ELIZABETH TURNER THOMAS MOREHEAD
Compiled by Estell Thomas Groutage
Elizabeth Turner Thomas Morehead, my grandmother on my mothers side, was the daughter of Daniel Thomas, whose father, Daniel Thomas, was a Baptist minister.
She was born July 31, 1812, on a large plantation, on the east side of the Yadkin River, about eight miles northwest of the city of Rockingham, Richmond, County, North Carolina.
This plantation consisted of three thousand acres. The house was a large frame house, built on a hill. Water was brought to the house by means of a force pump. There were two orchards, a shad fishery, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, and a cotton gin, all owned by her father, who took delight in overseeing the work on his farm.
On this plantation, there were thirty Negroes who assisted with the work. One of these, her Father paid one thousand dollars for. The Negroes had a little village near where they enjoyed themselves after the days work, singing, playing the banjo, and dancing.
When a Negro was sold, a whole family was sold with him, or exchanged, also when they married Negroes met on the plantation. Many people in the North had slaves, but the Negroes did better in the cotton fields in the south, than in the manufacturing states of the North. That's why there were more slaves in the south than in the North.
Daniel Thomas, grandfathers mother's father, and his brother, hired a school teacher to teach their children. Grandmother went to this school when only five years old. She later attended schools in Rockingham, and near there, where she learned needlework, and embroidering, as well as reading, grammar, geography, painting, history and rhetoric. Her father, though well-to-do, insisted on his children all learning some trade, by which they could earn their living if the time ever came for them to do so. She therefore learned to weave. We have a spread that my mother spun the yarn for, and Grandmother colored it and wove it into a beautiful design. She was but five years old when she pieced a quilt.
While living here in North Carolina, Grandmother had many suitors: doctors, lawyers, and men of different professions. In her girlhood days, she wore two sidesaddles.
In 1830 her Father died on his plantation. Five years later, her mother moved to Tipton County, Tennessee, where she had relatives living and the plantation was sold. Grandmother here became acquainted with her Uncle Joseph's family, and married one of his sons, James Madison Morehead, on January 19, 1836. Previous to this marriage, he had attended Art school in Nashville, Tennessee, and studied drawing, and painting of likenesses. In these days, cameras were not known, and this was a valuable accomplishment. He later went to Jackson City, the Capital of Mississippi, to paint portraits of some of the government officials, who were at that place, making a treaty with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. He also painted pictures of some of the Indians, and later sold them in Nauvoo.
It was while they were living in Mississippi that my mother, Ann Morehead, was born, March 20, 1841. On November 7, 1843, grandmother's mother died. This was 13 years to the day after her husband had died. About one month after the mother's death, L.D.S. missionaries, Benjamin Clapp and others, came to Somerville. Grandmother's two brothers, Preston, and Joseph Thomas, went to hear the elders preach, and invited them to their home. They were converted and baptized. They said they knew it was the truth, after hearing the first sermon. A few days later their wives were baptized. In about two weeks Grandfather applied for baptism, but Grandmother wanted to read more of the books the Missionaries had, and investigate a little more. She was baptized the following February.
That spring the family, wishing to be near the main body of the Saints, most of them sold their farms, and Negroes, and started for Nauvoo. They traveled with teams to Jackson, then by rail to Vicksburg, from there by steamer up the river to Nauvoo.
The name of the steamer was The Great Western. They bought land, and built fine homes in Nauvoo where they lived until the expulsion. While living at Nauvoo, grandmother's brother, Joseph Thomas, and her husband, James Madison Thomas, both worked in the Nauvoo Temple. James Morehead, being an artist, painted faces around the eaves of the temple, also worked on the interior.
My mother could remember going with other children to take her father's lunch to him, and of going in the temple with grandmother. She was frightened of the oxen under the baptismal font, but the older children would go all through the building, even up to the tower. Mother also remembered sitting for her father to paint her portrait. She remembered seeing pictures of John Taylor, George A. Smith, and others that he painted. We have four pictures that he painted.
In February 1846, the family, along with the rest of the Saints, were compelled to leave their comfortable homes in Nauvoo and were driven across the river, the Mississippi, westward into the state of Iowa. Here they lived in tents, about one mile west of the city river. Grandfather would cross the river night and morning assisting those of the Saints that were left at Nauvoo, to get ready to leave. While doing this work, he was taken down with a bilious fever.† Others of the family also had it. Grandmother's brother came and moved them to Farmington where there was a large group of the Saints. Her infant son died there. Gentiles living in Farmington would not let the Saints bury their dead in their cemetery, so he was buried in one of the food boxes, just outside the cemetery.
