Chapter 5- Leaving Canada To Follow A Prophet

I am tracing my Mormon pioneer roots because my story began with those who came before.


After his baptism, Daniel became an elder in the church. He led church activities and continued sharing his belief that the Mormon faith was the only true church led by a living prophet of God. He began practicing plural marriage, marrying Nancy Ann Boice and Ann Halford.

I find it incredibly frustrating not to have women’s voices I can weave into this story’s tapestry. Mary was there during Daniel’s faith conversion. What did she think? How did he talk to her about his desire to bring other women into their marriage? Did he tell her it was God’s will? These questions remain unanswered, for what is known is what those with power deem worthy of sharing.

God’s latest revelation to Joseph Smith instructed him to gather his chosen people in a central place called Zion. Here the saints could practice their faith while waiting for Christ’s second coming. Prophet Smith had decided this holy paradise was Kirtland, Ohio.

What is it about human nature which pulls us towards new horizons? Are we destined for a continual search for greener pastures? John Wood sailed the Atlantic towards America. Henry Wood crossed the St. Lawrence River into Canada. Now it was Daniel’s turn to ponder leaving his home in Canada in search of another home in America.

At this point, Daniel and Mary had three young children Rebecca, Henry, and John. Mary was also pregnant with their fourth child. It is unknown whether his wives, Nancy and Ann, also had children. They had only been married to Daniel for a couple of years at this time.

I’m sure Daniel spent time in prayer, though personal revelation is secondary to the prophet’s revelations in Mormonism. Before deciding to obey the prophet, did he ask for input from his wives? What did Mary, Nancy, and Ann think about leaving their parents, siblings, and community? They must have known if they moved to America, it was unlikely they would return to Canada.

Daniel’s wives, Nancy and Ann, are not mentioned again in his journals or stories about him. I like to think they said, “No, we are not moving. We are staying here.” I want to believe they prayed to discern what was best for themselves. If they did have children with Daniel, those children stayed in Canada with their mothers. Nancy died about a year after Daniel and Mary left. At some point, Ann moved to Idaho, where she died in 1870. But here is where Daniel’s wives Ann and Nancy’s time in the Wood family story seems to end.

Unlike Ann and Nancy, Mary chose to go with Daniel. Together, they dismantled the life they had built on their homestead in Canada. Daniel sold land, home, and livestock to finance the move. He kept essential tools and household goods and gave the rest away.

Although Mary was well into her pregnancy, there was no time for rest. The wagons would double as sleeping quarters, meaning each inch of space was critical. How many quilts, dishes, and pans to take? How much food would be needed? How could the food be stored to last for the journey? What seeds to take? How many toys could each child bring? Did pets get left behind?

Although sad to leave, Daniel looked forward to being surrounded by brothers and sisters in the church. I wonder what family and friends left behind felt. Saying goodbye, most likely for the last time, must have been heartbreaking and bittersweet.

Wanting to take advantage of extra daylight, Mary, Daniel, and the children, left Loughborough in the summer of 1834. Traveling to a town several miles away on the St. Lawrence River, they loaded themselves. and a wagon onto a steamer called “Great Britain.” I found it ironic that John Wood left Great Britain hundreds of years earlier to sail toward America. Now a ship called “Great Britain” returned Daniel to America.

Daniel crossed the same waters he had traveled with his parents when he was three. During their passage, they encountered a hurricane storm, the likes of which the crew hadn’t seen in years. Both Mary and Daniel got seasick. Even though the storm made the voyage longer and caused the vessel to pitch, Daniel believed God would care for them.

Eventually, the steamer made it safely across. With the wagon unloaded, the journey to Ohio continued. Once in Kirtland, they lived with another Mormon family while looking for land to buy. Daniel bought a forty-acre farm using funds from the life he liquidated in Canada. Although smaller than the land in Canada, he wasted no time using his work ethic and skills learned from his father to build a log cabin and a large, framed barn. His hands cultivated the land, planting seeds for food.

It is worth pointing out that none of this would have been possible without his advantages as a white man. Land given to his father by the crown became land he owned. This land provided a home and food. When a new dream arose, he used profits from its sale to buy new land.

Little did he know his time in Kirtland would be short-lived. The Mormon search for a utopia called Zion was only beginning.

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