Saturday, May 1, 2010

Death of Hial Bradford

Archibald's second wife, Abigail Sprague Bradford, was the widow of Hial Bradford. Abigail and Hial lived in Nauvoo in 1845 when several family events occurred in quick succession. Abigail's life sketch in The Life of Archibald Gardner states:

"Abigail was very ill when her baby Tryphena was born September 30, 1845. Her husband went for his brother's wife to help at the sick bed. He took his brother's baby with him on the horse and was so long in returning that the family became concerned and went in search of him. He was found feeling his way to the house. He had taken suddenly and violently ill. He died during the night. A little eight-year-old son, Grandville, died about the same time. Two vacant chairs met her gaze when Abigail was able to sit up."(1)

I have also heard this tradition with the variation that Hial went to get the midwife, and I've also heard that he was kicked by the horse and never recovered. The point is that family traditions change over time, and as with all oral history, inaccuracies creep in with the retelling. I am hopeful that the family will look at traditions as a way to locate accurate information, and then bring the traditions back into line with documents of the time. The tradition of Hial's death is one that needs to be evaluated. Currently, most family records indicate that Hial and Grandville both died the same day that Tryphena was born. At least in Hial's case, this cannot be accurate.

On 3 September 1845, the Nauvoo Neighbor published the "Weekly Sexton's Report." This report was a regular feature of the newspaper and was literally a report of the burials that occurred at the Nauvoo cemetery the previous week. The cemetery sexton would have personal knowledge of the burials that occurred in the cemetery for which he was responsible. On 3 Sep, there were actually two sexton reports published. The report for August 24, 1845 lists "Hiel Bradford. 39 y; fever."(2) This sexton's report is primary evidence that Hial died sometime between the 17th and 24th of August, not the 30th of September. Tryphena's birth is well-documented for the 30th of September, so it is clear that Hial may have gone to get help for his pregnant and very ill wife, but it was not at the time of her labor and delivery. Tryphena was born over a month after the death of her father.

I have not yet been able to document the death of Grandville, but since even tradition says that he died "about the same time," it is likely that his death was not the same day as Tryphena's birth. If any family members have documents of the time that will help clarify the timing more precisely than what tradition provides, I would be happy to hear from you.

1. Delila Gardner Hughes, The Life of Archibald Gardner (Draper, Utah: Review and Preview Publishers, 1970), 155.

2. Nauvoo Neighbor, 3 Sep 1845, p. 3, col. 4.


  1. I completely love what you are doing. I too try to bring my historical family stories and traditions in line with what the historical record and documents tell us are true. I have noticed not all family members appreciate this, especially when the historical record contradicts a story they were told. I want you to know that I for one, certainly do appreciate what you are doing here.

    I am also a descendant of Archibald and so I also greatly appreciate all that you have shared here. You have literally saved me near 100 hours with all the information you have provided here. Again, I sincerely thank you.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm happy to share so that we can all move the research along.