HISTORY OF CHARLES WILKINSON
AND SARAH MERCER
(This is a combination of stories written by Martha Ann Wilkinson Mills
and Martha Smith Riggs)
CHARLES WILKINSON & SARAH MERCER
Click to see photo's of Children:
Charles Wilkinson was born at Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland in 1816. His father, Moses Wilkinson was christened 28 August 1789 at Sowerby, Yorks, England. His mother, Ann Bailey, was born at Thornton, Yorks, England in 1790. The reason Charles was born in Edinburgh is because his father was serving in the English Army stationed in Scotland. His family belonged to the Church of England and the prevailing religion in Scotland is Presbyterian. Naturally, they wouldn’t have their child christened in another denomination. Family tradition says Moses served 33 years in the service of his country.
His wife, Sarah Mercer, was born 8 December 1815 at Allerton, Yorks, England. Sarah’s father, John Mercer, was christened 25 June 1779 at Denholme, Yorks, England. Her father, John, married Mary Hartley, 4 November 1805 at the Bradford Cathedral. He died 29 April 1848 at Kirby, Nisperton, Yorks, England and is buried at Thornton, Yorks, England. Mary Hartley’s father was John Hartley.
All of the family seemed to have lived not far from Bradford, Yorks, England, all in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Sowerby is a chapelry in the parish and union of Halifax. About 1850 the population was 6,457. It is 4 miles W.S.W. of Halifx. Allerton is 2 ½ miles from Branford. Family says Moses was born at Leeds. That is about 9 miles from Bradford, but the family home is decidedly in this area.
Charles and Sarah (Merser) Wilkinson belonged to the Church of England, but were not satisfied with it’s teachings, and were investigating the Methodist religion, when Charles happened to hear two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (or Mormon Church) preaching. He was very much interested and the very next day he took his wife, Sarah, to hear them. They were soon converted and were baptized by Parley P. Pratt. (Not sure of this fact) Anyway, they were staunch workers in the church and after several years of faithful labor in the church, Charles was made President of the Branch in Bradford, England.
Many of the saints were migrating to Zion, and Charles and Sarah had a great desire to do the same. In 1842, when they first heard the gospel they had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. The eldest was William Charles being 8 years old. But now they had a large family of nine children and most of them too small to earn much wages. Charles and all the family, who were old enough, worked in the woolen factories at Bradford. Charles and William Charles were wool combers and Sarah was a weaver. Every child at the age of 6 years was put in the woolen mills or factory, a half-day and then school the other half day until they were eight years, then they were "Full Timers" and worked the full day.
But with all of their wages combined, they just managed to pay the rent and eat, with a very small surplus to put away, for nine mouths took a lot of food.
After trying for a year or two to get enough money to pay their fare to America, they decided the only thing to do was for Charles to go to American where they understood wages were better than in England. So, taking William, the oldest boy, who was now 15 years old they used what money they had saved and sailed from Liverpool, England on the ship "Wellfleet" for American, the 3rd of June 1856, with 146 saints aboard and landed in Boston, Massachusetts, 13 July 1856 and found work there.
The family grew until when they left in 1857 there were 10 children. The last, Elizabeth Ann, may have been born after Charles left for America. We haven’t been able to find her birth neither in Bradford or Lawrence, Massachusetts, where they stayed for 6 years. Elizabeth Ann lived about 3 ½ years.
They were willing to face all the odds that were against them—like leaving mothers, fathers, close relatives, a different climate, different customs, and a different language brogue, and start life anew without much money to make a start. They were common people, physically fit and willing to do an honest days toil if only they could get there.
They planned that the rest of the family would come inside one year, from the time Charles and son, William had sailed, so they started accumulating a fund again. But it was a slow process, even though Sarah took in extra washing, instead of working in the factory, so she might care for the smaller children at home, although her mother always helped with the children.
When almost a year had passed and the savings were far below what was necessary to pay their way to America, Sarah knew something had to be done, or she and her children would never cross the ocean. So that night at prayer she told the children they must take a turn in asking their Heavenly Father’s guidance in the matter. She led and then the oldest boy was to follow her. But as she finished her prayer she told him he did not have to pray, only to thank the Lord, for the plan had come to her as she prayed. He was to go to the docks and find the name and date of the ship that would sail for Boston, the date his father had sailed the year before, and to write him a letter that they would be on that vessel.
