Hay view from Castle

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Thomas Vaughan (born 1850) was Branch President in Witton Park!

 It wasn't a large branch and it didn't last long as many members emigrated to the United States, but it's right there in ink in official records:

LDS CHL CR 375 8 

This is from the Confidential Minutes of the Witton Park Branch in 1884. As a service missionary in the Church History Library, I have staff access to this which is listed as "closed to research." It is possible for others to get access upon a justified request. And I saw nothing of sensitive nature in this record. Anyway, I have it. And there it is in ink!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Our Elinor and Mary Taylor Mayo

The evidence is pretty solid that our Elinor* (1789-1861) was the traveling companion of Mary Taylor Mayo (1791-1856) in their travels to America and on the Pioneer Trail. Mary is the one who died just short of South Pass on the Overland Trail. She died September 13, 1856, in Nebraska Territory and was buried in Oregon Territory when the Ellsworth Handcart Company stopped for the night at Pacific Springs.

There are two contemporaneous lists of the members of Ellsworth's Company that departed Iowa City on June 2, 1856. Neither one is in alphabetical order. The people are generally grouped by families. Interestingly, Elinor is not grouped with her daughter, Jane Vaughan Lewis (1827-1890) and her family. They travelled from Britain to the United States in different ships within weeks of each other. However, Elinor and Mary Mayo are listed together on both lists.

CHL MS 1964 Ellsworth Folder 1, Journal list, Image 11,  p. 6, Eleanor Vaughan, Mary Mayo.

CHL MS 1964 Ellsworth Folder 2, Image 6, Co. List, Eleanor Vaughan No. 35.

CHL MS 1964 Ellsworth Folder 2, Image 7, Co. List, Mary Mayo No. 36.

The first thing to notice is that Elinor's age is given as 68 on these lists. This is much more accurate than most other records of the time. She is listed on the Enoch Train ship manifest as 78, and as various other ages in the records. 

As a service missionary in the LDS Church History Library (CHL), I have had the opportunity to discuss Elinor and Mary Mayo with the professional historian who is in charge of the Pioneer Database. In a recent conversation, she confirmed that seeing Elinor and Mary together on these lists was a good indication that they had been assigned as traveling companions, most likely when they both boarded the Enoch Train, as neither of then had any family to be with them on that stage of the journey. Their natural inclinations as elderly widows would be to look out after each other and that would have suited the Mormon Elders in charge of the passengers.

This likely continued on the trail. While "family" may be an important unit and would have usually slept together in the same tent, the handcart companies were often divided based on needs of the group as a whole. The youngest children able to walk were led out together in the morning before the families packed up. Mothers would be expected to carry infants. Young men were often assigned as teamsters, to drive stock, to assist the elderly and infirm, or other duties. Generally, each handcart was for five individual and each canvas tent slept twenty. In the second list above, the company appears to be counted by tens and twenties that may have reflected the "captaincies" and the tent assignments.

Another matter that I have yet failed to discuss with professional historians is that Mary Ann Jones (1836-1925) who later married Edmund Ellsworth, told of two elderly women who were not happy with the weight limit for their personal goods on the handcarts. One, who has been identified as Mary Mayo, carried a hatbox in her hands. The other, whom we believe to be our Elinor, had a teapot and colander tied to her apron strings. It makes perfect sense that these two traveling companions would have devised similar strategies. No one apparently challenged the two determined matriarchs.

The Enoch Train left England on March 23. Mary Mayo died September 13. That is six months that these two women likely spent in each others company day and night, in sickness and travail. When Mary died of dysentery, Elinor was most likely with her. The sick wagon, driven as a sweep behind the company to pick up any dead or ill of the company left aside the trail, would have come upon Mary and perhaps Elinor as well. Elinor would have walked with the body as they carried it to the grave on the side of Pacific Butte. She may have carried Mary's hatbox and placed it with her.

Twin Mounds on Overland Trail just east of South Pass.

Pacific Butte from Trail Marker at Pacific Springs - Burial Place of Mary Mayo

*In most records, she is identified as "Eleanor." Her name at Christening in Whitney, Herefordshire, used the Welsh spelling of "Elinor."

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Abednego Jones (John)

It's been a while. But I finally found something new.

I've been doing my part-time, senior-service missionary work for the Church History Library on the Welsh Missionaries in the Early Missionary Database. Levi Richards, brother of Willard Richards and personal physician to Joseph Smith, Jr., was back in Wales in 1852 as a Special Missionary to advise the Welsh Mission and to establish the boundary with the Herefordshire Conference. On 21 February, in Llanelli, near Swansea, he notes in his journal, "....had an interview with Prest Abednego Jones (John) stopped over night." Parentheses in the original! Here's the pic:

The 9 August 1851 editon of Zion's Trumpet reports that Abednego Jones was appointed to preside over the Carmarthenshire Conference. On 27 May 1852, the Carmarthenshire Conference was split created the Llanelli Conference on the south side of the Towy River in Carmarthenshire. Abednego Jones was to be President of this conference. On 3 January 1853, Abednego was released as President of the Conference presumably to travel to Utah as he and his family did on 5 February 1853. The first two Children of Abednego and Mary Jones in the ship's manifest match up with the children in the 1851 Census for Abednego and Mary then living in Llanelly, Breconshire (not be be confused with Llanelli, Carmarthenshire as was often the case). Llanelly, Breconshire was near the town of Brynmawr in the neighborhood of Merthyr Tydfil (two valleys over).

Monday, September 2, 2019

A Challenge to our Circumstantial Case for Rees Price as Father of John Vaughan (1789)

We have been researching to break through the brick wall of a 1789 illegitimate birth in  Hay, Breconshire. That is our direct surname origin (although the numerous Vaughans in the Middle Wye and Usk Valleys all claim descent from Sir Roger Vaughan of Bredwardine, legitimately or not - and we connect with a few other of those lines).

This weekend, I had some correspondence on Ancestry.com with another user who took some umbrage with us naming her direct ancestor as the putative father of John Vaughan (1789-1851). She gave me permission to share it with her Ancestry user name. Here is the correspondence:

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.