One of my great joys is discovering the adventure and adversity faced by my extended grandmothers on both sides of my family. Since neither I nor our family would be here without them we owe them a deep debt of gratitude.
In my lifetime, I have only looked into the eyes of one of my grandmothers. How I wish I had been smart enough to ask her about a thousand questions. But I was only nine when she died and in a childhood fog when it came to learning about my ancestors.
Ellen Sarah Harding Aland who has just been added to my list of Grandmother heroes! She is my great great grandmother who was born in 1811, married John Sparrow Aland and moved to Batheaston, Wilshire England. There she bore 13 children (that is not a typo). seven of whom died while she lived in Batheaston. She lost Ann at 18, William at 5 months, Thomas at 8, Sarah Ellen at 6 months, Hugh at 9 months, Kate at three days and her last child, Harvey on the day he was born. We have no record of the circumstances of their deaths but we do know that each one was a tragedy! Just imagine the sorrow of going through those pregnancies and then losing those precious children one by one.
Whether all that adversity prompted her to join the Mormon church whose gospel teaches that she will be with those children again in heaven we’ll never know, but it seems logical. Apparently her husband did not join the church, nor did he share her dream to join the vast number of LDS converts who were immigrating from England to join fellow Mormons in America. In 1854 she left her husband, took her five living children and began her arduous journey to America. They arrived by boat and got as far as St. Louis when her oldest daughter, 20-year-old Elizabeth died.
Eventually they arrived in Bloomington, Idaho where she lost two more children at ages 25 and 21 before she died but lived a faithful and valiant life until her death. One of her sons James Orchard Aland settled near her in Bloomington. His wife (my great grandmother Sarah Ann Holmes) gave birth to my Grandmother Elizabeth, Ellen Aland, better known as Nellie was my dad’s Mother, who bore 10 children (losing only one when he was 18) and became one of the stalwarts in the community.
So on Thursday morning Dad/Rick, Charity and I took a train to Epsom where we had left the car (no parking lots in London) and drove 2 1/2 hours to Batheaston. We had no idea what we would find. We were hoping for a small quaint village and not a large sprawling city and we got out wish. We drove into the little village of Batheaston on a truly breathtaking path for about ten minutes, barely wide enough for one car with steep ivy-covered banks rising up about almost straight up on both sides. Had we run into a car coming the other way, one of us would have had to back up a long way!
Thanks to Charity’s phone for most of these pictures!
A charming village emerged at the end of the path and we were thrilled to be looking at rock houses that were surely there when the Alands were there 185 years ago. The countryside surrounding the village couldn’t have been more picturesque.
We ate at at what was once an old monastery established in the 13th century so we were sure our family would have known this place. It is now a restaurant and we enjoyed a fabulous meal there!
A canal built in Victorian times with locks still works and people live in houseboats all along the canal.
A charming church was across the street which may have been the church where the children Aland children were christened.
For some reason we have missed her grave at the Bloomington Cemetery when I’ve been taking the kids there for Grammie Camp. I can hardly wait to find it the next time we visit Bear Lake.
It was an exhilarating day that none of us will ever forget. Thanks Ellen Sarah Harding Aland for all the sacrifices you made to pave the way for us all these generations later.