John Grant Luce

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Question: Was there confusion on John G. Luce’s name as recorded on Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company roster?

Answer: For many years John G. Luce has been mis-identified as Franklin G. Losee. The mistake seems to have started with William Clayton when he first recorded the members of the company in his journal. However research in other journals (e.g., Thomas Bullock), rebaptisms in Salt Lake, and U.S. census records prove that the man, who for years was thought to be Franklin G. Losee, was in fact, John G. Luce.

John Grant Luce was born September 30, 1817, in Vinalhaven, Knox, Maine, to Malatiah Luce and Ruth Grant. His parents moved from Maine to Vinalhaven, an island off the east coast of Maine. Here they raised a large family of six sons and five daughters, with John being the youngest. They were counted among the prominent citizens of the island. Their daughter Susannah married Nathaniel Thomas, one of the well-known citizens.

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About 1835, Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon missionary, came with Elder Hale to the island. Elder Woodruff and Elder Hale asked permission of the minister to speak in the church. In the first thirteen days they were there, they preached seventeen sermons. Malatiah was a religious man, and he received Wilford Woodruff’s message with enthusiasm. Malatiah and Ruth became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ruth Grant, was excluded from the records of the Baptist Church for having joined the Mormons. On the North Island the membership of the Baptist Church declined from 134 members in 1835 to 54 members by 1837. There was a lot of animosity towards the Mormons because of this.

In the summer of 1838, the families who joined the Church were asked to leave the islands and join the Saints in Missouri. Malatiah and Ruth Grant Luce were among those preparing to leave the island. They had to leave some of their children who did not join the Mormon Church. Their son-in-law, Nathaniel Thomas, donated about $1,000 for the preparation of the group.

John, now nineteen years of age, married Harriet N. Spaulding on January 19, 1837 in Waldo, Maine. Harriet was only about fifteen years of age, and nothing more is known about her family.

They had one son, Franklin, in 1839 in Maine, so apparently John, had decided not to go with his parents at that time. John does make it to Nauvoo by 1845, as his next two daughters, Margaret (1845) and Mary (1848) are born there.

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The Saints had been driven from Missouri by persecution, so the family ended up in Nauvoo, Illinois. Malatiah and his sons helped build the Nauvoo temple. Susannah’s husband, Nathaniel, died in Nauvoo in July 1844. Malatiah and his wife were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple in 1845. John and Harriet were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple in January 1846. After being persecuted out of Nauvoo with the other Saints, John and Harriet and other family members, made their way to Winter Quarters.

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In April 1847, John was asked to join Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was in the 7th Ten, led by James Case. A month after arriving in Utah, he went back to Winter Quarters with some of the returning pioneers.

Luce grout house site in Sonora Landing now under the water of the Mississippi River

Luce grout house site in Sonora Landing now under the water of the Mississippi River

It appears that, after John returned to Winter Quarters in the fall of 1847, he never returned to Utah. For whatever his reason, John had returned to Maine by 1850. In 1851, he and his wife have another daughter, Josephine, born in 1851 there in Maine. John’s brother, Daniel, must have stayed in the Nauvoo area after some of the other family members went west. His wife had died in 1848 in Nauvoo, and Daniel stayed in Nauvoo and raised their one daughter, Agnes, born in 1842. Daniel built the Grout house at Sonora Landing in 1857. It contained a post office, a wagon/carpenter shop, a blacksmith shop, and a store. Daniel died in 1897, and he and his wife are both buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery. Their daughter married John Bennett, and they had seven children.

In 1860 John is living in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and only remaining child, Josephine, age eight. Their oldest three children had died in Maine before that time.

In 1870, John and Harriet and their daughter Josephine are living in Sonora, Hancock County, Illinois, and John is listed as a shoe maker. John must have decided to join his brother Daniel in Sonora. Their brother, Thomas, also moved to the area and lived there for many years, and he and Daniel built a couple of warehouses. The three Luce brothers—-John, Daniel, and Thomas—-could be considered some of the first settlers in Sonora Landing. In 1870 Thomas was running the dry goods store. Thomas’ wife, Mary, died in Sonora in 1878, and Thomas later returned to Maine, where he died in 1896 at age 90.

In 1880 John was still living in Sonora with his daughter, Josephine, and her husband, George Herbert, and two sons. George and Josephine were involved in the Luce family businesses. George and Josephine are both buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery.

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John’s wife, Harriet, had died in 1870 and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Sonora, across the road from the Golden Point Church. John died on March 28, 1881, in Sonora, and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery. He and his wife share a tombstone. His birth date is wrong on the tombstone.

Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Malatiah Luce Story,” FamilySearch.org; Pioneer Overland Trail Information; FindAGrave.com; History of Hancock County, 1968.