|Story of the Immigration to Utah of Thomas Wheatley, Sr. and Catherine Varley
Contributed By WheatleyKarlH1 · 1 April 2014
Lest We Forget: The Mormon Immigrant Heritage of Thomas Wheatley Sr. and Catherine Varley in 1861.
By Karl H. Wheatley
January 2015 edition
Some years ago I was given a short history of Thomas and Catherine Wheatley written by Thomas Wheatley Jr. (See: Appendix I. Thomas Wheatley Jr. A Sketch) I was intrigued with this short piece because it told of their
conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and subsequent emigration to Zion in 1861. I was touched by this episode of faith and obedience and began to read and collect journals and articles written by
others on this period of Church history. Through this process I gained a deeper appreciation of the joy and tribulation that Thomas and Catherine must have experienced as they emigrated from England to Utah along with
their family and other newly baptized members of the Church.; that they sailed the Atlantic, then traveled by rail and steamboat across the eastern half of the United States to Nebraska, and finally finished the journey to Utah
by wagon following the Mormon Trail. I share what I have learned with you as a reminder, lest we forget, of the great Mormon heritage that we all enjoy as their descendants.
Thomas Wheatley Sr. was born to a coal mining family 19 May 1830 (coincidentally soon after the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Church in upstate New York), at Dale Abby, Derbyshire, England to John Wheatley and
Sarah Moore Wheatley. Derbyshire (Derby) is in central England just east of Nottingham of Robin Hood fame. England 1841 census records at the Parish of Ilkeston, Derbyshire show John and Sarah both 35 living at #16
South Street with Richard (13), Thomas (11), Michael (6), Mary (3) and Samuel (1). (England Census Records, 1841).
Wheatley is a plant-related name. Wheat was a common crop in early Saxon economy and so Wheatley or Wheatleigh was a clearing or plot for growing wheat. (Copley, G.J., English Place Names, p. 37) The Wheatleys adopted
this name to distinguish themselves as those who grew wheat or were from a wheat growing area. Nonetheless the Thomas Wheatley Sr. family were coal miners and had been for generations back. The eastern part of Derby
County was rich with coal. (Lewis, Samuel, “Derbyshire.”) Thomas Wheatley Sr.’s father John Wheatley (1804 - 1891) worked underground in the coal pits for 60 years. Child labor was a common practice in England at the
time and Thomas Wheatley Sr. began working in the mines at the age of six. (See: Lund, Gerald, The Undaunted., pp. 21-39) Because of this he never went to school. He worked underground for over twenty-five years before
coming to America. During this period he narrowly escaped being killed many times. His heavily scarred back was evidence of the many times that he had been cut by falling coal. In fact he was in the Birchil pit with his
brother Richard Wheatley when Richard was killed by a blast in 1852.
On 26 May 1849, Thomas Sr. at the age of 19 married Catherine Varley at North Wingfield, Derby. She was just 16, being born 19 February 1833 at New Brinsley, Nottingham, England. Catherine was the daughter of Thomas
Varley and Maria Slater. The England 1851 Census shows them living at 9 Speedwell Road, the Township of North Wingfield next door to Catherine’s parents, Thomas and Maria Varley. (England Census Records, 1851)
After Thomas Sr. married he learned to read and became a fair speaker as well. With these skills he was able to assume more responsibility at the mine and during his last years in England he dignified himself as a coal
contractor. Thomas Sr. and Catherine would become the parents of eleven children: Maria, Joseph, Thomas Jr., Emma, John, Abraham, Lucy, Minnie, George A., Edward, and Richard Wheatley.
Slightly before Thomas and Catherine were married, Catherine’s mother Maria Slater Varley became a member of the Grassmoor branch being baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 18
March 1949 by Elder Joseph Cutts. Catherine followed on 9 December 1849 being baptized by T. Crepwell. Then Maria’s husband (Catherine’s father) Thomas Varley and Catherine’s husband Thomas Wheatley were baptized
on 8 August 1850 also by Elder Joseph Cutts. Other members of the Wheatley and Varley family were subsequently baptized as were friends such as the George Whitworth and Joseph Orme families, (Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, Grassmoor Branch records, also see: Saxton, Maria Slater Varley, p. 1).
