Esther Maria Shirley

Is your surname Shirley?

Research the Shirley family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Related Projects

Esther Maria Shirley (Bubb)

Birthplace: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Death: March 01, 1925 (89)
ID, United States
Place of Burial: ID, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of George Edward Bubb, SV/PROG and Esther Maria Bubb
Wife of William Henrey Shirley
Mother of Thomas Shirley; George William Shirley; William Shirley; Charles Coulson Shirley; Edgar Shirley and 2 others
Sister of James Edward Bubb; Martha Sarah Bubb; Edward James Bubb; Henry Alfred Agner Bubb; John Bubb and 1 other

Occupation: 7 Jul 1835
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Esther Maria Shirley

Two Sisters and Two Brothers...A sketch of the lives of Esther Maria Bubb and William Henry Shirley and Martha Sarah Bubb and Thomas Charles Shirley; Author Unknown, editing and footnotes by Terry C. Smith

Martha Sarah was born August 15, 1831 at Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Esther Maria was born at Port Elizabeth July 7, 1835. They were the daughters of George Bubb and Esther Schultz Bubb who came from England in 1830 as colonists to South Africa. George Bubb was a whaler and also owned and operated a lime kiln. The family lived on a farm at San Fontaine and their parents had a man come to the home to teach their many children. When the Kaffir War[1] broke out, the family moved elsewhere to seek safety and the children did not have an opportunity for further education.

Two of the children died when they were very young. Every week the mother went with ox team to the city of Uitenhage for supplies. A native boy was the driver and often she took some of the children with her. The storekeeper’s wife, Mrs. Streak, who had no children of her own, took a liking to Esther Maria and wanted her to come and live with them. When Esther Maria was nine years old she went to Uitenhage and lived with Mr. and Mrs. Streak until she was married. The Streaks were very wealthy people and had a beautiful home and gardens. Mrs. Streak was very strict, but she was kind to Esther Maria and treated her as her own daughter. William Henry Shirley was teaching Sunday School classes in Uitenhage and it was here that Esther Maria first became acquainted with him. They fell in love and shortly after, on September 12, 1853, she and William Henry Shirley were married in the English Church.

Martha Sarah continued to live on the family farm until she married Thomas Shirley, brother of William Henry Shirley, on April 8, 1857. They then moved to Uitenhage and lived in part of the same house where Esther Maria and her husband were living. William Henry was a wagon-maker and Thomas was a blacksmith.

About that time the chieftain of one of the tribes of Kaffirs told his people if they would kill all their cattle and bury them, their God would raise up ten for each one killed. This resulted in a famine among the natives. So the English government asked the white settlers to take the natives in as servants and feed them. William and Esther got a Kaffir girl, called Kabosie, and Thomas and Martha, a Kaffir boy. Kabosie helped both women and they became very attached to her. A friend of theirs also had a native girl and the two girls often visited each other.

One day they decided to get dressed up in some of their mistresses’ clothing and go for a walk. It wasn’t long before they were seen going down the streets of the city of Uitenhage carrying their corsets over their arms and their shoes and stockings in their hands.

In April 1855, Esther Maria embraced the Gospel of the Latter-day Saints and was baptized by Elder Leonard I. Smith, William having previously been baptized. In March, 1859, they set sail for America with their infant son, Thomas, on board the Alacrity, under the command of Captain Cooper.[2] They joined the Edward Stevenson company which left Florence, Nebraska June 26, 1859. William helped outfit a wagon in connection with a friend, and the belongings of the two families were loaded in the wagon. Esther made a bed for Thomas in the back of the wagon, but because the friend objected to the bawling baby, Esther took him out and carried him the rest of the way. The baby was nine months old when they arrived in Salt Lake City September 16, 1859.

Esther Maria had never seen snow until that first winter in Salt Lake City and she wondered how she could ever live in such a place. She brought some beautiful silk dresses and shawls with her from South Africa, but during the first year in Salt Lake she had to trade them for flour and other necessities of life. After pioneering many settlements in Cache and Bear Lake Valleys, they finally settled in Fish Haven, Idaho in 1879.

