Nathaniel Spens Family Heritage


Nathaniel Spens' Biography

by Louise Brown Crookston

March 26, 2004

Nathaniel's Birth and Boyhood

Nathaniel Spens, son of James Spens and Isabella Irvine, was born June 21, 1838 at Number 10 East Richmond Street in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. He was baptized two months and two days later Aug 23, 1838 at 24 Waterloo Place in Edinburgh in the New Jerusalem Church.

The year 1838 was also the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. On June 28, 1838, when Nathaniel was only a week old, 19-year-old Victoria was crowned in Westminister Abbey in London. Born May 24, 1819, and baptized on the 24th of June, 1819, Victoria was the first royal baby to be vaccinated against smallpox. On June 20, 1837, King Albert died and on June 21, 1837, Victoria was proclaimed Queen Victoria. Every June 21st, during the Queen's reign, was an anniversary to be celebrated, especially in 1887, the Jubilee year of her reign.

Nathaniel's parents James and Isabella Irvine Spens, were born in Scotland. The birth date for James Spens that the family has of Jan 9, 1797 fits James's age given on the 1851 census.

James, the son of Colonel James Spens was a copperplate printer master by trade. He  married Isabella Irvine, the daughter of the late John Irvine, potter of Westpans, East of Edinburgh. James and Isabella gave their names for marriage by proclamation at the Cannongate Parish in Edinburgh on May 16, 1817. James was living at Parries close, Cannongate and Isabella was from Reids Close, Cannongate, Drummonds Land 2nd Story.

According to a pocket notebook that James kept, Nathaniel was the 11th of thirteen children born to James and Isabella. Four of his older brothers and sisters were baptized in Saint Cuthbert's Parish church in Edinburgh; Thomas in 1817, James in 1819, Gilchrist in 1822, and Isabella in 1834. Sarah Ann (1829) and Robert (1830) were both baptized in St. Mary's Gateshead Parish. Mitchel (1824), James (1833, died age two weeks), Mary (1836), William (1840) and John (1842) are all thought to have been born in Scotland but do not appear to have been formerly christened or registered at birth. Elisabeth (1826) was born in Newcastle/Upon Tyne, England according to family documents and Census reports; however neither her birth nor christening has been found.

Around the time of Nathaniel's birth there were recurring religious agitation in both England and Scotland with respect to ministerial authority in matters of church discipline, patronage abuse and theological "moderatism." It appears that James and Isabella readily took an interest in the reforms, either in defiance of political patronage or because they were searching for the truth. After 1836 James and Isabella did not register their children with the Church in Scotland nor in England. Nathaniel's baptism in the New Jerusalem Church in Edinburgh was recorded on a registration paper which, according to Nathaniel's niece Isabella, daughter of his sister, Sarah Ann, "The register has made a mistake with the name (Nathaniel, son of James SPENCE)." Subsequently Nathaniel's birth registration was not completed (Letter written to the cousins on March 20, 1940 from 23 Edward St, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England). A bitter blow to the established church of Scotland was a breach referred to as the Disruption of 1843 which led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland by a third of the ministers and most of their flocks.

The New Jerusalem Church espoused a new dispensation of doctrinal truth derived from the theological writings of Swedish nobleman Emanuel Swedenborg. Followers of this faith maintained that the Last Judgment took place in 1757, that the former Heaven and Earth had passed away; that the New Jerusalem descended in the form of the "New Church." They subsequently believed that the second Advent of the Lord had been realized in a spiritual sense. The New Jerusalem Church members met in a stone building situated in Percy Street in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Erected in 1822, this building seated 403 persons.

On April 22, 1839 John James Spens was born to Nathaniel's oldest brother, Thomas, and his sister-in-law, Ester. Ten-month-old Nathaniel became an uncle to his brother's baby. Although his nephew's life was a short seven months, it was the beginning of being Uncle Nat to at least twenty-two nieces and nephews.

A month before Nathaniel's second birthday, his brother, William, was born on May 23, 1840 and Nathaniel lost his place as the baby of the family. Sisters Bertha, Bessie, Sarah Ann and Isabella were probably happier about the arrival of William than was Nathaniel, but with that many sisters the two-year-old did not lack for motherly care and attention. That same year, on December 22, 1840, a second nephew was born and named Thomas Brown Spens (later known as William Brown Spens), a brother to John James. As Nathaniel neared the age of four, he was quite used to babies arriving so the birth of his brother, John Spens, on March 13, 1842 was probably taken in stride. Like Nathaniel, neither William's nor John's births were registered in the parish records.

On October 17, 1845 in Barony Parish, the final reading of marriage banns took place for Elizabeth Spens. No one had objected so the following month, on November 14, 1845 Nathaniel's sister Bessie married John Leck in Glasgow. Perhaps all the Spenses gathered there for the wedding or perhaps they were living there--this family has an unexplained history of moving.

By 1851 the Spens family had moved from Scotland to England, a move they had made several times prior to Nathaniel's birth. The family had previously lived in Newcastle-Upon Tyne and in Gateshead, just south of Newcastle across the River Tyne in Durham County. In April 1851 when the Census was taken, James Spens, age 54, and Isabella, 52, were living in the East Municipal Ward of the Parish of All Saints in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne--a Scottish family with a noticeable accent. Nathaniel, 13 years old; William, 11; and John, 9 were living at home. Nathaniel's widowed sister, Sarah A., age 22, was also with her parents, having recently lost her husband, Thomas Raey Matthews (a watchmaker by trade) and her 14-month-old daughter, Bertha Spens Matthews.

Although sorrow had brought Sarah home, her presence was a blessing. Early in May, 1851, Nathaniel's mother began to have great difficulty breathing. The doctor was called and, after an examination, said she was suffering from "phthisis" (the wasting away of tissue). Sarah helped provide tender care during the next five weeks of her mother's progressive emaciation. Isabella Spens died June 12th of tuberculosis of the lungs and was buried June 15th in the Jesmond General Cemetery in unconsecrated ground in Ward 11, Section 2E. The fact that Sarah Ann was also home to care for her three young motherless brothers endeared her to them. This tie will later withstand religious differences and defy the great physical distance between herself and Nathaniel.

Nathaniel Is Apprenticed

Nathaniel was now old enough to learn a trade. His oldest brother had become an engraver like his father and his brother William was begging to learn that trade. Nathaniel apparently had other interests. Surely he must have loved to draw. James agreed to have his son, Nathaniel, "bound out" or apprenticed to William Jackson, Printer and Glazier. Papers were signed on March 29, 1852 and on June 18, 1852, just prior his 14th birthday and only a year after his mother's death, Nathaniel was apprenticed to Mr. William Jackson. For seven years Nathaniel served as he learned the painting trade at 4 Newgate Street, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Mr. Williams lived at 2 St. Mary's Place. The Indenture papers read as follows:

"This Indenture witnesseth that Nathaniel Spens, son of James Spens of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, copper plate printer, hath of his own free will and with the consent of the said James Spens, his father, testified by his executing these presents and with consent (that) put himself Apprentice to William Jackson of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, aforesaid Printer and Glazier--to learn the Art with him after the manner of an apprentice to serve from the day of the date hereof unto the full end and term of seven years from thence next following to be fully complete and ended, during which term the said apprentice, his master faithfully shall serve, his which keep, his lawful commands every which gladly do. He shall do no damage to his said master, nor see to be done of others, but to his power shall tell in faith with give warning to his said Master. Of the same he shall not waste the goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully to any, he shall not commit fornication nor contract matrimony within the said term; shall not play at cards or dice tables or any other unlawful games whereby his said Master may have any loss with his own goods or others during the said term without license of his said Master; he shall neither buy or sell, he shall not haunt taverns or playhouses nor absent himself from his said Master's service day or night unlawfully. But in all things as a faithful apprentice he shall behave himself towards his said Master and all this during the said term.

"And the said William Jackson for himself, his executors, administrators and assigns doth covenant, promise and agree by these presents to and with the said Nathaniel Spens, the said apprentice, that he, the said William Jackson, his executors, administrators, or assigns shall and will teach, learn and instruct him, the said apprentice, or cause him to be taught, learned and instructed in the trade of Painter and Glazier which he useth by the best means that he can with all circumstances thereunto belonging and will well and truly pay or cause to be paid unto the said Nathaniel Spens the wages, following, that is to say, the sum of two shillings and six pence per week for the first and second years of the said term, the sum of three shillings and six pence per week for the third and fourth years of the said term, the sum of five shillings per week for the fifth year of the said term, and the sum of six shillings per week for the sixth and seventh years of the said term, such wages payable only during the time the said Nathaniel Spens shall be working for and employed by the said William Jackson. The said James Spens finding unto the said apprentice sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging and all other necessaries during the said term.

"And for the true performance of all and every said covenants and agreements either of the said parties bindeth himself unto the other by these presents. In witness whereof the parties above named to these indentures interchangeably have put their hands and seals the nineteenth day of June and in the fifteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, defender of the Faith and in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two.

"Note: The indenture Covenant article or contract must bear date the day it is executed and what money or other thing is given or contracted for the clerk or apprentice must be inserted in words at length, otherwise the Indenture will be void and the Master or Minstrel's forfeit fifty pounds and another penalty and the apprentice be disabled to follow the trade or be made free."

"Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of Richard Hanson."

(Signature of Nathaniel, James and William).

From the apprenticeship agreement, Nathaniel's wages can be seen to increase with his skill. Beginning with "the sum of two shillings and six pence per week for the first and second years," then progressing to three shillings and six pence per week for the third and fourth years, five shillings per week for the fifth year, and finally, six shillings per week for the sixth and seventh years. The money was not for shelter or meals as the apprenticeship paper clearly shows James Spens responsible for food and lodging.

Due to many changes in the family, Nathaniel probably lived in more than one place during the next seven years. There are family memories that suggest Nathaniel had to walk seven miles each day during at least part of the apprenticeship. Some believe Nathaniel stayed with his sister, Sarah, during that time. By 1853 Sarah had moved to Red Barns. She and Cuthbert Douse, a joiner by trade, and a widow, were married at St. Anne's Chapel on June 7, 1853. Her father, James Spens, was a witness to her second marriage.

William, only two years younger than Nathaniel, learned the copper plate printing trade of his father, either from his father or from his brother, Thomas Spens who had been taught by James Spens. Thomas taught his son, Thomas Brown Spens, who was seven months younger than William and may also have taught his younger brother to be an engraver. By this time Thomas Spens's work was well known. Soon T. Spens would be moving his China, Glass & Earthenware business from 6 Mosely Street to Grey Street, the most prestigious street in the business section of the city. The business on Grey Street would be known as Spens, William Brown, Thos. S. & Son, lithographers, engravers. Nathaniel's brother, William, would also be known as an engraver by trade.

