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Cedar City Ward Relief Society, Minutes, September 10 and December 10, 1857, and March 11, 1858

Cedar City Ward Relief Society, Minutes, Sept. 10 and Dec. 10, 1857, and Mar. 11, 1858; Cedar City Ward, Parowan Stake, Relief Society Minute Book, 1856–1875 and 1892, pp. [18]–[19], [21]–[22], [24]–[26], CHL (LR 1514 22).

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On November 20, 1856, ninety-five women assembled in the local “tabernacle” as stake president Isaac C. Haight organized the Cedar City, Utah, Relief Society. At that meeting, with “most of the ladies of Cedar” present, Lydia Hopkins was voted president. Hopkins chose Annabella Sinclair Macfarlane Haight, a plural wife of the stake president, as her first counselor; Rachel Taylor Whittaker as her second counselor; and Ellen Whittaker Lunt, Whittaker’s daughter, as secretary.1 Following four weekly meetings, the group met monthly, usually on Thursday afternoons, from January 8, 1857, until April 14, 1859. The society was reorganized in 1868 under a new presidency; Lunt continued as secretary, a position she held until 1879.2

In November 1851, four months before Henry Lunt married Ellen Whittaker, he led the first company of Latter-day Saints in founding Cedar City. Located 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, the settlement was part of the Latter-day Saints’ “Iron Mission,” a project conceived by church leaders in the spring of 1850 to establish agricultural outposts and an iron works in the red rock desert along the anticipated line of Mormon settlements between Salt Lake City and San Diego.3 Reserves of iron ore, close proximity to beds of coal, and the selection of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh miners and iron workers as colonists initially lent promise to the enterprise, but ultimately it produced little quality iron. Suspension of the iron works in October 1858 followed years of hard winters and famine from drought and insects.4 As a result of these circumstances and the shadow cast by the 1857 massacre at nearby Mountain Meadows—in which settlers, along with American Indians they recruited, slaughtered approximately 120 members of a wagon train traveling from Arkansas to California—many colonists abandoned Cedar City for more attractive settlements.5 This may help explain the end of recorded Relief Society meetings in 1859.

Cedar City Relief Society Minute Book

Cedar City Relief Society Minute Book. Ellen Lunt recorded minutes of the Cedar City, Utah, Relief Society from 1856 to 1875. Invited at the December 3, 1856, meeting to donate “a little writing paper” for the secretary’s minutes, members contributed sheets of various sizes. Lunt then collated the sheets to fit between pieces of pasteboard that she covered with floral wallpaper she had brought from England. She made a binding for the spine and corners from cured buckskin. The archival labels seen here on the front cover were added later. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

Ellen Lunt’s minutes of three Cedar City Relief Society meetings—out of a total of about two dozen recorded between 1856 and 1859—are featured here. The first featured meeting occurred on September 10, 1857, a day before the Mountain Meadows Massacre and while the emigrant company was already under siege. While the situation is not explicitly addressed, the minutes refer to the tension and to the militiamen from Cedar City who were “out acting in our defence.” The other two meetings included here are dated December 10, 1857, and March 11, 1858.

As the Cedar City Relief Society Minute Book is one of the few surviving Relief Society minute books from the 1850s, these selected minutes are featured to demonstrate some of the operations and concerns of a local society. The organization of the Cedar City society reflected that of the Nauvoo Relief Society, with a presidency, secretary, and treasurer, and a corps of teachers charged with visiting the poor to ascertain their needs. The teachers also reported their instructions to women regarding obedience, orthodoxy, chastity, cleanliness, and prayer—some of the key principles emphasized during the 1856–1857 Mormon Reformation.

