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Jeremy, Esther - Biography



Written by Irene Edwards Staples (Spears) 

Edited by Elease W. King

          Mrs. Esther Jeremy Davis, widow of Captain David L. Davis, and daughter of the late Thomas E. and Sarah Evans Jeremy, was born in the Parrish of Llanybyther, Carmarthen Wales May 12, 1846.  Her father, raised on a farm, was a man of learning and was cultured and refined.  He was a graduate of Carmarthen College in the year 1820 and was educated for the ministry, being a member of the Baptist Church.  Shortly after his marriage to Sarah Evans, he heard the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expounded by Dan Jones, a traveling Elder of the Church.  He believed them to be true and was baptized.  His conversion made him one of the first converts to “Mormonism” in Wales.

          On 26 February 1849, he immigrated to Utah with his family to Utah with his family.  They were the first company of Latter-day Saints from a foreign land, immigrating to Utah for their religion.  Dan Jones was closely associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Before his martyrdom, the Prophet told Brother Jones that that he would return to Wales to preach the Gospel and that there were many who would accept its principles and be baptized into the Church. Capt. Jones converted thousands of Welsh people.

           Esther Jeremy Davis had a charming personality, was talented and became well educated, loved and respected by all.  At the age of three, she emigrated to Utah with her parents.  They arrived in New Orleans June 1849 and journeyed up the Missouri River to Council Bluffs.  While on the river, cholera broke out.  There were 249 passengers and one-third were stricken with the dread disease.  Three of Esther’s sisters died and the boat would stop each day to bury the dead.  Over 100 had died along the way.

          When crossing the plains, they suffered terribly from cold and hunger; seventy of their cattle died one night from the extreme cold.  They arrived in Utah October 29, 1849.  The family settled with the Welsh saints in the old 16th ward. In 1850, they moved into a house on 6th West between North and South Temple.  The house was made of posts in the ground as supports and the roof and walls were of willows woven like a basket.  The house was plastered on the inside and outside, which made it quite comfortable. 

          When Johnson’s Army was coming, the people were advised to go south, which they did, settling in Salem.  One of the most vivid memories when Esther was eleven years old was when she narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the Indians.  She (with other girls) was gathering sage-brush for fuel, when all of a sudden two Indians came riding up on their horses.  The Indians reached down from their horses and savagely attempted to grab the girls.  Instantly one of the men in the camp close by heard the screams of the girls and could see what the Indians were trying to do.  They came immediately and frightened the Indians off.   She remembers coming back to Salt Lake when the army had left for Camp Floyd.  She remembered the little cat she had that she brought back with her which lived for eleven years.

          During these days, they endured many hardships; flour was $30.00 a sack.  Later, Esther’s father was called on a mission to Wales.  The mother had to sell two dinner sets, nine valuable shawls, and many other articles which she had brought from Wales in order to buy food and clothing.  She proved to be a good manager and when the father returned home, she had paid off all the family debts.  Esther used to knit stockings and dye the yarn that her mother had carded to make wool cloth.  The family made their own candles and churned their butter.  As a young girl, Esther carried many pounds of butter and dozens of eggs to the Tithing Office for tithing.   She didn’t have any shoes and on her way to the Tithing Office, she would run barefoot around the foundation of Temple Block before the adobes were added.

          Memories of the plague of grasshoppers were distinct in her mind.  She said they came in hordes or clouds blocking out the sun.  They came into the houses and destroyed clothing.   Later, hordes of grasshoppers flew to the Great Salt Lake and were drowned.   The waves washed the bodies up on the shore in heaps five feet deep.  The people would drive to the lake and load their wagons taking the heap of dead grasshoppers home to boil down for grease to make soap. 

          Esther Jeremy married David L. Davis on Thanksgiving Day 29 November 1866; the ceremony was performed by President Heber C. Kimball.  Esther was about 20 years old.  After the marriage, they arrived home driven by Esther’s father in a wagon pulled by oxen.  There, they had a specially prepared dinner to celebrate the joyous occasion.  She remembered well the dried beef and soup which was served.  To have that much food was a real treat.   Esther was David’s second wife; his first wife, Hannah Jeremy (Esther’s sister) died soon after delivering their only child who also died.

