About the Collection

Moses Thatcher

by Jeffrey S. Hardy

See Diary

Moses Thatcher was born on 2 February 1842 in Sangamon County, Illinois, to Hezekiah Thatcher and Alley Kitchen.  As a young boy of five he accompanied his parents and seven siblings to Utah after the mass exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois.  They traveled in the Daniel Spencer/Peregrine Sessions Company, departing from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, on 18 June 1847 and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on September 24.  The family did not remain there for long, however, and moved to northern California in 1849 where Hezekiah operated a restaurant for gold miners.  In California young Moses earned money caring for horses and mining for gold.  He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Henry G. Boyle on 29 December 1856.  Shortly thereafter he was called to preach the gospel as a missionary in the areas around his home.  On one occasion, while attending an anti-Mormon Methodist meeting, “with the Spirit of the Lord resting on him, he delivered an eloquent and powerful defense of his Prophet and people and a scathing rebuke of the minister.” 1

In 1857 Brigham Young called the saints in California back to Utah to defend the territory against Johnston’s army, sent by the U. S. government to quell a supposed Mormon insurrection.  Upon arriving in Utah County, Utah, Moses enlisted to serve as a policeman and began obtaining his education.  After a truce was signed with the federal troops, the Thatchers moved to Cache Valley, Utah, to help found the settlement of Logan.  Moses attended the University of Deseret in 1860 and the following year, on 7 April 1861 he married Celestia Ann Farr.  They subsequently built the first frame house in Logan and she bore him seven children over the course of their marriage.  Moses worked primarily as a cattle rancher, but also assisted in developing the city of Logan. 

On 9 April 1866 Moses received a call to go on a mission to Great Britain.  He was subsequently set apart for this calling by Brigham Young, an experience “which gave [him] much strength.” 2  Moses felt a little overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving his family for two years, but he overcame these doubts, recording: “I knew it to be my duty and I feel that my God will bless me and I will go and try to bear a faithful testimony to the inhabitants of the earth.” 3   After arriving in Liverpool, England, he was appointed to preside over the Cheltenham Conference.  Of this calling he wrote: “I feel assured that without the assistance of the Holy Ghost we cannot please God and faithfully discharge the duties devolving upon us, but if we are humble, faithful, and true God will sustain us in purety before him.” 4  He later presided over the Birmingham Conference and returned home after two years of service in July 1868.

Back in Logan Moses formed a mercantile establishment, Thatcher & Son, which later became the Logan Cooperative Store.  In August 1870, in an attempt to improve his business, he became active in the railroad industry.  He served as director, then general superintendent of the Utah Northern Railway Company.  Moses later formed the Thatcher Brothers’ Bank with his brother George W. Thatcher.  In civic activities he was elected to the Utah territorial legislature and helped form the territorial constitution.  Moses also married two wives in polygamy after his mission, Lydia Ann Clayton on 16 February 1868, and Georgiana Snow on 31 August 1885.  They bore him four and three children respectively.

Moses became the first president of the newly-formed Cache Valley Stake on 21 May 1877.  Two years later, on 9 April 1879 the president of the church, John Taylor, ordained him an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  In July 1879, President Taylor asked Moses to open the country of Mexico to missionary work, accompanied by James E. Stewart and Melitón Trejo, both fluent Spanish speakers.  Their departure was delayed until October 1879 due to the yellow fever epidemic along their travel route. 5  Demonstrating his commitment to the Church, he bade his four boys and two girls goodbye on 25 October saying in his journal, “I kissed each of my little boys … while in their sweet sleep of innocence and I earnestly prayed over them.” 6 At the train station in Heber City, Utah, he bid his wife good bye and recorded these poignant thoughts, “Oh, may heaven bless and preserve in peace health and happiness her who is my strongest earthly tie, the wife of my youth the mother of my four boys and two girls.” 7

They arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, on 14 November 1879, and traveled quickly to Mexico City.  On 6 April 1881, Moses Thatcher, and a handful of Saints, including Elder Feramorz Little Young, hiked to the top of the great volcano Popocatépetl, held a conference and dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel.  The volcano had special symbolic significance to Mexico’s Indians, and it solidified in the missionaries’ hearts to whom they were to take the gospel message. 8  Moses Thatcher specifically dedicated this land to the Lamanites: “I dedicate the land to Peace that the seed of Jacob through the loins of Joseph might learn to truth and rejoice in the gospel of their salvation… . That prophets might arise among the Lamanites to lead the people to the light.” 9 

Thatcher was released from his mission in August 1881.  During his mission sixty-one people had been baptized.  He arrived home on 8 October, and resumed his many business ventures and his active service in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Other appointments included missionary to the Native Americans, church representative in Washington D. C. and member of the superintendency of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association.   

In 1896 Moses ran for senator on the Democratic ticket but was defeated.  After several sharp disagreements with the First Presidency and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve on primarily political issues, Moses was dismissed from the quorum on 6 April 1896.  The following year he resolved his differences with the church hierarchy and remained an active member of the church.  During his final years he pursued his business interests in Logan and led a quiet life marked by stretches of poor health.  Moses Thatcher passed away at home in Logan, Utah, on 21 August 1909.  On the day of his funeral, all businesses in Logan closed to pay tribute to one of Cache Valley’s most prominent citizens.  A colleague on the occasion eulogized that Moses “was a most winsome man personally, a natural orator, a subtle thinker, a natural leader of men.” 10


1 F. LaMond Tullis, Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture (Logan: Utah State University, 1987), 41.

2 Moses Thatcher, “Journal, 1881,) vol. 3, 6 April 1881, Vault MSS 248, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

3 Noble Warrum, Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical, vol. 4 (Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919), 7.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 2 August 1866.                

6 Moses Thatcher, “Journal, 1866-1879,” vol. 1, 20 July 1879, Vault MSS 248, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

7 Thatcher, 25 October 1879.

8 Ibid., 26 October 1879.

9 Lawrence R. Flake, Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation (Salt Lake City:  Karl D. Butler, 1974), 226.

10 Moses Thatcher, “Diary, 1866-1867,” p. 1, Vault MSS 248, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.


Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University Press, 1977.

Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City:  Western Epics Inc., 1956.

Flake, Lawrence R. Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation. Salt Lake City:  Karl D. Butler, 1974.

Godfrey, Kenneth W.  “Moses Thatcher and Mormon Beginnings in Mexico.”  BYU Studies  38 no. 4(1999): 139-155.

Godfrey, Kenneth W.  “Moses Thatcher in the Dock: His Trials, the Aftermath, and His Last Days.”  Journal of Mormon History 24 (Spring 1998): 54-88.

Ivins, Stanley S.  The Moses Thatcher Case.  Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm, n.d.

Jenson, Andrew. Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City:  The Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901-1936.

Kenner, S. A. Utah As It Is: With a Comprehensive Statement of Utah As It Was. Salt Lake City:  Deseret News, 1904.

Lyman, Edward Leo.  “The Alienation of an Apostle from His Quorum: The Moses Thatcher Case.”  Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (Summer 1985): 67-91.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. Salt Lake City:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003.  http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/1,15773,3966-1,00.html

Lyman, Edward Leo.  “The Alienation of an Apostle from His Quorum: The Moses Thatcher Case.”  Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (Summer 1985): 67-91.

“Moses Thatcher Dies at Logan.” Deseret Evening News [Salt Lake City] August 23, 1909.

“Moses Thatcher Goes to Reward.”  The Salt Lake Tribune. August 22, 1909.

“Moses Thatcher Passes Away.”  The Journal [Logan, Utah] August 24, 1909.

Our Prophets and Principles: Writings on our Articles of Faith and Prophets who Made them Live.  Salt Lake City:  Instructor, 1956. 

Silito, John R., ed. Mormon Mavericks: Essays on Dissenters. Salt Lake City:  Signature Books, c2002.

Thatcher, Moses. “Diaries, 1866-1881.” Vault MSS 248, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

Van Wagoner, Richard S., and Steven C. Walker. A Book of Mormons. Salt Lake City:  Signature Books, 1982.

Warrum, Noble. Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Vol. 4. Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919.