Thomas Levi Whittle
Mary Amelia Fullmer
Thomas Levi Whittle, son of Thomas Whittle and Elizabeth Levi, was
born 21 May 1812 at Mersea, Essex, Ontario, Canada. Very little is known
of his early youth, except for his cheerful disposition, high character, and
scholastic ability - even though his education was very limited.
He was 21 years old when he married Mary Amelia Fullmer (also known
as "Polly"). At that time she was only sixteen years of age and was living in the
same general area as the Whittle family. Mary was deprived of all scholastic
advantages and grew to adulthood without learning to read or write anything
other than her name. Possibly it was hardship and overwork in her youth that
influenced her to marry at such an early age. Both of these people were of the
same temperament and disposition and therefore found it easy to live their
lives together. Three children were born to them in their native land, Olive,
John Casper, and Mary. They then migrated to the United States, settling in
Thomas and Mary were both religiously inclined, and therefore readily
listened to the message presented by the missionaries of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thomas and Mary found the teachings quite to
their liking, and accepted the new religious faith known as "Mormonism,”
much to the dislike and disappointment of their parents. They were baptized
on 22 November 1837 by Zera Pulsipher (and later re-baptized 3 June 1849
by William Clayton in Salt Lake City, Utah.)
They witnessed many events which strengthened the testimony they had
obtained. One incident occurred shortly after their conversion--returning
from Church one day, they saw a light resting on a bridge that lay directly in
their path. Upon arrival at the place where the light shone forth, it moved
forward and continued as though lighting their way until it reached their
home, and then disappeared. "Mary," said her husband, "this will ever be a
light to our feet and a guide to us through life."
They undoubtedly felt the spirit of gathering which was so much in
evidence at that time, for at an early date they moved to Quincy, Illinois where
their son, George was born. They later moved to Nauvoo, the birthplace of
Zera and Emaline. Here they heard the gospel from the lips of the Prophet
himself. They treasured a photo of Joseph and his wife Emma, a gift to them
from the Smith family. This photo was one of the belongings the family later
carried to Utah.
The family witnessed and experienced many of the hardships the Saints
endured at this time. They knew the pain and anguish arising from the loss
of their Prophet, and probably saw the bodies of their beloved leaders as they
lay in state prior to their secret burial.
Mary Whittle was present on the occasion when the Saints had met to
hear the speech of Sidney Rigdon, then purporting to be their rightful leader.
She saw Brigham Young when he arose to speak and witnessed the mantle of
Joseph resting upon his form and features. This occurrence left no doubt in
her mind as to the rightful leadership of Brigham Young. As the Saints
prepared to leave Nauvoo, Thomas and Mary were able to receive their
endowments on 1 Jan 1846. This was a great blessing to them. Before
leaving Nauvoo, they parched a quantity of corn, which they had expected to
take along as food, but which, for some reason was left behind. This later
served as a bed for Thomas when he was forced to return for a cow that had
broken loose and gone back home. At that particular time he hid in the attic
of his abandoned home until time when he could escape without being seen.
Their next abode was at Winter Quarters, a temporary city built on the
west bank of the Missouri River. (This was later known as Florence and was
annexed to the present city of Omaha, Nebraska.) One has only to read the
history of those days to know the bitter experiences of want, sickness, and
often death, that occurred there. Fortunately the Whittles came through
without losing any member of their family.
A few faith-promoting incidents in the life of Thomas Whittle have been
handed down to members of his posterity, as a testimony of God's protection
and mercy which He extends to his faithful children. While in Winter
Quarters, a young man, Thomas Ricks, was shot and wounded by Indians
while he was herding cattle. Search parties were sent out to bring him back
to camp. His father and Thomas Whittle were some distance away from the
main group. Suddenly they found themselves surrounded by Indians and a
gun pointed in their faces. "Well," said Brother Ricks, "I suppose our time has
come." "Not yet," said Brother Whittle, “We are in the hands of the Lord."
He repeated this twice, looking straight into the eyes of the Indian. Finally
the Indian dropped his gun. This seemed to frighten the others and they
turned and rode away, leaving the men frightened but unharmed.
Another time, they were without water while traveling. The horses'
tongues were hanging from their mouths, and the people were suffering from
thirst. The day was very warm and the sky clear with no signs of any relief.
After supplicating the Lord, a cloud appeared and soon rain fell in such
quantities as to fill their buckets and barrels with the much-needed water.
The Whittle family made the trek across the plains as members of the
2nd Company, 2nd Division with Zera Pulsipher as "Captain of 100" under
Heber C. Kimball as Commander. They left the Elkhorn River crossing on 1
June 1848, and arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley 20 Sept 1848. The
Whittles took up residence in the northwest central portion of the valley.
They must have had ample housing, as Mary later told of renting a part of the
dwelling to a widow and her family while Thomas was on his mission.
In the fall of 1849, Thomas went to California, having been called on
a financial mission for the Church. He presumedly settled in the area near
Sutter's Fort (now Sacramento, Calif.) There were other brethren in the
group, and the decision was made to take the "Old Spanish Trail" which went
southwesterly by way of Cajon Pass in the San Gabriel Mountains. They were
persuaded along the way to take a short cut that put them in most precarious
circumstances. They finally made their way back to the trail and continued
on. After they descended Cajon Pass, Mr. Williams of the Williams Ranch
sent out a wagon-load of provisions and supplies to sell to incoming travelers,
a welcome sight to travelers who by this time were near starvation.
