Born: 10 April 1801 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England1
Christened: 29 May 1801 at St. Martin’s Church in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England2
Died: 18 August 1871 in Beaver, Beaver County, Utah3
Buried: Mountain View Cemetery in Beaver, Beaver County, Utah4
FamilySearch ID: KWJV-HKX
FindaGrave Memorial ID: 51057
Theodore was the son of William Turley and Elizabeth Yates.
Theodore Turley was an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon pioneer. He was born April 10, 1801, in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England.5 Birmingham was a major center of the Industrial Revolution, known for its skilled and innovative metalworkers.6 Theodore was apprenticed there as a Stamper, Piercer, and Toolmaker, and the metalworking skills Theodore learned there served both him and the Church throughout his life.7
Theodore married fellow Birmingham native Frances Kimberley on 26 November 1821.8 After a falling out with a business partner in 1824,9 Theodore moved his young family to London briefly before immigrating to Canada.10
Theodore and Frances initially settled in York (now Toronto), Ontario,11 and then moved before 1832 to the nearby village of Churchville.12 Theodore had long been interested in religion, and he was a Methodist circuit preacher there.13 He was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by missionaries Parley P. Pratt and Isaac Russell and baptized on 1 March 1837.14
In the summer of 1838, Theodore moved his growing family south to gather with the Saints in Far West, Missouri.15 Due to rising tensions, including the Missouri extermination order, the Saints were forced to leave in early 1839. Theodore was put on the committee to help evacuate and provide for those Church members without financial means.16 Because Theodore was one of the last Saints to leave the city, he had the opportunity to join with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a special conference on April 26, 1839, at the Far West Temple site, a fulfillment of prophecy.17
In 1839, Theodore built the first Latter-day Saint home in Nauvoo, Illinois.18 Later that year he left with several apostles on a mission to his native England. In 1840, he led a group of 200 British converts back to Nauvoo.19 In the following years, Theodore participated in the early Latter-day Saint practice of polygamy, taking on three sisters as plural wives: Mary Clift, Eliza Clift, and Sarah Ellen Clift Selwyn. Theodore served as a captain, a lieutenant colonel, and the armorer-general in the Nauvoo Legion.20 Theodore was also a member of the Council of Fifty.21
Joseph Smith died in 1844, and the Saints were forced to leave their homes again in early 1846. Theodore took his family west and settled for a time in Winter Quarters, Nebraska.22 While in Nebraska, Theodore lost many family members to disease, including two of his wives: Frances Kimberley and Sarah Ellen Clift.23
In 1849, Theodore took his remaining family members to Utah with the Silas Richards Company.24 He lived for a time in Salt Lake City, where his only remaining wife, Mary Clift, died after giving birth.25 He then married his fifth and final wife, Ruth Jane Giles on 18 June 1850.26
In 1851, Theodore and his family helped establish a Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California. He served in several leadership positions during his time there, including school commissioner, member of the library association board of directors, and member of the San Bernardino high council.27 In 1857, Church leaders called the San Bernardino Saints back to Utah.28
The remainder of Theodore’s life was spent in southern Utah. He spent most of 1858 living in Cedar City, Utah, working with the Deseret Iron Company until it closed.29 Afterwards, he lived in Washington, Utah, where he operated a gristmill in addition to his blacksmithing.30 In early 1860 he sold his land and mill to John D. Lee, moving with his adult children to the new settlement of Minersville, Utah.31 Several years later, he moved for the last time to the nearby town of Beaver, Utah.32
In the last two years of Theodore’s life, he and his more prominent son-in-law, apostle Amasa M. Lyman, became involved with the Godbeite movement. This group, fueled primarily by British converts, embraced spiritualism and was critical of Brigham Young’s economic policies. Because of that participation, Theodore was excommunicated in June 1870 for apostasy.33
Theodore Turley passed away on 18 August 1871 at his home in Beaver, Utah. The cause of death was cancer of the throat and mouth.34
Other Biographical Resources
- Theodore’s autobiography: An autobiographical sketch by Theodore Turley likely written during his mission in 1839–1840. NEW: Includes images of the original handwritten document.
