Obray, Samuel William and Eleanor Bainbridge - Biography


Samuel William Obray

& Eleanor Bainbridge Obray


Eleanor Bainbridge was born 29 May 1832 in Durham, England. She was the daughter of Joseph Bainbridge, a quarryman, born about 1801, and Jane Welch, born 15 Mar 1802. Eleanor was their second daughter. There were five children in the family—three sons and three daughters: Ralph, Eleanor, Joseph, Edward, Mary, and Margaret.

The family was introduced to the LDS religion and Eleanor was baptized in 1846. On 17 July 1847, their mother passed away leaving her husband and six children ages ten through twenty-two. Eleanor was fifteen at the time and was left with the responsibility to care for the younger children.

The family had the desire to join the saints in Utah, so they made the arrangements, and on 2 February 1851 they sailed from Liverpool on the ship Ellen Maria with 378 souls aboard. In addition to her father and brothers and sisters, Eleanor brought with her a little four-month old son named Joseph.

It was while waiting for the ship to sail that the family came in contact with Samuel William Obray. [He was born 18 June 1828 in Pembroke, Wales, the son of John Barnett Obray and Eleanor Allen.] Samuel was a shipwright by trade. He married Margaret Harris 23 November 1846 and they were the parents of two sons: Thomas William, born 11 April 1848 at Pembroke Dock, Wales; and John whose birth date is unknown.

Samuel was baptized a member of the LDS Church 6 February 1846, before his marriage to Margaret. His wife never accepted the gospel, and this led to much friction between them. Samuel decided to come to America to join the saints, so he booked passage on the ship Ellen Maria for himself and his oldest son, Thomas, who was then age three. He did this without the consent or knowledge of his wife.


Because of diverse winds, the ship anchored in the river Mersey for two days before it was considered safe to set sail. When Samuel’s wife discovered that her son was missing, she reported it to the authorities who searched the ship trying to find the boy. Samuel had persuaded the Bainbridge family to claim Thomas as their son.  Margaret was unsuccessful in finding the little boy since the authorities were looking for a man and a little boy, and Thomas had been integrated into the Bainbridge family, and had been dressed as a little girl.

The Millennial Star, Vol. XII, p. 58, gives the following account of the voyage:

On February 2, 1851, the ship Ellen Maria put to sea before a fair breeze and in delightful weather. Apostle Orson Pratt returned to America with his family on board this ship. After a voyage of sixty-three days, the Ellen Maria arrived in New Orleans, on the sixth of April. She had experienced a strong gale of wind the fifth of February but it abated on the sixth, and in a few days the Saints had become accustomed to sea life, and were free from sickness. The remainder of the voyage was as pleasant as sea voyages generally are. Meetings were held every Sabbath, and also on different occasions during the week, at which Apostle Pratt and other Elders addressed the Saints and strangers present on the principles of the gospel. Three marriages, four births, and five deaths occurred on board.


April 9th, most of the company left New Orleans for St. Louis, Missouri, on the Alexander Scott, one of the largest boats on the Mississippi River, and arrived in St. Louis on the sixteenth.


The Bainbridge family and the Obray family were not financially able to continue with the saints to Utah, so they stayed in St. Louis for approximately four years, working to earn enough money to continue their journey. While in St. Louis, Eleanor and Samuel were married [sometime between April 16, 1851 and September 1852], and their first child, Ellen Jane, was born 15 June 1853.


[Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p 514. “The New World having become attractive to Thomas Sharratt, he came to America and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he engaged in business and farming. Having leased a farm near the city, he hired, among other men, Henry Gale, a Latter-day Saint, and from him heard the gospel of salvation which he eagerly embraced, and after only six weeks' investigation he and his wife were declared ready for baptism. Bro. Smart was baptized by John A. Richards and his wife by Samuel Obray.”]


