History - Wilcock

History prepared by Lenna Cox Wilcock


1831 - Zemira Born in Canada

Our story begins in Canada in the year 1831 when Zemira, son of George Palmer Jr. and Phebe Draper, was born August 9, at Loughborough (pronounced Low-bro), West Frontenac County, Ontario. That’s where they were living when in 1833 missionaries from a newly organized Church in New York came to Canada to preach the gospel.

 Palmers Went to Canada During the 1790s

Going back one generation we learn that Zemira’s grandparents first went to Canada during the 1790's.  Canada was under rule of the King of England at that time.  That is probably why his ancestors moved there, for they were Loyalists.

As the story goes, his grandparents, George Palmer Sr. and his wife Hannah, had gone to Canada from the eastern United States in 1793. His Draper-grandparents, William Draper Sr. and wife Lydia Lathrop moved there in 1797.  Eventually these two families were living near each other in Northumberland County, Cramahe Township (pronounced Cram’-aw-hay, often just called “Crammie”). Their children grew up as neighbors, and eventually a romance blossomed between two of the children—George Palmer Jr. and Phebe Draper. 

 Zemira's Father, George Palmer, Jr.

George Jr., Zemira’s father, was born in 1795.  In 1812 a war was being fought between the Americans and the British, so George Jr. at age 17, joined the Glengarry Light Fencibles, and for his service, he received a land grant in Cramahe from the King of England.5 That meant he could be a landowner. (Incidentally, four of George’s brothers also served in the British military in Canada.)

 George Palmer and Phebe Draper Marry

Very shortly after he was honorably released, George Jr. Palmer returned to Cramahe and in 1815 married his childhood neighbor, Phebe Draper, who was probably his childhood sweetheart.  While living in Crammie, they were blessed with a daughter Lovina and a son Asahel. 

They soon moved to the nearby town of Haldimand in the same County and while there had another son whom they named William George.

Phebe’s Uncle Thomas Draper lived 100 miles east of Cramahe, at Loughborough (Low’-bro) in Frontenac County. That area is described as a land with many lakes, lush foliage, and rich soil; a pleasant and beautiful place to live.  So, perhaps for that reason, Zemira’s parents and other relatives moved there.  And that’s where their last four children were born, Eliza, Lydia Elizabeth, Zemira and Rhoda. Looking at a map of Frontenac County, we see it is literally dotted with lakes.

So now George and Phebe Palmer and her Draper relatives lived on the same tract of land, or nearby, as they traded, bought or sold lots. They had the association of cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents with whom they could share experiences, and help each other with the work of clearing the new land, building homes, and supporting each other at all times.

 1832 - Tragic Accident in the Family

In 1832 a tragic accident brought sorrow to this little group of people when the daughter of George and Phebe, little eight-year old Eliza was burned to death. The love of their families would be a source of much comfort to this young couple at this sad time.The Draper children had been reared in a home where Christian values were taught and practiced.  And apparently they enjoyed a close family relationship, for during the following years of struggle and trials they tended to live near each other. Some background information here provides insight regarding the character of our Drapers. Phebe’s father, William Draper, Sr. seems to have been of a deeply religious nature as shown by a statement one-half century later, in the Deseret News, dated February 22, 1855:

“Being fond of the study of the scriptures and being convinced of the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins, he yielded to his convictions, and according to the best light he had then, was baptized a member of the Baptist Church.”  

The Baptists rejected the doctrine of infant damnation for want of baptism.  They espoused the doctrines of baptism by immersion, and formed the American Bible Study.  These were the practices  and doctrines which attracted William into the Baptist fold.  But by 1833, religious liberty had suffered great curtailment even in the Baptist Church.  Its membership had broken into many contending groups.

He had been a member for 15 years, and after being in full Baptist membership all this time, William “began to be faulted for believing that the scriptures were to be understood in accordance to their obvious purport and that the prophecies would be fulfilled and Israel gathered.” Since his beliefs differed from the orthodox beliefs of the church, he must look elsewhere for the truth.

