Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock: In Desert, On Mountain, On Land, or On Sea

Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock: In Desert, On Mountain, On Land, or On Sea

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 27, 2012

[Part of a week-long series about Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock and the poetry of Hannah Last Cornaby. See index here.]


Although he was an important part of early Mormon history, Cyrus Wheelock is an underappreciated character, and he deserves a full-length biography. You won’t get that here, but you will get to read four short stories about his life.

Cyrus and the Pepperbox Pistol

It was raining that morning, so Cyrus Wheelock put on his overcoat. He slipped an Ethan Allen dragoon-style pepperbox pistol into his pocket. The pistol belonged to John Taylor, who was in jail at Carthage, Illinois, with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Dr. Willard Richards. The pistol was a six-shooter, the kind of weapon later used so frequently by the ’49ers in California.

Cyrus had been at the jail the evening before, and he needed to return in the morning for more legal business, so at 8:00 a.m., he went to Illinois Governor Thomas Ford to request a pass. Ford provided two passes: one for entry into the prison and one for safe travel between Carthage and Nauvoo.

Suffer Mr. C. H. Wheelock to pass in to visit General Joseph Smith and friends in Carthage jail unmolested.

Thomas Ford,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief.
June, 27th, 1844.

Protect Mr. C. H. Wheelock in passing to and from Carthage and Nauvoo.

Thomas Ford,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief.
June, 27th, 1844.

Cyrus had heard credible death threats against Joseph Smith from a man named John Hicks, and he repeated the threats to the governor, but Governor Ford refused to do anything.

Cyrus entered the prison, his pistol unnoticed. He spent an hour or two there, collecting a letter from Joseph to Emma Smith, gathering a list of witnesses for the upcoming trial, taking verbal messages from the four men to their families, and receiving instructions to tell the Nauvoo Legion to avoid any show of force. The messages were so numerous that Willard Richards suggested writing them down in case Cyrus forgot them, but Hyrum Smith looked Cyrus in the eye and said, “Brother Wheelock will remember all that we tell him, and he will never forget the occurrences of this day.”

As Cyrus got ready to leave, he took the pepperbox pistol out of his overcoat pocket and gave it to Joseph Smith, then walked down the stairs and out of the jail.

Cyrus Does Not Debate

Cyrus Wheelock served three missions in England between 1848 and 1856. Martin Harris, one of the original witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had also crossed the ocean to England to preach on behalf of James Strang, a contender for control of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith.

Martin Harris arrived in Birmingham and wanted to speak to a meeting of the Birmingham Conference of the Saints. Cyrus Wheelock explained to the conference “that it was Martin Harris, an apostate from the faith: that he had abused him and his brethren coming across the sea, and he would not allow him to speak, there being many people there who were opposed to the truth.”

The mission publication Millennial Star said, “On being rejected by the united voice of the conference, he went out into the street, and began to proclaim the corruption of the Twelve…”

Wheelock continued the story in his diary:

however he was not to be put of[f] so he must and would preach and Accordingly [Decamped] to the Street and Commenced holding forth to the annoyance of the people while thus engaged [two] policemen [Very] politely [waited upon] him Each affectionately taking an arm and thus the Curtain fell and the Drama Closed to the great amusement of the Spectators…”

Cyrus Smokes a Peace Pipe

Cyrus Wheelock led a wagon train of about 52 wagons and 400 people across the plains in the great migration of 1853. The wagon trains outfitted in Keokuk, Iowa. Cyrus had never crossed the plains before, but he was an energetic, intelligent man, ready to jump in and get to work and consequently the pioneers admired and respected him.

John Chambers told the following story:

As we passed into the Pawnee territory, these natives soon paid a visit to our camp. Early one morning a party of Pawnees visited us, and conversed with Mr. [George Parker] Dykes (who was returning from a Mormon mission to Denmark), as he had crossed the plains at other times, and was somewhat acquainted with the languages of the Indian tribes. A pipe of tobacco being produced and lighted, the party sat down with Mr. Dykes and Mr. Wheelock, forming a circle upon the grass. The pipe was passed from one to the other, each one puffing three or four times, first to the right and then to the left, and lastly upwards, which was a sign that they were at peace with all around, and with the Great Spirit. The chief was made to understand that Mr. Wheelock was our chief, and he immediately embraced him, saluting him with the Pawnee kiss. The party then separated, taking with them many presents in the shape of biscuits, &c….

