Sharing our Links to the Past
by Wally and Frances Gray

The Missing Clifts:
Robert, Eliza and Emma Found!
The Robert and Elizabeth Clift Family

Webmaster's Note: This article by John R. Pyper, appeared in the Theodore Family Newsletter, Volume 17, June 2000 and is reprinted by permission of John R. Pyper. Footnotes are cited in parentheses.

By John R. Pyper

Summary: Theodore Turley married three Clift sisters, Eliza, Mary and Sarah Ellen, daughters of Robert and Elizabeth Clift. Sarah Ellen died in Winter Quarters in 1847. Mary died in Salt Lake City in 1850. Eliza's first baby died in Iowa on the Exodus trail. A second daughter, Emma, was born in Nauvoo in January of 1847. But the place and date of death for neither Robert, Elizabeth, Eliza nor Emma are recorded in the Ancestral File nor in the Theodore Turley Family Book.

The following was discovered in 1999. Elizabeth Clift, the wife of Robert, died in 1844 in Nauvoo. Robert and Elizabeth also had two sons, Robert Jr. and James who came west with the Mormon Battalion and apparently stayed in California. Eliza Clift Turley and her infant, Emma moved from Nauvoo to Davenport, Iowa with Robert Sr. Eliza adopted a surname of George. Robert Sr. married Margaret Lopen about 1852 and they had two children, Helen and William. Robert was baptized into the Reorganized LDS Church in 1867. When he died in 1877 he was survived by "his wife, two daugh-ters, one son, three grand-children and four great-grand children." Eliza Georgianna Clift married John McArthur in 1862. They had three children who did not survive infancy. Emma Georgianna Clift married Peter Napoleon Littig and they had four children. Emma and Peter Littig are buried on the east side of Robert and Margaret Clift and on the west side are buried Eliza Georgianna and John McArthur in the Pinehill Cemetery in Davenport.

It would seem that the families of the three Clift sisters, whom Theodore married in Nauvoo, should have produced the largest proportion of his descendants. But, quite the opposite is the case. This is due to two factors. First, only one (1) of the nine children of the sisters survived infancy, was raised by Theodore and provided grandchildren. That was Frances Kimberley Turley Macintosh, the youngest child of Mary. (2) Secondly, all three sisters had disappeared by 1850. Sarah Ellen died in Winter Quarters, Mary Clift died in Salt Lake City in 1850 and Eliza, after the death of her first child in Iowa early on the Exodus trail in 1846, apparently returned to Nauvoo and bore Emma on the 7th of January 1847. The whereabouts of Eliza and Emma, as well as her father, Robert, subsequently was apparently unknown. One of Sarah Ellen's two boys from a previous marriage was raised by Theodore but he kept his original surname, Selwyn.(3)

The information about Robert and his family is quite limited in both the LDS Ancestral File and the Theodore Turley Family Book. His wife was Elizabeth and the only children listed are the three daughters, Eliza, Mary and Sarah Ellen born in Clifton, Gloucester, England. The death date and place is absent for Robert, his wife Elizabeth as well as for Eliza and her daughter Emma. Since Theodore Turley kept a record of his family members (4), this lack of information regarding Eliza and Emma certainly suggests that contact was lost with them.

Finding out what happened to Robert, Elizabeth, Eliza and Emma, as well as any more information about Robert and his family became a major preoccupation for me beginning in the spring of 1999. I must say that there seemed to be some gentle influence on me to work constantly to find these lost family members. When I started I wondered if it would be possible to find them. I was told at the Houston genealogy library that looking for a woman is very difficult, because so much is centered around the man, as head of the household. Yet amazingly every time, it seems, that I have searched for information in genealogical libraries or on the internet web sites I found something of value. I was consistently motivated to stick to this task. (And this was also true regarding my concern for Cyrus Daniels, the first son-in-law of Theodore.) Persisting with these tasks was no problem at all. It was always exciting. This article is a summary of those experiences and what has been discovered.(5)

Since the three Clift sisters came into and went out of Theodore's life in just a few short years, that greatly determined that little would remain known about them. There were no Clift mothers to teach their heritage to the only child who survived to adulthood and had children. And that child, Frances Kimberley Turley, was born eight days before her mother died.

