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A letter of importance: Workman connections to John Doyle Lee

In my previous post about the Workman family migration, I mentioned the importance of Daisy Maude Workman Lichtenwalter Locke’s letter to more than one branch of the Workman family. In her letter, she shares that Isaac Workman purchased his land from John Doyle Lee and she goes on to give her family’s account or version of events connected to John Doyle Lee and his history with the Mormon church.  When I first read the letter, I did not know who John Doyle Lee was or what his connection to the Mormon church was. I did know that another branch of the Workman family had converted to the Mormon religion and many of them did eventually settle in areas of Illinois. In all of my research of the various branches of the family, I have found little or no connection between the two branches that settled in Illinois so I did not realize any significance or possible underlying connection in the information from the letter. The ancestry member, mindweaver was actually the one who brought up the idea of some possible connection. Her interest in the letter’s contents led her to search for information on this John Doyle Lee. She mentioned to me that it was interesting that the biography for him listed a Mary Ann “Polly” Workman as one of his wives. Well, of course, I was then curious as to who this Mary “Polly” Workman was and what her connection to the Workman families might be. I discovered Mary Polly in the branch of Workmans that had converted to the Mormon religion. That in itself was not so surprising given the fact that she married John Doyle Lee who was at the time, a well respected, high ranking member of the Mormon Church.  

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Daisy’s letter provides some possible information on John Doyle Lee’s life and activities around the time right before or after he himself converted to the Mormon religion. John Doyle Lee’s history states that he and his first wife, Agatha Woolsey were living in Missouri when they were baptized into the faith on June 17, 1838. Within six months they were back in Illinois around the Vandalia area. this excerpt from his biography at Family search states, “Thus, six months after he was baptized, John D. Lee and his family were on their way back to safety at Vandalia, Illinois. But his faith in the Church was only made stronger by that persecution; he felt that he must go out as an active missionary for the cause.”

If you look at the family land map for Fayette county, Illinois, you will see John Doyle Lee’s land next to Isaac Workman’s

fayette-county-family-maps-patent-map-twnshp7-range2e-showing-workman-land-purchases

According to Daisy’s letter, John Doyle Lee sold his land to Isaac and immediately left the area. This part in not accurate because while he may have left the area for periods of time, he actually remained for another five years before making his move to Nauvoo. During that five years, he spent half of his time as a missionary to places such as Kentucky and Tennessee. From FamilySearch, “His pattern for the next five years was to spend about half his time traveling as a missionary and half at home providing for his family. As a preacher he had remarkable success. Working chiefly among the well-to-do class, he never lacked for friends and protectors. Altogether he converted and baptized more than a hundred persons, most of whom joined in the building up of Nauvoo and later made their way west as pioneers. On his first mission he traveled with Levi Stewart into Tennessee where they separated, Stewart to work among his own kinfolk and Lee to proselyte among strangers. Upon their return to their families they joined in the move to Nauvoo where both acquired lots and built homes. Their ways parted again, though all their lives they would remain friends.” 

This would suggest that during his time at home, he may have had some ongoing interaction with Isaac. Did Isaac perhaps mention his distant relatives living in Kentucky or Tennessee at some point? That is a question we will most likely never have any answer to but it is interesting to note that shortly after Isaac’s meeting/interactions with John Doyle Lee, the Mormon missionaries did go to Tennessee where a distant relative of Amos and Isaac was introduced to the Mormon religion. 

john-workman

John Workman son of Jacob Workman and Elizabeth Wyckoff, born abt 1785 died 1855

John Workman was a cousin of Amos Workman. John Workman’s Father, Jacob Workman was a brother of Amos’ Father William. John Workman’s history states that before 1808, he was living in Maryland before his family moved on to Kentucky and then he eventually settled at Overton, Tennesse. It was around 1839 that  two Mormon Elders came to Overton County, Tennessee. They had a hard time to find lodgings. They came to the home of John Workman, as John had never turned a traveler away without food and rest, these Elders found a welcome in his home. The message they brought struck a familiar cord in the heart of John Workman. He brought out the compendium he had made and found his classification of scriptural passages to be similar to what he had tried to convey to the members of the local church and also those at Carlisle, Kentucky, for which they had cast him out and abused him and his family. 

