Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy 182nd Birthday, Annie Thorne Wells (1829-1902)!

Gawain's great-grandmother
Ann (called Annie) was raised in England as the illegitimate daughter of a working-class spinster. Along with her uncles and cousins, she and her mother Jane converted and came to America. Annie and Jane crossed the plains in the same company as Marjorie Hinckley’s grandmother Mary Goble Pay, who remembered Annie in a letter years later as “Anna, the wife of Bishop Wells of Spanish Fork.” This company suffered greatly due to the lateness of the season in which they traveled and the harsh weather.

Annie's signature and page she wrote in a journal

In Utah, Jane was sealed as a fourth wife to the baker Richard Golightly, who adopted adult Annie and was sealed to her as her father.  Richard probably crossed the plains in the same group as Stephen Wells.  Annie had several other connections with her future husband: her uncle traveled in Stephen’s wagon company, Annie had attended the same Paddington Branch (after Stephen left for America, but she probably knew his mother and sister there), and he was married to her cousin Mary Ann.  Although Mary Ann was thirteen years older than Annie, the two looked very similar.
Annie on the left--and the big mystery,
who is in that picture she's holding?

Annie married Stephen Robert Wells as his second wife, and the Wells family settled in Spanish Fork, where they had their first three children. Stephen was then called to take his family to settle in Dixie and they raised their family in St. George. They even named their first son born there after the city itself. Their son Samuel became quite prominent, and their daughter Ann Eliza was the plural wife of J.D.T. McAllister and accompanied him when he became president of the Manti Temple. Nevertheless, Annie must have mourned the deaths of her teenage son Brigham and her toddlers Ezra and Edith in the early Dixie years.

In their later years, Annie and Stephen worked together in the St. George Temple and were remembered for being always faithful and efficient. As an aged widow, Annie went blind and needed much care. Her son Saint George and his family moved in and took care of her for twelve years. One day, she was standing in front of their open fireplace and reached up to get something from the mantle.  As she did so, her dress caught fire and the flames quickly flared up and burned her face badly. She died shortly thereafter.

Annie with her sons (St. George on the left)
I would give her some jewelry--it looks like she enjoys wearing accessories!


  1. I'd give her a seeing-eye dog to keep her company and lead her around.

  2. Our family comes through Mary Ann Lowe, Stephen's other wife. We have that same picture (top) passing around our family and labeled as Mary Ann. But looking at these other pictures, I think we might be wrong. Do you think the woman on the left (family portrait) is Mary Ann?

    1. This is Robert E Wells and wife Helen writing. We think Mary Ann is on the right and Annie Thorne is on the left.

  3. Just one more note: Stephen Robert Wells is my husband's GGG Grandfather (through Mary Ann Lowe); Richard Golightly is my GGG Grandfather (through Isabella). Annie and Jane Thorne are fun connection between our two families. Thanks for helping me to discover this!

  4. Hi cousin! [Gavain was my school mate and relation] The big mystery is that woman in the photos. In my mom's photo album we have an original photo of the woman at the top of the page which Mom wrote next to the photo is her great grandmother Wells. Her great grandmother Wells is Mary Ann Lowe Wells. I personally think that the woman on the right side of Stephan in the second photo is Annie Thorne.[ I know at least that they aren't the same person!] I also think the woman standing is Stephen and Mary Ann's daughter Mary Esther.

  5. Hi Peggy! Yes, I'm pretty confident Annie is seated on Stephen's right (our left) and Mary Ann is on his left. You can see their family resemblance, being cousins!

  6. Annie's journal entry is from a Byron poem: 1

    Nay, smile not at my sullen brow;
    Alas! I cannot smile again:
    Yet Heaven avert that ever thou
    Should weep, and haply weep in vain.


    And dost thou ask, what secret woe
    I bear, corroding joy and youth?
    And wilt thou vainly seek to know
    A pang, ev'n thou must fail to soothe?


    It is not love, it is not hate,
    Nor low Ambition's honours lost,
    That bids me loathe my present state,
    And fly from all I prized the most:


    It is that weariness which springs,
    From all I meet, or hear, or see:
    To me no pleasure Beauty brings;
    Thine eyes have scarce a charm for me.


    It is that settled, ceaseless gloom
    The fabled Hebrew wanderer bore;
    That will not look beyond the tomb,
    But cannot hope for rest before.


    What Exile from himself can flee?
    To zones, though more and more remote,
    Still, still pursues, where'er I be,
    The blight of life -- the demon Thought.


    Yet others rapt in pleasure seem,
    And taste of all that I forsake;
    Oh! may they still of transport dream,
    And ne'er, at least like me, awake!


    Through many a clime 'tis mine to go,
    With many a retrospection curst;
    And all my solace is to know,
    Whate'er betides, I've known the worst.


    What is that worst? Nay, do not ask --
    In pity from the search forbear:
    Smile on -- nor venture to unmask
    Man's heart, and view the Hell that's there.'


  7. Annie Thorne is my great-great grandmother. I did not know this history until just now! Wow! Thank you! I saw her name as a survivor of the Martin or Willie Handcart company at the end the movie "Ephraim's Rescue". It caused me to look at my family tree and then I looked up her name and came across this. Wow!

  8. When I saw the movie "Ephraim's Rescue" was when I knew my great grandmother Annie Thorne Wells was rescued along with the Martin and Willie Handcart companies and those in the Hunt Wagon Company gave up their space in the wagons to help the handcart pioneers get to Utah. My grandmother Ann Eliza Wells McAllister wrote this on her application for Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Here is a link putting Annie Thorne in the John Hunt Company: http://history.lds.org/overlandtravels/pioneerDetail?lang=eng&pioneerId=54341