 Phebe's Mother Lydia Descendant of Rev. John Lathrop

A few paragraphs taken from the book The Mormon Drapers, reveal some traits of the Reverend John Lathrop. They are included here because Rev. Lathrop is our ancestor also.

“The following account gives some idea of the strength of his convictions which, in all probability was transmitted to his descendants through many generations.”  (These characteristics are evident in our Draper/Palmer people, and hopefully they have been passed on down to us who are of the present generation.)

“If one were to search among all the Prophet Joseph Smith’s progenitors for the one who best typified his righteous zeal for true freedom and his dauntless devotion to truth perhaps no finer example could be found than his fifth great-grandfather, Rev. John Lathrop.

“Born in 1584 he was a young minister of the Church of England in which capacity he labored faithfully until his conscience rebelled against the doctrines he had to teach. He resigned his position . . .  left the Church and in 1623 became Pastor of the First Independent Church of England. Persecution raged against him and his little band of devoted followers. They were forced to meet secretly to escape the anger of the opposing bishop. One day as they met in worship they were discovered by agents of the bishop who suddenly invaded their meeting place, seized forty-two of their number and sent them in fetters to the old prison in Newgate. Finally all but one, the Rev. Mr. Lathrop, were released on bail but he was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty.”

He was cruelly tortured –until he was almost unrecognizable–in an effort to force him to renounce his stand. After wasting away for months in miserable dark isolated imprisonment, during which time his wife died, and his orphaned children wandered about in helpless misery, eventually he was released by the Archbishop upon his promise to go as an exile to America. 

Then with his children and some of his devoted followers he came to America, and became one of the great Puritan fathers of his day. “No pastor was ever more loved by his people and none ever had a greater influence for good . . .  He fearlessly proclaimed views far in advance of his time.”

A quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury who had finally taken pity on the Reverend and released him from the dreadful Newgate prison, succinctly summed up the situation. He stated: “Freedom of conscience! and the King be d-----!  That is what the Reverend John Lothrop is all about.” Yes, that is what the Reverend Lathrop was all about.  He would have continued to submit to torture in prison until he died rather than to compromise.

Little did the William Draper group in Canada realize that some of their future persecutions would result from their own staunch stand for those very principles–-Freedom of Conscience and Devotion to TRUTH!

 Zemira's Father George Palmer Dies

Now, back to our story.  Later in the same year of 1833 after the Drapers had embraced “Mormonism,” Zemira’s father George Jr. died, leaving his mother Phebe a widow at age 36.

His death was a great blow to the family.  Zemira was just over two years of age, so wouldn’t have felt the intensity of the loss of a father and husband which his mother and the older children felt. At that time however, the family had a better understanding of the principles of the gospel of Christ, of the purpose of life and the eternal nature of the family ties, which would provide comfort and hope in this time of grief and sorrow.

The very next year a great change for the Palmers and Drapers presented itself.  New converts to the Church were advised by their leaders to gather with the main body of Saints in the United States. The goal of the latter-day Church, as in the former-day Church, was to build up the Kingdom of God on the earth.  They accomplished this by sending missionaries to other nations, preaching the restored gospel, gathering the honest in heart from other lands, and preparing them to become a Zion people, where as true followers of Christ they could live in love and harmony and peace. They could only do this effectively when the Saints were gathered together in groups.

 Phebe Takes Family to Kirtland, Ohio

So it was that Zemira’s widowed mother Phebe, with four or five of her children, (Eliza had died, and Asahel, age 15, may not have come until later) and also her parents William Sr. and Lydia Lathrop Draper, and some of her brothers and sisters left their homes in Canada and made the journey to Kirtland, Ohio in the United States. At that time Phebe’s son William George was age 13; Lydia Elizabeth 6; Zemira 2 ½ years, and then there was baby Rhoda Ann who was born 2 ½  months after her father died.  What a blessing it must have been to the widowed Phebe, to have the  help of her loved ones bringing her young children on that long trip.

