Nathaniel Ashby (1805-1846)

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Nathaniel Ashby
Ashby, Susan Hammond Headstone.jpg
Born: 15 Apr 1805 Groton, Massachusetts
Died: 23 Sep 1846 Iowa
Father: Benjamin Ashby
Mother: Mary Young
Siblings: Nathaniel Ashby
Spouse: Susan Hammond
Married: 30 Nov 1826 Salem, Massachusetts
Children: Robert Reed Ashby
Benjamin Ashby
Susan Ann Ashby
Elizabeth Rebecca Ashby
Martha Ellen Ashby
Harriet Maria Ashby
Nathaniel Ashby
Richard H. Ashby
William Hardin Ashby
Mary Jane Ashby
Emma Smith Ashby
John Jefford Ashby

History Written by: Fuchsia Stringham, a great-grand-daughter, November 10, 1958

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Camp: Ann Roberts Dustin, South Davis County

Nathaniel Ashby was born 15 April, 1805, in Salem, Essex Co., Massachusetts, (same year as the Prophet Joseph Smith). He was the son of Benjamin and Mary Young Ashby. Mary Young was a descendant of Governor Bradford of Rhode Island, a passenger on the ship Mayflower. His father, Benjamin, was born in Salem, 6 September, 1776. the Ashbys had lived for at least six generations: Anthony, an innkeeper; Benjamin, Jonathan, Jonathan and Jonathan, all shiprights, were followed by Benjamin, and then Nathaniel, the subject of this sketch.

In early life he was apprenticed to the shoe-making trade, and became expert in making fine shoes. He was employed for 13 years by the firm of Danford and Simonds, and later set up business for himself. He married Susan Hammond, three years younger than himself, daughter of Edward and Rebecca Flack Hammond.

By their industry and frugality the couple acquired a good home in South Salem amid comfortable surroundings, together with additional houses which they rented.

Nathaniel did not belong to any church, but attended the Universalist Church of which his wife was a member. In 1840, when he was about 35 years old. Elder Erastus Snow and others brought the true gospel message to this family, as follows . . . .

Nathaniel returned home one Sunday noon, saying he had been to hear a new religion preached by a Mormon in Masonic Hall. He took down his Bible and began to read some passages to his wife, who was confined to her bed by the birth of their 10th child, a daughter, Mary Jane. In the afternoon he and his son Benjamin, now 15 years old, attended another Mormon Meeting. His wife, as soon as able, also attended the meetings. One Sunday he gave his son Benjamin some money and told him to go pay the sexton at the church they previously attended, and give up their pew. Shortly afterwards, he and his wife were baptized into the Latter Day Saint Church. Though they had borne excellent characters all their days, they were now called crazy and derided by relatives and friends. Later that year, their two eldest children, Benjamin and Susan, were baptized.

On December 9, 1841, Nathaniel paid Erastus Snow $500 for a lot in Nauvoo, and also sent money to have a house built there. With the money, Erastus Snow built a duplex 2-story adobe house, half for himself, and half for the Ashby's. This home still stands in Nauvoo and is located on the west side of Hyde Street just north of Parley Street. It is now owned by the Church and used to house senior missionary couples.

About two years later (in 1843) Nathaniel sold his shoe business to his brother, John Jefford Ashby, and set out with his family to live in his new home at Nauvoo.

They left Salem 14 October 1843, going first to Boston, where they stayed with Elizabeth Stuart (Nathaniel's wife's sister); then took passage with a large company from neighboring towns for Albany, New York, by railroad. Next they traveled by Erie Canal to Buffalo, then by steam boat to Cleveland, Ohio, on Lake Erie, by canals across the State of Ohio to Wheeling, thence down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, and up that river to Nauvoo. They arrived 3 November, 1843.

Their home was not finished, so the Ashbys rented a room in a stone house near the landing, and later a log house, until their house was completed, the last of January, 1844.

In February, 1844, Nathaniel was ordained a seventy. He was sent as a delegate to the East, advocating and supporting the claim of the Prophet Joseph Smith as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. While he was away, his son did some shoe making, and paddled the shoes that had been brought from Salem on their emigration.

