Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy 209th Birthday, Ira Stearns Hatch (1802-1869)!

Anna Hatch Cramer's great-grandfather

(Well, either 209th or 211th, since his birth year is disputed.)  Ira met Joseph Smith under unusual circumstances, and then prophesied to his unbelieving brothers that he would move out west and raise more posterity than all of them combined.  His first two wives died, another left him for a friend going to the Gold Rush, and the last two were Scottish emigrants who didn't get along with each other.  But the prophecy has probably been fulfilled nonetheless.
The oldest of eight children, Ira grew up in New Hampshire.  By the time he was eleven years old, he was chopping wood for seven families whose fathers were off in the War of 1812.  Ira was of Puritan descent and religious by nature, but his wife discouraged organized religion, saying no church on earth agreed with her convictions.  When Wealthea found one that did, Ira consented to her baptism. 

He himself visited the prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland and there gained a remarkable testimony of the prophet’s divine calling: without telling anyone of his intent, Ira had taken a large sum of money with him to donate to the Church if he found Joseph Smith to be a prophet.   It was a three-day journey, and Ira arrived in Kirtland and was directed to the outskirts of town where Joseph and other were cutting timber.  As Ira approached, the prophet stopped his work and said, “Brother Hatch, I’ve been expecting you for three days.  The Lord needs the money you have brought to help build the temple here in Kirtland.”  Ira donated two hundred dollars to build the pulpit, and was baptized, but remained in New York for six more years hoping to convert his parents and siblings. Ira and his older sons briefly returned to Kirtland to help finish building the Kirtland Temple.  Patriarch Joseph Smith Senior gave Ira and Wealthea patriarchal blessings in 1836.

Unsuccessful in their family missionary efforts, Ira and Wealthea decided to gather with the Saints in 1840; he sold his property to his brothers, who offered to give it back to him if he would stay.  Ira  replied, “No, I will go out west and raise more posterity than all of you put together.”  Ira’s patriarchal blessing also promised that his children should increase, become very numerous, and be mighty among the Saints.  Since he had several wives, and currently has posterity numbering in the tens of thousands, this is true. 

The Hatches acquired two Illinois residences, one in Nauvoo and one twenty-two miles east at Eton Farm for livestock.  Ira and Wealthea both suffered in the cholera epidemic of 1841, and Wealthea died.   Ira and his oldest son Meltiah served in the Nauvoo Legion, and Ira sent two sons, Meltiah and Orin, off to the Mormon Battalion.  Remarrying a widow brought peace and harmony back into a household that motherless children felt had become chaotic and contentious.  Ira worked on the Nauvoo Temple and received his endowment there, and also attended the School of the Prophets.

Waiting for his sons to return from the Battalion was a real struggle, and the Hatches were unable to go to Utah until the men returned.  The Hatch family lived in Council Bluffs, Winter Quarters, and Missouri, and the family became motherless once more as Abigail died in childbirth.  Ira had to leave for three weeks and cross the Mississippi to search for food and medicine for his dying son Ira, leaving fifteen-year-old daughter Rhona in charge.  Rhona was terrified as Indians stole seven horses, and her brother (who did eventually recover) lay on his deathbed.  Despite this incident, Ira was a true friend to the Indians.  He farmed among them in New York, Nebraska, and later in Utah.  They called him “Bobuke,” which means “Truly Great Man.”

Ira’s marital situation was turbulent.  Although sealed to ten women, several were marriages in name only.  After his first two wives died, it turned out that his third was only in the marriage for a convenient ride west. Once in Utah, Mary left Ira to go with friends to the Gold Rush in California.  Ira only lived in polygamy in later Utah years with the two Janes, his Scottish emigrant wives, and there was tension between these women.  Jane Stewart moved out of Ira’s bed, telling her daughter later that she was “not going to be stung by a bee” (meaning wife Jane Bee). 

Settling in Bountiful, Ira farmed and participated in the community.  He was a trustee for the first school in Bountiful.  Ira’s three brothers came to visit him in Utah but did not convert or stay long.  His children by Wealthea were so much older than Ira’s Utah brood that the families were fairly separate.  At the time of Ira’s death, his first sons were married and had several children, while his youngest daughter was three weeks old.  Ira’s step-daughter Jane McKechnie Walton (prior daughter of wife Jane Bee), who was murdered in 1891, had wonderful experiences with Ira and her biography paints Ira in very glowing terms. 

He was ordained a Seventy shortly before his death, which was sudden in his sleep.  Ira was always true to the faith he embraced and known for his honesty, integrity, and devotion, and remembered as a stern man of deep convictions.   His daughter Rhoana said that Ira taught her the Word of Wisdom so effectively that she was never tempted to disobey that principle.

Happy birthday Ira!  I would give you a getaway with your wife (preferably Wealthea, my ancestor), to escape the turbulent marriages and enjoy some marital harmony once again.


  1. I'd give him a psychology book, both because I think he might enjoy reading it and because it might help him understand his wives!

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. he is my great great grandfather and I am so glad to read it.

  3. Ira is my 3rd great grandfather by Jane Ann Stuart Hatch. I was wondering, there were so many personal insights to things said and done, do you have his journal or something? I've been trying desperately to find more personal things on him, Jane Ann and their son (my 2nd great grandfather) Stephen Cornelius Hatch. If you have anything my email is oh and my name is Sara :-) Thank you cuz.