AVERETT, Elisha – A Pioneer and His Fife

Elisha Averett was a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom he would serve with love and devotion throughout his sojourn in this mortal life. 

Elisha Averett

Born a musician, he shared his talent with love and zest, playing his “fife” for all occasions. A fife is similar to a flute or piccolo. Elisha was born a twin with his older brother Elijah, December 12, 1810, Maury County, Tennessee. They had 9 siblings. 

It is very interesting that the Averett twins were given names of two great biblical prophets, Elisha and Elijah. One may liken the Averett twins in a spiritual way, to them.  Though not prophets, they were devoted “disciples” and were called of God to perform and accomplish great spiritual works during the 19th century here in the “promised land” of America. 

In 1829 the Averett family was living in Hamilton County, Illinois, where the twins joined the mounted volunteers. The “Black Hawk War” broke out in 1832 when indian chief “Black Hawk” broke a treaty when he crossed the Mississippi river. Both Elisha and Elijah were called by the governor of Illinois to fight in the campaign. Elisha was the “fifer” of Captain Biggerstaff’s company, 3rd regiment, First Brigade, Third Army.  Elijah was a private.  A neighbor, Robert Witt, was a Second Sergeant. Among the participants in the war who would later become famous were, Captain Abraham Lincoln of the Illinois Militia, and Jefferson Davis of the regular army.

Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by the names of Elisha Groves and Isaac Higey, arrived in the Mayberry Settlement sometime in 1835.  They baptized Elisha and his family, including his parents, Elijah and his wife Cherisade, Jannett and her husband Samuel Kelsey, and Eliza, John and George Washington.

After joining the church, they embarked on a life of new adventures.  In April of 1836 Elisha and some of his family, friends and neighbors who had joined the Church, migrated to Caldwell County, Missouri, near Far West.  Elisha’s parents also moved to the same area in 1837. Their journeyings following their marriage in 1806 caused them to move great distances. Elisha and his parents, John and Jenneit, traveled from Barren County Kentucky, to Maury, Tennessee, to Illinois, then to Caldwell County, Missouri. Elisha’s parents stayed in Pike County, Illinois, where they both died and are buried. 

In 1838 in Caldwell, Illinois, Elisha married young 28 year old Dorcas Willis Witt, widow of Robert l. Witt.  She had three small children. Robert Witt was killed by an axe stab wound in the back in Nauvoo four years prior. The families had known each other through the years, living in the same communities.  Robert also served in the Black Hawk War with Elisha. 

Elisha acted as “Minute Man”under the Prophet Joseph Smith during all the mobbings of the Saints. Elisha was present and heard first hand Governor Boggs read the proclamation saying that the Saints must leave the State of Missouri or be exterminated from the face of the earth. 

Elisah was one of approximately 176 men, who, on January 29, 1839, covenanted with Brigham Young “To stand by and assist one another to the utmost of our abilities in removing from this State, and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy till they shall be out of reach of

the exterminating order of General Clark, acting for and in the name of the state.  This document originated in Far West, Missouri.

Both of Dorcas’ sons, William and Miles, died in infancy. Her other children were Kizzie Ann, John Wesley and Sarah Jane. Elisha and Dorcas settled in Nauvoo and lived in the Nauvoo Second ward. 

During a mob demonstration, Elisha received a serious injury to his skull by a jagged stone, thrown at him by one of the mob. He underwent a serious surgical operation to have a metal plate put into his skull which preserved his life. He apparently never suffered any serious after effects and miraculously recovered completely. 

Nauvoo was an exciting place to live.  At that time, families built their own homes, raised families, animals and crops, had their own newspaper, began construction of their holy temple.  Everyone had good wholesome work to do.  What a beautiful piece of Heaven on Earth was built along the banks of the “mighty Mississippi River”.

While living in Nauvoo, the violence and persecution became more intense each day for the saints. Elisha and Dorcas had 3 children: William in 1839, a stillborn in 1841, and on February 6, 1843, Dorcas and a baby girl both lost their lives in childbirth. Engraved on her headstone it reads, “In sacred to the memory of Dorcas – Consort of Elisha Averett – Died February 6, 1843 – age 33 years”

In 1844, Elisha was ordained a high priest and received a patriarchal blessing by John Smith.  Elisha was also appointed leader of the Nauvoo Legion Band and President of the Teacher’s Quorum. He was appointed chief mason on the on December 13, 1845. Elisha was one of 25 men to be endowed in the Nauvoo temple.  He also was appointed Doorkeeper of the Temple. 

On January 19, 1846 Elisha married his young stepdaughter, Sarah Jane Witt in the Nauvoo Temple. Elisha was sealed to both Sarah Jane and Dorcas on January 19, 1846. Dorcas Willis Witt Averett and Sarah Jane Witt Avereit were mother and daughter. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844 in Carthage, Illinois. Brigham Young, as senior member and president of the quorum of the 12 apostles, succeeded Joseph Smith as leader of the Church. The nauvoo temple was dedicated privately under the direction of Wilford Woodruff the night of April 30,1846 and it was publicly dedicated the next day, May 1, 1846 in front of the world. 

At that time there was great preparation for the exodus to the Rocky Mountains.  On March 24, 1846, President Young, Elders Heber C. Kimbell, and John Taylor left headquarters on the Chariton River to meet at Captain Elisha Averett and then assembled in council at the tent of George A. Smith. Attending at the meeting were John Smith, Elisha and Elijah Averett and Parley P. Pratt who attended to provisions, food, bridge building, and supplies for the trek. 

In June 1846, the U.S. Government sent representatives asking for assistance in the war against Mexico.  July 1, 1846 President Young made a commitment to the federal government and the “” was formed. Elisha volunteered. He was an officer in Company “A”, and a musician.  He left his family on July 20, 1846. 

The Battalion reached their destination in San Diego, never firing a single shot. The Mexican War was over in January. 29, 1847. The Battalion would march back home having walked approximately 4,000 miles round trip.  Elisha arrived home to greet his family and Sarah Jane’s little baby, Dorcas. 

Elisha and family then migrated to Salt Lake City, arriving sometime before October 1850. His entire life was a mission and now at 40 years of age, he would put his masonry skills to work building Utah.  

Orson Hyde called Elisha to settle Dixie and his family answered the call.  He was always ready to go and would move wherever he was needed.  

Elisha and his twin brother, Elijah, worked to help construct the Saint George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples.  They were also instrumental in building Cove Fort, Kanab Fort, Dixie Cotton Mill in Washington, Utah, Pipe Spring Fort in Arizona, the Heber Tabernacle, and many other historical sites. 

As a public service they would furnish caskets for all local residents. The family eventually moved back to after their son, Byron, was born in April, 1871. Sarah Jane and Elisha had 14 children in all. Their last child, David, was born December 31, 1875.  Elisha’s beloved wife Sarah Jane died during the birth and the baby boy lived only four days. Both Sarah Jane and her mother, Dorcas, Elisha’s first wife, died in bearing children. 

Elisha, now in his 65th year, continued to work and serve the Lord. At age 75 his mind began failing. He went to live with his oldest child, Dorcas Averett Clark.  He was also assisted by his son, George, in Glendale, Kane County, Utah. He died October 22, 1890.  His son, Byron, said, “My father loved the Prophet Joseph with his whole being.  There was nothing that he would not have done for him, even to the laying down of his life.”

In 1984, great great grandson Jan Spendlove, and his family honored Elisha when the honorary active “Mormon Battalion” performed a memorial service.  They placed a beautiful U.S. Mormon Battalion plaque at Elisha’s gravesite in Glendale, Utah.  

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