John Tucker Davis


CAPTAIN JOHN TUCKER DAVIS, a "master mariner," was born 3 March 1806 in Llangwm, Pembrokeshire, Wales. He was the son of Henry Davies (1772-1849), a mariner and fisherman, and Elizabeth Tucker (1767-1841). (The original Welsh spelling of the surname DAVIS was "DAVIES".) Capt. Davis' first marriage was to Hannah Thompson in 1830; they became the parents of five children:

    HENRY DAVIES (b. 19 Nov 1831)
    JAMES DAVIES (b. 9 Oct 1832)
    MARY JANE BURN DAVIES (b. 14 Feb 1834)
    ELIZABETH DAVIES (b. 14 May 1837)
    another son (name unknown)


The mother of these children, Hannah, died in 1837 or 1838. Capt. John Tucker Davis married for the second time to Letitia Ann George, on 9 April 1839, in Burton, Pembrokeshire, Wales. She was 23 years old at the time of their marriage, nine years younger than her husband.


Born 20 August 1815 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales, Letitia Ann George was one of sixteen children of John George (1781-1865), a "dockyard shipwright and ferryman," and Letitia Ann Harris (1782-1857). The Georges were from Llanstadwell, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Soon after Capt. John Tucker Davis and Letitia Ann George were married, they moved to Liverpool, England. It was the major port city which Capt. Davis sailed from. There they came in contact with LDS members and missionaries, and were converted to the LDS Church in early 1842, although the circumstances and details of their conversion are unknown. John Tucker Davis was baptized 6 Feb 1842, at age 35, and his wife Letitia Ann was baptized 9 May 1842, at the age of 26. They were some of the earliest Welsh converts to the LDS Church.

The Davis family continued to reside in Liverpool for eight years after their conversion, perhaps being reluctant to emigrate to Zion because of Capt. Davis' line of work. He was an educated man and had a thorough knowledge of navigation. It had taken him many years to work his way up to the position of a sea captain. He had probably started out as a cabin boy at about the age of 10 or 12. He would have been apprenticed to a master mariner, being trained as he helped with the actual work on board ship. As he gained more experience, he would have been given more responsibility. After many years, working at all the different positions on a ship, he would have been ready to be in command of a ship himself. For over 35 years of his early manhood, both before and after joining the Church, he followed a seafaring life.

"Many times he sailed back and forth from the East Indies in a trading vessel. Once he was shipwrecked, and with other survivors, spent 18 days and nights in an open boat on the ocean, driven here and there by the winds. His eldest son (Henry Davies, born in 1831) was with him on this voyage (1849). (Henry was probably learning the seafaring trade, apprenticed under his father.) But while they were adrift and exposed to the elements, Henry contracted a cold. He never recovered, and died later of pneumonia. All of this must have been a great trial to the father, seeing his son so ill, and not being able to even give him a drink of water.

Being without water while adrift, Captain Davis prayed humbly for strength to endure. (He was already a member of the LDS church at this time.) He said that a dream repeatedly came to him, wherein he dreamed he was quenching his thirst at a spring of cold water near his boyhood home. In all earnestness he said that the dream seemed to alleviate his burning thirst significantly. At the end of 18 days he and the other survivors were picked up by a Spanish ship and taken to land in safety."


Three children were born to Captain John Tucker Davis and his wife Letitia Ann at Liverpool:

    WILLIAM GEORGE DAVIS (b. 12 Nov. 1842, 
      died in 1857 at age 15)
    JOHN GEORGE DAVIS (b. 10 Dec. 1845, 
      later married Druzilla Thompson)
  **ALMA CHARLES DAVIS (b. 6 June 1848, 
      married Margaret Ann Miller).


Of course, since Capt. Davis was away at sea a lot, being a captain's wife was never an easy life for Letitia Ann, although the family was well-off financially.

More about BRITISH IMMIGRATION TO UTAH

In 1851, the family made the voyage to America and across the plains. Captain John Tucker Davis was a man of considerable means, so he was able to purchase his own oxen, wagon, and supplies to bring his family across the plains, instead of relying on the Church's Perpetual Emigration Fund, as most emigrants did. Along the way across the plains, another boy was born to the family:

    EPHRAIM GEORGE DAVIS (27 August 1851, at Fort Laramie, Wyoming)
        (he later married 1- Hannah Elizabeth Hughes and 
	                  2- Catherine Green).


The Davis family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after enduring many hardships. Needless to say, it was difficult for them to settle here in the wilderness with nothing, after leaving a home with plenty in the old country.

