My 4th Great-Grandmother:
Abigail Shaffer was born 13 September 1785/6 in Frederick County, #Maryland
, the daughter of John Shaffer and Nancy Hopkins. This Shaffer family moved west to #Kentucky
. Kentucky in the late 1700's and early 1800's was the "west" of #Daniel
. The forests were untouched, the streams pure and sparkling, the fertile earth a true pioneer’s dream.
Yet the #Shaffers
and the Woolseys moved steadily on westward. Abigail, as a young woman married Joseph #Woolsey
and they moved on to Vandalia, Illinois. Their first five children up to my great-great grandmother Agatha Ann were born in #Kentucky
- the other seven children in #Illinois
. When Joseph died, the widow, her boys and girls now grown to manhood and womanhood were living in Vandalia, Illinois, when her daughter, Agatha Ann met and married her husband, John Doyle Lee. He was an enterprising young man, a veteran of the #Black
of 1832, a riverboat pilot and had tried his hand at business and merchandising. In 1833, John and Agatha Ann were married and in 1836 they joined the #Mormon
(LDS) Church. Went on to #Nauvoo
, Illinois, taking almost the whole Woolsey clan.
Abigail’s daughters and sons all threw in their lots with Grandfather Lee - and she herself was sealed to him, (He has written in his diary, "for her soul's sake”) in 1845. Three of her daughters were plural wives of Grandfather Lee and several of her sons were adopted sons to John D. Lee.
The main body or first group of Mormon #pioneer
immigrants left for the #Salt
in 1847, but Abigail's husband was appointed by President #Brigham
to be in charge of what Lee called "Summer Quarters" -this farming and ranching area was 15 miles north of the better known Winter Quarters. The year 1847/1848 was a year of busy preparations for the journey westward. Crops were planted and harvested, wagons built and outfitted, food and clothing gathered. In quotations from the copious diary of Grandfather Lee,
he tells of gathering wood, of digging pits for chopping and sawing the lumber (for building wagons, etc.), of shooting prairie chickens and of grinding corn.
Mrs. Abigail (Shaffer, Woolsey) Lee had determined to go to the #Utah
mountains with her husband John D. Lee, and with her daughters who were also married to him. But one of her sons, James, and a son-in-law, George Hickerson advised her not to go, feeling she was too old and frail for the long journey. Abigail wanted to follow the counsel of her husband and in another quote from Lee's journal, she said that “J. D. Lees advice was good and that she felt the weight of his words, went home, called her children around her, and advised them to be passive.” Said to James, her son: “because I want to do right, you are trying to hedge up my way, by persuading my only help to leave me, but if this is the gratitude that I am to receive from my children, whom I have raised from their infancy, it is grievous to me. But, my sons, do with your aged mother as seemeth good, forsake me if you choose, but I will follow counsel.” Her words being guided by the Spirit of her caIling perfectly conquered their opposition insomuch that they were overcome, wept, and asked her “forgivenes.”
By April 1848 the preparations for the departure to the west were going apace. During this month they hunted for and found storks and turkeys for food, also a fox squirrel. On April 15, 1848, a band of some 25 #Pawnee
Indians came by begging for food - the Lees gave them an empty house to lodge in, a lot and feed for their mules and ponies. The Indians were friendly and were very grateful for the food offered to them. The Indians stayed and were fed. They kept staying and President Brigham Young counseled Brother Lee to give them 4 bushels of corn to go, but the Indians refused to go, saying they were afraid of the #Sioux
. Finally on the 29th of April 1848, the Indians left.
The group was now moved down to Winter Quarters and during the early days of May they were getting everyone together and joining with President Young and many of the Council of the Twelve who were returning to the Valley that spring of 1848.
Grandfather Lee states he thought to sell a wagon and a yoke of oxen, and then might be able to get away to the west. President Brigham Young said, "you must go even if you should have to leave part of your family. If I had means, I would help you. I know your circumstances and I know your desires. You have helped me and I hope that I may have means to help you, and you shall prosper and be blest.” Thus saying, he embraced him in his arms and said, “go, and prosper and be blessed.”
Grandfather did sell a yoke of oxen for $35.00 in gold and some goods for $89.00 in gold. Then he was given $50.00 in gold by Brigham Young and they all finally got on the road on the 26th Day of May 1848. One Jacob C. Woolsey was also with them and was a relative of Abigail's first husband, Joseph
As they traveled, they went over streams and rivers, through heavy sands, the summer heat became very onerous, the oxen giving out with their burdens and the heat. An entry in the Lee #Diary
of the 19th June 1848 states: "teams fagged very much with the heat and one ox melted down with the heat.” On 27 June 1848, Camp of Israel #3, #Platte
General Encampment, Tuesday, Abigail Lee was attacked of a fever.
From this, Abigail recovered but two months later an entry reads:
"Headquarters Camp of Israel, Friday, September 1, 1848. Remarkably cool. Ice and Frost. President Brigham Young on the mend. About 10 a.m. Abigail Lee was violently attacked with the mountain fever. Rain all day. Very disagreeable. Evening hail, rain and snow.” The next day, "Cloudy, occasional showers of rain through the day, high wind and cold. Abigail Lee insensible of her misery.”
And on September 3, 1848: Head Quarters, Camp of Israel, Sunday:
"Last crossing #Sweetwater
. Extremely cold and disagreeable. About midnight,
Abigail Lee yielded up the ghost, after a struggle of about 48 hours. J. D. Lee procured a wagon box and made a coffin. Jacob C. Woolsey dug her grave and she was buried about 5 rods east of the river bank. Her name and date of her death was engraven on a stone which was placed at her head."
A note to this chapter in Grandfather Lee's diary states: "Abigail Lees death, the making of the rough coffin and the ******** of a simple marker on the grave, found countless counterparts in the epic of western migration. Births and deaths necessarily came to be looked upon as mere incidents of the trail." This valiant woman, mother of twelve children, had determined to go to #Zion
, but circumstances dictated otherwise. She died and was buried on the plains in her last move westward. We cannot do less than give honor to her name and memory by recounting the story of her life.