September 10, 1857 • Thursday

Met according to appointment 2, o, clock p.m. Thursday Sepr 10th 1857. Opened the meeting by singing, Prayer by Sister Lunt, Singing 〈Minutes read and approved〉 Sister Hopkins called for the teachers report Sister Pugmire and sister [Alice] Randle said that the sisters manifested a good spirit and seemed to be improving, that they encouraged them to live their religion, and to continue to improve. Sister Liston said that she with sister [Mary] Mc Connell had visited the north line,6 and that they they found the sisters doing pretty well, that they instructed them in cleanliness economy &c. felt highly pleased with the sisters as a general thing Sister Willis and Sister Haight said that they found things generally to their satisfaction taught them the necessity of being obedient to their husbands &c—7 and not to be fearful in these troublesome times but to be prayerful and attend to their duties. Mother Whittaker and Sister Annabella found the sisters generally enjoying a good spirit, that they felt to rejoice in visiting the sisters & that they felt the sisters were improveing in all things Sister Haight said that the sisters enjoyed a better spirit than they did eight or nine months ago,— said that these were squally times, and we ought to attend to secret prayer in behalf of our husbands, sons, fathers, & brothers. instructed the sisters to teach their sons & daughters the principles of righteousness, and to implant a desire in their hearts to avenge the blood of the Prophets.8 Sister Hopkins said that she with sister White had visited the sisters in the middle lines, that they felt well and manifested a good spirit, and was desirous to do well, and to improve,— advised them to attend strictly to secret prayer in behalf of the brethren that are out acting in our defence.—9 The Presidency gave some good instructions to the sisters, which if adhered to, would tend greatly to their benefit.— Sister Liston & Sister Mc-Connell were appointed to visit the East line. Sister Pugmire and Sister Randle the Middle lines, Sister [Mary Ann] Harrison and Sister White the South line. Sister Mc-Murdy [Mary Ann McCurdie] 〈& Sister [Barbara] Morris〉 the West line. The Presidency would take the North line. Sister Eliza Ann Haight & Sister Willis the Iron works & the new City.— Sung—Oh how glorious will be the morning &c.—10 Sister [Celestia] Durfee, Sister Wilden, Mother [Barbara] Morris, Sister [Terressa] Chamberlain, Sister Randle & Sister Jane Bosnell bore their [p. [18]] testimony and felt to rejoice that the time of our redemption was drawing nigh. It was moved and carried, that Margaret Bateman Hannah K Smith [Klingensmith], Hannah Micholston [Ane Mickelsen] become members of this Society. Sister Hopkins said the bell would be rung half an hour before meeting time for the future.11 Singing. Benediction by Sister Mary Willis. Adjourned till 2 o clock p.m. Thursday Octr 8th 1857. Ellen Lunt—Secretary … [p. [19]] …12

December 10, 1857 • Thursday

Met Pursuant to adjournment 2 o clock p.m. Thursday Dec 10th 1857. Present, Bishop Smith [Phillip Klingensmith], & Elder Henry Lunt. Opened the meeting by Singing Prayer by the Bishop. Singing. Minutes read & accepted. Sister Haight called for a report from the teachers. Sister Pugmire & Sister Randle reported the Sisters on the South line as enjoying a good spirit and doing the best they could. they didn’t feel to find any fault with them but felt well with improvement some of them had made, Sister White and Sister Mary-Ann Harrison spent a pleasant day in visiting the sisters on the West line, who were enjoying a good spirit and felt content with their lot, and desirous to live their religion. Sister Liston said, through circumstances unavoidable they didn’t visit the Sisters this month, but she felt desirous to do right & to do her duty in all things. Sister Morris said they found the sisters on the north line, doing well and enjoying a good spirit. Sister Eliza Ann Haight said that like Sister Liston they had been prevented from visiting the sisters through circumstances &c. Mother Whittaker & Sister Annabella found the sisters on the East line glad to see them they were enjoying a good spirit but like the rest of the sisters on the other lines as the teachers had reported, were destitute of clothing, they advised the Sisters who had plenty, to cultivate a liberal spirit and administer to the poor, also for those who didn’t know how to learn and manufacture their own clothing. Bishop Smith then said, it was some time since he was here before but he thought he would come to day said he was well pleased with this Society and the reports given, and that the sisters felt about right. Spoke on being destitute of clothing, said that it was quite right, and that it was good for us, but there was always a way opened when it was most needed.— Spoke considerable on home manufacture etc. Bro Lunt then arose, and made some very appropriate remarks, spoke on cleanliness, and a many other principles of the Kingdom and said that the sisters would do well to adhere unto the counsel given by the Bishop.— Sister A Haight felt to rejoice in what the brethren had said & exhorted the sisters to listen to the teachings and act thereupon. appointed the teachers to visit the same lines this month as they did the last. but if it was bad weather they needn’t go round and it was expected the sisters would do their duty whether the teachers went round or not [p. [21]] It was moved and seconded that Mary-Ann Lunt, Agnes Easton[,] Catherine Whittaker, & Louisa Hunt become members of this Society, carried unanimously. The Bishop again arose, and acquiesced in what Sister Haight had said and encouraged the Sisters to go on in the good work Sister Randle spoke on the wants of the treasury. closed the meeting by singing Benediction by Elder Lunt. Adjourned till 2 o clock p.m. Thursday January 14th 1858

