Absalom Tidwell

by Richard Tidwell

Revised December 2005


Absalom Tidwell was born in Tennessee(1) or Kentucky(2) on March 8, 1792. His father was Peter(3) Tidwell and his mother was Patsey(3)/(Martha) (4).  On January 20, 1803, Elizabeth McBride is said to have been born in Hancock County, Illinois(5). This is highly unlikely because that area was only inhabited by Indians at that time(6). From the 1810 and 1820 censuses of Illinois it appears that she was more likely born in Randolph County, Illinois. Her parents were Thomas McBride and Sarah Cox. Her father appears to be listed in both censuses of Randolph County as well as many families with her mother’s maiden name (7). In the 1850 Census in Iowa Elizabeth said that she was born in Kentucky(8).


In the Illinois State Archives Absalom Tidwell of St. Clair County in the records or marks and brands registered on January 28, 1809,  his marks with a crop and underbit in the right ear and a crop and a nick in the left ear. The brands were a capital “T” in a rectangle and a capital “T” in a diamond (8).  Absalom’s older brother, Roland, was married to Betsy Cox in Randolph County on August 7, 1817 (10).  Absalom and Elizabeth McBride were married in Randolph County on October 10, 1822 (11).


The 1810 and 1820 Federal censuses of Illinois only listed head of households and no Tidwell’s were listed. Perhaps the whole family did not come to Illinois but rather only the brothers Absalom and Roland. Roland  some years later died on August 30, 1837, in Jackson, Arkansas (12). There is evidence that Absalom and Roland’s parents lived in Jackson, Arkansas where in 1822, Peter Tidwell purchased a slave, Daniel with Absalom being a witness (13). Peter Tidwell died in Warren County, Mississippi on June 11, 1827 (14). Bedford Tidwell, an attorney and a brother of Absalom, filed a document  signed by Patsey / Martha Tidwell freeing Daniel Earls, their slave with an original date of June 11, 1827 in Randolph County, Illinois on May 10, 1829, and it was recorded on June 18, 1829 (15).  Patsey / Martha was paying taxes in Jackson, Arkansas in 1830 (16).  It is assumed that she died in Jackson, Arkansas, in 1840 as she was not included in signing a document regarding the freeing of their other slave Sucky and Sucky’s two children in 1841 (17).


The Prophet Joseph Smith restored Jesus Christ’s Church to the earth on April 6, 1830, at Peter Whitmer’s farmhouse in Fayette, New York. The Book of Mormon had been published just the month before. The Prophet and other early church members wanted to share the good news of the gospel with their family and friends. Some of these early missionaries went to southwest Illinois. Missionaries found the Absalom Tidwell family in St. Clair County, Illinois, and taught them the gospel.  Absalom(41), his wife, Elizabeth McBride(30), and their children, Ransom, age 8, Thomas, age 7, Martha, age 3, and Peter, age 2, all listened. Absalom and Elizabeth were baptized in 1833 (18).


Along with other early converts, the Tidwell family wanted to move so they could live by other members of the Church.  They left their farm in Illinois.  It was sad to leave behind the graves of three sons, who had died as young children.  The gospel gave them the promise that they would be able to raise their twin sons, Joseph and Hyrum; and their little son Absalom in the Millennium.


They traveled across the state of Missouri in 1834. They first lived in Jackson County; but  because of persecution, they had to move to Clay County and finally to Caldwell County.  There, William was born to the family on January 1, 1835.


In June of 1837, their son Thomas was baptized in the waters of the nearby Crooked River by Absalom Free.  Absalom Free was a friend and neighbor the family knew when they lived in St. Clair, Illinois, in the 1830’s.


Another child was born to the Tidwell Family after they came to northwest Missouri:  Sarah Jane (born Dec. 14, 1837). After Sarah Jane was born, the Tidwell Family had 6 children, the oldest child was Ransom, age 12, then Thomas, age 11, Martha, age 7, Peter, age 6, William, age 2, and baby Sarah Jane.


The people of Missouri persecuted the Saints because they did not understand their religious beliefs.  They were also jealous of the Saints’ prosperity and the power they could have in elections.  Mobs, or groups of people who take the law into their own hands, frequently attacked the Saints and their settlements.  They wanted the Saints to leave Missouri. Thomas Tidwell, Absalom’s son, remembers hearing the guns during the Battle of Crooked River on the 25th of October 1838.


