Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Indefatigable Thomas Ashton

Ashton Thomas portrait Born in Parr, Prescot, Lincolnshire in 1813, Thomas Ashton was the only son of Joseph and Catherine Cawley Ashton. Joseph was a silver smith by trade and Thomas picked up the thrill of working with his hands and mind at a young age.

He married Mary Howard in 1836 and the couple quickly had two children. In 1840, Thomas and Mary heard the message of Mormon missionaries and were baptized into that faith in 1840. On the 8th of November 1841, the couple boarded a ship at Liverpool and migrated to America to join up with other members of the church.

Three more children were born to the couple in Iowa. Unfortunately, the family was driven from location to location by murderous mobs along the other church members. They eventually moved to Nauvoo, Illinois where they established a comfortable home for their family. Once again, the mobs began to attack. They were forced to leave Missouri after Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issued his infamous Missouri Executive Order 44, or the ‘extermination order’ of all members of the Mormon faith.

After years of enduring privations and stress from their attacks, Mary to become so ill that sThomas Ashton Obituaryhe died in August 1849. Thomas was left alone to raise five children while trying to yet again build a home, make a living and provide service to his church.

Calling on his metal and woodworking skills, he helped craft the famous old ‘blunderbuss’ cannon out of an old steamboat funnel during these years. It made a great noise but wasn’t used to kill the mobsters.

Once again, the Mormons were forced out of their homes by mobs, fleeing across the frozen Mississippi River during the winter of 1846-47. They settled in Winter Quarters, Nebraska in tents, wagons and sod homes.

The strain on the people and Thomas’ family was terrible. Fortunately, he met and married the twenty-one-year old Sarah Elenor Mills there in September 1849. His children again had a mother. On August 1850, Sarah delivered a son to the Ashton family, but once again the privations of their situation was felt. Three days later, Sarah passed away, leaving Thomas alone with six children, one of which was a three-day-old baby.

The family struggled to stay alive that fall and winter, enduring conditions that can hardly be imagined today in most areas of the world. Fortunately, they met Araminta Lawrence, a twenty-year-old lady who was born in Canada. On 17 February 1851, the couple married and Araminta became the ‘instant’ mother to five children. Thomas hadn’t been able to raise the baby in the months after the death of Sarah and he had been given to another family to raise.

In early 1851, the family left Winter Quarters with the Morris Phelps company using handcarts to carry their meager possessions. When possible, the children rode on the cart and on occasion Araminta was able to get a brief respite from walking, but Thomas walked the entire distance from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake Valley.

Arminta Lawrence AshtonThomas eventually made a home for his family in Lehi, Utah after working in Salt Lake and Weber valleys for several years. Another eleven children were born into the family by 1875.

Araminta was a tremendous woman and admiration for her love, tenacity and homemaking skills are still celebrated by her descendants.

Thomas served on the Lehi City Council twice, first from 1854 though 1866 and later from 1877 through 1878. He was the water master in the city from 1861 though 1871. Along with running a farm, he was also a carpenter, building engineer and stone mason.

Utilizing his skills to work stone, he helped build both the Nauvoo and Salt Lake Temples.

Araminta passed away on 10 Jun 1891, worn out after 59 years of life as a heroic frontier wife and mother. Thomas’ life was filled with family, service and enjoyment when he passed away at age 89 on 22 January 1903. He and Araminta are buried in the Lehi City cemetery.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Family History Expo Comes To Town

For folks who live in or around Utah, good news is on the immediate horizon.   The Salt Lake Family History Expo will be held in the South Towne Expo Center on August 28th and 29th. 

SaltLake-2009-Expo Holly Hansen notes that FamilySearch is offering training for LDS Ward and Stake Family History Consultants at the Expo.  All should have been notified via email, but if not, they can update their email address or register at: 

Busy folks have an option to fit in a couple of classes and a visit to the exhibitors hall this year too with the addition of single class registrations for $12.00 each.

Professionals associated with family history can grow their businesses by doing onsite consultations and distributing their business cards at the tables set up for them in the Exhibitors Hall.  They should contact Holly if they want to participate. is giving a FREE copy of Family Tree Maker 2010 to every banquet attendee.  There will also be 10 drawings for gifts that are valued at $400 each.

All of the details about the Expo can be found by clicking here

See you at the Expo!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Went To The Circus in Columbia

David Lewis Drew’s quest for gold and a bright future continued to dwindle by August 1856.  The hard labor by he and his partners was not rewarded with few golden flashes in their flumes. 

Accidental deaths in the gold fields still occurred from time to time.  David noted the death of Harry Richard in his diary entry of Tuesday, 19 August 1856.  His diary entries continued to be shorter than those earlier in the year.  He even began to skip entries for several contiguous days.

We enter David’s world with the not that he had written a letter to his father, David Drew, back home in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


August 1856.

FRIDAY 1, -- Wrote to Farther to day.

SATURDAY 2, -- Went to Sonora this eavening to a political meeting.

SUNDAY 3, -- Staid on Shaws Flat to day.

Gold_Panning_on_the_Mokelumne MONDAY 4, -- Len and George are sick today. George and myself went up on the Flat this afternoon.

TUESDAY 5, -- Got some lumber on to the hill this afternoon.

WEDNESDAY 6, -- Went to haulling lumber this morning haulled one load and then give it up.

THURSDAY 7, -- Went up on Shaws Flat to day.

FRIDAY 8, -- Went up to Columbia this morning after barly. Made up some boxes this afternoon.

SATURDAY 9, -- Finished making up boxes this afternoon.

SUNDAY 10, -- Went up to town this forenoon. But soon got tired and came home.

MONDAY 11, -- Commenced setting up our tail race this morning.

TUESDAY 12, -- Washed a little this forenoon and finished puting in our tail race this afternoon.

WEDNESDAY 13, -- Washed all day to day.

THURSDAY 14, -- George Colingwood was down here to day.

FRIDAY 15, -- Have to shovel tailings now there is not watter enough in the river to carry them off.

SATURDAY 16, -- Wrote a letter to William Keene to day.

SUNDAY 17, -- Went up on Shaws Flat to day and to Sonora.

MONDAY 18, -- George went up this evening after papers.

Pine cones TUESDAY 19, -- Harry Richard died yesterday. He was hurt by a timber falling on him. A week ago today.

WEDNESDAY 20, -- Shifted sluice to day.

SATURDAY 23, -- Nothing worth mentioning transpired this last three days.

SUNDAY 24, -- Went the usual round to day to shaws flat &c.

MONDAY 25, -- Len is sick to day and did not work Went up the hill this afternoon after some hay.

TUESDAY 26, -- George and myself went up the hill this afternoon and hauled some hay down.


SATURDAY 30, -- Went down to Jimtown to day to attend the know nothing tunnel meeting.

SUNDAY 31 -- Stopped in Columbia last night and went to the circus. Took a ride to Sonora.