Second in a series on Wilford Woodruff's Wives

(February 18, 1818 – October 25, 1894)

Mary Ann Jackson, Wilford’s second wife, was born on February 18, 1818 in Liverpool, England.  She was the daughter of William Jackson and Elizabeth Lloyd, the second of their four children.  Her mother died in 1837 and her father died 1840. She was baptized May 2, 1843, by Elder William Cooper.  She was the only member of her family to join the Church, although she had two brothers and a sister.[2]  Mary Ann met the Woodruffs when they were living in England and Wilford was serving as President of the European Mission.  She began working for them as a housekeeper in August 1845.[3]  She left England on January 16, 1846 with Phoebe and forty other British Saints, arriving in Nauvoo in April 1846.  She was present when the Nauvoo Temple was dedicated and traveled with the Woodruffs when they left Nauvoo in May 1846 to begin the trek west.

Wilford and Mary Ann were sealed by Brigham Young on August 2, 1846, in Nebraska Territory, near the settlement that was named Cutler's Park.   Wilford did not openly write about plural marriage at the time, so his journal record makes only a vague reference: “During the evening President Young and Dr. Richards called at my tent.  President Young delivered an interesting lecture upon the priesthood and the principal of sealing.  There being present: Phebe W. Woodruff, [Mary] Caroline Barton, [Sarah Elinor] Brown, Mary [Ann] Jackson.”  On the same page of his journal he drew a large heart with four keys, a symbol reportedly used to indicate patriarchal marriage before the doctrine was preached publicly in 1852.  (He also drew a picture of a heart with four keys in his journal on January 28, 1844, the day his marriage to Phebe was sealed by Hyrum Smith in Nauvoo.) 

Mary Ann was eight months pregnant in April 1847 when Wilford left with the advance company of pioneers for the Salt Lake Valley.  Before leaving, Wilford asked her if there was anything that he could do to make her happy.   Mary Ann told him she wanted to go with him.  Wilford replied that it was too great a risk to her life and the life of their child.  She then said that she would start after the baby was born and “if she died she would be in the wake of the Camp of Israel on their way to build a city to the Name of the Lord in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.”[4] 
Mary Ann wrote, “On May 25, 1847, my baby was born, a son.  We called him James Jackson Woodruff.”[5]  On the 13th of June I began the journey to follow the pioneers when he was nineteen days old.”  She joined the Abraham O. Smoot-George A. Wallace Company of 223 pioneers escorted by Wilford’s father, Aphek.  Mary Ann and Aphek had two wagons, two horses, a cow and eight oxen.  One wagon was for the family and their provisions; the other was loaded with the machinery to set up a flour mill in the Salt Lake Valley.

Of the journey she recorded, “dear old father, Aphek Woodruff, blessed be his name, for in the hands of the Lord, he was the means of saving my life.”[6]  Apparently while they were traveling she wanted to get out of the wagon to walk alongside it.  She stood on the hounds [length of wood on the side] and tried to jump down.  Her skirt caught and kept her dangling between the wheels.  She was able to use her hands to keep from being crushed by the wheels until one of the men were able to stop the team of oxen. 

On occasion she would ride with John and Marie Woolley.  Marie was about her same age, and they kept each other company.  Brother Woolley would usually walk her back to her camp if she stayed with them until night, but one time because she could see the campfires ahead, she told him she could go on alone.  Carrying James, she went from fire to fire asking if they were part of Captain Smoot’s company.  Before she reached the second fire she could hear wolves howling.  By the time she reached the fourth fire she could see the wolves.  Aphek and some of the other men in their company who had been looking for her, found her before she reached the fifth fire and were able to escort her safely back to camp. 
In September their company was met by Wilford and the other Apostles headed east, back to Winter Quarters.  Wilford saw his son James for the first time.  Of this occasion James later recorded, “We met Father on his return journey from Salt Lake and he named and blessed me at the Sweetwater [River].”[7] 

The Smoot Company arrived in Salt Lake on September 26, 1847.   Since Wilford had been sent east from Winter Quarters to gather more Saints, Mary, James, and Aphek wintered in the two-room cabin Wilford had built in August.  (It was located in the fort.)  2,000 other Saints had survived the journey that year and lived in similar conditions until they could start building in the spring.  Wilford was not able to return to Salt Lake until his mission in the Eastern States was completed in 1850.  This separation was apparently too much for Mary Ann and she divorced Wilford before his return.[8] 

In 1857 Mary Ann asked Wilford if he would remarry her, but he declined based on their past experience, saying “we have not rendered each other happy.”[9]  Mary Ann married David James Ross, a widower with three children, December 13, 1857.[10]  Initially James Jackson went with her to live with her and the Ross family.  David and Mary Ann had two children together, William in 1858 and John in 1860.[11]  After a disagreement with Brigham Young, David left Utah abandoning Mary Ann in the 1860s.[12]  On May 29, 1863, James, who was then 16, moved to Wilford Woodruff’s home.  Wilford recorded in his journal, “My son James Jackson, who had been absent for several years, returned to live with me."[13] James Jackson married Fanny Lloyd December 21, 1868. [14]

Although Mary never lived with the Woodruffs, she remained close to Wilford and his families throughout her life.[15]  In a cryptic note in his journal on December 2, 1878, Wilford asked Mary Ann to be resealed to him. Then in November 1886 she asked President Taylor if she could be sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.   Her letter was referred to Wilford Woodruff.[16]  Although they lived separately, Wilford helped support her until her death on October 25, 1894.  Her obituary says that she died of paralysis.[17]  It also stated, "She died as she had lived, a faithful Latter-day Saint."  Wilford spoke at her funeral on October 28, 1894, and she was buried in the Woodruff family plot in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.  She is included as one of Wilford’s wives on his tombstone, along with Phoebe, Sarah, Delight and Emma.

"A Brief Sketch of the Life of James Jackson Woodruff," was written July 24, 1926 and can be found in Chronicles of Courage, 8 vols. [1990-97], 2:127-29.   
L. John Nuttall’s Journal.
Mary Ann Jackson Woodruff Biographical Sketch by James Jackson Woodruff, April, 1-2, 1917.
Ogden Standard, (Ogden City, Utah), page 5, September 7, 1909.
Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, 3:42, 65-66; 6:113, 582; 7:294, 441; 8:411, 479-84, 486, 488, 491, 494, 496-97, 499, 507, 509, 513-17, 520, 523-25, 528-29, 531.
Willard Richard’s Journal.

Some historians state Mary Ann Jackson and Wilford Woodruff were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple by Brigham Young on April 15, 1846.  This was impossible because Brigham Young was in Iowa at the time, and Orson Hyde was the only apostle present in Nauvoo when Wilford and his family were there.  Alternatively, others state the sealing occurred in Winter Quarters in April, which is equally impossible because Wilford and his family remained in Nauvoo until May.  In addition, some records erroneously give James’ birth date as March 25, 1847 instead of May 25, 1847.  James began the journey to Salt Lake City in June when he was 19 days old.
James Jackson Woodruff , “A Brief Sketch of the Life of James Jackson Woodruff, Pioneer of 1847,” July 24, 1926.