Question: How old was Alanson Eldredge when he crossed the plains to Utah?
Answer: Alanson Eldredge was born in Mansfield, Connecticut on November 16, 1781, the son of Micah Eldredge and Ann Hanks. Micah died in 1795 and Ann in 1797, leaving a young family of five or six children. After the death of their parents, it is likely the children, including Alanson, lived with relatives.
Alanson married Esther Sunderlin in Middletown, Vermont on September 8, 1803. Esther was born on January 4, 1787 in Middletown, Vermont. Esther was the daughter of John Sunderlin and Esther Clark. Together they had ten children from 1804 to 1823, three of whom died in infancy. Their oldest daughter, Lorania, died a week after her birth in Vermont.
In 1810 Alanson and Esther were living in Middletown, Vermont. Around 1817 they moved to Brutus, Cayuga, New York along with several of Alanson’s siblings and along with several of Esther’s siblings. A month after Alanson and Esther's youngest child was born, whom they named Esther, mother Esther passed away on September 7, 1823, leaving Alanson with a large family to care for. At the time of Esther’s death, the family was living in Brutus, Cayuga County, New York where Alanson carried on the business of making leather and manufacturing shoes. Esther and their two children John, who died at age two in 1820, and baby Esther, who died at two weeks, are buried next to each other in the Old Sennett Cemetery in Cayuga County, New York.
In 1832 Alanson took his remaining children and moved to Indiana where his son Horace was introduced to the gospel and baptized in 1836. Horace moved to Kirtland, Ohio the same year and then on to Missouri until 1838, when he moved back to Indiana after the persecutions drove the Saints out. According to the Nathan Tanner journal, Alanson and his son John visited Kirtland in the fall of 1836. The church records show Alanson was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 23, 1837. Sometime after his conversion, Alanson moved to Caldwell County, Missouri where he owned seventy acres of land.
In 1840 Alanson moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. After the death of the prophet Joseph Smith and the expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo, a High Council was organized. Alanson was named on the council to locate a place for Winter Quarters. After helping to scout out an area for the Saints, Alanson moved to Winter Quarters, Nebraska in 1846 where he stayed only a year.
Alanson was known to many as “Old Father Eldredge,” and to his grandchildren as “Gummy.” When making preparations for the move west, people told Alanson he was too old to make the trek at the age of sixty-five. However, Alanson was determined to go with his children.
He left with his son in the Ira Eldredge/Daniel Spencer Company, on June 17, 1847 from Elkhorn River and arrived in Salt Lake September 19, 1847. Alanson rode his horse on the journey across the plains, often times giving young children a ride. Alanson’s son, John Sunderlin, was among Brigham Young’s first group to make it to the Salt Lake Valley, and when passing by his family on the way back to Winder Quarters, he joined with them in order to help them finish their trek to the Valley. John helped settle the town of American Fork.
Alanson and his son Ira were the first settlers to open a tannery in the Salt Lake Valley. Together they settled in the area known as Sugar House. Ira served as Bishop of the Sugar House Ward from 1857 to 1866.
Alanson made several trips back across the mountains to guide other groups that followed. On March 8, 1851 Alanson received his endowments. At the age of seventy-two he married for the second time, almost thirty years after Esther died. He married Mary Corbin on June 13, 1852 at the home of his son Ira. Two years later he married Judith Hooper on August 29, 1854.
Alanson’s son Horace, born in 1816, was one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies from 1854 to 1888. He was appointed marshal of the territory, assessor and collector of taxes and a brigadier-general of the militia. At the general conference of the Church held in October 1852, he was appointed to preside over the St. Louis Missouri conference and act as a general Church and emigration agent. In the spring of 1862 after having served another term in the legislature, he was appointed Church emigration agent at New York. In April 1870 he was called to preside over the European mission. Horace Eldredge devoted most of the last years of his life to the service of ZCMI and was president in 1873, superintendent from 1876 and 1881, and from 1883 until his death in 1888. Hooper, Eldredge & Company Bank was built about 1866.
Alanson was proud of the accomplishments of his three sons. Three of his four daughters made it to Utah and married and had families. His one daughter stayed in New York and married there. She is buried in the same cemetery as her mother. Alanson built a coffin for himself. He passed away December 14, 1857 at the age of seventy-seven and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: Excerpts from the “History of Alanson Eldredge and Esther Sunderlin,” FamilySearch.org; “Horace Eldredge Story” from LDS Biographical Encyclopedia; FindAGrave.com