Samuel and Eleanor joined a wagon train [along with his brother Thomas Lorenzo] and came to Utah in 1854. Eleanor’s father and the rest of the family members remained in St. Louis. It is not known what happened to Eleanor’s little son, Joseph, as no record has been found concerning him.


[From the biography of Martha Shelton Obray written in the book Three Pioneer Women Speak, 1962; Daughters of the Utah Pioneers; Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, Utah; p.285-290:

  "When we reached St. Louis, we bought our teams and wagon, cows and provisions, and all our outfit for traveling on the plains... My sister Louisa was married to Thomas L. Obray on June 24, 1854.  Thomas was returning from a mission in Malta, and was on the way to Utah with his brother Sam and his family.  We took the measles... We suffered very much... My sister Louisa first had the measles and was beginning to get better when she had a setback, cholera set in and she died, a bride of three weeks.

  "The men, my brother Charles [who had lost his wife and children to measles and cholera] and brother-in-law Thomas Obray, took their losses very hard...  We had lost seven of our company, and others died also.  We girls continued very weak, not much appetite and poor digestion until we reached the Valley.  On September 19, 1854 we arrived in Salt Lake City.  We drove through the city and down toward the Jordan River to camp."

  She married Thomas Obray in October, they went to Tooele for one year, then moved to Ogden. This account is given here because it appears that Samuel traveled with Thomas from place to place and would have had the same experiences.]


Samuel and Eleanor first settled in Tooele where their second child, Louisa, was born 16 August 1855. Tooele was a dry country and at that time had suffered from droughts. This may be the reason that they left and moved to Ogden. While living in Ogden, Emma was born 5 December 1857.


Glowing reports of Cache Valley stimulated the people living in less favorable conditions to move north. Brigham Young said, “No other valley in the territory is equal to this” In an article in the Deseret News, Peter Maughan reported, “The length of the valley is forty miles north to south and the breadth about twelve miles east to west. Farm land is extensive, water for irrigation is abundant, in short it is the best watered valley I have ever seen in these mountains.” In the spring of 1860 the rush to Cache Valley began. This influx of new settlers resulted in the formation of many new towns. [The History of a Valley.]


These reports must have influenced the Obray family, because they left Ogden and moved to Cache Valley where they settled for a time in Wellsville. Hannah Marie was born here 21 November 1859.

Samuel took his family and with his brother, Thomas, they joined a small group from Wellsville and settled in the fields just west of the present town of Paradise [in the river bottoms between present-day Paradise and Wellsville]. They named their new little settlement Petersburg. Other families had started a settlement about three miles further south, which they had named Paradise. Because of problems and fear of the Indians, they remained in Petersburg only a few years and in 1868 the entire settlement moved north and incorporated Petersburg into the new settlement of Paradise. [An early History of Cache County, page 94-97]


[The following story was told by Thomas Lorenzo Obray Sr., to his granddaughter, Cora Obray Birch]:

"Samuel William Obray and his brother Thomas Lorenzo Obray Sr., settled in Ogden after coming to Utah. [They first settled in Tooele.] It was farming time and the crops were ready for harvest when they arrived there in the summer of 1859. When Brigham Young called Peter Maughn to take a group of saints from Squaw Valley and re-establish their settlement in Cache Valley*, Samuel, Thomas, and Mr. Lofthouse were among the people who went with him. There were no roads into the valley, so they traveled over the old Indian trail through Mount Pisgah [Sardine Canyon] and settled in the valley in the area that is now located between Wellsville and Hyrum. They called their settlement Petersburg.

"The small community of Saints hurriedly built dirt-roofed huts as shelter against the severe winter that followed. However, their preparations for the cold winter were not adequate; and soon after the first snowfall, many of them, especially children,  were stricken with  an epidemic of 'gripe' (or flu). They had severe sore throats, and some of the children developed scarlet fever.

