Elders in Graveyards

by Jill Morgan

Church Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

The Millennial Star of November 1892[1] includes a Roll of Honour, listing the names of missionaries who died while serving in different parts of the world.  

Here are the stories of eight of those who had served in the British Isles:

Jesse Yelton Cherry, Abel Evans, Caleb W Haws, Edwin William Street, James H Flanigan, Caleb Parry, William H Butler, and Shadrach Jones.

These are followed by a short entry for Brother Evan Morgan.

Jesse Yelton Cherry

Jesse Yelton Cherry 

Jesse was born in 1840 in Illinois, where his parents joined the Church in 1846.  He was called to serve a mission in the British Isles and while serving died of smallpox in Nottingham in May 1865.  He is buried in Nottingham Central cemetery.  He had served in the Norwich conference before transferring to Nottingham.  His obituary appears in the Millennial Star of 4th June.[2]

Smallpox vaccine had been developed in the 1790s but wasn’t universally dispensed until the 20th century, so smallpox was a fairly common cause of death in the 19th century.  Interestingly, a later outbreak of smallpox in 1901 in Nottingham was connected to the Church and missionaries[3]:

“Five cases of a very mild form of smallpox occurred in some adults between twenty-two and thirty-three years of age, four of whom were unvaccinated.  Cases occurred in Leicester, Loughborough, Derby, Sheffield and Liverpool, … but they had all been infected in Nottingham, due to attending a small Mormon conference, held on 24 March of that year.  The infection was thought to have been introduced to the mission as it was frequently receiving large parcels of papers and other goods from Salt Lake City, where smallpox of the mild type was prevalent.”


Stone of Jesse Yelton Cherry
Stone of Jesse Yelton Cherry

The month before he died, Elder Cherry wrote to the Millennial Star:

“I can truly say that I have been blessed since I left my home, and that my mission has done me good.  I find many good Saints in my travels who are willing to do all that lies in their power to assist in building up the kingdom of God, although poor as regards the riches of the world …  I still feel like going on in the good work, putting my trust in God and relying upon Him for my support, that I may have His spirit to be with me, to be able to preach the principles of the gospel.”

In affectionate remembrance of


From Utah USA

Who departed this life

May 20th 1865

Aged 24 years

His grave was visited by several missionaries who served in the area in the ensuing years, but even 35 years after his death it was clear that he had not been forgotten[4]:

“The sisters of the Nottingham branch are arranging to repair the grave of Elder Jesse Y Cherry, a missionary from Utah, who died in England in May 1865, and who was buried in the cemetery at that place.”

Abel Evans
Abel Evans

Abel Evans

Abel was born in Llangan, Carmarthenshire, but his family moved to Merthyr Tydfil for work when he was a child.  They belonged to the Independents. 

Abel showed a marked ability as a speaker, so he was selected to engage in a debate between the local non-conformists and the ‘Mormon’ missionaries when they first appeared in the town.  

Before the end of the second debate, Abel found that he could no longer sustain the arguments of the non-conformists; he was baptised a member of the Church by William Henshaw in 1844. 

For about five years after his baptism, he served as a travelling missionary – with great success, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in both North and South Wales. 


Stone of Abel Evans
Stone of Abel Evans

He emigrated to America in 1850 and with his wife, Mary Jones settled in Salt Lake City, but at the April Conference of 1865, he was called to return to Wales as a missionary.

Evans became President of the Welsh District and diligently visited the different branches.  

However, he developed a particularly bad cough while standing guard by night over the Saints who were sailing on the John Bright from Liverpool in May 1866. 

While attending a conference in Birmingham the following year he slept in a damp bed, which renewed the cough.

Nevertheless, he continued preaching, both in- and out-doors, and in all weathers; he became so weak he could barely stand. 

He worked until the day of his death in November 1866 at Merthyr Tydfil.  He was buried in Cefncoed cemetery, where his grave is one of the most frequently visited.

