Church Historical Writings




WILLIAMS WASHINGTON CAMP
A BIOGRAPICAL SKETCH


by
John E. Enslen
2010

Williams Washington Camp (1800-1875) was born in Warren County, Georgia, which is located about 100 miles east of Atlanta. His parents were Cecillous (Cecil) Camp and Margaret Williams. He was given the first name of “Williams,” which was his mother’s maiden name. His first name was often misspelled by others who assumed he possessed the more common name of “William.”

After spending his childhood in Georgia, he moved to Alabama as a young adult. [Youngberg, Florence E., editor, “Williams Washington Camp,”
Conquerors of the West, Stalwart Mormon Pioneers, Vol. I (National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999), p. 452] In 1822, at the age of 22, he married 16-year-old Diannah Greer (1806-1876) in Tuscaloosa County. Diannah came from a moderately wealthy slave holding family. [Cater, Kate B., compiler, “The Camp and Greer Negroes—1850,” Our Pioneer Heritage, (Daughters of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, Utah,1965), p. 535; Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah]

Camp became a prosperous farmer, slaveholder, and blacksmith. The Camps owned homestead properties in both Alabama and Tennessee. [Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah]

On April 26, 1835, while living in Chalk Level, Tennessee, the Camps entertained in their home a Mormon missionary named Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff preached a sermon, and afterwards his missionary companion, Warren Parish, baptized an attendee at the meeting. By July 2, 1835, there were enough members in the area to organize the Chalk Level Branch of the Church. [Kenny, Scott G., editor,
Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Volume 1, (Signature Books, Midvale, Utah, 1983) p. 28]

Woodruff and other Church leaders, including Thomas B. Marsh, David Patten, and Abraham O. Smoot, continued to use the Camp’s residence as a place to meet, preach, and baptize new members on a regular basis. [Kenny, Scott G., editor,
Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Volume 1, (Signature Books, Midvale, Utah, 1983). The dates and page numbers for Woodruff’s preaching in the Camp residence are October 22, 1835, page 6; November 14, 1835, page 7; April 9, 1836, page 66; June 23, 1836, with Abraham O. Smoot, page 79; July 21, 1836, page 84; September 11, 1836, page 95; September 14-15, while Woodruff was lame, page 95; September 17-18, 1836, with President Thomas B. Marsh of the Quorum of the Twelve, Apostle David Patten, and others, pages 95-96.]

Notwithstanding Camp was not a member of the Church, simply closely associating with Mormons was a sufficient cause to incur the anti-Mormon wrath of the local Tennessee populace. Camp and his slave Ike were approached in Camp’s blacksmith shop by a mob of 15 men. They announced their intention to give Camp a coat of tar and feathers. Camp was large in stature and muscularly honed from his laborious work as a blacksmith.

Camp temporarily disarmed the small mob with the compliant words “All right,” but almost simultaneously hurled one of his larger hammers into the group, knocking a couple of the gang to the ground. He then began furiously hitting others with hammers and iron tools at his ready disposal. As the members of the mob were escaping, he continued to accurately pelt some of them in the back with his tools.

After disbursing the mob, Camp turned to a hiding Ike and scolded him for not coming to his aid. The Negro Ike replied: “Massah, I knew you wuz enough for them few mens.” [Cater, Kate B., compiler, “The Camp and Greer Negroes—1850,”
Our Pioneer Heritage, (Daughters of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, 1965), p. 536]

Although not joining the Church in Tennessee, the Camps had a close association with members of the Church in the vicinity of their home. Six years passed from his first meeting with Woodruff before Camp was baptized into the Church. Camp was baptized on August 1, 1841. Diannah was baptized the next year on May 12, 1842, following the healing of an infant child by an unknown minister. [
new.familysearch.org; Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah] The Camps were living in Nauvoo at the time of their baptisms. Camp is shown as the owner of lot 3, block 80 in the tax records of Nauvoo. [“Records 1841-1845”, compact disc, Call No. MS 16800, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.]

Prior to moving to Illinois in 1841, Williams Washington Camp sold most of his Negro slaves. His wife Diannah sent some of her slaves to her father James Greer who was then living in Mississippi. The Camps took three of their favorite slaves with them to Nauvoo to help with cooking, washing, and cleaning. Diannah had several young children at the time, and one of the female slaves named Charlotte was particularly adept at nursing the infants. [Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah]

Camp promised Ike and his family freedom if Ike would help the family move to Nauvoo. Ike agreed, but as they neared Nauvoo, the group learned of escalating mob violence in the area of Nauvoo. Evidently frightened by this news, Ike secretly deserted the group.

On a subsequent return trip to Tennessee, Camp inadvertently encountered Ike who was working as a waiter at an inn. Camp took Ike back to Tennessee where he gave Ike and his wife Darcy a parcel of land and set them free. Ike died at the age of 90 in Tennessee. [Cater, Kate B., compiler, “The Camp and Greer Negroes—1850,”
Our Pioneer Heritage, (Daughters of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, 1965), p. 536]

It was about the spring of 1841 that the Camps moved to Nauvoo to join the main body of gathering saints. [Black, Susan Easton,
Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1830-1848, Vol. 8, p. 454] One of the Camp’s daughters, Catherine Ellen Greer Camp, remembered the Prophet Joseph Smith holding a meeting in her parents’ home in Nauvoo. [Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; this daughter died in 1929 and was buried in St. Johns, Arizona, new.familysearch.org] In Nauvoo, Diannah Camp became a member of the Relief Society organization of the Church.

