Thomas Grover, A Stalward of Mormonism
The subject of this sketch, Thomas Grover, son of Thomas Grover and Polly Spaulding, was born in the town of Whitehall, Washington County, New York, on the 22nd of July 1807. His father passed away the 1st of February 1807. Being the oldest son in the family his education was a short duration and he went aboard the boat Shamrock as cabin boy at the age of twelve. he later became the captain of the same boat.
Because Thomas's father died six months before his birth, he was reared by his mother and step-father, David Young, in a canal town near Lake Champaigne.
Thomas was a cabin boy on a barge on Lake Erie by age 12. In later years he was captain of the freighter vessel "The Shamrock," traversing the waterways from southern Quebec to New York City and estward to Buffalo.
He was married to Caroline Whiting, daughter of Nathaniel Whiting and Mery Young, in 1828 in Whitehall. They had six daughters who grew to maturity. Emma the seventh daughter, died at birth.
In 1830 Thomas moved to western New York, where he purchased a farm in Freedom, Catteraugus County. According to family tradition he was a Methodiest preacher when he first heard of Joseph Smith preaching in the area. Because of his familiarity with the Bible, he attended the preaching, hoping to prove him a liar and mock his claim to prophetic powers. After listening to the prophetic teachings, Thomas forfeited his Methodiest belief and he was beptized in September 1834 in Freedom by Warren A. Cowdery. (1)
On March 15, 1835 he sold his farm for $500 and moved to Kirtland. There he visited the home of the Prophet. As the Prophet greeted him, he declared, "If ever God sent a man he sent you. I want every dollar ... that you have got in the world." (2) The money freely proffered was used to obtain building materials needed for the construction of the Kirtland Temple.
Thomas remained on the Shamrock, which plied back and forth on the Erie Canal, until after he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at which time they moved to Kirtland, Ohio.
At this time there was great opposition to the church. In spite of opposition, however, more than a hundred persons joined the church in New York between April 30 and the spring of 1831. Besides the Smiths, the Witmers, and the Knights, were were such families as the Rockwells, Coltrins, and the Grovers, and Martin Harris. Some of the converts such as martin Harris, Joseph Kniht, and Thomas Grover were well-to-do. The first named furnished the funds for publishing th Book of Mormon, and Thomas Grover, on joining the church, made the prophet a gift of a considerable sum of money. (Short History of the Church, Nibley)
The faithfulness of Thomas to gospel truths led to his ordination on 2 January 1836 to the office of an elder and his call to the Kirtland High Council. As religious persecution raged he fled with his family from Ohio to Missouri, where in August 1837 he was called to serve on the Far West High Council (D&C 124: 131-32). Again hatred and bigotry forced him to flee, leaving property and goods valued at $2,600.
Thomas settled with exiled Saints in Nauvoo, where he purchased farmlan and built a large frame home valued at $800. In Nauvoo his wife of 12 years died in October 1840, leaving him six young daughters to raise. On 20 February 1841 Thomas was married to Caroline Eliza Nickerson by William Smith and they became the parents of four children.
In Nauvoo his service to the Church and communtiy was noteworthy -- Nauvoo High Council, captain and an aid-de-camp on the general staff of the Nauvoo Legion, and personal bodyguard to the Prophet. Intermingled with this service were three short missions. (also including Mississippi)
He was a member of Zions Camp, suffered in the persecutions of the Mormons in Missouri, and was in prison with the prophet a number of times. He was among the first to arrive at Commerce. he fulfilled three missions for the church. He served in New York state, Canada, and in Michigan. Although extremely ill when called to Canada the Prophet promised: "Brother Grover you are very feeble but God will bless you and you shall be blessed and strengthened from this very hour." (3) The promise was fulfilled. Another promise given by Hyrum Smith in the patriarchal blessing was also fulfilled, "Your name will be written in the chronicles of your brethren and perpetuated by your posterity unto the latest generation." (4)
He was one of the Prophet Joseph Smith's body guards, appointed 1-28-1842.When Wilson and Reynolds, mobbers from Missouri, kidnapped the prophet, Thomas was one of the men who rescued him and turned the mobbers back to Missiouri.
