Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy 166th Birthday, Thomas Grover Junior (1845-1931)!

Gawain's great-grandfather

Thomas Grover Junior is actually Thomas Grover IV in his ancestral line, but is known as “junior” to distinguish him from his prominent father.  
Born to pioneer converts Hannah Tupper and Thomas Grover in Nauvoo shortly before the western exodus, infant Thomas nearly drowned in an accident crossing the Mississippi, but was saved as his sister held him high on her shoulder.  He was the oldest of his mother’s fifteen children but had dozens of half-siblings. As a child in Utah, Thomas once was sad that a neighbor girl would not share her bread, but said to his mother, “Soon our corn will be ripe and then I can have some corn bread.”

During 1850-1853, the Grover family returned east to buy cattle for the Church, and to fetch Hannah's mother. Thomas Junior remembered this journey well (as it comprised several years of his childhood), from the grey wolf who followed their camp for several days until shot by his father, to the endless mass of buffalo herds and the outbreak of cholera.

The Grovers settled in Farmington, Utah, where Thomas helped his father farm and butcher, delivering meat in ten to twenty pound pieces to their neighbors for Sunday or Christmas dinners. He remembered his legs aching so badly from harrowing the wheat that he could not sleep at night. When the grasshoppers came in clouds, Thomas recollected that you could not see the sun for hours at a time.  Thomas drove a team south moving away from Johnston’s Army. At age twelve he was ordained a Seventy by special request. He spent his fifteenth birthday driving a wagon of grain through a terrible snowstorm back from Fort Bridger. The next year the bishop sent him in a group of fifty wagons to rescue a company at the Missouri River. Being one of the two youngest in the group, Thomas remembered it as a jolly trip.

He hauled rock for the temple from Cottonwood Canyon at age sixteen, and one memorable rock weighed eleven thousand pounds. At seventeen, Thomas hauled grain for the stage line. For two weeks in the rain he never had a dry thread of clothing on him, wading creeks with water up to his neck.  They had to cut the sacks of grain open as it had sprouted and was growing through. On another run, wagons of grain tipped into the creek and Thomas had to whip the ox to pull them out.

He had his first and only formal school experience for three months in his late teens, at the same time he was helping his family run a hotel by taking care of the visitors’ horses.  Thomas’ grueling schedule was to wake up at four in the morning, go to a farm a half mile away and feed two hundred sheep, fifty cattle, and twenty horses, eat breakfast, chop wood until school time, at noon chop wood until school time again, at night chop wood until dark, then go to the farm and feed those animals, and get home at eight in the evening (all the wood was needed to burn four fires during the winter, two of them night and day).

Thomas bought his own farm at age nineteen with the thousand dollars his father paid him for staying home and working the family farm over the summer, and consequently was looking for a housekeeper.  He was invited by his friend to join a Christmas party at Daniel Wells’ (no relation), where he thought the friend’s sister “was a young lady who would suit me.” He proposed, and married Elizabeth Heiner just six weeks later.
Thomas and Elizabeth Grover
The young couple was called with ten other families to colonize the Muddy Mission in Nevada, where they faced challenges with the hunger, heat and Indian harassment. Their mules were stolen en route and they were stranded a hundred miles from their destination until help arrived.  Brigham Young visited the area in 1871, and after observing the Grovers’ hardships, sent them back to Utah. There Thomas married Louisa as a plural wife, and the entire family moved to Morgan in 1879, where Elizabeth and her seventh child died shortly after birth.  Thomas was often away from his family for work: hauling lumber, blacksmithing, operating a molasses mill, raising grain and sugarcane, and working as construction foreman of the Colorado railroad.  He also served as a town constable in Nephi, and hauled silver bullion for the railroad.

Before his fortieth birthday, Thomas was called as an ordinance worker for one year in the Logan Temple, and in 1885 he performed 9,090 baptisms. He helped build the Salt Lake Temple. Thomas spent 1901-1904 in Idaho, where he helped build Ricks Academy and other public buildings. He also served as the senior president of the 35th Quorum of the Seventies for twenty-six years.

A decade before his death, Thomas noted, “We have been broken up financially six different times. We have been moved out, and frozen out, and burned out twice, and flooded out, and the last time our farm was washed away by the river overflowing its banks, and it left us with nothing, and still we are alive and have kept the faith.” His character was renowned for integrity and true charity. He was rigidly punctual, conscientious, extremely temperate, and true to every trust. He was very solicitous of others, particularly missionary families. As an integral part of the pioneer world, Thomas was acquainted with most of the prominent men and women of Utah of his time. His daughter Hannah noted that at the end of his life, his hearing was bad, but his memory wonderful. She recalled that Thomas was quieter and milder than his father, and was a gentle man and a courteous gentleman.

I would give him a modern fireplace that can just be switched on and off!

1 comment:

  1. What a life! I'd give him some modern farming equipment to save time and labor.