Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

Archive for the category “Grandparents”

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.

1405 Lippincott Blvd.


The house where Stella and Ezra and their family lived at the time of her death.
(photo 2016)

I’ve written about Stella’s untimely death from pneumonia in this post.  Following is her obituary published at the time of her death in 1926.

ROBERTS – Mrs. Estella Jane Roberts, 54 years old, died Saturday at 1405 Lippincott Blvd. from pneumonia after a week’s illness.  She was born in Elmira, N.Y. Oct. 29, 1871, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Widger.  She had lived in Flint since March, 1901.  On June 2, 1905 she was married to Ezra Roberts in Tuscola  County.  She was a member of the Latter Day Saints Church  She leaves her husband and her mother, and four sons, Alvin, Ray, Glen, and Don, all of Flint, and six daughters, Mrs. David Lutze, Madeline, Nina, Erdine, Dorothy and Irene, all of Flint.

Stella left a large family, and I can’t imagine the loss they felt at her passing.


Estella Jane Widger, my great-grandmother


Caton, Steuben, New York (credit


Born on 29 October 1874, Estella is my great-grandmother, the mother of my Gram, was the second of three children born to Alpheus and Rosanna Buker Widger.  Her older brother, John Alvin was born on 13 August 1872, and her younger sister, Evaleen, joined the family on 5 May 1880.

From the website, Town of Cato, New York ( we learn that Caton is a small town in southern New York state right on the border with Pennsylvania. The first permanent settlers arrived in the area in 1819, and in 1840 the town was officially named Caton and included 219 farms.  From 1861-1865, 175 men from this little community fought in the Civil War, more than any other small town in New York State.  In 1870, just a few years before Estella was born, Caton had three resident physicians.  Perhaps one of those attended her birth!

I know very little about Estella or her family, but I have discovered a few pictures of her.  Perhaps you’ll see a family resemblance.


Estella as a young woman before she married

Version 2

about 1892-1894 — 18-20 years old

Fortunately I have a postcard Stella wrote to her sister, Eva, in 1919 after Madalene returned from a visit there.



Postmarked July 21, 1919-5 p.m.-Flint, Michigan

Dear Sister,  Madalene got home all right she had such a good time.  We have got to move the place (?) is sold and I am glad of it.  Sam and Elsie Hansen just called on their way home.  They both look good.  Thy are going to California to stay a year.  I was sick when Madalene came home but am all right.  Glenn & Ray are still in the country.  Alvin stays with Eva makes my family seem small.  Write soon.  Stella 115 River St

It’s fun to see the kind of correspondence that family members shared in the absence of a home telephone, and it’s amazing to me to have her handwriting, 98 years later.

. . . in a moment of despondency

Alexander Roberts and unknown (1)

Alexander Roberts with unknown woman – perhaps a daughter or daughter-in-law

My 2nd great grandfather, Alexander Roberts, died in 1916 at the age of 91.  His death certificate states that he committed suicide “in a moment of despondency.”

Roberts, Alexander Death Cert (1)

The following is the account of Alex Roberts’ death as reported in the Friday, October 27, 1916, edition of The Advertiser (local newspaper of Caro, Michigan):

Alexander Roberts, Civil War veteran of Wilmot Suicides by shooting
     “Despondency because of failing sight and a haunting fear that he might lose his mind, are given as probable causes for the suicide by shooting of Alexander Roberts at Wilmot Tuesday.

     “Had he lived until next January he would have reached the age of 92, and in spite of his advanced years, he enjoyed fairly good health.  He lived in the family of his son , John, where he had a large front room, when he received every attention from all.  Mrs. Roberts had left him to get supper after being assured by the old man that he desired nothing further.  In a few minutes a shot was heard, and going to his room he was found dead with a bullet in his brain and the revolver still grasped in the right hand.
     “For many years he had kept the weapon in a stand drawer, near his bed, but had never shown any disposition to kill himself.
     “He was married twice:  his first wife bore 13 children, six of whom survive.  There are 36 living grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren.
     “He was a veteran of the Civil War and 12 of his comrades of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) acted as pall bearers at the funeral at the funeral held at the Baptist Church, Kingston, Friday.  Mrs. Daniel Cummins of Caro is a granddaughter and attended the funeral.”

