Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thomas Box - Early Mormon Convert from Texas

(Thomas is the brother to our direct ancestor, Grief Johnson Box, and the great-uncle to our grandmother, Mabel Edna Leffel Baldwin)

Thomas Box & Clarkey Carpenter Box Family
Early Mormon Converts from Texas

As far as I can tell, Thomas Box and his wife, Clarkey Carpenter Box, are our only ancestors to join the Mormon Church. This is their story.

Thomas Box was born in Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee on 8 Aug 1804, the third son of Michael and Mary (Fulcher) Box. Sometime around 1830 Thomas married Clarkey Carpenter, daughter of Richard & Nancy Holiday Carpenter. No marriage record has been found. Thomas and Clarkey Box were living in Giles, Tennessee when their son, Rufus, was born on 19 Mar 1831. Clarkey's Carpenter family was also living in Giles County at this time.

By 1835, Thomas and Clarkey had moved to Tippah County, Mississippi. Their daughter, Samantha, was born 22 Jun 1835. Two years later the Thomas Box family was in Chulerhomer, Marshall, Mississippi when their son, Thomas Michael Box, was born 26 Oct 1837. They may have just been visiting Marshall County because they were soon back in Tippah County. Thomas shows up in the 1840 census and in land records of Tippah County until 1842. Eleven year old son, Rufus, died in 1842. Thomas’s parents, Michael and Mary Box,  both died just a month a part in early 1841 in Tippah county.  Daughter, Samantha, died at the age of 9 years old in October of 1844. Thomas  probably moved  his family to Texas sometime after the death of his daughter in 1844.
Crossing the Plains,
In 1846, the Thomas Box Family was living in Henderson County, Texas.  Thomas showed up on the 1846 Henderson County, Texas Poll list. The older brother to Thomas, James Francis Box, had previously moved to Texas. Some of the Box relatives (uncles and cousins) had lived in Texas since the Texas Revolution from Mexico.  His sister, Mary and her husband, Hugh G. Henderson, migrated to Texas about the same time as Thomas and Clarkey. Perhaps they traveled together in a wagon train from Tennessee to Texas.  Families and friends often moved together to new locations.

Thomas received a land grant for 320 acres in Henderson County in 1849.

In 1850, Thomas, Clarkey and their three living children are enumerated in the Henderson County, Texas 1850 Federal Census.
1850 Federal Census, Henderson County, Texas
Sometime around 1850, Lydia Box McCollum, sister to Thomas, moved to Henderson County with her husband, George, and their children.

In 1851, Thomas Box was appointed administrator for James Duncan Estate in Henderson County, Texas. (Thomas Box is next door to James Duncan in the 1850 Henderson Census). According to the Duncan probate records of August 1854, Thomas Box was said to be living in Trinity City, Ellis County, Texas. It is not known if James Duncan was more than just a friend and neighbor?

Box Family Joins Mormon Church
Sometime in the early part of 1856, Thomas and Clarkey became acquainted with missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. On 10 April 1856, Thomas and Clarkey were baptized members of the LDS Church in Ellis County, Texas. At that time, Elders Morris Snedaker, Homer Duncan, John Ostler & Benjamin L. Clapp were serving as missionaries in Ellis County. The next month, on Sunday, 25 May 1856, Thomas was ordained an Elder in the LDS Church. Thomas and Clarkey were listed as members of the newly organized Ellis County Branch on the first of June 1856. James Box and wife and Thomas Box, Jr. were also listed as members. This James Box and wife, who are listed as members, would probably be the brother and sister-in-law to Thomas Box.  Apparently, they did not remain active or committed to their new religion because they did not migrate to Utah with the other members of the LDS faith in 1857. 

