Thomas Callister (1821-1880)

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Thomas Callister
Callister, Pres Thomas.jpg]]
Born: 8 Jul 1821 Bradden, Isle of Man
Died: 1 Dec 1880 Fillmore, Utah
Father: John Callister
Mother: Catherine Murphy
Siblings: John Callister
Thomas Callister
Spouse: (1) Caroline Smith
Married: 31 Aug 1845 Nauvoo, Illinois
Children: Thomas Callister
Clarissa Callister
Caroline Clara Callister
Milla Callister
Philimella Callister
Mary Miranda Callister
Samuel Jay Callister
Bathsheba Callister
Asael Smith Callister
Spouse: (2) Helen Mar Clark
Married: 16 Dec 1845 Nauvoo, Illinois
Children: Helen Mar Callister
Elizabeth Ann Callister
Catherine Elizabeth Callister
Thomas Clark Callister
Sarah Melissa Callister
Isabella Callister
Margaret Jane Callister
Daniel Porter Callister
Susan Delilah Callister
Russell Kilburn Callister
John Warren Callister
Zina Percinda Callister
Spouse: (3) Mary Lovina Phelps
Married: 19 Dec 1863 Salt Lake City, Utah
Children: Mary Lavina Callister
Alva Phelps Callister
George Albert Callister
Ida Callister
Ada Callister
Joseph Callister
William Henry Callister
Margaret Elida Callister
Julieatt Callister
Orson Pratt Callister
Walter Stanley Callister


Wightman, Laura Callister. An Enduring Legacy, Volume Six, pp. 137-141:

Thomas Callister

Thomas Callister, son of John Callister and Katherine Murphy, was born at Bradden, Isle of Man, July 8, 1821. When he was about twelve or thirteen years age, his father hired him out as an apprentice to a tailor. He was very diligent at his work and soon became quite skilled. When he was fifteen years old his father died, leaving him an orphan, since his mother had died some two months before. In this situation he was obliged to battle with life for himself, but he was fortified with strong courage and an honest heart.

One day in the fall of 1840, Thomas went to the local grocery store to buy some food for the evening meal, and while waiting for the clerk, he noticed a pamphlet, or tract, on the counter advertising a missionary street meeting. This tract discussed important questions such as, Where did you come from? Why are you here? Where do you go from here?

He attended this street meeting at which Elder John Taylor, later President of the Church, was the speaker. Thomas was deeply interested, and the message found lodging in his heart. From this time on he investigated the principles of the gospel and, as a result, was baptized by William Mitchel and confirmed by John Taylor in March 1841.

This displeased his sisters and brothers, who felt that it was a disgrace to have him join this unpopular church. His brother offered to set him up in the tailor business if he would retrace his steps. But Thomas, being thoroughly converted, thanked his brother and told him he knew he had joined the true Church of God, and his membership in it meant more to him than any business.

On the ninth of January 1842, bade his kindred farewell and took passage for Liverpool on the steamship Mona's Isle. From there he began his voyage to America on January 12, 1842, on the sailing vessel Tremont. His brother went with him the ship and there offered him half of all he owned if he would only give up going to America. When he refused, John said he would be happier if he could lay him away on the hill with his parents, but Thomas's faith was too strong to listen to his brother's plea.

He was three months on the water out of sight of land. After landing in America at New Orleans, he made his way to Nauvoo where he endured many persecutions and hardships with the Saints there.

On August 31, 1845, at Nauvoo, Illinois, he married Caroline Clara Smith, daughter of John and Clarissa Lyman Smith of Illinois, a cousin of the Prophet Joseph Smith. On the sixteenth of December of the same year, at Nauvoo, he married Helen Mar Clark, daughter of Russel Kilburn Clark and Elizabeth Towne, of Michigan.

Together they struggled until they established a home, but it was not long until the persecution of the Saints was so great that the Callisters were forced to abandon their home. In vain they tried to sell it. Finally, after Thomas succeeded in trading their home and furniture for a log chain and six chickens, they left and began their long trek across the Plains.

In February 1846, they crossed the Mississippi River on rafts, a most perilous trip. Those who crossing went over the ice but by afternoon the ice had melted and broken so they had to make rafts. The current was so strong that the rafts were knocked from one ice block to another, and it was with great difficulty that they reached the other side. They made their home at Winter Quarters, where they lived for more than a year.

While they were living there, two babies were born to them, a boy, Thomas, son of Caroline Clara, who died and was buried there, and a girl, Helen Mar, born to Helen Mar in a covered wagon. Thomas later built a small log house to protect his family from inclement weather. He left his family there and returned to Missouri to obtain provisions. He sold a beautiful broadcloth coat, the workmanship of his own hands, for one hundred bushels of corn, which he willingly divided with others.

