Who was John McIlwrick?

Bottom Line Up Front: Weather and possibility of an American-born John “McIlwrick” suggest Martha Brotherton’s interview with Brigham Young occurred well before January 1842. cpv2The other day I explained what I think happened between Brigham Young and Martha Brotherton. My thesis was that Martha’s encounter with Brigham occurred prior to January 1842, before we have a positive indication that Joseph Smith had included Brigham in ceremonies related to the New and Everlasting Covenant. The July 1842 letter describing Martha’s alleged ordeal appears to pin the incident as occurring in February-March 1842, when William Clayton was working in the tithing office and prior to the April 7th denunciation of the tale during General Conference. 1 I tried in vain to locate a direct reference to the arrival of the Brothertons in the vicinity of Nauvoo, Illinois. But we know that Mary Brotherton (born 1819) had married a John McIlwrick. John and Mary would join Martha’s other sister, Elizabeth, in denouncing Martha as “a deliberate liar;” as “a wilful inventor of lies;” and a circulator of “lies of a base kind, concerning those whom she knew to be innocent.” These family members also accuse Martha as acting outside of “common decency,” by “lying on the top of a young man when he was in bed,” etc. 2 Perhaps, I thought, I could find when John McIlwrick arrived in the United States and thus pinpoint when the Martha Brotherton episode could have occurred.

