Lydia Goldthwaite Bailey Knight was born on June 9, 1812 in Sutton, Worcester County, Massachusetts to Jesse G. Goldthwaite and Sally Burt. At age 15 Lydia was sent to school where she met Calvin Bailey whom she married in the fall of 1828. In 1829, Lydia bore a girl, but in 1831 both she and the baby were deserted by Bailey who had become an alcoholic. In February of 1832, Lydia bore a son who died shortly after birth. In 1833 Lydia's daughter died after becoming ill, which magnified Lydia's grief. She went to live with family friends, the Nikersons, in Mount Pleasant, Canada who were visited by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that October. The Nickerson family and Lydia were then baptized by the Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon. In October of 1835, Lydia became a boarder in the Smith home where Newel Knight, a widower, was staying. On November 23, 1835, the Prophet Joseph performed the marriage of Newel Knight and Lydia, the first such ceremony performed by Joseph Smith, showing that Mormon elders had the authority to marry. Around this time, Lydia received her patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Sr. On March 27, 1836 Lydia attended the dedication of the Kirtland temple. On April 7, 1836 Lydia and her family left Kirtland, and on April 22, 1836 they reached St. Louis. Newel was then called to preside over the Colesville Branch which had been set up in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1842, Joseph Smith formed the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Lydia was enrolled as one of its first members. In 1846, Lydia and her family left Nauvoo because of intense persecution against the Mormons. On January 11, 1847, Newel died on the plains, leaving Lydia and her seven children alone in the Indian country. Lydia settled in Pottowattamie for a while until she decided to continue her journey west. On June 1, 1850, Lydia headed west with Bishop Hunter's company, and on October 3, 1850, she reached the Great Salt Lake City where she became a teacher. In the fall of 1851, Lydia became a plural wife to John Dalton. This experience led Lydia to believe that polygamy was a divine law, although in 1858 Lydia divorced Dalton. Then in 1864, Lydia married James McClellan, a widower. In January of 1877, Lydia was called by President Brigham Young to work in the St. George Utah Temple. She began serving as a temple worker in the fall of 1877 and eventually performed endowments for over seven hundred deceased women. On February 10, 1880 McClellan died, leaving Lydia a widow for the second time. In 1882 Lydia bought property in St. George, Utah where she settled until her death there on April 3, 1884. In total, Lydia raised eight children to adulthood, having been promised by the Prophet Joseph that she would lose no future children after she had lost her only two children before marrying Newel. Sources: Gates, Susa Young. Lydia Knight's History. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883. Hartley, William G. 'They Are My Friends': A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825-1850. Provo: Grandin Book Company, 1986.
This collection contains letters of correspondence dating from 1833-1883 as well as genealogical records. The originals are restricted due to their fragile nature, but microfilm copies are available. The majority of the letters are written to Lydia from family and friends, including her parents, Ruth Whitcomb, Chloe Goldthwaite, Amos Goldthwaite, Sarah T. Carpenter, Mary Horth, Sally Goldthwaite, Hannah K. Meacham, R. Whitcomb, N. B. McKay, Newell Knight (her grandson), and Mary Elizabeth Knight (her granddaughter). Also included are letters written from Lydia Knight to her parents, brothers, and Susa Young Gates. The letters mostly relate family matters, including her family's interest in getting to know the Mormons since they themselves were not baptized as Latter-day Saints. The letters written from Lydia convey her testimony of faith in God as she recounts her experience in choosing to migrate to Utah. There are multiple miscellaneous genealogical records, one of which includes the following information: name, birth date, birth place, death date, baptism date, one officiating, relationship, endowed, by whom ordained, sealed, and by whom. The second genealogical record is handwritten in a book that records the name, birth date, nativity, and to whom married. The third genealogical record book is entitled 'Genealogical Record of the Ancestors, Descendents, and Relatives of J. W. Steed.' The final record is handwritten on paper, not contained in a book, and includes names and birth dates.