Peter and Sarah Shupe

Question: How many children did Peter and Sarah Shupe have? What happened to Peter and Sarah and their children?

Answer: Peter Shupe was born 3 December 1792 in Grayson, Virginia, the oldest child of John Shupe and Lucy Ferguson. His parents had eleven children, the first ten being boys. Peter grew up learning how to work and helping his father with the farm and their large family of boys. When Peter was twenty, he served six months, from 16 September l813 to 10 March 1814, as a private in the U. S. Service in the War of 1812. During this time he was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, with "Captain Hail’s Company."

Following his military service, Peter returned home, and on 22 December 1814 married Sarah (Sa1ly) Wright, and this happy couple began their life together. They moved around to various places in Virginia during the next several years, and fifteen children were born to them during this time (two sets of twins).

In 1841 while living in Rich Valley in Wythe County, two Mormon missionaries, Jedediah Grant and his brother Joshua, came to their home, and Peter and Sarah were excited to learn the truths they felt were true. They both were baptized, along with some of their children. Peter and Sarah had lost two of their little daughters, as well as an older daughter, who had died in childbirth. They were grateful for the truths the Gospel taught them about the importance of families and how they would see their children again. However, Peter and Sarah were the only ones in the Shupe and Wright families that would listen to the missionaries. Both of their families had been staunch Lutherans for many years.

Peter and Sarah were drawn to Illinois by a desire to join other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints in the settlement at Nauvoo. Their conversion to the Church was the pivotal point in their lives and their decision to join with the saints set a course of lasting significance to their own children and the generations of their family after them.

In the Fall of 1843 Peter and Sarah gathered together all of their worldly possessions into a wagon behind a team of horses and with their children headed west from the hills and valleys of southwestern Virginia toward Illinois. Behind them they left parents, brothers and sisters and the continuity of some eighty odd years of Shupe family life on the Virginia frontier.

They traveled about two hundred miles into Kentucky where Peter borrowed one hundred dollars from Grandmother Creager. They then traveled into Indiana and camped on the west side of New Albany. On Sunday evening at supper a man by the name of Harding gave Peter the job of making 1,000 rails, and he received one thousand dollars for his work and provisions. They left there inside of three days and went on to the west side of Indiana. There they found a brother of his wife by the name of William Wright. They stayed there about two weeks and then set out again, and their next stopping place was sixteen miles west of Springfield. There they made another halt to replenish their stock of provisions. They got some work from a man by the name of Broadwell to gather corn. So they unloaded their wagon and went to gathering corn. They worked about three days and took provisions for their work. They then loaded up their wagons again and made their way to Schuyler County, Illinois.

After a trip of about 1,000 miles they arrived at Rushville in November 1843. Then Peter set about to get a place for the winter. He got a place from George Clark. In the spring he moved again to Brown County. There be rented a place from Mr. Keenfeet and remained two years.

Corner of Robison and Mulholland where the Shupe home and blacksmith & wagon shop were.

Corner of Robison and Mulholland where the Shupe home and blacksmith & wagon shop were.

Some time around 1845, some of the Peter Shupe family moved to Nauvoo. Peter Shupe bought a lot on the southwest corner of Mulholland and Robison, four blocks directly east of the Nauvoo Temple. The property was listed under the name of his son, James. Peter and his sons worked on the Nauvoo Temple. Ultimately, Peter, and his two sons, James, and Andrew Jackson, all blacksmiths, were asked by Brigham Young to help build wagons for those leaving Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Illinois Temple (old).jpg

The pamphlet currently handed out at the blacksmith shop, states, "Among the many blacksmiths and wagon makers at Nauvoo during the closing period of Mormon occupancy were members of the Peter and Sarah Shupe family. Some of them had previously practiced their trades in the vicinity of Rushville, Illinois. By 1844, the parents and three sons had settled in the Nauvoo community, where they made wagons during the closing months of the Mormon preparations for the westward trek to the Great Basin. Two of the sons, Andrew J. and James W. Shupe, enlisted as blacksmiths in the Mormon Battalion at Council bluffs, Iowa, in July 1846, to participate in the Mexican War. James reached Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1847 and Andrew in 1852, hauling their bellows, anvils, and other tools of their trade. They were pioneers of Ogden, Utah, where they and their descendants operated blacksmith and wagon shops for many years."

Shupe tools at Webb Blacksmith Shop, Nauvoo, IL

Shupe tools at Webb Blacksmith Shop, Nauvoo, IL

One of the descendants, James Shupe of Utah State University, later donated their equipment to the restored Nauvoo Webb Blacksmith shop.

In the spring of 1846, Peter and Sarah and their children and grandchildren left Nauvoo and traveled to Iowa. It took them four months to get to Council Bluffs, due to the mud. The Shupe's first stop was in Farmington, Iowa, where John Whitstein and Martha stayed. The rest of the family reached Council Bluffs by the summer of 1846.

Mormon Battalion.jpg

James and Andrew signed up for the Mormon Battalion, as well as James' wife, who signed up to help with the cooking. Andrew's wife was left with four small children in a covered wagon.

In the fall of 1846, sickness swept through Council Bluffs. Sarah, the mother, was the first to die on 13 September 1846. The next day, Peter, the father, died. They were buried in Glenwood Mills in the same unmarked grave.

John had traveled to Council Bluffs to return some horses for which he was to be paid. When he arrived, the family was having the funeral for his parents. John helped to bury them. John then gathered his younger brothers and sisters together and determined to take them back to Farmington, Iowa where his wife and two daughters were. On the way, John took a very severe cold but tried to keep going. He died on the way. A man, Aaron Freeman Farr, found the children crying by the side of the trail and took clothing from his own wagon, and covered John, and they buried him by the side of the road. It was September or the first part of October 1846, and John was only 27 years of age. Peter Riley, age 16, decided to return to Winter Quarters with Brother Farr. He later went to live with his two older brothers, William Kendrick and Isaac Benjamin, who stayed in Iowa and never went West.

The other surviving children went on to Farmington, where they lived with Martha. Three of them died in the next three months--George, Nancy, and Susannah. It is believed that nine-year-old Benjamin died in January 1846 in the Nauvoo area. One daughter, Thirza, later made it to Utah with her husband. One daughter, Elizabeth, married and stayed in Illinois.

Sarah & Elizabeth Jane Shupe

Sarah & Elizabeth Jane Shupe

Andrew Jackson Shupe and James Wright Shupe, and their wives and children all survived. Martha Ann, John’s wife, age 21, was left with her two daughters, Elizabeth Jane, 5, and Sarah Ann, 1. Martha had lost a son, George, in 1843/44. Martha remarried and went on to Utah, where her daughter, Elizabeth Jane Shupe, later married Thomas E. Ricks, the founder of Rexburg, Idaho and Ricks College.

PeterShupe children.jpg

This couple and family suffered greatly for their testimonies of the Gospel. Eight of Peter and Sarah’s fifteen children died either as children or as young adults. Three of their children made it to Utah, along with one daughter-in-law, and four children chose to stay in Illinois or Iowa.

Source: Story written by Carma M Golding, taken from Shupe, Peter 1792-1846 and Wright, Sarah 1793-1846 Biographies, research done by Dolores M. Hunter, family genealogist. In addition to the extensive research carried on for years by Sister Hunter, William Kyle Shupe has conducted much of the original research of the Shupe family in Wythe and Grayson Counties, familysearch.org.