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Life of Joel H. Johnson

Written by Himself

A sketch of the life of Joel H. Johnson, son of Ezekiel Johnson, who was born at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, January 18, 1776. My mother’s name was Julia Hills, born at Upton, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1783. They were married at Grafton, Massachusetts on January 12, 1801, and I was born at Grafton, Massachusetts, on March 23, 1802.

When a small child my parents emigrated to the state of Vermont, where they lived about nine years, and in the year of 1813 my parents let me go with my uncle Joel Hills (for whom I was named) to New Port, in the state of Kentucky, on the opposite side of the Ohio river from Cincinnatti(sic), both very small towns then.

In the spring 1815, my father came and took me to Pompret, Chautauqua County, state of New York, where I lived with him, until I was twenty-one years of age,-March 23, 1823. Had little or no opportunity for education but was very religious from a small child, not daring to transgress the will of my parents or to do the least thing I thought to be wrong and always attended religious meetings and studuied(sic) my books by firelight after I had done work. I bought a sawmill and lot of land and built a house, and my sisters kept house for me until the second day of November, 1826, when I married Miss Anna P. Johnson, daughter of Timothy Johnson, Esq: she was born August 7, 1800. In the year of 1829, I invented and patented the shingle cutter or machine now used for making or cutting shingles throughout U.S. and Canada. The patent dated the 8 of December, 1829 and signed Andrew Jackson, Pres., and Martin Van Buren, vice President of the U. S.

In the fall of 1830 I moved my family to the town of Amherst, Lorain County, State of Ohio. I there first became acquainted with the Book of Mormon and the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ on the first day of June, 1831, and was ordained and(sic) Elder on the 20th of Sept. following and appointed to preside over the Amherst branch of the Church numbering about one hundred members. I attended the first October conference of the Church; it was held in Orange Township, Ohio, 1831, where I first beheld the face of the prophet Joseph and heard the words of life from his mouth which felled(sic) my heart with joy and thanks to God.

In January, 1832, I went on a mission to the state of New York, preaching the gospel and visiting my father’s family in Pompret. They willingly heard and believed and my mother and some others were baptized. On my return home I baptized many in and about Amherst and ordained several Elders and Priests.

In July, 1833, president Smith counseled me to move to Kirtland and buy out certain obnoxious individuals which I did. I was there when the foundation of the Temple was laid, and built a sawmill for its benefit.

On August 26, 1835, I went on a short mission through the southeast part of Ohio, preached in many cities and towns, baptized several and returned home. I labored preaching in all the towns abut Kirtland, baptized many and ordained several Elders and Priests. Received a blessing under the hands of the First Presidency for my labors in preaching, assisting in building the Lord’s house. I was present at the calling and ordination of the first twelve apostles, also at the calling and ordination of the different quorums of the Church. I attended the dedication of the Lord’s house on the 27th of March, 1836, and all the meetings and councils that followed, saw and heard the power of God manifested as mentioned in the life of Joseph Smith, and was chosen a member of the quorum of seventies, went on several missions, etc.

I helped to organize the Kirtland camp in 1838 and traveled with it as far as Springfield, ILlinois; was called by council to stop there and take care of the sick. I commenced preaching and soon gathered a branch of the Church of forty members over which I presided until January 8, 1839, when the Lord showed me by revelation that I must immediately go to Carthage in Hancock county. I packed up, went with my family and commenced preaching in Carthage and vicinity, and baptized many and organized a branch of the Church of about fifty members called the Crooked Creek branch. About that time Sidney Rigdon, Bishop Partridge and others called on me while on their way to old Commerce to seek a location for the saints who were being driven from Missouri. The location was made and called Nauvoo. In February, 1840, I purchased a sawmill and a piece of land on Crooked Creek on which I moved my family. In July we as a branch of the Church were organized into a stake of Zion with all of its officers and quorums.

I was ordained a high priest and president of the stake under the hands of Hyrum Smith. A town was laid out and built up by the saints. On the 11th of September, 1840 my wife, Anna, died leaving me with five small children. On the 20th of October following I married Susan Bryant. In the winter of 1842 President Smith and council thought it best to disorganize the stake on account of a secretly organized band of false brethren that had crept in amongst us, and I was honorably discharged from further duties as president. I was eight miles from Carthage when Hyrum and Joseph Smith were slain on the memorable 27th of June, 1844. On the 13th of November following I was appointed to preside over a small branch of the church called the Pleasent Vale branch. October 25, 1845, I took to wife Miss Janet Fife, a Scotch lady. On the 31st day of December, myself and wife Susan received our endowments in the Lord’s house in Nauvoo.