"Medical supplies were scarce, and food was in short supply. Peter Maughn, who was head of the community, called for volunteers to go back into Ogden Valley for medicine and food. Three men went – Samuel Obray, his brother Thomas L. Obray Sr., and George Hill. They took oxen and wagons to make the trip, arriving in Ogden Valley with little trouble.

"After loading their wagons with the supplies they needed, they began their return trip. Their journey was made difficult because of heavy snow that had fallen in the mountains. Normally, the trip would have taken just three days, but it took much longer as they had to shovel roads so that the oxen could get through. On the second day of their journey, one of the oxen became ill and fell to the ground. The men knew they had to get through the mountain or they would freeze to death, but they couldn't get through without their oxen. After they tried in every way they knew to help the sick ox, they grew desperate and afraid. Thomas, not knowing what other recourse to take, suggested that they administer to the sick ox.

"Thomas said, 'We are on a mission of mercy for our people. We have answered the call of those who are in authority, and we all know that by the laying on of hands and asking for the help of the Lord, he can heal us. With so many lives at stake and depending upon us, He surely can heal the ox.'

"So they all knelt and prayed, and Samuel asked God to heal the ox. They administered to it like they would a man. After resting for a few hours, they went back and removed blankets off the ox. 'The ox stood up and shook his body like he was trying to get his blood circulating again.' Soon they were on their way back into the valley with their precious load of food and medical supplies."

[The original settlement of Wellsville was made by Peter Maughn in 1856. The valley was vacated during the threat of the Utah War in 1858, and Peter Maughn re-established the Wellsville settlement in 1859 under the direction of Brigham Young.]


Four more children came to bless the home of Samuel & Eleanor Obray while they lived in Petersburg: Elizabeth, born 13 February 1862; Adalaid, born 17 March 1864; Samuel Napoleon, born 24 September 1867; and May, born 27 April 1870 after the settlement was absorbed into the town of Paradise. They now had seven daughters and one son, plus Samuel’s son William Thomas who came with him from Wales. This family was very blessed in that every child grew to maturity and raised families of their own. Because of the lack of medical knowledge it was very rare in that day that anyone could raise their entire family to adulthood without losing one or more to the diseases and illnesses of that time.

Samuel Napoleon, or “Nap,” was a very small child, and as a man he “never did weigh as much as 100 pounds.” Because he was frail and the only son, he was favored, and the daughters were required to help with all the farmwork.

Samuel built a two-room log cabin for the family on the edge of the hill in the northwest part of town, just outside the city limits. This was home to Eleanor as long as she lived. Eleanor was a beautiful, serene woman, small in stature, her hair parted in the middle and pulled back in a bun. She was a typical little English woman, “every inch a lady.” She was always a hard worker. She raised her eight children plus Samuel’s son, Thomas, in the little log cabin. She was still living there when she passed away on 27 April 1902 at the age of 70.

Samuel was a farmer and he owned land in both old and new Paradise. He also raised sheep. When the sheep were sheared in the spring they would take the wool to Wellsville to be carded.

Samuel was a strong-willed man of medium height with sandy colored hair, and in his later years he wore a long beard. He was a man of his word and his word was law. When he made a statement, he meant it and always followed through, even though on some occasions it would seem to others that he was being cruel and unreasonable. At one time he served as water master of Paradise. It was his responsibility to see that the land owners took their turn when it was assigned and not pilfer any in between turns. One man kept sneaking water, so Samuel gave him warning saying, “If you take it one more time, I’ll split your head open.” A few days later Samuel caught the man sneaking water again, so true to his word, he took his shovel and hit the man over the head making a deep gash in his head.

When Samuel’s youngest daughter, May, married, he gave the newly weds a cow as a wedding gift. The cow was kept in a pasture next to Samuel’s cow pasture. When the wedding cow kept crossing the fence into her old home pasture, Samuel warned May that if the cow crossed the fence one more time, he would cut off the cow’s leg. In spite of every effort to keep the cow home, she finally made the fatal move across the fence. Once again, Samuel was true to his word. Taking an ax, he cut off the cow’s leg.