After arriving in the valley, John Tucker Davis was ordained a High Priest by Reynolds Cahoon, in 1852. Also, both he and his wife Letitia Ann received their patriarchal blessings on 15 June 1852 from patriarch John Smith. While they lived in Salt Lake City, Capt. J.T. Davis helped to build the Salt Lake Temple. He supervised the block and tackle work, raising the heavy stones into place. They lived in Salt Lake City for four years, and during this time two daughters were born to the family:

    MARY SOPHIA GEORGE DAVIS (b. 14 Aug 1853)
       (she later married Edward Creer, Jr.)
    LETITIA ANN GEORGE DAVIS (b. 23 Nov 1856)
       (she became the wife of William Banks).

In 1857 the family moved to Spanish Fork. (When all of the people in the Salt Lake Valley and northward temporarily moved south, because of the threat of the approaching Johnston's Army, many people decided to settle permanently in Utah Valley or other settlements further south.) In Spanish Fork two more girls were added to the family:

    SARAH JANE GEORGE DAVIS (b. 14 Nov 1858)
      (she died at the age of 22 months);
    MARTHA HELEN DAVIS (b. 16 Dec 1862)
      (who later became the wife of John West Moore).


Before railroads were built between southern Utah and Salt Lake City, people frequently had to travel back and forth for provisions and other purposes, and it took several days. It was not unusual for them to make John Tucker Davis' home in Spanish Fork their overnight stopping place, and never did he take a penny from anyone for staying there. While living in Spanish Fork, he helped make roads, ditches and bridges. In fact, he helped build the first bridge across the Spanish Fork River. He filled many responsible positions in the Church and was active in civic affairs.

It is unfortunate that we do not know more history about this man and his career as a sea captain. Apparently even after emigrating to Zion, he still went to sea occasionally and followed his line of work. Lola Ludwig of Salt Lake City wrote in a book of ancestor histories published by the Grant Stake that her ancestor Capt. John Tucker Davis "once captained a ship which brought a group of saints to America." We have not verified this for certain. The book SHIPS, SAINTS, AND MARINERS: A MARITIME ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORMON MIGRATION 1830-1890, by Conway B. Sonne (1987) lists only one group of emigrating saints brought over by a "Captain John Davis" or any similar name, and it is not known if this was our ancestor or not, since the name is a very common one. Sonne writes that the bark "Susan Pardew" sailed from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for America, on 10 Apr 1864, with eighteen Latter-day Saints among the passengers. "Elders William Fotheringham and Henry A. Dixon were in charge of the Mormons. Fotheringham, a Scotsman who had filled a mission in India a decade earlier, had been president of the South African Mission. He and Dixon were returning to their homes on this voyage and bringing some converts with them. After a sixty-two-day voyage, under the command of Captain John Davis, the vessel arrived at Boston on 11 June 1864." At this time Capt. John Tucker Davis would have been 58 years old, so it is entirely possible that he was the captain on this voyage.

The first bishop of Spanish Fork, Albert King Thurber, mentioned in his journal that "Capt. J.T. Davis and wife came and stayed overnight with me, giving me and my wife an opiate to (help us get to) sleep." (In those days the harmful effects of opium and other drugs were not known, and they were considered a very healthy "tonic" or medicine, highly sought after and expensive. Perhaps Capt. Davis had acquired the opium in China or the East Indies on one of his voyages). "The Journal and Diary of Albert King Thurber" is found in TREASURES OF PIONEER HISTORY, vol. 3.

The following is an account of a testimony which John Tucker Davis bore at a meeting of High Priests in Spanish Fork on December 6, 1888, just two weeks before his death (from notes taken by the secretary of the quorum):

"John T. Davis spoke of his advanced years (he was 82), and said he looked for a turn in the tide soon (signifying that the time had come for him to sail to the other shore). He expected to lay down his body in death before very long, and desired to leave in peace with all brethren and his God. He then gave several examples of the power of prayer. Among others he spoke of a time when all human help was in vain, where death and destruction to himself and his crew, and to his ship seemed close at hand. He did all he could, and then he lowered his head in prayer for help from God. That help was given in a miraculous manner. The ship was saved and also the lives of all on board. He acknowledged these blessings and was thankful for them. He expressed his hope and desire that he should endure in the truth to the end."

John Tucker Davis passed away, Dec. 30, 1888 in Spanish Fork, at 82 years of age. He is buried in the Spanish Fork cemetery. Here a monument stands, about 10 feet tall, with an anchor carved on it, and the following poem inscribed at the base:


The captain and his faithful wife
Have closed the voyage of their life.
But happy they, for both had sailed
On Zion's ship that never failed.
The Holy Priesthood for their guide
Safely they've crossed life's ocean wide.
Now rest they on that peaceful shore,
Among the blest forever more.
And oh! their joy will be complete
When all their children there they meet.


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray