Residents of the Rich Settlement Along Log Creek
Stephen Winchester was born 8 May 1795, in Vershire, Orange County,
Vermont. His parents were Benjamin Winchester and Bethia Winchester. Stephen was a man of industrious habits and for most of his life provided for his family by farming. Stephen married Nancy Case in Fort Edward, New York in 1816 and the couple moved to Wellsburg (now called "Lundy's Lane") in Elk Creek Township of Erie County, Pennsylvania where they began a family. Their first child, Benjamin was born in Elk Creek Township on 6 August 1817. Other children followed: Stephen Jr. (1820), Alexander (1825), Nancy Mariah (1828), and James Case (1831).
Benjamin Winchester -courtesy BYU Special Collections
Stephen also served as a missionary during the Kirtland period, focusing on Pennsylvania. He baptized Warren Post who would later go on to be an apostle under James J. Strang.
The Winchesters possibly left Kirtland due to the collapse of the Safety Society Bank. Benjamin spoke against Joseph Smith's involvement in the bank in the temple, but he later reconciled with Smith and shifted the blame in his mind to Warren Parrish. By the middle of 1837, Stephen and Nancy and most of their family (except Benjamin) gathered to Missouri. They purchased 120 acres of land in the Log Creek area of Caldwell County, on the prairie south of Far West, along the road to Richmond.
Land that was part of the Stephen and Nancy Winchester farm in the Rich Branch - near present-day Mirabile, Missouri.-courtesy Mike Karpowicz and John Hamer.
They were part of the Rich Branch and Stephen was called upon to sit on the High Council at Far West. Benjamin never joined his parents in Missouri as he remained in the East and became president of the Philadelphia branch of the church.
In early 1838, the first presidency of the church moved from Kirtland to Far West. Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon believed that Kirtland had been lost due to dissenters from the church and they began to be concerned about the presence in Caldwell County of excommunicated members like David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery. This led to the formation of a secret society which became known as the "Danites". The Danites were sworn to obey church leadership right or wrong and to protect Mormons from within (dissenters) and without (non-Mormon antagonists).
Stephen joined the Danite society and was part of a group of men who signed a manifesto which called upon the dissenters to leave the county or be killed. Tensions continued to escalate in the course of the summer of 1838, leading to the outbreak of the Mormon-Missouri War.
Stephen was not directly involved in the Battle of Crooked River, but part of the company of church participants stopped at the Winchester home on their way back from the battle. It was here that popular apostle David W. Patten died from wounds received during the battle. Hostilities between the Mormons and Missourians continued and at one point Stephen was captured by the Missourians.
Stephen was later released and the family joined the general exodus of the church to western Illinois in early 1839. The family located first in Kinderhook and then moved to a fine brick house a few blocks north of the temple on Wells St. In Nauvoo, the family joined the secret inner circle of residents when Stephen gave his young daughter Nancy Mariah to be a plural wife of the prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
When Joseph Smith was killed, the family -- along with the church -- was divided over the succession. Benjamin declared for Sidney Rigdon and was appointed an apostle in the Rigdonite church. He later became a Whitmerite and ultimately repudiated Mormonism altogether, living out his life as a respected business man and politician in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Stephen and Nancy sided with the Twelve. Stephen married three plural wives and his daughter Nancy Mariah ("widow" of the prophet) became the plural wife of Stephen's friend, Heber C. Kimball. Their son Alexander died at this time at the age of 20. Stephen, Nancy and their other sons, Stephen Jr. and James Case moved to the Winter Quarters area, where Stephen again sat on the High Council. The family moved on to Utah in 1849 and located in Salt Lake City along present-day Winchester St.
Stephen remained a loyal follower of Brigham Young and attended reunions of Zion's Camp with Young and the other Brighamite participants -- reunions that must have been somewhat melancholy due to Benjamin's absence. Stephen and Nancy's son, Stephen Jr. died in 1851 at the age of 31. Stephen Sr. died in 1873 and Nancy died in 1878. Benjamin died in 1901 at the age of 84. Like Benjamin, the Winchester's last son, James Case, ultimately repudiated Mormonism. He died at the age of 87 when he was hit by a trolley car in Salt Lake City in 1918. [David J. Whittaker, “East of Nauvoo: Benjamin Winchester and the Early Mormon Church,” Journal of Mormon History, 21, #1 (Spring 1995), 30-83; Jenson, LDS Bibliographical Encyclopedia, Stephen Winchester, 4:692; and records of the Winchester family, see a great, great, great, great grandson, John Hamer email@example.com for more information].
The Stephen and Nancy Winchester home site, just a few blocks north of the Temple at Nauvoo, Illinois -courtesy Mike Karpowicz and John Hamer.