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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ira Stearns Hatch and Wealtha Bradford

The other day I was thinking about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew from old family stories that some of my ancestors had joined the Church very early in its history. Then, I began to wonder if some of them had met or known Joseph Smith. A quick shout out to family on FB yielded the following in less than an hour:

Ira Stearns Hatch and Wealtha Bradford
Ira Stearns Hatch was born in 1802 in New Hampshire, and Wealtha Bradford was born in 1803 in Maine. They were married in 1825 and lived at the Hatch Farmstead in Farmersville, NY.

The family didn't belong to any specific church, as Wealtha said she hadn't found one on the earth that agreed with her conviction. In 1830 Elders Oliver Cowdrey, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt were visiting the nearby Catteraugus Indians and preaching about the Book of Mormon. Wealtha obtained a copy of the book and said “That’s what we have been looking for." Being thoroughly convinced of its origin, she desired to be baptized immediately. Her husband and family convinced her to wait, which she did with a hope that more of her family would be converted.

Although they may have wanted to be baptized, none of the other relatives were ready to join the unpopular sect. In early 1832, Wealtha was baptized in a hole that had been cut in the ice of the river. She was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at this same time and  became the first in the Hatch family and the second person in the neighborhood to join the Church.

Ira was cautious about joining the Church because of the persecution against it. At this time, the Kirtland Temple was under construction and Ira and Wealtha decided to make a contribution to it. They traveled to the headquarters of the Church in Kirkland, Ohio, where they could make their contribution and examine their leader, Joseph Smith. They prepared to make the trip to Kirtland, taking their contribution of $200.00 with them. The trip took them three days. When they arrived at Kirtland, Ira went to the grove where they were cutting timber for the Temple where he was told he could find the Prophet. As he approached the workmen, one of them stuck his axe into a tree and came toward him. When close enough, he shook the hand of Ira Stearns Hatch and said "Brother Hatch, I have been expecting you for three days; the money you have brought will be used to build the pulpit in the Temple." Thus, left with no chance for doubt, Ira Stearns Hatch was convinced that Joseph Smith was indeed a true Prophet, and his testimony was steadfast for the remainder of his life. Ira was baptized into the Church in 1834. 

Both Ira and Wealtha hoped that Ira’s parents and brothers and sisters would join the Church, but they did not. When Ira and Wealtha decided to leave the family farm and follow the “Saints” west, it caused a great deal of distress and uproar in the family. The brothers, to whom Ira and Wealtha had sold the farm, said they would give the farm back if they would stay. But Ira shook his head and replied, “No, I will go West.” 

Wealtha died from cholera in Nauvoo. Her devotion to the Church was an inspiration to her family. Her spirituality was ingrained in the characters of the young children she bore. She endured the persecutions and trials of pioneering, and yet always held steadfastly to the Church. Ira continued west, where he settled in Utah with the rest of his family. He passed away on September 30, 1869, after a long and useful and active life.

This strengthened my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith!

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