Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leonora Cannon Marries John Taylor in Canada

George Cannon, the father of George Q. Cannon and the son of Captain George Cannon, is known in family history as “the Immigrant” to distinguish him from the other two Georges. He is known as the Immigrant because he joined the LDS Church in Liverpool, England and took his family to live in Nauvoo, Illinois. George Cannon died shortly after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but his family participated in the journey west to the Great Salt Lake Valley where his family, and particularly his son George Q., became prominent in the affairs of the LDS Church and the settling of Utah.

Birth of George Cannon, the Immigrant:

The Immigrant, was born on December 3, 1794 in Peel, Isle of Man. His mother, Leonora Callister Cannon, had him baptized two days later in the parish of Kirk German. His father, George Cannon, after whom he was named, was gone at sea as first mate on the slave ship Good Intent, on the Middle Passage between Angola and Grenada. The Immigrant’s eventual wife, Ann Quayle, was also born in Peel, nearly four years later, on August 26, 1798, to John Quayle and Ellinor Callister Quayle. The Immigrant’s mother, Leonora, and Ann’s mother, Ellinor, were first cousins, which made their children second cousins. The Immigrant and Ann were married 27 years later in St. Thomas Church, Liverpool, on October 24, 1825.

George, Ann, and three of their children, George Q., Mary Alice and Ann, joined the LDS Church in Liverpool in 1840. They were part of a large number of Mormon converts in Great Britain that immigrated to the United States, sustaining the Church during a critical time in its early history.

I am doing a series of blogs to relate the events leading to the conversion of the Immigrant’s family to the Church and their journey to the United States.

Leonora Cannon:

The Immigrant’s sister, Leonora Cannon, namesake of their mother, was born on October 6, 1796, also in Peel. As with the Immigrant, her father was gone as first mate on a slave ship, the Helen, which at the time of her birth was in Angola purchasing slaves.

Their father, Captain George Cannon, was killed at sea, about July 13, 1811. The Immigrant was 16 and his sister was 14. Both eventually had to leave the Isle of Man to seek work to help support their family.

Leonora went to England where she acted as a companion to a wealthy woman with the last name Vail. Later Leonora lived with the family of the governor of the Isle of Man, Governor Smelt, in Castle Rushen, Castletown. In that setting, Leonora “frequently met with many distinguished people from England.” One of them, a Mr. Mason, had a daughter that became a good friend. When Lord Aylmer, the new governor-general of Canada asked Mr. Mason to accompany him overseas as his private secretary, his daughter insisted that Leonora go with them as one of the family. At first Leonora refused to go, but then she had a dream which she interpreted as directing her to accept the offer and she sailed to Canada in 1832 at the age of 35. [1]

Before Leonora left for Canada, she tried to get her brother, George, to embrace religion so that his soul could be saved. George had decided that her Methodism was not wholly Biblical. “But of what use is it for me to unsettle you in your faith; it gives you joy and satisfaction, and I cannot offer you anything better; but it would not satisfy me.” [2]

John and Leonora Cannon Taylor:

Leonora met John Taylor in Toronto, a lay preacher in the Methodist church. He became her class leader. John Taylor was born November 1, 1808 in Milnthorpe, near Lake Windermere, Westmoreland, England, the son of James and Agnes Taylor. He was the second of ten children, three of whom died in infancy, including his older brother. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a cooper in Liverpool. His employer failed after a year and he returned home to Hale, in the Cumberland Lake District, where his parents were then living. He then learned the business of a wood turner in Penrith, Cumberland. At about age 16, he became a Methodist and spent most of his leisure hours in reading the Bible, works in theology and prayer. At the age of 17 he was made a Methodist exhorter, or local preacher. His first appointment was in a small country town about seven miles outside of Penrith. While on his way to his first appointment he remarked to his traveling companion, “I have a strong impression on my mind, that I have to go to America to preach the gospel.” At age 20, having mastered the business of turner, John left Penrith and went back to Hale where he started his own business. Shortly afterwards, in 1830, his parents emigrated to Upper Canada. He followed them about two years later. After arriving in Toronto, John connected with the Methodists and began preaching again. [3]

John proposed marriage to Leonora and was rejected. She (age 36) was eleven years older than him (24). Perhaps there were other issues. Then she had a dream which convinced her they would be married. When John later proposed again, she accepted. They were married on January 28, 1833 by an Anglican chaplain. [4]

John often talked about the impression he’d had that he needed to preach the gospel in America. Leonora suggested that he was now doing it, in his work as a Methodist preacher. However, John was convinced there was to be something of more importance.

