Monday, March 31, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 8)

Nephi & Kanosh, 1862-1878

Throughout the long journey from Liverpool to Florence to Salt Lake City, Adeline continued to help David and his small children. When they arrived in Utah, they married, but the actual date is in question. The history from the DUP files gives the marriage date as September 5 on Adeline’s 27th birthday in Nephi, Utah, which is a nice romantic story—but according to the wagon train record, they did not arrive in Salt Lake City until September 24, 1862. [37] Also, Adeline is not 27, but more likely 36. [38] So the unresolved question is when and where did the marriage take place. Following the doctrine of the LDS church regarding eternal marriage, they were sealed in the Endowment House October 11, 1868.

Margaret recalled that after they rested in Salt Lake City for three days: “…they continued their journey to Nephi, Juab, Utah where Mr. Thomas, her father, was to open a blacksmith shop. This family remained here for some two years.” [39]

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Hide as Tough as a Hippopotamus

A couple of days ago Ardis posted a delightful collection of answers to gospel questions by Charles W. Penrose at, and it was followed by some enjoyable discussion by the community there. 

I didn't know much about the author, so the next day I followed up the post with a brief biography of Charles W. Penrose, using as a centerpiece his poem "School Thy Feelings." 

Head on over to Keepapitchinin for this interesting story and discussion:

FamilySearch is Corrupting Sourced Entries; Needs to Stop Immediately (updated)

Note, March 31: I just saw a response from FamilySearch that says this was all a misunderstanding of what was actually going on. That may be the case, but FamilySearch should not disregard some underlying issues here:

  • Why did the sources disappear? Why did it show that George Jarvis only had Legacy NFS sources? Why weren't we able to see any other sources there or in his change history? What if this had been a permanent change and his old sources never came back? How could we tell?
  • FamilySearch is currently and systematically adding thousands or hundreds of thousands of mostly useless sources to Family Tree entries. This creates countless hours of useless busy work for people as they go through and delete the sources and glean a bit of information here and there that they can usually easily reproduce. (I don't think I've seen more than a small handful of Notes or Legacy Sources that contained useful information.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 7)

Part 1 (Introduction and Index)

The men who drove the wagons “down and back” were sometimes volunteers and sometimes called by church leaders, but whatever, they were regarded as missionaries and were expected to maintain those standards. For their efforts they were given tithing credit and allowed to profit by reselling the products brought back from Omaha. One young wagon master, Albert Jones, wrote: “…my load came to $450, my expenses $65, leaving $305 to my credit.” [32] The wagon trains were also a great blessing for the immigrants as they did not have the expense of buying wagons and oxen, and they did not have to learn to drive the oxen, nor did they have to individually gather and purchase the provisions needed for the trip.

David and his children and Adeline had the good fortune to be assigned to the Homer Duncan Company which left Florence, Nebraska on July 22, 1862, with 500 people in the company. [33] The company was broken down into small groups of 20 to 30. Each group was assigned to one of the 41 wagons that made up Homer Duncan’s company. Many of the men who drove the wagons had made the journey more than once and were experienced and knowledgeable about the trail. The company under the efficient and caring leadership of Homer Duncan made the trek in record time for ox teams—130 days.   “…with few deaths, one man, one woman and one child died on the journey, and this loss was made up by the birth of five children, in one case twins.” [34]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 6)

Finally, after a 39-day voyage, which though successful was somewhat longer than usual because of head winds, the Saints landed on the first of June at New York. From the Reminiscences and Journals of James S. Brown who had been appointed president of the saints making this journey to Zion, we learn, “And June the 8 (sic) we cast anchor in the Bay of New York having had the measles and whooping cough and 7 deaths on the passage; out of 700 souls.” [29]

For David and his children and Adeline there was no Statue of Liberty (not until 1885) to greet them as they stood on deck watching to catch a glimpse of this new life that awaited them.  Instead they left the ship to go to Castle Garden located on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan.

