Death of Mary Clift Turley, wife of Theodore, 30 March 1850, Salt Lake City


Mary Clift and her two sisters, Sarah Ellen and Eliza Georgiana, were plural wives of Theodore Turley.  On 30 March 1850, Mary died, after giving birth to Frances Kimberley Turley on 22 March.  In the Family Memorial below, kept by Theodore Turley, records that she died in Child Bed, or from complications of giving birth.mary-clift-memorialThe Theodore Turley Family Organization recently installed a headstone on her burial site in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, honoring her and Alvin, another of Theodore’s sons.turley-mary-clift-and-alvin-hope

MARY CLIFT TURLEY by Mary Ann Turley Clements

Mary Clift (sometimes listed as Mary Ann Clift) was the daughter of Robert Clift and Elizabeth Cantle. She was born June 16, 1815 in Clifton, Gloucestershire, England. The Clift family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living in Dymock, Worcestershire.

At the age of 25, Mary Clift traveled with a group of 200 British Saints in 1840 to Nauvoo, Illinois. The group was led by Theodore Turley. Family records indicate Theodore married Mary Clift as his first plural wife on January 2, 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. (In 1844, Theodore married Mary’s other two sisters as additional plural wives: Eliza Clift and Sarah Ellen Clift Selwyn.)

Mary Clift’s plural marriage to Theodore Turley is it’s own mystery. Our family history says they were married January 2, 1842, making it the earliest plural marriage outside of Joseph Smith. In August of that year, though, Mary testified before the Nauvoo High Council that she was pregnant with the child of Gustavus Hills. She and another girl both testified that Gustavus had convinced them to sleep with him because of Joseph Smith’s secret teachings about spiritual wives. Gustavus Hills was disfellowshipped as a result of this. Mary’s father, Robert Clift, sued Gustavus Hills in a paternity suit in September, and Gustavus was ordered to pay child support for the first three years of that child’s life. The child, Jason, was born in October, but died a year later.

Theodore identifies the baby as Jason Turley on his family memorial years later, but never gives a date of marriage for Mary Clift, only the later 1846 sealing in Nauvoo. Theodore also took on Mary’s two sisters as plural wives, Sarah Ellen and Eliza, in 1844. Some people suspect he married Mary as well in 1844, and the marriage was backdated in family records to legitimize Jason. (Mary’s next child wasn’t born until 1845.)

When the Saints left Nauvoo in 1846, the Turley family moved with the others to Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Mary’s sister, Eliza Clift, divorced Theodore and moved with her daughter to Davenport, Iowa. Theodore’s other two wives died at Winter Quarters, Frances Amelia Kimberley (his first wife) and Sarah Ellen Clift Selwyn.

By 1848, Mary was left as Theodore’s sole wife to care for the children and her sister’s son from a previous marriage, George Augustus Clift Selwyn. Mary bore three children between their time in Nauvoo and Winter Quarters. All three boys died in infancy: 14-month-old Jason (b. 1842), 5-month-old Ephraim (b. 1845), and 7-month-old Theodoreus (b. 1848).

In 1849, the Turley family traveled to Salt Lake City in the Silas Richards Company. Five months after arriving, Mary gave birth to a baby girl on March 22, 1850. She named her Frances Kimberley Turley, after Theodore’s first wife who died at Winter Quarters.

Mary Clift Turley passed away eight days after giving birth. She was 34 years old. Her daughter, Frances, survived to adulthood, married, and had many children.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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