- Theodore Turley: A Biography by Richard E. Turley, Jr.: Begun in 1995, this continuing series of newsletter articles by Richard E. Turley, Jr., will form the basis for an official biography of Theodore Turley.
- Theodore’s biography by Ella Mae Judd: Those who are aware of the 1978 Red Book (The Theodore Turley Family) will recognize this biography originally written by Ella Mae Judd in 1951. The version here is from Frances and Wally Gray’s family history website. Ella Mae Judd retyped her biography of Theodore Turley in 1997, incorporating Olive Turley’s corrections and additions. Although some of the stories are likely family folklore, it’s still a valuable resource.
- Theodore’s biography at the Joseph Smith Papers website.
- Theodore’s biography at BYU’s Mormon Missionary Diaries database. (Don’t forget to check out images of Theodore’s missionary diary while you’re at it!)
- Theodore’s profile in the Church History Department’s Early Mormon Missionaries database.
- Stories about Theodore at Ann Lewis’ family history blog.
- There is some confusion as to whether Theodore Turley was born in 1800 or 1801. Theodore himself stated a birth year of 1800 in the 1 February 1840 entry in his mission journal and on one of his handwritten family memorials. However, Theodore stated an 1801 birth year on his autobiographical skech and another handwritten family memorial. The 1801 date is also in his Nauvoo endowment record and Nauvoo Temple sealing record. The family has typically gone with the 1801 birth year due to his christening in May 1801 as well as his stated ages on U.S. Federal censuses in 1850 (taken in 1851), 1860, and 1870. Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergara, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2005), p. 109; Nauvoo and sealing record “A”, 1846-1857, p. 523-524 and p.773-774, entries for Theodore Turley, FHL 183374.
- Birmingham, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812, Birmingham, St. Martin, 1795-1811, baptism of Theodore son of William & Elizabeth Turley, 29 May 1801, image at Ancestry.com.
- Family records, likely based on a handwritten Family Memorial, state Theodore died on August 12, 1871. Amasa M. Lyman’s journal (entry of 22 August 1871) and Theodore’s 1872 probate record both give his date of death as August 18th. Probate Records and Registers, 1856-June 1883,” Probate record of Theodore Turley, dated 30 July 1872, FHL 485230; Scott H. Partridge, ed., Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832-1877 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2016), 666. Related blog post: “Do We have Theodore’s Death Date Wrong?”
- FindaGrave.com, memorial page for Theodore Turley (10 Apr 1801–12 Aug 1871), memorial no. 51057, citing Mountain View Cemetery, Beaver, Beaver County, United States.
- There is some confusion as to whether Theodore Turley was born in 1800 or 1801. Theodore himself states a birth year of 1800 in the 1 February 1840 entry in his mission journal and on one of his handwritten family memorials. However, Theodore stated an 1801 birth year on his autobiographical skech and another handwritten family memorial. The 1801 date is also in his Nauvoo endowment record and Nauvoo Temple sealing record. The family has typically gone with the 1801 birth year due to his christening in May 1801 as well as his stated ages on U.S. Federal censuses in 1850 (taken in 1851), 1860, and 1870. Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergara, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2005), p. 109; Nauvoo and sealing record “A”, 1846-1857, p. 523-524 and p.773-774, entries for Theodore Turley, FHL 183374.
- “Birmingham,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Birmingham-England, accessed July 2021.
- Theodore’s grandson, Joseph Soll Turley, wrote in 1971 that he personally saw Theodore’s 1814 indenture record to train as a “Stamper, Piercer, and Toolmaker.” This description is confirmed by other records, including a newspaper notice announcing the dissolution of Theodore’s partnership with William Lindon as “Stampers, Piercers, and Tool-Makers.” Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, Monday, 28 November 1825, p. 2, col. 5, accessed 15 April 2020, The British Newspaper Archive.
- Birmingham, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1937, Harborne, St. Peter, 1820-1822, p. 69, no. 206, marriage of Theodore Turley and Frances Kimberley, 26 Nov. 1821, image at Ancestry.com.
