Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hugh Roberts and Mary Owens (Parents of John Roberts) Part 1

Hugh Roberts, son of Robert Roberts and Jane Jones, was born on February 12, 1803 on a farm called Bryn Ucha, which was located in the hills or on a small mountain about midway between Eglwysbach and Llanrwst in Denbighshire, Wales.  Hugh Roberts married Mary Owens May 4, 1830, in Llanrwst, Denbighshire, Wales.  Mary Owens, daughter of Thomas Owens and Mary Hughes Morris, was born October 15, 1806 in in Llanrwst, Denbighshire, Wales. 

Together, Hugh and Mary had ten children named Jane, Robert Owens, Elizabeth, Owen, Catherine, Margaret, Mary, Hannah, John, and Thomas.

Hugh Roberts and Mary (Owens) Roberts
In his boyhood, Hugh broke one of his arms twice and also had both legs broken, which caused him to limp some in his walk. Because of this apparent bone condition he was considered unfit for farm work, as that work was all done by hand in those days, which required sturdy bone strength. Hugh was therefore, apprenticed to a shoemaker and learned that trade which was considered most suitable for him. He learned his trade at a shop in Llanrwst, Denbighshire, North Wales.   During that period he lived at the home of Dr. Tittle, a friend of the family.

When Mary married Hugh she had many articles in the way of household needs saved up including furniture and a large clock that stood on the floor. All these had been bought from her savings with which to begin a home.  Neither parents approved of the match.  Hugh’s parents thought Mary was not equal in station with him as Mary was a servant girl.  Mary’s parents thought Hugh was too religious. However, it was truly a love match for they were very devoted to each other and faithful throughout their long lives together.

Hugh and Mary Owens Roberts, after their marriage, first lived at 'Bryn Ucha' where the eldest child, Jane, was born, after which they moved to Llanrwst, and opened a shoe making and repairing shop. Business not being very good there and conditions appearing more favorable at Eglwysbach, they moved From Llanwst, to Eglwysbach and there established the shoe-making and repairing business.

Hugh Roberts' home and shoe shop in Eglywsbach, Denbighshire, Wales.
In, Eglwysbach they lived in a rented home to which Hugh built a 'lean-to' for a shop. He plied his trade here for several years, during the early part of which time he had quite a thriving business.   Eglwysbach (meaning 'Little Church') was a village of Denbighshire, North Wales and consisted of a group of homes with some shops or stores, a blacksmith shop, and shoe shop, a grist or flour mill, three taverns, a large church of England surrounded by the village cemetery, a Wesleyan Church, a Methodist church, and a Church of the Dissenters. It was the Civic Center for the farming country in the immediate vicinity.

Hugh Roberts belonged to the Church of the Dissenters, of which he was Superintendent, and Mary, his wife, was teacher therein. But he was not satisfied with it and after a short time he left it, after which it was closed. Hugh sought something else in the way of religion, investigating them all as he was able to, going on one occasion thirty miles away to visit a Catholic Church. But he was not favorably inclined toward it and would not join it. His soul yearned for something else.

About this time an apprentice shoemaker, Robert Evans, returned from a visit to South Wales where he had there met Captain Dan Jones, a friend of Joseph Smith, the prophet, and had accepted the strange religion called "Mormonism". Robert Evans was the advocate and representative of this religion, with a commission to preach and baptize in the name of Jesus Christ, and to administer the ordinances of the Gospel.  Robert Evans presented the new faith to Hugh and his family. Hugh was deeply impressed with it. To him it was indeed "Glad Tidings".

Elder Evans, bore strong testimony to its truth and to the signs following the believers. His words were accompanied with power and carried conviction to this honest seeker for the truth and his family. When Owen, Hugh's son, who was then ten years of age and who was sorely afflicted with dropsy and under a Doctor's care, heard it, he was converted, for "the sick were healed" and he believed. He demanded baptism and was so insistent about it that he was taken out of bed in a quilt and was baptized on the 25th day of May, 1847. This was done in the night time because of the bitter persecution against those who embraced this new religion. Hugh would not consent that Owen be baptized alone, so that memorable night after Owen, Hugh was also baptized.

