Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

Archive for the category “eliza brown white brown”

Sailing on the Amazon

photo amazon

The Amazon

On June 4, 1863, the Amazon set sail for America with the Brown family on board.  Eliza, her father, John and brother, George were among the 800+ Mormon immigrants bound for a new life.  As the ship left the dock, the mood was one of celebration and excitement. However, they soon discovered that they would face some real challenges on the slow sailing vessel.

Raw provisions were dealt out each week in meager quantities and they took turns using a small number of stoves that were available for cooking.  Included in their provisions was their daily ration of a pint of “fresh” water. They mainly used the water for cooking since they could hardly drink it because it was so foul and blackish.  The passengers’ water supply had been put in new barrels, and after a short time it became warm and stagnant and practically undrinkable.  It tasted like the new wood and gave off a terrible odor.  Eliza said that she only had one drink of good water during the whole trip, and that drink was given to her by a kind-hearted sailor who got it from the crew’s limited supply.

Amazon passenger list - eliza brown

Passenger list – The Brown family is about halfway down the page.

The trip took 44 days, and sea sickness was common.  Some days the wind would blow the ship in the right direction, but then would change direction and blow the ship back towards England for a couple of days.  But the travelers knew they would eventually reach land, and this helped keep their spirits up.

Eliza and her family arrived in New York on July 18, 1863, right in the thick of the Civil War. They took a boat up the Hudson River and then began their land travel to the west.  Many of the railroad passenger cars were being used to transport soldiers and were not available for civilian travel.  The Saints were continually delayed because of the War, and the atmosphere was one of tension and excitement.  They were ten days making the trip from Albany, New York to St. Joseph, Missouri,  including two days and a night they had to stand up in filthy cattle cars since they couldn’t get a passenger train.  From St. Joseph they traveled up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska where they were met by a caravan of ox-teams and made ready to continue their journey across the American plains to Utah.

This information is taken from a history
recorded by Eliza’s son, Nephi James Brown.

Her greatest hope

Eliza’s parent, John Brown and Sarah Mundy, were the first in their locality of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England to embrace the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – – the Mormons.  They were baptized in about 1845-46 after being taught by missionaries in their area.   Eliza’s decision to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young girl, was probably the greatest influence on the experiences of her adult life.

It was while working at the silk factory when she was just past eight years old, that she, her sister Sarah, and a friend Annie Draper were baptized in May 1856,  by Elder Edward Hansen, a missionary from Salt Lake City, Utah.  Of course there was no church building in the little village, so  Eliza was baptized in a boat canal.  Family history tells that she was baptized in the “darkness of the night.”  I’m not certain of the religious climate of the little villages in Wiltshire in the mid 1800s, but perhaps night baptisms were to avoid harassment or persecution from townspeople who were opposed to the Mormons.


If Eliza was working at the silk factory in Devizes, this canal, the Kennet and Avon Canal may be the one in which her baptism took place.  photo credit 

While Eliza was being baptized, the Elder somehow lost hold of her and she floated down stream.  Can you imagine the concern that must have caused among the onlookers?  She was rescued by the excited group and revived with some difficulty. Her life was spared through their quick action, faith and prayers.


Not the same canal Eliza was baptized, but perhaps it looked something like this. photo credit

Eliza was true to her religion, and regardless of where she was working she found the Church meeting place and regularly attended meetings.  In her early teenage years she had to walk five miles to Sunday meetings of the LDS group, but continued faithful attendance. At that time her greatest hope was to immigrate to Utah and join with the Saints in that great free country.  She helped her father as best she could to save money to make the trip.

Finally when she was 16 years old, Eliza, along with her father and her brother George, left England for Zion.   But that’s another story for another day.

170 years ago today

In honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday,
I’m repeating a post from my personal blog.

