Willard Richards was born 24 June 1804 in Hopkington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph Richards (1762-1840) and Rhoda Howe (1762-1838) and died 11 March 1854 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah of unspecified causes. He married Jennetta Richards (1817-1845) 24 September 1838 in Preston, Lancashire, England. He married Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858) 25 January 1843 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. He married Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851) 22 December 1845 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.
Willard Richards (June 24, 1804 – March 11, 1854) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and served as Second Counselor in the First Presidency to church president Brigham Young in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death.
At the age of four, he injured his head in a fall and was left with some residual muscle tremor and paralysis.
Educator & Parmacist
As the injury limited his physical activity, he focused his attention on education and obtained a teacher's certificate at age sixteen. He taught school in Chatham, New York, and in Lanesborn, Massachusetts. Richards pursued additional studies in physical mechanics, science, and studied the clarinet. At the age of thirty, after the death of his sister Susan, Richards decided to become a physician. He studied at the Thomson Infirmary in Boston focusing on medication and herbal preparations. He then settled in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he practiced medicine. From a 21st-century perspective, Richards would probably be considered a pharmacist.
Conversion to Mormonism
In 1836, Richards was introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon by his cousins, Joseph Young and Brigham Young (1801-1877). Richards read the book twice within ten days and, after making the necessary preparations, left for Kirtland, Ohio, to join the Church of the Latter Day Saints and be with its members. Richards was baptized there on December 31, 1836, by Brigham Young and ordained an elder in February 1837. A number of Willard's family members also joined the church as this time.
Mission to England & Apostleship
Shortly following his ordination, Richards was called on a brief three-month mission to the Eastern United States. Immediately upon his return, he was called on a more extended mission to Great Britain. While on this mission (1838-1841), Willard met his wife, his first two children were born and he was ordained an apostle.
Richards was ordained an apostle on April 14, 1840, by Brigham Young, making Willard the only LDS Apostle ordained to that calling outside of the United States.
Historian of the Church
1841, he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, to be with the body of the church and became the private secretary to Joseph Smith. In December 1842, Richards was called to be the Church Historian and Recorder, a position he held until his death. In these two capacities, Richards maintained the Mormon prophet's schedule and recorded most of his activities. As church historian, he subsequently wrote a total of 1,884 pages on the history of Joseph Smith. This work was later incorporated into The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by B. H. Roberts.
Richards was incarcerated in Carthage Jail with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and John Taylor on June 27, 1844, when the jail was attacked by a mob and the Smiths were murdered. Taylor was shot four times and severely injured, but survived the attack. Richards was unhurt and so supervised the removal of Taylor and the Smiths' bodies. His first-hand account of the event was published in the Times and Seasons.
Eyewitness to Martyrdom
Soon after Willard arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841, he became private secretary to Joseph Smith and remained with the Prophet almost constantly, even in Carthage Jail on 27 June 1844.
Just before the mob rushed the jail, Joseph asked Willard if he would accompany him into a room that was supposed to be safer. Willard answered, “Brother Joseph you did not ask me to cross the river with you—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.” Moments later, the mob entered the jail, killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith, critically wounded John Taylor, but miraculously failed to injure Willard Richards.
1848 Pioneer Wagon Company
In 1848, Willard Richards, led one of the largest Mormon pioneer wagon companies into the Salt Lake Valley.
526 individuals were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. This company was divided into two sections, Willard Richards section and Amasa Lyman Section. The Lyman section left the outfitting post on 1 July and the Richards section left on 3 July.
Members of the company arrived from 10-19 October 1848.
Counselor to Brigham Young
Before making the journey to the Salt Lake Valley, Willard was chosen (27 Dec 1847) second counselor to President Brigham Young and served until his death on 11 March 1854.
Richards, his cousin Brigham Young and other church elders left Nauvoo in February 1846, spending the remainder of the year at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. This first group entered into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. They then went back to Winter Quarters, arriving on August 21, 1847, to gather the families for the Mormon Exodus of 1848. Richards was called as Second Counselor in the First Presidency under Brigham Young on December 27, 1847 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
1st Editor of Deseret News
After moving to Utah, Richards was involved in establishing the Deseret News, serving as its first Editor-in-Chief.
