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Coray family papers

Identifier: MSS 1422

Scope and Contents

Contents includes correspondence, journals, autobiographical and biographical sketches, pertaining to the lives of Howard Coray his wife Martha Jane Knowlton Coray and members of the Coray family. Contents deal with the Coray family’s dealing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their family history, and their finances.


  • 1843-1965


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Coray family papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

The Coray family (1817-1965) were early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Coray family begins with Howard Coray when he heard a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak and was baptized the next day, March 25, 1840. A week later he set out for Nauvoo to meet Joseph Smith, where he was asked by the Smith to assist him as a clerk. Within two weeks he was busily engaged in copying correspondence, and then was asked to assist in the compilation of a history of the Church. Later he met Martha Jane Knowlton and they married on February 6, 1841. Since then descendants of the Coray family have been involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Biographical History

Howard Coray was born on May 6, 1817, in Dansville, New York, to Silas Coray and Mary Stephens. He moved to Illinois in January 1839, and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in March 1840. He moved to Nauvoo a month later and worked as a clerk for Joseph Smith and helped compile church history. While in Hancock County, Illinois, he and Martha Jane Knowlton met and were married on February 6, 1841. A year later he served a mission to Pennsylvania from November 1842 to November 1843. He and his wife helped Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet's mother, write her history of Joseph Smith. He and his family immigrated to the west with the Saints and arrived in Salt Lake City in the spring of 1850. He served another mission to Virginia from 1882 to 1883. Coray died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 16, 1908.

Biographical History

Martha Jane Knowlton was born on June 3, 1821 or 1822, in Covington, Kentucky to Sidney Algernon Knowlton and Harriett Burnham. She joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 1840 and married Howard Coray on February 6, 1841. Martha Coray became a scribe for the history of Joseph Smith by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. After their marriage, Martha and Howard taught school together. They had twelve children. Martha Jane and her family reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1850 with the John Sharp Company. The Coray family lived in Salt Lake City for four years, until they moved to Tooele, Utah. In 1856, Martha Jane and her family moved to Provo, Utah, then they moved to Mona, Utah to homestead a tract of land, although they kept their home in Provo. In October 1875, Martha Jane was selected by Brigham Young to serve as the first woman trustee for the Board of Directors of Brigham Young Academy. She served as trustee from 1875 until her death in 1881. Martha Jane was also appointed the first dean of students at Brigham Young Academy. She was the secretary of the first Relief Society organized in Salt Lake City, and wrote for the "Woman’s Exponent." Martha Jane also contributed greatly to the preservation of the history of the LDS Church, including preserving notes from sermons of Joseph Smith, which church historian Wilford Woodruff consulted when compiling a history of the Church. She also acted as scribe for the history of Joseph Smith as dictated by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Martha Jane Knowlton Coray died on December 14, 1881, in Provo, Utah and is buried in the Provo City Cemetery.

Biographical History

Howard Knowlton Coray was the first son of Howard and Martha Coray Howard Knowlton Coray. He was born on April 10, 1842, in Van Buren County, Iowa. He grew up in Utah and served a mission for the Church to the southern states from 1867 to 1869. He married Mary Elizabeth Lusk on September 15, 1872. He was a farmer and stock raiser until he became an invalid and was cared for by his daughter, Edna. He died on October 28, 1928.


9 boxes (4.5 linear ft.)

1 oversize box (1 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

Some materials are gifts of Jennie N. Weeks, 1978, 1980.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Parts donated; Jennie N. Weeks; 1978, 1980.


19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.

Related Materials

Photographs transferred to Photoarchives (MSS P 119).

Register of Coray family papers
Andrea Wyss
2011 March 9
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States