BRUSH VALLEY, PENNSYLVANIA
John Fleming was introduced to the Church by Erastus Snow as he preached the gospel in western Pennsylvania. Apparently the Wakefields were of the Methodist faith and several members of the Wakefield family played a prominent part in building up the Methodist Churches in that area.
The diary of Erastus Snow contains much interesting information about western Pennsylvania including references to John Fleming. Quoting from Elder Snows’ diary: “I journeyed to Mechanicsburg in the Township of Brush Valley, about 12 miles south, where I preached on Saturday evening in the dwelling house of Mr. Stewart, esq., and Sunday again in the house of Mr. Evans, and again on Sunday and Monday evenings, in the same place to crowded assemblies. On Tuesday, I preached at the house of Mr. Overdervers, one mile from town, and again on the next evening at Mr. Robertson’s in Mechanicsburg.
The people flock from all quarters to hear the work which cut many of them to the heart. The next morning I baptized one young man after which I returned to Moses Marks,’ three miles north of Indiana, where I had an appointment to preach, but people not turning out I did not preach, I therefore, returned to Indiana and preached in the court house on Friday evening. I returned to Brush Valley and Sunday I preached to an audience of between two and three hundred people, some of whom rejoiced and others were angry because their foundations shook. After the meeting I went to the water and baptized Stephen Adams, the Black Smith in town, 27 October 1836.”
John Fleming Joins the Mormon Church
Then the reference to John Fleming Wakefield. “On Monday [28 October], in company with Brother John Wakefield, I went to the town of Armagh, about six miles off, where I preached to a large assembly that assembled out of curiosity, who were generally Presbyterians, and Seceeders and very self-righteous like the ancient Pharisees, and after giving them a warning I returned the next day and preached in Brush Valley and on Wednesday baptized three and preached again in the evening.”
John Fleming was baptized a few days earlier on 25 October 1836 at age 24. Since John Fleming had many relatives living in the vicinity and was no doubt
well known in the community, it is quite logical that he should accompany Elder Snow to a number of nearby communities.
There are many other references in Erastus Snow’s journal regarding John Fleming.
Elder Snow writes of leaving the Saints in Strongstown and Brush Valley “in the care of Brother John Wakefield.” On another occasion in June 1837, fourteen were baptized in the Brush Valley. The journal entry then states, “Held a Council with the Church and ordained John F. Wakefield an Elder. . . “
After his mission, he returned to Providence, Bedford County, and asked Susanna, the 18 year-
old daughter of David and Elizabeth Buck Garlick to be his wife.
After that, John and Susannah moved to Nauvoo, where they took an active part in the Church. John was one of the “special missionaries,” sent to various counties in Illinois to disabuse the public mind about the Prophet Joseph Smith, his arrest, and alleged crimes.17 One family member also reports that John directed the Nauvoo Temple Choir. On 29 June 1843, Elizabeth Elliot was born to John and Susanna. She was apparently named after John’s sister Elizabeth who married Alexander Elliott. Susanna’s mother was also named Elizabeth.
Thomas Garlick Wakefield was born on 16 June 1845. John and Susanna were still residing in Nauvoo. Following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, the Saints realized they would soon have to leave their homes and seek refuge somewhere west beyond the reach of mobs and persecution. They began to gather provisions, build wagons, acquire teams and other materials for the journey. In the meantime, they were hurrying to complete the temple where they might receive the holy ordinances for which the temple was being constructed.
The Wakefield-Garlick families left Nauvoo in mid-winter 1846. Along with other homeless Saints, they crossed the frozen Mississippi, forced to flee with scant protection against the bitter cold. Violent storms and excessive cold sapped the energy and vitality of the people.
John Fleming II, wrote in later years, “The saddest thing happened when on the 13th of January 1854, our father died. He had been sick a long time. Mother knew he was dying and told us children. I remember seeing him get up out of bed and sit in the big armchair and he died there. My oldest brother ran to Mr. Chamberlins. He came and layed [sic] him out. Father was buried on the 15th of January 1854, in Council Bluffs Cemetery. I remember it was a very cold day.
The cemetery lay on the north of town. There was a row of houses at the foot of the hill right east of the cemetery. It lay on the side hill facing south. After they had lowered him in the grave a lady came and asked ma to come in with us children and get warm, which we did. “Who knows but that father is now laboring in the missionary field in continuation of the labor he was doing while here on earth.