Thomas Obray possessed a strong testimony of the gospel after he first heard the message and was baptized by the elders when he was twenty-three years of age. It was the 25th of September 1844. He was a willing and cheerful servant to the cause of truth from that day until he left his earthly life. He did not shrink from living the principles of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints even though it meant hardships and, later in his life, imprisonment.
Thomas was born to Ellinor Allen and John Barnett Obray (Aubrey) at Pembroke Dock, Pembroke, Wales, on July 23, 1821. He was christened on January 8, 1923 at St. Mary's Church, Pembroke. As a boy he sang in the choir and always loved to sing.
His father was a shipwright, a profession which his sons, John, George and Thomas, followed. The boys traveled to sheerness, Kent, England for work. It was here that they heard and were taught the gospel by the latter-day saint missionaries.
Thomas was baptized by Elder W. Henshaw in Sheerness, Kent, England. Thomas received the priesthood in the office of a Priest on May 13, 1849 and on February l, 1850, was ordained an Elder by Thomas Margetts. The next six years he preached the gospel in Kent and was instrumental in converting the William Brenchley family. This started a lifelong and close friendship between them.
In 1852 he was ordained a High Priest by Lorenzo Snow, mission supervisor of that part of England as well as Italy and Switzerland. Elder Snow was in Malta and needed help and more supplies. He sent for Elder Obray to come help him and bring along a large amount of pamphlets and books to use in the Malta District. A close friendship started between Elder Snow and Thomas.
An incident is told that Thomas stated to Elder Snow that the time would come, if he lived for the blessing, that Lorenzo would lead the Church. Lorenzo felt to doubt it would actually happen but he told Thomas that if it came to pass, he would appreciate Thomas adding Lorenzo to his name.
Years later Elder Lorenzo snow became President of the Church. Thomas signed his name, Thomas Lorenzo Obray, from that day on. The records of St. Mary's church show that he was just christened Thomas.
From letters recorded in the "Millennial star" of March 10, 1852, written by Elder snow to Elder Franklin D. Richards, telling of the conditions and needs of the Malta mission and requesting the help of Elder Obray, he left England and traveled to Malta with the supplies and the books on April 25, 1852. He arrived on may 30, 1852.
While in Malta, Elder Obray wrote to England in October, 1852, regarding the branch of the church. It consisted of 26 members, 3 Elders, 2 Priests, 2 Teachers, and 1 Deacon.
The work was hindered because of the large amount of Catholics that were there. One of his letters stated, "These Catholics and Protestants are circulating lies "as fast as a horse can trot". But despite of all their efforts to stop the work of God on this island, two souls were added since I last wrote and on August 17, 1852 ordained a good man, George Burrage, an Elder. Elder Burrage later became a counselor in the branch presidency to Elder Obray.
He returned to England in April 1853, because of ill health. Two months later, June 19, 1853 he returned to Malta to continue his work in the Gospel. It is recorded that in October, 1853, he was honorably released from his mission.
After his release Thomas left England for America (Zion). He embarked from Liverpool on the steamship, "City of Manchester" on March 22, 1854. After a difficult crossing the ship docked at Philadelphia.
It stopped at New Brunswick, Canada, and picked up the Shelton family, who also were bound for Zion. This family consisted of Charles, his wife, Rebecca, and six children, five of Charles sisters, Ann, Martha, Louisa, Eliza, and Emily, and also a young brother, Albert.
Their mother had passed away and their father could not travel because of his health. He felt he could serve the Lord where he was in New Brunswick, Canada. He did not come to America (Zion).
Thomas joined this group and traveled with them to St. Louis where the necessary equipment was purchased for their continued journey west. He married Charles' sister, Louisa, when the party reached Fort Leavenworth. Elder Alonzo Buckland performed the rites on June 24, 1854.
Charles' wife, Rebecca, became sick with cholera and died, leaving six children who all contracted cholera and died. Louisa had the measles and while recovering contracted cholera and died. Thomas and Louisa had been married only three weeks. All of this sorrow left Thomas and Charles heavy in heart and body, but they were still determined to pursue the journey to "Zion of their dreams". Thomas continued with the Shelton family and they arrived in salt Lake city the end of September, 1854.
