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Doubting George
Disclaimer: This is based on two short biographical sketches written about George and Samuel by descendants. These sketches had a specific religious purpose. Though descended from Mormons, I am not a Mormon myself. While proud of my LDS roots, I am in no way inclined toward the faith myself. If I have made factual errors about LDS doctrine or belief, here or anywhere else, I would like to be corrected. If I appear to be treating the matter flippantly, please accept my apologies, but don't expect me to change it. I am just naturally flippant.

George Young and Ann Wilshire (or Willshire or Wiltshire) were both born in Bedfordshire, England, George in 1805 and Ann in 1810. They were both raised in Methodist families and followed their example, studying the Bible and going to church regularly -- even George himself, even though he harbored and apparently expressed grave doubts about whether the one true Christian faith had come along yet (one of his granddaughters wrote that before his conversion "He … contended that the true religion, as taught by the Saviour, did not exist …") Little else is known about him; what information I have comes from a biographical sketch written by his granddaughter, which does well for religious purposes but tells little to nothing about one's secular life (a problem common to many of these LDS biographies -- but I shouldn't complain too much; it is good to know ANYTHING about one's ancestors!). They were apparently literate and revered learning; not only did they study the Bible regularly, but also provided their 10 children -- six daughters, three sons -- with as many books as their limited income permitted.

In the 1850s, Mormon missionaries came through Bedfordshire and converted most of the Youngs, including Ann and eight of their children -- but not George. The children began leaving for Utah not long after their conversions. The second son, Samuel, my great-great-great grandfather, converted in 1856 and came to the United States on a ship called the "Empire," landing in New York City on March 21, 1858.

Most Mormon emigrants, it seems, went straight on to Utah. Samuel did not. His company of converts left him behind in Burlington, Iowa, for some reason, perhaps because he didn't have the money to make the journey, and advised him to look for work with the farmers. He eventually found a small group of Danish Mormons, whom he joined -- even though he didn't speak Danish and they didn't speak English. They were the only Mormons around. Considering the anti-Mormon hostility at the time, it's interesting to reflect what it must have taken for him to get across that he was LDS as well and it was all right; on the other hand, considering the same hostility, it's easy to understand why he'd prefer to stay with fellow Mormons rather than take his chances with "gentiles," as Mormons refer to non-Mormons. Samuel made himself useful to the Danes by teaching them to read and speak English.

Eventually, Samuel got a job for $4 a month and board, which wasn't much, but would help him raise money to continue the journey. Three months later, Brigham Young, president of the church, issued a call to all Mormons to come to Utah as soon as possible. All the Danish Mormons were able to make the journey, except for one widow with three small children, so Samuel gave the money he'd managed to save up to buy a yoke of cattle, then walked across Iowa to Florence, Nebraska, which sort of served as a staging area for the church's emigrants. He ran into Captain Joseph W. Young, who gave him four yoke of cattle and a wagon. Presumably he was to go back to the Danish stake and go ahead with them to Utah. The group arrived in Salt Lake City on Sept. 1, 1859, in a company commanded by Captain Horton D. Haight.

He worked for a man named George Willis for a few weeks, then went to work for the church, hauling tithing grain from Provo and Brigham City to Salt Lake City, and hauling coal from Coalville in the winter. In the summer he worked on church farms.

In April 1861, he was sent to Florence to help guide more emigrants to Utah. This may have been the Ansel P. Harmon company -- it arrived Sept. 23, 1861. Two weeks later, on Oct. 7, he married Jane Ann Evans (a member of that company, perhaps?) in Old Endowment House. He went to work for the man who performed the ceremony, Daniel Wells. He eventually went to work on a farm at Willow Creek or Willard.

Samuel's parents, as I said, stayed behind in England, following their apparently separate spiritual paths. Given their advanced years, it probably didn't look like they'd ever leave home. Then in August 1874, Doubting George must have had his doubts resolved, for he finally was baptized as a Mormon, some 18 years after his son joined the church. His granddaughter wrote of this occasion, "It is claimed that a bright light was made manifest over them … and he remarked to Elder Call, 'Surely the Lord is pleased with what we are doing tonight.'" He and Ann (who must have been ecstatic that her husband FINALLY saw things her way) must have immediately taken ship for the New World, for they arrived at Three Mile Creek in Box Elder County (now called Perry) on Sept. 25, 1874, about six weeks after Doubting George had his epiphany -- a far cry from the 18 months Samuel undertook to get from the same point A to point B.

George died about a few years after arriving in Utah, on July 15, 1878, aged 72. Ann Young lived on till 1887, aged 77, teaching Sunday School in Three Mile Creek for several years. Samuel died at the age of 97 in 1935, and is to the best of my knowledge the longest-lived of my direct ancestors.






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Created 18 Jul 1999 by Reunion, from Leister Productions, Inc.