Eliza Brown White Brown

For as long as I can remember, I have giggled at this great grandmother’s name (my father’s maternal grandmother).  After all, “Eliza Brown White Brown” has quite a rhythm – she was born Eliza Brown, married John White, then married Thomas Brown.  But after reading – really reading – her history, my feelings have been focused, and her unusual name has become a standard of hard work and perseverance and deserves my greatest respect.

As I read the account of her life, I found myself studying her picture and pondering.  How I wish I had known her!  My heart was touched when I thought about that little girl living in an unfamiliar home as a housekeeper and nanny when just a child herself.  What a heartbreak that must have been for her parents, and what a difficult experience for her.

In honor of her birthday, the following is an excerpt from her history written by her son, Nephi James Brown, detailing her early years.  In later posts I’ll share events of her adult life.  She truly was a remarkable woman.

Eliza was born in the country town of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England– the daughter of John Brown and Sarah Mundy.  When she was about three years old, her mother died of a sudden illness at just 34 years old.  Eliza went to live with her maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Mundy, who were very kind to her.  About the first things she remembered while she was living with them was having a little red chair and two or three very meager toys to play with.  The grandparents were not really in a position to keep her very long.  About a year later, Eliza’s father married Jane Wilkins, and Eliza then returned home to live with them.  When she was about five years old, she began to go to school in a little thatched roof schoolhouse where the morning was spent in reading, writing, and spelling.  In the afternoon she was taught sewing.  Owing to the poor circumstances of her father, she was only permitted to go to school a short time after she was eight years old.  It seems incredible that she ever learned to read and write as well as she could during her lifetime with such a meager amount of school.  At that time in England it seemed that child labor was encouraged rather than restricted, unlike later years when they were compelled to keep children in school until 14 years of age.  Eliza always greatly regretted that she only had about two and a  half years of schooling.

Her first employment commenced when she was a little past eight years old in a silk factory [winding silk threads on little spools] – hard work, and long hours for the unbelievable small amount of 10 cents a day – a ten hour day – one cent an hour – 6 days a week.  She continued her work at the silk factory for about 9 months.  She paid 12 cents a week for a place to sleep.

Eliza next went to Bristol as a servant girl for her Aunt Ann Dyer.  She lived there and at two other places in Bristol, working hard for her board and lodging.  She received however, in addition thereto, a salary of 12 cents a week. At the last two places, her work was very hard, and food in very scanty quantities.  From Bristol, she returned to West Lavington and worked in a bakery, where she was given quite fair treatment.

Old houses and church in Potterne, England – 1898
from ecard

From there she went to Potterne and worked in a grocery store.  Here she endured the greatest hardships of any place she worked in England.  Besides her daily grinding routine of hard work, she had the care of four children, including a pair of twins.  Her living consisted of only bread and molasses, and was dealt out to her in meager quantities.  Her strength was so reduced, and her undernourishment through lack of food so apparent, she left and went back to her father and stepmother.  After regaining her health and strength at home through having sufficient food, she again went out into servitude.  At one home where she worked for a period of 6 months she was given her board and room, and in addition an increased salary of 24 cents a week.

Eliza worked at the silk factory and a driving, unrelenting housework for six years, from the time she was eight years old until she was fourteen.  She left the driving routine which had hounded her youthful years in March, 1861 – and also the harsh discipline of her hard-hearted bosses, and returned to her father’s home to live.  Her prior employers had demanded all work from her without giving her any time to play.  This change [move home] was made necessary because of the death of her stepmother, Jane Wilkins Brown.  Eliza kept house for her father and her brother George, , a rented house in the beautiful peaceful country town of West Lavington for a little more than two years.

Granddaughter, Myrtle B. Maathuis (my aunt) recalled that Grandma had marks on the back of her hands where she had been whipped for picking up scraps from under the table at one of the early places where she worked.

Granddaughter Afton B. DeHaan related that Grandma told her that while working in homes the days were hard and she had very little food.  In one home she had to sleep in the attic.  The lady of the house would give her one slice of “current bread” a day.  She [the lady] would butter it, then scrape the butter off – “bread and butter scrape.”

I am humbled.

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