Lady Agnes Haley Love Flake loved it in Nauvoo. James had built them a beautiful brick home, right next to the new temple. The family could step out on the porch and watch it’s progress. The people were kind and friendly. The peace and the Spirit were strong. A new baby was on the way, due the next October. Agnes loved the sisters of Relief Society and the sewing circles, where the ladies gathered to sew shirts for the workers on the temple. She loved the new friends and the faith they all shared. James so enjoyed helping to finish building the temple. He gave every possible minute to that wonderful cause. And soon, December 23rd, he was ordained a member of the 8th Quorum of the Seventy by the same Brother Clapp that had baptized him in Mississippi.
One day, shortly after their arrival in Nauvoo, Green and young William Jordan returned from bringing a lunch to James at the temple together. Green had carried William, now 5 years old, up the winding staircase inside the uncompleted temple clear to the top, where he let William gaze upon the sights below in every direction. They saw hundreds of houses and buildings, with trees and gardens, and streets that stretched out to the surrounding farmlands and the curving Mississippi river bank. It was an awesome sight, one that William Jordan Flake was to remember his entire life.
The Winter of 1944 was bitter and cold. The Flake family had not been used to frost, snow and biting winds, in mild Mississippi. That winter, 5-year old William had taken a handful of gun powder from his Father’s powder horn and thrown it on the fire to see how it would burn. As a result, he saw nothing for weeks! Agnes helped fashion a black cloth mask with eye holes to go over her poor boys’ face for two or three months til he got a new one, the old face having burned off! She tried her best to help him through the pain. The winter also brought sickness, and young Richmond, just 2 ½, died in early 1945. It was sorrowful, yet easier to bear with the Saints beside them through the ordeal and then the burial. Words of truth and love were preached at the services, and their baby had a proper grave in the community cemetery.
For a time after the Prophet’s death, the community was left alone in peace. But when the enemies of the church found that his death had not stopped the growth and prosperity of the Mormons, they began anew with their persecutions. William, now 6, would later remember looking out of the window many times on awful scenes: mobs of angry men, their faces painted, shouting in throngs down the street, and robbing and looting the nearby homes. William would dash from the window and hide, shaking with terror until the noise finally stopped and the men had gone. Once again, Agnes had been grateful for Green and his faithful protection, while James was gone so much building the temple. She had been in frail health, mourning Richmond and then giving birth to little Samuel in October of 1845.
Brother Brigham and the other brethren rushed to finish the temple enough to give the Saints their temple blessings. Day and night they labored until finally the glorious day came that James and Agnes entered the beautiful temple, and each received their endowment, towards the end of 1845. Strength from heaven seemed to fill them, and they knew that with this extra endowment of power, they could face the uncertainties ahead. How they rejoiced to receive their temple blessings.
It became evident that the happy times in Nauvoo were soon to end. That Agnes would have to leave her new beautiful brick home. James was always ready to help with poorer of the Saints, both with his might and with his means. Edie and her family had not cared for the cold Northern winters they were not used to and were homesick for the South, so James took them back home. While he was in Mississippi, he sold his plantation at a loss and got many mules in partial payment, in order to help the Saints with their exodus. The first groups had had to leave in February, but James and Agnes’ assignment was to stay to help til the last ones were outfitted and ready.
Soon, they too loaded up their wagon and left behind their beautiful city and home and crossed the Mississippi, numb at the thought of leaving their temple. When they had journeyed from the South two years earlier, it had been summer. Now it was late Spring, and very cold. William, now almost 7, and Charles, going on 4, and teenaged Liz walked along behind the wagon, driving their loose cows and stock. Agnes rode in the wagon with the new baby Samuel, knowing that another was on the way to be born shortly after Samuel’s first birthday. She hoped and prayed that these babies would thrive despite the rude conditions.
It had been a rainy spring that year, and the trails were always muddy. Often when it rained hard, and there was so much mud, the kids crowded into the wagon with her, and she would wince at the mud their feet brought in, but try to occupy them with stories and songs. But if the mud got deep and the oxen could not pull they would have to wait for James and Green to pull them out, and sometimes, they had to lighten the wagon. One day when the hems of her dress was mud-stained, and her cheeks were sunburned despite her bonnet, James took the baby from her, handed him to Liz, and caught her up in his arms to tell her she was beautiful! It was his way of saying,“You are still my princess!” She would then have to laugh despite everything!
