The History of Morris
Information compiled by the descendants of Morris and written by Rose Openshaw
Issuing from the lips of
a tall, slender, light complexioned man in his attractive home in
Montpelier, Idaho, were blessing for the comfort, joy and satisfaction
of myriad of the Saints of God in that section.
Mr. Phelps, through his life of dependability and devotion to the Church, had won for himself the sacred and coveted title of patriarch. He was privileged to be the mouthpiece of the Lord, speaking in his stead and blessing his people.
This Patriarch was the eldest of nine children, three daughters and six sons, and was thus acquainted with responsibility. He came from distant Northampton, Hamshire County, Massachusetts, the early home of his parents, Mary Keneippe and Spencer Phelps. His birth had occurred in the winter of 1805 on December 20; this town Northampton, had also been the birthplace of his mother. Spencer, Father of Morris, was of Puritan descent, and his birth had taken place may 9, 1782 in Chesterfield, Massachusetts.
At the age of two years, Morris' parents moved from Massachusetts to Painesville, Ohio and took up virgin land, which entailed the arduous task of removing forests before it could be cultivated and sown.
Families residing in that section per widely scattered, Making educational facilities practically nil. Troubled by this condition, Morris was sent to school for six months to Mentor, Ohio where a few of the rudiments of learning were grasped. Later, a few other opportunities developed, until in all, he had received perhaps fifteen Months of schooling. But cherishing an ambition for acquiring knowledge, learning was pursued throughout life.
When still a minor, his parents moved to a point near Kirtland and established a business in which he aided.
After passing his nineteenth milestone, he visited relatives in Lawrence Co., Illinois. There he met and two years later on April 12, 1825 married Laura Clark, the attractive daughter of Timothy Baldwin Clark and Polly Keeler. the young couple resided temporarily in Lawrence Co., where on March 20, 1827 their first child, little Paulina Eliza was born. After the birth of this daughter, Morris and Laura moved farther north to Willow Springs, Tazwell Co., Illinois. During the summer Morris established a sawmill and laid out a farm, achieving such remarkable success that a tempting offer was made for his business. Although hesitant at moving due to close friendship of their neighbors, the Sanford Porters and Joseph Rich families, urged by their low financial status, they sold, cleared up all their debts and moved to Chicago in 1829 or 1830.
Before departing, on August 6, 1829 Morris and Laura became parents for the second time for wee Mary Ann came to dwell with them. (This daughter eventually took as mate, Charles C. Rich, son of Joseph Rich.)
Morris and his wife were staunch Methodists at this time and he himself was a Free Mason. He owned a large sign two and a half feet square painted white with blue border and blue square and compass, which he proudly displayed, hanging on the wall of his home.
But at this period, strange and startling news arrived via mail, of a new church being organized by a prophet who had received gold plates from an angel; these he had translated by the gift of the Holy Ghost into a book. Also, that such respectable men as Isaac M. Morley and Edward Partridge, old acquaintances of Morris, had joined; and furthermore, that missionaries were heading west and they would likely see them soon.
Relative to this news, Morris later indicted in his journal, "On reading of this new church and of a prophet created such a curios anxiety, mingled with joy that I could not refrain from weeping." The next day Morris read the letter concerning the new book to Charles C. Rich. He was anxious to learn more concerning the new book, the church and the Prophet. Several years after, he spoke of a peculiar sensation of feeling that penetrated his whole system, that made his spirit buoyant and full of joy, but he knew not then what it meant. "but I know now," he continued, "it was the spirit of God testifying to the truthfulness of the prophet and Book of Mormon."
Shortly there after, Lyman Wight and John Correll, Mormon missionaries, called at his home, at which time various scriptures were clarified and the gospel explained in its purity.
Morris and his wife were soon baptized and the ordinance was performed in August of 1831 by Sanford Porter Sr. in the Dupage River in Cook County, Illinois.
The spirit of gathering with the Saints was strong upon them, as with all the newly baptized members, for a testimony burned in their souls and preparations were made to start for Jackson Co. Missouri. This destination was reached on March 6, 1832, and in the summer of 1833 Morris was ordained an Elder by David Stanton.
