From Edward Partridge Family Association News Bulletin, August 1954.
Edward Partridge, the first Presiding Bishop of the Church, is a son of William Partridge (and Jemima Bidwell); who is a son of Oliver Partridge (and Anna Williams); who is a son of Edward Partridge (and Martha Williams); who is a son of Samuel Partridge (and Mehitable Crow); who is a son of William Partridge (and Mary Smith).
Edward was one of twelve children, all Berkshire born. He was born August 27th, 1793 at Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
His emigrant ancestor, William Partridge – PARTRIGG as he wrote it – was Scotch and came to this country in 1644 from Berwick on the Tweed, a locality whose past history is interesting, relative to the border wars. Its authentic records begin in the 12th century, during the reign of Alexander I, of Scotland, who quelled one of the most dangerous insurrections in 1120 incited by Angus, a great grandson of the wife of Macbeth immortalized by the genius of Shakespeare. The religious conditions of the times called forth the famous Westminster Assembly, which met July 1, 1643, one year before William Partridge left Berwick. Presbyterians prevailed and the Solemn League of the Covenant was sanctioned; and because of their excited feelings, many left Scotland for a home where they would have less of stripes. Among these was William Partridge, and he settled in Hadley, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Connecticut River. He was a selectman of Hadley in 1668 at the time of the regicide who signed the death warrant of King Charles I, when hiding there.
Edward’s early life, so far as the meager record of it informs us, was uneventful. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to a hatter and served about four years in acquiring a knowledge of that trade. But during this time his mind was not idle upon the subject of religion, for at the age of twenty, he had become disgusted with the religious world, and “saw no beauty, comeliness or loveliness in the characters of God that was preached up by the sects.” Still he did not, as many have done under like circumstances, discard the Bible and lose faith in the Supreme Being, because of the shortcomings of those who professed to worship Him, and their private interpretations of His word and character. He was satisfied that God lived, that the touchstone, so far as he was able in the absence of a better, to try the teachings of the ministers and professors with whom he came in contact.
Once he heard a “Universal Restorationer” preach upon the love of God. This sermon gave him exalted opinions of the Deity, and “concluded that universal restoration was right according to the Bible.” He held to this belief until 1828, and while living in Painesville, Ohio, he became a convert to the Campbellite faith. Both he and his wife Lydia Clisbee, whom he married August 19, 1819 in Ohio, were baptized at Mentor by Sidney Rigdon, one of the leading lights of that religious sect.
Though converted, he was not without doubt, at times of its being the true one, but continued as one of the “disciples” (as the Campbellites called themselves) until the fall of 1830 when an event occurred that changed the whole current of his life, and caused him to again investigate with anxious mind, the subject of his soul’s salvation. The event referred to was the arrival at Kirtland, Ohio of Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdry, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Ziba Peterson, elders of the lately organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had come from Payette, Seneca County, New York where the Church had been organized on April 6, 1830.
Edward became interested in the new religion, but was not baptized until December 11, 1830. He was immersed by Joseph Smith in the Seneca River. Joseph Smith says of him, “he was a pattern of piety, and one of the Lord’s great men, known by his steadfastness and patient endurance to the end.”
A few days after his baptism he was ordained an Elder by Sidney Rigdon. He and Sidney Rigdon remained in the east until the latter part of January 1831, when they started back to Kirtland, accompanied by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife Emma. They reached there about the first of February. A revelation was given to the church in which the following passage occurs:
“And again I have called my servant Edward Partridge and given a commandment that he should be appointed by the voice of the Church and ordained a Bishop unto the Church to leave his merchandise and spend all his time in the labors of the Church, to see to all things as it shall be appointed unto him, in my laws in the day that I shall give them. And this because his heart is pure before me, for he like unto Nathaniel of old, in whom there is no guile.”
Thus Edward Partridge was called of God to the Bishopric in his 38th year.
He was ordained a High Priest June 3, 1831, by Lyman Wight at a conference held at Kirtland.
He with other brethren were directed to journey to Missouri. They left Kirtland on June 19th and arrived at Independence, Jackson County, Missouri about the middle of July. He and his counselors with others were told that this was the “land of their residence” and they were instructed to bring their families there and settle.
On the third of that month, he with seven others, including the Prophet, were present at the dedication of the site of the future Temple, a spot a little west of the court house in Independence.
Here then he continued to reside after moving his family from Ohio, officiating as Bishop of Zion, and up to December 1831, was the only Bishop in the Church.
July 20, 1833, Bishop Partridge writes, “George Simpson and two other mobbers entered my house (while I was sitting with my wife, who was quite feeble, my youngest child being then about three weeks old) and compelled me to go with him. Soon after leaving my house, I was surrounded by about fifty mobbers, who escorted me about half a mile to the public square, where I was surrounded by about two or three hundred more. Russel Hicks, Esq., appeared to be the head man of the mob; he told me that his word was the law in the county, and that I must agree to leave the county or suffer the consequences. I answered that if I must suffer for my religion it was no more than others had done before me; that I was not conscious of having injured anyone in the county, therefore I would not consent to leave it. Mr. Hicks then proceeded to strip off my clothes and was disposed to strip them all off. I strongly protested against being stripped naked in the street, when someone more humane than the rest, interfered and I was permitted to wear my shirt and pantaloons. Tar and feathers were brought, and a man by the name of Davies, with the help of another, daubed me with tar from the crown of my head to my feet, after which feathers were thrown over me.”
This outrage, with many others, were but the beginning of sorrows for the persecuted saints of Jackson County. There, in November 1833, Edward Partridge was still the Bishop and acknowledged head of the Church in Zion, faithfully but fruitlessly endeavoring to obtain for his people a redress of grievances.
He resided in Clay County until the fall of 1836, but some time during the three years, went on a mission to the eastern States, and returning he visited Kirtland in the latter part of October 1835.
During the winter of 1838-39, he moved his family to Quincey, Illinois where, after his release from prison, he rejoined them and continued to dwell until the ensuing summer or fall. After the purchase of lands and settlement of the Saints at Commerce, Hancock County, afterwards Nauvoo, a general conference of the church was held there on Saturday October 5, 1839. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed that this should be a stake and a place of gathering for the Saints, and Bishop Partridge was appointed to preside as Bishop of the Upper Ward, while Bishop Newel K. Whitney and Bishop Vinson Knight were assigned in like capacity to the Middle and Lower Wards, respectively.
But the career of Edward Partridge was drawing to a close. His health was broken and for many months he had been unfitted for heavy or manual labor. The persecutions he had passed through added to the sickly climate in which the saints were now settling, finally overcame what was left of a healthy but by no means robust constitution. About ten days prior to his decease he was taken with pleurisy in his side, as the result of over-lifting, and prostrated him upon the bed from which he never again rose. He expired on Wednesday, May 27th 1840 at his home in Nauvoo, in the forty-seventh year of his age. The Prophet Joseph Smith writes in his journal under the same date, this closing comment on the death of his friend. “He lost his life in consequence of the Missouri persecutions and he is one of that number whose blood will be required at their hands.”