William Cockran Adkinson Smoot

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Question: Was William C. Adkinson Smoot the last surviving member of Brigham Young’s 1847 Vanguard Company?

Answer: William Cockran Adkinson was born January 30, 1828, in Paris, Roane, Tennessee to Charles and Margaret Thompson Adkinson. William’s father died in 1838, and his mother married Abraham O. Smoot. William was adopted by Abraham O. Smoot in 1838 and went by the surname of Smoot for the rest of his life.

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He was baptized on February 8, 1836, at age eight, by H.G. Sherwood, and that same year moved with his family to Far West, Missouri. After being persecuted out of Missouri, the family moved to Nauvoo, where William helped with the construction of the Nauvoo Temple and was given his temple blessings and ordained a seventy at a young age.

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In 1847, nineteen-year-old William was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was in the 7th Ten led by James Case. He was assigned as a guard in the first pioneer company. He stood guard duty every three nights, missing only one night during the entire journey. He was in the last wagon of the Company to enter the Salt Lake Valley, but once there assisted in laying out the city, "carrying and driving stakes." He spent the winter in the north fort, and then moved to Canyon Creek and began farming.

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William was one of the missionaries called in the first group to serve in the Las Vegas, Nevada Mission (1855-1857). Their mission was to teach the gospel to the Indians and establish a halfway station between Utah and California. The mission was abandoned in February 1857. William made several trips across the plains to bring converts, who lacked the means for transportation, to the Salt Lake Valley.

William was set apart as counselor to Abraham O. Smoot in the Sugar House Ward, and took charge of the Ward from 1866-77. He was called to serve a mission for a short time, in the United States and Canada in October 1867 and was set apart by Joseph F. Smith.

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William married Martha Sessions on January 29, 1852 in Salt Lake City. They had fourteen children together. Martha died in January 1877, just twelve days after her last child was born.

Martha’s mother, Julia Ann, had died in Nauvoo in January 1845, when Martha was just ten years of age. She had traveled with her father, Perrigrine Sessions, to Utah in the Daniel Spencer/Perrigrine Sessions Company in June 1847, and kept a journal of their journey. Martha was a stalwart pioneer mother.

William had married Margaret Phoebe Freeman in polygamy in June 1857. They had one son, but separated. In October 1876, William married Mahala Garn, a widow, in polygamy, and they had three children together. Mahala had seven children from her previous marriage. Mahala became a mother to William and Martha’s younger children, as well as caring for her own. In the 1880 census, William and Mahala are listed with thirteen children, with their combined families.

William was the last surviving member of the Vanguard Company. He died Jan. 31, 1920, a day after his 92nd birthday. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery beside Martha.

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Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Las Vegas Mormon Fort, Missionaries, 1855-1858,” FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com