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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.]

19 From Liverpool to Birmingham, 12 to 29 January 1840

On Sunday, 12 January 1840, Theodore Turley, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff occupied themselves by visiting some of the churches in the Liverpool area. On Monday, the threesome wento to Preston by train, where they met Willard Richards and others. They also spent Tuesday in Preston. Wednesday, the fifteenth, Theodore spent the evening at the home of a Sister Dawson in Preston, together with Willard Richards, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Hiram Clark, and Joseph Fielding. The missionaries passed Thursday evening at Willard Richards’s. On Friday evening, 17 January, the brethren held a special council meeting at Elder Willard Richards’s house. Theodore acted as scribe. Among other things, the men decided to write monthly to the presidency in Preston and to wait until more members of the Quorum of the Twelve arrived before holding a general conference. At the meeting the missionaries were assigned to their fields of labor. Theodore and Elder Woodruff were assigned to the Staffordshire Potteries, where they were to “inquire the mind of the Lord upon the importance of going to Birmingham.”1

On the eighteenth, Elders Turley and Woodruff left for the Potteries accompanied by Hiram Clark. Later in the day, they arrived in Manchester, where William Clayton met them at the station. The missionaries remained in Manchester the following day, which was a Sunday. Elders Turley, Clayton, and Woodruff all preached during the course of the day. On 21 January, Theodore and Elder Woodruff left Manchester by coach, arriving in Burslem in the evening. “According to the custom of the country,” wrote Elder Woodruff, “We rode upon the outside of the coach & we had an exceding strong wind & rain & Elder Turley took cold & a Sore throat.” The following day, the two men began their missionary work in the Potteries, despite the fact that Theodore was “quite ill with sore throat & cold.” They went to visit William Benbow, a well-to-do farmer. Benbow himself was not at home, but Benbow’s wife gave the elders a kind reception.2

On Thursday, the twenty-third, the brethren visited George Simpson and held a meeting at Alfred Cordon’s home in Burslem. The same day, Elder Woodruff wrote a letter to William Clayton in which he stated, “I feel as though the spirit will soon send one of us to Birmingham, but can tell better in a few days.” On the twenty-fourth, Elders Woodruff and Turley preached at the home of William Hume, and afterwards, two listeners asked for baptism. On the twenty-sixth, Theodore preached in Hanley.3

According to an entry in his missionary journal on Monday, 27 January 1840, Theodore “woke up in health after a harde day’s work yesterday at Br Benbow in Hanley Staffordshire.” Theodore expounded the secriptures to the Benbow family before walking two miles to Burslem, where he met Wilford Woodruff at the home of Alfred Cordon. After dinner there, Elders Woodruff, Turley, and Cordon went out to visit some of the Church members in the area, then walked six miles to attend a meeting at Lane End. At the meeting, according to Elder Woodruff’s account, “Elder Turley spoke of the knowledge of God covering the earth as the waters cover the great deep &c.” Following the meeting, the missionaries had supper with one of the members, Isaac Whittaker. They blessed Brother Whittaker’s two children while there. They also blessed a man who had a swollen neck. Proceeding on, they went to bless a sick child, then two more children. By the time they had walked the six miles back to their lodgings in Burslem, they were exhausted. “Very Tired in body,” Theodore wrote. “Sleept at Br Cordens in Company with Elder W.”4

The next morning, Theodore still felt tired. “This morning feel something of the effects of a hard Days work yester,” he recorded. The missionaries spent the daytime hours in study and religious discussions. Theodore wrote, “Spent the Day in conversation upon the Second coming of Christ and the nature of Christs Kingdom when it should be set u[p] &co with Br. W. about the nations that will be left on the Earth. When Christs reig[n] with his saints &co. And I read consederabl.” That evening, they attended a meeting in Burslem. According to Theodore’s journal, “Br W Preached after which a man of the name of Jones opposed the word of God. Read a pamplit against the work of God, which I feel he will be delivered up unto Satan. and will not oppose long.” The man who opposed the work, John Jones, would later be responsible for having Theodore thrown into the Stafford prison.5

Theodore traveled to Hanley after the meeting and spent the night at the Benbow home. Brother Benbow, a generous man, gave Theodore five shillings to carry him to Birmingham, the city of Theodore’s birth and the residence of his parents and many other family members. On Wednesday, 29 January 1840, Theodore traveled to Birmingham, hoping to find friends with which to stay. He arrived at 10:15 p.m. “Could not find any of my friends,” he noted in his journal. “Had to Sleep at the Blew Bell in Bristol Street near a number of my friends.”6

It had now been a decade and a half since Theodore left England for the New World. It must have been with some excitement that he anticipated seeing many of his family members the following morning, when at last he would have a chance to share with them the pearl of great price he had found in his travels half way around the world: the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

[Next issue: “With the Family in Birmingham, 30-31 January 1840”]

© 2002 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the October 2002 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Life of John Taylor, 75; James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, eds., Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840 to 1842, Classic Mormon Diary Series, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1974), 70; Wilford Woodruff Journal, 17 Jan. 1840.
  2. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 21-23 Jan. 1840, 4 Mar. 1840; Millennial Star 1 (March 1841): 296; Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 71-73, 75, 79-80; Whitney, p. 114.
  3. Manuscript History of the British Mission, 28 Jan. 1840; Wilford Woodruff Journal, 23-26 Jan. 1840.
  4. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 27 Jan. 1840; Wilford Woodruff Journal, 27 Jan. 1840.
  5. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 28 Jan. 1840; Wilford Woodruff Journal, 28 Jan. 1840.
  6. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 28-29 Jan. 1840.