In Independence on April 7, 1832 Harriet Wight Phelps, their third daughter, was born. Shortly thereafter, when Church property was divided, they moved on to what they termed a "little prairie." Here a little motherless by, John Murdock, was brought to live with them.
In the fall of 1833, the Phelps family, along with others, was driven by the mob form Jackson Co. to Clay Co. and here Morris rented a farm. Here they were visited by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph who conducted meetings in their home and blessed their little ones. Pualina was promised she should live to go to the rocky Mts.
Then called by the Church, Morris, David Patton, Orin Parish and E. H. Groves departed to fill a mission in the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio on September 30, 1833. All had to depend on the Lord for food and clothing when the old clothes were worn out. Toiling with untiring zeal, the missionaries were successful in establishing two branches of the Church in Cook and Calhoun Counties. Charles C. Rich Sr. traveled as Morris' companion, and among others, they were able to baptize Laura's parents, T. B. Clark and Polly Keeler Clark. In August the missionaries went to Kirtland and on August 13, 1835 Morris was ordained a High Priest by W. W. Phelps and John Whitman in the Kirtland Temple.
For the next three months he labored as carpenter on the Kirtland temple and also attended it dedication April 6, 1836. He received his endowments within its walls, and following this, he was set apart as counselor to Carlos Smith, President of the High Priest Quorum. At the dedication it was his privilege to witness numerous spiritual manifestations. He heard people speak in tongue and the interpretations were given. Many strange and marvelous prophecies were uttered at the time which he lived to see fulfilled.
On April 6 accompanied by his brother Orrin, he started for home and arrived the 3rd of June. Three days later he baptized his tow daughters Paulina and Mary Ann and his brother Orrin, the later being the only one in his father's family to accept the gospel. Still there had been no antagonism - all the members were favorably impressed. His mother even expressed herself as believing the doctrine, but felt she was unequal to the persecutions the saints were called upon to endure.
While in Kirtland, Morris received an inheritance from his father. This, he was convinced, was directed from above as a reward for time spent in missionary endeavors. With it, he purchased a farm in Macedonia, Illinois (twenty Miles from Nauvoo) and used the balance to start a general Merchandise business. Boys were employed for the farm, while he was occupied in the management of the store. However, they were driven from Kirtland in November by the villainous mob who were loathe to see the Mormons gaining in power within their midst. So he took his family and moved to Far West, Missouri which became the headquarters and gathering place of the saints. But their hopes of relaxing hers were shattered. Infuriated by both the slave question and the great influx of the Mormons, the mob broke forth and the battle of Crooked River was staged on the 24th of October; both Morris and C. C. Rich took part in the defense. Homes were pillaged, live stock driven off or killed and church leaders where arrested and ordered to be shot the following day. General Lucas of the United States army appeared with two thousand troops. However, Major General Doniphan, to whom this order was issued, called it cold blooded murder, and refused point blank to carry out this command. Nevertheless, the men were imprisoned in a Richmond Jail for a period of six months and their loved ones were assured by Lucas that the die was cast and death would be their portion. Then on October 30 the heart-rending Haun's Mill Massacre took place in which many of the saints were killed.
Relative to the night of Morris' imprisonment, the following incident is recorded. Extermination orders issued by Gov. Boggs had gone forth, and the ominous and appalling news that the state militia had invaded Far West was relayed in the early evening by a close friend, named Hyrum Stone. Realizing it boded no good for them, Morris hastened to the seat of trouble to gain intelligence first hand, while Laura waited, the hours dragging slowly by. At two o'clock in the morning, he had not returned and a terrible pounding on the door with a threat to smash it in if not immediately opened, found Laura's heart near suffocating her. "We want Morris Phelps," the infuriated mob hissed, "and we'll get him!" But search proving futile, they left, only to waylay him returning home.
