No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities

No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities

No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities

No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities


Caroline Crosby's life took a wandering course between her 1834 marriage to Jonathan Crosby and conversion to the infant Mormon Church and her departure for her final home, Utah, on New Year's Day, 1858. In the intervening years, she lived in many places but never long enough to set firm roots. Her adherence to a frontier religion on the move kept her moving, even after the church began to settle down in Utah. Despite the impermanence of her situation, perhaps even because of it, Caroline Crosby left a remarkably rich record of her life and travels, thereby telling us not only much about herself and her family but also about times and places of which her documentary record provides a virtually unparalleled view. A notable aspect of her memoirs and journals is what they convey of the character of their author, who, despite the many challenges of transience and poverty she faced, appears to have remained curious, dedicated, observant, and cheerful.

From Caroline's home in Canada, she and Jonathan Crosby first went to the headquarters of Joseph Smith's new church in Kirtland, Ohio. She recounts, in a memoir, the early struggles of his followers there. As the church moved west, the Crosbys did as well, but as became characteristic, they did not move immediately with the main body to the center of the religion. For awhile they settled in Indiana, finally reaching the new Mormon center of Nauvoo in 1842. Fleeing Nauvoo with the last of the Mormons in 1846, they spent two years in Iowa and set out for Utah in 1848, the account of which journey is the first of Caroline Crosby's vivid trail journals. The Crosbys were able to rest in Salt Lake City for less than two years before Brigham Young sent them on a church mission to the Society and Austral Islands in the South Pacific. She recorded, in detail, their overland travel to San Francisco and then by sea to French Polynesia and their service on the islands. In late 1852 the Crosbys returned to California, beginning what is probably the most historically significant part of her writings, her diaries of life. First, in immediately post Gold Rush San Francisco and, second, in the new Mormon village of San Bernardino in southern California. There is no comparable record by a woman of 1850s life in these growing communities. The Crosbys responded in 1857 to Brigham Young's call for church members to gather in Utah and again abandoned a new home, this the nicest one they had built, one of the finest houses in San Bernardino. Such unquestioning loyalty was a characteristic Caroline and Jonathan displayed again and again.


Two events in the young life of S. George Ellsworth were turning points leading to the great legacy left behind with his death in 1997. the first, while he was a student preparing to become an architect, was his coming upon his grandfather’s handwritten autobiography. That moment persuaded him to spend his life researching and writing the history of his people, the Latter-day Saints, and their antecedents. the second significant event was his meeting and marrying Maria Smith, an Arizona school teacher. Together they created the exemplary teamwork in home, family, church, community service, and professional productivity without which he might never have become, as he did, a historian of note and mentor to the subsequent generation of writers of Utah history.

Being forerunners and nurturers was part of the Ellsworths’ contribution to Utah history. If, as George once observed, Juanita Brooks was “the queen of Utah historians,” then he and Maria were their nurturing parents, George in the professional limelight, Maria unpretentiously by his side, usually offstage. Stories are told of the study groups they fostered during their early years in Logan. George and his colleagues would read to each other papers of shared interest, often having to do with Mormon studies. From that group, as from George’s classes at Utah State University, came many of the luminaries who began in the 1950s to fill the gap in scholarly exploration of the history of the Latter-day Saints. There was hardly a writer of Utah and Mormon history of the years of George’s tenure at usu but came under their influence. the story is also told of George’s generous coaching of such colleagues as Leonard J. Arrington, who once stayed so late in the Ellsworth house that the gracious Maria was forced to remind him that it was well past supper time and he should go home so George could eat.

The photo opposite best illustrates the modus operandi by which George and Maria worked: side by side, he the researcher-writer, she the confidante, assistant, editor, critic, source and inspiration. the eight . . .

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