A search of the Infobase CD-ROM library was the first step because it was at hand, at home. Robert Clift was mentioned several times in LDS church records of England and Nauvoo. In the conference held at Gadfield Elm Chapel, in Worcestershire, England, June 14th, 1840, Robert Clift, Priest, was assigned the care of the church at Dymock.(6) On June 10th, 1844 Robert was one of eight witnesses affirming a description by Theodore Turley of the manner of the destruction of the equipment of the Nauvoo Expositor.(7) On the 8th of October 1844 he was ordained a High Priest.(8)

In the ECIF (Early Church Information File) it was discovered that Elizabeth the mother died in 1844.(9) So this was the first missing important piece of information found. Robert, Eliza and Emma were searched for in the lists of Mormon pioneers coming west and in the 1850 census of Illinois. But they did not appear. Susan Easton Black's compilation of LDS Membership of 1830-1848 (10) provided many details but since independent sources were not combined and there were name variants (Cliff and Clift), the information could not go beyond what was in the Ancestral File. There are two young men, Robert Cliff/Clift Jr. and James Cliff who were in the Nauvoo Second ward and became members of the Mormon Battalion. Could Robert Jr. and perhaps James be children of Robert and Elizabeth? However there was also another family of Clifts, that of George Washington Clift, born in Illinois in 1817 which seems to be independent of Robert's family from England.

A major breakthrough occurred from an accidental discovery in the genealogy library of the Houston Public Library system of a Utah publication that contained an 1842 census of Nauvoo. (11) An apparent family group headed by Robert Cliff was listed residing in the 2nd Ward between a Levit family and an Atwood family. The family consisted of Robert, Elizabeth, Mary, Robert Jr. and James ! The order is probably the birth order of the children. They are followed by Sarah E. Settlewin and George A. Settlewin! Can there be any doubt that this is the Robert Clift family? There is a complete match of the first names. The variation of the spelling of the surnames is not at all unusual. Further, there are no other similarities in the census. This data certainly ties together the Cliff and Clift entries that are independently  (12) listed in Susan Easton Black's compilation of LDS Membership of 1830-1848. Elizabeth is surely the mother since she was alive until June 1844. Thus Eliza is the only member not listed (The Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated records locate the Cliff/Clift residence in Block 51, which is adjacent to the current Visitors Center.)

Robert Clift, Jr. was born 04 Jan 1824 (birth information given on the Nauvoo Temple Endowment register). (13) He received his endowment in the Nauvoo Temple on 12 Jan 1846. He was a 3rd Lt. in Company C of the Mormon Battalion. (14) When the battalion was ordered to Los Angeles to be discharged in July 1847, the citizens of San Diego signed a petition requesting that members re-enlist for additional duty. About 80 of them did re-enlist. He became alcalde (Justice of the Peace or mayor) of the small town for a brief time. (15) From custom duties, he got Gov. Richard B. Mason's permission to build a brick building to serve as courthouse and schoolhouse.(16)

James Clift was a private in Company C of the Mormon Battalion. He died in 1893 in California. (17)

Robert Clift, the father, is listed as marrying a Priscilla (Clift) on 05 Jan 1846 in Susan Black's compilation which is based on the Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register. The information provided on the temple records regarding Priscilla however, is quite sketchy. Strangely, her maiden name is not listed nor her birthplace nor the day of her birth, only the month and year. Thus far, no additional information has been discovered.

In July 1999 my wife and I went to Utah for a week during which I spent as much time as possible at the FHL in SLC for three days. In spite of many hours of searching, and even some discussion with full-time staff, I only found a few puzzling bits of new information. Then while we stayed with relatives in Pleasant Grove for two days, I was able to spend a few hours at the BYU Library. It was there, in the last hour literally, that a major breakthrough occurred which happened even though the Family History library was in the midst of being relocated! On the shelves, next to where I had "chosen" to sit the books had not yet been moved. There, almost within an arm reach, my curious gaze somehow happened to notice a set of volumes, Early Members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Another compilation by Susan Easton Black that I naively did not know about! (18) I immediately grabbed the volume with "C's" and found Robert Clift on page 208!