With the state taking this action, the satan-inspired mob was now like mad dogs, unleashed ready to tear their victims to pieces. Poor Laura could only wait, pacing the floor and imploring the heavens for Morris's safety. Accusing him of murder, the mob yanked him around and thrust him with a half hundred other men in a cold court house. Here a deaf ear was turned by the judge to any argument they had to offer, listening only to the fallacious testimonies convicting them. This mock court of inquiry continued seventeen days. Confined day after day in chains in zero weather, in an unwarmed room, the men suffered intense physical discomfort. Most offensive was the foul mouthed guard, whose stream of oaths and blasphemies seemed never to cease. They boasted of debauching mothers and virgins, and dashing out brains of infants. It was during this memorable occasion when the Prophet Joseph Smith, unable longer to endure their vicious rabble, arose, speaking as with a voice of thunder or of the roar of a lion, "Silence, ye fiends of the infernal pit!" He cried, "In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you and command you to be still. I will not live another minute and hear such language; cease such talk, or you or I will die this instant." He ceased speaking, standing erect in terrible majesty, chained and without a weapon. Calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground. With knees smote together, they crouched at his feet, begged his pardon and remained quiet until the change of guards.
At the conclusion of the mock trial, some of the accused were liberated but ordered sternly to leave the state. The Prophet Joseph, his brother Hyrum and four others were committed to the Liberty jail, while Morris, Parley P. Pratt, and one or two others were duped, like trash, into the Richmond cell, still on alleged man-slaughter.
This prison was an extremely dark, foul-air dungeon and here they discovered many other of the saints similarly penned. It was devoid of beds or chairs, only the naked floor for sleeping and the cold winter storms were pushing through cracks and crevices. Food was scant and repulsive.
Some of the number were finally released on bail, leaving only Morris, Parley, King Follett and apostate Gibbs who, the men surmised, was retained to spy on them. Here they were imprisoned for another six months. During this period of tribulation, Morris had a constant prayer in his heart for the safety of his wife and children. Although his own plight was almost unbearable, this was submerged in his anxiety for his loved ones from whom no word had been received during the long confinement.
Eventually the monotony was varied for the prisoners by a change of venue, and they were transferred from here to the Columbia prison in Boone Co. Which was one hundred miles distant. Hurdled together and manacled like wild beasts with iron locks, they were then marched out amidst a multitude of belligerent spectators and placed in a carriage accompanied by a heavily armed guard on horse. At dusk they were ushered into a room, where to relieve their weariness, they had to stretch themselves upon their backs on the bare chilly floor. They were unable to change their position because they were fastened together with chains.
Eventually reaching the Columbia prison, they found it little different from the one just vacated; it too was a dungeon of filth and cobwebs. But the following morning they were visited by the sheriff, removed to better quarters and treated with some leniency.
After several weeks, they experienced the unprecedented joy of a visit from friends in Illinois, and for the first time learned of their families. Laura had left her home in Far West and was enroute to Montrose, Iowa. She was driving her own team and was taking her children with her. She was now obliged to part with the small boy, John Murdock, to who she had become attached, for his father had remarried and had come for him.
Before leaving Far West, Laura had a frightening experience. The Prophet Joseph and Brother Hyrum had been tarred and feathered and were being chased by a mob, so they dashed into Laura's house for protection. A curtain hanging behind the bed was used to cover them. When the mob arrived demanding the men, Laura very unconcernedly told them they were welcome to search her home. Thus, put off the track by her seeming indifference, they hurried on and searched elsewhere.
In Montrose, Laura was obliged to move into a stable which became half-way livable after cleaning and white washing. But her anxiety for the welfare of her husband had been almost greater than she could endure. It had driven her to seek the Church Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Sr. who on Feb. 4, 1833, promised her Morris would escape his enemies and eventually return to her.
Now she began to make plans to return to Far West to see if she could be of service in effecting his release. To this end she had sought the Prophet, who, not only approved her plan but pronounced an added blessing upon her head. She wrote her sister, Rhoda Cooper, "I expect to start in a few days to find Morris, if possible. I attended the court in Richmond on April 22nd. This was a serious time, I assure you, to leave my companion in the dungeon with no bed and half enough to eat. The morning I was there, eight men were in jail, and for breakfast only enough food was brought in for three" She went on to relate that she had talked with the lawyer and grand jury and they seemed convinced of Morris' innocence. She thought he would be released, but learning that day of the escape of the Prophet and others at Liberty, it raised their fury. She wrote further, "I left our home in Far West on the 20th and drove my wagon all the way. Turned over once with the children under the load, but hurt them very little. I think I can safely say I know what trouble is, to have my husband torn from his family and also to have to part with our dear mother." (Her mother died Feb. 27, 1839.) She also penned, "I can truly say that I am not sorry I ever joined this Church; We have been tried like gold - seven times tried."