Caleb W Haws
Caleb W Haws

Caleb W Haws 

Caleb was living in Provo, Utah Territory when he was called to serve a mission in Britain in 1871.  He arrived in Liverpool May 22nd and was assigned to work in the Manchester conference; he was subsequently part of the Sheffield conference presidency.  He was 33 years old and working in the Barnsley area when he died of smallpox in November of that same year.

Caleb Haws’ parents had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Midwest in 1842 and he was baptised as a child in 1848.  This was also the year that his family went West, in a wagon train of more than 1,000 Saints under the direction of Brigham Young.  The Haws were among the first families to settle the Provo area.  Caleb Haws was married and had three living children when he left for his mission; two others had died in the preceding years.

Caleb W Haws

Twenty-five years later, in 1896, family friend Joseph B Walton, also from Provo, was called to serve in the British mission.  While in the Barnsley area, he went to Darton, near Barnsley, to find Caleb Haws’ grave, and spoke to an old gentleman in the churchyard, who turned out to be the sexton.  He recorded his conversation with the sexton in his journal[5]:

“’Do you know anything of the grave of Caleb W Haws?’ said I.  ‘I do, just follow me,’ he said. ‘I will show you where he lies.’  I followed him, there was no mistake.  The epitaph was plain to be seen.  I called his attention to the tar-like cement over the words ‘Elder’ and ‘Missionary’ asking him what it meant.  He told me that the vicar had so ordered it to be cemented up as there was no such thing as ‘elders’ nowadays in the church.  Friends of the dead man came and with their knives cut out the filling as often as it was filled up, but in order to prevent a continuance of this thing, the vicar had ordered him to report the next time it was cut out, and he should then use a chisel on the stone.

Stone of Caleb W Haws
Stone of Caleb W Haws

“Then followed a short but pointed address from me, on the organisation of Christ’s church, which had Elders in it, as well also might he deny the necessity of Apostles, Prophets, Seventies, etc.  All these were essential in Christ’s church then, why not now?  He said yes to every word I uttered.  I told him that the grave had been dedicated to the silent sleeper and to God and was therefore holy and none but a god-forsaken heathen dare desecrate with his unhallowed voice and hand the spot indicated by the epitaph or erase therefrom the honorary title, which in life he had won.

“The old sexton stood rooted to the spot as I continued expressing my indignation of the deed – my wonder that a thunderbolt from the hands of the Eternal had not felled the man to earth – and my thankfulness and praise to Him for His mercy in still permitting such a friend to escape his wrath.  I asked permission to copy the epitaph and make a sketch of my observation the which thing was granted.”

Sacred is His Memory of







Stone of Edwin William Street
Stone of Edwin William Street

Edwin William Street 

Edwin was born in Stockwell, Surrey, in 1851.  His father died when Edwin was only three years old, and his widowed mother subsequently emigrated with her three living children – Henry, Edwin and Laura – crossing the Atlantic on the Monarch of the Sea in 1861 and crossing the plains in the Sixtus E Johnson Company.  The family settled in Springville, Utah.

Edwin was called on his mission to Britain in 1877 and assigned to the London conference.  But less than a year later, his obituary appeared in the Millennial Star of 22nd April 1878.

In the same issue a letter from fellow missionary John H Miles, showed that Elder Street had been well cared for during the illness which had proved fatal:

Brother Claridge [a fellow missionary] stayed Thursday night and brother Street was so much better next morning that Brother C felt justified in leaving him to the care of Sister Swainston, who from first to last has acted the part of a good mother and true friend.  His own family at Springville could not have done more for him than Sister S and the kind neighbours have done.  For some few days after Brother Claridge left, Brother Street continued to improve and great hopes were entertained that a speedy and certain recovery would ensue, but on Wednesday April 10th a relapse set in and complete unconsciousness followed.”

Edwin Street was buried in the Baptist chapel cemetery at Breachwood Green, Hertfordshire.

