Stillman Pond: a pioneer legacy

I shared a pioneer history at a recent Daughters Of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) meeting, the story of Stillman Pond. He is a legacy we hold dear in my family.  He was such an example of diligence, perseverance, and faith. I just wanted to honor his memory by sharing a few highlights from what I shared at the meeting. 

I lived with my parents until I was twenty years old, acquired a common education, worked at farming and harness making. (autobiography)

STILLMAN POND A Biographical Sketch Compiled By Leon Y. and H. Ray Pond

“Stillman Pond, an early Utah Pioneer, was born on the 26th of October, 1803, at Hubbardston, Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the son of Preston Pond and Hannah Rice.

In 1841, Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came to New Salem. They were received by the Pond Family. The message of the Restored Gospel brought joy and happiness to the family and gave peace and comfort to the troubled soul of Stillman. He and his family accepted the Gospel and were baptized… He sold his land and prepared to settle with the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

He did not long live in peace at Nauvoo, as persecution continually harassed the Saints. On the 2nd of February 1846, migration West began. Stillman and his family remained until after the battle of Nauvoo September 1846, when they were driven at the point of bayonets across the Mississippi River. Tribulations and hardships were numerous as the winter set in early and the Mormon refugees were without proper food, clothing and shelter. The camp was ravaged by Malaria, Cholera, and consumption. The family became victims of all these diseases. His wife, Maria became Consumptive, and all her children were afflicted with Malaria.  Snow fell early on the plains of Iowa and along the way, Stillman buried the first three of his children.

Maria Pond, her body racked with pain and bowed down with grief with the loss of her children, was unable to walk and was confined to her bed with the fever of Malaria. In this condition, she gave birth to twins.

On the 16th of October, 1846, the refugees arrived at Winter Quarters on the west bank of the Missouri River. Members of the Pond family were all sick with Malaria. Stillman, unable to sit up or walk, lay upon his stomach in the wagon, bracing himself with one arm, and extending the other over the dash board, drove the last 150 miles into Iowa territory.

The influx of saints into Winter Quarters resulted in a shortage of housing facilities in no time. Many new comers were forced to live in tents. Stillman and his family were among these unfortunates, existing this way until after the New Year, when they occupied a log cabin. Disease continued to take it’s toll from among their number. The winter was hard and Stillman was called upon to shoulder added grief. This period is often referred to as “The Tragedy at Winter Quarters”.

The trials and tribulations of that winter, coupled with the ravages of disease, proved too much for Maria Davis, second wife of Stillman. All of her six children had died. She had stood at the grave side of each. One may never know the sufferings and sorrow of that good woman who had endured so much at the hands of the mobocrats of Illinois, as well as the hardships of a cold and bitter winter with the loss of her children. She was called to her rest on the 17th of May, 1847. Stillman was now alone with his two eldest daughters, Elizabeth Almyra, wife of Bishop Newell K. Whitney and Loenza Alcena, later the wife of Joseph Cardon Kingsbury.

We will probably never realize the sorrow and the grief that Stillman went through during this winter. It undoubtedly had a lasting effect on his later life. It was a supreme test, and we wonder how many of us today would be able to stand as firm as did he. He never faltered, but stood true and steadfast to the cause which he had espoused. If there were any misgivings in his mind, he promptly banished them from his thinking. In the fact of obstacles and trials he continued to press onward. Like Job of old, he was again blessed by God with families and posterity.

In the spring of 1848, Major Samuel Russell deserted his wife and baby for the gold fields of California. Thereafter, Stillman Pond and Abigail Thorne Russell, were married in the Endowment House on the 8th of February, 1849.  He legally adopted the child Frances. [This is the wife my line comes from.]

He had a generous heart, although somewhat stern and harsh at times.  Undoubtedly this was caused by the hardship and sorrow suffered in the tragedy of Winter Quarters. He was consistently religious, always paying an honest tithing. No one having dealings with him could question his integrity and straight forwardness. Few men were harder workers and more righteously ambitious.  He was a good provider, and believed in having a supply of necessities on hand.”        

“…Crossing the plains, Stillman Pond lost nine children and a wife. He became an outstanding colonizer in Utah and later became a leader in the quorums of the seventy. Having lost these nine children and his wife in crossing the plains, Stillman Pond did not lose his faith. He did not quit. He went forward. He paid a price, as have many others before and since, to become  acquainted with God.” (Pres James E faust ‘refined in our trials’, Ensign, Feb 2006)



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