Young John, or Jack Spens, was also "bound out" at the age of thirteen. John chose to become a confectioner and was bound on February 16, 1855, according to James's pocket notebook.

James Spens was a man of sorrows. Not only had he recently buried his wife, but on May 19, 1853 his daughter, Bertha (born May 14, 1822 in Edinburgh and christened Gilchrist) died, age 31, at Temperance Row with James present. The death record lists the cause of her death as apoplexy (a stroke caused by cerebral hemorrhage). Bertha was buried in unconsecrated ground, Ward 11, Section 2E, grave 3, presumably near her mother. The Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, Friday, May 27, 1853 noted under Deaths: In this town on the 19th inst., in Temperance-row, Shieldfield, aged 31, Bartha (sic), daughter of Mr. James Spens. "Bartha" is a reminder of James's strong Scottish accent.

James Spens courted and married Jane Gray Davison after banns in the St. Peter's Parish Church in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on July 30, 1855. Their residence was in Leazes Lane. Jane Gray Davison was a widow some years younger than James and had at least three young children, Thomas Henry, Bilton George, and a daughter. As a child Jane Gray was christened 26 Sep 1819 at Lesbury, Northumberland, England, the daughter of Henry Gray (or Grey), labourer, and Jane Archbold. Jane married Bilton Davison by banns in the Anglican Church of St. Andrew in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on April 11, 1840.

During the first three years of Nathaniel's apprenticeship, many changes have been noted. Bertha had died, Sarah had remarried, John had begun his apprenticeship and someone had begun to instruct William in the engraving trade. Sarah had moved and so had Nathaniel's father. Not only had James moved but he had also remarried and now Nathaniel had at least two step-brothers and a step-sister, not to mention a step-mother! In addition, Nathaniel had four new nieces and nephews born. Finally, on May 15, 1856, there was one more change--Nathaniel's half-brother, Robert Henry Spens (later to be known as Robert James Davison) was born. At the time of Robert's birth, the family was living at Hall's Court in Leazes Lane in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

By the Summer of 1859 Nathaniel had completed his seven year apprenticeship agreement with Mr. Jackson. Like most young men, Nathaniel was full of knowledge and ready to strike out on his own. Apparently Nathaniel did not go home, or at least not for long. There is some speculation that he went to Germany for a time to learn to be be an artist. One painting, thought to be called, "Lake Hotel," is painted on a wood panel as was often done in Europe and appears to have been painted on location. (Sadly, this painting is not dated or signed.)

From the 1861 Census report, it appears that all was not well with James and his new wife. Neither Jane nor their nearly 5-year-old son, Robert, was with James, but were living with Jane's children. James was listed as a printer and widower, aged 64, born in Scotland. He was living with his daughter, Sarah Ann and son-in-law, Cuthbert Douse at 61, Elswick East Terrace in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Nathaniels' brothers, William, 21, and John, 19, were also living with the Douses, bringing the household to a total of 10 persons. The Census indicates that John was married but the marriage certificate indicates he was a bachelor in 1863 at the time of his marriage. The family appears to have moved to this address within the year as they were not listed in the 1860-61 Ward Directory. Nor did they have an entry in the 1861-62 Directory suggesting that their abode at this address was fleeting.

Sometime during or after completing his apprenticeship, Nathaniel is thought to have gone to the continent to learn how to paint, perhaps to Baden, Germany. On the back of one of his paintings--a beveled wooden panel--is written, "Bottom, Germany." Sometime later, Nathaniel went to live with his sister, Bessie, in Glasgow. He was lucky enough to be there in time to help out with the legal requirements of the birth of his niece--Nathaniel registered little Margaret Leck in the 1860 births in the District of Milton in the Borough of Glasgow on November 20th, nineteen days after her birth. He reported to the clerk that he had been present at the time of Margaret's birth. Five months later, Nathaniel, age 22, is still in Glasgow. In the 1861 Census he is listed as a lodger at his sister's home and his occupation is given as painter.


Later in 1861 Nathaniel returned to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and, on Sep 4, 1861, he married Jane Ann Burnhope--a Mormon! Nathaniel's brother, John, a confectioner, was present as a witness along with John Findley who has appeared as a witness on numerous other occasions. The wedding took place in the St. John's Parish Church "according to the rites and ceremonies of the Established Church after banns."

We do not know the story of Nathaniel's introduction to Jane Burnhope or to the Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons, as they were disparagingly called. Did he meet the missionaries while walking to and from his work? Or perhaps Jane Burnhope introduced him to the missionaries. What is known is that Thomas Wallace was a traveling Elder and married to Jane Ann Burnhope's sister, Mary Ann Burnhope and that later Nathaniel and Jane Ann would follow Mary Ann and Thomas Wallace to Utah. There are no records of Nathaniel's church affiliation after his baptism in the New Jerusalem Church nor of his family continuing with the Swedenborgian faith. Unlike the large building of the New Jerusalem Church in Edinburgh where Nathaniel had been christened, the Latter-Day Saints in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne were grateful for the small rented meeting room on Nelson Street in which to worship.

According to the Sunderland and South Shields Branch records, Jane Ann Burnhope was born Jan 18, 1840 in Boldon, Durham, England and baptized May 31, 1853 in Hendon Bay. Her baptism record can be found in the South Shields Branch in Northumberland. Her personal decision to be baptized and accept the gospel was encouraged and supported by her parents, Isaac Burnhope and Elizabeth Charlton who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a few months prior to Jane Ann.

Unlike the Burnhopes' joy over their daughter's affiliation with the Mormons, Nathaniel's marriage to a Mormon seems to have resulted in a division among family members. If not earlier, a division among the Spens family members became apparent following Nathaniel's decision to be baptized a Mormon on March 4, 1862.

According to The Manuscript History of the British Mission, Elder Moses F. Farnsworth arrived in England on the 14th of August, 1862, shortly after Nathaniel's baptism and labored in the Newcastle-on-Tyne District as a traveling Elder, until called, on the 1st of May, 1863, to preside over said district. There does not appear to be any record of the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Branch activities in the early 1860s to verify Nathaniel's self-reported baptism date.

During the first three years of their marriage, Nathaniel and Jane had two children and prepared to gather to Zion. First, Isobell Irvine, (pronounced Arvin by the Scotts, and thus written by the British registrar) was born in Jarrow, South Shields, Durham, England May 10, 1862 and named after Nathaniel's mother. Twelve months later, William Burnhope Spens was born 7 May 1863 in Jared, Durham, England, according to family tradition--there is no birth registration for William.

On April 23, 1861, Jane Ann's sister, Mary Ann Burnhope Wallace left England for America, traveling with her husband Thomas Michael Wallace and daughter Annie (born 18 April 1860) on board the ship "Underwriter". Mary Ann states they came to America "for the Gospel's sake, "arriving in New York 22 May 1861. As Jane Ann and Nathaniel would later learn the Wallace family traveled to Winter Quarters and remained there from 2 June 1861 until 30 June 1861, at which time they began the trek across the plains by ox team with Captain Ira Eldredge. She noted that the captain was very kind and "had the mothers with babies ride all the way" while their husbands walked. This family arrived in Salt Lake City 15 September 1861 and in the spring of 1862 settled in American Fork where they bought a large one-room log home with one window. The first payment of $150 was made by selling their best clothes.

On January 9, 1862 Nathaniel's sister, Sarah, lost her second husband, Cuthbert Douse. At that time Sarah and her family were living at 61 East Elswick Lane in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. James Spens reported Cuthbert's death and listed the same address as his own.


Between 1841 and 1855, most Mormon converts traveled to "Zion" by sailing to New Orleans then up the Mississippi River to various departure points. After 1856, however, options included travel by railroad from New York to Chicago and beyond. Elder George Q. Cannon, president of the European Mission, chartered three ships in 1864, "The General McClellan," "The Monarch of the Sea" and "The Hudson." These three ships transported a total of 2,633 Saints from Liverpool to New York City. The latter two ships made the voyage in 36 and 45 days respectfully.

In general immigrations to the U.S were very low due to the on-going Civil War. Undaunted, Jane and Nathaniel prepared to travel to the land of Zion to join with the Saints. Jane Ann must have looked forward to reuniting herself with her dear sister, Mary Ann. Among their possessions to be taken were Nathaniel's graining brushes, a small photograph album and a wooden-panel painting by Nathaniel. On Saturday, May 21, 1864 just after Willie's first birthday, Nathaniel and his little family sailed from Liverpool, England for New York City aboard "The General McClellan," commanded by Captain G. D. S. Trask. The following account is taken from the Millennial Star:

"This ship was chartered to sail on the 20th ult. but, owing to the rain which set in, the upper deck could not be used for the purpose of examination of passengers, who had, consequently; to undergo inspection between decks. This put them to some inconvenience and discomfort, but, not withstanding this, we did not hear one unkind word or one ill-natured remark from the Saints during the proceedings, which occupied some little time. In consequence of unavoidable delays, the vessel could not be cleared until next day (21st). On the morning of the 21st President Cannon, with a number of Elders, proceeded on board the vessel for the purpose of organizing the company" (Mill. Star 26:364).

Appropriate instructions were given to the Saints aboard "The General McClellan." Three returning missionaries on board were called to serve as a presidency to assist the Saints in gathering to Zion. Elder Thomas E. Jeremy was appointed to preside over the company, with Elders Joseph Bull and George G. Bywater as counselors. Elder John C. Graham who had labored in the "Millenniel Star" office for many years was appointed clerk. The account in the Millenniel Star continues, "The ship was divided off into (twelve) wards, over each of which an Elder was placed to preside. On the evening of the 21st the vessel proceeded to sea, laden with her freight of precious souls, and accompanied by the best wishes and prayers of all true Saints. She had 802 souls on board, nearly all of whom have paid their fares through to Wyoming." The Elders appointed over the wards assisted the presidency with the spiritual needs of the Saints as well as "serving out provisions" for the physical needs of these Saints.

May 21, 1864, John C. Graham, clerk, sent the following communication to President Cannon through the kindness of the pilot:

"All the Saints on board seem quite satisfied with their new condition. They have not yet had time to experience the effects of traveling, having been only about three hours on our way, (we started from off the Landing-stage at 6:15 p.m.); still those disagreeable effects which are invariably experienced by poor landsmen (such for instance, as myself) I presume will, in due time, be felt by our company. At present, I can hear the notes of some beautiful hymn being sung with evident delight and happiness, by a large portion of the passengers, and I suppose their countenances bear the marks of joy and gratitude for the deliverance which is afforded them by the Almighty, judging by the feeling with which they sing the verses of the hymn. We pray that our passage may be a safe, prosperous and happy one. It has been what thousands of our brethren and sisters have realized by their faith and trust in Him, and it is what we may realize, too, if we place our dependence upon God, who is the deliverer of his Saints, and the great Captain of our salvation. I hope, that I may be true to my holy calling and ever be found trying to work out my personal salvation. I have set out for this purpose. Nothing but my religion would ever have educed me to leave my native land with those prospects which are before me. I go to Zion to serve God, and I pray that when I get there I may do so (see Manuscript History of the British Mission, pp. 3-4)."

