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Thomas Levi Whittle

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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

Detroit, Michigan

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


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