  Members of the Ellis County, Texas Branch of the LDS Church, June 1856
Diary of Morris J. Snedaker, 1855-1856; Southwestern Historical Quarterly, April 1963

Thomas most likely traveled to Utah with the Homer Duncan Company in 1857.  It is known that the Box family arrived in Salt Lake Valley by September 1857.  Thomas brought with him a large herd of cattle.  The following was reported in the Los Angeles Star newspaper (Vol VII, No26, Saturday, 7 Nov 1857): "John Aiken...says: ...returned to Texas, and thence to Kansas, where I took charge of a drove of cattle, of 973, for Thomas Box, a Mormon, to deliver them at Salt Lake city. We started from Leavenworth city on the 22d of June last. We proceeded quietly and uninterruptedly on our journey as far as Sweet Water."
Los Angeles Star, Vol 7, No 26, 7 Nov 1857
USC Digital Library
Several months after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Thomas received his Patriarchal Blessing (5 Dec 1857) from Patriarch Isaac Morley.
Patriarchal Blessing Index, 1833-1963

In a letter dated 13 Apr 1858, to the Secretary of War concerning the Indian difficulties in Utah Territory, the following was reported: "About the 1st of March a descent was made upon the herds of the settlers in Rush valley and a considerable number of cattle and horses were driven off; among them quite a number belonging to Mr. Thos. Box, late of Texas." (Executive Documents of the House of Representatives, 35th Congress, Washington, 1859, page 74)

On 10 Jul 1858, Thomas was "sealed for time and eternity" to his wife, Clarkey in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Also, on that same day Thomas married a polygamist wife, Belinda Marden Pratt, the widow of Parley P. Pratt who had died in May of 1857. (Yes, it seems we have a polygamist in the family.)

 Endowment House, Salt Lake City

In 1859, several members of the Box family are listed in the SLC 17th Ward Records. In January of 1859, Thomas, Clarkey & Belinda travel to Nephi, Utah to receive Patriarchal Blessings from Patriarch William Cazier. In September of 1859, Thomas and Clarkey received their Endowments in the Endowment House and were sealed as husband and wife a second time.  During 1859, Thomas served as a juror for the 3rd Judicial Court in Salt Lake City.

Also, in 1859, Thomas Box is referred to in the Journal History of the Church.  During the time of the Utah War, Brigham Young joined in a meeting of the Twelve held on 23 Feb 1859.  This meeting is reported in the Journal History of the Church:  "President Brigham Young came in at a quarter past one o'clock.  Wilford Woodruff read the minutes.  President Young said Bro. Box said the army was wanting to get up a vigilant committee, and wanted to get my head, but they will not do it..." .

On 23 Apr 1860, Thomas Box purchased land in Plat A Great Salt Lake City from Charles Gray. The land was on the corner of 1st North and 1st West in Salt Lake City.
1860 Federal Census, Salt Lake City, Utah
In the 1860 Census for Salt Lake City, Thomas was listed in the 13th Ward and his occupation was listed as a merchant. In addition to his wife Clarkey and their three children (Thomas, William Jeff., and Josephine), Belinda (Marden Pratt) Box and her children by her marriage to Parley P. Pratt were living with them. Belinda had five children, including a teenage son.

As noted, Thomas listed his occupation as merchant.  Thomas placed the following advertisement in the Deseret Newspaper in 1860 and refers to "my store in this city." 

28 Feb 1860, Deseret Newspaper, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Millennial Star reported the following in 1861,  "The Jordan dam, which has been under way for several years, is now being put in principally by brother Thomas Box, who has taken up a large tract of land about three miles northwest of the bridge, where he has found a good well of water, and sowed twenty or thirty acres of wheat for an experiment."

In the October Conference of 1861, Thomas Box and Thomas M. Box (son) of the SLC 17th Ward were called to settle in Southern Utah.  The Box family does not appear to have stayed in Southern Utah.  During 1861 to 1870 time period, there were Salt Lake County court records which listed Thomas Box as both plaintiff and defendant in debt cases. 

