Francis Tufts Whitney

In April 1815, Mount Tambora, a volcano on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, erupted. The largest volcanic eruption since 180 A.D., this supercolossal event ejected immense amounts of volcanic ash into the upper atmosphere. The Mount Tambora eruption was the fifth in a series of major volcanic eruptions between 1812-1815. The result was a substantial amount of atmospheric dust that drastically altered climate conditions in the northern hemisphere.

Mt. Tambora

Mt. Tambora

The summer of 1816, known by many as The Year Without a Summer, the Summer that Never Was or Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death, was an agricultural disaster. Severe frosts and summer snows led to crop failures, food shortages and a dramatic increase in food prices. Famine, flooding and disease were major problems in many parts of the world, including Great Britain, China and Germany.

In Switzerland, incessant raining during the summer of 1816 forced Mary Shelley and her friends to stay indoors for most of their holiday. They decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story.

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

In New England, thousands of families, suffering from hunger and poverty, were compelled to leave their homes in search of better conditions. In Vermont alone, between 10,000-15,000 people moved away. Among those was a man named Joseph Smith who moved his family from Sharon, Vermont to Palmyra, New York.

In Phillips, Maine, Joseph and Rebecca Whitney joined a large group of their neighbors who moved to Ohio. Their son, Francis Tufts Whitney, was around 10 years old at the time.

When he was 22 years old, Francis Tufts Whitney married Abigail Blanchard. They eventually had 10 children. When missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preached in the area, Francis was baptized. His wife, children and friends were angry. The situation became tense. Believing it would be better for his family–and because he felt it was his duty to join the rest of the church members in Nauvoo–he left. Francis wrote a very long poem, expressing his feelings. The following is an excerpt:

In eighteen hundred and forty five

The word of the gathering did arrive,

And to obey the Lord’s command

I started for the gathering Land.

I left the 18th of July,

O how my wife did weep and cry.

To think her husband should depart,

It almost broke her tender heart.

I left them in the hands of God

Believing it was for their good.

Not knowing when I should return,

It caused my heart to burn.

I left my relatives behind.

To me they were so good and kind.

Although the Gospel they did slight,

I prayed for them both day and night.

On foot alone I did go.

Francis went to Nauvoo and from there to Council Bluffs in Iowa. In Council Bluffs, he volunteered to serve as a member of the Mormon Battalion. He was forty-one years old.

After his military service, Francis lived in Salt Lake City where he earned his living as a blacksmith. There, he met Clarissa Alger, the daughter of Samuel and Clarissa Alger. Shortly after Francis and Clarissa were married, they accompanied a group of about 30 families to Southern Utah to establish a new settlement. The name of the settlement was Parowan.

Francis Tufts Whitney

Francis Tufts Whitney

During the next twenty years, Francis and Clarissa remained in Parowan. They had five children. They were active in the community. Sometime in the 1850s, Francis became the superintendent of the Sunday School in Parowan. Francis led the Sunday School with kindness and grace. A talented singer and gifted dancer, he also taught his fellow church members proper ballroom etiquette .

During this time, Francis received a letter from his brother-in-law, John Blanchard. John was very angry with Francis for joining the Mormon Church and for deserting his family. “You need never expect to come back here,” he wrote, “for if you do, you would grace one of the highest trees in the forest.”

In 1868, Francis did return to Ohio. There, he hoped to convince his first family to return to Utah with him. Francis stayed in Ohio for 14 years. His first wife, Abigail, died during that time. Francis stayed in Ohio for five years after the death of Abigail, but was not able to convince any of his family to go with him. He returned to Utah in 1883.

Soon after his return to Utah, Francis became ill. He died on April 6, 1883.

The connection between Francis Tufts Whitney and my dad is as follows: Eric Eastman – Blanche Savilla Jones – Amy Sophronia Whitney –  Job Hall Whitney – Francis Tufts Whitney

For more information about Francis Tufts Whitney, visit his page at Another interesting source is a video about the history of Parowan found here:

More information about the Year Without a Summer can be found on Wikipedia.

There’s a great article here about those who left Maine and settled in Ohio. (The article is found on pages 1A and 4A). This article includes some great information about Francis Tufts, the leader of a church congregation in the area of Phillips, Maine who also relocated to Ohio. (I’m thinking that Francis Tufts Whitney must have been named after Francis Tufts).




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