Major Howard Egan Family Foundation

Sailor Rope Maker Captain in Nauvoo Legion Bodyguard to Joseph Smith Mormon Battalion Envoy Captain of the 9th 10 of the original 1847 Pioneer Vanguard Company Gold Rush Trading Post Owner Trail Blazer Cattle Drover Major in Utah War Pony Express Rider & Superintendent of Line from Salt Lake to California Stage Station Owner Friend & Missionary to Indians Salt Lake City Policeman Bodyguard to Brigham Young
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Tamson Parshley Egan

Statistics

Tamson Parshley Egan

Birth: 27 July 1824, Barnstead, Belknap County, New Hampshire.
Death: 31 March 1905, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah.  Died at age 80.
Husband: Howard Egan (1815 -1878).  Married 1 Dec 1838, Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Children: 6 children:
Howard Ransom Egan (12 Apr 1840- 17 Mar 1916, age 76)
Richard Erastus Egan (29 Mar 1842-21 Apr 1918, age 76)
Charles John Egan (28 Mar 1844-1845, age 1)
Horace Adelbert Egan (12 Aug 1847-24 Mar 1862, age 15)
William Moburn Egan (13 Jun 1851-15 Apr 1929, age 77) (Father: James Monroe)
Ira Ernest Egan (5 Feb 1861-13 Dec 1933, age 72)

Photos

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tamson-1tamson2Tamson Parshley Egan

Patriarchal Blessing

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tamson blessing 2tamson patriarchael blessing 1

 

Death Certificate

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Tamson Egan death certificateTamson Parsley Egan grave marker

 

Brief History

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Tamson was born on July 27, 1824 in Barnstead, New Hampshire, situated 65 miles north of Boston. She was born to Richard Parshley and Mary Caverly, and was the sixth of their eight children. The family continued to live in New Hampshire, bordering Massachusetts.

Tamson Parshley EganIn 1838 Tamson met Howard Egan, a rope maker in Salem, Massachusetts. They were married on December 7, 1839. Howard was 23 years old; Tamson was 14. They settled in Salem, Massachusetts where their first two sons were born – Howard Ransom Egan on April 12, 1840, and Richard Erastus Egan on March 29, 1842.

In 1842 Elder Erastus Snow introduced Howard and Tamson to Mormonism.  They were baptized and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois that same year to be with the body of the saints.  When they reached Nauvoo, they met the prophet Joseph Smith, who quickly hired Howard as one of the Nauvoo Police and also as his personal bodyguard.  After arriving in Nauvoo, they moved into a little two room house. They lived in the room on the right and another family lived in the room to the left. Howard opened a rope making business close to the river, where Tamson would meet him daily to take him dinner.

On Sept. 24th 1844 Tamson and Howard each received a Patriarchal blessing under the hands of Hyrum Smith. (A copy Tamson’s blessing is shown above.)  Shortly thereafter, in keeping with the principal of plural marriage, Hyrum Smith married 29-year-old Howard to a second wife, 40- year-old Catherine Reese Clawson Egan, a widow with four living children.

The saints were persecuted harshly in Nauvoo and their beloved prophet was murdered in 1844.  The saints lasted in Nauvoo for about two more years when they were finally driven out.  While in Nauvoo, Tamson bore another son, whom they named Charles John Egan.  The child died a year later, in 1845.

Howard, Tamson, and their two surviving sons left with the general exodus of the Saints on March 1st 1846. Howard had become an adopted son of Heber C. Kimball, and during the exodus from Nauvoo the Egans traveled across Iowa with the Kimballs.

Howard, Tamson, and children spent the winter of 1846–1847 at Winter Quarters, although Howard had to make several difficult trips down to Missouri to bring back supplies for the Saints. In his diary, Howard Ransom Egan described the home his father built: “Howard Egan’s log hut was neatly arranged and papered and hung with pictures and otherwise decorated by his Wife, which made it very pleasant and habitable.”  Winter Quarters was a  settlement that consisted of 700 houses of log, turf and other materials; and was laid out with streets, workshops, mills, etc., and a Tabernacle for worship. Winter Quarters was on a pretty plateau overlooking the river, and was built for protection from Indians. There were 22 Wards with a bishop over each, also a High Council.  The population was over 4,000.  In 1846, while in Winter Quarters, Howard married a third plural wife, 21-year-old Nancy Redding (aka Redden).