On May 22, Brother Graham made the following entry:

"We are just off Holyhead--all well. The boat that towed us out is just leaving. Everyone feels well, so far as I know. Those who felt a little regret before starting, now are quite satisfied and contented. I expect there will be many soon experience some disagreeable feelings--the ship having her sails unfurled and tossing a bit. We have now a fair wind and good prospects."

We can only surmise the individual experience of the Spens family on board "The General McClellen" as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, leaving behind their homeland. We do, however, have a carefully written account prepared as a report to President Cannon. Written Sunday, June 19th the report provides general information about the passage from Liverpool to New York City acquainting President Cannon and friends left behind of the expected "safe arrival of the ship and its precious cargo":

"Our distance from the desired port is but 450 miles, which, with some of the winds that we have had while on the voyage, might very soon be made; but, with the winds that we at present have, it is not likely that we will be able to reach New York much before the expiration of another week." The brethren went on to explain that there were several sick on board who have, "since leaving England, suffered very much from extreme weakness."

About the voyage, the Presidency reported:

"Since bidding you adieu we have had cause for no other feeling but that of gratitude to our Father in heaven for the manifold blessings which have been conferred upon us during the passage thus far. The power of the Holy Ghost, with its healing influences, has been often demonstrated in our midst. Suffice it to say, no company could wish for a better and indeed, we very much doubt if they could have a pleasanter passage across the mighty deep than this company has had. Health has almost generally prevailed; peace, concord and the Spirit of God have been abundantly manifested."

President Cannon was told that the pleasant weather, according to the captain, "has been made for the Latter-day Saints." Not only was the fair weather a subject of surprise to Captain Trask, but also the health of the crowded Saints. It is noted in the report that both the captain and the surgeon admitted, "that for such a large company, they never were associated with a more healthy or a happier class of people."

Statistics confirm the health of the Saints. During the voyage only one death was reported. Five-week-old Seth Holgate died on June 6th and was consigned to a watery grave as his father mourned, his mother having died before the voyage began. Two babies were born and named after the ship--Jenny McClellan Gee and George McClellan Hutchison--the babies were healthy and both mothers recovered.

The brethren went on to give more details of the voyage, recounting that "a good easterly wind" had taken the boat along smoothly for eleven days. Then came frequent head winds and a few calms, "and in consequence, the ship has had a great deal of tacking to do in order to take what advantage she could of the wind." Not withstanding the over-all good weather, some rough weather is also described:

"On the night of Thursday, the 9th inst., while in the vicinity of the Banks of Newfoundland, the wind rose to a high degree, and continued to rage with increasing fury during the whole of the night. It was during this night that the ship experienced the greatest shock it had ever before, since it has been a ship, received. It was caused by a heavy sea which rolled forward in her course and completely engulfed the bow of the ship, causing the after part of the vessel to rise to a fearful height. The man on the look-out on the forecastle deck, and the man at the wheel, were nearly carried away. Such a noise of boxes falling and tins jumping caused the air to reverberate in a not very melodious manner; the cracking of timbers, mingled with a chorus of juvenile voices, you would never desire to hear again. The night was foggy (the horn being blown every few minutes), and as icebergs had been seen and felt--it was very naturally concluded that the ship had struck one of those formidable bodies and sprung a leak, for the rushing of water could be distinctly heard. However, the fears of the people were soon quieted by the reassuring words of the first officer who cried below, 'All's right,' and the words of a hymn soon restored to the timid and fearful, confidence..."

Christopher Alston (Carter, 1965) was eleven years old at the time of crossing. He later recorded the storm, never having been told that, although there were icebergs in the vacinity, an iceberg did not strike the ship:

"One night, in dense fog, our ship struck a monstrous iceberg and was nearly wrecked, but was miraculously saved. It was thrown from side to side--people, utensils and luggage in one great pile. The rattle of pans, dishes and baggage, and the cries of women and children, the shouts of men, the commands of officers, the banging and bumping of the ship against the iceberg made it seem as if two monsters were trying to beat each other to pieces and the great floating mountain of ice would overwhelm the sturdy ship and sink her in the deep sea with all on board. But it was not to be so, we were in the hands of the 'Master of ocean and earth and skies.'"

Weather permitting, general meetings were held on deck and the Elders gave discourses on "the blessings which God had vouchsafed unto the Saints." Individual ward meetings were held morning and evening, and were devoted to singing, testimony bearing and praying. On the 19th of June a conference was held on deck at which most of the passengers convened. The Presidents of the Wards occupied the chief portion of the time in bearing testimony, and advancing some timely counsel suited to the circumstances under which the Saints are placed. At this meeting several resolutions of thanks to the officers of the ship were drawn up and tendered to them, expressive of the gratitude of the Saints for the watchful care which had been shown to make them comfortable."

A major item of business on the 19th of June was preparation for landing and is noted in the report to President Cannon:

"In anticipation of sundry expenses which the company may have to meet--such, for instance, as the passing of the baggage through the Customs, and supporting on the journey from New York to Wyoming, those who are destitute of funds, of whom we find an unusually large number--we have made collections in the various Wards. Our call was cheerfully responded to by those who possessed means, and many were found to be acting too generously, for they were to some extent depriving themselves of what they would necessarily require. Again, in accordance with your instructions, the Saints have been recommended to deposit their sterling money in our hands, for the purpose of converting it into American currency, and taking for them advantage of the market. Those who possessed gold and silver readily trasferred it for that purpose into our hands. Every preparation necessary to be made for the landing of the company at New York and everything that we could do to facilitate the business consequent on their deembarkation, have been done in view of lightening the labors of our brethren there."

With so many people crowded together, the leaders were very strict and rigid in reference to cleanliness. There were a very few whose unclean habits needed repeated instruction. "Altogether, however, we can boast of a clean and orderly body of people, and the fact that none have been afflicted with any other complaint than sea-sickness, is sufficient to justify our statement."

On Tuesday, June 21st, Nathaniel celebrated his 26th birthday. About 3:00 p.m. on that same day there was a "terrific commotion" on board. Someone had sighted the pilot boat. "The pilot! The pilot! The cry was taken up between decks followed by a tumultuous rush up the hatchway, and folks lined the bulwarks immediately, to await the pilot's arrival. Dinners were abandoned for the time, and a general holiday all over the ship appeared to be in full enjoyment, the excitement being intense." The pilot arrived "admidst thunders of applause." The "General McClellen" was about 130 miles from New York, traveling at about 11 1/2 knots per hour.

On Wednesday, June 22nd, at 4:00 p.m., Sandy Hook came into view after 32 days of sailing. The report continued, "Expect to anchor for the night as soon as we get through Quarantine." Expecting to be leaving the ship, the resolution of thanks prepared by the company for the Captain was presented to Captain Trask shortly after sighting Sandy Hook. The Captain made the following written reply:

"Gentlemen (Messrs. Jeremy, Bull, Bywater and Graham),--You will please accept and convey to the passengers my thanks for the very handsome testimonial which you have presented me with. I am happy that my endeavors to make your passage pleasant and agreeable have been successful, and acknowledge the pride I feel in so flattering an approval of my course and conduct. The gratitude evinced, the regard conveyed, and the thorough feeling of kindness and respect manifested by them, are both appreciated and reciprocated, and will be long treasured. And I trust this favorable passage is a foreshadowing of the remainder of your journey--not only to Utah, but through life--and that you and they may be richly blessed in the enjoyments a good people are deserving of. Signed GOD. Trask."


On that same June 22, in the evening the report to President Cannon continued with the following message:

"9 o'clock p.m.--Just anchored in the bay. The people passed the medical officer without difficulty. Captain Trask handed Brother Graham a couple of sovereigns, one to be given to each of the parents of the two children born on the voyage, accompanied by his best wishes for the children's welfare. May the Lord bless him for his kindness to the people."

The conclusion of the report was written on Thursday morning, June 23, 1864:

"We are now waiting for our landing at Castle Gardens, so we will bring this letter to a close, and pray that God may bless you and all whom we have left behind, with the choicest of his blessings" (Mill. Star 26:476).

Castle Garden was formerly know as Castle Clinton. Castle Clinton was a federal fort built in 1807 when tension between Great Britain and the United States was escalating. Situated on an island some 300 feet off the tip of Manhattan Island, its 28 guns and eight-foot-thick walls offered security through the War of 1812. In 1823 Castle Clinton was converted to a theater, renamed Castle Garden, and was the scene of many spectacular social events. Not many years later, Castle Garden was incorporated into Manhattan by landfill from the construction of subways. In 1855 Castle Garden became an immigrant landing depot and during the next 45 years about eight million people, including Nathaniel Spens, were processed at the old fort. Finally, in 1890, the federal government took over the state-operated reception depot after numerous reports of corrupt officials exploiting unsuspecting aliens. The continuing influx of immigrants swamped Castle Garden and, in 1892, the operation was transferred to Ellis Island. In 1946 Fort Castle Clinton was restored and designated as a National Monument (Allen, 1990).

There were upwards of one thousand emigrants at Castle Garden in advance of the Saints aboard "The General McClellan," and it was necessary to spend one more night on board the ship. Elders Joseph A. Young, Brigham Young, Jr. and Paul A. Schettler boarded the ship Thursday evening and addressed the Saints. They expressed satisfaction at the prearrangement of the business connected with the landing of the people and their further journey toward Wyoming.

Elders J. A. Young, B. Young, Jr., and Schettler had not received communication respecting the business of these Saints nor a list of the passengers. Notwithstanding the mail steamer with this information had been detained at sea, these three brethren were able to settle everything with surprisingly little difficulty as noted in the presidency's report:

"There was but one obstacle that we foresaw would interfere with our immediate departure from New York, and that was the examination of the passengers' baggage, which we anticipated would be diligently overhauled by the officers. Doubtless through the heavy demands on the United States Government for the continued support of the expensive war now being waged upon this continent, a strict and rigid system of searching emigrants' luggage for contraband articles, is enforced; the officers charge for almost everything besides what individuals are clothed with. This obstacle, however, was removed, and we succeeded in having everything landed without the people being detained in New York longer than twelve hours. We left New York in the afternoon (Friday, June 24) for Albany, by the magnificent steamboat, St. John, and arrived early the following morning (Saturday, June 25). The organization of the company remained, at Brother Joseph A. Young's desire, as it originally stood."


