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Picturing history: Elder Wilford Woodruff and Maine’s Fox Islands

SHARE Picturing history: Elder Wilford Woodruff and Maine’s Fox Islands
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Extant church where Wilford Woodruff, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1889 to 1898, preached in North Haven, Maine.

Kenneth Mays

On Aug. 20, 1837, Elders Wilford Woodruff and Jonathan Hale arrived at North Haven, one of two major islands in the Fox Islands archipelago near Rockland, Maine. The other major island there is Vinalhaven. Wilford’s new wife, Phebe, traveled east later on and stayed with her parents, who lived in Scarborough, Maine. Over the next year she sometimes served as his companion.

Elder Woodruff described a place on Vinalhaven where he and Elder Hale ascended a high rock for prayer and supplication (“Leaves from My Journal,” by Wilford Woodruff, page 47). A small monument has been placed at the traditional site. Jonathan Hale left for home in October 1837. Elder Woodruff remained and continued to labor until the fall of 1838. He noted in his journal that 103 people joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while he was laboring in the Penobscot Bay area. (Thomas Alexander, “Things in Heaven and in Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet,” 61, 75)

In March 1838, word came that the majority of Latter-day Saints were leaving Kirtland, Ohio, and moving to Missouri. Elder Woodruff was called to be an apostle on July 8, 1836 (see Doctrine and Covenants 118:6), but he did not learn of that calling for about a month. Several weeks later, he began coordinating the removal of more than 50 converts from the Fox Islands and surrounding area. They eventually joined the main body of Latter-day Saints in Illinois.

There remains today an extant church on North Haven. There is also an old schoolhouse on Vinalhaven. Elder Woodruff preached in both structures.

(Appreciation is expressed to Mike and Carolyn Facer for their assistance in locating sites on the islands.)

Kenneth Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and a retired instructor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Department of Seminaries and Institutes.

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Traditional site where Wilford Woodruff, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1889 to 1898, went for prayer and supplication in Vinalhaven, Maine.

Kenneth Mays