GRISWOLD, Emmeline - I1422

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Joseph Smith III’s First Wife—Emmeline (Emma) Griswold

By Gracia N. Jones

Emmeline Griswold Smith

Emmeline Griswold, nicknamed “Emma,” was born 12 March 1838, in Kane, Greene County, Illinois to Elias and Lucinda Halsey or Holsey Griswold. She was their ninth, of eleven children, seven daughters and four sons. Her father was born in Vermont.[1] This Griswold family moved to Greene County, Illinois sometime between 1835 and 1838.[2]We don’t know what business Elias Griswold was involved in, but according to the family story[3], he “died while on a business trip to Texas.”[4] He was only fifty-one. Emmeline was almost 11 years old when her father died in 1846; she was twenty years younger than her eldest sibling. Her mother was forty[5] when Emmeline was born; she went on to have Caroline, 1839, and Lucy, 1840[6]. By the time she moved to Nauvoo, Lucinda Griswold was already a grandmother, with numerous grown children, and several grandchildren still living in Greene County, and other locations. We have no information as to exactly when or why the Widow Griswold moved to Nauvoo with her two young daughters, Emmeline (Emma), and Caroline, who was called Carrie.

Joseph Smith III first met Emmeline, (or Emma,[7] as she was called), in the candy shop on Young Street in Nauvoo, in the summer of 1853[8]. Though their first meeting was brief, she soon captured his complete interest. One rainy day, not long after the encounter in the candy shop, as Joseph and his brother Frederick were driving up the long temple hill in Nauvoo, he saw her picking her way along the muddy street. He asked Frederick if he would allow him to take the carriage so he could offer “Miss Griswold” a ride home. He told Frederick that if he possibly could, he intended to marry her. Frederick cheerfully complied. When Joseph offered seventeen-year-old Emmeline a ride, she accepted. From that time on they attended all social activities together, and in the spring of 1956, he asked her to marry him.

He prefaced his proposal with a serious declaration that although he was not at that time involved in church work, the possibility existed that he might at some point do so. He wanted there to be no question of her objecting if, at some future time, he should be inclined to get involved in the Ministry. He explained to her that if she should accept, she needed to have no worries that he would ever get involved with polygamy or plural marriage. She said she had to think about his proposal. A few days later she gave him her affirmative answer, and they became engaged.[9] Upon learning of the engagement, her family gave her a very bad time about marrying a “Mormon.” Lucinda and her daughters attended the Methodist Church in Nauvoo. They were decidedly uncomfortable with Emmeline thinking of marrying Joseph Smith, son of the much-maligned founder of the ‘Mormon’ religion.

The family tried, by any means possible, including arguing, pleading, and scolding, to talk her into changing her mind, but she stood firm. Finally, Emma’s brother-in-law, a widower, came to visit. His wife, one of Emma’s older sisters[10], had died, and now he invited Emma to visit his family in Hastings, Minnesota, several hundred miles up the Mississippi River, near St. Paul, Minnesota. She agreed to make the trip and planned to spend the summer, then return to Nauvoo in the Fall. In any case, Joseph was working in a law office in Canton, Illinois, some distance from Nauvoo, so while they were apart, they promised to carry on their courtship through letters. In the Fall, Joseph was to go to Hastings and escort her home in time to prepare for the wedding which was scheduled for the 22nd of October. Their letters reveal the tender love they felt for one another, and the depth of character each was developing; as they overcame obstacles their relationship blossomed. In Hastings, Emma found herself besieged by unwanted attentions from a prominent young man determined to establish himself as her suitor. Somewhat flattered by his attentions, she felt confused as to her feelings. However, an incident occurred that cleared her head in that regard.

One day the team he was driving became excited, and before they could be calmed, they upset the carriage, throwing both Emma, and the young man to the ground. Neither was seriously injured, but in the furor of the moment, the fellow let loose with a barrage of swear words directed at the horses. Emma found this very distasteful and thereafter wanted nothing further to do with his attentions. Then, to her dismay, her brother-in-law began to ply her with unwanted affections. She wrote Joseph to please come and get her sooner than previously planned. Joseph was only too happy to comply. He wrote in his memoirs of the trip up the Mississippi on a steamship and the delightful time they had together on board the boat returning to Nauvoo.[11] To him it was as close to perfect as any time of his entire life.