On 26, May 1862, Thomas Box of the Salt Lake City, 17th Ward recorded his brand, "+|" (right hip & right jaw)

In March 1864, Thomas Box traveled to Clover Valley (Nevada) when he heard of a mine discovery. His party did not discover a mine at Clover Valley so they headed to Panaca.  During this time, Thomas staked claims for himself, his two sons, and wife.  He then traveled back home to Salt Lake for provisions and tools, then headed back to the Panaca mine and then to Pioche in June of 1864. Thomas eventually sold his interest in the mine, some say at the request of Brigham Young.

On 20 Feb 1868, Clarkey was listed as a member of the newly organized SLC Seventeenth Ward Relief Society Organization. She donated 2 ½ yards of Jeans fabric worth $7.50, which was the largest donation given that day.  During 1868, Clarkey is mentioned several more times in the 17th Ward Relief Society minutes.  During one of the meetings, she was on a list of those who donated fabric and made a quilt.  Clarkey is not mentioned during 1869, but on 25 May 1870 in a Relief Society meeting at Union Hall, she made a donation of 5 cents, one of the smaller donations.

The 1869 Salt Lake City Directory listed Thomas as living in the 17th Ward on the corner of 1st North and 1st West. His occupation was listed as Freighter. 

In the 1870 Salt Lake City, Utah CENSUS, Thomas was living in the 17th Ward with wife, Clarkey and children: Thomas, William, Josephine and a 2 year old, Emily. Belinda Marden Pratt Box and family were no longer living with Thomas and Clarkey. (What happened to Belinda??? Why did she leave?)
1870 Federal Census, Salt Lake City, Utah

Two year old, Emily (Emma Josephine Box), listed in the above 1870 Census, was Josephine’s illegitimate daughter. Emma died of scarlet fever when she was eight years old and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery next to her half-brother, Thomas J. Cunningham. Josephine had married Dennis Cunningham in about 1871. Josephine and Dennis Cunningham had a four year old son, Thomas J. Cunningham, who also died of scarlet fever just a week earlier than young Emma had died. See post on Josephine, Dennis, and their family.

The Thomas Box family financial circumstances seem to have changed during the 1860’s.  In 1860, Thomas listed the value of his real estate as $800 and value of personal estate as $10,000 -- a lot of money in those days.  By 1870, Thomas listed the value of his real estate as $1,000 and the value of his personal estate as $1,000.  What caused the decline in his personal estate?

In 1873, Thomas Box and son, Thomas Box, Jr. traveled to Pioche, Nevada to testify in what was known as "The Great Mining Suit."   The San Francisco Bulletin (newspaper) of 31 March 1873 reports: "Thomas Box and Thomas M. Box, father and son, were examined for the plaintiffs. The elder Box is a venerable-looking Mormon Bishop, seventy-five years of age. He testified that in March 1864, induced by reports of a mine discovery in Clover Valley, he came from Salt Lake City down the country with Sherwood, Vandermark and Shirts. At Clover Valley the reported mine was not discovered, but the party heard of the Panaca claim from the discoverers Ham, Bliss and Stil. From this point Box repeated substantially the history of the expedition to the Panaca location..."
(Note: No record has been found thus far of Thomas Box being called as a Bishop, as he is referred to in the above statement.)

In the 1874 SLC Directory, Thomas listed his occupation as a miner. He resided at the corner of 1 North & 1 West, southside, and son, T.M. Box, also a miner, resided on the northside of 1 North & 1 West.
Salt Lake City Directory, 1874

Box Family and Temple Work
Thomas and Clarkey were probably the first family members in our family to be interested in Family History. This interest developed because of the Mormon doctrines of Eternal Families and Temple Work.
In 1874, Thomas and Clarkey started performing proxy temple work their deceased family members. In the Salt Lake City Endowment House and later in the St. George Temple, Thomas performed temple work for his father, Michael Box, his brothers William and John, and many of his other deceased male relatives.  Clarkey performed the temple work for the deceased females of the Box and Carpenter families. From the early LDS church temple records of Thomas Box and Clarkey Carpenter Box, we learn the relationships for many of the Box and Carpenter families

