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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hendricks Family Flees to Illinois

Drusilla Hendricks demonstrated remarkable strength and heroism as she and her family continued to persevere through unimaginable trials.  Her husband, James, remained completely paralyzed.  Even with the help of ten-year-old Elizabeth [James Gammell's future wife] and nine-year-old William, she could not lift the weight of his body.  In addition to caring for James, she bore the full responsibility for the needs of her family, including two younger children and a nursing baby.  In mid-January 1839, Joseph Smith, Sr. (father of the Prophet), Isaac Morley, and several others came to the Hendricks home and anointed and administered to James.(1)  When they had completed the blessing, they stood James on his feet and held him upright, and “he began to work his shoulders.”  In the days to come Drusilla continued to “rub him with strong vinegar and salt and liniments.”(2)

As the winter wore on, many families were leaving Missouri as quickly as they could, but Drusilla had no idea how she could possibly go, until Brother Leaney “came to see us and said we should not be left behind.” Leaney had been shot and wounded at Haun’s Mill a few months before.  He “had been shot through and through from both sides, the balls passing through the lungs, but he was miraculously healed.  He had twenty-seven bullet holes in his shirt. I [Drusilla] counted them myself.  He only had eleven wounds to be dressed.”(3)

By the time Drusilla and her family left Missouri and started for Illinois, James Hendricks had learned to pull himself to his feet without help. On the first day of April 1839, when Joseph Smith, Sr. learned that the Hendricks family had arrived in Quincy, he went immediately to visit them at their campsite. Father Smith, as they called Joseph, Sr., assisted by several other brethren, gave James a second priesthood blessing. They “then assisted him to his feet and he walked, between two of them, some thirty yards and back.”(4)

Quincy, Illinois (2008)
on the Mississippi River
in public domain

Drusilla was now faced with the responsibility of finding lodging for her family, and she soon found out how difficult that would be.  Quincy, Illinois, a town of about two thousand residents, was completely unprepared for the influx that winter of five thousand refugees,(5)  members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had been driven from their homes in Missouri.  Nevertheless, the people of Quincy responded with great empathy and kindness, and did all they could to provide the exiles with food and shelter.  Soon Drusilla was able to find makeshift lodging for her family, a small room, “partly underground and partly on top of the ground.”(6)

Living in such damp and confined quarters, James fell ill.  Within two weeks they ran out of food and lost their small heifer that had provided them with a little milk twice a day.  As Drusilla described, “we were like Job of old and my husband was as sore, for his blood cankered and he broke in sores all over his body so that you could not put a pin point on him without putting it on a sore, from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet.”(7)

Though Drusilla’s trials were of biblical proportion, so were the miracles that sustained her and her family. As she prepared mush for her children with her last spoonful of sugar and last saucer of corn meal, doubt and conflict began to fill her mind.  She answered it with her usual faith and courage.  Soon a feeling of peace came over her, and these words came into her mind: “Hold on, for the Lord will provide.”  She resolved that she “would trust Him and not grumble,” and then went about washing everything and cleaning her house thoroughly, saying: “If I die, I will die clean.”  That afternoon Brother Rubin Allred drove fifteen miles to the Hendricks’ home and delivered a sack of meal.  “I felt you were out of bread,” he said, “so I came by the mill to get my grinding done before I came here and it made me late.”  A few minutes later her son William came home with fifty cents he had earned, and with that Drusilla bought six pounds of flour, a few pounds of pork, and half a bushel of potatoes.  Though they ate sparingly, the supply was gone in two weeks, and again they had nothing.  Drusilla recalled, “I felt awful, but the same voice that gave me comfort before was there to comfort me again, and it said, Hold on, for the Lord will provide for his Saints.”  She washed and cleaned, the same as before, and soon Brother Alexander Williams appeared at the back door with two bushels of meal on his shoulder:

I looked up and said, Brother Williams, I have just found out how the widow’s cruse [of oil] and barrel [of meal] held out through the famine.(8)  He asked how.   I said just as it was out [empty] someone was sent to fill it.  He said he was so busy with his crop that he could hardly leave it, but the Spirit strove with him saying Brother Hendricks’ family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came by and had it ground lest you would not get it soon enough.   I [Drusilla] soon baked a cake of the meal and he blessed it and we all partook of it and water.(9)

