Official website for the Joseph Knight Sr. and Polly Knight Family Organization
Elizabeth was the youngest of the seven children of Joseph Knight and Polly Peck. She was born 22 July 1817 in Colesville Township, New York. Her parents were both from New England who married and spent their early years of marriage in Halifax, Vermont. In 1808 Polly and Joseph moved to Bainbridge, New York near Elizabeth’s Peck grandparents on the Susquehanna River. A couple of years later Joseph and Polly moved their family six miles downriver to Colesville.
In Elizabeth’s childhood, the Knight household was a busy place with a large family a great deal of work do. Her father had a large farm and a grist mill on the river. Elizabeth’s three oldest siblings were much older than she. When she was born her oldest brother Nahum was 21, her sister Esther was 19 and brother Newel was 17. Elizabeth’s next closest sibling was sister Polly who was six years older.
In 1825 a nineteen-year-old Joseph Smith came to work in the Colesville neighborhood, when Elizabeth, usually called Betsey, was about seven. Joseph Smith was hired by Elizabeth’s father to work and sometimes the young man stayed for the night in their home, sharing a room with her brother Joseph Knight, Jr. The Knights were interested in Joseph Smith’s recounting of experiences with angels, visions, and gold plates.
When Joseph Smith organized a church on April 6, 1830 in Fayette, New York, it is almost certain that Elizabeth was there with her parents and among the 20 people from Colesville who attended the meeting.
On June 28, 1830, a baptism was planned for a large group of close and extended family members of the Knights. A mob destroyed the dam that had been built to create a baptismal font and in secret second baptismal service was planned for the next day. Mobs disrupted that event as well after several were baptized.
Elizabeth Knight was baptized November 1, 1830 in Colesville, when she was 13 years old. It was later remembered that she was the youngest member of the church at that time. However, Elizabeth’s older sister Esther had a daughter Julia Stringham, who was baptized at the age of 12 just a few months before Elizabeth was baptized. It might be noted that Julia Stringham did not remain in the LDS church as an adult, but Elizabeth stayed strong throughout her life.
When the Knight family learned in January of 1831 that a revelation came to the Prophet Joseph that the Saints should all gather in Kirtland, Ohio, Elizabeth and sister Polly soon left immediately for Kirtland in sleigh, accompanying Joseph and Emma Smith and some others.
In Kirtland, the Colesville members of the church were asked to go to Missouri, which was really the western frontier of America. Elizabeth’s mother Polly Knight died within a few days of their arrival in Kaw Township. She was 14 and her sister Polly was 20 when their mother died. Their father remarried Phoebe Crosby two years later.
Elizabeth spent her teenage years in Missouri in a time that was harsh and turbulent for Mormons. They were driven from homes. The governor even ordered an extermination order against Mormons and they were treated as enemies of the state. The Knights continued to build mills and homes in Missouri, but by 1839 all Mormons were driven from the area. It appears that Elizabeth was on her own, at age 22 at that time, probably living with a family member, because she is not listed among her father’s family as he left Missouri, which included Phoebe, and their two young boys Ether and Charles, and Phoebe’s three daughters from a first marriage.
Under the direction of Joseph Smith, in 1840 in Nauvoo the doctrine of baptism for the dead was taught, where a baptism on behalf of deceased ancestors could be done by proxy. Members of the church turned to the Mississippi River and took lists of names of dead relatives and friends for whom they were baptized.
Elisabeth Knight and her brother Joseph Knight, Jr., were among the first to be baptized for the dead, accompanied __, as were some of their Peck extended family. A revelation in 1842 declared that after a temple was completed, the baptisms for the dead must be done in a font in the temple.
The cornerstones for the Nauvoo Temple were laid in April 1841 and there was a large ceremony that included a parade of the Nauvoo Legion, which included quartermaster sergeant, Joseph W. Johnson.
On Feb. 3, 1842, Elizabeth married Joseph W. Johnson in Nauvoo, a brick mason. Hyrum Smith performed the ceremony, the young couple found a home near her brother Newel’s home and the Joseph Smith home, and not far from Elizabeth’s father’s home. The Knight siblings stayed in touch with each other and often visited.
Six weeks after Elizabeth’s marriage, on March 17, 1842, the Nauvoo Female Relief Society was organized. Two weeks later several of Elizabeth’s extended family joined the organization, and on April 14, 1842 at the organization’s 4th meeting, Elizabeth and her sister Polly Knight Stringham became members. Elizabeth sewed clothing for temple workers as a Relief Society sister.
In 1843 Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Carmelia Esther Johnson, a little girl who died in July of 1844. Another son Hyrum was born in 1845. Hyrum only lived 10 months before he died 18 December 1845.
Elizabeth and her husband Joseph Johnson received their temple endowment and marriage sealing ordinance in the Nauvoo Temple in December of 1845. Elizabeth and Joseph were among the thousands who left Nauvoo in the early months of 1846.
The Johnson family was living in Mt. Pisgah, Iowa when Elizabeth’s third child, Castina, was born in August of 1846. Elizabeth gave birth to another girl, Elizabeth, in 1847 in Iowa. The family joined the Brigham Young Company and came west in 1848.
On the pioneer trail in southwestern Wyoming, mother Elizabeth gave birth to twin girls on September 28 named Sarah and Mary. Both baby girls died the same day.
Joseph and Elizabeth made their home in Salt Lake City. In 1849 Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy, Joseph, who lived only a day. Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth, also passed away as a child. In years to come, Elizabeth gave birth to two more children who lived to adulthood, Elizabeth Darlin Johnson in 1855 and David Johnson in 1859.
Joseph Johnson and Elizabeth made their home in the 14th Ward of Salt Lake City, where coincidentally, Elizabeth’s niece, Mary Knight Bassett, the daughter of her brother Joseph Knight, Jr., also lived.
Elizabeth was part of one of the first ward Relief Societies organized in the Salt Lake Valley in June of 1854 in response to the call from Brigham Young for the sisters to organize again. The women began again to help care for the poor and needy, especially new immigrants. In 1857 the Fourteen Ward Relief Society sisters each made a quilt block that was put together for a ward raffle to benefit the Perpetual Immigration Fund. Elizabeth made a lovely red flower in a Rose of Sharon pattern for her block. Her niece Mary Bassett also sewed a block with three orange flowers to the quilt that still exists today.
Elizabeth’s husband, Joseph, married three other wives, and apparently Elizabeth needed to be somewhat independent in caring for her children and taking care of her home.
Elizabeth died in Salt Lake City in 1883 at the age of 66.
Three of Elizabeth’s children lived to adulthood:
Castina Johnson married Wesley Trescott in 1868 and has no known children
Elizabeth Darlin Johnson married Henry Gardner in 1874 and they had eight children.
David Knight Johnson married Amelia Francis Howell in 1889 in Logan and they had four children.
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