Abraham Owen Smoot

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Question: Which building on the BYU Campus is named after Abraham Owen Smoot?

Answer: Abraham Owen Smoot was born on February 17, 1815, in Owenton, Owen, Kentucky to George Washington Smoot and Anna Nancy Rowlett. His family moved twice in his childhood, first to southwestern Kentucky and then to the banks of the Blood River in Tennessee. His mother converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1833, and Abraham joined when he was twenty years of age, on March 22, 1835.

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In February 1836 Abraham was ordained an Elder and began preaching in Kentucky and Tennessee with Wilford Woodruff, David W. Patten, and others. Woodruff would later marry Abraham's niece and name a son, Abraham Owen Woodruff, after Smoot. Abraham moved to western Missouri in 1837. From there he embarked on a five-month proselytizing mission to southern Missouri and Arkansas in 1838.

In June 1838 Abraham assisted in surveying the site of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He was one of 80 men taken prisoner with the Prophet Joseph Smith in Far West. After participating in the Missouri Mormon War, Smoot moved to Montrose, Iowa. In August 1841, he left to preach in South Carolina, and he returned in July 1842. He led a branch of the Church in Keokuk, Iowa. In 1844, he served another mission in Alabama. Abraham was called as President of the mission and worked on Joseph Smith's political campaign in Tennessee. He raised money throughout the South for the Nauvoo Temple. Abraham served nine proselyting missions for the Church. Abraham was ordained a High Priest in Nauvoo, Illinois under the hands of President Brigham Young in 1844. He officiated in the Nauvoo Temple during the winter of 1845-1846. After moving to Winter Quarters in 1846, he served as Bishop.

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Abraham was appointed to organize and lead the 4th company of Saints across the plains in the summer of 1847. He arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1847. He went back and led companies of pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1852 (from St. Louis), and again in 1856 (from Mormon Grove, Kansas).

In 1852, Abraham met the companies in St. Louis, Missouri, that had sailed on the Ellen Maria and the Kennebec, and acted as agent for the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company. He purchased supplies and conducted the emigrants to Council Bluffs. He then led the first British Company of P.E. Fund emigrants to Utah. Elder Issac C. Haight, who had led the company to St. Louis, returned to England. Abraham crossed the plains 13 times with ox and mule teams on various business missions.

In November 11, 1838, Abraham married Margaret Thompson McMeans in Far West, Missouri in the aftermath of the siege. He began practicing polygamy in January 1846 by marrying Sarah Gibbens and Emily Hill. He eventually married three more women and had twenty-seven children, three of whom he adopted. United States Senator Reed Smoot and Brigham Smoot were two of his sons; a daughter was Ida Smoot Dusenberry. Abraham’s fourth child and third daughter, Zina Beal Smoot, was the wife of Apostle Orson F Whitney.

Abraham’s Sugar House Home

Abraham’s Sugar House Home

Abraham was an alderman from the Sugar House district from 1854 to 1857. He became mayor of Salt Lake City in 1857 after the death of his business partner and then mayor Jedediah M. Grant. He served as Mayor of Salt Lake City for 10 years (1857 to 1867). He also served twice as a bishop in Salt Lake City.

Abraham was the first man to serve as Justice of the Peace in Utah. He helped organize a freight and passenger service from Kanesville (on the Missouri River) to California.

Provo, Utah and Brigham Young Academy

In 1868 Brigham Young called Abraham Smoot to be president of the Utah Stake in Provo, Utah. Smoot reluctantly accepted, and moved to Provo in February 1868. Within a week, he was elected mayor, an office he held for fourteen years, until 1882. He was a major investor in the Provo Woolen Mills, and was co-founder of a bank and a lumber company. Abraham was the first head of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University, then known as Brigham Young Academy, serving in that position for twenty years.

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Abraham is also credited with making major financial contributions to the Brigham Young Academy that allowed it to continue functioning. Today, the Administration building at Brigham Young University is known as the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building.

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Abraham Smoot died on March 6, 1895, in Provo, Utah, having mortgaged all his property to save Brigham Young Academy. (After he died, Jesse Knight, paid off all the mortgages on the houses of the wives and gave them the titles free and clear.) In 1994, his family compiled a book on his life. Abraham was buried in the Provo City Cemetery.

Source: “Abraham Owen Smoot” Story, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com