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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Updating Jemima

A couple years ago I wrote about looking for my husband’s great-great grandmother Jemima Brown. We have found several more interesting things about her since that time.

We had thought we were going to find lots of things when we visited Bath, England, in the summer of 2012, but our search of area records in the Guildhall in Bath did not yield anything we didn’t already know. We have searched microfilms, we have searched on and, as well as Google maps. I’ll show you what we found as I recap Jemima’s life, but we are still left with some questions.

         Jemima’s christening record of April 24, 1803
Born 13 April 1803 in Erlestoke in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge, Jemima was the eldest child of Thomas and Jane Brown. She was christened 24 April 1803, as shown in the record here. Two younger brothers were born in 1805 and 1808, and then Thomas died when Jemima was still a little girl. Jemima’s mother, Jane, had two more sons out of wedlock and was probably struggling to make ends meet and keep her children fed. Then, when Jemima was 20, Jane married a second time. The marriage did not last—Jane kicked him out and resumed her first married name. She died two years later.

Thomas Brown christening record
Jemima, meanwhile, bore a son nine months after her mother’s second marriage, on December 27, 1824. She moved from the village to the nearby “big city” of Bath to have the baby, and then she took him home two months later to be christened, Thomas Brown. Here is his christening record. (Note that Jemima is a “spinster,” which specified at that time a woman who had never been married. People keep insisting that she had been married and divorced, which is impossible considering the divorce laws of the time did not allow women to apply for divorce, and it cost an enormous amount of money, requiring an Act of Parliament to get it finalized, and a woman lost the right to keep her children if she were divorced!) Jemima moved back to Bath where she seems to have been employed as a seamstress. Remember in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol how Bob Cratchit’s daughter Martha was home late for Christmas because she was working as a seamstress and they had to get the work done before they could go? It was a hard job, with very, very long hours, bad light, and only pennies for pay. If that were her job, Jemima worked extremely hard to be successful. Otherwise, I wonder where her money came from?

Jemima married when her boy Thomas was nine years old. She was living in the northern part of Bath, in the Walcot parish, and she married a carpenter named Francis Baker Rogers, who also lived in the same parish, on 2 June 1834. Here is their marriage record.
Jemima Brown and Francis Baker Rogers

Jemima and Frank seemed to have been happy together, based on family tradition that has been passed down. Of course, in this family some incorrect tradition was also passed down, but Jemima herself made sure to have Frank’s records added to hers after she arrived in Utah. That argues for her having been happy with him.

1841 Census with Frank, Jemima, Thomas, and Eliz.
Jemima and Frank had a young woman living with them in 1841 in Bath, besides Jemima’s son Thomas (notice that Thomas’s last name is given in the census as Browning and that his profession is Chair m—short for chair maker). The young woman listed below Thomas is 20-year-old Elizabeth Nash. Her surname was common in Jemima’s home village of Erlestoke, so perhaps she had arranged to live with somebody her family knew. You have to remember this name ten years later. (One item of note about the 1841 Census: for some reason the officials decided to round down all the ages of people over 15 to the nearest multiple of 5, so if you were between 15 and 19, you were 15 on the census. This explains why both Jemima and Frank are 35 when actually Jemima would have been 37 or 38. They lived on Church Street, a very short street perpendicular to the great Bath Abbey on its south side. We have photographs of it from Google maps street view.

Looking in at Church Street from either end. (I said it was a short street.) On the left you're standing in the square across which is Bath Abbey. This is probably the end of the street where they lived.

Thomas grew up and completed his apprenticeship to become a cabinet maker. We know he joined the Mormon Church 21 April 1844 in Bath; he was 19 years old. The next autumn, Jemima and Frank also joined the Mormons. Jemima was baptized the 19 November 1844, and Frank was probably baptized the same day, but the records have become unclear.

Frank, Jemima, and little Lizzie
In 1851 the census finds Jemima and Frank living in James Street, which is in the north part of Bath in the parish of Walcot where they were when they got married. Notice that now they have a little 3-year-old girl named Elizabeth Nash living with them (remember that name?), but she is listed as a visitor. She wasn’t so much a visitor as a permanent fixture—she and Jemima would be together for over thirty more years.

Here is a picture of the place on James Street where the building they lived in must have stood.

Sadly for Jemima, Frank died 8 June 1854. Her son Thomas was probably already making plans to go to Utah, and she decided she and Lizzie would go as soon as possible. Thomas left in the late fall of 1854 aboard the Clara Wheeler. He ended up in St. Louis, working as a cabinet maker and sending money for his mother and adopted little sister to join him. He went with a wagon train across the Great Plains in the spring and summer of 1856, arriving in Salt Lake City in September.

