Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mormon Beginnings in DuPage and Will Counties


On the twenty-sixth day of November in 1829 Pierce Hawley claimed a portion of Section 30 in Kendall County, Illinois. Since it included a large stand of trees, locals called it Hawley's Grove for a while until Pierce sold his property and it took on the new name of Holderman's Grove. Originally from Vermont, Pierce had a hard time staying put anywhere.

Early Illinois history is peppered with Hawley references. Juliette Kinzie from Chicago tells of staying the night in Hawley's home during a particularly grueling journey. Aaron Hawley, Pierce's brother, was one of the few casualties of the Black Hawk War. Several Hawleys are buried in Naperville, including Pierce's daughter and Joseph Naper's mother.

Stephen Scott was also an early Illinois settler, living on the DuPage River. His son Willard often traveled to Peoria and broke his journey at the Hawley's just as Juliette Kinzie did. While there, he took a shine to Pierce's daughter Caroline and asked to marry her. Father Pierce agreed, but Caroline thought a few hours' courtship was rushing things, so Willard continued on his way.

A couple of weeks later on the return trip, Willard stopped by the Hawley House again and Caroline agreed this time to marry him. They spent their wedding night, as Willard loved to relate, with "the sky for our ceiling -- the stars for our light," under a tree in Plainfield.

Willard and Caroline are both buried in Naperville, the town which they helped grow from its earliest beginnings.

Pierce lived for a time in Naperville as well, becoming a valued member of the Methodist community that Rev. Jesse Walker was developing in his mission to the Potawatomi. But somehow, Pierce heard of Joseph Smith's preaching. As his son later wrote: "Mother at this time felt as though Father had almost committed the unpardonable sin in leaving the Methodist Church and joining the Mormon Church as they was both good Methodist members, but Mother soon got over hurt bad feelings and united with the same church and was one with her husband in faith and doctrine."

Along with other Mormons, the Hawleys (minus Caroline and husband Willard) moved to Missouri, then Iowa and Wisconsin. In the aftermath of religious persecution in Nauvoo and Joseph Smith's subsequent death, many Mormons moved out of Illinois under varying leaders. Brigham Young of course took a group to Utah, but the Hawleys went with Lyman Wight to Texas.

The Texas community flourished for a while. Pierce was chosen to be an elder and his daughter Mary Hawley became one of Wight's plural wives. Eventually Pierce soured on Wight's Mormon Church and along with his wife and married children, he moved to Indian territory in Kansas and then Arkansas, finally coming to rest on August 16, 1858 in Cherokee Nation, Arkansas, where he is buried.

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