Horace Kimball Whitney

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Question: After immigrating to Utah with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847, what role did Horace K. Whitney have in Brigham Young’s office?

Answer: Horace Kimball Whitney, eldest child of Newel Kimball Whitney and Elizabeth Ann Smith was born in Kirtland, Ohio, on July 25 1823. He had a great love for books, and throughout his life was an almost incessant reader. His parents being well to do, and desirous that their children should learn, Horace had ample opportunity to gratify his taste for reading.

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At Painesville, Newel Whitney became acquainted with Algernon Sidney Gilbert, who thereafter became his business associate, and in a few years the prosperous mercantile firm of Gilbert and Whitney was formed at Kirtland.

In 1830 four missionaries came to Kirtland from New York state, proclaiming that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored, and that a new volume of ancient scripture had been found and translated by the gift and power of God. A prophet of God had been raised up, and by the ministering of angels, the Holy Priesthood had been restored and The Church of Jesus Christ organized. Sidney Rigdon, one of the preachers of the Campbellites, soon embraced the restored gospel, followed by many of his congregation, including Newel and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, who were baptized in November 1830. Horace was seven years of age at the time.

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The Newel Whitney family’s first meeting with Joseph Smith was unique. Having moved the headquarters of the Church to Kirtland, the Prophet arrived there early in 1831. As his sleigh stopped in front of the Gilbert and Whitney store, he sprang lightly out, bound up the steps into the store and, extending his hand, said cordially, "Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man!" Taken back, Newel Whitney responded, "Stranger, you have the advantage of me; I could not call you by name, as you have me." The stranger then said, "I am Joseph, the Prophet. You have prayed me here. Now, what do you want of me?" The Whitneys welcomed Joseph and his wife, Emma, into their home where they occupied the "East Room."

When Joseph Smith started the study of ancient languages and science, Horace was in the front rank of pupils enrolled, and being an apt grammarian, with a prodigious memory and a quick intellect, soon acquired a proficient knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He was also an expert mathematician. "Ask Horace," became a by-word among his companions in later years, whenever information was desired. They styled him "the walking dictionary." He was not only literary, but musical in his tastes. He sang melodiously, and played the flute like a master. Horace, in his early years, was very fond of manly sports, particularly swimming.

Horace removed with his parents from Kirtland in the fall of 1838, and spent the ensuing winter at Carrolton, Greene County, Illinois. In order to help support the family, Horace applied to the trustees of the school district in which he resided for a situation as teacher. A mature age was required in an applicant. He was in his sixteenth year, but was large for his age, and appeared somewhat older. Having answered every question satisfactorily to the examiners the chairman remarked, "I should take you to be about twenty-three, Mr. Whitney." "You needn't guess again," was the shrewd answer, and the young scholar was forthwith engaged.

Their journey to Missouri was intercepted by the news of the expulsion of the Mormons from that state, so the family continued on to Nauvoo, Illinois. Horace married Helen Mar Kimball on February 4, 1846 in Nauvoo. They would have eleven children together.

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At Nauvoo, Horace learned the printers' trade. After leaving Nauvoo, Horace and his family moved to Winter Quarters. Here Horace was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company, where he served as one of the scouts. On the 24th of July, 1847, they entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Horace worked diligently, aided by his younger brother, Orson, in preparing a home for his parents and family who arrived in Salt Lake on October 8, 1848.

Horace served as a major of the Topographical Engineers in the Nauvoo Legion, and while his family went south to Provo in the move of 1858, he remained as one of the guards in Salt Lake City while Johnston’s army passed through the all-but-deserted town.

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Horace was a great lover of the drama, and for many years a member of the Deseret Dramatic Association. He subsequently performed for several years in the Salt Lake theater orchestra. He was among the force of compositors who, in 1850, set the first type for the Deseret News, which still lives, the oldest newspaper in the Rocky Mountains.

Whitney homes Salt Lake City

Whitney homes Salt Lake City

During almost his entire life in Utah he was a bookkeeper in the office of President Brigham Young, a situation which he held at the time of his death. He never aspired to official life, and as he grew older, his love of quietude and distaste for publicity of any kind became more and more apparent. He was never so contented as when seated in his arm chair, devouring with eager mind Bulwer, Scott, Cooper, Dickens, Thackeray, or any of the great masters of literature.

Horace married Lucy Amelia Bloxham on October 5, 1850 in Salt Lake, but Amelia died in childbirth with her first baby, who also died. Horace married Mary Cravath on December 1, 1856 in Salt Lake, and they had 13 children together.

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Horace Kimball Whitney was an honest man, and a brilliant man, though unassuming and who had an unambitious spirit. He died at Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 22, 1884, and he was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: All data imported from Frederick Clifton Pierce, The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, (Chicago: 1895), pp. 602-603, FamilySearch.org; “Life Sketch of Newel K. Whitney,” FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com