According to young Christopher Alstron, the company traveled up the Hudson River toward Canada "to avoid the Armies of the Rebellion, broken bridges, uptorn railways, etc. incident to a war which was raging in the States between the North and the South, with blood and rapine in all the land " (Carter, 1965).

After a few hours in Albany, the Saints continued their journey by "cars" (railway cars). On Sunday morning they reached Rochester where they were detained until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, according to the Manuscript History of the British Mission. There had been "an accident to the luggage-train locomotive which was in our rear." At Buffalo, "in consequence of our detention at Rochester," railroad officials distributed a quantity of biscuits and cheese to the passengers. Another distribution was made at Fort Huron. At Chicago Judge Kinney of Utah and Elders William S. Godbe and Francis A. H. Mitch gave President Thomas E. Jeremy fifty dollars to assist the immigrating Saints. According to the Manuscript History of the British Mission, "This money and the generous help of the railroad officials were much appreciated as a large number of the emigrants were entirely destitute of means and dependent upon President Jeremy and his assistants to supply their needs."

Parley P. Pratt joined this company in Chicago and traveled with them to Wyoming near Omaha, Nebraska Territory. Nathaniel must have heard firsthand some of the stories this missionary shares with present-day readers through his autobiography. Parley's joining the Saints surely was one of "the blessing of the Lord" noted to have been upon the travelers, "his providence has met us under every ill-favoured circumstance and supplied our wants." The presidency continue their report, "To no other power but the power of the Almighty can be ascribed our prosperity and success."

On July 1, 1864 after six days on the train, the Saints arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri and "occupied a large shed-room attached to the warehouse of the Steam-packet Company." Having arrived on the frontier of civilization, the Saints took extreme safety precautions according to the following details from the Manuscript History:

"Every able-bodied man was stationed as a guard, so that clear around the building there was a strong guard watching the safety and property of those who slept. Some of the Saints preferred sleeping in the open air, in consequence of the intense heat, which is such as many--especially from the old country--never experienced before. Around these was also stationed a strong guard."

On July 2nd about half-past ten in the morning, the journey by steamer up the Missouri River began with the expectation of reaching Wyoming by the 3rd in the evening.

As expected, on July 3rd, the company reached their destination of Wyoming, Nebraska Territory. No deaths had occurred since little Seth died while crossing the Atlantic. With only one or two exceptions, all the Saints who left England with this company, together with a few who had joined the company in New York and along the way, arrived in Wyoming safely.


Wyoming was a village situated on the west bank of the Missouri River, seven miles north of Nebraska City and 40 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska. The village of Wyoming was selected by the Church leaders as an outfitting station that year (Mill.Star 27:16). Two large warehouses had been constructed in addition to a store, the emigration office, a coral and a few dwellings. Elder Joseph Young was in charge of the outfitting station.

Earlier this particular year, at Brigham Young's request, the Utah Church members again responded to the call to assist emigrating Saints. A total of 170 wagons, 1,717 oxen, 58 horses and 28 mules were sent in charge of six captains, 27 mounted guards and 144 experienced teamsters (Journal History of March 6, 1864). More was needed than transportation and good honest men who were expected to conduct themselves as if on a mission. Supplies requested for the trip East included molasses, grain, meat, and cotton.

A large amount of freight was also sent to Utah from Wyoming, Nebraska. The Union Pacific Railroad did not begin to move west from Omaha until July 10, 1865 so all freight ordered by merchants, contractors and private individuals was freighted through the Church Emigration Office. Merchandise, ironware, stoves, glass and other commodities were loaded on wagons and moved west. President Joseph Young stated that "after all the wagons had been loaded, there were still one hundred tons of freight in the warehouses ready for shipment." Gold seekers and pioneers migrating west to California, Oregon and Washington increased the shortage of good wagons and strong animals for the Latter-Day Saints' use.

Immediately the newly-arrived Saints began preparing for their overland journey of more than a thousand miles--across the great plains of Nebraska, over the mountains in Wyoming and Utah and finally into the Great Salt Lake Valley to their new home in Zion. From the Presidency's report we read:

"The Saints have commenced camp life already. Some are sleeping in wagons, others under tents, and others, again, with nothing but the sky to cover them. This change in their mode of life, however, has its novelty and its pleasures. A few only express themselves dissatisfied with the change, and because of the inconveniences they have been subjected to, consider that the Work of God here and on the journey hither, is not the same glorious Work which they labored to promote in those lands whence they came."

Most of the Saints were assigned either to Captain Rawlins' or to Captain Warren's company. Nathaniel, Jane and their children, Isabella and Willie, were assigned to the Rawlins Company, and on July 15th, just twelve days after their arrival in Camp Wyoming, continued on their way west. Joseph S. Rawlins' train was partially loaded with freight and families were assigned to certain wagons. According to the recollections of Harry M. Payne whose family joined the company in Camp Wyoming, his family and relatives, totaling fifteen people, loaded "all their earthly possessions on top of a part of a load of freight." So many assigned to one wagon naturally required "all able-bodied individuals make the journey on foot" (Payne, 1974). Richard Daniels Brown, Jr. joined the train part way across the prairie and noted that he had "walked on the prairie with sore feet, bleeding and hungry" before finding his parents in this train (Brown, 1973).

Christopher Alstron remembered walking the full 1,100 miles on foot. He recalled severe trials and hardships. One particular night "after the tents were set up and the camp was asleep, there came up a fearful wind, then rain fell in torrents, and every tent was blown down except the one we were in..." Christopher goes on to recount details that must have matched the chores and worries of other young boys in the company. The same worries must have been shared by Nathaniel and Jane whose children were too young to assist them:

"Crossing the prairie there was no fuel other than buffalo chips with which to cook our little meals of bread and meat. Think of cooking your supper, after a long day?s walk, over a fire of "chips" with the wind blowing over the great plains, and sometimes rain putting out the fire, and going to bed without any supper, getting up in the morning at daylight to find everthing soaking wet and nothing to burn to cook your breakfast with, hooking up the oxen and traveling until noon, trying to find some dry "chips" to make a fire to cook dinner! Such was our life on the plains before we reached the mountain country where we procured sticks to use with the "chips" (Carter, 1965).

From the Millennial Star (26: 460, 476, 479, 539, 717-718) we learn more details of their journey:

"Captain Joseph. S. Rawlins Church Train of ox-drawn wagons and consisting of a large company of emigrating Saints, left Wyoming, Nebraska Territory on July 15, 1864. Most of these Saints crossed the Atlantic in the ship, 'General McClellan.' " Captain Rawlins was at Laramie on the 20th of August (p.717). Another telegram indicated the train was at Deer Creek on the 26th of August and reported that "nine oxen died between Laramie and here." From a telegram sent to President Brigham Young from the Sweetwater Bridge under date of Sept. 1st, it was learned that "the train was in fine condition, traveling all right and all doing well." From one more telegram, sent from the Little Sandy Sept. 9th, it was learned that "the train was still in good condition, company well and cattle traveling well."

A list of passengers in this company was published in the Deseret News Weekly, Vol 13, on August 17, 1864 on page 369 in anticipation of the company's arrival. The list was also published in Journal History September 20, 1864, on page one.

Besides the Rawlins Company, five other church trains and three independent companies left Wyoming, Nebraska that same year. According to the Millennial Star (27:16), "Of the 2,697 emigrants, 118 provided their own teams. About 2,508 Saints (including Nathaniel Spens and his family) crossed the plains in Church Trains." The emigrants' nationalities were noted as 1343 English, 209 Scotch, 12 Irish, 132 Welsh, 427 Danes, 338 Swedes, 14 Norwegians, 31 Germans, 60 Dutch, 10 French, 79 Swiss, 1 Russian, 1 Italian and 20 Americans. Nathaniel is suspected to have announced himself as a Scot even though his little family were all English.

The last train left the outfitting village of Wyoming, Nebraska in August and arrived in Salt Lake City November 2nd. President Joseph Young reported the last train had some worry of Indian trouble in Nebraska but proceeded safely. He noted that 1864 had been a prosperous season of work.


In four months Nathaniel, Jane and their two children, traveling by ship, steamer, railway and ox-cart, had crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the United States, the great plains and the Continental Divide. All had gone well for Nathaniel and Jane. Then, on September 4, 1864, three days after leaving Sweetwater Bridge and just sixteen days before the J. S. Rawlins company arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley, little Willie Spens died. We do not have an account of Nathaniel and Jane's sorrow over the loss of their little son, but there is an account of the death of little Thomas Payne just two weeks prior to Willie's death. Thomas, a baby, nearly two years of age, "took sick about half way to Utah, and lingered along for two or three weeks and finally died on August 22, 1864, as we were camped at a place called "Bitter Cottonwood." He died a martyr to the cause for want of proper food. He cried for a slice of yeast bread cut from a loaf, which could not be provided. He could not be comforted. He was unable to eat the rough food that was provided the company." That sorrowful day the family stayed behind. "They dressed Thomas's body in a little red dress and sewed him up in a sheet, there being no material available with which to make a coffin. The body was placed in a grave, with the end gate of a wagon box laid over it to protect it as much as possible; another mound to mark the way to Zion" (Payne, 1974).

Was William's a lingering sickness? Was he also sewed in a sheet? Did the little Spens family linger behind on September 4th? While Nathaniel dug the grave did Mrs. Payne, great with her next child (and Ann Price who also buried a little boy on the trail), linger behind with Jane to comfort her? And did those two women then take Isabella by the hand while Nathaniel comforted Jane?

On September 20, 1864 the company entered the valley, and Nathaniel and Jane, like thousands of other Saints, had paid a price in answering the call to gather to Zion. Nathaniel would later learn that back in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on December 20, 1864 his sister, Sarah, lost her six-year-old daughter, Isabella Irvine Douse, to acute hydrocephalus. While Nathaniel's and Jane's grief was tempered by the gospel plan, Sarah's sorrow cut deep into her soul.


At the time of this writing it is speculative as to where Nathaniel Spens lived; however, it is thought that he settled with his wife and daughter in American Fork soon after his arrival in Salt Lake City We can imagine the joyful reunion for Jane Ann and her sister Mary Ann Burnhope Wallace. Little Isabella met her cousin Annie. Aunt Mary Ann's sorrow over the recent death of Jane Ann's little Willie was genuine and brought fresh memories of her little Thomas, born 24 October 1862 and buried 22 May 1864 in American Fork. The Wallaces probably took Nathaniel and Jane Ann to visit their Thomas's little grave and shared the following poem which was penned by Thomas Michael Wallace 22 May 1864:

This evening at sundown died my son, Thomas.

He was a lovely, mild, and affectionate boy..