The sisters tried to lighten each others’ loads. Agnes herself held pans to catch rain water so it wouldn’t drip on the more than one woman giving birth in a wagon. “If mother could see me now!" Agnes would silently exclaim!
Finally the family made their way to Winter Quarters. The home they could procure there was a rude dugout: uncomfortable, cramped, and smoke-filled, this was like nothing they had ever lived in before, yet it was warm and safe. Once, after the Saints had barely made it across the Mississippi, the Lord had provided them with a whole flock of quail. Now, He made available to them a large field of corn and a huge herd of pigs. They were grateful for the cornbread and pork, and for the fish her expert fishermen James and William could catch for variety. These tasted as good as a Southern banquet!
The Brethren tried to lift the Spirits of each other. They planned dancing parties and songfests to cheer them. Agnes loved to dress up as best she could, and venture out with James for a nice evening together. She was still his sweetheart, and, he insisted, the most beautiful lady there (even with her very large pregnant tummy!). Agnes also spent time during the long winter months teaching her boys to read using the bible.
It was there in Winter Quarters, in their smoky dugout with a fire for warmth, on November 3rd, 1846, that Frederick Flake was born, then died the same day. How it hurt to lay her baby in his tiny grave in the wilderness cemetery, covered with stones to protect it. And then, she had to leave it too, for the government required the whole settlement to move back across the Missouri river, since it turned out they were on Indian lands. So in the middle of winter, the family had to squeeze in with another family as best they could until they come up with a rude dwelling of their own, in Kanesville, later called Council Bluffs. Disease hit the encampment, due to conditions and lack of proper nutrition. Little 17-month old Samuel followed Frederick in death the next March and he was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. Poor Agnes was shaken with grief and sorrow. She had lost four of her precious sons, and this one at a time when many were dying and not much attention could be given to each one. Still she endured, turning again to the Lord for help, and longing for Zion, the promised community where they could live in peace and prosperity.
Many years later, a sculptor Avard Fairbanks was asked to create a sculpture fitting for the front of the Winter Quarters Cemetery. He was acquainted with the Flake family of his generation and he graciously affirmed that his statue of a mother and father standing in the wind over the new grave of their baby could represent James and Agnes, and their sacrifice. Baby Fredrick’s name is engraved on the plaque as one of the first who died and were buried in this cemetery.
When the first group of wagons was to leave for the West, James knew that Agnes was in no condition to go. How he wanted to lighten her load and give her happiness and peace.
As plans progressed for the first trek out West, James approached Brigham Young one day, “Brother Brigham,” he began, “My family is not in a position to go with you this time. My wife is not well. We do not have the money left for more supplies. But I do have a fine sturdy wagon, Prairie Schooner, with my fine white American mules, that brought my family from North Carolina, then from Mississippi, and you know Green—he’d be willing to drive it and serve as your bodyguard, sir. I’d consider it an honor if you would take it on your journey, if it could be of help.” “I’d be much obliged,” replied Brother Brigham Young, “Thank you for your kind offer.” The plan was for Green to carry supplies on the trek, scout out the new settlement in the West, and then begin a homestead for the family, before sending the team and wagon back for them. This faithful Green did. In fact, as the Saints first entered the Salt Lake Valley, it was in Green Flake’s wagon that Brigham Young lay sick, before he raised up to exclaim, “This is the Right Place. Move on!” Years later, Brigham Young himself told this and more about his father James, to William who accompanied him as body guard on a trip to Southern Utah.
After a time, Agnes longed for one more baby. Of her six sons, she had lost four, and she felt that there was one more child to join their family. She begged James for a blessing of peace, comfort, and health. Then, when she had healed sufficiently, and felt her health return, another baby did join the family. And to her disbelief and great joy, it was a girl! Sarah James Flake, her darling little princess, who was hers to teach the womanly arts. And it was Sarah, along with Charles and William, who lived to adulthood.
The family did make the trek to Salt Lake in the summer of 1848, with James elected as a Captain of 100 wagons. The Saints depended on James for fresh meat—sometimes from the herds of buffalo along the route—and to take up the rear and watch over the slower of the pioneers. William’s job each day was to use a bull whip and throw the lash over the wagon covers to awaken everybody for the early start of the day’s journey. William turned 8 years old along the way and was baptized in the Elk Horn River by his father. When the family arrived, there was a log house Green had begun for them in the Cottonwood part of the valley. Here they were there among the Saints in peace, with the brethren at the head, and with the promise of another temple they would one day build.