Now her obligation was to carry out the plan that had been revealed to her, as she knelt there praying. Her faith was so strong that she told the children to go on to work and never to doubt for a moment that they would sail on that vessel.
Taking her small children over to her mother and telling her to watch and if it started to rain to go over and gather in the wash she had hung out to dry. She dressed herself in her best clothes and taking her bag she started out, not among the poor class of people of the town but to a wealthy home where she had done laundry for years. She knocked at the front door and when the maid answered the door she told her she wanted to see the Master. The maid asked her why she didn’t go to the servant’s entrance, but Sarah told the maid she was not begging nor seeking employment, just wanted to see the Master of the house on important business, and to tell him it was Mrs. Wilkinson calling. The servant doubted very much if he would see her, but went to ask and in a moment was back with the word to bring her in.
Sarah explained her difficulties and told him she wanted a recommendation, as to her character, so that she might present it to other homes where she expected to ask for money. He not only gave her a recommendation, a lovely one, but gave her a pound note, equal to five dollars in American money to start her on her way.
With her bag on her arm, Sarah would go every day that she could get away from her home to the doors of the rich, and always the Front Door. For she always said she was no beggar, but was following what the Lord had revealed to her. And though she became foot-sore and weary at times, and some doors turned her away, she kept on until she had enough and to spare, by the time the vessel sailed.
Sarah and her 9 children set sail from Liverpool, England in August 1857 for America, in a sailing vessel call "The Margaret Tyson." Her son, John, who would be about 13 remembers the name of the ship. Sarah and family must have come in a ship independent of the Church. Everything went well for a week and then a terrible storm came and drifted them far out of their course. Then following the storm they ran into a "Calm" where the wind did not blow for days and days. Of course those sailing vessels depended on the wind, so there they lay for another week, and finally when they did get breeze enough to sail, they were so far south, and their food and water supplies were so short they had to land at the first port they reached, which was New York instead of Boston. They were three weeks overdue, having been six weeks instead of three as had been planned for crossing from Liverpool.
In the meantime, Charles had received the letter telling him when she would sail, and the name of the ship. He had rented a large home, as there was a big family involved. One baby girl was added to the family short after he had left England.
At the appointed time he began visiting the docks to see if the ship had come in, but no ship and no word of her anywhere. After three weeks of waiting they told him it was no use of coming anymore. That the ship they were coming on had surely gone down with all on board. But somehow he couldn’t give up the idea that his wife and children would never come to him again. For he had prayed to the Lord, and had always gotten up from his knees with the feeling that they would come. So, he made more trips to the dock, where they told him not to come again, and one day on his sad way home, he ran into his son, William, running down the street with a letter in his hand. Charles had just said to himself, "I guess I have asked too much, but now he knew that the Lord had heard his prayers, for the letter said his family was waiting for him in Castle Gardens.
Leaving William to have the house in order, Charles took the first train for New York. On his way down he told the people that he was going to meet his wife and nine children and he had never seen one of them. But he never explained, that it was only one, whom he had never seen—for she was born shortly after he had left England. They all wondered how he could have nine children, and had never seen one of them, it was a puzzle to the whole crowd. He laughed when he told his, wife, Sarah, and supposed those friends of his were probably still wondering about the whole thing.
After arriving in America, they settled temporarily at Lawrence, Massachusetts and remained there six years. Charles Wilkinson and family and Moses Wilkinson and family crossed the plains from Boston to Salt Lake City in 1862. They crossed the plains with the help of the Perpetual Immigration fund, in the Henry W. Miller company, which left Florence, Nebraska, August 7th with 60 wagons and about 665 immigrants and arrived in great Salt Lake City 17 October 1862. The company suffered considerable sickness and about 28 persons died on the journey.
The family remained in Salt Lake until 1864, then moved to Hoytsville, Summit County, Utah. They settled on a farm on the west side of the Weber River, about centrally located north and south of the settlement. Hoytsville was then a Branch of the Church, organized in 1862 and made a Ward 9th of July 1877.
Charles died of cancer 29 January 1880 at his home in Hoytsville, where four of his sons had made their homes. He was buried in the Hoytsville Cemetary.
His wife, Sarah, was a woman of small stature, light complexion, kind and industrious. She passed away 24 February 1881 at Hoytsville and was laid to rest beside her husband in the Hoytsville Cemetary.
(Facts of this story, was taken from L.D.S. records, Parish Register records, Vital Statistics, Census records and Transportation records, Deseret News, 1840)
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