Monday, April 6, 2015

An Irish Immigrant Joins the Church, 1854

Linton family reunion, Utah, c. 1908. Samuel Linton is sitting in the center.
Samuel Linton was born in Ireland in 1828. His family moved to St. Johns, New Brunswick, Canada when Samuel was a child. Here he tells the story of his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He left Philadelphia directly for Utah, where he helped rescue the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies in 1856.

I remained with my father until I was twenty (20), when I went to Philadelphia, with the approbation of my parents. I took passage on a Brigantine loaded with spare timber for New York which I helped to unload. It took us four days. I then took a train for Philadelphia where there was a job waiting for me. I was among strangers, but my friends were very kind to me.

The next year, 1849, my sister Sarah Jane came on....The next year (1850), the family came on. Father only lived a year after he came to Philadelphia (1851). [Three] years after my father died [(1854)] I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how I came to hear it was this:

There was a great infidel, Joseph Barker of Ohio. He gave out a challenge to any of the ministers of the day to debate with him on the divine authenticity of the Bible, or the being of a God. There was an old gentleman that took him up. They had five nights of a discussion. The Old Presbyterian could do nothing with him. I went every night. This set me to thinking. I made up my mind to go and hear every sect and party that professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In looking over the advertisements in the Daily Ledger to see which of the sects I should visit, I saw the advertisement of the Latter-day Saints which read like this: “Elder Samuel Harrison of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would preach at ten o’clock on Sunday at 7th and Callow Hill, and he would show that neither Protestant nor Catholic had the true gospel preached to them.” This took my attention. I thought they were the most presumptuous people I had heard of, to style themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thought I must go and hear them first. I was there on time.

The corner in Philadelphia where Samuel Linton first heard the gospel preached. It's not much to look at now; there are no original buildings on any of the four corners.
A view of the neighborhood in 1883.

The people began to gather in. I thought they were the most sociable, happy people I had ever seen. The Elder came in and went up on the stand and gave out a hymn. I thought it, and the prayer, was the most sensible I had ever heard. He preached from the New Testament, and quoted passages of scripture that I had committed to memory in Methodist Sabbath School, but he applied them in such a different light that it bothered me to understand it. I had inquired about these Mormons, and they said they were Old Joe Smith’s followers, that he had dug up a golden Bible, and they didn’t believe our Bible. Well, I thought that if this is the Book of Mormon, it is very like our Bible, and thought I would ask him to let me see his Book of Mormon, but before he sat down he held up the Bible and said this is the Bible translated under King James that I have been preaching from. That was enough for me. I could see they had lied about the people. When meeting was over I was in no hurry to go. There was a man by the name of Luts [Albert E. Lutz], a perfect stranger to me. He asked what I thought of the preaching. I told him I had no fault to find. I asked him a great many questions. He answered me satisfactorily. He told me if I would come back in the afternoon, he would lend me a book, which, if I would read, I could learn a great deal about the Gospel. I read it, I was convinced that the Lord had restored the Gospel and the authority to administer the Ordinances thereof, I applied for baptism. They asked me if I had considered the consequences. He asked me if I was ready to have my friends turn against me and have my name cast out as evil, and suffer persecution, and perhaps lay down my life. I considered a moment, and I thought the former-day Saints had to take all these chances, so I told him I was prepared for all this. He said on these conditions you may be baptized. They were about three weeks before they were ready to go. There were quite a few baptized. There was plenty of ice to be moved, so we had a cold bath. We were all right. We took no harm. This was the first of January, 1854.

Samuel Linton left for Utah on April 3, 1854. He married Ellen Sutton McKetchnie and Eleanor Coolidge Chase and lived much of his life in Nephi, Juab, Utah. His daughter added several notes to his autobiography, including the following:

Father was very anxious to have his folks join the church. His father died a year after they came to Philadelphia and father left to gather with the Saints, as he has told us. After 20 years he got a letter from his mother through the dead letter office. He began writing trying to convert them. Later he made two trips to visit them, but they were too full of prejudice to talk to him or listen so no more joined the church, but he has had their work done in the Temple which we hope they have learned to accept and appreciate.

Samuel's parents, William and Elizabeth Selfridge Linton, and other family members are buried in the Westminster Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.


Linton, Samuel and Mary Ann Linton Morgan, Autobiographical Sketch of Samuel Linton, 1908, 1945. Copy in possession of blog author. Copy in Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, MS 25651.

Smith, Walter Wayne, "Philadelphia Branch," in Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Journal of History, January 1919, Lamoni, Iowa, 509-537.

"Southeast Corner of Seventh and Callowhill Streets, 1883," Historical documentation of Place in Greater Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, Accessed September 12, 2013,

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