Back left to right: Esther, Ernest, Edward, Frances. Front left to right: Isaac Jr., Clara Ann Tolton, Anna Priscilla, Isaac, Nellie.
Written by her son, Isaac Turley, Jr., and assisted by his daughter, Viola Turley Haws. This document was provided by Ella Mae Turley Judd.Clara Ann Tolton, daughter of Edward and Mary Ann Tomlinson Tolton, was born on April 13, 1852, at Monticello, Madison County, Illinois. Her paternal grandparents were John Tolton and Ann Smith. Her maternal grandparents were James Tomlinson and Esther Walker.
John Tolton and Ann Smith left England on September 15, 1842 and arrived at New Orleans the following November, with their family of four daughters, Maria, Hannah, Frances and Mercy, and two sons, Edward and John. Two of the daughters, Hannah and Maria, accepted the Gospel in England in 1841 and decided to come to Zion. A spirit of unrest pervaded the family, and all began preparing for the trip to America so the family could stay together. John, the father, was a Baptist Minister until the Mormon Elders brought the Restored Gospel, and finally baptized him and his wife, Ann, in 1851, near St. Louis, Missouri.
James Tomlinson and Esther Walker were also born in England, but were among those who accepted the Gospel in the Mother Country. They arrived in New Orleans on December 25, 1842 in the Parley P. Pratt Company, and went by steamboat to St. Louis, Missouri, and on to Alton, Illinois. While working in St. Louis, Mary Ann took a trip home to visit her family in Alton, where she met Edward Tolton, and in time the young couple fell in love, and they were married on December 24, 1847. Edward and Mary Ann became the parents of fourteen children, eight of whom lived to marry. Clara Ann was the third child born to her parents.
In 1853, when Clara Ann was about one year old, the St. Louis Company, consisting of fourteen wagons, was commanded by her grandfather, John Tolton, until it reached Council Bluffs, where they joined the main company bound for Utah, under the leadership of Moses Clawson, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on September 18, 1853.
At the General Conference of the Church, on October 6, 1853, the Toltons were called to settle Tooele, which was presided over by Ezra T. Benson. Here they stayed until March 1857, when the “Grasshopper War” reduced many to poverty and want, and, no doubt, caused many deaths.
Apparently, the Toltons went from Tooele to Grantsville, for in the Fall of 1857 a Call came from President Brigham Young for them to help settle Willard, in Box Elder County. While at Grantsville, food was scarce, and they had to eat a great many greens. Their only cow died, so they had no milk. Clara Ann’s father was working in the quarry, getting rock for the Salt Lake Temple, so they moved back to Salt Lake City and stayed there until their move south.
In response to this Call, John Tolton (probably Edward, also) spent the Fall and Winter of 1857-58 in building a log house at Willard, and in clearing ten acres of land preparatory to Spring planting. John disposed of his small holdings in Grantsville early in March of 1868, and they began the trek to their new home. Imagine their surprise, at April Conference, to learn that their anticipated destination had been changed. At the end of the conference, they were to move to San Pete County and help colonize that area, and disregard the Call to Willard. The spirit of obedience to Authority had at all times characterized the lives of John Tolton and his son, Edward, and many were the sacrifices and blessings because of this.
In April of 1858, the Toltons moved to Ephraim, San Pete County. Indian depredations from hostile tribes were frequent, but trusting a Divine Providence to protect them, these brave souls endured many dangers, here, for about eight years. While in Ephraim, Edward had the opportunity to use his talents as a skilled cellist in the orchestra. Apparently, John Tolton’s children, with their families, except Mercy and her husband, Richard Gill, remained together in the Calls of the Church, and their wanderings in Utah until John’s death in Circleville.
