Duncan McArthur was born May 22, 1796 in Thornton, Grafton County, New Hampshire. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to John McArthur and Margaret Aiken.
Duncan's parents settled in Thornton, New Hampshire. Here his father was one of the "town fathers". The township grant being made in 1763 to Matthew, James, and Andrew Thornton. It was incorporated in 1781. John McArthur was instrumental in helping establish the Scotch Presbyterian Church, and helped in establishing roads and the school. Many of the early settlers came from Londonderry New Hampshire. They were Scotch Irish descent and immigrated to the United States about the same time as Margaret Aiken's ancestors. Perhaps this was a reason they chose to live in Thornton.
Here John and Margaret's family of twelve children were born and John had their births recorded in the town records. Duncan's brothers and sisters were named: Catherine - 1775, James - 1778, John and Mary (twins) - 1781, Andrew - 1783, Samuel - 1785, Margaret -1787, Sally - 1789, Jannett - 1791, Moses Little - 1794, Duncan - 1796, and Roxanne - 1798.
For twenty-seven years they lived in Thornton. In 1802 they moved to Chelsea, Vermont. Perhaps going to follow their minister, Noah Worcester with whom records show they had land dealings. Noa Worcester seemed to have been embroiled in a controversy over church doctrine at this time and another minister was appointed in Thornton.
John McArthur was a farmer. We do not know more about his life but he left a will. It it he gave his belongings to his dear wife Margaret. soon after his father's death in 1816, Duncan must have left Chelsea to be with his brothers, John and Moses Little. They lived in Holland, Erie County, New York. His mother, Margaret and young sister Roxanne, moved to Vershire with sister Margaret Keyes, who was now a widow with considerable means. Both were buried in Vershire. The other brothers and sisters were already established in their lives and had families.
Duncan married Susan McKeen in Holand January 1, 1818. Her parents were Daniel and Sarah Libby. Daniel McKeen also descended from the Scotch Irish group who settled Londonderry, New Hampshire and later moved to Corinth Vermont. From Corinth, the family moved to New York with a group who bought land from the Holland Land Company. Daniel McKeen was one of the earliest settlers of Holland or Wales, Erie County, New York. His wife was Sarah Libby. Her ancestry came from Kittery, Maine. Daughter Susan was born in Corinth in 1801, and was taken as a child to Holland when her parents moved there, possibly in 1809 (before 1812).
Duncan and Susan seemed to have a close relationship with Susan's family. They moved with them to Scrubgrass, Pennsylvania in 1821, then back to Holland in 1826.
Eventually their family would consist of fourteen children. They are listed according to birth year. Silas - 1818, Daniel Duncan - 1820, Orange Niles 0 1822, Washington Perry - 1824, Sarah Libby -1827, Henry Morrow - 1829, Ira James - 1830, Emeline Janette - 1832, Mary Jane - 1834, Annie Mariah - 1836, Margarette Roxanne - 1839, Emma Lodeska - 1841, Susan Amanda - 1843, Joseph Smith - 1846.
All of the children except Orange Niles and Washington Perry who were born in Scrubgrass, were born in Holland down to Annie Mariah who was born in Kirtland, Ohio. Margarette, Emma, and Susan were born in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Joseph Smith in Garden Grove, Iowa.
After their stay at Scrubgrass (1821 - 1826) Duncan moved his family back to Holland, purchased a farm and believed he was settled for life. His farm prospered, and his family was growing. However, in 1829 he was stricken with rheumatism which caused his right hip to be drawn out of the joint and confined him to his bed the remainder of the winter. In the spring he got so he could rise from his bed but he was obliged to use crutches to get around. He was not able to do much work for two years. There was a continual doctor bill accumulating, causing him to have to sell his farm to pay off his debts.
He then moved his family up on Vermont Hill to a rented place for one year, this being 1831. The next winter he bought another small farm and moved again. This being only one-half mile away. He resided there until 1833, with all things prospering. At that time he had a chance to buy a larger farm two miles away on Hunter Creek. Here he again commenced to settle down for life. This new place was in rough condition. He went to work clearing the land, making fences and building a nice farm to live on.
He planted an orchard covering five acres of land. On it he planted the choice fruit trees, which he had reserved in a nursery from trees he had planted on the first farm when he owned after returning from Pennsylvania. It was recorded that he grew choice blue and yellow Damson plums, reaches and currants. Along with the orchard he fenced a one acre garden spot.
