David Hyrum Smith

Birth date: November 14, 1844
Birth location: Old Homestead, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois
Died: August 29, 1904
Death location: Elgin, Kane, Illinois

The youngest of the nine children born to Emma and Joseph Smith Jr., David Hyrum, came into the world on 14 November 1844, in the Old Homestead, in Nauvoo, Illinois. Five months before his birth, his father, Joseph Smith Jr., had been killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. A frail, colicky baby, he was cherished by his widowed mother, his elder (and adopted) sister, Julia, his brothers, Joseph III, Frederick, and Alexander. He was three years old when his mother married Louis C. Bidamon. With that marriage he gained two new step-sisters, Mary Elizabeth 11, and Emma Zerelda Bidamon, 13, who, like so many other children, were welcomed by his mother, Emma, who could never stand to see a soul in need go without giving aid.

In his youth he became an accomplished artist, poet, and musician. He was at the age of about sixteen when his brother Joseph III took leadership of the Reorganization in 1860. He soon became eagerly involved in the ministry with his brother. As he matured, he became a good preacher, and always touched the hearts of any congregation with his wonderful hymns of faith and devotion to God and the cause of the restoration. Never having known his father, he penned a sad ballad entitled, “The Unknown Grave” which tells of the death of his father, his uncle Hyrum, and their sacrifice for the cause of the gospel.
David traveled west with Alexander on a mission to Utah, California, and points west, in 1869. They pursued that journey, going by wagon to Omaha, where they boarded the Union Pacific Railroad, becoming some of the earliest travelers on that road after its completion in May of 1869. They arrived in Salt Lake City on 15 July. David was excited about the opportunity and thoroughly enjoyed the western country. He and Alexander were made welcome in their cousin, John Smith’s home. They were together for an unpleasant encounter with Brigham Young and other leaders of the Church in Utah; Brigham Young refused the Smith boys use of the Tabernacle and scolded them for their activities, speaking harshly to them of their mother.

They left the meeting smarting with indignation that someone would ever speak so against their dear mother, whom they loved so deeply. They felt Brigham had misjudged her, and they would like to have corrected him, but they held their tempers and wrote home describing the incident with great indignation. In December they were in California. David suffered illness which was very debilitating but struggled to continue his missionary labors.

Alexander was called home due to his wife’s illness, so the two went home in March 1870. David was cared for by his mother and seemed to improve. On the 10 May 1870 he married the young woman who had captured his heart, Clara Hartshorn, at Sandwich, Illinois. The young couple set up housekeeping in the Mansion House, living with Emma and Pa Bidamon. On 8 March 1871, a son, Elbert Aoriul was born to Clara and David in room #10, of the old hotel wing. Things got very crowded there when Alexander and Lizzie, with their four children moved back to Nauvoo. Louis Bidamon hastened to get the Riverside Mansion ready and he and Emma moved into it.

David went to Utah In the middle of the summer of 1871, without church authorization where his harsh words were published in the Salt Lake Daily Tribune in July. He was back to Nauvoo within a few weeks and continued his travels throughout Iowa, Missouri, Illinois preaching and publishing his sermons. He became a popular and formidable speaker. He was anxious to return to Utah.

In July 1872, he finally called to accompany Charles Jensen on another mission back to Utah. While there he seemed to lose the sense of his religious purpose; he suffered a complete physical and emotional breakdown. During the early months of 1873, he fought to recover, but he was returned home in May in the care of Josiah Ells. Unknowing of David’s severe illness, Joseph had called him to serve in the First Presidency in April. David seemed to feel better. He and Clara set up housekeeping in Plano; but his illness overtook him, and he was never well enough to serve in that capacity due to ongoing bouts of depression and confusion. His emotional and physical breakdown was not due to his missionary labors in Utah as some mistakenly implied. From 1874 through 1876, his family struggled to care for him passing him back and forth between Plano, Lamoni, IA. When he became violent, it was decided there was nothing that could be done except to place him in the asylum for the mentally ill in Elgin, Illinois. Joseph Smith III took this sad step on 19 January 1877. David was thirty-two.

For the rest of his life, David had times of lucid thought but it did not last. His book, Hesperis a book of Poems, published in 1875 brought a small income to his wife and child. Emma said of his condition to a friend calling it her “living trouble.” Emma, and the entire family mourned the terrible loss of their brilliant, and gifted, deeply beloved, son, brother, uncle and cousin.

David died 29 August 1904, a few months short of his sixtieth birthday.

His son Elbert married and had three sons.

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