Emma Hale Smith Bidamon giving compassionate service is a theme which runs consistently throughout her life story. One such story illustrating this character is her tending of a gunshot wound resulting from a tragic mistake.
The family of David White Rogers had become good friends with the Smiths after David was instrumental in helping scout out locations for the Latter-day Saints to move when they were driven from Missouri in 1839. He was also an artist who painted a likeness of Joseph Smith in 1842. Several of his family had moved to the vicinity of Nauvoo during the 1840s. By 1846, David, and most of his extended family had left the area for Winter Quarters.
One of his daughters, Amelia Rogers Telle, and her husband, Lewis Telle, remained in Nauvoo because they could not afford to go west when the others went. Telle was a carpenter, and since at that time that sort of work was scarce in Nauvoo, he took his family to St. Louis to get work. Their last child, a daughter, Martha, was born there May 28, 1846.
From the writings of Amelia’s sister, Caroline Rogers Daniels Smoot, we learn how Amelia and Lewis Telle’s family suffered tragedy, and how Emma administered compassionate care to them during the winter of 1847. Caroline relates:
“Mr. Telle was quite sick in St. Louis and when he was some better, the doctor advised him to return home, [Nauvoo] which he did (sometime after September of 1846). He was very weak, took a relapse and was sick again. It (1847) was a very hot summer and my sister was not well either. Nauvoo at that time was a very lawless place to live in. Almost every night some house was broken into and robbed of money, if there was any. The people were in constant fear of their lives. Mr. Telle [had] brought home his pay in gold and Amelia told him that she was afraid they might be robbed. He said intruders would find him ready for them if they came. When he went to bed he put the loaded gun at the head of his bed.
“The late July night being very warm, Amelia got out of bed and went out in the garden to cool off. When she opened the door to go back to bed, Mr. Telle awakened from sleep and hearing the noise, thought someone was breaking into the house. He grabbed his gun and fired, shooting Amelia in the chest. The doctor didn’t think she would live until morning, but she rallied. The ball came out her back near her spine. As she commenced to get better she refused to let her family know, wanting to save them worry. She lived four months then relapsed and died December 29, 1847. On her death-bed she made her husband promise to let her mother have their little baby girl named Martha.”
Emma’s compassionate care of Amelia:
Emma attended to Amelia in her long sickness. David White Roger’s history states: “Amelia’s friend Emma Smith spent many long hours caring for her during her illness. After Mr. Telle’s death in 1856, she took care of the two sons, ages nine and ten, until they were old enough to be on their own.”
This tidbit of information makes us curious to know the rest of the story.
It is easy to picture Emma stepping in to assist this poor unfortunate family. She was skilled in the care of the sick, perhaps even experienced in caring for gunshot wounds, having been in attendance after David Patten was shot during the battle of Crooked River, in Missouri.
Emma’s life in 1847:
Emma’s caring for Amelia must be placed in context of what we know of her life that July-December 1847. She had returned to Nauvoo in January, taken up residence in the Mansion House, and was attempting to run the place as a hotel in the almost deserted city. She was caring for her five children, Julia, 16, Joseph III, almost 15, Frederick, 11, Alexander, 5, and David, 3 and several other orphans. Caring for Amelia through her long decline coincides with the same period of time when Emma was being courted by Louis C. Bidamon, whom she married on 23 December, 1847, only six days before Amelia’s death. With that marriage, Emma became the step mother to Bidamon’s two young daughters, whom she welcomed into her home as naturally as she welcomed so many other children before and afterward.
If as the story implies, Emma watched over Amelia in her last days and hours, it was as a newly married woman, which extends the measure of compassion even farther than just to Emma, for Louis Bidamon was known for his tender hearted nature as well.
According to the Rogers’ family history, when Mr. Telle died in 1856, his two sons were cared for by Emma “until such a time as they could take care of themselves.” Several questions beg answers: Who were the two sons, what became of them? Why is no mention made in any Smith family historical accounts of this event or of these boys living in the household?
In 1856, when their father died, these boys would have been about 17 and 18 years old. Therefore we may assume that Emma’s ‘caring’ for the Telle boys did not consist of constant attendance, as one would assume if they were younger.
Again, putting these events in context of Emma’s life: In May 1856, Emma lost her mother-in-law, who had been bed-ridden with arthritis, and was in Emma’s care, her last five years. In October 1856, young Joseph III married Emmeline Griswold and the couple resided on the Smith farm near Nauvoo. Intimate detail of daily life for Emma’s family during this period is scare as Emma’s children were growing up and branching out on their own. The 1860 census for Nauvoo does not include the Telle boys as residents of Emma’s household.
We have learned from genealogy research that their names were Edwin and Lewis. Since they were in their teens when their father died it does not seem likely they actually lived in the home, but they were probably, like so many others, frequent welcome guests at Emma’s table. It may never be known exactly what Emma’s care of the boys may have been, but it is sweet to know that the tradition of her compassionate service to their dying mother and her ongoing kindness to them remains.
The story of Emma’s caring for Amelia was sent in on email by Melanie Snyder. Quotes are from Caroline Rogers Daniels Smoot.
Other Sources: Topham, Jane Rae Fuller, Biography of Susannah Mehetable Rogers Sangiovanni Pickett Keate titled, In Search of Living Waters.
Josiah Lewis Telle: Died 1 Jan 1856 outside Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois. First wife: Tabitha Oakley ~1803 – 1840 Second wife: Amelia Rogers 1818 – 1847 Third wife: Rachael Chapman . . . . Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Membership of the Church, Vol. 42. Lewis Tally (sic) is listed in the Book of Patriarchal Blessings Index, Vol. 4, page 114 as having been born in 1806, in Pa. and received a Pat. Blessing in Nov 1841. 1850 Census: Carthage, Hancock, Illinois, Carthage. Lewis Telly age 44 male carpenter bp: PA Rachael Telly age 38 female bp: PA Edwin Telly age 9 male bp: MA (sic) Lewis Telly age 7 male bp: MA (sic) Amelia Telly age 1 female bp: ILL. Lewis’ net worth was reported to be $300. Howell Q. Cannon wrote that his Uncle Espy Cannon told him Lewis Telle died on New Year’s Day 1856 during a snow storm while hunting. Nauvoo card catalog data says he died of “apoplexy” [a stroke] in 1856 at age 50 and was buried in Nauvoo Cem. #1. Bae Family History named Josiah Lewis Telle gave his birth as 3 May 1806. This history is included on the page with Rachael Chapman’s family. He was known as Lewis throughout his life. Nauvoo Indexed card catalog show Lewis Telle bought property in Nauvoo in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s.
We are grateful for E-mail correspondence from Melanie Snyder, New Mexico, October 2010