In the 1875 October Conference, William Jefferson Box, son of Thomas, was called on a mission to the Southern States Mission.  He would be serving as a missionary in Texas. William had previously  married Alice Odd (a Mormon convert from England) on the 26 April 1875 in Endowment House. They were married by President D. H. Wells.  When William Jefferson Box did not return to Salt Lake City from his mission, Alice filed papers and received a  divorce in 1877.  Alice claimed that her husband left for Texas to visit relatives and never came home. It is not know if William J. Box ever returned to Utah, although his card in the old Missionary File Index in the Church History Library has "returned" written on it.  See post on William Jefferson Box.

Thomas and Clarkey remained faithful to their religion and continued to be involved in Temple Work for their deceased family members. First, they performed temple work for deceased family members during June 1876 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.  Then the year after the St. George Temple was completed in 1877, Thomas and Clarkey were in St. George performing Temple Work in the fall of 1878.  It is not known if they were living in St. George at the time or just visiting.

Exactly where the Box family lived after 1878 is a mystery.  Alfred Alonzo Barney writes in his history that in about 1879-1880, he hired out to Tom Box. The Box cattle were in Potato Valley Desert, Escalante Valley, Utah and were to be moved to the Lake. Box Creek, just south of Koosharem, Utah, was named after Thomas Box and his family. It appears that Thomas Box was in Southern Utah moving his cattle around from place to place.

Sign to Box Creek Reservoir 
The Thomas Box family cannot be found in the 1880 census. From the 1880 journal entries of Platte Lyman, who was part of the Hole-in-the-Rock group, Lyman writes about an 1880 trip from Bluff, Utah, along the San Juan River, and then into southwestern Colorado. Along the way Lyman stopped and traded his lame horse to Tom Box. After plotting Lyman's trip on a map, it is estimated that the Tom Box place was a few miles west of Battle Rock in McElmo Canyon, Montezuma County, Colorado.

"A Kindhearted Man"
Sometime before the spring of 1881, Thomas and Clarkey moved to San Juan County, New Mexico.  This would be just about 75 miles southeast of McElmo Canyon.  The following death notice for Thomas was found in the Deseret Newspaper of Salt Lake City:

Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 20 Apr 1881.
DIED. "In Farmington, New Mexico, March 17, 1881, Thomas Box. He was born August 8, 1804 near Knoxville, Knox Co., Tenn. He was a kindhearted man, and died a true Latter-day Saint; he was well known in Utah. –COM."

Utah Digital Newspapers,

Grandma Box
A reference to a "Grandma Box" and her son, Tom, was found in 1881 Fruitland, San Juan, NM which is right next to Farmington, NM.  "Grandma Box" was listed as the first person buried in the Fruitland Cemetery, San Juan County, New Mexico.
In a short biography for Luther C. Burnham by his daughter, Camera Burnham Palmer (Treasures of Pioneer History, Vol. 5, pg 195), the following is recorded;
"There were several families already located at what is now known as Fruitland (San Juan County, New Mexico), most of them being Mormon families who had come from Utah. Now that father (Luther Burnham) had chosen the San Juan Valley in which to locate, he was called to preside over this small group of members. This move was made in the spring of 1881... These first settlers had built a fort or stockade to protect themselves from the Indians, but they did not have any trouble with them as they were very friendly. The Old Fort was made of large Mexican adobes and was built in the shape of an L, facing the east and north with no windows or doors on the south or west. It had two or three large rooms facing north the rest east. It contained about nine or ten rooms. Sometime late in the summer my mother moved down in one room of a two-room adobe house on the San Juan river where father was farming. An OLD LADY WITH HER SON TOM BOX lived in the other room. GRANDMA BOX we called her. She was I think the first adult to die and be buried in the Fruitland Cemetery. While we lived in the house, my mother had another child born..."

