Mary Ann Wood
April 23, 1791 - September 23, 1884

      Mary Ann was born to Joshua Wood and Mary Ann Kennan April 23, 1791 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, the third of five children. She was christened May 15, 1791 at St. Peter's Cathedral Church in Sheffield.
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St. Peter's Cathedral Church, Sheffield, England
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Click here for detailed photos from the BBC.


      The first two children of Joshua and Mary Ann Wood, George Darling Wood and Jane Wood, were born in Rochdale in 1778 and 1789, and then the family moved to Sheffield where Mary Ann and her brother Luke were born in 1791, and 1793. For some reason the family moved back to Rochdale by 1795 where Bridget the last child was born. Before the children reached maturity the Wood family and moved to the largest city of northern England, Manchester. Her father was a cobbler who both made and repaired shoes and he probably moved to Manchester in order to find a more prosperous life for his family.

      On May 3, 1811, at the age of twenty-three, Mary Ann Wood married James Watt, a Scotsman who was born in Glasgow on August 2, 1790. He was a traveling salesman. They were married in the Manchester Cathedral.

Mancester Cathedral Church
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James Watt and Mary Ann Wood Marriage Licence
      James and Mary Ann moved into a house owned by Mary Ann’s brother, George Darling Wood. Their first child was born a year later on May 18, 1812. He was named George Darling Watt after her brother. In 1817 they had another child, a daughter, who they named Margaret Watt.

      James had an itchy foot and convinced his brother-in-law, George, to travel to America with him. They left sometime after the second child was born. According to family tradition, James died in New Orleans in about 1820, but this was not so. George and James then left America and went to Brazil in 1825. George died in Brazil and was buried June 16, 1825 in the British Cemetery in Bahial. James then alone left Bahia and went to Australia. He died in Australia in 1857.

      Mary Ann now had the gigantic duty of raising her two children alone, a task multiplied by her limitations of work, which kept her near the poverty level. Mary Ann sent her daughter, Margaret, to her sister Bridget to rear. In order to lighten the young widow's burden, her husband's father, Andrew Watt, took his young grandson, George, to Glasgow where he was educated and grew to young manhood at which time he returned to his mother in Preston.

      Mary Ann Wood Watt remained a widow for several years. Then she married Joseph Brown, a widower with a large family, in the Manchester Cathedral on March 4, 1825. Joseph had a family of twelve children by his first wife, Ann Healy, who died in 1822 in Preston. Most of his children were grown and married, except twelve-year old Robert whom she took to her heart as though he were her own.

Joseph Brown and Mary Ann Brown Watts Marriage Licence

Parish Record for Joseph Brown and Mary Ann Watts Marriage


      After Mary Anne and Joseph were married they continued to live in Preston where Joseph was a Policeman and Jailer. Mary Ann was highly respected by her husband's first family, and an old letter which she had in her possession while living in Wellsville, Utah was a testimonial of the love and respect borne her. It was written by her husband's oldest son, James Brown, and dated from the British army. At the close of an endearing letter, he happily commented, "And you have another son, and you have called him Joshua," signing himself, "Yours devotedly, James Brown."

      Joseph and Mary Ann had 3 more children:
  Jane Brown was born on 8 June 1828. Click here to see more about Jane.
  Joseph Wood Brown was born on 12 October 1830. Click here to see more about Joseph.
  Joshua Wood Brown was born on 14 February 1832. Click here to see more about Joshua.
      The Brown family joined with the Methodists and became associated with Reverend James Fielding’s congregation at Vauxhall Chapel in Preston. On July 1, 1837 a group of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sailed from New York. The group consisted of Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Joseph Fielding, Willard Richards, John Goodson, Isaac Russell and John Snyder. Their ship only took 18 days to get to Liverpool, England and they arrived in Preston on Saturday, July 22. While crossing the ocean Joseph Fielding prayed fervently that the Lord would prepare the hearts of his brother, Reverend James Fielding and other relatives. James did offer the elders his pulpit in Vauxhall Chapel on Sunday afternoon. Joseph promised his brother that they would not abuse the privilege and that they would be cautious "so that he might judge of it before he repeated that favour."
      The Reverend Fielding's Sunday morning announcement that one of the Latter-day Saint elders would preach in the afternoon packed Vauxhall Chapel. The Joseph Brown family was a part of that congregation and heard Heber C. Kimball preach the very first LDS sermon in England. The people were excited to hear the strange message from America, and he did not disappoint them. Declaring that an angel had brought the Everlasting Gospel to man, he called on them to repent, urged them to prepare for Christ's coming, and explained how they might enter into His Rest. Elder Orson Hyde then bore his testimony. The response was astounding, according to Elder Kimball's diary, the people began to praise God for sending his servants to them. All the members of the Brown family believed the message.    

