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Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Covenant

Salt Lake City Thirteenth Ward Relief Society

Private Residences, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory

June 14, 1854, and May 6, 1857

Matilda Matey Dudley Ferguson Paschall Busby (1819–1895) had a long history with American Indians. Her family history maintains that Indians attacked the Dudley family when she was a baby. Her father, Lawson, was scalped and killed, and she and her mother were kidnapped and later escaped, perhaps to Ohio, where Matilda later married her first husband, Stephen Ferguson.1 Dudley was baptized in November 1849, then immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley in 1851 with her son, Henry Ferguson, where they lived in the Thirteenth Ward.2

When the Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, they began to cultivate relationships with local American Indians, negotiating conflicts over land, water, and other natural resources. Utes and other native peoples soon entered a devastating decade of disease, resulting from sickness spread by the Mormon settlers.3 On January 24, 1854, several women from all over Salt Lake City met to consider “the importance of organizing a society of females, for the purpose of making clothing for the Indian women and children.”4 The next week they met at Matilda Dudley’s home, elected her both president and treasurer of the new society, and resolved that all members should pay twenty-five cents in dues as well as donate work hours “for the benefit of those Indians that should seem to be most necessitous or most deserving of our sympathy and assistance.”5 This was one of several such organizations throughout the territory.6

A few months later, Brigham Young issued a formal call to the women in Salt Lake City to unite their efforts in sewing clothing for native peoples and instructed bishops to organize Relief Societies in each ward.7 Dudley’s Indian Relief Society disbanded, and she was a key participant in the organization of the Salt Lake City Thirteenth Ward Relief Society on June 7, 1854.8 The next week, she presented a “covenant” for Relief Society members, which echoed counsel given by Emma Smith in the Nauvoo Relief Society for the sisters to be unified and not speak ill of each other or of church leaders.9 The minutes of the Thirteenth Ward Relief Society meetings record the women making donations; sewing clothing, quilts, and carpet rags; and braiding straw hats, all of which was done “in the usual social, useful, and kindly manner.” The organization took an annual winter hiatus when it was too cold to work together.10

Three years later, on May 6, 1857, Dudley, who had since married Joseph Busby and changed her surname, reissued the same covenant, nearly word for word. That covenant, which is reproduced here, may have been intended for new members who had joined after 1854 or as a reiteration of the purpose of the society.11 In both its 1854 and 1857 versions, Dudley’s brief speech illustrates her organizational vision for this local group and its connection to the broader Relief Society. The Thirteenth Ward Relief Society was discontinued in 1857 because of the pending arrival of the federal army, which had been sent by President James Buchanan in response to allegations of a Mormon rebellion in Utah.12

[June 14, 1854]

Moved by M. Dudley, seconded by A Cobb,13 and carried unanimously, that the following covenant be made by all who become members of this society, viz., that we speak no evil of each other, nor of the authorities of the church, but endeavor by all means in our power to cultivate a spirit of union, humility, and love, and that this shall be the covenant into which all shall enter who become members of this society.

[May 6, 1857]

Sister M. Busby14 proposed that the covenant entered into at the commencement of the first organization of the society should be renewed, which was as follows: That all who become members of this society shall speak no evil of each other while assembled, nor of the authorities of the church or any other person, but endeavor by all means in our power to cultivate a spirit of union, humility, and love, and that this shall be the covenant that all shall enter into who become members of this society.


  1. [1]See Elsie Helm, Reminiscence, typescript, accessed Sept. 1, 2015, For details on Indian attacks, scalping, and kidnapping in Pennsylvania and Ohio, see The History of Wyandot County, Ohio (Chicago: Leggett, Conaway, 1884).

