The death of Hosea

By: J. Stapley - August 15, 2007

Hosea Stout was in charge of police at Nauvoo and Winter Quarters. His diary, edited by Juanita Brooks, is a great treasure, though very rare on the used book market. He wrote mostly of the activities relating to his work, but on occasion we see personality that reflects the devastation of the pioneer trek. Hosea left Nauvoo with six children and within a year and a half lost them all. Especially poignant is the death of his namesake:

The weather was still heavy and like for rain There was quite a number of Indians came to camp to day some we fed They were all friendly

Little Hosea was all this time on the decline and the laying on of hands seemed to do but little or no good but to day we concluded to call in all the men & women who had had their endowment and have the ordinance performed according to the Holy order & with the signs of the Priesthood Accordingly we did so in my tent Br Spencer taking the lead which seemed to do some good for the child was better afterwards & we felt incouraged that he thus seemed to appear to be under the influence of the ordinances of the Priesthood and we now had hope again that he would yet be delivered from from the power of the destroyer. But our hopes were destined to be of short duration for in the evening there came one of the hardest rains that had been this summer.

The water came in torrents & the wind blew hard. In a few minutes our tent was down & the water ran through the waggon covers and thus every thing we had was wet almost before we knew it. The beds were also wet and Hosea was soon discovered by his mother to be lying in water so fast did it come in on the bed. He was immediately taken worse and thus our last hopes for him vanished

The rain continued an hour or so and before dark the Nodaway was out of its banks notwithstanding it is a stream That is very deep being about twenty feet banks. The bridge across it is about 8 or nine feet below the surface of the level ground and it was thought by us before this rise that the water would never come up to the bridge. At dark the bottom was like one continued sea and some of the tents and waggons standing in the water.

[1846 June 27] …Clear and warm. My child was still worse The water falling very slowly…My child seemed strangely affected to night after laying hands on him we found him to [be] troubled with evil spirits who I knew now were determined on his destruction He would show all signs of wrath to wards me & his mother and appearantly try to talk. His looks were demoniac accopanied by the most frightful gestures I ever saw in a child. His strength was greater than in the days of his health.

[pg. 171] At times I felt almost to cowl at his fierce ghastly & horrid look and even felt to withdraw from the painful scene for truly the powers of darkness now prevailed here. We were shut up in the waggon with nothing to behold or contemplate but this devoted child thus writhing under the power of the destroyer It was now late in the night & he getting worse when we came to the conclusion to lay hands on him again that the powers of darkness might be rebuked if he could not be raised up. Thus alone my wife & me over our only and dearest son struggled in sorrow and affliction with this last determination that we would not yield with the portion of the Priesthood which we had to the evil spirits After laying hands on him and rebuking the evil spirits he took a Different course He ceased to manifest a desire to talk & his ghastly and frightful gestures and with a set and determined eye gazed at me as if concious of what had been done

We thus beheld him a long time until finally he became easy and went to sleep Late at night we went to sleep also leaving a burning candle in the waggon.

Sunday June the 28th 1846. I awoke very early this morning and immediately discovered my child to be dying. He seemed perfectly easy and now had given up to the struggle of death and lay breathing out his life sweetly. The evil spirits had entirely left him and he now had his natural, easy, pleasant, calm and usual appearance but death was in his countenance and his Little spirit now in the enjoyment of its own body only seemed loth to give it up as almost every one seemed involuntary to observe who was present. He gradually and slowly declined untill forty minutes after seven when its spirit took its leave of its body without any appearant pain but seemed to go to sleep.

Thus died my only son and one too on whom I had placed my own name and was truly the dearest object of my heart. Gone too in the midst of affliction sorrow & disappointment In the wild solitary wilderness. Surrounded by every discouraging circumstance that is calculated to make man unhappy and disconsolate. Without the necessarys of life, Without even our daily bread and no prospects for the future. There in this wild land to lay him where the silence of his peaceful grave would only be broken by the savage yells of the natives seemed to come in bold relief before us. Discouraged, desolate & such frequent disappointments as had lately been my lot and no reason to expect any thing better in future could now only occupy my mind & the mind of my wife the bereaved mother We had now only one child a daughter left & that was born on the road & what was its fate was it to be laid by the way side also & we left uterly destitute & disconsolate I have often heard people tell of loosing the darling object of their heart.

I have often heard of people mourning as for the loss of an only son But never untill now did I fully feel and realize the keen & heart rending force of their words. I have once lost a companion for life and left without a bosom friend Left alone to lock sorrow and disappointment up in my own breast. Left to smile in the midst of the merry & happy but to smile only to hide and disguise the effects of an overflowing heart of woe. But not then did I feel the loss or mourn as for an only son. This last loss. This loss of my only son. This my hopes for comfort in my old age. This the darling object of my heart gone seemed to cap the climax of all my former misfortunes and seemed more than all else to leave me uterly hopeless. But I shall ceace to indulge in my feelings any longer

Suffice it to say that every attention and kindness was now proffered to me that I needed on the occasion. There was a good coffin made for him. After which we all moved on and buried him on a hill in the prairie about one mile from the Nodaway where there was the grave of an infant of Br John Smith and then pursued our journey leaving the two lovely innocents to slumber in peace in this solitary wild untill we should awake them in the morn of the resurrection We traveled four miles and encamped on a ridge in sight of one of the Pottawattamy villages. In the evening some of the brethren went to the next creek or river (Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diaries of Hosea Stout, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964) 1:170-171.)


  1. I am in tears. That’s incredibly sad.

    Comment by Steve Evans — 8/15/2007 @ 12:21 pm

  2. Words fail me to convey how appreciative I am of Hosea Stout’s sacrifice. God bless our brave and valiant pioneers!

    Comment by Brian D. — 8/15/2007 @ 3:23 pm

  3. And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death. (D&C 101:29)

    Comment by Jacob J — 8/18/2007 @ 12:18 pm

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this. Most of us do not have access to the book as you are right – it is a rare find.

    I found the words from pg 17 particulary wrenching…what amazing language for a personal journal!

    Comment by Belladonna — 8/27/2007 @ 12:58 pm

  5. I am very proud to be a Stout This is a great family!

    Comment by Conrad Stout — 12/12/2007 @ 4:26 pm

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