Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy 185th Birthday, Lorenzo Hill Hatch (1826-1910)!

Nita Woodland Welch's great-grandfather

Quintessential pioneer and in my top ten personal favorites list, Lorenzo Hill Hatch was undaunted by challenges and loved his family. Because of his detailed journals, much is known about his life. These can be found online here and  here.

young Lorenzo Hill Hatch
Third of seven children raised in Vermont, Lorenzo was the grandson of both a Revolutionary War veteran and a banished Tory loyalist. He was baptized at age fourteen by means of a saw-cut hole in the one-foot thick river ice. Despite subsequent family tragedies as his mother and two brothers died, the Hatch family moved to Nauvoo in 1842. Then his father Hezekiah was murdered in 1843, leaving the children orphaned.

At age eighteen, Lorenzo volunteered to go on a mission to his native state, and traveled on foot over a thousand miles to Vermont, preaching powerfully and converting his aunt, among others. When he heard of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, Lorenzo grieved as for his own father again. While reading a letter from his uncle (Sidney Rigdon’s son-in-law), which proclaimed Sidney Rigdon the new leader, Lorenzo heard a voice in the empty room declare, “Brigham Young is the man God has chosen to fill the vacancy.” Lorenzo stayed on his mission for another year, earning his way by cutting wood until he could return to Nauvoo.

He worked on the Nauvoo Temple in the final months and there received his endowments and married Hannah Fuller, whom he had met on his mission. Hannah and Lorenzo were both ill in Winter Quarters, and he wrote, “I was very sick, so much so that I could not sit up a few minutes when Hannah died. This was a day of trouble. I had buried the companion of my youth and was near leaving this world myself.”

Lorenzo was sorry to miss the opportunity to serve in the Mormon Battalion because he was with a group building bridges on the Platte River at the time it was mustered. He settled in Lehi, Utah, where he met Sylvia Eastman on Christmas Day 1850. They shared a common Vermont background and were wholly committed to their faith. They married and their first child, our ancestor Lorenzo Lafayette, was born on the next Christmas Day.

Lorenzo took a plural wife shortly before being called to serve a mission to England in 1856-1858. On his mission, Lorenzo and Apostle Ezra T. Benson were nearly thrown into the river by an angry crowd but managed to escape. “Pastor Hatch” had no equal as a preacher and quoted scripture fluently. He sent packages of gloves and needles to his wives back home and missed them, particularly knowing that at one point they were suffering from hunger and eating sego lily roots to survive. Lorenzo’s fourth wife Alice was a British convert he met on his mission. He preached in Sheffield (where the Welches had been) and interacted with other ancestors also serving at the time, William Muir (Cramer line) and Asa Calkin (Hunter line). Lorenzo had a rough journey home, from a train wreck in New York to being captured by Johnston’s Army outside of Utah; then when he finally returned to his family, two of his children were afraid of the father they didn’t remember.

He served as mayor of Lehi, and then was called by Brigham to move north and serve as bishop of Franklin, Idaho. There Lorenzo brokered peace with the Indians by entering their camp after the Bear Creek massacre and impressing them with his bravery in asking for a place to spend the night. Lorenzo was elected as an Idaho State legislator, the first LDS man to serve in that position, and then became the mayor of Franklin. Lorenzo was ordained a patriarch after a prophetic dream in 1873 and served as bishop and patriarch simultaneously. His patriarchal blessings were remembered for being particularly prophetic. On one occasion he spoke in tongues when Zina D. H. Young came to Franklin to organize the Young Ladies Improvement Association, and she translated; he also recorded another instance of speaking in tongues later in his journal.

Hatch house, Franklin ID

Just as he was at the point of providing for his family and prospering in Franklin, Lorenzo was called in a new direction (a repeat of his Lehi experience). Lorenzo was arrested for polygamy and called on a mission south to avoid jail. He made benches for the St. George Tabernacle and gave patriarchal blessings before moving on to the more wild Indian lands. Lorenzo nearly drowned at Lee’s Ferry in a crossing accident (one man did die), and lost possessions in the water including one of his journals, which he referred to later as “my drounded Journal.” For a time he served the Zuni Indians of New Mexico and Arizona with one wife and some children accompanying him.