Castle Garden was the predecessor of Ellis Island.  At Castle Garden, which was a remodeled fort that in 1855 became America’s first receiving station for immigrants; the immigrants were registered, were able to exchange money at a fair price, obtain train tickets, and even find a place to stay until they could continue their journey to Zion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

“Violence at Wolf Creek”

Don't miss Bruce's story today at Amateur Mormon Historian about John Morgan and Wep Gilbert.
[Wep] then pulled out a knife, but he was prevented from getting close to President Morgan by other missionaries in what would best be described as a stand off. For several minutes he brandished the knife yelling threats... ("Violence at Wolf Creek")

Picture: J. Stephen Conn, "York Grist Mill on Wolf Creek," [Sgt. Alvin C. York Historic Park, Pall Mall, Fentress County, Tennessee], Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Notable Relatives: General Authorities and General Officers of the Church [updated]

Since General Conference is coming up, here's a list of the general authorities and officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are descended from the ancestors featured on this blog. If you know of others, please leave a note in the comments so I can add them to the list.

The first nine mentioned are relatives of Wallace Tanner (Francis Marion Lyman through Delbert Stapley). The next three are relatives of Maxine Morgan Tanner (her grandfather John Morgan, as well as Frank Gibbons and Timothy Dyches). The last four are relatives of Beverly Glade Wessman (Marion G. Romney, Royden G. Derrick, LeGrand Curtis Jr., and May Green Hinckley).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ann Prior Jarvis Diary — April 10–12, 1884

Thursday 10. Weather raining ^Sash?^ hard: Father gone to the temple. I do not feel very well. the boy is not herding the cows to day
I sent a postal card to Kanarraville to Mr Reaves. Sent sister Wests parcel by Sister Butts.

Friday 11.      Weather cloudy Father is gone to the ^temple^  I am spending the day cooking dinner washing dishes doing domestic work. The cow is not in the herd today. Josey & I rode out   [in the margin:] Amelia paid us us a visit

Saturday 12. Weather fine ^in the morning in the after part of the day it blew^ Josey is home to day. I am invited to a quiting ^rag Bee^ to Mrs Worthing but I shall not go. Anne came for a paper. Brig played a few games of checkers with me in the evening. I done some kniting

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 5)

From the personal files of Betty Jean Despain Aagard.

Emigration to Utah, 1862, Continued...

The violent storms also brought another danger to the passengers.  Margaret told her granddaughter, Delphia Despain, about the journey in these words:
About three weeks journey from the main land, a storm arose that broke the middle mast making it impossible to make any headway. Many of the sailors gave up in despair—some were crying and were about to set out on rafts. One older sailor who had become acquainted with the powers of the Mormon missionaries came to the lower deck and asked if there were any Mormons on board. On being informed that there were a number of Mormon immigrants he asked if they would not offer prayer.  A meeting was called in one of the ship’s [missing word]. Immediately at the beginning of the meeting, calm came over the sea and all on board. Many marveled at such wonderful power.  Prayer was offered and they asked that God make it possible to repair the broken part. While the repair was being made, great sorrow came to all on board. A small boy who had cheered all with his wonderful voice was killed by a falling trap door. He was buried at sea in the usual manner, being sewn in a sheet with coal tied at the feet to sink the body. After the broken part of the vessel had been mended, all went well, and at the end of the sixth week at sea, they sighted the land of promise, to them. [24]
Reuben A. McBride, another passenger, also wrote in his journal about the death of the small boy: “May 5…on this day at 4 p.m. Died, Williams, age 7 years, buried at 7 p.m. His death was occasioned by falling down one of the hatchways. I picked him up in my arms as he fell. His death was occasioned by the effects of the fall, it affecting the brain.” [25]

The saints also had to contend with an epidemic of measles and whooping cough. Those who contracted the disease were confined to one area of the ship below decks. David’s daughter, Mary, came down with measles and was quarantined. As Mary was only five years old, Margaret stayed with her in those primitive, smelly, dark and dank conditions below the decks, Margaret particularly remembered the lack of water. [26] Perhaps it was during this period that David became acquainted with his future wife, Adeline Springthorpe Sparks. Adeline was traveling alone and had no children, so she began to help David with his motherless children.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 4)

The ship John J. BoydFrom Dastrup Family.

