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  • Writer's pictureAmyanne rigby

Witness to History

My life is what it is today because a fourteen year old boy said a prayer. My paternal great, great, great, grandfather James Weaver heard about this boy's prayer and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while in England. James was a shoemaker. His shoes took him places and his family- for generations. I wonder, did he know he was a witness to history and that his history changed my history and the history of so many others?

James was born July 5, 1815 in Bishop's Frome, Herefordshire, England. James was a shoemaker or cordwainer. He married Elizabeth Gill from Brierley Hill Staffordshire, England. Elizabeth was born on October 26, 1820.

 Elizabeth was the son of a laborer. The two met in Brierley Hill, a populous village.  Elizabeth was just 21 years old.  They were married at Kingswinford parish church December 27, 1841. Elizabeth and James lived on Smethwick's High Street near the Blue Gates Hotel in England. James and his sister Hannah joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Smethwick, England.

James was instrumental in organizing the Saints in coming to America. He and his family boarded the ship Bell Wood with 636 Saints bound for America. They departed England on April 29, 1865. The trip took four weeks and two days. They landed in American on May 31, 1865. James was 49 years old

Kingswinford, parish church

  It was on this High street that Elizabeth and James met two Americans, Mormon missionaries who shared with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ- the restored church.  It was March 1842- they were baptized that very day!

Elizabeth's faith was tried and tested.  As the wife of a shoemaker, they family relocated often.  During this period Elizabeth buried four of her nine children in tiny caskets in different towns.  It was her faith in the resurrection which kept her going.

The family eventually relocated to Dudley where Christopher was able to add to the family's income as a blacksmith.  This provided the means for Elizabeth's daughters to be educated.  Elizabeth herself could not read or write.

  Determined to see her children grow up in "Zion" the Weavers saved for seven years.  During this time Mormons were harassed and persecuted for their beliefs.  Finally,  the day arrived on April 29, 1865 when the family boarded the Belle Wood at the Liverpool docks bound for New York City.  It was on this ship that their son Christopher met Ellen Jackson whom he would one day marry. The family arrived in American on May 31, 1865.

Many of the passengers of the Belle Wood made their way from New York to Nebraska where they waited their wagon train assignment.  Elizabeth and James temporarily settled in Western Johnson County and became part of the network supplying Zion bound wagons trains.   These once city folk were now farmers who had to become accustomed to the unpredictable weather of the plains. 

Following their faith to Zion, the Weavers left the financial security of their farm and bought rail tickets to  Zion. Delighted by the mountain peaks topped with snow in the early spring Elizabeth and James arrived in Utah at the Ogden Union Depot in 1874.  It had taken them 30 years to reach Zion.   James' brother John brought them to his home in Kaysville where they once again farmed and toiled in the dirt.  

In August 1879, James and Elizabeth fulfilled their dream uniting their family unit throughout the eternities- never having forgotten the four little ones they buried in the English soil.  They were sealed as an eternal unit in Salt Lake's endowment house.

The Wasatch mountains were the backdrop to their remaining days.  Together, they worked and toiled as they had done since their earliest days in England.  Body worn and tired Elizabeth passed away at age 67 on June 24, 1887.  James followed soon after on a cold March day in 1888.  He was 73.   They were married for 45 years.

Sources and other information

"Arrivals--Summary of Letter"

ARRIVALS--We are in receipt of mails from America, with letters from Elders Taylor, Shearman, Reynolds and Barfoot. Brother Reynolds arrived in New York per steamship "Persia," on the 31st ultimo, in good health and spirits.

. . . Our readers will also be pleased to learn form the letter published in this week's "Star," of the safe arrival of the emigrant ship Belle Wood. Brother Shearman, in writing, expresses himself to the effect, that taking into consideration the usual inconveniences of a sea voyage, the passage (31 days) was very pleasant. The provisions furnished, with the exception of the peas, were first class, and had given great satisfaction. The extras and comforts provided by the church were abundant in quantity, excellent in quality, and gratefully appreciated by the Saints, who also speak highly of the untiring exertions of Brother Shearman and his counselors on their behalf. Elder Thomas Taylor was well, but busy arranging for the departure of the Saints to Wyoming, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the "B.S. Kimball" with the Scandinavian emigrants. [p.397]

BIB: "Arrivals [Summary of Letter]," Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 27:25 (June 24, 1865) p. 397. (CHL)

A Compilation of General Voyage Notes

"DEPARTURE OF THE SHIP BELLE WOOD. -- We had the pleasure of clearing this fine ship upon Saturday, the 29th instant. She sailed in the afternoon of the same day, having 636 souls of the Saints on board. We shall publish, in our next impression, a list of the elders who have returned home this season, and other particulars connected with the emigration, which might prove interesting to the Saints."

MS, 27:18 (May 6, 1865), p.285

"Sat. 29. [Apr. 1865] -- The ship Belle Wood sailed from Liverpool with 636 saints on board, bound for Utah, under the direction of William H. Shearman. The company landed at New York June 1st, and arrived at Wyoming, Nebraska on the 15th."

CC, p.72


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