Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford and her daughter,

Maria Louisa Pickett

(A composite history compiling existing family resources)

Roger S. Porter

This story is "in process," meaning we are adding to it and making corrections all the time as information comes to light from various branches of the family.  Don't be discouraged with conflicting versions!  We'll sort it all out later!  Please feel free to bring additional information or corrections to our attention as you see them and document them!  

Please Note: The family expert on Priscilla Clark is Richard L. (Dick) Tolman who is writing her story from prolific resources he has gathered for years. We eagerly await his treatise! Until then, this skeletal composite history may have to suffice, with additions as they come to light. Roger Porter (updated May 2005)

Priscilla was born to James Clark 22 September 1826 in Buckland, England. (I do not have her maternal line.  Roger) Richard says she was friends with Louisa Avelina Sleater, left home at 14, and perhaps worked at the Marchant taylor shop where she may have learned to sew. She sewed her own wedding dress when she married her last husband, William Wilford in 1862, and the dress is still in the possession of a descendant, Patricia Miller, and now featured on this website. Her friend, Louisa Avelina Sleater, married a mormon missionary, William Gill Mills, and Priscilla married George Pickett, 4 September 1853 in Newbury, Berkshire, England. George's first wife, Maria Jarvis, had passed away after six years of marriage, leaving him with three children: James, b: 1844; Mary, b: 1846; and Jane, b: 1848.  Jane's autobiography is now on this web site!  Three years after their marriage, (timing conflicts with Jane's memory, however) converts to the LDS faith, George and Priscilla, along with other Pickett brothers, migrated to the United States, sailing 30 November from Liverpool in the ship Emerald Isle, arriving in New York 29 December. They made their way to St. Louis but George became ill with Typhoid fever (Jane says Small Pox) in St. Louis while on the way west. Priscilla was pregnant with their second child, the first, Louisa, having died in infancy, probably on the ocean while the family migrated (her name is on the ship manifest along with her parents, George and Priscilla, and half-siblings, Jane, James and Mary: "Pickett, Louisa, 1855, NA, Emerald Isle, Ship roster on microfilm(s) 175515 25691").

Priscilla remained in St. Louis to care for her husband while at least some of the other Pickett brothers/family continued their migration to Utah. (Jane says Mathew remained in St. Louis until 1862.) Maria Louisa (Probably named after George's first wife and Louisa Avelina Sleater) was born 26 November 1856. After George passed away on 2 April 1857, the brothers returned to assist Priscilla and her newborn Maria Louisa and other children (?) to their new home in Utah. (Jane says they stayed in St Louis until 1861, which conflicts with the following.)  W.G. Mills, in his testimony at Priscilla's coroner's inquest in 1869, says she lived with him in 1859-60 for twelve months. Acting on what he supposed was his biblical duty to marry the widow of his brother, William Armstrong Pickett married Priscilla on 3 March, 1860, and the same day sealed her to her first husband, George. In September of the same year, WG Mills was called to England for his last mission.

Meanwhile, William Gill Mills and Louisa Avelina had had no children from their own marriage, but William G. had a daughter, Avelina Mills, born 18 Oct 1859, in a plural marriage with Emily Hill, whom he rescued from the Willie Handcart disaster in 1856, just a few months after he and Louisa Avelina were endowed and sealed in the Endowment House 25 April 1856.  Those stories are also on the web site.  

From the Barker History: "The second mission William G. Mills was called to serve was to England and was set apart by Pres. John Taylor the 22nd September 1860. He was president of the Birmingham District, Comprising Birmingham conference, Co. Warwic, Stafford and Shropshire, during 1861, 1862, and part of 1863. The address was 86 Garbett St. Birmingham. His release came 16 May 1863 as follows:
'Notice: At a general conference of the priesthood of the Birmingham Conference at which were present several Elders from Zion, Elder William Gill Mills was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for adultery.' Millenial Star 16 May 1863.

