There is a notation in the front of the old book John Comins used to record his Revolutionary War and New York Justice Court records that was written by his grandson Daniel Tyler. This inscription, along with family stories I later found, led me to the realization that this 240 year old book I have been working on could not have reached my hands without travelling the entire route of the Mormon trail, from Kirtland, Ohio and Far West Missouri to Nauvoo, Illinois and on to Utah.
In one of my earliest online searches for John’s daughter Elizabeth Comins and her husband Andrews Tyler I discovered that they joined the Mormon church in 1832 while living in Erie County, Pennsylvania. They were very early converts to the church started by Joseph Smith. They followed the church to Kirtland, Ohio and then two years later to Far West, Missouri, always keeping the book with them among their other possessions.
I learned from histories written by Elizabeth’s son Daniel and his wife Ruth that Andrews died along the trail between Kirtland and Far West, leaving Elizabeth responsible for her family in a mostly hostile area of the country, with limited funds remaining. Three weeks later her 18 year-old son Comfort also died.
I wanted to know more but there was little additional information available. When my sister Lonna suggested we visit the area to see what we could find I agreed without hesitation; we quickly convinced Reta, the other sister in our family, to go along. I flew from Idaho Falls and Reta from Phoenix; Lonna picked us up at the DesMoines, Iowa airport. Nauvoo, Illinois is just an hour’s drive from her home in Keosauqua, Iowa. Reta and Lonna have been my steadfast supporters in this quest to research and write the stories of the old book. They have listened, critiqued, and edited my work each step of the way. We were all excited about taking this trip together.
Our first day and night, spent in Nauvoo, were interesting but provided little new information about Elizabeth or her family. The next morning we had planned a quick tour of Hannibal, Missouri before going on to Far West to find the small farm we knew she had purchased there.
Like many good plans this one disintegrated soon after it began.
Excerpt from Long Journeys: Three women, sisters who will barely admit their ages, yet sport hairstyles in colors from the earliest stages of gray to pure white, are forced to admit they may be lost in an Illinois corn field. Their road is unpaved, surfaced with coarse white gravel; tall fields of corn crowd the narrow one-lane thoroughfare on either side. Rather than turn around and backtrack the road they decide to continue a while longer. They come to an intersection with road signs and sigh in unison to discover they are still in civilization.
One of the signs points east to Lima. They find a wide spot in the road and pull over to consult Marvin, the GPS they have named for the manically depressed android of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “I could tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.” Earlier that morning they had programmed Marvin to guide them from Nauvoo, Illinois to Hannibal, Missouri, a seemingly simple task. Yet here they are between huge fields of corn on the wrong side of the Mississippi with no other vehicle in sight.