Additional information on John Workman:

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25313591&ref=acom

Sierra Exif JPEG

Memorial to John Workman and wife Lydia Bilyeu listing their children.

The Mary Ann “Polly” Workman that John Doyle Lee eventually took as one of his wives was a daughter of John Workman. The following is my research and thoughts on Mary Polly and her short lived marriage to John Doyle Lee. For additional information on John Doyle Lee, I have provided links to his history. 

This information is compiled from the following sources:

https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/381335

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Lee

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25313591&ref=acom

The following story is meant to shed light on Mary Ann Workman’s short lived marriage to John Doyle Lee and provide some background information on Mary Ann’s family to give you an idea of how and why she may have become one of his many wives as well as why she might have had good reason to be “prone to stirring up strife!” I have limited the information here to John D. Lee’s time in Nauvoo and the events that occurred from 1845-1848 when Mary Ann and her family would have been involved. For additional information, please see the above links!

Mary Ann (Polly) Workman was married to John Doyle Lee, but only for a short time, and it does not appear that she had any children by him. The timing of her marriage to him can be better understood when you know some of Mary Ann’s family history and what the situation in Nauvoo, Illinois was for the families during that time.

Mary Ann’s family moved to Nauvoo around 1843 after being persecuted for their religious beliefs in Tennessee. This is taken from a biography of Mary Ann’s Father, John Workman, ‘On the 22 of July 1840, John and his wife Lydia and several of his children were baptized by Abram Owen Smoot and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 30 July 1840 under the hands of Julian Moses and Abram O. Smoot. This step increased the hatred and persecution of the local church and community against this family. In 1843 John abandoned his vast holdings in Tennessee and emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he could associate with those who had the same religious connections that he cherished. Here he bought a farm four miles west of Nauvoo, where he lived most of the time. Two of his sons lived in the City of Nauvoo.’

John moved his family to Nauvoo around the same time as John Doyle Lee decided to settle in Nauvoo. When Lee arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois in the fall of 1843 he decided that he would spend his time working in that city. He received several appointments of importance, one of them being chosen as a member of the group of forty special police officers selected in December of that year. He was also appointed secretary of the Seventies’ Quorum and was asked to supervise the building of a hall for their meetings. 

In the meantime the doctrine of plurality of wives was being taught and practiced in Nauvoo. His position as police guard over the Prophet Joseph as well as Brigham Young made it possible for Lee to be taught that principle also. Joseph Smith took his first plural wife, Louisa Beaman, on April 5, 1841; Brigham Young took his, Lucy Decker, on June 15, 1842. John D. Lee, who was working closely with both men, wrote: “Nancy Bean became a member of my family February 4, 1844. On April 19, Louisa Free, Caroline Williams, Abigail Woolsey and Rachel Woolsey.” 

About that time the Prophet Joseph Smith decided to run for the office of president of the United States, and with that in mind he sent out many missionaries. John D. Lee was one of a large group who left Nauvoo on May 28, 1844 for that purpose. A month later when word came that Joseph had been killed by a mob at Carthage Jail, Lee could not believe it. Surely, he argued, God would not permit such a thing to happen to his chosen servant. Only after fasting and prayer and a special manifestation could he accept the reality of the prophet’s death. Broken in spirit and sick at heart, he started back to Nauvoo. He arrived after the incident wherein the people of the Church voted to sustain Brigham Young as their leader.  Then John D. Lee became even more vitally involved in the activities of the Church. Brigham Young appointed him as his private secretary to keep his records and write his letters, in addition to the responsibility of completing the Seventies’ Hall and keeping their books. Lee was such a good manager that he not only finished the hall for the Seventies but soon had erected a fine home for himself in Nauvoo.

In the summer of 1845, the tides turned for the Mormon group at Nauvoo. John Workman’s biography gives an account of his family’s experience. In the summer of 1845, John had harvested a good crop of wheat and had threshed part of it. On day in the early evening he saw some of the farm home of other of the Saints in Flames. One after another moving in his direction, he knew at once that it was the work of mobs, whose fury had raged unabated since the Nauvoo Charter  had been repealed. He had a wagon in the yard with boards across the running gears. He put what he could of the wheat on this wagon and his family on top of the wheat, and drove to Nauvoo for protection. The severe persecutions that the saints suffered at this time proved too much for John’s wife Lydia. She succumbed to the trials and died 30 Sept. 1845, and was buried in the Nauvoo cemetery.

