Charlotte Turley, b. 1840 Nauvoo, Early Years

Pioneer 6
(Artist: Julie Rogers)

Charlotte Turley was born 15 April 1840 in Nauvoo, Illinois, the 9th of 10 children born to Theodore and Frances Turley.   She was described as a child having dark hair and black eyes.  She and her family were neighbors of the Prophet Joseph Smith and as young children and her brothers had the privilege of seeing Joseph and his brother Hyrum and sitting on their laps.

Many distinguished visitors called at Nauvoo during this period of intense activity. In 1843 an English writer described the Mormon community in an article which was widely published: “The city is of great dimensions, laid out in beautiful order; the streets are wide, and cross each other at right angles, which will add greatly to its order and magnificence when finished. The city rises on a gentle incline from the rolling Mississippi, and as you stand near the temple, you may gaze on the picturesque scenery around; at your side is the temple, the wonder of the world; round about, and beneath, you may behold handsome stores, large mansions, and fine cottages, interspersed with varied scenery . . . Peace and harmony reign in the city. The drunkard is scarcely even seen, as in other cities, neither does the awful imprecation or profane oath strike upon your ear; but, while all is storm, and tempest and confusion and confusion abroad respecting the Mormons, all is peace and harmony at home.” (Truth Restored, pp. 73-74.)

Three years later Colonel Thomas L. Kane visited Nauvoo. His description is particularly interesting: “Ascending the upper Mississippi in the autumn, when the waters were low, I was compelled to travel by land past the region of the Rapids . . . My eye wearied to see everywhere sordid, vagabond and idle settlers, a country marred, without being improved, by their careless hands. I was descending the last hillside upon my journey when a landscape in delightful contrast broke upon my view. Half encircled by a bend of the river, a beautiful city lay glittering in the fresh morning sun; its bright, new dwellings, set in cool green gardens, ranging up around a stately dome-shaped hill, which was covered by a noble marble edifice, whose high tapering spire was radiant with white and gold. The city appeared to cover several miles; and beyond it, in the background, there rolled off a fair country, chequered by the careful lines of fruitful husbandry. The unmistakable marks of industry, enterprise and educated wealth everywhere, made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty.” (Ibid., p. 74.)

But these happy and peaceful days of childhood would not last for the Turley children. Tides changed, persecution arose. In 1842 Joseph Smith had prophesied that the Saints would suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains.

Between January 1842, when Theodore Turley became the second polygamist in Nauvoo, and June 1844, more than two dozen of Joseph’s confidants received sealing blessings with their first wives and then married additional wives.

On January 2, 1842, Theodore took a second wife, Mary Clift. She would bear four children. Frances delivered her last child, a baby boy named Jonathan, September 30, 1842. Theodore was married to Mary’s sister, Eliza Clift March 6, 1844.  She had two daughters. A third sister became a wife on April 26, 1844, when Theodore married Sarah Ellen Clift.  She had two sons from a previous marriage and bore three more, each died in infancy.

As the Mormons were driven out of Nauvoo, they fled across the Mississippi River and camped at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. The Turley family left during the cold February of 1846. Provisions were scarce and conditions were harsh. They struggled to survive. On March 4 Sarah Ellen Clift , Theodore’s fourth wife, died.

Then on May 12, 1846 Charlotte’s little three-year-old brother, Jonathan died. Eliza R. Snow wrote the following entry in her journal: “I saw the funeral train following to its wilderness grave a little child of Br. Turley. It was a lonely sight’–my feelings truly sympathize with those who are call’d to leave their dear relatives by the way.”

On August 30, 1847, Charlotte’s dear mother, Frances Amelia Kimberley Turley died at Winter Quarters. Her cause of death was “scurvy.” She was to be joined in death by her daughter and first grandchild, being laid to rest in the same grave . Both daughter and granddaughter were named after Frances. In all, Father Theodore would lose ten members of his beloved family by December of 1848 when young Charlotte was just 8 years old.

Pioneer trail

The Turley family made their way across the plains in the Silas Richards company of 1849. When the pioneers arrived in Salt Lake, President Brigham Young almost immediately instituted his great colonization program.  Before they departed, this census was taken in Utah County.  Charlotte was 10 years old.

1850 US Census Turley Family Utah Co1850 US Census Turley Family Utah Co image1850 US Census Turley Family Utah Co close up

Citation:  “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 April 2016), Utah Territory > Utah > image 50 of 56; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

In the early 1850s the Turley family was sent from Utah to southern California to settle the San Bernardino area–the western-most boundary of the Utah Territory. Brigham Young desired the establishment of a colony on the Pacific coast as an outfitting post where European converts might land instead of New York harbor. This would shorten the journey to the Salt Lake valley by two-thirds. In June 1851, eight to nine hundred Mormons reached the Cajon Pass, and from there they bought food and then, on credit, purchased the Rancho de San Bernardino.

Brigham Young, while speaking at the Bowery on September 26, 1856, referred to Charlotte Turley as an example of the strength and fortitude of pioneer women and the distances they have walked. He said, “Our American women think it strange to advance such an idea as women’s walking, but I will refer you to one individual that many of you know, and that is Sister Turley who now lives in San Bernardino; after working hard all the week she and her husband frequently used to walk twenty or thirty miles on the Sabbath, and attend three meetings.”  Charlotte was a strong and capable young woman who was a hearty match for the difficult times and conditions of her day. She did what needed to be done, and she did it well in spite of inconvenience, discomfort or heartache.

Charlotte married Jacob Bushman 3 March 1857 in San Bernardino.  The following December, on Christmas Day, they started back for Utah.  We do not know many details of the journeys made by Jacob and Charlotte. We do know, however, that it took them about two months to travel from California back to Utah. During this journey Charlotte was heavy with her first child. It was a very hard winter, and there were few, if any, outposts or friendly inhabitants or places of comfort and rest between California and their destination. Jacob simply records that they had a “hard time.”

Charlotte became the mother of 10 children.  Her life was filled with “hard times” but she was true and sure.  I love the epitaph on her headstone:  “Mother, thou wast mild and lovely, gentle as the summer breeze.” 

On this day I remember her, her birth, her life, her example.


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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