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Thain, John 1 - Biography

Pembrokeshire, South Wales is lined with miles of gigantic cliffs and rolling green hills. The southern half was conquered in the eleventh century by England an, the colony became completely anglicised retaining their customs, language, and traditions so successfully that the district is still known as "Little England Beyond Wales." In the beautiful little parrish of Amroth on Carmarthen Bay, a son was born to William Thain and Martha Griffiths. The date was October 2, 1829. They christened him John Teague Thain in St. Davids Church, one of the most famous in all of Wales.

Just 10 miles down the coast from Amroth is the largest and most popular holiday resort in West Wales called Tenby. Tenby, which means a precipice of fishes, is surrounded by city walls that were built in the fourteenth century. The greater portion of them remains today in an almost perfect state of preservation. Tenby is a very pleasant place to idle away the sunny summer days. Margaret Roach Griffiths was born in this quaint town on July 14, 1832 to William Griffiths and Elizabeth Shears. She was christened in the same Church John had been christened in a few years before. Margaret's middle name, Roach, was given to her in honor of the Griffiths' nanny, who was very much respected by them.

Not much is known of the early childhood of John or Margaret, but being somewhat like other children they must have romped and played on the sunny beaches near their homes. There is a universal belief among the Welsh people in faries; giants are not uncommon, dragons naturally flourished and tales of mermaids are numerous in Welsh folklore. Merlin the Magician was from Wales and would have added to the traditions which made an exciting childhood for the children growing up in Wales.

School in Tenby in the eighteen hundreds was very different from our present day schools in America. In those days all girls were required to take needlework, and they began very early to learn to sew. In 1844, at the age of eleven years, Margaret made a sampler on a very fine piece of light tan scrim, which is almost as fine as linen. Her work was of extraordinarily fine cross stitch-so fine that the stitches are not easily seen with the naked eye. The entire sampler was worked in various shades of green, tan and brown and the almost perfect work showed the excellent training Margaret must have received. The canvas measured seventeen .....

With the exception of the castle at the bottom, all the figures are taken from nature; birds, trees and baskets of flowers. The little dog at the bottom is walking on the path leading to the castle and an intricate border encloses all the work. The poem on the sampler reads:

Jesus permit they Gracious name to stand

As the first Effort of an infant's hand

And while her fingers, o're this Canvas move

Engage her tender Heart to seek thy Love

With thy Dear Children let her share a part

And Write they Name thy self upon her Heart

18 Margaret Griffiths 44

Aged 11 Years

Tenby School

Eleven-year-old Margaret was sitting at her school desk stitching her sampler when, at a signal from the teacher, she and the other girls stood up, waiting. Queen Victoria appeared at the door and all the girls curtsied as the Queen walked about the room. She paused at Margaret's desk and complimented her on the excellent stitching. Margaret curtisied again in confused pleasure. Then the Queen was gone. The sampler hung on Margaret's wall as a reminder of that visit by Queen Victoria to her school. It was brought to this country by her mother in 1861 and now hangs in the home of Naomi Sorenson in Salt Lake City.

Early in the Spring of 1847, John T. Thain was walking down the street when he noticed a group of people gathered listening to two young men who were preaching to them. Curious about what was happening, he stopped to listen. He liked what he heard and decided to investigate further. The two men were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. John listened and read and listened and then read some more until the things he read touched his heart. He was baptized on April 7, 1847, and for the next six years became a traveling missionary for the Church in Wales. His sisters Suzanna and Martha were also converted.

One day Margaret and her friends were chattering on the little beach bordering Carmarthen Bay in South Wales. It had been so long ago that she couldn't recall what they were chattering about, but she remembered clearly the young man coming down the steep path that led from Tenby to the beach. All of the girls watched him. He stopped a short distance from the end of the path, looked at them with brilliant blue eyes and said, "I am John T. Thain from Amroth, I want to talk to you." John was a traveling missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ. He began talking, and as they listened one of the girls exclaimed, "Why, he's preaching to us." "Sh!" Several of the girls silenced her. They all listened. Margaret remembers she and John walking together. John talking to her earnestly, until finally she believed what he told her. In January 4, 1851, John baptized her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was good to feel that they were both of a group favored by God.