That fall and winter, the troubles with their neighbors became so acutely threatening that the Mormon leaders had agreed that the Saints would leave the state of Illinois as soon as “grass grows and water runs.” Late in January of 1846, it became evident that some must cross the river very soon to make preparations for the general migration.

John D. Lee married Mary Ann Workman on February 10, 1846 and 6 days later on February 12, he took her across the river to Iowa. ‘Charles Shumway was first to go over into Iowa on February fourth. Eight days later, John D. Lee crossed with one wagon, two horses and one cow, and with provisions to sustain the family for two months or more. With him were two wives: Polly Workman, his youngest wife, and Nancy Bean, with a six-week-old baby girl in her arms.’  

President Young and a part of his family joined the group on February fifteenth. Severe winter storms set in, bringing snow, hail, wind, and bitter cold to the area so that the people traveling in wagons across the open prairie suffered greatly from exposure. On March fourth, Lee brought the remainder of his family across into Iowa. That time he had four wagons and a number of cattle. The Lee group included Aggatha Ann and her four children; her mother, Abigail; her sister, Rachel; and two other young wives, Martha Berry and Louisa Free with her small son, John Brigham. Driving the teams were one of Polly Workman’s brothers and Hyrum Woolsey, as well as Horace Rowan, a recent convert, with his wife. 

 

Mary Ann/Polly was only 16 at the time of her marriage to John. The situation for all of the families was precarious at this time and John Workman probably felt that she was safer with John D. Lee and his other wives. John Workman remained in Nauvoo until late spring of 1846 when he was driven into the wilderness with the rest of the remaining saints. He joined his son Jacob L. at Mount Pisgah near Harrison Iowa, where he had a temporary cabin. John remained there until 1852, when he immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley. Here he lived with his children part of the time and part time in his own home built for him by his son Jacob L.

 

John D. Lee and his family suffered a brutal winter on the prairie. For the next six months the Lee family shared the extreme hardships of the exiles on the prairie, inching westward as the weather permitted, arriving in late August at Winter Quarters. During that time Lee kept a journal of the activities of the leaders and the decisions that were made. His own family was mentioned rarely; in fact, it is not known definitely as to the makeup of his family during that period and the following year. In addition to the seven wives named, there were at least two, Delethia Morris, who left him to marry a trader while he was gone on one of his numerous trips, and Sarah Caroline Williams who lived most of the time with her aunt, Marcia Allen. 

Besides keeping minutes and records and writing numerous letters, Lee was sent on several missions of vital importance. The first one was early in 1846, when he was given the entire sum of money accumulated by the Saints and directed to go to St. Francisville, Missouri, to buy wagon covers and material for the general Church migration. In late August of that year, he was sent across the continent to Santa Fe, New Mexico to collect what he could of the wages of the Mormon Battalion to help with the general maintenance of their suffering families. After the trip which had lasted nearly three months, he reported back and turned over the money on November twentieth, but he remained in Winter Quarters with his family just one month when he was sent on another trading and buying expedition. The bishops of the twenty-two wards had reported that the foodstuffs of the camp were almost depleted; their only chance for survival seemed to be to send to the Missouri settlements for food. Lee was responsible for two large wagons, each pulled by four mules. Traveling three weeks through bitter weather, he brought back his two wagonloads of food. In addition he sent back by a Gentile trader a load of provisions consisting of salt, dried fruit, molasses, honey, tallow, dry beans and twelve hundred pounds of pork. One month after his return, in February 1847, he organized and sent out three more teams under the direction of John Laub. All those foods must have been gratefully received in the burgeoning Iowa settlement where hunger stalked in nearly every family. 

All thoughts were of moving on to the mountains but it was clear that only a picked company could make the trip that first season. Others had to remain and cultivate the land or work for supplies to feed the thousands through the second winter. Each man also had to create a surplus to provide for his family during the trek. Lee had an intense desire to be one of the band of first pioneers but President Young told him that he was needed more to stay and help raise corn. Accordingly he and twenty-seven others moved out of Winter Quarters about eighteen miles to a location they called Summer Quarters. During the summer of 1847 they raised more than four thousand bushels of corn to aid in the migration the following year. This had to have been an intense and grueling amount of work for all of the members who were there that summer.