William Gill Mills and his wife Louisa Avelina left Liverpool on the ship Great Eastern the 15 May 1863. They spent some time in Carthage, Illinois with her parents Robert and Mary Marchant Sleater and family. According to dates on published poems they lived in Austin and Havilah Nevada 1865, 1866, and 1867; Gilroy California 1868 to 1871; Then they returned to Utah and were at Alta till the big fire and the rest of the time in Salt Lake City."

One family version says Priscilla became disenchanted with polygny, and pregnant with William Pickett's child, fled to refuge in California or Nevada with old friends, perhaps Elizabeth, the wife of John Mills, half-brother of William Gill, where George was born in 1861. John had died in Sacramento in 1857. William Gill and Louisa Avelina were serving at this time on a mission in England.

Jane's version says Priscilla married Wm. Wilford and moved to Carson City.  Our record says on the 30th of June 1862 in Carson City, Ormsby Co., Nevada, Priscilla married William Wilford, bringing her two young children, Maria Louisa and George, to live in a new marriage. In Carson City they increased the family by three with Sarah Wilford born on the 26 Sept. 1864, William Wilford born on 6 Sept. 1866, and Lily Isabel Wilford born 4 October 1868.

They moved four miles south of Carson City to Clear Creek to mine gold. In the late 1860's William Wilford (Sr.) became ill and died. William had the foresight to provide for his family a $5000 insurance policy, which Priscilla collected, then went to seek the counsel of William Gill and Avelina now living in Gilroy, California, south of San Francisco, where W.G. was first mayor of the new town.

At the persuasion of William Gill, she left two children, Sarah Wilford and Maria Louisa, with the Mills' to attend school, (according to inquest testimony of WGM, July 9, 1869), "giving up control and education of the two girls," and returned to Carson City with the others.

During the night of 6th of July 1869, an intruder broke into her home, slit her throat and stole her inheritance. The children discovered her body the next morning, and now orphans, became wards of the State of Nevada. Maria Louisa and Sarah remained in California with W.G. and Avelina Mills against the will of the State of Nevada. A sensational trial ensued during which William Gill Mills testified of the history of Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford (that testimony now included on this web site), and the accused Mormons were acquitted to the dismay of their persecutors and prosecutors.

The San Francisco newspaper theorized the Mormon Danites had killed her for leaving the Church, but the accused Mormon, Peter Moss, demonstrated the accusations were false as he was not in the area and could not have murdered her. It became assumed Indians perpetrated the murder. There are articles in the Carson City Appeal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Virginia City paper describing the trial and much of our ancestor's history.

William Mills lost his store in Gilroy and returned to Alta, Utah, then Salt Lake City, and shortly thereafter, 20-year-old Maria Louisa became pregnant by WG Mills, and gave birth to Mannie in Salt Lake City, 4 January 1876.

After the birth of her child, Maria Louisa and Mannie lived apart from the Mills family and she met and married and was sealed to Cyrus Ammon Tolman on the 12th of December 1878 in Salt Lake City, and two-year old Mannie had a two-parent family. On the 7th of January, Mary Elizabeth Tolman was born in Toole, Utah, and George Orin joined the family in Toole 11 June 1882. A picture of the mother with her three children is now on this web site.

Descendants differ as to the causes of the divorce, whether because of her husband's behavior, or because of the manifesto against Polygamy, but Maria Louisa left Cyrus Ammon Tolman, and later married George Franklin Read on 1st of June 1893, when Mannie was 17. Mannie told us as children about leaving home around this time to go on long cattle drives. Franklin and Maria Louisa produced three more children: Robert Lock Read, born 20th of August, 1895; Waldemer Pickett Read, born 19 July 1897; and Ulea Jane Read, born 26 February, 1899.  

Maria Louisa was a schoolteacher in Marion, Idaho, and the Reads also owned a rooming house in Twin Falls, and lived in Oreana. She died 27 March 1930 in Twin Falls. Her grave is in the old pioneer cemetery at Marion, between Oakley, Idaho, and Burley, and her photos and photos of her gravesite are on this web site.