper, also being interested in ships, dealing largely in oysters, in what is called Dragon Bridge, now called Fair Haven.

The second sister, Naomi, married a Mr. Bradley, but I havenít their family record.

The third sister was Mehitabel.

Grandmother Luddington married again to David Burnham.  He had two sons, and one daughter, named Patty, who married John Mansfield.  They lived in North Haven and had many children.  James Burnham had several children, as also William (evidently another brother).  My grandfather, Elam Luddington, died before I was born, and David Burnham and his family lived seven miles north of New Haven near Bethany, or Woodbridge.

My father moved to Bethleham in my infancy, fourteen miles from the place of my birth - southwest Lithchfield, South Farms on the north; Washington on the West; Watertown on the south; Plymouth, Mass., on the east.

My father was a farmer, carpenter and mariner.  He was honest, virtuous, industrious, a good husband and a kind father.  I am his only son living.  There were four daughters by his first wife, who were my sisters, Susan, Wealthy, Adaline and Caroline.  The latter died suddenly from a fall when seven years old, and a brother, Louis died in infancy.

My mother, Sena [Aseneth Munger], died of consumption when I was ten years old.  Susan, my oldest sister, married Dr. Abijah Hard of Newtown.  She had one pair of twins and a large family of children.  Wealthy married Woodruff R. Porter of Farmington, Hartford, County, Conn., and had no children.  Adaline died of consumption August 11, 1840, at Bethlehem.  Elam Luddington, my father, died at Bethlehem, Litchfield County, in June 1846.

Father married Jerusha Hard for a second wife.  She had one child, which died in infancy, and soon after the mother died.  He married a third time, she had one daughter, Frances.  She married a young man by the name of Clark.  This third wife outlived my father and married this man Clarkís father, of Washington, Lithchfield County, Conn.

When I was eight years old, my father moved to Woodbridge, where his father-in-law lived.  He had sold the farm before leaving, but when the balance of the sale price became due the purchaser could not meet the payment, so the next season we moved back to the old homestead.  I remained with Father on the farm until I was eighteen years old.

My first stepmother and I did not get on very well together, so the first opportunity I ran away, letting nobody know where I was going.  The snow was knee deep and my father rode almost all night trying to get some tidings of me, but failed, and he was without any news of me for ten months.  I now realize this was very inconsiderate of me.

I went to Poughkeepsie, where I got work in a grain store at $8 a month.  In the spring I got a berth as cook and steward for $10 a month on a packet sloop running between Albany and Poughkeepsie by the name of “Hiram”; and commanded by Captain Walters.  I remained there several months and then hired my passage to the city of New York, where in a few days I left on board the sloop “Lorry”, Captain Van Vlee, son-in-law of Captain Harris.

I soon got a place in Smith and Demisís ship-yard as an apprentice at $1.00 per day to learn ship building.  My first work was hewing beams, carlins, etc., for a large brig of 64 guns.  The ship carried 150 men and took us one year to build, launch and rig, and cost a million dollars.

I then wrote the first time to my father, and had begun to feel quite serious religiously. So in the winter of 1824, I went forward and was baptized, after breaking the ice, in the so-called Christian Church.  The church edifice was located on the corner of Broom and Norfolk Streets, City of New York, Simeon Clow, Pastor.

I very well remember hearing Lorenzo Dow preach there once and I thought it was the only church that God would ever acknowledge as his own.  I was a member of this church for ten years, and thoroughly enjoyed the spirit of God.

I took quite a liking to the sea and clipper ships, brigs, and schooners with all sails set and colors flying.  I think a ship, a field of wheat, and a lovely maiden are the three prettiest things in the world.

Therefore, I shipped as an ordinary seaman on board the “John Adams” of 500 tons burden and put to sea April 1st, 1825.  In 24 days we reached the Bay of Havre de Gras, France.  The cargo was cotton, and it had taken quite a fall in price a few days before, so we weighed anchor and went to Liverpool, England, where we remained 21 days.  The sailors boarded with Mrs. FizHenry, Blundell Street.

Here, while discharging cargo between daylight and dark I fell down the hold and broke my left arm.  It was not properly set, and is lame to this day.

