Our Hill Cumorah BeginningsExamining Cumorah connections from our family archive
Note: this article was orginally published December 9 2015. It has been subsequently edited and updated with new photos. -Cathy Gilmore
A recent article on lds.org, Reclaiming Hill Cumorah1, prompted us to share some sources related to Hill Cumorah, its monument, and pageant beginnings. Our grandmother Dorothy Smith Clark’s papers reveal her connections to Cumorah through her parents Hyrum and June Bushman Smith, who were missionaries at the Cumorah Farm from 1935 to 1939, and her friend Torleif Knaphus, who sculpted the Hill Cumorah monument. In searching Dorothy’s diaries and letters on her Kindex archive, we are able to provide insight to our family’s connection to this historic sight.
Friendship with Torleif Knaphus, sculptor of the Moroni Monument
Partly as an effort to expand Dorothy’s educational and artistic opportunity, Dorothy’s family moved to Salt Lake City from Lethbridge, Alberta in 1930. In 1931, the recently widowed Torleif Knaphus took an interest in Dorothy. As her artistic mentor—and for a time—her suitor, Torleif escorted her on artistic excursions, instructed her in sculpting, and employed her in making handmade Christmas cards and sketches. Dorothy must have been flattered, as my grandfather Ellsworth was also competing for her attention. In her diary she wrote:
Sunday April 23, 1933
Went by Orem Electric to annual Springville Art Exhibit with T.S. Knaphus, sculptor. Spent 3 hours in Provo, sight-seeing on our way back to S.L.C. Took kodak snaps on B.Y.U. campus.
This was a very interesting day for me and rather an outstanding one I suppose, inasmuch as I was so kindly favored and well treated by one so prominent in his sphere.
En route he gave me valuable instructions and criticisms on art. Urges strongly that I begin to busy myself with “oils” and harness the talent he believes lies dormant. (I hope to do this soon, as I have been so inspired today). Left Knaphus at 8 P.M. to finish the day with Ellsworth. Youth does have its preferences.2
Indeed it does, as Dorothy settled on Ellsworth and became engaged that summer. Still, Dorothy maintained her friendship with Torleif and continued their mentoring relationship. In September of 1933 she wrote:
Was invited to Knaphus studio this evening where be showed me a newly-designed model of the shaft for the Hill Cumorah Monument. We ate some ice-cream there and talked of my doing some more painting there and maybe helping him with some new panels. Thrilled about getting into that work again.
Grateful for his attention and interest in her art, Dorothy later wrote:
Saturday, November 12, 1933
I have Christmas card orders to fill for Torleif S. Knaphus in return for clay which he gave me for modeling.
He certainly has inspired me and been a great help in pushing me, as it were, along the road to accomplishment. I don’t know many other grown people who have so influenced me to good and been as companionable.
During their engagement, Dorothy encouraged Ellsworth to serve a mission. After he departed in December 1933 to a Western States mission, there is some hint that Torleif was keen to maintain a close relationship with Dorothy as he repeatedly sought out her company. Dorothy wrote:
Wednesday, January 24, 1934
Attended night class tonite and made my first water color scene (copy of Moser’s) in new style (from my former teachings.) Mr. Knaphus met me after work – asked me to go to Beaux Arts Ball this Saturday but I declined.
Although she didn’t attend the dance with Torleif, their close friendship often proved difficult for Ellsworth during his absence while serving as a missionary. On a temple trip to Manti that included the Knaphus family, Dorothy played an April Fool’s joke on Ellsworth and wrote to him that she and Torleif decided on a whim to be sealed there. Practical jokes notwithstanding, Dorothy and Ellsworth married in August 1934.
Dorothy with her parents Hyrum and June Smith, c1928
Dorothy in Professor Wildhaber’s studio, 1932
Cumorah Farm Mission and Moroni Monument Dedication
That same summer, Dorothy’s parents Hyrum and June Bushman Smith were called to be missionaries at the Cumorah Farm. After their marriage, Dorothy and Ellsworth moved to Idaho, but Torleif’s connection to the family remained as he completed the monument and attended its dedication in July 1935. Over the next year, Dorothy regularly wrote to her family in Palmyra, discussing plans for the Moroni monument dedication and future pageant. In her letters, Dorothy sketched out ideas for local advertisements for the pageant.
