TWITCHELL, Ephraim & Phoebe Melissa Knight

TWITCHELL, Ephraim & Phoebe Melissa Knight


In order to adequately cover the history of Ephraim Twitchell and Phoebe Melissa Knight I thought it important to join them together as they were so greatly bonded together in life. I give recognition to Mary Almond a great granddaughter of Ephraim and Melissa together my aunt Willie Puffer, my brother Paul Puffer and Grandmother Adeline Puffer (who told me many stories about my ancestors when I was a youngster) for their materials, input and stories. I have condensed much of this information, but have hopefully maintained accuracy and the most important information.

Twitchell and Knight Families:

The Twitchell families both moved to at about the same time. They knew each other very well and worked and lived together. Two Twitchell brothers, Joshua Jr., and my great-great-grandfather Ephraim Twitchell married two Knight sisters, who were Ursula and my great-great-grandmother Melissa. Joshua Twitch ell Jr. and Ursula Knight were married first. He was 22 and she was 19 in 1816. Ephraim Twitch ell and Melissa Knight were married much later on March 1,1824 in Pomeroy (where the Knights lived then, close to Bedford) Meigs County, Ohio. He was 21 and she was 20. After their marriage, Ephraim and Melissa spent a short time in New York, and Bedford, Meigs County, Ohio where their first three children were born. (Anciel Jan.7, 1825, Celestia Ursula Feb. 24, 1827 and Eunice Feb. 19. 1830) Eunice died the same day. That is probably why my great grandmother the next child was named Eunice Celinda Twitchell.

Melissa’s parents, Silas and Eunice Knight, died in Ohio in 1839. Melissa received one hundred dollars from the sale of land from her father’s estate, Ursula received the same amount.

These two couples, Ephraim and Melissa, and Joshua and Ursula, stayed together, traveled together, loved each other, suffered together and helped each other throughout their lives.

Ephraim and Melissa join Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Ephraim and Melissa lived in Bedford, Meets County, Ohio where they lived for at least six years. Ephraim bought a farm in Spring Creek, McDonough County, Illinois and left the Ohio valley. Ephraim was a farmer and stockman. Their next five children were born in Spring Creek. They were Eunice Celinda, (my great-grandmother), April 15, 1832, James Ephraim October 19, 1834, Edwin May 23, 1836, Orin September 19, 1839 and Joshua May 20, 1842.

In the spring of 1842 they and all their children joined the restored church and were baptized. James Ephraim was not eight years old until October of that year, so he had to wait. Joshua their 8th child was born that same spring on May 20, 1842

The new church “the Mormon’s” excited the people and made them very suspicious. The Twitchells were shunned by their neighbors, and persecuted by renegades around the Spring Creek area. The Twitchells felt uncomfortable and decided to leave and move to Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois where they could be with the main body of the saints. In Nauvoo, their next child, Amada, was born November 29, 1844. In 1844 Ephraim and Melissa had their patriarchal blessings by John Smith, brother of Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s uncle. This same John smith was the Justice of the Peace who married Ephraim and Melissa just 20 years before. Although Joshua’s family and other Twitchells did not belong to the Church, they always stayed around close to each other and close to Ephraim’s family and had close ties with other church members.

Nauvoo and the Temple:

On January 10, 1841, the Lord commanded the saints to build a temple in Nauvoo where He could reveal His sacred ordinances to those worthy of receiving them. The Twitchells took this very seriously. They worked with enthusiasm and had the basement finished with a font ready for baptisms for the dead. It was dedicated by and on that same day 49 baptisms were done by Heber C. Kimball and John Taylor, with Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith performing the confirmations. The saints called their wonderful City “Nauvoo the Beautiful.” Travelers came for the East just to see it. It was well organized, clean, neat, and cared for. When the saint arrived it was just a swamp now it was a beautiful city with many thriving businesses.

The economy of Nauvoo was very good and growing at this time. The population of Nauvoo was between 11,000 and 12,000 and soon they were expected to reach 13,000. New residences were built every few months. There was a big building boom. Most of the families had an acre of land where they built their houses, and in their yard were gardens, fruit trees, vegetables and grapevines. On the outskirts of the city were fields of wheat, oats, rye com and potatoes. Many kept cattle, sheep and hogs.

For recreation, there were theaters with live actors on the stage. There were lectures, balls, dancing schools, and brass bands. The saints played ball had wood cutting contests, quilting bees, classes in braiding and weaving and home construction. The saints had good schools for small and older children. There was the University of the City of Nauvoo where over 1800 students were enrolled in school. The largest school was taught and directed by Eli Kelsey. About 81 men and women made their living teaching in Nauvoo.