He has gone to the land of repose,

No sorrow nor sin there annoys.

But here we must mourn over the loss

Of our lovely, affectionate boy.

Farewell for a while, brightest gem.

Thou wilt shine in thy newly won life.

We will join thee in years yet to come

When we've valiantly finished the strife.

The following spring, 1865, Mary Ann and Jane Ann were both with child. On 10 March 1865, Mary Ann gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. A few weeks later, on 28 April 1865, not even a year after Nathaniel and Jane arrived in Utah, Jane Ann Burnhope Spens died and was buried on the second of May, probably laid to rest beside Mary Ann's baby, Thomas. The new sorrow and loss Nathaniel and little Isabella felt were tempered by the hope of meeting beyoond the veil, and were not reasons to berate God or his new religion. Death was not new to Nathaniel; he had lost his own mother at the age of thirteen and many of his brothers and sisters had died young. It seems that his mother, Isabella Irvine Spens, was a carrier for hemophilia as was his sister, Sarah.

It is suspected that Mary Ann helped with little Isabella following Jane Ann's death. Mary Ann probably wrote her parents the sad news of Willie's and Jane's death. Some four years later, Isaac and Elizabeth Burnhope may have watched for a particular little mound near the Sweetwater Bridge that marked their grandson's mortal existence. (The Burnhopes provided their own passage fare and sailed June 4, 1868 on the "John Bright," with two children, Thomas, 23, and Betsey, 20. Isaac was 57 years old at the time, occupation, slate layer, and his wife, Elizabeth was 59. "Crossing the Ocean.")


Needing a mother for his little daughter and a gentle woman to comfort his heart, Nathaniel very soon married Margaret Philpot (June 12, 1865). Margaret, known as Maggie, was born December 4, 1824 in Hemel, Hemstead, England to James Philpot and Charlotte Bean.

Margaret Philpot sailed with her sister Elizabeth from Liverpool aboard the ship, "Manchester" on the 16th of April, 1862 in the company of her sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was traveling with her fiance's brother, John Durrant (FHL 298,437, p. 10). A spinster about fourteen years Nathaniel's senior, Maggie arrived in Greater Salt Lake in Captain Henry W. Miller's ox train October 17, 1862. Apparently Margaret Philpot's journey had its share of difficulty. The Deseret News reports the following:

"On Friday, 17th; about noon, the fifth church train, Capt. H. W. Miller; arrived, in which were about six hundred and fifty immigrants, and sixty wagons. It seems there was considerable sickness in the company on the plains; and about thirty deaths, mostly children. The teams generally returned in very good condition" (Desert News, Oct. 22, 1862, p. 132).

An earlier edition of the Deseret News dated October 8, 1862 announced that the fifth church train "is supposed to be somewhere between Fort Bridger and Green River." The notice speculated that, due to the unavoidable lateness of the season, the companies still on the trail might encounter snow storms before arriving in the valley. A still earlier notice dated September 17, 1862 provides readers with a report that snow had fallen earlier that week in the mountains while rain had fallen in the valleys. That same paper carried a list of Saints in Capt. Miller's company, including Margaret Philpot, a spinster traveling with her sister who was married to E. J. Durrant. What faith this single woman must have had to travel to Zion, across the depths of the sea and across a divided and war-torn nation.

One child, Elizabeth Philpot Spens, was born to Margaret and Nathaniel on December 12, 1866 in American Fork, Utah County, Utah. Margaret, affectionately known as Maggie, was not to nurture and grace this family long. After three short years, Maggie died on March 21, 1868 and was buried in American Fork in the John Durrant cemetery plot. Maggie's sister, Lizzie Philpot Durrant, was widowed without children 23 Jul 1867, prior to Maggie's death. Lizzie seemed the perfect solution to nurture Nathaniel's second daughter, at least for a time. She raised straw and braided straw for hats. Elizabeth reported to her children that, thanks to Aunt Lizzie, she enjoyed a new straw hat each year. Aunt Lizzie Durrant married Mr. Henry Collum, a polygamist, in 1878. Correspondance to England dated August 29, 1885 included the following:

"I came here (to Utah) because I felt it was right to come, not to get rich but because it was just as necessary as it was for in older times for Noah and his family to save themselves by going into the ark. As we have not talk(ed) in our letters about my religion, I am going to ask you have you ever heard the Latter day Saints preach the same Gospel that Jesus and his disciples preached when he was on the earth? I used to think when I was a girl how I would like to live in those days but now I am thankful I heard the Gospel now as it is the same that it was. I expect you have heard all the stories about us as a people but we are trying to do what is right and wish to do good to everybody....Since I joined it I would not leave it for anything in the world as what I have embraced, if I live a Life according to it, will save me in a world to come and that is everything to me."

Many years later the relationship between young Elizabeth Philpot Spens and her aunt, Elizabeth Philpot Durrant Collum, would again be poignantly sweet as the niece received her aunt into her home and cared for her in her twilight years. It was there that Elizabeth Cullom died January 19, 1921 in Salt Lake City and is buried in Lot 132 near her first husband, Edward John Durrant, and her sister, Margaret "Spense."

Following Maggie's death in 1868, it appears that Nathaniel moved to Salt Lake City. His first wife's sister, Mary Ann Wallace and family had moved to Salt lake in 1866 and her parents arrived from England the same year Maggie died (1868). Perhaps little Lizzie was left with Aunt Elizabeth in American Fork and Isabella, age six, went to Salt Lake City to her grandparents and Aunt Mary's while her father worked. Nathaniel is found in the 1869 Salt Lake City Directory: "Spence,______ painter, 12th wd. 3 E. bet. 2 and 3 S."


A year after Maggie's death, Nathaniel sought a third wife. He most likely met Mary Campbell during a visit to American Fork to see his daughters, Elizabeth and Isabella--the Campbells had settled in American Fork. Mary Campbell was rebaptized by Brother Shelley on June 19,  1869, two days prior to her marriage to Nathaniel Spens.  Nathaniel married Mary Campbell in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on his 31st birthday, June 21, 1869. Mary was 19 years old. That same day Nathaniel had Jane Ann Burnhope sealed to him first. According to the Endowment House records, Joseph F. Smith performed the sealings for Nathaniel, Jane and Mary. Maggie was seemingly forgotten, her temple ordinances left undone.   


Not too long after Mary and Nathaniel married, Mary's parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell, moved to Salt Lake City and lived just east of Liberty Park in what was later called Old Rock Row.

A year later, on the 25th of August, in the 1870 Census (page 184), Nathaniel and Mary are living in American Fork. Not only are Nathaniel's two girls back with him, but he and Mary have a baby, James. It appears that the family was away when the Census was taken. Perhaps a neighbor was questioned and provided the census taker with the surname of Spencer rather than Spens. Nathaniel and Mary's ages were most likely estimated as they are shown as being only two years apart in age. Finally, James is recorded as being born in February rather than March. It is noted in the census that the mother could neither read nor write.

In addition to raising Nathaniel's two little daughters, Isabella and Elizabeth, whom Mary willingly took into her arms and heart, she bore Nathaniel twelve children. Their first son was born March 13, 1870, in American Fork and named James in the traditional Scottish pattern, after Nathaniel's father. When James was born, there were twenty other families living in the American Fork area, all farmers. Their immediate neighbors, according to the 1870 Census, were the Laycoxes and the Bloods.

About seven months later, on October 17, 1870 Leonard E. Harrington, Mayor of American Fork City, sold Nathaniel Spens an acre and a quarter of land for the sum of $2.25. The parcel of land is described as Lot 4, Block 33, Plat A, situated in Section 14, Township 5, South Range 1 Cast do. This parcel of land is located by present address as 200 North and 100 West in American Fork.

A second son born to Nathaniel and Mary was named Thomas in honor of Mary's father, again following the naming tradition. This son was also a namesake of Nathaniel's brother and grandfather. Sometime after Thomas's birth on February 14, 1872, the family moved to Salt Lake City where the next nine children were born.

Nathaniel was living in Salt Lake City on the nineteenth of September 1872 when he sold the land he previously purchased in American Fork. Having purchased the land in American Fork from the mayor for $2.25, he sold it to Jefferson Eastmond for the sum of $95.00 in hand.


Daniel H. Wells, the Mayor of Salt Lake City, in consideration of the sum of $2.05 paid by Nathaniel Spens of Salt Lake City deeded the East half of Lot two in Block 3 containing 100 square rods as plotted in Plot B on February 10, 1873. (This transaction was not recorded until December 27, 1889 just prior to the time Nathaniel sold the property. This information is recorded in Book 3 D, on pages 313-314.)

The third child born to Nathaniel and Mary was named Mary Jane. She was born October 6, 1873 and was their first child to be born in Salt Lake City. Following tradition, she would have been named Elizabeth after Mary's mother; however, since Nathaniel already had a daughter named Elizabeth, this child was named after Mary, herself, and after her sister, Jane. Little Mary Jane's maternal grandmother, Mary Durham Campbell was honored, too. The name may have had additional meaning to Nathaniel, having a deceased sister named Mary. Nathaniel's step-mother was named Jane also but it would be speculative to suggest their common name was more than a coincidence.

Nathaniel appears in the Salt Lake City General Directory for 1874, living on the property described above:

Spens Nathaniel, painter, 1 wd. 9 S. bet. 7 and 8 E.

Carter Photography and C. R. Savage's Pioneer Art Gallery are also listed in the 1874 Directory.

The second daughter is most often named after the father's mother. However, Nathaniel already had a daughter named Isabell, having followed the naming pattern earlier. And, although Mary had a little girl named Lizzie, she may have felt sad about not naming a daughter Elizabeth in honor of her own dear mother. To solve the problem, they named their fourth child and second daughter Anna Elizabeth and called her Annie. Little Annie was born September 3, 1875.

Having completed the demand of the formal Scottish naming tradition, Nathaniel and Mary continued to perpetuate the memory of kin as they chose names for their next three children. Their fifth child, Bertha Ann, was born October 6, 1877, and appears to have been named after Nathaniel's sister who died in 1853. Nathaniel also had two nieces named Bertha--Bertha Ann Spens Matthews (1849) and Isabella Bertha Storehouse (1869). The sixth child, Nathaniel, born October 9, 1879 was, of course, named after his father, Nathaniel, and it is suspected, after other Nathaniels in the Spens genealogy. The most famous Nathaniel Spens (1728-1815) was the president of The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and also one of the King's royal archers.

By 1880, Nathaniel's oldest child, Isabel, was eighteen years old and working as a servant for a family whose father worked for the railroad. Isabel must have stayed with the family part of the time at 17 W S L C (page 25) but she is also listed with her family (Nathaniel Speers, page 014).