[This post cites numerous resources available at Ancestry.com. LDS members 13 and older can get free access to Ancestry.com, see the article at the Family Search blog.] Apparently John McIlwrick was no longer with Mary after 1851. Tragically, the four children of Mary Brotherton 3 birthed leading up to 1851 had all passed away by that point. We find her in Family Search listed as being sealed to Parley P. Pratt, with her four children listed as having the last name McIlrick. McIlrick is a relatively uncommon name as well, as my searches at Ancestry.com revealed. As I cast about, I tumbled across a two Civil War soldiers who had entered service as part of Ohio regiments. For both of them (John McKilrich and James McKilrick), an alternate last name was given (McKitrick and McKittrick, respectively). Looking at the hardbound volumes of Passenger & Immigration lists and the 1985, 1986 & 1989 supplements, there are no instances of “McIlrick” or “McKilrick” but there are several instances of “McKittrick” and  a few instances of “McIlwrick.” With the exception of undated entries showing David McIlwrick arriving in Illinois and a Jean McIlwrick arriving in St. Louis, Missouri, no other instance of an immigrant McIlwrick or McKittrick who in any way resembles a John “McIlwrick” who ended up in the mid-west. 4 Was there a John McKittrick? Once I started searching on the name McKittrick, the computer started yielding lots of information. But the vast majority of McKittricks were located in America. I didn’t find any McKittricks in Lancashire during the period of time of interest. 5 First I located two men with the last name McKittrick who might have been an appropriate age to marry a woman born in 1819. Though neither of these was named John, it seemed plausible they could be siblings to the John I was searching for. One was William McKittrick, born in Ohio in 1818. The other was James McKittrick, born in Ohio in 1822. These two McKittricks were on the same census page, suggesting kinship. They are located in the 1860 census pages for Crawford, Washington, Iowa (modern Crawfordsville, Iowa). 6 Modern Crawfordsville is only 60 miles from Nauvoo. Searching for William and James, I find them again in the 1880 census, this time in Missouri. They are again located on the same page. This time we see that their parents are listed as having been born in Pennsylvania. 7 A Lost Brother? We have William and James. Does it seem likely they had a brother John? Going back to the earliest instance of the name McKittrick in the New World, I found a Robert McKittrick who was granted land in Calfpasture, Augusta, Virginia in 1754. 8 I am presenting the rest of the information chronologically, though any search of this sort is convoluted with many blind alleys and side paths. Of this original Robert McKittrick’s sons, the one that bubbled to the top as being a possible progenitor of my two Iowa McKittricks was young Robert McKittrick, born in Jennings Gap, Augusta, Virginia in 1758, four years after his father took title to land along the Calfpasture. 9 On Mar 13, 1795, Robert’s will gives his son Robert the gap plantation and also identifies his other sons John, William, and James. 10 Robert the younger engenders sons David (1786), Robert (1795), John (1796, Kentucky), James (1803, Kentucky), and William (1809, Kentucky). 11 So we see a prominent McKittrick family in America that has two generations of naming sons Robert, James, John, and William. Which McKittrick Might Be the Common Father? The next task would be identifying the McKittrick who might have been the common father to William, James, and our putative American-born John, two of whom were born in Ohio circa 1820. In Oct 22, 1813, David McKittrick and Robert McKittrick, Jr. purchase land in southwestern Ohio, the birth state listed for our two Iowa McKittricks. 12 The record specifies the David and Robert purchasing land are from Kentucky, making it likely they are grandsons of the original Robert McKittrick. Genealogies for David McKittrick show that he marries in 1809. 13 This dating is consistent with having sons circa 1810-1820, an age range appropriate for a husband of a Mary Brotherton born in 1819. Looking at the family names for David McKittrick’s documented children, we see an utter lack of the names William, John, and James. We also see an unusual gap between marriage and first noted child. Further, if we examine the 1830 census record for David McKittrick, we see boys in the age ranges that would be proper for William and James McKittrick. However examination of the 1820 Indiana census record for David’s father 14 shows David on the same page. So even if David had sons (suggested by the 1830 census) that were not retained in the family history, it doesn’t appear those sons are our Iowa McKittricks. Son of the Pennsylvania/Ohio McKittricks? Going back again to look for possible parents born in Pennsylvania who could belong to our Iowa McKittricks, we find a a possible father in William McKittrick, born circa 1790 in Pennsylvania. In the 1850 census we see this older William married a woman born in Ohio, with several children identified as born in Ohio. 15 The William , John and James who lived in the vicinity of Nauvoo would have been old enough to have moved out of the family home by 1850. This William McKittrick could be either the William named in Robert McKittrick’s will of 1895 or a son of one of the named McKittrick sons. Our Pennsylvania-born William McKittrick, relocated to Ohio, is not nearly as well documented as David McKittrick, who owned property in Ohio but seemingly lived in Indiana circa 1820. We also see McKittricks from Ohio who preferentially went by the last name McKilrich/McIlrick with McKittrick sufficiently acknowledged to be noted in their military record from the Civil War. My search for the origin of McKittrick/McKilrick/McIlwrick in the vicinity of Nauvoo is not conclusive. Yet it is clear that McKittrick was recorded as the alternate spelling for two different variations of McKilrick/McIlwrick. With the first well-landed McKittrick in the New World by 1754, the possible sources of a US-born John McKittrick/McKilrick/McIlwrick are numerous. Add in the 1860 presence of two McKittricks within 60 miles of Nauvoo, and it seems possible, even likely, John McKittrick/McKilrick/McIlwrick was born in America and engendered Mary Brotherton’s first child in America. Reviewing the Likelihood of the Alleged January 1842 Arrival Other factors reinforce the possibility that the Brotherton family arrived before January 1842. The seas of the North Atlantic are notoriously harsh in winter, making it unlikely that emigrant ships would be departing in fall or winter 1841. Even if ships had transported the Brothertons in the fall, overland travel in November and December would be treacherous. While weather alone would not preclude the possibility that the Brothertons and John McIlwrick arrived in January/February 1842, it contributes to the low probability that the Brothertons arrived in January or February 1842, as Martha’s letter regarding interactions with Brigham, Heber, and William Clayton appears to claim. Why this Matters If John was born in America, then the child of Mary Brotherton was likely engendered in America. Going backwards from Mary’s child’s birth in May 1842, the child was likely conceived in mid-August, 1841. This puts the Brotherton family arrival in Nauvoo as occurring October at the latest (presuming McKittrick engendered Mary’s child while the party was en route to Nauvoo). In the more likely scenario a union between a McIlwrick/McKittrick and Mary Brotherton occurs after the Brotherton’s arrived in the vicinity of Nauvoo. In this more likely scenario, travel would have occurred in spring and early summer of 1841, which would have been much more prudent. Considering the weather and the likelihood of an American John McIlwrick/McKittrick, it is unlikely Martha’s reported interview occurred later than November 1841, if the interaction occurred three weeks after her family finished their migration to the American mid-west. [Positive identification of John McIlwrick as a European convert or documentation showing the exact arrival date for the Brothertons is anxiously sought.]