One Sunday afternoon Margaret and John took a long ramble into the country beyond Tenby. The hedgrows were in bloom and spring fragrance was in the soft, moist air. They stopped at a stile and looked at the vivid green of the young crops. Not far from the stile was a wattle barn, its strips of wood beautifully woven. Beyond the barn stood a stone cottage shaded by trees. Margaret had remembered the exact place because of what John said. With one foot on the lowest step of the stile, he waved a hand at the farm. "I should like to own a farm like that," he exclaimed fervently, "but it is impossible here. You couldn't buy one even if you had the money. I wouldn't be a tenant farmer. I want to own land." Then he went on tensely, "Peg, out there in the new country there is land for the taking. Let's go there, Peg, to Utah, and become landowners." "Yes, let's go," she remembered saying. "Next spring, after we are married, will be the time to leave. By then I'll have the necessary money."

John and Margaret were married March 16, 1856 in Amroth, Pembrokeshire, South Wales. John was 26 and Margaret 23. On April 19th of the same year, 1856, they left Wales on a steamer. Their destination was Liverpool, England-a journey which took about two days. They took passage in the steerage class of the ship "Samuel Curling," and set sail from Liverpool to America. Dan Jones was president and captain of the group, with John Oakley and David Grant as counselors. There were two men cooks, David Davis and Joseph Sawyer, and one steward, Edward Middleton.

John and Margaret were newlyweds traveling to a strange country where the future was unknown. The cost of the fare for one adult was 5 pounds. There were somewhere near nine hundred Saints on the vessel and between three and four hundred from Northern and Southern Wales. John's sister Suzannah (age 22) was among the passengers. She had made friends with John and Margaret Price and helped with their children.

The sea was very rough, causing most of the passengers trouble with sea sickness. The excitement that had accompanied them at the beginning of the journey began to wane. The continuous rocking of the ship, the scant food, and so many people became a monotonous routine day after day. Some of the children came down with measles. Suzannah's friends, the Prices, had a baby named Joseph who became ill. As his mother held him in her arms she prayed, "Please, dear God, not this baby too; it hasn't even been a year since my tiny Sarah Ann died in her first year. We've joined your Church, this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I know it is the true Church, but please let me keep this baby-please let this journey be over soon."

The creak of the ship was her answer, and the flame of the tallow candle seemed the only light in her life at that moment. All through the night the baby cried fitfully, and the tiny body grew hotter. The first faint rays of the sun shown on his body wrapped in the shawl she had made in Wales. A prayer was sent...words spoken...a song...and a splash. The lifeless body of Joseph Price slipped beneath the waves and the ship moved on.

Two other children were buried in a common grave in Chicago after they arrived in America (Thomas Giles' daughter and a son of John and Harriet Parry).

After thirty-five days of ocean travel, a shout was heard, "Land ho!" The long ocean voyage was ended. They landed at Boston, Massachusetts on May 24, 1856. The following is a letter which Dan Jones wrote in 1856 describing the crossing of the "Samuel Curling":


Ship "S. Curling," May 21st, 1856.

President Richards.

My dear Brother- While the passengers are on tip-toe, stretching their necks over the bow of the ship, watching for Cape Cod to raise his hoary head above the blue lip of ocean, I, though no less anxious than they to see the long looked-for welcomer of all pilgrims to "the land of the free and the home of the brave," retire to my cabin to inform you of some of the incidents of our voyage.

In a few hours after I was loosed from your parting grip, and that of the other faithful and highly esteemed brethren at your Office door, on April 19, which parting has not yet been or will be for some time forgotten, I found myself mustering the passengers on board the "S. Curling," in the open sea, being towed out to steamer. All this over, to the astonishment of the inspecting officers, in less time and with less trouble, they said, than they ever had with any other ship; and after the tug had taken our worthy brother Daniels and other faithful escorters back home, I availed myself of the first opportunity to organize the passengers.

