William Warner Major
Utah Pioneer Artist
Jill C. Major, Author

1 Birth

2 Ancestry

3 Richard Major-Music Engraver

4 Mourning

5 Celebrations

6 Miniature Painter

7 Conversion and Leadership

Mission to Newbury


10 Nauvoo 1844

11 Nauvoo Winter 1845

12 Nauvoo Spring to Summer

13 Nauvoo Summer to Fall 1845

14 Nauvoo Temple Portraits 1845-1846

15 Winter Quarters 1846

16 Major helps Joseph Fielding Smith, Winter Quarters 1847

17Manners, Leadership, Landscapes and Lee - Winter Quarters 1847

18 Letter to Brigham Young, Winter Quarter 1847

19 Mission to St. Louis, 1848

20 Winter Quarters to the Elkhorn River, 1848

21 Heading West

22 Adventures of the Major Family on the Trek to the Great Salt Lake

23 Great Salt Lake Land 1848

24 Majors befriended John Hudson, Forty-Niner

25 High Council and Plural marriage

26 Southern Utah and Art 1852

27 Salt Lake 1852-1853

28 Salt Lake to New York to London

29 Third Mission 1853-1854

30 Death 

31 Sarah Coles Major 

32 William Warner Major Jr. (1836-1894)

33 Joseph Smith Major (1845-1872)

34 Grandchildren

35 Major Family Headstones - Spring City 

Patriarchial Blessings of William and Sarah Major

Known Artwork

England and Nauvoo

Rachel Burgess Francis ca.1844

Charles Coulson Rich ca.1845

Sarah Pea Rich ca.1845

Joseph Young and Jane Adeline Bicknell Young ca.1845

Jennetta Richards Richards 1845

Joseph Smith and Leaders, ca.1845

Great Salt Lake Valley

Brigham Young in military uniform, ca.1848-1853

Brigham Young, Governor ca.1853

Precinda Kimball 1850

James Furguson c1852

Brigham Young, Mary Ann Angell family, ca.1845-1848

Native Americans

Chief Walker and Arapeen ca.1852

Owanup - Chief of the Pawnee, 1852

Walker or Wah-kara, Ute Chief ca. 1852

Konosh -Chief of Pahvants, 1852

Tootoomitch - War Chief of the Snakes, ca. 1852

Parishort or Leap of Elk, Chief of the Corn Creek, 1852

Wash'echick, Chief of the Shoshomas Tribe, ca.1852


Fillmore, 1852

Parowan, 1852

Great Salt Lake City, 1852


Other Links

W.W. Major's ancestry from 1600




Business Card of William Warner Major with his signature 


In England William Warner Major was a miniaturist,  an artist who painted photograph-sized portraits.  While growing up in London, he idolized great artists, such as Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788 ) and Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)  and tried to imitate their styles.  Then he and his sister and brother met the Mormon missionaries and all three families were baptized within a week of each other.  Thus started a journey from London to Nauvoo to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley and back to London where Major died serving his 3rd mission.

Nine days after his death, William Warner Major’s missionary companions, William Henry Kimball and James Marsden, wrote a one page history of their friend (Marsden/Kimball History of William Warner Major). This valuable resource has been reworded, reworked, and published numerous times (Articles that mention W.W. Major ). There has been little new information about Utah’s first professional artist in over 150 years. Research has produced a 3-page journal and five letters written by Major. There are also notes of a speech about manners delivered by this cultured London emigrant to his unrefined Western friends while camping out in the wilds of Nebraska. Because Major was a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in England and America, his activities were recorded in the London Conference Records and the Journal History. Furthermore, since Major associated, labored, nurtured, served, and sketched portraits of numerous pioneers, his endeavors were noted in their personal journals and diaries. From these mineable sources emerge the story of a colorful, devoted, talented leader and his faithful, adventurous wife, Sarah Coles Major.  

                            Church Leader

William Warner Major and Sarah Coles Major joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1842. Until his death, Major occupied leadership positions. He sat in the "Presidency of Elders of London Branch" with William Lewzy, the man who baptized him. Major served three missions:  two in the London area and one in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. In Winter Quarter's Nebraska he was called to the Municipal High Council.  Later, he was a member of the Great Salt Lake High Council.

Official Artist for LDS Church 

After he arrived in Nauvoo in 1845, he functioned as an official artist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Major’s paintings are prolific and diverse. From 1845 to 1846 Major was commissioned and paid through temple funds to paint portraits of Church leaders to be hung in the Nauvoo Temple. Working with other artists in Nauvoo, Major helped complete two large historic panoramas. Indian Chiefs living in Nebraska and the Utah Territory stood silently in front of his scrutinizing gaze and talented hand. Crying babies, squirming children, proud mothers and fathers, elderly matriarchs and patriarchs posed for portraits by the British professional. He also sketched the scenery while crossing the plains, and later, he was assigned the duty of artist on an 1852 exploration trip to Southern Utah with Brigham Young. 

Letter to Brigham Young dated March 21, 1848 and signed "Yours Affectionately,  W.W. Major" Used by Permission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Friends of Brigham Young

William Warner Major and Sarah Coles Major were close friends of Brigham Young and his family. They dearly loved the President of the Mormon Church and Governor of the Utah Territory. Shortly before Major died, he composed a letter to Brigham Young. "I never forget you from morn till even," he declared.Two other letters Major penned to Brigham Young were signed, "Yours Affectionately." Brigham Young was included in at least five paintings by Major.
                Salt Lake City
The Major family traveled to the Utah Territory in Brigham Young's 1848 company of 1,229 people. "Isaac Morley was sustained as President of the company, with Reynolds Cahoon and William W. Major as his counselors." When William Warner Major drove his wagon down the steep slopes of Emigration Canyon in September 1848, he was the first professional artist to enter the Great Salt Lake Valley.

There are no known pictures of William Warner Major Sr.  The closest imagine we have of what he may have looked like are the pictures of his sons, Joseph Smith Major (1845-1872) and William Warner Major, Jr. (1836-1894).

William Warner Major Jr. with wife, Ellen Meek Major and   children, Horace Legrand and Ellen Lavinda Major, 1884.

William Warner Major Jr. family
Used by permission of Bernard D. Major, grandson of    
                   William Warner Major Jr.

                                      Joseph Smith Major (1845-1872)

Joseph Smith Major, ca. 1866. Photograph in possession of Kathy Bennett Edwards, great great granddaughter of Joseph Smith Major.