Cyrus and the Cow

Cyrus was in charge of collecting donations to build the Manti Temple. It was a massive project for the immigrant farm community, so the stories of sacrifice are many and varied. Mary Ann Linton Morgan, about eighteen at the time, later wrote:

Just before the dedication of the Manti Temple Bro. Cyrus Wheellock [sic] was sent out to make a last appeal to the Saints for contributions to finish paying for the temple. He came over to the Juab Stake. He made a very impressive talk on the importance of temple work and urged the people to give of their means. He promised the sisters if they would sacrifice a coveted bonnet and give the price of it to this fund that it would come back to them in bonnets or what so ever they sacrificed. I did not take it literally, but had $5.00 put away to buy me a nice parasol. When the satin lined with shot silk, and a deep black lace ruffle was the style. I decided I could do without the parasol, and gave Bro. Wheellock [sic] the $5.00 the next morning. In about two weeks a traveling salesman of one of our leading department stores presented me with one of his sample parasols. A beautiful one which would have cost much more than $5.00 at wholesale. I felt the Lord had made good His promise to His children in my case anyway, for I had given freely not expecting it to come back in such a way.

Some of the donations were given in kind: lumber, chickens, butter, eggs, flour, quilts, clothing, tools. The story was told of a Mr. Jones from Emery County,

who, in his later years, with tears in his eyes, told how Cyrus Wheelock called on him for a donation to the building fund and how he had been impressed to give his only cow which was needed for his family. He relates that later an angel came in the form of a well-to-do bachelor who asked if they would take his cow and then he would eat with them every once-in-awhile.



  1. Cyrus Wheelock’s involvement in so very many different kinds of activities is amazing. He, and a lot of other early Saints, seem to have simply pitched in to do what needed doing, regardless of experiences or qualification or training or anything else, and the work got done.

    Thanks for a great set of stories, Amy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 27, 2012 @ 8:33 am

  2. Someone raised a question about the pepperbox pistol and the ’49ers.

    The information is from an article from the American Rifleman, but it is an old article, so if anyone is a weapons expert (or knows a weapons expert) and has different information about the use of Colt revolvers in 1849 rather than pepperbox pistols, I’d be happy to correct that. (That goes for any other detail in these posts with documentation to the contrary.)

    Here’s what the article says:

    So closely was the old single-action Colt’s associated with the early history of the West that one might easily be led into the error of taking for granted the assumption that the long barreled revolvers of frontier days sagged somewhere between the cow-hide boots and the flannel shirts of those Argonauts who lived and fought and died in “The Olden Days: the Golden Days—The Days of Forty Nine.” Yet quite a different weapon claims the distinction of being the arm of the Forty-Niner.

    When the rugged pioneers discovered precious metals almost at California’s grass roots… Then every man who could obtain an Allen Pepper Box, tucked one in the waistband of his trousers before venturing to western gold camps…

    Later, of course, the Colt’s became the one best bet of prospector and miner, just as it became the universal weapon for sheriff, gun-man, cowpuncher and all of the types which built the West. But before the cowpuncher, the sheriff and the gun-man, came the Pepper Box.

    The pepperbox pistol that Cyrus gave to Joseph Smith is in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. (See a picture of it at the link.) It wasn’t a very reliable weapon.

    Comment by Amy T — November 27, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  3. These are terrific. I love reading them to the family.

    Comment by Carol — November 27, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  4. A great set of stories, Amy. And an interesting “footnote” about the weapon of choice among the 49ers. (Choice, as in all the Model T owners who chose black–since there wasn’t anything else available.)

    Comment by Mark B. — November 27, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  5. John Taylor’s pepper box appears to be American-made by Ethan Allen, as shown in this entry from (cough, choke, splutter) Wikipedia. It does mention it as the weapon of choice for the 49ers. It apparently is a “double action” revolver, meaning that pulling the trigger rotated the next barrel, as opposed to just the next chamber of the cylinder on modern revolvers, into firing position. This would have been a terribly inaccurate weapon at any distance over a few feet. It would have been heavy, with six barrels, and hard to hold steady while pulling the trigger that rotated the barrel.

    Comment by kevinf — November 27, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  6. Amy, very interesting. These stories of Wheelock are all new to me and very interesting. Of course I am so interested in who the “well-to-do bachelor” in Emery County was. Can you give me more information? There are several in Emery County I have been searching for biographical information.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — November 27, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  7. Jeff — the account is from Gary Stubb’s thesis, “A History of the Manti Temple,” citing a book called Song of a Century by the Manti Centennial Committee (1949), page 46. I didn’t get around to looking up “Mr. Jones,” let alone the unnamed bachelor. I suppose he could have been from Emery County or Price.

