Question: David P. Kimball was one of the young men who helped carry the members of the Martin Handcart Company across the Sweetwater River. What happened to David P. Kimball?
Answer: David Patten Kimball was born 23 August 1839 in Nauvoo, Illinois, son of Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Murray. Heber named him for his friend, apostle David Patten who had been killed in the Crooked River battle in Missouri. David went west with his family. He was present during the 1856 October General Conference when President Brigham Young called for the saints to rescue the handcart companies that were stranded on the plains. Seventeen-year-old David immediately answered the call and volunteered to go to the rescue. The Martin Handcart Company was found and, with the help of the rescue wagons, were able to make it to Devil’s Gate.
After a few nights at Devil’s Gate, the handcart Saints were told they needed to walk three more miles where there was a cove that would provide wood and shelter for them. They needed to cross the Sweetwater River to get to the cove. Crossing the River seemed impossible to most of the emigrants. The Sweetwater River was not more than two feet deep, but was around 90 to 120 feet across. Ice caked the banks and floated in the river. When they reached the river, George saw men and women weeping as they gathered around the riverbank not knowing what to do.
David and two of his friends, C. Allen Huntington and George W. Grant, knew what needed to be done. They stepped into the water and offered to carry women and children across. Other men in the rescue company also helped until all the handcart people had made it across the River.
These three young men had willingly sacrificed their lives, if necessary, to take these people to safety. When President Brigham Young heard of what had been done, he wept. He later said in public, ‘That act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.’ (Those words were later inscribed on David’s headstone in the St. David, Arizona Cemetery.)
David married Caroline Marion Williams on April 15, 1857. He continued to work for his father, Heber C. Kimball, teaming and farming, while Caroline was busily engaged in the duties of the home, cooking, spinning, and bearing children. In the year 1865, David left to go on a three-year mission to England. Caroline was left along with three children, all boys.
When David returned, he took up contract work, hauling goods across the plains. When he had completed his work on the Central Pacific Railroad and freighting with teams, he returned home to his family. A short time later he got a call from Brigham Young to go on a mission as President of the Bear Lake Stake. In July 1869, they left their home and moved to Paris, Idaho.
At the end of the year 1878, David received another mission call to help settle Arizona. The end of October 1877, David and his small company headed out and settled in the village of Lehi long enough to build a comfortable home, and David helped to establish schools, etc. They were here only a short time when David was called on another mission to preside over the St. David Ward at the head of San Pedro River. At St. David [named after David] they settled again, and established a home.
In November 1881, Kimball was making a freight run between Maricopa railroad station and Prescott when he was caught in a snowstorm near Prescott and contracted pneumonia. On the return trip, he became separated from his traveling companion and wagon and got lost in the Salt River valley south of Wickenburg. He spent four days in the desert with no food or water. During this time, he reported seeing a vision in which his deceased father warned him to get his life in order, and that he had only two years to live. His traveling companion assembled a search party, and they found Kimball near present-day Surprise.
After St. David was well established, David died on November 22, 1883, at age forty-four. He and his wife had seven sons and three daughters. His wife died on December 22nd, 1917, having been a supportive wife and stalwart pioneer mother. He is buried in the St. David Cemetery in St. David, Arizona.
Elder Quentin L. Cook, Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a great-grandson.
Sources: FamilySearch.org, Life Sketch; Caroline Marion Williams Biography - Written by daughter, Effie.