      At Reverend Fielding's invitation the missionaries held another meeting that evening. Many people received their message favorably, and the missionaries were delighted when James Fielding let it be known that his chapel would be open to them again Wednesday night. That evening the chapel again was full. "The people began to believe more & more," Joseph Fielding wrote to his sister Mary. (Men with a Mission by James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin and David J. Whittaker; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992)

      The following Sunday on July 30, 1837, the first British converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered at the edge of Avenham Park on the River Ribble near the tram bridge. There the small but tempestuous rapids on one side of the river partly swirled into a quiet eddy, creating a beautiful pool, edged by a grassy slope. Farther back were large weeping willows and bushes. Word of the forthcoming baptisms quickly spread throughout Preston. The river here ran near the Preston market center, a popular place of recreation on pleasant Sundays and holidays. Kimball estimated that between seven and nine thousand people were sitting and standing on the bank, watching the open-air baptisms.

      Heber C. Kimball recorded: “A circumstance took place which I cannot refrain from mentioning, for it will show the eagerness and the anxiety of some in that land to obey the gospel. Two of the male candidates, when they changed their clothes at a distance of several rods from the place where I was standing in the water, were so anxious to obey the Gospel that they ran with all their might to the water, each wishing to be baptized first. The younger, George D. Watt, being quicker of foot than the older, outran him, and came first into the water … Thus was a miracle wrought that day, and nine souls initiated into the kingdom of God; the first fruits of the Gospel in a foreign land. The names of the baptized were George D. Watt, Charles Miller, Thomas Walmsley, Ann Elizabeth Walmsley, Miles Hodgen, George Wate, Henry Billsbury, Mary Ann Brown and Ann Dawson." (Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967)

River Ribble Baptismal Site in Preston

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      The following was written by her son Joshua, “I have heard her say many times, I was the first woman candidate for baptism, but Sister Walmsley who was a consumptive invalid, was carried down into the water first; but I was the first candidate and first to be confirmed a member of the Church.” Elder Heber C. Kimball had promised Sister Walmsley that if she would repent and be baptized, she would be healed. She began to improve immediately and later came to Utah. She died among the Saints at the age of eighty-two. So Mary Ann was the second woman baptized in the Church in England.

      The rest of the Brown family followed in close succession. Joseph Jr. was the first child baptized in the British Isles. Joshua was the first child blessed under the authority of Heber C. Kimball in 1838 at the age of five years. Mary's husband Joseph joined with his wife in her new religion, being baptized on Aug 26, 1838. At the age of eight years, Joshua was baptized by his older half-brother, Robert, in 1840.

      In 1841 they are found in the England Census. Joseph is a Police Sergeant and Mary is home with the children.

1841 England Census

      In 1842, her sons, George and Robert, emigrated with their families to Nauvoo, Illinois, USA. George returned to England on a mission in 1846. He first served in Scotland, and in September 1847 was appointed as president of the Preston Conference where he was able once again to associate with his mother, Mary Ann. Joseph died of cholera on May 16, 1848 while visiting his brother in Wardleworth at the age of 71. The family was devastated.

      In 1851 when her son, George, completed his mission and was ready to return to the United States, Mary Ann with her twenty-three year old daughter, Jane, went to the Salt Lake Valley with him. They left Liverpool on the Ellen Maria on January 30, 1851 and arrived in New Orleans on April 6, 1851. In New Orleans, George chartered the steamboat, Alexander Scott, which carried them to St. Louis and then another river boat, the Robert Campbell, took them up the Missouri River to Kanesville (present day Council Bluffs), Iowa where they arrived on May 21, 1851.    
Painting by Gordon Grant

          They crossed the plains with the John Brown Company, a Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company. They left on July 7, 1851 with 50 wagons, and the company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 28 and 29, 1851. More can be read about their travel at LDS.org.