Emigration to Utah 1862

On April 23, 1862, David Thomas with his four children left Liverpool on the packet ship John J. Boyd with 701 LDS Saints on board under the direction of James S. Brown who had previously been president of the Nottingham District.
Two days before while the ship lay at anchor in the River, Presidents Lyman, Rich and Cannon came on board and organized the company and appointing James S. Brown, president and Elders John Lindsay and Joseph C. Rich as his counselors. They gave the Saints counsel on their duties and the necessity for their living continually so as to enjoy the Holy Spirit, that its influence might sustain them under the changing scenes and varied circumstances incident to the journey they had entered upon. The Spirit of God was poured forth and a holy influence shed its power upon all on board. [21]
The 701 Saints came from the many conferences and districts of England and Wales. Among those from the Leicester Conference was Adeline Sparks who had also been waiting for a long time to go to Zion and finally she was able to obtain passage on the John J. Boyd. [22]

The passenger summary for the John J. Boyd, Mormon Migration.

As hard as it was for David and his family to make preparations for the trip to Zion and to lose their wife and mother and to walk to Liverpool, the voyage across the ocean was only slightly less difficult. The LDS church contracted with sailing ships for passage to Zion as the sailing ships were much cheaper than passage on a steamship. David and his family probably did not look back on their ship voyage with fond memories as they endured the trials of sailing ships which included seasickness, inadequate food, a lack of privacy, cramped living quarters, stale water, disease, and a longer journey. From the first day the 701 saints on board the John J. Boyd suffered the ill effects of seasickness because of the strong winds and adverse weather conditions. Joseph C. Rich who had been serving a mission in England and was now returning to Utah wrote in his journal about their departure from Liverpool:
About half past nine, April 23rd the tug left us to the mercy of the waves, and a kind Father in Heaven. When the anchors were lifted, all hands were singing, laughing and joking. But oh how different the scene before night. Out of 700 passengers, only about a dozen could be found able to do anything. Sister Hardy's little baby five months old died in the afternoon while the father and mother were confined to their berths with sea-sickness. Not a woman on board was able to assist in laying the child out. Brother Brown, Welch, and myself washed, dressed, and laid out the child in the evening. I assisted the sick nearly all day, which came very near making me as bad as any of them, but I stuck it out, and stayed up till 2 o'clock in the morning, doing for the sick and arranging the guards. [23]
For some passengers, the seasickness continued throughout the journey, and as a result, some passengers died from malnutrition and dehydration caused by the seasickness.

[21] “Reminiscences and Journals of James Steven Brown,” Passenger accounts of the John J. Boyd voyage of 1862, Liverpool to New York,

[22] Mormon Immigration Index, Family History Resource File, CD-ROM Library: Passenger list for the John J. Boyd shows David & Children and Adeline Sparks as passengers on the April 1862 voyage.

[23] “Diary Extract of Joseph C. Rich,” Passenger accounts of the John J. Boyd voyage of 1862, Liverpool to New York,

Rigby, Helen. "A History of David Nathan Thomas and his wives, Mary, Adeline & Frances." Utah: n.p., 2011.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The 172nd Anniversary of the Relief Society

Since my Irish ancestry comes from northern Ireland, I tend to remember March 17 as the anniversary of the Relief Society rather than St. Patrick's Day, so we'll be having soda bread and other Irish food to celebrate the birthday of the Relief Society.

The Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded on March 17, 1842. Here are some materials about one of the oldest and largest women's organizations:

Daughters in My Kingdom (official church history of the Relief Society)

Women of Covenant (older and more comprehensive official church history)

"Relief Society" in Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia (pages 107-110)

The original Relief Society Minute Book (Joseph Smith Papers Project)

"The 169th Anniversary of the Relief Society" (my post from three years ago)

"10 accomplishments of the Relief Society" (a nice article in the Deseret News)


Friday, March 14, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 3)

Merthyr Tydfil Garden of Remembrance. From Helen Rigby.