After Owen was baptized, he manifested great faith and was rapidly improving in health until the neighbors noticed it and became curious about it.  Mary in her joy told them what had happened, what was the real cause of Owen's improvement. There was much excitement about it. The neighbors persuaded Mary to again have Dr. Hughes, the Parish Physician, to attend Owen. Owen objected vigorously saying that if he took any more Doctor's medicine he would die. His objections did not prevail. Dr. Hughes was called again, the medicine given and about a week later Owen died.

On July 14, 1849, Mary, the mother with the children, Robert, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Margaret, were baptized.

Able Evans, a good faithful man organized a branch of the church at Eglwysbach with six members. Hugh and Mary were two of them and Hugh was called to be presiding Elder. This position he held until he migrated to America in 1864.  After Hugh Roberts had been ordained an Elder and had been placed to preside over the Eglwysbach Branch of the Church he was called as a missionary to preach the Gospel.

Bridge where Hugh Roberts was to be hanged
In this service he often went away from his home town in company with the regular traveling Elders of the Church. If the distance where they were holding meetings was not too far away, his daughters, especially Elizabeth would accompany them to assist in the singing and to hold the Elders' hats and the books they used. The daughters were all good singers and in this way assisted with the meetings. Hugh did more or less of this missionary service all the while he remained in Wales and as his circumstances would permit him to do.  However, the persecution of the members of the church was great in Eglwysbach.  On one occasion, Hugh the presiding Elder of the branch and a traveling Elder were holding a meeting in Eglwysbach. A mob gathered and took them to a bridge nearby. The mob took them under the bridge and was preparing the ropes to hang them when the women who followed raised such a strong remonstrance, (particularly Hugh's daughter, Catherine, who rushed under the bridge and clinging to Hugh said, "You shall not hang my father!") that the mob desisted with a warning and a threat that the Elders must not preach Mormonism in that neighborhood again or they would suffer death.

On another occasion, Thomas the youngest child of the family was born April 3rd, 1851, and three days later he died. The little body was prepared for burial and in due time, a funeral service was held at the home. After this service the family and some friends formed a procession and carried the remains to the village cemetery surrounding Eglwysbach. Upon arriving at the cemetery, the gate was locked and they were refused entrance by the officers in charge, for the burial of the child. This situation being noised through the town, there was soon quite a gathering at the cemetery gate.

Hugh Roberts was stirred in his soul because of this unusual unheard of action on the part of the officers in charge of the cemetery, and he determined to gain entrance, peaceably, if possible, if not then by force even to the extent of breaking down the gate. He began to preach to those assembled on toleration, liberty of conscience and of speech and upon the restored gospel. So logically and forcefully did he discourse to them that finally the cemetery gate was opened and the procession proceeded and peacefully buried their dead.

So bold, constant and uncompromising was Hugh Roberts in his efforts to spread the glorious gospel that he incurred much enmity and bitter hatred toward himself and his family. As a result he lost his shoe trade as the people of Eglwysbach and that neighborhood boycotted his business. This condition soon reduced the family to the greatest poverty, even to want and they were finally sent to the "Work House" or what is commonly known as the poor house which was located at Llanwrst about 7 miles distant.

Llanrwst Almshouse or Workhouse for the Poor
The family did not remain there long, however, for no sooner did Hugh Roberts reach the place than he began to proclaim the gospel to the inmates with much vigor and he was progressing so favorably with them that the officers of the Institution, filled with consternation at such prospects, decided on another plan. They moved Hugh Roberts and his family back to his old home and assisted in providing him with means to work at his trade as a shoemaker and he was thereby able to provide for his family through his own labor. This was much to Hugh’s liking and the family progressed quite well under this arrangement, until they left for America.

