The family of Mark Anthony Coombs

Mark Anthony Coombs was the great-great grandson of Anthony Coombs [Antoine Comeau] and Dorcas Wooden.  One of seven sons, he was born on 8 February 1802 at Islesborough, [Islesboro] Maine, to Ephraim and Sarah Richards Coombs.  His parents were strict Quakers, as were most of their neighbors and friends.[1]  Ephraim was a “sailor by profession and he spent most of his life on the ocean.  He was known far and wide as Captain Coombs, having sailed for any years in that capacity.  His wife [Sarah] survived him and married again.  She died finally in Fairfield, Maine.”[2]

As a boy, Mark Anthony was “wild, impetuous, fond of adventure, daring and full of mischief.”  His family regarded him as a lad of genius and they all expected great things of him when he obtained manhood.[3]  He “early manifested a love for the seafaring life and being left by the death of his father to follow his own inclinations, he very early in boyhood secured a berth on shipboard and went to sea.  For sixteen years, he plowed the mighty deep, at first as a common seaman before the mast, but later as captain of a Merchantman.  During this time, he circumvented the globe and visited almost every nation and clime.”[4]

When he was a young man, he became engaged to Mary B. Jones of Bristol, Maine.  However, she passed away while he was on one of his long voyages and after he returned, he was inconsolable.  He “took his dog and gun and retired to the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], purposing to spend the remainder of his life in those then vast solitudes.”  After spending three long years in the islands with the natives and Christian missionaries, he “was induced to return to his native land and to again engage in the active pursuits of life.”[5]

Despite his adventurous and reckless spirit, Mark Anthony was a deeply religious man.  “The reading of the scriptures was a source of perpetual delight from childhood and at this period he was thoroughly conversant with them.”  He never identified himself with any of the organized churches, however, objecting to them because “none of them were organized after the pattern of the primitive church as given in the New Testament, none of them were in possession of the gifts and graces of the gospel and their ministers were destitute of authority to preach the gospel or officiate in its holy saving ordinances.”[6]

In 1831, he decided to visit his brother, Isaiah Meed Coombs, who resided in Illinois.  Isaiah had enlisted in the army at an early age and had served as a soldier for many years.  After obtaining an honorable discharge at Jefferson Barrack, Missouri, he settled in Illinois, where he married Nancy Morgan.[7]

When Mark Anthony arrived in Illinois, there was a joyous reunion between the two brothers.  Isaiah’s father-in-law, Arthur Morgan, “took quite a fancy” to the newcomer until Mark Anthony fell in love with his sixteen-year-old daughter Maria Morgan.  When he asked Arthur for Maria’s hand in marriage, Arthur gave him a flat refusal.  Undeterred, the young lovers eloped by horseback to the banks of the Mississippi River, where they were taken by boat to St. Louis, Missouri.  They were married in St. Louis on 19 July 1831, by Justice of the Peace Jacob R. Stine.  When they returned, Maria’s father was furious with them, but he eventually accepted Mark Anthony as a son-in-law and the two men enjoyed a close relationship.[8]

After his marriage, he and Isaiah worked together as carpenters for a short time in Waterloo, Illinois, until Isaiah was stricken with cholera and died.  Mark Anthony then found employment as a mate on a steamboat on the Missouri River.  One day, the captain ordered him to flog some of the hands and when he refused, he was fired and put ashore at Independence, Missouri.[9]

As he explored the town, he came across a copy of a newspaper, the “Evening and Morning Star,” which was published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormons].  He was so impressed with the publication that he sought out the members of that church and found them assembled in a nearby home.  Mark Anthony queried them about where they obtained their authority to preach as well as their beliefs and, satisfied with the answers he received, he requested baptism and he was baptized that same day in the Missouri River.[10]

Mark Anthony and Maria were the parents of six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  Isaiah Moses was born on 21 March 1834, in Columbia, Illinois; Mary Jones Coombs was born 13 July 1836, in Alton, Illinois; Hyrum Smith Coombs was born on 24 November 1838, in Columbia, Illinois; Maria Louisa Coombs was born on 9 May 1850 in Columbia, Illinois.[11]

Apparently, the family lived for a short time in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, because on January 13, 1840, Mark Anthony signed a grievance petition for damages and losses that he, as well as other LDS Church members sustained, while living in Far West.[12]

On 23 April 1854, Maria passed away of a sudden illness.  A widower, in poor health and with five children at home, Mark Anthony struggled to care for his family.  After his oldest son, Isaiah Moses Coombs, crossed the plains to Utah in 1855, Mark Anthony and his remaining children moved to St. Louis, Missouri.[13]

Isaiah helped to pave the way for his father and siblings to join him in Utah and they arrived in Salt Lake City on 3 October 1860.  Mark Anthony expressed his gratitude to his son, “We owe all to you, in great measure, the blessings we enjoy in being here in the chambers of the mountains.  Your life has been a blessing and a consolation to me in this house of my pilgrimage, and the God of Jacob will bless you abundantly for the sacrifices you have made in His cause my noble boy.”[14]

Mark Anthony and his children eventually settled in southern Utah.  On 22 February 1867, he passed away in Beaver, Utah, at the age of sixty-five.[15]

Coombs Family Chronology
Proposed Itinerary for Coombs Trip 2014 June 7-21
In the Footsteps of Anthony Coombs/Antoine Comeau
Article by Sandra Brimhall, descendant of Mark Anthony Coombs

[1]  Alice C. Mills, Mark Anthony Coombs: His Roots and Branches (Salt Lake City: Privately published family history, 1978), 8-10.  See M270.1 C7754m, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.  All of the quotes in this article about Mark Anthony Coombs come from a short biography that was written about him by his oldest son Isaiah Moses Coombs; John Pendleton Farrow, History of Islesborough, Maine (Bangor: T. W. Burr, 1893), 97.

[2]  Mills, Mark Anthony Coombs, 8-10.  Sarah’s name and the identity of her parents, as well as her remarriage after Ephraim’s death, are supported by Vassalboro Quaker Marriage Records, 1793-1885.  “John Shepherd of Fairfield, County of Somerset, son of John Shepherd of Dartmouth, County of Bristol, and Abigail his wife, both deceased, and Sarah Coombs, daughter of William Richards of Bristol and Ruth his wife, in Vassalboro, 1, 12 mo., 1813.”  See “Records of the Society of Friends at Vassalborough, Me.,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 68 (Boston, Mass,: NEHGS, 1914).

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Mills, Mark Anthony Coombs, 12.

[8]  Ibid; Affidavit recorded October 28, 1831 by Jacob R. Stine, Justice of the Peace.  “This is to certify that on this Nineteenth day of July 1831 before me a Justice of the Peace in and for the County of Illinois and state of Missouri Mark Anthony Coombs of Columbia, Illinois and Maria Morgan of St. Clair County, Illinois, were legally joined in marriage.  Witness my hand the day and year aforesaid.”  See St. Louis Missouri City Recorder, Marriage Records of St. Louis and St. Louis Co., V. 1-2 1808-1842 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1967-1968), Marriage of Mark Anthony Coombs and Maria Morgan, 19 July 1831, FHL Microfilm 469,561.

[9]  Ibid.

[10]  Ibid,13.

[11]  Ibid.

[13]  Kate.B. Carter, ed., Our Pioneer Heritage, 20 vol. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977), 336.

[14]  Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage, 363-365; Mills, Mark Anthony Coombs, 184.

[15]  Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage, 372.

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