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A Vision of the Spirit World

Experience of David Patten Kimball

(born August 23, 1839, died November 22, 1883)


On the 4th of November (1881), I took a very severe cold in a snowstorm at Prescott, (Arizona), being clad in light clothing, which brought on pneumonia or lung fever. I resorted to Jamaica ginger and pepper tea to obtain relief and keep up my strength till I could reach home and receive proper care. On the 13th I camped in a canyon ten miles west of Prescott, my son Patten being with me. We had a team of eight horses and two wagons. That night I suffered more than death. The next night we camped at Mr. McIntyre’s about twenty miles farther on. I stopped there two nights and one day, during which time I took nothing to drink but pepper tea. On the 16th we drove to Black’s ranch, twenty eight miles nearer home, and were very comfortably located in Mr. Black’s house.

About 11 p.m., I awoke and to my surprise saw some six or eight men standing around my bed. I had no dread of them, but felt that they were my friends. At the same time I heard a voice which seemed to come from an eight-square (octagon) clock on the opposite side of the house. It commenced talking and blackguarding, which drew my attention, when I was told to pay no attention to it. At this point I heard the most beautiful singing I ever listened to in all my life. These were the words, repeated three times by a choir: "God bless Brother David Kimball." I at once distinguished among them the voice of my second wife, Julia Merrill, who in life was a good singer. This, of course, astonished me. Just then my father commenced talking to me, the voice seeming to come from a long distance. He commenced by telling me of his associations with President Young, the Prophet Joseph, and others in the spirit world, then enquired about his children, and seemed to regret that his family were so scattered, and said there would be a great reformation in his family inside of two years. He also told me where I should live, also yourself and others, and a great many other things. I conversed freely with father, and my words were repeated three times by as many different persons, exactly as I spoke them, until they reached him, and then his words to me were handed down in like manner.

After all this I gave way to doubt, thinking it might be only a dream, and to convince myself that I was awake, I got up and walked outdoors into the open air.

I returned, and still the spirit of doubt was upon me. To test it further I asked my wife Julia to sing me a verse of one of her old songs. At that, the choir, which had continued singing, stopped and she sang the song through, every word being distinct and beautiful. The name of the song was, "Does He Ever Think of Me?"

My eyes were now turned toward the south, and there, as in a large parquette, I beheld hundreds, even thousands, of friends and relatives. I was then given the privilege of asking questions, and did so. This lasted for some time, after which the singing commenced again, directly above me. I now wrapped myself in a pair of blankets and went out-doors, determined to see the singers, but could see nothing, though I could hear the voices just the same. I returned to my couch and the singing, which was all communicative and instructive, continued until the day dawned. All this time the clock I have mentioned continued its cursing and blackguarding.

Mr. and Mrs. Black were up in due time and got breakfast. I arose and made my toilet, plain as it was, and took breakfast with my host and hostess. When my boy got ready to start, I went to pay my bill, and to my surprise heard a voice say or communicate: "David Kimball has paid his bill." When I got into the wagon, my guards, or those who were around my bed during the night, were still with me. My father had told me that he and President Young and others would visit me the next night.

We drove on until about 11 a.m., when a host of evil spirits made their appearance. They were determined to destroy me, but I had power of mind to pay no attention to them, and let them curse all day without heeding them any more than possible. Five times they made a rush en masse to come into the wagon, the last one, where I was, but were kept off by my friends (spiritual). About 2 p.m. I told my boy to stop and we would water our horses. We used for this purpose barrels that we had along with us. After this I walked to the west side of my wagons, and looking to the east, I saw and heard the evil spirits floating in the air and chanting curses upon Brigham Young. I saw two other groups of the same kind, but did not hear them. Then I looked to the south and the whole atmosphere was crowded with fallen spirits, or those who had not obtained bodies. Others who tried to torment me were spirits who had lived upon the earth. Having seen so many and being complimented by my guard for seeing so well, I became a little timid and asked my spiritual friends if they had any help. The answer was, "Yes, plenty." I now told my boy to drive on – he was entirely oblivious of all that was taking place with me – and soon after I was so exhausted that I fell into a troubled sleep and must have slept quite a little while.

