The Kerby family move to Utah

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Francis Kerby was born in Jersey on 17 August 1821 of Scottish and English parents. Mary Le Cornu, whom he would marry, was born on 16 September 16, 1823 of French parents.

[Note: Although the original text by three grandchildren of Francis Kerby, from which this article is adapted, states that his parents were Scottish and English, they were both from established Jersey families. As the accompanying family tree shows, Francis was the sixth-generation descendant of Farthingaudo Kerby, who came to Jersey as a soldier. His wife Jeanne, was a sixth generation descendant of Jean Guillaume and Jeanne Le Breton, a family long established in St Clement.

Jeanne Guillaume (1791-1875)
Francis Kerby
Francois Kerby
Francois Kerby

The article is also wrong in stating that Mary Le Cornu had French parents, which is contradicted by church records. The record of her baptism in Trinity on 28 September 1823 shows that her parents were Jean Le Cornu and Marie (Molly) Renouf, who are believed to have both been from St Mary. The godparents were Philippe and Marie Le Cornu. Jean and Molly were themselves godparents the following year for another Mary Le Cornu, daughter of Philippe and Marie Le Cornu. More detail can be found in the Kerby tree]

Wealthy parents

Francis Kerby was born of wealthy parents, given a good education and was to have gone in his father's jewelry business. It was a great shock to his parents when their son and his wife joined an unpopular religion such as Mormonism, because they were devout members of the Church of England. From the first, after hearing the Elders explain the principals of Mormonism, Francis and Mary were convinced of it's truth and nothing could ever shake their faith from the day they were baptised until the end of their lives. Elder Dunbar, an Elder from Salt Lake City, baptized Francis on 4 July 1849 and Mary was baptised eight days later.

Because he was a college graduate and spoke french fluently, he was called on two missions to France, leaving his wife and three small children. Mary was a very capable business woman and, being the owner and operator of her own shop, she was able to take care of her children and send some money to her husband. While he was on his second mission, his father took the eldest son, John to his house. John caught cold and died.

Upon his return the family began to save and to prepare for their coming to Zion. This decision was a severe shock to his parents, who were considering the prospects of the new world and the unpopular people with whom their son was to make the trip. However, on 26 March 1858 the family sailed for Boston on board the packet ship George Washington. The 23-day trip was very hard on Mary becuase of her confinement to bed following the birth of her son, Joseph, nine days before the family left England.

New York

They remained in Boston for only a short time before moving to New York where Francis was appointed to preside over the New York Branch of the Church. During this time their seventh child, Eliza was born. After almost a year in this capacity, they left New York for Florence, arriving on 28 May 1859. Practice of the painting and glazing trade by Francis, who had learned this in England, was of great assistance to the family both in New York and in Florence. The results of this activity was utilized in the preparation of the family for the coming migration to Utah.

They remained in Florence until 6 July 1860 when, as Francis always said, "they had the privilege of crossing the plains". They were a part of the hand cart company of Brother George Connor, and were accompanied by their friends, Brothers Coward and Frank De Le Meir. The trip across the plains was a never ending task of walking and pulling their heavily loaded cart. Francis, Mary and their children rotated in various tasks of pulling the cart, gathering buffalo trips for the fire, and in spreading good cheer among the group.

The weather was quite cold and wet, consequently the family frequently slept in wet clothing. This weather in addition to other tasks and frail condition proved too much for Mary, who suffered continually. However, she never complained nor did she loose faith. Their only relaxation came when the weather was good and they could spend an evening around the campfire singing the songs of Zion.

On 24 September 1860, worn out from their long journey, they arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. In their diary is this quotation: "We arrived in the Valley of Salt Lake after a pleasant journey."


Those of Francis’ grandchildren who knew him will never forget his enormous weight. He always weighed 300 pounds, and as much as 310 at one time, but he worked at his trade as a painter, climbing ladders and putting in glass while at Salt Lake. They bought a lot, on which they built their home and cultivated a fine garden. Mary sold two of her fine silk dresses to buy a cow for the family.

It was during this period when they were again building a permanent home, that they lost their little girl, Eliza. It was at this time that Brigham Young called them to Wallsburg, or Round Valley as it was then called, and once again they were compelled to leave their home and move to a new place. This was doubly hard on them, being city people, for they knew little of family and less about getting logs for building.

Mary was left most of the time with the care and raising of her family while Francis went to Park City, Provo, and Salt Lake to obtain work as a painter. On Saturday evening he would come home with his son, Joseph, who always worked with him.

They obtained 20 acres of land, and with the help of her two oldest sons, she started their home. This was a slow and discouraging task, but in time this frame house became the first in Wallsburg to have a floor and a shingled roof. They had one fire place which was used for both cooking and heating. Mary’s daughters would tell how she would go out to the stables to clean them, and to fill the mangers with hay, so that when her sons came home from the canyons they could come in and thaw their frozen socks from their feet.

Francis bought home a cook stove, after one of his painting jobs, which was the first stove in Wallsburg.


In 1878, and with a family of nine living sons and daughters, she took on a baby girl, the child of her son, Alma, and his wife, Bashebeth, who died at the baby's birth.

Mary’s greatest desire was to work in the Salt Lake Temple, but she died on 9 May, 1893, a month after the dedication. Francis remained near his home doing small jobs such as keeping the church house painted. He was a very fluent speaker in church, led the singing, and kept Wallsburg Ward Church records for many years. At this time he owned three farms beside his home, and all these buildings, as all of his other farm buildings, were in excellent condition.

He eventually sold his home and went to live with his daughters. He died in 1925 at the age of 95.

Elda Cullimore

Elda Cullimore, granddaughter of Francis and Mary, recalled:

”As a small child I remember grandfather Kerby was always jolly and good company. He was so heavy, but did a fine job of painting on tall ladders. At fifteen years of age he was an apprentice to learn sign and house painting as a trade. All of his life he followed this trade, teaching painting to my father, Joseph Kerby and he handed it down to his four sons. My grandmother learned the ironing trade and often did it for others helping out financially.
”He kept a diary of his two missions to France doing much good preaching, baptising, taking charge of conferences and traveling from place to place. He met Orson Pratt, of the 12 apostles, receiving good counsel which he handed to his posterity.
”Shortly after Brigham Young told grandfather to move to Wallsburg, or Round Valley, the Indians were so hostile and killed so many of the settlers cattle, he moved his family to Provo for a while. My Dad and Mother were living with them at the time and expecting their second child. They dug a cave in the hillside and boarded it up and lived there for nearly a year.

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