The Wheatleys, Varleys, Whitworths and Ormes were all coal miners. Joseph Orme incidentally served as the Grassmoor branch president and Joseph F. Smith (later a prophet) stayed in the Orme home as a missionary.
(Joseph Orme emigrated to Zion in 1863 and his son Herbert married Emma Wheatley). Nine missionaries were serving in the British Mission in 1850 under President Orson D. Pratt. (Evans, Richard L., A Century. pp 242-3)
The Wheatleys were among the 223 people who joined the Church from Derbyshire between 1850 and 1862 (Taylor, P. A.M. Expectations. P.248) and in each of the years of 1849 and 1850 over 8,000 joined the Church in the
British Mission. (Evans, Richard L., A Century. p. 244).
The gospel meant a lot to Thomas and Catherine and parting from England naming patterns they named their eldest son (born 13 June 1851) after the prophet Joseph Smith. Unfortunately Joseph Smith, died at Grassmoor
on 13 March 1855. He was buried at Hasland, England. The family’s ties to the Church were strong, and once again the family broke from tradition when a daughter born to them 26 April 1855 was named Emma after the
Prophet Joseph Smith's wife, Emma Hale. (See: USGenWeb Project. “Information on names.”)
Thomas Wheatley Jr. tells of how he and Maria spent their early life in Grassmoor, England where they went to school and learned to read fairly well. The 1861 England Census shows the family living at 94 Highfield Lane,
Township of Newbold & Dunston. George Whitworth and Mary Wheatley Whitworth (Thomas’sister) and family lived at 92 Highfield Lane. (England Census Records, 1861).
The Wheatleys joined the Church at a time when Zion meant America. As converts, they were encouraged to respond to the call found in Doctrine and Covenants 45:11, “And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be
gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.” Eligibility was determined by worthiness as well as means. George Q. Cannon and other leaders were deeply concerned about
the extreme poverty that existed among the Saints living in Great Britain. (Flake, Lawrence R., George Q. Cannon. p. 160). In 1856 some nineteen hundred Saints signed up to participate in the Church’s program using
handcarts as a means carry their belongings across the plains from Iowa but the Wheatley’s were not among them. The Utah war halted all immigration in 1858 and few immigrated in 1859 as well.
Thomas, being a successful miner along with Catherine must have been saving for the trip from the time of their baptism in 1849 and 50 longing for the day that they could join others in Utah. What excitement Thomas and
Catherine must have experienced when in 1861 they saw a notice in the Church magazine Millennial Star that a season of emigration was again close at hand. Then some sixty to ninety days before the sailing date a notice such
as the one below was issued by the Church immigration office in Liverpool and also printed in the Millennial Star. (Flake, Lawrence R., George Q. Cannon . p.232). The opportunity had finally come for them to immigrate to
“NOTICE TO INTENDING EMIGRANTS - We beg to inform the Saints intending to emigrate, that we are now prepared to receive their applications for berths. Every application should be accompanied by the name, age,
occupation, country where born, and one pound deposit for each one named. Passengers must furnish their own beds and bedding, their cooking utensils, provision boxes...”
Evidence is that Thomas and Catherine along with her mother Maria and family had applied for a Church Emigration Certificate (Saxton, Maria Slater Varley, p. 2).Can’t you sense the excitement that they all felt to learn that
their application had been accepted and their names were on the list, that they had the means to pay the shipping agency in full and be self sufficient throughout the rest of the trip. It appears that Thomas’ sister Mary, her
husband George Whitworth and family were also prepared to go. Catherine’s mother Maria (born 1814) and brother, William Varley (1837) and his wife, Mary Ellen MacDuff would also be with them.