Parley P. Pratt’s Mission Call to Canada:

In the spring of 1836, Parley P. Pratt was living in Kirtland, Ohio and deeply in debt. Many of the other brethren were getting ready to leave on missions and Parley did not know whether to go on a mission or stay home and pay off his debts. [5] Further, Parley and his wife, Thankful, had not been able to have children for ten years and Sister Pratt “had been considered an incurable consumptive” for the past six years. [6]

Parley went to bed early one evening and was “pondering [his] future course, when there came a knock” at his door. He opened it and invited Heber C. Kimball and some others inside. [7] “Heber… [said] he had a prophecy to deliver concerning him…

"Brother Parley, thy wife shall be healed from this hour, and shall bear a son…Arise, therefore, and go forth in the ministry, nothing doubting. Take no thought for your debts, nor the necessaries of life…Thou shalt go to Upper Canada, even to the city of Toronto, the capital, and there thou shalt find a people prepared for the gospel, and they shall receive thee, and thou shalt organize the Church among them, and it shall spread thence into the regions round about, and many shall be brought to a knowledge of the truth, and shall be filled with joy; and from the things growing out of this mission, shall the fullness of the gospel spread into England, and cause a great work to be done in that land." [8]

About eight years later, Parley, speaking about this prophecy, stated that it “may…be set down as one among the most extraordinary in the annals of history. It is extraordinary, whether we look at the varied scenery, the wide and complicated field of action, the clearness and precision of its numerous items and specifications, the lack of natural probability of its fulfillment, or the precision and exactness with which it was progressively fulfilled in every item.”

Pratt’s Introduction to John Taylor:

After a few days of preparation, Parley left for Canada on April 5, 1836, accompanied by his brother, Orson Pratt, and Freeman Nickerson. Freeman Nickerson covered Parley’s expenses during the trip. Outside Hamilton, near Lake Ontario, Parley split off from his companions. Toronto was on the northwest side of the lake, a long, muddy, circuitous walk that would take him days. On the other hand, for two dollars he could take a steamer and be in Toronto in a few hours. Unfortunately, he had no money. “I pondered what I should do…The Spirit seemed to whisper to me to try the Lord…I retired to a secret place in a forest and prayed to the Lord for money to enable me to cross the lake. I then entered Hamilton…I had not tarried many minutes before I was accosted by a stranger, who inquired my name and where I was going.” The stranger turned out to be Moses Nickerson, a member of the church, the wealthy brother of his traveling companion, Freeman Nickerson. Moses gave Parley ten dollars and a letter of introduction to John Taylor, of Toronto…” [9]

Parley arrived in Toronto that evening and went to the Taylor home. He was greeted by Leonora Cannon Taylor and he presented to her the letter of introduction from Moses Nickerson, a merchant friend of John’s. She retrieved John, who was busy in his mechanic shop. [10] When John learned that Parley was a Mormon, he was irritated with Moses for directing Parley to his home as Mormon’s were commonly “spoken against.” Because of the letter of introduction, John said he treated Parley “courteously” although he was not “cordial.” Parley told John about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and of the restoration of the priesthood and Church of Christ to the earth. [11] They talked for about three hours. [12] Of this incident, Parley notes that he “received little direct encouragement” from the Taylors. He had dinner with them and “then sought lodgings at a public house.” [13]

Taylor’s Bible Study Group:

“As a preacher in the Methodist church, both in England and Canada, [John] was very successful, and made many converts. ‘My object,’ he remarks, ‘was to teach them what I then considered the leading doctrines of the Christian religion, rather than the peculiar dogmas of Methodism.’ His theological investigations had made him very much dissatisfied with existing creeds and churches, because of the wide difference between modern and primitive Christianity, in doctrine, in ordinances, in organization and above all, in spirit and power.”

There were other people in the Toronto area, many of them Methodist preachers, who felt the same way. They were involved in a Bible study group organized by William P. Patrick in 1832. Patrick was a well-to-do government bureaucrat and licensed Methodist preacher. [14] They met several times a week to search the scriptures, comparing the doctrines of the various religions against what they found in the Bible. They prayed, in their investigations, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As a result of the comparisons, they determined that all of the religions of the day were in error and that none had authority to preach the gospel, including them. They could only pray and wait, hoping that if God had a church on earth, he would send them a messenger.

The leaders of the Methodist church in Canada, including the Rev. Mr. Ryarson and the Rev. Mr. Lord of the British conference, called a conference to consider the ideas espoused by the lay leaders in Patrick’s Bible study group. They debated for several days and the lay preachers “held their own” against formal leaders. In fact, Patrick’s group felt even better about their direction as their opponents had not been able to use the Bible to show them they were wrong. The president of the conference ended it with this conclusion:

‘Brethren, we esteem you as brethren and gentlemen; we believe you are sincere,but cannot fellowship your doctrine. Wishing, however, to concede all we can, we would say: You may believe your doctrines if you will not teach them; and we will still retain you in fellowship as members, leaders and preachers.’