    I don’t see any Mormon settlers named Jones in Price in 1880.

    In 1880 Emery County, the options would be Heber Jones, age 32, or Benjamin Jones, age 29. Heber and Rosannah Brady Jones had four young children and Benjamin and Sarah Cheney Jones had three young children. They lived in the town of Huntington in Castle Valley.

    If “Mr. Jones” was one of these two brothers, the unmarried men in the 1880 census for Huntington were Abram McKintosh (28), Joseph Holder (26), Levi Simmon (27), Kaylux (?) Rhodes (44), Charles Grames (26), Peter Neilson (22) and Horace Thornton (58), and then there are a lot of unmarried miners and ranchers in Emery County.

    I would guess it was Benjamin Jones (1850-1934) since Heber and his wife moved over to Fairview, and should have been known by the Committee. Benjamin has a history in the DUP, but I don’t see anything online, so unless the DUP history has something to say about this story, it might be hard to identify the bachelor.

    Comment by Amy T — November 28, 2012 @ 11:15 am

  8. Thanks for all the stories during Cyrus Wheelock week! I was aware that Martin Harris left the Church for a time, and that he eventually returned to Church membership and lived in Utah. I was not aware that he went to England and worked against the Church for a time.

    Thinking of this story brings several ideas to my mind. Life is complicated, and it involves real people. I’m glad Martin Harris re-joined the Church. Maybe respectful treatment, or not being fought as “the enemy” while he was away from the Church, such as seems to have been the case in “Cyrus does not debate”, helped keep that door open for him to return?

    I wonder if Cyrus and Martin associate happily now in whatever works they’re involved in?

    Comment by DST — November 30, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  9. Thanks, DST. You might be interested in the following. In the interests of space, I ended up leaving out part of the Martin Harris story. When Harris went out into the street, hecklers realized who he was and tried to get him to admit that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon were a fraud.

    A member of the Church named George Mantle remembered a number of years later:

    When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting that he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism: but when he was asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes: and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: “Do you know that is the sun shinning [sic] on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God.”

    Comment by Amy T — November 30, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  10. Speaking of Martin Harris and Cyrus Wheelock (and his wife Marion Dallin): Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s middle name is Harris, his mother’s maiden name. Her great-grandfather was Emer Harris, Sr., the older brother of Martin Harris. And Elder Oaks was named for the sculptor Cyrus Dallin, who as we learned the other day was Cyrus Wheelock’s namesake, the nephew of Wheelock’s wife’s Marion Dallin.

    And thus we see that eventually everybody is connected to everybody else.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

  11. That makes my head spin, Mark!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  12. Which brings us back to Tommy Roe.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

  13. Not quite connected, but some close calls — one of my ancestors came across the plains in the fall of 1853 (different wagon train, though), and then settled in Manti.

    Great stories!

    Comment by lindberg — December 4, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

  14. Oh yeah, and another ancestor was in the rescue party with Cyrus. Another close call.

    Comment by lindberg — December 4, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  15. That’s interesting, lindberg, and your ancestors would very definitely have known Cyrus, by reputation if not personally. Perhaps the latter-mentioned ancestor would have been in the Tabernacle in the morning session of conference on October 6, 1856 as President Young:

    stated that the Semi-annual Conference was now open, and that the first business was to forthwith start assistance to those now on the plains. Called upon those who were willing to go, or send teams, to come to the stand and report; saying that if there were not enough teams, teamsters, &c., volunteered, he would close the conference, and with br. Kimball, start back to help those companies.
    Pres. Kimball remarked, It is moved and seconded that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Jedediah Grant go back to help the P. E. Fund Emigrants. Unanimously negatived….
    Pres. Kimball called on the blacksmiths in the congregation to retire; as they were wanted to shoe the horses and repair the wagons of those about to start to assist the brethren on the plains.

    The afternoon session started with two songs and a prayer and then:

    Elder C. H. Wheelock expressed his feelings on returning to the valleys of the mountains, and while on his mission.
    Elder James Ferguson bore testimony to the truth of Elder Wheelock’s remarks in relation to the hand-carts, and appealed to the Saints in behalf of those who are still on the road.
    Elder W. C. Dunbar sung a ‘Hand-cart song’…

    I could only find one list of the 1856 rescue parties online, and the website doesn’t state the source for the names, but here’s a link. (Scroll down to Known Rescuers of the Handcart Companies)

    The oldest of the rescuers seems to be 56-year-old John Lewis Dunyon, and the youngest was 12-year-old George James Forsyth. I see an ancestor of mine, some relatives of my husband, and at least one ancestor of another regular commenter at Keepa. Some of the rescuers were family members of those in the emigrant parties.