Laura had been encouraged by the inspired song written by Eliza R. Snow, which read:
"Think not when you gather to Zion, Your trouble and trials are through
Having at last heard that his wife and children were dwelling safely in Montrose, Iowa, a tremendous load was lifted from Morris' heart. As a means of enlivening the dragging hours, and also due to their loyalty to their government, despite the fact it had failed to protect them in their hour of need, they captives had created a United States flag. It was constructed from an old white shirt of Folletts and red cloth tossed in by the jailer. Independence day was now fast approaching.
As it drew nearer, clear as a bell in the night, Parley Pratt received a manifestation and he knew their release was to be affected on that date. How, he did not know, but they were not long to be kept in suspense. As July 4th drew near, Morris' wife Laura, who had received a similar manifestation, accompanied by her younger brother John, were on hand to help them. Parley's brother orson had also received an imppresion and urge to come about the same time.
The horse they rode in on, saddled and ready for the fugitives as soon as they broke jail, had been concealed in a clearing within a thicket a half mile distant. Laura and her brother had covered a huge expanse of territory over hazardous roads, fording dangerous swollen and almost impassable streams. At one fearful crossing a drowning man was just being rescued, and although the swollen waters were so deep the animals were obliged to swim or drown, the intrepid Laura permitted nothing to to dissuade her, but only hurried on. She had been impelled into action by the firm conviction the sufferers were to be freed. The prison inmates where so excited for the plot had matured and all was ready for the daring break.
Agile and excelled as a wrestler, Morris was assigned the task of clasping the jailer at the moment he appeared with the food and holding him firmly in his grasp while Follett cast the door open, permitting all to escape. But Morris, administered an unmerciful blow on the head with a chair by the jailer's wife, came near losing out; but all succeeded in reaching the thicket where the horses were awaiting them. Policemen, men and boys equipped with clubs all followed wildly, chasing the fleeing fugitives. Morris had become separated from his companions and had gone but a few miles when he found himself surrounded by frenzied horsemen, hot in pursuit. But putting on an act and reeling on his horse in a drunken manner and replying to teir questions in their own coarse lingo, he managed to elude them.
Out of the volume of their oaths and profanity, Morris gathered the sad news that Follett had been recaptured, but that Parley, like himself, was still at large. After imprisonment of several months, Follett, it was learned, was finally released. One of the horsemen boasted of having taken aim at close range with his rifle, "fresh primed and loaded at one of their heads, but the damned cap busted and the powder wouldn't burn." Hearing this, Morris' heart leaped for he knew for sure now there was no further cause for apprehension on his part; God was protecting them.
Following the flight, Laura had secretly sewn into here clothing Parley Pratts manuscript, "The Key to Theology," and thus preserved that valuable book for humanity. She was turned into the streets by the jailor, where a stump served for a chair. Here a hostile mob mocked and jeered and made insulting remarks at her.
Finally, two young men stepped up offering to escort her to a hotel and pay her expenses; but, fearing their kindness might be misconstrued by the people, she refused. A little Richardson boy, hurt to the quick by the mob's abuse of her, ran sobbing to his parents, who hastened to her rescue and took her into their home. Here she remained about ten days and was accorded every kindness. Mr. Richardson found her abandoned side-saddle and her horse the mob had used in search of the fugitives. The saddle was repaired and the horse fed and cared for. When she left, arrangements were made with the mail carrier to accompany her the first sixty miles as a guard against outlaws and indians. Parting with him just at nightfall, she dreaded the next few miles, for the woods looked dark and forbidding. She had gone but a short distance when she was met by King Follett's son with a note from her husband, assuring her of his safety. He accompanied her to her home, where she was happily reunited with her husband and children.