Having conversed with my counsellers, J. Oakley and D. Grant, and some dozen presiding Elders, brother Birmingham was chosen Secretary; the ship was divided into eleven wards, and suitable Presidents appointed to each, whose duties, although defined to them emphatically, would only be a repetition to you of what you have often heard.

For the first three days gentle breezes and tides wafted us to Cape Clear; four days more of strong north east wind hurried us at the rate of twelve or more knots per hour to the westward, which had so flattered us with a speedy passage, that it took two weeks of adverse winds to erase it from our minds. During this time the "S. Curling," though called a mammoth of her species, with her 700 passengers and luggage, crew, and withal 2,000 tons of iron in her bowels, rocked like a crow's nest on a lone sapling in the gale, nor paid deference to Saint more than sinner, all in turn.

Amidst the wreck of berths, wholesale, the passengers grappled to be uppermost, which position was no sooner gained, than they were again reversed with beds uppermost. Of course pots, pans, kettles, and every thing that could make a noise, joined as usual in the music, and the medley dance. Upon the deck, also, where we enticed, helped, carried or hoisted all we could, true affection bound them in heaps or piles to each other; all had one leg too short or too long every step, but amid such a throng 'twas as difficult for one to fall alone as it would be for a ten pin to fall alone amidst its tottering throng; and here, before they learned to walk alone, all felt the power of the adage, "Once a man and twice a child." More than once, in the mean time, the power of the Priesthood curbed the fury of old Boreas, who, as soon as the bits were out of his mouth, like a prancing steed, again would snort in the gale, requiring all the faith on board to rein him in, until, at length a certain few, in an indescribable circle, fettered him, and ever since stubborn old Boreas has been more tractable to his riders, and promises to continue so until he lands them.

Notwithstanding the roughness of this wintry passage, we continued to be quite a devotional people. At 5 a.m. each day the bugle called the men out to clean their wards, and then to retire on deck while the ladies were dressing for morning prayers, at a quarter to six o'clock. At dusk the bugle called all hands to prayer again, by wards, and it pleased me much to see, by the almost universal willingness to go below, that the call was duly appreciated, nor was the scene less interesting to see seven hundred Saints on their way to Zion, pent up in so small a space, all bow the knee, of praise to Him who deserves our all. Instructions suitable to the circumstances were freely given, at such times, by the presiding Elders; and, to their praise be it said, were as freely received and promptly carried out.

Our evenings, after meetings until bedtime, were spent in singing the songs of Zion; after which men retired on deck, while the females retired to a better place.

Sundays, at 10 a.m., I have enjoyed myself much in council with the presiding Elders, where undisturbed union has always reigned. At 2 ½ p.m., we held public meetings on deck, where we had Captain and crew among the audience. The sisters, especially through the various wards, being ever preaching their favourite topic- the celestial order of marriage- it was deemed ungenerous in the Elders not to help them in such a laudable undertaking. Consequently, according to previous announcement, myself and counsellors volunteered our services to help them, and did our best for a couple of hours, the last two Sundays; in return we received the thanks of the sisters for doing it so much better, they say, than they could do it themselves.

At 8 p.m. the bugle again called to sacrament meetings in the wards, when many could not refrain from testifying of the goodness of God and their love of "Mormonism." Tuesday and Thursday evenings, prayer meetings convened in the wards.

Thus, from day to day, blow high, blow low, in the bonds of love and union, whether English, Irish, or Britons- of the latter we had about 560- has this noble band of Zion's pilgrims served their God, on the wide ocean; nor do I believe that any people could do better, under the circumstances, than they have done.