Lorenzo struggled to divide his time and energy between different farms and families for the next twenty-four years, at one point having three wives living in three different states. He ran the Woodruff Dam on the Little Colorado River in Arizona, and helped in its reconstruction eight different times after it washed away. Several times he nearly starved. He worked tirelessly, traveled for days to attend Church meetings and see family, and faithfully wrote letters to family and Church leaders. He loved his animals and cared for them well. Lorenzo was a prolific journal and letter writer, although he lacked formal education and felt its absence. His chronicles are exhausting merely to read and contemplate—the broken wagons he drove in the middle of nowhere, the illness, the work, the harsh weather, the concerns for family welfare and for providing physical and spiritual sustenance to children and wives he hadn’t seen in years.

He had a dozen surviving sons and a dozen daughters. A son-in-law, Samuel Smith, recalled that Lorenzo was high-spirited and quick-tempered, that he couldn’t control his voice but he could control his tongue, meaning he would yell but not swear. Samuel loved Lorenzo’s vein of rich humor, how his sharp eyes would sparkle and he would join in a hearty laugh as he told a good joke. Unfortunately, he said that Lorenzo had no sense of direction, which was a hindrance on many occasions. He was also remembered for puttering around, helping others, but not always finishing his own chores until late at night, yet he was wise and well-balanced.

Lorenzo traveled north for thirteen sessions of the Salt Lake Temple dedication. Four of his well-meaning sons (one representative from each wife, and two of Sylvia’s, Lafayette and Hezekiah) in 1900 wrote a letter to Church leaders asking that their seventy-five-year-old father be released from his mission without his knowledge of their involvement. Lorenzo was at last released and moved north, working in the Logan Temple in his later years. He was invited by Joseph F. Smith to give the benediction in a 1902 conference session. At eighty years old, Lorenzo stated, “I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was raised up to establish this work, and that the Book of Mormon and revelations received by him are from our Heavenly Father. I bear testimony that Brigham Young and all the men who have presided from Brigham Young to our beloved president Joseph F. Smith are prophets of the Most High God.”

Lorenzo relished brandishing a silver-headed monogrammed cane one grandson sent him from a mission in Samoa. He was intrigued by “printed” letters he received from his son (new typewriter invention) and sent his personal history to Logan to be copied on a “Tipi writer.” In his later years Lorenzo wrote to the railroad requesting a free pass due to his work on the railroad in Idaho decades earlier (which had been a financial loss to him) and received a pass allowing him to travel whenever and wherever he wanted.

Lorenzo was determined and strong-willed, yet also sensitive and humble. Despite his sacrifices for the kingdom, he never criticized Church leaders or their decisions. He was a successful colonizer, undaunted by hopeless challenges. He was also a faithful family man, a tender husband, an involved father and caring grandfather. Family unity was vital and he wrote to a son, “I have laid the foundation for you all. Build thereon and let not my house be divided.” Lorenzo’s house in Franklin, Idaho, has recently been restored and opened to the public. There and in the Relic Hall his woodworking tools and chest are displayed, as well as a child’s cradle and a doll cradle that he made—showing both his practical and his sentimental side.

Lorenzo amazes me. And I wish I could give him an iphone with GPS—so he didn’t get lost in all his colonizing adventures, and he could keep in touch with those wives and kids scattered all over. And maybe he could give me a call on it too.
What would you give him?


  1. I'm sure LH would have made uses of iPhone we can't dream of, given his ability to communicate with inspirational voices that told him of BY's calling. Great gift for a great man.

    I would give to Lorenzo Hill Hatch a 2 pound coin. I am influenced in this decision by your other ancestor with the same date birthday. Indeed I would give to Sir Isaac a 2 pound coin as well, for it is his words etched (coined?) on the rim that mean much to me as I think of LHH and WWW and others of whom you will write: "Standing on Shoulders of Giants".

    The full phrase rightfully depicts me as but a dwarf, able to see far because I stand on their giant shoulders.

    In looking it up I ran across a quote from a 13th century Jewish writer that captures my feelings. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants

    Happy Birthday to both Lorenzo and Isaac!

  2. Am loving this -- thanks so much, Anita! This makes learning about our ancestors so much less daunting and palatable. Not a huge book all at one. Lorenzo truly was incredible! WOW -- we are blessed.

  3. Thanks for reading! I love the coin idea, Dave.

  4. I'd give him a laptop. He could print, have a GPS, email, and so many other cool things that I bet he'd have fun with.

  5. Hey, cousin, Lorenzo Hill Hatch is my great-great grandfather. I'm descended from Sylvia Eastman's son Hezekiah Eastman Hatch (via their son, Joseph Eastman Hatch and my father Eastman Nibley Hatch). Thanks for posting the story of our shared ancestor. We have his beaver top hat which he purchased on his mission to England. Thinking of donating it to the Idaho Historical Society for display in the Hatch House. - Richard Clawson Hatch