Recorded From Memory by Golda Geary Page Smith January 8, 1967, from stories told to her by her mother Sophia Ann Geary
IMPORTANT NOTE: Current family research by Kaye P. Nichols has clarified some of the actual details mentioned in the account below. Bear in mind that this is history handed down by word of mouth and related from memory when Golda was very old. We are grateful to have all historical accounts, both verbal, and documented which helps us to better know and understand our stalwart ancestors and their life experiences.
Also read John Thomas Geary and Sophia Fryer History by Kaye Page Nichols.
John Thomas Geary was born February 5, 1823 in Atterton, England to Thomas Geary and Sarah Ann Elton. He was educated in seven different languages besides his own, which was English. He practiced Law in all of them. He was a Lord, and was Speaker in the House of Lords in London, England.
He was married August 27, 1852 to Sophia Fryer, daughter of Moses Fryer and Eliza Miller who were of a very old and respected English Family of the Isle of Wight, England. The day these two were married they led a parade of both the Geary and the Fryer families through the streets of London, Everybody was out to see this newly married pair. It lasted for three hours.
Not long after they were married a couple of Mormon Elders, Parley P. Pratt and one other came to their door. When the butler found out they were Mormons he told them Grandfather did not want to hear anything they had to say. So they left. Grandfather had heard part of what was said, so he called the butler and asked him who those men were. The butler told him and Grandfather asked him to please go and bring them back for he wanted to talk to them. He asked the butler to never turn anyone like that from his door again. When they returned, they were led in to Grandfather's Study where he welcomed them and they spent a very pleasant two hours together.
For awhile Grandfather attended LDS meetings alone, at night. He would then tell Grandmother all about it. It was not long before they were both baptized. They always said that this is what they had waited and hungered for all their life. When it became known that John and Sophia had joined the Mormon Church there was terrible commotion. They were turned out into the street without a single copper in their pockets and they were both disinherited by the Geary and Fryer families. John and Sophia went to the Elders and the Saints for help. The Saints made them welcome and took them into their homes. Grandfather had to disguise himself in every way that he could, he even shaved his head and had to keep under cover because he was hunted just like he was a fugitive.
When the excitement had finally died down a bit Grandfather left Grandmother with the Saints and he made his way to Liverpool where he was again given a home and protection by the Saints. He obtained a job at night, working on the docks, helping to load and unload freight on the big ships as them came in and went out. Finally, when he had earned enough money he sent Grandmother to America with a group of converts. She came to America with Sophia’s sister, Jane Fryer and brother, Richard who married Thersa Ann Revel April 7, 1861, also came with them. Because they were Mormons and might be put off the ship or be prosecuted they had to be careful. One time a sheriff and police came on board and searched their baggage but could find no identification to show that they were Mormons.
John stayed and worked until he had enough money to get him to America. He came on the ship “Jersey” and while on ship he did all kinds of jobs to earn as much money as he could. He kept no journal of the trip but had a pleasant voyage. It took three days and nights to clear the English Channel and six weeks to make the trip across the ocean. They had a death and two births on voyage. He arrived at Belees, America February 15, 1853. The ship was towed across the bar to the Mississippi River and soon was gliding up the river. It took two day to reach New Orleans. They saw Negroes strutting around as big as life. They had separate living quarters for men and women. The next day the saints put their luggage on the “John Simonds” and they left at dusk to go up the river. The scenery was different than they had ever seen before, steamers going up and down the river and Negroes at work on the plantations. They passed thick long woods and now and then was a large piece of farm land with a bustling little town by it. It took six days to go up the river. They stayed at St. Louis for six weeks and John got a job working for $1.00 a day. He bought a wagon and cattle and camped with 1200 other saints in wagons and tents. They organized their companies and he was in the last company to leave with Captain John Brown. They reached council Bluffs on the Missouri River on July 17, 1853 and had to stay for a time for his wife was ill.
It took he and Grandmother three years to make their way to Utah. This was a real test. They had to live on roots, bulbs, bark off the trees, needles from the pine trees, berries and the leaves from scrub Cedar trees, or just about anything they could find. Aunt Echo was born in Echo Canyon as they were coming into the Salt Lake Valley on the 26th of November 1856. In Grandfather's diary he said that the snow at that time was in drifts 18 feet deep and all that they had for Grandmother and that sweet baby was a little straw in the wagon box with a quilt over it for a bed and not too much to cover them with. The wagon cover was so old that it kept them busy mending it the best they could. But with the help of the Lord they got along fine and Aunt Echo lived to marry and become the mother of two fine sons.
When they arrived in Utah, Brigham Young sent them to Dixie and Grandfather was one of the first men there to raise cotton. He was the very first man who ever taught school in Toquerville who did not whip the children. In 1866 he moved to Salt Lake City, while there he wrote his last will and testament and died there January 5, 1867.
So far as we know, Grandfather was the only one of his family to join the Mormon Church. One of Grandmother's brothers and his wife, and a sister and her husband joined the Church later on and came to America.
No one will probably ever know or realize the heartbreaks and hardships they endured but with the help of their Lord, they died as they had lived true as steel to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As long as I live I shall tell how grateful I am for my grandparents who came to Utah for the sake of the Gospel. I know as they knew, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Later day Saints is the only true Church on the earth. This I bear as my testimony to you.
*This story is (from memory) as my mother, Sophia Ann Geary, told it to me.
Date: Jan. 8, 1967 Name: Golda Geary Page Smith