A little over a week after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, the Church leaders in the pioneer company selected inheritances surrounding the Temple Block.
Heber C. Kimball chose the block to the northeast. In addition to the homes that Heber built for his family, he constructed a mill, blacksmith shop, and foundry, all of which were powered by water from nearby City Creek.
Barns, gardens, orchards, and a family cemetery occupied the rest of the property. Today, only the cemetery, where Heber C. Kimball himself was buried in 1868, remains.
The property originally owned by Heber C. Kimball and Newel K. Whitney and set aside as a cemetery in 1848, was one of the ﬁrst formally dedicated burial grounds within the Salt Lake Valley.
It sits in the middle of the block immediately north of the Church Ofﬁce Building. Within three years of the Saint's arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Brother Whitney was laid to rest in this sacred spot. Eighteen years later, both Heber C. Kimball and his wife Vilate were buried here.
In total, ﬁfty-six family members and friends were laid to rest in the tiny cemetery, the majority in unmarked graves. Of the deaths of Heber and Vilate, Orson F. Whitney wrote: On the 22nd of October, 1867, there was gloom in the household of Heber C. Kimball. On that day died Vilate, the partner of his youth, the noble and unselfish sharer of his life’s joys and sorrows. In the sixty-second year of her age, after [a] . . . life of toil, heroism, and self-sacrifice, God called her home to a glorious rest. . . . “I shall not be long after her,” was the sad prophecy that fell from [Heber C. Kimball’s] quivering lips, as he followed the remains of his beloved partner to the tomb. . . .
Heber C. and Vilate Kimball
Heber and Vilate met when Heber passed by her home in Victor, New York, on a warm summer day. Being thirsty, he stopped by the house to ask Roswell Murray, who was working in the yard, for a drink of water. The man went to the well, and as he did so he called for his daughter, Vilate, to bring this young stranger a glass from the house. Heber was immediately impressed with the young girl and found that on a return journey through that area he became thirsty about the time that he reached that same house. When Mr. Murray obliged Heber’s request for a drink, Heber boldly announced that he would prefer to have Vilate serve him a glass of water. Soon they were married and became close friends with Brigham Young and his wife Miriam.
Both couples were seekers of religious truth, and when several missionaries from northern Pennsylvania passed through the community teaching about the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel, they received their testimony by the witness of the Holy Ghost, being baptized in April 1832.
Following baptism, the two families moved to Kirtland, Ohio, to gather with the Saints. Heber faithfully served in Zion’s Camp, which was organized to help those that were driven from Jackson County, Missouri. In February 1835, he was selected and ordained to serve as a member of the ﬁrst Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Within two years, he was called to be the ﬁrst missionary to preach the gospel in Great Britain, returning two years later with other members of the Twelve. Heber was in the pioneer vanguard company that ﬁrst came to the Salt Lake Valley. When the First Presidency was reorganized in Winter Quarters three years following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Heber was called as President Brigham Young’s First Counselor, in which ofﬁce he served until his death.
Newel K. Whitney
Newel K. Whitney (1795–1850) was the owner of a successful mercantile business in Kirtland, Ohio. While studying the Bible, he and his wife, Elizabeth Ann, prayed that God would send prophets again on the earth. In November 1830, four missionaries traveling from New York to teach the American Indians in the western borders of Missouri stopped in the Kirtland area to visit with Sidney Rigdon, a pastor in a Reformed Baptist movement. These missionaries were given permission to preach to Sidney’s congregation. Newel and Elizabeth heard the message about a living prophet and the Restoration of the gospel, felt it was true, and agreed to be baptized. In February 1831, the Prophet Joseph and his wife, Emma, arrived in a sleigh in front of the Whitney store. Previously, Joseph was shown in vision Newel and his wife pleading with the Lord that the Prophet might come to Kirtland. Joseph Smith entered their store and exclaimed:
“Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man!” . . . extending his hand cordially, as if to an old and familiar acquaintance. “You have the advantage of me,” replied the one addressed, as he mechanically took the proffered hand—a half-amused, half mystified look overspreading his countenance— “I could not call you by name as you have me.” “I am Joseph, the Prophet,” said the stranger, smiling. “You’ve prayed me here; now what do you want of me?”
- Newel K. Whitney is addressed or mentioned in nine sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.
- In 1979 the Church acquired Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland, Ohio. It has been restored to appear as it did in the 1830s and is open for guided tours.
In December 1831, a little more than a year after his baptism, Newel was called as a bishop to minister to the Saints in the Ohio area. Consequent to consecrating his property to the work of the Lord, his store essentially became the bishop’s storehouse in Ohio. In addition, from 1832 to 1833, the upstairs office of the Whitney store served as the Church headquarters while the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family lived there. During that time, Newel participated in many important events connected with the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was a companion of the Prophet in many of Joseph’s journeys, traveling together west to Jackson County, Missouri, and east to New York City. During a return trip from Missouri in May 1832, Bishop Whitney caught his leg in a wagon wheel, breaking it in several places. After remaining together for nearly a month and waiting for the leg to heal, the Prophet Joseph Smith awoke one morning and instructed Newel that if he had the faith to be healed, it would be done. Accordingly, they were soon on their way home to Kirtland. On April 6, 1847, prior to the pioneer company leaving Winter Quarters for the Great Basin, Newel K. Whitney was called and sustained as Presiding Bishop of the Church, which calling he held until his death on September 23, 1850, in Salt Lake City.
- In the 1890s, the Kimball and Whitney families, anxious to recognize the burial of their ancestors, placed a marker on the monument inside the cemetery containing all fifty-six names. Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy rededicated this monument on June 20, 1998.
- In 1976, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers placed a bronze marker at the Main Street entrance of the cemetery, which reads: “Heber C. Kimball, pioneer of 1847 and First Counselor to Brigham Young, was allotted the land adjacent to this monument upon which to build homes for his family, the majority of whom arrived in 1848. He and Newel K. Whitney dedicated a plot of ground one-half block east as a private cemetery for both families. Buried therein are 33 Kimballs, 13 Whitneys, and 10 others. Both Heber C. Kimball and Newell K. Whitney are interred in this sacred spot.”
Her remains were laid in the family burial ground. . . . The words of Heber were indeed prophetic. . . . On the morning of the 22nd of June, 1868—eight months later to a day—death again entered the household, leveling his fatal shaft at the mighty heart of its patriarchal head. At the age of sixty-seven years, his mind yet unimpaired, his iron frame unbent by age, . . . Heber C. Kimball, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, the tried and trusted friend of God, passed peacefully from the earth.