Sarah Coles

Sarah Coles Major (1811-1888)  probably taken from the time she served as treasurer in the Spring City

Relief Society, May 10, 1868 to the time she served as the Primary President,  May 31, 1879.

Picture was found in the Spring City Church Relief Society Room.



         Martha Coles Gregory, sister of Sarah Coles.  This picture was passed down to great grandson, Bernard Major.  It gives a representation of what Sarah Coles would have looked like as she walked the streets of Spring City.


The history of a man is also the history of his family, and so this story would not be complete without including the final events in the lives of the William Warner Major and Sarah Coles Major family.

While arrangements were being made to transport the casket of William W. Major, another British convert crossed the plains. Joseph Tickle Ellis, arrived in Utah in November 1854.1 It must have been quite a surprise to the community when Joseph asked Sarah to marry him; he was eighteen years younger than the bride-to-be. They were wed on September 5, 1855.2

William’s plural wife, Elizabeth Trimmer Major married Thomas Irvine sometime before 1856.3 After several moves, they settled in Santa Barbara, California. Elizabeth never bore offspring, but she lived a long life.4


The Utah War

From the first year the Mormons homesteaded the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young sent groups of pioneers to colonize other communities. By 1857 there were approximately one hundred towns settled.5 Sarah and her family moved to Ephraim, a town 140 miles south of Salt Lake, in 1858.6 The most likely reason for this exodus from Salt Lake was the Utah War. Spurred on by a disgruntled Utah judge who fled back to Washington and bitterly denounced the Mormons, President Buchanan appointed Alfred Cumming of Georgia to replace Brigham Young as Governor of the Utah Territory. An army of twenty-five hundred men were ordered to escort him to Salt Lake City. Brigham Young learned about the troops on July 24, 1857. The Mormon militia succeeded in slowing down the army which camped at Fort Bridger, Wyoming for the winter. In the middle of all this unrest and fear, William Warner Major, Jr. received his endowments in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on February 11, 1858.7

In the Spring, Brigham Young and the leaders of the Church ordered the pioneers in northern Utah to move to safety.8  Thirty thousand Saints who lived in Salt Lake and northward, prepared to leave their homes.9 Once more Sarah and her family stacked food, clothing, and furniture in wagons. One teenager remembered, "We packed all we had into father's one wagon and waited for the command to leave. At night we lay down to sleep, not knowing when word would come of the army which we thought was coming to destroy us...One morning father told us that we should leave with a large company in the evening...Along in the middle of the day father scattered leaves and straw in all the rooms and I heard him say: 'Never mind, little daughter, this house has sheltered us, it shall never shelter them'"10

This renewed persecution brought world-wide attention and sympathy, which applied intense pressure on the American government to settle with the Mormons peacefully. Negotiations with the new Governor were aided by the long time friend of the Mormons, Colonel Thomas L. Kane.

On July 1, the Saints were notified they could return home, but Sarah, Joseph Ellis, William Jr. and Joseph Smith Major decided to remain in Ephraim.


Johnson's Army

Johnston's Army

Spring City

When the Major/Ellis family moved south, Fort Ephraim was five years old. Imagine the Major family seated in a covered wagon, driving into the gates of the fort. They probably spent the winter in one of the small rooms which lined the high walls. The quarters were cramped, so in July of 1859 an Irish convert, William Y. Black wrote a letter to Brigham Young requesting approval to colonize "Little Denmark." This settlement, about 10 miles north of Ephraim, was previously evacuated because of Indian trouble. Brigham Young granted permission, stating that the Blacks should "not infringe upon the rights of previous occupants, or rightful claimants..."11 Seventy-five year old William Black was an adopted son of Brigham Young. Sarah’s adoption into the same family (a temple ceremony which the Saints considered to be binding forever), may have prompted the decision to relocate with the Black family.