In 1847 Howard was selected as one of the 143 men who would form the vanguard company to blaze the way to Salt Lake Valley for the rest of the Saints, and was appointed captain of the 9th group of 10 men.  He left Tamson with child in their comfortable log cabin at Winter Quarters, and started west toward the Great Basin. This left Tamson alone in Winter Quarters for about a year. Tamson was often left alone to care for her family during most of her married life, a result of the many assignments Howard received from the church, his various businesses, and time spent with his other wives and children.

Tamson received a letter from Howard on April 20, 1847 that said:

“I never in my life had such feelings while away from home as I have on this trip. I cannot say that I feel sorrowful because I am where I delight to be in the society of my Father Heber [C.Kimball] where I can receive instruction and counsel from his lips. My health has been very good since I left home and we are all getting along first rate, we are about 100 hundred miles from Winter Quarters tonight. We travel at the rate of 20 miles per day; the roads are very very good and it is a beautiful country. Tamson I feel sorrowful when I reflect on your situation for I know your feeling when I am away from you, but I feel easy when I realize that you [are] a kind and generous hearted mother who will do all that she can for the comfort of those around her.”

Howard and the bulk of the vanguard company entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th 1847.  During his absence from Tamson, she gave birth to another son, Horace Adelbert Egan, on August 12th 1847. This child would later die at age fifteen.  Howard returned to Winter Quarters on October 31st 1847, spent the winter with his family, and then departed for Salt Lake with Tamson and children on May 24th 1848.

The book Pioneering the West relates many incidents of their westward trek. The following is about Tamson, told by her eldest son, Howard Ransom Egan:

“One day we had camped for noon. I was playing near the end of the wagon tongue. Mother caught up her boys and before I knew anything more we had landed in the wagon and she followed, and just in time, for a stampeded herd of buffaloes was coming straight for the camp.  They divided just a little way from camp.  Some of them passed over the end of our wagon tongue, doing no damage.”

It was a rugged trip for a girl of 23 with three young boys.  Many times the only fuel she had to cook meals with, were buffalo chips. Her second son, Richard Erastus Egan, was only five years old when he fell under the moving wagon. He would have escaped, but for a big pig that was tied to the wagon, and in his trying to get out of the animal’s way, the wagon wheel ran over his foot.  Richard Erastus rode the rest of the way to the Salt Lake Valley in the wagon.

Tamson was a strong pioneer woman, evidenced by Howard Ransom’s journal entry:

“At the head or summit before entering [Echo Canyon], Major Egan was called to assist in some repairs that were necessary on Heber C. Kimball’s wagon, which made it necessary for Tamson to drive the team until he should catch up, which he expected would not be long.  She had two yoke of oxen and a yoke of cows which she drove down the canyon.  It was said that she missed more stumps and rocks than any other driver.  She crossed the winding stream twenty-seven times.  Sometimes she would be ahead of the team, some times between the cattle and the wagon, [in order] to pass brush, trees and rocks, [all the while with little Erastus in the wagon.] Those of the family who could walk were on ahead. Mrs. Egan’s team led the way.  It was humorously reported that someone ahead would holler out to her to tease, ‘Here is another creek, Mrs.Egan.’  She being tired and weary would holler back: ‘Damn these creeks.’”

Howard, Tamson, and children arrived in Salt Lake City on September 24, 1848 and promptly moved into the Salt Lake Fort. There were 423 apartments the saints were supposed to share within the fort. This is where they lived for about two years. The year of their arrival was also the same year that the crickets threatened to eat all of the crops, when thousands of seagulls came from nowhere and saved them.

Howard Ransom wrote the following about his mother, Tamson:

“Of late years I often think of what a hard life Mother had in pioneer days, but I suppose that was the lot of all the pioneers; digging roots and gathering greens, catching fish in the Jordan River, collecting anything eatable to make what little flour and cornmeal we had last till another supply could be procured, was the common lot. Wood was also scarce, even the bark of the fence poles was stripped off for fuel, for the men could not spare the time to haul wood from the canyons.

Father was away most all the time working for the church and Mother would never ask for help if she could avoid it. Possibly she could have got along easier and with less trouble if she had not been so independent. I have heard her say that she would work her finger ends off before she would ask for assistance.”

During this time of living in the Fort, Howard married a fourth wife, 18-year-old Mary Ann Tuttle, and left once again to go back to Council Bluffs and bring his third wife, Nancy Redding, back to Utah.  They arrived in August of 1849, and he was immediately sent to go on a Gold Rush mission to California – to collect gold to help the church grow.

