m. 25 Feb 1808
Facts and Events
HISTORY OF CLARISSA ALGER WHITNEY wife of Francis Tuft Whitney and daughter of Samuel and Clarissa Hancock Alger and mother of New Samuel Whitney
Clarissa Alger was the daughter of some of the earliest converts to the Church. Her mother, father, uncles and aunts, her grandfather and grandmother, all were baptized on the same day - Nov. 16, 1830, in times when the Prophet Joseph Smith was gathering around him those stalwarts in the Faith who were to carry on the "spirit of gathering" long after he was martyred. The Hancock and Alger families, who were Clarissa’s people were among, the chosen few.
Her father was Samuel Alger born Feb. 14, 1786 in Uxbridge, Worcester, Mass., the son of John and Elizabeth Hume Alger. Her mother was Clarissa Hancock Alger, born Sept. 3, 1790 in old Springville, Hampton, Mass. the daughter of Thomas and Amy Ward Hancock, Jr.
Clarissa was born June 23, 1830 in the East and grew up in the environment of danger, mobbings, journeys and adventure attendant to removal of the Latter Day Saints from Nauvoo, the Morley and Hancock settlements, Winter Quarters, and the crossing of the Great American Desert to the Salt Lake Valley.
Her parents and uncles were very active in Church affairs. At least eight of them joined the Church on the same day and thereafter adhered to its teachings. Her father became a Patriarch in the Church and helped to settle Parowan, Ut. One of her uncles, Levi Hancock, became one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to which they all belonged, and were commonly called "Mormons", and held that office longer than any other, for 47 years. He was mentioned in a revelation given the Prophet Joseph Smith, I.e.: Doctrine and covenants, Section 124 v. 138: "And again, I give unto you Joseph Young, Josiah Butterfield, Daniel Miles, Henry Harriman, Zera Pulsipher, Levi Hancock, and James Foster, to preside over the Quorum of Seventies, which quorum is instituted for traveling elders to bear record of my name in all the world, wherever the traveling High Council, my Apostles, shall send them, to prepare the way before my face." Levi Hancock later became a patriarch in the Church. He and his two brothers, Charles and George were members of the Mormon Battalion, and Levi was a member of famous Zions Camp. These praying, fighting uncles of Clarissa’s no doubt deeply influenced the life of this Pioneer Mormon girl.
Her uncle Joseph Hancock, was a boyhood friend of Joseph Smith. Another of her uncles Thomas Hancock III died crossing the plains, age 35. Still one more Uncle, Alva Hancock died enroute and was buried at Pisgah Cemetery, Iowa. His name appears on the monument there. The mother of these worthy sons lies buried at the Winter Quarters Cemetery at Omaha, Nebraska. What valor can be read into these few lines.
At the ago of eighteen she came to Utah with her mother, Clarissa Hancock Alger and her father, Samuel Alger. During the journey three of her uncles died on the plains, her grandmother Hancock died at Winter Quarters another uncle died when he crossed in 1851. The Algers settled first in Great Salt Lake, City, arriving there September 22, 1848. They were in Brigham Young’s Company.
In about 1848 or 1849 Clarissa Alger met and wed Francis Tuft Whitney who had just arrived from Pueblo, on the Arkansas with the Mormon Battalion. (See the history of F. T. Whitney for details of this history-making march.)
At the time of her marriage Clarissa was about 20 years old and her husband was 45. Twenty-five years separated them in time. He had a family of ten children in Ohio whom he left to join the Church in Nauvoo. From there he had joined the Mormon Battalion, came to the Great Salt Lake Valley, and there met Clarissa. All three of her uncles were in the Mormon Battalion; it is probable that she met Francis through them.
Soon after their marriage they were called with 100 other families on a twelve month’s mission to settle and found the town of Parowan, Iron County, Utah under the leadership of George A. Smith. Her father and mother, Samuel and Clarissa Hancock Alger and her brother John Alger were also among those in this company of the founders of a new settlement.
The company of Pioneers arrived at the proposed site of the new settlement on January 13, 1851 after many weeks of travel in ox-drawn wagons over trackless wastes in the dead of winter. (For further details of this journey see history of F. T. Whitneys) The Church Historian’s office has a day-by-day account of this trek compiled by Historian Andrew Jenson. Most of the information in it was gathered by Brother Jenson from some of the original founders, among them, Sister Clarissa Alger Whitney. In this Journal on Page 37, we read: Saturday, March 1, 1851 – New Samuel Whitney, a son of Francis and Clarissa Whitney, was born in the camp, he being the first white child born in Iron County.
Thus is recorded that on March 1, 1851, six weeks after arriving at their destination, Clarissa Alger Whitney gave birth to her first child, a son, whom they christened New Samuel Whitney. He was called "New" all his life and in his last years was known far and wide as "Uncle New", fondly, lovingly, and with high respect. I have often heard him say that his place of birth was in a wagonbox, covered with ice and snow. No cabins had been built and no accommodations or comforts were available to the little Pioneer mother. This same wagon box was soon hewn into a coffin for a woman who died very shortly afterward and it became her last resting place. Thus, life and death walked hand in hand with adventure in the Pioneer settlement.