Clarkey continued to live in the Fruitland, New Mexico area.   "Clarkie Box," widowed, is recorded in the 1885 New Mexico Territorial Census for Rio Arriba County (San Juan County formed in 1887).   She was living in the Walter Joshua Stevens household.  Her son, Thomas Box, Jr., was NOT listed in the census.

Schedules of the New Mexico Territory Census of 1885; Olio and Aztec, Rio Arriba, ED 17, page 11, hh 43/43

In the above census, Clarkie is 74 years old, widowed, and mistakenly listed as a "male" born in Texas.
Thomas and Clarkey's daughter, Josephine and her husband, Dennis Cunningham, also moved to San Juan County, New Mexico.  They lived in La Plata, which is just a few miles from Farmington and Fruitland.  The Dennis and Josephine Box family was, also,  enumerated in the 1885 New Mexico Territorial Census in La Plata, Rio Arriba County (San Juan County formed in 1887).  Why wasn't Clarkey living with her daughter and son-in-law??
The following children were listed in the Dennis Cunningham family: Maggie, a daughter aged 10 born in Utah; Willie, a son aged 7 born in Utah; Katie, a daughter aged 3 born in New Mexico; and, Josephine, a daughter aged 6 months born November in New Mexico.  This is the only record that son, Willie, shows up.

Josephine Box Cunningham, died of a ruptured appendix on 9 Jun 1888.  After Josephine's death, her husband, Dennis Cunningham, took their daughters back to Dubuque, Iowa and placed them in the care of a Catholic Convent.
No actual grave markers have been found for any of the family who died in San Juan County, New Mexico.  Although, the Fruitland Cemetery has a "Grandma Box" listed as being buried in an unmarked grave (no headstone) next to an unknown grave.  Could the unknown grave next to Clarkie be that of Thomas Box or Josephine Cunningham??

There is no information on what became of son, Thomas Michael Box, who was still single and lived with his mother after his father's death in 1881.  In 1882, Thomas is mentioned in the General Minutes of the Burnham Ward, San Juan Stake of the LDS Church when on the 4th of February 1882, Thomas was rebaptised (why?) and confirmed a member of the Church.  Thomas is not found living in the Fruitland area in the 1885 Territorial census.  He seems to have completely disappeared.  Perhaps he moved back and lived like a hermit in McElmo Canyon in southwestern Colorado, or perhaps he moved to Texas to live with relatives, or perhaps he went to find his brother, William, or perhaps he died, or who knows.

My story of Thomas Box and his family is far from over.  Too bad Thomas did not write his history or keep a journal  - it would have been very interesting, like reading an Old West novel. Thomas Box was a farmer, cowboy, cattle rancher, horse trader, miner, freighter, merchant, Mormon convert, polygamist, and all around interesting guy.
Any additional information on the Thomas & Clarkey Box family would be greatly appreciated!  Some insignificant bit of information might just be the clue that would help.  Thanks.


Anonymous said...


I was wondering if you may have any additional information on Tom Box. He appears to have had a close relationship with one of my ancestors, Peter Shirts. I appreciate the information you have shared. I will include my contact information below as I am unfamiliar with blogging and how this may or may not work to contact you.

Evelyn Elaine Smith said...

Thomas Box was the younger brother of my great, great, great grandfather, James Francis Box (b. 1798 Tennessee, d. March 1860, Texas).

Thomas Box was born 8 August 1804 and died 17 March 1881 in Timbercrest, Knox, Tennessee. he died 17 March 1881 in Farmington, San Juan, New Mexico. James Box was married twice, first to Jemina Bob, or Babb, 1798-1826, and later to Elizabeth Matthew, 1809-1850. I'm a descendant of James Box's first wife since my great great grandfather was William Young Box, who married Nancy Jane Henderson.

