Francis Martin Pomeroy Biography

“LDS Biographical Encyclopedia,” by Andrew Jensen, Vol. 3, p. 488.  Pioneer Heritage Library in the LDS Family History Suite (Provo, UT : Infobases, 1996)

Pomeroy, Francis Martin, one of the original Utah pioneers of 1847 and a distinguished Indian missionary, was born Feb. 20, 1820, as Somers, Connecticut, the son of Martin Pomeroy and Sybil Hunt.  The following interesting sketch of his life is written by his son Francis T. Pomeroy:  “Francis Martin Pomeroy was born at the old family farm homestead, where had lived his ancestors for several generations.  He was third in a family of nine children.  His parents were humble farmers, living near Somers, and owing to the farm being small and the family large, he was apprenticed to his uncle, Oziah Pomeroy, who required of him hard labor without much recreation.  The following instance will illustrate:  The day before a circus came to the village Francis asked his uncle’s permission to attend.  The uncle, handing him a spelling book, said, ‘If you learn that book by heart, you may go.’  All night the boy studied the book, and just before the time for the circus, he came in triumphant, and, to the surprise of his uncle, he repeated the entire contents of the book, word for word.  When about fifteen years of age, tiring of his uncle’s rather harsh treatment, he determined to leave him and strike out for himself, so one night he tied his belongings in a red handkerchief, stepped out of the house, and , Benjamin Franklin like, made his way to the little sea port of New London, where he made the acquaintance of a sailor from a whaling vessel, who introduced him to the captain, and Francis then shipped with them on their next voyage.  He had many thrilling experiences on the sea, and became an expert ‘harpooner’ as well as an expert at the wheel.  He followed the sea for about six years, working his way up to ‘first mate.’  His vessel cruised in both the Atlantic and Pacific waters, and on his last voyage, the vessel went to pieces on the rocks on the coast of Peru.  After being buffeted by the waves for hours, he succeeded, by aid of a friendly spar, in swimming to land which he reached in an exhausted condition–the only survivor of the vessel, as far as he knew.  He was found by the son of a Castillian family and taken to their home, and nursed back to health and strength.  He remained with this family for about two years and became an expert linguist in the Spanish tongue.  He finally made his way to New Orleans, crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and thence went to Salem, Massachusetts.  Here he met Irene Ursula Huskell (sic) who, with her parents, had recently been baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He also investigated the ‘Mormon’ faith, and was baptized into the Church in his 24th year, in 1844.  Soon after he married Irene and the following year, with his young wife, and her parents, he traveled by team to Nauvoo, Illinois, to cast his lot with the Saints, who had lost their leader, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and were facing the most critical period of their history.  In September, 1845, their first child Francelle Eugenia was born.  They remained in Nauvoo until the move westward, and in May, 1846, Bro. Pomeroy loaded belongings in a wagon and began the journey to the Rocky Mountains.  When the band of 143 pioneers were chosen by Brigham Young to pilot the route to the mountains, Bro. Pomeroy was among them; he was assigned to the ‘Tenth Ten’ under the captaincy of Appleton M. Harmon.  Being a large man of tireless energy and having much experience in life he became a very valuable man for the task before them; this was especially the case in crossing the many turbulent streams that disputed their way.  He was an expert swimmer, as well as oarsman;  he could drive a boat with one oar (standing on the rear end) safely over the most turbulent waters.  Thus he did his full part on that memorable journey across the almost trackless plains, his company arriving in Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.  Returning eastward with Brigham young’s company in August he met his wife with the first company following the pioneers and returned with them to the Valley.  In crossing Green River, where they were compelled to swim the horses and cattle and float the wagons, he was almost continually in the water swimming back and forth.  By so doing he contracted rheumatism, which caused him intense suffering, not only on his journey westward, but intermittently for years to come.  Arriving in Salt Lake City he settled in the Second Ward, and later moved to the Twelfth Ward; he also owned a farm on Little Cottonwood.  In the spring of 1849 he went on a mission to California with Charles C. Rich, returning the following year.  In 1853 (April 20th) he entered the Patriarchal order of marriage with Sarah Matilda Colburn, daughter of Thomas Colburn and Sarah Bowers, President Brigham Young officiating.  In 1858 (Feb 27th) he also married Jassamine Routledge, an English girl who had crossed the plains in a handcart company.  While living in Salt Lake City, he acted as Spanish interpreter for Governor Brigham Young, notably so, when a delegation was sent from the City of Mexico by Prest. Benito Juarez to confer with Brigham Young.  On that occasion Bro. Pomeroy not only acted as interpreter, but housed the delegation while in the city.  In the early troubles and trials of the Saints in Utah Bro. Pomeroy endured with them their hardships, including fighting and treating with the Indians.  