James and Drusilla Hendricks

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Question: What happened to Drusilla Dorris Hendricks’ husband at the Battle of Crooked River? Did Drusilla and her family make it to Utah?

Answer: Drusilla Dorris was born on February 8, 1810 in Sumner County Tennessee. Even as a child, she was very religiously oriented and learned to read, for the most part, by studying the Bible. When she was eighteen years old, she married James Hendricks on May 31, 1827, who lived just across the border in Kentucky. James was born June 23, 1808 in Franklin, Simpson, Kentucky.

They met the Latter-day Saint missionaries in 1834, and Drusilla immediately knew that what they were teaching was right. They joined the church in 1835, in spite of strenuous objections from their families. In the spring of 1836, they moved with their family to Missouri, settling first in Clay County, and then eventually moving north to Caldwell County, where they lived temporarily in a dugout. For a time they lived in peace. But as October drew to a close, that all changed.

As war and mobocracy erupted in western Missouri late in 1838, the Saints were once again in grave danger. One night, the Missouri militia, which was often little more than an organized and authorized mob, began raiding some of the outlying Latter-day Saint settlements. On October 24, they raided one homestead, burning haystacks and shooting livestock. Then they took three men prison and vowed they were taking them to be executed. On hearing the news, Joseph Smith called out the militia in Far West. Led by David W. Patten, senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve, seventy-five men set out in pursuit. One of the men who answered Joseph’s call was James Hendricks. Drusilla later wrote of that night: “He bid me goodnight and got on his horse, and I took his gun from the rack and handed it to him and said, ‘Don’t get shot in the back.’”

Battle of Crooked River

Battle of Crooked River

The Battle of Crooked River: Two companies of the brethren, under the command of Charles C. Rich and David W. Patten, rode all night. As the Saints started across the ford, one of the guards saw them coming and opened fire, shouting at his comrades that they were under attack. An intense firefight followed. James Hendricks turned when the firing erupted and started back across the river to find cover. A bullet hit him in the back of the neck, and he fell into the water.

A short time later, Drusilla learned that James had been wounded and was in a house about four miles away. “My husband lay within three feet of Brother Patten, and I spoke to him. He could speak but could not move any more than if he were dead. I tried to get him to move his feet but he could not. This was Thursday, October 25, 1838 . . . My husband was shot in the neck where it cut off all feeling to the body. It is of no use for me to try and tell how I felt, for that is impossible. . . . I rubbed and steamed him but could get no circulation. He was dead from the neck down.”

As if the tragedy that had befallen her husband was not enough, now the full fury of the Missourians fell upon the Saints. The Saints were told to leave the state as quickly as possible or face death. Drusilla’s oldest boy was eight at that time, and she had four other children, including a nursing infant. All of that, and with her husband paralyzed from the neck down. Joseph Smith Sr. blessed James to the point where he could eventually stand on his feet and walk a few steps if he was helped by others. That was a miracle, and Drusilla expressed gratitude for it.

Along with the rest of the Saints, Drusilla and her family were able to make it to Quincy, Illinois, and they lived again in a hastily shaped dugout. Within two weeks the family was on the verge of starvation. Not long thereafter the sound of a wagon brought Drusilla to her feet. It was their neighbor Reuben Allred. He said he had a feeling they were out of food, so on his way into town he’d had a sack of grain ground into meal for them. Shortly thereafter Alexander Williams arrived with two bushels of meal on his shoulder. He told Drusilla that the Spirit had whispered to him that “Brother Hendricks’ family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came [running].” (Story told by Elder Holland during the April 1996 General Conference)

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Drusilla and her family were helped out and finally made it to Nauvoo. The time of peace was short- lived, however. In 1844, the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred in Carthage Jail. Drusilla’s oldest son, William, was sixteen years old when the family prepared to leave Nauvoo. He was a great blessing to his mother. They secured an outfit, put James in a bed in the back of their wagon, and started west. When they arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in mid to late June of 1846, Drusilla had no way of knowing that another severe test of her faith was about to descend upon her.

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On July 1, 1846, Captain James Allen of the U.S. Army came to Council Bluffs with the request that the Saints furnish five hundred volunteers to march to California and claim that territory for the United States. In spite of the lack of support the Church had received in previous years from the federal government, Brigham Young signed an agreement and issued a call for volunteers to join what would become the Mormon Battalion.

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When young William Hendricks heard the news, he immediately determined to go even though he was only sixteen. Drusilla still had to take her family, including her handicapped husband, across a thousand miles of wilderness and make a new home in the Rocky Mountains. We can only imagine her thoughts at that time. Surely the Lord did not expect her to do such a thing without the only man she had to help her? With a heavy heart, Drusilla told her son that he had her permission to go.

William survived the long march to California and rejoined his family after they had reached Salt Lake. Drusilla and James made it to Utah in 1847, in the Jedediah M. Grant Company. James was 38, Drusilla 37, Elizabeth Mahala Bainbridge 19, Catherine Tabitha Hendricks 13, Rebecca Hendricks 11, Joseph Smith Hendricks 9.

James survived the trek to Salt Lake and became the first Bishop in the Nineteenth Ward in Salt Lake, where Drusilla also became the Relief Society president. Drusilla wrote “My husband died at Richmond, Cache County, Utah, July 8th, 1870. He was a martyr for the cause of truth. I do not think he ever doubted the truth of the Gospel for one moment. I never heard him murmur nor speak against the authorities of the Church, and he always gave good advice to his family.”

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So how did the story end for Drusilla? Drusilla passed away at the age of seventy-one in Richmond. In her final years she wrote: “The gospel is true. I have rejoiced in it through all my trials for the Spirit of the Lord has buoyed me up or I should have failed.” Brigham Young spoke highly of such women as Drusilla. “If the women did not accomplish as much as the men did,” he said, “it was because the women had no wives to help them.” (“Divine Signatures: The Confirming Hand of God” pages 112-121 by Gerald N. Lund, 2010)

Source: Excerpts from Drusilla Dorris Hendricks, Her own history, familysearch.org; Church History Heroine: Drusilla Dorris Hendricks, LDS Scripture Teachings, 6/19/2017.