In the early part of 1864, the Toltons were called by President Young to settle Circle Valley, or Circleville, on the Sevier River in Piute County, Utah, and early Spring found them moved. Clara Ann was now twelve years old. (Later in her life, she often related frightening experiences of wolves snapping at her heels, and of her terrible fear of Indians, as she went out to round up the cows and other animals in the evenings along the Sevier River.) Edward, her father, had been appointed Probate Judge under the seal of Governor Steven D. Harding, and officially became head of the Colony of thirty families. A fort was built, crops planted and a thriving community founded with a block house in the center for worship and also for protection for the women and children in the event of Indian invasion. Circleville grew and prospered for about two years before Indian hostilities began, and the Blackhawk War broke out, compelling them to build a fort. John Tolton was never a robust man, and hardships of pioneer life proved too much for him, causing his death in 1864, at 75 years of age. He was a man of high ideals, honest, upright in all of his dealings, full of integrity, and devoted to the Gospel which he had espoused.
Soon after this, Edward narrowly escaped death from Blackhawk and some of his followers. His oxen caught the scent of Indians. He unhitched them, and taking the tail of an ox in each hand, made haste for home.
Later, the Toltons, numbering eleven souls, hurriedly left Circleville with but little of their earthly possessions. Upon arriving in Beaver, Clara Ann’s father was sick for a year, and her mother had a bad case of erysipelas, and gave birth to a little girl. Indians stole their oxen after arriving, and for two years they moved from one home to another where charity invited them. Edward was finally able to secure a lot, and dug a cellar for their protection. In August 1868, shortly after Clara Ann’s family had moved into the “cellar,” their first-owned home in Beaver, a cloudburst drove them out, and they took refuge in the home of a neighbor where they remained for a week. All of their earthly possessions, such as books, valuable papers, etc., for their family of ten or twelve, were ruined or badly damaged, as well as newly-threshed grain, food-stuff, their meager clothing, beds, etc.
All work was done in a most primitive fashion as late as 1875: grain was cut with a cradle, raked and bound into bundles by hand, threshed with a flail, and hay was cut with a scythe. Tallow candles for many years were their only means of illumination until the kerosene lamp came to precede electricity.
Edward liked to read in the evenings after his day of hard work. Before retiring, family prayer was a daily practice. Edward was a strict disciplinarian and took life very seriously, as his children learned to do, also. A lamp which he was carrying exploded, burning him severely, and he died in great agony from the effects a short time later, in October 1896, in Beaver, where Mary Ann also passed away on February 19, 1914.
With this brief background of her parentage, let us look a little closer into the happenings that made up the life of Clara Ann Tolton Turley.
There is not a great deal known of Clara Ann’s childhood and young adulthood, except that she moved with her parents and brothers and sisters wherever her father was called to settle, and also her great fear of the wild animals and the Indians, as they sought to invade the camps and settlements of the pioneers.
Isaac Turley, Sr., the son of Frances Amelia Kimberley and Theodore Turley, and his wife, Sarah Greenwood Turley, had moved from Minersville, Utah, and had finally settled in Beaver by August 1864. Isaac and Clara Ann became acquainted, and were married and sealed in the Endowment House on October 4, 1867–the same day Isaac and his first wife, Sarah Greenwood, were sealed. They lived in Beaver City about ten years. Clara Ann’s home was a brick house located two blocks from the Public Square, near the Public School House.
At October Conference 1876, Isaac was called by Brigham Young to help colonize in Arizona. Clara Ann and her children remained in Beaver, while Isaac and Sarah and their children went to Arizona in the Daniel W. Jones Company. His name [Isaac’s], also those of Sarah and their children, are set in a bronze plaque, along with the other early white settlers in their Company, in the southwest corner by the LDS Chapel, in Lehi, Arizona, where they stopped the first night when they arrived in the Salt River Valley. Isaac pitched his tent in that spot, and he and his boys helped in clearing land and digging out the ancient Indian canal, which was to be their means of irrigation.
It must have been a trying time for Isaac to leave Clara Ann, and for her to be left, which some excerpts from a letter written to her, by him, indicates: “Dear Clara, . . . may God bless you and your children, is my constant prayer. Clara, you must not forget to pray, for it is a trying time, and we must keep the channel of the Gospel [open] or we are on slippery ground. I feel well in the truth of the Living God. I have had a great many trials since I left Beaver, but I am determined to prove myself true to God and His commandments . . . . We are living in the United Order, but we have our families to themselves . . . I think of you every day, so don’t get the blues. . . . Yours forever, Isaac Turley to Clara A. Turley and children.”