On February 20, 1841, he was married to Caroline Eliza Nickerson, widow of Marshall Hubbard. There were four (Susan E. Black states 5) children by this marriage.
About this time the law of celestial marriage was revealed to the Prophet Joseph, and Thomas embraced it. He married Hannah and Luduska Tupper, daughters of Silas Tupper and Hannah Ladd. From the union of Hannah fifteen children were born, six of whom grew to maturity. Luduska reared six children.
Thomas worked on the Nauvoo Temple and received his washings and anointings.
While doing missionary work in Michigan, near Kalamozoo, he was warned in a dream to return at once to Nauvoo. He hesitated about the matter until the warnin was repeated three times, when he awakened his companion, Bro. Wilson, and they got up and made it a matter of prayer and were told to go at once to Nauvoo. They did so, taking the shortest route possible. They arrived at Carthage just after the martyrdom.
After the martyrdom Thomas escorted the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum from Carthage to Nauvoo. His daughter Mary Elizabeth Grove wrote, "My father Thomas Grover helped wash and prepared them for burial." (5) A lock of the Prophet's hair cut by Thomas was placed in a locked by widow Emma Smith.
Thomas Grover and his family were among the first to leave Nauvoo in February 1846. While crossing the Mississippi River on a flatboat they lost most of their possessions. Brigham Young described the scene: ... a filthy wicked man squirted some tobacco juice into the eyes of one of the oxen attached to Thomas Grover's wagon which immediately plunged into the river, dragging another ox with him, and as he was going overboard he tore off one of the side boards, which caused the water to flowinto the flatboat." (6) They crossed the Mississippi en route to the west. In crossing, the boat sank in the steamboat channel. Boats came from both sides of the river to help, and there were "no bad results from the mishap." In reality, the family proceed across Iowa because of the generosity of other pioneers.
He crossed the state of Iowa with the remaider of the saints and located on the west side of the Missouri River where Florence now stands. A number of the men went down into Missouri and bought pork for use of the camp. Thomas was appointed camp butcher. President Kimball noticed that he did not take any of the meat with him at night. He remarked that a man should not be a butcher who would not eat meat. After that he took some of the meat home occasionally.
He is remembered for operating a ferry across the Platte River. His advertisement read: "the ferry good and safe maned by experienced men black Smithing hourse and ox shoein done all so a wheel right." (7) Jim Bridger, a famous mountainman, used his service. In writing to Brigham Young from the ferry crossing, Thomas penned, "We are all well at present, but we are rather lonesome since you left us." (8) By mid-July he closed the venture and divided equally the money earned, giving each man $60.50 apiece.
Thomas was among the first 143 men to get ready to go with President Brigham Young to find a new home in the west. He left his family with enough provisions to last them two years. The company traveled up the north side of the Platte River to the Black Hills, where it became necessary to build a boat to cross the Platte. President Young called the cap together to ascertain the best plan. He gave his plan, but Thomas said, "It will not work." President Young said, "I think it will." Thomas again said it would not work in that kind of stream, and then left the council ad went to bed. Stephen Markham was Thomas's bunk mate. When he came to bed a man followed him to see what he had to say. Thomas said, "I have forgotten more about water tha President Young will ever know." The man immediately went to President Young and told all that he had heard. The next morning President Young called Thomas to task and asked if he made that remark. He said, "Of course I did. I was raised on the water and don't know anything else." When President Young got his boat on the water President Kimball said, "It runs nice." Thomas said, "Yes, but when it strikes the current it will go under." he had barely spoken when it struck the current and disappeared. President Young turned to Thomas and said, "My plan has failed, what is yours?" Thomas said, "I shall take six men and go to that grove of timber yonder and get two trees and have them cut caoe fashion and lash them together and by daulight tomorrow we will have a boat to carry us across." President Young said, "Get your men and be off." The men were chosen and when they arrived at the timber there were two trees that would fill the bill. In going to the trees, it was discovered that they were surrounded by rattle snakes. After killig snakes for two hours the men succeeded in getting the trees. They worked all night, and by daylight the boat was in the river. In the mentime a number of emigrants on their way to Oregon had come up and were waitig for the Mormons to build the boat. When it was ready Thomas said, "Bring the heaviest wagon you have here." President Young said, "Hadn't we better run a light wagon first?" Thomas said, "No, bring the heaviest." They brought a prairie schooner with 6000 pounds on it and it went across all right. They then ferried the companies across.