During his absence a call came from the President of the United States for five hundred volunteers to participate in the war with Mexico, and that number of men was readily furnished. Thomas was ready to go with them when he was taken seriously ill with cholera. He became delirious and when he would hear the beating of drums, he would call for help that he might get ready to join them. Because of this illness they were unable to continue their journey with the original group of pioneers. They left Winter Quarters in June in Daniel Spencer's company and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 26, 1847, two months after the first pioneers.

Here they found another enemy, the Indians, but Thomas seemed to have some influence with them. He was always kind to them and through his genial attitude was able to make friends. Many times he was called to pacify warring Indians.

After spending the first winter at the fort in Salt Lake, the Callisters moved out to Mill Creek on April 20, 1848, where land was available for farming. They took with them two bushels of wheat and some garden seed for planting. They knew the pangs of hunger, because their supply of flour was exhausted three months before harvest time. Their diet then was milk, thistle greens, and sego lily roots. After becoming sickened on the greens, Thomas did his farm work with no more sustenance than a glass of milk.

Their crops were growing well and they had hopes of a bounteous harvest, but a terrible gloom came upon them in the form of a great cloud of black crickets that swept down upon their fields and seemed to be devouring every vestige of grain in sight. With true pioneer courage they fought as hard as they could to kill t he pests. When it seemed they had exhausted every means of fighting, with no results, a great flock of sea gulls swarmed down upon the fields and literally devoured the crickets.

All his life Thomas was actively engaged in public affairs. He was set apart as bishop of the Seventeenth Ward in Salt Lake City in 1855, a position he held for six years. Many remember his genial face and his untiring efforts to alleviate the suffering of the poor during the grasshopper wars. He also showed a fatherly interest in young people.

September 18, 1857, he was appointed commander of the Nauvoo Legion, then was sent to Sweetwater County and was absent seventy-six days. April 3, 1858, he was appointed major, having under his command one hundred troops and five hundred infantry. Their last expedition took place at the time the people of the valley moved south in 1858, when Johnston's Army approached.

On their return to Salt Lake, Thomas resumed his duties as bishop. In 1861, President Young asked him to go to Fillmore to preside as bishop of that ward. Though it meant some sacrifice, he willingly accepted the call and moved his family to the little town and filled that position with honor for eight years, gaining many devoted friends.

President Callister

He was set apart as president of the Millard Stake in 1869, a position he held until 1877, when he was released as president and ordained patriarch. He was active not only in the Church, but also in state and civic affairs.

He was a member of legislature for fourteen years, and as Indian agent he handled all the supplies that were sent by the government to that vicinity during the Walker War.

In Fillmore, as in Salt Lake, he wielded a great influence over the Indians and was always loved and respected by them. Many times he was called to settle trouble between them and the white people. On one occasion word came that the Indians were on the warpath and were getting ready to attack the people of Kanosh. He left immediately and, arriving at their village, found them with war paint on and their tomahawks in hand, all ready to fight. He talked and labored with them all night before he succeeded in pacifying them, but at last they all smoked the pipe of peace. That was surely a long night for him and a night of anxious waiting for his folks at home.

He was always kind and gentle yet firm with the Indians, and he had many friends among them. His hospitality was limited only by the demand for it. During the nineteen years his home was open to travelers, many hundreds of people enjoyed his generosity.

In December 1863, he married Mary Lavina Phelps, daughter of Alva Phelps and Margaret Robinson of Fillmore, and on February 14, 1878, he married Carlie E. Lyman, daughter of Amasa M. Lyman and Eliza Partridge. Carlie died with the birth of her first child.

In September 1879, Thomas was taken ill with a sickness from which he never recovered. For eleven months he was confined to his home, gradually wasting away. The day before his death the ward choir and many of the Saints assembled at his home and held a cottage meeting in which the sacrament was administered and the choir sang several numbers. This was much appreciated by Thomas, who thanked them all for coming and expressed his desire to meet them in the great hereafter and bore a faithful testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel and the divinity of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He exhorted all to remain faithful and true to the principles of the gospel.

He died on December 1, 1880, and was buried in the Fillmore cemetery. In his passing the state lost a respected citizen and the Church lost an earnest defender of the faith and a most sincere adherent to the principles of truth and justice. All his private life he manifested a faith that love and kindness were the greatest means of government. He was the father of thirty-two children, not one of whom ever denied the faith. Of his posterity there are ten bishops, five stake presidents, and one apostle. He is the only member of his father's family who joined the Church.

A Tribute

Remarks made by Kanosh, chief of the Pahvant Nation, at the funeral of Thomas Callister, in Fillmore, Utah, December 3, 1880. (Interpreted by R. A. McBride.)