During the same time, Jemima and Lizzie left England in the spring of 1856 aboard the Thornton. This record is the ship’s manifest, made upon their arrival in New York. Arriving in Iowa late in the season, they had to wait for handcarts to be built before their company could leave on its arduous journey, and those handcarts didn’t hold up well during the journey, delaying them again and again. They walked the thousands of miles across the Great Plains with the James G. Willie Company, and early in September the weather turned against their company and the ones after it. Frosts came, and then the frosts turned to severe blizzards in the middle of October. Their food ran out, and the delays proved fatal to many of the people. Jemima used all of their spare clothing to keep Lizzie warm, and she slept with the little girl on top of her to keep her out of the snow.

Jemima and Lizzie
Family members recounted that Jemima’s favorite expression was “Begad,” and during this journey, she told them, when the company was supposed to be singing “Come, Come Ye Saints,” with its chorus, “all is well, all is well,” she would sing under her breath, “Begad, all is bad!” Rescuers arrived in the nick of time, but they still had to slog through deep snow to a resting spot, and then they still had to go on and get to Salt Lake City after that. With only a sunbonnet on her head, Jemima’s scalp froze one night at Rock Creek (Wyoming now), and all her hair fell out. She wore lace caps the rest of her life.

In Salt Lake City, Jemima and Lizzie lived with Thomas, who married a woman from their original home area in England, Jane White, in 1857. (On a side note, Jane White’s brother, John, married a woman named Eliza Brown [no relation to Thomas] who came from the same group of villages that Jemima and the Whites came from. When John White died a number of years later, Thomas married Eliza Brown White, making her name Eliza Brown White Brown. This was a polygamous marriage for three years until Jane died. Thomas ended up with 19 children.)

1860 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City
Here in 1860 we find Jemima and Lizzie living in Thomas and Jane’s household, with the eldest of Jemima’s grandchildren, Louisa. Thomas was working for a cabinet maker in Salt Lake City and prospering in his profession. But his wife longed to move out of the city and join her brother and other kin in North Ogden, a farming community 40 miles or so to the north. In 1863 Jane prevailed upon Thomas to move to North Ogden. Jemima and Lizzie stayed in Salt Lake City. We do not know whether Jemima was working, whether Lizzie was working, or how exactly they supported themselves after Thomas and his family left.

The next year, in October 1864, 17-year-old Lizzie married James Sharp, a railroad man. In the 1880 Census, Jemima is living with the family, which consisted of James and Lizzie and six of their children: Lizzie, Katie, Celia, Aggie, John, and Heber. On the day of the Census, little Celia had the measles. You have to wonder how difficult it was for Lizzie to do all the work of the household with that many small children--there is no maid living with them. With Jemima growing older and less able to do a lot of helpful work, Lizzie probably was feeling extremely pressured.
1880 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City

The Sharps had a large family of ten children, and James became the Mayor of Salt Lake City in 1885. They were prosperous by then, living in a large house on Brigham Street (later called South Temple Street). At that time, Lizzie sent Jemima north to Thomas and his second wife, Eliza. Jemima never got over it. She often recounted the blow to her grandchildren, saying, “And then the beezum turned me out!” She blamed Lizzie for valuing the high life of important society more than her adoptive mother. It was a sad division.

Through a long life of incredible hardships, Jemima was strong-willed, courageous, determined to come out on top, and completely faithful to her chosen religion and to her family. She died 25 January 1890 and was buried in the Ben Lomond Cemetery in North Ogden.
Jemima Brown Rogers gravestone
 (but her birth year is wrong)


  1. My daughter found your amazing entry. Elizabeth was my great great grandmother on my maternal grandfather's side. Your information is so so interesting. My grandfather was Byron Lorenzo Waldram. I have been in Bath which made me enjoy this so much. I live in St George Utah. How is your husband related? Thank you!!

    1. My husband is Jemima's great-great grandson through her son Thomas and his daughter Emily Elizabeth. Thank you for reading this!

  2. My daughter just asked me for a story about an ancestor who lived in the 1850's so her daughters can take it to girls' camp this week. We are currently serving a mission in Italy and don't have any family history information with us. So I went on line to refresh myself as to the details of Jemima Brown Rogers and the the Willie Handcart Company.

    It's exciting to see how many new details you have been able to discover. I tried researching her via the Internet several years ago and found nothing other than her name and the fact that she and her adopted daughter had been in the company.

    Jemima is my third great grandmother on my maternal grandmother's side. Her son Thomas Brown is my great-great grandfather. We have her story in a book published by Nephi Brown, but the added details and pictures you included were wonderful.

    My children all grew up knowing about her story and hearing my mother talk about her. It's a joy for me to pass on the information to another generation.

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    1. Hi Jo Anne, my husband is a cousin of yours. Thomas is also his great-grandfather and we also have Uncle Nephi's book. We are so glad you enjoyed this and that it was useful to you over in Italy. All the best to you!


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