But the mob had not stopped its vigilance, and Parley and Morris, in order to escape further persecution, were sent to Kirtland, Ohio. Here they were to be active in spreading the gospel. Laura and youngest child, Joseph, were included in this trip, while their three daughters were left with kind friends. The home of Morris' parents in Kirtland was used as their headquarters, and the winter of 1839 and 1840 found them earnestly engaged in missionary work. Later, they stopped at the home of Laura's sister, Sally (Wm.) Cole in Ripley, Indiana where on June 8, 1840 Laura gave birth to a second son, Jacob Spencer. As soon as Laura was able to travel, they traveled to Nauvoo and in July Once again the Phelps family was reunited.
Morris then started the construction of what was to be a nice home in Macedonia, twenty miles east of Nauvoo. He later recorded in his diary: "In Macedonia briefly enjoyed peace and quiet. Then wife Laura, by over exertion and exposure traveling constantly by day and night in capacity of mid-wife, became ill February 1, passing away nine days later on February 9, 1842 at the age of thirty four." He also wrote in his diary; "a few months previous to her death, Laura beheld a vision in which she saw the great suffering of the saints in Nauvoo. She beheld many slain in battle and otherwise killed outright by a mob. She saw the expulsion of the saints from Nauvoo and saw them travel in great bodies and also their afflictions." After she saw this vision she often told her husband she could not endure the trouble that was ahead, but that she had endured all she could stand. She was buried in the old graveyard, now in the southwest corner of the city of Nauvoo. The Prophet, preaching her funeral sermon, said her life had been full of noble accomplishments and her exaltation was assured.
Now with the sharer of his joys and sorrows gone, and his children bereaved, Morris seemed to have reached the ultimate in despondency. Yet, through his faith, he was aware that as soon as sealing were accomplished, she would be his to claim and have, just as his children would be, eternally.
Within a few months a winsome youn woman, a Miss Sarah Thompson, daughter of Leah Lewis and James Thompson, to whom Morris was attracted, was placed in his path. Sarah too was delighted, and before long, on March 27, 1842, a marriage was consumated. Morris' children, now ages fifteen, twelve, ten, five and two years were taken by Sarah into her big motherly heart.
Sarah's birth had occurred in Pomphret, New York on March 20, 1820, with Morris fifteen years her senior. The following, regarding his mother, Sarah was taken from the journal of Hyrum S. Phelps: During her youth, Sarah worked out and later taught school. While engaged in the latter, the early persecution of the saints began. She boarded at the different homes of her students, and was thus enabled to find out many of the plots and schemes of the mob, and thus keep her friends posted. When the final plot came for the general roundup of the saints, she made a break on horse-back to five the news to her people. she was followed for five miles, but her horse being the fleetest, made her escape.
A very short time elapsed from the date of their marriage, before grief began to pile up. First little Jacob Spencer, Laura's last child, met with a fatal accident on March 13, 1843, when burned with hot liquid. His small frame had to be placed in the Macedonia cemetery. Soon after this heart breaking tragedy, Sarah's first child, a wee daughter whom they named Laura Ann, was also called back by our Heavenly Father, leaving therm again prostrated with grief. She was born to them February 18, 1843 and was just beginning to toddle about when she first took sick. Also, a second daughter, Sarah Diantha, born to them February 25, 1845 in Nauvoo, where they had moved in 1843, was summoned back just three days after birth.
But in all of this, these sorrowing parents were comforted in the assurance that all infants so recalled, were required of their creator, only to take upon themselves a body, before being eligible for the celestial kingdom.
The next year they were blessed by the arrival of a baby boy on February 26, 1846. He became the delight of their lives, atoning in great measure for the loss of the other three. This lad was born in Nauvoo, the bitter cold night the saints were driven from their homes and crossed the frozen Mississippi River on the ice. He was named Hyrum Smith, after the Prophet's brother. When grown he became admitted into the Patriarchal order of the Church, after the calling of his father, Morris. His two wives, Clarinda and Mary Elizabeth Bingham, were sisters.
After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph in June of 1844, the saints held a meeting. While Brigham Young, President of the Twelve, was speaking, he was suddenly transformed into the very image and with the voice of the Prophet Joseph himself. Morris and many others witnessed this event and each knew that Brigham was the one who God had appointed to lead his Church. Henceforth, their allegiance must be to him.
