Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy 162nd Birthday, Ellen James Williams (1849-1924)!

Gayle's great-grandmother

A British pioneer who looks a lot like some in-laws I know!
Ellen Ann James was the third of nine children raised in England.  Her father was a nobleman's servant, but he died when Ellen was a teenager.  She joined the Church and emigrated ahead of her mother and siblings by means of the Perpetual Emigration Fund.  She brought along an adopted five-year-old sister, Lilly Spencer, who was a great comfort and dear friend to Ellen all her life, and who had a wonderful sense of humor.

Ellen met returning missionary Miles Williams on the journey to America, and he took Ellen and Lilly into his home when they arrived in Salt Lake. Miles’ first wife Jane gave her consent to a polygamous marriage, and Miles and Ellen were wed in the Endowment House seventeen days after Ellen’s arrival.  Family tradition says that Miles and Jane had not had a happy marriage since coming to Utah almost twenty years earlier, and for some time before Miles left on his mission, Jane lived upstairs while Miles lived downstairs.  

After the marriage, Ellen continued to live with Miles and Jane until the birth of her first child, which made childless Jane jealous. Miles built another home for Ellen. She had brought many nice clothes with her, and so she cut up some beautiful eyelet petticoats to make kitchen curtains. When her mother Clara arrived from England, she was distressed to find her daughter living in polygamy and there was tension in the family until Clara’s death. Ellen took in her siblings when her mother died, including Lilly’s twin Polly, who died a few years later.

Miles and Ellen purchased a farm west of the city by the Jordan River. Miles took his older children to Sunday School and Ellen always packed a nice lunch for them.  One night the dam broke and the Jordan River washed away all their crops. After that, they moved to 3rd East near the old Winder Farm. Miles was chased in the polygamy raids and Ellen threatened to shoot if Old Bishop Shurtliff, the apostate “polyg hunter” looking for him, came in the yard. Miles had to hide in a field for a long time, and died as a result of the exposure combined with his asthma. Ellen and her children arrived at the funeral in a horse-drawn wagon; Jane came in a hired hack with coachman wearing lovely new black mourning clothes.  Charitably, Ellen looked after Jane until her death.
Ellen with her children
The young widow refused to allow her children to go to church for a time because the new bishop was the son of Old Bishop Shurtliff, whom she held responsible for Miles’ death. The bishop came and reasoned with Ellen, reminding her that children are not responsible for their parents’ behavior, and urged her not to hold this grudge against him or the Church. She relented and the family returned to activity.

Ellen moved her family to 5th East and 27th South, and managed the farm with her children. She could build a pigpen or barn, put shingles on by herself, and harvest the vegetables and orchard. Ellen attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, but children had to be baptized before they could attend.   Nellie was just seven years old, and so the bishop gave his consent for her to be baptized a month early and go. Later she had to be rebaptized as an adult. Ellen worked in the temple in her later years.
Ellen with granddaughter Beth in 1915

I would give her some new curtains!

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