Marriage & Family
1st Marriage: Jennetta Richards
Richards met his wife, Jennetta Richards (1817-1845), while on this mission. Jeanetta Richards taught school in England, and her father was the minister of the Congregationalist church.
They had two surviving children, a son, Heber John, born in Manchester, England, in 1840, and a daughter, Rhoda Ann Jennetta, born in 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois.
Both Willard and Jennetta died before their children could reach adulthood. Heber J, returned to England on a mission and preached to his mother's wealthy family there, eliciting some fascinating correspondence with this sister Rhoda Ann.
- Heber John Richards (1839-1839) - died as infant in England
- Heber John Richards (1840-1919) - born in England, served LDS Mission returning to England
- Rhoda Ann Jennetta Richards (1843-1882) - Utah Mormon pioneer
2nd Marriage: Sarah Longstroth
Polygamous Marriage to Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858) in Nauvoo, IL.
- Willard Brigham Richards (1847-1942)
- Joseph Smith Richards (1848-1913)
- Sarah Ellen Richards (1850-1915) - she would marry Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918), 6th President of the LDS Church.
- Pauline Richards (1853-1947)
3rd Marriage: Amelia Peirson
Polygamous Marriage to his neice, Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851). She died in early 1851, just three days after giving birth to her first son who did not survive.
- Baby Boy Richards (1851-1851) -
4th Marriage: Mary Thompson
Polygamous Marriage to Mary Thompson (1827-1905) on 27 Jan 1846 in Nauvoo IL.
- Phoebe Amelia Richards (1851-1943)
- Jenetta Richards (1852-1853)
5th Marriage: Jane Hall
Polygamous Marriage to Jane Hall (1826-1849) - 31 Jan 1846 in Nauvoo IL. Not much known here, she died in 1849, no known children?
6th Marriage: Nanny Longstroth
- Alice Ann Richards (1849-1940)
- Mary Asenath Richards (1850-1915)
- Stephen Longstroth Richards (1853-1922)
7th Marriage: Susanna Bayliss
Polygamous Marriage to Susanna Bayliss (1812-1891) - 22 Dec 1847 at Winter Quarters NE.
- Mary Ann Richards (1851-1942) -
8th Marriage: Rhoda Foss
Polygamous Marriage to Rhoda Harriett Foss (1830-1881) - 30 Nov 1851 at Salt Lake City UT.
I have not yet found records to substantiate the following reported marriages for Willard:
- Edna Sarah Hinman (1828-1897)
- Susanna Lee (1809-1872)
- Ann Read (1794-1872)
|Heber John Richards (1839-1839)||17 July 1839 Preston, Lancashire, England||28 December 1839 Preston, Lancashire, England|
|Heber John Richards (1840-1919)||11 October 1840 Manchester, Lancashire, England||12 May 1919 Provo, Utah County, Utah||Mary Julia Johnson (1841-1928)|
|Rhoda Ann Jennetta Richards (1843-1882)||15 September 1843 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois||3 May 1882 Farmington, Davis County, Utah||Benjamin Franklin Knowlton (1838-1901)|
|Willard Brigham Richards (1847-1942)|
|Joseph Smith Richards (1848-1913)|
|Sarah Ellen Richards (1850-1915)||25 August 1850 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||22 March 1915 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||Joseph Fielding Smith (1838-1918)|
|Pauline Richards (1853-1947)|
|Baby Boy Richards (1851-1851)|
|Phoebe Amelia Richards (1851-1943)|
|Jenetta Richards (1852-1853)|
|Alice Ann Richards (1849-1940)||24 March 1849 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||17 June 1940 Box Elder County, Utah||Lot Smith (1830-1892)|
|Mary Asenath Richards (1850-1915)|
|Stephen Longstroth Richards (1853-1922)||29 July 1853 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||5 July 1922 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||Emma Louise Stayner (1857-1937)|
|Mary Ann Richards (1851-1942)|
|Calvin Willard Richards (1852-1926)||7 October 1852 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States||3 October 1926 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States||Emma Irene Walker (1854-1894)|
- Ensign Jan 1980: They Served - Richards Family Legacy in the Church
- Joseph Richards 1762 Immigrant Ancestors
- Willard Richards - Wikipedia
- Grampa Bill's G.A. Pages: Willard Richards
- Two Minutes in Jail
- Mormon Pioneer Overland Database - Willard Richards 1848 Wagon Company