The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were arrested at Far West on October 31, 1838.  It was December 1, 1838 when the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were imprisoned in Liberty Jail, Clay County, Missouri.


Absalom Tidwell was one of the signers of a document created January 29, 1839, at Far West, Missouri, which said that they would be leaving Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, and that they would work together to dispose of their property fairly.(19)  During the winter of 1838-1839, Absalom and his family left Caldwell County and moved to Jackson County.


Absalom filed a document  with the Justice of the Peace, Andrew Monroe, in Quincy, Illinois, January 6, 1840, dated May 11, 1839, presenting to Missouri a claim  for the loss of property in Missouri in the amount of $900 due to the extermination record. (20)


 After the birth of their child Elizabeth Jane, Jan. 20, 1840, the family again traveled across the state of Missouri to Illinois.  The kind people who lived in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, took the Saints into their homes.


The Tidwell Family settled in Green Plains, Hancock County, Illinois.  The family of 9 were listed in the 1840 Census (21).  Green Plains was 25 miles south of Nauvoo, where many Saints had gathered to build a city. The growth of Nauvoo was rapid as it became the gathering place for the exiled Saints from Missouri and the destination of new members of the church from other states and foreign countries. By 1844, the population of Nauvoo was estimated at about 15,000 which made it the largest city in Illinois, even larger than Chicago.


Absalom and his sons began farming many acres of land in Green Plains, just north of Morley’s Settlement.  They rented the land from John Williams.  One of the crops they grew was likely soy beans. John Williams’ father, Levi, in 1844 became very bitter towards the Mormons for unknown reasons and was a leader in the persecution of the Prophet Joseph Smith. (22)


Absalom and their family attended the Lima Branch of the Church which was organized on October 23, 1840, in Adams County, Illinois.  It consisted of members  in the area of Morley’s Settlement, also known as Yelrome,  and Bear Creek.  The Tidwell Family was listed in the 1841 membership records of the Lima Branch of the Church, where Peter, age 10, was baptized. In the Lima Branch records were listed Absalom Tidwell (Elder), Elizabeth Tidwell, and their children: Ransom, Thomas, William, Sarah, and Betsy (23).


The practice of baptism for the dead began to be preached by the Prophet Joseph Smith 15 Aug 1840; and the Nauvoo Temple was begun in October. Absalom Tidwell was anxious for his ancestors to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel.  On November 14, 1840, he was baptized in the Mississippi River for his father, Peter Tidwell(24).  About six months later, May 17, 1841, Mary Ann was born. When the Nauvoo baptismal font was dedicated in 1841 in the temple basement, Absalom participated in baptisms for the dead for his mother, Patsey,  and three brothers: David, Rollin, and Bedford (25). 


The Nauvoo Legion was a city militia of about 5,000 men organized to protect the Saints.  Thomas Tidwell, at age 15 (1841), was a member of the Nauvoo Legion, which was commanded by General Joseph Smith.


Joseph Smith and other Church leaders often traveled to some of the smaller Mormon settlements and preached to the Saints.  In October 1841, during a two-day conference in the Lima Branch, the apostles asked the men to donate 1/10 of their time and property to the building of the temple in Nauvoo. 


On 14 March 1843 Joseph Smith spoke in Yelrome, Morley’s Settlement, on Salvation Through Knowledge (26).”  That same month, the Saints in Morley’s Settlement, were asked to give the following to Joseph Smith’s household: two milk cows, as many loads of wheat as possible, beef, pork, lard, tallow, corn, eggs, poultry, and venison.


On 13 May 1843 Joseph Smith with Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, Orson Pratt and George A. Smith, attended a conference held in Morley’s Settlement.  Joseph Smith stayed at the Morley house and preached that day, Saturday, and Sunday.  He rode over to Lima on Sunday and preached there later that day.  Sunday evening Emma, Joseph’s wife, came by carriage from Quincy, and she and Joseph rode back to Nauvoo together on Monday. 


