Mary Bommeli Eyring (1831-1913)

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(This is a bonus chapter excerpt from the eBook Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume 2: 1821-1845.)


Biographical Sketch

Mary Bommeli1 was born in Weingarten, Weinfelden, Thurgau, Switzerland, on March 20, 1831, to Hans Georg and Anna Barbara Ammann Bonelli.2 When Mary was four years old, her mother died from complications of childbirth. The next year, Mary’s father married her mother’s sister, Anna Maria Ammann. Mary, who loved and trusted her aunt, easily adopted her as her stepmother.3

In November 1854, when she was twenty-three, Mary was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.4 Her family was also baptized around the same time. Not long after their baptisms, most of her family members moved to the United States. Mary stayed behind and worked as a weaver, principally in Berlin, to earn her way.5

In 1859, Mary joined a group of Saints in Liverpool on their journey to New York City.6 Upon arriving, Mary found work and by 1860 had earned her passage to St. Louis.7 There she joined a group of Swiss Saints on their journey to the Salt Lake Valley.8 On the way, she met Henry Eyring, a missionary for the Church, who was returning to Utah. Henry and Mary developed a deep friendship as they traveled together.9 In late August 1860, the company arrived in Salt Lake.10 Three and half months later, on December 14, 1860, Henry and Mary were married in Salt Lake City. They then moved to Ogden.11

In March 1862, they moved from Ogden to Salt Lake City. On May 1, their first child, Henry Elias, was born.12 In October, at the recommendation of Brigham Young and for Henry’s health, Henry and Mary moved their family to St. George, arriving in late November.13 They moved temporarily to the town of Washington to earn money ginning cotton but moved back to St. George at the end of January 1863.14

During their early years in St. George, provisions were scarce for the Eyrings. Henry was well-educated but lacked many of the trade skills useful for pioneering.15 He worked at many jobs, but for several years much of the family income came from Mary’s weaving.16 In 1869, a co-op store was started in St. George, and in May 1872 Henry became the manager.17 Henry and Mary were then able to build a comfortable home and provide for themselves and their children.18 They remained in St. George for roughly a quarter century.19 During this time, Mary bore five more children.20

On May 1, 1890, Mary moved with her family to Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to join Henry and his second wife, who had moved there as a result of laws in the United States prohibiting plural marriage.21 Mary remained in Mexico for twenty-two years. On July 31, 1912, during the Madero Revolution in Mexico, Mary reluctantly fled to the United States with the other Saints from the Mexican colonies.22 She went to live with a daughter, Mary Louise, in Ephraim, Utah, where she spent her final days laboring in the Manti temple.23 Mary Bommeli Eyring died of pneumonia on January 19, 1913, in Ephraim, Utah, and was buried three days later in the Ephraim cemetery.24

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1. In the United States, she went by the name Mary Bommeli. Mary is the anglicized spelling of her Swiss name, Maria. She used the spelling Bommeli for her surname, although other family members went by Bonelli. Mary Bommeli Temple Record, book 1, p. 23, private possession; George Bonelli grave marker, Tooele City Cemetery, Tooele, Utah.

2. Henry Eyring, Journal, p. [65], Henry Eyring Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Theresa Snow Hill, “Biographical Sketch: Mary Bommeli Eyring,” Woman’s Exponent 41, no. 6 (March 1913): 42; Thomas C. Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” Instructor 83 (August 1948): 356; Mary Bommeli, Temple Record, book 1, p. 23; Mary Bommeli’s grave marker, Ephraim Park Cemetery, Ephraim, Utah.

3. Theresa Snow Hill, Life and Times of Henry Eyring and Mary Bommeli: A Historical Novel (United States of America: Ken Smith, 2004), 12–13; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42.

4. Eyring, Journal, [65–66]; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 356.

5. Hill, Life and Times, 19–23; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42.

6. Eyring, Journal, [66]; Hill, Life and Times, 23; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 356.

7. Hill, Life and Times, 23–24.

8. Eyring, Journal, [66]; Hill, Life and Times, 24–25; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42. The Swiss Saints were part of an emigrant company captained by Jesse Murphy. “Jesse Murphy Company,” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database, 1847–68, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed July 4, 2012, http://mormontrail.lds.org.

9. Eyring, Journal, [63, 66]; Hill, Life and Times, 25–27; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 356.

10. Eyring, Journal, [63].

11. Eyring, Journal, [65, 67]; Hill, Life and Times, 29; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42.

12. Eyring, Journal, [69–70].

13. Eyring, Journal, [69–71]; Hill, Life and Times, 30–32; “Mary Louise Eyring Thomson (1863–1944),” accessed November 4, 2011, www.bunker.org/meyring.html.

14. Eyring, Journal, [71]; Hill, Life and Times, 30–32.

15. Eyring, Journal, [75–77]; Hill, Life and Times, 31; Henry B. Eyring, “Faith of Our Fathers,” accessed November 4, 2011, http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7911.

16. Eyring, Journal, [72–79]; Hill, Life and Times, 32; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42; “Mary Louise Eyring Thomson (1863–1944).”

17. Eyring, Journal, [79–81]; Hill, Life and Times, 35; Eyring, “Faith of Our Fathers.”

18. Eyring, Journal, [96, 98]; Hill, Life and Times, 35; “Mary Louise Eyring Thomson (1863–1944).”

19. Eyring, Journal, [69–180]; Hill, Life and Times, 25, 31, 51.

20. Eyring, Journal, [74, 77–78, 80, 90]; Hill, Life and Times, 32, 34–36, 38; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 356; “Mary Bommeli (1831–1913),” accessed November 4, 2011, www.turley-eyring.org/MaryBommeli1831–1913.php.

21. Eyring, Journal, [165–67]; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 356; “Mary Louise Eyring Thomson (1863–1944)”; Richard E. Turley, The Diary of Ida Elizabeth Eyring Turley [1874–1952] (Salt Lake City, UT: Richard E. Turley, 1997), 2.

22. Hill, Life and Times, 69; Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42; Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 369; Turley, Diary of Ida Elizabeth Eyring Turley, 4.

23. Romney, “Our Cover Picture,” 369.

24. Hill, “Biographical Sketch,” 42; Mary Bommeli, Temple Record, book 1, 23; “Mary Bommeli (1831–1913)”; Mary Bommeli Eyring’s death certificate, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City; Mary Bommeli Eyring’s grave marker.

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