Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy 197th Birthday, Henry Perkes (1814-1890)!

Gayle Wells' third-great-grandfather

Henry was a stubborn fellow, but has a likable face.

Henry was named after his father, who ran an English pub called the Green Dragon Tavern.  He was reared in a home adjacent to the tavern.  Henry became a butcher in business with his brother.  During the English depression of 1839-43, the business failed and his brother ran off to Africa with what money remained.  Henry, father of five young children and husband to fashionable wife Charlotte, could not pay the debts and was put in debtors’ prison.  His eight-year-old son William sold newspapers to help support the family.

The Perkes family moved to Liverpool in 1845, where business improved.  Henry provisioned ships and could afford to keep several servants, two horses, rent a shop in town and keep a house on the outskirts with a large garden.  There they met the LDS missionaries.  The Perkes family knew this new religion was the truth they had been seeking for many years, and opened their hearts and lives.  They turned wholeheartedly to Church activities, and the missionaries lived with them for long periods of time.  Henry performed his daughter Agnes' wedding to Elder Calkin.

For his son William’s 21st birthday, Henry gave him an ivory pen and pencil case; William noted in his journal that he rather expected something more given the occasion. Henry had some difficulty selling his business before emigrating, which meant the Calkins family group preceded them by a year.  For some unknown reason Henry and Charlotte traveled separately on different ships but reconnected before crossing the plains.

In Utah, Henry continued his butcher business, and also had a cooperage.  His barrels and tubs were filled with water for fire prevention, and he housed the first fire department apparatus in his shop (located at 6th East and 1st South).  In Utah, the Perkes family had an adobe house and always had flowers planted by the side of the cobblestone walk.  Inside, they displayed a beautiful mirror that they had brought across the plains. 

Henry was musically inclined and family legend asserts that he was either a member or leader of the Tabernacle Choir, although he is not found in the choir’s historical roster (this legend may stem from his son William’s statement in a letter that “Father attended meetings in the Tabernacle very punctually, being a member of the choir”).  Henry later disapproved of his daughter Agnes’ second polygamous marriage and there was a family rift: Agnes was accused of giving her parents grief and gray hair. 

Although Henry and Charlotte were sealed in the Endowment House after arriving in Utah, they became offended due to a water rights dispute with their bishop (alternatively, another account indicates that perhaps it was because Henry was unhappy being replaced as choir director).  Henry also began reading the Tribune newspaper constantly and repeating its arguments.  The couple resigned their standing in the Church and were cast off at their own request in the 11th Ward, Salt Lake City, October 5, 1874.  They joined an Episcopal church and attended regularly for fifteen years, until Henry died. 

William recalled that he could not discuss religion with his father in these later years without Henry’s violent, painful outbursts.  However, Henry had expressed to both Agnes and William’s wife a regret for having left the Church, “but being of a stubborn, set nature, he was not prepared to retrace his step.”  During his final two years, Henry grew feeble in mind and body.  After his death, William petitioned Church authorities for permission to redo his parents’ temple work, and he and Agnes did so in the Manti Temple.

I would give him a subscription to the Deseret News instead.


  1. I'd give him the chance to sing in/direct a choir for us today.

  2. This morning I was delighted to come across the entry for Henry Perkes (1814-1890) in the ancestral birthday blog you host.

    Henry is my great-great-uncle, the older brother of my great-great grandfather Thomas Perkes (1824-1898), whose son Thomas (1853-1940) settled with his family in Ontario, Canada in 1906, after some years of sailing on merchant ships, and a stay in Philadelphia with his uncle Charles, another sibling of Henry. Thomas "jr" left a short memoir recounting his voyages overseas and a few details about family.

    It is so wonderful to see a photo of Henry and read of his experiences. Yesterday I came across an 1863 "trail excerpt" by his son William Henry who recounts the difficult journey from Nebraska to Utah with the Samuel D. White Company (and who also states he writes to his father but never gets an answer). What a fascinating family story! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Best regards,

    Carolyn Perkes