On the first of May, 1846, about 2 o’clock at night, I was called to the door by an armed mob of about one hundred men who had surrounded my house and asked me if I was preparing to leave. I told them that I was; they told me if I was not gone by the first day of June my life would be taken, and my property destroyed; and after many more threats they left. Out of four or five thousand dollars worth of property that I owned in Hancock county all that I could raise to help me away with was one horse team worth seventy-five dollars and one yoke of oxen and a borrowed wagon.

On the last of May I loaded my family into the wagon, leaving everything else behind, and started for Knox County, Illinois, where I had claim on an eighty soldier right of land, and arrived there on the fourth day of Jone, 1846. While in Knox Co., the Lord blessed me with means in a wonderful manner, so that by the 6th of May, 1848, I was able to start to Salt Lake with three wagons and sufficient teams well loaded with family necessaries, provisions, tools, etc. With a few cows and sheep we arrived at Winter Quarters on the Missouri river the first week in June. We tarried four weeks waiting for company and started on 5th of July in Willard Richard’s company, arriving at Salt Lake on the 9th day of October, 1848. I stopped at the mouth of Mill Creek canyon and was ordained Bishop of Mill Creek ward and elected justice of the peace and a member of the Legislature of Deseret for 1849-50.

In the fall of 1850 I was selected to assist George A. Smith in forming a settlement at Little Salt Lake (Parowan). I sent with him my two oldest sons with two teams laden with provisions, seed, farming tools, iron saw mills, etc., and in the spring I went down with stock and several more teams laden with necessaries for a new settlement. At the organization of the city of Parowan, Iron County, court and high council I was elected one of the city council, selectman, and one of the high council; and on the 19th day of November, 1851, I was sent by George A. Smith to the Springs, twelve miles south of Parowan to make a fort, and myself a farm, and herd the stock for Parowan and Cedar City. The name is still called Fort Johnson.

In the fall of 1855 I attended the second judicial district court held in Fillmore, Utah, as petit juror. December the 10th the Legislative Assembly convened or met in the state house at Fillmore and I was selected chaplain of the House which office I filled during the session.

In the spring of 1857 I was called on a mission to the States and started on the 6th day of April, and arrived at Florence on the Missouri River on the 13th of June, and returned to Salt Lake City again on the 5th of October, 1860, and on the 11th went to President Young’s office and had miss Margaret Threlkeld, an English woman, sealed to me by the president. I arrived at my home in the Iron County on the 29th of October having been absent from home over three years. My labors were mostly in preaching to the people in Iowa and presiding at Genoain Nebraska.

In the fall of 1861 I moved my family down the Virgin River. I was then sent by President Erasus Snow up North Creek and six miles to build a sawmill, which I accomplished and planted out large orchards and vineyards and made other improvements. In July, 1866, I sold out on North Creek and moved back to Virgin City, and on the first day of March, 1868, I moved to Bellevue, my present place of residence.

After I was baptized in 1831 I never lived very long in one place while in the States, on account of mob violence, and since I have been in Utah have made my home in eleven new places. I was never called on a mission, in regards to my faith or the glorious hope that is within me or the mission of Joseph Smith or the true principles of life and salvation through the fulness of the Gospel in these last days, when I excused myself.

I was at Joseph Smith’s when the Word of Wisdom was given and have strictly hearkened to the precepts from that day to the present, by not using tobacco, strong drinks of any kind, tea nor coffee, and but very little flesh. I have written nearly or quite 1,000 hymns and sacred songs, now in manuscript entitled “Zion’s Songster” or “Songs of Joel”, a few of which have been published in the church works. In this short sketch of my life I have mentioned but a very few of my labors and travels in the kingdom, My testimony for the last forty-eight years has been and still is, that I know that God lives, for I have felt his hand and heard his voice, and I also know that the dispensation of the fulness of time I was baptized, having hands laid on me for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I knew it fell upon me, as it did on the saints on the day of Pentecost, for my mouth was opened and my tongue loosed. I could pray and preach day and night and I had also the gift of tongues.

I could remember everything I had read in the Bible, or other books, thus fulfilling the words of Christ in speaking of the Comforter, that it shall bring things to our remembrance.“ (Voice from the mountains page 18). This is my living and dying testimony to every human being upon the face of the whole earth: Truth, Eternal truth, even so. Amen.

