Malatiah Luce Burial

Malatiah Luce was an early Mormon convert. He died 6 February 1849, but where? Did he die in Nauvoo? Or in Salt Lake City? According to a family tradition recorded by several of Malatiah’s descendants, he died in Nauvoo.

Based on that information, Malatiah’s name appears on a memorial plaque in Nauvoo. And because he died in Nauvoo, it has been widely believed the Luces came to Utah in 1850. That is, they came after Malatiah died. This was the date given by Kate Carter in Heart Throbs of the West, an old Daughters of Utah Pioneers publication. It appears to be confirmed by the fact Ruth Luce appears on the 1850 (1851) Census in Great Salt Lake without Malatiah. Carter probably also used the Early Church History card file, which shows Malatiah’s wife Ruth Grant Luce and son Stephen Luce were re-baptized in Salt Lake in 1850. Because Malatiah is known to have died in 1849 it was assumed he died in Nauvoo.

But there are problems with this dating. Other sources say the Luces came in 1848. For example, William Hickman’s 2nd wife was Sarah Luce. In his book Brigham’s Destroying Angel (1872, 1904), Hickman wrote that his new wife’s father was going to Utah in 1848 and she went with him. Also, the obituary of Malatiah’s grandson Wilford Luce (1906) says he came to Utah in 1848.

Both Sarah and Wilford were children of Malatiah’s son Stephen. So, we’ve all been thinking maybe Stephen came in 1848, but Malatiah’s widow Ruth came in 1850. Other children came at other times, so they don’t factor in. John Luce was part of the Brigham Young Company in 1847. Ephraim Luce is known to have come in 1851.

Ruth Luce’s memorial plaque in Ogden, Utah.

A few years ago, Elder David Wood at the BYU Family History Center pointed out to me that Malatiah must have died in Salt Lake, not Nauvoo:

Malatiah Luce made application with the Salt Lake City Recorder’s Office in 1848 for a lot of land right next to that of Stephen Luce (plat B, block 13, lots 7 & 8–lot 7 for Stephen, lot 8 for Malatiah.) Malatiah had to be in Salt Lake in order to make this filing and, given his age (76), it seems highly unlikely that he would return to Nauvoo to die the next year, especially since the Saints had been driven from Nauvoo in 1846.

Now we know Malatiah died in Salt Lake in 1849. That means he was probably buried at the Old Fort, near what is now Pioneer Park. Unless he was buried on his own lot, and his remains haven’t yet been discovered.

He would not have been buried at City Cemetery. The first steps to organizing City Cemetery were only taken two weeks after Malatiah died: “Feb. 17, 1849…. The Council met in Phelp’s schoolroom at 10:30 a.m…. Daniel H. Wells, Joseph Heywood and George B. Wallace were appointed a committee to select a suitable place for a burying ground” (Journal History of the Church, 1849).

The Old Fort graveyard was re-discovered in 1986. The remains that could be recovered were moved to the Pioneer Cemetery at This Is The Place Heritage Park, 32 bodies in all. Malatiah is probably among among them, although we have no direct evidence. There are rumors the contractor who uncovered the graveyard destroyed some of the graves in an attempt to avoid being required to stop work.

I plan to do more work on this topic in the future. The family traditions that say Malatiah died in Nauvoo are, I believe, available at FamilySearch.org. Then too, I see an interesting question waiting to be explored — if Malatiah Luce was really in Salt Lake in 1848, why was his wife Ruth also granted a lot? [The answer turned out to be No. See the answer here.]

More Information

Revised Oct. 20, 2019 to add link to Ruth Luce article.

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