After I awoke I seemed to be left alone, and was lying on my back, when, al at once, I saw an old man and two young girls. This vision coming on me suddenly, I was startled, and finding my guard gone, I jumped out of the wagon and got up on the spring seat beside my boy. But I could not get away from them. I was told in a coarse, gruff voice that the devil was going to kill me, and that he would follow me night and day until he destroyed me. I remembered the promise father had made me the night before – that he intended to visit me the next evening – and I nerved up and tried to pay no attention to my persecutors, but I must confess I was frightened.

We arrived at Wickenburg just at sundown. The old man and the girls were tormenting and tantalizing me all the way, but never coming very near me. We got supper and I took a room at People’s hotel and retired about 10 p.m. When everything was quiet my spirit friends, eight in number, returned and my tormentors were required to leave. Soon after, a glorious vision burst upon me. There were thousands of the Saints presented to me, many who had died at Nauvoo, in Winter Quarters, on the plains, and in Utah.

I saw Brother Pugmire and many others whom I did not know were dead. When my mother came to me it was so real and I was so overjoyed that I exclaimed aloud. So powerful was this vision that I asked President Young, who seemed to be directing matters three times to relieve me, or I would faint. A great many others passed in regular order, and I recognized nearly all of them, and was told the names of all I did not know. My father sat in a chair with his legs crossed and his hands clasped together, as we have often seen him. Those who passed along had hidden him from my view till then.

This scene vanished, and I was then taken in the vision into a vast building, which was built on the plan of the Order of Zion. I entered through a south door and found myself in a part of the building which was unfinished, though a great many workmen were busy upon it. My guide showed me all through this half of the house, and then took me through the other half, which was finished. The richness, granduer and beauty of it defied description. There were many apartments in the house, which was very spacious, and they differed in size and the fineness of the workmanship, according to the merits on earth of those who were to occupy them. I felt most at home in the unfinished part, among the workmen. The upper part of the house was filled with Saints, but I could not see them, though some of them conversed with me, my father and mother, Uncle Joseph Young and others.

My father told me many things, and I received many reproofs for my wrong -doings. Yet he was loth to have me leave, and seemed to feel very badly when the time came for me to go. He told me I could remain there if I chose to do so, but I pleaded with him that I might stay with my family long enough to make them comfortable, to repent of my sins, and more fully prepare myself for the change. Had it not been for this, I never should have returned home, except as a corpse. Father finally told me I could remain two years, and to do all the good I could during that time, after which he would come for me; he mentioned four others that he would come for also, though he did not say it would be at the same time.

On the 18th of November, about noon, we left Wickenburg (which is twenty-two miles from Black’s ranch where we stopped the previous night) on our journey home. I was exhausted from what I had experienced, and could feel my mind fast giving away, but I had confidence that I would reach home alive. There were no elders to administer to me and no kind friends to look after my wants except my son, who had all he could do in looking after eight horses and two wagons. As my mind wandered and grew weaker, I was troubled and led by influences over which I had no power, and my friends, the good spirits, had all left me.

"We drove about twenty miles that afternoon, camping about eight miles from water, on the Salt River desert, which is about fifty miles across. During the fore part of the night I heard the horses running as though they were frightened. My son was asleep, but I got up and put my overcoat across my shoulders and went out where they were and got them quieted down. I was about to return to the wagon, when that same old man with gray whiskers, who tormented me before, stepped between me and the wagons. He had a long knife in his hand. I was frightened and fled, he pursuing me and telling me he was going to kill me. What I passed through I cannot describe, and no mortal tongue could tell. I wandered two days and three nights in the Salt River desert, undergoing the torments of the damned, most of the time, which was beyond anything that mortal could imagine.

When my mind was restored, and the fever which had raged within me had abated, I found myself lying on a bleak hill-top, lost in the desert, chilled, hungered, thirsty and feeble. I had scarcely any clothing on, was barefooted and my body full of cactus from head to foot. My hands were a perfect mat of thorns and briars. This, with the knowledge that no one was near me, made me realize the awful condition I was in. I could not walk. I thought I would take my life, but had no knife or anything to do it with. I tried to cut an artery in my arm with a sharp rock I had picked up, hoping I might bleed to death, but even this was denied me. The wolves and ravens were hovering around me, anxiously awaiting my death. I had a long stick and I thought I would dig a deep hole and cover myself up the best I could, so the wolves would not devour my body until I could be found by my friends.