The persecution against the Church grew and Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Carthage Jail.  When an angry armed mob stormed the Carthage Jail, Joseph & Hyrum were shot and killed on June 27, 1844. When news of this reached Nauvoo, the Saints were very sad.


Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, quickly returned to Nauvoo from Boston, Massachusetts and became the leader of the Church.  One of the first things Brigham Young felt it was important to do was to complete the Nauvoo Temple. He also urged the Saints not to take revenge against the mobs.


The death of Joseph Smith did not stop Nauvoo and the Church from growing.  Even Absalom Tidwell’s family was growing. Twin boys, Absalom Trautham Tidwell and David Absalom Tidwell were born in April 1845.


The Nauvoo Charter had been repealed by the state of Illinois in January, 1845. By the end of the summer of 1845, persecution became more harsh (27).  The Church’s enemies made plans to drive the Saints from the state of Illinois.  They decided to attack some of the outlying settlements first.  On September 17, 1845, a large mob of 300 men, went to Morley’s Settlement and began burning Saints houses (28). 


The Absalom Tidwell farm, located in Green Plains, just north of Morley’s Settlement, was burned  September 17, 1845.  The homeless Saints fled to other family’s homes and eventually to Nauvoo.  There is no longer a town named Morley’s Settlement.  However, this plaque, in Tioga, Illinois, is in memory of the Saints who once lived there. 2005 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of Tioga, and a coin was minted to celebrate that occasion (29).


Brigham Young urged men from Nauvoo to volunteer to rescue these families.  Perhaps Ransom Tidwell, the oldest son, who was married in 1844 to Polly Henderson, was among the 134 teams who went to help rescue his family from the mobs.


In hitching up wild oxen to their wagons to pull their possessions and take their family to Nauvoo, Absalom was injured.  Absalom died a month later, October 1845, in Nauvoo from his injuries (30).  He was buried in the Old Nauvoo Burial Ground and his name is noted in the pavilion there (31).


On September 22, 1845, the citizens of Quincy in a mass meeting demanded the removal of the Saints at once. On the 2nd of October, 1845, a great anti-Mormon convention met in Carthage which resolved to wait for Spring for the Mormons to remove (32). The enemies of the Saints did not wait until Spring but began anew to plunder. There were too many people in Nauvoo for any mob to cause trouble in the city. They did continue to burn and plunder in the outlying Mormon communities and most abandoned their homes and moved into Nauvoo (33).


With the growing persecution, Brigham Young knew that the Saints would have to leave Nauvoo.  The Nauvoo Temple was dedicated room by room so ordinance work could be completed before the Saints would have to leave their beloved city.  Important ordinance work went on day and night. 


On January 22, 1846, Elizabeth, Absalom’s wife, received her endowments (34). On February 6, 1846, Ransom and Thomas, Absalom’s sons, received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple (35). They were among 5,000 Saints who received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple.


In February 1846 many of the Saints, including Thomas, Peter’s older brother, left Nauvoo, crossing the Mississippi River to Iowa, either on barges or on the frozen river. Thomas crossed on the ice.


Elizabeth Tidwell and her younger children did not initially leave Nauvoo with the main body of Saints.  They remained in Nauvoo with others who were widows, orphans or had little means of support.   Elizabeth’s son, Thomas, at the request of Brigham Young, returned to Nauvoo May 1846 to care for his family.  Thomas participated in the Battle of Nauvoo Fall 1846.  At one point he was threatened with a gun by a member of the anti-Mormon mob (36).


Thomas helped his mother and the rest of his family join the Saints in Stringtown, Iowa. The 1850 Iowa Census, dated 30 September 1850 (37), lists Elizabeth Tidwell living in the city of Vernon, Van Buren County, listed with her children, and her sister Jane.  The family listed right above is one of Elizabeth’s married daughters. The marks in the right-hand column of the census page note that the persons over 20 years old in the Tidwell family could not read or write.  For the Tidwell family there were no marks in the column to the left of this one meaning that none of the Tidwell children attended school during the year. The same page, at the top, lists Ransom Tidwell, Absalom’s married son and his family.


