Alexander Wilkins Autobiography
Alexander Wilkins, the son of John Gansworth Wilkins and Nancy Kennedy, was born in Upper Canada, district of Bath, on the 9th day of July, 1835; lived there two years after my birth, when my father and mother embraced the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and were baptized into the church; was blessed into the church at the time of my parents baptism. My parents immediately gathered with the Saints at Far West Missouri, reaching the gathering place of the Saints in the winter of 1837--the journey consuming three months. Apostle John E. Page was with our little company. Here I was blessed under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith.; was with the Saints in all the persecutions and mobbings and drivings and with the Saints when they went to Nauvoo in 1839. Here my fathers family helped in the building of that temple, while my mother knitted socks, which she sold to help in the erection of that holy structure. I helped carry water to the men employed there. A year after we moved to Nauvoo, my father bought a farm about twelve miles from Nauvoo at what was called Green plains, a place two miles from Carthage. Here we had a nice home.
On the afternoon of the 27th of June 1844, I was standing on a knoll about a half mile from our home, all of a sudden I heard the discharge of guns in the direction of Carthage. Almost instantly a peculiar feeling came over me, I hastened home and found my mother leaning against the well curb. She was very pale. I said “Mother, what’s the matter?” she replied that she had heard the guns and was afraid my father was in danger. Just then a gentile neighbor flew past on horseback yelling “God damn you! You’ve got no more prophet!” My mother at once remarked “There, that accounts for all of it!” During all the time the brethren were gathering in the woods on my father’s farm determined to protect their lives against the mob that was assembled bent upon the extermination of the Saints. As soon as Joseph and Hyrum were martyred the mob seemed to be filled with a sudden dread, fearing the Mormons would gather at Carthage and exterminate them, they fled from the city and his themselves. A bright light from heaven shone upon the prophets face as he lay against the well curb at Carthage Jail, and after that disappeared, the heavens commenced to darken up, and the earth trembled. A most violent storm followed, the rain coming down like a flood. Such a storm as I have never seen before or since.
One afternoon in October in the fall of 1845 a mob well mounted on horseback of about thirty or forty men came up to my father’s house for the purpose of burning our home. The captain of the mob said to my father “Wilkins, as far as you’re concerned we have nothing against you, we like you as a neighbor and as a citizen, if you’ll say that Joe Smith was a false prophet we won’t burn your property.” My father made answer and said “Gentlemen, you can burn and be damned, I’ll never say that, I hope, while breath is in my body.” He then seeing they were making preparations to burn the house, requested that he might be allowed to go back into the building and get an old family Bible, which contained the genealogy of his family. This request was partly refused, the mob telling him he knew enough of the Bible already. The loss of this genealogy has never been replaced, and a link is thus lost in our family records. Two weeks before my father died, he told me he stood joyfully and watched the destruction of his property, knowing it was a fulfillment of the scriptures. He also said he had never gone back on his testimony in regard to the divine calling of the Prophet, Joseph. At the time my fathers home was burned, my brother Oscar, was a baby, two weeks old.
In the early spring of 1846, before winter broke up, we left Nauvoo for Winter Quarters, crossing the Mississippi on ice. We crossed the plains in President Brigham Young’s company. We arrived at Council Bluffs in August 1846.
I well remember the call for the Mormon Battalion and the prophetic words of Brigham Young when 500 men were called, said he “If you will go and do right, not one of you shall lose your lives.” It was during our stay here I received a most wonderful manifestation of the Lord’s goodness to me. I went out one morning as usual with the cows to a place about three miles from Winter Quarters . About ten o’clock in the morning I took out a pistol which I usually carried with me for the purpose of shooting crows. It was an old revolutionary horse pistol, carrying an ounce ball, it was very rusty, never having been used since we left Nauvoo. I aimed the pistol at a crow, but it would not go off. I laid it across my left knee, and pulled the trigger with my right hand, and pulled down on the hammer with my right hand. It went off but with damaging results. The ball entered under my knee cap, severed the main ligament of the thigh, tore out the calve of my leg, and blew out a part of the bones, splintering the balance of what was left. The ball finished it’s work by tearing out the side of my foot. The force of the discharge knocked me to the ground. I sat up and found my pants, a pair made from a cotton wagon cover, on fire. I put out the fire and then started for home. I could not walk, for in that condition such a thing was impossible. I managed to get home the whole three miles by resting my body on my hands with my feet elevated. The journey consumed over five hours and I got home about 4 o’clock.
My mother saw me first and she almost fainted at the sight. I was at once put to bed, and the service of a man by the name of Martholeuren summoned. He took an old sheet and scraped from it sufficient lint to fill up the wound, first soaking it in camphor. My leg was bandaged and he instructed my mother to let it stay in that condition for five days. On the morning of the third day after the shooting I was out of my mind through the intense pain I was in. My sister Jane was the only person in the room. I asked her to hand me a butter knife that was lying on the table. She did it. I took it and ripped open the bandages, digging deep into the flesh at the same time. I then tore open the bandages and threw them off. The dead flesh fell off in clumps, leaving the shin bone perfectly bare. My sister screamed and soon the whole house was filled. It was the general opinion that I would die---that it would be impossible for me to recover. I told my father that I would not die if he would go to Winter Quarters two miles below where we were staying and get Patriarch Morley and let him administer to me. I knew that if he would do this I would get well, because I realized the promise made to me by Joseph Smith the Prophet that I would live long upon the earth, and see my prosperity become numerous, and my sons and daughters teach the Lamanites.
My father hitched up our only yoke of cattle, and went to Winter Quarters and brought Father Morley. Immediately upon his arrival I was administered to, I went to sleep when he was midway through his administration, something I had not enjoyed since I was shot. I slept fully 24 hours, the folks could not wake me, and only knew I was alive from the fact I was breathing. I never suffered in the least pain from that day till this. In three months I was able to use my leg again and could not detect anything ever having been the matter with it only for the scar.
After my recovery my father went to Missouri and succeeded in procuring an old outfit to cross the plains to come to Utah. We left in the spring of 1850 and arrived in Provo City the same fall having been on the plains four months. We unhitched on the very block where we now live and have never moved. We helped to survey and lay off Provo, and have assisted in every way to make her what she is today. I have been in three Indian wars, the Walker War, the Tintic War, and the Blackhawk War, and though I have been in many hot engagements am thankful to say that I never sustained any injury.
I was married on the 11th of Dec. 1853 to Alice Malena Barney to whom nine children have been born, and on 7th Feb. 1856, I was married to Eliza Barney, sister to my first wife, to whom eight children have been born. Sixteen of my children are living today, and 40 grandchildren. I was ordained a High Priest in 1890 and set-apart as the second councilor to Bishop Ervan Wride, of the Provo second ward of the Utah Stake of Zion.
I was in Salt Lake in 1853 and witnessed the laying of the first cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple. I was there also on the 6th of April 1892 and witnessed the laying of the capstone which finished the outside of that beautiful building. This is a synopsis of my life. I am enjoying good health and am 57 years old and a firm believer in Mormonism.
From your loving Father and Grandpa,
Written by my daughter Susie age 18
P.S. These persons who receive this please let all my living relations read its contents.