On the night of the 21st, I could see a fire about twenty five miles to the south, and felt satisfied that it was my friends coming after me. I knew the country where I was; I was about eight miles from houses where I could have got plenty of water and something to eat, but my strength was gone and my feet were so sore I could not stand up. Another long and dreary day passed, but I could see nothing but wolves and ravens and a barren desert covered with cactus, and had about my up my mind that the promise of two years’ life, made by my father, was not to be realized. While in this terrible plight, and when I had just about given up all hope, my father and mother appeared to me and gave me a drink of water and comforted me, telling me I would be found by my friends who were out searching for me, and that I should live two years longer as I had been promised. When night came I saw another fire a few hundred a few hundred yards from me and could see my friends around it, but I was so hoarse I could not make them hear. By this time my body was almost lifeless and I could hardly move, but my mind was in a perfect condition and I could realize everything that happened around me.

On the morning of the 23rd, at daylight, here they came, about twenty in all, two of my own sons, my nephew William, Bishop E. Pomeroy, John Lewis, John Blackburn, Wiley Jones and others, all friends and relatives from the Mesa, who had tracked me between seventy-five and one hundred miles. I shook hands with them, and they were all overjoyed to see me alive, although in such a pitiable plight. My own feelings I shall not undertake to describe. I told them to be very how they let me have water, at first. They rolled me up in some blankets and put me on a buckboard and appointed John Lewis to look after me as doctor and nurse. After I had taken a few swallows of water, I was almost frantic for more, but they wisely refused to let me have it except in small doses every half hour.

I had about seventy-five miles to ride home. We arrived at my place in Jonesville on the afternoon of the 24th of November, when my wife and family took charge of me and I was tenderly and carefully nourished. In a few days I was around again. I told my experience to President Mcdonald, Bishop Pomeroy, C. I. Robson and others, and most of them believed me, but my word was doubted by some. I told them I had just two years to live, so they could tell whether it was a true manifestation or not.

Now, dear sister, you have a little of your brother David’s experience. I know these things were shown to me for my own good, and it was no dream but a glorious and awful reality. My story is believed by my brethren who have respect for me. I will console myself with the knowledge I have obtained. Let the world wag on, and let hell and the devil keep up their warfare against the Saints of God. I know for myself that "Mormonism" is true. With God’s help, While I live, I shall strive to do good, and I will see you before long and tell you all, as it never will be blotted out of my memory.

With kind regards, in which my wife and children join, I remain, as ever,

Your affectionate brother,

David P. Kimball.



(The rest of the story, Life of David P. Kimball page 57-70)


On the morning of November 19th, when Patten arose and missed his father he thought probably he had gone out to hunt for the horses, and felt no uneasiness concerning him. He made a fire, prepared breakfast and waited some time, but could not see or hear him anywhere. The horses came strolling into camp and were tied up, fed and watered. Patten then ate his meal and saddled a horse and rode back towards Wickenburg, until he came to a small place called Seymour on the Hasayampa but could learn nothing of his father’s whereabouts. He went back to the wagon and hunted the country close around camp but found nothing but his father’s overcoat, which was a few hundred yards from the wagon. It being an old camp-ground, it was impossible to find his tracks. He finally came to the conclusion that he had gone towards home, so he hitched up his team and drove homeward until he came to Mr. Calderwood’s at Agua Fria (cold water). At this place there was a well dug on the desert about twenty miles from Salt River. Patten had traveled about twenty-two miles before reaching this point, but was disappointed in not hearing anything of his father. He had traveled all night and Mr. Calderwood was up and around when he arrived. He related his story to him and was advised by him to leave his team there and take the best pair of horses, and hitch them to his buckboard and go on to Mesa. Here he could get help to come and hunt for the missing man. The distance was forty miles, which would take all the rest of the day (the 20th). He acted on the advice, however, and arrived at his destination at 9 p.m. The news was circulated, and in less than two hours, twenty of the best and most experienced men at Mesa and Jonesville were on the road, taking Patten back with them. They also took a wagon to carry water and provisions, but most of them were on the best of horses. They had sixty miles to ride, before beginning the search, which was accomplished by daylight next morning. After feeding their horses and eating a lunch they held a consultation and agreed to abide by the following rule. If any one of the party found his tracks he was to make a smoke and this would call the others in that direction. They then started out in different directions. They scoured the country until about noon, when Sern Sornson and Charles Rogers found his tracks. They supposed they were about twelve miles from where he was lost, and about ten miles from Agua Fria, close to the main road on the south side. They soon gathered some brush and started a fire, putting on plenty of green weeds, etc., to cause a smoke, and soon attracted the attention of their comrades. His tracks were followed. They wound round and round, going in no particular direction. Som places he would cross his tracks eight or ten times in going one hundred yards, which made it quite difficult to follow.

