The East Phoenix Valley is replete with LDS pioneer heritage. The names of pioneer families adorn our streets, buildings and schools. We often casually pass by a geographic location without considering the history of the family for which the location was named, or why the family name was used. The inquiring minds of Arizona Beehive readers want to know! In each issue we now present the history of one “famous” Mormon family name. We hope you enjoy learning about these families, and encourage you to reach out to The Arizona Beehive with ideas for families to feature in the series.
The Phelps family heritage is a veritable “Who’s Who” of local LDS family names. Hyrum Smith Phelps was born in Nauvoo, Illinois, February 26, 1846. His parents, Morris and Sarah Thompson Phelps, had been expelled from Kirtland, Ohio, and Independence, Missouri, and Hyrum was still young when, forced out again, they migrated with other early Latter-day Saints.
Settling first in Utah, they moved to Idaho when Hyrum was 18. He married Clarinda Bingham, and, later, took a second wife, Clarinda’s sister, Mary.
In October 1878, Hyrum’s families left for Arizona, traveling with several families, with Hyrum as captain. The second company of Saints to settle in Mesa, they arrived in early spring, just weeks behind the first group. For years, Hyrum had an 80-acre farm in Mesa.
He was called to the first High Council in the Maricopa Stake. Then, in December 1912, he was ordained a patriarch, serving until he died in 1926.
Of Hyrum and Clarinda’s 12 children, eight lived to adulthood. Six of those lived and died in Mesa or nearby: Lucretia (Pomeroy), Morris Calvin, Annie Laura (Coleman), William Orrin, Edward Guy, Joseph Marion, Oscar and Minerva.
Hyrum and Mary Elizabeth had 14 children, ten who lived to adulthood. Nine of those lived and died in Mesa: Lucy (Fryer), Barbara (Allen), Gove Edwin, Harriet (Miller), Orson Ashel, Amy (Morris), Esther (Whatcott), Clara (Robson), Gertrude (Wilson) and Wilford Woodruff.
Their fourth, Gove, was born at Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River as the family made their way to Mesa. Gove married Effie Ellsworth in 1904, and the home they built on Macdonald and 1st Avenue still stands.
Regarding Gove and Effie’s four children:
Maxine married Earl Lines and had four children, and all four stayed in the Mesa area: Carole (Augustin) (deceased), Larry (deceased), Wayne and Alan.
Wayne Phelps and wife, Zoe Hill, had five children. The oldest, Irwin (deceased), wrote the original Mesa Easter Pageant script. Still in the area are Stephen and wife, Carolei Ferrin, in Gilbert; John and wife, Carolynn Huber, in Cottonwood, and Russell in Mesa.
Worth Phelps and wife, Grace Naylor, had six children. Still in Mesa are Shenla (Jones), whose husband, Jerry, is deceased; Susan (Cunningham) and husband, Bill; Jerry and wife, Rebecca; Kelly and wife, Linda; and Nanette (Brinton), whose husband, Robert, is deceased. Worth and Grace divorced, and he later married Nancy Pennington.
Their fourth, Rex E., and wife, Elaine, have five children—Ronald S. and wife, Pam, live in Gilbert; and Reed and his wife, Metzie, in Mesa.
Hyrum Phelps wrote, “I thank the Lord that I was permitted to be born when the Gospel of Jesus Christ was again on the earth. I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world and that Joseph Smith was and is Prophet of God.” His testimony and influence has impacted generations.
“Family and the Gospel have been the center of our existence. As youngsters, we were often with cousins, aunts and uncles and other extended family. Family reunions continue today,” grandson, Stephen says, adding, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the glue that binds us not only in eternity, but here in this life.”