Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Abednego Rising

My order of the great historical losses in the word:
1) the Library of Alexandria;
2) the Library at Raglan Castle, Wales;
3) the 1890 US Census, and;
4) the 1831 Merthyr Tydfil Petition of 11,000 signatures to save the life of Dic Penderyn.

Some of those 11,000 on the petition to Lord Melbourne may have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840s. We think we know one of them.

There's some irony that during the longest federal shutdown, being locked out of work, I've read The Merthyr Rising, by Gwyn A. Williams (University of Wales, Cardiff 1978). The Rising came about because of the Ironmasters conspiring to lower wages and shut-down work making it very difficult for the families of working poor in the ironworks, the coal, ironstone, and limestone mines, and processing mills to feed their families.

"Bara gyda caws!" was the shout of the crowd for "bread and cheese" in front of the Castle Inn when the 93rd Highland Regiment fired on the crowd killing two dozen and wounding dozens more. It only gave the leaders of the town and small contingent of soldiers an opportunity to escape to Penydarren House, which was more easily defended.

The workers held the town for a few days in June 1831. They even held off the Highlanders' relief troops from Brecon at the steep slopes of Cefn Coed just north of Merthyr Tydfil. However, within a few days, the gentry militias and soldiers of the King converged on the town and the workers went back to the mines and furnaces. The British Parliament and the ironmasters were smart enough to establish some reform.

We found a newspaper article from 1833 that Elinor Jenkins Vaughan's son-in-law, Abednego Jones (1811-1890), appears to have participated in the Rising. The book confirmed my source. Here's how Professor Williams lays it out in his Preface about the stories he heard growing up in Merthyr:
It was astounding to me, or to be more accurate, it became astounding tome in retrospect, how often the talk curled back to 1831. One story lodged in my mind like a limpet intruder. They would shriek with laughter as they told of a young boy, Abednego Jones, who went about Merthyr during the Rising carrying a huge white banner as big as himself (by the end of the evening, it would be twice as big) and piping in a shrill, choir-boy treble: 'Death to kings and tyrants! The reign of justice for ever!'
     I did in the end find one 'huge white banner': it was carried by workers on the  march to the Waun Fair which started the rebellion. The young boy I never found. But once, quite by accident, I came across a court case in the Merthyr Guardian for 1833. A miner sued two others for cheating him out of his stall, won, and was then exposed as a man who had 'carried a banner during the Merthyr Riots'. This phrase recurs constantly in obituary and other notices; it evidently marked a man out. The judge read the offender an appropriate sermon. His name was Abednego Jones. [footnote to the same article that I found.] In 1833, he was no boy. Perhaps he was short. The Merthyr Rising, at 14.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Grandma Elinor's Departure from Waterloo Dock on the Enoch Train, 1856

The bad news is that the Waterloo Dock in Liverpool was significantly modified in 1868 and is now blocked off by apartments and offices. But we know where it was at the lower end of Waterloo Road just north of Prince's Dock.

The good news is that I found an 1850 article from the Illustrated London News about emigration from Waterloo Docks. Grandma Elinor embarked on the Enoch Train from Waterloo Dock in 1856 for Zion. It couldn't have changed that much in six years.

The article is mostly about Irish emigration because of the potato famines and general conditions of abject poverty. There are important confirmations in the article that ships sailing to and from the United States used Waterloo Docks and that steerage passengers were boarded 24 hours ahead of sailing to be organized below decks and likely to clear space before the saloon (first-class) passengers boarded.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Christmas Eve Services, Llanfoist, 1841

It isn't much, but another missionary journal from Elinor's era in Llanfoist tells us:

“My next appointment was at Llanfoist where I found a steady and attentive congregation. This is a dark and sootey place owing to the vast amount of coal and iron works here.” 

James Palmer Reminiscences, circa 1884-1898 LDS CHL MS 1752_f0001_00071. 

This source must be based on a contemporaneous journal as there are dates that would not be remembered unless recorded somehow. James Palmer occasionally traveled with Elder John Needham who baptized Elinor Jenkins Vaughan on 17 December 1841, just one week before the Christmas Eve meeting in Llanfoist. Elder Palmer also visited the Branch at Llanthony in the Black Mountains and was the first missionary to preach in Abersychan in June 1841, apparently without much success.