President Young appointed Thomas and others to remain and run the ferry til the water went down. This they did. When the water had receded, the rest of the people had not arrived. Thomas and the other men with him were out of supplies so they went back and all they had in three days was one skunk. They went to an Indian village and to the chief and made their wants known. The chief had two wives, and they had a large kettle of buffalo meat cooking. They placed it before the men and they ate with relish. Thomas said he thought it was the best meal he had ever eaten. The companies came up and they all went to the valley.
The Grover family remained in the fort that winter. As winter was approaching, the Battalion boys were coming in from California. They had no money or provisions, and it was too late in the season for them to return to their families in Winter Quarters. Not many people were able to help feed them. Thomas said, "I will divide with you. Come along with me. We will eat as long as it lasts and when it is gone we will go without." By spring the provisions were gone and they had to depend on roots, wild fowl, and eggs brought to them by the Indians.
Thomas arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October 1847 and was soon appointed to the first Salt Lake High Council.
In the spring of 1848 they moved out to what is now Centerville. In the fall Thomas was sent by the first presidency to California to settle some business for the church pretaining to some saints who went around Cape Horn in the ship Booklyn with Samuel Brannon. He went to Southern Califoria with pack animals and was accompanied by John Porter from Porterville. "While camping in lower California the Indians stole their horses and they had to walk to Sacramento, depending on what game they could find for food. God having been discovered in California, he joined in mining until 1849: when he returned to his family in Salt Lake Valley in connection with Thomas Rhodes, he turned over to the church one hundred lbs. of Gold." (10)
After arriving in Sacramento he settle the business. Meanwhile, gold was discovered. Thomas went to a dealer and ask him for $1000 for thirty days, to buy provisions and tools or mining. The man looked at him for a minute and said, "You can have it." After thirty days he paid the note and bought another supply of provisions. He remained until his health gave out; then went to Sacramento to recuperate preparatory for the trip home.
While he was sitting in a hotel in Sacramento a landloard came to him and said, "You are the man I'm looking for. I will pay you $1000 a month to supervise the building of my hotel." Thomas went to work and remained one month, and then told the landlord he could not stay any loger. The offered to send for his family. Thomas said, "No. There is not enought money in the Sacramento Valley to keep me here." He traveled home in company with some of the men who came on the ship Brooklyn. When they arrive in Salt lake they completed the assignment the church had sent them on. This is a copy from the Deseret News: "At 7 p.m. President Brigham Young, John Taylor, Charles C. Rich and other brthren met at the home of Jedediah m. Grant and received $1,280.00 in coin and $3,000.00 in gold dust as tithing which had been brought in from Amasa M. Lyman and the California Saints by Thomas Grover." (Deseret News, Nov. 30, 1934)
Gold for personal use helped buy 150 cattle in the east that were brought to the Valley. Through this means and his own ingenuity Thomas became prosperous and built a home in Farmington that for years was known as the "Grover Mansion." Dispite his prosperity he never ignored the less fortunate, remembering his own days of poverty.
While Thomas was in California, Lucy and Joel were born. In the spring of 1850 he took his family and went back to Iowa. They located three miles above Council Bluffs on Mesquite Creek. Thomas then went down into Missouri to buy cattle. In the spring of 1853 they started for Salt Lake Valley with the cattle. Some days they had to stop for hours to let the buffalo pass, as they were going to or from water. The party arrived in the valley in August. The cattle were driven onto the range where Hooperville now stands. That year Captain Hooper bought 27 head of oxen and steers for $1000. He paid in twenty dollar gold pieces.
In the spring of 1854 Thomas bought Joel Smith's farm and moved into two log houses. He harvsted the grain that year and then plowed the land in the fall. In February of the next year the weather was warm so he planted his wheat.