The family now began to improve in health. Her brother, Joseph, helped them move to Bentonís Fort. In about two weeks, he took sick with a congestive chill. The tent leaked and he got wet. After an illness of four days, he died. He had been employed by a gentile neighbor, splitting rails, in exchange for provisions for his family.
The people of Bentonís Fort sympathized with the Saints, giving them assistance in many ways. They allowed them to bury their dead in their cemetery, so her brother, Joseph, was buried there. A few days later, September 28, 1846, grandfather took sick again, and died just eleven days after her brother had died. They were bosom friends in life, and were not separated in death. They were buried side by side in the Bentonís Fort Cemetery.
Grandmother now wrote and told her other brother, Preston, who was on a mission at Memphis, Tennessee, what had happened, since she had seen him last, and of her sad plight, losing her husband, and her brother, and being left alone with her family. Preston wrote to her to stay where she was, and he would come for them, that next fall he would take them to Council Bluffs, but he changed his mind, and started out to make her a visit. He filled a box with clothing for her, and set out on his journey. On reaching Farmington, within four miles of where she was, he was told by some of the Saints that she had gone on to Garden Grove. So he turned around, and went back to his field of labor, at Memphis, Tennessee, having sent the box of clothing, a letter, and some money, on to Garden Grove.
Words cannot express her sadness, on hearing that her brother had been so near to her and had been so misinformed, and gone back to his mission. The box and the money she received alright, for the parties he sent them by learned that she was still in Bentonís Fort.
During the next winter, a kind neighbor offered Grandmother and her three children a room free to live in.†† A Mr. Sanford owned a grist mill, and he gave her bran, and shorts for her cow, and often sent her fresh meat, which was greatly appreciated, by the widow. The following spring, a Mrs. Kent who owned a loon, allowed her to weave on it, and have all she could make. Her son, Preston, would help her by handing her the thread and filling the quills. She was now glad that she had learned to weave as she was able to make quite a bit of money.
They moved from here to Kanesville where her little girl, Jane, died of brain fever. This was in 1848. Grandmother's brother, Preston, was called on another mission to Texas. While there he baptized his brother, Claybourn, and his wife; Seth. M. Blair, and wife and many others. This brother, Preston Thomas, filled nine missions.
On one of these President Brigham Young sent him to hunt up one of the apostles, Lyman Wight, who was not in the line of his duty. He was to tell him to repent, and mend his ways, or he would be cut off of the church. He was later cut off.
On account of the death of her husband, and brother, grandmother was denied the privilege of being numbered with the first pioneers to enter Utah. However, in the spring of 1850, they began to make preparations to move to the valleys of the mountains in Aaron Johnson's company. Her brother, Claybourn, fitted up two teams and wagons, one for himself, and one for her. There was a yoke of cows and a yoke of oxen hitched to each wagon. The wagon boxes had projections on them. They had a large barrel of crackers and one of cookies which were much needed on windy and stormy days. They had the only stove in the company, a little step stove that was taken out every night to cook on. They would pick up pieces of wood as they went along.
An old-fashioned bed with the legs sawed off was fitted in the wagon, with cords on. In one corner of Claybourne's wagon was a keg of tar. Water was kept on this tar and all of them would drink of this water to keep them well.† Three days after they had started, Cholera made its appearance, quite a number died with it.
One morning while on the journey, they saw a large herd of buffalo, headed for their train, but they were turned away, all but one, which they killed, and it served the company with fresh meat. A company of immigrants just ahead of them had the small-pox, so all of Johnson's company were vaccinated.
They went through Echo Canyon about Sept. 1, 1850, then rolled into Salt Lake City.† Grandmother with her two children, Preston and Ann, met one of her old friends and went to stay with her for a month.† Then went to live near her brother, Claybourn, who was one of the first four men to settle in Lehi. Ann and her brother, Preston, taught the first school in Lehi, the second winter they were there.
Elizabeth Turner Thomas later married a man named Samuel Dennis White while living at Lehi.† Elizabeth White Merrill was the only child by that marriage.† Elizabeth Turner Thomas later lived at Cedar Fort, American Fork, then Smithfield, where she died September 12, 1894.† She was respected and loved by all who knew her. She served as president of the first Relief Society for thirty years while in Smithfield.
Elizabeth Turner Thomas Morehead White is buried in the Smithfield cemetery by the side of her two children, Preston Morehead and my mother, Ann Morehead Thomas.