Categories: Snow Name Study | LDS Mexican Colonias | Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles | Brigham Young Pioneer Company 1847 | Brigham Young Company 1848 | Orson Pratt, Ezra T. Benson and Ira Eldredge Company 1854 | LDS Pioneers.
Erastus Snow was born in November 1818 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He was the 8th child and 6th son of Levi Snow and his wife Lucina (Streeter) Snow. He was named for Erastus Fairbanks, a founder of St. Johnsbury, Republican politician who was twice elected as Governor of Vermont and no doubt a friend of Erastus' father, Levi Snow. There has been a longstanding controversy over whether or not "Fairbanks" should be cited as Erastus Snow's middle name. In the absence of a birth certificate, or Family Bible citation, I have chosen to mention the possibility for family researchers but leave his middle name blank.
Erastus grew up on his father's Vermont farm with his 10 brothers and sisters. His mother was a very religious woman and devout Methodist; his father was a "spiritual seeker," and Biblical scholar who went to church on Sundays but who steadfastly refused to join any one religious denomination, although he considered himself a committed Christian.
Erastus was but 14 years old in the spring of 1832, when two of his older brothers, Zerubabbel and Willard Snow brought two missionaries of the newly-founded Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints (LDS / Mormon) to St. Johnsbury. They were Elders Orson Pratt and Luke S. Johnson. As was his custom, Levi Snow gave them permission to hold prayer meetings in his barn. Soon his sons Zerubabbel and Willard were baptised as members of the fledgling LDS Church. Willard became an ordained Mormon priest and missionary. After the first meeting, Erastus asked his father if he could be baptized into the LDS Church too. Levi's reply was:
A dutiful son, Erastus agreed but his opinion did not change and he was already converted in his heart. Therefore, after the required six-month cooling-down period had passed, on February 3, 1833, he was baptised by his brother Willard. This was followed in May 1833 by the rest of the Snow family being baptised, except for Levi and his son Shipley. Lucina Streeter Snow became a LDS Church member and strong supporter. True to his scholarly, questioning nature, Levi Snow never made a personal commitment to the LDS Church (or any other) but he never wavered in his defense of "the Saints" and of their right to practice their religion as they deemed fit. This attitude brought him at the same time intense satisfaction and extreme hardship as he battled to keep his family together in the face of growing anti-Mormon sentiment among the general public.
Young Erastus Snow was among the most-committed of the new converts. Soon after his baptism, he indicated his desire to preach the new gospel and to convince others of the Truths he had discovered. Visiting LDS Elder John Boynton ordained him to the office of a Teacher on June 28, 1834, at St. Johnsbury, where a local LDS Church had been founded. Erastus began making short missionary visits to neighboring villages, often accompanied by his cousin Gardner Snow and other local young men. On November 13, 1834, his brother Willard ordained him as a Mormon priest after which he extended his missionary efforts to New York and New Hampshire, holding Bible-study meetings and baptising dozens of local men and women into the LDS Church.
After being ordained an Elder by Elder Luke S. Johnson, Aug. 16, 1835, Erastus Snow continued his missionary work with increased zeal across New England, in the company of William E. M'Lellin, his brother Willard and others. Finally, on November 8, 1835, he left St. Johnsbury together with Elder Hazen Aldrich and traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, which at that time was the home of LDS founder and apostle, Joseph Smith, Jr. and his family. Erastus spent the winter in the Smith household, learning the tenants of the new LDS faith directly from the Prophet himself.
In the spring of 1836 he was ordained a Seventy and called into the Second Quorum of Seventy. He also received his patriarchal blessings under the hands of Joseph Smith, Senior, as his own father was not an official LDS member. After these endowments in Kirtland, Ohio, Elder Erastus Snow left on a mission to Pennsylvania on April 16, 1836. The mission lasted more than eight months, during which time he traveled 1,600 miles, preached 220 sermons, baptized 50 persons and organized several new LDS congregations in western Pennsylvania, before returning to Kirtland, on December 29, 1836. He followed this with a second mission in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland from May-December 1837, preaching 147 sermons and baptizing around 40 people.
In 1838-39, his mother Lucina Snow persuaded her husband Levi to sell his farm in Vermont and move to Missouri, where a large tract of land had been opened up for settlement by "the Saints," many of whom were being harassed by non-Mormon neighbors in their communities. Erastus joined them in the new town of "Far West," in Caldwell county, Missouri. There, on December 3, 1838, he married his first wife, Artemesia Beman, whose family had left their home in upstate New York for Missouri. He taught school in Far West that winter, helping LDS prophet Joseph Smith escape from jail in nearby Liberty, Missouri, as tensions between "the Saints" and their anti-Mormon neighbors grew. In 1839, he moved his family first to "Commerce," (later named Nauvoo), Illinois; where Joseph Smith had decided to settle, due to his persona non grata status in Missouri; and then across the Mississippi River in Montrose, Iowa. His father, Levi Snow, had contracted malaria in Missouri and their cattle had been stolen by an anti-LDS mob, forcing them to flee to the relative-calm of the new town of Montrose, Iowa.
