Leonora Cannon Taylor
A Manx Girl’s Dreams, and their
Enormous Effect on the History of Mormonism
by Marian Peck Rees
Today we are going to hear about an extraordinary woman – who started life as a young girl on the Isle of Man. She became an accomplished, intelligent woman whose life decisions were directed by the Spirit of the Lord through dreams -- dreams which led her to people and places where she would become a major influence on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Cannon Family were from the Isle of Man. We do not know how the original Cannons came to the Isle of Man. But, the Cannons have lived there for hundreds of years, and their native land left its imprint on them. The Cannons were truly Manxmen.
What is the Isle of Man? It is a small island, 33 miles long by 12 miles wide, located between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea. The hills rise to 2,000 feet, the scenery is varied and beautiful, the climate very mild, where subtropical plants grow without special protection. The island has become a favorite summer resort for the English, because of the quaint, unspoiled character of the people and the simple beauty of the land. The Isle of Man was ruled at various times by Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, and England. Finally, Great Britain bought the Isle of Man from local rulers in 1765 and has controlled it ever since. However, British laws do not apply to the island unless it is specifically named. A 1,000 year old parliament called Tynwald Court regulates the internal affairs of the Isle of Man.
The island is rich in folklore and legend. The independent, freedom loving character of the Manx people is coupled with a quiet wit and subtle sense of humor.
For our story of Leonora Cannon, we begin with her father, George Cannon, or Captain Cannon, as he is called, to distinguish him from his descendants. Capt. Cannon was born May 15, 1766 in the city of Peel, Isle of Man.
Most of the men of the Isle of Man were involved in sailing, as fishermen or as merchants. By the age of 13 Captain Cannon was a seaman on a ten month voyage that took him to Jamaica and back. At 14 he entered the Peel Mathematical School and studied for two years to learn the mathematics of sailing. By age 23, Captain George was a third mate, and eventually worked his way up to being a captain, in charge of the whole ship and its cargo.
Meanwhile Captain George Cannon had married his sweetheart, Leonora Callister, and begun his family. During their marriage, mother Leonora gave birth to nine children. The first two were named after their parents: George Cannon, born December 3, 1794, and Leonora Cannon, born October 6, 1796. This baby is the Leonora who is the subject of this presentation.
Captain Cannon continued his life as a seaman, captain of his ship. During this time, he was apparently prosperous and successful in a material way, and was in a position to afford his family not only all the comforts, but even many of the luxuries of life. This lovely, large home in Peel is where they lived, and is still there. It appeared that this idyllic life would go on forever.
However, it was at sea that Captain Cannon died, killed during a mutiny on July 13, 1811. With the father’s death, a sudden change took place in the family’s circumstances. The house was rented out, and mother Leonora moved into a smaller home. The two oldest children, George, 16 and Leonora, 14 went out to work for themselves, and help their mother.
Young George went to Liverpool, where he eventually became a fine carpenter. Young Leonora went to England as a companion to a wealthy woman. Later, Leonora returned to the Isle of Man, living with the family of the islands’ governor, Governor Smelt, in Castle Rushen, Castletown. This castle also still exists.
While living at the castle, Leonora frequently met with many distinguished people from England who were visiting there. One of them, a Mister Mason had a daughter who became a very good friend to Leonora. When Mr. Mason was asked by Lord Aylmer, the newly appointed governor-general of Canada to accompany him as his private secretary, his family was reluctant to go. The daughter especially would not go unless Leonora Cannon went with her, as one of the family. Mr. Mason’s job as private secretary to the governor-general of Canada hinged on Leonora Cannon’s willingness to go to Canada with them.
Leonora knew that if she accepted, she probably would never see her mother, her siblings, or the Isle of Man again.
Leonora was not at first attracted by the invitation—in fact she declined it, to the great relief of her mother. But the Masons refused to take no for an answer. They asked more strongly than ever. In the meantime, Leonora had a dream. She interpreted this dream as directing her to accept the offer. So, she agreed to join the Masons. They crossed the sea in 1832 and came to Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada.