Ellen Lunt—Secretary … [p. [22]] …

March 11, 1858 • Thursday

Met again at the appointed time & place, 2. o. clock p.m. Thursday, March 11th 1858. 〈Sister Hopkins, Presided.〉 Opened the meeting by singing. Prayer by Sister Ann White. Singing.— [p. [24]] The president called for the teachers report. Sister Pugmire and sister Randle reported the Sisters on the west line feeling well, and manifested a good spirit, and were trying to do the best they could. Sister Harrison & Sister Lund found the sisters on the north line endeavouring to live their religion and most of their habitations were nice and clean. Sister Morris reported the sisters in the middle lines, doing well, with few exceptions, had no fault to find with them. Sister White and sister Mc-Connell found the sisters on the East line enjoying a good spirit, and they believed the sisters were improving Sister Haight & Sister Willis found the sisters in the new City enjoying the good spirit of the Lord, but she didn’t find them so well supplied in clothing. Sister Hopkins with sister A Haight & Mother Whittaker enjoyed their visit to the sisters on the south line very much. found them enjoying a good spirit generally, and trying to live their religion. counselled the mothers to instruct their children in every good thing. Sister Haight said she would like for those who understood home manufacture to teach those that didn’t.13 Spoke on bringing some patches to the treasury that there might be some covers made for the benefit of the poor that she wouldn’t like to be a whit behind any other society in the mountains. Spoke considerable for the benefit of the sisters. Mother Whittaker said it was rejoicing to her to see the progress the sisters were making in this Society. counselled the sisters to be cautious how they spoke one of another. The President then gave the sisters the privilege to speak their minds. Sister [Roxsena] Patten said she wished to be one with us and whilst sitting down she had been reflecting on the scenes she had witnessed in Nauvoo. Said that she had long been deprived of the privilege that we now enjoyed.14 Sung Come Come ye Saints &c.—15 Sister Annabella said that if any of the sisters thought of any thing that would tend to the further advancement of this society she would like to hear it. counselled them to speak their feelings and not be backward. Mother Morris bore her testimony also Sister Lynn. Said they desired to do the will of God, and to keep his commandments. Mother Willis & sister William [Ann] Haslam also bore their testimony Sister Hopkins said she would like to hear the sisters speak that had lately come in if there were any present. Sister Corey [Margaret Corry], Mother [Mary] Hunter, Mother [Ellen] Muir, Mother [Cynthia] Benson, Mother [Margaret] Bateman, & Mother [Ann] White bore their testimony and felt glad and thankful that they were here Mother Simpkins also bore her testimony and spoke in tongues. Sister Hopkins then called on sister Lily [Margaret Lillywhite] [p. [25]] who bore her testimony & expressed her thankfulness that she was gathered to the valleys of the mountains. It was moved and seconded that the following sisters become members of this Society. Sarah Urie, Elizabeth Haight, [blank] [Margaret] Keys, Roxsena R Patten, Margaret Lily, Emma Walker, Mary Lapworth. unanimously carried. Sister A Haight exhorted the sisters to not forget home manufacture. Sister Patten again spoke and expressed her feelings regarding this. Sister Hopkins informed the sisters where the treasury was and said if they had any patches or anything else to spare to take them there. Singing. Benediction by Sister Annabella Haight.

Ellen Lunt—Secretary [p. [26]]


  1. [1]Cedar City Ward, Parowan Stake, Cedar City Ward Relief Society Minute Book, 1856–1875, CHL, Nov. 20, 1856, p. 3.

  2. [2]“A Brief History of the Relief Society of Cedar City,” Mar. 17, 1892, in Cedar City Ward, Parowan Stake, Relief Society Minute Book.

  3. [3]For more on the settlement of Cedar City and the Iron Mission, see Morris A. Shirts and Kathryn H. Shirts, A Trial Furnace: Southern Utah’s Iron Mission, Studies in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2001), chaps. 6–7.

  4. [4]See Brigham Young to Isaac C. Haight, Oct. 8, 1858, Brigham Young Letterbook, vol. 4, pp. 432–435, in Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878, CHL; Shirts and Shirts, Trial Furnace, chap. 14.

  5. [5]For more on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, see Ronald W. Walker et al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). Cedar City resident Martin Slack stated in a December 1859 letter to the Deseret News: “Two years ago there were about 150 families residing in this place; but through various causes, such as a scarcity of water, poor land and the suspension of the iron works—some have removed to other parts of the Territory, and a few more families anticipate removing next spring.” (Martin Slack, Dec. 19, 1859, Letter to the Editor, Deseret News, Feb. 15, 1860, 394.)

  6. [6]The Relief Society presidency had earlier designated teachers for different portions of the city: the west line, the north line, the middle line and the “new city,” the east line, and the south line. The Cedar City fort, built 1853–1854, enclosed the northeast half of the surveyed city. The survey showed a central public square or temple block, with north–south and east–west lines dividing 4 × 20 rod lots for individual families. The “new city” was located outside the fort wall. According to a ward history, “As late as 1857, about half the people lived inside the fort wall. The rest had already built on their lots on the new city survey. The distance from the fort to the second location across the creek was half a mile.” (Cedar City Ward, Parowan Stake, Relief Society Minute Book, June 11, 1857; “History,” entries for 1852 and 1853, in Cedar Ward, Parowan Stake, Manuscript History and Historical Reports, 1851–1900, CHL.)