In the Spring of 1840, Joseph Smith again sent Elder Erastus Snow on a mission to Pennsylvania, where he had been so successful earlier. He was absent about 6 months, visiting Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City, traveling over 5,600 miles. That October, having heard from Artmesia that her mother (with whom she lived) had died, and that his own parents were ill, he returned to Nauvoo and Montrose for just 17 days to settle his family's affairs. Then, taking his wife with him, he embarked again on his East-Coast LDS mission. This time, fellow Elders Hyrum Smith (Joseph's brother) and William Law persuaded him to settle in Salem, Massachusetts. His preaching was quite successful and within 6 months he had organized a branch of the LDS Church, consisting of 53 members, there. He also ordained an Elder and a Priest and extended his preaching to nearby Boston. His and Artimesia's first son, James Snow, was born in Salem on April 28, 1842. They had already had a daughter, Sarah Lucina, born January 21, 1841, in Chester, Pennsylvania. Altogether Erastus and Artimesia (Beman) Snow had 11 children between 1841-1863:
Erastus and Artimesia Snow and their two infants returned to Nauvoo, Illinois, on April 11, 1843. After a year there, where his second son, Charles Henry Snow, war born, he attended a general Church conference in April 1844. This led to his again being called to return to the East Coast for more missionary work, leaving his growing family in Illinois. He re-visited the LDS congregations in New England, traveling with several other Elders.
Before he left Nauvoo, Erastus Snow entered into a "plural marriage" with Minerva White (b: March 22, 1822 in Northbridge, Mass.) as his 2nd wife. They would have 9 children together between 1845-1866:
That July (1844), while at Salem, Mass., Erastus and his traveling companions learned the terrible news that the Saints' Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. and his brother Hyrum, had been brutally killed by an angry mob while awaiting trail on polygamy charges in Illinois. He immediately returned to Nauvoo and attended a special meeting there on August 8, 1844, at which the Twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young as President, were acknowledged as the highest authority in the LDS Church. Through the difficult transition period that followed, Erastus Snow always supported his distant-cousin Brigham Young, who emerged as the Church's new leader.
When the Nauvoo Temple opened, he and his two wives, Artimesia and Minerva, received special endowment blessings and two anointings. On January 23, 1846, Elder Erastus Snow's first two wives, Artimesia and Minerva, were sealed to him for Time and all Eternity. On January 30, 1846, he married his 3rd and 4th wives, sisters Acsah and Louisa Wing, in Nauvoo, Illinois.
By early 1846 tensions between the LDS Church and their non-Mormon neighbors in Illinois were at a fever pitch. With the agreement of Illinois' governor, LDS President Brigham Young, staunchly backed by Elder Erastus Snow, decided the only solution was a mass emigration of the Saints to "the new Zion," in the Great Salt Lake wilderness of Utah Territory, one thousand two hundred fifty miles due West. Erastus Snow and longtime friend Orson Pratt led the first party of Mormon pioneers and, on July 21, 1847, were the first two to set foot in the Salt Lake valley. He described it thus:
On December 19, 1847, in what were called the "Winter Quarters," Nebraska, Erastus Snow married his 5th wife, 15-year-old Elizabeth Rebecca Ashby (b: May 17, 1831 in Salem, Massachusetts), whose father had suddenly died, leaving her mother with 11 young children to raise alone. The Snow & Ashby families had known each other since Erastus & Artimesia's mission to Salem in 1841-43. It is very likely that this union began as an act of kindness by the 39-year old Snow and that their spiritual union was not consummated physically for several years as their first child was not born until March 24, 1854. They had at least seven children together:
Elder Snow and his multiple wives and their children made the epic trek to Utah Territory, arriving there on September 20, 1848. Doubtlessly, more of this extended family accompanied them. They lived in the Old Fort that Erastus had begun in 1846 with other Mormon leaders' families until Erastus could establish proper quarters for his entire family. By this time he had five wives and five children, all under 10 years old.
On February 12, 1849, in Salt Lake, President Brigham Young called Elder Erastus Snow to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a post he held until his death nearly 40 years later. He was joined by his fifth-cousin, Lorenzo Snow (whom he didn't really know until then), Charles C. Rich, and Franklin D. Richards. This was a major reorganization of the Presidency of the LDS Church and was recognition for Erastus Snow's successful missions and unwavering support of Brigham Young during the period following Joseph & Hyrum Smit's untimely deaths.
In 1849 Apostle Erastus Snow was sent to Denmark on a new Church of Latter-Day Saints mission. He remained overseas, visiting England and Scotland as well as Scandanavia, for nearly 3 years. Again, his forceful preaching and strong faith were very persuasive. When he returned to Utah, in the summer of 1852, nineteen Danish converts accompanied him. They were followed by many thousands more over the next century and the LDS Church also prospered in Denmark and Great Britain.
On April 11, 1856, in Salt Lake City, Erastus Snow married Julia Josephine Spencer as his 6th wife. Little is known about her and the LDS historical biography reports they had just one son: William Spencer Snow, born on July 21, 1867 in St. George, Utah. In 1861, Erastus Snow and his family pioneered the town of Saint George, Utah. They lived there until 1884. His first wife, Artemisia, died there on December 21, 1882. Erastus made several more missions to neighboring Colorado and New Mexico, being instrumental in the LDS expansion in the American South-West.
Also, during this period Erastus Snow married 11 more "plural wives" as follows:
By that mid-1880s, an important battle over the LDS's practice of polygamy ("plural marriages" for men) had developed with the USA's Federal government. To avoid arrest and maintain his plural-marriage lifestyle, Erastus Snow moved his "tribe" now consisting of 16 wives and numerous children to Sonora, Mexico, to establish a LDS colony there.
Apparently this "Mexican dream" of Erastus Snow and the other Mormons who accompanied them did not go smoothly for him because at least he and Elizabeth Ashby returned to Utah within three years. Erastus Snow died in Salt Lake City on May 30, 1888, universally mourned by his family and LDS colleagues. A true son of his philosopher father, Levi Snow, his conviction that he had found the true Christian faith persuaded many to make great personal sacrifices, as he had done, to further the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was described thusly,
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