Sometime after 1850 Elizabeth and her family moved west across the state to Kanesville, later known as Council Bluffs, Pottawatamie County, Iowa.  Winter Quarters is across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs.  Winter Quarters was the city from which most of the Saints started out for the Utah Territory.  In the Fall of 1851, the First Presidency issued a sharp order to all those remaining in Iowa, especially those on the Pottawatomie Indian lands, where they were, to come to Utah in the Spring.  In 1850 there were 7500 Mormons on the Indian lands in Iowa, but by late 1852 most of them had moved on to Utah (38).


On March 28,1852, Peter Tidwell married Sophronia Hatch, daughter of Josephus Hatch and Melinda Durfee,  in Pleasant Grove, Pottawatamie County, Iowa(39)(40).   Sophronia at the age of 10 in 1841 was baptized with her family in Vermont and came to Nauvoo and ultimately to Iowa (41). Thomas, Peter’s brother, and his wife Jane, were witnesses to the marriage.


Peter and his wife decided to join the Saints in Utah.  They crossed the plains in the Isaac Stewart Wagon company from Council Bluffs the summer of 1852 (42).  They arrived in Utah and settled in Ogden where their first 3 children were born.  They then lived in Richmond, Utah, for about a year, and, beginning in 1863, settled in Smithfield, Utah, where Peter was a farmer and blacksmith.


Thomas Tidwell, Peter’s older brother, came to Utah with his wife, Elizabeth Jane Henderson, and their three small children in the Spring of 1854


Between 1856 and 1860, many Saints traveled across the plains in handcart companies.  In one of the handcart companies, the Martin Handcart Company, traveled the Amy Kirby Orme Family from England.  This family consisted of Amy Kirby Orme, the widow of Samuel Orme, and their children Samuel Washington Orme, age 23, Sarah Ann, age 29, and Rebecca, age 18.


Winter storms came early that year, and the handcart company was caught in the Wyoming mountains, hundreds of miles from the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young called for able men and their teams to rescue these Saints.   Peter Tidwell, son of Absalom & Elizabeth Tidwell, was one of the rescuers of the Martin Handcart Company (43).


Peter did not realize that he was saving his future descendents.  One of the great granddaughters of this Orme family, Leah Anna Orme, married the great grandson of Peter Tidwell, Leslie Allan Tidwell, September 21,1937.


In 1869, Thomas Tidwell, while on a mission in the states, visited his mother, Elizabeth,  in Kansas, and brought her and two of his sisters and one brother-in-law to Utah on the train. Elizabeth lived out her life in Utah ending with her death on November 19, 1894, at the age of 91. She is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Salina, Utah.


Sources Noted with (number) in Text

1. Manti Temple Records, Film # 7483, Book A, Page 219.

2. Death Certificate for son, Peter Tidwell, states father’s place of birth as Kentucky, State of Utah, Dept. of Vital Statistics.

3. Nauvoo Baptisms, Book A, Page 161, Film# 25163 pt.6-9 and pt.1

4. Martha is listed as Peter Tidwell’s wife in the DAR Patriot Index, Centennial Edition, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, US/CAN 973 C42da 1990 Part 3, Page 2939.

5. Nauvoo Temple Records, Film# 1958, Book B, Page 295

6. Illinois State Historical Society, 1810 and 1818 census Book, also see population map of 1818, same source.

7. 1810 and 1820 Federal Census of Randolph County, Illinois

8. 1850 Federal Census of Iowa, Vernon, Van Buren County, Iowa, page 245, recorded on September 30, 1850, Family History Library, BYU, Provo, Utah.

9. Perrin Collection, St Clair County, County Clerk, Record of Marks and Brands, V.A. p.11, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, Illinois.

10. Randolph County Clerk, Marriage Records, Chester, Illinois.

11. Randolph County Clerk, Marriage Records, Chester, Illinois

12. "Arkansas Newspaper Abstracts, 1819-1845" by James Logan Morgan (FHL 976.7 V48m, p. 41) states "Rowland Tidwell, about age 40, died Aug 30, 1837 at his residence in Jackson County, resident of Arkansas for 15 years, survived by his wife and 5 children."  See Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Jackson County, AK, Sept. 12, 1837.

13.  Purchase of Slave, Daniel Earls by Absalom Tidwell,  Deed Book A, Page 73, Independence County, Arkansas, April 6, 1822.

