Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Leak family - Balkholme flax mill to Utah

I was doing some research on Balkholme recently, looking at the history of the flax mill there. I was interested to come across the story of William Leak who became a Mormon and emigrated to Utah. A book published by the LDS  [Latter Day Saints] church in 1914 records the following information

'William Leak, an active Elder in the West Jordan Ward, Salt Lake County, Utah, was born June 15, 1849, at Balkholme, Yorkshire, England, the son of John Leak and Maria Pousom [Pawson].  He was baptized in 1867 by his brother, Robert Leak, and emigrated to Utah in 1868, crossing the Atlantic in the ship ”Constitution,” which sailed from Liverpool, England, June 5, 1868. 

 The company with which he traveled spent six weeks and two days on the ocean.  Traveling by rail as far as Laramie City, Brother Leak came with an ox team in Captain Gillespie’s company as far as Echo Canyon, where he stopped to work on the Union Pacific Railroad until Christmas, when he came to the Valley. 


 After staying a short time in Salt Lake City and in Weber County, he obtained employment on the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory, and in the spring of 1870, he settled permanently at West Jordan, where he soon became an active Church worker and laboured for many years as a Ward teacher.  In 1876 (June 19th), he married Ann Brown, by whom he became the father of eight children, five of whom are now living.  The names of his children are William J., Martin A., Lily Ann, Maria E., Angus, Reu M., Walter B., and Olive E.  His wife is the daughter of John Brown and Elizabeth Matthews.  Brother Leak is a farmer by occupation.'


But  how did  Robert and William become members of the church. Balkhome is a very quiet village with not many houses. Then I came across a much more detailed account of William's life, written by his daughter in law, Esther, the wife of William John Leak. I have edited it slightly. It explained that William emigrated with his parents, John and Maria, his brother Robert and other family members.


William Leak, the father of William John Leak, was born in Balkholme, Yorkshire, England, March 6, 1849.  He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England and was baptized by his older brother, Robert, in 1867.

His parents were John Leak and Maria Pawson.  John Leak owned a small flax mill where flax was dressed  and William started working in the flax mill when only eight years old.  Consequently, he had no opportunity of attending school and so was unable to read or write.

The family consisting of the parents, John Leak and Maria Pawson, together with their children, Robert, William, Aaron, Emma, and Isabella, who emigrated to Utah in 1868. Frank Leak, the son of one of William’s sisters, accompanied them.  However, William’s sister, Mary, had previously died in England and his sisters Tamar and Hannah remained there.  Isabella later died in Alta, Salt Lake County, and Aaron died in Montana.  He was married to a girl named Jane and had a daughter named Ida.  After Aaron’s death, his wife Jane discontinued writing and so hers and Ida’s whereabouts are unknown.


 The family left Liverpool, England, June 5, 1868, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the sailing vessel, Constitution, and arriving in New York on July 19, 1868, being six weeks and two days on the water.  The family came here as converts to the Mormon Church.


John and Maria Leak, William’s parents, lived first in Midvale, Utah, east of the sampling mill.  Later they separated and John Leak lived east of our house (9670 South Redwood Road) in a small house below the South Jordan canal.  Frank Leak lived with him until his grandfather died, when he made his home with William Leak.  After the parents’ separation, Maria Leak came and lived with her son and his wife, William and Ann Leak.


Maria was badly afflicted with asthma and sat in a chair day and night until just before she died when she asked to be laid down.  She died in December 1883 and is buried by the side of her husband, John Leak, in Wight’s Fort Cemetery in West Jordan, Utah.  Her parents were John and Hannah Chaffer (Shaffer).


