Mary Leah Groves

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Mary Leah Groves's Geni Profile

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Mary Leah Groves

Birthplace: Far West, Miraabile Township, Caldwell County, Missouri, United States
Death: Died in Harmony, Washington County, Utah, United States
Place of Burial: Virgin, Washington County, Utah, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Elisha Hurd Groves and Lucy Groves
Wife of John Doyle Lee and Daniel Willis Matthews
Mother of Erastus Franklin Lee; Miriam Leah Lee; Lucy Olive Lee; John Lee; Elisha Squire Lee and 2 others
Sister of Samuel Elisha Groves; Patience Sibyle Davies; Lucy Maria Groves; Sarah Matilda Groves; John Semans Groves and 1 other
Half sister of Groves; Groves; Groves and Groves

Managed by: Arthur Rexford Whittaker
Last Updated:

About Mary Leah Groves

Mary Leah GROVES was born 30 Oct 1836 in Far West, Caldwell, Missouri, the daughter of Elisha Hurd GROVES and Lucy SIMMONS. Mary died 12 Jul 1912 in Virgin, Washington, Utah, and was buried 14 Jul 1912 in Virgin, Washington, Utah.

Mary Leah Groves was the eldest of six children in the family of Elisha Hurd Groves and Lucy Simmons. She must have been married to John D. Lee at an early age, for her name appeared in some of the emigrant records as Mary Leah G. Lee. However, the Genealogical Patron Notification Office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had records proving Mary Leah was sealed to Lee on December 2, 1852. When couples at that time were sealed outside the Endowment House, they were instructed to return and do it over. So there was another sealing date of March 10, 1857. It was concluded, therefore, that she became his wife in the 1852 marriage. From 1854 to 1867 the couple had seven children, all born in southern Utah.

Mary Leah's father was called to be part of the Iron Mission of 1850 led by George A. Smith. His family did not accompany him on his initial trip south but joined him later, probably the following year. During that period, a company led by John D. Lee explored the region south of Cedar City, and, after building a fort on Ash Creek, soon moved to the permanent site that became Fort Harmony. Elisha Groves was one of fifteen men, heads of families, involved in that settlement. Fort Harmony became the Groves' home for the next ten years.

It was about the time of the settlement of Harmony that Mary Leah became John D. Lee's fifteenth wife. By 1855 although their quarters in the fort had not been completed, everyone seemed pretty well settled in. The rooms were finished as occasion permitted. Everyone knew that crops at that time were more important than finished walls. Mary Leah's rooms were not plastered until three years later, but the exposed adobes forming the walls were more the norm in those frontier times than a smoothly plastered, neatly finished interior. According to an unwritten but well-defined pecking order, the older wives' quarters would be finished first.

While living within the confines of the fort, Mary Leah undoubtedly spent as much time at her parents' residence as she did her own. It would have been reasonable that she help her partially crippled mother with as many household chores to keep the place comfortable and clean, at least until her younger brothers and sisters still at home were more capable.

She participated in the Lee household as did other wives, often accompanying her husband on trips north to Cedar City and Parowan, or south to the family property in Washington. In 1854, there was an Indian uprising and the settlers prudently withdrew to Fort Cedar until things settled down. It was during that temporary move that she had her first child. Erastus Franklin was born at Cedar City on March 1, 1854.

By 1860 Lee had properties in several directions, both to the north and to the south of the fort. He also had a large parcel five miles to the west at the base of Pine Mountain where he was building a large house. Many of the settlers were living outside the walls of the fort by that year and many were destined to move away from the area following devastating winter storms during the winter of 1860-61. After having been completed only seven years, the adobe walls of the fort literally melted away under the relentless lashing of wind, rain, and snow that the area suffered that winter.

The Groves, Elisha and Lucy, moved away to Kanarraville. Because of the devastation left in the wake of the storms, Lee was battling to keep his large family provided with food and shelter. Due to the sheer numbers of people in the family, it was necessary to keep the teams and men constantly working just to keep up with fuel needs for the fires. Six people were required daily to do household chores. John noted in his diary, "I have 60 persons who depend on me for their daily sustenance." Under those circumstances it was not surprising that during that crisis, Mary Leah took her family to Kanarraville to stay with her parents.