Thomas married Louisa's sister, Martha. They spent the winter of 1854 in Tooele. Martha's little brother, Albert, lived with them. The following spring they moved to 0gden. On December 8, 1955, Martha gave birth to a baby girl. They named her Louisa, after Thomas' first wife and Martha's sister. Louisa was loved dearly by her parents. Thomas would lift the baby up and sing and dance around the room with her.
Thomas met Caroline Brenchley, a daughter of the William Brenchley he converted to the church in Kent, England. Caroline had been caring for the blind child of Dr. Wiseman in England and had come with their family to America on May 25, 1856. They had sailed on the ship, "Horizon". While on the ship Caroline became acquainted with Sarah Fisher. They were close to the same age. The two girls pushed a handcart across the Plains in the Martin Handcart Company, walking every step of the way.
After arriving in the valley Thomas and Caroline renewed their earlier friendship. Thomas was counseled to take a second wife. Thomas and Caroline were married in the Endowment House on August 2, 1857. They were sealed by Brigham Young in his office.
They spent one winter at "Maughan's Fort" in Cache valley. They built log houses and planted some grains. In April of 1858, President Young ordered the outlying settlers and all Latter-Day Saint families to move south as the word of an army being sent west to further exterminate the Saints had come to their attention. This was known as the "Utah war".
The saints left their comfortable homes and put straw around them rather than leave a nice house for Army personnel. A fire could be set and bare ground greet the Army. The settlers moved to Brigham City temporarily. They hurried the move also because the Indians were becoming quite troublesome. The grain harvested in the Fall of 1857 was stored in their houses when they left.
Their first child, a son, Samuel Obray, was born on June 27, 1858 at Spanish Fork in Utah County. They must have left Brigham city and traveled South sometime before Samuel's birth.
Several men returned to Maughan's Fort on the 4th of July, 1858, to see the condition of the grain they had previously stored in their homes. It was all gone. The Indians had stolen all of it. The volunteer grain was ready to cut, so the following men set out to harvest it, Thomas obray, Francis Gunnell, Zial Riggs, John Reese, and, Robert and Alex Hill. They got twenty bushels to the acre.
By October the differences between the Army and Utah officials was settled. President Young advised the families to remain in Brigham City. However, several families did return to the Fort. Thomas and his family, R. C. Pinney, a lad of 13 who worked for Obray, Frank Gunnell, Dunkin Gardener, zial Riggs, the Clayton families, Robert Hill and his wife, and also two young boys, Timothy and Henry Parkinson.
Peter Maughan kept in close touch with the settlers in cache valley and he returned in the Spring of 1859, settling permanently.
The families settled in the cabins, chinking up the cracks between the logs to make it warmer for the cold and snowy winter they knew was coming. A couple of the families brought along a little flour with them but it was soon all gone and during that winter bread was very scarce. The wheat that was harvested was boiled and eaten with milk from the few cows they brought with them from Brigham city. One of the jobs of the young boy, R. C. Pinney, was to milk Thomas' cows.
The settlers were fortunate that game such as wild ducks and geese in the river bottoms were plentiful and wild chickens were on the foothills. However, the ammunition was scarce and hard to come by.
The Clayton family men were good hunters and knew how to use snowshoes. They would harness themselves to their long sleds and go into the valley and in the mountains and be gone for two or three days at a time and would always return with an elk or deer on their sleighs. They would return and haul the rest of their meat, which they had stored away, unable to haul it all at one time. This was freely distributed and the settlers had all the fresh meat they needed during the winter. Turnips were used as a substitute for potatoes.
Thomas Obraysí family was growing and consisted of several children and as land was open for homesteading, he moved up to what is now a part of the North Field, called Petersburg. It was about this time that the settlers who were in Avon were counseled to locate where the town of Paradise is now. This was due to Indian trouble again.
He homesteaded the site that was then called, "The Springs". A log house was built for Martha and her family and one further south, nearer the hill road, for Caroline and her family. Thomas and Caroline had nine children born to them during their marriage, seven sons and two daughters.