In the cooking department, where I have seen in the experience of years, other, "whose God is their belly," have a "bone of contention" in every kettle, and fight with bones, kettles, pans, these quiet and self-denying people have sanctified even the galley-the seat of war-with their harmony. Two wards at a time have half an hour for cooking breakfast, three quarters for dinner, and half an hour for supper, reversing alternately, and the intervals between meals for baking, &c. This dispenses with the throng around the galley, and each know his turn by seeing the number of his ward over the door.

The health of the passengers, although good in the main, considering the weather, has not been without grievous exceptions. I regret to say that, notwithstanding myself, counsellers, and others devoted all our time to nourish the sick, especially the old, and the mothers of infants, by preserves, soups, sago, arrowroot, and all the well assorted stock you furnished, owing to a lack of energy in some to contend with and overcome sea-sickness, by coming to the air, themselves and babes suffered much, six of the latter have died, namely Joseph J. Davies, son of George W. Davies, of Cardiff, aged one year and five months, of inflammation of the lungs, on 28th of April; Hyrum Bassett, son of John Bassett, of Wales, 29th of April, aged ten months, of inflammation of the lungs; Joseph Thomas, son of William Thomas, of Milfordhaven, on the 8th of May, aged nine months and five days; Parley R. Lewis, son of John Lewis, of Tredegar, of cancer in the breast, aged seven months, on the 9th of May; John Davies, son of Evan D. Davies, of Glamorganshire, of consumption, aged twelve months. Three of the former, however, were so weakly, that the doctor said while inspecting them at Liverpool, they would not live ten days. Mothers might prolong the lives of their babes, did they keep them half the time on deck in the fresh air, but they keep them smothered up in their arms in blankets, inhaling each other's breath. Owing principally to this the chicken-pock broke out among the children, and in despite of all efforts to check its progress, in which the doctor of the ship and Captain Curling distinguished themselves, it spread throughout the whole of the ship, yet, by steady perseverence, and the blessing of God upon the ordinance of His Gospel, it has not proved fatal, but by this time all have either recovered or are recovering.

To change the topic from our decrease to our increase, I have the pleasure of saying, that our company has been augmented by the inauguration of two little cherubs from the spirit world, who are already the favourites of all, and all say, they must come to Zion with us. They would have one called Dan Curling Dee, son of Thomas Dee, Llanelly, Wales. The other is called Claudia Curling Reynolds, daughter of brother Reynolds, England; mothers and babes are doing well, and the former say they would come a long way again to be rocked in so easy a cradle with their infants, and especially so as to bequeath upon their infants the rights of cosmopolites or citizens of the world. We are kept on the alert, by the signs, waiting for Neptune in his carriage to bring us some more sea-born "Mormons."

But, hark! What means the tumultuous throng of hasty feet that press along? The word is passed-Land oh! Land oh! I cannot stay, I must up to see it too. Well, there it is sure enough, the grey old Cape Cod, some dozen miles to the windward; passengers, old and young, lame, maimed, halt, and blind, shouting out, "There it is! There it is! There are houses, and trees, and men walking!" Some wish for wings to fly to it, yet they have to wait for them to grow.

It affords me much pleasure to say, that my gratitude to you is still increased, commensurate with the able and efficient aid I have received, in all things, from the good men whom you gave me to be counsellors- ever ready, always willing and one in all things, I cannot speak too highly of them; nor will the services they have rendered to this people be soon forgotten.

The conduct of Captain Curling has demanded our praise; generous, courteous, and philanthropic, he has shared his commiseration indiscriminately among the greatest sufferers, and all have received comforts from his liberal hand. He has vouchsafed to us the freedom of his commodious and splendid ship, fore and aft, both in our devotions as well as our amusements and recreations, for which, as well as for his gentlemanly, humane, and parental conduct, the Saints, in appreciate and reciprocate favours, were pleased with the privileges given them, to express, with an uplifted hand, their gratitude to him; and many are the invocations for their Father to repay him with the blessings he merits. As for myself, we have spun yarns together for hours, as we paced the quarter deck eagerly scrutinizing the horizon, lest a treacherous squall should take us unawares, and disturb the repose of the sleepers below. At home among the stars, born in a storm, cradled on the ocean, few things escaped his eagle eye, with such a one, hours have I spent with a pleasure known only to weather beaten old tars. May he moor his barque, yes, his fleet in Zion's snug harbour, ere the equinoctial gales of life beset him.