  2. [2]Endowment House, Sealings and Endowments of the Living, vol. A, 1851–1854, Matilda Paschall, July 14, 1852, 43, microfilm 183,393, FHL; “Matilda M. Dudley Ferguson Paschall,” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868, accessed Sept. 1, 2015, Little is known about Busby’s first and second husbands—only that her son had the last name of Ferguson and that she then took the name Paschall before she married Joseph Busby in 1856. Because she crossed the plains under the surname of Paschall, it appears she may have divorced Ferguson and married Paschall before making the trek to Utah. Mr. Paschall, however, does not appear to have traveled to Utah with her. She apparently started going by Dudley again sometime after her arrival in the Salt Lake Valley—she is called “M. Dudley” in the June 14, 1854, minutes of the Salt Lake City Thirteenth Ward Relief Society, which are presented here. The Thirteenth Ward was located between Main Street and 300 East, and South Temple and 300 South. (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1941], 748–749.)

  3. [3]Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 50–58, 80–88. In the fall of 1853, Brigham Young outlined various proselytizing missions to the Indians, which were set to depart in the spring of 1854. (Richard L. Jensen, “Forgotten Relief Societies, 1844–67,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16, no. 1 [Spring 1983]: 107–109.)

  4. [4]Amanda Barnes Smith, Journal, Jan. 24, 1854, CHL; Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 188–190.

  5. [5]Amanda Barnes Smith, Journal, Feb. 9, 1854; Thirteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Relief Society Records, 1854–1857, June 7, 1854, CHL; Derr et al., First Fifty Years, 190–191.

  6. [6]The first organized relief efforts in Utah occurred in the early 1850s, beginning with the Salt Lake City Second Ward’s sewing meetings. Lydia Goldthwaite Knight coordinated a Relief Society specifically for the Salt Lake City First Ward in 1854, and Bishop Shadrach Roundy appointed Patty Sessions as president of the Salt Lake City Sixteenth Ward Relief Society in June of that year. Other societies started between 1854 and 1857. Ward societies organized in Salt Lake City included the Third, Sixth, Seventh, Eleventh, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Wards. (Second Ward, Salt Lake Stake, manuscript history and historical reports, typescript, 7, CHL; Susa Young Gates, “Relief Society Beginnings in Utah,” Relief Society Magazine 9, no. 4 [Apr. 1922]: 185–190; see also Jensen, “Forgotten Relief Societies.”)

  7. [7]Historian’s Office, General Church Minutes, 1839–1877, June 4, 1854, CHL.

  8. [8]Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Records, June 7, 1854; Louisa R. Taylor, “Records of the Female Relief Society Organized on the 9th of Feb,y in the City of Great Salt Lake 1854 Utah Territory,” June 13, 1854, 30, BYU; Derr et al., First Fifty Years, 197.

  9. [9]Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Records, June 14, 1854; Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, Mar. 24, 1842, 15; Apr. 14, 1842, [27]; May 26, 1842, [53]; Aug. 4, 1842, [77], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years, 37, 47, 70–71, 91.

  10. [10]Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Records, July 19, 1854; “Historical Sketch of the 13th Ward Relief Society,” Thirteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, Minute Book “A,” 1868–1898, Mar. 17, 1892, 646, CHL; Leonard J. Arrington, From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 337–338.

  11. [11]Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Records, May 6, 1857. She married her third husband, Joseph Busby, who became a foreman for the territorial legislative assembly, on March 13, 1856. (Kate B. Carter, comp., “The Year of 1864,” in Our Pioneer Heritage, 20 vols. [Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965], 8:4; Endowment Index, 1846–1969, Matilda Dudley, microfilm 1,262,865, FHL; Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 646.)

  12. [12]Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 646; Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 80.

  13. [13]Augusta Adams Cobb was from the Boston area. She married Brigham Young as his second plural wife and moved to Utah in 1848. She served as first counselor to Matilda Dudley. (Jeffery Ogden Johnson, “Determining and Defining ‘Wife’: The Brigham Young Households,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20, no. 3 [Fall 1987]: 60; “Augusta Adams Cobb,” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868, accessed June 13, 2016,; Thirteenth Ward Relief Society Records, June 7, 1854.)

  14. [14]Dudley had married Joseph Busby and taken his surname in the time since the June 1854 meeting.

  15. [15]George Busby donated the Relief Society minute book belonging to his mother, Matilda Dudley Busby, to the Church Historian’s Office about twenty-three years after her death. (Clarissa Smith Williams and Amy Brown Lyman, “The Official Round Table,” Relief Society Magazine 6, no. 1 [Jan. 1919]: 43.)