Through the influence of Charles C. Rich and Captain Jefferson Hunt,
arrangements were made for the purchase of ox teams, supplies, and new
outfits on credit. They rested at the Williams Ranch for about a month,
during which time most of the travelers secured employment, and then
proceeded up the coast to their destination. Gold had been discovered in the
Sutter's Fort area and it is very likely this was a contributing factor in calling
these young men on a financial mission as currency was badly needed by the
Church at this time. About the same time, several men were employed by
Capt. John Sutter to lay out a plan for the City of Sacramento, as well as to
build a grist mill.
On 25 September 1850, a number of the men met with President Rich.
He appointed Thomas Levi Whittle and seven other men to go on a mission
to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. Elder Hiram Clark was appointed to
preside over the mission. The Elders took passage on the SS West Point and
the SS Senator and arrived in San Francisco during October of 1850. Then
on 8 November passage was booked on the "Imaum of Muscat" for $40 in
gold, less 5% if the brethren would furnish their own bedding. The eating and
living accommodations were considered very poor, and the trip to the islands
took 20 days. Their arrival at Honolulu was heralded by natives attempting
to sell fruits and other foodstuffs.
Elders Whittle and Clark were assigned to the island of Oahu. An
unsuccessful effort was made to open the mission at Honolulu, with difficulty
learning the Hawaiian language contributing to their failure. They had been
led to believe that there were more English speaking people on the island, but
these proved to be sailors and others in transit.
On 7 January 1851, Thomas Whittle, with permission from the Mission
President, sought employment. Being very discouraged, he intended to return
to America. In March, 1851 five of the original missionaries left Honolulu.
After 43 days upon the water, with much seasickness, they finally arrived in
America, and soon returned to their respective homes, presumedly by the same
route used in traveling to California.
Shortly after returning home, Thomas moved his family to Fort
Herriman, about 15 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. During this time,
while getting logs from a nearby canyon, his wagon tipped over and he was
thrown under a load of logs. Before fading into unconsciousness, he saw two
men coming toward him, and when he regained consciousness he was standing
by his wagon which had been lifted into place. He was badly injured, and with
extreme difficulty he succeeded in mounting one of his horses. He gave the
horse free reign, and it took him to the farm of Thomas Butterfield, the owner
of the horses. Thomas Butterfield's daughter, Mary Jane, nursed him back to
At this time plural marriages were permitted certain eligible persons
under the polygamy laws of the Church, making it possible for a righteous
generation of people to be raised up to carry on the work of the Lord. Certain
qualifications had to be met to participate in plural marriage, and Thomas was
selected to have a second wife. He took Mary Jane Butterfield as his second
wife on 7 August 1853 at the Council House, which temporarily substituted
for ordinance work until the Endowment House or Temple could be
completed. Shortly after this marriage, the families moved to Grantsville,
Tooele County, Utah, where other children were born. Here they lived in a
cabin erected as a temporary shelter until permanent quarters could be
Due to the advance of Johnston's army in the spring of 1858, most of
the Saints left Grantsville, going south to Spring Creek, then returning to
Grantsville by 4 July 1858. The Whittle families were among those to leave.
In the spring of 1860 Thomas, with his families, moved to Cache Valley
in northern Utah, settling at Richmond, where he remained the rest of his life.
He left for brief amounts of time to seek employment, which most of the
Saints were forced to do. President Young had issued a call for the settlement
of this valley and many Saints responded. While in Richmond they lived for
a time in "The Old Fort" erected for protection against Indians. They later
acquired a three-room adobe house opposite the Park Schoolhouse.
Thomas was a very energetic church and civic worker. Because of his
agreeable and pleasing personality, he easily made friends with both young and
old. He was also known as a peacemaker and was often called to assist in
settling disputes. He was a member of the 24th Quorum of Seventy, having
been ordained 8 October 1844 by Levi W. Hancock. His Patriarchal Blessing
was given on 19 April 1845 by Patriarch John Smith at Nauvoo, Illinois. He
served as First Counselor to Bishop Merriner W. Merrill of the Richmond
Ward between 30 June 1861 (when the ward was organized) until his death a
few years later.
In addition to numerous faith-promoting incidents, Thomas and his
wife Mary cherished the memory of having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ
preached direct from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, leader and first
president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the fall of
1867, Thomas was told by Heber C. Kimball that he had better get his temple
ordinances completed, as that would be his last chance.
While assisting his son, Zera, in building a one-room log house, he was
struck by a falling log which he had been lifting and injured to the extent that
he lived only about a week. He never regained complete consciousness. He
died 3 July 1868 at the age of 56 years, in Richmond, Cache County, Utah.
At the time of death he was the father of thirteen children, of whom nine were
by his first wife (Mary Fullmer) and four by his second wife (Mary Jane
On 4 July 1868 the Territorial Flag of Utah was flown at half-staff as
a tribute to the honor and esteem felt by his fellow associates and neighbors.
Funeral services and burial were held at Richmond on 5 July 1868 and he was
laid to rest in the family plot in the Richmond Cemetery.
His first wife Mary, was a very energetic and helpful companion. She
lived to the age of 76 years. After her children were married, she moved to
Lewiston and lived in the home of her daughter, Aroetta Pond, the remaining
years of her life. She died there of pneumonia 6 January 1893, and was
buried by the side of her husband. His second wife, Mary Jane, is buried in
the family plot of her second husband, Benjamin Landon Doty. The posterity
of Thomas Whittle is numbered among the founding families of many
communities in Utah and Idaho.
Compiled by Barbara Winward Seager July 1997