While Leonora had been living in England she had become interested in Methodism. So, in Toronto she joined a Methodist study class, led by a young Englishman named John Taylor. John was immediately attracted to the slender and dark-haired Leonora Cannon, who at 36 was mature, accomplished, charming, witty, and possessed all the attainments of a lady of culture. He immediately became a suitor, but Leonora gave him little encouragement. She thought him handsome, but unpolished. He was young, only 24, and hadn’t been to the right schools nor attended a university. His intellectualism was flawed by gaps of the self-educated. 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 because she had a dream, which she interpreted as directing her to accept his offer. They were married January 28, 1833.
John and Leonora continued to live in Toronto. They were devout Methodists and John, who continued as a preacher and class leader, was very successful making many converts. Their first child, George John was born January 31, 1834, and a little girl, Mary Ann, January 23, 1836. John continued in his profession as a turner, working at his lathe, in a shop by their house. They later had two other children Joseph James, June 8, 1838 and Leonora Agnes, June 1, 1840.
In the meantime our story diverts to Kirtland, Ohio:
In the spring of 1836, Parley P. Pratt, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was living in Kirtland. Many of the other apostles were getting ready to leave on missions. Parley was concerned about the debts he had, and also about his wife, who was ill. Should he go on a mission or stay home, help his wife, and pay his debts.
As Parley went to bed early one evening there was a knock at his door. He opened it to see Apostle Heber C. Kimball. Heber said he had come to deliver a prophecy:
"Brother Parley, . . . 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."
Parley left for Canada on April 5, 1836, accompanied by his brother, Orson Pratt, and Freeman Nickerson, who paid Parley’s expenses during the trip. They took a stage coach to Buffalo. There the three separated and Parley walked alone to Niagara Falls, crossed into Canada, and walked to Hamilton, where he met a stranger, who inquired his name and where he was going. The stranger turned out to be Moses Nickerson, the wealthy brother of Freeman Nickerson. Moses gave Parley ten dollars and a letter of introduction to John Taylor, of Toronto.
Parley arrived in Toronto that evening and went to the Taylor home. There he was greeted by Leonora Cannon Taylor. He gave her the letter of introduction from Moses Nickerson, who was a merchant friend of John’s. She retrieved John, who was busy in his turning shop. When John learned that Parley was a Mormon, he was irritated with Moses Nickerson 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 the restoration of the priesthood, and the establishment of the Church of Christ on the earth. They talked for about three hours. 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.” John Taylor was not interested.
Leonora, on the other hand felt differently than her husband, John. Her expression to John after having listened to Parley Pratt was, “He may be a man of God.”
The morning after he met with John and Leonora Cannon Taylor, Parley P. Pratt began to call on the various ministers in Toronto, introducing himself and his message and requesting an opportunity to preach to their congregations. He also asked the sheriff for the use of the court house and the city authorities for a public room in the market, all without any positive response. He felt that this was “an unpromising beginning,” to the prophecy about his missionary efforts. He was discouraged, so he found a pine grove outside of town, knelt in prayer, told the Lord of his efforts and requested that a door be opened so that he could fulfill his mission. But, after finishing his prayer, Parley decided to leave Toronto, feeling he could do no good there.
So, how will the prophecy be fulfilled? Leonora feels Pratt is a man of God and wants to hear more of his message, but as a married woman she must defer to her husband, John. She cannot have Pratt stay at their home, or listen to him preach his message. So she prays about what to do.
Meanwhile her neighbor, Isabella Russell Walton, a wealthy widow, is at her home busy with daily chores. Isabella feels prompted that she must visit her neighbor Leonora, now, not later. So, she puts on her hat, and goes to the Taylor home.
This is the very time that Parley P. Pratt went to the Taylor home to tell them farewell. He found John in his turning shop, adjoining the house. While Parley was speaking with John, Isabella Walton came to the Taylor home to speak to Leonora. Parley heard the following conversation between Leonora and Isabella Walton:
“Mrs. Walton, [said Leonora] I am glad to see you; there is a gentleman here from the United States who says the Lord sent him to this city to preach the gospel. He has applied in vain to the clergy and to the various authorities for
opportunity to fulfill his mission, and is now about to leave the place. He may be a man of God; I am sorry to have him depart.’