I behold before me my much-beloved friend, Bishop Callister. Have known for some time past that he was sick; have been anxious to see him oftener than I have. I had hoped he would get well again and not die. Now I see him dead before me. You all behold him: the young, the old, the young men and the young women. Like President Young, Kimball, George A. and others, he has gone and left us, the beloved of my nation and myself. The great men who have always been our best friends have gone to the spirit world and left us here behind. From them we received words of counsel and comfort. They have supplied our wants, food, clothing, and have never turned us away destitute. White friends of my nation are passing away. Among the many good and leading men of my people I am the only one now left. How long I will remain I cannot tell, and my heart aches within me and my spirit mourns and weeps. While I live, I shall try to do all the good I can. I shall live to cherish in memory all the counsel and advice of those who have gone to the spirit world. Although our bodies are laid in the lonesome grave, I believe that our spirits yet live, that they go to the great Father where all is peace and no sorrow, that our mourning days will be past and in time we will return and receive our bodies which we have left, that we will raise up and live, that we wil l meet all our friends and kindred, never to be parted again by death. It will be time of rejoicing for all the people who have done right here on earth. Amen.


Mormon Convert - Thomas Callister, 1821


  • Black, Susan W. E. Early LDS Membership Data (Infobases, 1995):
Thomas was left an orphan at an early age, and thus situated he was obliged to battle for life, with no other resources than courage and an honest heart. Early in 1840 he heard Elder John Taylor preach on the first principles of the gospel. Thomas endured with the Church the bitter persecutions in Nauvoo. He settled in Salt Lake City, and was soon actively engaged in public matters of various kinds.
Thomas came with the 3rd 10 of the 1st 50 of the 1st 100 under Captain Elijah K. Fuller in the Pioneers of 1847. Thomas came to Utah with the Daniel Spencer company.
Thomas served in the Walker and Black Hawk wars with the rank of colonel.
In 1853 he was sent south as far as Red creek, Iron county, to assist in pacifying some unfriendly Indians, and on his return was sent west on a similar mission. On September 18, 1857, he received orders from the commander of the Nauvoo Legion to march the next morning with a portion of the 2nd regiment to the Sweet Water country. He was absent on that expedition 76 days. Again on April 3rd following, he was ordered east with 100 calvary and 500 infantry. He served as major. The last expedition took place coincident with the exodus south in 1858.
In 1860, Thomas had a household of 13 people. He owned $1500 in real wealth and $600 in personal wealth.
Thomas was the first president of the Millard Stake of Zion. He was president of the Millard Stake for eleven years.
In 1870, Thomas had a household of 18 people. He owned $5000 in real wealth and $3100 in personal wealth.
Thomas was a missionary to Great Britain from 1875-76.
Thomas was a patriarch from 1877-80.
Tailor; 1860
Farmer; 1870
Legislature Member
  • Day, Stella H., ed. Builders of Early Millard, pp. 113, 115-116, 321, 324.
  • Lichfield, Beulah Menlove. Cemetery Records, Fillmore, Millard Co., Utah, pp. 10, 4 6.
  • LDS Family Group Record Collection [Patron Section]
Submitted by: Mrs. Rella Elison Sproul
Family of: Thomas Callister & Mary Lavina Phelps
  • [Gloria Joleen Ashman (1934-1994)|Robison, Joleen Ashman]]. Almon Robison, Utah Pioneer, Man of Mystique and Tragedy, pp. 96-98
  • Birth: From death information.
  • Birth variations: 17 Jul 1821 Kirk Brandon [Infobases]
  • 1870 Federal Census, Utah, Millard County, Town: Fillmore, Post Office: Fillmore, Enumerated 24 Jun 1870, page 3, Dwelling 26, Family 25:
CALLISTER, Thomas, 48, m, w, Farmer, 5000/31000, Eng., vote
Caroline, 48, f, w, Keeping House, N.Y.
page 4, Dwelling 27, Family 26:
Ellen M., 40, f, w, Keeping House, bp Unknown
Dwelling 28, Family 27:
Mary L., 24, f, w, Keeping House, bp Unknown
Melly P., 18, f, w, School Teacher, Utah
Thomas C., 17, m, w, At Home, Utah
Mary M., 16, f, w, School Teacher, Utah
Sarah M., 15, f, w, At School, Utah
Isabella, 13, f, w, At School, Utah
Marg't, 12, f, w, At School, Utah
Porter D., 9, m, w, At School, Utah
Russell, 5, m, w, w, At School, Utah
Susan, 7, f, w, At School, Utah
Mary L., 5, f, w, At School, Utah
Alva, 3, m, w, At School, Utah
John, 2, m, w, At Home, Utah
Ida, 6/12, f, w, Utah, born: Dec
Ada, 6/12, f, w, Utah, born: Dec
  • 4th Marriage, variant: 4 Feb 1878 [Builders, p. 116]
  • 1880 Federal Census, Fillmore, Millard, Utah, Source: FHL Film 1255336, Page 458A:
CALLISTER, Thomas, head, Male, Md, White, 58, Farmer, ISLE OF MAN, IOM, I OM
, Helen M., Wife, female, Md, White, 50, Keeping House, NY, NY, NY
, Caroline, Wife, female, Md, White, 59, VT, NY, ---
, Sarah M., Daughter, Female, Single, White, 25, Keeping House, UT, ISLE OF MAN, NY
, Daniel E., Son, Male, Single, White, 19, Working On Farm, UT, Isle of Man, NY
, Susan D., Daughter, Female, Single, White, 17, Attending School, UT, Isle of Man, NY
, Russell K., Son, Male, Single, White, 15, At School, UT, Isle of Man, NY
, John W., Son, Male, Single, White, 12, At School, UT, Isle of Man, NY
  • Burial: Lichfield, Beulah Menlove. Cemetery Records, Fillmore, Millard County, Utah, p. 11:
Name: CALLISTER, Thomas
Born: 8 Jul 1821 on Isle of Man
Son of: Thomas Callister
Died: 1 Dec 1880
Cause: of Consumption
Buried: Block 29 Lot 2
  • Biography: Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, p. 792:

CALLISTER, THOMAS (son of John Callister and Catherine Murphy of Isle of Man). Born July 8, 1821, Isle of Man. Came to Utah Sept. 25, 1847, Daniel Spencer company.

Married Caroline Smith Aug. 31, 1845, Nauvoo, Ill. (daughter of John Smith and Clarissa Lyman of Illinois, pioneers 1847, Daniel Spencer company).

Their children: Thomas and Clarissa died; Clara C., m. Francis M. Lyman; Philomela d. 1879; Mary Miranda, m. Edward L. Lyman ; Samuel J. d. 1856; Bathsheba B. d. 1860; Asabel S. d. 1865. Family home Salt Lake City.

Married Helen Mar Clark Dec. 16, 1845, Nauvoo, Ill. (daughter of Russell Kilburn Clark and Elizabeth Towne of Michigan, pioneers 1847, Daniel Spencer company).

Their children: Helen Marr b. Sept. 26, 1846, m. Henry J. McCullough; Elizabeth Ann b. March 20, 1848, m. Cuthbert King; Katherine Eliza b. Feb. 10, 1850, m. William E. Hatton; Thomas Clark b. Aug. 2, 185 2, m. Alice M. McBride Nov. 16, 1874; Sarah Melissa b. Oct. 29, 1854, m. Nephi Pratt; Isabella b. Oct. 5, 1856, m. Francis A. Webb; Margaret Jane b. Oct. 13, 1858, d. May 6, 1875; Daniel Porter b. Dec. 28, 1860, m. Malissa E. Davis; Susan Delilah b. May 25, 1863, m. Francis M. Lyman; Russel Kilburn b. Feb. 13, 1865, m. Melvie Smith; John Warren b. Oct. 15, 1867, m. Mercy Croft; m. Annie Elison; Zina Prescinda b. May 25, 1871, d. June 17, 1871.

Married Mary Levina Phelps Dec., 1863 (daughter of Alva Phelps and Margaret Robison of Fillmore, Utah).

Their children: Mary Levina b. Feb. 2, 1865. m. Jacob T. Robison; Alva Phelps b. Jan. 27, 1867, m. Ella Marcus; m. Jennie Jensen; George Albert b. Dec. 28, 1867; Ida and Ada b. Dec. 26, 1869; Joseph b. April 29, 1871; William Henry b. July 7, 1872, m. Inez Blood; Elida b. Aug. 5, 1874, m. William M. Elison; Juliet b. May 25, 1876, m. Clarence Carson; Orson Pratt b. Dec. 2, 1878, m. Francella Jones; Walter Stanley b. July 19, 1880, m. Grace Carson.

Married Carlie E. Lyman Feb. 14, 1878, at Salt Lake City (daughter of Amasa M. Lyman and Caroline Eliza Partridge of Salt Lake City and Fillmore, Utah, pioneers 1847).

Only child: Joseph Platte b. March 17, 1879, m. Sarah Elizabeth Christensen.

Served in Walker and Black Hawk Indian wars with rank of colonel.

Missionary to Great Britain 1875-76; bishop of 17th ward, Salt Lake City 1855-61; bishop of Fillmore 1861-69; president Millard stake 1869-77; patriarch 1877-80. Member legislature 14 years. Farmer and stock raiser. Died Dec. 1, 1880, at Fillmore.