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Theodore Turley: A Biography
Richard E. Turley, Jr.

[This is another in a continuing series of newsletter articles that together will make up the first rough draft of a biography of Theodore Turley. The draft will undergo considerable revision before being published in book form. I invite all family members to read it critically, make suggestions, and offer additional information for possible inclusion. Feel free to e-mail me.]

15 From Kirtland to the East Coast, November to December 1839

North of Kirtland, Ohio, lay Fairport, a port town on Lake Erie. “On the 22 Day” of November, Theodore wrote in his missionary journal, he and his companions “Parted with The Breatheren in Kirtland and Came to Fareport to Take Steem boat for Buffelow.” The distance between Fairport and Buffalo, being less than two hundred miles, would have taken the travelers only a day or two by steamboat, but the weather hindered their departure. “There being So great a Storme had to Stop 4 Days in Port,” Theodore recorded.1

The snowstorm cost them both time and money. Besides giving up four precious days, they had to pay fifteen dollars to board themselves until the storm blew over.2 It finally abated enough on 26 November that they were able to leave the port and start across the southern end of the lake toward Buffalo.3 According to George A. Smith, they sailed aboard a vessel known as the Columbus.4

Once they got underway, they continued to encounter bad weather. At about 1:00 a.m. on the following morning, 27 November, a strong wind began blowing across the lake. Brigham Young, Theodore’s companion and head of the mission, prayed and commanded the storm to cease. The winds slackened, and except for an incident that occurred near Erie, Pennsylvania, during a temporary stop there, the rest of the voyage passed without mishap. The missionaries arrived at Buffalo later in the morning on the twenty-seventh and went by stage to Batavia, arriving the same evening.5

One account of the Erie mishap described it as follows: “The boat stopped at Erie, Pa. She had no freight, and but few passengers, and coming out of the harbor, she ran against the pier, which was covered with an immense body of ice; she struck it with such force that she ran right up on the ice out of the water, and remained a short time, and then slid backwards into the water without damage.”6

Theodore described their passage on the lake as “quick and Stormey.”7 According to George A. Smith, once the missionaries arrived in Batavia, they “put up at the Gennesee house. We took an upper room and had a prayer meeting and council.”8

After briefly noting the stage ride from Buffalo to Batavia, Theodore wrote that they traveled from Batavia to Rochester in steam cars on 28 November, arriving there at 7:00 p.m. Two hours later, they left by stage for a destination left blank in Theodore’s journal “and from Thence to Aubourn.” By Theodore’s account, they arrived at Auburn on 29 November at 10:00 a.m., having traveled all night.9

Though the missionaries had left Fairport together, their numbers had dwindled by the time Theodore reached Auburn. He noted that they “Left Br E Kimble 8 miles East of Betavia. Br. R. Hadlock at Betavia to Visit the Breatheren in That Place.” At Auburn, Theodore explained, “we Left the Brethreren Br B Younge and George a Smith.”10

Elder Kimball’s purpose in stopping had been to visit his sister in Byron.11 After his companions left him, he discovered to his great disappointment that his sister and brother-in-law had moved on to Rochester. “I think I never felt worse in my life,” Elder Kimball wrote.12 When the remaining missionaries arrived at Auburn, they found they lacked sufficient funds to carry them all to New York City and decided that Theodore should travel ahead with John Taylor, while Brigham Young and George A. Smith would remain behind until they could obtain further means to travel.13 As Elder Smith put it, “Prest. Young and myself, for want of funds, stopped to preach our way through.”14

“Took Steem Car for allbany in Company with Br John Taylor,” wrote Theodore, dutifully recording that their fare cost them seven and a half dollars. “Arived in Albany on the 30 of November at 6 Oclock in The morning and Took Boat for New York.”15

At that point, Theodore’s extant mission journal has a gap preceded by two notes. The first observes that the distance from the Mississippi River, where they started, to New York City was 1511 miles. Someone, perhaps Theodore, circled the figure 1511 in his journal. The other note describes another journal whose whereabouts is currently unknown: “My journal from Albany To the Potteries in England is written in a Small Book up to Jany 26th 1840.”16

Despite the apparent loss of Theodore’s small book describing his travels from Albany to the Potteries, it is possible to trace his whereabouts through other sources, beginning with his days in New York. The fact that he arrived there safely with John Taylor represented the completion of the first major leg of his journey to England. When he and his companions left Commerce, Illinois, on 21 September, New York had been their goal.

Just one week after Theodore left Commerce, Elizabeth Haven, who observed him and three of his companions as they passed through her community, wrote the following description: “The twelve have now left for Eng[land]. Some of them have been gone several weeks visiting on their way to N.Y. which place they design to meet and all set sail together for the nations. . . . They came to this place, namely, Heber Kimball, Brigham Young, Br. Turley and one of the Seventies on their way to N.Y. Three of them were sick. They said the devil was determined that they should not go to foreign lands, but in the name of Jesus they would frustrate all his designs.”17 Arriving in New York with John Taylor, Theodore had done just as they had said.

[Next issue: “New York City, November to December 1839”]

Draft of 6 January 2001
© 2001 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the February 2001 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 22-26 November 1839, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  2. H. C. Kimball’s Journal, 93.
  3. Richard E. Turley, Jr., “Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840” (honors thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982), 27 n. 23.
  4. “Memoirs of Geo. A. Smith,” p. 131, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Journal History, 27 November 1839, Church Archives.
  7. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 27-28 November 1839.
  8. “Memoirs of Geo. A. Smith,” p. 131.
  9. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal 28-29 November 1839.
  10. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 27-29 November 1839. Theodore’s British background shows up not only in his British spelling of words but also in his phonetic spellings that reflect his British accent. Notice, for example, that he referred to Heber C. Kimball as “Br E Kimble,” reflecting the fact that he pronounced Heber as Eber, dropping the initial H sound.
  11. Journal History, 28 November 1839.
  12. H. C. Kimball’s Journal, 93.
  13. Journal History, 27 November 1839.
  14. “Memoirs of Geo. A. Smith,” p. 132.
  15. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, 29-30 November 1839.
  16. Theodore Turley, Mission Journal, entries after 30 November 1839.
  17. Elizabeth Haven letter, 28 September 1839, quoted in Ora H. Barlow, The Israel Barlow Story and Mormon Mores (The Israel Barlow Family Association, 1968), 158.