Due to the heat of the desert at Jonesville (or Lehi), and Sarah’s health, Isaac returned to Utah in September, and explained their circumstances to President John Taylor, President of the Church following the death of Brigham Young. Isaac was released from his Mission with the Jones Company, and was called to go into the United Order at Joseph City, Arizona, on the Little Colorado River.
Leaving Salt Lake City on his way south, Isaac went by Beaver City, where he had left Clara Ann and her family. They sold their homes, and left with three large new wagons loaded with flour and provisions, one light spring wagon, and many head of cattle and horses, which their eight-year-old son, Edward, helped to drive. It must have been difficult for them to leave Clara’s parents and brothers and sisters, who by now had become well established in Beaver. It was there, also, that Isaac’s father, Theodore Turley, had suffered, and died of cancer of the mouth. So, they had had many ties to that region.
Isaac and others were to drive the large wagons, and he had arranged for a man to drive the light wagon–but due to illness in the man’s family, he was not able to go. Thus, as a “last minute” necessity, Clara had to drive the wagon. She and her three small daughters and two and one-half-year-old son, Ernest, were the only occupants of the light wagon; Esther, being six-and-one-half, Frances, four, and little Ida May not yet a year old.
As Isaac and Clara were preparing for the journey, it was apparent that little Ida May was not feeling very well, but they felt sure that when she got settled and comfortable in the wagon, she would rest and feel better.
As, day after day they traveled, little Ida May’s condition did not seem to improve. In fact, she seemed to be growing weaker. Clara stopped whenever possible along the way to feed and care for her sick baby. Tears of anxiety welled up in her eyes, as she attempted to give the baby the attention and care that she needed, and yet, not to slow their speed of travel.
They and the Gail family had left Beaver late in the season, and the cold of winter would too soon be upon them. Nights and early mornings were already getting cold. Danger of Indian attacks was an ever present threat to them whenever they built campfires with which to cook their food and to warm themselves.
The weary travelers arrived early in the evening at the rim of the great Buckskin Mountain. Their hearts grew faint as they scanned the narrow, rocky dugway down which they must travel the next day. That evening, Isaac checked the brakes on the wagons and tightened the loads, preparatory to the hazardous drive down the grade. Little Ida May was fretful and restless. Her weak cries wrenched the hearts of Clara Ann and Isaac. “Oh, if I could be in our home back in Beaver, our baby would be more comfortable, and I could care for her better!” thought Clara Ann, sighing in desperation.
The night was long, and full of anxiety. Snatches of restless slumber marked the dismal hours until dawn. Little Ida May’s condition had worsened somewhat, but they must press forward on their journey before storms and cold set in, to make their journey even more hazardous.
Isaac gave instructions to the drivers to brake the wagons all the way down the mountain, and to drive with the greatest of care. After bowing in prayer, asking for the Lord’s protection, and a special blessing of recovery to be upon little Ida May according to the Lord’s will, they made their final preparations to travel on. Clara Ann held her sick baby close, reluctant to entrust her to the arms of six-and-one-half-year-old Esther, in the bottom of the wagon box. She braced herself then, aware that she must face the rugged narrow dugway knowing that the safety of her small children depended upon her ability to manage the team as they would wend their way down the steep grade. Clara Ann turned in the wagon seat, for one more tender look at her precious baby, then with instructions to Esther, to hold the baby carefully and keep her covered, she picked up the reins and turned her wagon to take its place in the caravan.
All went well for awhile. Then, little by little, the grade became more steep. At times, it appeared that none of the wagons could stay on the narrow road, which was not much more than a trail, strewn with boulders. Clara Ann could look straight down to the bottom of the deep canyon below. It was breath-taking! She constantly held the brake-rope with all her might with one hand, and the reins with the other. She had to give full attention to her driving, but amid all of this, was her constant concern and worry for her sick baby!
At the height of Clara Ann’s anxiety–when she felt she could not go on, Esther cried out from the bottom of the wagon box, “Oh, Ma! Little Ida May looks like she is–is dying!”. . . Now, she isn’t breathing!”. . . She’s dying . . . I know she is!”
