For early Mormon church members in Nauvoo the death of Joseph Smith and the ensuing anti-mormon violence must have been very traumatic. With the trek westward beginning more than 18 months after the martyrdom and with initial uncertainty over who exactly should lead the Church, many members must have been uncertain what to do. And at least some of them decided to just go home.
I came across an example of this recently, it appeared in a news article in the Independent of 11 September 1856. The article, titled Mormons in New Jersey, said that the church in Hornerstown, NJ was led by a tailor known as Elder Curtis. According to the article:
He appeared to be well posted in the creed of his church, and professed to be a firm believer in the genuineness of the Prophet Joe Smith. He was one of the large number who left for Nauvoo during the first excitement produced by the advent and preaching of Mormonism. Returning, however, after the destruction of that city, he again settled in Hornerstown—where he continued to practice the duties of his eldership until November last, when he died suddenly.
BYU Studies’ “Biographical Register” suggests that Elder Curtis was, in fact, Philip Curtis, suggesting he “was apparently a former member whom McLellin rebaptized on Sept. 7, 1834, in Eugene, Indiana. Listed on 1830 census in Vermillion County, Indiana. Possibly became the presiding elder in Hornerstown, New Jersey, by 1855.”
Another example, also from Hornerstown, was Rachel R. Ivins. At 21, in 1842, Rachel emigrated to Nauvoo, but after the death of Joseph Smith and after learning of the practice of polygamy, Rachel returned to Hornerstown disillusioned. But ten years later, Rachel had reconciled herself to polygamy and decided to emigrate to join the saints again. In 1853 she traveled to Utah with a group from central New Jersey, and in 1855 married Jedidiah M. Grant. Her son was President Heber J. Grant.
I’m sure that I’ve already come across other instances of those that returned from Nauvoo. Thomas A. Lyne, the actor is another, if my memory is correct. Unlike Rachel Ivins, Lyne never returned to Mormonism, although he did visit Salt Lake City as an actor in the late 19th century. I’m sure I will discover others as well.
I wonder how common returning was?