Kelly, Mary (Crosby) - Biography

Mary Kelly Crosby

Mary Kelly Crosby was born April 7, 1850, in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire, South Wales, the daughter of Benjamin and Jane Williams Kelly. Her father, a coal miner, was a kind, considerate man, especially to Mary, their only child. He was a deeply religious man, strictly observed the Sabbath and because of his interpretation of the Ten Commandments refused to allow a picture to be taken of himself, saying, "Though shalt not make a likeness of anything." Mary's mother was Jewish descent and Mary always believed this heritage gave her the insight and determination to accomplish whatever she set her mind to do.

In the city of Merthyr Tydfil was a large market place, divided into "stalls." Mary's mother rented a stall from which she sold all kinds of meat and fish. She could not read or write but she could figure in her mind faster than most people could put figures on paper. By the time Mary was ten years old she was doing all the housework except the cooking, which her mother did. Before leaving each day, she would tell Mary everything she was to do during the day. She was one who believed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child and Mary was punished if she failed in anything. Father and daughter grew very near and dear to each other. There was always a fair the day after Easter Sunday, and gift giving was customary. One year her uncles brought her a big beautiful doll. Her mother said it was too nice for a child to play with, so she hung it on a wall in a corner of the "Sitting Room" and Mary could only stand a look at it. The Latter-day Saint missionaries were always welcome in the Kelly home, two of whom Mary remembered especially, Elders Bywater and Jones. When Elder Bywater was released, Mary's mother gave him the lovely doll to take to his little girl in Salt Lake City, leaving Mary bereaved.

The Kellys joined the Church in 1860 and after three years of preparation were ready to emigrate to Utah. They sailed in May of '63 and were seven weeks and four days on the ocean. Mary was very ill most of the time, but her father was a good sailor and tender and thoughful of Mary. Finally, the ship docked in New York. The passengers were required to walk single file between Civil War officers to be closely scrutinized then had to go directly to their train which would take them to Florence, Nebraska. The trip was slow, tracks and bridges had been torn up and destroyed and had to be repaired. There was ample food but it was reserved for the army. One time, corn was available but no one knew how to prepare it for human consumption; in the old country corn was for pigs and cattle. They had never tasted tomatoes and although they were good to look at, Mary had to acquire a taste for them.

They finally reached Florence, Nebraska where they were met by brethren from Salt Lake City with teams and wagons to take them to Utah. The captain of the company the Kellys came in was Samuel Dennis White. He had 40 wagons to accommodate about 300 people. Mary, with the other young people, walked all the way, wading the streams and carrying the younger children on their backs. One rainy day, Mary and Jane Richards coaxed Brother James Adams to let them ride with him on his wagon which was loaded with ammunition. They had not gone far when lightning sruck and killed one of the oxen. Everyone thought it a miracle the wagon had not been hit and the ammunition exploded. One morning one of the teamsters told the girl they could find some choice berries a short distance down the road. Mary and her friends ran ahead swinging their buckets and had just begun picking berries when they were startled by a deep growl. They caught a glimpse of a large animal and ran back to tell the men who came running with their guns. The bushes were so thick they could not hit the creature by shooting, so they set the dense growth afire. When the flames began crackling, a great, angry, grizzly bear bounded out, seized the nearest man and broke one of his arms. Another man quickly shot the bear. The meat was a welcome change from salt pork. The man with the broken arm was compensated, partially, by the gift of the grizzly's hide.

After two months crossing the plains the Kellys arrived in Salt Lake City but they continued on to Greenville in Beaver County. Here they shared the little two-room log house of the Thomas Reese family, until they could get a place of their own. The following spring Mary went to Beaver to work for Urban Van Stewart. There were eleven in the family and all cooking was done at the big fireplace. Molasses was the only sweet available and Mary spread so much molasses on bread for the hungry children she promised herself she would never have molasses on her table if and when she ever had a home of her own. Mary's father walked up from Greenville once a week to see her, bringing her a little can of tea; Mary used some of it as a medium of exchange. A Mrs. Willis across the street from the Stewarts was happy to help Mary with the washing for some tea. Mary was a homesick young girl and wore her sunbonnet most of the time so the folks could not see she had been crying. The mountains were like prison walls and she wished she were a bird and could fly over them to her native land. Her father was suffering from miner's consumption and also longed for his old home. The mother, Jane Kelly, the strong person she had always been, adapted herself well. She had never been on a farm but she bought one, a wagon and a team of oxen and did much of the work herself. After Fort Cameron was established, she hauled her butter, eggs and other farm produce seven miles to the soldier's families there, in that way paying for the farm.

The Jonathan Crosby family lived across the street from the Stewarts. Mrs. Crosby talked with Mrs. Stewart about Mary's heavy responsibilities for a girl of her age and offered to take her into her home, paying her the same wage and also tuition to attend school. It was agreeable and Mary went to live with the Crosbys. The family had a son, Alma, and an adopted daughter. Mrs. Crosby taught Mary to sew and knit. A man who thought he would like Mary for a plural wife approached her father, not saying anything to the girl. "She is my only child," Benjamin said, "but I would rather follow her to her grave than see her marry in polygamy." His answer was reported to the bishop who sent the ward teachers to convert Brother Kelly to their principle, practiced at that time. It was futile; Mr. Kelly was excommunicated from the Church. Mary married Alma Crosby March 21, 1865. Her father lived ten years longer to enjoy several of his nine grandchildren. He died Christmas Day 1875. Her mother, a strong and brave woman, died in March of 1893. Both are buried in the Beaver Cemetery.

Mary was a hard-working woman. She became a practical nurse and in times of illness was always on call. For many years she was an officer and a visiting t eacher in the Relief Society; also a counselor in the Primary Stake Presidency. Although broken in health several years before her death, her mind remained strong and alert. She had a fine memory, and was blessed with the gift of discernment. She died of a heart attack March 7, 1925, in Salt Lake City while visiting a daughter.



Kelly, Benjamin

Williams, Jane

Kelly, Mary


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