Saturday, April 12, 2014

Almera Johnson Barton, Plural wife of Prophet Joseph Smith

• Almera Woodard Johnson Barton, of Westford, Vermont, became a plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois on the 1st of Aug. 1843. • She was highly regarded by the Mormons for her appearance, character and capability; yet before a year had elapsed from the date of her marriage, Almera had become a sorrowing widow and without issue, for the martyrdom of the Prophet occurred the following June 27, 1844. • Born in Vermont, Almera with her parents and other members of the family, had long resided in Pomphret, Chautauqua Co., New York. She was the seventh child and fourth daughter of Julia Hills and Ezekiel Johnson, and was born in October of 1812. Her marriage to the Prophet transpired near her 31st birthday. • On November 16, 1845, at Nauvoo, approximately one and one-half years after the Prophet’s death, she was persuaded to lay aside her widow’s weeds and become the wife of James Reuben Barton. Barton’s letters, written to Almera, with their excellent penmanship, word dexterity and flawless spelling, indicates the writer to be an individual of considerable skill and attainment. Five children, all daughters, were born to Almera and J. Reuben, yet upon Almera’s passing she was devoid of posterity. One by one, her children had been called back to the spirit world, unmarried and childless, leaving her grief-stricken and hope shattered. J. Reuben Barton’s belief and faith were apparently of but a superficial nature, for he eventually became an apostate, causing a rift that slowly widened, until a separation between himself and Almera became inevitable • Almera was not only a homemaker of ability and an individual of taste and attraction, but like all her parent’s children, her fingers dripped service. To her nieces and nephews she was the adored “Aunt Mera,” and showing his high regard for her, her brother, William Derby Johnson, addressed her in his letters as, “My Ever Dear and Respected Sister Almera,” and expressed a hope that when called to the other side, he might be as well-prepared for departure to a higher sphere as she was. • William Derby’s wife, Jane Cadwallader Johnson, also wrote from Colonia Diaz, where the couple moved, making their home later in life and building themselves a handsome dwelling, urging Almera to join them. They wished to look after her in her declining years, she said, and provide the comforts they felt she so deserved and needed. They had everything, Jane declared, to make her comfortable and happy. Yet, although Almera’s resources were at a low ebb, and she was troubled greatly with rheumatism, her independent nature would not permit her to be a burden to anyone. • Death found both herself and William Derby in the selfsame year, with but a month separating them. The summons from the other side came to both in the spring of 1896, while Almera was in Utah, and William Derby in Mexico. William was the younger of the two by twelve years. Almera lived to be eighty-four.

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