Now they must begin packing and preparing to meet the ship in Liverpool. But the reality of leaving must have been met with some reservations as well. Thomas was about to give up a life’s profession as a miner to face the
unknown in a distant land. He and Catherine would be leaving a home that they had put together during their ten years of marriage. They were both young, he being 30 and she 27 years of age. It was a monumental decision
for both. Nevertheless they had the encouragement of Church leaders and a faith that the Lord would provide for them in the new world.
Catherine had just found out that she was pregnant (with Abraham) and might have questioned her stamina, not only to care for her existing children, but her ability to carry a child that long distance. There would be
seasickness during endless days at sea, and close to a thousand miles of jostling, bumpy, jerking rides on trains followed by another thousand miles in a covered wagon or walking. There was the fear of disease, of swindlers
lurching to exploit the innocent traveler, and of Indians.
Last but more important for both it was a matter of leaving family and friends with the thought that they would never see each other again, and of knowing that they would never again visit little
Joseph’s grave in Hasland. Tears must have streamed down their faces as they anticipated their departure and bid family and friends farewell. They vowed to write each other knowing full well that a letter would take months
19 April 1861 must have been a red letter day for the Wheatleys. Church records of the Grassmoor branch show that little eight-year-old Maria Wheatley was confirmed a member by Joseph Orme. (Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, Chesterfield Branch records) Then on that same day, Thomas Sr., Catherine (pregnant with Abraham), and their children, Maria, Thomas Jr., Emma, and little John (born in 1858), bade their family and
friends goodbye and left their home in Derbyshire, England probably by train for Liverpool. As mentioned above accompanying the Wheatleys was Thomas’ sister Mary (also with child) and her husband George Whitworth
and their children Elisa and Joseph and, Catherine’s mother, Maria Slater Varley and brother, William Varley and his wife Mary Ellen MacDuff. They would join a mass migration of about 2,000 Saints who under the
Church leadership of Charles C. Rich, Amasa M. Lyman, and George Q. Cannon of the European Mission were made ready to emigrate to Zion. To channel the swelling emigrant stream towards America, President Cannon
chartered three ships at Liverpool: the Manchester, the Underwriter and the Monarch of The Sea. (Hartley, William G. “Down and Back,” p. 29; Cannon, Donald Q., George Q. Cannon., pp 102-3; Flake, Lawrence R.,George
Q. Cannon., pp.157-210; Arrington, Leonard J.,Charles C. Rich. pp.238-9; Evans, Richard L., A Century. p. 242). He filled them with supplies, appointed LDS officers for each ship, and supervised the emigrant's boarding
and departure. Incidentally, 2,000 of the British Saints who immigrated to the New World between 1850 and 1862 were miners like the Wheatleys, Whitworths and Varleys. This comprised 14.7 percent of the total membership
emigrating during those 12 years. (Taylor, P.A.M., Expectations. p.150).
In Liverpool the three families were assigned to the sailing vessel "Underwriter." The Underwriter was a 1,168-ton sailing packet (passenger ship), of the New-York-Liverpool Red Star Line. Built in 1850 the Red Star Line chose
to name it the Underwriter out of gratitude to the marine insurance companies for the generosity shown in insuring the packet; the Red Star Line had lost four of its packets in wrecks at sea in the previous decade. The
Underwriter was built by Westervelt & Mackey of New York and averaged 33 days sailing time across the Atlantic… its fastest being 22 and slowest trip 46 days. It would eventually carry three loads of Mormon passengers to
the states. (Fairburn, William A., Merchant. p. 1173)
The Underwriter with the Wheatleys, Whitworths and Varleys on board embarked for America on 23 April 1861. The voyage comprised 624 Saints under the presidency of Milo Andrus with Homer Duncan and Charles W.