It was not known how long the Groves remained at Kanarraville. Mary Leah was with them much of the time. In fact her fifth child, Elisha Squire, was born at Kanarraville on July 20, 1862. Her sixth, Mary Serepta, was born back at Harmony on July 23, 1865. Soon after, the Groves moved to Toquerville, where John and Mary Leah took the newborn for a visit with her grandparents. The entry in John's journal regarding that visit was interesting as it revealed much about his and Mary Leah's relationship at that time. His perception was that she had been "raised a pett," and that her going to Toquerville was not just another short-term visit. She wanted so much to be in her parents' home, he wrote, that he finally agreed to her repeated appeals and talked to Elisha and Lucy about such a possibility. Lucy seemed overjoyed that her daughter might be living with them, saying it would add ten years to her life.

Both Elisha and Lucy were getting on in years; he was seventy years old and probably in poor health. Lucy was sixty and at a disadvantage because of her crippled leg. Mary Leah, with the children helping, would have been most welcome. Mary Leah was happy to be with her parents to give them the help they needed. John cautioned the Groves, however, that he was doing that only at Mary Leah's insistence and made it clear that she remained his wife. He would continue to provide food and other necessities for his family there.

In subsequent visits, John wrote that Mary Leah became very cool towards him as though angry about something. Unfortunately, we do not know the full story, particularly her version, but from that time on, personal relations between the two declined, going from bad to worse.

In 1867, Elisha died of old age and was buried in the Toquerville cemetery. After his burial, John visited the family, noting in his journal, that Mary Leah was "in the dark and under a heavy trial." That statement was in reference to her attitude toward him, rather than grief for the passing of her father.

Stake President Snow, at St. George, became aware of the serious rift between the two and asked Bishop Willis of Toquerville Ward to try to help them resolve their differences. After meeting with them, the Bishop advised Mary Leah to return with her children to her husband. She pointed out, though, that she could not go back to Harmony, leaving her mother alone, and that she refused to do so as long as she needed help.

We could not blame Mary Leah for that decision. If she left at that time, the crippled mother would be alone and would have to rely almost completely on the benevolence of her neighbors and members of the Toquerville Ward for her daily needs. Mary's last child was born in October 1868, however.

On the other hand, John felt strongly about Mary Leah and wanted to keep her in the family. He went back to Harmony and started construction on a "dwelling house...designed for Mary Leah...provided she feels disposed to occupy it...." At another time during a visit to Toquerville, he told her about the house, assuring her that he could care for her needs. Finally, in an effort to force the issue, he told her that if she insisted on staying in Toquerville, he would consider it an intolerable situation and would no longer support her.

Mary Leah's response indicated that she was firm in her mind as to the direction she would or would not go. The real reason might very well have been her disenchantment with the concept of plurality of wives, that she had had enough and was purposely creating a situation that would afford excuse for an exit. This, however, is an assumption on our part.

Later in his journal, John expressed little hope of Mary's returning, particularly while her mother remained alive. Mary Leah's name appeared nowhere in his journal thereafter. It was not known whether he ever saw her but he made no record of such a meeting.

Lee wrote of his excommunication from the church the following year. According to church procedure at that time, Mary Leah was free to choose whether or not the marital arrangement with him would continue. She chose to be divorced and shortly afterward married Daniel Matthews.

Mary Leah remained in the Toquerville area until her mother died on July 20, 1884. She herself lived another thirty years, raising her seven children as well as three more by her second husband. She passed away at the age of seventy-six and was buried in the Virgin Cemetery not far from Toquerville.

She married (1) John Doyle LEE 2 Dec 1852 in Cedar City, Iron, Utah.

They had 7 children:

i. Erastus Franklin LEE, born 1 Mar 1854, died 4 Nov 1914.

ii. Mariam Leah LEE, born 13 Apr 1856, died 9 Jan 1942.

iii. Lucy Olive LEE, born 15 Apr 1858, died 30 Jan 1922.

iv. John Hurd LEE, born 27 Mar 1860, died 18 Sep 1938.

v. Elisha Squire LEE, born 20 Jul 1862, died 15 Mar 1937.

vi. Mary Sarepta LEE, born 23 Jul 1865, died 23 Nov 1897.

vii. Jacob LEE, born 28 Oct 1868, died 1 Feb 1947.

Mary married (2) Daniel Willis MATTHEWS.

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Mary Leah Groves's Timeline

October 30, 1836
Far West, Miraabile Township, Caldwell County, Missouri, United States
Age 10
Age 10
March 1, 1854
Age 17
Cedar City, Iron, Utah Territory
April 13, 1856
Age 19
Old Harmony,Kane,UT
March 20, 1857
Age 20
March 20, 1857
Age 20
April 15, 1858
Age 21
Old Fort Harmony,Washington,UT
Age 23