Sunday, May 8, 2016

Wilford and Phebe Woodruff Lose a Daughter

When Wilford Woodruff left his wife, Phebe, and his daughter, Sarah Emma, for his first mission to Great Britain in 1839, Phebe was pregnant. During his travels to England he dreamed about his wife. On 28 November 1839 he related:

"[I] had a dream while upon my bed. And in my dream I saw Mrs. Woodruff, and notwithstanding we rejoiced much having an interview with each other, yet our embraces were mixed with sorrow for after conversing a while about her domestic affairs I asked where Sarah Emma was, our only child. She [said] weeping and kissing me, 'She is dead.' We sorrowed a moment and [then] I awoke. Phebe also said she had not received my letters. Is this dream true? Time must determine."

Nearly a year later on 26 November 1840, Wilford received several letters from Nauvoo, one from Sister Margaret Smoot and another from his beloved Phebe -- his dream had indeed been a warning. He noted, "The letters from Phebe and Sister Smoot gave an account of the death and burial of our oldest child Sarah Emma, who died July 17, 1840, being two years and three days old."
Phebe wrote to Wilford on the day following Sarah Emma's death:

"My dear Wilford, what will be your feelings, when I say that yesterday I was called to witness the departure of our little Sarah Emma from this world? Yes, she is gone. The relentless hand of death has snatched her from my embrace. But Ah! She was too lovely, too kind, too affectionate to live in this wicked world. When looking on her I have often thought how I should feel to part with her, I thought I could not live without her, especially in the absence of my companion. But she has gone."

Phebe continued, "Yes, Wilford we have one little angel in heaven, and I think likely her spirit has visited you before this time." Her description of the last days and moments of Sarah Emma's life must have caused tears to well up in her lonely companion's eyes. "She used to call her poor papa and putty papa many times in a day. She left a kiss for her papa with me just before she died."

The walk to the cemetery was quite hard for the young mother. "She had no relative to follow her to the grave or to shed a tear for her," Phebe wrote Wilford, "only her Ma and little Wilford [a son born while Wilford was gone]."

(Holzapfel, _Women of Nauvoo_, pp. 75-76)

(Compiled and written by David Kenison, Orem, Utah,

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