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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