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Theodore Turley diary

 File — Folder: 1
Identifier: Vault MSS 129

Scope and Contents

Handwritten diary kept by Turley regarding his missionary experiences for the Mormon Church in the British Isles. Dated September 21, 1839-July 22, 1840.


  • 1839-1840


Conditions Governing Access

Open to the public for research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Theodore Turley diary must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical / Historical

Theodore Turley (1801-1871) was an early Mormon missionary to the British Isles and pioneer in southern California and southern Utah.

Theodore Turley was born on 10 April 1801 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, to William Turley and Elizabeth Yates. At the age of twenty, on 26 November 1821, he married Frances Amelia Kimberly, also of Birmingham. She bore him ten children before her death in 1847 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Around 1826 they emigrated to Canada where Theodore worked as a Methodist preacher. In 1837 Parley P. Pratt visited Theodore and taught him the restored gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he was baptized by Pratt on March 1, 1837.

The following year Theodore moved to Kirtland, Ohio, to live amongst his fellow church members, arriving there on 28 July 1838. He then served on the committee to move the saints to Missouri. In Far West, Missouri, he assisted in laying the cornerstones for the temple that was to have been built there. However, mob persecution in Missouri soon forced the saints to abandon their settlements, and Theodore was influential in assisting the poor church members move to Illinois. After all the saints had been evacuated, he helped establish the community of Nauvoo, Illinois, the next home for the church, building the first house by a Mormon in that community.

In 1839 Theodore was sent on a mission to the British Isles. Despite being extremely ill, he accepted this calling and left his wife and six children for the East Coast to obtain passage to England. On the journey there, he and his companions, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, John Taylor, and Reuben Hedlock, stopped at Kirtland to visit the temple and their old homes. After arriving in Liverpool, England, in January 1840 he attempted to convert friends and relatives in and around his birthplace, but there was much opposition. At the conclusion of his mission he led a group of two hundred English saints back to America aboard the ship "North America," embarking from Liverpool on 8 September 1840. After reaching Buffalo, New York, the group split, half of them settling near Kirtland, and the other half journeying with Theodore to Nauvoo.

In 1842 Theodore married Mary Ann Clift, on 6 March 1844 he married her sister Eliza Clift, and on 26 April 1844 he married a third sister, Sarah Ellen Clift. They bore him four, two, and three children, respectively, but all but three of them died in infancy. Theodore worked as a gunsmith and served in the Nauvoo Legion during this time. In 1846, Theodore moved to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, with his family after the saints had been expelled from Nauvoo. Here he endured great trials as his first wife, Frances, and fourth wife, Sarah, both died in 1847, and his third wife, Eliza, left him with her surviving child. Sarah’s three children and two of Frances’ children also perished here. On 10 July 1849, Theodore, his remaining wife Mary, and six surviving children from his first marriage embarked for Utah in the Silas Richards Company. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in late October 1849.

Theodore lost his second wife, Mary, in March 1850, leaving him with several children to care and provide for. He married Ruth Jane Giles on 18 June 1850 to help raise them, and she bore two children of her own and adopted a third. The Turleys were then called on a settlement mission to San Bernardino, California. There Theodore worked as town assessor as the community was being established. He also supervised efforts to mine gold in the surrounding mountains, and served as school commissioner and treasurer, until the community was called to return to Utah in 1857 during the Utah War.

Theodore settled in southern Utah, living first in Washington, then in Beaver. He remained very active in church affairs, and spoke in conferences of the church on numerous occasions. Theodore Turley passed away at home in Beaver from cancer of the mouth on August 12, 1871.


1 folder (0.05 linear ft.)



Custodial History

Custodial history of item is unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition of item is unknown.


LDS cultural, family, social, intellectual, and religious history (19th Century Mormon and Western manuscripts collection development policy IV.a.i.1, November 2013).

Processing Information

Updated for DACS compliance; Ryan K. Lee; 2016.
Register of Theodore Turley diary
Rose Frank
2011 September 28
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