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Lucy Jane Nutting


Lucy Jane Nutting (Ferguson)
(Mill Girl)

Lucy was born October 1, 1825, Hatfield, Hampshire, MA to Bryant Nutting and Matilda Belding, the second of six children. She was baptized Mormon on April 14, 1843 by John M. Woolley in the Little River, MA. She was the only member of her family to join the LDS Church and her family shunned her after her conversion; she was age 18 and unmarried at the time.

Lowell Institute for Savings Bank records indicate that Lucy Nutting, a "spinner" in the mills, held an account there in 1844. By working in the Lowell mills she laid up enough money to pay her passage from New York to San Francisco aboard the Brooklyn with Samuel Brannan.

Lucy found employment in San Francisco as a waitress in John H. Brown's newly opened Portsmouth House Hotel. While living there, she met Sgt. Major James Ferguson of the Mormon Battalion, and they married in San Francisco on March 12, 1848, which was performed by Addison Pratt.

James Ferguson
James Ferguson

James Ferguson was born in Belfast, Antrim, Ireland, February 23, 1828, and remained there until 12 years of age, when he went to Liverpool and worked as a clerk. A self-taught man, he did not attendschool after he was nine. In Liverpool he first heard Mormonism preached, and , although a prolific drinker throughout his life, he was baptized into the LDS Church in 1842 and came to America in 1846, at the age of 19. He was among those who started for Utah in 1847. Upon hearing the call for volunteers for the war against Mexico, he was one of the first to volunteer, and became a Sergeant-Major in the Mormon Battalion under Captain James Brown of Company "C". Apostle Willard Richards called him to be "the Historian of this Campaign" although unfortunately his account has been lost. When the Battalion was divided in New Mexico, Ferguson was among those who went on to California to the relief of General Kearney.

The Fergusons left San Francisco in August 1848 as part of the Ebenezer Brown Company. Lucy was about one month pregnant when they began their journey. The traveled through Pleasant Valley over the Carson Pass wagon road through the Sierras and on to Utah, arriving in Salt Lake on October 10, 1848. Ferguson, having made quite a bit of money in gold, deposited some $640 in gold to Brigham Young upon arrival.

Wilford Woodruff in Cambridge, Mass. received a letter from James Ferguson in San Francisco on November 23, 1848 (WWJ 3:389)

Lucy gave birth to their first child of five in March 1849 inside the Old Fort, 6th Ward:

      1. Julia Ferguson, born March 17, 1849 in Salt Lake; md. Charles Houston Brown in 1870; died October 9, 1922 in Blackfoot, Idaho
      2. Lucy Ferguson, born February 16, 1851 in Salt Lake; md. Robert Fox in 1861; died September 19, 1930 in Lehi, Utah
      3. Sarah Ferguson, born March 1, 1854 in Salt Lake; md. David William Clark in 1879; died July 21, 1937 in Freewater, Oregon
      4. David Hebeer Ferguson, born September 29, 1857 in Salt Lake; md. Mary Elizabeth Huntingon in 1887; died February 20, 1916 in Milford, Utah
      5. Barlow Ferguson, born December 5, 1859 in Salt Lake; md. Rachel Tanner in 1885; died July 19, 1926

When Salt Lake County was officially created in January 1850, James Ferguson was made its very first Sheriff. According to historian Will Bagley, "In his first recorded case, Sheriff Ferguson seized a Ute named Patsovett in April 1850 and executed him the same day for murdering a man named Baker." Orson Whitney also records that Ferguson was commander of "the Life Guards", the men who served as Brigham Young's personal bodyguards.

By April 1851, a convert from England named Mary Greatrick was living with the Ferguson family, and she became one of James' plural wives. A third wife, Jane Robinson, was added to his family by late 1851. Ferguson also became a frontier lawyer, orator, and a very popular actor on the stage in Salt Lake City; he even appeared as Hamlet in 1853.

A year later, Ferguson left Lucy and their three little girls for a mission to Britain, where he served as pastor over Ireland. Upon his return in 1856, he organized the infamous 1856 handcart migration to Utah, which ended in the tragedy of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies, in which about 220 people died. Around this time, he also married his fourth and last wife, 24 year-old Phyllis Hardie.

Something of a rogue sheriff, Ferguson was also responsible for breaking into the offices of Thomas S. Williams, Esq. and Judge George P. Stiles and destroying some of their papers in December 1856. Both men had recently been excommunicated; Williams for going to California without Brigham Young's permission, and Stiles for adultery. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, November 16, 1856, 4:492; Heber C. Kimball, "The Body of Christ", January 11, 1857, Journal of Discourses, p. 165; and The Diary of Hosea Stout, December 29, 1856, pp. 611 and 613.)

Having committed this crime against officers of the court, allegedly under direction of Brigham Young, Ferguson was tried in 1857. When Young was called to testify personally, he appeared with seven of the twelve Apostles "clustered around him, their pistols and knives ready for service" along with the support of some 300 "well-armed spectators." The all-Mormon jury found Ferguson not guilty of the crime and Young not responsible for commanding it.

Ferguson's rough frontier lifestyle and heavy drinking started to take its toll. In 1859 Wilford Woodruff wrote that Ferguson nearly died from drinking "poisioned [sic] whiskey," and by mid-1863 was "near his End with hard drinking."

Lucy and her family lived in Salt Lake until 1861, when they moved to Lehi, Utah (near Provo), where she lived until 1890. Unfortunately Lucy's husband died of alcoholism on August 30, 1863 in Lehi. He was only 35 years old. The Deseret News of September 2, 1863 carried a memorial to Ferguson passed by members of the Utah Bar. One portion read, "Resolved, That while we admire his talents as a lawyer, his refined social qualities as a gentleman, and his sterling worth as a citizen, deserving emulation, we sincerely regret that during the last few years of is life, his devotion to the inebriating cup brought him to a premature grave."

In 1890, Lucy then returned to Salt Lake to live with her son, Barlow Ferguson, a well-known attorney, in the Salt Lake 15th Ward. The last five or six years of her life she suffered from a cough, which aggravate her "organic heart problem." Lucy Nutting Ferguson died January 7, 1895 in Salt Lake City. Orson F. Whitney delivered her funeral sermon. Her obituary noted, "Mrs. Ferguson was a strong and vigorous minded woman, and endured all the hardships incident to the early times here in Utah with a light heart, having to the end the greatest faith in her religion, which enabled her to endure these hardships without a murmur." (Deseret Evening News, January 8, 1895 and Deseret Weekly News, January 19, 1895, p. 31)

Primary Source: Will Bagley, "Legendary Sheriff Carved Early Utah Saga; First Sheriff Cut a Wide Swath," Salt Lake Tribune, May 8, 2000, http://historytogo.utah.gov/salt_lake_tribune/history_matters/050800.html

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