Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy 181st Birthday, Orin Hatch (1830-1906)!

Anna Cramer's great-grandfather

Our young Mormon Battalion pioneer and patriarch.

Third of seven children born to Ira and Wealthea Hatch, Orin was raised in wooded western New York, where he and his brothers made friends with the Indians and even learned some of their language. The Hatches were early LDS converts and joined the Saints in Nauvoo.  At age ten, Orin and his two older brothers lived east of the city on Eton Farm and cared for sheep and cattle while the rest of the family was twenty miles away in Nauvoo.  At one point they were trying to get a skunk out from under a granary.  Orin looked under it as his brother Meltiah shot the animal, and Orin got some shot in his face and lost the sight in one eye (note left eye in photo above).  Not long after, his mother died when Orin was eleven years old. 

Orin wanted his own personal witness before being baptized and resisted his father’s encouragement to do so until just after his fourteenth birthday. He was standing on the bank of Crooked Creek, Illinois, watching the elders perform the ordinance of baptism.  As he watched, some power seized hold and shook him so violently that he was about to fall to the ground.  Orin said that he felt as though somebody was thoroughly out of patience with him for his obstinacy, so he crossed the creek and asked to be baptized, fully convinced that he was doing the right thing.  “Having put his hand to the plow, he never turned back.  The next sixty-two years were dedicated in service to the Lord and His great work.”

Only a month after his baptism, Orin was near Carthage (his father and brother were there with the Nauvoo Legion) and heard the shots ring out when the mob killed the prophet Joseph Smith. At age sixteen, Orin enlisted in the Mormon Battalion as its next-to-youngest member to take the place of his sick elder brother.  Another older brother, Meltiah, was solemnly charged by their father to take care of young Orin.  He was in Company C, and one source said that Orin was a bugle boy with the Battalion.

As the Battalion marched to California, Orin fell deathly ill with scurvy.  For three days, he was left behind on the trail to die, and at the end of each day’s march, Meltiah retraced his steps to bring his brother back to camp.  Finally, an officer allowed Orin to ride on a horse; he was so weak he had to be tied in place.  The Battalion raised the American flag in San Diego and Orin was one of the five men selected to secure the pole. The Hatch boys stayed in California through the winter and were there when gold was discovered.  Family legend says that as they walked back east, Meltiah’s shoes wore out and Orin let him wear his, walking barefoot into the Salt Lake Valley. 

They returned to Missouri and then helped their families cross the plains to Utah.  Orin married Elizabeth, and gave her a ring made from a California gold nugget.  When he was called to colonize Carson Valley, Nevada, she was pregnant and refused to go.  He took a second wife, Maria, who accompanied him.  After two years in Nevada, Orin and Maria returned to Utah.  He settled in Bountiful, and lived primarily with his first wife, although the two families were friendly and gathered for holiday celebrations.  Orin farmed, raised sheep, formed the Deseret Live Stock Company, and was ordained a patriarch in 1899. 

Orin Hatch with his family
Despite his lost vision, Orin spent much time reading and studying and was well-acquainted with the scriptures.  He was remembered for being gentle and kind, and a testimony to his parenting is the fact that all of his living children were married in the temple.  At the time of his death of parenchymatous nephritis (a kidney inflammation), Orin had 111 grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren, and may have been the last surviving member of the Mormon Battalion.  (This ancestor is not connected to similarly named Senator Orrin Hatch; our connection with him is through Hezekiah Hatch.)  An online life sketch can be found here.

I would give him a new pair of shoes!


  1. I always loved hearing about Orin during bedtime stories, and I'd give him the chance to read what we've written about him.

  2. I would give him vit c for the scurvy.
    It has been fun to listen to other hatch clan members not of frank s who tell the same story of his illness.
    You are incredible.
    You are so good you may be invited to Rango if it comes to the dollar theater. You earned it.