On a warm summer day, Samuel enjoyed relaxing in a hammock stretched between two shady trees. But he did not enjoy being pestered by the flies. On many occasions he instructed his grandchildren to stand nearby with a long willow branch, waving it back and forth to shoo away the flies as he enjoyed his nap.

The story has been told of how Samuel helped quell an Indian attack on Paradise. A tribe of Indians was camped in the Avon bottoms having a pow wow and apparently making plans to attack the settlers in Paradise. When they heard about this, a group of men rode to Avon to see what was going on. As they stood on the brow of the hill looking down at the encampment, Samuel rode his horse full speed down into the midst of the Indians. Although he could not speak the Indian language, he was blessed at this time to be able to communicate with them. He promised them that if they would not attack, the settlers would give them food and meat. The Indians agreed and the men rode back to Paradise and notified the people of the agreement. All participated and brought their contributions to the Tithing Office where the Indians came and gathered up their ransom. Many times after this, the Indians would come to town and ask for food. They would knock at the door and say, “pig-a-meat’” which were the only English words they knew. They were not asking just for pig meat, but to them the words simply meant “food.” They always received their food. The townspeople felt that it was “better to feed the Indians than to fight them.”

Because of Samuel’s friendliness in dealing with the Indians, they gave him an Indian name, “Ricca-rootsa.” The exact meaning is not known, but we do know that this name meant that Samuel was held in high esteem by the Indians.

In about 1869, another woman came into the life of Samuel. Mary Deborah Preator, who was born in England, told of a dream she had before she left England, in which she saw her future husband. So vivid was the picture that she recognized Samuel William when she met him for the first time in Logan, Utah. They were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on 25 April 1870. Deborah Mary was thirty-six at the time and Samuel was fifty-one. [This marriage took place just two days before Eleanor gave birth to his last child, May, on 27 April 1870. Perhaps this was one cause of the great friction and bitter family feelings that resulted from this marriage.]

Samuel built Deborah Mary a lovely little two-room frame house located about one block north and one block east of where his first wife, Eleanor, was living in her little log cabin. This house was later remodeled and then a large addition was added on by subsequent owners, but the original house is still a part of the Clark Gibbs home today [1982]. There must have been some unhappiness on the part of Eleanor when the new wife received a lovely new home and she had to remain in the little log cabin, but she never let it affect her attitude. [Or did she prefer to live in the little log home where she had raised her family?]


[TESTIMONY of Samuel William Obray: Paradise Ward Record of Meetings; 1879-1900; CHS film LR6733; series 11, roll #1, vol. 11, p. 65. "Sacrament Meeting, Feb 4, 1883.  "Elder Samuel Obray was called to the stand and was the first speaker.  He said he had been a strong believer in "No God," had defied the power of God, until a servant of God had come and presented the Gospel to him with a promise that if he obeyed the same with sincerity he should know for himself there was a God.  Through obedience to that Gospel he had obtained a knowledge that God lived and that His Church was established upon the earth, as it was anciently, [and] was willing to suffer all for the gospel sake in order to gain eternal life."]


[Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, August 16, 1888 (Thursday)

       Samuel Obray was arrested at Paradise, Cache Co, for u.c. (unlawful co-habitation)

Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, November 24, 1888 (Saturday)

       In the First District Court, at Ogden, Henry Stander, of Brigham City, was sentenced by Judge Henderson to six months' imprisonment for adultery; Samuel W. Obray to $200 fine, and Thomas Obray, of Paradise, to five months; all for u.c.]

Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, June 5, 1910 (Sunday)

       Samuel W. Obray, a Utah pioneer of 1854, died at Paradise, Cache Co., Utah.]