‘Indeed!’ said [Isabella]; ‘well, I now understand the feelings and spirit which brought me to your house at this time. Tell the stranger he is welcome to my house. I am a widow; but I have a spare room and bed, and food in plenty. He shall have a home at my house, and two large rooms to preach in, whenever he pleases . . . for I feel by the Spirit that he is a man sent by the Lord with a message which will do us good.”
From that time on the Methodists of Toronto listened to the teachings of Parley P. Pratt and began to be converted. Isabella Walton, and her sister and daughter, were the first to be baptized. On May 9, 1836, John and Leonora Taylor, Joseph, Mary, and Mercy Fielding, Isaac Russell and John Goodson were baptized. John Snider and Theodore Turley, also members of the Bible study group, were baptized sometime later by Pratt. Others in the neighborhood were also baptized and a branch of the Church was organized, with John Taylor as Branch President.
It was not too long afterward that John Taylor, Joseph Fielding, Isaac Russell, John Goodson, John Snider and Theodore Turley would all play a prominent part in the introduction of the gospel to England, fulfilling another part of the blessing to Parley Pratt. Think of the influence of Leonora Cannon Taylor on the fulfillment of that blessing and prophesy. She is the one who, when others doubted, uttered the words: “He may be a man of God.”
Leonora Cannon Taylor had dreams and promptings which helped her to become a Methodist, move to Canada, know whom to marry, recognize a Man of God, and guide her family. Now I will concentrate on how of her dreams and promptings influenced the family of her brother George.
John and Leonora Taylor moved to Kirtland and then on to Missouri. John was ordained an Apostle. As an Apostle, John was called on a mission to England in 1839. He took with him a letter of introduction from his wife, Leonora, to her brother George Cannon in Liverpool. John arrived there on January 11, 1840, calling at the Cannon home. He made himself known to Ann Quayle Cannon, George’s wife, and promised to return that evening. During that brief visit Ann was impressed and said to her oldest son, “There goes a man of God. He is come to bring salvation to your father’s house.”
This was the beginning of the Cannon family’s affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. George, who is called “The Immigrant,” to distinguish him from other George Cannons, and his wife Ann Quayle Cannon, were baptized February 11, 1840. Their three oldest children, George Q., 13, Mary Alice, 11, and Ann, 8, were baptized June 18, 1840. The George Cannon family then decided that they would immigrate to Nauvoo.
The first thing to be done was for George to give notice to his employer. He was a fine carpenter, noted for his “clever craftsmanship,” doing interior finishing, cabinet work, and furniture making. The employer offered George a handsome raise in salary if he would stay, but he would not.
There was another consideration the Cannons had as to an ocean voyage, one which would make it a life altering experience. Ann was pregnant. George’s journal records this, “Many years ago I dreamed a dream which time or circumstance has never been able entirely to remove. I was impressed with a conviction that my wife should die while in a state of pregnancy. This was before I thought of marrying. . . .I have never seen my wife pregnant without this fear of her death . . . She was aware of this feeling of mine, and it was a trial of our faith to cross the sea while she was in this state.”
Nevertheless, George, his wife Ann Quayle Cannon, and their six living children left Liverpool for America on September 17, 1842, on the ship Sydney. Ann suffered from sea-sickness, as did other passengers. George kept a journal during the voyage, from which we read, “Not a morsel of food or drink will remain on her stomach.” And, “Her stomach seems to have changed its functions, and this is the tenth day without anything passing through her.”
Ann Quayle Cannon died at sea on October 28, 1842 and was buried in the Atlantic Ocean.
The remaining passengers arrived at New Orleans in November, and traveling by steamer, arrived in St. Louis December 11. There, they spent the winter, the three older children attending school, and George finding good employment. The loss of their mother was devastating, but other women helped George in caring for the children, and there were other blessings. Fourteen children had died of scarlet fever while on the ship, remarkably, the Cannon children were all spared.
In April of 1843, the Cannons arrived in Nauvoo on the steamboat Maid of Iowa, owned and operated by the Church. George Cannon was able to buy land across the street from his sister Leonora and brother-in-law John Taylor. There was already a small but comfortable house, and George proceeded to build a carpenter shop.