Clarissa's parents resided in Parowan, or Center Creek, for the twelve months of their mission and then returned to Great Salt Lake City for a space of 17 years. After that time they again returned to Parowan to spend their last days. (See history of Samuel and Clarissa Hancock Alger.)
Clarissa Alger Whitney was the mother of five children. They are as follows: 1. New Samuel, born March 1, 1851 – died May 29 1926. Married Sarah Elizabeth Gurr. (See their histories for details) 2. Eli Alger, born November 22, 1852 – died 3. Abi Clarissa, born April 12, 1854, died July 1, 1854 age 2 ½ months. 4. Job Hall, born April 20, 1855, died 5. Ira Blanchard, born December 6, 1856, died April 4, 1915 in Sanford, Colorado. Married Julia Burton
It was a sorrow to Clarissa that her only daughter did not live to be a companion to her; but the comfort and strength her sons gave her was always a recompense. The four boys grew, to manhood and lived to marry and have children and grandchildren of their own. They all followed the trade of their father, Francis Tuft Whitney, that of a blacksmith, and some of them taught it to their sons. We have record of four consecutive generations of blacksmiths in the Whitney family. Clarissa' s last child was born when she was 26. When her youngest was about twelve years old, in about 1868, and her other three living children were 13, 16, and 17 years, her husband left Parowan for Salt Lake City on a business venture. He then decided that as he was that much nearer his old home in Ohio that he would go there to visit his first family and return to Parowan soon. He had not been to Ohio since he left twenty years before. He returned there with the hope of converting his first wife and family to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and bringing them back to Utah. He did not return to Parowan for fourteen years. It was his life-long sorrow that he could not convert his first family and be united with them in "Zion".
During her husband's absence in Ohio, for those fourteen years, Clarissa maintained her household and carried on her Church activities without faltering. Her two sons, New and Eli were blacksmiths in Parowan, which trade they carried on during their father's Ohio journey. The four sons grow to manhood, married, and had become fathers before their father finally returned to Utah in 1883 at the age of 76. He died in a few weeks in Huntington, Utah April 6, 1883 where he had gone to visit his two sons, Ira and Job who resided their with their families.
Clarissa was now a widow of 53 years, but as she had had to support herself and family for 14 years she still was extremely resourceful. I have heard my grandmother, Eliza Edwards Hanks, of Paragonah, tell of Clarissa’s gift of healing and nursing. During the most devastating and tragic epidemic of diphtheria which spread throughout Iron County, Clarissa Whitney was one of the few people who seemed immune to the sickness. She went into many homes of the sick and dying and did the nursing, washing by hand, and cooking, for as many as twelve people. All this she did without any pay whatsoever. She walked from Parowan to Paragonah, a distance of over four miles, to the Hanks home, during this epidemic, and saved the lives of family. Her many trips, on foot in this time of need, will be remembered for generations having been recorded in the Hanks histories in loving appreciation. Her saint-like services at that time were just one example of her helpfulness.
Clarissa had a most tender heart, probably the more so because of her own sorrows and deprivations of a long, lonely live. Some of her grandchildren, Mable and Jane Whitney, remember her tears whenever she ordered her milk cows de-horned. Often her sons would do the job while sale was away so she would not cry for the poor cows. When her boys were in their early years she and her husband raised an Indian boy whom they received in trade for a horse The Indians even threw in a blanket with the boy, as they believed they had the best of the bargain. (See the story of this Indian boy in the history of Francis Tuft Whitney p. 13 this h-story.) As Indian Joe was never found after the tragic incident related above, it is said Clarissa's heart was broken and that she mourned for him as she did for her only daughter who had died in infancy.
Clarissa's last home in Parowan was an adobe structure, still in use in 1954, fifty years after she lived in it. At this date, 1954 it can be located just across the street south of the Creamery, and just east of the Scott Mitchell home. The writer remembers that in the early 1900s the house was used by different Whitney families as a spring-board to more luxuriant living, and in the later years of New Samuel and Sarah Gurr Whitney's lives they lived in the Clarissa Whitney adobe home. It was there that "Uncle New" and "Aunt Sarah" died. The life story of Clarissa Alger Whitney is full of hardship from the time she was driven from Nauvoo, crossed the plains at 17, through the period of child-bearing in a wagon box, and on through years of pioneering. However, it is said of her that she never faltered in her trust in God or failed to instill her belief in those around her. She lived to the age of 77 and died March 20, 1907 in Parowan where she had lived since its founding in 1851- a period of 56 years. She always had the love and admiration of the community and was an inspiration to her four sons and her numerous posterity. She can rightly be called "A Mother in the Wilderness".