Third in a Series on Wilford Woodruff's Wives

(January 12, 1832 – August 10, 1910)

Mary Caroline Barton was born January 12, 1832, in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of William Allen Barton and Mary Ann Swain.  Her parents were converted to the Church and gathered with the Saints to make the journey to Utah. 

In Nebraska Territory – near what became known as Cutler’s Park – Mary was sealed to Wilford Woodruff by Brigham Young on August 2, 1846, along with Sarah Elinor Brown and Mary Ann Jackson.[1]  Wilford Woodruff obliquely references the occasion in his journal, simply stating that Brigham Young and Willard Richards came to his tent that evening and “President Young delivered an interesting lecture upon the priesthood and the principal of sealing.  There being present: Phebe W. Woodruff, [Mary] Caroline Barton, Sara [Elinor] Brown, Mary [Ann] Jackson.”[2]  Six days later he recorded that he rebaptized Phoebe twice and then also rebaptized Mary Caroline, Sarah, Mary Ann, and Rosetta King.[3]

The personal lives of the three women sealed to Wilford that day were very different.  Both Mary Ann’s parents were deceased.  Sarah Elinor’s father had died on the journey from Maine to Illinois in 1839.  Both Mary Caroline’s parents were members of the Church and living among the Saints in the Iowa camps.  Mary Ann Jackson had known the Woodruffs for about a year and had worked as a housekeeper for them when Phoebe and Wilford were living in Liverpool, England.  Wilford Woodruff had introduced Sarah Elinor Brown’s family to the gospel on his mission to Vinalhaven, Maine in 1838 and the Browns had been part of the group of Saints from the Northeast that he led to Nauvoo.  On the other hand, I have not been able to determine his long-term relationship, if any, with the Barton family. 

Mary Ann Jackson was 29 years old in August 1846, Sarah Elinor was 18 and Mary Caroline was 17.  The ages of the two younger women at the time of the sealing was apparently a factor in their subsequent behavior.  It is not clear if they considered their sealing a spiritual one – not an earthly or physical union – or if they simply chose to continue socializing with others their own age regardless of their marital status.

According to Wilford Woodruff, Mary Caroline and Sarah Elinor spent 15 nights straight, sometimes until 2:00 am, in the company of three young men in camp: Daniel Barnum, Jack Clothier, and Peletiah Brown.[4]   Wilford forbade them from such “night ramblings” and said they would be expelled from his family if they continued their unrighteous behavior.[5]  On August 28, Mary Caroline and her parents were at a meeting with Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young and Willard Richards where both Mary Caroline and Sarah E. Brown were given the option to stay and follow the rules, or leave.[6]  Both Mary and Sarah chose to leave.  Mary returned to her parents’ and Sarah was sent to live with the Bakers.  The three young men were whipped for their alleged sexual misconduct with Mary and Sarah.  Hosea Stout carried out the punishment and felt it was just given the fact that he believed the punishment for their actions under territorial law was death.[7]

Sometime between August 1846 and February 1848, the Bartons moved to Georgetown, Ohio.  Mary Caroline married Erastus Curtis there on February 4, 1848.[8]  Erastus and Mary Curtis then moved to Holt, Missouri where their first child, Oceania was born in 1850.  Their second child, Phoebe Martin Curtis, was also born in Holt, Missouri on February 2, 1852.  Phoebe traveled with them when they made the journey to Utah later that year.  They were part of the 365 Saints in the company led by Erastus’ father, Uriah Curtis.[9]  They started from Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 24, 1852 and arrived in to Salt Lake City October 1, 1852.

Erastus and Mary Caroline Curtis had a total of eleven children between 1850 and 1872.  Their third child, Matilda Caroline was born in 1853 in Parowan, Utah before they moved with Mary Caroline’s parents to help settle San Bernardino, California.  Their fourth child, William Barton, was born in San Bernardino in 1856.  (Mary Caroline’s parents remained in San Bernardino until their deaths.)  However, Erastus and Mary Caroline returned to Utah, and their fifth child, Erastus, was born in Springville in 1858.  Emmaline Joan, their sixth child, was born in 1860 in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Erastus was the Marshal of Moroni, Utah and later the Sheriff of Emory County.  He married a second wife, Joanna Price Fullmer, in 1860 in Moroni.  Erastus and Mary Caroline had five more children while living in Moroni: Florilla Ann in 1862,  Eliza Jane in 1864, Rosetta Parthenia in 1866, Joseph Boulden in 1869, and Homer Franklin in 1872.  Erastus and Joanna had eight children together.[10]

In October 1877, Erastus, Erastus Jr., and William joined five other men who were responding to the call by Brigham Young to leave Sanpete County and settle in Castle Valley.  Erastus and his sons built a cabin on Cottonwood Creek in what became the town of Orangeville, Utah.  Erastus, Jr. and William remained there for the winter and the rest of the family joined them in 1878.[11] The Curtis family later settled in Mackay, Custer County, Idaho.  Erastus died there on January 20, 1902.  Mary Caroline died there August 10, 1910.  They are both buried in the Barton Flat Cemetery in Custer County, Idaho.

Deseret News, October 24, 1863.
Frank Ellwood Esshom, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah.
Juanita Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout 1844-1861.  
Journal History, Supplement to 1852.
Leonard J. Arrington, Latter-day Saint Settlement of Eastern Utah: A Story of Faith, Courage and Tolerance.
The Manuscript History of Brigham Young
Wilford Woodruff’s Journals.
Journal of Willard Richards.
William Clayton’s Journal.