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.

Adeline Sparks was listed on the ship’s passenger list as a spinster which at that time was the term used for a woman traveling alone, whether unmarried, divorced, abandoned, or widowed. On a personal family record there is a notation that Adeline was married to “unknown English seaman who died at sea.” [27] Because of new technology and databases, I was able to determine that she was married in West Bromwich, England on June 16, 1845, to Elijah Sparks. [28] A death date for Elijah has not yet been found.

When Elijah and Adeline were married, he was listed as a miner and his father was a mariner. West Bromwich where they married is located in “the Black Country” of England. The Black Country gained its name in the mid-nineteenth century due to the smoke from the many hundreds of ironworking foundries and forges, plus also the working of the shallow 30-foot thick coal seams. West Bromwich is an area about 25 miles from Coleorton, Leischire, England where Adeline was born. It has been difficult to determine exactly when she was born. The ink on the microfilmed records for that district and time period in the LDS Family History Library is too faded to be read, so by looking at census records, immigration records and the marriage certificate I believe that 1826 is most likely to be her birth year. She was the daughter of James and Frances Springthorpe who had nine children. Three of their children, Adeline, Frances, and John embraced the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and emigrated to Zion where the three siblings remained close until their deaths. John and his family moved to Kingston and St. Johns with David and Adeline. Frances in 1872 became David Thomas’ third wife and lived in Kanosh next to Isaac, David’s son, until her death in Kanosh in 1880.

David and Adeline forged a friendship on the voyage to Zion and after arriving in America, she continued to help him with his children as they journeyed to Utah and when they arrived in Utah, she became David’s second wife.

[24] Delphia Rees Despain, History of Margaret Thomas Price.

[25] “Journal of Reuben A. McBride,” Passenger accounts of the John J. Boyd voyage of 1862, Liverpool to New York,

[26] Despain, “History of Margaret Thomas Price.

[27] Family group sheet from Delphia Despain, copy in appendix #1.

[28] Certified copy of marriage certificate in possession of Helen Price Rigby. Obtained September 24, 2009 from the General Register Office, West Bromwich District, England.

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

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