I preface this post by saying that I’m fairly certain each of our children gave a talk in Primary telling this story. But here it is for posterity. And a little more information, also.
Thomas was born May 9, 1835, in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. When he was an infant his father joined the LDS Church and they eventually settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Thomas wrote about his time in Nauvoo:
I was baptized when I was eight years old by the great Prophet Joseph Smith in the Mississippi River. I well remember the Prophet and his brother Hyrum. I have heard them preach a great many times, and well remember the trying scenes of Nauvoo. I saw both of these great men after they were killed and brought home; passing through the room where they lay, with my parents. I well remember the cries and prayers offered up to the Almighty God by many good mothers for the protection of their husbands and loved ones from the mob who were in the country to destroy the Saints.
Thomas wrote further of the trek to Salt Lake. He was in his “14th year” and was “small, stout, active, and willing”.
On March 27, 1853 Thomas married Mary Catherine Welker, age 21, he turning 18 the following May. Of her he wrote: “she was well qualified for a housekeeper and mother and in due time presented to me eleven children”.
On June 25,1867 Thomas married Dortha Christina Jensen Sorenson who bore him nine children.
He kept his two wives in one large house with two apartments exactly alike. When polygamy was declared illegal Thomas could not give up either of his families and so spent much of his time in hiding in a specially prepared cave.
As a summary of his life he wrote, “We have 20 children, 16 living, all in the church; 8 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren. Mary Catherine Welker Nelson is seventy-three years old, I, Thomas Billington Nelson, am seventy years old, Dortha Christina Nelson is 56 years old. All are living in Arizona, in good faith in the Gospel.”
Thomas died Feb. 19, 1918, in Thatcher, Arizona. Mary Catherine Welker Nelson died Dec. 8, 1920, in Franklin, Arizona. Dortha Christina Nelson died Feb. 8, 1916, in Thatcher, Arizona.
Thomas Billington Nelson and Mary Catherine Welker Nelson were the parents of Elizabeth Mary Jane Nelson. She married Anton Peter Madsen and they were the parents of Samantha Madsen. She married Heber Christian Nelson and they were the parents of Lola Samantha Nelson. She married Wilford Charles Brimley and they were the parents of me, Lucile Brimley Eastman. How grateful I am for all of them.
Source:THE NELSON FAMILY compiled by Mansel Hyrum Nelson, published 1970.