Question: Was Newel and Lydia Knight’s marriage the first marriage the Prophet Joseph ever performed? Did one of their sons become rich and famous?
Answer: Lydia Goldthwaite was born June 9, 1812 in Sutton, Worcester, county, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jesse Goldthwaite and Sally Burt. When fifteen years old she was sent to a boarding school in a village where she met a young man by the name of Calvin Bailey, to whom she was married in the fall of 1828. This marriage proved an unhappy one. They had two children, but both died. Three years after her marriage, she was deserted by her husband. She then returned to the home of her parents.
During a visit to Mt. Pleasant, Upper Canada, in October 1833, she first became acquainted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She attended meetings held by Joseph Smith the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon. A number of meetings were held, and the Nickerson family, Lydia and others were baptized. When Lydia, in the summer of 1834, returned to her father’s home in New York State, her relatives did all they could to persuade her to leave the Church.
At length Lydia decided to go to Kirtland, Ohio, which at that time was a gathering place for the Saints. Immediately on reaching Kirtland, in the spring of 1835, she met Vincent Knight, who approached Sister Lydia, saying: "Sister, the Prophet is in bondage and has been brought into distress by the persecutions of the wicked, and if you have any means to give, it would be of benefit to him.” She at once emptied her purse containing $50, which was all she had. Brother Knight looked at it, counted it and fervently exclaimed, “Thank God; this will release and set the Prophet free.” The young girl was now without means, not having enough to procure a meal or a night’s lodging.
For six or eight months after that, Lydia lived a pleasant life at the home of Vincent Knight. In the fall of 1835 Hyrum Smith asked Lydia to come to his house and assist his wife. She complied with the request, and while living there she became acquainted with Newel Knight, who boarded at the place while working on the Kirtland Temple. Newel Knight was described by Lydia as a tall man with light brown hair, keen blue eyes and a very energetic and determined manner. He was a widower, whose wife, had died the previous fall, in consequence of the trials and persecutions she had suffered, and left an infant, Samuel, only two days old.
Newel Knight, in the course of time, made Lydia an offer of marriage, which she after some hesitation accepted, and the two became man and wife on November 23, 1835. The Prophet Joseph performed the marriage ceremony. It was the first marriage ceremony the Prophet ever performed. The young married couple gladly accepted the offer of Hyrum Smith to spend the winter at his home.
Newel continued his labors on the Temple and generally attended the school of the Elders in the evenings. Newel and Lydia attended the dedication of the Temple and witnessed many marvelous manifestations of the power of God.
Lydia and Newel then moved to Clay County, Missouri, where a girl was born to them on December 1, 1836. In February 1837, Newel purchased 40 acres of land from the government near Far west, Caldwell County, Missouri. A boy was born to Lydia on April 29, 1837. Four more children would later come to their home.
Lydia and Newel passed through the persecutions of the Saints in Caldwell County and afterwards in Illinois. In 1846, Lydia and Newel left Nauvoo with their children, and made their way to Winter Quarters. Some Ponca Indians learned of the Saints plight and offered them a winter resting place on their lands. As the winter passed, one night in the first part of January, Newel got a severe pain in his side. No remedy Lydia could bring seemed to help. On January 11, 1847 Newel died. He was buried in a coffin Lydia made from one of her wagon boxes and buried in Indian Territory. Lydia was left a widow with six children, plus Samuel, and was pregnant with her seventh child. For three years, Lydia did what she could to support herself and her family.
Finally the way opened for her to go to the Salt Lake Valley; she crossed the plains in 1850 in the Edward Hunter Company with her seven children, ages two to thirteen. Fifteen-year-old Samuel had been sent on ahead with another family. For several years Lydia resided in Salt Lake City. She then located in Provo, where she taught school. Two of her sons died in their thirties–Joseph in 1878 in Arizona (where Brigham Young had called him to settle) and Hyrum (who never married) in 1880 from an illness, but the other five children lived longer than Lydia. Six of her children would give her 53 grandchildren. Samuel became an Indian missionary and fathered sixteen children.
Lydia moved to Payson and then Santa Clara, but when the St. George Temple was finished in 1877 she was called by President Brigham Young to labor in that sacred building as an ordinance worker. She responded and made her permanent home in St. George and attended faithfully to her duties in the Temple until the day of her death, which occurred in St. George on April 3, 1884. Sister Lydia’s life was full of trials and her character full of integrity; she possessed a lovely disposition, gained the confidence and good will of all who knew her and died a most devoted and faithful Latter-day Saint.
Even though Lydia had raised her children in poverty, in August 1896, Jesse Knight, one of Lydia’s sons, struck ore in his “Humbug Mine” and became a millionaire. Jesse fully believed that he had been chosen by God to act as steward in developing and distributing this great wealth where it would do the most good among His people. And distribute it, he did, giving thousands to financially save the Church, donating thousands for the property and building of Brigham Young Academy, building settlements, and providing work for hundreds of Saints to support their families. Andrew Jensen wrote:
“One of Newel and Lydia’s sons, Jesse Knight, was estranged from the Church for a number of years before returning as a strong and faithful member. He prospered in the mining business and was a great benefactor of the Church and Brigham Young Academy in Provo, as well as helping countless workers in his employ. In June, 1907, some 60 years after his father's death, he returned to the site of Ponca Fort where the remnants of that structure could still be seen, and erected a monument in honor of his father and other Saints who died there.” (See Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 2:773)
Lydia passed away on 3 April 1884 in St. George, Utah, at the age of 71. She is buried in the St. George City Cemetery.
Source: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jensen, Vol. 2, p.775, familysearch.org, contributed By kentphilliphatch1, 29 July 2013; familysearch.org; findagrave.com