It seems a rather sad ending . . .

Settling in Michigan

Ezra Nahum Roberts
(father of Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt)
23 September 1862 – 20 August 1930

Ezra Nahum Roberts

Born in Kingston, Tuscola, Michigan in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, my conclusion is that Ezra’s childhood may have been difficult. Like many men of that time, Ezra’s father Alexander, was a farmer who could neither read nor write (as per 1880 census) and his mother Annie kept house.  Theirs was a family of 13 children, and Ezra was the 6th child, 3rd son, and the first to be born in Michigan.

The Roberts family moved to Kingston, Michigan from Tillsonburg, Ontario a distance of about 170 miles, sometime between December 1860 when their son John was born in Canada, and September 1862 when Ezra was born.


Kingston map (1)

After 1830, the population of Michigan grew rapidly.  Some settlers came to buy inexpensive farm land and others came to join relatives already there.  Some came for jobs in the mining and lumbering industries, and some were drawn simply by a sense of adventure.  I don’t know what prompted Alexander to move his family, but Tuscola County was very newly settled and perhaps offered promise of a better life. Kingston was established in 1857 when the first house was built, the first town meeting was held in April, 1861, and the first Methodist church was organized in about 1861.  At that time the only roads were trails through the woods, much of the time impassable for a team of horses.  The Roberts family would have had primitive living conditions as they worked to clear land and establish a farm.

As noted in a previous post, Ezra’s father, Alexander Roberts, served in the Civil War from 1864-1865, so Ezra wouldn’t have had a chance to know his father very well until he was about 4 years old.  His father’s absence would have required his older siblings (the oldest sister being about 9) to take on responsibilities that his father left vacant, or that his mother couldn’t handle on her own.  We also know from Alexander’s pension application that he was not very healthy upon his return from the war, which no doubt put a strain on the family.  Even so young, it’s very possible that Ezra could have had responsibilities for crops or household chores as the whole family would have had to work together as their part of the war effort.

What would you ask Grandpa Ezra about his childhood?






. . . a good provider and a good neighbor

thomas francis berrett

Thomas Francis Berrett about 1920

Just as I posted about Grandma Berrett on her birthday a couple days ago, in honor of Grandpa Berrett’s 134th birthday I’m sharing an excerpt from his history.  I don’t know who wrote the history, but I’m assuming it was a family member.

“Tom was very particular in doing things on his farm or in his orchard exactly when they needed to be done.  He carefully studied the condition and needs of things and he had the reputation of knowing when, and how, the different things on the farm, or in the orchard, needed taking care of in order to obtain the best results.  His judgment and opinion concerning these things and matters pertaining to agriculture was very highly respected in the community.  He was not afraid of working long hours – that is from daylight until dark or after – during the planting, the irrigating or harvesting seasons, and he did it;  his accumulated wisdom taught him that it was necessary.  From his good management and hard work, together with the assistance of his wife and children, he obtained a nice home and comfortable living for his family.  He was a good firm disciplinarian and taught all of his children to mind without dilly-dallying.  He was a good provider and a good neighbor.”

It sounds like Tom and Hattie were perfectly suited to each other!  And I can also see that my dad inherited many of his good qualities from his parents.


. . . devoted to her family

USU graduation

Harriet Lydia (Brown) Berrett with her son, Mark Richard Berrett, at the time of his graduation from Utah State University – June 1953

In honor of her 132nd birthday, here are some remarks shared at her funeral by Grandma’s friend Myrtle Barker.

“Sister Hattie was born on April 11, 1884, in North Ogden, and here she lived all her life except for 1 1/2 years when they lived in Tremonton.  Her childhood days were just like any childhood, but there was a lot of hard work and she completed her school in the elementary grades in the North Ogden School.