Clara Ann could neither stop the wagon, nor look back! She could only cry out in desperation from her driver’s seat, “Oh, Father, hold her tight! Make her comfortable! I can’t look back! We will be at the bottom of the mountain before long. Oh! My baby! My baby!” Clara sobbed, still trying with every ounce of her energy to keep her attention on managing the team and wagon.
The road seemed interminable! By early evening, they finally came to the bottom of Buckskin Mountain, where Clara Ann could pull the reins and stop the wagon. When she looked back at her baby, it was, indeed, evident that her precious little Ida May had passed out of this life! Tearfully, she called Isaac to come and see!
That night, the sad and weary travelers moved slowly about their camp. Clara Ann and sister Gail sat up all night in the covered wagon, preparing the baby’s body for burial the next morning by the side of the road. With the light of only a dim candle for fear of Indians seeing the wagon lit up with a brighter light, they emptied the “grub-box” of the food they had packed into it for the journey, and prepared it as a coffin, or casket, in which to lay little Ida May. During the night, the wolves kept up a constant weird howl around the wagon, which deepened Clara Ann’s grief, as they seemed to be hungry, and waiting for prey.
The next morning, Isaac dug a grave there at the foot of Buckskin Mountain. They laid little Ida May’s body to rest, and prayed that it would not be molested by beast, man or the elements. Clara Ann and Isaac never again, in this life, saw that hallowed spot. (Their son, Isaac, Jr., stopped years later at that isolated area and found the lonely grave . . . which was not quite so lonely now, as two more graves had been added nearby, perhaps by other weary travelers.)
The men [who] were sent to get some water for the camp the night they arrived at the foot of Buckskin Mountain, were gone all night. [They] had traveled ten miles, and returned with only enough to fill a two-gallon keg.
That morning, while breakfast was being prepared, four-year-old Frances was kicked by a horse on the side of the head, splitting her ear and causing it to bleed profusely. For a while it was feared that they would lose another child. After administration by the Priesthood, and applying soft pine gum to the wound, she rallied and continued to improve until she was well. Even in her grief, Clara Ann had to drive her team and continue her usual duties as they drove on to House Rock Springs, then to a spring called Jacob’s Pool, and on to Lee’s Ferry.
At John D. Lee’s Ferry on the Big Colorado River, they crossed on a large, flat boat. The cattle and horses had to swim the river. A man had been hired to drive the light wagon, so Clara Ann was relieved from duty from that day. After crossing the river, they started up-grade to the top of the dugway. The climb out of the river area was very steep, and they had to double up with teams to pull out and over “Lee’s Backbone,” where the canyon was a mile deep. The ordeal of getting over “Lee’s Backbone” was a “hair-raiser” for this group as well as the hundreds that had had the same experience. The hoof-prints of eight-year-old Edward’s horse were very close to the edge of the dugway, and Clara Ann thought each print would be the last one she would see; but finally, they caught up with the men and her small son. What a relief to know he was all right!
On they traveled to Navajo Springs, then to Bitter Springs, on Christmas Day, 1877, and on down the Moen Copie Road to the Little Colorado, which was frozen over. They had to cut holes in the ice to get water, and it was the coldest time many of them had ever known! They went on up the river to Sunset Camp where Lot Smith and his people were living the United Order. They spent New Year’s Day there, in 1878, and ate around one big table. They went up the Little Colorado twenty miles east of Sunset, and located near St. Joseph, or Joseph City.
They reached Joseph City on January 9, 1878, the day Esther was seven years old. Isaac had 100 pounds of white flour for every family in the Fort, and they were grateful for it, as they had been living on corn meal for so long. All three settlements were organized into the United Order, with Sunset and Brigham City eating at one big table, but those at Joseph City ate in their own homes. By setting cottonwood logs up on their ends, houses were built for the new families coming in. After getting Clara Ann’s family settled, Isaac left for Jonesville, or Salt River Valley, to get Sarah and her boys. When he returned, he put all of his property into the Order, did blacksmithing for the Company, and he and his sons (together with Henry Tanner) also looked after cattle and horses for the Company.