Penrose serving as counselors. President Andrus and Duncan were elders in the Church returning to Utah while Charles W. Penrose and his family were emigrants. (See: Ship list, Underwriter below). It was Charles W. Penrose
who earlier penned the words to the popular Mormon hymn “Oh Ye Mountains High,” having never viewed the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains or the valley of the Great Salt Lake as yet. Milo Andrus had been responsible
in assisting earlier journeys of Saints to Salt Lake City. (Carter, Kate B., They Came. pp. 59-60; Godfrey, Kenneth W. “Charles W. Penrose... p. 117).
Life on the Ship
Frederick W. Blake was assigned as the ship’s clerk. It is from his journal that we learn most of what took place during the voyage. The passengers consisted of 522 English, 59 Scotch, 28 Welsh, 3 Irish, and those of several
other nationalities. Most of the passengers were adults but there were 87 children ages one to eight years and 27 infants. With the exception of the captain, his family and crew, and the Church leadership, most of the
passengers lived below board in the lower steerage. F.W. Blake writes that the ship was divided into three parts, the first deck midship was occupied by the married, the lower deck midship was held by the spinsters, and the
fore part of the vessel was the dull dark spot apportioned the bachelors like himself. (See: Blake, Frederick W. journal; Andrus, Milo, journal)
Originally designed for the transport of animals and freight, the lower steerage section on a packet was a crowded, filthy place with little air. Oil-burning lamps provided for lighting but also fouled up the air. Smoke from
cooking fires also added to the strange and strong odors below deck. The passengers ventured up on deck as much as possible to view the broad expanse of the ocean, to witness a sunset on the glistening water or to recover
from seasickness. The ship list shows that the Wheatleys, Whitworths and Varleys were assigned to the lower steerage. The ship’s passage account lists Thomas Wheatley as a cook, a position that he assumed probably because
of his ability to read.
The captain of the Underwriter was John R. Roberts. Thomas Jr. recalls that the officers on the ship were very cruel to the sailors and would lash them. His mother, Catherine, couldn't stand to see them do this, so she went to
the captain and begged him to intercede. But the captain told her that this was their custom and the only way the sailors could be controlled. She still wasn’t convinced that the beating was necessary.
Church historian, Conway B. Sonne describes life for the immigrants this way. The vastness of the ocean “created feelings of awe, loneliness, and apprehension. Converts to the Church who had never been far from home soon
found themselves at the mercy of the varying winds and the uncompromising waves. At night lying in their berths, they could hear the creaking and straining noises of the ship, the flap of canvas, the wind whistling through
the shrouds and rigging, and the shouting officers and crew scrambling on deck and aloft. Below deck, the emigrants’ little world was dark and confined. It was a discordant symphony of children’s crying, the retching and
vomiting of the seasick, the muttering and groaning of despairing companions, above all, the waves crashing against the hull and over the deck.” (Sonne, Conway B., Under Sail, p. 10; Woods, Fred E., Seagoing. pp.54-60).
When it was foggy, calamity could happen any minute and the passengers endured long days with the constant ringing of a bell replaced by the endless blare of a trumpet sounding warnings through the night. Captain
Roberts was known to take advantage of the wind as much as he could causing the vessel to list uncomfortably to the side. Anxious for the journey’s end, calm days without any wind were as worrisome to the crew and
passengers as the stormy ones.
Food on the ship consisted of cheese, rice, potatoes, peas, beans, salted fish, beef, pork, sea biscuits and crackers. Most of the food was dried because without refrigeration any other food would spoil. Vinegar was issued to
sweeten the ship's water which was rationed daily in their water pans. Sea biscuits were hard as rocks unless they were soaked in water or tea. If there were complaints among the Saints it was because of the food.
F.W. Blake gives many accounts of the seasickness, and of how at times under rough seas the constant motion of the ship made everyone sick. At one point he notes that many were confined to their beds too weak to rise and
having heaved so much that their ribs were sore. He himself was stricken for a while as was President Andrus. Gruel was the only thing that he could stomach during these periods and he longed for stewed rabbit and rice
pudding. After one bad period of seasickness and calmer waters returned Captain Roberts ordered everyone up one deck to lie down and get some fresh air. Some Saints even lay on the roof of his cabin enjoying the warm
Under the best of conditions, problems of overcrowding created a fertile environment for the spread of dysentery, cholera, and other diseases. Conway states that, “Scrupulous sanitation was emphasized including the frequent
fumigation and sprinkling of lime (used as a bleaching powder) in the living quarters.” Nonetheless rats were prevalent and F.W. Blake records how one day President Penrose arose to find that a rat had given birth to babies
in one of his shoes.