Emmaline Marries Joseph Smith III

Joseph Smith III

When the trip to Hastings failed to turn Emma from her plan to marry Joseph, another brother, Ambrose, came all the way from Greene County, a distance of more than 200 miles across the state of Illinois, to dissuade her from going through with the marriage. He tried bribery, which didn’t work; then he became angry. The day before the wedding, he convinced his mother and sister, Carrie, to leave the home and go visit some friends several miles out of Nauvoo. When Joseph and the Methodist minister, Reverend Waldenmeyer, arrived at the home for the anticipated wedding, they found the sad little bride quite alone except for a young German girl she had asked to come and stay with her. They were married, without any of her family present, and no celebratory supper. Joseph recalled that they were happy just being together as they saw the world with “rose colored glasses.” On 22 Oct 1856, Emmaline marries Joseph in Nauvoo.

The couple went to live at his mother’s house until, after intense labor, they renovated the old Homestead[12], located across the street from the Mansion House. It was Joseph’s legacy from his father. Eventually a good-sized two-story frame addition was added on the side of the log structure making a pleasant and comfortable home for the family Joseph and Emma would have during the nine years they would spend there. Emma managed her home well and enjoyed the association of her Smith in-laws. Emma bore four daughters: Emma Josepha, 28 July 1857; Evelyn Rebecca, 28 January 1859; Carrie Lucinda, 15 September 1861; Zaide Viola, 25 April, 1863. These were mostly contented years for the couple, except for the sadness caused by the death of their eight-month-old daughter Evelyn Rebecca, on 30 September 1859. Joseph made extra effort to befriend his mother-in-law, and Lucinda Griswold eventually reciprocated. Carrie became a friend as well, and must have been delighted when Emma named her baby girl, Carrie Lucinda, after her sister and Mother. Always close knit the Smiths were happy to be all together again in the old Smith homes with Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, her husband, Lewis, younger brother David Hyrum in the Mansion.

At first, Joseph worked at the farm with his brother Frederick. Having bad weather for several seasons they went into debt[13]. Needing an income other than from the farm, Joseph was elected Justice of the Peace and served on the Board of Education in Nauvoo.

In 1857, two men came to invite Joseph to take leadership of the Reorganization that had been formed in 1853, but he rejected their offer[14]. We have no input from Emma concerning this discussion. At this point they were holding themselves aloof from all restoration groups. However, that changed, as Joseph experienced some strong impressions that he ought to consider his obligation to take up the labor his father had left unfinished.

L-R, Zaide Viola Smith Salyards, Carrie Lucinda Smith Weld, Emma Josepha Smith McCallum

There was some ‘consternation[15] in the family’ when in April 1860, Joseph and his mother, Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, went to Amboy, Lee County Illinois, where he accepted the position of president of the Reorganization, which would soon become the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When the news broke, there was some consternation in the Nauvoo community as well, until it became apparent that although young Joseph might take on Church work, he was not going to incorporate any of the things his famous father had been accused of[16].

Joseph’s younger brother, David Hyrum, joined him in the ministry, with alacrity, lending his considerable musical talent to the services that began to be held in Nauvoo and surrounding communities. Emma did not join the church right away, nor did his brothers, Alexander and Frederick.

Alexander Hale Smith and Elizabeth Agnes Kendall, were married in May 1861. Then Brother Frederick got sick; he was taken to his mother’s for special care. Alexander and Elizabeth moved to the farm where their first child, a son, Frederick Alexander Smith, was born in January 1862. Sadly, in spite of all of Mother Emma Hale Smith Bidamon’s efforts, to nurse him back to health, Frederick G. W., died, 13 April, 1862[17]. Alexander was humbled by the death of his brother and seriously considered his obligations. In May 1862, he too was baptized by his brother Joseph and his wife, Elizabeth was baptized in July. For a time. Joseph, Alexander, and their younger brother David Hyrum were busy preaching at every opportunity, between working at whatever employment they could muster up. Joseph’s work in the Reorganized Church was growing more intense. The church had moved its headquarters from Wisconsin, to Plano, Kendall County, Illinois. The workload and travel demanded of Joseph became excessive. In 1865, Joseph moved his family to Plano, Kendall County, Illinois, where they lived in a home provided for them by Bishop Israel L. Rogers. Joseph became editor of the Church’s newspaper, The Saints’ Herald.

Emma's Declining Health

A few months after their move to Plano, Emma went back to Nauvoo for the birth of her fifth child. Joseph Arthur, born 12 August, 1865 was a fine robust boy. He was eight months old when Emma took him to visit her family in Nauvoo. When Joseph put them on the train for the trip to Nauvoo, he had a distinct and fearful impression, that he would not see them again in this life. What anguish he felt when a sudden childhood illness turned deadly, and this son died in Nauvoo, 12 March 1866. He was buried next to his sister Evelyn, in the Smith family burying ground near the old Homestead in Nauvoo. This loss was almost more than Joseph and Emma could endure. Her grief was not assuaged, even when she finally decided to be baptized the day following her baby’s death, 13 March, 1866.

