Julia Wilson (1819-1898)

Julia WilsonBy Guy L. Black

Julia Wilson was born June 11, 1819 at Conklin Mill in Whiston Parish, Yorkshire, England.  Her parents were James Wilson and Martha Wilkinson.

Julia was baptized/christened on July 4, 1819 by B. Birkett, curate in the parish of Whiston, County of Yorkshire.

Julia was not educated.  Neither she, nor her sister, Ann, could read or write.  Instead of attending school, Julia went to work at age eight, tending the two sons and one daughter of a wealthy landowner.  She worked at that occupation for many years.

While working for the landowner, a big celebration was planned in connection with a fox hunt.  During the preparation for the party, Julia’s master discovered that he did not have enough pies.  Julie offered to make pies, and her master was so well-pleased with the result that he offered her a job as a cook.  Julie continued to work as a cook until her employer suffered a financial setback.  After she married, Julia again found work cooking daily dinner for the same man and his daughter.  In return, she, her husband, and her young family received their rent, coal, candles, and soap.

Julia’s father died when Julia was fifteen.  He was driving a one-horse cart, delivering flour for Conklin Mill, and was run over and killed by his own cart.

When Julia was nineteen, she took a nurse’s course for a chance to become nurse for Queen Victoria, Queen of England.  She competed with five other girls and six boys for the opportunity.  Julia was unsuccessful in her attempt, but a Dr. Davis, who later joined the LDSChurch and moved to Manti, won the competition and eventually became the Queen’s doctor.  He later said that he “had to work like a Britain” to beat Julia.

Julia also took a dressmaking course.  As she sat sewing on the ledge of an upstairs window one day, she fell out the window, which caused her eyes to become crossed.

Julia’s older sister, Ann, married William Memmott on November 30, 1836.  Sometime before 1841, Julia moved in with her sister and his husband on Pitt Street in Sheffield.  William’s younger brother, John, also lived in the same residence by 1841.

Perhaps John and Julia began courting during the time they lived together.  They may gone for walks in the nearby Endcliffe Woods, walking beside the river Porter, that wound through that pleasant area, dotted with a variety of bridges and glens.  Endcliffe Woods was a favorite with local artists, and also contained several dams that supplied power for the local grinding mills.

Or perhaps they ventured slightly farther afield on a romantic trip to Loxley, the nearby, famous glen considered by locals to be the site of “SweetLoxleyTown,” where Robin Hood was born and bred.  It sat but a short distance from Sherwood Forest.

In any event, the couple fell in love.  They married in the Wesleyan Methodist Brunswick Chapel in Sheffield on March 16, 1846.  The chapel was within the municipal district of Eccelsall Bierlow, Yorkshire County, England.  They were married by Minister Joseph Hargreaves.  Witnesses to the wedding included John’s brother, William Memmott; Julia’s mother, Martha Wilson; and Edwin Constantine.  At the time of their marriage, John was living on Bright Street in Sheffield, and Julia lived at 153 Tudor Street in Sheffield.  John was working as a spring knife cutler.

Not long after they were married, John joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Julia was also baptized, approximately one year after John, on October 28, 1849.

While President Joseph F. Smith was in England serving a mission, he ate at Julia’s home many times. He loved the warm homemade bread and trachea, (known to us in America as molasses), which Julia served from her kitchen.

John and Julia had five children while living in England: Sarah, born 18 Jan 1847, Martha born 16 Oct 1848, Thomas William born 21 Jul 1850, John Alma born 23 Sep 1852, and Anna Laura born 18 Aug 1854. They were all born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England.  Later, after moving to Cedar City, Utah, John and Julia’s youngest child, James Ammon Memmott, was born 26 Oct 1856.

Five years after John and Julia were baptized the desire to worship without ridicule and persecution became very strong. The excitement of creating a new life for themselves beaconed them to America   William’s family prepared to go also, but it would take them a little longer to get ready.  Leaving parents and family behind to go to America, and knowing that they would probably never see them again, was one of the hardest things John and Julia had ever done.  Some members of Julia’s family were so upset with her they vowed to never correspond with her again.  No one in her father’s family joined the LDSChurch, except her sister, Ann.  Some of her brothers were very bitter, and refused to see her off when she left England.  However, they all became quite friendly later, except her sister, Bessie.

After biding farewell to their parents, family and friends, knowing they would never return, they set sail for America 22 Apr 1855, with their five little children, on the ship “Samuel Curling.”

Each ship had a president and two counselors. The ship was divided into wards and branches over which an elder or priest, with assistants, was placed to preside. Watchmen were appointed to stand watch night and day.

When at sea, those in charge of each ward were to see that passengers were up at five or six in the morning to clean their portion of the deck, to say morning prayers, and to prepare breakfast.  During the day, school was held for the children. When weather permitted, church services were held on Sunday, and two or three times a week. Many people were converted to the gospel as they participated in the activities, and services of the Latter-Day Saints on board ship.

According to the Passengers Act of June 1852, each agent had to supply the passengers with 70 days provisions which consisted of the following each week (half was allotted for children between the ages of one and fourteen years):

3 quarts of water daily
2 ½ lbs. of bread or biscuits
1 lb. wheaten flour
5 lbs. oatmeal
2 lbs. rice
½ lb. sugar
2 oz. Tea
2 oz. Salt

They landed in New York on 22 May 1855, just a month after they left England. They then traveled by train to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From there they were to go by boat to St Louis, Missouri.  John was left in Pittsburgh but later caught up with his family in St Louis. It was a frightening experience until they were united.  John’s uncle, Charles Willden, lived in St. Louis, so they were able to visit with him a short time.