The Reddick N. Allred and Joseph T. Ellis families were the first to build homes in the new village. Joseph and Sarah chose 15 acres of land on the southwest corner of town. William Warner Major Jr. claimed land near them. The name of the settlement was eventually changed from "Little Denmark" to Spring Town, then Spring City because of the large spring which watered the area.12

In the 1860 Census there were 220 people in Spring City. The following information was given about the Major family:

Name                       age   occupation  birthplace

Joseph J. Alice              35   Carpenter     England  (Name is mispelled as frequently happened in census records)

Sarah                           42                      England  (Sarah shaved some years off her birthday.  She was 49.) 

In a separate home were listed:

William W. Major           23  Laborer        England

Joseph                         15  Laborer        England  

Census Records Major and Ellis families

 New Beginnings

On March 4th a new President took the oath of office. He was a backwoods lawyer from the state of Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860. In that same state, on April 12, 1861 General Pierre G.T. Beauregard ordered his Confederate artillery to fire on Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. As battles shattered the States, the Territory of Utah continued on with life in a normal and peaceful manner. William Jr. started courting Anna Marsiena Christensen. "Sena" as she was often called,15 was ten years old when she sailed from Copenhagen, Denmark with her father, mother, and brother to join with the Church in America. Sena’s mother died from cholera while crossing the plains and was buried near Mormon Grove. The Christensen family eventually moved to Fort Ephraim where Sena and William Jr. probably met the Winter of 1858. In February of 1862 the young couple were married. The newly weds lived in William’s small home in Spring City.16

The birth of Sarah's first grandchild occurred February 11, 1864. William and Sena named their daughter Sarah Celestia in honor of her grandmother and William’s deceased younger sister.17 In November 1865 Joseph Smith Major married Caroline Jensen iin November 1865.18 They named their first child, born July 21, 1866, Sarah Sophia, another honor for Sarah Coles Major Ellis.

Grandchildren of William and Sarah Coles Major

BlackHawk War

Problems with the Native Americans erupted during the winter of 1864-65. A small group of Indians who were camping near Gunnison became sick with smallpox and several died. They blamed this tragedy on the Mormon settlers and Chief Blackhawk gathered his warriors to exterminate them.20 By that time a fort had been erected around Spring City. The Pioneers worked all day and took turns guarding the fort all night. William and Joseph Smith Major joined the militia.21 William was a Calvary Sergeant in Captain John Lehi Ivy's Company from July 20 to Aug 4 in 1865.22 This short space of service reflects endeavoring to combine fighting to protect Spring City and his family, yet farming so that his family could survive the cold, long winter.

As the conflict with the Indians grew, President Young advised the smaller settlements to gather together for protection. So once again in 1866, Sarah and her family evacuated their homes and moved to Ephraim. The men returned to Spring City every few weeks to farm. At night they slept on the floor of the church inside the fort. That winter brought heavy snows which kept the Indians from crossing the mountains, so Sarah and her family returned to their homes.

The next summer the war spread and raged hotter. Indians raided and stampeded the cattle and shot at any white men they saw. William served as a Sergeant in Captain Isaac M. Behannan's Company from April 1, 1866 to November 1, 1866, then he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the infantry in Captain Isaac M. Behannan's Company on May 1, 1867.23 The women were kept busy making "crackers of flour and water and lard pounding them before rolling and baking." This was the main staple for the fighting men.24 The BlackHawk War continued on sporadically for some years.  Years later, William Warner Major's secocnd wife, Ellen Meek Major would apply for and obtain a pension for her husband's service in the Blackhawk Wars.  Pension Papers of William Warner Major Jr.

