Esther Knight was born in
Marlboro, Vermont on 25 April 1798, the second child and oldest daughter of
Joseph and Polly Peck Knight. Both Joseph and Polly grew up during the
Revolutionary War and were from Protestant, Yankee families who had been in
America for at least four generations.
Joseph and Polly’s first
three children, Nahum, Esther and Newel were born in Marlboro, and then the
family moved to the Halifax area in Windham County, Vermont, where two more
children, Anna, and Joseph, Jr., were born.
grandparents lived near the Susquehanna River in Broome County, New York,
and in 1808, when Esther was ten
years old, Joseph and Polly moved their five children to Bainbridge Township
near their Peck grandparents. Two years later the family moved two miles
downriver to Colesville Township , where they built a home and farm. In
Colesville, two more girls, Polly and Elizabeth, would join the Knight family
in 1811 and 1817.
The Knight farm grew as
Joseph Knight acquired more acres, and he then built a grist mill on the great
bend in the Susquehanna River that was the western edge of their farmland. As a
young woman Esther no doubt was involved in all the things common to the time,
in cooking, sewing and helping with farm chores. Even with seven children,
there was more work to do on the farm than the family could handle and Joseph
Knight hired young men to help with the work.
According to Stringham family
stories, one of those young men hired was William Stringham. William had moved
with his family from the lower tip of Long Island to central New York and then
to the Broome County area where his father James established a farm.
Joseph Knight hired William
to work in the mill and to run his carding machine that spun wool into yarn
that was woven into fabric. The family story reports that William was
interested in the process of turning wool into fine fabric that was made into clothing,
and eventually it led him to learning the trade of tailoring and making suits.
apparently got to know William during his time working on the farm, and in
1816, when Esther was 18 years old, she married William Stringham, who was 28. The
couple made their home on a corner of the Stringham family farm. The 1820
census for the area reports that the Stringham family lived in Windsor, Broome
County, New York. Windsor was a small town about 7 miles downstream from Father
Knight’s home, so Esther was not far from her parents.
and Esther’s first child, Julia Ann, was born February 28, 1818, and a second
little girl, Harriet was born in 1821. About this time William and Esther moved
to Colesville. About 1823 Esther gave birth to a son Harlow. Various family
records have different names for this child, including Arlo or Alanzo.
October of 1825 a young man named Joseph Smith came to work in the vicinity of
the Colesville Township, doing digging for Josiah Stowell. In due time Joseph
Smith was also hired by Joseph Knight to work on his farm, sometimes staying
with Esther’s parents Joseph and Polly Knight.
and William believed the things Joseph Smith taught, and became ardent
followers. It is possible that on April 6, 1830 the Stringhams were in
Fayette, New York as the new Church of Christ, which became the LDS Church, was
organized. Church records simply report that 20 were in attendance from the
Colesville Branch, and certainly many of that 20 were Knight family members.
June 28, 1830, Esther Stringham, William Stringham and their oldest daughter
Julia Stringham, who was 12, were baptized by Oliver Cowdery in a dammed up
stream near the Knight family home. An angry group of neighbors tore down the
first dam that was built. And when a second dam was built, again an angry mob
descended on the followers of Joseph Smith and stopped the baptismal service
before other family members had the opportunity to be baptized. When the family
tried to hold a confirmation service that same night, a mob gathered and Joseph
Smith was arrested for disturbing the peace.
the members of the LDS Church in Colesville learned of the revelation that the
Saints were to gather in Ohio, they collectively sold their farms, gathered up
their essential things into wagons, and left together as a group in April of
1831. The Stringhams’ wagon included William, Esther and children Julia, almost
13, Harriet, almost 10, and Harlow, about 8. There were 67 members of the
church who left Colesville, including Esther’s siblings and their children and
many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
the Colesville Branch arrived in Kirtland, Ohio in May of 1831, they learned of
a revelation that they were asked to live the law of consecration, and share
their property, labor and income with all in their group. Led by Newel Knight,
Esther’s younger brother, the Colesville group was asked to settle in Thompson,
Ohio, twenty five miles from Kirtland, where a man had consecrated his farmland
to the new economic endeavor. It only lasted about six weeks before the
property was withdrawn and the Knights and the Colesville group needed a new
home. They were asked to go to Missouri.
Stringhams, along with at least most of the others in the Colesville group,
left Thompson on June 28, 1831. They traveled by wagon to the Ohio River and
they boarded boats that took them down to the confluence with the Mississippi.
On the Mississippi River they traveled by paddleboat upstream to the Missouri
River, and then up the Missouri River until they arrived at the Independence,
Missouri landing on July 26, 1831. They were a group of 60 men, women, and
children who needed homes.
Knight family cluster was asked to go to Kaw Township, which is now part of
Kansas City. They arrived in Jackson County too late to plant crops, but land
was widely available from the government for $1.25 an acre. Within a few days
of arriving , Esther’s mother, Polly Knight passed away. Polly had been sick
through much of their journey. Joseph Smith spoke at Polly’s funeral.
2 August 1831, William Stringham, with five other Knight extended family
members, was invited to be part of a ceremony “to lay the first log as a
foundation for Zion in Kaw Township. Symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel, 12
men carried a log as the first log for the first Mormon building in the new
promised land. After the log was placed, Sidney Rigdon consecrated and
dedicated the “land of Zion.”
was very harsh for women and children in Missouri. It was the frontier,
sickness abounded, medical care was almost non-existent, and Mormons were being
harassed and driven from their homes. A family biography of William Stringham
recounts that Esther, at the age of 35, gave birth to a little boy, named
Hyrum, although other sources refer to this infant as Amos. Esther never
recovered from childbirth and passed away in 1833. Esther’s sister, Polly,
helped care for baby Hyrum after Esther’s death. At some point in this time
period, eight year-old Harlow Stringham also passed away.
information gleaned from the Joseph Smith papers included with the William
Stringham biographical information states Esther died in 1833. But in the
biographical information on Esther there is not a death date recorded, only
that she died in Kaw Township. Mormons were pushed out to Clay County in 1833.
William Hartley, Knight family biographer, suggests Esther died in 1831.
daughters Julia and Harriet were young teens when their mother died. With their
father and extended family they endured the mobs that pushed them from Jackson
into Clay County in 1833, and then to Caldwell County, and then out of Missouri
altogether in 1839.
1835, William Stringham married Esther’s younger sister, Polly Knight. Polly
had one son, Walter, and was married to William nine years before she died in
Nauvoo in 1844. After Polly died William married Jemima Young, but they were
divorced six months later. William married Eliza Lake in 1846.
later years, William Stringham, wife Eliza, and his son, Walter, joined the
Saints in Utah and settled in Manti, Utah. Julia and Harriet Stringham each
married while living in Springville, Illinois, and never followed their father
west. They raised their children, lived full lives and died in Illinois.
Esther’s son, Hyrum Stringham, died of a sudden illness in 1849 in Illinois,
before William and Eliza left for the west.
William G. Hartley, “They are May Friends,” A History of the Joseph Knight Family,Grandin Books, 1986.
William G. Hartley,Stand by My Servant Joseph, Deseret Book, 2003.
Joseph Smith Papers biographical summary for Esther Knight Stringham and William Stringham found on Familysearch.org.
Familysearch.org, under William Stringham memories, “William Stringham History” by Mildred Stringham Phillips,
Family Search.org, sources for William Stringham details, citation of 1820 and 1830 census of Broome County,
Diane L. Mangum, April 2018