Chapter 1


by Joan Nay
third great granddaughter

© by Joan Nay


he lives of John Nay, Jr. and Thirza Angelina Hale cannot be adequately told without placing them in the context of the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The direction their lives took was both directly and indirectly dictated by their conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith.    Literally, all that we know about them is taken from family lore, church and public records, and generally well-known events of LDS history.

John Nay, Jr. was born April 17 1804 in Peterborough, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire to John Nay, Sr. and Betsy Puffer.  He was the 7th of 10 children.[1] John was the great grandson of Deacon William McNee.  While very little is known about Deacon McNee, he is generally accepted to be the immigrant ancestor.  He was from Ireland, of Scotch-Irish descent, and lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  His second son was William [Jr], who fathered John Nay, Sr, who in turn fathered John Nay, Jr.  It is also generally accepted that with John Nay Jr.’s grandfather, William McNee Jr., the family name was changed from McNee to Nay.  The McNee/Nay family was prominent in the settling of Peterborough, New Hampshire and gave active military service in the French-Indian and Revolutionary Wars.  The McNee/Nay names also appear frequently in community and religious affairs of the area.

John’s first wife, Thirza Angelina Hale, was born February 23, 1814 in Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont to Oliver Hale and Rosanna Gowing, the last of four children.  The Hale family moved to New Hampshire sometime after Thirza was born.  Thirza is a descendent of John Heald, who immigrated from England about 1635, and is considered the immigrant ancestor for many of the Hale families in the United States.[2]

Virtually nothing is known about John and Thirza’s early life and childhood in New Hampshire.  Both families were prominent in the church and community, and it is likely they met or at least knew of each other early in their lives.  John and Thirza were married May 28, 1833 by the Reverend Elijah Dunbar in Peterborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire in the Presbyterian Church .[3] John was 29 years old, and Thirza was 19.

Soon after their marriage, John and Thirza moved to Henrietta Township, Jackson County, Michigan where their first child, a son named Alonzo Putnam Nay, was born November 23, 1835.

We don’t know exactly when or why John and Thirza moved to Michigan.  However, land records indicate two of John’s brothers (William and Diademia Nay; and George Nay) along with a cousin (Pitman and Sally Nay) were also in Jackson County, Michigan at the same time.  It is possible the Nay brothers and cousin were seeking new opportunities for work, and, large land patents were available in Michigan.  We do know John purchased land there as early as July 4, 1835, and he was also mentioned in the Henrietta Township of Jackson County as voting in the first township election.[4]

Sometime in the next few years, John, Thirza and little Alonzo moved back to New Hampshire and settled in Antrim, a small town about 15 miles north of Peterborough. A second son, William Edwin, was born there on August 31, 1838; and their first daughter, Matilda Ellen, was also born there on January 5, 1841.[5]

John joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in either May or August of 1841.[6] He was baptized by Eli P. Maginn, a charismatic missionary who served the area of Peterborough, New Hampshire from 1841 to 1843 and helped raise seven branches of the Church.[7] Maginn was reputed to be a powerful, fiery preacher and a well-versed Bible scholar.  At one sermon he preached in a hall on Peterborough’s Main Street, the crowd was so large Maginn stood at the window to deliver his sermon so those inside as well as the overflow crowd outside could hear him.[8] It is presumed that Thirza, too, was baptized in 1841, but no record has been found that includes her original baptism date.

John and Thirza stayed in Antrim, New Hampshire for at least several more years following their baptisms.  A daughter, Laura Ann, was born in Antrim on March 20, 1843; and a son, John Hyrum, was born May 12, 1845, either in Antrim, New Hampshire or Nauvoo, Illinois.[9]

Either shortly before, or sometime after John Hyrum’s birth in May 1845, and before the middle of November 1845, John and Thirza had moved to be with other Latter-day Saints in the Nauvoo, Illinois area.  There, they both received patriarchal blessings on November 13, 1845 by Patriarch John Smith.[10]

The next official recording of John and Thirza is the day they received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple on February 7, 1846.   Temple records show John and Thirza were participants in the fourth endowment company of the day.[11] An eventful and chaotic day, it was the last day endowment sessions were held there as the Latter-day Saints were forced to vacate the city and temple they had labored to build.


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