Besides (or possibly because of) all of the work that John D. was doing to prepare the church members for the coming migration, his home life was also becoming more complex and difficult to manage as well.  He recorded his marriage to Emoline Woolsey, younger sister of Aggatha and Rachel, on December 21, 1846. Then on February twenty-seventh, he took three additional wives in one ceremony: Nancy Gibbons Armstrong and two sisters, Polly and Lavina Young. All were girls whom he had converted while serving as a missionary. 

The strains and privations of frontier life, his long absences on trips for the Church, and the natural jealousy common to women resulted in considerable disharmony in his household. One wife, Delethia Morris, left him and married another man. Emoline Woolsey became insubordinate, giving aid to one of Lee’s enemies, so she was separated from his family. Polly Workman, who was prone to stir up strife, was sent to live with her brother. Nancy Armstrong fell victim to the plague and died at Summer Quarters in August 1847. Nancy Bean and Louisa Free, each of whom had borne a child by him, left him and crossed the plains with their parents. Though she had been sealed to him early, Sarah Caroline Williams remained with her Aunt Marcia Allen and did not join the Lee family again until 1850. 

To be fair in respect to Mary Ann/Polly Workman and the idea that she was prone to stirring up strife… This just may well have been the worst few years of her young life! First of all, let’s look at what her early life was. She was born in 1829 at Overton Tennesse when the family was seemingly doing well. During that time in Tennessee John bought much land and had slaves to work it. He laid his farm out in sections for the different kinds of crops. He had his own grist mill, grocery store, flocks, herds and etc. He attended church but could not take under their interpretation of the scriptures. So in due time, he quit the church all together. Then he carried on a distillery of whiskey and brandy, and got to drinking moderately himself. Overall, life was probably good for her as a child. The exceptions to that seemingly good life might have been a possible slight drinking problem on the part of her Father, a Mother who was continuously pregnant… and as a result of that condition, Mary Ann being one of 22 children! 

In 1840, Mary Ann’s Father, John was converted to the Mormon faith, and of course then so was his family. Mary Ann would have been about 10 at this time when her life suddenly took a drastic change. From this point on, the family suffered persecution and hatred from the surrounding communities. In 1843, John abandoned his farm and holdings in Tennesee to take the family to Nauvoo where two older sons were already living. This had to have been a drastic change for Mary Ann. The family had a few years of relative calm and peace before their lives were torn apart once again. In 1845 the terror struck  Nauvoo, Mary Ann was about 15. Within the space of 6 months, she lost her Mother, faced another escape from persecution and also had to come to terms with another uncertain fate. She may have been able to cope with an early arranged marriage to a much older man, that was nothing uncommon at the time, but the concept of polygamy was new to all of them during this time. This had to have been a daunting and challenging transition for all of those involved in the beginnings of this concept, and even more so for ones as young as Mary Ann was at the time. Then even before she has a chance to make any sense of it or adjust to the situation, she is suddenly faced with a mid winter escape with her new husband, another wife and a new born baby.  So, let us please not judge Mary Ann too harshly for her possible outbursts and stirring up strife!

Mary Ann’s story with John D. Lee ends with her being sent to live with her brother in 1847. She never returned to John D.’s household and by 1848 she went on to marry John Saulter Bennett in Dallas, Iowa. Mary Ann had one child with John Saulter Bennett, a daughter named Martha Louis was born about 1850. Mary Ann died some time between 1870 and 1880. She appears with John up to 1870 census but on the 1880 census, John is listing himself as single and is living with daughter Martha and her family. Considering the later events that took place in John D. Lee’s life, Mary Ann might have benefitted from her propensity to stir up strife!

 

List of John D. Lee’s wives:

Spouse(s)Agatha Ann Woolsey
Nancy Bean
Louisa Free
Sarah Caroline Williams
Rachel Andora Woolsey
Polly Ann Workman
Martha Elizabeth Berry
Delethia Morris
Nancy Ann Vance
Emoline Vaughn Woolsey
Nancy Gibbons
Mary Vance Young
Lavina Young
Mary Leah Groves
Mary Ann Williams
Emma Louise Batchelor
Terressa Morse
Ann GordgeChildren56