Terressa Morse (1813 - 1862)

10736. Terressa1 MORSE was born 20Oct 1813 in Clifford, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of William Amos MORSE and Hannah FINN. Terressa died 20Mar 1862 in Sevier County, Utah, and was buried 23Mar 1862 in Sevier, Sevier, Utah.

John D. Lee's diary states: "In 1859 I was sealed to my eighteenth wife, Teressa Morse. I was sealed to her by order of Brigham Young. Amasa Lyman officiated at the ceremony."

Terressa Morse was born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, located in the eastern section of the state but she said that she was raised in Ohio. While living there in 1843 she joined the LDS Church, and subsequently moved to Nauvoo. She and her husband, Mr. Briggs, departed Nauvoo with the general exodus of the church in 1846 and remained at Winter Quarters in Nebraska until 1848, when they crossed the plains to Utah. They had two sons, Robert and Charley.

Sometime in the interim between Nauvoo and the Salt Lake Valley, Briggs disappeared. Whether he died or otherwise left Terressa for some reason, is not known. By 1849, however, she was married to Solomon Chamberlain, a man twenty-five years her senior. They lived in Salt Lake from 1849 to 1851, where they experienced problems which all the early pioneers faced, particularly those challenges having to do with inadequate food and shelter.

In an interview during John D. Lee's incarceration at Beaver, Utah, she was questioned by a news reporter, from the Sacramento Union, on August 3, 1875 about her life and the early settlements in Utah, including the well-known story of Mormon crickets and the devouring seagulls. "...just then came great flocks of pure white gulls and ate the crickets up...," she told him, as she herself had witnessed it.

The reporter asked, "...You don't believe that?"

"...I don't? ...Didn't they come? ...Didn't I see them settle down in flocks in my own dooryard and gobble up the crickets? Oh yes, they came day after day and saved us in truth..."

Terressa's only child by Chamberlain was a girl, Louisa, born about 1849.

The Lee family was called to the Iron Mission, and went south in 1852. They were with George A. Smith's company of nineteen wagons, which included John D. Lee and his wives, Lavina and Polly Young. They arrived at Parowan on November 4, 1852.

The first entry in Lee's diaries to include Terressa Morse in his household was six years after their arrival in Southern Utah. The Lees were living at Old Fort Harmony. In his entry of February 26, 1858, John told of a trip to Cedar City, about fifteen miles north of Harmony. Included in the traveling party with him were Emma Batchelor, one of his wives, John Davis, bishop of Harmony, H. Barney and E. Morris, Davis's counselors, and Sister Chamberlain.

What was Terressa Chamberlain doing there as part of that group? It was evident from subsequent entries that she was not simply visiting but for some unknown reason was living in the Lee household, but not as one of his wives. A month later, on March 24, Lee noted in his journal that he "...started for Washington," with one of his wives, "Polly V. Lee and Tearesa Morse, Alma & Lem, etc...."

Seven months after that entry, John observed that there was so much emigrant traffic on the California Road which ran past Harmony that he decided to provide accommodations for those travelers. In mid-November, he made a sign designating his "mansion" as the sign of the Eagle, "Entertainment by J. D. Lee," placed "in frount of my mansion level with the second floor." Then he told how on November 25, "...some of my family working all nite with travelers (76 California teamsters.)" Terressa was named as one of those in the kitchen crew. Revenues from that one night amounted to $120.00.

Finally, a year after her name first appeared in his journal as "Sister Chamberlain," she was sealed to Lee. On March 18, 1859, he wrote, "...Amasa Lyman...spent the day and night at my house with his wife....After supper he seald to me Terressa Morse..." Following that date, Lee spoke of Terressa as his wife.

How was that to be interpreted, and what about her former husband, Solomon Chamberlain? At her marriage to Lee, Terressa was forty-six years old, past child-bearing age. Chamberlain had not died, nor did it seem there were any moral entanglements in his or Terressa's life. It appeared that their problem was simply day-to-day relations with one another. The difficulty was obviously taken to Brigham Young. He probably told them to separate for a time and try to work things out. In the meantime, he would provide a place for her to stay and she could make up her mind what she wanted to do.

What about her ten-year-old child, Louisa? Typically, President Young would have said that it did not matter with which parent the child remained, because neither had any intention of leaving the Church. This same question had arisen in John D. Lee's life when he separated from Louisa Free. President Young's counsel to him, when Lee questioned him about their boy, as above, was that it did not matter. Had Chamberlain been cut off from the Church or was not in good standing for any reason, the child would not have been left in his care. On the other hand, had Terressa left the Church or been excommunicated, she would never have been taken into Lee's home. The Chamberlain child, Louisa, for whatever reason, remained with her father.

After a year of living in the Lee household, she made the choice to become one of John's wives. There was no mention of divorce between Terressa and Solomon Chamberlain, but upon direct consent of Brigham Young, a divorce was not required. That explained John's statement that he married Terressa "by order of Brigham Young," and like his marriage many years before to Abigail Woolsey, it was for her "souls sake."

Interestingly enough, one and a half years after Terressa's marriage to Lee, and about three years after she had left Chamberlain, Solomon Chamberlain, an old man of seventy-two years, came to John and asked that Terressa return to him. After some conversation in which John, seeming to become quite vexed at the way in which the proposal was made, told Chamberlain that if Terressa wanted to go back to him, that he would not object. Yet he said he did not want her to leave unless she wanted to go. She chose to stay as a member of the Lee household.

Following John D. Lee's excommunication from the Church, and his move to Upper Kanab, Skutumpah, in 1872 Terressa Morse left the Lee family. She really had no options, since Lee, in distributing his property among his wives, left nothing to Terressa because she had no children by him. She went north to Provo, where her son, Robert, lived, and stayed with him until she married again.

During the interview by the news reporter mentioned above, she gave her name as Mrs. Phelps; at the time, she was sixty-two years old. She described how she lived in the Lee homes at Harmony and Washington.

"...I labored in his different residences, in all parts of his family. I baked bread for his family for three years at Fort Harmony. I loved Lee. I love him still. He has been misrepresented; he has been made a dog of, he has been forced into this hurts me to see a man who is naturally kind-hearted as any living human being...who's been made a cat's paw of."

The reporter then asked, "Why don't he tell all about it?"

"Why, you don't know the man! I've heard him say he'd suffer death and be cut in pieces rather than turn traitor."

After that we have no more information about Terressa. It is not known where she lived, nor when she passed away.

She married (1) William E. BRIGGS.

Terressa married (2) Solomon CHAMBERLAIN before 1849 in Washington, Washington, Utah. Solomon died 1862.

Terressa married (3) John Doyle LEE 18Mar 1859 in Fort Harmony, Washington, Utah.

Terressa married (4) ________ PHELPS.

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