Thomas William Whitaker, Sr.

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About Thomas William Whitaker, Sr.

Thomas William Whitaker was born May 16, 1816 a son of Thomas J. Whitaker and Mary Ann Betts. His mother's people were rich and she saw to it that Thomas had private tutors. He had an art teacher, a music teacher and a language teacher from the time he was six until he was going on seventeen. Then his mother suddenly died. After this home never seemed the same. He left home taking only his violin. He hid on one of his uncle's merchant ships and didn't reveal himself for three days. When he told them who he was they didn't believe him.

All of the sailors smoked and most drank heavily. When Thomas wouldn't join in they made him do all sorts of menial tasks. They made great sport at his expense. He deeply regretted his rash act of running away from home. He remembered his violin hidden on board. As he began to play songs they all knew, the sailors were charmed and begged for more. Thomas refused to play unless they treated him well and they did all the rest of the time.

John was at sea for four years. It was here he learned the carpentry and cabinet making skills. So from the hardest sea duties he graduated to top carpenter aboard ship. He sailed around the world three times and kept journals in both French and English. He also knew Latin and some German.

When the ship stopped in Tahiti, he hid out on the Island until it had sailed. He stayed there and met a lovely native girl name Tuana. They fell in love and were married. Soon afterward a plague of smallpox struck the island. When a friend died, Thomas and Tuana adopted her two little girls. Tuana and one of these little girls also died. Thomas cared for the other little girl Annie until she married.

Thomas also lived a short time in New Zealand where he met his second wife. Mary Ann Church was older than Thomas. Thomas felt tricked into this marriage. They went to San Francisco where Thomas was taught the Gospel by Bro. Charles C. Rich. Mary Ann was not interested in the Gospel. She returned to New Zealand and wanting to remarry, she divorced Thomas. Thomas later learned that she had born a son she had named after him. This boy died when he was nine years old.

After being baptized on September 16, 1849, Thomas was called on a two year mission to Tahiti. "I taught the language to other LDS elders and translated some pamphlets and some other Church works into the Tahitian language. I was kept very busy, as I also built boats to carry the missionaries from one island to another." At that time the French government was in possession of the islands and was strenuously opposed to any other religion but Catholicism. Thomas Whitaker was in prison 4 days and tried for preaching. Nothing was found against him so he was set at liberty.

When Thomas returned to California he built homes for the two elders that taught him the gospel, Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich. He did this without pay, considering it part of his mission, "I can never repay them for bringing the Gospel to me. True loyalty often calls for sacrifice, and the test must sometimes be made."

In 1856 he came to Utah. Not long after his arrival he met Elizabeth Oakden, a young widow with a little son. After a short courtship they were married on September 4. Pres. Brigham Young performed the ceremony in his office. They were later married in the Endowment House. The couple settled in Centerville. As their family grew Thomas built an eight room house of adobe. They had a total of eleven children.

After he and Elizabeth had been married ten years, Thomas felt he should marry another wife to obey the Lord's command. He married and English convert, Hannah Waddoups. He built a home for Hannah a short distance from Elizabeth's house. Hannah and Thomas had eight children. He used his building and carpentry skills to support both families. He built churches, residences, stores, even sailboats which he sailed on the great Salt Lake.

At one time Thomas was chosen clerk of teachers and quorums and a ward teacher. He was superintendent of the Centerville Sunday Schools for a number of years. As a moral and theological instructor he set an example by his daily life. He was a strict observer of the Word of Wisdom and said his prayers night and morning. He watched with anticipation for the Saints to fully keep the United Order and for the Lord's coming. He was a bandmaster. His band furnished music for dances, theaters and other amusements.

On April 22, 1886 he was stricken with a pain in the abdomen caused by over exertion in launching a boat for Captain Davis which he had just finished. After he felt a little easier, he went to Salt Lake on business where the pain again grew worse. The next morning his colorful life closed. It was not known at the time that his death was caused by appendicitis but was called strangulated hernia.

He had always been unusually healthy. He passed away praising and asking his family to follow his footsteps. He left a family of 22 to mourn his death.

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Thomas William Whitaker, Sr.'s Timeline

May 16, 1816
Rotherhithe, Surrey, England
June 10, 1820
Age 4
June 10, 1820
Age 4
Rotherhithe, Surrey, England
August 12, 1849
Age 33
Age 35
San Francisco, San Francisco, California
December 20, 1859
Age 43
Centerville, Davis, Utah
August 24, 1861
Age 45
Centerville, Davis, Utah
October 16, 1863
Age 47
Centerville, Davis County, Utah, United States
March 21, 1866
Age 49
Centerville, Davis, Ut