On May 26, 1935, Dorothy’s brother Oliver—a missionary in the Eastern States Mission—wrote about local missionary efforts and preparations for the monument’s dedication:
Along with 37 other missionaries of the Easter States mission I am engaged in a special drive in the area within a 20-mile radius of Palmyra, which will continue until the dedication of the Cumorah Monument on July 21. We hope to do some good work by this concentration of effort, which has significance with the connection of the monument. We are visiting every home—rural and urban—in the section. Eleven of us stay together at the LDS hall in Palmyra and drive out 5 or 10 miles every morning to a rural section in which we go tracting until late afternoon, when we return. Our week-ends I have visited Rochester and Buffalo for publicity work. At Buffalo I stayed at Mary Payne Chamber’s place. She has three children. Girl 11, girl 9, and boy 7….
Every day or so there are visitors here from somewhere we have been. Today Bro & Sis Douglas Anderson visited us and went to the Peter Whitmer farm with us in the afternoon. The church was organized there. Next Sunday we are having a session of the Cumorah District Conference here.3
Dorothy’s Visit to the Cumorah Farm
In the spring of 1936, Dorothy and Ellsworth made plans to visit Dorothy’s parents in Palmyra that summer with their young son Norman. In her life sketch she recalls:
The summer of 1936 we vacationed at Cumorah Farm, near Palmyra, N.Y. with my parents. Lois, who had been with us for her senior high school year, returned with us. It was thrilling to see the first pageant presented at the Hill, which was co-authored by my brother Oliver, an Eastern States missionary. I was able to help with publicity posters. Our 15 mos Norman was used in a covered wagon sequence of a pioneer panorama presented one evening at the Hill.4
The 1936 pageant was a family affair. Her parents Hyrum and June and brother Oliver had key roles developing the pageant, and sisters June and Lois Smith participated in the pageant. Even her one-year-old son Norman rode in a wagon as part of the festivities. The images below reveal pages from Dorothy’s Book of Remembrance that chronicled their trip.5
Hyrum Smith (center) standing at the base of the monument. He is a first cousin once removed to Joseph Smith, and served as Torleif’s model for Joseph Smith in this panel. Note Hyrum Smith is a first cousin once removed to Joseph Smith Jr., not a second cousin as the caption indicates.
Additional pages from Book of Remembrance of June Adele Smith, Dorothy’s younger sister. 6
2. Smith, Dorothy, Diary 1932-1934, in the author’s possession
3. Smith, Oliver, to Dorothy Smith Clark, May 26 1935,Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark Archive, https://smith-clark.kindex.org/share/1702339dd4b1d708c6ff76822484b96f
4. Smith, Dorothy, Life Sketch, Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark Archive, Jan 31 1975, https://smith-clark.kindex.org/share/16f43a4946cdb126afdfc57b42c44472
5. Smith, Dorothy, Book of Remembrance, Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark Archive, https://smith-clark.kindex.org/gather
6. Smith, June A., Book of Remembrance, in the author’s possession
Scope and Content
The archive contains letters, photos, documents, diaries, personal writings, verse, and art created by Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark between 1916 and 2008. It also includes additional photos and documents created by associated family and friends related to Dorothy and Ellsworth, including letters, documents and photos dating from the late 19th-century.
- Diaries and letters containing LDS Church History in Lethbridge, Alberta from 1915-1930
- Close associations with LDS artist Torlief Knaphus and Mormon leaders including Hugh B. Brown
- Caretaking of the Cumorah Farm in Palmyra from 1934 to 1939
- Religious and social history in Salt Lake City from 1929 to 1940
See categories below for additional details about each archive Collection.