In Memory of

Elder Edward[6] William Street

Missionary from Salt Lake City Utah

Died April 12th1878

Aged 26 years



He is not dead but sleepeth

Key Hill Cemetery in Birmingham

In addition, three missionaries are buried in Key Hill Cemetery in Birmingham – all in plot D 152 but some years apart.  They were James H Flanigan, Caleb Parry and William H Butler.  Many of the headstones in Key Hill were removed by the local council in the 1950s but the inscriptions were fortunately preserved.

James H Flanigan

James Henry Flanigan

An Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Departed this life 29 Jan 1851

Whilst on a mission to this country from America

to preach the everlasting gospel as restored in these last days.

James H Flanigan

Born in County Down, Northern Ireland,James H Flanigan was one of the early converts to the church.

Typical of the time, he soon emigrated, bound for Utah Territory, but had only travelled as far as Winter Quarters before he was asked to return as a missionary.

The details of his death and funeral were recorded at length in the Millennial Star,[7] and the loss of his leadership and talents much lamented, because even at that young age he had been assigned to be President of the Birmingham Conference.

The funeral procession must have been most impressive as this excerpt from the Millennial Star shows – a true display of Victorian pomp and regard for social convention – and an astonishing number of local members forming part of the procession.



Caleb Parry
Caleb Parry

Caleb Perry

The second burial in plot D 152 was that of Caleb Parry.  The inscription for his burial reads:

Also our esteemed resident

Caleb Parry

Who departed this life 19 September 1871

Whilst on a mission to this country from America

age 47 years 10 months 27 days

Deeply lamented

Like J H Flanigan, Caleb Parry died of smallpox – in an epidemic which killed more than 7,700 between 1870 and 1872 in Birmingham alone.

Born in Newmarket (now Trelawnyd) in North Wales, Parry was a stonemason and according to his father’s history, he “learned to be a portrait painter.”  He too was an early convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had emigrated in 1849 with his wife – on the day they were married.

William H. Butler

The third and last missionary to be buried in the Key Hill cemetery grave was William H Butler:

Also our beloved brother

William Harvey Butler

Who died whilst on a mission from Utah, USA

24 February 1882

Age 26


William was born in Utah Territory in 1857 of parents who had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his mother’s native Herefordshire (his father’s family were Irish) and had emigrated in 1856.  His health seems to have been poor for such a young man.  The Millennial Star[8] reported that he suffered from rheumatism; in his last weeks, he had had a cough, indigestion and vomiting, and then a severe cold.  In his weakened state he fell prey to typhoid from which he never recovered.

The report of his death in the Ogden Herald,[9] stated that these afflictions had been “aggravated by the smoke from the copperworks.”  His father and brother were with him when he died because they were both serving as missionaries in the British Isles at the time.  Ironically, he had been working in the northeast when he fell ill, and they had brought him to Birmingham thinking he would recover more quickly there.

Shadrach Jones
Shadrach Jones

Shadrach Jones

Shadrach, a native of Llanelly, Breconshire, was baptised with other members of his family in 1850 in nearby Monmouthshire.  He and his wife Mary Williams – whose family had also converted there – emigrated to Utah Territory in 1854 and settled in Willard, just south of Brigham City.

Although he was a collier in Wales, Shadrach obviously had a feel for working with stone, because he built a number of solid stone houses in Willard, which are now on the Historic Register.  

He also worked on the Logan temple, where his work was considered so important that he was excused a first mission to the southern states and delayed his call to serve in the British Isles.  He was 50 when he returned to Wales.


Stone of Shadrach Jones
Stone of Shadrach Jones

In Memory of

Elder Sadrach Jones

Missionary from Willard City, Utah, U.S.A.,

died at Fforest Fach June 24 1883.

Beautiful in good work he died at his post.


On hearing of her husband’s death, Mary wrote to President John Taylor:

“Willard July 3 /83

“Dear Brother Taylor

“With deep sorrow I write you these lines hoping they’ll find you in good health.