Phebe’s oldest daughter Lovina stayed in Canada. She had married Henry Munro in that same year. She and her husband and their son, and her great-uncle Thomas Draper Jr. came to Kirtland in 1838.

In September of 1834, the Draper group arrived in Kirtland which was the headquarters of the Church at that time.  It was the responsibility of the presiding Bishopric to help find places for newcomers to live, and also to see that their temporal needs were met.  They counseled all the members to share their means and their work with each other, thus the poor were provided for.

The Saints knew that Kirtland wasn’t the place where their land of Zion would be, for the Prophet had received a revelation two years previously that Missouri was to be their Zion.  A group of Saints had gone there at that time, had dedicated that area, and had established a branch of the Church in Independence in preparation for future growth.

 Kirtland Temple

Phebe’s brother, William Draper Jr. who was Zemira’s uncle, wrote that when he was 27 years old he helped with the construction of the Kirtland Temple, and then went back to Canada as a missionary for the Church. He was back in Kirtland in 1836 where he witnessed the great heavenly manifestations which accompanied the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on March 27. He recorded, “My pen is inadequate to write or my tongue to express what happened there. Many present spoke in tongues and had visions and saw angels and prophesied.”

Joseph Smith’s description of this event stated: “. . . a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple . . . many began to speak in tongues and prophesy, others saw glorious visions . . .  The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple.)”

This is very similar to the Bible account of what happened back in the time of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-8. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting . . . And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance . . . Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”

More information concerning miracles at Kirtland was written by Milton V. Backman:  “During a fifteen-week period, extending from January 21 to May 1, 1836, probably more Latter-day Saints beheld visions and witnessed other unusual spiritual manifestations than during any other era in the history of the Church.16 What wonder, joy and gratitude would fill the hearts of the Saints who witnessed these things!  Knowing that the Drapers and Palmers were there at Kirtland at that time, we suppose that Zemira’s family knew about, and experienced, some of these wondrous occurrences.

 Leaving Kirtland

According to Sarah Palmer Collinwood’s book, “He (Zemira) left Kirtland at the age of seven in 1838. And during his most impressionable years he felt hunger and want. He saw men, women and children abused and sometimes killed and he and his people despised and driven from place to place.”

In July of 1838 Kirtland Camp, consisting of 529 Saints, with their tents and wagons left their homes and farms in Kirtland, on their way to Far West. 

A list of the men, and the number in their families, is recorded in The History of the Church, but the women and children were not named. Phebe’s brother Zemira Draper was not married at that time, but six people are numbered there under his name. In later census records they are listed by name in Pleasantvale, some in the household of Zemira Draper, William Draper Sr. and Lydia. 

Apparently Phebe’s brother Zemira Draper had taken over the main care of his widowed sister and her family when they left their homes in Canada.  From records we can be certain that Phebe and four of her children were among the Draper group which left with the Kirtland Camp.

It took several months for the Saints to prepare for such a momentous move.  In spite of their poverty, they were cheerful and anxiously looked forward to leaving.  On the way, at various towns some of the men found work of some sort to earn money to assist with purchasing food and other necessities. At one place near Springfield they camped and took a job of making half a mile of turnpike between Dayton and Springfield, and the pay for this  helped significantly in purchasing food. They started the job July 31 and finished on August 23. 

They had quite a bit of sickness at various times, and that summer was extremely hot and dry.  They were continually admonished to be united as one, and to help each other.  

On Sept 8 they crossed the Ohio line into Illinois. They held a council with the heads of the families to “lay before them our situation with respect to means and the prospects before us and the apparent impossibility of our obtaining labor for ourselves and for the support of our families in the city of Far West during the coming winter; and to advise them . . . to commence looking for places where they could procure a subsistence during the Winter and procure means sufficient to remove to Missouri in the Spring.”

So it was that on September 10th, having traveled 494 miles from Kirtland, our Draper relatives, plus others, left the group (*the main group leaving from Kirtland) and stopped at Edgar County, Illinois. Only the men were listed. They were Phebe’s father; her brothers Zemira, Alfred, and Marvin, her Uncle Thomas, and son-in-law Henry Munro (Lovina’s husband.)