Spring City Relief Society

In the middle of this war, the Church continued to build up programs to strengthen its members. The first Relief Society was organized in Nauvoo on March 17, 1842 with Emma Smith as president. With the death of Joseph Smith it was suspended for a time. Eliza R. Snow was authorized by her polygamist husband Brigham Young to reestablish the Relief Society in December 1867. She visited or sent envoys to varius settlements to instruct, aid, encourage, and organize the Relief Society.25 In Spring City the first Relief Society was instituted on May 10, 1868. "Mary Ann Price Hyde, wife of Orson Hyde, became the first president. Elizabeth Parkis Allred, wife of a later Bishop [James A. Allred] was First Counselor, Anna V. Larsen, wife of Bishop C.G. Larsen was Second Counselor, Elizabeth Fretwell, later Hess, a school teacher was Secretary and Sarah Coles Major Ellis was the Treasurer. Three days later six teachers were appointed and fifteen members were enrolled. In a year's time there were 104 members."26 Mary Ann Price Hyde was five years younger than Sarah. Mary Ann and Sarah had known each other in Winter Quarters since both of these women's husbands were involved in leadership positions there. It must have been fun for Mary Ann and Sarah to renew their acquaintance in Spring City and join forces to lead the Relief Society. The meetings were held at 2:00 p.m. the first Thursday of every month. Some of the activities were sewing, administering to the poor, bearing testimonies, and receiving education and spiritual lessons. A membership fee was charged and members paid whatever they had, such as a few pounds of wool or some quilt blocks.27


Death of Joseph Smith Major (1845-1872)

Death visited the Major family one more time. On February 5, 1872 Joseph Smith Major was bitten by a wood tick.28 He died ten days later on February 15. A wooden coffin was built and his body carted west of town in a wagon for burial.29 The Spring City Cemetery was just three years old, having received its first burial in 1869.30 Joseph's wife, Caroline and their three small children, Sarah Sophia, age 6, Johanna Clara, age 5, and Lena Hettie, age 3 probably walked or rode behind the wagon.31 Sarah Coles, William Jr. his wife, Sena and their daughter, Sarah followed. Close friends, Church leaders, and city members gathered to give their support. No doubt Apostle Orson Hyde and his wife Mary Ann were there to comfort Sarah and her family. Joseph was serving in the militia during the BlackHawk War, which was still in progress at his death. His only son, Joseph Warner Major, was born by the grieving widow four and a half months later.32




Joseph Smith Major and Caroline Jensen holding baby Sarah Sophia Major ca. 1866.  Photograph in possession of Kathy Bennett Edwards, great great granddaugther of Joseph Smith Major

Divorce of William Warner Major Jr.

A divorce was an unusual occurrence for the Pioneers, but after eleven years of marriage, Sena obtained a divorce from William Warner Major Jr. on December 8, 1873. Perhaps the stress and fear generated by the Black Hawk War and a husband in the militia added to William and Sena’s marriage problems. Joseph T. Ellis may also have been an agitator. A close member of the family wrote, that Ellis "married Emily Hudson as a second wife, who had five children. Some time later he caused considerable trouble between William Warner Major Junior and his wife [Anna] Marsinea Christensen Major. She obtained a divorce from Major and married Ellis, becoming his third wife, and had seven children. Sarah Coles had to make her living by making hats."33 Little Sarah Celestia, William's daughter, was almost ten years old at the time of divorce. This was a different type of heartbreak for Sarah. The contention between son and daughter-in-law, husband and son, and the union of husband and daughter-in-law must have been a terrible strain and embarrassment. Then, in addition, she witnessed and bore the emotional pain and confusion of her granddaughter and son. In a small city, it was surely the source of tattling tongues.

Whatever precipitated the divorce, Joseph T. Ellis obtained abundant successes during his lifetime. He procured the rank of Major in the Black Hawk War. In Spring City he served as a postmaster, Justice of the Peace, member of the City council, City Assessor, City Attorney and helped organize the first Spring City Co-op. He also was the superintendent of carpenters on the Manti Temple for four years. One of his projects was to help design and craft the beautiful spiral staircase in the temple. In 1888 Joseph Ellis accepted a call to go on a mission to Denmark.34