“They were parents to eight children, one baby passed away, so they reared to manhood four sons and three wonderful daughters.  What a wonderful family they always were; always devoted to each other and to their father and mother.  

“She always loved music and when she was younger she used to sing quite a bit in duets and quartets and she would sing solos.  She would get Ellen (her sister) to sing and one song they sang so beautifully that I remember was “Mistletoe Bough.”

She was always devoted to her sisters, Ellen [Berrett] and Emily Folkman.  Always ready to give a helping hand to anyone who was in need, even when her husband was ill for so long.  She loved her home and she loved her family.  She was a good housekeeper and an excellent cook.  Just last summer I spent an afternoon in her home and she had been bottling peaches and pickles.  She had always been taught thrift.  She had always been devoted to her family and proud of their accomplishments.  She like to work hard and she liked to see things well kept.  She like to work out of doors.  I don’t know of a woman in North Ogden who has be invited to as many quiltings.  She was a wonderful quilter and always such good company.  The last few years she has done a lot of hard work.”

She has left us a great legacy.  Happy Birthday, Grandma Berrett!


Alexander Roberts, Civil War Veteran

2016-01-13 19.19.52

Alexander Roberts

My 2nd great grandfather, Alexander Roberts was born 191 years ago today on 16 January 1825.  My greatest source of information about Alexander is the record of his efforts to receive a pension for his service in the Civil War from 12 July 1864 until 2 April 1866.  According to the record, Alexander had suffered permanent disability as a result of illness suffered during his military service.

Alexander’s request for a pension was not quickly nor easily granted.  The earliest papers relating to the pension are dated October, 1882, and the pension was not granted until 28 May 1912.  He was required to prove that he was in good health prior to being drafted and that his health had suffered since his discharge, causing him to be unable to work about half of the time.  He had to provide signed affidavits from neighbors, fellow soldiers and others who had known him, both before and after the war.  Unfortunately, the doctors who had treated him during the war and following his discharge had died or moved away and so were unable to provide evidence in this case.

Alexander himself provided the following summary of his war experience as recorded in a General Affidavit dated 13 September 1884:
       “My residence since my discharge has been Tuscola County in the Township of Kingston and Koylton my Post office has been the sam all the time namely Kingston.  My occupation has ben Farmer from discharge to the present time.  That I was first taken sick at Chatinuga before I had reached my regiment by contracting a severe cold from which I had a rum of Typhoid pneumonia from which resulted my lung disease and general disability.  I was sent to field hospital Chatinuga in the month of October 1864.  I remained there about 8 days.  I then went to Nashville I think to the 2nd division hospital.  From there I went to Jeffersonville, Ind.  Where I remained about 3 weeks after which I found my regiment in about 8 days I was engaged with my regiment in the battle of Nashville, Tenn.  After said battle our regiment was ordered to Washington from there the Regiment was sent to North Carolina.  I was taken sick and sent ashore at Smithville on Cape Fear River where I remained for two or three weeks and was then sent to Wilmington, NC.  When I was sent to hospital I think this was also called 2nd division hospital.  I think I remained there about two months.  I again joined my regiment at Goldsborough, NC and after a time was taken sick and treated by a surgeon of the 28th Mich. Vols, from there I was sent home on sick furlough.  Dr. Wm Johnson (deceased) of Vassar, Mich. first treated me after my return on furlough.”

He continued his application for a pension on a form stamped PENSION OFFICE, 14 November 1885:
        “Dr. Pepron of Newburg Mich. treated me for about fourteen years (lately moved to Kansas.)
       “For the first year after my return in 1865 I was unable to perform any manual labor except once in a while a light chore for the following 5 or 6 years.  I was able to do about 1/3 of a days work and for the last 12 years I have been prevented 1/2 my time from following my usual occupation by reason of my disability.”

Pensioner dropped (1)

Final pension check (1)

It appears that Alexander received $27.00 each month until he died on 17 October 1916.


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