from History of Utah, Vol.4
by Orson F. Whitney
COLONEL HENRY P. RICHARDS, son of Phinehas and Wealthy Dewey Richards was born at Richmond, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, November 30, 1831. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when eight years of age, and in 1843 emigrated with his father’s family to Nauvoo, Illinois. He left that place in the general exodus of the Church, May 19, 1846, and spent the winter of 1847-8 at winter quarters on the Missouri river.
On the 3rd of July following he resumed his journey westward, arriving in Salt Lake valley on the 19th of October. During this journey he drove an ox-team for a Mrs. Moss, whose husband was on a mission to England. He had charge of two teams all the way across the plains. He stood guard every third night for half the night, and not being of a robust constitution, many times he felt that he would have to succumb to the hardships and fatigues of the journey.
For a number of years after his arrival in the valley he labored for the support of his parents. While yet in his “teens,” he was officially connected in a modest way with the Provisional Government of Deseret, being messenger of the House of Representatives during the first two sessions.
In the winter of 1850 he took an active part in organizing a dramatic company, “the first one west of the Missouri river,” and played in the opening piece presented by it, namely, “The Triumph of Innocence,’’ produced at the “Old Bowery” on Temple Block. A brief account of this pioneer dramatic organization and Mr. Richards’ connection with it, is given in the second volume of this history, where the gentleman’s portrait also appears.
On December 30, 1852, Henry P. Richards was united in marriage with Margaret Minerva Empey, daughter of William A. Empey, one of the Utah Pioneers, and sister to Nelson A. Empey, the present Bishop of the Thirteenth Ward, Salt Lake City. President Willard Richards, the bridegroom’s uncle, performed the marriage ceremony.
Henry was now an Elder of the Church, but on the 17th of April, 1854, he was ordained a Seventy, under the hands of President Joseph Young, Sr., and became identified with the Eighth Quorum. On the 5th of May following he started with eighteen other Elders on a mission to the Hawaiian Islands, traveling the southern route by team to California, and in due time reaching his destination. He readily acquired a knowledge of the native tongue, and labored successfully on the Islands of hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu and Kanai. During his absence from home his eldest child, a daughter, was born, June 11, 1854; consequently she was nearly three-and-a-half years old before her father had the privilege of seeing her. She was named for him, Henrietta, and is now Mrs. Oliver Ostler.
Some months after his return from his mission, and upon the approach of Johnston’s army, Mr. Richards moved south to Provo, where his family remained until the fugitive people generally returned to their homes. He had not arrived from the Islands in time to take part in the military operations in and around Echo Canyon, but he afterwards became quite prominently connected with the “nauvoo legion,’’ as the Utah militia was then styled. On August 21, 1865, he was commissioned by Acting-Governor Amos Reed quartermaster and commissary of the Second Brigade, First Division, and on July 13, 1866, was commissioned by Governor Charles Duvkoe first aid-de-camp on the staff of the commander of that brigade, with the rank of colonel of infantry; having previously held the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He also arose ecclesiastically. On the 11th of September, 1869, he was made one of the Presidents of the Eighth Quorum of Seventy, which position he held until May 9, 1873, when he was ordained a High Priest and set apart as an alternate High Councilor of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion. This ordination was under the hands of President Joseph F. Smith and the Stake Presidency. On September 8, 1890, he was enrolled as a regular member of the High Council, which position he still holds.
At the semi-annual conference of the Church in October, 1876, he was called to take a second mission to the sandwich islands, and on the 27th of the ensuing December-left his home to fulfill the duty assigned him. At San Francisco he took passage on the steamship “City of New York’’ and arrived at Honolulu January 12, 1877. Again he labored on all the principal islands, and met with many old friends and acquaintances whom he had known nearly a quarter of a century before. He also had several interviews with the king concerning the unjust treatment of Mormon Elders in that land by some of the officials of the government.
His Majesty, without reserve, expressed his desire that the Elders should enjoy all the rights and privileges enjoyed by ministers of other denominations. Elder Richards presented the Queen, Kapiolani, with a handsomely bound volume of the Book of Mormon, published in her own language. He also traveled a short time with Her Majesty on the island of Hawaii, partaking of her hospitality, and assisting her on different occasions in organizing her “Hoola Hooulu Lahui,” an organization similar to the Relief Society of the Latter-day Saints.
While staying a short time on Oahu, the native assessor and collector of the district assessed a personal tax against Elder Richards, as he had usually done against other Mormon missionaries, notwithstanding a law exempting Christian ministers of all denominations regularly engaged in their vocation. He refused to pay the tax (five dollars) on these grounds, and was arrested and arraigned before the native judge, who decided that he would have to pay it, as he did not consider him a Christian minister.
An appeal was taken and the case heard by Judge McCully, of the supreme court of the kingdom, the attorney-general of the crown prosecuting. The decision of the lower court was reversed, and the case decided in favor of Elder Richards, thereby placing him and his brethren on an equal footing before the law with ministers of other denominations. He also had several interviews with his Excellency, J. Mott Smith, minister of the interior, and was successful in allaying much prejudice in relation to the marriage question.
He procured a license to solemnize marriages throughout the kingdom, which privilege had not been granted to the Mormon Elders for many years, and the withholding of which had worked great inconvenience and hardship; on several occasions, when members of the Church had applied to ministers of other denominations to unite them in marriage, they had refused to do so unless they would renounce their religion. This mission was of about two-and-a-half years duration, and when he returned to Utah Elder Richards brought four natives of the Islands with him.
In the Sunday School cause he was for many years a diligent and devoted worker connected with it almost from the time that Sabbath Schools were first organized at Salt Lake City. In the Fourteenth Ward, where he then resided, he filled successively the positions of teacher, secretary, assistant superintendent and finally superintendent of the Sunday School; holding the last-named position for nearly eight years from June, 1881. During much of this period he served as a trustee of the school district, first elected July 10, 1882, re-elected in July, 1885, and serving in all six years.
Mr. Richards is naturally inclined to mercantile pursuits, and while at home, during a period of thirty-five years, has been actively engaged in that direction. He was for many years a leading salesman of Zion’s Co-operative Mercantile Institution, and for some time at the head of the wholesale dry goods department. He has held similar positions of trust and responsibility in other leading houses of Salt Lake City.
He is a refined and courteous gentleman, genial in manner and disposition and readily makes friends and retains them. In April, 1858, he was appointed oil and food inspector and assistant sanitary inspector of Salt Lake City, and held that office for a number of years. Mr. and Mrs. Richards are the parents of eight children, named as follows: Henrietta, Mary Ann, Joseph Henry, Minerva, William Phinehas, Nelson Alonzo, Henry Willard and Emma Wealthy. Of these, Joseph, Nelson, Henry and Emma are dead. Henrietta, as stated, is now Mrs. Oliver Ostler; Mary Ann is Mrs. Alonzo Young; and Minerva, Mrs. Richard W. Young. For some years Colonel Richards has resided on Second Street, in the Eighteenth Ward, where he built a new home after selling to advantage his property in the Fourteenth Ward.