This was the year the crickets were so bad. The grain ripened before the crickets had a chance to do much damage. He dug a ditch around other fields and filled it with water to prevent the crickets from devouring the crops. He then walked along the bank, and killed the crickets with switches as they attempted to jump the water. They harvested 700 bushels, and it was a life saver to many. Contention over water rights arose and Thomas sold his land and moved north to Farmington where he built a cabin that was "as bad as out of doors." (9)
That fall when the and cart company came in there were among them Emma and Elizabeth Walker (no relation, however.) Thomas later married them both as plural wifes. They each had six children. During the winter of '55 and '56 Thomas was in the Utah legislature which sat at Fillmore. In the spring of 1856 he commenced to build the big house in Farmington. He gave half the ground for the Farmington meeting house, and fed the men who needed it while they worked on the building. Thomas served three terms in the territorial legislature. He was probate judge of Davis County for three terms, and served on a mission in Salt Lake Valley. When a widow sent her son to Thomas to obtain a needed sack of flour, Thomas refused payment, "I do not sell flour to widows and fatherless children." (12) As the sack was placed in the wagon the young boy drove away in tears.
During the exodus of the Saints to the south from Johnston's Army, the Grover faimly camped on the Provo bottom, near the lake north of the Provo River.
They were among the first to move back after the army had moved south into Cedar Valley, known as Camp Floyd.
A number of times Thomas sent one of his sons onto the range for a beef to give the people of Farmington for the Fourth of July dinner. When Davis Stake was organized he was appointed to the high council, which position he held at the time of his death. In the spring of 1861 when the perpetual emigration fund went back, Thomas sent one yoke of oxen and two wagons each year for as long as teams were sent back for the poor. At the time the Indians drove the mormons from the Salmon River he fitted out a horse and rider with a pack animal and provisions.
An unusual situation reared in December 1863 that led to Thomas being disfellowshipped from the Church "until he makes satisfaction (for)...refusing to pay... a small debt due for school teaching, in wheat, flour or corn." (13) It is assumed that "satisfaction" was made for within the month the First Presidency stayed in his home and dedicated the new Farmington chapel built on a portion of the land he had donated.
He was punctual to the dot in all his appointments. A common saying with him was, "If I were going to be hung, I would go on time." In his creed a debt could never be outlawed.
At age 67 Thomas served a mission to the eastern states, preaching from Illinois to New York before returning to Utah in 1875. In 1887 he became the senior member of the Davis High Council. This assignment ended when he was pursued by deputy marshalls for practicing the doctrine of plural marriage. When a marshall sought his arrest in the "Grover Mansion", Thomas excaimed, ...get me Broth Joseph's sword..and watch while I cut this man's head off!" Of course, the prospect of the sword in the hand of Thomas...a large, powerful, and firm-speaking man...was admittedly frightening. At any rate, the stranger quickly departed..without making his arrest.(14)
Thomas spent his remaining years in the big house at Farmington. One Sunday, Fast meeting, on 16 February 1887 in the Farmington Ward Thomas suddenly raised his hand and said: 'Wait a minute bishop.' Then he added that he could not go home until he had born his testimony that the gospel is true and the Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." (15) Monday he presided over the Davis High Council meeting and return home feeling ill. On Thursday, 20 February he died from pneumonia at Farmington. His daughter eulogized:
My father was loved by all who knew him. He never spoke evil of anyone; he did not boast, and he did not take honor unto himself. many times he has divided his last meal with a sufferer. His words was as good as his bond. He could neither be bought nor sold.(16)
1. Autobiography of Joseph Holbrook, typescript, BYU-S, 69.
2. Mark Grover, "The Life of Thomas Grover, Utah Pioneer," n.p.,n.d.,10.
3. Grover 19-20
4. Patriarchal Blessin in author's possession. As I wrote to the posterity
of those mentioned by name in the D&C, the greatest response came from
the Thomas Grover family.
5. Grover 20.
6. Ibid. 22.
7. This sign is located in the Fort Casper, Wyoming Museam.
8. Ibid. 28.
9. Ibid. 31.
10. Ibid. 32.
11. In later years the building was used to house men who raced their horsesat the Lagoon. It was torn down in 1934.
12. Grover 34.
13. Ibid. 40.
14. Ibid. 43. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave him a sword that is now in the
hall of relics at the State Capital of Utah.
15. Ibid. 44.
16. Andrew Jenson. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Proment Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. SLC, Andres Jenson History Company 1901-35, 4:137.