The Ashby home in Nauvoo was only a few blocks from the Mansion House, the home of the Prophet. He was often admired by members of the Ashby family as he rode by on his beautiful black horse, attired in a tall beaver hat and circular cape, sitting so erect and looking so gentle and refined. He sometimes called at the Ashby home, which they considered a great honor.

They had been in Nauvoo less than a year when the prophet Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844. This plunged the Saints into the deepest sorrow and mourning. All night Grandmother Ashby sat by her bedroom window filled with terror for the safety of the people now that the leaders were gone. The dismal howling of the dogs, the uncertainty and fear, made the night most memorable. She took her children to view the bodies as they lay in state before burial. A sad sight never forgotten.

Nathaniel returned from his mission in the fall, and was laid up most of the winter with rheumatism. The summer of 1845 was spent in making shoes for Brother Boynton, Amos Davis, and the Cooperative Shoe and Harness Company. When contributions were asked for furnishing the Nauvoo Temple, Grandmother Ashby shared her belongings, giving a large mirror, a dresser, two beautiful home-made rugs and a dark brown Brussels carpet. No call was left unheeded by her or her family.

Soon the people began to leave Nauvoo. Before they left, Nathaniel and Susan were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple, 3 February 1846. The river was frozen over, and the people crossed on the ice.

There was a committee appointed to dispose of property left by those emigrating. Nathaniel put his house into their hands to find a buyer. A merchant was found who offered $400 in goods at wholesale prices – just a fraction of the value of his house. Then the committee exchanged the goods for cattle and wagons. Nathaniel was obliged to wait some weeks for the cattle. When they came, he and his son Benjamin went over the river to select them, with the help of Brother Phineas Young, as the Ashbys had no experience with horned cattle. They obtained six yoke of oxen, only two of which were broken to work. They drove the cattle to the camp on Sugar Creek, and Benjamin was left there to herd them.

The Ashbys were not acquainted with the management of cattle. Brother Phineas Young, who had assisted them in the selection of horned stock, recommended Brother John Hill to help. He was a Canadian, and had left Nauvoo and camped on the bank of the river, being without teams or wagons. He was engaged to handle the oxen for the use of a wagon and team to move to camp with. He commenced to handle the oxen, and in a short time was able to use them.

Previously, a young Benjamin had obtained wood-work for a wagon, had then got a blacksmith to iron it off, and had built a wagon box. The expenses had been paid by shoe making.

Nathaniel returned to Nauvoo. He fitted up two more wagons, and acquired two cows. He now had three wagons, six yoke of oxen, and three cows. He was among the favored ones, as many could not dispose of their property at all.

The family had lived in Nauvoo only three years when the Saints were driven out. The night they crossed the river, they saw, on looking back, their beautiful temple in flames, and heard the roar and boom of cannons. On the day of the Nauvoo battle, they took up the line of march for the distant camp on the Missouri River. Nathaniel gave Bro. John Hill one wagon and two yoke of oxen, if he would assist him in the work. Not used to exposure and outdoor work, Nathaniel soon failed in health.

One day a man came to camp, looking for men to work on a thresher. Nathaniel and Brother Hill hired out to him, and worked three days, when Nathaniel took sick. It became necessary to move to a more healthful location.

Benjamin drove the first wagon; Sister Hill drove the second, with Nathaniel lying sick in the wagon; Bro. Hill brought up the rear. On the third day, they arrived at the town of Bonaparte, Iowa. Here there was a large flour mill, and by trading cloth, the party laid in some flour. On they went about six miles west. In the morning one yoke of oxen was gone. They camped there for one week. Here Nathaniel died, 10 September, 1846, aged 41, and leaving a widow with eleven fatherless children. His wife had a few dollars, and sent Benjamin, the eldest son, back to a sawmill to purchase some rough oak boards sufficient to make a coffin. It was made by Brother Hill and Father Taylor (the father of John Taylor, later President of the Church). In a grave on the plains the burial took place by the side of a little child of Brother and Sister Parmers. A faithful Latter-day Saint and a kind and loving father remained behind as the company moved on.

Next day Brother Hill found the oxen five or six miles away, and the travelers prepared to start on West.

