Stephen Thomas Luce

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Stephen Thomas Luce

Also Known As: "Stephen Grant Luce"
Birthdate: (70)
Birthplace: Vinalhaven, Knox County, Maine, United States
Death: Died in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, USA
Place of Burial: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Malatiah Luce and Ruth Luce
Husband of Mary Ann Luce; Mary Luce and Caroline Louisa Luce
Father of Sarah Elizabeth Hickman Beebe Berry; Jason Reid Luce; Samuel William Luce; John Martin Luce, Sr; James Fredk. Canfield Luce and 6 others
Brother of Ephraim Grant Luce; Nancy Mary Kent; Sarah Grant (Sally) Perry; Thomas Benton Luce; Elizabeth "Eliza" Grant Page and 6 others

Managed by: Justin Swanström
Last Updated:

About Stephen Thomas Luce

Stephen Thomas Luce (1801-1872). Some sources call him Stephen A. Luce. He was a shoemaker.

Stephen and his wife were converted to Mormonism by Wilford Woodruff, later President of the Church. According to the Early Church History card file Stephen was baptized February 1837 by Joseph Ball, who was famously the son of a Jamaican slave. However, other sources say that Ball, the Presiding Elder of the Boston Mission, had been in Vinalhaven about a week when Wilford Woodruff arrived on 13 January 1838 and had already baptized six converts on the North Island: Malatire (sic) and Ruth Luce, their son and daughter-in-law Stephen and Nancy Luce, and their daughter and son-in-law Susan and Nathaniel Thomas. Nathaniel and Susan Thomas and Ruth Luce, were “[e]xcluded” from the Baptist church for having “joined the mormons.” (Baptist Church Records, North Haven, Maine, January 17, 1838).

In his journal, Wilford Woodruff first notes that Stephen and Mary Luce were among those baptized by his companion, Elder Ball. But later, when noting the drowning of their two young sons--Samuel W. and James F.C.--he notes that he had baptized the couple himself. Regardless, it's clear that they came into the Church as a result of the missionary efforts of Wilford Woodruff, which doubtless explains why one of their children was named after him.

Stephen and Nancy moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1838/39, probably as part of the party of 53 new converts led by Wilford Woodruff in 10 wagons from the Maine coast to Nauvoo.

Stephen was listed on the 1840 census in Nauvoo. His name appears on the membership records of the Mormon Church between 1840 and 1848 (Newell). He lived in Nauvoo's 4th Ward. He served a Mission in England and was ordained a Seventy there on 9 April 1840 by Wilford Woodruff (ECH). At least part of this mission might have been in Preston, as Stephen presided at the wedding of Sarah Bleazard, "late of Preston, England" on 9 August 1841 (Nauvoo Times and Seasons). On his return to Nauvoo he was a Seventy in the 4th Quorum. He appears on the 1842 tax list of Nauvoo, p. 231, living in Township 6 North, Range 8 West.

Stephen received his Patriarchal Blessing on the same day as his parents and wife, 14 February 1845 at Nauvoo.

When the Mormons were expelled from Nauvoo in February 1846, the Stephen Luce and Ephraim Luce families were among those who left the city. There has been unnecessary confusion about the date the Luces came to Utah. The Pioneer database of the LDS Church says Stephen's son Wilford came in 1848, Stephen's brother Ephraim Luce in 1851, and the other Luces, including Stephen, sometime between 1848 and 1850, probably in 1850. However, two primary records establish a pioneer date for Stephen. First, the biography of Stephen's son-in-law Bill Hickman states that Hickman's wife Sarah Luce came in 1848 with her father in Amasa Lyman's Division of the Willard Richards' Company (Hickman 1872, 48). Secondly, two obituaries of Stephen's son Wilford, say Wilford came to Utah in 1848 (Improvement Era; "Wilford W. Luce Dead," Salt Lake Herald, 1 Aug. 1906, 10). Wilford would have been 10 in 1848, and it is likely he traveled in the same company as his parents.

The Amasa Lyman section of Willard Richards' Company left Winter Quarters, Nebraska on 30 June 1848, and arrived in Salt Lake City on 10 October 1848. (Journal History Supp. after 31 Dec. 1848, p. 17-20*).

According to DUP lists, the Stephen Luce and Ephraim Luce families came to Utah in 1850 (Carter, "Companies of 1850"). This seems to be supported by the date of Stephen's re-baptism and confirmation, 29 September 1850 by William Hicklenlooper in Salt Lake City (ECH). Stephen's mother was widowed in 1849. I believe, but cannot prove, that Stephen traveled back to Nauvoo in 1849 and returned to Salt Lake City in 1850 with his mother, and perhaps also with the family of his brother Ephraim. Stephen's mother was re-baptized and confirmed the same day he was.

Utah was organized as a territory on 9 September 1850. Stephen Luce, of the 6th Ward, recorded a brand on 9 December 1850. The brand was in the form of an S with a tail, to be placed on the left shoulder. He was elected a Trustee of the 11th Ward at its organizational meeting on 30 October 1851 (Tales of a Triumphant People, 36). He might have been among those who moved there in 1849, having spent the winter in the old Fort on Pioneer Square. The ward then extended from South Temple to 300 South, and from 600 East eastwards to the edge of the city.

