For a recent project, I was doing some research and came across a brief summary of Elijah Abel, a man who has fascinated me since I first read about him a few years ago. As most of you already know, Abel was a close friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith who received the partial endowment in the Kirtland Temple and was ordained a Seventy during the Prophet’s time. He served several missions, returning from his last mission immediately previous to his death in Salt Lake on 25 December 1884 (you can check out his obituary here). There’s been a fair amount of research done on Elijah Abel and his life, but as I was reading an article about the new grave marker that the Church had placed on his grave in 2002, I came across someone I had not heard of before: Mary Ann Abel.
I should have noticed her name previously, as Ardis Parshall mentioned her in the great Sunday School lesson that she delivered late last year (don’t you wish that all Sunday School lessons could be like that?). However, for some reason it was not until this week that I realized that I have not heard anything about her, and according to my Google search, it seems that not very much has been written about her life. We know that she and her husband managed the Farnham Hotel together in Salt Lake. She was born around 1828 in Tennessee (according to census records, although the well meaning but often wrong Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude entry for her lists her birthplace as Ohio). She was quite a bit younger than her husband; the 1850 census lists him as 42 and she as 19 (which makes me extremely eager to learn more about their story). Although Pioneer Women lists her as dying on 26 December 1884, the 1880 census lists Elijah Abel as a widower, and so it seems that she died previous to 1880 (I think the DUP source has her date somewhat confused with Elijah’s death date).
So far, I have only done some preliminary research on Abel, so there is much that I hope to do to learn more about her life. As these census records are quite interesting, I wanted to share them here:
1850 Hamilton County, Ohio – Federal Census:
1860 Salt Lake City – Federal Census:
1870 Salt Lake City – Federal Census:
1880 Salt Lake City – Federal Census:
Understanding more about Mary Ann Abel’s life will contribute to the historiography of race and gender in Utah and within the LDS Church, types of history that are dear to my heart. Please share any information or sources on her that you know of in the comments section below.