Partridge, Edward

(Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:218)

Partridge, Edward, the first Presiding Bishop of the Church, was a son of William and Jemima Partridge and was born Aug. 27, 1793, at Pittsfield, Berkshire county, Mass. His father's ancestor was Scotch, having emigrated from Berwick, Scotland, during the seventeenth century, and settled at Hadley, Mass., on the banks of the Connecticut river. His early life, so far as the meagre record of it informs us, was uneventful; though, to use the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith—who gives in his own history a brief biographical sketch of Bishop Partridge—”he remembers that the Spirit of the Lord strove with him a number of times, insomuch that his heart was made tender and he went and wept; and that sometimes he went silently and poured the effusions of his soul to God in prayer.” At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a hatter, and served about four years in acquiring a knowledge of that trade. 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 character of the 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 Scriptures were of divine origin, and he evidently made them 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 he “concluded that universal restoration was right according to the Bible.” He held to this belief until 1828, and was living in Painesville, Ohio, when he became a convert to the Campbellite faith; both he and his wife being baptized at Mentor, by Sidney Rigdon, one of the leading lights of that religious sect. But though converted, as the term goes, to this belief—which was probably nearer right than any other he had heard of—he was not without doubt, at times, of its being the true one, but continued 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 Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, jun., and Ziba Peterson, Elders of the lately organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had come from Fayette, Seneca county, New York, where the Church had been organized on the 6th of the preceding April; having been called by revelation through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, to take their journey into the western wilderness, carrying with them the Book of Mormon, to preach to the remnants of the land, the Lamanites, and inasmuch as they received their teachings to establish the Church of God among them. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 28 and 32.) They tarried some time at Kirtland and the vicinity, where many of the “Disciples” dwelt, of which sect Parley P. Pratt had once been a member. Among those who received their testimony and embraced the gospel was Sidney Rigdon, the Campbellite preacher, and a portion of the flock over which he presided. Edward Partridge, one of his congregation, also became interested in the “new religion,” but was not baptized until the 11th of December, following, when, having gone with Elder Rigdon to Fayette, on a visit to the Prophet, he was immersed by Joseph in the Seneca river. Of this visit the latter writes in his history: It was in December that Elder Sidney Rigdon came to inquire of the Lord, and with him came that man (of whom I hereafter will speak more fully) Edward Partridge; he was a pattern of piety, and one of the Lord's great men, known by his steadfastness and patient endurance to the end.” Elder Sidney Rigdon having received what he came for (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 35), the word of the Lord came also to his companion, Edward Partridge, who was commanded to preach the gospel. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 36.) A few days after his baptism Edward Partridge was ordained an Elder by Sidney Rigdon. Elders Partridge and Rigdon remained in the East until the latter part of January, 1831, when they started back to Kirtland, the Prophet and his wife Emma accompanying them. They reached there about the first of February. Three days after their arrival in that region—to which the Saints were now commanded to gather—a revelation was given to the Church (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 41), in which the following passage occurs: “And again, I have called my servant Edward Partridge, and give 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 is like unto Nathaniel of old, in hom there is no guile.” Thus was Edward Partridge, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, “called of God as was Aaron,” to the Bishopric—a similar calling in the same Priesthood held by and named after the illustrious brother of Moses. He was ordained a High Priest, June 3, 1831, by Lyman Wight, at a conference held at Kirtland. Soon afterwards the Prophet, with Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, Martin Harris and other Elders, was directed by the Lord to journey to the land of Missouri. They were told that the next conference should be held there, upon the land which the Lord would consecrate unto His people, it being the land of their inheritance, where the city of Zion should be built, but it was then in the hands of their enemies. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 52.) They left Kirtland on the 19th of June, and arrived at Independence, Jackson county, Missouri, about the middle of July. Here, in the ensuing August, in a revelation from the Lord, Bishop Partridge 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 Bishop Partridge, 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. Two days afterward he wrote a letter to his wife in Painesville, Ohio, in which he says: “I have a strong desire to return to Painesville this fall, but must not; you know I stand in an important station, and as I am occasionally chastened I sometimes feel as though I must fall; not to give up the cause, but to fear my station is above what I can perform to the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I hope that you and I may so conduct ourselves as to at last land our souls in the haven of eternal rest. Pray for me that I may not fall. I might write more, but will not. Farewell for the present.” 