(Signed) Joel H. Johnson, high priest and patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints, the only living and true church of God on the face of the whole earth.

(Grandfather Johnson moved from Bellevue to Johnson in October, 1880. After he moved to Johnson he gave all the children and grandchildren a patriarchal blessing and he promised all of them that the words pronounced on their heads would come true inasmuch as they obeyed the words of wisdom.

He died on the 24th of Sept., 1882 at Johnson, Kane County, Utah.


I was with Joseph Smith, the Prophet, when the Word of Wisdom was given by revelation from the Lord, Feb. 27, 1833, and I think I am the only man now living that was present. I was then thirty one years of age and had used tobacco somewhat extravagantly for fifteen years. I always used some strong drink and tea and coffee.

I know that GOD had spoken and condemned the use of these things, and, being determined to live by every word that proceeded from HIS mouth, I laid them all a side, and have not used them since. I well remember that soon after the publication of the Word of Wisdom, the same excuse was made, by some of the people, for drinking tea and coffee that is now made– that hot drinks did not mean tea and coffee.

On a Sabbath day, in the July following the giving of the revelation, when both Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in the stand, the Prophet said to the people;

“I understand that some of the people are excusing thereselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. The Lord was showing us what was good for man to eat and drink. Now what do we drink when we take our meals? Tea and coffee, is it not?, Yes, tea and coffee. Then, they are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks’”.

Brother Hyrum Smith spoke to the same effect. It is said all wholesome herbs are ordained for the use of man. Physicians told us that tea and coffee are not wholesome. And the Lord says they are not for the body or the belly. When children see their parents slight the Word of Wisdom, they are apt to follow their example.

I have recorded this testimony that all who read it may be without excuse. How pleasant it would be at last, if we could say to our Heavenly Father, “I have obeyed all your counsels”, and hear these kind words in return; “Well done’ thou hast been faithful over a few things, be thou ruler over many”. Amen.

SONGS OF JOEL from his “Hymns For The Young,” published in 1882

By Joel Hills Johnson

He writes:

"Like John upon the Isle, to me both day and night
The Spirit ever whispers, take up your pen and write."


"Let the children learn to sing,
Hymns of praise to Zion's King."


High on the mountain top
A banner is unfurled;
Ye nations now look up
It waves to all the world.
In Deseret's sweet peaceful land
On Zion's mount behold it stand!

For God remembers still
His promises made of old,
That He on Zion's hill
Truth's standard would unfold.
Her light should there attract the gaze
Of all the world in latter days.

His house shall there be reared,
His glory to display;
And people shall be heard
In distant lands to say,
"Well now go up and serve the Lard,
Obey His truth and learn his word.

For there we shall be taught
The law that will go forth,
With truth and wisdom frought
To govern all the earth.
Forever there His ways we'll tread,
And save ourselves with all our dead."


O' Father, give me power to write
When unto thee I look,
A thousand songs I would indite,
And Pen them in a book.

Then I a thousand tongues would need,
To sing with one accord
These sacred songs, with love indeed,
In praise to Christ the Lord.

I would not then be satisfied,
I'd want ten thousand more,
To spread His glory far and wide,
His praise from shore to shore.

When here on earth my praise is shown,
I then would soar above,
In all the worlds to us unknown,
Would sing a Savior's love.

And when His love I had Proclaimed,
In all that now have place,
I'd sing to all that will be framed,
Through all the rounds of space.


All hail the glorious day
By prophets long foretold,
When with harmoniuos lay
The sheep of Israel's fold
On Zion's hill His praise proclaim
And shout Hosanna' to His name.

When Israel from afar,
And Judah scattered wide
Shall to their land repair,
And there in peace abide.
Directed by Jehovah's hand,
Shall dwell in peace in Zion's land.

From Zion's heavenly mount,
Shall healing waters flow,
And near this holy fount
Will trees immortal grow.
Whose heavenly balm the kingdoms feel,
Whose leaves will all the nations heal.


Our Father, thou who art in heaven,
  We hallow thy great name,
And ask our trespasses forgiven,
  As we forgive the same.

Thy kingdom come in very deed
  Thy will on earth be had;
And give us what we daily need,
  Of clothing, meat and bread.

Nor leave us in temptation's hour;
  From evil keep us, when
Thine is the kingdom and the power,
  And glory too. Amen.