Elvira Annie was born in 1813 in New York State. She was the first child born to her parents. Most of the family converted to Mormonism and Elvira Annie was baptized at age 21, just 5.5 years after the official date of Mormonism’s founding. She first arrived in Kirtland at age 22.
Elvira and her family followed the church through tough times in Kirtland, the exodus to Zion (Missouri) and the extermination order which sent them north to Nauvoo, IL where she arrived in 1839 at age 26.
According to her obituary she resided in the home of Joseph and Emma Smith in the spring of 1840. In late 1840 Joseph welcomed an old friend into his household, Jonathan Holmes. He worked as a handyman and served as one of Smith’s bodyguards. This was the second time he made his home with the prophet, the first time in Kirtland. According to his obituary, “he was much beloved by the Prophet and all others who knew him.”
Jonathan’s wife had recently passed away in August of 1840 as well as one of his two daughters. The other daughter, Sarah, was now Elvira’s responsibility to care for in the Smith house.
Recalling her memories of Elvira, Sarah recorded, “when Emma Smith and Eliza Snow would be out caring for the sick, the colored cook always had extra lunches and Elvira would tell stories and we would all play games.” Elvira’s residence with the Smith’s extended from 1840 to 1842 as shown by the Nauvoo ward listing.
Elvira married Jonathan Holmes on December 1st, 1842 with Joseph Smith performing the ceremony.
Six months later, on June 1, 1843, Elvira was also married to Joseph Smith in the home of Heber C. Kimball.
Elvira was now married to two living men at the same time, one of several polyandrous relationships that Joseph Smith entered into.
Elvira Annie Cowles was Austin Cowles' (see part 1) first daughter.
On July 16th, 1843, Joseph Smith preached, denouncing internal traitors. (Six weeks after Joseph married Austin's daughter)
On June 27, 1844, Joseph was killed and Elvira was (partly) widowed. Jonathan served as a pallbearer at Joseph’s funeral. So, Elvira’s husband honored Smith, while her father had helped precipitate his death.
On February 3rd, 1846 Jonathan stood in as proxy for Smith when Elvira was sealed to Joseph for eternity in the Nauvoo temple. At this time, Elvira stood in as proxy for Jonathan’s late wife, Marietta.
Jonathan joined the Mormon Battalion, leaving Elvira and their belongings to a mismatched ox and cow team. Elvira lost her two year-old daughter Lucy Elvira during the winter in her trek to Utah where she arrived on October 2, 1847. She would be reunited with Jonathan 1 year later.
Apart from Sarah, Elvira and Jonathan would have three more surviving daughters: Marietta, Phebe, and Emma.
On May 12th 1866, at age 16 Marietta married Job Welling.
On December 21st, 1868 Phebe married Job Welling.
And finally, on April 28th 1875, Emma married Job Welling.
Sister wives. Literally.
When their father Jonathan passed away on August 18, 1880, Apostle Wilford Woodruff spoke at his funeral.
Phebe would give birth to eight children, one of which was named Wilford Woodruff Welling.
Wilford would give birth to 14 children. The last (but not least) 14th child was Grandma Donna Welling Adams.
Austin Cowles died on January 15th, 1872. His daughter Elvira wrote of him, “After spending a long life in making the world better, an example to all who knew him, with charity for all and malice toward none. His tall form was laid to rest in the old homestead. He chose virtue as his sweetest guide; lived as a Christian and as a Christian died.”
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Welling Family Facebook Group
Todd Compton, Ph.D. University of California – Los Angeles. 1998