Martha Sarah Bubb

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Martha Sarah Bubb

Birthplace: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Death: March 03, 1931 (99)
ID, United States
Place of Burial: ID, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of George Edward Bubb, SV/PROG and Esther Maria Bubb
Wife of Thomas Charles Shirley
Mother of Esther Maria Shirley; Harriet Shirley; Mary Ann Shirley; Mariah Sarah Loveland; William Henry Shirley and 6 others
Sister of James Edward Bubb; Esther Maria Shirley; Edward James Bubb; Henry Alfred Agner Bubb; John Bubb and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Martha Sarah Bubb

Two Sisters and Two Brothers...A sketch of the lives of Martha Sarah Bubb and Thomas Charles Shirley and of Esther Maria Bubb and William Henry 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

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Martha Sarah Bubb's Timeline

August 15, 1831
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
February 23, 1864
Salt Lake City, UT, United States