After having been absent for twenty-two months, Howard returned home to find his wife Tamson with a three-month old baby boy.  In 1851 his wife had had an affair with James Monroe, an itinerant teacher who had previously been employed by Emma Smith, Brigham Young, and many of the Mormon Church authorities in Nauvoo for the instruction of their children. It is a credit to both Tamson and Howard, that they raised this illegitimate child as their own. Legend has it that Howard wanted the child’s middle name to be “Monroe” in honor of his genetic father, but that Tamson would not allow it. They finally named him “William Moburn Egan.”

Major Howard EganFollowing the custom of Mountain Justice, Egan killed the seducer of his wife.  He was defended in the subsequent murder trial by W.W. Phelps and Apostle George A. Smith.  Egan was acquitted due to the jury believing this was justifiable homicide based upon Utah’s “Mountain Common Law.”  On March 6, 1852, the Territorial legislature passed the Justifiable Homicide Act, as a direct result of the Egan case. The Act stated that it would be: “Justifiable homicide to kill the person who defiled a “wife, daughter, mother, sister or any other female relative or dependent.” This law was in place until 1874.

Around this time Tamson and her sons moved out of the Salt Lake Fort and into a little house that was built of adobe material. This home had one large room with a wooden floor that had been whitewashed. Her son, Howard Ransom, remembered how Tamson used to mop the floor every day and took pride in the whiteness of it. This house also had areas outside for a pig, poultry and even a cow.  Howard Ransom remembered the following:

 “Oh, we were just beginning to live fat, and we had our garden in. It was here that I saw the largest spider that I ever did in my life. Mother heard the chickens making a great fuss back of the house. She looked out of the back window and saw the chickens standing in a ring around a large spider. It was standing as high as possible with one leg raised, and striking at the hens when they ventured too close. Mother got a tin box about three by six inches, and one and a half inches deep, laying this on the ground she drove the thing over the box. Where it stood its legs reached the ground each side of the box without touching it. Mother gave it a tap with a stick and it pulled its legs in and settled down in the box, which it nearly filled. Mother slid the cover on the box and set it in the window and when she went to let a visitor see it, found that the sun, shining on the box, had killed the spider. Its body was about the size of a silver quarter. Mother pinned it to a board with a needle and kept it for a long time for people to see.”

Street  that Egan Family lived on in 1860

Street that Egan Family lived on in 1860

Howard continued to be away from home frequently and left Tamson and the children to take care of things themselves. Once when he returned from one of his trips, he got together with two men and bought a city lot to build a very large barn to use as a livery stable. One day while Howard was again gone on travels, the barn caught on fire.  The boys were away and saw the fire as it spread to their house in the distance and rushed home to see what they could do, but were too late. They arrived and saw that the barn was now only a pile of ashes and found Tamson sitting amid the few household goods she had managed to save. The house was largely damaged and they lost all of their chickens, two horses, about thirty tons of hay in the barn, and the grain room that had been full of oats and barley. There were four sets of harness and some saddles in the harness room. All went up in smoke, along with many carpenter tools. The flames had spread so rapidly that it was impossible to save much that was in the barn. They lost thousands of dollars with that event.

4 sons of Howard EganTamson had given birth to six children. Charles John Egan had died as a baby, and Horace Adelbert had died when he was fifteen. The four surviving sons: Howard Ransom Egan, Richard Erastus Egan, William Monroe Egan, and Ira Ernest Egan, are shown in the picture to the left.

Tamson was a generous, kind woman. When immigrants came in with trains each season and when new hand cart companies arrived, many of them desperately needed the necessities of life. Howard and Tamson were doing well as a result of Howard’s beef trade during this time, and Tamson spent a lot of the proceeds helping these people get started out with items they needed. Tamson was known as being very generous and benevolent. Her husband told her multiple times that “she shall be blessed for her good heart.”

After the death of President Young, Egan was appointed as the special guard at Brigham’s grave in Salt Lake City.

William Egan said that “in March 1878 Father got his feet wet one dark night [while guarding Brigham’s grave] and took sick, which resulted in inflammation of the bowels.”  Less than two weeks later he was dead, at age sixty-two.

Tamson was the only spouse still married to Howard at the time of his death – the other three having divorced him.

Tamson continued to live until 1905 when she passed away from Pernicious Anemia on March 31, 1905 at age 80. She is buried in Salt Lake City, Utah next to Howard in the Salt Lake cemetery.

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