CLIFT, Robert Birth: 29 February 1790 Death: 13 December 1876, Davenport, Scott, Iowa

Robert Clift Joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as an elder at Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois. After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Robert moved to Davenport, Scott, Iowa, where he resided for 29 years. He was baptized a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 23 June 1867 by Richard Rowley. Source: Early Reorganization Minutes, 1852-1871, Book A, p. 394 Saints' Herald Obituaries, 15 February 1877, p. 64

Microfilm of the Saints' Herald was available at the BYU library, so I immediately copied his obituary:

At the residence of his daughter, near Davenport, Iowa, December 13th, 1876, brother Robert Clift, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. Brother Clift was old-time Saint, an Elder, at Nauvoo. At the time of Joseph's death, and the scattering of the Saints therefrom, he refused to join with any of the factions, but he removed to Davenport, where he resided twenty-nine years, loved and respected by all who knew him. He was baptized into the Reorganization June 23, 1867, by Elder Richard Rowley, who also preached his funeral sermon, January 28th, 1877. Bro. Clift leaves a wife, two daughters, one son, three grand children, and four great grand children; also, a large number of friends to mourn his loss.

I had to wait until I returned to Houston to examine the census records for Davenport in the Houston Public genealogy library. Robert Clift was in the indexes for 1850, 1860 and 1870 in Davenport, Iowa. What a delightful surprise was waiting on page 178 of the 1850 Census. Family #169 living in dwelling #154 consisted of:

Robert Clift, 51
(57?), M., Gardener, $400 [of real estate] born in England

Eliza C. George, 29, F, born in England

Emma C. , " , 5, F, born in Illinois

This certainly must be our missing Robert and Eliza and Emma in spite of various discrepancies. Their ages are not quite consistent with the birth dates given on LDS records. (19) Eliza is 8 years younger than the 1813 birth date given in Nauvoo, Emma is two years too old, and Robert may be several years younger than he should be per the LDS records. Eliza's last name of George is a surprise. The adjustment of their ages and the change of her last name could well be a sort of subterfuge. But perhaps she did marry a Mr. George.

In the 1860 census (p. 655) Robert Clift now has a new family and Eliza and Emma have disappeared:

Robert Clift, 69, m, Saloon keeper, $600, born England

Margaret Clift, 40, f, born in Iowa

Helen, 7, f, born in Iowa

William, 4, m, born in Iowa

In the 1870 (p. 034) Census only he and his wife are listed:

Robert Clift, 79, m, Saloon keeper, $800, born in England

Margaretha Clift, 55, f, born in England

Robert's age on the 1860 and 1870 census' have become consistent with his birth date on LDS records. Note also the change of his wife's name, age, and birth place between the 1860 and 1870 census.

Robert's obituary provides evidence that Eliza and Emma must have still been living when he died as it states that he was survived by two daughters and a son, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Helen and Eliza are the only two daughters known and William is the only son. The three grandchildren indicated in the obituary could consist of Emma and two others. Possibly Eliza remarried and had other children. Also Helen could easily have had provided two grandchildren by 1876. And it certainly seems that Emma survived and had children for who else could have provided the four great-grand children mentioned in the obituary? She would have been 31 when Robert died in 1876. Helen and William the children of Margaret/ha would have been too young to yield great-grandchildren. There is no indication on the census records of other children of Margaret/ha. Hence the probability that Eliza and Emma survived for a number of years seems rather likely.

Interestingly there was a 1921 Davenport Iowa phone directory in the Houston genealogy library (and only this one in the Iowa section). It has a fascinating entry:

Clift Louise (wid Wm), bds 1507 Ripley. Could this be a daughter-in-law of Robert and Margaret Clift?

Driving home from the Houston genealogy library wishing, wistfully, that there was easy access to the vital records of the Davenport area (e.g. birth, marriage and death records) a thought occurred. "Why not look at the LDS Family History web site again for Eliza George?" So as soon as I got home I got on the LDS FHL internet site and searched first for "Eliza George" and then for "Emma George." But no such names were in Davenport, Iowa nor anywhere nearby. Then a thought occurred, "Search for Eliza Clift again." And I thought, "Even though I have already done that?" And I got a response, "Yes, even though you have already done so before." So I did so.

As I read the long list of 55 entries, an entry toward the end jumped out: Eliza Georgianna Clift! Her birthdate of the 2 Jul 1822 in Bristol, England were most interesting! They were quite similar to Eliza Clift Turley's birthdate and place. The day and the month and the place are the same. A few entries further down was a marriage entry for Eliza Georgianna Clift. She was married on the 21st of August of 1862 in Davenport, Scott, Iowa. Wow! Now, this in-formation was incredible! On the 1850 and 1860 census' of Iowa there was only one Clift family in Iowa, that of Robert Clift in Davenport. Can it really be this easy? Has Eliza really been found? If so, how has she been in the Ancestral File with an unknown identity?

