Friday, April 12, 2013

Paisley and Palmyra

James Houston, Sr. (1817-1864)

My third great grandfather

me-->Ruth Rasmussen Buchanan-->Alice Houston Rasmussen-->John Cooper Houston-->James Houston, Jr.-->James Houston, Sr.

At the turn of the 19th century, a young man was born into a large family.   At the age of 14, he began to reflect on what was the true way to be saved.  He noticed that many of the great religious men in his community couldn't agree on the subject.

One day he was listening to a religious leader speak on the subject "What To Do To Be Saved."  He felt a strong desire to be with all the good people gathered together in heaven.  He still felt, however, that he didn't know what the true answer was.

He decided to pray to the Lord.  He wanted to know what was the true religion.  The Lord heard this young man's prayers and gave him an answer.  He said that he would be shown the right way.

Does this story sound familiar?

Joseph Smith at 14
Actually, I'm talking about someone else.  My third great grandfather, James Houston, Sr.
He said he was too busy to get his picture taken, so this is the best I could find.

Just like Joseph Smith, when he was 14, he had questions about religion.  But he wasn't living in Palmyra, New York, he was living in Paisley, Scotland.  Which is pretty far away.

Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and Palmyra, New York

Also, when James was 14, Joseph Smith was 26 years old.  By this time Joseph had translated the Book of Mormon, organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was gathering the Saints in Ohio

Meanwhile, over in Scotland, James was working for his brother John who died at the age of 28.  After he died, he came to James in a dream.  In this dream they talked and asked each other questions.  Shortly after that some Mormon missionaries arrived in Paisley.  James wasn't able to hear the missionaries, but he heard about them.  In 1840, he decided to sail to America to learn more.

His nine-week journey was a pleasant one and he enjoyed traveling with a small group of Saints.  He believed the Gospel was true, but thought he wasn't good enough to get baptized.  They landed in New Orleans and he was invited to stay with Brother Millner. (As best as I can tell, it was somewhere in Iowa.) In 1841, he decided to get baptized.

In the spring of that year, he met Lyman Wight.  Lyman knew Joseph Smith very well.  They had been in Liberty Jail together.  Lyman had been asked in January to begin building what was to be called the Nauvoo House, a place for weary travelers.  He needed someone to help him drive some cattle to Nauvoo to help build the House and the Temple.  James volunteered.

On April 30, 1841, he arrived in the "City of Saints", Nauvoo, Illinois.  He was now a long way away from Paisley, Scotland, but close to the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Very close, in fact, they were next door neighbors for nine months.

Joseph Smith's home from 1839-1843

This is what he said about Joseph Smith.

"I can assure you that the Prophet was all he professed to be.  I know he was a true Prophet of God for I have heard him speak and prophesy as he was lead by the Holy Ghost.  He was a fine and a great man."  


  1. Love reading the stories on your blog.

  2. How can I learn more about James. I read somewhere that he got into some squabbles at work over the matter of Mormonism but can't find it. I love this story! Thank you for sharing! James is also my third great grandfather. I would love to know more!

    1. Whitney,

      I have a book that is a collection of stories about James Houston. I'm not familiar with the story you read. I'll do some more digging and see if I can find it. My book is in my Utah home, and I'm in my NYC apartment right now. It'll be a few months before I'm back in Utah again. Stay tuned.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Hello Whitney, I just barely ran across this blog and I am also a descendant of James Houston. He did get into squabbles about Mormonism at work while he was reading the literature, "A Voice of Warning."

      Do you have access to You can get the story about the squabbles in his memories section. There are some PDF documents you can read that has this story among others. You can easily look up James Houston on using his ID KWBB-6WN.

  3. Such a good story. James Houston is also my third gr g'pa thru his daughter Mary Dempster. I've been working my family tree looking for stories like this. Thanks for sharing.