[nb Maria was in fact born in Eastrington and was the daughter of Mary Chafer whose parents were John Chafer and  Hannah Pawson]

The family, after reaching New York, July 19, 1868, traveled by train as far as Laramie, Wyoming, then came with an ox train in Captain Gillespie’s company as far as Echo Canyon.  From there the family came on to Salt Lake City and later to Midvale, all but Robert and William, who stopped to work.  He was a cook on the train that ran from Echo to Ogden.  He arrived in Salt Lake City on Christmas Eve, 1868, walking from Ogden through a foot of snow.  After staying a short time in Salt Lake City and Weber Country, they obtained employment on the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory.

In the spring of 1870, William settled permanently in West Jordan, but in order to obtain funds to buy a farm, etc., he got a job herding sheep for the Irving Brothers of West Jordan – he and Edmund Price, another young Englishman.


While they were herding sheep out on the Weber River, they attended a dance at Oakley one evening.  They noticed two young English girls standing in the crowd, William said, “We’d better show these English girls a good time.”, so they walked over and introduced themselves and asked if they could accompany them home.  The girls were willing, so the two boys walked home with them.  These two girls were sisters who had come to Oakley from England with their parents.  They were Ann and Emma Brown, daughters of John Brown and Elizabeth Matthews.   

When Ann told her mother, her mother said, “He seems to be a nice young man.  I don’t want you to make a fool of him.”  It was love at first sight.  Ann said, “I’m going to marry him if I can get him.”  


This romance lasted until June 19, 1876, when they were married.  The ceremony took place before breakfast.  Later they were married for “time and eternity” in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City by Daniel H. Wells.  Temple marriages were performed there until the Salt Lake Temple was finished and dedicated in April of 1893.


After their marriage they moved to the Van Etten farm in West Jordan, just northeast of Wight’s Fort Cemetery.  Here they lived in a two-story adobe house and farmed the place on shares.  Ann’s brother, William Brown, lived with them part of the time, at least, and helped run the place.  Here their first child, William John, was born June 24, 1877.  


 In the meantime, William built a three-room frame house at about 2500 West 9000 South on the South side of the road, just west of the canal, and they moved into this house when it was completed. 


[ further detail here about their house and life]

William could never read nor write.  He cooked the breakfast many a morning because of Ann’s ill health.  Each morning everyone gathered around the table and knelt by their chair and William offered the family prayer, praying for knowledge and wisdom.


William Leak died of the flu January 16, 1931, in his home after about a week’s illness. Olive and Angus lived home and cared for him faithfully and tenderly in his illness.  His wife, Ann, had preceded him in death twelve years.  Olive and Angus remained in the home and rented the farm to their nephew, Lawrence Leak.  They sold the sheep, cows, chickens and turkeys a few years after his death, and Olive obtained a job clerking at the Center Street Store in Midvale, driving back and forth each day in her car.


Mormon records are, as all family historians know, excellent and so I was able to find the following information about the voyage [ I am sure the dates below are the correct ones]

From the journal of John Thomas Lazenby. He was a Hull man, a widower with a young son, Walter.

I left Hull June 22nd after staying at my mother's, in company with Walter [Lazenby] and Annie Tether (who became my wife), Sister Tomlinson and her family, for Liverpool. A company of Saints joining us on the steamer to cross the River Humber to New Holland. Brother John Leak and his family, Robert J. William and two daughters, Brother Busly, Elder Hide came along. Stayed in Liverpool at the house of Mrs. Ramsden. Monday night and embarked on board the ship Constitution in the Bramley Moore Dock with a company of about 400 Saints, some Welsh, some Scotch, some Swiss, and English under the presidency of W. Cluff [H. H. Cluff], [G. B.] Spencer, [J. S.] Thorne and others and hauled into the River Mersey on Tuesday and towed down the river on Wednesday, 24th of June, 1868. After a six weeks voyage "to a day" we arrived and dropped anchor in the River Hudson.

A fascinating story. I have read around it a little about the many European Mormons who travelled to Hull and then on to Liverpool on their way to USA. But I still think about this family who had lived most of their lives in and around Balkholme making the giant leap into the unknown by emigrating to the USA and also embracing a religion which was then persecuted.














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