Passing ships were noted with great amusement. On the 7th of May Blake notes that a small boat was let down to visit an American vessel headed for London. Newspapers were acquired telling of the war that had broken out
between the north and south.
A day at sea consisted of arising early, making beds, cleaning assigned portions of the ship, morning prayer, then breakfast. The Saints were divided into nine wards with a president presiding over each. Church services
including sacrament meeting on Sunday were held often as weather permitted. Presidents Andrus, Duncan and Penrose gave inspiring, rejuvenating talks constantly reminding the Saints of the great blessings of the restored
gospel. At times special prayers were offered for favorable winds. Meetings were planned allowing the Saints to share their talents with dances, contests, and entertainment of various types. School was held for both adults and
children. Other nationalities were taught English. Everyone was required to be in their berths by eight in the evening.
Arrival at New York
The Underwriter arrived at New York City 22 May 1861, after 30 days on the sea. At that time, authorities from the city of New York intercepted the arriving ships at the narrows, a small passage leading from the Atlantic Ocean
to the New York harbor. There they sorted out the sick and infectious and sent them to a special hospital. (Sonne, Conway B., Saints. p. 123). F.W. Blake reported that when the doctor came aboard the Underwriter he found
everyone well and he complimented them for the good shape that they were in. Eager to set foot on solid ground the ship-weary passengers were then loaded on barges for processing at Castle Garden, a receiving station at the
lower tip of Manhattan Island. Of this Blake reported that: “The hour arrived for the saints & their luggage to be removed from the ship. While the conveyance was drawn to shore handkerchiefs and hats were waving & loud
hurrahs were heard sounding over the waters competing with those engaged in national (Civil) war cause….” (F.W. Blake, Journal; also see: Woods, Fred E., East to West…pp. 12,13).
Castle Garden was a former fort that had become a theater; a large circular building decorated on the inside with paintings, and with a seating capacity of upwards of 8,000 people. For six years now Castle Gardens had served
as an immigrant reception center protecting new arrivals from thieves and malcontents hoping to take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants and as a place to protect the city from immigrant diseases. Here the ship passengers
were able to, for the first time, walk on solid ground with their ship-weary legs, and there were ticket counters for the purchase of barge tickets, wash rooms, kitchens, and booths selling cheese, milk and bread. Immigrants slept
on the benches and the floor with their possessions while waiting to be processed. (Reeves, Pamela, Ellis Island, pp.15-27).
Brother Nathaniel V. Jones serving as the Mormon agent for the port of New York wrote back to England on May 24th: “The voyage of the Underwriter is described as being a happy one, and characterized by a good spirit and
feeling among the Saints.…They landed on the 22nd of May, having been one day longer on the passage than the "Manchester." Both, however, made the trip in much quicker than average time…. Brothers Orson Pratt,
Erastus Snow, and (William H.) Hooper were here on the arrival of the Saints, which has proved a great blessing to the Saints. (An excerpt of his letter would appear in the 22 June 1861 edition of the Millennial Star
informing loved ones back home in Europe of the Saint’s safe passage to New York, See: Jones, N.V. “Arrival of Saints at New York.”).
By Rail and Boat
As soon as the necessary paperwork was finished by LDS agents, the Underwriter Saints (still under the leadership of Milo Andrus) boarded Hudson River barges that ferried them across the harbor to Jersey City. From here
they began the 10-day, 1500-mile train and riverboat part of their 2500-mile trip to Zion. The Wheatleys first traveled by rail northwest to Dunkirk, New York, then west along Lake Erie to Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio and on to
Chicago, Illinois often changing trains at each city. In Chicago they switched trains to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) for a 15 hour ride west across Illinois to Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi River.