Two of the children moved in with their Aunt and Uncle: George Q., 16, working as a printer’s apprentice in the office of the Times and Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor, of which Uncle John Taylor was the editor; and Ann, 11, helping Leonora with her home and four young children.
Mary Alice, 14, became her father’s helper in the home with Angus, 9, David, 5, and Leonora (namesake of her Aunt), 2 ½.
On February 24, 1844 George Cannon took a new wife, Mary Edwards, who had been a fellow passenger on the Sydney and the Maid of Iowa. She was 34, and George 50. Life seemed to be going well for the Cannons and Taylors, until the tragedies of June, 27, 1844. Carthage Jail was the scene of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and the wounding of John Taylor.
George Cannon, “The Immigrant,” using his carpentry skills, made the coffins for Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and also took the plaster death masks of the slain prophets. It is from his handiwork that we know the contours of their faces. George also must have been a great help to his sister Leonora, as her husband John was so horribly wounded.
During this time of chaos in the area, George was unable to find much work in his trade. He knew there would be more opportunity in St Louis, so he left in early August intending to work there for the remainder of the season. Without warning death struck him down on August 19, 1844. It is understood that he was the victim of sunstroke. By the time word reached the family he had been buried in an unmarked grave.
This was a cruel blow to his new wife and six children, who now were orphans indeed. George Q. and Ann remained in the family of their Aunt Leonora and Uncle John Taylor, coming to Utah in 1847.
Mary Alice, now almost 16, married Charles Lambert, 28, in November 1844 with the promise that he would take into their home the three young Cannon children: Angus, David and Leonora. This he did, and brought them all to Utah in 1849.
In February 1845, George’s second wife, Mary, had a baby girl, whom she named Elizabeth. A few years later, 2nd wife Mary Edwards Cannon remarried, to Charles B. Taylor. They came to Utah, bringing daughter Elizabeth, in 1850.
George Cannon, The Immigrant, and his wife Ann Quayle despite leaving their children orphans, have become the progenitors of a huge number of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. This is a photograph of the children of George Cannon “The Immigrant.” All of whom lived to be well over 70. The three sons, as well as some of the grandsons, were polygamists, which adds to the numbers.
The oldest child, George Quayle Cannon, fathered 43 children, his brother Angus Munn Cannon 31, and David Henry Cannon 32. The girls all had several children, Mary Alice Cannon Lambert 14, Ann Cannon Woodbury 10, Leonora Cannon Gardner 9, and Elizabeth Cannon Piggott 6. That is a total of 145 grandchildren for George Cannon, the Immigrant, and his wife Ann Quayle.
I am one of the very many great-grand-children of Angus M. Cannon.
The dreams of Leonora Cannon have influenced the lives of many thousands, especially her descendants, and her brother George Cannon’s descendants. Leonora’s prayers and promptings were directly responsible for the fulfillment of the prophesy given to Parley P Pratt by Heber C Kimball, bringing into the Church all the converts in the Toronto area, and through them the spread of the Gospel to England. The lives of thousands of people have been affected.
The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be much different without the lives of her husband, John Taylor, who became President October 10, 1880, and her nephew George Q. Cannon, who became an apostle August 26, 1860, and later served as counselor to Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow.
1. Cannon Family Historical Treasury , Edited by Beatirce Cannon Evans and Janath Russell Cannon, 1967, George Cannon Family Association
2. Where the Cannon Family Came From and Why they are in America, Marian Cannon Bennion, 1957
3. The Last Pioneer John Taylor a Mormon Prophet, Samuel W. Taylor, 1976, Signature Books
4. Parley P. Pratt The Apostle Paul of Mormonism, Terryl L. Givens & Matthew J. Grow
5. George Cannon – Ancestry, Posterity, Native Land, John Q. Cannon, 1927
6. Publications from the Blogspot “Cannundrums”
Leonora Cannon Marries John Taylor in Canada
John and Leonora Cannon Join the Church
Letter from Ceorge Cannon to Leonora Cannon Taylor
Redemption of a Slave Trader: Captain George Cannon and Edwin Q. Cannon