We are uncertain when Duncan and Susan first heard the Mormon missionaries. His son, Daniel D. says in his diary that Daniel first saw the Prophet Joseph Smith in the woods when he was twelve years old. This would possibly have been in the later part of January 1831, as Joseph and Emma were on their way from Fayette, Seneca County, Ne York to Kirtland Ohio. They arrived there the middle of February. He was accompanied on this trip by Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, and Ezra Thayer. Some records say that the McArthur family joined the church in 1833 (Jenson, Early Church History-some family members also.)
Whatever the circumstances of the McArthur families conversion to Mormonism, we do know that Duncan was baptized March 22, 1835, by Elder Daniel Hicks. (Dates are verified in the Nauvoo 5th Ward High Priests Record Book in the LDS Historical Library.) He was ordained a deacon by Andrew G. Squires and others April 6, 1835. He was ordained an Elder under the hands of Alman Babbit and others and was called to preside over the branch at Holland July 1835. He may have been directing the Mormon effort earlier.
After they joined the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) they felt as "castaways" by their neighbors and friends, except those few who joined the Church with them. At the Freedom Conference of the Church, May 22, 1835, a report was taken of the branches of the Church in the area. There being branches in Freedom, Rushford, Portage, Grove, Buins, Genesse, Avon, Java, Holland, Aurora, Greenwood and Niagara. Seven Apostles of the Church were present at the conference. Parley P. Pratt reported that there were 15 members in Holland and that the branch had "suffered much from false teachings of hypocrites and knaves". (Manuscript, History of the Church in N.Y. ms4029, Reel 3 box 6, Folders 5, LDS Historical Library).
We know very little about the branch as church records are scant concerning this time period. We are told in Saniel D. McArthur's diary that Duncan continued to teach and baptized members into the branch until he left to join the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio in 1836.
In September, 1836, Duncan moved his family to Kirtland, where the church had commenced to gather as early as 1830. It must have been hard to leave Holland, New York. Both Duncan and Susan had family there. Their oldest son, Silas, had drowned in Lake Erie July 4th of that year and they had buried a three year old son in 1833; (Ira James). They had small children and Susan was expecting another child. Annice Mariah was born Nov. 21, 1836 in Kirtland. Daniel D.,, then their oldest, was sixteen when they moved to Kirtland. Their farm was prospering at last. This area of New York has beautiful farm land and timber. (Holland New York)
The Kirtland Temple was dedicated March 27, 1836. Great sacrifices were made in its construction. There were spiritual manifestations and the spirit of the Lord was strong among the Saints, but there was also turmoil. Persecution prevailed in Kirtland and some of the saints began to move farther west of Missouri. Duncan was ordained to the 2nd Quorum of the Seventies by President Joseph Young and others.
Duncan resided in Kirtland with his family until 1838, when, because of persecution, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Brigham Young, found it necessary to leave Kirtland quietly for Far West, Missouri. After their departure, the desire to immigrate became general among those who kept the faith. On the 6th of March 1838, the Seventies assembled in the temple for the purpose of devising means for moving to Missouri. On the 10th of March it was manifest by vision and prophecy that they should go to Missouri in a camp, pitching their tents along the way. On the 13th they voted on a constitution which was signed by 175 brethren, Duncan being one of them. James Foster, Zera Pulsipher, Joseph Young, Henry Herriman, Josiah Butterfield, Benjamin Wilkes and Elias Smith were appointed to act as commissioners to lead the camps. Duncan was appointed as one of the three assistants to these leaders to act as judge and to help as needed.
On Saturday, July 16, 1838, they began their move south. The camp consisted of 515 souls, namely 249 males, 266 females, 69 cows and one bull. Jonathan Dunham was the engineer. On the way however, they were met by a mob who told them they would not be permitted to stay long in Missouri. Still they prayed they would get through safely and they pressed westward. The camp record states on August 20 there was an illness in the camp and a child was seized with an evil spirit. Elder Jeremaiah Willey had administered to him and the spirit left the child and entered Bro. Willey. When the Elders entered the wagon to assist him he jumped forward yelling, "Yow, yow, yow," gnashing his teeth and camping horridly. Elder Duncan McArthur laid hands on him and began to rebuke the spirit. At the same instant he groaned, yelled and screamed out as it were, all in a whistling sound, and he began to talk like a man. As Elder McArthur was done, he lay down and went to sleep and remained well.