Twitchells were close around and although not all had joined the Church yet they were involved with the saints. Enemies grew and things were harder to endure. They suffered persecution. Their faith grew stronger and they were more determined than ever. They continued their quest for freedom. Those who disagreed with the Mormons began to persecute and drive them out. It was at this time that Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred. The saints were force to leave their home and head west.

The Trek:

The trek across Iowa was the most difficult of the whole journey. Ferrying across the Mississippi River, breaking a trail to Sugar Creek and setting up camp was hopeless. There was toil, sacrifice and death. Miserable weather, difficult terrain, untrained guides and inadequate preparation made the trek almost impossible. The Twitchells along with the saints suffered from the extremely cold weather, ice and freezing rain. They often faced more than four inches of snow.

Many of the saints had left unprepared. Those with tents had a difficult time because their tents kept blowing down. Many died even with the best of survival efforts, while many had tents and tried the best that they could to survive. Many became ill and died. Several mothers had to give birth under these hard conditions. They were in the open in a makeshift camp. Mothers often gave birth in a cold wet abed with no protection.

It was during this time that Ephraim and Melissa’s oldest daughter, Celestia Ursula Twitchell died on February 20, 1846 this was just four days before her 19th• Birthday. They buried her in Nauvoo that month. The first group of saints left Nauvoo on February 4, 1846. The next group left with Brigham Young in the middle of February 1846. It was hard to leave their wonderful Temple and the city of Nauvoo. But they had hopes that in a far distant place in the west they could grow with without interference and oppression. They left Nauvoo without knowing exactly where they were going. They were told a refuge would be found somewhere in the Rocky Mountain.

The saints sang songs around the campfire. One song was “Upper California” This song referred to a large divided area identified by the Mexicans which comprised Utah, California, Nevada and Colorado.

The main body of saints was called the “Camp of Israel”. Chariton Camp was where Brigham Young regrouped the saints into three companies. With determination they pressed on. It is difficult to imagine how they suffered. Many of them even several thousand souls died. The saints planted and raised crops every place they could. Many saints were running out of food. Ephraim and his son Anciel planted and raised many acres of potatoes and com. Ephraim made sever trips back to other camps to take food to those without. William Pitt’s brass band would play for the saint to dance and sing songs. The Band would give concerts to local people along the way for money and food. Some of the men were able to obtain work in various vicinities to provide food. Many saints sold their valuables and other things they would need for food.

Many stories have been told and written about this exodus to the west. Historians compare it to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt led by Moses in the bible. It did not take forty years to make this exodus, but the suffering, death, and determined courage cannot be matched by any other event in the history of the world. It is safe to say that this trek carried just as many miracles and faith promoting incidents as the exodus from Israel to their promised land. This was a standard that will ever be unmatched.

The Information-Anciel Twitchell:

Anciel Twitchell

On May 12, 1846, the War with Mexico was declared. At the beginning of the war, President Polk authorized the recruiting of 500 Mormon men. They were to be enlisted immediately and called the Mormon Battalion. President Polk sent word to Colonel Stephen W. Kearny at Fort Leavenworth and he in turn sent Captain James Allen to the Mormon camps in southern Iowa.

Anciel Twitchell, the oldest of Ephraim and Melissa’s children joined the Battalion. Aciel had married Louisa Samatha Hitchcock from New York before they had to leave Nauvoo. They had a son, Ephraim, born October 10, 1845 in Nauvoo and had died on September 9, 1846

The Battalion marched to Santa Fe, Fort Tucson and then to the San Diego Mission (The longest march in military history over 2,000 miles). The Battalion was mistreated most of the way. Their commanding officer, Colonel James Allen became ill and died. The members of the Battalion were saddened by Colonel Allen’s death as they had learned to admire this good officer. Captain Jefferson Hunt, a ranking Mormon officer took temporary command. President Polk appointed a First Lieutenant, A.J. Smith of the regular army to lead them.

A.J. Smith was very hard on all of them taking them must faster than necessary. The military doctor was worse. He disliked the Mormons and made them shallow calomel and arsenic. They called him the “mineral quack” and, “Dr. Death.” The lack of water and food plagued the remaining 350 officers and men.