14. Martha is listed as Peter Tidwell’s wife in the DAR Patriot Index, Centennial Edition, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, US/CAN 973 C42da 1990 Part 3, Page 2939.

15. Instrument filed in Randolph County , Illinois, freeing Daniel Earls, as slave to Peter Tidwell, dated June 11, 1827, filed on May 10, 1829, and recorded on June 18, 1829.

16. Arkansas Territorial Tax Records shows Martha / Patsey Tidwell paid taxes on August 23, 1830.

17. Record Book A, Page 202, Jackson County, Arkansas, Document freeing slave, Sucky and Sucky’s two children , and reaffirming freedom of the slave Daniel dated January 1, 1841. Signed by Absalom Tidwell  but  Martha / Patsey did not sign on this document.

18. Assumed due to place of residence in 1833 and in Church Info file at Family History Library at BYU.

19. Fairchild, Vanda Foote, Thomas Tidwell, Elizabeth Jane Henderson Tidwell, Utah Pioneer of 1854 and Related Families, Provo, Utah, 1990, page 5.

20. Journal History of the Church, November 29, 1839, page 13.

21. 1840 Federal Census of Hancock County, Illinois, page 170.

22. ‘Nauvoo, A Place of Peace, A People of Promise’ by Glen M. Leonard, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2002, pages 388, 414, 415, 525, 534, 600.

23. Lima Illinois Branch Records, Film #7646

24. Baptisms for the Dead in Lima Branch Film#25163 pt.1, Family History Library, Provo, Utah.

25. Nauvoo Temple Baptism Records, Book A, page 161, Film# 25163, pt.6-9 and pt.1

26. History of the Church  5: 387-389.  A Knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

27.  “Restored Church” by William E. Barrett, pages 214-215

28. Church Historian’s Office,”Morley Settlement Affidavits, 1845”, No. 15.

29. Coin in Commemoration of 150th Founding of Tioga, Illinois, June 2005, (Coins minted at  the request of Ed Weisinger, 66 N County Road 840, Mendon, Illinois, 62351)

30. Manti Temple Records, Film# 7483, Book A page 219.

31. Pavilion At Old Nauvoo Burial Ground noting those buried there,  as recorded by Richard Tidwell, June 2005.

32.  Restored Church by William E. Barrett, pages 215-216.

33. Letter from T.Edgar Lyon, Research Historian, Nauvoo Restoration Inc., in possession of Richard Tidwell.

34. Nauvoo Temple Record of Endowments of January 22, 1846, Film #0183372, page 295, LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

35. Nauvoo Temple Records,  Film#1958, Book B page 295.

36. Quote from the following web site: http://davies-linguistics.byu.edu/fam-hist/scripts/pedigree.asp?self=62

37. 1850 Federal Census of Iowa, Vernon, Van Buren County, Iowa, page 245, recorded on September 30, 1850, Family History Library, BYU, Provo, Utah.

38.  “Restored Church” by William E. Barrett, pages 278-279.

39.  Family History Library . Early Church Records, Marriages Book I 1848-1856, Roll 18

40. Peter Tidwell and Sophronia Hatch Marriage Certificate from Peter Tidwell Family Bible in possession of L. Allan Tidwell, 1070 Briar Ave., Provo, Utah.

41. Family History Library,  Church Info Index File.

42. Family History File, Emigration Card Catalog, Film# 38333, pt.12

43. Rescuer Plaque, Martin’s Cove, Wyoming, recorded by Richard Tidwell, July 2000.


Other Sources Utilized Throughout the Story:


Fairchild, Vanda Foote, Thomas Tidwell, Elizabeth Jane Henderson Tidwell, Utah Pioneer of 1854 and Related Families, Provo, Utah, 1990


Life Story of Absalom Tidwell by Richard Tidwell, 280 E 3140 N, Provo, Utah written in 1974.


Family Group Record of Absalom Tidwell and Elizabeth McBride in possession of Richard and Sandy Tidwell, 280 E 3140 N, Provo, Utah.

Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds


Time Line



The Grounds



Elizabeth’s Grave

Marriage Certificate











Sarah Jane

Elizabeth Jane


David Absalom