Morris and family left Nauvoo June 14, 1846 and reached Winter Quarters in November. They remained here for the next five years and Morris spent his time building and repairing wagons and traveling equipment for the removal of the saints west.
On February 26, 1848 Morris took his third wife the attractive Martha Barker. Martha had been married to James Holmes, Sr. on February 27, 1823. They were divorced and she joined the Church and went west to be with the saints. Martha was born June 14, 1798, presumably in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. She was eight years older than Morris and was the mother of two sons, one of whom died in infancy. James, the other son, born December 25, 1828 in Londonderry, New Hampshire in later years married Morris' daughter, Harriet Wight Phelps.
At the conclusion of the five years, Morris was appointed captain of a train of sixty wagons bound for Utah Valley. Ezra Taft Benson, Sr. was also captain of a train in the same group. Three months later, on September 25, 1851 this weary band concluded their historical and dangerous trek, witnessing for the first time their new home.
Short of means and with materials unavailable, crude log cabins and dug-outs with dirt floors and roofs served for temporary dwellings. Children sought refuge in bed while their mothers washed and patched their meager clothing. Segoes, lining the canyons and hills often served for their meals.
Sarah had temporarily moved in with her brother until Morris could get a footing and build them a home. But as the winter progressed, it found them settled in Alpine, south of Sault Lake. Here another wee son, Charles Wilkes, was born to Morris and Sarah but his life was cut short with measles.
Other settlers joined the group in 1851 and meetings were held in the log house of Wm. Wadsworth. In September of 1852 a ward of the Church was organized with Isaac Houston as Bishop and Wm. Weswanger and Morris Phelps as counselors.
During the Walker Indian war of 1853-54, the inhabitants erected a fort, enclosing ten acres of ground with a wall twelve feet high. All the families were moved inside the wall for protection.
During these years, Morris, James Holmes and Isaac Houston constructed a saw mill near the mouth of Dry Creek Canyon, situated one and one half miles from the Phelps home. Through their industry and thrift, they began prospering here and were reasonably comfortable after long battling the elements, crop failure and being bowed down with grief and sorrow.
Once more the call came - the call that was again to uproot them sending them forth with other local families to start again from scratch, aiding in colonization of Bear Lake, Idaho. This was a heavy blow; it meant once again sacrificing all they possessed, or disposing of it as best they could, leaving another little grave, that of their little son Charles Wilkes.
Still their spirits arose, undaunted to the occasion. The call, whether accepted, they realized was optional with themselves. But God's Prophet had spoken, and had not Diety said, "whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servant, it is the same."
They left for Idaho on May 17, 1864 and settled in Montpelier. Here Morris became its first postmaster, in addition to operating a farm. Here also their tiny daughter, Almira Holmes, the first white child born in Montpelier, arrived August 12 1864.
The task of securing logs for the cabins was arduous and difficult. This problem was partially erased when, on one occasion while riding along the barren foothills, Morris' son, Joe, found a narrow ravine. This long narrow gorge was about two miles north of Montpelier and it opened into a pine covered canyon. Since that time it has been called "Joe's Gap."
Their first cabin was a one room log house with a dirt roof, (which leaked when it rained) hay floor and one tiny window with two panes set in logs with no frame work. The door was of crude planks with a wooden latch operated by a buckskin string which was pulled in a night for a lock.
The bed was made of small poles being bored into the wall, fastened by wooden pegs to the rough board side. Strips of rawhide were laces which held up the straw mattress. The furniture was a home-made pine table and chairs of sawed logs. Dishes were tin, and iron pots and pans. The food was cooked on open fireplace or in dutch ovens covered with coals. It consisted of ground wheat for mush, potatoes, fish, various wild animals and "Mormon gravy" made from milk, flour and grease. "Lumpy-dick" was a pudding made with milk and lumps of flour thickening. During the Autumn, the wild berries were picked and some were dried.
Clothing was almost entirely the product of the home, and a sewing machine was a precious item. In the early 1870's, James Holmes traded three cows for the luxury of one such machine.
Every family had its spinning wheel on which wool was prepared for the weavers. Each community had its experts in the art of weaving. Sarah was one of the most prominent weavers. From this homespun cloth, most all the clothing for the community was made. Self-sufficiency was necessary because of almost impassable roads to distant markets and lack of capital in the valley.
