Joseph Bates Noble

I’m reading Joseph Bates Noble: Polygamy and the Temple Lot Case (2009). Goodreads says:

“In 1892, a deposition was taken in a Salt Lake City courtroom to gather evidence in a land ownership battle between two offshoot branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) The dispute centered on ownership of land purchased to build a temple, known as the Temple Lot property, in Independence, Missouri. Although a key witness at the deposition, Joseph Bates Noble had little knowledge of land purchases dating back to 1832, yet his testimony was critical for validation of standing for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (RLDS) or for the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). In fact, at the age of 82, Noble had been thrust into the limelight of LDS Church history because of his claim to have presided over the first polygamous marriage of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

“Noble officiated at the marriage in 1841 that united his sister-in-law with Smith, an event now cited as the beginning of the practice of polygamy in the church. His testimony would either validate Joseph Smith’s polygamist background for the Temple Lot Church or expose his recollections as falsehoods for the RLDS Church.”

Fun book, but marred for me by the tiniest of flaws — author David L. Clark doesn’t know who Anna Noble was. He mentions her as “an enigmatic child” when discussing the organization of the pioneer company that included the Noble family (p. 117). He says her Noble was a captain of the 1st Fifty in Jedidiah Grant’s company. His wife Mary Adeline (Beaman) Noble and other relatives, including Anna, travelled with Josiah Miller, captain of the 5th Ten. The company left Winter Quarters on June 12, 1847 and arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley on October 2 and 10, 1847.

In a footnote, the author gives a bit of additional information” (p. 189n4). Anna “appears as a member of the family in the list of those traveling from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City (‘Journal History’, June 11, 1847).” She is said to have been born at Montrose, Iowa. That entry shows her “brother” Edward Noble, the same age, was also born at Montrose. “Her name also appears on Noble’s list of his family in Salt Lake City in 1848 as well as in the 1850 Utah census, where she is eight years old and identified as a member of the Noble family.”

But then Clark goes off the rails. He identifies Anna with Susanna Ann Noble, daughter of Enoch Barker Noble and Margaret McGrew. He says Enoch and Joseph Noble were “distant cousins”. I’ve provided links here to this other branch of the Noble family on FamilySearch.org, although the information there is not as complete as that given by Clark. For example, Clark says Susanna was born in 1842 in Montrose, Iowa but FamilySearch has her born 1844 in New Brunswick, Canada. Clark seems to be using information for Anna Noble and attributing it to Susanna Noble. There is no indication at FamilySearch that Enoch Noble and his wife were at Montrose, Iowa. Clark says Susanna married James Emerson Hall in 1861 when she was nineteen. He doesn’t know, he says, what took her from Salt Lake City back to Iowa. In FamilySearch, the two women are different (unmerged). “Sue Anna”, the wife of James Hall, gives birth to three of her four children before her supposed 1861 marriage.

As a descendant of Anna Noble, this is familiar territory for me. So, how did Clark go so far astray? The Mormon Overland Travel database correctly lists Anna as Anna Noble, “the orphan daughter of John and Elizabeth Quamby who was adopted by Joseph Bates Noble.” She married first, Williams Washington Camp in 1857, divorced him in 1858, and married secondly, Wilford Luce, about 1861.

She received a commemorative pin in 1897 as one of the pioneers of 1847. The Book of the Pioneers shows her as Annie Noble Luce, born in England and living in Big Cottonwood, Utah (1897, Book 1, p. 410). According to her statement, “I was born in England. Am the daughter of John and Elizabeth Quamsby, who died in Nauvoo leaving me an orphan at the age of four years. I was adopted by Joseph B. Noble and emigrated to Utah in his company, Oct. 10th, 1847. (signed) Annie Noble Luce.” Her death certificate and gravestone also show her name as Annie Noble Luce.

Annie’s statement tells us exactly who she was. And, the surviving evidence supports her statement. John Quarmby was apparently an English convert, seemingly a recent immigrant in 1845 when he died at Nauvoo.

I’m not aware of any evidence about Annie’s mother beyond Annie’s own later statement. It seems almost certain Elizabeth Quarmby died sometime before June 1847 when Anna appears in the Noble household. Noble was bishop of Nauvoo 5th Ward from 1842. Mormon bishops had responsibility for the poor in their ward. Probably, Annie’s mother was living in the 5th Ward when she died. The responsibility to care for Annie would have fallen on Joseph Noble. If (perhaps) Annie’s mother died during the exodus from Nauvoo, it might not have been possible in the general confusion to find another family to take in Annie. Mormons began leaving Nauvoo in February 1846. The Noble family left by April. So, we can say Elizabeth Quarmby perhaps, maybe, probably between about February and April 1846.*

I can’t say how or why author David Clark got it so wrong, or why he thought there is any mystery. I made a concerted effort to find him, but no luck. I wish I could have passed along this information privately and now be linking to his blog post instead of writing my own.


* Although Annie’s statement says her parents died at Nauvoo, some descendants believe her mother either died at Winter Quarters or on the way to Winter Quarters. Although the timing would be a bit different, the story remains the same. Noble was bishop of Winter Quarters 13th Ward, then when the settlement was reorganized, bishop of the new 20th Ward. This would change the date but not the basic story.

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