John Rowley and Sarah Wright Family Messenger


A short concise history taken from several different histories that we now have access to. We are writing this history, hoping there will be some with more information that they will make available to us.

Ralph Rowley was born in Hanley, North Staffordshire, England, 1 April, 1834. His father, John Rowley was a potter by trade as were many of his ancestors and other relatives.

Hanley was at that time, and perhaps still is a pottery center—most of the people who lived there were potters. His father taught him all the skills and secrets peculiar to his trade that had been handed down from father to son for generations. He also taught him a great store of knowledge of clays and rock formations and their different uses and where they might be found. He was skilled in the building of kilns for all different uses. Of all minerals and other geological data they were well learned. There were formulas and processes to be learned, for the Rowley’s were well skilled in their trade.

Ralph’s mother, Sarah Wright, was also born in Hanley, in 1793 (it was erroneously 1785 in the last paper) as were her parents and people as far back as we have been able to trace, so we may assume that they were potters by trade too.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sent missionaries to England in the 1837. But it was not until 1839, that the John Rowley and Sarah Wright family were visited by Mormon Elders. Mormonism made a powerful appeal to them. It offered the warmth of revivalism with a much more coherent intellectual content. It offered the Authority of sacred books, supplemented by continuous revelation through a living prophet. It offered the priesthood to all male believers, and it denounced the corruptions of existing denominations. The Rowley’s gladly accepted the truths taught by these men and in 1839 many of them were baptized.

So enthused and sincere in his belief was Ralph that he was ordained an Elder and went out to preach and teach these wonderful Eternal principles.

It was at this time that Ralph adopted the name of NEPHI and added it with hope and inspiration to his name of Ralph. How he admired Nephi and wished to be like him so he read of him over and over again in the Book of Mormon. The name enthused him and spurred him on to greater things as he tried with all his heart to emulate this great man of God.

He indeed became a “NEPHI” to his people and to all who came in contact with him throughout his life. For he sacrificed earthly pleasures and went out to preach this Gospel of kindness and love that Nephi had helped to teach and like Nephi, he led his people across the great waters to a new land where they prospered and helped to build up this land of Promise. Like Nephi, he never tired of teaching the Gospel and his faith never faltered. At all times he remained steadfast to its teaching’s and lived at all times an exemplary life.

Ralph Nephi Rowley was set apart to go to Glasgow, Scotland. He obtained a job in a pottery shop and after work he would preach on the streets with the other Elders and together with his missionary companion, they would visit the homes in the districts assigned to them.

It was here in this place, Glasgow, Lanark Co., Scotland, that Heavenly Father had prepared a family the heavenly message he was carrying. For they knew of the coming of such messengers long in advance of their appearance.

This was the Hugh Thompson and Mary Ann O’Brian family. This family was a family of distinction and rank. The father was a detective working out of Scotland Yard. They were of the nobility class if Dukes and Lords. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary Ann. These sisters were both in very poor health with pneumatics.

One morning Elizabeth informed them that she had dreamed a dream in which she had been informed that they were soon to be visited by two men who were to bring them the everlasting Gospel of the Savior. She had been told that they were to admit these men into their home and to believe all that they would teach them, for they would tell them of the only true church.

Sometime after this they were visited by two Mormon Elders, as they knocked on the door and explained what they were and the message they had to deliver, they were about to be turned away when Elizabeth called out from her sick room that they were the men of her dream. She had recognized their voices. These were the voices of the men she had seen and heard in her dream, she declared that the message they had to deliver was true and to let them in and hear and believe.

These men were Ralph Nephi Rowley and his missionary companion. The family listened and believed. Time went on and they were ready for baptism. They were very concerned, for Mary Ann insisted on baptism and in her condition and considering the coldness of the weather they were afraid she could never survive the ordeal. She wore long red underwear, which was customary treatment for rheumatics. She took them off and begged to be baptized. Her wish was granted. Then she came back from the ceremony she folded her long red underwear and handed them to her mother, telling her that she would never need them again for she had been healed from her afflictions. She was indeed healed and she never again wore the underwear.

She and Ralph Nephi were married 30 October 1843, after they had fallen in love through this meeting.

The spirit of gathering to Zion came upon them and they planned and schemed to join the Saints. Like many of the Saints they tried to save to have money to immigrate with, only to have to use it to live. Four children were born to them in Glasgow, Scotland. They lost their little girl, their first child, Mary Ann while she was a baby. A painful depression existed at this time in all of Europe. The poorer classes were in very bad straights and Ralph Nephi and Mary Ann felt its grip and longed to go to a land where they were told they could be free from the hardship and frustration of this old world to a new one where they could be builders and help to build up a new Zion.

At last Brigham Young sent Isaac C. Haight and others to the British Isles with instructions to gather out the Saints with special skills and crafts and assist them with their passage money for they were badly needed to help build up the towns and settlements and provide the Saints with necessities.

So it was that Ralph Nephi Rowley was called to Utah by Brigham Young to come and ply his trade and make dishes that were so badly needed in all the settlements. Also he had a special knowledge of kilns and the building of them. They were needed in this new land. Not only did they need kilns for making of dishes but for charcoal to be used in the making of iron and other industries.

With singing hearts they prepared for their TRIP. A trip that was to take them just a week short of eight months, from when they left England until they arrived in Salt Lake City, this does not allow for the time it took them to go from Scotland to Liverpool and from Salt Lake City to Fillmore, Millard Co., Utah, where they were called to go.

They sailed with their three sons, John Thompson, who was five years old, Hugh who was three and baby Ephraim, just four months. Ralph Nephi was twenty seven and his wife, Mary Ann, twenty six.

They sailed from Liverpool, England, Jan. 10, 1852. There were 333 Saints on board under the direction of John S. Higbee, who had labored on a mission to England from October 1849 to just before their time of sailing. They arrived in New Orleans, March 11, 1852.

Among the Saints who sailed with them, there were many craftsmen. They were going to Zion, their hearts filled to overflowing with the joy the Gospel brings and in addition they were leaving a land of poverty and unemployment with hopes of being a real help to their fellow Saints. To a land where they could thrive and own houses and land as well as where they could live the Gospel without persecution.

On board ship the Saints were isolated from the rest of the passengers and did very little association with them. Their days were planned by wise leaders and there was a time for study and religious meetings as well as instruction in the things they would need to know when they crossed the plains. In general, the Saints were fed and cared for better than the rest of the passengers, some of them enjoying a better fare than they had ever had before in their lives.

They had emigrated in their native Scotland costume and as they disembarked from the ship and as they waited to board the other boat many remarks were made by the bystanders, of the beautiful child John and of what a striking picture he made with his long blond ringlets and dresses as he was in kilts.

There was a long delay until they could secure more wagons. The outfitting station was Kanesville, Iowa. They left Council Bluffs, Iowa 1 June 1852, in the Abraham O. Smoot Company, with Christopher Layton as assistant Captain. There were 250 people in this company with thirty one wagons. This was the first company to cross the plains under the direction of The Perpetual Emigration Fund. The company was well organized with men assigned to all the different tasks; Joseph Davis Matthews was one of the hunters chosen to furnish the Saints with fresh meat.

The company was met by the First Presidency with William Pitt’s band and many other leading citizens. This company brought the remains of Lorenzo D. Barnes and William Burton, who died while on missions to Great Britain.

This history to be continued later;


*May be edited for correct info if needed. Notifications will be posted if corrections are made


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