Question: Was Robert T. Thomas in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?
Answer: Robert T Thomas was born January 8, 1822, in Richmond, North Carolina, the sixth of ten children of Henry and Esther Thomas. Robert was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 12, 1844, by Benjamin L. Clapp. The same year he moved with his father’s family to Nauvoo, Illinois. In April, 1844, he was ordained a Seventy and filled a mission to the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
While Robert was proselyting in Mississippi, word came that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had been killed. It was a great shock to the members and many refused to believe it. Robert struggled for some time before he accepted the fact himself. Soon afterward a newspaper arrived from Nauvoo confirming the report. Robert was downcast for several days, but he determined to stick with his mission until his time was up. He returned to Nauvoo the following year. He was a participant in many of the persecutions endured by the saints as they were forced to leave Nauvoo in 1846.
Robert moved with the saints to Council Bluffs, and in the spring of 1847, at age 25, Robert joined Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company of pioneers westward toward the Rocky Mountains, helping to make the roads and bridges. He was in the eighth company of ten. When President Brigham Young and others were taken sick at the head of Echo canyon, Robert Thomas was one of those who was told to go ahead in Orson Pratt’s advance company on July 22, 1847.
When fall came he returned back as far as Pacific Springs, Wyoming to meet his father, brother and two sisters who were on their way to the valley, and returned with them to the Valley. Upon his return, Robert got a job with William Stuard. He was put to work herding cattle and hauling wood out of the canyon. When he left Mr. Stuard in March of 1848 he was given sixty pounds of shelled corn which, according to Robert, was “worth its weight in gold.’
Robert then started working for Peregrin Sessions. This job took him to the site of present-day Bountiful, where he hauled wood for some time before the two of them began a farm together. They plowed the ground and planted twenty-two acres in corn using up all of Robert’s seed. They also planted five acres in wheat, peas, beans, melons and squash. Then the crickets came. With the help of the seagulls, he saved some of his crop. The rest of the people in the valley lost as much as three-fourths of their crops. Robert received for his efforts, ten bushels of wheat, a few peas and beans, a load of squash and some corn. Robert then returned to Salt Lake City. The next year Robert was sent to Provo, Utah County, Utah, where he took an active part in quelling the Indian troubles during the winter of 1849–50 and assisted in building a fort.
In April, 1850, Robert married Mary Ann Turner, and they would have five children, all born in Provo. In 1853 he was called to go to Iron county, but returned to the north again in 1855. On May 10, 1857 he was set apart as senior president of the 45th quorum of Seventy, which position he occupied the remainder of his life. Later, the same year, when the people of Utah were threatened with an invading army, he went to Echo canyon in charge of the company known as the “Lost Camp.”
In April 1863, Robert married Anne Cathrine Ericksen, and they would have five children, all born in Provo, Utah. Robert served as Justice of the Peace for Provo City for eleven years. He served as a major in the Nauvoo Legion in 1866 and was called on a mission to Nebraska and Iowa in 1870.
Robert Thomas died on February 28, 1892, at Provo, Utah, and was buried in the Provo Cemetery. One of the resolutions passed by the members of his quorum says: “President Robert. T. Thomas was a man of honesty, benevolence, sympathy and integrity, his ear being open to the plaint of the distressed, and his hand open to their relief; he listened to the words of anxiety and care and was ever willing to impart words of comfort to the weak and erring, extending a strong hand to help them along; and to the Church he was a pillar of strength.”