On the northwest corner, where the streets West Temple and North Temple intersect, was the house of William Clayton. Guests were often invited to social activities in the Clayton home. Dances were held in the large living room, and other activities were accompanied by instrumental music played by the Clayton children. William played several instruments and enjoyed band music.
View (looking southwest) of the Clayton homestead (middle right in yellow) and the surrounding buildings.
On the left is the easily recognizable dome of the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
The block in the forefront is now home to the Conference Center.
Utah State Historical Society
William, an early convert to the Church in England, immigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841 at age twenty-seven. He was appointed as a personal secretary to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and later to Brigham Young. His writing and record-keeping abilities provided much useful Church history from the nineteenth-century.
William was a member of the original pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley. An avid reader, William carried his collection of books under his wagon seat, which included the Letters of Voltaire and the Works of Frederick the Great. While on the journey, he kept an extensive journal, from which he later authored the Latter-day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide, which became the primary source of information for many who traveled to the West.
As a resident of Salt Lake City, William participated in civil and religious affairs and ran a boardinghouse and a bookstore. William served God and his fellowmen faithfully until he passed away on December 4, 1879. He is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
“This morning Ellen Kimball came to me and wished me much joy. She said Diantha has a son. I told her I was afraid it was not so, but she said Brother Pond had received a letter. I went over to Pond’s and he read that she had fine fat boy, . . . but she was very sick with ague and mumps. Truly I feel to rejoice at this intelligence but feel sorry to hear of her sickness.. . . This morning I composed a new song—All is well.” . . .
Clayton’s four short verses . . . form an American epic which has been called “one of the most beautiful hymns of western history.” It became the grand marching song of all the Mormons who trudged across the plains during the next 40 years and remains today as the rallying song of church members all over the world.
The lyrics William Clayton penned have come to characterize the hopes and desires of the persecuted and driven pioneers during their exodus to the West:
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!
The song is on permanent display in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
The power and strength of William Clayton’s hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” can be seen from an incident told to President Heber J. Grant by his father-in-law, Oscar Winters:
One night, as we were making camp, we noticed one of our brethren had not arrived, and a volunteer party was immediately organized to return and see if anything had happened to him. Just as we were about to start, we saw the missing brother coming in the distance. When he arrived, he said he had been quite sick; so some of us unyoked his oxen and attended to his part of the camp duties. After supper, he sat down before the campfire on a large rock, and sang in a very faint but plaintive and sweet voice, the hymn, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” It was a rule of the camp that whenever anybody started this hymn all in the camp should join, but for some reason this evening nobody joined him; He sang the hymn alone. When he had finished, I doubt if there was a single dry eye in the camp. The next morning we noticed that he was not yoking up his cattle. We went to his wagon and found that he had died during the night. We dug a shallow grave, and after we had covered his body with the earth we rolled the large stone to the head of the grave to mark it, the stone on which he had been sitting the night before when he sang:
“And should we die before our journey’s through, Happy day! All is well! We then are free from toil and sorrow too; with the just we shall dwell. But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain, O how we’ll make this chorus swell—All is well! All is well!”
I noticed tears in my father-in-law’s eyes when he finished relating this incident; and I imagined the reason he did not relate to me another far more touching incident to him was the fear that he might break down.
number of miles he traveled.
Robert L. Hall