In St. Louis, they were placed in Captain Charles A. Harper’s company.  Each family was assigned a wagon, two oxen, two cows, and supplies, which consisted of 1000 lbs. of flour, 50 lbs. of sugar, 50 lbs. of bacon, 20 lbs. of rice, 30 lbs. of beans. 20 lbs. of dried apples and peaches, 1 gallon of vinegar, 10 bars of soap, and 25 lbs. of salt. These articles, along with milk from the cows, pure water from the streams, and game that was caught on the plains furnished their diet, which to some was better than they had enjoyed in their native land.

At Atchison, Missouri the children contacted cholera, and on June 25, 1855, John Alma died.  Anna Laura died on July 23, 1855.  Both were buried at Mormon Grove, Kansas.  Martha was seriously ill, but recovered. Julia was heart broken, and never got over having to leave her little ones in the desert.  It was a sorrowful little family that started the trek westward.  But they braved the tragedy like so many others, and moved on.

After arriving in Utah, they went on to CedarCity, as Elliot Willden, a brother of Sarah Willden, was living there.  While they were in CedarCity, James Ammon Memmott was born.

One year they lived in the bottoms of Beaver.  The winter they were there they had nothing but bran bread to eat, which Julia couldn’t eat, and she nearly starved.  A neighbor, Mr. Polyick, shared his white flour with them, which helped to save her life.  The next summer John gleaned about one and a half bushels of wheat and carried it on his back to the mill to have it ground.

In March of 1861, they moved to RoundValley, RobinsValley or Graball, as it was called.  Those who came with them were George Monroe, William Shelton, John Yeardley, and Levi Savage.

John built a dug-out home at the base of the mountain, to get out of the weather. This was a hole dug in the mountain side, framed with rock, brush logs and dirt. Usually a stove or fire was in the middle and the floor was dirt. They would wall up half of the open side, and hang up a blanket for the other half to keep out the wind and weather. They would throw hay on one side to make beds. The dug-out was practically impossible to keep clean, for dirt from the roof and walls sifted into everything, and sometimes the rain leaked through; then they had to wade in the mud until it dried up.  Sometimes even snakes would get in the roof, lose their hold, and fall on the floor.  They lived this way through the rest of the winter.

John and Julia went to the Endowment House in SaltLake and were sealed on November 14, 1862.

About this time, John’s brother William and family arrived in Scipio. John gladly did all he could to help them get settled.  He let them use his dug-out home, and shared whatever he had to help them out.  He and his wife Julia were so happy that part of their family could be with them again.  William’s son, Thomas, stayed in England to earn enough money to pay off the money his parents had borrowed to come to America, and to get enough for his passage.

Life was really hard, continuous hard work, from sun up to sun down.  Food was scarce, and they had to sometimes eat dandelions, pigweed, and wild roots as their food.

In the fall of 1866, the fort was completed in the South Central part of the town of Scipio, three blocks south of the public square. The exits were on the North and East sides. Each family had a cabin that was white washed. The men took turns guarding the fort and the corral just outside of the fort.

Shortly after moving into the fort, John Memmott died suddenly on 29 Oct 1866 in Scipio, Utah.  He is buried in the old cemetery. James Ammon Memmott, our ancestor, was only ten years old when his father died, and he really missed him.  He said his father was so kind and gentle, and he loved him very much.  He often wondered what it would have been like if his Father could have lived.

John’s death left Julia alone for thirty-two years.  She cooked, churned butter (she had the only butter churn in town for a while), sewed clothing, and helped as a midwife (delivering many babies) to help sustain herself.

Her son, James, lived with her for some time, and was able to help her.  One day he wanted to surprise his mother, so he took her to visit her daughter, Sarah.  He then replaced her bed with a new one that he had purchased for her.  He took out the old bed, with its strips of cowhide for springs, and chopped it up for firewood.  When his mother heard what he had done, she cried and said, “I loved that old bed, as your father built it for me.”

Julia died 26 Aug. 1898 in Scipio, Utah, and was buried in the ScipioPioneerCemetery on August 28, 1898.[i]

[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources:  Birth Certificate:  No primary source of birth found, but primary source of christening on July 4, 1819 located at Parish Register of Whiston, Baptisms 1813-1843, Family History Library British Fiche No. 6343699, p. 19, entry 161 for July 4, 1819.  Marriage Record:  John Memmott-Julia Wilson marriage, 16 March, 1846, Brunswick Chapel (Wesleyan Methodist denomination) (Ecclesall Bierlow, Counties of York and Derbyshire), England.  Certificate supplied September 30, 2007 by General Register Office, England, entry 36 for 1846.  Copy in the possession of Guy L. Black.  Note that Ecclesall Bierlow was not an actual town.  Instead it encompassed a large area for civil registration purposes (formerly a poor law union).  The location of the Brunswick Chapel was in Sheffield, York, England.  John Taylor, The Illustrated Guide to Sheffield (Pawson and Brailsford, Sheffield: 1879) p. 91.  Death Record: Headstone located in Scipio, Utah, Old Pioneer Cemetery, lists date of death as August 26, 1898.  This date agrees with the contemporaneous journal of Julia’s nephew, Thomas Memmott, who recorded on August 26, 1898, “Aunt Julia died of old age.”  Sandra S. Memmott, Compiler, Thomas Memmott Journal, Volume 2 (Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, Provo, Utah: 1982), p. 83. (This is a transcribed copy of the journals).  The original handwritten journal entry can be found in Thomas Memmott, “Journal, Volume 2,” (1895-1903), p. 126, LDS Family History Library, Microfilm Roll No. 928386.  Grave Location and Cemetery Directions:  Located in Scipio, Utah, Old Pioneer Cemetery—Southeast corner of 200 South and 200 East, Scipio, Utah.  Obituary:  No known obituary.