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Posted By: Volunteer
Date: 7/18/2019 at 07:19:40

Biographical and Historical Record of Ringgold and Decatur Counties, Iowa, (Lewis Publishing Company (1887)), pp. 539-44:

"ZENAS H. GURLEY, of Pleasanton, Iowa, was born February 24, 1842, in Hancock County, Illinois. The name Gurley is probably Scotch in the original, but spelled differently, in some instances by leaving out the "e," and again by inserting an "o," making it Gourley. The first of the name of which we have any account in America, was William Gurley, born in 1665, and stolen from some part of Scotland, probably Edinburgh, at the age of fourteen years, left in this country, and brought up in the family of Rev. Mr. Stoddard, of Northampton, Massachusetts. He left but one child -- Samuel Gurley, born May 17, 1687, who was the first that settled at Mansfield, Connecticut. He died February 23, 1760. His father, William, was a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus, and Samuel, it is said, "was distinguished for his piety, and was eminently useful in the cause of religion and humanity." Samuel's wife was Experience Rurt, daughter of Nathaniel Rurt, of Northampton, Massachusetts. She died in the year 1768. Samuel Gurley, son of Samuel aforesaid, was born June 30, 1717, married Sarah Ward, by whom he had eight children, and after the death of his wife married Hannah Walker, by whom he had five children, and after her death married Hannah Bosworth. Samuel's fourth child by the second wife was Zenas, who married L. Dimock, and after her death E. Hovey, of New York, by whom he had four children -- Henry, Eunice, Lovina (Mrs. Morris, of Chicago, who was one of the charter members of the Home for the Friendless, of that city), and Zenas H., born at Bridgewater, Oneida County, New York, May 29, 1801, and died August 28, 1871. He married Margaret Hickey, daughter of John and Margaret Hickey nee Castleman, born January 1, 1808, and who still survives her husband. By this marriage, which took place at Williamsburg, County of Dundas, Canada West, in 1825, he became the father of eleven children. He was reared in the Christian religion as taught by the Presbyterian or Congregational church, and in early manhood united with the Methodist church, and became a local preacher therein. In 1837, with his wife, he became a convert to the faith of the Latter Day Saints, and shortly afterward moved to Missouri in the expectation of finding "Zion," where, after sharing with others the vicissitudes, perplexities, suffering and disappointment attendant upon such an ignis-fatuus, quitted the State in the spring of 1839, taking refuge in Illinois. After the death of the Smiths, in June, 1844, Mr. Gurley moved into Nauvoo, where he resided until the autumn of 1846, and was driven out with that portion of the church which could not get away in the spring previous with Brigham Young, with whom the great body of the church, together with church archives, etc., went into Utah. He was a prominent and successful minister in the church, and an over-ardent admirer of the prophet, Joseph Smith, and would have gone with Brigham Young and associates, believing them the truest exponents of the prophet's policies and measures (and his position enabled him to know), but the providential death of his team, a fine pair of horses, forbade his intended move, and instead of going West he, with his family, was barely enabled to get to Jo Daviess County, Illinois, having lost nearly all his earthly possessions at Nauvoo. At Jo Daviess County, he was materially helped by the Masonic fraternity, of which he was a member, and, considering his very straightened circumstances, this help was most opportune. Mr. Gurley with family moved near Burlington, Wisconsin, in 1849, and in 1851 to Yellowstone, some ten miles east of Mineral Point, in the western portion of the State. Here at this point and vicinity he did preaching and baptized a number of converts, but becoming dissatisfied with the developments which were taking place under Young, Strang, Wm. Smith (the prophet's brother), and others (who were leaders of Mormon factions), believing now, that they were all gone astray, and fearing that the prophet, Joseph, had made some fatal errors before his death, and that these men were but continuing them, he determined, in company with Jason W. Briggs and a few others, in 1852, upon a reformation or revolution, hence he renounced allegiance to or association with any and all of these leaders aforesaid, and he denounced polygamy which was then being openly taught in Utah, and which had been secretly taught for years in the church; he also rejected "marrying for eternity," called also "sealing for eternity," or "spiritual wifery, that is to say - "if a man's wife die, he has a right to marry another and be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead," thus establishing polygamy in heaven; and further of this doctrine and practice by way of explanation the prophet, Joseph, said in May 1843 (as recorded in his history), that "except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory." Against these and other delusive doctrines Mr. Gurley and associates declared, and for the same were excommunicated from the church and branded as "apostates." They organized their own movement in 1852, however, and commenced the publication of the Saints' Herald in January, 1860 (which sheet is being still continued at Lamoni, Iowa,) with Wm. Marks, Zenas H. Gurley and Wm. W. Blair as publishing committee, and Isaac Sheen, editor; and one fact well worthy of notice here is, that in their first issue, the leading editorial is devoted to the subject of polygamy, averring that the prophet, Joseph, did give the revelation, or command enjoining it, and that it was given as a curse, because of the idol which had been set up in the hearts of the church. Joseph Smith, the present president of the Reorganization came and united with them in April, 1860, since which time the policy and position of the church as touching his father's complicity in polygamy has been changed from an averment of, to a flat denial. Of Mr. Gurley's children -- John E. was a soldier in the late Rebellion, entered the service as Captain of Company C, Thirty-third Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. Was forty days at Vicksburg, after which was transferred to staff duty of the Fourth Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, and served upon that staff with efficiency and success until near the close of the war, when he was promoted to the office of Colonel of the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth United States Colored Infantry, by Abraham Lincoln, and transferred to the staff of General Frank P. Blair. Colonel Gurley fought at Vicksburg, Coldwater, Jackson, and with the Fourth Division subsequently, wherever engaged, being in the heaviest of the fight on the 22d and the 28th days of July, before Atlanta, George, and thence to the sea with General Sherman's army, taking part in the grand review at Washington. He was mustered out of service at Louisville, Kentucky, in December, 1865, and returning to Wisconsin he engaged again in the practice of the law, he having been admitted to the bar at the opening of the war, and previously received his education at Lombard University, Galesburg, Illinois. In 1868 he was taken sick, and with