In the morning of Wednesday, the 26th of July, Elder James Foster, one of the counselors, proposed to council to stop and break up the camp. There was so much excitement in Missouri at the time, because of so many Saints moving west. It was therefore thought wise for the brethren of the camp to go to work and provide for their families until the difficulties should be settled, or until they heard from Far West. A silence prevailed in the council, and shortly, writes the historian, "It was made manifest that it was the desire of the camp, collectively, to go forward, notwithstanding their deference always to the will of the Lord through the council. Elder McArthur said, in a low tone, that it was his impression that we might go up in righteousness, keeping the commandments, and not be molested. Some others manifested the same, in concurrence with his feelings. There was silence again. Here our faith was tried, and here the Lord looked down and beheld us. Then, lo, a gentleman who was directly from Far West, and returning to the East where he belonged, left his carriage and came among us, although we were a distance from the road, and he told us there was no trouble in Far West and Adam-ondi-ahman, but that we might go right along without danger. A vote was called whether to proceed or not and all hands raised toward heaven in favor to going on." The camp then passed on towards Far West. Joseph the Prophet in company with Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Isaac Morley and George W. Robinson, met them some miles out and escorted them into the city, where they camped on the public square. On Thursday, August 4th, the Camp arrived in Adam-ondi-Ahman, Davis County, "This is a day", writes the Prophet Joseph, "long to be remembered by that part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints called "The Camp", or Kirtland Camp No. 1."
When they arrived at Adam-ondi-Ahman, they commenced to build a city. Some cut house logs, others hauled them to the spot and others put them up. By doing so a city sprang up in a very short time. While they were busy building and providing for winter, the mob was busily engaged in preparing to come against them and kill and drive them from the state. They came around their cornfields, that is the corn as it stood in the fields and take the Saints' horses, oxen, cows and wagons in exchange. The Saints were pleased to dispose of many of their teams and property in this way, not thinking of the desires of the Missourians. As quick as the mob got all they could from the Saints, they packed their duds and commenced moving off into other counties to consolidate themselves into an armed body in order to come against the Saints and drive them off their possessions and not only get their property back again, which they had sold to the Saints, but everything else the Saints possessed if possible.
Word came to Adam-ondi-Ahman that an armed mob was collecting to drive them out of the state, but knowing they were engaged in the work of God, they relied on Him for protection. Following difficulties with the mob of Davies county, the Saints moved to Far West. Duncan put up a log house on Log Creek. He stayed until 1839. Here, Annice Mariah was burned to death in a little playhouse which she and three little friends had built under a large white oak tree. They started a fire which got out of control. She was a little over four years old. Also, in 1839, while living in Caldwell County, another little girl, Margarette Roxanna, was added to their family on February 7th.
Governor Biggs appeared anxious about having his orders for the Saints to remove from the state carried out. There were many poor among the Saints. The published History of the Church Vol. III, p. 261, tells that D. McArthur along with several others needed assistance. In the same volume the following resolution was recorded dated 29 January 1839; "Resolved: That we this day enter into a covenant to stand by and assist each other, to the utmost of our abilities. In removing from this State, and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy, till they shall be out of reach of the general exterminating order of General Clark, acting for and in the name of the State."
The following document, or covenant, was also drawn up and signed by the faithful brethren: "Far West, Missouri, January 29, 1839: We, whose names are here underwritten do each for ourselves individual hereby covenant to stand by and assist each other, to the utmost of our abilities, in removing from this state, in compliance with the authority of the State, and we do hereby acknowledge ourselves firmly bound to the extent of all our available property to be disposed of by a committee who shall be appointed for that purpose, for providing means for the removing of the poor and destitute, who shall not one be left who desires to remove from the State: with this provision what no individual shall be deprived of the right of the disposal of his own property for the above purpose, or having control of it, or so much of it, as shall be necessary for the removing of his own family, and be entitled to the over plus after the work as effectuated: and furthermore, said committee shall give receipts for all property, and an account of the expenditure of the same." Both Duncan McArthur and Daniel McArthur, his son, signed along with many others.
It was the month of March, 1839 when Duncan McArthur and his family left the state of Missouri. They landed in Quincy Illinois the first of April. Soon after, he moved his family to a farm thirteen miles east of Quincy, near Payson, Adams County. Duncan was ordained a High Priest by Hyram Smith and Alman Babbit in June 1839. The Freedom Stake was organized with Henry W. Miller as President and Duncan McArthur and William Teney as counselors. (Oct. 27, 1840)
Quickly thereafter, Duncan was called on a mission to the Eastern States. He reportedly baptized 20 people into the church while on this mission to New York, Vermont, Main and Massachusetts. His companion was Perregine Sessions. Elder Sessions kept the journal for the mission and it is in the LDS Historical Library. The "Times and Seasons" publication of the church, page 108, also has a report from this mission. It is thought to have been written in 1840 and said the extract published was sent from Bethel, Oxford Co., Maine. In it he mentions leaving Vershire, Vermont September 10, 1840. This is where his mother and sister Roxanne were living. One can only imagine his heartache as none of his family accepted his message. Surely he would have taught them.