Headstones for L-R, Emma Josepha Smith, Rebecca Smith, & Joseph Arthur Smith, pictured with Nathan Washburn son William Washburn (son-in-law and grandson to Michael Kennedy)

Emma’s health had never been strong, but after the death of her son she seemed unable to recover or see any good in living. Over the next three years her health steadily declined and she became bedridden. Some Church ladies who stopped in to visit found her deathly pale and unable to rise from her bed or even feed herself. Alarmed, they discussed what could be done to help her. One of the visiting ladies had a sister, Bertha Madison, a capable girl who made her living by sewing fashionable clothing, occasionally doing light housework, or tending children, was prevailed upon to come into the Smith home to help out. Emma became very attached to Bertha, and Bertha became very attached to Emma and her daughters, Emma Josepha, 12, Carrie Lucinda, 8, and Zaide Viola, 4. For three months, Bertha and Joseph tenderly cared for Emma until her untimely demise, 25 March, 1869, in Plano, Kendall, Illinois, at age thirty-one. Joseph would later remark regretfully, that he did not realize at the time, but did later, how the experiences of persecution, loss, and deprivation in his youth had hardened him so that he was unable to show the compassion and empathy his wife needed from him. Joseph took his wife’s body to Nauvoo, where she was buried in the old family burying ground, near the old Homestead. She was laid to rest beside her two infants, Evelyn Rebecca and Joseph Arthur[18].

While Joseph was absent from his family on this sad errand, the children were in the care of Bertha Madison, who took them to her family home at Mission Township, Illinois, about 20 miles south of Plano. Little could she have realized, at that sad time, that Brother Joseph, prophet and president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, would, because of his desperate need for his children to have a tender caretaker, and because he needed to be able to carry on his Church work, would propose that she become his second wife. They were married six months after Emma’s death. He wrote in retrospect, that his marrying so soon was in no way an act of disrespect toward his dear Emma, but a necessity, both for his children, and for himself. He deeply respected Bertha; and the two grew to love one another devotedly.

Bertha Madison Smith

In memory of Emmeline (Emma)Griswold Smith, it is good to note that many years later, Joseph and Bertha Madison’s niece, Inez Smith Davis, found and published[19] some of the letters, including some of the poems and most personal expressions Joseph and his first wife wrote to each other. During one of their many separations, Joseph wrote from Little Sioux, Harrison County, Iowa, 14 October, 1863, in response to something she had written to him — it seems to be in the nature of reconciliation, after perhaps parting with less than amicable feelings.

“My Wife, Your welcome letter was received by yesterday’s mail. I must confess to a little ancient fluttering of the heart when I knew that I held in my hand a line traced by the hand I have so often held in mine, and the words which a heart had prompted that has so often beat in response to my own, and realized that my absence had called out the effort. I can see glimpses of future as well as past domestic happiness in your own as well as my reawakened love. There has naught seemed so terrible to me as a fear that we might learn to hate each other, but I see that we shall learn to love better, wiser, and stronger.”

Joseph sent the following poem which he had written especially to her, with this message: “These lines, Emma, were composed some time ago, yet need no alteration except that that influence held by you is no longer strange.” He ended the letter, “You know Emma, that I am yours most faithfully and [I] love you with all my heart. Joseph Smith.”[20]

To My Emma

Oh how pleasant ‘tis to think of thee
In the still watches of the weary night;
When all around seem sleeping saving me,
‘Tis then thine image rises to my sight
And all my thoughts seem centered in thee.

‘Tis often in my spirit dreams I see thee,
And ever wearing that calm, peaceful smile;
And when in waking dreams thy form I see,
‘T’will ever my sad loneliness beguile,
And always may my thoughts repose on thee.

I feel that some strange influence held by thee
Seems closing round me binding chains;
And yet it seems these very chains are free;
And bending o’er their links there e’er remains
An image bright, a counterpart of thee.

