Fourth in a series on Wilford Woodruff's Wives

(August 22, 1827 - December 25, 1915)

Sarah Elinor Brown was born to Charles and Mary Arey Brown August 22, 1827 in Vinalhaven, Maine.[1] Sarah was the second of their five children.  Her older sister Rebecca was born in 1825, her only brother Thomas was born in 1830, and her younger sister Susan and Mary were born in 1833 and 1836.[2]   Captain Charles Brown and his family were converted to the gospel by Wilford Woodruff on his mission to Vinalhaven, Maine in 1838.  Charles Brown was baptized on January 1, 1838.[3]

When Wilford Woodruff left the New England states with a group of converts to join the Saints in Missouri he learned that the Saints had been expelled from Missouri.  Due to their late start, the Woodruffs and several other families, including Charles Brown’s, decided to spend the winter in Northern Illinois and go on to Commerce, Illinois in the spring.  Charles and his oldest daughter Rebecca died in Rochester, Illinois in June 1839.[4]

Mary and her four remaining children went on to join the Saints in Nauvoo.  The Woodruffs helped them get established.  According to Harriet Jane Lamb, to help support the family, “Sarah found employment as a waitress at an inn or tavern house near the jail in Carthage. She was working there when the Prophet Joseph Smith was brought there and imprisoned by his enemies. The day before he was martyred many of the mob came into the tavern to make their plans and bolster up their courage with drink Anti-Mormon feeling was running high. A man brandishing a pistol threatened Sarah with death if she would not deny her religion, but she said, "I am a Mormon." The drunkened mob would not let him kill her, saying she was too pretty to die, but they tried to get her to renounce her faith. They made her leave the tavern and she went back to Nauvoo, very frightened and upset. She warned the brethren of the plans to kill the prophet. All her life she vividly recalled what the mobsters had told her they were going to do to ‘Joe Smith’.”[5]

At the age of 18, Sarah received her endowment in the Nauvoo Temple on February 7, 1846, two weeks after her mother Mary.[6]  Mary was sealed to Loren W. Babbitt on February 6, 1846.  Loren’s wife Almira Castle died in 1845 leaving four young children and combined with Mary’s four children they had eight.  Six months later, in Iowa Territory near what became known as Cutler’s Park, Sarah was sealed to Wilford Woodruff, three weeks before her nineteenth birthday.  Brigham Young performed the ceremony on August 2, 1846, and also sealed Mary Caroline Barton and Mary Ann Jackson as Wilford’s plural wives.[7] 

Wilford Woodruff obliquely references the occasion in his journal, simply stating that Brigham Young and Willard Richards came to his tent and “President Young delivered an interesting lecture upon the priesthood and the principal of sealing.  There being present: Phebe W. Woodruff, [Mary] Caroline Barton, Sara [Elinor] Brown, Mary [Ann] Jackson.”[8] 

The personal lives of the three women sealed to Wilford that day were very different.  Mary Ann Jackson had known the Woodruffs for about a year and had worked as a housekeeper for them when Phoebe and Wilford were living in Liverpool, England.  Wilford Woodruff had introduced Sarah Elinor Brown’s family to the gospel on his mission to the Fox Islands off the coast of Maine and known them since 1838.  On the other hand, I have not been able to determine Wilford’s long-term relationship, if any, with the Barton family.  Both Mary Ann’s parents died before she was introduced to the gospel.  Sarah Elinor’s father had died on the journey from Maine to Illinois in 1839 and her mother had been sealed to Loren Babbitt in 1846.  Both Mary Caroline’s parents were members of the Church and living among the Saints in the Iowa camps.

In August 1846, Wilford Woodruff was 39 years old, Mary Ann Jackson was 29, Sarah Elinor turned 19 on August 22, and Mary Caroline was 17.  The ages of the two younger women at the time of the sealing was probably a factor in their subsequent behavior.  It is not clear if they considered their sealing a spiritual one, not an earthly or physical union, or if they simply chose to continue socializing with others their own age.  Apparently Wilford did not believe Sarah and Mary’s personal conduct in camp following their sealing on August 2, was in compliance with the established rules. 

Six days after their sealing, Wilford recorded rebaptizing Phoebe twice and also rebaptizing Mary Caroline, Sarah Elinor, Mary Ann Jackson, and Rosetta King.[9]   He does not explain why he rebaptized those five women, but rebaptism was considered a symbol of recommitment to the gospel principles, used to symbolize a new beginning, and a method of healing or restoration of health.  In Phoebe’s case the rebaptism was for health, but does not make it clear if their conduct in camp was the reason for rebaptizing Sarah and Mary.