Martha Jane, their seventh child, was born August 30, 1881. She was named after Mary's sister who was born May 10, 1861 in Fife Scotland and who had crossed the plains with her family in 1868 and died December 25, 1874 in Salt Lake City and was buried the next day (Plat E of Salt Lake City Cemetery). What sorrow the Campbells must have felt upon learning of her death. They had gone to American Fork to visit friends during the Christmas holidays.

The 1883 Salt Lake Directory gives Nathaniel's name as Spence N, painter, and a slightly different address; however, probably the same place: ns 8th South, bet 7th and 8th East.

Their eighth child was an angel who came and left on the same day--May 24, 1883. Joy at her arrival was soon overcome with sorrow at her short earth life. Jemima's name is not a familiar name to either the Spens or Campbell family; however, Jemima was a significant name to Mary and Nathaniel, having lived neighbors with Jemima Durrant in American Fork. Jemima's friendship and love is apparent in this angel namesake and in the fact that Maggie Philpot Spens is buried in the Durrant lot where Jemima Durrant would later be buried. The loss of a child is always a fragile time for a mother. Mary's sorrow may have healed faster with the help of two-year-old Martha's little love pats, and surely Martha's tender spirit flourished with the extra year of attention and love from her mother.

It was around the time of Jemima's death that another tragedy occurred. Nathaniel's 26-year-old nephew, Cuthbert Douse, came from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to America to visit his Uncle Nat and family. Cuthbert was an hemophiliac with very delicate health. He awoke with a tooth ache which became increasingly more painful. Eventually Cuthbert went to the dentist who extracted his tooth. The pain was now bearable but the dentist could not stop the hemorrhaging and Cuthbert died October 2, 1883. He was buried the same day in the Salt Lake Cemetery (Plat K Block 2 Lot 11 N 1/2). Cuthbert would not be going back to England to comfort his mother, Sarah Ann, and stay her hunger to know all about Nathaniel's life in Utah. Instead Nathaniel sent the sad news of Cuthbert's death to his beloved sister, Sarey.

In 1884 two nearly concurrent events brought changes in Nathaniel's family. First, Isabella, Nathaniel's first child by Jane Burnhope, married William Lloyd April 4th, and moved to Spanish Fork. William was a widow with five children. Shortly thereafter, on May 17, 1884, almost a year after Jemima's momentary existence, Mary's ninth child was born. John Alexander was named for Nathaniel's brother, John, who was a witness at Nathaniel's first marriage, and after Mary's brother, Alexander, who died at age nine. This child was known as Alex (pronounced Elec) except on formal occasions when blessings and scoldings were administered. At this time, the Spens family was living two houses away from Mary's widowed mother, Elizabeth Campbell.

Nathaniel is in the 1885 Salt Lake City Directory:  Spens Nathaniel, painter, re 751 e Ninth South.

The year 1886 was another eventful year. A new home was constructed on the property, according to the city records, and probably constructed by Nathaniel and his sons. Nathaniel and Mary's tenth child, Robert William, was born October 17th and named after Nathaniel's brother, Robert, who died young and Nathaniel's youngest brother, William. Robert was also a namesake of Mary's brother, Robert, who died at the age of one year.

The 1888 Salt Lake City Directory gives the following information on Nathaniel:  Spens Nath'l., painter, res 751 e Ninth South.

The 1889 Directory provides similar information:  Spens Nathaniel, painter, res 751 e Ninth South.

On February 10, 1889, Sarah joined the family--the eleventh child born to Mary and Nathaniel and their last child to be born in Salt Lake City. Sarah was named after Nathaniel's beloved sister, Sarah Ann, known affectionately by a nick name to Nathaniel as can be noted by the inscription she wrote on the back of picture she mailed to Nat, " From your sister Sarey XXXXXXXXXXX Eat all them kisses."

During the nearly 20 years Nathaniel and his family lived in Salt Lake City, Nathaniel's skill as a wood grainer and painter provided well for the family. Nathaniel had brought a set of graining combs with him from England and he was called to work in the Salt Lake Temple and in the Tabernacle. In the Tabernacle he made pine benches appear as hardwood. Nathaniel is also thought to have done the wood graining in the baptistry of the Manti Temple. If so, he must have traveled to Manti to work while his family remained in Salt Lake City. Nathaniel was a skilled and careful worker--he, like his father-in-law, took the Lord's work seriously.

Nathaniel's father-in-law also helped in the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. By 1874 Mary's parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell, had moved to Salt Lake City and attended the First Ward. Her father was ordained a High Priest and assigned to work on the temple. Mr. Campbell worked at the granite quarry where he injured his back when he took the full weight of one of the blocks in an accident.

Sometime after Thomas's accident at the quarry, a tall man with a long-tailed coat, a large black hat. a cane and a satchel came to visit Thomas Campbell. In Jeanne Campbell's words the man asked her father how he was feeling then proceeded to tell him, "I am messenger sent to relieve your suffering. In my satchel I have a vibrator." Jeanne goes on to explain, "Opening his satchel he took out a black box about a foot long and seven or eight inches wide and high with two long wires to which were attached half circle clamps." The visitor then said, "Place this one around your leg and this one (holding up the other clamp) around your upper arm or against your back. You are promised relief, but not cure from your pain, as long as you shall live." Jeanne recalled that the messenger left the vibrator on her father's bed, closed the satchel, ruffled her hair and told them he must be going. Elizabeth and Jeanne followed him to the door, then turned to smile at Thomas. When they turned again he had disappeared--no where to be seen and unable to have traversed the 60-foot board walk so quickly. Mary Campbell Spens was summoned from two doors away but the messenger had disappeared. After being bed-ridden for five years, Thomas Campbell died of paralysis due to a stroke on January 30, 1880 and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery (K-13-9-E-5). The vibrator disappeared. (Sometime in the 1980s Campbell descendants placed a marker on his grave.)

Following Thomas's death, Elizabeth Campbell came to live with Nathaniel and Mary and her grandchildren, bringing the number in the household to eleven according to the 1880 Census taken in June. Among the household members there were three Elizabeths: Elizabeth Campbell, Nathaniel's mother-in-law; Elizabeth, age 14, later called Lizzie; and Elizabeth age 4, or Anna Elizabeth later called Annie. Isabell, age 18, appears in the census with her family but also appears as a servant for a railroading family (p. 125). That same Census year little Nathaniel was born. That same Census showed that both Nathaniel Spens and his neighbor, John T. Matthews, also a painter, reported they had been unemployed for six months of the Census year.

It was while living in Salt Lake City that Nathaniel's talent as an artist is noted. Nathaniel had opportunity to frequent Charles Roscoe Savage's Pioneer Art Gallery on East Temple Street downtown--perhaps a blessing of being unemployed. He found time to paint pictures, some of which he donated. Others may have been traded (but apparently never sold according to family tradition) for necessary items for the family. In the 1873 Territorial Fair, Nathaniel Spens exhibited nineteen specimens of graining and marbling, "all done well" according to the Salt Lake Daily Herald, Oct. 6, 1873.

In the Salt Lake Daily Herald, on July 18, 1877, Nathaniel Spens is mentioned as a painter:

"The fourth and final competition of the Pioneer Riffle Club ..... for the elegant oil painting presented by John Tullidge and Russell, took place yesterday. George A. Mears won for the third time and the picture is now his personal property.... N. Spens, Esq., has presented an attractive oil painting to the Pioneer Riffle club...." ("Five Hundred Yards Off Hand." SL Daily Herald, 18 Jul 1877)

Nathaniel's masterpiece, "The Battle of Trafalgar," a 20" X 38" oil on canvas, was completed in 1877. More will be written about this painting and other paintings that have been identified from this time period.

Like his father-in-law, Nathaniel also took his residence in this new country seriously. Thomas Campbell had made a declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States on January 12, 1869. Nathaniel did likewise at a later date. His Utah Territory Citizenship paper shows that on September 7, 1882, Nathaniel Spens was admitted to become a citizen of the United States. The papers were signed by A. C. Sorenson, clerk of the First District Court, Utah Territory.

Citizenship was one step in becoming eligible to qualify for land under the Homestead Act passed by the United States Congress in May of 1862. Perhaps, as a citizen, Nathaniel began to take more interest in owning land. He may have learned about Jacob Christensen's farm while wood graining at the Manti Temple. Mary's relatives in Mount Pleasant may have also influenced their decision to move South. Her brother, James, had moved from American Fork to Castle Gate to Mount Pleasant by 1888 and had filed on a farm on Birch Creek. Favorable reports of Mount Pleasant must have come to Nathaniel and Mary resulting in a decision to sell their new home in Salt Lake City:

"This Indenture, made the second (2nd) day of January, in the Year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety (1890) Between Nathaniel Spens and Mary Spens, his wife, of Salt Lake City in the County of Salt Lake and Territory of Utah parties of the first part and George Naylor of the city, County and Territory aforesaid the party of the second part witnesseth that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of Twenty Five Hundred ($2500) Dollars, lawful money of the United States of America to them in hand paid the party of the second part, the recipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have granted, bargained, sold, aliened, reversed, released, conveyed and confirmed and by these presents do grant bargain, sell, alien, reverse, release, convey and confirm unto the said party of the second part, and to his heirs and assigns forever all that certain piece or parcel of land known and described as follows to wit: The East half (E 1/2) of Lot Two (2) in Block three (3) Plot B, Salt Lake City Survey containing one hundred (100) square rods of ground situate in aforesaid City and County of Salt Lake Territory of Utah..." (Book 3 E, pages 220-221).


The Homestead Act of 1862 and later acts amending the original act provided that, if certain requirements were met, applicants could obtain up to 160 acres of land free of charge. This bill had been blocked in Congress for years and passed only after the Southern States succeeded from the Union. In 1872 an amendment to the original act was geared toward helping Union veterans (or their widows) and their families. Those who qualified either had to be a citizen (or an alien intending to become a citizen) of the United States. Applicants had to build a home on the land, cultivate some of the land, and reside on the land for at least five years. Between 400,000 and 600,000 families proved their claim and obtained land in America through the Homestead Act (Neill, 1994).

In 1889, according to testimony of witnesses, some of Nathaniel's family went to Mountainville and began to occupy a piece of land in preparation for homesteading. Early on the morning of March 30, 1890, Nathaniel and Mary and their family bid family and friends goodbye and left for Sanpete Valley. This was probably the last time Mary saw her mother, Elizabeth Smith Campbell Walker, who died on the 18th of the following November and was buried some distance from Thomas Campbell (L-9-W 1/2).

