“Ad Lucem”

Henry Luce (c1640-1689), a Puritan, came from Wales to Massachusetts about 1666. Attempts to discover his ancestry have been unsuccessful, but I believe he might have belonged to the Lewes family at Chepstow in Monmouth.

Henry Luce’s descendants in the male line have tested consistently as belonging to yDNA haplogroup I2b1a. (Luce Surname DNA Project at Wikipedia says this group “has been found almost exclusively among the population of Great Britain, suggesting that the clade may have a very long history in that island.” So, it is nearly certain that the Luces were an indigenous Welsh family, not descendants of the Norman family of de Lucy. (Wikipedia)

Henry Luce settled on Martha’s Vineyard, and was progenitor of the largest single family there. During the French and Indian Wars of the 1760s, a branch of this family moved to Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine, where they were fishermen and whalers.

In 1838 Malatiah Luce (1772-1849) converted to Mormonism and moved with his family to Nauvoo, Illinois, becoming one of the pioneer families there. Malatiah died in Nauvoo but his children moved west with the Mormons in 1848 and 1850, becoming one of the pioneer families of Salt Lake City, Utah. Some descendants of this family are members of Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.

Malatiah’s son Stephen Luce (1801-1872) was a polygamist. Stephen’s sons Wilford, John and Jason were members of the notorious Bill Hickman gang; Hickman was their brother-in-law. The Luce brothers were convicted of assault on Territorial Governor Dawson. Jason was later executed for murder, having killed a man in a knife fight.

Wilford Luce Jr. (1864-1948) settled in Wyoming Territory in the 1880s. He became a prosperous rancher at Big Piney. His ranches included the LU Quarter Circle, the Flying Heart, the Circle Dot and others. He was president of the local cattlemen’s association, and founder of Marbleton State Bank.

Lineal Genealogy

  1. Henry Luce (c1642-1689), a tanner at Tisbury, Massachusetts. He married Remember Litchfield (c1644-aft 1708), daughter of Lawrence and Judith (Dennis) Litchfield.
  2. Thomas Luce (c1679-1727), a farmer at West Tisbury, Massachusetts. He married Hannah Butler (1685-c1753), daughter of Capt. Thomas and Jemima (Daggett) Butler.
  3. Malatiah Luce (c1710-1801), a farmer at Tisbury. He married Eleanor Harlow, perhaps daughter of Benjamin Harlow.
  4. Bethuel Luce (c1741-bef 1820), a fisherman, fish curer and farmer at Vinalhaven, Maine. He served in the French and Indian War. He married Susanna Norton (1742-bef 1800), daughter of Timothy and Lydia (?) Norton.
  5. Malatiah Luce (1772-1849), a farmer. He married Ruth Grant (1775-1860), daughter of Capt. Andrew and Elizabeth (Dunton) Grant. They converted to Mormonism and settled at Nauvoo, Illinois, where he died. She went across the plains in 1850 to Salt Lake City at the age of 75.
  6. Stephen Thomas Luce (1801-1872), a shoemaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a polygamist. He married Mary Ann Wheeler (1801-1879), daughter of David and Mary (Clark) Wheeler.
  7. Wilford Woodruff Luce (1838-1906), a farmer in Cottonwood, Utah. He married Anna Quarmby (1842-1904), daughter of John and Ann (Wagstaff) Quarmby.
  8. Wilford Woodruff Luce, Jr. (1865-1948), a rancher in Big Piney, Wyoming. He married Esseneth Wilson (1878-1927), daughter of John C. and Elizabeth Ann (Mallory) Wilson.
  9. Vivian Luce (1901-1979), married Harry William Swanström (1903-1957).

Prominent Luces

  • Cyrus Gray Luce (1824-1905) was 21st Governor of Michigan. He was a descendant of American immigrant Henry Luce.
  • Stephen Bleecker Luce (1827-1917) was an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. He was a descendant of American immigrant Henry Luce. He was instrumental in founding the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and served as its first President. Three ships have been named USS Luce in his honor.
  • Henry Robinson Luce (1898-1967) was co-founder with Britton Hadden of Time-Life Publications. He was a descendant of American immigrant Henry Luce. The writer Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) was his wife.
  • John Victor Luce (1920- ) is a professor of Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. He was among the first to suggest credibly that the Atlantis legend might have had a basis in fact, the eruption of Santorini during the Minoan Era. See J. V. Luce,The End of Atlantis (1970).
  • Richard Napier Luce, Baron Luce, of Adur (1936- ) is a British politician. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1986, knighted in 1991 and created a life peer in 2000.

Related Topics

A Woodruff Connection?

There is a persistent idea among older generations that Wilford Woodruff Luce Sr. was a son of Wilford Woodruff, the 4th President of the LDS Church. Others of the same generation find it necessary to vehemently deny the rumor.

This is almost certainly nothing more than a confusion of names, compounded by the fact that Woodruff converted the Luces to Mormonism, and led them from Maine to Nauvoo. In fact Wilford Luce was born in November 1838, during that journey. Nothing would be more in keeping with human nature than to name the baby for the leader of the company. Moreover, Woodruff was newly married to his first wife (April 1837), and there is no evidence he knew Joseph Smith had begun to preach polygamy. Woodruff did not marry his first polygamous wife until 1846.

Those who doubt circumstantial evidence respond that Woodruff was physically present in Vinalhaven in February 1838, so could have been Wilford Luce’s father.

The question could be easily settled by genetic testing. The yDNA signature of Wilford Woodruff is known from the Woodruff DNA Project, and there are half a dozen male-line descendants of Wilford Luce who could be tested.

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