Question: How many years did Elizabeth Haven Barlow serve as Relief Society President in Bountiful, Utah?
Answer: Elizabeth Haven was born in Holliston, Middlesex, Massachusetts, 28 December 1811, to John Haven and Elizabeth Howe, the fifth child in a family of seven. Her mother died when she was nine years of age.
Elizabeth’s talents included nimble fingers that could braid bonnets and hats of straw “fifteen strands at a time,” and a bright mind, an independent spirit, a college education, and a deeply religious nature. She describes herself as “a great lover of Scriptures” even as a girl. She used her practical skills as a milliner to earn enough money to attend Amherst and Bradford Colleges, where she obtained a teacher’s diploma and she often led her friends in lively, lengthy discussions about religion.
When Elizabeth was 26 years old, still single, living at home—-at her home in Holliston, Massachusetts, her second cousins Brigham Young and Willard Richards visited her with a message about angels, revelation, and the Book of Mormon, which she says, “I read very attentively. The Spirit of God rested upon me and I felt convinced to say in my heart ‘This is the way I long have sought’.…”
Conversion came at a cost for Elizabeth. Against the strenuous objections of her father, a deacon in the Congregational Church, Elizabeth was baptized by Parley P. Pratt. She soon emigrated to Far West, Missouri. (Happily, with great effort, she later convinced her parents to join the Church and to migrate to Nauvoo.) Elizabeth taught school in Far West and in Nauvoo. Her students included the children of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Brigham Young.
Elizabeth married Israel Barlow on February 23, 1840 in Quincy, Illinois. They were married by Patriarch Isaac Morley. Israel Barlow was born in Granville, Massachusetts September 13, 1806 and moved to New York in his teens. He was baptized in the spring of 1832 in New York by Brigham Young. His entire family, his mother, brother, and sisters were all baptized with him. They then moved to Streetsboro, Ohio. Three years later, he was ordained a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and made senior President of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy. He also marched with Zion’s Camp from Ohio to Jackson County. Israel later traveled to Quincy, Illinois where he met Elizabeth, his future wife.
Israel is credited with being the first Mormon to contact Dr. Isaac Galland in the purchase of the property of Commerce, Illinois, which later became the city of Nauvoo in November/December 1838. Elizabeth and Israel moved to Nauvoo after their marriage, and Israel began to help build the temple there. Brigham Young, knowing of Elizabeth’s training, soon had her teaching school, and Israel was occupied with working on the temple, selling land, working for hours on his farm, and serving as a member of the Nauvoo Legion. After Joseph Smith was killed, Israel was in attendance at the meeting where Brigham young and the Quorum of the Twelve were sustained to lead the Church on August 8, 1844.
Elizabeth was a member of the first Relief Society organized in March of 1842. It was then called the Female Relief Society and started out with eighteen members. She had the privilege of associating with many noble women including Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. Young, Mary Richards, Mary Fielding Smith, and others. Elizabeth had her first three children born in Nauvoo. Her first son, James, died at birth in May 1841.
Before she left Nauvoo, Elizabeth Haven was endowed and sealed to her husband Israel Barlow. She and Israel had the great privilege of serving as ordinance workers in the Nauvoo Temple and helping others receive their endowments. As the Saints were pushed from Nauvoo, Israel played a large part in helping people to cross the Mississippi River in the cold, winter months. He was left behind with Joseph Young to take care of the Saints that were left and prepare them to cross the plains to Salt Lake. This extra time in Nauvoo proved to be a blessing to Elizabeth as she was expecting her fourth child. Thus she was able to have her baby, Ianthus Haven Barlow, in a comfortable house instead of in a wagon or tent, on May 1, 1846.
Israel and Elizabeth traveled with their family to what is now known as Winter Quarters, where Israel helped to construct over 700 homes. In May of 1848, their family crossed the plains, arriving in Salt Lake City that September. Israel and Elizabeth’s fifth child, John Haven, was born on their way west at Heber Springs, on July 27, 1848, in what now is known as Platte City, Wyoming. Brigham Young’s wife had a baby at the same time. The Barlow and Young wagons laid over a couple of days to care for the mothers and their new babies, then hurried to catch up to the main company. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 23, 1848.
A year after arriving in Salt Lake, Israel moved his family to Bountiful where he had acquired a farm. They lived in tents and wagon boxes for years until they could get logs from the canyon for a home. Three years later, Israel was called to serve a mission to England. The first winter that Israel was away was very hard on Elizabeth with five children to care for. Then on February 3, 1854, she gave birth to twin boys, Willard and Wilford. There was much illness within the family, with Israel Jr. developing a severe infection and nearly dying. One of the twins, Willard, died at eight months in spite of all that Elizabeth and others did to prevent this tragedy. The other twin, Wilford, had the same illness and almost died. Elizabeth bore a total of eight children, six boys and two girls.
In 1857, Elizabeth became the first Relief Society president in Bountiful, a position she held for the next 31 years when she was released at the age of 77, in 1888. She held that position even after Israel passed away on November 1, 1883.
At age 77 years old, even though Elizabeth was released as Bountiful’s Relief Society president, she continued to champion the Relief Society until the end of her days. In 1892, the year Bountiful celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Relief Society, Elizabeth was invited to speak. Then three years later at the age of 81, she died on Christmas Day, 1892, in Bountiful, and is buried in the Bountiful Cemetery.
There is a statue of Israel and Elizabeth Haven Barlow at This is the Place Monument. Also a monument in Nauvoo, Illinois.
Source: Excerpts from “In Praise of Eve’s Faithful Daughters: The Legacy of Relief Society through the Life of a Great Grandmother” by John S. Tanner, given Thursday, April 28, 2011 at the BYU Women’s Conference 2011; FamilySearch.org, “Israel Barlow: A History;” FindAGrave.com