By referring to the map of Illinois, we find Edgar County on the eastern border of the state of Illinois. They didn’t remain there any length of time but went on to Sangamon County which is near the western side of Illinois, where Lovina gave birth to a daughter, Ester in August of 1839. Then they moved on to Pleasantvale, a precinct of Pike County.

One incident recorded October 1839 by the Prophet Joseph, is of interest, and indicates the location of Zemira’s grandfather’s residence:  “Friday, 11 - This evening, Elders Young, Kimball, George A. Smith, Hedlock, and Turley started from Springfield, traveled eight miles on their journey, and stayed with Father Draper.   Saturday - The Elders of the British Mission left Father Draper’s and pursued their journey toward Terre Haute.” Pleasantvale is eight miles from Springfield. William Draper Sr. living there would undoubtedly be the Father Draper referred to.

It is interesting to note the following census 1840 information:  Zemira, age 9 is shown in the household of his uncle Zemira Draper and grandparents, William Sr. and Lydia. In the next house were his mother, his brother William George 19, and sisters Lydia 13, and Rhoda 8, and in the next house was his uncle William Draper.  Next was the house of his uncle Alfred R. Draper, then his uncle Marvin Draper and great uncle Thomas Draper Jr.’s family, in Rose Township, Pike County.

It is not known why, but for several years instead of living with his mother, young Zemira lived with his grandparents and his uncle Zemira Draper. It is evident that thus far the Drapers kept close together and even after migrating to Utah years later, several family members settled in the town appropriately called Draper, and some of them continued to keep track of each other somehow. According to a history written by Estella Draper Magnus, the reason the group dropped out of Kirtland Camp on its way to Far West was because of lack of means and weariness, and they had stopped to recuperate.  Then she added: “William with his family and those who were with him went south to Pleasantvale where they joined William Draper Jr. Here, William Sr. assisted in building up a large branch of the Church.”

 Kirtland Camp, Expulsion From Jackson County

Briefly related, here is what happened to Kirtland Camp shortly after they arrived at Far West, with a brief reference to the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County four years earlier.  This had an effect on the future lives of our Palmer/Draper group, and a tremendous impact on the future of the Church as a whole. 

Instead of finding a refuge from the persecutions in Kirtland, from which they had fled in July, they soon found themselves in an even worse situation.  On October 27, 1838, just three weeks after they arrived at Far West, Caldwell County, Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of Missouri and Commander in Chief, issued his infamous order: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description.”  

This one cruel order allowed the mobs and anyone else to rape, steal, burn, harass, destroy, and drive away or kill any Mormons and not receive any punishment for what they did. Three days after the order was given, the Haun’s Mill Massacre tragedy took place. And other surrounding settlements and farms received similar fates, varying in degree. No Mormon within Missouri was safe from the marauding mobs. 

A similar condition had existed within the Church four years earlier, at Independence  in Jackson County, Missouri.

The Lord, through his Prophet Joseph Smith had promised the Saints (D&C 57:1-3) that Missouri would be their land of Zion, a holy place, a place of peace and prosperity. The Prophet sent a group there in July and August of 1831 and they had established the town of Independence in Jackson County.  The Prophet had instructed them and given them laws upon which a Zion Society was to be built, also warning them that if they weren’t obedient they would not receive the blessings, stating: (58:53) “Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it be by the shedding of blood.”

So because they didn’t measure up, (speaking of the Church as a whole and not individually, for there were many righteous among them) they were driven from Jackson County. Many of them settled in surrounding counties in Missouri, Clay County, Daviess County, and Far West in Caldwell County being some of the places.

That was back in 1833-34. A similar situation happened again in 1838, about the time Kirtland Camp arrived in Far West, Caldwell County, for the Prophet had reiterated basically the same promise, with the same warning (D&C 119:5).