- See notices of dissolved partnership here. The London Gazette, 26 November 1825, Issue 18197, p. 2176, The Gazette public records website; Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, Monday, 28 November 1825, p. 2, col. 5, accessed 15 April 2020, The British Newspaper Archive.
- In an August 1826 christening record, Theodore was noted as a toolmaker residing in Snowsfields. This location was in Southwark, in the southern part of London. London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920, Southwark, St. George the Martyr, 1823-1838, p. 225, no. 1795, baptism of Frances Amelia daughter of Theodore & Frances Thurley, 24 Aug. 1826, image at Ancestry.com.
- Theodore began advertising as a blacksmith in York in April 1827. The Colonial Advocate, Thursday, 26 Apr. 1827, p. 2, col. 1, Google News Archive, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=DQNrXyjhriIC&dat=18270426&printsec=frontpage&hl=en, accessed April 2020.
- Theodore’s Family Memorial for Frances Kimberley indicated his son, Frederick Turley, was born in Churchville in 1832.
- Theodore Turley was on a schedule of Methodist preachers in the Churchville area in 1836. See Ann Lewis’ blog post “Research Trip, Day 3 in Toronto.”
- Theodore’s Autobiography. See also Richard E. Turley, Jr., “3: Joining the Latter-day Saints,” Theodore Turley: A Biography newsletter series.
- Theodore recorded July 18th as the date of their arrival in his missionary diary. Joseph Smith’s journal recorded the arrival of Elder Almon W. Babbitt’s company on Saturday, July 28th. Richard E. Turley, Jr., “5: Gathering with the Saints, 1838,” Theodore Turley: A Biography newsletter series.
- The seven members of the committee of removal were William Huntington, Charles Bird, Alanson Ripley, Theodore Turley, Daniel Shearer, Shadrach Roundy, and Jonathan H. Hale. Far West Committee minutes, 1839 January-April, 29 Jan. 1839, image 5 of 38, Church History Library, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/b4a7fd1f-54f4-42be-a64c-0e16535d72f1/0/4, accessed July 2021.
- History, 1838-1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838-31 July 1842], addenda p. 14, ID #7513, Church History Library, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/549, accessed July 2021; See alsoTheodore Turley: A Biography installment 9: Prophecy Fulfilled, 18-26 April 1839.
- “Tuesday, 11th.—I commenced dictating my History for my clerk, James Mulholland, to write. About this time Elder Theodore Turley raised the first house built by the Saints in this place; it was built of logs about twenty five or thirty rods north north east of my dwelling, on the north east corner of lot 4 block 147 of the White purchase.” “History of Joseph Smith. May, 1839,” The Deseret News, Thursday, 13 Apr. 1854, p. 1, col. 4, Newspapers.com. See also “11: The First House Built by a Saint in Nauvoo, 11 June to 18 July 1839” inTheodore Turley: A Biography by Richard E. Turley, Jr.
- See installments 31-44 of Theodore Turley: A Biography by Richard E. Turley, Jr.
- Theodore was referred to as a captain on 20 May 1843 and a lieutenant colonel on 23 Jun. 1843. He stated that Joseph Smith appointed him armorer general in an 1855 letter to Hosea Stout. History, 1838-1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842-1 July 1843], p. 1584, ID #7624, Church History Library, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-d-1-1-august-1842-1-july-1843/229, accessed July 2021; Minutes, Nauvoo Legion, 20 May 1843, p. 33, ID #2839, Church History Library, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minutes-nauvoo-legion-20-may-1843/2, accessed July 2021.
- Biography at the Joseph Smith Papers website, citing Council of Fifty. “Record of the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God,” Mar. 1844–Jan. 1846. CHL.
- One of his plural wives, Eliza Clift, chose to remain in eastern Iowa with her daughter, Emma.
- Family Memorial for Frances Kimberley; Family Memorial for Sarah Ellen Clift; Winter Quarters sexton’s records, 1846-1848, Record book, deaths of Sarah E. Turley (4 May 1847) and Francis Turley (30 Aug. 1847), LR 6359 24, Church History Library, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/1647eb3e-6020-4669-91a2-603820678def/0/28 and https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/1647eb3e-6020-4669-91a2-603820678def/0/38, accessed July 2021.
