Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In Search of a Grandmother in Batheaston

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. 


kms said...

Isn't he more than just her husband but your great great grandfather? I don't understand how you can rejoice at his children being taken away from him? Sound awful for him and the kids.

Julie said...

That must've been so hard for your great great Grandma to lose all those children.

I agree with kms, I don't understand how someone could leave her husband behind & take her children to the US.

What happened to her husband? I hope he was ok.

kms said...

It seems the standard operating procedure back then was to break up the family. I guess it is good people don't leave spouses and take the children with them in the present day. It seems the LDS faith was a danger to the family unit back then. Imagine one of your daughter in laws converting to Islam and taking the kids to the Middle East away from the spouse who didn't convert, and doing so via a method that loses in death some of the travelers in route. Would you want their great grandkids to consider her brave? It's the family story. But seems more tragic when you consider all family members than something to be pleased about.

Other churches focus heaven as being with God. There really is nothing saying you won't be with your children as well in the next life if they also go to heaven. We know about what heaven won't be like than what it will be like. No more tears and such. The notion of limbo was more old wives tale than actual church doctrine. The point was to baptize as early as possible cause mortality rates of the day saw a lot of babies die early. Whole families were baptized in the beginning.

Linda said...

We have tried to figure out what happened to our grandfather in this case. Of course we love this great great grandfather and know it must have been equally hard for him to see his family go. Other great great grandfathers in our family have sent wives and children ahead with the intention of joining them later when they could earn enough money to get there. We can think of many reasons why they didn't go together, including his health. He may have encouraged them to go without him. He may have left them before she left We only know that he was buried in England and she, along with her remaining children were buried in America. We'll probably never know the answer until we meet them in heaven! We are not judging either of them and I'm sure no one was rejoicing over their very difficult departure. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify.!

kms said...

You mentioned he didn't join the church. It would seem converting split up families through the fortunately now changed policy of moving across the globe. Did nonmember spouses and family members move across the globe? Did they divorce? Was a divorce after the conversion? Did she remarry here? What about the 20 something kids, did they leave families behind too or were they unmarried?

Yes the answer will only be known in heaven unless you manage to find relatives of his who stayed in across the pond that passed on the details.

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