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Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock: I Go Devoted to His Cause

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 30, 2012

Some closing thoughts at the end of Cyrus Wheelock Week on Keepapitchinin.

As part of the research for this project I searched Utah Digital Newspapers for “Wheelock,” “Cyrus Wheelock,” “Elder Wheelock,” and “C. H. Wheelock,” and came up with some good material. Then the other night when I was tying up some loose ends in the research, I happened to search for “H Wheelock” and came up with a treasure trove of additional stories. In the style of Tuesday’s post I’d call them “Cyrus Tracks a Murderer,” “Cyrus Rescues a Child,” “Cyrus Preaches the Gospel,” and “Cyrus Suffers from Heatstroke.”

One of the items that turned up in the “H Wheelock” search was a talk Cyrus gave in the Tabernacle in 1857. It gives a hint about what might have happened in his marriages— having to disregard the feelings of his wives due to the greater duties involved in missionary work and church service. The Kingdom of God was first, the leaders and people of the Church second, and his wives perhaps third (and fourth, and fifth, and sixth…). He said:

If [the] words [of the scriptures and prophets] abide in me, and if they abide in this people so that the Holy Spirit is never grieved away, I believe that we can always obtain the blessings of the Lord; but if we have not that Spirit, we have neither ears to hear nor hearts to understand; and if we love the things around us, our comfort and our riches, our families more than we do the kingdom of God and his righteousness all these blessings will be of little permanent benefit to us.

Brethren and sisters, God bless you; I say so because my heart feels to bless the people of God, for my interest is with them and I wish to abide with them….I desire to live only as long as I can be useful in building up the kingdom of God….

I now feel that this shall be my motto, where God shall place me, where his servants shall put me, independent of my own feelings, of the feelings of my wives, independent of poverty and distress, there will I labor, there will I stay.

Cyrus’s speech brings to mind the words of the hymn, “My Native Land Farewell,” the hymn once attributed to him:

I go to break the fowler’s snare,
To gather Israel home:
I go the name of Christ to bear
In lands and isles unknown….

I go devoted to his cause,
And to his will resign’d;
His presence will supply the loss
Of all I leave behind.

When Cyrus Wheelock turned eastward to go up in the mountains and high plains to help his beloved converts stranded in the bitter cold of Autumn 1856 and when he arrived at their makeshift camps and saw their wretched condition, starving and dying of exposure, he said emotionally that he would give his life to save the lives of the emigrants. And give his life he did; not then, not in 1856, but in all his missionary work and in all his service to the Kingdom of God throughout all his days.

The life of the author of one of the best-loved missionary hymns, “Ye Elders of Israel,” echoed the message of the hymn. His was a story of missionary work, of consecration and dedication to the cause.

We’ll go to the poor, like our Captain of old,
And visit the weary, the hungry and cold;
We’ll heal up their wounds, and we’ll dry up their tears,
And lead them to Zion to dwell there for years.

One of my favorite stories about Cyrus came up in a discussion with my husband about a tension we’ve seen in the Church locally: when do you put the needs of the people first, and when do you realize your organizational resources are limited and leave the people to fend for themselves?

Thomas Belliston told a story about his family, English converts, crossing the plains.

We arrived in New Orleans, March 31, from where we went by streamboat up the Mississippi River, stopping at St. Louis one month. I think it was here where father [James Thomas Belliston] bought two cows, fresh in milk. A butcher bought the calves. Taking the cows with us we continued up the river to a place called Keokuk, which is across the river from Carthage.

It was at Keokuk where we received our oxen and wagon, and was on our way across Iowa in Claudius V. Spencer’s Company. We worked our cows in the swing, making three yoke altogether. The cows never failed to do their share, besides giving us a good supply of milk, which we appreciated very much.