She was the mother of seven sons, four dying when they were quite young. In 1866 William Henry died, leaving Esther Maria to struggle on with the assistance of her three sons. She became a very good seamstress and made fancy quilts, burial and temple clothes. She died March 1, 1925 and was buried at Fish Haven, Idaho.[3]

In the meantime Martha Sarah became interested in the Mormon religion and was baptized July 24, 1860. This was against the wishes of her people and when she left South Africa with her husband, Thomas Shirley, and her baby, Harriet, born March 27, 1860, one brother would not even come to say goodbye to her. They sailed on the Alacrity, the same vessel which had brought her sister and husband to America the year before, and with the same captain. They arrived in Boston early in June. They left Florence, Nebraska July 20, 1860 in the Captain William Budge company. Enroute little Harriet died July 27th and was buried at Cleveland, Ohio. They endured many hardships crossing the plains and finally arrived in Salt Lake City, Oct. 5, 1860, then went to help settle Bear Lake Valley. In May, 1864 they moved to Paris, Idaho, then settled in Fish Haven where they spent the rest of their lives.

Martha was the mother of eleven children, ten of whom preceded her in death. Her husband died September 26, 1910. Martha became a very proficient nurse and midwife. She brought one hundred and sixty-nine babies into the world besides other nursing duties. She lived to be nearly one hundred years of age and up until the last, could see to sew and to make rugs, without glasses. She died March 3, 1931 and is buried at Fish Haven, Idaho.[4]

Although these two women suffered many trials and hardships, they remained true to the faith and were always ready and willing to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things. They were very close to each other in all things until separated by death.


[1] See

Cape Frontier Wars in South Africa: - The history of the Eastern Cape is extremely violent with a total of 9 Frontier Wars over a 100 year period from 1781-1878 of intermittent warfare between the Cape colonists and the Xhosa. Cape Frontier Wars also called KAFFIR, OR KAFIR, WARS (1781-1878), Each war ending in resettlements, normally new boundaries and always the seeds of bitterness, that led to the next war.

[2] LDS Ordinances: See the IGI for current data. Both couples apparently were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City in 1860 and 1861.

Emigration: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943 Record; Name: W H Shirley; Arrival Date: 19 May 1859

Age: 30 years; Estimated Birth Year: abt 1829; Gender: Male

Port of Departure: Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Ship Name: Alacrity; Port of Arrival: Boston, Massachusetts Microfilm Roll Number: M277_54

Source Information: Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:, Inc., 2006. Original data:

See Also: South African Emigration 1853-1865 from A History of the South African Mission, vol. 1, p. 264-280; Evan P. Wright, author. Family History Library, Salt Lake City; Africa/Mideast 968 k2we vols. 1-3 or microfilm 1059491: and the book, Ships, Saints, and Mariners by Conway B. Sonne.

The above references list the ship, Alacrity, sailing from Port Elizabeth on March 9, 1859, heading for Boston, and carrying William Henry Shirley, Esther Maria Bubb Shirley, and Thomas Shirley among the passengers. The same sources list the same ship, Alacrity, again leaving Port Elizabeth on April 5, 1860 heading for Boston, with Thomas Shirley, and Martha Sarah Bubb Shirley among the passengers.

[3] Fish Haven Monument Inscriptions, see


Life and Testimony of Ester Maria Bubb... Shirley wife of William Henry Shirley... Origin of the Bubbs

They were of Dutch decent. Ester Maria Bubb was born July 7, sometime between 1830-5, at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She was the daughter of George Bubb and Ester Schultz. Their parents had gone to Africa in 1830 to colonize South Africa. Ester’s father was a whaler at one time, and he had caught a whale the night she was born.

On account of the very hot weather of that country, the men would get up very early in the morning and work and then rest during the day, and Ester and her sister, Martha, would always have to serve them coffee and hot cakes at ten o’clock every morning, and then tea during the afternoon besides the regular three meals.

Their parents had a man come to the farm to teach the children, but the natives went on the war path, so they had to leave the farm for awhile and seek safety, and after that they didn’t have a chance to attend school. Their mother had fourteen children who grew to adulthood and two others who died when they were small.