          Esther and David had eleven children:  David J. (Dewey), Thomas, Harry, Frances, Mary, Edith, Mabel, John Douris, Walter, Hazel and Esther. 

They lived in a home on South Temple between 1st and 2nd West.  In 1884, they moved to a larger home at 43 North 1st West which they thought was a mansion.  They celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary 29 November 1916, in their new home on Capital Hill, a spacious and beautiful home for the period. 

          Esther recalled the explosion of powder on Arsenal Hill (now Capitol Hill) in the early 1880’s.   Two boys were out rabbit hunting when their shot exploded the powder house.  The only thing which was found of the boys was a shoe with some flesh inside.  Windows were broken throughout the city, particularly large store windows on Main Street.  A boy living over on “B” street was killed by falling rock which was thrown over a mile by the blast. 

           During the dread epidemic of diphtheria, the Davis’ lost two boys within two days, Harry age 16, and Walter age 4.  The same week Esther delivered a baby girl.  During a Relief Society Testimony Meeting, Sister Morris who had lost nine children was there.  Sister Zina Young spoke in tongues; the interpretation was for them not to grieve, for their beloved children were alright and would be waiting for them. 

          Esther also recalls going to the Depot to see the first train come to Salt Lake with all the cheers and excitement.  The bands were playing and flags were flying making a great celebration.  Both she and her husband attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple April 6, 1883.  They have done much temple work in this and the Logan Temple.

       They both attended many socials and parties in the old Social Hall and the first performance in the Salt Lake Theater.  Her husband, David, was a merchant and a High Councilor in the Salt Lake Stake of Zion.  He acted as Home Missionary for the whole Salt lake Valley Stake.  He was for many years, President of and director of the Cambrian Society and was well-known in business circles.   He was known throughout the Intermountain West as the “Navigator of the Great Salt Lake” and everywhere was recognized as one of the authorities of the islands in the lake.  He was one of the first LDS to navigate the Lake and explore the islands.  It was an acknowledged fact that his knowledge of the lake was greater than any man in Utah.

         Many distinguished guests were entertained and enjoyed the hospitality of their home, including William Abraham, Member of Parliament, James Wignall, also an M.P., Professor Wm Ap Madoc, conductor of the Eisteddfod given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1903.  The great Welsh music composer, Dr. Joseph Parry was also a guest and allowed his piece, “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old” to be sung in the Davis home before it was published. 

          Esther and David’s son, Dewey, and daughter, Mabel, filled honorable missions.  During the Spanish-American War, Dewey was wounded in the Philippine Islands and died from the effects in 1911.  Both Esther and her husband enjoyed a trip with Senator William N. Williams and friends from Salt Lake City to California.  They drove over the San Francisco Bay Bridge the day it was opened, which was then the longest bridge in the world (seven miles long).  Their daughter Esther, who married Edwin Willard Stephens, son of Judge and Mrs. F. Stephens, had a most beautiful lark-like voice, and was well known in the West including California, where she and her husband moved.  She was very popular in music circles served in prominent positions in the Church. 

          After sixty years of married life, Esther’s husband, David L. Davis, passed away 20 April 1926.  They were a devoted couple and were outstanding in the Church and community, doing much good.  David was a devoted father and husband and loved his children.  The reader is encouraged to read the condensed version of his journal which among other things, describes their suffering while caring for the two precious boys who were dying of diphtheria.  Journal of David L. Davis, by Naomi M. Cottam, available at the Daughters of The Pioneers Museum.

          Esther was known as “The Good Samaritan” in truth and deed.  She was a friend of the needy, mother to the motherless and no deserving person was turned away from her door.  Esther Davis witnessed a great change from the first year they arrived in Salt Lake City in 1849, through her 90 years.   From covered wagon to the aero plane which she had the privilege of riding in before her death. She dressed with care and distinction.  She was a bright, vivacious and a woman of courage and endurance.  She was alert to the very last of her days.  She was Esther Jeremy Davis.


Jeremy, Esther


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