Countless hardships were endured in Idaho. The harsh winters with their inexhaustible supply of show and ice tyrannized over them, and they sagged under its weight. They saw their crops devoured by frost, their cattle dying from cold and starvation, until only one cow and one span of horses remained. But greater than all else was the loss of their seventeen year old daughter, Martha Ann, one of the flower of their flock, who passed away after an illness July 28, 1865. About the only grief they had escaped was depredations by the Indians; but, treating them kindly and with tolerance, they had remained unmolested.
During this crucial period, with his courage sinking to a practically low ebb, Morris reminded himself sternly that he was aware that he must have proven his faithfulness, loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for the Eternal Father in the pre-mortal state. Otherwise, he would not have been reserved and privileged to come forth in the eighteenth century to aid in the foundation work of God's kingdom. Many, he was certain, had been called and given the opportunity of preparing themselves for this stupendous mission. But only those proving themselves were chosen. Now, nothing must be allowed to retard his progress.
Aware of these facts, trials were gradually conquered by the power of will of this man of stamina and determination as he rose higher and higher toward perfection. However, as time went on, conditions became improved. They found themselves acclimated through experience and hard labor; the land and soil were conquered and started to bear.
Morris erected another log cabin on his land, this was a large house with a large room upstairs in it. This was hard to keep warm, so the family lived only in the lower rooms during the winter. The upper room had four windows across the front and in the summer it was used for dances by young people.
On August 30, 1873, Morris was ordained a Patriarch under the hands of Brigham Young. When a stake organization of the Relief Society was formed in Montpelier, Sarah, his wife, was chosen to preside as its President.
Physicians in that vicinity were scarce, so by a special calling from Brigham Young, Sarah, who radiated cheer and optimism was set apart by Charles C. Rich as mid-wife. She was promised that if she would accept the responsibility, she would never lose a mother. Although nearly six hundred babies were delivered by her throughout the balance of her life, not a single fatality occurred.
Patriarch Phelps was a man of great sympathy and understanding and one given to service; believing implicitly if one would reap bountifully, they must sow accordingly.
Late in life, although aged at the time, he made a trip to southern Utah to work on the St. George Temple. While there, he contracted a fever but continued his labors in spite of it, until finally he was obliged to be removed to the home of his daughter, Pauline, in Parowan, Utah.
Unable to throw off the disease, he returned to Montpelier and passed away about five days later. Death came on May 22, 1876 at the age of seventy. All but one of his seven living children were at his bedside when death came. Surviving his also were fifty-seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. At his death, the inhabitants of Bear Lake felt they had sustained a loss difficult to fill. His remains were placed in the Montpelier cemetery.
After his death, his sorrowing widows, sister-like in their regard for each other, continued to share the same house. While Sarah toiled untiringly at spinning, knitting, dyeing, etc., Martha looked after the home and children.
Eventually, in the Fall in 1877, then in her fifties, Sarah was persuaded to accompany her son, Hyrum Smith Phelps to Mesa, Arizona. Here she continued her profession as mid-wife. When the Maricopa Stake Relief Society was organized, she was again called into service as President, leading it as she had in Montpelier.
Sarah Thompson Phelps died in Mesa, January 31, 1896 at the age of 76 years, where she was buried. She was a large woman, tipping the scales at 210 pounds and was afflicted with asthma.
Martha Holmes Phelps spent the last years of her life with her son, James Holmes and his wife Harriet. She passed away in Montpelier, January 9, 1888 where she was buried. She and Morris were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on March 13, 1857.
In all, Sarah bore Morris seven children, but only three survived to raise families. These were Hyrum and the last two daughters Amanda Angelina and Olive Esphenia, both of whom where born in Alpine, Utah.
Amanda, the sixth child, became the wife of George Dana. Olive, the youngest, became the wife of Perry Bingham, who was a brother of Hyrum's wives, Clarinda and Mary Elizabeth Bingham.
Morris' maternal grandparents were Maribah Miller and Christopher Keneippe, the latter an only son, was born in Germany about 1759.