The Historical Record, Church Encyclopedia by Andrew Jensen relates the following about one of his converts while on his mission: "Olive Grey Frost, daughter of Aaron and Susan Frost, was born in the town of Bethel, Oxford Co., Maine, July 24, 1816. She possessed a happy and genial disposition. She gained many friends whose friendships grew stronger as time advanced and they learned to appreciate her good qualities. When quite young, she was inclined, and would often go to some private place, with a chosen companion to pray out her soul in sincere prayer to that being who rewards openly, and frequently she incurred ridicule thereby from those who were less sober minded. When about eighteen years of age she and her particular friend, Miss Louisa Foster learned the tailors trade, and they went together from place to place, among their acquaintances to work at this business thereby being able to lighten the labor of busy housewives. While engaged at this work in the neighboring town of Dixfield, Elder Duncan McArthur visited the place and preached the Gospel. Following earnest prayer she soon comprehended its vast importance. She received it joyfully. She was baptized by Elder McArthur and always looked upon him with reverence as her father in the Gospel. She was sister-in-law to Parley P. Pratt. She and another sister were the first lady missionaries to go across the sea to a foreign mission. She married Joseph Smith as a plural wife and was sealed to Brigham Young for time. She died in Nauvoo October 6, 1846."
Daniel took care of the farm in his father's absence. He said, "While my father was gone, we prospered in everything we set our hands to do. When father left, we had two cows, and when he returned we had two yoke of oxen, three cows, and a herd of young stock. Instead of having grain to buy as we had when he left, we had 75 bushels of wheat, 500 bushels of corn on hand and nine hogs, with plenty of clothing to do us for the present. We numbered ten in the family. I continued to reside at home until June 24, 1841."
In the spring of 1842, Duncan and his family moved from Adams County to Nauvoo where they could enjoy the society of those whom they loved. In Nauvoo, he built a home and a cheese factory, he owned lot 3, block 71, lot 20 in block 70, lot 3 in block 105 in Nauvoo. Duncan applied for membership in the masonic lodge in Nauvoo on March 17. The day the Relief Society was organized. He was accepted into the lodge on April 7, 1842. Duncan acted as a guard for the Prophet and other church leaders during the days of persecution in Nauvoo. His presence and vote is often recorded in the Nauvoo 5th Ward High Priest Quorum meetings. Frequently, it is recorded that he was called upon to pray. He worked as a carpenter on the temple. Duncan is recorded as performing the marriages of James Hale and Lucy Clements, November 14, 1844 and David Pratt and Ester S. Tyler, March 2, 1843. We do not know if he was a Justice of the Peace, or if the marriages were performed through his church position and with the authority of a High Priest.
He was a clerk in Nauvoo and dated some membership records for the Wilcox family. Among his close neighbors in Nauvoo we find Howard Cory, who was the scribe for the inspired version of the Bible, James Bird, Erastus Derby, and Horace Alexander. The McArthur home was of brick and was located on Block 78, lot 2.
In February 1846, once again, Duncan had to leave his home in Nauvoo because of the persecutions. They crossed the Mississippi River and took up the march West. They had buried five little girls including Annice Marian who was burned to death in Far West. Emma Lodoeske lived two months, she died in 1842. Jennette Emerline who would have been eleven when she died in July of 1844, and Mary Jane would have been six years old in April of 1845. Susan was pregnant again, when they left for the West. The baby was born and died at Garden City, Iowa, 12 September 1846. He was named Joseph Smith McArthur. Their trials were many but their faith strong. They endured much sorrow and want. They camped one hundred and fifty miles from Nauvoo on the Grand River at Garden Grove. There was a large plot of ground that they fenced like a farm. It contained 500 acres and was a good stopping place for the others who would come to share the crops that were planted. Those that were too poor and in too bad of circumstances to go on west would stop here to make more preparation. Daniel went on but his father stayed. Henry Morrow was called to go with the Mormon Battalion. Duncan stayed here until he could get better equipment to go on to Winter Quarters. The next year when he arrived at Winter Quarters, he found his son Daniel very sick.
