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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.]

35 “Much Grieved in Consequence”

On Tuesday, September 15, 1840, Theodore Turley and the English Saints on board the ship North America again faced rough seas. “We have had another storm,” wrote Theodore’s assistant William Clayton, “and many has been sick.” The storm was so bad that Elder Clayton did not write in his journal for three days. When he started writing again on Friday, he recorded that some members of the company remained ill, “especially three of the children.” Some people doubted whether they would recover. One of the sick children belonged to a Brother and Sister Holmes from Herefordshire, who had “given up” any hope of their child surviving.1

“Elder Turleys mind is much grieved in consequence of these things,” Elder Clayton wrote. “At night he called the saints together in order to ascertain their feelings concerning the recovery of those sick. The sequel showed that there was some unbelief in our midst. He spake considerable on the subject and asked the brethren to state their feelings. One immediately said he believed Holmes’s child would not recover. I said I did not believe it was the will of God we should lose one soul. Elder Turley said to the same effect. The saints then began to be more cheerful and the power of darkness was in some degree banished. We prayed with the children and desired all to hold them by faith. But after all our exertions Brother Holmes’ child died same night. This was a grief to our minds but it was so.”2

Early Saturday morning, September 19, the ship’s mate visited the Saints between decks and “ordered the child to be sewed up” in a burial cloth, “which was soon done.” The child’s body was then “immediately thrown overboard without any ceremony.” Next, the place where the child died was cleaned out and “gas was burned to sweeten the ship air and prevent disease.”3

On Sunday, the Saints were not asked to preach as they had been earlier. In the afternoon, Theodore “called the saints together,” and the leaders “broke bread to the company” apparently administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. “Many seemed pleased with our meeting,” William Clayton wrote.4

The ship had faced a head wind on Saturday, but by Monday, the sailing was good again, allowing the ship to move more rapidly toward the United States. With good sailing, Theodore was able to turn his attention to improving the Saints’ conditions on board. Many of the immigrating English converts were poor and did not exercise proper hygiene, which probably contributed to the sickness facing them. As leader of the group of travelers, Theodore decided to take action on Monday evening to better sanitation in the steerage area.

William Clayton recorded: “At night Elder Turley spoke considerable on cleanliness and afterwards went round the b[e]rths to see if all the company undressed” for bed or wore the same dirty clothes as during the day. Some of the people hadn’t changed their clothes once since coming on board the ship, he discovered. Even worse, in the absence of real toilet facilities, he found some of the berths with human sewage in them. “This made the most awful smell when discovered,” Elder Clayton wrote, and was “almost to[o] much to bear. Elder Turley undressed and washed them and ordered the place cleaned out. Some of the company are filthy indeed.”5 The gospel net gathered all kinds and helped them to grow and improve their condition. But for the leaders, like Theodore Turley, teaching and assisting the new converts was tough duty.

[Next issue: “‘All Hands on Deck'”]

© 2008 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)

  1. James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, eds., Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840 to 1842 (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Peregrine Smith, 1974), 174.
  2. Manchester Mormons, 174-75.
  3. Manchester Mormons, 175.
  4. Manchester Mormons, 175.
  5. Manchester Mormons, 175.