After spending a part of the afternoon trailing him up, the tracks finally took a direct course leading to the north. By this time all the searching party were together.

Another meeting was held and the plan adopted was for eight horsemen, four on each side of his tracks, to ride at a considerable distance apart, so as to cut off the track if it turned to the right or left, and two or three of the best trailers to keep on the tracks, while the buckboard and wagon followed up. These were out of sight most of the time, as very good time was made by the trailers after this plan was adopted. The ground was quite soft, and those on the trail would gallop their horses for miles, but darkness soon put an end to their work for this day, a good thing for both men and animals.

They had traveled upwards of one hundred miles in about twenty hours. They were working men and had plenty of strength to carry them through under all circumstances. They camped on the highest ground that could be found close by, and made a large fire which was kept up all night by those on guard.

As soon as it was light enough to see the tracks, every man was at his place moving as fast as he could under the circumstances.

This was the morning of the 22nd. One great drawback they met with that day was that when they would come to a deep ravine where water had run during rainy weather, the tracks would follow up sometimes for miles and then continue in the former direction. Places would frequently be found in the sand where the lost one had dug down for water with his hands. Now and then they would find a piece of his clothing and see places where he had run into the fox-tail cactus, cat’s-claw and other thorny bushes. One place was found where he had broken off the limb of a tree for a walking stick. The party followed his tracks all day without stopping, only as they were obliged to, on account of losing the trail or from some other cause.

Darkness overtook them again, but nothing could be heard or seen of the missing man. They slept on his tracks, keeping up a fire all night as before. His sons and others could not rest, and followed his tracks after dark by striking matches and putting them close to the ground to see if they might possibly find him. Some thought they could hear a sound, but it was so indistinct they could not discern the direction from which it came. It was indeed he who called, for they were then only a few hundred yards from him, but he was too hoarse to make them hear. On the morning of the 23rd at daylight his anxious friends were on his tracks, and had gone but a short distance when Charles Peterson saw him. He had a long staff in his hand, and had raised up as high as he could get, being on one knee and the other foot on the ground and was stretching himself as far as he could and looking eagerly for their arrival. The crowd made a rush, and in a few seconds were with him, Bishop E. Pomeroy being the first. He was in his right mind and knew all present, and was glad to shake them by the hand, calling each by name. He was in good spirits and joked the boys frequently and gave them instructions to be careful in giving him water, etc. There was no water except in a canteen that had been reserved for his especial use. The company suffered themselves for want of water, they had traveled upwards of one hundred and fifty miles in less than forty-eight hours.

David had dug a deep hole with his stick and had used his hands to move the dirt. He said he was digging his own grave. He was rolled in blankets and put on the buckboard. All drove to the nearest houses, seven or eight miles distant, on the Hassayampa, where all refreshed themselves with water and something to eat. Soon they were on the road homeward. They drove to Mr. Calderwood’s, which was about thirty miles, and stayed all night. He was very kind to all and told them to help themselves to anything he had, such as hay, grain and food. He acted the gentleman in every respect. A large number of men had also left Phoenix in search of David, among them the U.S. Marshal, and others. Men and Indians were riding over the desert in every direction. Next morning the company drove to Jonesville, forty miles distant, where they arrived about 3 p.m.

David was carried into his house where he was surrounded by his loving wife and children.

When he recounted his experiences, he said that one thing that kept him from choking to death for want of water, was the damp pebbles which he dug from low ravines and held them in his mouth. The Indians said that no human being could walk as far as he did, go without water, and live four days and five nights. The party that found him said he must have walked seventy-five miles, some said one hundred.