Elder Palmer is credited with the first recorded baptism in South Wales. His Reminiscences records that on either the 23rd or 30th of November, 1840, he baptized John Preece and William Williams in the River Monnow at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire. It just so happens that I took pics there on my visit last Good Friday, not knowing about this history (even though it's recorded in Truth Will Prevail: the Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles 1837-1987 (University Press, Cambridge, UK 1987), p. 240, as well as the Reminiscences at p. 13.)

The River Monnow at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, Wales. First baptisms in South Wales near here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The SS Nevada of the Guion Line, Liverpool to New York, 1886 and 1887

The SS Nevada of the Guion Line or the Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Co.
Oil painting presumed to be by James Douglas, in the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

Sometimes, playing around on Google pays off. I found this image of an oil painting from the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA. It is the ship that brought my Great Grandfather George Robert Vaughan and his family to America in 1887. His father, Thomas, arrived a year earlier on the same ship.

The color and detail are so helpful. Note the two rows of portholes along the line of the hull just above the water line. One of those might have been opened during calm seas to get some fresh air to my infant Great Grandfather. The black smokestacks with the red stripe were distinctive of the Guion Line.

The ship had only one propeller which necessitated the sails in case the engine failed. Steamships were soon outfitted with two engines and screws for additional speed and if one system failed, there was another for backup rather than having to rely on the sails. This artistic representation is a bit fanciful as the sails were rarely used especially if the ship was at full steam as appears here.

The Nevada was built at Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co., Jarrow-on-Tyne outside of Newcastle, England in 1868. That was the same year that Mormon emigrants began using steamships rather than the slower, less-expensive and soon outdated sailing ships. Steamships were coming into their own just as the transcontinental railroad was close to completion across the United States. Steamships and railroads greatly facilitated and expedited the journey from England to Utah. The Guion line became the preferred company for organized Mormon emigrant passage because of the favorable treatment and reduced fairs arranged between the Guion agents in Liverpool and the Church leaders of the British Mission. The Mormons were organized and orderly passengers generally respected by the captains.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Old Postcard of Alexandra Dock


This undated postcard photo of the Alexandra Dock, Liverpool, is probably from the early 20th Century. The ships look like freighters with their derrick booms for loading cargo and no masts. The buildings around the docks appear to be old enough to have been there in the 1880s. Alexandra Dock was built in 1881.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Meet me at Alexandra Dock No. 3 on Saturday!

This just might work. If only it were Saturday, May 22, 1886, in Liverpool!

Ever the one to want to stand in exactly the same place where my ancestors have stood and to lead others to their ancestral spots, I had to know where the actual dock was where my Great-Great-Grandfather boarded the S.S. Nevada to come to America.

The Mormon Migration database is a great resource to find immigrant ancestors who came from Europe from the 1840s through the early 1900s. The Mormon immigrants were well organized by the British Mission with transport arranged at the lowest fares. The ships are documented with passenger lists and departure dates from Liverpool, England which saw no less than 1,695 Mormon emigrant ship sailings!

On my recent trip with Mormon Heritage Association, I found the Liverpool docks fascinating. Liverpool is on the Mersey Estuary with tides from the Irish Sea. The docks are not what I was used to in US harbors with piers sticking out into Elliott Bay (Seattle), San Francisco Bay, or the New York Harbor. Liverpool docks are more like rectangular pools of water separated from the Mersey by locks and short canals. As a tidal river, the Mersey mud is exposed at low tide. At high tide, the locks can be open and the ships enter and depart through the canals in or out of the various rectangular docks. "Sailing with the tide" now makes a lot more sense.

Canning Dock in the very nice public space of the Liverpool Waterfront.
The Mersey at low tide with mud exposed outside the docks.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Visit to the Vaughan Home in Cusop, Church Cottage

Skipping dinner was no sacrifice for me. I had a car hire for just a few days. There was no gap in the tour schedule, so I just took off when I could. We were already in Merthyr, so I just headed over the Beacons past Brecon and on to the Wye, up the backside of Hay, and into Cusop Village.

The Cusop History Group had already provided some good evidence of the location of Cusop Green and the only house there in the 1830s is the only house there now, Church Cottage, across from the lower corner of St. Mary's churchyard. This is very likely where John and Elinor Vaughan lived in the 1810s-1820s. Several of their children were likely born there. Possibly, that included John Vaughan (1825) in my direct line of fathers' fathers.

Church Cottage, Cusop Green, Cusop, Herefordshire