The Stephen Luce family was living in Salt Lake City in 1851 and 1852. (Census, Registry): Stephen Luce (49), Mary (4), Sarah (21), Jason (19), John (14), Wilford (12), Clara (10), Maria (8), Joseph Purbelow (5), and Wilford Purbelow (2). Stephen was listed as a shoemaker, but reported no value of property.

The relationship of the two children, Joseph Purbelow (age 5, born in Iowa), and Wilford Purbelow (age 2, born in Deseret) is unknown. There are no other Purbelows on this census, no Purbelows on the 1860 census, and no Purbelows in the LDS Ancestral File (1999). Joseph Purbelow appears on the 1870 census at Payson, Utah, and elsewhere under the name Joseph Pueblo. The Utah State Quarterly index includes a horse thief named Purbelow. Probably, these two children were orphans whose English parents died crossing the plains.

From at least 1851 the Luces in the 11th Ward. "In the spring of 1849 a few other families, who had spent the winter in the old fort on Pioneer Square, settled in the same locality. When the fall immigration of 1849 arrived, nearly all the lots in the ward were taken.... The ward extended south from South Temple to Third South, and east from Sixth East to the edge of the city.... At a meeting of ward members held at the home of John Lytel (October 30, 1851), it was resolved by unanimous vote to rent the house of Brother Atkins for one year for school purposes at the rate of two dollars and fifty cents a month. Manly Burrows, John Coulam, and Stephen Luce were elected trustees." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Tales of A Triumpant People (1947), 36).

On 6 February 1853 Stephen and his wife were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. He was apparently among those urged by the church to adopt polygamy following Brigham Young's public announcement of the doctrine a few months earlier (29 August 1852). Stephen married polygamously the widow Mary Walters on the same day he was sealed to his first wife. Mary Walters died in 1855. Stephen appears on the 1856 statehood census in both the 10th and 11th Wards of Salt Lake City.

At the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley news came that an American army was being sent to Utah to subdue the rebellious Mormons. The Nauvoo Legion was re-activated. Bill Hickman and Porter Rockwell led guerilla ranger companies of 100 men to harass military columns and disrupt supply lines of the invading army. Sgt. Stephen Luce served in the 3rd Platoon, Company B, of the Silver-greys, and is shown on a 20 July 1857 muster roll as having on hand one-half pounds of powder and 2 pounds of lead for his rifle.

Stephen married again, polygamously, Caroline Neeley (née Ketchum) in 1859. They are listed on the 1860 census of Salt Lake. Stephen was recorded as a shoemaker with $350 in real estate and $200 in personal property. Two others living in their household: George (age 15, born in England) and Joseph (age 13, born in England). No last name is given for these two. They were born in England, and might have been brothers of Stephen's wife late wife Mary Walters. A George Walter, age 25, born in England appears on the 1860 census at Carson Valley, Utah. Also, a George Walters died 18 July 1860, and was buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Stephen Luce was not named in the 1869 City Directory of Salt Lake and might have been living with one of his children. He appears on the 1870 census, living alone, employed as a laborer, with real estate valued at $500.

Stephen died of apoplexy in 1872 in Salt Lake City and was buried in the Stephen Luce Plot (F-12), City Cemetery. His estate was probated 14 August 1872 (Salt Lake Co. Probate No. 301).

After his death a piece of land which Stephen had owned was occupied by a Sister Bernhisel (possibly a relative of Senator John Bernhisel), and a dispute arose between this woman and Stephen's children. Franklin Richards mediated the dispute, and on 6 October 1886 wrote to Mormon President John Taylor: "The Luce heirs have agreed to accept our proposition of settlement and four of them have already signed a deed relinquishing all their right to the strip of land occupied by Sister Bernhisel, and the deed has been sent to Piute County for the signature of the remaining heir, Mrs. Bebee. Please execute the enclosed deed and return it to me as soon as convenient, that I might be prepared to exchange deeds with the parties when the other returns, and so settle the matter."

Stephen was a 6th cousin once removed of his contemporary, U.S. President Franklin Pierce. They were descendants of John Emery, of Romsey, Hampshire. He was a 2nd cousin of his contemporary, Nancy Luce. She was the local eccentric on Martha's Vineyard. She wrote poems to her hens, and when they died she gave them elaborate gravestones. The Dukes County Historical Society has published a book of her poems. It has two of the gravestones in its museum.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel 1847–1868 Willard Richards Company (1848) Age at departure: 46

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Stephen Thomas Luce's Timeline

July 10, 1801
Vinalhaven, Knox County, Maine, United States
September 12, 1828
Age 27
Vinalhaven, Knox , Maine, USA
November 18, 1830
Age 29
North Haven, ME, USA
September 10, 1832
Age 31
North Haven, ME, USA
September 15, 1834
Age 33
Vinalhaven, Knox County, Maine, United States
September 18, 1834
Age 33
North Haven, ME, USA
November 7, 1838
Age 37
North Haven Island, Knox Co, Maine
Age 38
Nauvoo, IL, USA
January 5, 1841
Age 39
Nauvoo, IL, USA