The marriage and family information showed that she married John McArthur and had three children in 1865, 1869 and 1870, each of whom lived a short time. Well, that sad characteristic fit for the Clift sisters. However there was no pedigree information for Eliza, so I came to a dead-end as to whether Robert Clift of Davenport was her father. But there was a submitter listed for the information: Jerry J. Sargent, 1219 West Gentile St. Layton, UT. I didn't want to write a long letter and I didn't want to wait for a reply. So I decided to call him immediately and was able to talk with him immediately.

He initially said that his memory might be a bit faulty as he had submitted that information about 30 years ago. But I thought he did a admirable job of recalling his records. It was as if he had them at hand in a genealogy binder or on the computer. Gabriel, a brother of John McArthur, was a direct ancestor of Jerry Sargent. Mr. Sargent had visited the courthouse and the cemetery in Davenport obtaining genealogical information. Unfortunately many of his records in storage had been destroyed by bugs, so copies of original documents are gone. But he had written notes of his data.

He had the parents of Eliza Georgianna Clift listed on the marriage certificate. They were Robert Clift and Margaret Lopen! Apparently Eliza was previously married to a Summerfield because the marriage license read: Eliza Summerfield md. John McArthur, Davenport, 21 Aug 1862. H. N. Powers director St. Luke's Church. [Marriages 1861-65 Book 1, p. 200] Well that certainly seems to clinch the case that Eliza Georgianna Summerfield was also Eliza Clift Turley. Perhaps she also married a Mr. George. But the use of the surname George and then later Georgianna makes subterfuge rather likely. Such evasive action was not that uncommon. Fear of anti-Mormon prejudice or erasure of a Mormon past resulted in more than one person doing such a thing. (20)

There is yet another amazing aspect to this surprising development of information regarding Eliza Clift. I mentioned to Jerry that I was interested in Eliza Georgianna Clift because I thought that she was the lost wife of Theodore Turley. He responded incredulously, "I'm a descendent of Theodore Turley!" (His mother is Fulvia McClellan Sargent, youngest child of Esther Turley and David McClellan.) Needless to say, we were both exceedingly surprised.

The McArthur family and the Clift family were close. They were buried together in a plot with their graves located on the north, east, and west around a central marker. Robert and Margaret Clift were buried on the north side, John McArthur and his two wives, Margaret Ann and Eliza Georgianna were buried on the west side. But in the excitement of the first phone call I failed to collect the information of everyone who was buried together. So a few weeks later, in early November, as I was readying this article to submit to the Turley newsletter I asked Mr. Sargent for the details of all of the burials around the central marker. What a surprise to find out that on the east side of the central marker were the following:

Peter Napoleon Littig b. in 1st house built in Davenport 7 June 1846 d 12 Jan 1926

Emma Georgianna Littig b 6 Jan 1847 in Galena Ill. d 27 May 1902

Eugene Napoleon Littig b 12 June 1876 d 26 Apr 1881

So we have found Emma, buried next to her mother! The birthdate is the same. The place of birth is different. Undoubtedly the Turley family information regarding Emma's birth in Nauvoo must have come from Theodore's record and would seem to be certain. But possibly an assumption was made, and she actually was born in Galena, Illinois. However given the other evidence of probable subterfuge of Eliza-the change of surname, birth years and birth place--it is quite possible that the Galena location is fictitious.

There was only one Littig household in Iowa on the 1860 census, a Mary C. in Clinton County. On the 1870 census there was a Jane Littig in Clinton County, Alexander Littig in Dubuque Country and three Littig families in Scott County, Iowa. They were Peter, 76, a retired brewer, from France and wife Mary, 65, from Scotland; John, 49, a farmer worth $28,000, from France. His wife Louisa, 29 was from Prussia. Eight children are listed. The third family is Peter, 24, a farmer worth $900 with a wife Emma, 23. Living with them are Ella Clift, 17, a domestic servant[?] and Oak Olafson, 22, a farm laborer. All are from Iowa except Olafson who is from Sweden.