Neither Isabella nor Lizzie moved with their father and Mary to Mount Pleasant. Isabella Irvine Spens Lloyd, now 28 years old, was living on a 23-acre farm on the Spanish Fork River near Lake Shore. Perhaps Nathaniel and Mary stopped to visit Isabella and Will Lloyd and grandchildren, Lillian Burnhope Lloyd and Spens Lloyd, on their way to Mount Pleasant. Elizabeth, known as Lizzie, had moved out of the family home earlier and was listed individually in the 1888 Salt Lake City Directory:

Spens, Miss E., domestic, res 163 e South Temple.

January 1, 1889, Elizabeth married Robert Chesnut in Ogden, Utah. Robert was living in Salt Lake City and was listed in the 1889 directory as "Chestnut Robert, boilermaker, res 234 w First North". Robert and Lizzie was among the well-wishers who bid the Spens family farewell. (Lizzie's mother's sister, Lizzie Durrant is thought to have been living in Salt Lake City at that time, another reason not be move far away.)

Nathaniel and Mary were worried about the effects of city life on their sons. Jim, the oldest son, was about 20 when the family moved to Mountainville, or the Round Hills. In this rural setting, Nathaniel would teach his sons to be decorators and together they would learn about farming. The family traveled in a wagon and a white-topped buggy, leading the cow behind. Much of the furniture being moved to the new house was Nathaniel's work, he having built it as well as sanded, grained and polished it. Nathaniel bought Jacob Christensen's farm home three miles east of Mount Pleasant in the Round Hills. Three round hills explain the name of the area and were a part of the 250-acre farm, about half of which was in pasture. The Round Hills areas was referred to as Mountainville.

In addition to buying part of the Christensen farm, Nathaniel filed a homestead application (#8743) and paid an $8.00 entry fee on May 24, 1890. Nathaniel's certificate of publication of intention to make a claim, the homestead proof, testimony of two witnesses and the claimant, and the final certificate are all on file in the land records in Salt Lake City. The two witnesses were his young nephew, James Campbell, and old Uncle Thomas Burnside, age 71, Nathaniel's beloved friend and constant companion in later years.

The homestead papers state that Nathaniel Spens was not absent during the five years required by the Homestead Act in making a claim and that, during those five years, he made improvements on the land. According to testimony there was a log house on the homesteaded land--the Christensen home. The kitchen was attached to the house. The home was 16 X 18 feet, with 6 doors, 9 windows, a shingled roof, and board floor in 1889. Nathaniel and his sons constructed a hen house and 80 rods of fencing. The improvements were valued at about $200.00. In addition to the construction, the Spens men had cultivated about 15 acres and had raised crops thereon for six seasons.

Improvements on the homestead were not limited to crops and buildings. The farmers who opened up the settlement were joined by other pioneers who provided goods and services necessary for the growth of a community. One of Nathaniel's future sons-in-law, Robert Mills, came to the Mount Pleasant area to make bricks.

Not only was the town growing and changing. Significant changes and events were occurring in Nathaniel's family as well. On May 4, 1891, Nathaniel's and Mary's last child, Clara Spens, was born in Mount Pleasant. Like Jemima, Clara's name was not a traditional family name; however, being the last child, Clara had plenty to live up to without being a namesake.

Eighteen-ninety two was another important year. Thomas, the first of Nathaniel's sons to wed, married Agnes Burnside January 4, 1892. Sometime later in the year the one and only family portrait was taken. Thomas's wife appears in the portrait with her hand on her husband's shoulder. With the exception of Jemima who did not live, all of Mary's children are in the photograph. Still later, on September 1, 1892 to be exact, the Spens family celebrated a double wedding in Mount Pleasant. James married Christiana Christensen and Mary Jane married Thomas Burnside.

With the boys running the farm, Nathaniel continued his woodgraining trade and his painting during the day. Any evening one could find him reading the newspaper while Mary "sewed or darned hose." By March of 1892 articles about the World's Fair began to appear. In Utah the Governor appointed three commissioners to decide what would be displayed at the Chicago World's Fair also known as the Columbian Exhibition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus's Atlantic crossing. As October 1893 neared, Nathaniel's interest in the fair increased for good reason. Portrait and landscape photographer C. R. Savage of the Pioneer Art Gallery on East Temple Street in Salt Lake City was taking Nathaniel's 1877 masterpiece painting and some wood graining samples to the fair, another major event during the homestead years.


In addition to the $500,000 appropriated by the government for Utah's building, the people of Utah willingly contributed to fund Utah's state and county exhibits. Nathaniel must have been reminded of his own father, James Spens, as he fingered the lithographed certificates of membership being sold for one dollar each in an effort to raise money for the individual county exhibits. Souvenir coins were also sold according a Dec 30, 1892 newspaper article.

Nathaniel must have followed the construction of the grand midway and the two hundred buildings of the "white city," known as such not only because most of the building were painted white, but also because it would be the first use of electric lighting to light the buildings by night. He probably read about the 10,000 workers who were divided into two shifts and worked around the clock. On April 9, 1893, Nathaniel, like other readers, may have begun to worry when those laborers threatened to go on strike if their demands for union wages were not met. The following day 1000 men quit. The teamsters were receiving $1.60 a day went on strike for an outrageous $2.00. Most of the other workers were striking for about 5 cents more per hour. April 11th's news paper reported that the men were back at work at the same wage as before the strike.

The immensity of the project must have brought some companionable comments as Nathaniel read to Mary, his feet propped up. The largest building was as large as 14 football fields on the ground floor and contained various manufacturers such as Tiffany and Gorham who erected their own structures to house their exhibits. In addition to the 15 major exhibit buildings filled with the latest art and technology, 30 states and 20 foreign countries had individual structures. The Libby Glass company even built a glass factory and demonstrated glass making.

The Midway Plaisance became the inspiration for Coney Island and other present-day amusement parks. It must have taken quite an imagination for Nathaniel and Mary to comprehend the "captive balloon that took people for rides to a height of 1492 feet in honor of Christopher Columbus" or the first Ferris Wheel which was an impressive 246 feet high (Equivalent to a 28 story building), each of its 36 cars holding up to 60 people. Both the captive balloon and the ferris wheel offered a magnificant view of the fair as well as of all of Chicago. A pier was built, extending about a half mile into Lake Michigan and an incredible "moving sidewalk" ran its length then looped back. For five cents each, people could sit on benches and ride as long as they wanted. Another pier were replicas of a battleship, a Viking ship, a whaling ship and, yes, replicas of the Pinta, Nina and

Santa Maria. Finally the first elevated electrical intramural railway carried the 27 million visitor around the fair grounds.

Although Nathaniel did not know it, the Columbian Exposition would later be recognized as the greatest ever built according to historian, Dr. Stephen Sheppard (1990***). This Exposition influenced the world, not only in construction and imagination, but also in technology and art. John Phillip Sousa became popular after performing at the Fair. Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West show to a crowded grandstand. Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the long distance telephone between Chicago and New York. Among the American artists who exhibited their work were William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, Daniel Chester French, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler (American Art Review, 1993). Nathaniel's painting was in good company!

The World's Fair opened on May 1st and ran for six month, closing October 30, 1893. Thousands came to the fair and were astounded. Then in July there was a fire that lead to a searh for bodies and a loss of life for some 40 visitors. Attendance began to fall with the apprehension following the fire.

Although most of Utah only read about the fair, some actually attended the great exposition. On August 29, 1893, several hundred people boarded the train in Salt Lake City on their way to the World's Fair. The group included 250 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 86-year-old President Wilford Woodruff and his two counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith. Also included were leaders from the Relief Society and Young Ladies who were invited to conduct at least two of the 81 sessions of the women's congress at the International Council of Women at the Columbian Exposition. This was the Tabernacle Choir's first out-of-Utah tour. The choir members were guests of honor in Kansas City, quite a different situation from that President Woodruff recalled 59 years earlier, as he was driven from Independence by the mob. On September 8, the Choir perfomed at the World's Fair and won the second prize of $1000 in the Welsh singing contest, the Eisteddfod (Church News, 1993).

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was not the only group to win prizes at the fair. On July 26 the newspaper carried an article announcing more awards. The Territory of Utah Department of Liberal Arts took first in their collection of educational works. There were also awards for its collection and specimens of ores in the Department of Mines

In retrospect, the fair offered Utah an opportunity to demonstrate and exhibit daily life and culture as well as opened their minds to new technology and change. It was said that the "Choir did more good than 5000 sermons. The animosity toward Mormons seemed to have changed. Charles R. Savage stated later, "The fair eclipses all my previous opportunities of seeing the skill of man" (Church News, 1993). Sadly, in 1894 fires destroyed most of the buildings and landscape designed by Louis Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (designer of New York City's Central Park) and others.


The fair over and his picture returned, Nathaniel's paper-reading must have continued as did his painting. Nathaniel and Mary watched as more of their children grew up and left home. Their baby, Clara, turned three in 1894 and was the quietest of all the children, seeming somewhat sad like her mother, and "all eyes."

On June 8, 1895 Nathaniel paid the Homestead balance due--$3.00 having successfully homesteaded 80 acres of land described as the East half of the NE corner of Section 25 Township 145 Range 4E, Salt Lake Meridian, Utah. That same year Bertha married Robert Mills in Mount Pleasant.

Homesteaders did not find it easy to clear the land of sage brush and plant crops. There were originally no irrigation rights or water shares and the crops raised were sufficient only to feed the stock and pay tithing. Later Brigham Young allocated the Birch Creek water. According to Melba Hill (Mountainville History, page 10), the allocations directed that "Anything over nine inches on an eight-foot gate was high water." An engineer by the name of Cox divided the shares: thus it was called the Cox Decree. Hill goes on to explain, "Birch Creek was divided, with Fairview having nine days and Mountainville having nine days alternately." Irrigation ditches were dug and turns of four hours were assigned. When Nathaniel's turn came at 11 p.m. or 3 a.m. it was necessary for the Spens men to work the water with lanterns. A water master was hired to be sure the allocations were strictly enforced and that the individual farmers did not use more than their rightful share of water. Nathaniel's future son-in-law, Webley Wilcox, would one day be the water master for some of the ditches. The water master's job was very difficult, especially when greed was unchecked and during times of drought--water was the life of the land and often stolen by desperate farmers.

The year 1898 was a year of joy and sorrow. Eleven-year-old Robert died Mar 21, 1898. A few months after Robert's death, there was another double wedding in the Spens family--this time a double temple wedding. Mary Jane and Thomas and their spouses traveled to Manti and on the 15th of June these two couples were married in the temple.

Nathaniel's children were growing up. January 3, 1900 Martha married Arthur Mills in Mount Pleasant and such a party they had--young Clara recalled the merriment 60 years later! In the 1900 Census, Nathaniel is listed as a farmer. Still at home were Nathaniel, Jr., John, Sarah and Clara. Some of the older children lived nearby and were doing the farm work. It seems that Nathaniel was a farmer by title only and that Nathaniel Jr. or Nat was still at home following his father's trade and doing much of the farm work.