On their way toward Tucson, they were attacked by a herd of wild bulls that had been abandoned by the Mexican rancher. The bulls stampeded into the soldiers. Three soldiers were wounded and two mules were gored to death. Fifteen bulls were killed. This was the only fight during the Battalion’s long journey and was called the “Battle of the Bulls.” Weakened animals were butchered for food because of the lack of food and all of the parts were eaten, including the hide, which was boiled until it was tender. The men wrapped rawhide around their feet to protect them from the hot sand. The soldiers transported wagons through the narrow mountains passes of the coastal range with ropes and pulleys. On January 29, 1847 the 350 tired and worn men reached Mission San Diego at the end of their 2,030 mile march. They reported to General Kearny and found he had been named governor of California by President Polk. The Battalion of men signed on again for another year and served as occupation troops with garrison duty in San Diego. The Mormon Battalion gained the respect of the local citizen. They built a court house, homes, contributed to the building of the community, prepared brick and dug wells. On July 16, 1848 the Battalion members went to Los Angeles where they were discharged. Most of the discharged men left to northern California. The men intended to travel east and join the saints in Salt Lake Valley.

Anciel Twitchell, Ephraim’s son was thrilled to find valleys about one hundred miles wide, fertile soil, plenty of water and a wonderful climate as he passed through northern California. He and other soldiers went on to Sacramento where gold found in 1848. They were met by Captain James Brown, a pioneer with a message from Brigham Young. The message asked those without families to stay in California to work during the winter of 1847-48. Most of the men stayed. They spent the winter at Sutter’s Fort; and assisted in the discovery of gold in January of 1848.

The Mormons had been driven from their homes in Nauvoo. The government had given them no help. They were asked by their leaders to serve the government that they had reason to believe had “wronged” them. This was a manifestation of unselfishness and demonstrated their loyalty to their Church and Country. Col. Philip St George Cook, who was not a member of the Church, praised the members of the Battalion enumerating their hardships and citing their courage as they met these adversities and challenges.

and the :

After the Mormon Battalion had gone from Council Bluffs and Winter Quarter it left the saints quite short-handed for crossing the plains. The youngest and strongest men had been taken away. Many of them had young families. At first many of the saints thought the request for a Battalion of men was another plot against the saints. But with determination and faith they pushed on. On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and the rear group arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Wilford Woodruff turned the carriage so that Brigham Young could see the whole valley. While gazing upon the scene, he was in a vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in a vision. When the vision had passed, he said, “It is enough, this is the right place drive on”.

The first pioneer company spent only 33 days in the Valley in 1847. On August 16, 1847 they started back to Winter Quarters to prepare the other families to come to the valley the next year.

The winters of 1846 and 1847 at Winter Quarter are hard to describe because there was so much suffering. Winter Quarters was divided into five acre blocks. They planned 41 blocks with 594 lots and named 16 streets. Each block could have about 20 houses on it. Wells were dug and bridges were built across the small streams. Many of the houses were built of logs. A few homes were large two-story dwellings, with solid floors and oak shingles. However some homes were one-room cabins or shanties without a door, with dirt floors and a half of a roof made of poles and dirt on top. Some families lived in tents and covered wagons while others lived in dugouts or caves.

There was a shortage of provisions especially a lack of fruits and vegetables. The saints in their weakened and exposed condition were vulnerable to many sicknesses and malnutrition. Pneumonia and tuberculosis were common. The mosquitoes form the Missouri River led to malaria. A great number of deaths occurred. It was even difficult to get the bodies interred-sometimes without a coffin or box, but just a blanket. In spite of all the sickness, death and hardships the saints did not give up. They squared their shoulders and did their best to cheer each other. They organized choirs, makeshift6 schools and dance classes. They had songfests and each ward bishop had worship services every Sunday. These meetings were the beginning of the kind we have today in our sacrament meeting. They conducted business, blessed babies, blessed and passed the sacrament and gave sermons. The Twitchell families stayed at Winter Quarters. They continued to build and farm. They left many acres of potatoes and com for the saints who were to follow. The Twitch ell’s planted and harvested about 1,000 bushels of corn.

Leaving Winter Quarters:

In the early spring of 1848, Ephraim and his family including his brothers and their families took part in the most remarkable religious emigration of modem times. They were with the Heber C. Kimball Company, Second Division. They arrive in the Salt Lake Valley on September 27, 1848. They accomplished the long and hazardous journey across the plains with ox teams. James Ephraim a grandson of Ephraim was a boy of 13 years old. He drove an outfit of two you of oxen and took his turn standing guard against the Indians during the night. He also shot buffalo as they were needed for meat.