Accessibility and Permissions
- Title: Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark Archive
- URL: https://smith-clark.kindex.org
- Archive Owner: Cathy Gilmore
- Total Records: 1740
- % Indexed: 34%
- Accessibility: Public
- Public: Search, view indexed records (no account required)
- Guest: Search, index records, view all records (Free Kindexer account required)
- Collaborator: Search, index records, view all records, contribute records, access archive from Archives list. Collaborator status is invite-only and must be requested from the archive owner. Kindex account reqired (Kindexer, Cloud, Closet)
- Source: Records gathered, scanned, and added to archive collaboratively by descendants of Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth Clark.
Dorothy was a prolific amateur artist who used many mediums to express her creativity. Collection includes 83 pieces, including watercolors, oils, sketches, calligraphy, and handmade cards.
While most of the poetry in this collection consists of love poems exchanged between Dorothy and Ellsworth, there are a handful of poems she wrote later in life that she gifted to her children and grandchildren. Collection includes 22 poems.
With 461 images, Dorothy and Ellsworth's photo collection is the largest collection in the archive. Dates span from late 19th century to the 2008. Locations: Lethbridge, Alberta; Snowflake, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; Southern Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and sites related to early LDS Church history.
With a total of 343 letters, the Letters collection includes courtship letters and correspondence written both to and from Dorothy and Ellsworth. This collection is rich with social, church, and family history. Letters span from 1915 to 2000 over 100 years of family history.
Dorothy’s collection of eight, notebook-style diaries are primarily from her young adult years dating from 1927 to 1932. Early diaries were written in Lethbridge, Alberta and Salt Lake City, Utah, and contain an abundance of church and social. Later diaries purposed as note-keeping and verse books. These are a treasure to have, as Dorothy was not a prolific journal-keeper. Diaries include editorial notes Dorothy to the pages later in life.
Book of Remembrance
Quite possibly the highlight of the archive, Dorothy’s Book of Remembrance is a study in multiple disciplines, including photography, art, family history, genealogy, and design. Dorothy began her Book of Remembrance in the early 1930s, and added to it throughout her life. At 154 pages, this is the first of many books she began for herself and her siblings, children, and grandchildren.
Biographical Sketch of Dorothy Smith Clark
Born in the pioneer community of Snowflake, Arizona to Hyrum and June A. Bushman Smith and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta, Dorothy Smith had a creative and kind nature which found expression playing the good fairy and leaving secret gifts to delight her family. Dorothy’s talent in art became a serious pursuit when the Smith family relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1929. There she continued her studies at the University of Utah, met future husband Ellsworth M. Clark, and gained employment as a decorator at H.R. Kress.
While still a young mother, Dorothy completed her Book of Remembrance. A work of art in its own right, its pages reveal her deep sense of ancestral belonging, records of her parents’ and grandparents’ spiritual gifts, and a recognition of her own divine purpose and talents. As Dorothy developed her own spiritual gifts, her ability to discern the needs of others and act in faith became a catalyst for ministering to others, notwithstanding the fear and shyness she often felt. To the question posed to the Savior, “Who is my neighbor?” Dorothy could answer: the plumber, the piano tuner, the refugee, or the outcast—anyone in her path in need of help.
Dorothy’s 1964 poster sketch titled “We Believe in Sharing” affirmed the scope of her desires: to give all she had—her talents, testimony, labor, food, and possessions, bringing “more happiness, enrich[ing] the world, sharing all that has come to us as a church and as individual members.” Often overcome with social anxiety or limited by poor heath, Dorothy preferred personal visits to projects, created art to share the gospel, and wrote hundreds of inspired letters that today stand as a testimony of her covenant to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8-9). Without prejudice or judgment, her nurturing influence reached beyond her own nine children when she became foster mother to two Navajo children and a personal advocate for many Southeast Asian refugees who affectionately called her “Mother Clark”.