We took on a load of coal, salt and 200 passengers, and sailed for New York, where we arrived after a sixty day passage, making the end of my first long sea trip.

One thing I forgot to mention, while reefing topsails in a gale of wind, I lost my hold.  I cried out to the carpenter to catch me, and I barely saved myself by the sail flapping on the windward yard arm or main top sail.  Three times I have come very near losing my life.  The second time was on the Ponchartrain Railroad in Louisiana, when a train of cars actually brushed my garments as I slipped off the track a hairís breadth ahead of the engine.  The third occasion was when I was eight years old, when, before I knew how to swim, I stepped in a deep hole in the river and crawled on the bed of the creek until I reached the opposite bank.

When we arrived in New York I felt inclined to visit my old home place after I had spent a few days with my ship mates.  My first stepmother was dead, and my fatherís third wife was a very amiable lady, an affectionate mother to me, and a loving wife to my father.

I spent most of the summer on the farm with Father, who took quite an interest in me.  He made his will and left all of his property to me.  I was very much inclined to remain with him, but I was twenty years old, and had a roving disposition, so I started out again.  In the past two years I had traveled several thousand miles by sea and land and I felt I knew much more than I really did.  I therefore went to Bristol, Connecticut, to learn to make clock dials, and hired out to Deacon Brusher for $20 per month.  After the dials were prepared for painting I commenced to prime and paint them with a camelís hair brush, giving them nine coats of paint, two coats a day.  I had to grind my pumice stone at a big iron kettle with a cannon ball, then sift it through a fine cambric cloth, and then grind my faces of clock dials with a large roll of factory cloth, six or eight inches wide, rolled as hard as possible.  This roll was made as big as could be grasped with both hands.  The painting was very unhealthy because I had to grind my own paint.

The first day I primed 100 dials ready for the gold leaf.  The Deacon had from twenty to thirty girls raising scrolls, others putting on the gold leaf, etc.  In the first place there was a copper plate and all the figures cut to put on the face of the dial with pencil.  This was all done with copper plate stencil.  After this the scrolls and circles and the gold leaf was put on to the sizing with great care, and rubbed off with cotton.  We turned out a thousand per month.

After one season I started the same business with fifteen or twenty girls, mostly apprentices.  The lady foreman I paid $50 per month.  Clocks took a sudden fall and I took a fall at the same time.  I was not able to meet my obligations, so I closed my business after about one year, and paid most of my debts.  I moved my clocks to 282 Grand Street, New York City, and started a Clock, Watch and Jewelry store.  I sold many thousand dollars worth of clocks and jewelry, and made a handsome sum, but at last clocks came down to $2 each, so I closed up the business and went home.

I then went to Great Britain, twenty-five miles from home, and started in a foundry, casting clock weights, flat irons, etc.  I did not like this, and left in a few months, returning home, where I found a great revival of religion among the Hard Shell Baptists.

(Note by H. T. Cory, Nov. 20, 1915):

Elam Luddington, after leaving New England and New York, lived for a time in New Orleans, La., from before 1843 to toward the summer of 1845.  In August 1845 he had moved to Nauvoo, Ill., to the Mormon Settlement there.  In 1846 he joined the Mormon Battalion as First Lieutenant of Company B.  See History of the Mormon Battalion for the record of his army career.  Doubtless in Folios Two and Three of this autobiographical sketch he set forth the details of this period of his life.  Unfortunately these have been lost, and no copy of them exists.

Folio IV

Santa Fe is an old Mexican city now garrisoned by the United States army.  Col. Cook was now Commander in General of the Mormon Battalion.  I told him previous to leaving that Adjutant Dick was no particular friend of the Mormons.  Hundreds can testify to the same thing.

Captain Jas. Brown, Lt. Luddington (myself), and command of 100 soldiers unfit for service and 20 laundress women marched back as far as Fort Bent or Pueblo on the Arkansas River, where we were to grow our winter rations.  We did this, built a number of log houses and spent a really pleasant winter.  We hunted deer and elk which we found in great quantities. We kept up our drills and guard mountings, although we had two or three deaths and quite a number sick with black leg or scurvy.