According to her daughter Sarah Ann’s biography, Mary Howells Thomas joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (often called Mormons) on November 8, 1841, which would make her one of the very early converts in Wales as the first LDS converts in Wales were at Overton in 1840. [12]  She was a member before she married David Thomas, and for several years before he was baptized February 15, 1849 by John Edmunds and confirmed February 16, 1849 by Joseph Davies and was ordained an Elder two days later, probably in the Aberdare branch as they were living in the Aberdare area when Isaac was born in 1850. [13]

The Aberdare branch was one of the early LDS branches in Wales and had been organized since April 6, 1844. Mary was a strong member of the Church and a faithful supporter of the missionaries. She had a great desire to immigrate to Zion with the many other Welsh Saints, and the family made preparations to go to Zion. However, before she could realize her dream, she died in 1860 of tuberculosis. The death certificate for Mary Howells gives the following information: Mary Thomas died 3 September, 1860 in Cwmaman, Aberdare, wife of David Thomas, Blacksmith. Cause of death is Phthisis (archaic term for tuberculosis) and disease of the heart. “X” The mark of John Howells in attendance, Canon Street, Aberdare. [14]

I found three accounts of this traumatic period in the life of David and his children, and because the details differ somewhat I have included them as they were written. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 2)

Wales. Picture from Helen Rigby.

His parents were David Thomas (1781) and Sarah Nathan (1784-1856). [1] A biography [2] by an unknown author from the files of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in Salt Lake City, Utah states: “David Thomas [father of David Nathan Thomas] was a weaver by trade.” Since Carmarthenshire was the center of the Welsh Woolen Trade which was very different from the Cotton Weaving Trade, David Thomas (senior) was probably a skilled craftsman who worked in a small factory. 
Up to about 1850, the word 'factory' in Carmarthenshire simply meant a building where carding or spinning machines were driven by water power. Weaving was still done by the hand loom. The 1831 census states that in Carmarthenshire there were 260 male weavers of over twenty years of age, 'engaged in weaving woolen yarns produced by domestic industry’; no more than 14 were found in any one place. [3]
Various dates are listed as David Nathan Thomas’ birth date. His gravestone in St. Johns, Arizona lists August 22, 1819, as his birth date; but the LDS New FamilySearch database lists August 22, 1820, as his birth date. It seems that whenever he was asked to give his birth date, he gave 1820 as the year. For example, when he emigrated he listed his birth year as 1820; on the 1880 census he listed his birth year as 1820, and in his patriarchal blessing his birth year is 1820. He was christened in 1821 in Langadog, Carmarthenshire by Joshua Davies, curate of Llangadock (sic). The microfilmed Bishop’s Transcript record lists: “Feb 18, 1821, David, son of David & Sarah Thomas of Aberdire [sic].” [4]

Monday, March 10, 2014

A History of David Nathan Thomas and His Wives, Mary, Adeline, and Frances (Part 1)

David Nathan Thomas (1820-1888)

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a biography of David Nathan Thomas. It was written by David's great-great granddaughter, Helen Rigby, and is reproduced here with her permission. Helen spent years collecting the information here, and visited and researched all the Thomas homes, from Wales, where David was born, to Utah and Arizona, where he died and is buried. We are all very grateful to Helen for her work, and also wish to thank her husband Jay and her sister Katie, who were a great help on the project.

I first met Helen several years ago when she found, through a visit to this blog, that my branch of the family had pictures of David Thomas and his second wife Adeline Springthorpe Thomas. It was a great privilege to get to meet Helen and work with her on placing a gravestone for Adeline Spingthorpe in Manti, Utah.

* * *

A History of David Nathan Thomas
and his wives,
Mary, Adeline & Frances

Written and compiled by Helen Price Rigby
March 2011

* * *

David N. Thomas

Born: 22 August 1820, Carmarthenshire, South Wales
Christened: 18 February 1821, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, South Wales
Died: 14 August 1888, St. Johns, Apache, Arizona
Married Mary Howells: 5 November 1842, Caepantywyll, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
Married Adeline Springthorpe: 5 September 1862*, Nephi, Juab, Utah
Married Frances Springthorpe: 20 February 1871, Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

* The date for this marriage is disputed, but no evidence has been found to prove or disprove it.

* * *

David Nathan Thomas

South Wales, 1820-1862

His christened name was David Thomas. There were so many others with the name "David Thomas" that it is said that he took his mother's maiden name of Nathan as a middle name; however, on some of the records I have found, he only used the initial N. I don't think it was ever officially changed to David Nathan Thomas, but for clarity purposes I will use David Nathan Thomas as his name.

