Joseph Grafton Hovey grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts area in the early 1800’s. He was born on the 17th of November, 1812 in Cambridge to Thomas and Elizabeth (Seaver) Hovey. Joseph was the youngest of ten children.
When he was just three years old, the family moved to a small farm near Newton, which was about seven miles outside of Boston. The whole family worked and enjoyed the living on the farm for the next fifteen years.
Thomas, Joseph’s father, made a good cider that was in demand. Every fall he took his cider to Boston and returned with a wagon load of supplies. In the fall of 1830, Thomas took his cider to town and loaded up his wagon with lumber for a barn that he was building. During the return trip home, he fell asleep and fell off and under the wagon, which then passed over his neck and shoulders, killing him. This was very hard on the family. Joseph’s mother took the lose of her husband especially hard.
Joseph was seventeen when his father died. He decided that he wanted to learn a trade. He took himself off to Boston and learned to be a carriage maker. Joseph did quite well in this business for the next few years until poor health made him take a break for some time at the age of twenty-two.
This same year, 1833, Joseph married Martha Ann Webster in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Martha was seventeen years old and the daughter of Josiah and Hannah (Grant) Webster.
Martha was born on the 24th of December, 1814 in Portsmouth. The young couple married on July 2nd, 1833. I know that while Joseph was sick, one of Martha’s uncles had been his doctor. This is purely speculation, but I’m imagining that is how the two met.
After the wedding, the couple moved to Boston and Joseph took up the carriage business again. After a short time, he became ill again. The couple then moved to Chelsea, Massachusetts where they stayed for the next couple of years.
Joseph and Martha’s first two children were born, twin girls, Elizabeth Woodville and Martha Ann, on the 11th of May in 1835.
Two of Joseph’s brothers, Orlando and Stephen, were living in Quincy, Illinois and wrote several times, encouraging their younger brother to join them. On June 12th, 1837, the young family started off on their journey. They went by railroad and steamboat. It took them twelve days to arrive at their destination. One of the twins, Martha. was sick with consumption by the time that they arrived at Joseph brothers house.
Joseph’s brother, Orlando, was a doctor, practicing the Tomsonian system of medicine. This was an alternative medicine, herbalism, that Joseph was familiar with because it is how he had been treated during his illness back in 1833. Orlando asked Joseph to join him in his practice. Both the Hovey brothers worked as doctors for some years.
Tragedy struck the small family on the 11th of October, 1837 when little Martha died of consumption. Two months later, Martha gave birth to the couples first son. They named the little boy Grafton Wallace, but he only lived to be eight months old, dying on August 26th of 1838.
In 1839, the Joseph Hovey family moved about 50 miles away to Pike county, Illinois. Joseph continued to practice medicine there for the next two years.
On June 8th of 1839, Martha gave birth to a second son, Joseph Grafton II. (Who became my 2nd great grandfather!)
Some of the Mormons who had been run out of Missouri were living in this same area. One day, an elder of the church came to the Hovey house for medicine. Martha knew that he was one of the newcomers, so started to question him on his religion. Joseph and Martha liked what they were hearing and begin to study the Book of Mormon. On the 4th of July, 1839, the couple were both baptized into the Mormon religion.
A call was put out for the people of this religion to gather at Nauvoo, Illinois, about eighty miles from where the Hovey family lived. They decided to go, selling their possessions in preparation.
Arriving in Nauvoo in early November, the family found that there were few houses to take shelter in. It was bitterly cold and the only place they could find to stay was a stable that was partly falling down. It rained so hard that night that they had to find a tent instead. Joseph soon received a one acre lot from the church and built a small log cabin. In the meantime, the family lived in the tent for two months until the cabin was ready.
The Saints were not left to live here peacefully. Some were kidnapped, houses were burnt down, people arrested and hanged. The locals did not want them there. The people went ahead with their plans to build a city and a temple. Joseph continued helping people with his medicine and soon found himself working as a stone cutter in the quarry as well.
By 1842, things had settled down. The village was thriving, the temple in progress, the farmland providing food. Martha had another son, Thomas Josiah, named after both Martha and Joseph’s fathers. Just seven months later, little Thomas took sick while he was teething and died on August 2nd of 1843. Three of their five children have now passed away. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been.
There was more turmoil, more hatred and arrests of some of the Mormon leaders.
During this tumultuous time, Martha gave birth to another son on June 13th, 1844. This poor babe only lived a month. That poor mama. How heartbreaking for her.
A year later, on July 17th, 1845, a baby girl was born. They named her Hannah Adelaide. It was the easiest labor Martha had ever had. The two living older kids, Elizabeth and Joseph, both had the whooping cough.
More houses and properties are being burnt by the mob. Two hundred buildings and a lot of grain went up in flames. It must have been such a scary time. About this time, the Saints decided that they needed to move on, to go into the Wilderness and find another place.
On December 1st, 1845, Joseph finished his stone work on the baptismal fount and agreed to build a shop and begin to build wagons for the journey into the wilderness.
His diary tells how he worked himself night and day to get all of the work done. How he didn’t get the provisions that he was promised for his family but he worked himself sick anyway. How his constitution was broken down before the trip even begin. How he drove his family in the wagon while he was sick and shaky, how he could barely stand.
They left Nauvoo on June 28, 1946. Joseph had to secure a boat to get their wagon, cattle, and their oxen to the other side. Martha was afraid that the boat was so heavy that they would all drown, so she kept the children and stayed on the ground. Joseph came back for her and the kids once he got the rest of their load situated on the far side of the river.
Joseph wasn’t the only one sick. He was called on to doctor about ten people on the first few days out on the Mormon Trail. They traveled for for a month and a half before Martha finally had to admit that she too was ill. She hadn’t wanted to admit it to Joseph because she thought he might get too discouraged and not want to go on. Brigham Young drove their wagon for a time because Joseph and Martha were both to sick.
By the time the party had reached winter quarters, Martha was extremely sick. Joseph wasn’t much better and baby Hannah was sick as well. Martha was very concerned for her husband and baby and asked for someone to please go care for her husband. Those were the last words Martha spoke. She slipped into what seems like a coma from Joseph’s description in his diary. He was able to sit with her for her last few hours and mentioned how peaceful she looked. It was the 16th of September, 1846.
Martha is buried in the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in Florence, Nebraska.
After she passed away, Joseph renamed their youngest daughter in her honor. He changed her name from Hannah to Martha Jane. Joseph was still so sick that he boarded the baby with another family at winter quarters for $1 a week.
Sadly, baby Martha contacted the measles and passed away on January 19th, 1948. She was 2-1/2 years old and is buried in the same plot as her mother.
Joseph married for a second time. Sarah Currier was his second wife and they married at Winter Quarters. The couple had a daughter, Sarah Elizabeth born in 1950 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A third marriage was to Sarah Louise Goodridge. Sarah and Joseph had a son but both the mother and the baby died in childbirth.
In 1852, Joseph married for the fourth time to Lusanna Goodridge. They married in Utah and went on to have eight more children.
Once in Utah, Joseph was one of the first settlers in Millville, about eighty miles north of Salt Lake City. In 1860, Joseph was chosen as the Bishop of the Millville ward. He served there for three years. Back in Salt Lake City, he helped to build the temple.
Joseph passed away on May 6th of 1868 in Salt Lake City. He was 55 years old.
Joseph is buried in the Kimball-Whitney Cemetery in Salt Lake City.
(Joseph and Martha are my 3rd great-grandparents on my maternal side.)