He testified that on the afternoon of the 22nd, his father and mother gave him water and told him that his friends would find him. His clothing was all gone except his undergarments, which were badly torn.

Before leaving home on his trip to Prescott, David had worked several days fixing up his books and accounts, and burning up all useless papers, after which he told his wife that he felt different in starting on this trip from anything he had ever felt before. He said it seemed to him that he should never return. He told her that if this proved to be the case, he had fixed his business up in such a shape that she would have no trouble, and would know as much about it as himself. She frequently spoke of these curious remarks, and felt considerably worried. When the news came that he was lost, all was plain to her, and she never expected to see him come home alive. Nothing could comfort her and she watched night and day until he was brought home.

David was never satisfied with his Jonesville home, on account of certain conditions that surrounded the place, and he therefore traded his farm and improvements for a home on the Mesa. When he had settled down in his new quarters, he contracted with the government to furnish Fort McDowell with eight hundred cords of wood, to be delivered within a specified time. Instead of making twelve or fifteen hundred dollars out of his contract he gave his friends and relatives the full benefit of it.

A number of the most influential citizens of Mesa were closely connected with Brother Kimball in business and religious affairs, when he was president of the Bear Lake Stake of Zion, and they knew his worth... He was later called afterwards to preside over a small colony of Saints who had settled near the headwaters of the San Pedro River. This call was a great disappointment to David, in many ways; but, without a murmur, he made the sacrifice.

He now disposed of his Salt River property, and began his two-hundred-mile journey to the southeast, to comply with this new call. Reaching his destination, he lost no time in building a comfortable home, and soon surrounded himself with other improvements that were an honor to the community in which he lived. With the help of the people, he built a canal and soon St. David was organized into a ward. He was chosen bishop. He later became a member of the county school board of that district, a position he held as long as he lived.

The new section of country, extending as far north as the Gila Valley, soon came into prominence, resulting in the organization of the St. Joseph stake of Zion, with Christopher Layton president and David P. Kimball, first counselor. But the latter was not destined to hold that position very long. His days on earth were fast drawing to a close. It will be remembered that in writing to his sister Helen, under date of Jan. 8, 1882, he made this statement: "Father finally told me that I could remain two years longer, after which he would come for me, and also mentioned the names of four others that he would come for. I will see you before long, and tell you all, as it never will be blotted out of my memory."

During the fall of 1883, David paid a visit to Salt Lake City, to see his relatives and friends, to whom he confirmed by his own lips all that his letter contained, and told many other things relating to his remarkable experience, feeling pained that so many seemed to doubt his word, and being unwilling to make himself obtrusive. When he bade his friends farewell, there was something about him which seemed to say that he was taking leave of them for all time. His visit, no doubt, was made with that object in view, for it was nearly two years from the time he was lost on the desert. Soon after he returned to St. David, almost the first news that came from there was the tidings of his death.

A letter from his nephew, Charles S. Whitney, who was then living with him, written home on the 22nd of November, 1883, contained this:

"Uncle David died this morning at half-past six, easily, and apparently without a bit of pain. Shortly before he died, he looked up and called, ‘Father, father!’ All night long he had called for uncle Heber. You remember hearing him tell how grandpa came to him when he was lost on the desert, and how he pleaded for two more years and was given that much longer to stay. Last Saturday, the day he was so bad, was just two years from the day he was lost, and today is just two years from the day his father and mother came to him and gave him a drink of water, and told him that his friends would find him and he should live two years longer. He knew that he was going to die, and bade Aunt Caroline goodby, day before yesterday."

During the last two years of his life David revealed to three of his personal friends the names of the four persons whom his father had told him in vision that he should come for, at or near the time when he would return for him. He exacted the promise from these friends (who, it seems, had some doubt regarding the divine nature of his vision, which doubt he was anxious to dispel) that they would not divulge the names of these individuals until after their death. The names, with respective dates of decease, are as follows:

    William H. Hooper, died December 30, 1882.
   Horace K. Whitney, died November 22, 1884.
   Heber P. Kimball, died February 8, 1885.
   William Jennings, died January 15, 1886.

As will be seen, the longest interval given from the death of David P. Kimball is two years, one month and twenty-three days. William Hooper, who was the first of the four to go, preceeded David by about eleven months, while Horace K. Whitney, the second to depart, followed him one year later to a day.




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