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Jones, Claudia - History of Claudia Jones Dennis



In a long, beautiful valley between the hills where the Taff River runs down, down from “over the hills to Aberdare” is the town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Here on February 8, 1849, a baby girl was born. Her parents named her Claudia. She was the daughter of Captain Dan Jones and his first wife, Jane Melling Jones. Captain Jones was there in his native Wales, having been called by Joseph Smith as a missionary from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1843. When Claudia was two weeks old the little family sailed on the ship Buena Vista from Liverpool, England, February 26, 1849, with 249 emigrating Welsh Saints on board [1] under the leadership of Captain Jones—converts of his. He was now bringing them, as captain of the boat, to Zion. [2]


The old leaky boat [3] did not go down as the British hoped it would. For they landed safely at New Orleans, chartered the Highland Mary [4], a river steamer, to take them up the Mississippi-Missouri. It had been a terrible trip across the ocean, and now cholera claimed 60 lives, about one-fourth of the company. They landed at Kanesville, Iowa, May 1849, and started across the plains with ox teams, with Captain Jones as captain of the [Welsh] company that was included in the George Albert Smith Company.


When they came into the valley they lived west of the Jordan River and in Salt Lake City – also at Black Rock on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Claudia remembered that her father would have her pick up some of the salt, take her finger and rub her gyms and teeth until they bled. She had strong, beautiful white teeth until she died. While they were living in Manti, [5] her mother would put her butter, cheese, grain, etc., in compartments sunk into the wagon bed and with her little girl beside her, drive the ox team to Salt Lake to exchange the produce for cloth, thread, and other things not obtainable there. One night they camped alone in the regular campground in Salt Creek Canyon. The Indians had murdered a whole family there the night before. They lay awake most of the night too frightened to sleep, but the team had to be rested and fed. Claudia saw all the hardships of pioneer life. Her mother went from house to house sewing. She was an expert seamstress and would have her little daughter sit at her knee and make the exact article she was sewing on, so that Claudia too was an expert and made everything her eight children wore. Even to wool suits for the six boys. When her own mother died, her stepmother [6] would make her spin so many skeins of yarn before she could go out to a party or to bed.


Her mother died in 1861 in Provo, and her father was bedfast suffering from consumption, which so many of the missionaries contracted through exposure. Her father would tie a string to her big toe at night to wake her for what he needed. She had a brother Dan five years younger [7] whom she practically raised, as her father died in 1862, eleven months after her mother.


Claudia was [nearly] 13 at this time, and from then on she went out to work – housework, tending babies, and slaving for her stepmother to pay for a meager place to stay for herself and little brother. She used to take him by the hand and together they would walk way out to the Provo City cemetery and there cry until in later years only sobs choked her when grief stricken. The tear ducts were dry.


At 17, she married Hyrum J. Dennis [8], better known as Hy Horner, and when their second child was three months old, they moved with others to the lower settlement of Midway. Her husband was a miller, made the best flour in the valley in the old Burr Mill on Spring Creek. She bore eight children, six of them in Midway. Robert died during the black diphtheria epidemic of 1881. Five more were desperately ill at the time. People were so afraid of that disease that they had to wash and lay out their own dead, dig their graves and bury them.


She was a competent nurse. Everyone would send for her. There seemed to be magic in her hands. Children would take their medicine if only they would send for “Claudy Horner.” Loved by all, their home was a mecca for all their friends, even after they moved to Provo. Claudia died there December 9, 1903, and was buried in Provo City Cemetery.


[Claudia Merling Dennis Clyde, the youngest child of Hyrum James and Claudia Jones Dennis, wrote the foregoing history of her mother. The inaccuracies that resulted from the lack of resources at the time are corrected in the following observations:


1.                  Jane Melling Jones and her infant daughter Claudia came to America on board the Emblem, a ship that left Liverpool on 12 March 1849, two weeks after the Buena Vista left on 26 February 1849. The original plan formulated back in Merthyr Tydfil was that Jane and Claudia would remain in Wales until their husband and father returned on another mission after taking the first group of Welsh Mormon converts to America. To get to Liverpool Dan Jones took a steamer from Swansea on 14 February 1849 when Claudia was less than a week old. But rather than wait for the return of her husband, Jane decided to take her newborn and follow after him. She caught up with him in Council Bluffs, and they crossed the plains together.

2.                  Dan Jones was the president of the company of 249 Mormons on board the Buena Vista, but Eben H. Linnell was captain of the ship. Because of limited space on the Buena Vista there were over 80 Welsh who had to wait an extra week in Liverpool following the departure of the Buena Vista and sail on board the Hartley the following week. Of the combined total of approximately 330 Welsh converts who sailed for America in 1849 only 84 went directly to Utah that same year. The remainder either died of cholera along the Missouri River or settled in St. Louis and other places.

3.                  In reality the Buena Vista was quite a new ship, having been built at Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1848.

4.                  The steamboat contracted in New Orleans was the Constitution. A second steamboat, the Highland Mary, was contracted in St. Louis to take the company along the Missouri River to Council Bluffs.

5.                  In the Fall of 1850, at Brigham Young’s request, Dan Jones moved his family to Manti where he became the first mayor of that town. He left from Manti on his second mission to Wales about two years later and returned in 1856.

6.                  The stepmother was Mary Matilda LaTrielle, third wife of Dan Jones.

7.                  The younger brother was Joseph Dan Jones, born 4 May 1853 in Manti, and was consequently four years and three months younger than Claudia.

8.                  The marriage took place in Provo on 18 December 1866, just seven weeks short of Claudia’s eighteenth birthday.


See my The Call of Zion: the Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1987] for further details as to how Dan, Jane, and Claudia Jones came to America in 1849. The book is out of print, but an electronic version can be accessed by going to http://home.byu.edu/home/, clicking Academics, then Libraries, then Harold B. Lee Library, then Digital Collections, then LDS Religion & Church History, then Religious Studies Center, and then Browse. It is the 11th item on page 3. For further information about Claudia’s father, Captain Dan Jones, see my website at http://welshmormonhistory.org/ . Transcription and observations by Ron Dennis (welshmormon@yahoo.com), 30 March 2012.]


Jones, Claudia


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