Picture of Abraham Lincoln from Elizabeth Groesbeck's granddaughter Bessie Morgan Rex's scrapbook.
In the fall of 1855 Nicholas Groesbeck, with his sons (Nicholas Harmon-13 yrs old, William-8 yrs old), and his brother Cornelius Groesbeck, partnered in cutting hay on the prairie. They would stay there a week at a time, mowing and raking and hauling the hay. Nicholas would sell the hay in the city and arrange for delivery by his son, Nicholas Harmon.
L-R; Nicholas Harmon, William, and John Groesbeck
On one occasion Elizabeth permitted her six-year-old John to go with his older brothers to the fields. As John set a fire for their lunch (they were going to cook beefsteak) a terrific gust of wind blew the fire into the dry grass and it spread faster than the boys could run and beat it down. The fire spread across a field, though they “worked like Trojans” to put it out, it set fire to large stacks of wheat and oats, containing eleven hundred bushels of grain belonging to a Mr. McGinnes who demanded $1100.00 as payment from Nicholas. Nicholas refused to pay, explaining it was an accident, and he was not responsible. Ten days later Mr. McGinnes brought suit against Nicholas and Cornelius and Nicholas Harmon. A trial was held in October, 1855 before a jury. Nicholas Groesbeck was cleared and a verdict of $3000.00 was rendered against Cornelius and Harmon Groesbeck.
It was known that the Nicholas Groesbeck family was leaving Springfield in the spring. Nicholas had sold his home and other holdings, purchased cattle, horses, wagons and a carriage. He was moving his family to Salt Lake. McGinnes’ attorney had the Marshal arrest Nicholas Harmon and put him in jail, for the law permitted imprisonment until the debt was paid. Nicholas acquired the services of his friend and attorney, Abraham Lincoln.
Working off the debt at $1.50 for every day that Harmon was confined, would have taken about five years to liquidate. And his board bill would have been paid by Mr. McGinnes. The fourth day of his confinement his Uncle Cornelius was imprisoned. But when Mr. McGinnes realized he would have to pay Cornelius’ board costs, and that of his family as well, Cornelius was released.
Nicholas Harmon wrote in his autobiography , “…leaving me there alone to work out the bill.
“It was here that I first got my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, having asked the Father in humble prayer in my cell in prison to show me how I should be liberated from that place. I did this in humble simplicity, having faith that the Lord would hear my prayer which he did, showing me that through a compromise between my father and Mr. McGinnes that I would be liberated shortly. When I told mother this she said father would never compromise for it was an unjust debt and that I would have to stay until I had worked it out. I told her that such would not be the case, that father would compromise for the Lord had shown me in a dream that it would be so. After I had been there nearly three weeks, father and Abraham Lincoln came one Sunday afternoon and told me that they did expect to make a compromise with Mr. McGinnes for about $300.00 which would liberate me and liquidate the entire indebtedness, thereby setting Uncle Cornelius as well as myself free of all incumbrances [sic] of that unfortunate fire. The next morning I was liberated.”
On June 3, 1856 their family started on their journey to Utah.
Nicholas Harmon Groesbeck’s August 1916 autobiography, Pamphlet Nicholas Groesbeck, by Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan, not dated, Pamphlet Our Groesbeck Ancestors in America, compiled and published by Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan, Sr., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1963.