According to Wilford, Mary and Sarah spent 15 nights straight, sometimes until 2:00 am, in the company of three young men in camp: Daniel Barnum, Jack Clothier, and Peletiah Brown.[10]   They played the fiddle and danced and Wilford believed that led to other things.  He forbade Sarah and Mary from continuing such “night ramblings.” Two days later, on August 28, a meeting at Wilford’s tent included Sarah, Mary, Mary’s parents, Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young and Willard Richards.  Both Mary and Sarah were given the option to stay and follow the rules, or leave Wilford’s family.  Wilford recorded the meeting in his journal: “I called my family together and I laid before them the conduct of [Mary] Caroline Barton and Sarah Brown in their night ramblings with unprincipled young men.  Many things were said upon the subject.  They manifested a disposition to live elsewhere and I wished them to do so if they would not conduct better.  Elder Richards prophesied to them in the name of the Lord that they would see the day that they would be willing to have their right arm severed from their body if that would restore them to the place and station they were now losing.  But, in consequence of their bad conduct, I sent Caroline to her father and mother, and Sarah . . . went to Brother Baker’s until she could get [a place].”[11]  The three young men were whipped for their alleged sexual misconduct with the Mary and Sarah.[12]

I have not found any clear records of the next few years in Sarah’s life.  Sarah’s mother divorced Loren Babbitt at some point, and the next documented event in Sarah’s life was her marriage to Lisbon Lamb on February 15, 1849 in Kanesville, Iowa.[13]  Lisbon served as a private in the Mormon Battalion and returned to Winter Quarters in October 1847.[14]  Lisbon and Sarah are listed in the 1850 census of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.  Lisbon’s occupation was “grocer.”[15]  They apparently met and courted while preparing to follow the Saints to Utah.  In the meantime, Lisbon’s parents had worked their way to Kanesville, Iowa and Abel had established a bakery.  Abel and his sons sold cakes, pies, crackers and bread and earned enough money to head west with the Johnson Company on June 12, 1850.[16]

After reaching the Salt Lake Valley in September, Sarah and Lisbon initially lived in Salt Lake City.  They had three children together.  Two sons, Don Lisbon born July 2, 1855 in Salt Lake City, and Albert Marion born on May 5, 1857 in Lamb’s Canyon.  Lisbon worked in Lamb’s Canyon with his father Abel, who was also a cooper.  They made things like barrels, washboards, churns and water buckets.

In the summer of 1857, Lisbon and Sarah did not move south with the rest of the Saints in anticipation of the approach of Johnston's Army.  They remained in Lamb’s Canyon and served as “lookouts.” Lisbon then joined Lot Smith's “raiders,” a group that worked to thwart the progress of Johnston’s Army.  Among other things they burned the army’s supply wagons, stampeded their cattle, set the grass on fire so their animals would have nothing to eat.

After the new governor of Utah Territory was peacefully installed and the “Utah War” was over, Lisbon and Sarah moved to Farmington, Utah with their two sons.  Lisbon’s parents were also residents to Farmington.  Lisbon was a cooper, and his family built and operated a sawmill.  On March 12, 1862 Sarah’s only daughter, Mary Jane, was born in Farmington. 

Four years later, on February 3, 1866, Lisbon married Subrina Catherine Smith, and they had six children. The two families lived in the same house together.  On the 1870 census for Farmington, Utah Lisbon and Sarah are listed with their three children, Don age 15 – a laborer – Alfred, age 13, and Mary, age 8.  Sarah’s occupation is “keeping house” and Lisbon is listed as a cooper.[17]  In the 1880 census Lisbon at age 52, is listed as a carpenter.  Both Sarah, age 52, and Subrina, age 33 are listed as his wives.  Don, now 24 is a teamster, Alfred or “Ally” age 23 is a lawyer, and Mary, age 18, is “assistant house keeper.”  Subrina’s children are George, age 13, Ann, age 11, Lucy, age 9, Charles, age 7, Catherine, age 5, Alonzo, age 3, and Brigham, age 10 months.[18]  Lisbon died later that year, on October 19, 1880, at the age of 53. 

 Sarah lived to be 87 and died in Farmington on December 25, 1915.  Her obituary in the Davis County Clipper dated January 1, 1916 read in part, “she experienced all the vicissitudes and hardships incident to early Church history and arrived in Utah in 1851 … Lifelong associates of hers have said they never saw her angry nor had they ever heard her talk about anybody.”  She was survived by her three children, many grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren.

References to Captain Charles Brown in Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, 1:219-20, 223, 241, 277, 293, 302, 352.
Davis County Clipper, January 1, 1915. 
Heart Throbs of the West, Volume11.
History by Harriet Jane Lamb Stradling.
Juanita Brooks, “On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout 1844-1861,” 
Manuscript History of Brigham Young.
Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register.
Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 6. 
Wilford Woodruff’s Journals.
William Clayton’s Journal.