Pet Monkeys (Told by Maria Bubb to Fred Shirley)

The Bubbs lived near the jungle in South Africa where there were lots of monkeys. Some times the boys would capture them for pets, using a special trick. They would take a small pumpkin and hollow it out, leaving a very small hole. Then they placed some seeds inside the pumpkin, which the monkeys really liked. They would then secure the pumpkin so the monkeys could not carry it away, and they would wait for the monkeys to come. Sure enough, one would always show up. Each monkey would be so anxious to get as many seeds as possible, it would take a lot of them in its fist. But then the fist would be too large to pull out of the hole even though it would see the boys, who came to capture it, the monkey would not let go of the seeds, because it was so greedy. So, the boys could always capture it.

When the boys captured the monkey, they would chain it to a tall post where they had built a small suitable house for the monkey on top. A large ring was slipped around this pole to which was fastened the small chain which held the monkey captive. This allowed him to run around for a great distance on the ground, and also to scamper up to the top of the pole and into his house. In this manner the monkey could be watched, fed, and enjoyed as a pet. And the monkey seemed happy too.

One day, their pet monkey captured a young grown-up chicken. He was delighted with his conquest, and raced immediately up to the top of the pole and into his house with the chicken in its’ mouth. There the monkey very carefully and meticulously began to groom and pick off the lice on that chicken. This is their normal behavior. The monkey really enjoyed doing this. After some time of this loving grooming, the monkey released the chicken -- unharmed. When the boys saw it, lo and behold, right before their eyes, stood the chicken “plucked and naked“ -- not a feather left on it.

Hunting Lions: There were lions in the jungle near where the Bubbs lived. They said that the lions would roam in the jungles during the day and at night would come inland near the farms where there were water holes. Anyone who was interested in hunting the lions, which included the Bubbs, would listen for them in the night to learn where they settled down. Then, in the early morning hours, while the lions were still asleep, the hunters would take their rifles and go to shoot them. They felt they were a threat to their livestock.

Maria raised in town: Ester Bubb made butter on their farm at Bitenhage and kept each churning in brine till the next churning, then packed it in on the first churnings and put the brine on again. Then they would go into town to sell it. One of the boys would walk and drive the oxen while the mother sat inside and knitted for her family. One time when she went into Port Elizabeth and sold their farm products at Mr. Streak’s, his wife asked her mother if she wouldn’t let one of her children stay with her, as she had no children and Mrs. Bubb had many. It was decided Maria could live with the Streak family at Port Elizabeth. She had an upstairs room and could reach out the window and pick an orange anytime.

So, when Maria was nine years old she went to Utinhage and lived with Mr. and Mrs. Streak until she was married. They were very wealthy people and had a nice home and very large flower garden. They had a gardener who spent all of his time just taking care of the flowers. Mrs. Streak was very strict, although she was very kind and treated Maria as her own daughter.

There are more than one story of the developing relationship between Maria and William Shirley. They are probably all correct. One is that the Shirley brothers, William and Thomas, lived near the Streaks and found a sneaky way to get apples from their apple tree. Maria and her sister, Martha, who undoubtedly visited her often, caught the culprits, which developed into a friendship.

Maria was always full of fun, and when she was sorting oranges in an upstairs room, she would throw the spoiled oranges out the window at some of the boys who were passing by, but when William came along, he would get a good one.

When much older, Maria had William Henry as her Sunday School teacher. It was here that their love for each other was finally cemented. Mr. Streak always locked his gate at nine o’clock every night so when William came courting, she would be on one side of the gate and he on the other.

Finally, he was granted the privilege to come into the parlor and see Maria while Mr. and Mrs. Streak were there. At nine o’clock he had prayers with the family and was to leave. One night he decided to climb over the fence and meet Maria on the porch. The dog decided to go into action. William ran for the fence and the dog got hold of his pants. He soon asked if he could marry Maria. Mrs. Streak furnished her wedding dress and they were married in the Streak parlor by the Reverend. Their first baby died about a month after it was born.

Maria’s sister, Martha, married William’s brother, Thomas, and for a time the four of them lived in the same house in Utinhage together. In fact, the two sisters and brothers were always together. William Henry was a wagon maker and his brother a blacksmith. The two couples used to walk down to the ocean beach in the afternoons.