Travel by rail was as challenging an adventure as that on the ship. Mormons, because they always traveled in “emigrant cars” (that is the cheap cars rather than first-class “palace” cars), experienced most of the discomforts
typical of mid-nineteenth-century railroading. Among the standard problems were overcrowding, poor ventilation, poor heating, dim lighting, foul smells, marginal sanitary facilities, few if any sleeping berths, inadequate
eating conveniences, and a lack of drinking water. In addition, passengers were plagued with fatigue from the incessant noise, jolting, shaking, and vibration of the cars. The cars were dirty with lice, and the Saints often were
covered with soot, sparks and smoke from the train’s steam engine. Gamblers, thieves, tramps, drunks, marauding soldiers and rude railroad personnel added even more excitement to the adventure. The Saints were just
beginning to see soldiers on their way to war…evidence that the Civil war had begun. (See: Woods, F.E., East to West…)
At Quincy, Illinois the Underwriter Saints took the riverboat Black Hawk 20 miles down and across the Mississippi to Hannibal, Missouri. Then they boarded the Hannibal & St Joseph (H&StJ) train for a 12- hour ride across
Missouri to St. Joseph where they loaded all of their belongings onto the riverboat Omaha for a two-or three-day upriver push on the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska. ( Blake, F.W. Diary, pp.14-60,89 ; Kimball, Stanley
B., “Sail and Rail” p.7-42).
The Florence Fitout
It was dusk of 3 June 1861 when the Omaha with the Underwriter emigrants on board arrived at Florence, Nebraska. After the passengers were accounted for, they hurriedly unloaded their belongings but darkness quickly set
in and they had to leave their luggage piled on the ground and guarded for the night. Wagons conveyed the new arrivals to tents or to hotels. At sunrise, just as the members began go through their possessions rain struck and
few had any protection from the storm.
The Wheatleys, Whitworths and Varleys soon found Florence to be a bustling outfitting camp complete with a provisions store, warehouse, campsites, corrals, weighing machines, bowery, and LDS agents waiting to assist them
with the purchase and outfitting of their wagons. The three families became a part of what Church historian William G. Hartley has penned “The Great Florence Fit-out of 1861.” ( Hartley, William G., “The Great Florence Fit-
out.” pp 342-371) Almost 4,000 Saints from Europe and the Eastern part of the United States and two hundred “down and back” wagons from Utah converged in Florence, Nebraska during May, June and July to be outfitted
for the trek west to Salt Lake City. Elder Jacob Gates was the chief LDS emigration agent. His mission was to mix together in proper proportions hundreds of wagons and masses of people, hundreds of pounds of bacon and
flour, barrels of sugar, wagon covers, axletrees, axles, tents, wagon tongues, chains, ox shoes, giant baking kettles, soap, apples, barley, and about 100 new unassembled wagons shipped from Chicago.
It was in this setting while at Florence, that Mary Whitworth gave birth to a baby girl born in a little tent on the banks of the Missouri River. They named her Florence. Thomas Jr. recalls that the two families stayed here long
enough for his Aunt Mary to get around a little. He recalls that one day he, his father and Uncle George, were walking along the banks of the river and they came upon a camp of Indians. They all made a hasty retreat back to
the tent. He notes that he had heard about Indians in America but this was his first occasion to see one. He had really seen an Indian!
The Wheatley’s intentions were to pay their own way and they did not use a “down and back” wagon provided by the wards of the Church in Utah. According to Church records neither did they participate in the Perpetual
Emigration Fund (PEF). (Hartley, William G., Letter). The PEF created in 1849 assisted poor Saints with their travel expenditures in anticipation that it would be paid back once the members were settled in Utah. While in
Florence, Thomas Sr. bought oxen and a new wagon (probably one of the unassembled ones purchased by Jacob Gates in Chicago) and other provisions to outfit the two families for the trip west. Loading the wagon had to be
accomplished efficiently and demanded experience and patience. Everything had to be packed tightly and properly secured to minimize jostling and breakage on the trail.