* * *

And that's all for today! To be continued...

Part 2: Life in Wales.
Part 3: Family joins Church; gets ready to go to America; Mary dies.
Part 4: Emigration to America.
Part 5: Ship Voyage; The Thomas Family Meets Adeline.
Part 6: Arrival in America, Castle Gardens, Crossing the Plains.
Part 7: The Down-and-Back Companies.
Part 8:
Part 9:
Part 10:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Catching Up, or "What to Do With All This Snow?"

It's been a snowy winter. We shoveled and we shoveled some more and were starting to wonder where we'd put any more snow. The piles of snow on the parking strips were higher than my kids. We couldn't see around corners in the car. 

And the potholes! An unusually early freeze-thaw cycle made roads look like something you'd see in a war zone. One road on the drive to church is so broken up that you can't drive straight in your own traffic lane. Someone joked, "You can tell who the drunks are because they're the ones driving in a straight line."

I feel like I'm snowed under with projects, too. I'm piling up sources on the parking strip and trying to see around corners and shovel a path through my to-do lists and project lists that seem to get longer and longer every week.

One spot of sunshine in a snowy winter (both literally and figuratively) was the news that an article I helped write a couple of years ago was recently posted on the Church History website,

It is a short biography of Green Flake, an African-American Mormon convert and member of the first pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley, and it was very much an honor to be asked to help research and write this piece.

* * *

So, here's a brief mention of some current and upcoming projects at TheAncestorFiles and elsewhere:

(Upcoming biographies will highlight the Young-Bigelow-Mecham family)

• The "Slaves in Zion" Project 
(See, for example, biographies of Marinda Redd Bankhead and Hark Lay Wales)

• Posting Helen Rigby's biography of David Nathan Thomas

* * *

The picture is of the Niagara Falls region in 2004. Due to the lake effect, they get more snow than we do, but this is about how things looked this winter. Picture from Flickr, courtesy of "Bud," with a generous Creative Commons license.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ann Prior Jarvis Diary — April 7-9, 1884

Washington County Probate Court Divorce Records,  1882-1884.

April 7. Weather fine   spent the day well cooked hot dinner cooked cakes went in the evening to the first Ward Sun School entertainment walked home it hurt me very much

Tuesday 8. Weather fine I helped to clean the Temple went to see Em she is quite miserable — Anne was here her baby is quite sick I went to relief society work at patch work half gallon  ^milk paid 20 cents^

Wede^n^sney 9. pleasant spent the day washing ^&^ doing domestic work in the evening rode with Father to the field. Br Wilson and wife having a trial in the Court house Br Milne ^of course he is not drunk^ run Anne Guber off.

"first Ward" — George and Ann Jarvis lived in the St. George First Ward.

"the field" — Mormon communities were planned so that the people lived close together and the farms were outside town. I'm not sure where the Jarvis land was, but in many cases the St. George families farmed in the area to the east of town. For a brief summary of Mormon community planning see the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "City Planning," or a longer overview by Craig Galli, "Building Zion: The Latter-day Saint Legacy of Urban Planning."

Br Wilson and wife — Francis Marion Wilson (1836-1924) filed for divorce against his wife Emily Melissa Hancock (1849-1888) on April 9, 1884. The divorce was granted and the children were awarded to the mother.

Br Milne — son-in-law David Milne.

"Of course he is not drunk" — Ann could be pretty funny at times. There was a continual problem in early St. George with alcoholism, but "of course" it didn't involve her highly respectable son-in-law. (Or did it?)

Anne Guber — probably Anna Katherina Gubler (1825-1891). I have no idea what happened here, but an ongoing conflict in early St. George involved the friction between the English- and German-speaking settlers. Usually it was limited to name-calling and other adolescent bullying, but sometimes it flared up into bitter court battles.

Galli, Craig D. "Building Zion: The Latter-day Saint Legacy of Urban Planning," BYU Studies 44:1 (2005), 111-136. (Link.)

Jackson, Richard H. "City Planning," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, BYU Harold B. Lee Library. (Link.)

Washington County Probate Court Records, Book D, 376-377.