In the course of the winter I made two trips to Santa Fe to draw our pay.  It was more than one hundred miles over the mountains and in some places the snow was forty feet deep.  I got snowblind; almost scalding water running freely form my eyes, and I suffered great pain.  On our second trip Captain Brown got the start of me with a company of eight or ten men because I could not find my mule in time.  I therefore left Pueblo much later in the day, had fifty miles to go to overtake them on the Indian trail in the enemiesí country.  Night came on and I gave the mule the reins through the passes and the windings of the mountains.  Finally I turned the mule into the thickets and tied my animal to a sapling and spread my blankets on the snow.  The storm grew worse.  Suddenly I heard a bush crack, and an old she bear was on my track.  I mounted my animal and fled.  Fortunately I soon came up to the company and turned in for the night.  In the morning I found myself under two feet of snow.

Several families from the southern states spent the winter with us, namely, Jack Holliday and family, Wm. Ritter, Porter Dowdle and others, with their families; Dr. McIntyre, Dimmick Huntington and Captain Higgins, -- the three last were in the Battalion.

Early in the spring we took up our line of march for Fort Laramie, seven hundred miles to the west, where we arrived in time to fall in with the pioneers.  Amasa Lyman, our guide, was five days behind the pioneers.  They arrived at and entered the Salt Lake Valley July 24, 1847, and we got in July 29, five days later.  The Mormon Battalion brought up the rear.

The Great Desert of Salt Lake, the mountains, the canyons and valleys, were all a wild wilderness, dotted with creeks, Indian arrows and woolies.  It was enough to excite serious reflection.  President Young said to build a fort, and it was quickly done.  The North, Middle and South Forts were a shield from our common foe, the Indians.  We sowed and we planted, but reaped a scarce harvest in an untried country.  The mountaineers offered a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn that could be raised here.  But we built a building, had meetings, held a great feast with music, games, singing, dancing, etc.

We got permission form Patriarch John Smith to go back to the states and gather up our traps which we had left behind on our enlistment in the Battalion at Council Bluffs.  Amos Neff, John Dillworth, Besom Lewis and I with our families went back in the Fall of 1848.

When within a few miles of the Missouri River a heavy sandstorm (sic) came up, catching us out of provisions.  One or two others and I started on ahead and got some provisions and returned to our families, as they had camped for the might in some old hovels or shacks.  We found some of the mules frozen to death.  In the heavy snow storm next day we got to the Missouri River which we found partially frozen over.  The ferryman with much trouble got us across with safety.  We stopped with Russel Stephens, where we left our things.

My family and I went on to St. Joseph, where we spent the winter.  I got work in a slaughtering house where I killed from 200 to 300 hogs per day.  I got an outfit for my return to the mountains and at this time my son Elam Adelbert was born.  My wife and children started back to Cincinnati, Ohio, and I took a steamer to Council Bluffs.

There I fell in with some old friends - the Gee family.  Susan Eliza Gee accompanied me to the Valley.  Her mother died of cholera a few days after landing at Council Bluffs.  From St. Louis I was captain of ten or twelve wagons or families.  We had a long and tedious journey across the plains.  Finally in the Fall (1849) we arrived in safety.

I married Sister Susan Eliza Gee on December 4, 1849.  The same winter I was appointed City Marshall, Assessor and Collector of Salt Lake, which position I filled until October Conference, 1852.

Then I was called on a Mission with three others, namely, Chaney West, Franklin Denny and Levi Savage to go to Bancock, Siam, Further India.  We started October 21, 1852, together with fifty-two elders for different parts, namely, Siam, Calcutta, Australia, Sandwich Islands, South America, etc.

I spent three years on this mission in the East Indies.  I visited Calcutta, Malacca, Siam, Calunthan, China, etc., and was on three sailing ships.  I travelled thirty thousand miles, baptized 16 converts and returned home in the fall of 1855. I never lacked for meals, victuals or was without purse or scrip.

George Q. Cannon, the first to greet me on my return, was on a mission in San Francisco.  This point I visited, as well as the northern mines, and I fell in with a number of my old Battalion brothers who ministered to my necessities, as my means were limited.