    Some notable members of the company included J.D.T. McAllister, the author of the Handcart Song, slave/indentured servant Tom Bankhead, and of course Cyrus Wheelock, who served as chaplain, and conducted at least one burial service during the rescue.

    Comment by Amy T — December 4, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  16. My great-great grandfather in the rescue party was Thomas E. Ricks (namesake of Ricks College). I believe he was in the first party that set out on Tuesday following that conference. He was 28 at the time.

    Interestingly, one of the women he helped rescue moved to Manti and married the other ancestor I mentioned.

    Everyone is connected. :)

    Comment by lindberg — December 4, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

  17. :-)

    Oh, and one other thing. I never figured out the identity of “Angus Wheelock” on that list of rescuers, but it must have been Cyrus’s half-brother, Andrew Jackson Wheelock, age 23, who accompanied Cyrus across the plains in 1853 and was in Utah as late as 1857, when he was endowed at the Endowment House.

    Let’s see. Andrew Jackson Wheelock moved back across the plains and served as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He was in Company G, 3rd Cavalry Regiment Missouri.

    The regiment was organized in the fall of 1861, Col. Glover’s commission being dated Sept. 4. During the months of Dec., 1861, and Jan., 1862, it was engaged in the suppression of the guerrillas about Palmyra, defeating them at Mountain Store, Sinking creek, Wyman’s mill, Newtonia, Hartville and other places.

    It formed part of the Union forces that attacked and defeated Marmaduke at Hartville, and was active in the pursuit of that officer in his expedition into Missouri. In August and September it was in the 2nd brigade of Davidson’s division in the expedition against Little Rock, and participated in the engagements at Bayous Meto and Fourche, and Jacksonport.

    In Dec., 1862 a detachment of the regiment was assigned to Gen. Carr’s command in the St. Louis district, and in March, 1864, the regiment formed part of Anderson’s brigade of Carr’s division in Steele’s Camden expedition.

    It remained in Arkansas the greater part of the year on scout duty. In Jan., 1865, it was stationed at Little Rock, very much reduced by casualties and the muster out of the non-veterans at the expiration of their term of enlistment…. Source: The Union Army, vol. 4, p. 273

    Comment by Amy T — December 4, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  18. I can see how an Andrew might be mistaken for an Angus. The Italian kid across the street called my son Andrew “Angelo” for about five years–until he was about 10. I think he just figured any name starting with “An” must be Angelo.

    Add one more Mormon to the Civil War veterans list!

    Comment by Mark B. — December 4, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  19. Thanks, Amy for your help on the single man in Emery County. That will be very helpful. I have been off the computer for several days.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — December 4, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  20. Thanks to someone mentioning Cyrus Wheelock somewhere today, I remembered some additional information for this post.

    The list “Known Rescuers of the Handcart Companies” mentioned in comment 15 seems to come from the book Tell My Story, Too by Jolene S. Allphin.

    On page 546, a note about Angus Wheelock (19) says that he married Mary Latrelle, a member of the Hunt Company.

    Mary Matilda Latrielle, a 21-year-old Englishwoman traveling with her mother Rachael, is listed in the genealogical record as being married to famous Welsh missionary Dan Jones in February 1857, two months after the Hunt and Hodgetts wagon trains arrived in Salt Lake City. After Dan Jones died, Mary married a man named Thomas Vincent.

    There is no suggestion in the genealogical record that she married anyone named Wheelock, and she would have had to marry and divorce Angus/Andrew within a period of two months. Any proof of the marriage would have had to come from a documentary source, and there is no source mentioned for the information about “Angus Wheelock.”

    So, the book didn’t help identify “Angus” any better, and there’s still a pretty good chance that he was Andrew Jackson Wheelock.

    Comment by Amy T — August 11, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

  21. […] Latter-day Saint convert named Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock (Feb. 28, 1813 – Oct. 11, 1894). There are multiple inspiring stories about Brother Wheelock.  He led a truly remarkable life. He was devoted to the prophet Joseph […]

    Pingback by Ye Elders Of Israel: Hymn By Cyrus Wheelock | MORMON SOPRANO — March 3, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

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