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. The next time the name of Bishop Partridge appears in the Prophet's record, is at a general council of the Church, held at Independence, April 26, 1832, soon after the Prophet's arrival there on his second visit to Missouri. At this meeting Joseph was acknowledged as President of the High Priesthood—according to a previous ordination at a conference in Amherst, Ohio—and Bishop Partridge in behalf of the Church, gave to President Smith the right hand of fellowship. The scene is described as “solemn, impressive and delightful. During the intermission a difficulty or hardness which had existed between Bishop Partridge and Elder Rigdon was amicably settled.” “July 20, 1833,” writes Bishop Partridge, “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 of 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 any one 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 some, more humane than the rest, interfered, and I was permitted to wear my shirt and pantaloons. Tar and feathers were then 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 dastardly outrage, with others of still greater enormity, committed under the broad sunlight of American liberty, with the executive of the State looking on and in secret league with these mobocratic wretches, was but the “beginning of sorrows,” for the persecuted Saints of Jackson county. Their cruel expulsion from their homes and their flight to Clay county was the next act in the tragedy. There, in November, 1833, we next find the subject of our sketch—still the Bishp 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, whence returning he visited Kirtland in the latter part of October, 1835. While there, on Saturday, Nov. 7th, the word of the Lord came to the Prophet, saying: “Behold, I am well pleased with my servant Isaac Morley, and my servant Edward Partridge, because of the integrity of their hearts in laboring in my vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men. Verily, I say unto you, their sins are forgiven them; therefore say unto them, in my name, that it is my will that they should tarry for a little season, and attend the school and also the solemn assembly for a wise purpose in me. Even so. Amen.” Pursuant to the divine instruction, Bishop Partridge remained, and was present at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, March 27, 1836, and at subsequent ceremonies in that sacred edifice. On the 4th of May, following, he started back to Clay county, where he arrived in due season. The mobocratic spirit, while not so rampant as before, was by no means extinct. Threatenings and annoyances were frequent, in spite of the kindness and hospitality of many to the “Mormon” refugees, and in the fall of 1836, the main body of them, at the suggestion of the people of Clay county, who agreed to buy their lands, moved eastward into a region afterwards named Caldwell county, where the city of Far West, laid out and populated by the Saints, became temporarily, their central gathering point. Here they were permitted for a season to have peace. But as they increased in numbers and made settlements in the adjacent counties of Daviess and Carroll, the old jealousy was revived and the mob spirit once more began to rage. The Daviess county election riot, the battle of Crooked river, the siege, surrender and sacking of Far West, with all the attendant horrors of rapine and red-handed cruelty perpetrated by the ruthless mob and soldiery—which finally culminated in the driving of thousands of people from their homes in the fall and winter of 1838—are matters familiar to the reader of Church history. Bishop Partridge was a participant in many of the heart-rending trials then visited upon a peaceable and unoffending community. He thus relates one of the high-handed acts of wholesale robbery committed by the mob militia of Missouri: “While I was a prisoner confined to the town of Far West, I was, with the rest of the inhabitants, collected within a circle on the public square, and there, surrounded by a strong guard, we were compelled to sign a deed of trust, which deed was designed to put our property into the hands of a committee, to be disposed of by them to pay all the debts which had been contracted by any and all who belong to the Church—also to pay all damages which might be claimed by the people of Davies county, for any damages they might have sustained from any person whatever. I would remark that all those who did deny the faith were exonerated from signing this deed of trust.” He also tells how himself and scores of his brethren, in the bleak autumn of that year, were driven off like dumb cattle to Richmond, Ray county, a distance of thirty miles, and there kept as prisoners for three or four weeks, without cause, and upon no civil process whatsoever. Says he. “We were confined in a large open room, where the cold northern blast penetrated freely. Our fires were small and our allowance for wood and food was scanty; they gave us not even a blanket to lie upon; our beds were the cold floors. * * * The vilest of the vile did guard us and treat us like dogs; yet we bore our oppressions without murmuring; but our souls were vexed night and day with their filthy conversation, for they constantly blasphemed God's holy name.” During the winter of 1838–39, in conformity with Governor Bogg's exterminating order to massacre the “Mormons” or drive them from the State—and fearing the threats of General Clark to carry into effect that wicked and unheard of act of tyranny, the family of Bishop Partridge moved to Quincy, Ill., 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 the settlement of the Saints at Commerce, Hancock county (afterwards Nauvoo), a general conference of the Church was held there on Saturday, Oct. 5, 1839. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed that that 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 overcome 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 overlifting, and prostrated upon the bed from which he never again rose. He expired on Wednesday, May 27, 1840, at his home in Nauvoo, in the forty-seventh year of his age. The Prophet Joseph 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.”—Orson F. Whitney. (See also “Contributor,” Vol. 6, p. 3.)