Patrick’s group could not abide by this condition, so they were retained as members of the Methodist Church, but could no longer hold their offices. This was not considered a hardship as they did not consider the Methodist Church to have any authority. [15]


[1] Cannon Family Historical Treasury (hereafter “CFHT”), pp. 32-33. Another version, by Andrew Jenson, is that Leonora’s friend married a man named Bacon, a colonel in the British army, who received the appointment of Secretary to the governor of Canada. The friend got a promise from Leonora that when she married and went to Canada, Leonora would go with her. (Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 1, p. 42 – hereafter “LDS Bios”).

[2] LDS Bios, Vol. I, p. 43-44; Ann Cannon, the Immigrant’s daughter, stated that when Leonora joined the Methodists, her father told her he could “confound her religion in a short time, ‘but if you enjoy it, Nora, it is all right with me, the Gospel is not upon the earth, but it is coming.'" (CFHT, p. 159).

[3] B. H. Roberts, Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963), pp. 23-29(?) (hereafter “Roberts”) The Methodists used “a vast cadre of short-term and local preachers, exhorters, and class-leaders” to fill in between the regular preachers visits or to add enthusiasm to meetings. Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith – Rough Stone Rolling: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), p. 153 (hereafter “Bushman”), citing Wigger, Early American Methodism, p. 180.

[4] Roberts, p. __. Samuel Taylor, in his version of John and Leonora’s courtship states, “As her class leader, Taylor was immediately attracted to the slender and dark-haired Leonora Cannon, who, at thirty-six, was mature, accomplished, charming, witty, and possessed all the attainments of a lady of culture. Taylor immediately became a suitor, but Leonora gave him scant encouragement. She thought him handsome but unpolished; he hadn’t been to the right schools nor attended a university; his intellectualism was flawed by gaps of the self-educated. Beneath the charm and humor crouched the tiger. He was a man who would always be involved in battles for principle. Would she want such a life? When he proposed, she rejected him. She said no perhaps a dozen times before finally accepting for a reason valid in religious circles: a dream, accepted as guidance. (The Kingdom, pp. 21-22.)

[5] Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt: Revised and Enhanced Edition, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), pp. 163-165 (hereafter “Pratt”).

[6] Roberts, p. 35.

[7] Pratt, pp. 164.

[8] Roberts, p. 35.

[9] Pratt, p. ____; Roberts, p. ____. The identity of the parties mentioned in this paragraph, other than Parley P. Pratt, are confusing. In his autobiography, Pratt does not mention his brother, Orson, as a companion. He does mention “Brother Nickerson” and that Brother Nickerson paid his expenses on the way to Canada. He also refers to a separate “stranger” who gave him $10.00 and a letter of introduction to John Taylor. John Taylor identifies the person who gave the letter of introduction to Pratt as Moses Nickerson, a merchant acquaintance of Taylor. From this, some people have assumed that Moses Nickerson was the “Brother Nickerson” referred to by Parley. However, a letter from Parley P. Pratt, dated May 26, 1836, printed in the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2 no. 6, May 1836, pp. 217-20, shortly after the event, identifies “O. Pratt and “F. Nickerson” as Pratt’s traveling companions. There were two Freeman Nickersons that were members of the church, one the father of Moses Nickerson and one the brother of Moses Nickerson. It was likely Freeman Nickerson, the brother of Moses, who was the travel companion, because the brother lived in Canada and Pratt mentions that Brother Nickerson left him for his home in another part of the province. Pratt, p. ___. Because Taylor mentions that Moses Nickerson provided the letter of introduction and Pratt specifically identifies the provider of the letter as a stranger and different than Freeman Nickerson, the only way to consistently reconcile the two accounts is to have both Freeman and Moses Nickerson involved as indicated. Freeman Nickerson, the father of Freeman and Moses Nickerson, was a convert in New York. In 1833 he went to Kirtland and asked Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him to Canada to convert his two sons, both wealthy businessmen. The two sons, although hostile toward Joseph and Sidney at first, joined the church within a few days. John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith, an American Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), p, 87.

[10] Pratt, p. 172. Alma Sonne, in General Conference in 1961, spoke of this event as follows: “in 1836 Apostle Parley P. Pratt went to Toronto. He had with him a letter of introduction to John Taylor from a man named Moses Nickerson. Taylor was a minister in the Methodist Church. Such letters are now called referrals and are very effective in reaching the people.”