Soon, after starting our overland journey, our Captain began complaining about some being overloaded. We were referred to as being among the number. Father then sacrificed a valuable set of tools, realizing only five dollars for them. Then to satisfy the captain, my mother’s stove had to go. Our team was young and not well broke, so father was advised to trade one yoke of them to a friend of the captain for an old yoke and pay five dollars difference, which he did. A few days later one of the old oxen got in a mud hole during the noon hour, and stayed there. Then father sold the other for twenty dollars, and allowed the train to go on and leave us.

A few days later, Brother Cyrus H. Wheelock came along with his train. When he saw father he asked him what he was doing there. After a little explanation he exclaimed. “If Brother Wheelock gets into the valley Brother Belliston shall if he wants to go.” We appreciated his kindness, and hitched up the oxen … and the cows … We were soon on our jou[r]ney again.

From there on we had a pleasant journey… Sometime previous to our arrival in Salt Lake City, one of our cows died, but Brother Wheelock borrowed another for us to work the rest of the journey.

We arrived, safely, in Salt Lake City on October 6, 1853…

This week we’ve gotten to share the stories of Cyrus providing a weapon to Joseph Smith, a few stories of missionary and church work, and the stories of a challenging family life. Regarding his wives, it may have been difficult to serve in a supporting role to Cyrus’s life of dedication and service, particularly when the needs of children entered the mix. We don’t know the details of their lives; except for a note here or there in the historical record, those details seemed to die with the people in the stories, but of all the many characters I’ve gotten to know in the story of the Restoration, Cyrus Wheelock is one of my favorites, and I’m glad that the author of one of my favorite hymns has a life story to match the message of the hymn.



13 Comments »

  1. Thanks, Amy.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 30, 2012 @ 11:03 am

  2. What a terrific ending to a great week. I’ll add my thanks to J. Stapley’s.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  3. And my thanks, too. It’s been as interesting for me as for anybody else to wonder what the new day’s post will be, and they’ve been fantastic. This is my favorite by far … although it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me a week ago, before I got to know Cyrus Wheelock through the earlier posts.

    Thank you, Amy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  4. The balance between Church and personal life has swung back and forth over the years. The current position (especially from Elder Packer) seems to be that the Church is there to support the family and not the other way around. I’m glad for these peeks into the past and the insights that come because of them

    Comment by The Other Clark — November 30, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  5. Thanks, all. I hope Mark B. doesn’t mind me mentioning something. A few times on Keepa he’s noted that two of his ancestors, both Englishwomen, were in the Martin Handcart Company but that his family didn’t know anything about their experience, so earlier this year I spent a bit of time poking around the records to see if there were any accounts of their experiences, besides the general information about the Willie and Martin handcart and Hunt and Hodgett wagon companies.

    I didn’t learn much about their experience, but I did discover an intriguing lead into the largely untold story of Cyrus Wheelock, a name that just barely sounded familiar.

    Many of us know the story of Dan Jones in Carthage jail, that Joseph Smith told him he would live to serve a mission in Wales. Some people call this Joseph Smith’s last prophecy. But do we know that during that evening or the next morning, Joseph also told Cyrus Wheelock that if he went on a mission, he would be successful? That was counsel or a prophecy that Cyrus took to heart, and later in his life a source noted that while he was on his three missions in England, he oversaw the baptism of 7,000 converts.

    Understanding the lives of some of the “minor” figures in Church History can give us some additional understanding of the events of the Restoration.

    Comment by Amy T — November 30, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  6. >I have enjoyed some of your writings and some I agree too and some I don’t. I am a great granddaughter of Cyrus . My grandfather was Byron Grandville Wheelock the son of Marion Dallin and Cyrus H Wheelock.I have met the daughter Maude, she visited our home,Cyrus Alberto lived next to us and passed away in 1937,I know some of Ella’s children and I have met Olive’s grandchildren the first wife and mother of the one living son.
    I know that Cyrus wrote “Come Go With Me Beyond The Sea” and “ye Elders of Israel” both are in the Blue Hymn 1948 Spencer W. Kimball was the Prophet and the re Hymnal when Harold B. Lee was Prophet. I am greatful that people are bringing praise to a great Man

    Comment by P Joan Morris — May 16, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

  7. Thank you for commenting, Joan. It’s always so nice to hear from the descendants of the pioneers I’ve written about.

    Three questions for you, or for any other descendant reading these posts.