At some time, the chief of one of the African tribes told his people if they would kill all their cattle and bury them, their God would raise up ten for each killed. This resulted in a famine amongst the natives, so the English Government asked the white settlers to take the natives in as servants and feed them. Maria and William Henry got a Kefir girl called Kobosie, and Thomas and Martha took a Kefir boy. Kabosie helped both Maria and Martha, and they became very attached to her. A friend of theirs also had a native girl, and these two girls would visit each other. They wanted to look like their mistresses, so one day they dressed them up in some of their old clothes and the native girls went for a walk. It wasn’t long until they were seen going down the street of the city of Utinhage carrying their corsets over their arms and their shoes and stockings in their hands. Obviously, they found these “white man’s clothes” much too uncomfortable.

The first LDS missionaries to South Africa were Jessie Haven, Leonard Smith, and William Walker. William heard the Mormon elders and soon was convinced they had a better religion and was convinced of the truth. He asked Maria to listen to the elders but she did not want to hear them. She had a dream one night that she went up to the spring for a pail of water. As she returned, a man met her and offered her a book which she refused. He took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the dust from his shoes and said to her, “I do this as a testimony against you.” Sometime later she was sick and the elders came to their home. She knew one of the elders as the man she had dreamed of and who had offered her the book she had rejected.

In April 1855 Maria embraced the gospel and was baptized by Elder Leonard I. Smith; William had been baptized previously. After she joined the church, her parents became very bitter about it. One brother threatened William’s life. So eventually, in March 1859, Maria and William and a new infant son, Thomas, set sail for America to join the saints. Mother Bubb walked some distance with Maria as she left for America. As she bade her goodbye she said, “Now Maria you are as good as dead to me.”

They sailed from Capetown on the ship Alacrity. It took them three months to cross the ocean. They landed safely at Boston, Mass. The Alacrity went back to Africa and the following year Thomas Shirley and Martha Bubb Shirley had accepted the gospel and sailed on the same ship via Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans. William and Maria had arrived in Boston and immediately proceeded to Council Bluffs where they joined a company of Saints and started for Salt Lake City.

Maria walked most of the way and carried her baby. William Henry had helped outfit a wagon in connection with a friend, and the belongings of the two families were loaded in the wagon. William had made a bed for Thomas in the back of the wagon, but because the friend objected to the “bawling” baby, Maria took him out and walked, carrying the baby, all the rest of the way. It took them three months to cross the plains, arriving in Salt Lake City, September 16, 1859. The baby was nine months old when they arrived.

Their new life was to be much harsher. They had never seen snow until that first winter in Salt Lake, and she wondered how they could live in such a place. She had brought some beautiful silk dresses and shawls with her from South Africa, but during a first year she had to give them up as trade for flour and the necessities of life.

Then, she was left a widow when her husband died in 1886, but she struggled on, with her three sons. She went bravely forward to make a home and establish her children among the Saints of God. She was very devoted to the church and would spend some time every Sunday morning reading the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or other church works. She had a very loving and gentle disposition and had many friends, both old and young. She was a very good seamstress, and spent a lot of time sewing for other people, making fancy quilts, burial and temple clothes. She also liked to make rag dolls or doll dresses for the children.

After her son, Amos, married and moved to Salem, Idaho, she made several visits to see them, eventually by train. From those visits, one of her granddaughters described her as a small woman who was always neatly dressed. She had really dark eyes, almost black. She was very friendly and sociable. She loved to tell James about all his friends and other things back in his former home of Fish Haven. When she wasn’t working, her hands were always folded in her lap, and she had a habit of twirling her thumbs around each other.

On one visit, her son took her on a tour of the new sugar factory in Sugar City.

She died March 1, 1925 and is buried in Fish Haven, Idaho.

Sarah Frances Shirley later wrote of her grandmother Maria and of her great aunt, Martha, Maria’s sister. “Although these two women suffered many trials, tribulations, and hardships, they remained true to the faith and were always ready and willing to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things. May their descendants follow the example set by these noble women.”

view all 11

Esther Maria Shirley's Timeline

July 7, 1835
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
December 30, 1858
August 21, 1864
Paris, ID, United States
July 13, 1873
Millcreek, UT, United States
March 1, 1925
Age 89
ID, United States
Age 89
ID, United States