Many Saints didn’t measure up this time, either, and there was shedding of blood, such as at the Haun’s Mill massacre.  And though the Prophet’s revelation was referring to the church as a whole, and not to individuals, nevertheless the righteous suffered along with the unrighteous. 

So now in October of 1838 the harassed Saints were fleeing from surrounding areas to Far West where the Prophet Joseph Smith was and where the largest concentration of Mormons were.

But again, as four years previously, the Saints were not safe even in Far West, for Colonel Hinkle (a Mormon), highest officer in command in Far West, under a flag of truce, betrayed the Saints. The Prophet Joseph and other leading brethren were arrested, the Prophet was thrown in jail (and kept there for five months). Hinkle marched the Mormon troops out of the city, and the brethren gave up their arms. The Governor’s troops (mobs) then marched into town, tore up floors, plundered, destroyed, defiled the women, burned homes, ruined their crops, shot or drove off their animals, shot at the men, and threatened death to all Mormons. Wm. Draper Jr. was there at that time. In referring to this situation, much of the following information is from Truth Restored.  

Under inhuman circumstances, and greatly outnumbered and denied any semblance of legal protection, fifteen thousand members of the Church fled their Missouri homes and property which was valued at a million and a half dollars.  Because Joseph Smith was in prison, Brigham Young, senior member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, directed this sorrowful migration. 

That bitter cold fall in November of 1838, these hundreds and hundreds of Saints were huddled, in the rain, on the banks of the Missouri river waiting a crossing, with little to eat, some with no shelter save the trees by the stream, no bedding and no change of clothing. Through the winter of 1838-39 they painfully made their way, however they could, eastward through Missouri toward Illinois, nearly 200 miles distant, not knowing where else to go. Many died from exposure to the extreme cold wintry weather, or from illness aggravated by it. Their suffering was intense. 

It seems sad and unjust that those who are striving diligently to live in a righteous manner must suffer because of the actions of those who turn against the truth.  Many would wonder WHY? WHY? It has been said that the hardest battles are those fought within our own souls. It took mighty faith for those treated thus, who lived through that severe trial, to come to terms with it in their own hearts and minds.  Those who did were strengthened to withstand the future trials of faith, with no bitterness, but an increased capacity to love all men.

 Pike County, Draper/Palmer Family Avoids Boggs' Extermination Order

The area of Pike County was known to have very fertile soil, and it was an ideal place for these industrious people to settle.  The very title of Pleasantvale indicates its character, and we suppose that they had thriving farms–that is, if they could procure seeds for crops for both themselves and their animals. In those days folks kept animals not only for work and transportation, but so they had their milk, cheese, eggs, meat, and butter. By raising grains and vegetables, and gathering the local wild fruits and berries, they would have enjoyed a very healthful and satisfying existence.

We learn from William Jrs.’s own autobiography he was not part of Kirtland Camp and wasn’t in Pleasantvale until 1840.  The Prophet Joseph Smith had called him on a mission to go take charge of a Branch of the Church, and he had gone to Missouri in the spring (before the camp was organized). He was among those expelled from the Far West area during the dreadful extermination in the fall of 1838. He ended up in Pleasantvale with his Draper relatives on their farms, where they are shown on the 1840 Census of Pleasantvale, Pike County, Illinois. In 1841 William Jr. was living at Green Plains, Hancock County, Illinois.

By dropping out from the Kirtland Camp and going to Illinois, the William Draper Sr. group avoided one of the most disastrous and cruel occurrences at that time—that of Governor Boggs’ wicked extermination order. However, within a few years their group was definitely in the midst of its aftermath.

Although much of the basic information about our early pioneer ancestors was procured from Church and civic records, and from histories of other pioneers, which enabled us to determine when and where the Palmer and Draper people were living, it was from Church history and conditions and happenings in the country which give a broader view of their environment and probable activities.

Living in the midst of the Saints in Kirtland, they would have known the Prophet Joseph Smith and other spiritual leaders personally, and been instructed and tutored by them. They were also able to experience the joy of a people united in a holy purpose, as they tried to live in literal obedience to the true gospel of Christ.

