|Eliza Ann Carter Snow|
So now we finally come to the day of Hannah Knight Libby Carter’s conversion and baptism, 4 July 1834. There is only one first-hand account of this event and we can thank Hannah’s daughter, Eliza Jane Carter Snow, for that. If it was not for the recollections of a 15 year old girl, who later in life in 1892 felt inspired to write down her impressions, we would have been left without any hard evidence of what happened that day.
We have to realize this was just four years after the Church was organized and the Carters lived literally in the back woods. The original document is housed in the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City. It is so fragile that you are not allowed to see or handle the original, so you have to deal with an aged microfilm. Her entire diary written with pencil in a notebook is all of 6 pages long and the bulk of the story is the conversion story. Being ever the skeptic I spent an afternoon pouring over the film trying to read each word so I could see if the transcription we have is accurate or not. Not every word was readable on the original but I am satisfied that the transcription is an accurate record of what Eliza Ann wrote.
|Hannah Knight Libby Carter|
Eliza Ann Carter Snow wrote the following: “I first embraced Mormonism in 1834, in the town of Newry, Oxford County, State of Maine. The first Mormon elders I ever heard preach were John F. Boynton and Daniel Bean. They came to my father's house, and my mother lay very sick. The doctors had given her up. The elders told her they were preaching a new doctrine and they told her that she could be healed if she could have faith, that they would hold hands on her. They did lay hands on her and said, 'In the name of the Lord Jesus be thou made whole.' And she was made whole and arose and called for her clothes and said I must go to the water. She walked one-half mile and was baptized in the river called Bear River and confirmed. And there was a large branch raised up in that place." (Eliza Ann Carter Snow, Autobiographical Sketch, 1892 April 10, LDS Church History Library, MS 9676 – microfilm of the original handwritten record transcribed by the author, 14 Feb 2012.) The quote of the day was John’s comment on this event, “That beats doctor bills.” (Ibid.) The date of the baptism is not recorded by Eliza Ann, or anyone else in the family for that matter. It can be inferred by the fact that the consensus date recorded in new FamilySearch for the baptism of most of the members of the family is 4 July 1834.
The effect of Hannah’s being brought back from near death and subsequent baptism sowed the seeds of division in this family on religious grounds. It is true that the family seemed to migrate together over the next 20 years but evidence will be presented that they really didn’t make the trek west together. Those who appear to share the baptism date with Hannah were John Jr., and Eliza Ann. Richard Harrison probably was baptized at that time as he lived in the home even though his recorded baptism date is 31 Oct 1832 – an obvious error. Dominicus was baptized about this time. In fact his traditional baptism date is 30 Jun 1834. Could he have been baptized first and could it have been him that sent the missionaries to his mother’s home? It is for us to guess as the truth will probably never be known. William, who was married, joined the church a little later on 17 Nov 1834. One of the girls who did join the church lacks a baptism date – Hannah is supposed to be baptized in 1844 which would make her the last of the family to join the Church. Besides their father, John, Almira, Philip and Mary Jane never joined the church. Almira was already married and pregnant with her 5 child on July 4, 1834, so she may have not witnessed the healing of her mother. Possibly the need to be loyal to her husband, who may have not been receptive to the gospel, played a part in Almira’s failure to convert. The whereabouts of Philip who was 21 in 1834 is not known for sure but most likely he was there. Why he didn’t join is not known. The surprise in the family would have to be Mary Jane, the baby of the family, and only 12 when this event happened. Again it is only for us to guess as to why she didn’t join.
One last issue for today – I have long been a champion of John Carter. I realize he has been a much misunderstood figure in our family history. It is unfortunate that four words recorded by his then 15 year old daughter would define his life – “That beats doctor bills.” It just isn’t right to define a person based on four words. John was a good man. As time will show he will keep his wife in contact with her LDS family members, but for him organized religion was not necessary. It would be so nice if we knew more about him. Unfortunately what we have is what we got and that is all.
In any case, the event of 4 July 1834 will begin the physical schism of the family over the following few years.