      A few months later on January 5, 1852 in Salt Lake City. George and Jane, half brother and sister, were married. She was his second wife. Mary Ann lived with her daughter, Jane, in a house owned by George on West Temple. In 1855 Mary Ann’s two youngest sons, Joshua and Joseph, and Joseph’s wife and two daughters arrived from England. These sons later moved to Wellsville.

      Not much is known about Mary Ann for many years. She cared for George’s first wife, Molly, for sometime before her death in 1856 and when George and his four wives and their children moved to Kaysville, Mary Ann went with him. She enjoyed working with George in his cobbler shop in the basement of the house, waxing the thread for the shoes. All the children loved to visit their Grandmother Brown. She loved to tell them stories of her homeland, the British Isles, and of Scotland. She especially enjoyed reciting to them the poems of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns.

      It is not known when Mary Ann left the Kaysville farm to live with her son Joseph in Wellsville. George died in 1881 and at about that time, she left and went to live in Wellsville where she died September 23, 1884 at the age of 93. She was buried in the Wellsville Cemetery.

      The following is a tribute written by her son, Joshua, who at the time of her passing was performing a mission to England. It reads, "I have just received a letter from home announcing the death of my revered and aged mother who departed this life September 23, 1884, aged 93 years, 5 months, and 6 days. She was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 30th of July, 1837 by Heber C. Kimball in the River Ribble flowing through the city of Preston. She was the second of the three ladies baptized in this country.
      I have heard her say many times, “I was the first woman candidate for baptism, but, Sister Walmsley who was a consumptive invalid, was carried down into the water first; but I was the first candidate and first to be confirmed a member of the Church."
      She lived a true and faithful Latter-day Saint, from the time of entering the waters of baptism until the day of her death. When I last looked down upon her in this life, and gave her the parting hand, though enfeebled with age, eyes bedimmed and head whitened with the passing time, she said, "This will be the last meeting in this life, but go my son and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and God will bless you."
      She was the mother of five children, two girls and three boys, two from her first and three from her second marriage. The writer is the youngest of the second marriage.

Signed Joshua W. Brown" from the Millennial Star, Volume 46, October 1854, Page 698

         In connection with the life of Mary Ann is a bit of information concerning a Brown family heirloom which has a history of more than passing interest to the Brown line of descendants. It concerns a rare bloodstone, which has been in the Brown family since the 17th century. The stone was presumably given to Thomas Brown by Captain Cook, famous English navigator and explorer. As the story runs, our ancestor who was undoubtedly a close friend of Captain Cook had a little girl who was afflicted with severe hemorrhages of the nose. It seems that Captain Cook, who was then preparing to leave on another of his voyages, promised that he would bring a health charm that would cure the ailing child, if worn around the neck. As the legendary account runs, certain miraculous powers were attributed to the stone, and it is said to have cured the little girl and many others similarly afflicted.
      It was the request of Captain Cook that this stone remain in the family and be passed on from father to son. If the stone had been passed on in direct lineal descent, it would now be in the possession of the Robert Thomas Brown, the 9th child of Joseph Brown, the direct descendent of the original possessor, Thomas Brown. However, the stone instead of passing to the children of Joseph Brown's first marriage, passed to the descendants of his second wife, Mary Ann Wood Watt Brown. When Joseph Brown, our grandfather died, it was left in the care of his second wife, Mary Ann.
      During the 1860's George D. Watt had obtained the stone from his mother, while she was living with him at his home in Kaysville, to show to Brigham Young. President Young had it in his possession for some time and evidently considered it his property. He had it mounted in a gold rim to be used as a piece of jewelry. When George D. Watt called for it, the rim was removed, which accounts for the margin of nicks along its edge. The stone now resides in the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Pioneer Memorial Museum, 300 North Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah.

            Written by Margaret Ellen Brown Smurthwaite, Brown Genealogist
            Edited by Deborah Jane Irwin Holtzendorff


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