11 Aug 1827 – 17 Dec 1910
Mary Ann Hale, daughter of Samuel Hale and Mary Ann Cook, and second wife of Benjamin Franklin Johnson, was born August 11. The exact year of birth is not known because the sources searched list the years of 1827, 1828, 1829 and 1830. Like her birth year, several places have been given as her birthplace including Whitestown, Oneida, New York; Jamestown, Chautauqua, New York; and Elmira, Chemung, New York. The best quess is that she was born 11 August 1827 in Whitestown, Oneida, New York.
It is not known when and where the Gospel entered the lives of the Hale family, but they possibly joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as early as 1832. About 1836, Samuel and Mary Ann (Cook) Hale gathered to Kirtland with the Saints and lived there until 1838. Because of the persecution, Joseph Smith directed members of the Church to leave Kirtland and when Mary Ann was about ten years old, in the fall of 1838 the Hale family joined the Kirtland Camp leaving for Missouri.
Kirtland Camp was the last large group to leave Kirtland and the mile-long caravan began with about 525 men, women, and children in 59 wagons with 33 large tents of the most destitute and hard pressed Saints. None of them could leave earlier and only by journeying together and pooling expenses could they begin their 870-mile trek to Farr West, Missouri. This group was described as "very poor in appearance and because they were known to be Mormons, they were greatly persecuted," and objects of contempt. They suffered epidemics along the way and many of them died on the road to Missouri.
Among the names that subscribed to the Constitution of the Kirtland Camp were Samuel Hale and his household of three, Julia Johnson and her household of eight, and Joel H. Johnson and his household of six.[i] The Camp traveled through Dayton, Ohio, onward into Western Ohio into Illinois and arriving near Springfield, Illinois about the first of October 1838 where part of the Camp stopped.
Upon arriving in Springfield, Illinois, Samuel Hale and his wife were both sick and died of typhoid fever. The family of Julia (Hills) Johnson remained at Springfield along with several other families. Julia (Hills) Johnson took the young girl, Mary Ann, into her family circle and eventually, after the Johnson’s regained their own health, the group proceeded on to Ramus (Macedonia) which is a short distance from Nauvoo.
Benjamin Franklin Johnson recorded in his autobiography My Life’s Review the following:
“About the first of October arrived near Springfield, Illinois, where Samuel Hale and wife (parents of Mary Ann, who afterwards became my second wife) were taken sick, and Brother Hale soon died. It was deemed best that my elder brothers, Joel and Joseph, my Mother and their families should remain there until the following season. Here Sister Hale also died, leaving Mary Ann, their only child, then some 10 years old with my Mother.
The orphan girl—Mary Ann Hale—that my Mother had raised from a child, was now living with us, of nearly the same age as my sister, and I asked him he (Joseph Smith) would not like her, as well as Almira. He said, “No, but she is for you. You keep her and take her for your wife and you will be blessed. This seemed like hurrying up my blessings pretty fast, but the spirit of it came upon me, and from that hour I thought of her as a wife that the Lord had given me.
Six years later, on November 14th (1844), Mary Ann Hale, given to me by the Prophet, was sealed to me as a plural wife by Father, John Smith, as directed by President Brigham Young.”
Mary Ann was about seventeen years old and Benjamin was twenty-six years old, a man with a wife and two children, when they married. They were married at Macedonia, Hancock, Illinois.
They moved to Nauvoo to take over the management of the Mansion House following the martyrdom of the Prophet. Mary Ann most likely worked long hours cleaning and preparing rooms and meals for important guests who seldom paid money for the rent of their rooms, but rather, were guests of the Church leaders as they struggled to gain sympathy and understanding from the outside world.
When Benjamin received word that a Carthage Mob was on its way to arrest him for "crimes" committed in Missouri, Mary Ann fled Nauvoo in the middle of the night with Benjamin and his third wife, Clarinda Gleason. Benjamin took both of these wives because they were both expecting babies and he didn't want to leave them to face an angry mob. They crossed the Mississippi River during a snowstorm and sought refuge on the Iowa shore from other Church members camped with only wagons and makeshift tents to offer poor shelter.
Mary Ann's first child was born 25 July 1846 at Garden Grove, Iowa, and was named Emma Jane. As Mary Ann journeyed West, little Emma Jane declined in health and when they arrived at Pisgah “she died among strangers” and Benjamin stated “the place of her burial I had no opportunity to see.”
Mary Ann and Benjamin crossed the plains in the Willard Richards Company. They left Winter Quarters on 30 June 1848 with 526 people and arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake on 19 October 1848. The Johnson’s traveled in the First Company with Franklin D. Richards, Captain of Hundred. Traveling with them was Joel Hills Johnson and his family.
A few excerpts from the Travelog of this company gave the following:
4 Jul: Camped 2 ½ miles from Winter Quarters, the day was very hot, 60 wagons, pigs, turkeys, hens, sheep, 15 horses and mules. Used Parley’s cut-off.
6 Jul: Traveled 15 miles to Elkhorn River. Crossed it by doubling the teams.
12 Jul: Camped on Looking Glass Creek
23 Jul: Killed buffalo
2 Aug: Met band of Sioux Indians under Chief Little Thunder
7 Aug: Traded with Indians
12 Aug: Chimney Rock
9 Sep: Camped on Sweetwater
11 Sep: Crossed river at Independence Rock and passed Devil’s Gate about 12:00 noon. Howling of wolves was terrific.
5 Oct: Fort Bridger
16 Oct: Over Little Mountain
18 Oct: Camped on Emigration Creek 1 mile up from the mouth of the Canyon.
19 Oct: Arrived in the Great Salt Lake
Mary Ann had lost her only child, and Benjamin recorded in his autobiography, “like Rachel (Mary Ann) would not be comforted. It seemed that she might bear no more children, being troubled with increasing feminine weakness. Feeling deep sympathy in her sorrows, I (Benjamin) prophesied to her in the Name of the Lord, that if she would cease her mourning, rise up and be cheerful, that joy should daily increase with her, and she should have a son, to bring her far more gladness that she had ever known of sorrow; and in the common period of time was born Joseph Ezekiel, on 12 January 1850.”
Benjamin Franklin Johnson was called on a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). At this time, he had three wives, and as he was preparing to leave, he moved his wives, Melissa B., and Mary Ann to Summit Creek where they were to remain until his return. Brother Holman, was the ordained Bishop at Summit and was to watch over Benjamin’s family and property.
Mary Ann was mentioned several times in the journal of Mary Spence Heywood which gives a little insight into the life of Mary Ann (Hale) Johnson:
“October 1851, a team arrived with Mary Anne (B. Johnston’s wife) and child and with them Teamster, Ezra B. I was so glad to see her that it excited me very much and flew about without any feeling but that of joy. . . Monday was pleasant weather and I verily thought that Sister Johnston’s arrival would rid me of all responsibility in the house keeping department but between the confusion of her things and her little boy not feeling very well, I found I had to do about as much as ever.
Tues. . . helped Mary Anne some to fix her things in the forenoon, and in the work, that she might have a chance to get her things fixed. In the afternoon made her an apron and commenced a warm sack to keep her boy warm who seemed to suffer much from the cold air morning and evenings.
October 13 Monday . . . Mrs. Johnston’s little boy improves in health.
October 18th Saturday. . . Still pleasant weather. Joel Johnston’s family arrived here this afternoon in company with other wagons on their way to Salt Lake. They made some little excitement and confusion for Mary Anne and I. The children were so cross and noisy.
October 19. . . walked up to our logs with Mary Ann which hurt me some. She was much pleased with the location but rather disappointed to find that her lot did not join mine.
October 25 Sunday. . . Last evening Benjamin Johnston arrived to our great joy and satisfaction. He came with the idea of taking his family back to summit Creek supposing that little or nothing was done for her benefit. He readily admitted that his men had done well and was delighted to find his little boy looking so much better than when he left the city. He is of the same opinion with Mary Anne and myself that it would be every way more economical and pleasant for us to live together this winter and has given direction to the men to build a willow house as quick as possible.
. . . Mary Anne has been to Summit Creek since the day after Christmas 4 January 1852.
January 11, 1852 last Wednesday, Sister Mary Anne returned from Summit Creek and by her return the knowledge of a little difficulty between her and her husband that arose from a conversation between Harriet and I when she was here at Christmas that caused me much pain.
March 6, 1853, Sunday. . . Sister Mary Ann Johnson arrived here from Summit Creek a week ago last Friday, February 25, 1853 on a visit, her health not very good and expects to be confined in a few (months) and her opportunity to return is uncertain as the traveling is bad just at this time.
Expected to have stayed to Bro Johnson’s but Mary Anne was just taken in labor and we have learned since that the results was a fine boy.”[ii]
Benjamin Samuel Johnson was born 25 April 1853 in Santaquin. Mary Ann was born 26 June 1856 at Payson, Utah. Benjamin stated at this time it was a year of famine and hard toil. Their fifth child, Vilate Elizabeth was born 7 March 1859 at Santaquin.
Little is known of Mary Ann for the next several years, but one can imagine she was busy raising her four children and teaching them to wash and pick wool and then card and spin it into yarn. They also helped harvest the "broom" corn for their broom factory and worked to keep the flower gardens beautiful, and to do the various jobs involved in canning fruit from their own trees.
Mary Ann received three Patriarchal Blessings. The first blessing was given to her before she married, but is not dated nor is the name of the Patriarch listed on the blessing. She was told she would have a companion and be a mother in Israel and that she would instruct the Lamanites to weave, spin and make garments for the Saints. Her second blessing was given 10 December 1869 at Spring Lake Village by Joseph Smith, Patriarch. In this blessing it was mentioned that she would live to a “good old age.” The third blessing was given in Tempe, Arizona on 3 January 1885 by her husband, Benjamin Franklin Johnson. In her blessings, she was declared to be of the lineage of Ephraim.
There were problems between Benjamin and Mary Ann and she took some of her children and left Benjamin in 1864. During the time they were separated, Mary Ann signed a bill requesting a divorce. However, in 1869, a reconciliation was made and she returned to live with Benjamin.
Benjamin recognized that his "fretful and over sensitive temper" was the main cause of much of his family troubles. Although his children seemed to grow up with a love for their father, Benjamin's wives tended to withdraw from his confidence and much of the remainder of his life was spent with anxieties because of their withdrawal.
Somewhat disillusioned and discouraged while Mary Ann was separated from him, he commented:
"Excessive labors to which I was not equal, with infirmities of years, and increasing disobedience, unhappiness, and disunion in my family did at times almost dethrone my better judgment, leaving me without the wisdom of 'soft words to turn away wrath' as is due to the high and holy calling of husband and father. Worn with cares and infirmities and disappointment in my life’s ideal of a happy home I became somewhat austere, perhaps morose, even towards those without whom I couldn’t be happy. All this discouraged my ambition, mortified my pride, made me unsocial, and inspired a feeling to withdraw from public callings and positions of honor.” In 1867, after serving 14 years, he chose not to stand for reelection to the Legislature.
Benjamin was asked to colonize Arizona. He gathered his family around and asked if one of his wives would accompany him. All five declined for various reasons. “Mary Ann, the eldest wife, was too infirm and broken for so arduous a journey,” so he went without a wife at this time.
Mary Ann went to Arizona about 1883, when the Johnson clan pulled out of Spring Lake, where she spent the rest of her life. She settled first in Tempe and then as a family, they moved a little east to Nephi, which became part of Mesa.
In a letter from Benjamin F. Johnson to Mr. Gibbs dated 1903, he mentioned that Joseph Smith “sealed to me my first wife for eternity, and gave to me my first plural wife, Mary Ann Hale, an orphan girl raised by my mother then living with us, who is still with me, and is probably the only wife still living with the man to whom she was given by the Prophet.”
Mary Ann was always found helping, serving and caring for all she could, proving faithful and true through her trials. She was mostly bedridden the last few years of her life, yet always cheerful and had a happy disposition.
Mary Ann died in Mesa, Arizona of pneumonia, five years after Benjamin's death, on 17 December 1910, and is buried in the Mesa City Cemetery. She had 5 children, 41 grandchildren, 112 great grandchildren, 331 great great grandchildren, and 824 great great great grandchildren.[iii]
Her obituary stated:
“Mary Ann Johnson died at her home in Mesa on 17 December 1910. She was born in Elmira, Chemung County, New York, 11 August 1828. For the past few years she was never free from pain or able to leave her bed more than occasionally for a few moments at a time. Yet was always of a cheerful and happy disposition and never complained. She passed through all the hardships of the Nauvoo days and arrived in SLC in 1851. She moved to Mesa in 1883.
Mrs. Johnson had lived a plain and simple life and one devoted to the cause of truth. Her children and friends have lost a devoted mother and a good and kind neighbor and the Church has lost one of its stanch witnesses of the truth of the Gospel.
She leaves a son, Benjamin S. and a daughter, Mrs. Vilate E. LeBaron. She has been ill for some years.”
Headstone of Mary Ann Hale Johnson in the Mesa Arizona Cemetary