The Twitchells stayed in Salt Lake for a short time and then settled in “Brown Settlement,” which is now known as Ogden, Utah. Ephraim and Melissa Twitchell and their family built about the first real house in Ogden. There had been trappers and hunter’s shacks and lean-tos there before, but not real house. This is where their 10th and last child was born on October 22, 1848. They named her Sara. The brother of Ephraim Twitchell and their families were also settled in Ogden and built at least four more log houses. This time spent in Ogden, Utah was just prior to being called by Brigham Young to go to San Juan, San Juan Bautista, Monterey County, and San Bernardino Areas. Brigham Young was interested in creating an outlet to the Pacific Ocean for the Latter Day Saints.

The Twitchells moved to San Juan. There were many other Mormons thereabouts. They found a g grave yard southeast of Sacramento. They also found a big book early pioneers names listed. It seemed the area around Elk Grove was where many of the settlers chose to live. It was close to the mines and flat acres that were easy to farm. In the State Library in Sacramento there are many files listing surveyors, artists, singers, doctors, and scientist. One scientist listed is William C. Twitchell who helped to create the Atom Bomb. The Census of 1850 lists Ephraim and Melissa Twitchell and members of their family. The following are listed. Ephraim 46-Melissa 44-Eunice Celinda 20¬James Ephraim 17- Edwin 14- Orin 12- Margaret Moore 12-Joshua- 8 Amanda 6 and Sara 2. These ages may not be accurate.

After the census in 1850 in Tuolemne County they moved to several places in Monterey County which is just south of San Francisco. Monterey County is where they finally settled around to town of San Juan Bautista. Monterey County has now been divided into San Juan Bautista County and San Benito County. San Juan Bautista is very near the ocean and is where the Twitchell’s built their homes on high ground with a beautiful view of the ocean. A hurricane/typhoon came one year and took their house and other building and even stock out into the ocean. They barely escaped with their lives.

When they had been in San Juan but a short time they were visited by some of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among others was Elder William E. McLellin. He could teach the gospel well and baptized about 50 people. Among the 50 were Joshua Jr. and Ursula Twitchell’s son Silas and his wife. A branch of the church was organized and Ephraim Twitchell was the Branch President. Joshua and Ursula had a very large house and the church services were held in Joshua’s house. One conference was held in Joshua’s hours when Apostle Parley P. Pratt was there. Apostle Parley P. Pratt warned those in the audience of the wild living around that area, telling them it was very bad company for their young people. He pointed out that because of the Gold Rush many ne’er do-wells and evil people had drifted in with gangs, liquor, gambling, robbing and other lawless actions being prevalent. Apostle Pratt advised them to move away to San Bernardino, California or Carson City, Nevada.

The Messenger:

One day Branch President Ephraim Twitchell was traveling from Sacramento a long way by wagon. The last day of his journey he was traveling late, after dark. He did not stop because he was almost home. He was alone in his wagon, when suddenly there was a man sitting beside him on the spring seat. He just appeared from nowhere. He told Ephraim that he should take his family from San Juan Bautista and go to San Bernardino. Ephraim responded that they had not been in San Juan very long and that his children had their friends there. He noted that he did not think he could get them to go with him. The man beside him replied, “Yes, you can, and you must go to San Bernardino or you will lose them.” When Ephraim turned to answer him he was not there. He had disappeared just as he had appeared -it seemed like just out of thin air. Ephraim knew the gospel very well and remembered their story in the Book of Mormon about the three Nephites. He thought this must be the answer-the messenger was one of the three Nephites. He then saw a beautiful new coat that the messenger had left on the spring-seat beside him. He thought the messenger had really been there-that he had not just imagined or fantasized. Ephraim went home and told his wife, Melissa. They talked about the move. They prayed about it for a couple of days. They knew they must go to San Bernardino, California. Every one of their children and one nephew, John Newton Twitchell, the oldest son of Jasper Twitchell went with them. Anciel Ephraim’s oldest son came a year later. This story has been told to many of the ancestors of Ephraim Twitchell.

San Bernardino and Beaver, Utah:

It was 1851 when the Twitchells settled in San Juan Bautista, Monterey County. It was also 1851 when Brigham Young created many new colonies and March 24, 1851 when he sent a company of 500 saints to find place in California. This group was organized for traveling at Payson, Utah. They commenced the journey under the direction of the Presidency with Apostle Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich. They were accompanied by Apostle Parley P. Pratt and a party of missionaries going to different counties to preach the gospel.

The 500 saints settled in San Bernardino, and the first stake was organized on July 6, 1851. This was the first Mormon colony outside the Great Basin since the arrival of the pioneer in 1847. The Twitchells had stayed in San Juan Bautista until 1854. This was the year that Branch president Ephraim Twitchell was advised by the “messenger” to go to San Bernardino and so they joined the saints there. They were happy in San Bernardino because they were with a large group of other Latter-day Saints. They stayed and built a home of brick. They had learned good construction back in Nauvoo.