I returned to San Francisco and Amisa Lyman procured for me a cabin passage on board the steamer “Seabird” for San Pedro, and from there I took stage to San Bernardino in the summer of 1855.  I spent several weeks in this Mormon Settlement with Brother Wm. Crosby and others, and then started home, going with the mail carrier and a few others.

My pack mule gave out on the Rio Virgin.  I went to the next settlement after giving an Indian a rifle to bring in my mule and provisions.  Previous to this the Indians were suspicious that I was a Gentile.  My beard was one foot long.  The Indians threw things in my path, and I was requested to go on ahead of the company.  My mule took fright and threw me off.  I mounted again, but when only a short distance further on, several Indians stepped in my path with their tomahawks over my head.  I gave them my rifle, which seemed to pacify them until our whole company came up, and our interpreter told them I was a good Mormon.  I then passed on.

At another time they commenced to cut my pack open but I drove them off and arrived in Cedar City with my brothers in safety.  I met a most cordial reception in all the settlements on my way to Salt Lake City where I arrived October 15, 1855.

In almost all my travels in the East Indies I was alone among the natives and was often mobbed and driven from kingdom to kingdom.  In Bankok, Siam, at one time in my meeting house, I was reading at the dead of night by a dim light.  I heard the squeak of one of the folding doors to the adjoining room.  I looked up and saw a so-called “ghost” or personage with a long white figured robe trailing on the floor, with wings extended on a bamboo pole, six feet long.  I arose and said, “Stranger, I am a servant of God, and command you to leave this house.” I laid violent hands on his shoulders and tore off half a yard of his robe.  In the struggle he slipped out of the large folding doors.  I ran after him and drove him into the old French burying ground.  This is but one of such experiences in the East.

I was perfectly lost in my own city after three years absence.  I found many towering buildings, both public and private, and excellent orchards and gardens, loaded with fruit.

I soon joined Captain Killianís company and marched to the head of Echo Canon (sic) with hundreds of others to guard the passes, and kept out the blood hounds, the flower of James Buchananís army, then President of the United States.  There we spent most of the winter while a committee from Washington was sent out to make a treaty of peace.  When we started we left our houses and homes ready for a conflagration.

The Council finally said to go south, so we started to a man.  We left our lovely homes in the Spring of 1859, men women and children, the lame, the halt and the blind, with all our movable effects.  We scattered throughout all the southern settlements until peace was restored, and in the fall we returned to our homes once again.

August 2, 1860, my wife Eliza died, leaving four children to mourn her loss.  We buried our little son Erastus when fifteen months old.

I was under arms several nights and days at the alarm caused by General Bonner, who threatened to wipe out the Mormons.  He prepared his men for battle, but it was a case of considerable smoke and no fire.  The Mormon boys were well prepared, with their fingers on the locks, powder, ball, flint and steel ready, and colors flying.  “Mormonism or Nothing” was our motto.

In the summer of 1868 President Young took a contract to build 150 miles of the Union Pacific Railroad that was to run across the continent from east to west. August 18th, I started with several of my brethren to labor on this contract, on Bear River under Charles Kimball, Superintendent of the work. I was put at the plow, where I turned over fifty acres of soil with a heavy plow, and six mule team.  We had some very stony places, as also some where the soil was light and loamy.  Again I fell in love with Old Mother Earth, but my next assignment was as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.

One month I spent on Silver Creek, but not getting our pay of Mr. Newman, the company disbanded, and all the boys left for Little Muddy, or Charles Chrismanís Camp.  There I was in charge of the Commissary for Aza and Banjamin Howley, and staid (sic) until we finished our contract.  Three locomotives and fifty cars came up in a big snow storm and I went on board the cars November 6, 1868.  We broke up our camp, and returned home where we arrived on the evening of the 14th of November after three monthsí absence.

End Folio four.

Source: Elam Luddington, Luddington fmaily and all existing protions of an autobiographical sketch, FHL US/CAN Fiche 6018292, located at the LDS Family History Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

No other folios found.

Luddington Clearing House

Created on ... August 09, 2000
©August 9, 2000, Vivian Karen Bush