While Dorothy’s art was never exhibited, her painting of Paul Wildhaber’s “The Armor of Righteousness” was the centerpiece of her home. Unlike others who traditionally depicted male religious figures in armor, 20-year-old Dorothy changed the painting’s subject from hero to heroine, thus broadening the view of those who are “armed in righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Nephi 14:14). From her childhood fairy gifts to the ministering of the needful and forgotten, her visionary example of what a faithful woman can do endures through her depiction of this righteous and strong heroine.
Dorothy Smith Clark
26 April 1911 – 3 February 198
One family organization—the Sampsons of Delta, Utah—embraced the idea of record gathering and digitization. When reunion organizer Tonna Bounds first approached friend and Kindex owner Kimball Clark, she had a great vision of uniting her family records, but was concerned about the following obstacles:
- How to encourage family members throughout the country to attend the reunion and bring their records
- How to scan records correctly within a limited timeframe
- How to discern which family members had what records
- Convincing aging or skeptical family members to preserve and share their records
- Involve children and youth in family record archiving
With her family’s biannual reunion several months away, we suggested she use Kindex Gather Services to hold an on-site digitization event—a “family scanning party”.
Several weeks before the reunion, we sent the family a “Call for Records” publicity image to promote the digitization event. The family posted this image on social media and emailed this image to family, and provided guidelines on record gathering including:
- A list of family members in attendance, and who of those brought records
- How record scanning would be prioritized. For example, the Sampson family focused on letters, journals, and papers more than photos. They also gave higher priority to records coming in from out-of-town attendees, and those records belonging to first-generation family members.)
- Acceptable record sizes, and what types of scanners would be available to accommodate those sizes
- Suggestions on preparing items for scanning, including the removal of loose papers, staples, paper clips, sheet protectors, etc.
When family members with records arrived at the reunion, we checked in their records and gathered the following information:
- Record owner and contact information
- Primary person to whom the records originally belonged
- Inventory of items to be scanned
As more documents arrived throughout the day, we were impressed with the family’s response to the Call for Records. Records were gathered from New York, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. Soon all our scanners were busy, and several family volunteers—including several youth—jumped in to help. Throughout the reunion, families entered the “record room” to check on the status of their scanning. They were delighted to see the process, and several volunteered their time to move the process along.
Mark Sampson, Kimball Clark, Dale Sampson, and Caleb Sampson busy scanning their family records. Caleb remarked, while scanning the journals of his ancestors: “This makes me want to go write in my journal when I get home.”
Ikara Bounds scans her family records while Kimball trains Caleb Sampson on book scanning
A Sampson family member pauses scanning to review an old school photo of an ancestor.
At the end of the day, we returned the records to their owners, and made arrangements to scan any records that remained. Following the compilation of all digitized files to an external hard drive, Kindex will:
- Orient each scan
- Save each in the appropriate format and grouping.
- Transfer the complete digitized archive to USB drives for family members to order
- Upload all digitized records to sampson.kindex.org, which enables the family to access each record and begin the indexing process.
Because of the Sampson Family’s dedication to the preservation and and sharing of their family records, their scanning event was a great success. Family members couldn’t wait to access records they had never seen, and were already planning indexing and book projects. Several volunteers became emotional as they paused to read journal entries between scans, pored over old photos, and when a copy of the Delta High School fight song was discovered, played an impromptu version of on the piano. Others simply poked in their heads and exclaimed, “Wonderful! We can’t wait!”
After the reunion, we asked Tonna how she felt about the record-gathering effort. She said:
“How do you explain something that took place at our past reunion that is so futuristic in thought and action. People don’t understand the potential in all of this—jaw dropping in thought!! Just trying to wrap my brain around it all. Aunt Zelda and Uncle Ivo’s history has been destroyed and through all the ancestors’ history. Those lost histories can now be put back together with even more force then could be imagined.”
The Sampson Family prepares letters for scanning.
We were honored to be a part of the Sampson Family’s effort to bring their family records out of obscurity, and hope to enable many more families see the the potential in utilizing family reunions for the gathering and preservation of their own family records.
Contact us to learn more about how Kindex can help you rescue your family records.
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