a constitution broken from the effects of the war, was unable to resist the attack of death, and he passed away quietly and peacefully in April, 1869, in full assurance of eternal life, being but thirty-one years of age. Another, the eldest son, Samuel H., died at Lamoni, Iowa, a few years since in the fiftieth year of his age. He was a faithful follower and minister for Christ. The youngest son, Edwin H., is also a minister of the gospel, and resides at Lamoni, and another, George W., at Sandwich, Illinois, who is a thorough business man. Zenas H., whose name appears at the head of this sketch, came to Decatur county in November, 1870; married Gracie Robinson in 1872, making his home here since that date. His time has been largely occupied as a traveling minister for the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, having received from the church the same honor conferred upon his father, that of an Apostle, of the quorum of Twelve. In the year 1874 he was sent as a missionary in charge of Utah, where he battled with polygamy and its concomitants, remaining in Utah nearly one year, but continuing, whether in the Territory or out of it, to wage war against the "twin relic" -- returning to Utah again in 1878, at which time he was enabled to make a more careful and thorough study of the Mormon problem. Returning home he was sent, in company with Elder E. L. Kelly, to Washington, to urge upon the Forty-seventh Congress, the necessity of additional legislation for Utah. He took an active part with his colleague, working night and day for three months for the passage of the Edmunds Bill, and for labor performed there has received many flattering compliments, both from individual sand the press. In 1882, he was appointed with Joseph Smith, a committee, to wait upon the Secretary of State, of the United States, for the purpose of obtaining further recognition for the church, and making distinction between the Reorganization and the church in Utah. Was first introduced to that officer by Senator McDill and Hon. W. P. Hepburn, who expressed a wish that Mr. Gurley should appear in writing, which was readily agreed to, and in March, 1883, being joined by Mr. Smith, appeared before said officer, again being introduced in this interview by Senator Allison, and Hon. W. P. Hepburn. He returned East the succeeding fall, going as far as the Isle of Grand Manan, in the Bay of Fundy, traveling as a missionary, and all these years supporting his own family, believing it "more blessed to give, than to receive," though, of course, he made no financial gain during that period, but steadily declined. In 1878, the church in General Conference, adopted the "Inspired Translation of the Scriptures," by Joseph Smith, together with the Book of Mormon, "The revelations of God in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants," and the revelations this present Joseph Smith had received, or ever should receive as a rule of faith and practice -- whereupon Mr. Gurley, being in Utah at the time, immediately returned home and sent in his resignation as an officer, being unwilling to serve a church who took such (to him) insane position. His resignation was accepted the following spring upon that issue, but in September, of 1879, a compromise position was reached, wherein it was agreed that the revelations of Joseph Smith should not be made a test of reception into or fellowship in the church (thus revoking the act which made them the law of God to the church), whereupon, Mr. Gurley was reinstated, and went to Washington and the East, doing the work as referred to. During his labor at Washington, he was frequently questioned whether or not, he and his people believed in gathering the church together in one or more localities, to which he responded in the negative, because of the act of the church in September, 1879, referred to above. This position could not fail, as it did not, to make prestige and friends for the church with the Government for this gathering of the church together, concentrating its power for religious and political purposes, had from its inception down till to-day proven abortive of good, and highly detrimental to the Government. Mr. Gurley calls attention to the paper lodged with the Secretary of State, setting forth the only principles and doctrines held sacred and indorsed by the church in General Conference unanimously in April, 1883, as being in perfect accord with the position cited above. But to his great surprise and disappointment in Heralds for 1885, he is charged with having denied the faith, by one of the presidents of the church, alleging as proof that he denied the gathering, and also the law of tithing (which provides that the individual member of the church shall give all his surplus property into the Bishop's hands, and after that shall pay one-tenth of all his interest annually -- and those refusing this shall not be worthy to abide in the church. See D. and C., Sec. 106), an citing as law against him, that the church was bound to "receive and respect Joseph Smith's words and commandments, the same as if from God's own mouth," -- to all of which Mr. Gurley plead "guilty," provided that be the faith of the church. He held, however, that it was not, but in April of that year the General Conference refused to sustain him as an officer, which was the result of the controversy in question, whereupon, after the elapse of another year, and seeing the disposition of the church, as expressed by leading authorities, was to reinstate and establish the revelations of Joseph Smith aforesaid, as the law to the church, -- the rule of faith and practice, and believing that to be a gross violation of the Acts of 1879 and 1883 (which last indorsed the paper presented to the Secretary of State) Mr. Gurley concluded to withdraw from the church entirely, so in April of the year 1886, together with his wife, and mother, aged seventy-eight years, his brother Edwin H. and wife, and Elder Jason W. Briggs, one of the founders and fathers of the church they withdrew, refusing to accept the revelations of Joseph Smith as a rule of faith and practice, believing that he proved himself an unsafe leader. They affirm the gospel as taught by the Saviour and the original witnesses, denying to Joseph Smith, or any man or angel the right to add a codicil to the last Will and Testament of Christ, but, believing this to have been done, and that it has proved the curse an bane of the Mormon church, and also of the Government, and the Reorganization now insisting that these revelations aforesaid are God's law to the church -- this is laid as sufficient cause for their act, holding that the Mormon problem can never be solved successfully by any process other than a thorough and critical examination of all of Joseph Smith's revelations, and their errors and evils exposed. To illustrate more fully to the reader's mind the benighted and terrible condition of the leaders of the church, and that the devilish doctrine of polygamy was taught as early as 1843, and that, in teaching this, the leaders fulfilled the prophetic prediction of the Apostle Paul, as recorded in 1. Timothy, iv:1-2, repeating also the predicted history of the past as seen in II. Peter, ii: 1-2, Mr. Gurley submits the testimony of Ebenezer Robinson and wife, who are well known in Decatur County (and Mr. Robinson throughout the State), being perfectly reliable.