Here they began the construction of a Temple, wherein sacred keys would be given to the Prophet, and where the Saints could be instructed and receive the blessings of an endowment. All who could, helped in some way with constructing the Temple.

Zemira’s mother, Phebe, was given a patriarchal blessing at Kirtland by Joseph Smith Sr. March 28, 1836 (the day after the dedication of the Temple), promising her that if she were faithful and wise she would be blessed to have a companion who would be a man of God. Also that she would be able to raise her children right.

When the pitiful exiles reached the state of Illinois, the people in Hancock County and in Quincy and Lima in Adams County Illinois received them kindly. The Mormons, ever resourceful and industrious, set to work, and soon settlements began springing up in Hancock and other Counties.

Following five months of confinement in Liberty jail, (November to April), the Prophet Joseph Smith escaped and made his way to Illinois. To provide more room for their people to settle, the Church leaders purchased extensive land in April 1839. This land included a small swampy place called Commerce.  It was so wet that a man had difficulty walking across most of it, and teams became mired to their hips. No one else wanted it, so the cost was very minimal. It was an unhealthy place and many became victims to malaria, even the Prophet Joseph Smith being stricken.

This is the time when Joseph arose from his sickbed, and he and other Priesthood leaders went through the camps on both sides of the river, and miraculously healed all the sick. (One of these later was to become Zemira’s mother-in-law, Lydia Goldthwaite Knight, Sally’s mother. She was healed by having a handkerchief belonging to the Prophet Joseph wound around her brow.

Under the inspired leadership of the Prophet, the swamps were drained, and on that land, formerly known as Commerce, the city of Nauvoo was built. Yet they had very little money, and penniless converts by the hundreds kept gathering with the Saints at Nauvoo. There, in spite of their poverty, on April 3, 1841 they began construction of another temple, and eventually Nauvoo became one of the most beautiful cities in Illinois, with prosperous farms on the outskirts of the city.

 Ebenezer Brown

On August 28, 1842, in Pleasantville, (or Pleasantvale) Pike County, Phebe’s patriarchal blessing was fulfilled concerning her having a companion who would be a man of God.  Ebenezer Brown had been in the same group as the Drapers, when his wife Ann Weaver became ill. Phebe went into their home and tenderly nursed and cared for the sick woman until the time of her death. Phebe married Ebenezer, which was a double blessing, for not only did she now have a husband to love and care for her, but his four young children had a mother to love and care for them. Phebe had only Lydia and Rhoda of her own children to join the Ebenezer Brown household, for previously that same year, in February, Phebe’s son William George was married to Ellen Purdun, at Pleasantvale, and also her oldest son Asahel was married to Evaline Carter. 

Palmers Move From Pike County to Bear Creek and Morley, Illinois

Although the Draper/Palmer group had escaped the horrors of the extermination order in Missouri, they were caught up in the persecutions that dogged the Saints wherever they were, and eventually the Saints of Pike County were driven from their homes and thriving farms. Many of them went to Hancock County.

After being driven out, we find that Phebe and Ebenezer Brown, in 1844, were living at Bear Creek, a settlement some miles south of Carthage, which was not far distant from Morley nor from Nauvoo. Lovina and her husband Henry Munroe were living there also.

It is recorded that Phebe traveled to Nauvoo and was baptized for her husband George Palmer Jr. in 1844.  That was before the revelation was given which explained that men should be baptized for men, and women be baptized for women.

Instead of settling with his mother and the others at Bear Creek, Zemira with his uncle Zemira Draper and his Draper grandparents fled to Morley, (or Yelrome, which is Morley spelled backwards) in Hancock County. That was one of the many communities in the area called “Spokes on the Wheel,” so named by the Prophet; Nauvoo being the hub or center of the spokes. At this place there was peace and prosperity for four or five years, some of which were before Zemira came there. Zemira would have spent his 11th, and perhaps his early-teen years at this place.




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