“I want you if you please to interfere in my behalf.  I am the bereaved widow of the late Elder Shadrach Jones who left Salt Lake City on the 10th of April last on a mission to Wales whom also according to the telegram received died in Liverpool on the 24th of June last and I have not as yet received the particulars.  I would like to know in the first place whether he was called home on account of ill health or whether he was on business in Liverpool along with emigrants and caught cold and fixed on his lungs which I know was affected and I wanted him to tell you of his ailment but he wouldn’t do so because he was so determined and so ambitious to fulfil and do all in his power towards the building of the kingdom of God and I want you to see that all his effects are gathered up and sent to me and he had a considerable sum of money I think he must have had from two to three hundred dollars besides a watch value $40 and cloths books valises and I would like if possible to have his body here therefore I ask your fatherly council in the matter and if it will cost me all I have I would rather have him here but at the same time I will do as you’ll advise me in the matter and I am in deep deep sorrow but not as one without hope to meet in the morn of the first resurrection. I remain your bereaved sister in the Lord.

Mary S. Jones”

For whatever reason, Shadrach’s body remained in Wales, where he was buried in Calfaria Baptist cemetery in Fforestfach, Swansea, with children of his wife’s niece buried in the same grave.

Evan Morgan

A gravestone at St Teilo’s church in the village of Brechfa, Carmarthenshire is also worth noting.  It is for Brother Evan Morgan who was born of Welsh parents in Gloucester in 1808 but he and his wife brought up their family in Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn near Brechfa, where he worked as a stonemason.  When his wife died, the inscription which was engraved on the headstone read:

Evan Morgan
Anne and Evan Morgan

In memory of


Wife of Elder EVAN MORGAN

Nanthir near Brechfa

Died Feb. 22 1886

84 years old

His details were added 13 years later:

Also the above EVAN MORGAN

Died Dec. 19 1899 at 92 years old

Evan and Anne were baptised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1848.  Their children Sally, Lucrecia, John, and Anne were also baptised into the Brechfa branch.

A number of missionaries assigned to west Wales in the ensuing years recorded visits to the Morgan household, among them Thomas C Martell (mission 1875-76)[10] and John Thomas (mission 1886–88)[11].  Evan Morgan was apparently President of Brechfa branch for some 40 years.  An entry from John Thomas’ missionary journal in 1887 shows that he was an energetic and dedicated member:

“Jun 12th got up about Seven it was very foggie. and we thought it would turn Out Stormy. but if Ever I prayed to got any blessing it was for a fine day, has we had a long journey to go to preach about Nine Miles. about Nine O Clock it did Clear off and we had a Splendid day we got Bro Evan Morgan to go with us. although he is in his Eightieth year he walked about 13 Miles. we held a Meeting Near ‘Llan y bythar’ we had about 200 or More very fine people to listen to us. they Sang for us Bro Morgan Prayed and Elder D.F.Thomas Spoke first and I followed then Brother John Evans ‘Pen y Wern’ Spoke very good, the first time for me to See this Old Brother. it was a time of Rejoiceing.”

Each of the graves listed above includes the title ‘Elder’ or ‘Missionary’ as part of the inscription, showing that those who commissioned the gravestones wanted the world to know that these were servants of the Lord and holders of His holy priesthood.

[1] Millennial Star Vol. 54, No. 49 page 779

[2] Issues of the Millennial Star can be found at https://lib.byu.edu/collections/mormon-publications-19th-20th-centuries/m/#latter-star from 1840 to 1901, and at: https://archive.org/details/millennialstar  for 1901 onwards.

[3] Smallpox by C. W. DIXON, professor of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago, New Zealand, published by Churchill Ltd of London.

[4] Deseret Evening News, 17th June 1899

[5] JB Walton’s complete missionary journals can be found at: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE4810565

[6] Note the error in his first name – perhaps not surprising as missionaries are referred to as ‘Elder’

[7] Ref MStar



[10] Thomas Martell’s journal can be found at: http://welshmormon.byu.edu/Resource_Info.aspx?id=2602

[11] John Thomas’s missionary journal can be found in his record at: http://welshmormon.byu.edu/ by searching the Immigrants database and using the Resources tab.