The Wagon Trek to Utah
On 3 July 1861, Thomas Sr. and Catherine and their four children, with George and Mary Whitworth and their three children, numbering eleven souls, started for the Salt Lake valley in Milo Andrus' independent (not
Church down and back) company (number 5) consisting of 38 wagons (Carter, Kate B., They Came p. 29). Catherine’s mother Maria Varley and brother William Varley and wife Mary Ellen MacDuff did not join the Milo
Andrus Company but traveled with the William S. Warren Company to Utah arriving at the same time. (Saxton, Maria Slater Varley, p.2) The Milo Andrus Company joined up with the Martindale company and according to
George Ottinger who served as the company clerk, all total, the company consisted of 620 Saints mostly from the Underwriter, 72 wagons, 237 oxen, 93 cows, 14 horses and six mules. The combined companies were broken into
6 teams of ten or more with a captain over each. On 2 July he writes of how everybody in team #1 was lively as crickets stepping out, not to the tune of “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” but, “Babylon, Oh Babylon, We Bid Thee
Adieu.” On the July 4th several wagons had flags flying on them. (Ottinger, George, Journal).
Thomas Jr. notes that after a few days journey on the plains, one of the family oxen died, and Thomas Sr. had to trade the new wagon for an old one, and for another oxen, or rather a cow this time. The oxen and the cow
were yoked together for the drive to the valley. It was probably the Wheatley oxen that Ottinger was referring to when he noted in his diary on July 9th that they were compelled to leave Brother Lemon (the Wheatley’s team
leader?) and team behind, one wagon having lost an ox.
The Mormon Trail was well marked with each camp mapped out by this time. (Kimball, Stanley B., Discovering Mormon Trails). However the rigor of fixing meals, breaking camp and stopping again each night must have
been tiresome. Sometimes they covered as high as 20 miles in a day. During the evenings they performed maintenance on their equipment, heard rousing speeches from Brother Andrus and Martindale, danced and sang.
Ottinger speaks of the heavy rain that fell so often. Thomas Jr. notes that he was eight years old at the time and he and his older sister Maria walked half of the 1000 miles to the valley. When she rode, he walked and when he
rode, she walked. They saw many Indians and buffalo but were never bothered by them. It took them 71 days to reach the Salt Lake valley.
As they crossed the States, officials of the Federal Government were enlisting men to fight in the civil war. This added to the excitement. Food was cheap; eggs were but three cents a dozen and everyone enjoyed the better food
especially after fairing so poorly on the ship.
Arrival in Salt Lake City
The Wheatley and Whitworth families arrived in Salt Lake City 12 September 1861. When all was said and done, in about six weeks time five large Church team trains and seven independent trains had all been staffed and
stocked along with six freight companies. A total of 624 wagons had moved 3,924 Saints to Zion. The 1861 emigration that the Wheatleys had been a part of had been a smooth and successful process. The ship, train and
wagon companies were well managed and supplied. Illness, death and misfortunes were minimal. The Saints arrived in Salt Lake valley well before the snow season. That fall Brigham Young pronounced that the “season’s
emigration had been signally blest” from the departure in Europe to their newly found homes in the valley. (Hartley, William G. The Great Florence Fit-out, p 370)
William G. Hartley tells of how the newly arrived Saints with their sunburned faces, and tired bodies were first taken to Emigration Square which served as the final depot for Mormon travelers coming to Zion. Passing
through the square became almost a religious rite not unlike baptism. Here bishops met them to assign them places to settle. (Hartley, William G. “Coming to Zion,” p.17; Also see: Hartley, William G. Kindred Saints., p. 280).
The Underwriter Saints were sent north; other arriving wagon trains would need the square tomorrow and it was imperative that they quickly find places to stay outside the city.