In the summer of 1858, when Johnston’s army threatened the people of Utah with destruction , he participated in the move south, willing to sacrifice the results of his long years of toil to the flames, rather than have them fall in to the hands of the enemy.  In 1860 (June 15th) his first wife, Irene, died.  She had given birth to seven children, and was beloved by all who knew her.  In 1862 Bro. Pomeroy sold his farm and city property and moved with his families to the Weber, where he remained two years, after which he was prevailed upon by Apostle Charles C. Rich (who had been called to pioneer the Bear Lake Valley in Idaho) to join him and become a partner in a saw mill and shingle mill enterprise.  Moving his family to Paris, Bear Lake Valley, in 1864, he took personal charge of the building and construction of the first saw mill, and shingle and lath mill in that Valley, and he also cut out the grist mill stones with his own hands and built and started the first grist mill, at Paris.  He took a great interest in the development of the country, and acted as justice of the peace for a number of terms, being recognized and commended for the justice of his decisions.  The cold climate, however, and his chronic rheumatic troubles, impelled him towards a warmer climate, and having written to and received glowing reports of the Salt River Valley, Arizona, from Henry C. Rogers, he determined to move there.  He was now the father of twenty children, six of whom were happily married, but all but four accompanied him on his journey to Arizona.  He sold his property to good advantage, fitted up a good outfit, consisting of four wagons, two span of fine American horses, and four yoke of oxen, and ten head of milk cows, as well as some saddle horses. The start was made Sept. 14, 1877.  He was accompanied from Paris by Geo.  W. Sirrine and family, Warren L. Sirrine and wife, Theodore C. Sirrine and family, Parley P. Sirrine and J. Harvey Blair.  The journey was made without accident to Salt Lake City, where the company remained for about two weeks and were joined by John Pomeroy and wife, William Newell and wife, Chas. Crismon and family, Job Henry Smith and wife, William Schwartz and family, and Jesse D. Hobson.  At Panguitch the company was joined by Chas. I. Robson and family, after which the company numbered nine families or 74 souls.  the route taken was over the Buckskin Mountains, crossing the Colorado river at lee’s Ferry.  On the top of the Mogollon Mountains on Christmas Eve the company was ‘snowed in,’ but by dint of wise direction the road was broken through and the company caped at Beaver head on the Verde River, Dec. 27, 1877.  Here they remained to get a much needed rest, while Francis M. Pomeroy, Chas. I. Robson, Geo. W. Sirrine and Chas. Crismon made a trip to the Salt River Valley to select a location for their new home.  Here they found a number of canals projected and under way, and some farming.  The city of Phoenix had a population of about 400.  They journeyed up the river from Phoenix to Hayden’s Ferry, where a waterpower grist mill and store were operated by Charles T. Hayden, who afterwards became a benefactor to the struggling colonists.  Seven miles farther up the river they visited the Indian mission established by Daniel W. Jones and Henry C. Rogers and others, living in the United Order.  Failing to make satisfactory arrangements to settle under the ditch which was being built by this colony, and riding over the higher lands called ‘the Mesa’ they discovered an old and ancient canal–called the ‘Montezuma’ canal–which had been  constructed by the ancients to irrigate the broad level lands of the mesa;  they determined to utilize this canal and locate on the mesa.  They sought out a surveyor at Phoenix, but he refused to go with them, saying that it was impracticable to utilize the old canal, as the river bottom had lowered so much since its use that it would cost too much to connect it with the river at a proper grade.  But Bro. Pomeroy and George W. Sirrine ran the line with a ‘spirit level and a straight edge’ and then had the surveyor run on their line, and obtained a good grade.  In about three weeks the main company from Utah was transported to the valley and on the  14th of February, 1878, work commenced on the construction of the canal. By the latter part of October, 1878, the canal was completed to the townsite of Mesa, the camp was broken up and the colonists moved to the mesa, establishing their homes on lots of the townsite and taking up the surrounding land for farming.  Bro. Pomeroy was elected one of the directors of the canal, and one of the trustees of the townsite of Mesa. He was also made justice of the peace of the community, and became the ‘pacifier’ in the district, not only among the white population but also among the Indians and Spanish people. The Indians called him the ‘Great White Chief,’ and very often their disputes were brought to him for adjudication. It was not an uncommon thing to see several Indian camps around his home, and the Indians in consultation with him.  This, no doubt, inspired the authorities to set him apart as an Indian missionary, which they did April 16, 1880.  A year later he was set apart as president of the Indian mission, which position he filled until his death, which occurred Feb. 29, 1882.  He was stricken with heart failure, super-induced by a knife wound received in 1878, and passed peacefully away to his well earned rest.  He died  full in the faith of the gospel, leaving a family of two wives and nineteen children, and a host of friends to mourn his loss.