Clara Ann, in her later years, related her feelings after turning her beautiful china in to the United Order. She felt fine about it, until she happened to see it on the table of one of the leaders of the Order. She occasionally remarked that that was truly a trial of her faith! But, she would change the subject to a more positive phase of the Order, and express her testimony, and her great desire to be obedient to those in authority.
Clara Ann took her turn with the other women doing chores, such as gathering and dividing eggs equally, according to the number in each family, caring for the milk, etc. She spent part of each summer in the dairy in the mountains, making cheese and butter, and cooking for the men who worked there. Clara Ann said she was never happier in her life than while working and living in the “Order.” At Joseph City, the water was very muddy. They had to haul it from the river in large wooden tanks, and let it settle for home use.
The United Order in that area was discontinued after about three years. On May 7, 1881, Isaac and his families moved 45 miles away, to Snowflake, where he bought three city lots: one for each family and one for a blacksmith shop.
In about 1884, the men in that area were persecuted for living plural marriage, so Isaac decided to go to Old Mexico and look the country over. Which he did, and returned in September.In the Spring of 1885, Isaac took Sarah and her family (except Theodore “Teed” and his family and Alma and William), with some of his cattle and horses, and left for Mexico. They settled at Corralitos Ranch. Here, along with James Gail and others, he planted and harvested a crop. Later, they moved to an area which they called “Turley’s Camp,” or San Jose, across the river, west of what is now Colonia Dublan. Later, they found a more satisfactory place to settle, which was on the San Diego Ranch, on the Verde River.
Late in the Fall of 1886, Isaac returned to Snowflake to get Clara Ann and her family. On their way to Mexico, Indians were on the war path along their route until they reached Dog Springs, New Mexico. The Black River was very high, and they lost some of their furniture while crossing it. At about the time they reached the border, Isaac had a very uneasy feeling about Sarah. He traveled on ahead on horse-back to see what could be wrong. He arrived at their settlement just in time to see the people returning home from the cemetery, where they had just buried Sarah. She had become ill during his absence, and passed away on January 13, 1887. John, her baby, was 21 months old, and had been cared for a great deal by his older brother, Hyrum, who continued to care for him most of the time until the Fall of 1887, when his [older] brother, Alma, took him to Snowflake where he was raised by his eldest brother, “Teed,” and his wife, Mary Flake Turley. Clara Ann had her own large family to care for, and it was felt that Teed would be the most logical person to care for him.
Later, it was discovered that the Saints [in Mexico] had settled on some of the San Diego property that belonged to Don Luis Terrazas, so they had to move up the river three miles, to a location which is known now as Colonia Juarez–named for Benito Juarez, the Republic’s founding father. Isaac and other settlers surveyed and laid off the blocks, and selected their lots. He and his sons, and the Judds, Johnsons and others went up the San Diego Canyon and built a dugway over the top of the mountain, where they built a saw mill to produce lumber with which to build their homes. Isaac and Clara Ann’s home was one of the first to be built in Colonia Juarez. It consisted of one room, with a lean-to, both of which were of lumber. Their son, Isaac Jr., was among the first to be born in the Colony, the date being April 11, 1888, shortly after they moved into that home. It was only a temporary home for them, while the family built a three-room adobe home, to which, soon afterward, was added a brick room, to serve as their kitchen. It was a credit to the town, and quite a contrast to the dug-outs on the riverbank, the wagon boxes, and the stockade homes at Corralitos, Turley’s Camp, and the San Diego Ranch.
After Sarah’s death, Clara Ann and her three daughters cared for the two families, except little John, who had been sent to live with Teed in Snowflake. It made a very large family for which to cook, wash, iron and mend, but each child tried to do his share. Isaac’s children by both wives were taught to work. There were no drones around their homes; both wives were frugal, and hard-working.
At Thanksgiving time in 1908, Isaac suddenly became ill. Nothing seemed to relieve his condition. He gradually became worse, until his death on the night of December 3, 1908 in their home in Colonia Juarez, at the age of 71. He was buried the next day beside Sarah, in the town cemetery, southwest of town.