Ellen Meek Major

On March 10, 1875 William Major Jr. married again, this time to Ellen Meek, the daughter of James Meek who was killed by the Indians during the BlackHawk War. Both Ellen's parents were born in Ireland, but she was born in England on November 8, 1852. At only six weeks old, she sailed to America on the ship "Argo" with her father, James Meek, Mother, Mary Ann Wright, brothers John and Matthew, and sisters, Betty, Mary, and Margaret. They left Liverpool on April 10, 1853. Ellen arrived in Salt Lake with her family in 1854 and remained there until 1860, when President Brigham Young called the Meek family to settle in Spring City. Ellen remembered grubbing rabbit brush and sage brush with her sister Margaret along main street to make the roads easier to travel. She loved her father dearly and was often by his side doing farm work, herding the sheep and picking up rock in the stone quarry that he chiseled out to build his family a new home. On their wedding day, William was 38 and Ellen age 22. The nuptials were held at Sarah's home.35

Ellen Meek Major, c1884

 Grandchildren of William and Sarah Coles Major

Manti Temple

Six months after William began a new life with his second wife, Brigham Young dedicated the site for the Manti Temple on June 25, 1875. In 1877 Brigham Young returned on his yearly trip to St. George. He offered a dedicatory prayer on that sacred spot and the building of the temple was commenced. William Warner Major Jr. donated his labor, working as a mason.36

In 1870 William had obtained a patent deed to a piece of property on the southwest end of Spring City (527 South 200 West).37 There he built a fine home (probably log or adobe) for his first wife and daughter, which he deeded to Sena as part of the divorce settlement. After learning how to cut and shape stone on the Manti Temple, William constructed a home on his remaining property. Employing the same tools he used on the temple, he quarried oolite stone from the hills west of Spring City and shaped each piece by hand. Family tradition says it was the first two-story rock home in Spring City and for years it was referred to as the "Major Mansion." This historic home is presently owned by William Warner Major Jr.’s descendants.38

The Relief Society was actively involved in financing the temple project. They received permission to gather and sell the eggs which the Spring City chickens laid on Sundays. It was said that Sunday was the best egg-laying day of the week! Since Sarah was still the Treasurer, she kept the records as the egg fund grew. The Relief Society proudly donated $800.00 in cash to the Manti Temple fund.39 The women also provided food and sewed many articles to make the temple more beautiful.

Manti Temple

William Warner Major, Jr. , Citizen of the United States of America

On July 26, 1875 William W. Major, Jr. signed papers to become the first of this Major family line to become a Citizen of the United States.  The family was so proud of this accomplishment that they saved the Declaration from generation to generation.

Declaration of Intention to become a Citizen of the United States 

Dearly Departed

On 29th of August 1877 Brigham Young, a beloved friend of the Major family, died. A son, James William Major, was born to William and Ellen on March 17, 1876. He died as the leaves turned color the following year, October 5, 1877.40 Another friend, President Orson Hyde, passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1878,41 just a little over a year after Brigham Young. Sarah had served in the Relief Society with his wife Mary Ann Price Hyde for ten years, so again she would have mourned with this dear friend.

Primary President

In 1848 Aurelia Spencer crossed the plains in the same company as the Major family. She married Thomas Rogers in 1851 and they lived in Farmington, Utah. Aurelia proposed the idea of a children's organization to President John Taylor, the third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He appointed her the first Primary President, which was organized on August 25, 1878. Nine months later, on May 31, 1879, the first Primary was organized in Spring City by the Relief Society Presidency under the direction of the bishopric. Sarah Coles Major Ellis was called to act as the first President. That year she would turn 68 years old, but retirement wasn’t even a thought when the town's children, especially her own grandchildren, needed her. Sarah chose counselors, a secretary and a treasurer. There were 31 children enrolled. Songs were sung, and prayers offered; talks, stories, and testimonies were given. Sarah Coles served in this position for five years.42

During the Primary years William and Ellen blessed Sarah's life with other grandchildren: Horace Legrand was born August 4, 1878. When he was old enough, he joined the little Primary organization under Sarah's direction. Byron Quince, born March 1, 1882, lived only a month. Ellen Lovenda entered the Major home July 24, 1883.


In 1884 Sarah "had to be released [as the Primary President] on account of poor health, but was always active in all the organizations of the Church."43 She died in midwinter, January 19, 1888 at the age of 77. Her son, William Warner Major, Jr. passed away six years later, 11 October 1894.44