Excerpts taken from Susannah Washburn Bowles’ biography of her mother Tamer Washburn (1805-1886). Tamer joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church,” in 1838 and continued faithful to the Church until the time of her death in 1886.
Tamer Washburn was a daughter of Jesse and Susannah Tompkins Washburn. She was born July 4th, 1805, at Mt Pleasant, Westchester County, New York. When she was 19 years old, Tamer married Abraham Washburn (whose grandfather was her father’s brother) on March 16, 1824, at Mt. Pleasant, New York. In their early married life, they moved to Sing Sing, where Abraham went into the shoe-making and tanning business.
When Parley P. Pratt came to New York with the gospel message, Abraham Washburn was converted immediately; the message was so plain and beautiful that he believed everybody could readily be converted. Abraham took Brother Pratt home with him to explain the wonderful message to his wife. Brother Pratt told her that the Lord and His Son had visited, in person, the boy Joseph Smith, and later sent heavenly messengers who had restored the Priesthood, both Aaronic and Melchizedek, and that the Lord was giving the boy Prophet continued revelations, revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. He said that the Angel Moroni had delivered the history of the ancient inhabitants of this continent, written on gold plates, to the Prophet, and he had by the power of God, translated them, and that the book was now published and was called The Book of Mormon.
This was too much for this dear lady, who was a staunch Methodist, yet retaining many ideas of the Quaker faith in which she had been reared. She was infuriated at what she had just heard; it was impossible for God to give new revelations to man; all such things had ceased with the death of the ancient Prophets and Apostles. This man was surely an imposter teaching false doctrine. Her righteous indignation arose and she turned on Brother Pratt and poured out the venom of her wrath in no gentle tones. Her husband tried in vain to soothe her. He, however, knew that the message was true and in a short time was baptized. He tried gently, at every opportunity to convert his dear wife, but it seemed, for some time, that his efforts were useless.
One evening, while he was attending an evening meeting, Abraham received a message to come home quickly: his wife was in a terrible nervous condition on account of his being at a Mormon meeting. As he was leaving, Brother Pratt said, “Be of good cheer, Brother Washburn, for in a very short time your wife will be a member of the Church.” It was but a few weeks until she asked Brother Pratt to baptize her.
She learned to love Brother Pratt and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her home was ever after a home for the Mormon missionaries.
As time passed, both Parley and Orson Pratt made their home with the Washburns while doing Missionary work in New York. On one occasion, Orson Pratt brought his wife. She wore, as was the custom in those days, a lace cap with bows of ribbon and small artificial flowers on the side of her cap. Tamer had not yet sufficiently recovered from her Quaker notions to be able to tolerate these ‘excessive’ practices, so she asked Sister Pratt to please remove the trimmings from her cap while she remained her guest. Sister Pratt complied with the request to please Sister Washburn. In after years, Tamer laughed as she related the story wondering how she could have been so narrow minded because she herself wore just such little lace caps to the end of her days and enjoyed having them handsomely decorated.
Abraham was a prosperous business man and he gave Tamer a regular allowance of 75 dollars a month. She was saving, and deposited a part of her allowance each month in the bank. Once, Orson Pratt was going to England on a mission; he arrived in New York with no money to pay his traveling expenses. Tamer gave him enough money from her savings account to pay his passage to England.
A Blessing and Promise from the Prophet Joseph Smith
After joining the body of the Church at Nauvoo, Brother Washburn was a member of the Nauvoo Legion. They were friends of the Prophet, Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph Smith visited with Tamer and her folks many times. On one occasion when the Smiths and others were at their home at an evening social, the Prophet arose to his feet and said, “Sister Washburn, there is a special blessing from the Lord to you, and the Lord says that you’re just as sure of your Celestial crown as though you already had it on your head.” The sisters assembled said to the Prophet, “This is enough to make us jealous.” And then the Prophet said, “This blessing is for Mother Washburn above the rest, because she is a free giver. She could always give and never regret.” Her salvation in the Celestial Kingdom was assured on account of her liberality.
Mormon Polygamy and Victory Over Herself
They came from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City early in 1848 with the Richards Company. Tamer drove three yoke of wild steers across the trackless desert. Shortly after their arrival in the valley, Abraham married Flora Clorinda Gleason Johnson.
Tamer was a social person, and usually very optimistic, yet she was capable of very intense feelings. Flora’s daughter Lorena related, “Tamer told me how hard it was to live in plural marriage, and for a long time she was unkind to my mother although she loved mother. She prayed often for strength, and God finally gave her victory over herself. After that, plural marriage ceased to be a trial, and my mother became one of her best earthly friends.”
Such is a few of the trials and only a few that she with others passed through because they believed that God lived and had a Soul and Body like unto that of Man whom He had created and because they believed that He had the right and privilege to converse with the men He had created and that He did make known His mind and will and they believed it and would not deny it and troubles were multiplied upon them.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.