Mary Stretton Blood Woolley
“We, as sisters in the gospel, must come to realize that we, too, can be powerful beacons of our Savior's light, regardless of our position in life. During this sesquicentennial year, we have been blessed to learn more about many of our pioneer predecessors, who emanated this light to the world in the face of ruthless persecution and seemingly endless trials.
One such beacon was Mary Stretton Blood.
In Yoxall, Staffordshire, England, Mary Stretton was born on the 25th of July 1811. She was the sixth of nine children—five brothers and three sisters.
Mary's parents were the sturdy, frugal, hardworking type, the strength of the British race, according to a descendant, Mary Linford, who researched and wrote Mary Stretton's history.
Mary was five feet, six inches tall with light hair and blue eyes and had a pink and white complexion. She was quick in her movements and very methodical.
Little or nothing is known of Mary's early life, beyond the facts that became evident in her later years. From these it is known that she was carefully reared and well trained to take up life as a homemaker and a provider of household needs. She was a baker and also was adept with the knitting needles. Throughout her life, her evenings were employed in knitting.
The earliest recorded incident in Mary Stretton's life took place when she was employed as a dairymaid at Hare Hill Farm, a gentleman's estate near Sudbury in Derbyshire. At the same place, William Blood was employed as farm foreman. They fell in love and were married in the parish church in the neighboring town of Church Broughton on February 16, 1836.
Shortly after their marriage, William and Mary opened a bakery and small store. William took a position with the railroad as "plate-layer," and Mary ran the shop. While they resided in Barton-under-Needwood, four children were born: Ann, the eldest; William; Thomas, who died in infancy; and Mary.
In 1842 William returned home from work one day and said, "Mary, I think I have found the truth tonight, and I want you to go with me tomorrow night." He had heard Mormon elders speaking on the street. They listened to the message of the restored gospel and were converted. On March 1, 1843, William and Mary were baptized into the Church.
William came from a large family, but the whole family turned against William and Mary because of their new religion. Mary said, "We shall not bother any of them." Very soon they sold their business and most of their belongings and left for America. They sailed January 23, 1844, on the ship Fanny. The Prophet Joseph Smith himself met them at the boat and greeted the new Saints in Nauvoo.
Almost immediately after their arrival, William became ill with a fever that was afflicting so many. He passed away on May 4, 1844, only three weeks after he landed in Nauvoo, leaving Mary with three children and another little girl who was born just four days after her father died. Mary named her Emma, but little Emma lived only a few weeks and was buried by the side of her father.
If this were not enough tragedy in this young woman's life, there was still more shocking news to come. Just eight days after the death of her baby, Mary was stunned again by the news that the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred. Throughout her life Mary remembered clearly the horrors of that period. So many tragedies had come upon her, one after another, that it would have unnerved and crushed a less resolute and self-reliant woman but she remained undaunted.
With her husband and child gone and the leader of her chosen people murdered, Mary could have turned on her heels and gone back to her family in England, where she would have had security and help in raising her three living children.
At this point in her life, Mary became a beacon of light to her posterity. Instead of shrinking, she looked forward to a better day. She was present when Brigham Young stood up to address the people, and she always declared that he spoke in the voice of Joseph Smith and that Brigham appeared as if he were Joseph as he spoke. Mary pressed on, sustained by her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and her commitment to do his will without compromise or apology.
I am grateful for this stalwart woman. Her radiance beams light into my life, although she was unable to look into the future and see that the decision she made would bring glory on her head and on the heads of her posterity forever. She simply did her part, as we must do, in standing firm in the gospel of Jesus Christ and being strictly obedient to the promptings of the Spirit.
Mary was later married to Henry Woolley, who was a good father to her children, and they followed William Kay to settle Kaysville, Utah. Mary would probably never have envisioned that her acts of valor would bring blessings to her family forever. Mary's son William had a son, Henry Blood, who became governor of the state of Utah. And this year a great-grandson, Gordon Smith, became a United States senator from the state of Oregon. So, we never know the influence we can have on our posterity. Descendants from her three living children now number more than one thousand. It would be impossible to measure the magnitude of goodness which has emanated from the life of this faithful beacon. I honor the heritage and guiding light left by this devout woman and look forward to meeting her beyond the veil because Mary Stretton Blood was my great-great-grandmother.”
Talk given by Mary Ellen Smoot “The Beacons of His Light”
Mary Ellen Smoot served as general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1997 to 2002.
©1997 Mary Ellen Smoot. All rights reserved