- Name: William Howell Thomas
- Born: November 2, 1790 Winvoe, Glamorganshire, South Wales
- Died: August 21, 1887 Malad, Idaho
- Related through: Erin's grandfather James Madson
William Howell Thomas was born on November 2, 1790 near Winvoe Parish, Glamorganshire, South Wales. He was the son of Robert Thomas and Janet James. He was a cobbler. He married Ann Williams. She was born February 28, 1797 in Winvoe Parish, Glamorganshire, South Wales.
They were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and were baptized in 1847. Some of the children may have been baptized also. William Howell Thomas and his wife were endowed and sealed as husband and wife on October 19, 1861 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They had 14 children. Robert an infant and the eldest, died in Wales as did Harriet, who was 24, and unmarried. All the rest, except Llewellyn and William, came to the United States.
They left their home and pleasant surroundings to join the Saints in the Land of Zion. The parents and seven of the children set sail on the ship "Jersey" on the February 5, 1853. This was the 63rd company of Saints to embark from Britain for Zion.
There were 314 passengers in the company, 300 of whom were steerage and 14 were second class. The company was half English half Welsh, hence there was a confusion of tongues assembled on the deck of the "Jersey". With glistening eye and moistened cheeks they sang "Yes My Native Land I Love Thee", as they were towed down the Jersey River into the open sea, in a rather frail craft for the tempestuous winds and waves of the expansive ocean.
The married folks were located in the center of the ship, the boys near the bow and the girls at the stern. Passengers, as well as the ship itself were divided into districts for the better observance of order, discipline, and work. Each of the divisions already mentioned had a supervising council of three brethren and the whole company was under the direction of a president who in this case was Elder George Halliday. At eight o-clock p.m. evening prayers were held in each section after which lights were out and everyone went to bed. On warm days everyone was brought on deck for airing and sunshine whether they liked it or not, and indeed it was quite necessary.
As they coasted south, winter seemed to be left behind. The weather became warmer and the air more balmy. The joy of sighting land as they neared the West Indies was very great. All of the passengers were continuously on deck. The watery voyage had been long and tedious. A little later they entered murky water and a pilot came aboard which did much to create a feeling of security as they wended their now devious way through the Southwest channel, passing the Belize Pilot Station into the sagging current of the Great Father of Waters. The distance from the bar to the city of New Orleans is 90 miles. Four days were consumed in towing the "Jersey" to the city, where they docked March 21, 1853 having covered the 5000 mile voyage in seven weeks. During the journey there were two deaths and six marriages.
At the docks they were met by the forwarding agent of the church, Elder John Brown, whose promptness and energy soon had them aboard the "John Simonds" chugging up the great river to St. Louis and then to Keokuk, Iowa. The fare was $2.25 for the adults all over 14 years of age, half fare for those between three and 14 and all under three were free.
While preparations were being made for the overland journey from Keokuk to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, they were camped by Montrose, Iowa which was a few miles from Keokuk. This camp was heavily infested with snakes, so that at times they were fearful to walk about, yet none of the party were ever molested.
On June 3, 1853, they were reported ready or the move from Keokuk to the Westward trail. The company, under the direction of Elder Joseph W. Young, was made up of 42 wagons. Thirty-two of the wagons were in the "Ten Pound Group" and ten were in the "Immigration Fund". They crossed the Missouri River on July 11 at Council Bluffs.
Occasionally some of the children would mount one of the friendly oxen and ride for a spell, but for the most part the entire journey was made on foot, for both children and adults. They arrived in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1853, having been under way more or less since February 5, 1853. It was just a little more than eight months since they had embarked at Liverpool, England.
The stay in Salt Lake City was of rather short duration, for soon they, with others were called by Brigham Young to go to Box Elder, later Brigham City, and help colonize that region. They soon found themselves in a dugout home with dirt floor and dirt roof in the Old Fort-Box Elder.
The William H. Thomas family was among the very early settlers of Box Elder and therefore suffered the hardships and privations of those early days, including the terrible famine of the winter of 1855 which was caused in part through a wide spread grasshopper plague of the previous season. Their diet consisted largely of roots, wild onions and segos, together with a little wheat ground in the coffee mill. It was then added sparingly to the mixture and the whole of it cooked. The wheat must be conserved for spring planting. Sister Thomas was a very good practical nurse and rendered invaluable and unstinted service to the whole community as well as her own family in their affliction and distress.
Out of the Old Fort they moved into a rather artistic Willow Place with a dirt floor and dirt roof just South of the opening at the southwest corner of Old Fort. This unique abode brought them the name of the Willow Thomas Family. A delight of the home was its beautiful flower garden. They continued living in Brigham City until 1863 when again, upon the recommendation of President Brigham Young, that as fast as possible the stakes of Zion extend their bounds. The parents and most of the children of the Thomas family moved to the Malad Valley where the resided the rest of their days.
Source: This history was written in October 1953 by great-granddaughter, Ella Colton Palmer. It can also be found at WelshMormonHistory.org and is included in the book Early Settlers of Malad Valley Volume I - Pre 1870.