Back to the BOAP Web Page

Isaac Morley, 1786-1865

Cordelia Morley Cox, Biography of Isaac Morley
Holograph, HBLL


Isaac Morley was born in Montague, Massachusetts, March 11, 1784 [1786]. He lived there until 1812. He married a girl by the name of Lucy Gunn and moved to Kirtland, Ohio. In 1830, the Church of [Jesus] Christ of Latter-day Saints was introduced in Kirtland, Ohio. In the winter, Joseph Smith and wife came to Father Morley's and lived in his family through the winter.

A branch of the Church was organized there, meetings held there, and many of the people were baptized. A frame house was built on Father Morley's lot for Joseph Smith's family to live in.

In 1831, he was called to go to Jackson County, Missouri to find a location for the Mormon people to settle. A nice place was found near the town of Independence, Missouri. They sent back to Ohio for their family and in a short time a settlement was made. The people of the county began to threaten the settlers and to warn them to leave. They continued building and soon had a flourishing town commenced. This enraged the inhabitants of that county and they began to threaten to drive them out. They said they would kill men, women and children if they did not leave the county. Father Morley with others were taken prisoners and put into jail. He was kept there overnight. In the morning he had a trial and was sentenced to be shot on the public square at eight o'clock for treason. God willed it otherwise and his life was spared.

There was no peace or safety to be found there. The Mormon people began to leave their home. Father Morley had raised a good garden. His vegetables with thirty bushels of potatoes were buried in the ground. His house was not finished and his family was in poor circumstances. We left our home with one team and wagon to take his family, eight in number, and started to find another home. We went into Clay County, Missouri and settled on a piece of low, swampy land. Soon his family was taken down with chills and fever; the family was all sick with not well ones enough to take care of those that were sick. In this condition Father Morley was called on a mission to the Eastern States.

He went from his home to Ohio and from there to Massachusetts. The place where the family was left was so sickly, the family abandoned it and moved to another place and rented a farm. Father Morley filled his mission and returned home to his family once more. The mob commenced threatening to drive the people again from their homes. Father Morley was in poor circumstances. He left all and went this time into Caldwell County, Missouri. A good home was built there, a farm was cleared, and the family comfortably situated again. In the town of Far West were many happy homes, but it did not last long. In a short time the mob began to threaten the people again and peace was taken from them. It was trouble and vexation all the while.

One day about five hundred men came riding into Far West with their guns, their bayonets upon their shoulders, calling themselves militia. They rode to the public square. The men were called together and there forced to give up their arms and ammunition. Forty-five men were taken prisoner and driven to Richmond, Missouri by a strong guard on horseback, through the mud and water like so many hogs driven to slaughter. Father Morley asked permission to see his family once more. Two armed men came with him to his home. He came to tell us that he was a prisoner and had to go to Richmond to jail. Amidst the cries and pleadings of his children, he was ordered to go; his time was up. The prisoners were put into an old frame building and guarded day and night. Father Morley had an Indian blanket. This he would lay down upon the floor; a part of it was his bed and the rest of the blanket was thrown over him for a covering. His boots were his pillows; his food was cornbread to eat and cold water to drink. In this condition he remained for three weeks. He had his trial; they couldn't find anything against him so they turned him loose to return back to Far West the best he could.

The people begged for peace, but there was none for them and they were driven again. They went from Far West, Missouri to Hancock County, Illinois. Father Morley pitched his tent in the backwoods. This was his home and all the one he had for his family. It was a cold winter. The snow was falling fast and there was but little to eat and scanty clothes to wear. The body of a log house had been built on the land for a claim. This Father Morley bought. He covered the house, built a chimney, then the family moved in without a door, windows or floor in the house. The next summer an addition was built onto the house and we were comfortably situated again. In a few years it became a large settlement. It was organized. Father Morley was president and Walter Cox and Edwin Whiting were his counselors. It was a fine country. The town was called Yelrom (Morley spelled backwards).

When all was prospering, hostility began again. The mob came upon us and drove off the stock, burned their houses, and stacks of grain, and left but little for the people to subsist upon and they were driven again. This time, Father Morley moved into Nauvoo, rented a house, and lived there through the winter. In the year 1846 he started west and traveled as far as Pisgah [Morley remained at Mount Pisgah from May 18, 1846 to June 2, and wintered at Winter Quarters in 1846-1847] where he stopped and stayed one year. From there he went to the Missouri River, a place the Saints called Winter Quarters, called now Florence. Here mother died, January 3, 1847. The journey had been very hard for her and for the want of proper food and comforts of life, she died and was buried with three of her grandchildren under the ground where now the city of Florence is built and no trace of her grave is to be found.

In 1848 he crossed the plains and came to Salt Lake Valley to find him a home somewhere there. In the spring of 1849, President Young called Father Morley, Nelson Higgins, Charles Shumway as commanders to go south to find a place for a colony to settle. They started with Chief Walker [?] for a guide. They entered Sanpete Valley and reached the present site of Manti, August 20, 1849. A company of about 10 [?] families came in. Some pitched their tents, some lived in dugouts, others in their wagon boxes through the winter. The snow was very deep. It took the men and boys to shovel the snow in winnows to bare the grass for food for the starving cattle. When it began to be warm weather, the people were startled by the hissing of rattlesnakes that would crawl into their boxes, beds and cupboards and everywhere in their homes.

In August, 1850, President Young visited the colony and called the town Manti, in honor of one of the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The county was called Sanpete after an Indian tribe that inhabited this section of country. In a short time the Indians became hostile and commenced raiding the valley. The Indians were driving off the cattle and horses and often the news would come of some man being killed. The men were obliged to stand guard night and day. It was heard by the people that President Young thought it too much for so old a man as Father Morley, so he called him back to Salt Lake and furnished him a house to live in.

He lived there two or three years, then moved to Santaquin, Summit County. There he lived a year or so and then came to Fairview, where a home was built for him there. He was ordained a patriarch in the Church and for many years traveled, visiting the Saints and hundreds received their patriarchal blessing from under his hands. In traveling as he did, he took a severe cold and rheumatics set in and he was almost helpless for ten months. He died in Fairview, June 24, 1865. His body was brought to Manti and buried in the cemetery beneath the shadow of the glorious temple. Sweet rest to thee, my earthly father, sweet rest until the morning of the resurrection, to come forth and receive a just reward for all thy toils. . . .