Question: After being driven out of Far West, who gave Sarah a priesthood blessing and restored her to health at the time she had her first baby near Quincy, Illinois?
Answer: Sarah De Armon Peay Rich was born September 23, 1814, in St. Clair County, Illinois. Her father, John Peay, was one of the first settlers of Illinois and had to fort up his family from the Indians. “My father served in the war of 1812...and taught his children to be like himself, true to our country and honor the flag of our Union under which he fought and helped to maintain all his life.” Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth Knighton, was the daughter of Thomas Knighton, who fought in the American Revolution in 1776.
Sarah was taught to be thrifty in her youth. She would pick the flax and cotton from the field, prepare it, spin it, and weave it into cloth. In 1835, two Mormon Elders came to their home and invited them to read the Book of Mormon. The family was converted and were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sarah wrote: “By this time I was truly convinced that their doctrine was from God, and on the next morning I went forth and was baptized; it was on the 15th of December, and they had to cut the ice and baptize me. I had made it a business of prayer to my Father in Heaven to show me if this was the work of God, and He did so. I was truly convinced that it was the true gospel.”
The family moved to Far West where Sarah met and married Charles Coulson Rich. Many times they had the privilege of hearing Joseph Smith speak. They were very happy until persecution from mobs began. Charles took a prominent part in the Crooked River Battle and was forced to flee into the wilderness for his life. With the help of her father, Sarah moved near Quincy, Illinois and joined her husband there. Sarah gave birth to her first child a few days after her arrival.
In 1839 Sarah wrote: “on the 4th of March my first child was born, a fine little daughter...I got along fine for a few days, but took a back set which came near proving fatal, for I grew worse all the time, until my life was despaired for six weeks and no one thought I would recover except my husband [who sent for] father Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith's father, he was then the Patriarch of our Church...So Father Smith came, and when he came to the bedside and looked at me he said he thought I would die...then [he] said, "Let us administer to her, and I will give her a Patriarchal blessing." He did so and Spirit of the Lord was so poured out upon him that he blessed me with a long life, and said I should speedily recover, and gave me such a blessing that all in the room were weeping for joy...And I commenced to get better right away.”
In November 1839, the family moved to Nauvoo as soon as Charles had built a home for them.
Sarah wrote: “Our new home consisted of a comfortable log house with a lot of an acre and a quarter of ground, covered with beautiful large trees, which furnished us plenty of wood for a long while, and our nearest neighbor on the west was Brother Heber C. Kimball... Sister Vilate Kimball, whose husband, Heber, was then on a mission to Great Britain...[we] soon became strong friends to each other, and we felt for each other for each other's interest. She truly was a noble sister, and one full of faith in the work of God.” They enjoyed six years in Nauvoo and Sarah had three more children while living there. Pertaining to the death of the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum on 27 June 1844, Sarah recorded, “O, what a solemn time! I shall never forget it.”
Sarah wrote: “Soon our little babe, Artemissa was taken sick with bloody flux. We did all in our power to save our dear one, but she died the 12th of September so we were left to mourn the loss of our sweet little girl, eight months old. She now lives in the graveyard among the Saints that died at Nauvoo.” Artimissa was their third child.
Sarah recorded, “The [Nauvoo] temple was finished and dedicated unto the Lord, and the work of giving endowments commenced. President Young chose many brothers and sisters to come to the temple and assist in giving endowments. Among those chosen was my husband and myself; we were to be there at seven in the morning and remain until work was done at ten or twelve o'clock at night, if necessary.”
In preparing to leave Nauvoo, Sarah writes, “I will now mention one good brother that came forward and offered to assist us with a wagon and team, and his young son to drive our team until we came to a stopping place, where the team and boy could be sent back. It was Brother Joel Ricks, and the boy he sent at that time was his son Thomas, only 16 or 17 years old.” They left their home on February 12, 1846, and Sarah’s fifth child was born in Mt. Pisgah, Pottawattamie, Iowa.
Sarah accepted the principle of polygamy and welcomed the other wives. Charles moved his families to Winter Quarters where they prepared to cross the Plains on June 14, 1847. Charles Rich was in charge of this company and they arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley on October 2, 1847. They lived in the fort until their homes of logs from the canyons were built. Here, in Salt Lake, Sarah had her four remaining children. Her husband was constantly away on missions, leaving her alone to care for the family.
Charles was then called to settle the Bear Lake area where they resided for three years and then Sarah returned to her home in Salt Lake City. She remained there forty years and owned one of the first fruit orchards in Utah Territory. Sarah was a teacher in the Relief Society from the time of its first organization until her death.
About 1881, in a letter to her son, Benjamin E. Rich, who had been called on a mission, Sarah wrote,“Inasmuch as it has pleased our heavenly Father to cause you to be called on a mission to help to preach the everlasting gospel to those that dwell on the earth, I say unto you, my dear son, go forth cheerfully, trusting in God to help you in every hour of need and to give unto you wisdom and power in his Sight that words may be given to you to speak in His name and bear your testimony with great power and testify to the truth of the gospel.” (Partial letter written by Sarah Rich to her son, Ben E. Rich, while he was on a mission to England, Spelling and punctuation added).
Sarah died in Salt Lake City on September 12, 1893, just before her 79th birthday. She is buried in the Paris City Cemetery in Paris, Idaho.
Source: Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, 1814-1893, Autobiography (1814-1893), typescript, BYU. Copy made by Alice M. Rich, based in some instances on Journal of Sarah DeArmon Pea, familysearch.org; “A Brief History of Sarah de Armon Pea Rich” from Pioneer Women of Faith & Fortitude, familysearch.org; findagrave.com; “The City of Joseph in Focus: The Use and Abuse of Historic Photographs,” BYU Studies, Vol. 32