The Wheatleys settled just north of Salt Lake in Bountiful and it was a joyous occasion to be in Utah when the Church was enjoying such phenomenal growth. The Wheatleys were welcomed and fellowshipped by the members
living in Bountiful. Nevertheless they would now say goodbye to their traveling companions, the Whitworths with whom they had experienced the daily good times and the bad for the past three month months…. they decided
to journey further north to Brigham City.
The arrival of so many immigrants in Utah in 1861 meant that work was scarce, housing hard to find, and money was not to be had. Thomas was concerned about finding a house because Catherine was due to have a baby
and winter would soon be upon them. She must have been relieved when Thomas secured a small log cabin, which they shared with Charles Dean and his family. Soon their first child to be born to them in the valley came on
16 October 1861. They named him Abraham. Catherine had managed to carry him all the way from England to Utah. Now caring for a new baby became an additional part of the daily preparations required of the family to
be ready for the upcoming winter in an unfamiliar land.
The cabin was near where the Bountiful tabernacle now stands. Furniture was in short supply and a big box was used for a table and sawed logs for chairs. Thomas Sr. took his best suit of clothes and sold it to buy hay to
winter his cattle on. That he did not have the means to replace the oxen on the trail, had to share a house for the winter and also had to sell his suit to feed his cattle are indicators that the family’s funds had been pretty much
depleted by the trip.
Move to Nevada
Thomas Sr. worked odd jobs for the first couple of years in the valley. However with the demands of a growing family he must of felt that he could better provide for them utilizing his skills as a miner. On 22 April 1863, he
took his family and left Bountiful to seek a living in the mining community of Dayton, Lyon County, Nevada. They arrived there on 7 June 1863. Thomas Jr. records that the journey to Nevada took two months and was
dangerous. There were only ten wagons in the company and the Indians were on the warpath killing emigrants and burning many of the stage stations. US Soldiers provided for their protection. They often feared for their lives
but his testimony is that their prayers were answered and the Lord protected them.
Dayton was one of the first settlements in Nevada, as it was a busy shopping point for the Gold Canyon and Virginia City mines. (Thompson and West, History of Nevada.., p. 500). Rich silverlodes were also discovered near
Dayton in the early 1860s and the area soon became a boomtown. By 1865 it had 2,500 inhabitants, a school house, lodges of Free and Accepted Masons and of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a military company, one
brewery, five carpenters, three grocery stores, seven hotels, five saloons, three lumber yards, and other institutions common to flourishing mining towns. While living there, Thomas Sr. learned the plastering trade and worked
at a quartz mill.
During the nine years that the family lived in Dayton they stayed as close to the Church as possible. But Dayton was a rough place to live. As a mining town, the numerous gambling joints were full of all kinds of vices, and
rough men and women. Maria, the eldest daughter fell in love with a man named Lucius Guild and they were married on 10 June 1866. Thomas and Catherine were concerned about her marrying outside the faith. They had
immigrated to the west for their religion and they began to realize that Dayton was no place to raise their children. The desire to preserve their faith, to make the Church a mainstay in their children’s lives, and a longing for the
fellowship of the Saints eventually prompted them to return to Utah. All the past sacrifices encountered during their immigration would be for naught if they now lost their family to the temptations so prevalent in Nevada. .
(See: Ancestry.com. Nevada, Compiled Census Index, 1860-1910).
Thomas Jr., now nineteen was the first to return to Utah followed by the rest of the family with the exception of Maria, her husband Lucius A. Guild and children in May 1872. This time they decided to settle further north at
Call's Fort, Box Elder County, which was included in the North ward, later called Harper ward. Their return to Utah was one of jubilation, reformation, and a recommitment to the Lord’s plan of happiness; the desire to be
reborn again was so strong that they were all re-baptized in 1882. (Thomas Wheatley Family Group Sheet) (See: US 1880 Census, Utah, Box Elder County; US 1890,1900,1910 Census, Nevada, Lyon county, Dayton precinct).