John McCarthy Jr

Adapted from History of John McCarthy by Stella Nielsen

Eunice Merrill 10/11 /97


John McCarthy Jr was born April 6, 1830, in Ireland, the son of John McCarthy and Catherine Gaffney. As a young man, he was of slender build, about five feet ten inches in height, and had dark hair and eyes.


Little is known of his childhood, but his family were prosperous and John was given the attention of a nurse who remained with the family for many years. His family were staunch Catholics and John was placed in a Catholic school at an early age where he was studying to become a priest.


He heard a Mormon missionary preaching the Gospel some time during the early days of his schooling in Ireland, and he did not fully approve of some of the Catholic teachings he had received; so he rebelled at following these principles and was punished for his rebellion. He was placed in a dungeon with skeletons. A horsehair coat which had been dipped in lime was placed upon him. This punishment was so severe that he carried flesh wounds from it for the rest of his life. While going through this punishment, one of the men of his faith sympathized with him, and he was allowed to escape. His parents were displeased at his disobedience to their church and disinherited him.


Friendless, alone, and without money, he made his escape from Ireland. He went to the coast where he secretly boarded a boat and started traveling as a stowaway. While traveling in this manner, he was later to find that he must work very hard for his traveling by sea.


Many of these early experiences told in later years would have furnished material for adventure stories similar to those of DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe. He traveled to many lands and over many seas, and had traveled two and one-half times around the world before he reached the age of twenty-five.


John settled in Australia where he heard the gospel preached by the missionaries who had been sent from Utah. Brother McCarthy believed this new religion and was baptized May 2, 1852, by Elder Chas. W. Wandell, in Sydney, New South Wales at age 22. In less than a month's time, he was set apart as a traveling elder and in company with Elder John Jones went to Maitland, about 80 miles northeast of Sydney.


[See History of John McCarthy compiled by Stella B. Nielsen for his other missionary experiences.]


He continued doing missionary work in various areas of Australia until the spring of 1855 when a letter from Brigham Young to the headquarters of the Australian Mission released some of the missionaries in that field, and John was told he could prepare to go to Zion. He began to collect means to take him to Utah.


On September 7, 1855, Brother McCarthy sailed from Sydney, New South Wales, on the American bark Julia Ann, bound for San Francisco, California, with 56 souls on board, 28 of whom, including two missionaries, were Latter-day Saints on their way to Utah. On October 3, about nine o'clock p.m., the vessel struck on reefs off Scilly Island. Shortly afterwards, the sea became broken, and in about an hour the vessel, with a tremendous crash, dashed head-on to a coral reef.


She immediately swung around with her broadside to the reef, and the sea made a complete breach over her at every swell. Directly after she struck, Captain Pond ordered all the passengers into the after cabin. A scene of indescribable confusion followed as the steerage passengers rushed into the cabin, and several mothers were seen holding their undressed children in their arms as they snatched them from their slumbers. In a few moments the fear was in some measure delayed by a sailor who came to the cabin for a light, and who told the passengers that although the ship would be lost, their lives would be saved, as they were close to the reef.


By the aid of the "spanker boom" and the expert swimming of one of the sailors, a rope was carried ashore and fastened to the reef, by means of which many succeeded in making their escape in comparative safety, from the vessel. Five, however, were drowned. After working for three days in making a raft to convey them to the Scilly Isles (about 12 miles distant), the island was reached, but its only inhabitants were rats and sea-fowls; there was no fresh water to be seen in any direction. By scraping holes, however, in the sand near the water's edge with a pearl shell, they were enabled to obtain water, which by filtration through sand was rendered comparatively fresh and palatable. They kindled a fire by the aid of a sun glass and roasted some shellfish and made a very light repast


It was not until the 3rd of December 1855, that the unfortunate emigrants were taken from their lonely and exiled condition on the Scilly Islands by the untiring perseverance of Capt. Pond, connected with the charitable good feelings of Capt. Latham, master of the schooner Emma Packer, who came to their relief. They were first taken to Huahine, one of the Society Islands, thence to Tahiti, where they were most kindly treated by the inhabitants.


Elder John McCarthy, returned to Mopiti, commenced to preach the gospel there, found favor with King Tapoa, and soon had the satisfaction of baptizing the king's interpreter, Captain Delano, a Maltese by birth, who could speak seven languages. Brother McCarthy ordained this man an Elder and was enabled through him to preach to the natives, who received his testimony with much favor. After about three weeks at Mopiti, Elder McCarthy sailed for the island of Riatea, where he baptized a Spaniard by the name of Shaw and ordained him an Elder. He remained on that island two weeks where he obtained passage for Tahiti in a French sloop, and from thence sailed for San Francisco, California, where he arrived April 14, 1856.


[Additional information is in the history listed previously and the account in Captain Pond's biography in the attached article from the October 1997 "Ensign."]


John was a young man 26 years of age when he arrived in Utah. He first settled in Bountiful where a number of his missionary friends were living. He stayed at the home of Mary and Anson Call. Family tradition tells us that when he first arrived in Salt Lake City, he went to call on Brigham Young and that Brigham told him that when he went to Bountiful he would meet a girl picking berries, and that she would later become his wife. The Calls lived across the street from the Telfords. It was at this home that he first met his wife, 21-year-old Eliza Victoria Telford, and she happened to be picking raspberries. On 13 March 1857, they were married in the Salt Lake Endowment House by Heber C. Kimball.


The first two years of their life were filled with much excitement due to the anxiety felt by all the settlers because of Johnston's Army marching towards the Valley. John was among the men who were called to take part in the Echo Canyon War. Amid all those trying experiences, John and his young wife were to become the parents of their first child, a son, born on June 22, 1858. A second son was born the following year. They then moved to Richmond where two daughters were born. They then moved to Smithfield where the remainder of their children were born. They lost one son.


On 8 May 1877, he left a family of seven children and a wife soon to bear another child, to serve a mission in Ireland, traveling with Joseph F. Smith, who was president of the Liverpool mission at that time. John hoped to take the gospel to his family and friends of his youth. His parents had passed away and his brothers refused to recognize him. His old nurse knew him and told him so. After a month's unsuccessful preaching in Ireland, he returned to England and stayed with President Smith for three days. He then served in areas of England and the Isle of Jersey where he had much success. He studied the French language each night so he could better communicate with the residents on the island. While there he received a letter dated 31 August 1877 from President Smith telling of the death of Brigham Young.


John was released from his missionary duties and took passage on the steamship Wyoming for New York City. He arrived there on October 29, 1878 after a 10-day voyage. He took the train for Salt Lake and arrived there on 6 November 1878.


John was well-educated for a man of his day; he spent hours at his desk writing, often leaving his bed at night to record his thoughts. He loved to write poetry. His last home in Smithfield was surrounded with many kinds of flowers, plants and trees that he had collected from foreign lands. He was often called to administer to the sick. Young boys and older men walked for miles to converse with him, as he could tell them of many lands and his experiences therein. He was able to converse in seven languages.


He lost the sight of one eye in his later life. After a slight stroke, he continued to write even though he could not see well. He died after suffering a second stroke of paralysis at his home in Smithfield when he was sixty-eight years of age on August 24, 1898. He was buried in the Smithfield cemetery. The following verse taken from one of his poems, written during the later years of his life, tells the beautiful thoughts of this man's soul.


Now plant the seeds of love and peace

Within the human breast;

Then love and joy will never cease,

In valleys of the West.

Make all the sunshine here we can,

That plants of joy may grow;

Be friendly to our fellow man,

And never be his foe.