WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
JOHN THOMAS & SOPHIA FRYER GEARY FAMILY
(early settlers of Toquerville)
BIOGRAPHYJohn Thomas Geary was born in 1823 in Atterton, Leicestershire, England. He married Sophia Fryer who was born in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight in 1829. At the time of their marriage, John was a lawyer and member of Parliment.
While living in London, the Geary's joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1851. They immigrated to America in 1853. They traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they remained for three years.
They left Florence, Nebraska as members of Capt. Andrew J. Siler's Company of Independent Wagons, which had been attached to the Willie Handcart Company. At Ft. Laramie, Nebraska Territory, they separated from the Willie Handcart Company. They then travelled with the Hodgett Wagon Train until they were joined with the rescue party sent by Brigham Young, and were brought into the Great Salt Lake Valley, arriving on December 15th, 1856.
The family settled in Cedar City, Utah for a brief time and then settled in Toquerville by about 1860. They raised cotton and John taught school.
After settling in Toquerville, marital discord arose, and for a number of years John was back and forth between in Salt Lake and Toquerville. John moved to Salt Lake City sometime in 1866. On October 16, 1866, Sophia composed a letter to President Brigham Young requesting a Bill of Divorcement. John was residing in Salt Lake at the time, and it is apparent from the response by Pres. Young to Sophia, that Pres. Young had spoken with John. Pres. Young asked John to write "his wishes and feelings" that Pres. Young might have information upon which to act. In the letter, he counseled Sophia to reconsider her request by stating, "Your better course, I think, will be to accept his acknowledgements and be reconciled forthwith. You cannot do any better anywhere else. [signed] Brigham Young". Whether Sophia was granted a divorcement by Pres. Young is not known. But the matter became mute just six weeks later when John died.
On December 27, 1866, he was shot while target practicing. The bullet entered his body just below the left lung, passing through the body. He lived for about a week before dying on January 5, 1867.
It was a difficult time for Sophia. She had five daughters to care for, ranging in age from 14 down to just under age 3. She was known for her beauty and for her sewing skills. She worked hard at her sewing to make ends meet for her young family. It was necessary for her children to help in providing for the family needs. Her daughters Sophia Ann and Echo worked out of the home to assist in support of their mother and sisters.
Sophia Geary eventually married Bishop Joshua Thomas Willis of Toquerville, sometime in 1867. Their first child, William Richard Willis, was born 22 May 1868 and their second child Adina Laura Willis born 17 February 1870. Sophia died in childbirth, along with her infant son, James Willis, on the 27th of May 1872.
REFERENCESJohn Thomas Geary Pioneer History (blog)
Sopia Fryer Pioneer History (blog)
John Thomas Geary and Sophia Fryer Pioneer History (blog)
A John Thomas Geary & Sophia Fryer genealogy
The Second Birth in Echo Canyon
Research Report on the Birth of Echo Workman Geary Hanley
by Dr. Kaye Page Nichols
The Fryers of Yarmouth
Chapter XI of an unknown book
The Fate of the Fryers
Compiled by Bessie "Bess" Snow
Find-A-Grave entry for John Thomas Geary
Find-A-Grave entry for Sophia Geary Fryer Willis