Brigham Young called all the Saints from San Bernardino to come back to Utah to help colonize Beaver, Utah. It was named Beaver, because there were so many beavers in the streams close by. The Mountain Meadow Massacre and the coming of the Johnson’s Army in to Utah in 1856-57 were events that had effect on this action. Brigham Young thought it was wise to call many other colonists from outlying settlements to come back to Utah during this time.

It is interesting to also note that Ephraim Twitchell served in the Black Hawk War in the command of Captain Hunt. In later years he had many exciting experience in Utah in combats with Indians He was the presiding elder of the church at Indian Creek, Utah for several years and was a faithful member of the Church until the time of his death.

James Monroe Puffer & Eunice Celinda Twitchell—Great-Grandparents:

This is where my great grand parents met and were married on December 12, 1850. They were both were about 19 years old. Both coming originally from the east Massachusetts and Vermont but arriving in San Bernardino from very different circumstance at about the same time. James was not a member of any church and remaining a non member through his life though he had respect, understanding, and sympathy for the Mormon religion and standards. My stories about their lives are written in other separate outlines. I will share just a couple of items of interesting in this history.

First, this was great love for both James and Eunice Celinda. They had two children in San Bernardino before the traveled to Beaver, Utah. James followed almost a year after Eunice Celinda had as he had to settle up their estates in San Bernardino. Upon his arrival in Beaver his wife was with many other women and all their children which were all about the same age, as James entered he was asked to pick out his child, Melissa Ursula who had born previously in San Bernardino from a group of children. He picked up each child and seemed to smell them. Then he went on to pick his child saying that he could tell by the smell this was his child. He was right.

Second, James and Eunice Celinda’s father, Ephraim were very close and good friends through all their lives. Puffer Lake some 20 miles east was named after James. He was a very unique man an explorer part time federal marshal and adventure. He was a man with very high standards of conduct. He had previously refused to be a gold miner 9 because he did not like their language or behaviors. He often sought the advisee from Ephraim because of his respect for him. He was a man of great common sense and charity toward people. The union of James and Eunice Celinda resulted in seven children and two lives that were totally committed to each other. Their journey to Beaver was at the request of Brigham Young and probably because of two events. The Mountain Meadow Massacre and Johnson’s Army coming to threaten the Mormon people were these two events.

Beaver County:

Beaver County was created by a Legislative act in the spring of 1856 and was settled by Simeon F. Howd and 13 others from Parowan. They located in what was called the town site of Beaver City which was laid out on April 17, 1856. On April 8, 1856 the saints who were settling Indian Creek in Beaver were organized into a Branch of the Church by Apostle George A. Smith with Simeon F. Howd as President. The entire stake of San Bernardino was called to come to Beaver. When they arrive it made the Beaver organization of the church much bigger and stronger. At this same time the San Bernardino Stake was disorganized. As these people traveled from San Bernardino to Beaver they found no roads only trails were enviable to travel. They arrived in Beaver on March 1, 1858.

Think of Melissa who had already crossed three plains and had to now cross another time to Utah. She cared for a big family and had to cook in a wagon and wash clothes in the same wagon. After arriving in Beaver on March 1, 1858 Melissa died the next day on March 2, 1858. Her grave was the first grave in the Beaver Cemetery. Ephraim went to the Endowment House in Salt Lake City and his own endowments completed on November 8 1858. He was a very lonely man. Four years later he married Sara Jane Hadden on November 8, 1862 and became the father of seven more children. Ephraim had Melissa and Sara Jane sealed to him in the Endowment House on that same date November 8, 1862. Ephraim died 10 years later on October 1872 and is buried in the Beaver Cemetery.

Special Interest Item:

On the date of March 28, 2002 I (Clark Puffer) made a special visit to the Beaver Cemetery. I obtained a copy of the Mountain View Cemetery Roster and a map of the location of each of the graves. I had tried to find several graves many times prior. I had not found the graves of Ephraim Twitchell or Eunice Twitchell. On this occasion I found my great grandfathers grave, Ephraim Twitchell. It was interesting to note that Ephraim Twitchell died at the age of 69 which was my age on this date. Also of interest was the spelling on the head stone his name is, Ephraim Twitchel, with one I. I have still have not found the grave of. Phoebe Melissa Knight I have found the graves of many of my ancestors.

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