William Henrey Shirley

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William Henrey Shirley

Also Known As: "Henry"
Birthdate: (57)
Birthplace: Portsea, Hampshire, England
Death: September 27, 1886 (57)
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas William Shirley and Harriet Shirley
Husband of Esther Maria Shirley
Father of Thomas Shirley; George William Shirley; William Shirley; Charles Coulson Shirley; Edgar Shirley and 2 others
Brother of Thomas Charles Shirley

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Henrey Shirley

Life and Testimony of William Henry Shirley

William Henry Shirley was born January 19th, 1829, in Portsea, Hampshire, England. Very sadly, his father died when he was only twelve years old. An uncle, who owned a ship and made trips between England and South Africa, suggested to William Henry and a brother Thomas, “Come and go with me to South Africa where there is a chance for young boys.” So these two boys went to South Africa, leaving a younger brother home in England with their widowed mother.

When they arrived at Cape Town, the boys served as apprentices to a man so they could learn his trade. [Some give the name as Mr. Streak; others as Mr. Cadie.] William Henry eventually became a wheelwright. He and his brother helped make wagons that were then sold to the British Soldiers who were there to control the Kaffir [or Kefir] tribes of Africa.

The Shirley Brothers Meet the Bubb Sisters A lone apple tree separated the yards of the Shirleys and the Streaks where Maria lived and Martha came often to visit. When the apples were ripe, ready to pick and eat, the Shirley boys, William Henry and Thomas Charles, soon picked those on their side, and after eating all those, figured out a way to pick the apples off the neighbor’s side of the tree. Henry and Thomas built themselves a long wooden trough by putting two long pieces of lumber together. All they had to do was put the wooden trough up in the apple tree into the other side, put it under the apples, then shake gently and the apples rolled down the trough right into their hands and pockets.

The girls soon noticed their apples were disappearing. So Ester Maria and Martha Sarah decided to catch the culprits. They set up a little hiding place to sit, wait, and watch. A day or two passed, then it happened. Maria and Martha saw Henry and Charles leave their house, pick up the wooden trough and head straight for the apple tree. Just as the boys began to shake the apples down, out came Maria and Martha and caught them in the act. Well, it seems this incident led to accusations from the sisters and apologies from the boys. This was the beginning of a friendship.

William and Maria had other times to extend their friendship.

Finally, William Henry served as a Sunday School teacher in the Church of England which Ester attended. This led to their eventual marriage. Later his brother married her sister.

William Henry met the Mormon Elders, and was the first in his family to join the church. Later his wife joined.

In March 1859, he and his wife, with an infant son, set sail for America on the ship called Alacrity. A year later, his brother and her sister sailed on the same ship.

Sailing to America (Told by Maria Bubb to Sarah V. Shirley) The ship on which William Henry and Maria sailed went past the barren island of Saint Helena, off the west coast of Africa. This was “In the Atlantic where Napoleon Bonaparte had been exiled by the English, and was later buried on the island.” Fresh water was needed on the ship, so Maria and William Henry went by small boat [I assume they were with a group] to that rock island, and climbed up on it by a rope ladder. They took the time to look out at the ocean in all directions. Then they gathered and took on a supply of water, food, etc.

The crossing of the ocean took them three months. They finally landed in Boston, Massachusetts about 1857, on to Missouri, where they bought supplies, and then on to Council Bluffs, where they joined a company of Saints and started for Salt Lake City. The Captain of the company was Edward Stevenson.

At a point where they outfitted to cross the plains, a man in the group needed help and William Shirley bought him a wagon and team for the journey to Utah. He was to pay William Shirley back in Utah. Many people were in debt and unable to pay back what was borrowed, so President Brigham Young told the people to forgive and forget their debtors which William Shirley offered to do for his friend.

William Shirley had also bought a half interest in another wagon and team for Maria and their son Thomas to travel in. The woman had no children, and was to do the cooking while Maria and friends went to the river on wash days and wagon repair days. They washed in the river and hung their clothes to dry on the grass and willows. One day they were told the cook had boiled eggs and cooked ham. One of the girls asked where it was, but was told she hadn’t cooked any. So the questioner walked around the wagon tongue and over the jockey box and found it. They had a good meal that night. She had done that thing before and dropped the egg shells under the wheels.

This same person complained about Maria’s bawling baby, so Maria took it from the back of the wagon and carried it the rest of the way. One night it rained so they gathered brush to put their feather bed on and made a trench to carry away the water. That night they heard the water running under their bed. When she arrived in Salt Lake City, her shoes were worn out. Henry eventually made her shoes from cowhide to wear.

When they got to Great Salt Lake City they stayed in a room of Mrs. William Penrose. Later on Maria was told she had better bring the potatoes in from outside as they might freeze. She said, “We will shut the outside door.” Soon she went and got some potatoes and put them in cold water. They stuck together. She said, “William, what ails these potatoes?” From the frozen potatoes, she had begun to learn life was different in the frigid north.

In 1860 they received their endowments in the endowment house in Salt Lake City, and in 1875 they were baptized into the United Order. They eventually had a family of seven sons, four dying when young.

William worked very hard at painting for Silver Brothers and wherever he could get work. He lived at Mill Creek where James F. Shirley was born. He lived at Paris before Charles C. Shirley was born. He went to Logan to try and get work on the railroad and find some oranges for Maria, which she missed. He could only get some orange marmalade, which was just not the same.

They finally moved to Fish Haven, Idaho, where he purchased sixty acres in the south field and acreage on the town site where he built a home. In Fish Haven, William painted a panorama of scenes he exhibited about animal life in South Africa. One scene showed the sinking of the Jennette in the Arctic Ice.

He also worked a great deal on the new Church house in Fish Haven. He made lounges with nicely carved fruit and etc. To decorate them, he painted two scenes of a vessel on the ocean. One picture was a vessel in full sail, and the other was a scene of a child in a high chair and a cat reaching up and licking the slice of bread. The corner of the room shone clearly and the faggots were hung on the wall ready for the fireplace. The boy’s hair was blonde and curled.

But William’s full time work was as a house painter, and his last job involved traveling to Montpelier, Idaho each week. He was painting on a roof and got sick. He got down and tried to paint on the side of the building but was too dizzy and went to his room in the hotel. He called a Dr. Hoover who found he had painters consumption. His lungs were badly damaged. He had to arrange for a man to take him to Fish Haven in a buggy. It gave Maria a bad fright as he got out of the buggy. They had Dr. Hoover come again but William was too far gone for help. Fortunately for Maria’s sake, he had just made the last payment on the land in the south field, and had bought her a new set of flat irons. He died 27 September 1886, at his home.

He had sacrificed much in his life for the gospel. If he had stayed in South Africa, he probably would have become rich. But for the sake of the gospel he left all, and was faithful to the gospel’s principles to the end.

The above is from this source:



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 http://www.speirstours.co.za/cape-frontier-wars.htm

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: Ancestry.com. Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, 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 http://sites.google.com/site/tcs131/

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William Henrey Shirley's Timeline

January 19, 1829
Portsea, Hampshire, England
Age 26
December 30, 1858
Age 29
Age 33
August 21, 1864
Age 35
Paris, ID, USA
Age 39
July 13, 1873
Age 44
Millcreek, UT, USA
Age 46
September 27, 1886
Age 57