Sarah Kingsley and John Cleveland were married on June 10, 1826.  Sarah was recently widowed, losing her first husband to illness.  Sarah and John had two children, Augusta and Alexander.  In the mid 1830’s Sarah and Augusta joined the Mormon Church.  Although they were friendly to Mormonism, John and Alexander did not join but attended another church.  In 1836 the family moved to Quincy, Illinois which, unknown to them at the time, would soon become the center of Mormonism.

In early 1839, church members were relocating from Missouri to Nauvoo (near Quincy).  At the time, Joseph Smith was a prisoner in the Liberty Jail and his wife, Emma, and children lived with the Clevelands in Quincy.  On March 21, Joseph wrote to Emma, “I would ask if [Mr.] Cleveland will be kind enough to let you and the children tarry there untill [I] can learn something fu[r]ther concerning my fate [I] will reward him well if he will...”.  Near the end of April, after being in prison for five months, Joseph was freed.  He reunited with his family at the Cleveland home and lived there for another three weeks, before moving to Nauvoo.  Two weeks later the Clevelands received a letter from Joseph indicating that he had selected a lot for them in Nauvoo, just across the street from his own.

Sometime in early 1842, the Clevelands relocated from Quincy to Nauvoo.  Emma soon chose Sarah as her counselor in the women’s Relief Society organization.  About this same time Sarah, now fifty-four, also became one of Joseph Smith’s wives.  As was common practice for Joseph’s wives, Sarah stood as witness at a subsequent wedding ceremony when Joseph married Eliza R. Snow in June of 1842.  That same spring, rumors surfaced in the Relief Society about Joseph’s recent marriage to Agnes Coolbrith.  Sarah came to his defense, warning “the Society against speaking evil of Prest. J. Smith...that it would not be a light thing in the sight of God...[she] express’d her fears that the Lord would cut off those who will not take counsel” and “said we would have none among us who would speak against the prophet of the Lord”

After Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, the Mormons migrated west to Utah.  On February 8, 1846, Sarah’s son-in-law wrote, “This day Started for the Mountains...myself,  wife, Mother-in-law [Sarah] &...Alexander...they [are] feeling to go with the Saints & leave husband & father as he John Cleveland does not belong to the church”  On the day Sarah and Alexander left, John “was away in the Country at work”.  Four days into the trip, “it being extremely cold [the leaders] advised Mother Cleveland & Son Alexander to Return & Stay with Father Cleveland untill we were located Some where & could return for them”.  Sarah returned to her husband John, but she never did journey to Utah.  Her biography later reported that, “Brigham Young...counciled her to stay with her Husband as he was a good man, having shown himself kind ever helping those in need...”


[Home page]