Emma wrote to Joseph 16 May 1865, when they were contemplating moving to Plano. In this we see the struggle it was for her to leave her mother and sister:

“Dear husband, I do not know hardly what to say about moving up there right away, leaving home, friends, and all. If I should be homesick and discontented being in the condition I am[21], I do not know what effect it might have and as it is I feel sometimes as though I could not stand to have you away from me the next two or three months. And if we moved now I would be leaving my poor old Mother . . . . here alone and that would be a hard thing to do. She has often said were it not for me she would not stay here, and then for me to leave her would be a trial. If we did not move until fall. . . . I wrote a few lines to you last week, not knowing whether you would get it or not before you started home—

It's a quiet summer’s day.
I dream whilst gazing on the sky
Bright dreams that quickly speed away
And leave fond hopes that droop and die.
Upon the wall I see a face,
A face which mildly looks at me,
And round that sainted forehead trace
The emblems of eternity.
Aslant the sunbeams cast a ray,
Which floating through my lonely rooms
Dissolves the clouds of somber gray,
Moves hastily its silent gloom.
I listen as I hear again
A voice which echoes to mind own
Bourne onward in a sweet refrain,
And I am content with this alone.
I clasp the picture to my breast,
The voice and sunshine all are fled,
My heart is soothed to quiet rest,
In prayer I humbly bow my head.
From your affectionate wife, Emma Smith.[22]

These writings cast a bright light over the shadowed past of what might seem to have been a life filled with strife and sorrow. Strife there was. Sorrow there was. Yet, these cherished writings reveal much of the tender relationship that developed in the short 12½ years shared by these two, who met in a candy shop, married in spite of intense family objection, lived, loved, served one another, and ultimately, through their mutual respect and commitment, came to remarkable unity and love.

After Words

Gracia Jones, Author, Chief Historian Joseph Smith Jr & Emma Hale Smith Historical Society

When I was first asked to do a bio for Joseph III’s wives, individually, I thought whatever for? They are well mentioned in our biographies of Joseph Smith III. However, after reviewing what there was in that source, I decided to see what I could do for them. At first, it seemed hopeless. There was very little information about the Griswold family in the sources I had at hand.

I spoke on the phone with a cousin, Genie Smith Graham, who has often helped me with family research. Her skill and intuition for finding hard to locate details is impressive. She did some searching in Census records and came up with the list of family of Emmeline’s parents, Elias Griswold and Lucinda. We discovered that Lucinda’s last name is spelled three ways in various sources and there was almost nothing we could do to resolve the blanks in her records. I mentioned to Genie that I thought I would use FamilySearch to try to get somewhere with the Griswolds. She mentioned that sometimes there are errors there. She is right. However, there was a great deal to learn from the records that are in FamilySearch.

Marian Virgene (Genie) Smith Graham, great granddaughter to Alexander Hale Smith

I discovered that the Griswold family is well documented and enjoys an extensive pedigree in the records. The problem is some of the information there is not accurate. There are errors. But there is truth there as well, and most of the time it is easy to identify the errors; it is a place to begin. I learned that the first Griswold of this family to come to America was Michael Griswold, who came to Connecticut from Warwickshire, England, in the early 1600s. It is evident that Elias’ great grandfather served in the Revolutionary war, as did his Grandfather father, as well. For someone of their posterity these are good clues for finding a treasure trove of information. I had to resist the urge to dive in and try to correct the errors and expand the research. It is not my responsibility to do that.

As I gathered the family records, I felt a tug in my heart and realized that although they are not my direct ancestors, they belong to the descendants of Joseph Smith III and his wife Emmeline. As I worked with the material, I discovered clues that had at first seemed to be hidden among the disjointed sentences that sometimes mention the members of Emmeline Griswold’s family. It became an obsession for me to find all I could possibly find in order to make the short biography I am preparing on her richer to the readers who may want to know; and now I am finished. I feel a satisfaction that can only be described as awesome.

Yes, I am in awe. Not that I have compiled a perfect record. It is anything but that. But I have managed to assemble in one place enough documentation to give the family a keen respect and appreciation for these ancestors of theirs. In that, I am satisfied. It is not my job to trace down and fix the errors (as mentioned before, there are some). But I have been able to get things to a good starting place for some serious researcher to go forward and clear up the issues that remain. It is sufficient for us to be able to read these names and think of them in their days of living, as real, live, warm-blooded souls, who deserve to be remembered by their posterity and shirttail relatives such as I.