The Mexican Revolution began in 1910. By 1912, the Stake President, Junius Romney, thought it best for the Mormon people to leave their homes and go into the United States for safety. The Exodus of the Saints from Mexico was a heart-rending event. They left their prosperous farms, their well-made homes, and in fact, almost everything they owned, to the mercy of the soldiers, bandits and local natives. It must be said, however, that after their sojourn in the United States, the Saints that returned later to their homes in Mexico found them in surprisingly good condition. There had been very little plundering by local people.
Sarah’s children who left Mexico at the time of the Exodus went to the Joseph City and Woodruff, Arizona areas. Clara Ann’s children scattered to several places, such as St. George, Utah; El Paso, Texas; [the] Salt River Valley, Chandler and Miami, Arizona areas.
Clara Ann went to Beaver, Utah (her old home town), where she stayed during one Winter with her son, Isaac, and family, who had also left Mexico at the time of the Exodus and Revolution in Mexico. While in Beaver, she was privileged once again to enjoy the association of her mother, who was living at that time with one of Clara Ann’s brothers. The following year, she moved with Isaac and his family to St. George, where she remained with them for two years. During that time, she did endowment work at the Temple for 105 people. From there she went to Miami, Arizona, to visit her daughter Nellie and family, until September 1915, when she returned to Colonia Juarez to stay with her son Edward and his family.
The Mexicans were still having political revolutions during this time, and though the Mormons who had returned to their homes in the Colonies in Mexico tried to stay neutral, they had many troubles, heartaches and much loss of property. In the Summer of 1915, and later, Mexican soldiers had been like swarms of bees camped along the river and the roads in some of the colonies, and the Saints suffered many injustices and fears. But through all of those troublesome times, many were the blessings of protection by our Heavenly Father to the Saints in the Mormon Colonies.
Clara Ann endured those times of uncertainty with faith and courage. She was a wonderful mother, and was very loyal to her family. She had twelve children, seven girls and five boys; namely, Edward, Esther, Frances, Ernest, Ida May, Mary Ann, Clara Ellen (“Nellie”), Moroni, Rachel, Isaac, Walter and Anna Priscilla. Besides Ida May, who died on Buckskin Mountain, they buried four other children at very early ages: Mary Ann, one year old, passed away in Joseph City, Arizona, in 1880; Moroni, at two years of age, died in Snowflake in 1885; Rachael died at age four in Colonia Juarez on October 7, 1889; and Walter died at five months of age in Colonia Juarez, in 1891. Clara Ann and Isaac raised seven children to maturity. Sarah, Isaac’s first wife, [also] had twelve children. Some of them, also, died at early ages. The children in those two families, who grew to maturity and have families of their own, raised good, strong families. Many prominent Church leaders, such as Mission Presidents, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Relief Society Presidents, and missionaries, have come from the posterity of Isaac Turley and his two wives, Clara Ann and Sarah.
Clara Ann was a very cheerful person, who enjoyed young people. She liked to step-dance, and was very good at it. She won prizes for her ability to step-dance, even when she was in her 80’s. She was a faithful Latter-day Saint, even paying her tithing while on her death-bed. She left a worthy example for her posterity to follow. She was a strict observer of the Word of Wisdom. In her illnesses, whenever she was advised to drink a cup of tea or coffee, she emphatically refused it, saying, “I have covenanted with the Lord that I would never touch tea nor coffee, nor any other strong drink!”Clara Ann spent the last fifteen years of her life in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, living, alternately, with her four children who resided there, namely, Edward, Frances, Ernest and Isaac, and their families. Her health was poor the last few years of her life, most of which time was spent with Isaac and his wife, Ida Mae, in the old family home, where she passed away in the evening of September 4, 1932, in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Ida Mae, having been trained in nursing, gave her much good care, for which Clara Ann often expressed her appreciation. She was buried the day following her death, beside her husband, Isaac, and Sarah, in the town cemetery.
No sacrifice was too great for Clara Ann to endure for the sake of the Gospel. She bravely faced the hostile wilderness over mountains, and deserts, and raised her family in a strange land, for the sake of religious ideals.
May a spark of her greatness, which lies within each of us, her numerous posterity, kindle the flame of righteous works, that her sacrifices will not have been in vain.