    1. In 1854 Cyrus H. Wheelock wrote a letter to George A. Smith and mentioned that he kept a diary during the Nauvoo period. If by chance it survived the trek west, does some descendant still own it? If it does still exist, with its account of Joseph Smith’s death, it would be a great benefit to the Church and to Cyrus’s memory if it (or a copy) could be donated to the Church History Library.

    (The Church History Library is a fairly new building on the block northeast of Temple Square and east of the Conference Center, not to be confused with the Family History Library. The Church History Library can preserve important artifacts like pioneer and missionary diaries and letters, and make them available to both descendants and historians.)

    2. Anyone know where the Carvalho portrait of Mary Ann Broomhead Wheelock is? It was in the possession of the Broomhead family in Idaho at the start of the 20th century.

    3. I am continuing to gather sources on Cyrus Wheelock and plan to write more about him in the future. He was an amazing and fascinating character, and deserves recognition for the important part he played in early church history.

    If any information held by the family (letters, diaries, etc.) contradicts any information in any of these posts, I would very much appreciate seeing the sources, since vague assertions of inaccuracy are not helpful to me or the Wheelock family. Any other additional information would also be much appreciated, including family pictures. Please contact me with additional information at amyancestorfiles at gmail dot com.

    Comment by Amy T — May 17, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  8. Greetings all, I am Robert L. Wheelock of Ohio, I was baptised into the Latter Day Saints faith in 1968 and in later life learned of Cyrus. In my genealogy I learned the parallel generation in America of my grandfather to Cyrus would put them as 1st or second cousins, I have a photo copy of a newspaper article from the Dayton Ohio Journal Herald of about 1853? speaking of Elder Wheelock as the presiding elder of the companies arrived from England and forming up in Saint Louis, the article was posted in the paper next to my great uncle Daniel Williams Wheelock obituary who had served as mayor of Dayton from about 1837 to 39. It was an odd thing to see some person had posted both articles together . Any questions or interest in this feel free to e-mail me, make the subject title obvious as to not confuse with spam.

    Comment by Robert L. Wheelock — November 4, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

  9. What a great comment, Robert. Several times in the last few years I’ve seen converts find real connections to the early days of the Church, and it’s always a lovely experience.

    The Wheelock family is an old and respectable American family, and it’s curious that the editor chose to print those two articles together.

    Comment by Amy T — November 5, 2013 @ 6:45 am

  10. also I meant to say that I once had a very brief conversation with my grandfather back around 1972 and he mentioned there was an old family person from those days that went west with the Mormons. I thought little of it then, but now think he may have been referring to Cyrus? anyway, when I learned of Cyrus, I remembered when grandfather was at the sink drying dishes and we were talking.

    Comment by Robert L. Wheelock — November 5, 2013 @ 7:06 am

  11. If there is anything I can provide to help you with Cyrus Wheelock’s life stories etc… please do not hesitate to email me. I am Cyrus Wheelock & his 1st wife’s GGG Grandson & my family is very heavy in genealogy and Church projects and it is so overwhelming to read about Cyrus and see him recognized so much. I do have materials, written items of Cyrus and many stories. My Mom has even more, I am 51 y/o & live in Amherst, NY tho’ most of our family lives in Idaho, Utah & California. I hope to hear from you.

    Comment by Gregory Cracolice — March 15, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

  12. Per comment #11 Greg Cracolice my email address is: [edited to avoid spam]

    Comment by Gregory Cracolice — March 15, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

  13. Wonderful, Greg. I’ll send an email.

    Comment by Amy T — March 15, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

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