According to Aunt Jen, Mary Campbell's sister, who lived with Nathaniel and Mary for a year, "Nathaniel was a large man in stature and a fine looking man. He was a painter by trade and an artist. He painted two pictures for my mother and Dad and they are real art. He decorated homes most beautifully. He was very sweet and considerate of everybody."

Nathaniel and his family knew the value of work. Looking back, Nathaniel might have said about his life, "A bit maer of hardship than the spindlin' crop of lads nowadays." About his own children Nathaniel may have reflected, "Aye, a bonny bunch they are! Hard working, hard fighting boys they are! And if they take a drap too muckle.. 'twas my own example set before them. The girls know how to work, too, thanks to my Mary, and keep their hair neat and their noses clean!" (Ila Jensen).

Ila Brown Jensen, granddaughter of Nathaniel, goes on to write that Nathaniel was free-hearted almost to a fault. "Never have I turned a man away in need. And though my temper roars out quick, hot words, I bear no grudge to any man." Nathaniel ever hated a liar or a hypocrite. What faults he had were out in the open for the world to see. He often said, "The quiet mice eat the cheese."

According to Ila, church was not for Nathaniel. Mary was a church goer, not Nathaniel. "Church is not for the likes of me. Mary always took the bairns, but, Aye, I'd nae pretend to be what I wasna meant to be. They can take me as I be. Liars need watching worse than thieves."

Perhaps Nathaniel's lack of church attendance in later years was related not only to his drinking, but also to the buried ache of his father's words of disapproval. His father had been so proud of him when he had completed his apprenticeship, "in that dour Scots way of his." His gentle mother--would she have voiced the same disapproval of his Mormon faith or would she have calmed his father? His step-mother had not interfered.

Aunt Jen describes her sister: "Mary Campbell was tall and very stately. She and her brother, Jim, were the tallest in the family. Mary was very stern too, but as sweet as they come. Her daughter, Anna Elizabeth, looked very much like her, except that Annie had a happier face--Mary always looked sad. She had large blue eyes, long features and mixed grey hair combed straight back with a high bob at the top back of her head. She wore glasses and would always push them up into her hair when not on her eyes them pull them down when needed. She always wore a checkered or blue-striped apron over her house dress of gingham. She worked very hard helping care for the stock, curing meats in their own smoke house, and the milk--churning all the butter and making all the cheese. Mary was an immaculate housekeeper." Their home was very humble and sweet. She and Nathaniel were up early in the morning. Nathaniel and Mary were a very devoted couple and had a fine family."

From other remembrances and documents, it is clear that Mary did not read or write. However, she was proficient at figures and no one could shortchange her. She was described as being thrifty and clean in her housekeeping, immaculate and neat in her personal habits and able to direct her family without raising her voice. She had been struck by lightning in Salt Lake while standing in the doorway watching a storm. The hair on her head had been singed and she had fallen to the ground. However, the doctors and the elders were summoned and her recovery was complete. Mary was a woman of deep faith.

Old Bird and Bess were Nathaniel's trusty, spirited mares. "Full oft they brought me home when fatigue and fumes had left my mind bemuddled. The boulders punding and the wheels bouncing fit to fly" (Jensen).

The younger children were marrying. Anna Elizabeth married Andew Rasmussen in Greybull, Wyoming on Christmas Eve, 1906. Young "Alec"John Alexander Spens married Sarah Ethel Coates on 10 Feb 1909 in Mount Pleasant. That same year on November 17th, Sarah married Webley Wilcox in Manti.

In 1912 their youngest child, Clara, married Thomas LeRoy Brown and Nathaniel and Mary must have felt a sense of accomplishment. Grandchildren continued to visit and often begged for a painting of something or another that they had seen. One such request resulted in the painting copied from a postcard and portrayed the contrast of a beggar and a rich man passing each other on the road.

Grandson, Percy Brown was three when Nathaniel died. "I remember visiting the log house. Grandpa was sitting on porch, painting I guess. As I recall hearing, some of his stensil and graining took first place at the fair. Grandpa's paintings were smooth, not lumpy like Stanfield's who asked Grandpa to teach him how to paint. When he saw one of Grandpa's paintings, he said he could paint that well, so Grandpa put his work away and said he couldn't teach him anything."

A granddaughter, Mary Burnside Mower, recalled, "I remember Grandpa sitting on the side of his couch bed with his trouser legs rolled up to his knees and both legs covered with deep sores. Grandma rubbed salve on them and then wrapped them in white cloth. Grandpa had lots of gray hair and a beard. The kitchen table was against the east window and when we ate Grandma would cut only one slice of bread for each of us. She would cut more if we needed more, but worried that it would dry out if she cut more than was needed."


Nathaniel had bumped his leg on a plank as he came around the hay stack and during the last years of his life he was plagued by a sore on his leg which would not heal. He suffered much pain with his leg. Quite often he called for Mary, "Mary, Mary, fix this leg again, Lass! The pain! A wee drap to take the pain away! Mary, Another pillow for my leg! Aye, aye, there, nae, nae, there I say. Mary, Lass, you've been a good wife to me.

"Drat and blast that leg! Never a minute's peace it gives a body! It's a dreary row, day in and day out tae sit and nurse this cursed pain! Ah, well, a full and gusty life I've lived in these near four score years. Though 'tis a long way from bonnie Scotland and England where my sister Sarey lives, in these wee bit hills in this mountain village, I've made my way.

"The walls are full of canvases. (Youngest daughter, Clara, recalled the big job of dusting all those paintings!) Each bairn shall have a few to remember old Daddy by. But there's many homes will remember Old Spens--Oak, Birdseye Maple, Mohogony and Walnut graining grace the panels of full many a room. Years it will last. Well done, Old Man Spens. I always did the best my seven years had taught me--Aye, not only seven years, but many times seven have taught me much" (Ila Jensen).

On Saturday, November 26, 1916 Nathaniel Spens died at his home in Mountainville. Bishop H. C. Jacobs conducted the funeral services Friday, December 2st at 2 o'clock at the North Ward chapel in Mount Pleasant. Speakers included Elders William Shelley, Thomas West, and Newell K. Young; the Stake President, C. N. Lund, and Bishop H. C. Jacobs. It was noted in the obituary that Nathaniel had "helped decorate" the Salt Lake Tabernacle and also the Salt Lake Temple.

Six of his fifteen children preceeded him in death. According to his death certificate he died of hypostates pneumonia and was buried in Mount Pleasant where he had lived for the last 26 years of his life. He was buried in a white casket.

The following year, Nat, Nathaniel, Jr., married Elfa Edna Bills 27 March 1917 in Manti, Utah.

Mary was helping her daughter, Sarah, one day when the oven door fell on Mary's foot, smashing her toe. The injury developed gangrene and resulted in Mary's death on July 28, 1921 at the home of her daughter, Mary Jane Spens Burnside. Her doctor, O. Sundwall, signed the death certificate. Mary was buried in a white casket in a brick vault. The same day Mary Spens died, the Spens boys had decided to burn off some of the June grass and brush and set such a fire as to almost burn out themselves and their neighbors, according to grandson, Percy Brown.


Documents that should set the record straight have only confused this issue. Early documents support June 21, 1838. James Spens entered his son's birth date as June 21, 1838. The scrape of registration paper sent by Sarah to Nathaniel agreed--June 21, 1838. The 1851 Census reports Nathaniel as age 13 (birth calculated to 1838 if Census was taken after June 21 or rounded to closest year). The 1861 Census reports Nathaniel to be 22 (birth calculated to 1838 if Census was taken before June 21). The 1880 Census similarly reflects 1838 as his birth, giving him as age 43 on June 8, 1880. The Endowment House record also gives June 21, 1838 as Nathaniel's birth.

Later reports provide different information. The Homestead Proof reports Nathaniel to be 59 years old on June 3, 1895 (birth calculated to be 1836). His death certificate gives his birth as 21 June 1836, his death date as November 25, 1916 and age at death as 80 years old. Likewise, the final record--his tombstone in Mount Pleasant--indicates he was born 21 June 1836.

Nathaniel's children by three wives:

1. Jane Burnhope: Isabella Irvine  and William Burnhope

2. Margaret Phillpot: Elizabeth Philpot

3. Mary Campbell:    James                  Thomas              Mary Jane   

                                Anna Elizabeth      Bertha              Nathaniel 

                                 Martha Jane         Jemima             John Alexander 

                                Robert William       Sarah              Clara



Homestead records detail pioneer life, by Michael John Neill, Ancestry, Vol. 12, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1994.

Alston, Christopher, [Reminiscences], Our Pioneer Heritage, comp. by Kate B. Carter, vol. 8. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965) pp.36-37.

American Art Review, Summer 1993, American art at the 1893 World's Fair, vol 5, p 110-113.

Avant, Gerry, (1993), 1893: First Choir out-of-State Tour, Church News, Sept 4, pp. 4, 12.

Brown, Richard Daniels, Jr., [Autobiography]. In Brown, Archie Leon, 141 Years of Mormon

Heritage: Rawson, Browns, Angells--Pioneers (Oakland, Calif.: Archie Leon Brown, 1973) pp. 82-83.

Madsen, Carol Cornwall, (1993), The power of combinations: Emmeline B. Wells and the

national and international councils of women. BYU Studies 33, no. 4, pp. 651-654.

Payne, Harry M., [Reminiscenses]. In Payne, Wilford H., The Harry M. Payne Family History (Bountiful: Horizon Publisher, 1974) pp. 28-29.

Sheppard, Stephen, (1992 ) A brief history of the Columbian Exposition 1893.

Homestead Papers for Sanpete County area, furnished by Linda Boud

Manuscript History of the British Mission, Historical Department, SLC

Manuscript History of the Church (for World's Fair newspaper articles).

Mountainville History by Melba Hill, 1995.

New York, New York, by Oliver E. Allen, 1990, NY, Athenaeum.

Mary Mower. Ila Jensen, Reta Briggs, and Percy Brown (grandchildren remember)

Longford, Elizabeth, (1964, 1973) VICTORIA R.I., Harper & Row, Publishers, London

Millennial Star

Desert News

Academic American Encyclopedia, 1991 Edition, Vol. 17, Church of Scotland. Grolier Incorporated.

My Mother's Story--Jeanne Campbell Young Morcroft by Vera Elizabeth Young Allen

Ila Jensen, A Scottsman Remembers

Crossing the Ocean

Early Salt Lake City Directories

Obituary of Nathaniel Spens

Utah County Recorders Office records for Nathaniel Spens and James Campbell

Salt Lake County Recorder Office, Book 3D, pp 313-14; Book 3E, pp220-21.

United States and British Census returns

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