I ought to further add, that the provisions you furnished were of a superior quality, and so abundant that few drew their rations. You would be reminded, by the meat, &c., which was hung up to the deck below, of a huge butcher's shop, and, sometimes, when the overstrained cords gave way beneath the ponderous mass, some felt the strength and hardness of bones, which did not, luckily, however, prove fatal.

Boston, May 25th. On the 22nd, pilot boarded us; light winds off shore kept us off until daylight of the 23rd, when the tug, "Enoch Train," came alongside and towed us to Quarantine Ground. In a few hours the Inspectors came aboard, welcomed by the spontaneous three cheers of 700 people, and strange as it may seem, called the names of all, and passed them, in less than one hour and a half, without any further complaint than that "I was taking all the handsome ladies to Utah." The passengers were all remarkably clean, as well as the ship, which commanded the admiration of all. In proof of the latter I would say, that I had made a wager with Captain Curling, upon leaving Liverpool, that the lower decks would be whiter than his cabin floor, and the Quarantine Doctor decided in my favor.

Noon, we moored alongside the wharf, and had the great pleasure of meeting my worthy friend N.H. Felt, whose judicious counsels I had learned to appreciate before, while taking a company through St. Louis, but now more welcome than ever.

24th. Concluded a contract with the Railway, to take about 400 to Iowa city direct, fare 11, under 14 half-fare, and under 6 years free, with 100 lbs of luggage free; 3 50 per cwt for freight; to leave Monday, 11 a.m. Got the privilege from our ever kind Captain Curling, to remain on board until that time. Sent all luggage except bedding up to the station in safety, and without aid of either mates, loafers, or any but ourselves. Our arrival created quite an excitement through the City, and the wharf is thronged with inquisitive and astonished spectators, including reverends, ladies, officials, and editors. A delegation from the tract society waited on me, petitioning the privilege of distributing Testaments, tracts &c., to enlighten the benighted "Mormons," and they were much astonished as pleased when informed that their charity was highly appreciated, and that they were at perfect liberty to say or introduce anything they pleased, to any and all of the passengers-that we could investigate, and, if they could decoy any away from "Mormonism" I would thank them for it, and be glad to get rid of them. They gazed wildly when informed that these people's actions were predicated upon actual knowledge, by the revelations of God to each for himself, and not upon mere belief. I informed them that if they would pronounce in their churches, and attend to-morrow on the wharf at 11 a.m., and at 5 p.m., I would endeavour to tell them what "Mormonism" really is, and invited all Bostonians to come and hear our own representations of ourselves, which seemed to please them much, and by all prospects there will be a good turn out. May the spirit of "Mormonism" manifest its wonted power for their good.

I have been treated very respectfully, even courteously, by your Consignees, officials of the city, and government, and in fact, without exception, and even after critical examination on principle, have been highly complimented. Thank the Lord that "Mormonism" is looking and marching upwards through the snares of darkness with which hireling priests and editors have endeavoured to ensnare it.

The "Enoch Train" arrived 12 days before us, and the company is highly spoken of for cleanliness and order, the best ever here, ourselves excepted of course!

I was much disappointed in my expectation of meeting Presidents Taylor or Spencer here, they are both out west, I am informed.

Having said so much hurriedly, brother Franklin, and being called upon by an assembled throng to preach for them, I bid you, and the beloved brethren in the Office adieu, praying the Lord to bless you with health, influence unbounded, and all your heart's desires in time and eternity, and beg to remain as ever, truly your brother in the Gospel,

D. Jones.


Thain, John Teague

Thain, Susannah


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