The McCord and Burton families did suffer trials as a result of their difficult lives on the frontier and their membership in the Church. Robert McCord (Susan’s younger Brother) died from cholera as a member of Zion’s Camp in Western Missouri in June 1834 and was buried near Rush Creek by Liberty Missouri. Elizabeth McCord (Susan’s Mother) died on September 4, 1834 and was buried in Florida, Monroe County, Missouri. James McCord (Susan’s Father) became ill in January 1837 and was lonely and tired. Both Susan and Faithful John spent a great amount of time with him. John had spent most of his time with him since Elizabeth’s death two and one half (2 1/2) years earlier. James enjoyed having John with him, as he seemed to be the much-needed link to the past that James enjoyed. Faithful John was constantly attentive during James’ illness and at times remained up all night watching over him. Late in the early spring (1837), James McCord suffered a stroke and lay for sometime unconscious gradually fading into a final slumber from which he did not wake. John continued to be the faithful and vigilant companion to James during the remaining weeks and months that he lived. James was buried next to Elizabeth in Florida, Missouri. In the spring of 1838 (shortly after their 2nd Son, Sidney Rigdon Burton was born - Jan 1838), John Newton Burton (Susan’s Husband) suddenly died suffering from great unbearable stomach pain. There was no comfort, no cheer, and no warmth at his funeral, just cold death. Susan stood alone with her two (2) young children and Faithful John by her side. John Newton Burton was also buried in Florida, Missouri.
They found that her Father had arranged for Robert’s portion of the land to be deeded to Susan McCord Burton. His land (James McCord) was to be divided equally among all of his children. He had left to Faithful John some cash to claim as his own and also a supply of clothes. John continued to serve the family faithfully as a trusted slave and became very interested and desirous in becoming a member of the Church. Prior to the death of James McCord, John had asked James if he thought they would let him join the Church. James told him that he felt he was as worthy as any man he knew and asked Susan to see to it that his baptism could be taken care of very soon. Although, no records exist indicating that he was baptized, subsequent histories and journals substantiate that he was in-fact a baptized member of the Church in those early days of the Church. John had told James and Susan, “I’ve heard you all talk about the good Lawd, and ah believes ah kin see ma wif’ and ma chilluns if ah does ma part.” He would have been nearing forty years old at this time.
After the death of her husband, Susan leased a portion of her holdings to friends and neighbors and she and John continued to work the remainder to provide for and support her family. Fortunately, good friends and neighbors surrounded them, one being the Eli and Ellen Blythe family. They were all concerned with the rising tensions in Western Missouri regarding the persecutions of the members of the Church. Susan was working and carefully saving (with the help of Faithful John) to provide for her family and prepare for the inevitable move from Missouri if the persecution continued into Eastern Missouri. For the present she at least felt safe because of her deceased husband’s friendship with people who had become enemies of the Church.
As she and Ellen (Blythe) discussed their concerns, little did either of them know that it would be almost two (2) years before they would see each other again because of these persecutions. That very night, Susan was awakened to the screams coming from the Blythe home. This was the day (27 Oct 1838) that Governor Lilburn W. Boggs of the State of Missouri signed an order to “EXTERMINATE THE MORMONS” or “DRIVE THEM FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI”. Mary West Riggs records the events that occurred that night and the involvement of Faithful John in saving Susan as well as other members of the Blythe family as follows:
Susan grabbed her coat and ran to colored (Faithful) John’s cabin. John! John! She cried as she pounded on his door. Come quickly John, Ellen’s home is afire. We must help. John was into his clothes and out of the door by the time Susan reached the edge of the cornfield that separated the two farms. The corn was thick and high and it was difficult to make haste. As Susan rushed onward, she heard the shrieks from Ellen’s house multiply and increase in terror and her blood ran cold. “Run, John, run, they must not perish in those flames”. John flew past Susan as they neared the far side of the cornfield. Suddenly, he froze in his tracks. Stop, Missa Susan, he hissed, Drop to de groun! Ignoring John’s command, Susan rushed past him and then he lunged, knocking her flat just before she emerged from the tall corn. “Look, Missa Susan, John whispered, Its de Mob!”
Susan raised her face from the dirt and her eyes beheld a horror that would forever sear her memory. Two men were beating Ellen’s husband (Eli) with ropes. Two of the children were fleeing in terror toward the corrals. Martha, the beautiful daughter was being dragged toward the woods, her gown half torn from her body. Ellen was fighting to save her, but was knocked to the ground unconscious. John managed to carry Susan home, her eyelids fluttered and hazily she saw John’s weeping face and heard him cry, “Pleas der Lawd, save her fo har little boys”. “Oh John, they are dead, they are all dead”. “Now, Missa Susan, get hole yo self. Ah’se goin’ back tu see what ah kan do-if you all is able ter let me go”. She sat up and said, “Go John, but do be careful. This terrible mob will kill you too.” “Don’ yo wuyee, Missa Susan, ah kin takes keer masef. Now yo jes’ pray fo de Blythe’s and ah’ll run to hep’em”. Susan did pray – she prayed all night and she waited. Morning came and no John. Oh, Father-in-heaven, don’t take colored John; he’s the only strength I have left. At noon the next day John returned, his face held that stricken look which told Susan the tragic news. Martha and little Eli were dead. Ellen and Big Eli were being taken care of by friends. The two children who had hidden in the corral were alive, suffering hysteria. John had taken them to a Mormon settlement some miles distance. The mob had not yet harassed that community. I guess I’ll never see my dear friends again in this life, Susan sadly commented. “I don know, said John. Dat’s up to the Good Lawd now.”
After the brutal attack on the Blythe family, Susan realized that she would soon also need to leave the State of Missouri. She told John that they would need to leave and gather with their people in Nauvoo. However, before they could leave, Susan needed to sell some property and collect rentals for the last year as well as the present year. She sold part of her property in the fall of 1839. This also apparently included divesting herself of the other slaves that she had. John told Susan, “Oh, Missa Susan, ah neva dreamed you’all ud be lef like this!” Susan replied, “No John, neither did I. But I’m sure my Father had some sort of premonition, even on my wedding day, when he made me solemnly promise that I would never part with you, and you to promise never to leave my service.” John replied, “I know, Missa Susan, our Marsa James was a powful smat man. He tole me much and ah knows that two times-even afta the fist time he say, Memba, Joh, yo won’ neva leave Missa Susan, will ya? The las time he sez dat ah say, Massa, you’all knows ah won’ neva leave Missa Susan-neva. And he sez, Dat’s good.”
In the summer of 1840, the little family left their Missouri home of almost twenty (20) years. Susan had collected the rents she needed and saved enough funds to provide for their trip and help them get established in Nauvoo. Susan drove the first wagon with her two Sons and Faithful John followed with a second wagon, the family milk cow and two young colts. Their trip was uneventful (due in part to Susan’s careful planning) and they arrived in Nauvoo and settled in a neighborhood that included the Benson, Robinson, Hales and Lee families. Susan had sufficient resources to insure that her little house and properties were paid for in full.
After they arrived and were getting settled in their new neighborhood, they were reunited with the surviving members of the Blythe family. The Blythe’s expressed their deep gratitude and appreciation to both Susan and especially Faithful John for helping to save their lives. Eli said, “We lay unconscious for some time, but when we recovered, the good people who took us in told us that a colored man (Faithful John) had brought us there in the night. We’ll be forever grateful to you (Susan) and John.”