  1. Elias Griswold was born 20 January 1795, in New Haven, Addison, Vermont to Adonijah and Mary Barton Griswold. Next to nothing is known of his wife, Lucinda’s background other than that she was born 10 September 1798. According to Joseph III’s memoirs, p.130 b, she died in Kane, Greene, Illinois, at the home of her daughter Carrie and son-in-law, Samuel Gardiner.
  2. This is determined because Emmeline’s sister Nancy Ann Griswold was born in New Haven, Addison, Vermont in 1835, and Emmeline, 1838, Carrie, 1839, and we assume, Lucy, 1840, were all born in Kane, Greene, Illinois.
  3. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale, Herald House, Independence, Missouri, 1929, p. 567. it says Elias Griswold died in Texas. Family records give his death date as 8 February 1846.
  4. In the family group record, in FamilySearch the death place for Elias Griswold is given as Kane, Greene, Illinois. Undoubtedly that is where he is buried; but it will take some research to determine if he died in Illinois or in Texas.
  5. It was not uncommon for women of that era to bear children well into their 40s.
  6. Lucy Griswold must have died young as she is not mentioned in any record other than her birth in 1840
  7. Note In this article Emmeline is consistently referred to hereafter as Emma, since all personal references to her by Joseph and the family use that name.
  8. Memoirs of Joseph Smith III 1832-1814, Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, A Photo-Reprint Edition of the Original Serial Publication as edited by Mary Audentia Smith Anderson; This edition edited by Richard P. Howard, The History Commission Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1979. p.51 a/b. Hereafter referenced as “Memoirs.”
  9. Joseph Smith III’s love story and letters is found in Autumn Leaves, p.252-254. Published by Herald House, Independence, Missouri; Also see Memoirs, p.51b-52.
  10. I have not found a name anywhere in the family record for this sister or the brother-in-law.
  11. Memoirs, p. 52; I have tried to discover how long this trip would require but found nothing specific. However, since the distance is over 200 miles, upriver, it is likely it required several days travel each direction. Undoubtedly, a very romantic and unusually luxurious pleasant time for this young couple. It has been reported by some writers that Joseph ‘and his wife” were with Grandmother, Lucy Mack Smith at the time she died, at the Smith farm in 14 May,1856. This is an error. Emmeline and Joseph would not marry until 22 October 1856, and during the time Joseph was attending his grandmother Emmeline was in Hastings, Minnesota visiting with her brother-in-law and his family.
  12. . This is the log house Emma and Joseph Smith moved into when they first moved to Nauvoo in 1839.
  13. This debt would plague Joseph and Emma for years. It taught him that he would never want to borrow again if he could help it.
  14. Joseph Smith III, Memoirs, p. 52, see also, p 72. Soon after Joseph and Emma were settled on the Smith farm, Samuel H. Gurley and Edmund C. Briggs visited, sent by the men who were reorganizing the scattered forces of the church in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. They urged him to join with this group who hoped he would consent to become their leader. He rejected their invitation at that time, but in 1860, after some contemplation, he decided to accept the position.
  15. Vida Smith Smith, (Vida married RLDS historian, Heman Smith), “Biography of Alexander Hale Smith,” Journal of History, January 1911-1915; Saints Herald, Independence, Missouri. This biography was reprinted by Price Publishing Company, Independence, Missouri, 2007.
  16. Not only would Joseph Smith III reject the idea of plural marriage, he became obsessed with the determination to erase every thought that his father had ever had anything to do with that detested practice.
  17. Frederick had married and had a little daughter Alice Fredericka. When he became very ill, his wife took her little girl and went to her mother’s, leaving Frederick at the farm. He was too sick to cut fire wood or build a fire, and did not have any food or water. Joseph found him there and took him home to the Mansion House. Frederick’s wife, Anna Marie (Jones) had taken little Alice Fredericka away and did not return. She later remarried and moved to Chicago.
  18. It is important to know that the distance traveled for the burial was in excess of 200 miles. Today it would take nearly four hours by car, but in 1869, they would likely have traveled by railroad. Whether the trip would have been four hours, more or less, we have no idea.
  19. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Autumn Leaves, My Father’s letters, p 252-254.; See also Inez Smith Davis, A Love Story of Long Ago, included some of Joseph Smith III’s writings and poems in Vision, p. 365. Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri.
  20. From letters of Joseph to Emma at some point when they were at a distance. Date not included. Inez Smith David, A Love Story of Long Ago, Vision, p. 366, Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri.
  21. Emma was expecting her lastborn child, Joseph Arthur, who was born in August 1865 and died 12 March 1866, while on a visit to Nauvoo. After the baby died Emma took the step she had hesitated to take and was baptized the next day. From then on, her health declined. Joseph commented in his Memoirs that he realized too late to rectify the situation, that he had been unable to empathize with his wife’s grief at the time of the baby’s death. He said due to the things he had endured at the death of his father he found it difficult to allow himself to express emotion. Having this experience in his first marriage may have caused Joseph to become the far more sensitive husband and father that is apparent in the balance of his family life.
  22. Ibid.. P. 365. By way of explanation regarding Autumn Leaves and Vision Magazine Wikipedia provides this interesting information: Autumn Leaves (1888–1929) was the first children's magazine of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church). The magazine was published in Lamoni, Iowa, and edited by Marietta Walker; In 1929, the magazine was renamed Vision, and it was discontinued in 1932.