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Thomas, William Howell - biography

William Howell Thomas was born on November 2, 1 790 near Winrow Parish Glamorganshire, South Wales. He was the son of Robert Thomas and Janet James. He was a cobbler. He married Ann Williams on 8 February 1797 in Winrow Parish Glamorganshire, South Wales. Her parents were Robert (or William) Williams and Catherine Rees.

These people were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and were baptized in 1847. Some of the children may have been baptized also. William Howell Thomas and his wife were endowed and sealed as husband and wife on October 19, 1861 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

These honest and frugal folks early gave a listening ear to the message of Mormonism, and the father and mother were baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1847.

The spirit of the Gospel was the spirit of gathering and yielding to this urge. They left their home and pleasant surroundings to join the Saints in the Land of Zion. The parents and the seven younger children set sail on the ship "Jersey" on the 5 February
1853. The following day was Manis' 12th birthday. This was the 63 company of Saints embarking from Britain for the Land of Zion.

There were 314 passengers in the company, 300 of whom were steerage and 14 were second class. The company were about half and half English-Welsh, hence there was a confusion of tongues assembled on the deck of the "Jersey". With glistening eye and moistened cheeks they sang "Yes My Native Land I Love Thee", as they were towed down the Jersey River into the open sea, in rather a frail craft for the tempestuous winds and waves of the expansive ocean.

The married folks were located in the center of the ship, the boys near the bow and the girls at the stern. Passengers, as well as the ship itself were divided into districts for the better observance of order, discipline, and work. Each of the divisions already mentioned had a supervising council of three brethren and the whole company was under the direction of a president who in this case was Elder George Halliday. At eight o-clock pm. Evening prayers were held in each section after which lights were out and everyone went to bed. On warm days everyone was brought on deck for airing and sunshine. whether they liked it or not, and indeed it was quite necessary.

In reading the account of the journey, one is lead to conclude that the personnel of the ship was rather limited, and the passengers did much of the cleaning up as well as the furnishing and preparing of the food. Upon one occasion, those who had been assigned to the preparation of the food were expelled, and others took over, only to make a dismal mess of both kitchen and gentry and the former cooks were again installed, much to the satisfaction of the passengers.

As they coasted south, winter seemed to be left behind. The weather became warmer and the air more balmy. The joy of sighting land as they neared the West Indies was very great. All of the passengers were continuously on deck. The watery voyage had been long and tedious, which fact they now became very conscious of.

A little later they entered murky water and a pilot came aboard which did much to create a feeling of security as they wended their now devious way through the Southwest channel, passing the Belize Pilot Station into the sagging current of the Great Father of Waters. The distance from the bar to the city of New Orleans is 90 miles. Four days were consumed in towing the "Jersey" to the city, where they docked 21 March 1853 having covered the 5000 mile voyage in seven weeks. During the journey there were two deaths and six marriages.

At the docks they were met by the forwarding agent of the church, Elder John Brown, whose promptness and energy soon had them aboard the "John Simonds" chugging up the great river to St. Louis and then to Keokuk, Iowa. The fare was $2.25 for the adults all over 14 years of age, half fare for those between 3 and 14 and all under 3 were free.

While preparations were being made for the overland journey from Keokuk to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, they were camped by Montrose, Iowa which was out a few miles from Keokuk. This camp was heavily infested with snakes, so that at times they were fearful to walk about, yet none of the party were ever molested.

On 3 June 1853, they were reported ready or the move from Keokuk to the Westward trail. The company, under the direction of Elder Joseph W. Young, was made up of 42 wagons. 32 of these were in the "Ten Pound Group" and ten were in the "Immigration Fund". So the trek into the wilderness began. They crossed the Missouri River on 11 July at Council Bluffs. On 29 July their company was overtaken by Isaac C. Haight

between Loupfork and Wood River. He was returning from Council Bluffs to the Great Salt Lake Valley. He stayed with them over Sunday 31 July and they held a rousing meeting at Wood River that day.

Occasionally some of the children would mount one of the friendly oxen and ride for a spell, but for the most part the entire journey was made on foot, for both children and adults. They arrived in Salt Lake City on 10 October 1853, having been under way more or less since 5 February 1853. It was just a little more than eight months since they had embarked at Liverpool, England.

The stay in Salt Lake City was of rather short duration, for soon they, with others were called by Brigham Young to go to Box Elder, later Brigham City, and help colonize that region. They soon found themselves in a dugout home with dirt floor and dirt roof in the Old Fort-Box Elder.

The William H. Thomas family was among the very early settlers of Box Elder and therefore  suffered the hardships and privations of those early days, including the terrible famine of the winter of 1855 which was caused in part through awide spread grasshopper plague of the previous season. Their diet consisted largely of roots, wild onions and Segos, together with a little wheat ground in the coffee mill. It was then added sparingly to the mixture and the whole of it cooked. The wheat must be conserved for spring planting. Sister Thomas was a very good practical nurse and rendered invaluable and unstinted service to the whole community as well as her own family in their affliction and distress.

They continued their home in Brigham City until 1863 when again, upon the recommendation of President Brigham Young, that as fast as possible the stakes of Zion extend their bounds. The parents and most of the children of the Thomas family moved to the Malad Valley where they finished life's mortal journey. The parents found their final resting place in Brigham City and are numbered among the honored pioneer dead of that beautiful cemetery.

              Out of the Old Fort they moved into a rather artistic Willow Place with a dirt floor and dirt roof just South of the opening at the Southwest corner of Old Fort. This unique abode brought them the name of the Willow Thomas Family. Mania's delight was the home and its flower garden, the latter particularly characterized her whole life. She often said, "I watched Brigham City grow and develop. I have lived to see the barren waste blossom as the Rose."


Submitted by Wendell Smith & Tanai Williams with additional information taken from www welshmormonhistory.org

(Written October 1953 by Elias granddaughter, Ella Colton Palmer)



Thomas, Eliza Jane

Thomas, William Howell

Williams, Ann


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