12 thoughts on “Francis Martin Pomeroy Biography

  1. This was so cool to read, I am his great great great great granddaughter I believe and was searching for someone to do an institute paper on. I didn’t realize I had someone so closely tied to the history of this church. Thank you so much for sharing, this was so fun and enlightening!

  2. It was so interesting to find out information about Francis Martin Pomeroy as he was married to my GG aunt Sarah Matilda Colborn. I called my son and daughter-in-law, who live in Arizona, to tell them about their GGG uncle and how he was one of the founders of the city that my son works in.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful history on Frances Martin Pomeroy. I never knew this! Francis is my Great-great grandfather. His wife, Sarah Matilda Colborn had Edward Leslie Pomeroy (my great grandfather). Edward and his wife, Naomi Serena McGuire had Nelda Pomeroy (my grandma who lived in Safford, Az.) And my grandma married Leslie Grover Maloy, and they had my mom, Janice Maloy. After my mother passed away, I even lived with my grandparents for several years in Safford. Such an interesting piece of history, that I don’t ever remember learning about.

    I’m also VERY excited to find this information! My son was just called to the Peru Chiclayo Mission! And he has a connection to the Peru country through Frances Martin Pomeroy. He will have to see if he can find out any information about him there.

    1. Nelda is my Gramp’s( Claude H. Pomeroy) sister. So we’re related! I grew up in Mesa but now live in Utah. I’m headed for a visit to Mesa in February. So happy your son will serve in Peru! My Gramps and his wife served there too! And I served in Argentina ❤️. I love how our ancestors are so interconnected to us all. Hello family! Some day maybe we will meet!

  4. Thank you for the wonderful history! Francis Martin Pomeroy is great-great-great grandfather through his daughter, Emma Adelia–who married Hyrum Grimmett. Their daughter (Rose Ella) married Olin W Ockerman–whose son (Darrel) was my mother’s father.

    Until recently, I was unaware of the Pomeroy history. I visit Mesa, AZ each year and now have a new connection for that city. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Kevin! Nice to meet another cousin. Yes, his history is really something, isn’t it? I visited New London, CT last year and learned about the whaling story there. Would love to find out more about the ship he was on that later wrecked. Also, next time you are in Mesa you should check out the little local museum there, if you haven’t already. So interesting to learn about the early settlers.

  5. Thanks for this lovely history of my 7th great grand uncle. My side of the Pomeroy family was not LDS. I was traced out in 1978 and became a member immediately. I have some of his history but not all of this.
    I have my Pomeroy genealogy all on paper back to Adam and Eve. I was hoping to get a download of Francis Martin’s genealogy so I wouldn’t have to data entry all of it one name at a time. If you have this would you be willing to share it with me? I have so much more of my other lines to get on line.
    Eva Hargraves

    1. I also have a printout of the Pomeroy genealogy back to Adam and Eve, but I don’t take it seriously. Francis Martin Pomeroy was my great-grandfather.

      1. Hi Loren—nice to meet you! I believe I have a copy of that same history back to Adam and Eve. And I definitely don’t take it seriously! I think I have a blog post here somewhere about connecting to Adam and Eve (and how it’s not possible!)

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