"We, Ebenezer Robinson, and Angeline E. Robinson, husband and wife, hereby certify that in the fall of 1843, Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, came to our house in Nauvoo, Illinois, and taught us the doctrine of polygamy. And I, the said Ebenezer Robinson, hereby further state that he gave me special instructions how I could manage the matter so as not to have it known to the public. He also told us that while he had heretofore opposed the doctrine, he was wrong, and his brother Joseph was right; referring to his teaching it.



"Sworn to and subscribed before me this 29th day of December, 1873.

[L.S.] "J.M. SALLEE, Notary Public."

Mrs. Robinson having died since the execution of the foregoing, and some question arising as to how and wherein the said Hyrum Smith (one of the first officers and leaders of the church) had given special instructions to Mr. Robinson, he was questioned in regard to the matter, whereupon he executed the following:


"This is to certify that in the latter part of November, or in December, 1843, Hyrum Smith (brother of Joseph Smith, President of the church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-Day Saints) came to my house in Nauvoo, Illinois, and taught myself and wife the doctrine of spiritual wives or polygamy.

"He said he heard the voice of the Lord give the revelation on spiritual wifery (or polygamy) to his brother Joseph, and that while he had heretofore opposed the doctrine, he was wrong, and his brother Joseph was right all the time.

"He told me to make a selection of some young woman and he would seal her to me, and take her to my home, and if she should have an heir to give out word that she had a husband who had gone on a mission to a foreign country. He seemed displeased when I declined to do so.


"Davis City, Iowa, Oct. 23, 1885.

"Subscribed and sworn to before me, a Notary Public in and for Decatur County, Iowa, this 24th day of October, A.D. 1885.

[L.S.] "Z. H. GURLEY, Notary Public."

The Gurleys take to the ministry of the gospel and practice of the law naturally, one of the family having been Attorney-General of the State of Louisiana, and another, John A. Gurley, Universalist minister, and member of Congress, from Ohio. Z. H., himself, is noted as an able reasoner, and possessed of good oratorical powers, having, as a rule, full houses of attentive listeners wherever he speaks, and, notwithstanding the opprobrium of the name Mormon, has for years been permitted the use of various church houses, assisted by ministers of various denominations, and all simply because he preaches the gospel, and abuses no sect nor people. He has very many firm friends in the county."

(Submitted to the Decatur County GenWeb site by Christy Jay, email: Jaygenie@aol.com)


Decatur Biographies maintained by Constance McDaniel Hall.
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