The elder Peter Littig could well be the father of John and Peter, 24. His profession, brewer, has a close connection with Robert Clift's profession of saloon keeper. Ella Clift surely must be Helen Clift the daughter of Robert and Margaret Clift and an aunt to Emma.

On the 1880 census John Littig and Peter Littig are living just three farms from each other. John's two oldest boys are gone, but there are still eight children. Peter and Emma have four children: Laura, 9, F; Johnie, 8, M; Louis, 5, M; and Eugenie [sp?], 3, F. Eugene is the one buried be-side her parents in the Pinehill cemetery. So when Robert Clift died in December of 1876, he had four great-grandchildren from Emma. There seems to be no doubt that the search for the missing Clifts, Robert, Eliza and Emma has been immensely successful.

Certainly there are various loose ends that can be pursued. A most important task is determining all of the posterity of Emma. Perhaps more information may be found about Robert Jr. and James in California. There are several entries of Robert and James Clift in the California census of 1850, 1860 and 1870. The descendants of Robert Clift and Margaret Lopen can be identified.


It would seem that when Robert, Eliza and Emma went north to Davenport, Iowa and Robert Jr. and James went west to California that contact between them was lost. How could it have been maintained as there was nothing approaching regular mail service with neither the Mormon pioneer camp nor the Mormon Battalion? And then, in later years, without knowledge of new locations how could contact have been made? Perhaps contact between them was unavoidably or intentionally severed when they separated at Nauvoo. The surname of George for Eliza and Emma on the 1850 Census, and Eliza's later use of Georgianna would be an effort to bury the past. It seems that such questions are not answerable in this life. But is it not amazing how much has become known? Is this knowledge just the result of curious research or is there somehow an influence of "the hearts of the fathers"?

Footnotes for "Missing Clifts" article:

1. Actually two did, since Emma, the daughter of Eliza, survived, married and had children which is detailed below. But Emma's posterity are, as yet, an unknown factor.

2. Interestingly, she was the third descendant to be named after his first love, Frances Amelia Kimberley.

3. An older brother is shown as surviving until 1932 in the Theodore Turley Family Book but nothing is mentioned of him. He is not listed in the 1842 census of Nauvoo. Did he stay in England? Did someone in the family know something of him?

4. Mentioned by Richard Turley in conversation 7/27/99. This document was among the papers of Olive Turley that were given to him.

5. I started this research with no previous experience and quickly found out that most of the volunteers at the local Family History libraries were not experienced in looking for lost LDS members of the Nauvoo era.

6. HC vol. 4 chap.

7. HC vol. 6 chap. 12.

8. High Priest compilation? [I photocopied a page in FHL in SLC or received it from NRI but failed to note source.]

9. Announced in the Nauvoo Neighbor for week ending 24 June 1844. She died the 10th of June and was 58 years of age. From the Early Church Information file of the LDS FHC.

10. Susan Black (1988) Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS 1830-1848 FHL fiche 6031596.

11. De Platt, Lyman (1980) Nauvoo: Early Mormon Records Series Vol. 1. The information is rather limited, consisting of five columns: last name, first name, religion, ward and page number. Most are clearly listed by households in family groups. The sequence of names usually is first the father, then the mother and then the children.

12. Because of the aggregation of independently gathered data. The apparent "family groupings" on the census list, obvious to a knowlegeable reader were not included. (e.g. an "apparent family" category).

13. In the IGI file is a record for a Robert Clift, christened in Feb 1824 to Dymock, Gloucester, England, which came from the extraction program.

14. Black (1968), ibid.

15. Church Section, DN, 1/28/92.

16. Church Section, DN, 2/8/97.

17.Susan Black (l968), ibid.

18. I had not found anyone in Houston to answer many questions. For example, I found no way to search the holdings of the SLC FHL, on CD-ROM by author alphabetically.

19. The handwriting on the census is ambiguous as to whether a 51 or a 57 was written.

20. Mormonism most likely was held in ill-repute in the Davenport area. In the Deseret News Church News Section for week ending Oct 1 1999 is a brief entry, 'Mount Ina Coolbrith, a peak of the California Sierra Madre is named after a poet laureate of California who was born Josephine Donna Smith in Nauvoo, Ill. In 1841, a daughter of Don Carlos and Agnes Coolbrith Smith. Later, Agnes--then widowed--took her children to St. Louis, Mo., and later to California. Fearing persecution, she made her children promise not to reveal their identity.

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