[11] Roberts, pp. 33-34. Samuel W. Taylor, in The Kingdom or Nothing: The Life of John Taylor, Militant Mormon (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 14-16 (“The Kingdom”), portrays this meeting as follows: “He [John Taylor] was at work in his shop, turning a chair leg on the lathe, when Leonora came in from the house with the baby, Mary Ann, in her arms and two-year old George tagging along to announce the visit of a Mormon missionary. She handed her husband a letter of introduction from a merchant friend, Moses Nickerson. Taylor was a bit nettled by the interruption, feeling that his friend was imposing on him. The Nickerson family had joined the Mormon faith, and, while the family was composed of good people, it was common knowledge that when members of this sect gathered together they became trouble-makers and were driven out by their neighbors. Taylor told Leonora to send the fellow away. Leonora replied that at least he could show the courtesy of having a cup of tea with Pratt…Taylor reluctantly put away his chisels, brushed the wood shavings from the lathe, and swept the floor of his turning shop. He’d heard enough about the Mormons to want nothing to do with it…As Taylor took off his shop apron, ran a comb through his heavy thatch of wavy hair, put on his coat, and went in to see his visitor, he was definitely not in the mood to be receptive to Mormonism…As Pratt arose from the rocker in the sitting room to greet him, Taylor was surprised to find not a hollow-eyed fanatic, but a husky fellow of twenty-nine, barrel-chested and bull-necked, exuding vitality, and a heavily handsome face framed by curling black hair. Despite Taylor’s bias against Mormons, he felt an instant rapport with Parley Pratt. It soon developed that the two had much in common; both were writers and students of the scripture; both were mystics and seekers after eternal truths. Taylor admired Parley’s courage in traveling as a missionary for so unpopular and derided a faith. So that, while he considered Pratt mistaken in his beliefs, he couldn’t help liking him as a person…In turn, Parley was appraising his host. John Taylor was tall and powerfully built, with the hands of a craftsman and the eyes of a scholar. Though not yet thirty, his wavy hair was sprinkled with gray. An outdoorsman, obviously; he was deeply tanned. The massive head, strong nose, and iron jaw suggested to Pratt that there was as stubborn a man as ever was born; yet the quirk at the corners of the lips and the leavening of wit in his talk showed that he wasn’t a bigot….Leonora served tea, then sat by with the children while the two men talked. Parley presented an entirely different picture of Joseph Smith from the one Taylor had conceived….”

[12] John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, September 13, 1857, vol. 5, p. 239.

[13] Pratt, pp. 171-172.

[14] Joseph Fielding Diary, 1832-1837, located at This group also included Joseph, Mary and Mercy Fielding, Isabella Walton, Theodore Turley, Isaac Russell, John Snider and John Goodson. Toward the end of 1833, William Patrick wrote his friend, the Reverend George Ryerson, in England, that some in Toronto might be interested in the Catholic Apostolic Church, popularly known as Irvingites. Ryerson had become disillusioned with British Methodism and had joined the Irvingites. Edward Irving, a Scottish Presbyterian minister preaching in London had formed the church which focused on the restoration of the New Testament church, the imminent return of Jesus, the destruction of the wicked before the millennium, the restoration of the Jews to their own land, restoration of apostolic authority to confer the Holy Ghost, and spiritual gifts like tongues, prophecy and healing. Irving died in 1833 and the church came under the control of J. B. Cardale, a lawyer, and Henry Drummond, a member of Parliament and an influential banker. Ryerson arranged to have two missionaries go to Canada in February 1834 to meet with Patrick’s group. The group met with the missionaries for some time. (Bushman, pp. 271-273; ___________).

[15] Roberts, pp. 31-34.


  1. Love that age difference between Leonora and John Taylor. I didn't know that.

  2. John taylor and loenora are my greay great grandparents and It was interesting to read what this site had to say.

  3. I have found a few different stories about the circumstances that brought Leonora Cannon to Canada. I am trying to get at the true story because one of them may connect her to Mary Edwards White, George Cannon's second wife and my 3rd great-grandmother.

    According to this article in the Young Women's journal =>

    She was friends with the granddaughter of Lady Manering who according to another family history was an employer of Mary Edwards. This indicates that Leonora accompanied Mr. Mason's wife, not his daughter.

    I found Lord Aylmer on Wikipedia =>,_5th_Baron_Aylmer but there is no mention of who his secretary was, Bacon or Mason.

    Anyway, I was wondering if you might have access to more information that might clear this up.

    Check out my blog for more info on Mary Edwards =>