As you may have noticed, the Box and Henderson families became very interwined by marriage:
Thomas and James F's sister, Mary, married Hugh Henderson. Then James's children married Hendersons as well: Son William Young Box married Nancy Jane Henderson, both of whom are my great great grandparents, and Elizabeth Irene Box married John T. Henderson. Marrying your first cousin is not recommended, but then neither is trying to force your daughter (Josephine Box) to marry Brigham Young. Still, it helps decide where the family will spend Christmas dinner.

None of the Boxes remaining in Texas stayed Mormon, but instead, most of the Boxes that married into the Henderson clan were most probably Presbyterian. William Young Box's son, James Joseph Box, who married Elizabeth Ellen Johnson, was most probably a member of the Disciples of Christ, or Christian Church, since his son, my maternal grandfather, David Eckley Box, promised his mother, Elizabeth Ellen Johnson Box, on her death bed that he wouldn't join another church. John Henderson and Nancy McLaurin most probably immigrated to the United States from Scotland in about 1795.

Another thing this is striking about most of these Boxes--most of them died in their 50s or even younger.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to William Jefferson Box?

Anonymous said...

I, too, am researching our ancestor, Peter Shirts, and his relationship with the Tom Box family. Please let me know if you have any more data on Mr. Shirts or his family.

S. Jurgens

Anonymous said...

You referred to a post on the son, William Box. Where is it? The link seems to be broken.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Thomas and Clarkey had a very interesting life. Agree with you -- wish that they had kept a journal or diary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the hard work you have done on the Box family. I just love all of it. Even though, Thomas and Clarkey Box are not direct ancestors, I loved reading about them. They definitely had a different kind of life than they would have had back in Texas like the rest of the Box family. You should write a book about them.
Thanks, Vickie

Necia said...

Very nice work! I am a descendant of Walter Joshua Stevens. I find the information that your ancestor stayed with them very intersting. I'd like to add it to the history I am writing on the Stevens Family.

Necia said...

How interesting to find a tidbit on my ancestor, Walter Joshua Stevens. Thank you for all your work! The Box family history is very intersting. I'd like to include that tidbit about Grandma Box staying with the Stevens in the book I am writing for may family on the Stevens Family.

GenGal said...

Glad to have you use any information you need. Very interested in the Stevens family myself.
My husband descends from the Stevens of Holden, so you are probably related in some way.

Becky at "Cheese My Head" said...

Amazing work! I married a descendent of Clarkey's sister, Cecy Carpentar. Your research is impressive and I very much appreciate all the photos posted of the sources. Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

What interesting people. How many living descendants do Thomas and Clarkey Box have? They need to have a reunion and share stories.

Grant Davis said...

I"m not sure how to get hold of you so I'll just leave a comment here. I found you because I just published a letter from my gg grandfather Stephen Sherwood. In February 1864 (about 149 years to the day), he was boarding at the home of Thomas Box in Salt Lake City. It would have been from that home, he wrote a letter to his family in Illinois. I just posted that letter TODAY on my blog. I believe it was there he also encountered an old mining friend, Jacob N.Vandermark.
The group went to the Panaca area in March of that year. I am posting the letters of Stephen Sherwood on my blog along with the history I am finding that surrounds those letters. Could you please contact me, if you would like more information on their trip. I have an excellent book that explains so much more about what was going on around Panaca.
I still can't believe I found your blog right as i was posting this. I just added some more information. Thomas box left one or two days later to go with him to Southern Utah. He said in the letter he would be leaving in a day or two. I have a book that tells more about all this.
Regards, Grant

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I am a Box descendant and it has been very hard to find much information about the family, so it has been wonderful to happen across your blog post. Wish that descendants of some other Box ancestors would post information online somewhere. Very interesting that a Box ended up in Utah joining the Mormon church and then moving to New Mexico before he died. Who would have thought.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story about Thomas Box and his family and their sojourn into Mormonism and Utah. It appears that none of his family stayed involved with the Mormons after Thomas and Clarkey died. What happened to the son, Thomas M Box. Did he leave behind any descendants?