He laid his hands on his head and gave him a blessing that saved his life. Sons, Washington Perry and Orange Niles, left to return to Illinois. The diary of Daniel Duncan says of this time that they buried Jennette on the banks of the Platt River. But the date he gives would indicate it took place in Nauvoo. This has not been verified. Only five out of Duncan's fourteen children came west; others died en route. I know Duncan did not come to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1848 when Daniel did, but he was in Pleasant Grove by 1850. He lived between Pleasant Grove and American Fork, Utah. The ditch by his property is still called the "McArthur Ditch". The town of American Fork was called "McArthurville" in the Journal History of the Church, 18 March 1851. He was in an early bishopric and an Alderman in Pleasant Grove.
In 1859 Duncan was called to move his family to help settle Mt. Pleasant. He took with him Sarah Libby, Henry Morrow, Washington Perry, and his wife, Susan.
He planted trees and berries he brought from Pleasant Grove, and also brought the first bees to the area. He must have been an excellent agriculturist. The family was highly respected. Sarah Libby, Henry and Washington Perry were known as the town doctors.
In 1862, at the towns first big celebration, Duncn was called on to give the oration. It is given as recorded in the town history. The following is a part of a sermon delivered by Duncan McArthur on July 24, 1862 in Mt. Pleasant. It was recorded in the journal of Andrew Madsen:
"Brothers and Sisters, It seems to have fallen my lot to address you today, and although I am always willingly to do my part when called upon by those in authority over me. I am glad of having the privilege of meeting with the Saints on this Thirteenth Anniversary Day when the Apostles and Prophets landed in Utah, led by inspiration, leaving their temporary home in Iowa and by direction of God came to these valleys in the mountains.
I compare this congregation with the one assembled in Kirtland, when they started the temple which stands as monument today. The persecution and driving of the Saints from that county and from state to state and at last from their beautiful city Nauvoo, where they had been persecuted by the enemy and their Prophet and leader, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum were killed - by the hand of God, the saints were then led to these valleys. We are now permitted to assemble in peace and safety and enjoy the blessings that God has extended to us.
Many of us have now been in these valleys thirteen years, all this time have we not lived in the enjoyment of peace and great fortune? During this time, it is true, Uncle Sam, through false rumors and false representations of judges and others, placed here by the government, accusing Brigham Young and the Saints of destroying public records and with the purpose of destroying us, sent an army. But did they do it? No. Here is wisdom of God, moved upon thee and instead of their efforts to injure us, they did us good. We furnished the soldiers with supplies. assisted them in building Camp Floyd, and received clothing and gold and silver which was distributed among us for our services and supplies. They were a blessing, giving those who wished to leave us a chance and thus ridding the Church of a number of dead branches. This, with the thousand other difficulties the Saints have passed through, no wonder that we have been tried and prepared that in the future day we might rejoice in the fullness of all glory.
Hail to the Land of Columbia, may the time soon come when righteous principles may again be established and the lion of the Lord roar from East to West."
Duncan McArthur, after he came to Mt. Pleasant, is said to be a man about six feet tall and weighed 165 pounds. He had dark burly hair and a very high forehead.
During the later years of Duncan's life he and a close friend, Lucas Nelson Scoville, both being around 63 years of age decided to take as second wives each other's daughters. Duncan received Eliza Rebecca Scoville who was still in her teens. Rebecca was in love with a young man by the name of George Haws. George was to claim her as his wife some twenty years later. Through the union of Duncan and Eliza Rebecca Scoville the following children were born:
Celeste Eliza born 10 February 1860
Lury born 30 October 1861
Alice born 10 March 1863
Annie Ermina born 1 February 1865
Duncan passed away in his 69th year leaving a large family, the last four being very young. Washington Perry, feeling an obligation towards his father, honored his request to care for Rebecca and her young children. He married Eliza Rebecca on the 15th of November, 1867 and assumed the responsibility for her four children. Then he and Rebecca had six of their own.
Sarah Libby McArthur drove a team and wagon from Missouri River alone. She was the doctor in Mt. Pleasant for years. She was the daughter who was married to Lucas Nelson Scoville.
Susan McKeen, the first wife, died July 4th, 1866 at Mt. Pleasant.
(The material in this has come from Daniel Duncan's diary, "Our Progenitors", by K. Glen McArthur; History of the Church by B.H. Roberts, and Historical Record by Andrew Jensen, published in Salt Lake City in 1888, Volume 3, 4, 6 and 7. Research at the Church Historical Library done by Margery Peterson. Also historical accounts by Suzanne McArthur and Annie Jennings.)