Martha Pane Jones was born February 20, 1808, in Sumner County, Tennessee, where her family lived on the western frontier of a rapidly growing nation.1 Martha’s parents, Isaac and Polly Oglesbye Jones, died while she was young, leaving Martha and her three younger brothers in the care of an uncle, William Jones. Just before her eighteenth birthday, Martha married Daniel Stillwell Thomas. Their first child, Morgan, was born in December 1826, and the following year the young family moved to Kentucky. There Martha and her husband heard about Joseph Smith from the young missionary Wilford Woodruff.
Martha and her husband joined the Latter-day Saints in 1835. They wanted to gather with the Saints in Missouri but felt they could not do so until they had made all necessary preparations. After much anticipation, the Thomases sold their property and were finally able to move to the Far West area of Missouri in February 1837.2
Daniel’s brother, Henry, joined them in Missouri, and the two families enjoyed a prosperous first year bringing in a good harvest. Their peace was short lived, however, and Daniel was enlisted to join the Saints in their efforts to protect their community from the increasingly violent actions of the mob. Daniel was at the Battle of Crooked River and later was one of the first required to sign over his property to make reparations. Forced to abandon their property, Martha and her family left Missouri on February 14, 1839, making the trek while Martha was eight months pregnant.
The family arrived in Quincy, Illinois, near where Martha soon gave birth to her sixth child, a son they named after the Prophet Joseph Smith.3 The Thomases moved to Nauvoo in the spring of 1840, and Martha had fond memories of living among the Saints; she heard sermons preached by Joseph Smith, and felt proud that her husband and son worked on the Nauvoo Temple until it was completed. They received their temple endowments before leaving for Winter Quarters.
Like many others, Martha buried a son at Winter Quarters. Though grieving for this loss, she continued to work hard to prepare her family for their journey to Utah. Martha arrived in Utah in 1849. Soon after their arrival, the Thomases moved to Lehi, where Martha lived out the rest of her life, content to be among the Saints of God.
1. All biographical material in this chapter comes from Martha and Daniel Thomas’s memoirs and Martha’s autobiography, from which all passages quoted below are taken. The autobiography was edited by Martha’s granddaughter Kate Woodhouse Kirkham, who explained: “It was the desire of Grandma Thomas that her posterity should know something of the early history of her family—something of what they endured for the gospel sake. To this end she wrote her journal. The text is not reproduced in full, however, her own words have been used as much as possible.” Martha Pane Jones Thomas [1808–1890], Daniel Stillwell Thomas [1803–1878], and Kate Woodhouse Kirkham, Daniel Stillwell Thomas Family History (Salt Lake City, UT: Kate Woodhouse Kirkham, 1927). Martha’s autobiography was written during the height of the United States government’s efforts to end plural marriage in Utah and after C. C. A. Christensen’s 1878 tour of Utah Valley with his Mormon Panorama, which focused heavily on early Mormon persecutions.
2. Martha wrote, “[I] fear[ed] we would never get to Zion, knowing that we could not go unless we could sell our property.” When her husband came home with the good news that their property had been sold, she wrote, “If any one ever felt like flying it was me.” Thomas, Thomas, and Kirkham, Thomas Family History, 9.
3. Joseph Alma was born March 17, 1839.