  7. [7]At the organizational meeting of the Cedar City Relief Society, November 20, 1856, stake president Isaac C. Haight spoke at length on the topic of wives obeying their husbands. General church leaders at this time also emphasized this concept. At an earlier meeting of the Cedar City Relief Society, two teachers reported that they “had met with a little opposition in regards to obedience to husbands, though those that were willing to live their religion, were also willing to give heed unto that principle.” (Cedar City Ward, Parowan Stake, Relief Society Minute Book, Nov. 20, 1856, and June 11, 1857; see also, for example, Heber C. Kimball, July 12, 1857, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool: Various publishers, 1855–1886], 5:28–30; and Brigham Young, Sept. 21, 1856, in Journal of Discourses, 4:56–57.)

  8. [8]The phrase “blood of the prophets,” which is used in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, was used by Latter-day Saints in this era to refer to the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, who were murdered by a mob at Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. In 1857 Mormons in Utah, including Brigham Young and other church leaders, were using heated rhetoric against outsiders, including references to the deaths of the Smiths, in the context of the Reformation and the Utah War. Some of the emigrants in the Arkansas wagon company with their cattle passed through Cedar City on September 3, 1857, and some individuals apparently threatened local residents. A later story that circulated in southern Utah about the emigrants was “that one boasted of having a gun that killed Joseph Smith.” The three historians who have written the most in-depth study of the massacre state, “If an emigrant in fact made such a boast, it was probably just part of the venting that went on in Cedar City. None of the identified victims of the massacre is known to have had anything to do with the Smith brothers’ deaths.” (See 2 Kings 9:7; Matthew 23:29–33; Luke 11:50; Revelation 16:6; 18:24; 3 Nephi 9:5–11; and Walker et al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 67–73, 93–94, 98–100, 132–135.)

  9. [9]The Arkansas company passed through territorial Utah when tensions between Mormons and outsiders were high, partly as a result of reports that the U.S. government had sent a federal army to quell a reported Mormon rebellion. Mormons were instructed to not sell grain or other supplies to the wagon train as a wartime measure; in addition, the emigrants had clashed verbally with Mormons regarding where they could graze their cattle. Verbal clashes between members of the Arkansas company and local residents occurred in Cedar City on September 3, and local officials hoped to imprison some of the emigrants. In early September 1857, the wagon train camped at Mountain Meadows, about forty miles southwest of Cedar City. Some local Mormon leaders recruited Paiute Indians to join them in an attack on the train on September 7 that was apparently intended to exact vengeance upon the emigrants and to frighten them. Though the attack was to have appeared as if perpetrated solely by the Paiutes, things did not go as planned and the local Mormons recognized that the emigrants knew that local white men had been involved. On September 9 local ecclesiastical and military leaders conspired to order additional men to the site to preclude any possibility that reports of the initial Mormon violence should reach California. At midday on September 10, shortly before the women’s Relief Society meeting, about one-fifth of the Cedar City militia left for Mountain Meadows, where the wagon train emigrants remained under siege. The following day, September 11, the emigrants agreed to leave their circled wagons when Mormon militiamen presented a false flag of truce. The militiamen, aided by Paiutes, then slaughtered approximately 120 men, women, and children, sparing only small children believed to be too young to talk about what they had witnessed. (See Walker et al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows, chaps. 10–13.)

  10. [10]Songs of Zion (n.p., [1853]), in John Freeman, Songbook, ca. 1849, CHL; see also Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, 3 vols. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2012), 3:118.

  11. [11]The Deseret Iron Company cast a large bell in 1855 that was used to call townspeople to assemble for various gatherings. (Shirts and Shirts, Trial Furnace, 362–363.)

  12. [12]text: The texts of the three minute entries selected for publication in this document have been reproduced in full, without abridgment. The ellipsis points in this document have been supplied by the editors of this volume to represent material omitted between the selected entries.

  13. [13]Home manufacture was an essential element of the Latter-day Saint concern with economic self-sufficiency, a concept that took on renewed importance as U.S. Army troops approached Utah. John Taylor summarized the idea: “We cannot be independent until we can make our own shoes, dresses, shawls, bonnets, pantaloons, hats, and all such things as we need. When we can do these things, raise our own food, manufacture everything we need among ourselves, then we shall be independent of other people.” (John Taylor, Jan. 17, 1858, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool: Various publishers, 1855–1886], 6:168.)

  14. [14]Roxsena Higby Repshar (who later in this same meeting was admitted a member of the Cedar City Relief Society) became a member of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo on April 28, 1842. She married Andrew V. Patten in 1850. (Document 1.2, entry for Apr. 28, 1842; Daughters of the American Revolution, Springfield Chapter, Sangamon Co., IL, Marriage Records, 1822–1870, vol. 3, p. 149, Mar. 22, 1850, microfilm 848,654, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)

  15. [15]See Songs of Zion.