Samuel survived Eleanor by eight years. He passed away 5 June 1910 at the age of 82. At the time of his death, his posterity numbered ten children, eighty-seven grandchildren, seventy great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. Both Eleanor and Samuel were laid to rest in the Paradise Cemetery. Deborah Mary died one month before her 99th birthday, 12 January 1943. She also was buried in the Paradise Cemetery beside Samuel and Eleanor.

                                    Compiled by Diane Norman Parker (great-granddaughter), 1982

                 with additions by Mary Jean Norman Garrison (great-granddaughter), 2000




as related by his great-grandson

John Parish Smith


My father, [John Obray Smith], used to tell us stories about the relative he had while living in the Paradise area of Cache Valley where it seems he had three “Uncle Tom” Obrays:  Uncle Tom, “Old” Uncle Tom, and Uncle Tom “Bean Belly.”  We never could figure out how that could be possible and he probably tried to explain the situation to us, but it was the sort of legend that one remembers; particularly the “Bean Belly” part.

[“Old” Uncle Tom was Thomas Lorenzo Obray, the other two Uncle Tom’s were Samuel’s son Thomas William, and Thomas’ son Thomas. It isn’t known which one was “Bean Belly.”]

As a result of that curiosity, we asked our faithful Editor (son Clyde) to find as much as he could about my great grandfather Sam Obray on the Internet and we were rewarded with the following obituary:

[See obituary of Samuel William Obray]

We have been able to fill in additional information from the histories accumulated by Bernice Shaw Bailey of Thomas, Idaho.  She indicates that Samuel was born 18 June 1828 rather than the obviously incorrect date in the obituary.  His christening date is 1833 in St. Mary’s Church, Pembroke, Pembroke, South Wales.  He grew up in that area and married Margaret Harris on November 23, 1846, in the same church.  A copy of the marriage record, as certified by the county records lists, shows their ages as being “full” and his profession as “shipwright.”  The marriage was blessed with two boys; the oldest was born April 11, 1848.

The LDS missionaries contacted Sam and he accepted the gospel readily and became a devoted member.  However, his wife could nor would not accept the gospel and, as a result, left him and took the two boys with her.

According to the family legend, Sam booked passage to come to America some time in 1851-52 period.  He was able to steal the oldest boy from his mother and took him on board the ship Ellen Maria just prior to its departure.  The boy had red hair and Sam was able to place him with a family of red-headed children so that when the police came aboard they could not find him.  The boys name was Thomas William, age three, according to the passenger list.

Also aboard the ship was a Bainbridge family with a daughter by the name of Elenor.  Sam and Elenor became romantically involved and they were married on arrival in America via the port of New Orleans.  Sam, due to his skill as a shipwright, obtained employment as a ships carpenter on vessels, working on the Mississippi River.  Their first child, Ellen Jane, was born June 15, 1853, at St. Louis, Missouri.

Plans were made to move by wagon trains to Utah during the 1854 season and, quoting from the legendary story, Sam’s family was joined by his brother “who was returning from a mission on the island of Malta” (see note at end of story.)

The brother’s name was Thomas Lorenzo and he had married Louise Shelton the same day she was baptized on June 24, 1854, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  She died while crossing the plains along with many others in their company while crossing the plains.

The company arrived in [Great] Salt Lake [City] September 29, 1854, where the Obrays lived for about a year and Tom married Martha Shelton (first wife’s sister) in the Endowment House, October 30, 1855.  Both families were rebaptized and confirmed on November 12, 1855, in one of the Salt Lake Wards.

After spending a year at Tooele, Utah, the brothers moved to Ogden where my grandmother Emma was born Dec. 5, 1857.  The brothers apparently were able to find work (carpenters?) wherever they decided to live.  The obituary tells the story as far as Paradise, Utah, is concerned.  The records has Thomas L. Obray and Martha Shelton as parenting a boy, Thomas L. Obray, Jr., in Paradise, Utah 


Obray, Samuel William

Bainbridge, Eleanor


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