Question: Was Benjamin William Rolfe a member of the Church when he went with Brigham Young in his Vanguard Company to Utah in 1847?
Answer: Benjamin William Rolfe was born on October 7, 1822, in Romford, Oxford, Maine, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Hathaway Rolfe. His parents having embraced the fullness of the Gospel in Maine, moved to Kirtland, Ohio in the fall of 1834. Benjamin’s father, Samuel, was a carpenter, and worked on the Kirtland Temple. They then moved with the saints to Missouri and settled in Caldwell County. Due to the persecution, they left Missouri and located in Adams County, Illinois.
In 1841, when Benjamin was nineteen, the family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Samuel and Benjamin helped in the construction of the Nauvoo Temple. Because of the poverty prevalent among so many of the Latter-day Saint families living there, including his own family, Benjamin, went to Missouri in search of employment that would enable him to purchase an outfit for them on the westward journey.
While he was away, Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company was organized. Benjamin’s father, Samuel Rolfe, was selected as one of those to accompany the vanguard in the spring of 1847. Benjamin, upon learning the news, returned at once and offered his services instead for he felt that his father was not physically strong enough to make such a rigorous trek. His father was a Bishop at Winter Quarters, but was 53 years of age.
At this time Benjamin was had not yet joined the Church, but he was accepted and along the route was commended by President Young for his excellent conduct. Benjamin was 24 years of age at that time. After his arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, he busied himself with the numerous tasks of a new settlement and a month later accompanied President Young back to Winter Quarters. When the company arrived at Chimney Rock, Benjamin was selected to accompany John Young Greene to Salt Lake City for the purpose of carrying the mail.
Benjamin’s father, Samuel, and mother, Elizabeth, and three of his brothers and one sister went to Utah soon after the Vanguard Company left. They left Winter Quarters in June 1847 in the Abraham O. Smoot, George B. Wallace Company and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1847. Benjamin returned to Winter Quarters and immigrated back to the Salt Lake Valley with his oldest brother, Gilbert, and his family in Heber C. Kimball’s Company in the summer of 1848.
Benjamin became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about 1851, and he married Prudence Larilla Gibbs on February 12, 1851 in Salt Lake City. They were both 28 years of age at the time of their marriage. They had four children, their third child dying as a baby. Prudence’s mother had died in Nauvoo in November 1841.
After Benjamin was ordained a Seventy, he was sent as a missionary to the Salmon River Indians to teach them the gospel. After this mission proved unsuccessful, he returned to Salt Lake City where he worked as a carpenter and worked on the Salt Lake Temple. He was ordained a member of the 16th Quorum of Seventies and was active in church work until the time of his death which occurred on May 31, 1882 at age 59. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery on June 2, 1882.
Source: Our Pioneer Heritage, p. 604, FamilySearch.org; Story of Benjamin William Rolfe, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com