Brother Williams promised to bring more corn meal to the Hendricks when their supply ran low.  At that time he was living with a family named Edwards and tending their farm.  When he approached him for more corn, Mr. Edwards replied, “You shall not work for me for corn and take it to the Saints who have been driven and robbed.  Tell me where you go and I will go myself.”  Edwards arrived just in time to refill the Henricks’ empty barrel with cornmeal.(10)

View of Nauvoo on a bend of the Mississippi River
Unknown artist.  Oil on canvas, 1848-50
Painted after the Saints fled to the West in 1846,
and after the temple (center white) was burned by a mob in 1848.
in public domain

In late 1839 the Mormons purchased the small town of Commerce, Illinois, located forty miles up the Mississippi River from Quincy.  In April 1840 they renamed it “Nauvoo”.(11)  (Within four years, Nauvoo's population had grown to twelve thousand, rivaling the size of Chicago at the time.)  Brother Lewis moved the Hendricks family to Nauvoo in March 1840.  The High Council “voted to donate a city lot to Brother James Hendrix (sic), who was shot in Missouri; also voted to build him a house.”(12)

At this point Drusilla was supporting her family herself by taking in washing and sewing.  She was able to hire a man to cover the newly built log house and build a chimney.  She and Sister Melinda Lewis chinked and plastered the house, while the hired man plowed her lot and made it ready for a garden.  Her husband, James, was strong enough now to “turn on his elbow, turn his feet out of bed, and take things in one hand.”  He contributed to his family’s support by borrowing enough money to a buy large quantity of flour at the mill to sell for profit.  They took in boarders to earn money, and were able to pay a carpenter and a mason to build a new brick house, finished in 1842.

The Hendricks lived in Nauvoo for about seven years, then again “persecution began to rage and we had hard times again.”  By 1844 the family was again destitute.  Drusilla left Nauvoo and went to St. Louis for eight weeks to earn money for food and clothing.  Catherine went along; Elizabeth stayed behind to care for the family.  She started back to Nauvoo on Friday, June 28, and heard while on the riverboat that Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, and his brother Hyrum had been martyred the day before.  Her grief was almost more than she could bear.  In Illinois “they killed our Prophet and Patriarch and drove us out again.”(13)

William Dorris Hendricks (1829-1909)
His sister Elizabeth Hendricks married James Gammell

After their winter expulsion from Nauvoo, Illinois, in February 1846, the Latter-day Saints began a 300-mile trek across Iowa.  It proved to be the hardest leg of their westward journey, averaging less than three miles a day.  Reaching the Missouri River they camped on both sides, Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Winter Quarters, Nebraska, near Omaha.  Here, while they were making preparations to continue the journey the following spring, William Hendricks was called to join the Mormon Battalion.  Drusilla was heartbroken: “…my son was all I had to depend on, his father being helpless and Joseph, my other son, being in his ninth year only and my girls not healthy.  One would say to me, Is William going. I answered, No, he is not.”  (At this time James Hendricks could walk with the aid of a cane.)  Drusilla said she knelt down and told the Lord if He wanted my child to take him, only spare his life and let him be restored to me and to the bosom of the church.”(14)

Drusilla’s prayers were answered when eighteen-year-old William returned to his family ten days after they reached the Salt Lake Valley in October 1847.  William immediately “went to work and built [them] a house in the Fort wall so we made ourselves as comfortable as possible.”(15)
  1. The brethren laid their hands on James’ head, anointed his head with oil, and administered a priesthood blessing for the healing of the sick.
  2. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 5.
  3. Robert Raymond, chapter 6.
  4. Robert Raymond, chapter 6.
  5. “Eight to ten thousand Latter-day Saints migrated to western Illinois that season. The community of Quincy could not accommodate all the new arrivals. During the spring and summer of 1839 many people were forced into surrounding farmlands and adjoining counties wherever they could find a place to stay.” (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, chapter 17.)
  6. Robert Raymond, chapter 6.
  7. Robert Raymond, chapter 6.
  8. I Kings 17:16.
  9. Robert Raymond, chapter 6.
  10. Robert Raymond, chapter 6. (Alexander Williams baptized Mr. Edwards and his wife.)
  11. The name Nauvoo is derived from traditional Hebrew with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains...”
  12. History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 4, p. 76.
  13. Robert Raymond, chapters 6, 7, and 8.
  14. Robert Raymond, chapter 8.
  15. Robert Raymond, chapter 9.

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