While living in Nauvoo, Camp maintained ownership of his home in Dresden, Weakly County, Tennessee. He allowed his Tennessee home to be used for a local conference of the Church chaired by Abraham O. Smoot on May 26, 1844. The meetings of that day concluded with a presentation by Elder A. Young regarding the views of General Smith on the powers and policy of the Government.” The next day, Camp was appointed as the “elector” for that district, and the conference of fourteen elders decided to publish 3,000 copies of General Smith’s views for immediate distribution. [
Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, No. 12, Nauvoo, Illinois, July 1, 1844, p. 574.]

Camp returned to Tennessee and Alabama from time to time, evidently for business purposes and for managing his real properties. While in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there came a call from church headquarters in Nauvoo for Camp to donate 50 heads of horses and mules to help with the impending evacuation of the city and the move west. Camp generously fulfilled the request, and the animals were herded to Nauvoo under the direction of Camp’s oldest son James and others. They traveled in company with Alabama mission president Abraham O. Smoot, who was returning to Nauvoo in the spring of 1845 following his missionary service in Alabama. [Cater, Kate B., compiler, “The Camp and Greer Negroes—1850,”
Our Pioneer Heritage, (Daughters of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, 1965), p. 536]

Along with other Latter-day Saints, the Camps were driven from Nauvoo and endured the privations of that harsh winter of 1846-1847 in Winter Quarters, Omaha Nation, Indian Territory. [Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah] Following that winter, they moved to the east side of the Missouri River into northwest Missouri where they resided pending their migration west. [Watt, Ronald G.,
Iowa Branch Members Index, 1829-1859, Volumes I and II, Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.] The next year, on November 8, 1848, their last child, Margaret Henrietta Camp, was born on Nodaway Creek, Andrew County, Missouri. She died in 1941 at age 92 in Snowflake, Arizona as Margaret Henrietta Camp Baird. [new.familysearch.org]

Born and raised primarily in Tennessee, the Camps’ oldest son, James Camp, at age 18, mustered into the Mormon Battalion on the plains of Iowa in mid-July of 1846. He became a part of the Higgins sick detachment that spent the winter of 1846-1847 in Pueblo with the Alabama/Mississippi Saints. [Bigler, David L. and Will Bagley,
Army of Israel, Mormon Battalion Narratives, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2000, page 58.] The extreme hardships associated with the battalion trek caused lasting ill health, contributing to James’ early death in 1852, one day after his 24th birthday. [ Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; new.familysearch.org]

In 1850, the Camp family, along with a small number of black slaves, traveled by wagon train from Iowa to Salt Lake City in the Shadrach Roundy Company. In route, their six-year-old daughter Emma died of cholera on June 28, 1850 and was buried on the side of the trail during a heavy rain. [
lds.org, history, Mormon Pioneer Overland Trail, 1847-1868, Journal of Shadrach Roundy, June 28, 1850, accessed December 11, 2009.] Another of the Camps’ children, two-year-old William Polk Camp, had died while the family was living in Nauvoo. Of the fifteen total children born to Williams Washington Camp and Diannah Greer Camp before their arrival in Utah, only six survived to live in Utah. [new.familysearch.org]

In Utah, the Camps first resided in a dugout and tent in the Sessions Settlement. The next year, 1851, the Camps trekked back to the South, leaving their children in care of Charlotte and others. They traveled to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where Diannah Camp received her portion of her deceased father’s estate, approximately $10,000. They returned to Utah with five loaded wagons, one of which contained a piano, reputedly the second piano in the Salt Lake Valley. A small contingent of slaves, including three Negro men, some Negro boys, and one Negro woman, were brought to Utah by the Camps. [Cater, Kate B., compiler, “The Camp and Greer Negroes—1850,”
Our Pioneer Heritage, (Daughters of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, 1965), p. 536]

Upon their return from Mississippi, they built a new two-story home in Great Salt Lake City on South Temple, between 2nd and 3rd east, not far from the home of Brigham Young, with whose children the Camp children played. [Youngberg, Florence E., editor, “Williams Washington Camp,” Conquerors
of the West, Stalwart Mormon Pioneers, Vol. I (National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers: Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999), p. 452]

While living in Utah, Camp practiced polygamy. He fathered 23 children by three wives: 15 children by his first wife Diannah Greer, only six of which survived to live in Utah; six children, excluding one who was adopted, by his wife Amelia Evans; and two children by his wife Marion Elizabeth Lindsay. Camp also married five other wives with whom he had no children. [
new.familysearch]

After serving a mission to Las Vegas in the mid-1850’s, Camp moved west of Salt Lake City to raise sheep. He was ordained a high priest, and church meetings were held for a time in his new home. [The Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah] The Brighton Ward was organized in his home west of the Jordan River on Sunday, February 24, 1867. [Jenson, Andrew,
Church Chronology, Deseret News, Salt Lake City, 1899, 2nd edition, page 76; Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah]

In June of 1856, Williams Washington Camp was arrested for kidnapping a 23-year-old black man named Dan. Upon proving that Dan was his run-away slave, Camp was acquitted after a three-day trial. Two years later, Camp sold Dan for $800.34 to a fellow Utahn, Thomas S. Williams. [Lythgoe, Dennis L., “Negro Slavery in Utah,”
Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39 (Winter, 1971, No. 1) pp. 52-53]

Camp was remembered for his flamboyant dress and his southern culture, which included violin playing, singing, and dancing. He entertained at social events with his southern and Negro songs. [Draper, Ruby, “Williams Washington Camp,” Conquerers of the West, Sons of Utah Pioneers, pp. 452-453; Rees, Ellen Greer, “Williams Washington Camp, Utah Pioneer,” eight-page typed manuscript, Call No. MS 20128, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah]

Williams Washington Camp died firm in the Mormon faith in 1875. His first wife, Diannah, died four months later. [
new.familysearch.org]


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