A sister missionary serving in my ward here in Tennessee commented that her family originally joined the Church in Tennessee in 1843. Always ready to pounce on a possible story I pestered her for names and she obliged. She also shared other details she had heard which were obviously not true. This post is the result of some digging to sort out the specifics.
We know She moved to Rutherford County, Tennessee between 1818 & 1820. Six of their children were born there. There is a hint that Mary and her husband were in Alabama for a time. Court records of a land sale on her behalf lists their home as Alabama in 1830. But it is just as likely that the court records were incorrect. Like most people of the time the Holts farmed but they had to supplement it with something else. Family records claim John was a carpenter, but there are hints that he may have turned to the ministry.
In 1843, LDS missionary John D. Lee made his way to Rutherford County upon the request of "Captain John H. Redd." There had been a branch of the LDS Church in Rutherford County as early as 1841, but by 1843 enough of the converts had moved to Nauvoo, Illinois or had returned to their previous churches, that the branch was defunct. Elder Lee met John Redd and John Holt at his first sermon. He described Mary's husband as a "Parson of the Christian faith." Whether that was an indication of a denomination, or just a general description is unclear.
Parson John Holt had heard about the Mormon Elder from Capt John H. Redd and agreed to travel the 17 miles to where he was preaching to hear what he had to say. Both were impressed enough to invite the missionary back to their side of the County to preach some more. Elder Lee gladly consented.
In his journal on June 6, 1843 Elder Lee wrote...
"I assisted to make a dam across a stream in order to prepare or collect sufficient quantity of water to baptise, and at 2 o'clock I baptised John Holt and Mary his wife. Returned to his house and confirmed, and under the same administration ordained him an Elder, for thus I was commanded in a vision to do."
He later baptized the Redd family too and on August 6, 1843 Elder Lee added...
"At 4 p.m. called the members together. Partook of the Lord's supper and organized them into a branch, and called it the Friendship Branch of Rutherford. Set apart and ordained the following officers — Brother John Holt, an Elder; Wm. Holt, lesser Priest; Brother John H. Redd, Teacher and Clerk."
William was certainly Mary and John's adult son who had been baptized - according to Church records - a year earlier. It may have been him from whom the family first heard of the Church.
Exactly when the family left Tennessee is unclear, but it might not have been until 1847. They certainly traveled with Mary's brother John H. Redd, who took his family to visit Nauvoo in April of 1844. There they received the Patriarchal Blessings.
On April 14, 1844, John was set apart to serve a mission back to his native North Carolina. Elder Holt was part of a large number of missionaries called not only to preach in the south, but also assist in Joseph Smith's presidential bid. This mission came to an end with Joseph Smith's death.
After his mission, John returned home (probably still Tennessee) where the family eventually prepared to follow the saints west. They made it to Council Bluffs/Winter Quarters. Mary's son William joined the Mormon Battalion, and headed to California. John headed west "alone" with an unknown early company of saints. He may have been in the same company as his brother-in-law, John H. Redd, though there is no evidence of it. His name shows up as an early settler of Spanish Fork and is named as a counselor to Stephen Markham along with his brother-in-law, John H. Redd.
Sometime around then he married a second wife, Martha Ann Dorrity, though Mary's biographers do not believe she knew about it. The efforts to keep plural marriages secret were so successful in this case I have not been able to locate any record of it. I do see a record that Martha was baptized (probably re-baptized) on 25 Sept 1852, most likely after she arrived in Utah with her brother. Family search also indicated she was married to John Holt on the same date. LDS records do not clearly indicate his second marriage was sanctioned by the Church as a plural marriage. Honestly, the records are a mess. Many dates are clearly estimates. Some are assigned to the wrong person. Sorting it out will take far more work.
Martha Dorrity has evaded my attempts to clearly identify her. Her parents and siblings lived in Illinois, but only her brother joined the church in 1846. She may have joined the Church at the same time, but I can find no proof. She does not appear in the Pioneer Overland Travel database. Her brother Dennis Dorrity, shows up in the 1852 John B. Walker Company. When she does get baptized in 1852, she already has three children presumably with John Holt. There were no temple ordinances recorded for her or husband until after their death. The couples' first four children were reportedly born in "Deseret, Utah Territory" in 1848, 1849, 1851, & 1853. Though if she really did arrive with her brother in 1852, then the first three are certainly wrong. They had three more children in California. None of their children were ever baptized in the LDS Church.
While John helped found Spanish Fork, Mary stayed in Iowa for a year and a half. Family records indicate she was too sick to travel, and it was believed she would not live long. When her son William returned from California, he and his mother and his siblings joined the James W. Cummings  company in 1851, with the intent of joining John in Spanish Fork According to one biographer...
"When Mary came out, she found that John Holt had married a second wife, and she quit him. He took the other wife to California and spent the rest of his life there. She, of course, stayed with her family in Spanish Fork."
Mary lived the rest of her life with William and his family. She passed away in 1875 at the age of 83.
 One biographer said it was Captain Cardin's company, but no such company is listed.
5 weeks ago