Nathaniel had been the father of twelve children, six boys and six girls. The oldest, a boy, had died as a child. The youngest, a boy, had been born at Nauvoo. Nathaniel's death was a great trial to his wife and eleven children. It took courage and faith to bear this great bereavement.

His widow arranged for her children to be provided for as best she could. One daughter was taken into the family of Lorenzo Young; one went with Joseph Bates Noble; and another traveled with the family of Brigham Young. One son drove a team for a Brother Haven. One daughter, Rebecca, had married Erastus Snow. Susan still had six children with her to look after and to care for their needs. The oldest son drove a team and acted as father to the younger children.

Arriving in Salt Lake Valley after the long, trying journey, September 20, 1848, she lived in a vacated room in the old fort provided by Brother Noble, whom she had previously married at Winter Quarters.

Susan Hammond Ashby and her eleven children all lived to reach Utah in 1848.


  • Black, Susan W. E. Early LDS Membership Data (Infobases, 1995):
Nathaniel served a political mission to Massachusetts for Joseph Smith , Jr., when he was running for the presidency of the United States in April, 1844. Nathaniel had Nauvoo property transactions sometime between 1843-1846. Nathaniel died en route to Salt Lake Valley. Vocation: Shoemaker
  • Day, Stella H., ed. Builders of Early Millard, pp. 5, 699.
  • Ashby, Robert L. Holden, Utah Early History, pp. 41, 72.
  • Birth: Groton Vital Records, vol 1: Births, p. 17.
  • Birth place variant: Salem, Middlesex, Mass.
  • Marriage: Salem Vital Records, vol 3: Marriages, p. 62.
  • Marriage variant: 11 Nov 1826 [Infobases]
  • Calling: History of the Church, Volume 6, Chapter 16, pp. 335-341:
We also publish the names of the Elders who are appointed to the several states, together with their appointments. Those who are numbered with the figures 1 and 2 will take the presidency of the several states to which they are appointed. MASSACHUSETTS. Daniel Spencer, 1st George Lloyd, Milton F. Bartlett, Orlando D. Hovey, Daniel Loveland, Nathaniel Ashby, Joseph J. Woodbury, Samuel P. Hoyt, W. H. Woodbury, Daniel W. Gardner, John R. Blanchard. Those Elders who are numbered in the foregoing list to preside over the different states will appoint conferences in all places in their several states where opportunitie s present, and will attend all the conferences, or send experienced and able Elders, who will preach the truth in righteousness, and present before the people "General Smith's Views of the Powers and Policy of the General Government," and seek diligently to get up electors who will go for him for the Presidency. All the Elders will be faithful in preaching the Gospel in its simplicity and beauty, in all meekness, humility, long-suffering and prayerfulness; and the Twelve will devote the season to traveling, and will attend as many conferences as possible.
W. RICHARDS, Clerk of the Quorum of the Twelve.
  • Patriarchal Blessing: FHL Film #392634, Index to Blessings:
Name: Ashby, Nathaniel
Born: 5 Apr 1805, Salem, Mass
Father: Banjamin Ashby
Mother: Mary
Blessed: 30 Dec 1843
Place: Lineage: Levi
Patriarch: Hyram Smith
Recorded: Vol. 41, Page 110
  • Patriarchal Blessing: FHL Film #392634, Index to Blessings:
Name: Ashby, Nathaniel
Born: 15 Apr 1805, Salem, Essex, Mass
Father: Benjamin Ashby
Mother: Mary Ashby
Blessed: May 1845
Place: Nauvoo, Illinois
Lineage: Ephraim
Patriarch: John Smith
Recorded: Vol. 9, Page 141
  • Endowment: Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register, p. 74.
Note: He and his wife went through the same session as Joseph and Mary I. Horne
Nathaniel was listed as a seventy.
  • Sealing: FHL Film #183374, Official Temple Record microfilm, Sealings - Nauvoo, p. 151:
Name: Nathaniel Ashby
BIR Date: 15 Apr 1805 Place: Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Husband: Nathaniel Ashby Wife: Susanna Hammond
Sealing to Spouse: 3 Feb 1846
Temple Name: Nauvoo Temple