Samuel Hamblin Steele

An Autobiography


I, Samuel Hamblin Steele was born at Plattsburgh, Clinton County, New York State, July 15, 1822.

My father was William Steele, my mother Almira Hamblin. My father died in 1825. I was sent to a Poor House. Shortly after, I was bound out to a man named Nathaniel P. Robert, his wife's name was Mariah. I lived with them until I was 21 years old. I worked in a saw mill, I loaded heavy logs until I could see stars of fire fly from my eyes, which affected me ever after.

In 1835 at Galdonsville, near Utica, I took the ague and the black canker which nearly took my life. I was sick for twelve months.

I went to Chicago, 12 miles west on the Des Plaines river. Here I helped Peery Flazier run the engine on the lathe mill. I tied the lathe for him. I had to go to Chicago for provisions. One day after purchasing the provisions, and started home, a fierce storm came up. The wind blew my hat back to town. I ran back to get my hat. I had to crawl on my hands and knees back to the cutter. I wrapped myself in a buffalo skin. I was so chilled I began to cry. The hail and snow fell so fast I couldn't see the road. I untied the horses hoping that they would find their way home, but they would not face the wind. Instead they followed another sleigh which was going toward Widow Berries who lived at Berries Point. When the horses got to her place the team stopped. The people in the house heard the bells and ran out. They couldn't awaken me. I had cried myself to sleep. They thought I was dead. They took me in the house, and rubbed me with brandy. In about an hour I was all right. A search was made for me. Next morning they found me. The man in the sleigh ahead of me had frozen his face, his hands and feet.

I worked for a man named Davis in a brick yard for $10.00 a month. George Walker heard I was there and he sent Captain Hall to get me to work on his boat. Here I made two or three dollars as cabin boy. I landed at St. Louis. I found a man who was going 12 miles my way. When we got near his home it was very dark, the team ran off the road, the wagon and I fell 15 feet, the box on top of me. It hurt me bad. I stayed there a few days then went on my way.

In 1838 I stayed with the Walkers and went to school. We had lots of fun at night and stayed out late. Walker got mad at me so I left in 1839.

I went with James Brown and his mother to Walnut Grove. I was driving across the canal, the hind wheel came off, turned the wagon over. Mrs. Brown and myself fell 15 feet on to the hard ice. I broke my collar bone. She broke her breast bone. We got to Walnut Grove. I went to school. There was about 90 pupils, part Mormon, part Gentiles.

Jan. 1, 1840 I boarded with Betsy Burton. I had my sleigh and horses. I went with Roxie and Theda Grant, sisters of Teddy Grant. We had good sleigh rides and lots of fun that winter. William Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph, married one of the Mrs. Grant's girls. He came to preach. The first Mormon I ever heard preach. He made the Bible so plain and proved his doctrine so clearly that it concerned me which no other preacher ever did.

He came to organize the Walnut Grove Branch and gave out a Prayer Meeting to be held at Mother Smith's house on account his mother was old and almost blind. She lay in a bed with curtains around it. William Smith opened the meeting and said it was the privilege of anyone that belonged to the Church to speak in tongues and interpret. Columbus Gaylord was there a few nights before. After school he said he could speak in tongues. He mumbled a mess of stuff and said it was the gift of tongues. He laughed and made fun of the gift of God. Betsy Burton went over to him white as a sheet and knelt down by him and prayed in tongues. The old woman in bed said, "If you will hold me up in bed I will interpret that tongue." Her son held her up.

She said that the tongue was to a certain young man in the room, he was making a mockery of the gift of God. If he didn't repent, he would be smitten with boils from his head to his feet. (Which I saw fulfilled upon his head.) She said, "This may be the last time I will ever be able to speak, and I testify that this is the true Church of God." The truth of her testimony ran from my head to my feet. Others spoke in tongues and I was convinced of the truth of this work.

A few days later they went to baptize Tim Grant and I was next in the water, which I have never regretted. William Smith stayed 4 or 5 weeks, done a lot of good and baptized many.

Here I got acquainted with Claire Thayer and ran away with her. Her father didn't want her to marry a Mormon. Leeger Austin and Sarah Burton went with us. Leeger married us in a boat in the middle of the river, without a license. I went to Conference in the Grove, Lebeas Coon presided. At the meeting John Lander nominated me to be ordained to the lesser priesthood. Lebeas Coon asked me to talk. I don't know what I said but he told me I had spoke near to the point. He said I was young and did not understand the responsibility of taking the priesthood upon me. The meeting closed, they all went home but I just sat there on a bench. Here the devil came and began to talk to me. He said the Mormons would not ordain me. He said, "See the trees where you have prayed so many times, what good has it done you? You better go back to your friends." I sat there like a stone, I could hardly walk. Who should I meet but Lebeas Coon. He slapped me on the shoulder and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ come out of him." As soon as he touched me the devil left. Then he told me everything the devil had said. I cried for joy and thanked the Great God. Brother Coon said, "You will have the priesthood conferred upon you and God will bless you." I have great evidence of this work.