- See “Crossing the Plains with the Silas Richards Company” blog post. Camp of Israel schedules and reports, 1845-1849, Silas Richards company, 1849 September, image 5, MS 14290, Church History Library, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/0cb1643e-a096-4f99-ab02-a39eb733285b/0/4, accessed July 2021.
- Family Memorial for Mary Clift; Utah, Salt Lake City Cemetery Records, 1847-1896, Record of the Dead Book A, p. 2, interment no. 37, Mary Turley, 30 Mar. 1850, image 7 of digital film 7420258 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1299167, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9CR-TBBP?i=6&cc=2094273&cat=23661, accessed March 2021. Related blog post: “In the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.”
- Nauvoo and sealing record “A”, 1846-1857, p. 773-774, sealing and marriage entry for Theodore Turley and Ruth Jane Giles, FHL 183374. Related blog post: “In the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.”
- Family tradition also says that he was a treasurer in San Bernardino, but I’ve been unable to confirm that. A history of local schools compiled in 1921 stated, “The first official record of our schools that we now have is a report of the school commissioners of San Bernardino, November 17, 1853. Theodore Turley, James H. Rollins, David Seeley, school commissioners.” “Doings of the Pioneers,” San Bernardino Daily Sun, Monday, 17 Jan. 1921, p. 4, col. 3-4, Newspapers.com; “San Bernardino Library Association,” Los Angeles Star, Saturday, 3 Nov. 1855, p. 2, col. 2, Newspapers.com;”Minutes of a Conference a Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, held in the Bowery at San Bernardino, commencing Friday, September 29, 1854,” The Deseret News, Wednesday, 18 Apr. 1855, p. 8, col. 2, Newspapers.com.
- Marilyn Mills, “True Community: Latter-day Saints in San Bernardino, 1851-1857,” Ensign (Feb. 2003), https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2003/02/true-community-latter-day-saints-in-san-bernardino-1851-1857, accessed July 2021.
- Theodore Turley appeared in the Deseret Iron Company ledger on 22 May, 29 May, 12 Jun., 19 Jun., 30 Sep., 11 Oct., 18 Oct., 28 Oct., and 4 Nov. of 1858. Deseret Iron Company Account Book, 1854-1867, digital images at Fold3.com.
- Theodore later sold his mill and blacksmithing materials to John D. Lee. Lee recorded on 7 Jan. 1860, “I finally Closed the Contract with Bro. Turley & co. at 500$ in Stock down for his Mill, Blacksmith Tools, land claim of 10 acres & all the improvements about the Premesies, the Mill to be delivered on the 16th inst.” Robert Glass Cleland and Juanita Brooks, eds., A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee, 1848-1876 Vol. 1 (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1955), 231-232, digitized at HathiTrust.org.
- John D. Lee recorded in his journal that on 23 Feb. 1860 the Turley family left Washington, Utah, for Minersville. “About 9 morning T. Turley, including Fred & Stephen Franklin & their Families, also Wm. Wood, McKnight, Jos. Glossop & Jno. Lee & their Families, & effects all roled out for Minersville, Beaver county.” Robert Glass Cleland and Juanita Brooks, eds., A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee, 1848-1876 Vol. 1 (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1955), 237, digitized at HathiTrust.org.
- Theodore was officially received into the Beaver High Priest Quorum in November 1865. David Roche Turley II, Minersville and Beaver Field Trip timeline, citing Beaver High Priest Meeting Minutes.
- “Local and Other Matters,” Deseret News, Thursday, June 23, 1870, p. 3, Utah Digital Newspapers, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s67120pr/23156561, accessed July 2021; “Progress of the Movement in Beaver,” Mormon Tribune, Saturday, June 25, 1870, p. 3, GenealogyBank.com.
- Family Memorial for Sarah Ellen Clift; Probate Records and Registers, 1856-June 1883,” Probate record of Theodore Turley, dated 30 July 1872, FHL 485230; Scott H. Partridge, ed., Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832-1877 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2016), 666. Related blog post: “Do We have Theodore’s Death Date Wrong?”