  1. Apr. 15, 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, p. 763, reporting on the Thursday, Apr. 7, 1842, spring conference in Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith “spoke concerning the elders who went forth to preach from Kirtland… [and] then spoke in contradiction of a report in circulation about Elder Kimball, B. Young, himself, and others of the Twelve, alleging that a sister had been shut in a room for several days, and that they had endeavored to induce her to believe in having two wives.” Available online at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/utils/getdownloaditem/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9835/filename/4927.pdf/. Note that the conference refutation only indicates apostles have been implicated. Joseph Smith himself was not defended, indicating the original rumor had not included Joseph himself.
  2. Nauvoo Wasp broadside “extra” of Aug. 31, 1842.
  3. See Family Search for Person Identifier number KX1K-6CK.
  4. Jean McIlwrick could be John McIlwrick, if the undated passenger list puts him in the right timeframe. I’ve got Donald Whyte’s <em>A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the U.S.A.</em> on order.
  5. I had also been unable to find any McIlwricks or McKilricks in Lancashire.
  6. 1860 Census, Crawfordsville, Iowa. Available online at http://interactive.ancestry.com/7667/4230556_00318/5812114.
  7. 1880 Census for Prairie, Jackson, Missouri, available online at http://interactive.ancestry.com/6742/4241895-00201?pid=33689518.
  8. Settlers of the Calfpasture in Augusta County, Virginia. Available online at http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Settlers_of_the_Calfpasture_in_Augusta_County,_Virginia.
  9. The Ancestry.com record for Robert McKittrick (b. 1758) is available online at http://person.ancestry.com/tree/36023968/person/18869438793/facts. Jennings Gap, located on the Calfpasture River, is located near Buena Vista, VA, home of LDS-focused Southern Virginia University.
  10. Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745-1800, Volume 3, p. 208, available online at https://books.google.com/books?id=wk8PAAAAYAAJ.
  11. The Ancestry.com record for Robert McKittrick (b. 1758) shows a listing of Robert’s son and is available online at http://person.ancestry.com/tree/36023968/person/18869438793/facts
  12. Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840, p. 216, available online at https://books.google.com/books?id=4dV_9phIzQwC.
  13. The Ancestry.com record for David McKittrick (b. 1786) is available online at http://person.ancestry.com/tree/36023968/person/18869438795/facts.
  14. David McKittrick is in Indiana for the 1820 census, on the same page as his father, available online at http://interactive.ancestry.com/7734/4433469_00093/1240316. In this record, we see no indication of young boys that might be a young William or John.
  15. 1850 Census for Aurelius, Washington, Ohio, USA, family 439, available online at http://interactive.ancestry.com/8054/4093962_00567?pid=14716016.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

5 thoughts on “Who was John McIlwrick?

  1. I think only a family history nut like you could follow this post. Your years of shepherding people through the Family History Library in Annandale show.

  2. LOL.

    We are reading Genesis these evenings. I thought of this post when we read Genesis 11:

    31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

  3. For what it’s worth, I am now the proud possessor of a copy of Whyte’s Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to U.S.A., Volume 2.

    The two McIlwricks mentioned are David McIlwrick (died 12 April 1844, Knoxville, IL) and Jean McIlwrick (died 10 Dec 1858, St. Louis, MO), wife of William McLure.

    While both these McIlwricks died within the “spatter zone” of Mormon Illinois, it is not obvious that either of them would be related to our mysterious John McIlwrick/McIlrick/McKitrrick.

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