Samuel, their first born, died in 1931 at the age of seventy-three, Sarah Ann in 1940 at the age of eighty-one, John William died when he was thirty-five years of age. Two sons died in infancy. Robert Henry was two weeks old and Marion Brenchley ten months old. Also, another son, Robert Brenchley, who was born exactly one year after the first Robert, died two months before his sixth birthday. Joseph died in 1940 at the age of seventy-three. Ezra Thomas died in 1967, a few months before his ninety-eighth birthday. He outlived all of his siblings twelve years. The ninth child born was a daughter whom they named Ida Brenchley Obray, she lived to be eighty-three and died on the 24th of July, 1955, in St. Anthony, Idaho. She was affectionately called "Granny".
When he homesteaded "The Springs", Thomas had taken a third wife, Ruth Nuttell Bradshaw, who evidently had also lived in Wellsville.
Martha was never strong in health and in 1881 she suffered a stroke. She was very active in the early Relief society and was able to be of help in times of sickness. She lived for six years as an invalid. Caroline took loving care of her. She had moved down to "The springs" home. Ruth and her family moved to the corner log home and they joined the others to help on the farm.
Years later, Caroline's granddaughter, Annie Obray, related a story her grandmother told her regarding her experiences as a settler. Thomas and Caroline's bed was made on top of a bin of wheat. During the night one of the lower boards came loose and all the wheat poured out. she sat down and laughed .. and couldn't stop laughing while her husband scooped up the wheat as best he could so she could remake the bed.
The families grew and everyone had to do their part on the farm to raise whatever they could to eat or sell in Salt Lake for clothes to wear. Even the girls had to learn to work and herd cattle and sheep and hogs. Thomas was very upset when he saw his child riding a big fat hog to and from the pasture. She had trained the pig to be ready to give her a ride when she wanted to go anywhere.
On June 21, 1882, Thomas was called on a mission to England. His call was signed by President Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith. He sailed on the ship, "Nevada". While he was gone his older sons took care of the farm and all of Thomas' families.
A year after Martha's death, Thomas was sentenced to the Utah Penitentiary for five months, November 24, 1888 to April 1, 1889, for practicing polygamy. He was released but was incarcerated again for another five months, 24 April 1890 to August 9, 1890. Conditions in the prison were very unpleasant. These were very difficult times for the faithful members of the church who were imprisoned and their families.
There were men in Paradise who made it their chief interest to notify the county Deputies as to the whereabouts of any of the brethren wanted by the law and to even guild the deputies to their homes.
Several of Thomas' older sons were now married and settled in homes of their own in Paradise. They would hear the deputies' buggies come into town and they would run over the foothills east of the houses and help their father escape detection. The men would go down into the brush in the bottoms and remain hidden while a deputies paced along the top of the hills. This happened many times. The sons would hurry back to their homes and go to bed before being found out.
Thomas did the very best possible for all of his families. Each fall he would ground 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of flour, kill five or six hogs, and travel to salt Lake city to sell. He would then return with a variety load of goods including shoes, clothes, hats, fabric, and the necessities to keep his large family clothed and feed. He would select a dozen pairs of shoes and hats of different sizes, knowing they would fit some member of his family. Once he bought a used overcoat for $2.50 in a secondhand store, which was used and handed down through most of his boys, each one getting his share of the wear as it fit him.
Thomas was very staunch in his faith all of his life and tried to live as he knew was right. He was fearless in advocating the principles he had accepted and believed in so heartily. He was cheerful and loved music. His talent of singing was passed down to most of his children and grandchildren. He was a generous man and ever willing to give and share with those less fortunate.
The farm work became too burdensome as he became older. His boys had married and left the home to begin their own families so lots were purchased and a house was built for Caroline on the corner. A frame and log house was built on part of the same lot for Ruth and her family. These moves were made when "The springs" was sold to Peter 0. Hansen.
Caroline Brenchley Obray lived in her cozy little log house until she died on November 20, 1910, due to complications after being thrown from a buggy and breaking her arm. she must have had internal injuries also.
Thomas stands out as a "man with a Hoe". He was always carrying a hoe on his shoulder and would chop off a weed here and there as he walked along.
He was the father of twenty-eight children. He suffered terribly with eczema for sometime before his death on October 21, 1899 at Paradise. He was buried in the Paradise cemetery.
His descendants appreciate the heritage that was left by this faithful Latter-Day Saint, Thomas Lorenzo Obray.