Jane Roberts and Robert Roberts, the two eldest children of Hugh and Mary Owens Roberts, married in Wales and remained there, never leaving their native country.

Jane Roberts married Edward Humphreys and went to live at Harleck, , eventually becoming the keeper of Harlech Castle and living in the Castle House. Together, Jane and  Edward had eleven children named Robert, Mary, Margaret, Humphrey, Hugh, Edward, Jane Elizabeth, Hannah, Edward Owen, Laura And Griffith. None of them left Wales.

Robert Roberts married Elizabeth Owen who was not a member of the same church as Robert.  He went to live in the town of Penmanbach, Carnarvonshire, Wales where his wife's people then lived.  Robert was a fine singer.  Although Robert joined Mary’s church choir, he was not excommunicated from the Mormon church.  Robert Roberts soon settled into the hardware business there. Penmanbach was a seaside resort gaining notice and popularity.  Robert soon fell heir to the Post Office there and became a prominent and influential citizen, spending the balance of his life there.

In 1855, Elizabeth Roberts left home alone with a company of saints for America to gather with the body of the church in the Rocky Mountains.  Elizabeth crossed the Atlantic on the Chimbarazo and then joined the Seth M. Blair and Edward Stevenson Company which arrived in Salt Lake City on Sept 11, 1855.

In 1861, Margaret Roberts left home alone with a company of saints for America to gather with the body of the church in the Rocky Mountains.  Margaret crossed the Atlantic on the Manchester and then joined the Homer Duncan Company which arrived in Salt Lake City on Sept 13, 1861.

In just two short years, together Elizabeth, Margaret and Hugh were able to raise the money required for Hugh, Mary (Owens), Catherine, Mary, Hannah and John to emigrate to Utah.  Accordingly, after all necessary preparations were made, at'about three o'clock, in the morning of May 16th, 1864, they slipped away from their loved Eglwysbach, on foot to Abergala, about fifteen miles away. The fear of the violence of a mob was the reason for their early departure. They remained over night at Abergale. Their baggage had been sent ahead in a horse-drawn cart belonging to David Davis. The next day they went to a small seaport near Abergala, then by boat to Liverpool, arriving there in the afternoon of May 17, 1864.

Passenger List of the Ship General McClellan

They boarded the "McClellan" at Liverpool docks on May 21st and set sail for New York, where they landed June 21, 1864, and passed inspection without difficulty. There were nine hundred saints on board the McClellan. Elders Thomas Jeremy and George Bywater were in charge of the whole company. During the course of the sea voyage there was a very severe storm upon the sea lasting three days, and it was thought the ship would go down. The boat touched Boston on a beautiful Sunday morning and the ringing of the church bells of the city could be heard by the passengers of the McClellan. This was their introduction to America, the land of the free.

At New York they boarded a steamer in the night time and next morning after passing up the Hudson River, landed in Albany, New York. From there they took a train to Erie, Pennsylvania, where the train was put on a boat bound for Canada. The Civil War was on, and some evidence of it could be seen as they journeyed through the country. While transferring at Erie the mob spirit was very manifest among the American on-lookers and those who attended the transfer. One man with a timber in his hand was told by a companion to "Hit that old gray-headed man," (meaning Hugh), "but don't hit the girls," (meaning the daughters Catherine, Mary and Hannah.) But Hugh was left to go by uninjured and unmolested. Some of the saints of the company, however, were very roughly handled.

The spirit of the people in the United States seemed to be so hostile toward them that when the company arrived on Canadian soil where the feeling was so kindly and friendly, Hugh raised his hands high toward heaven and said, "Thank God we are on British soil once more." The train proceeded on its journey westward, returning to the United States at Detroit, Michigan, and then proceeded on to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they left it and camped in a large warehouse. Here they took a boat again for a trip up the Missouri River.

The river was shallow in places, and the boat was over-loaded and it would sometimes run into the sand bars in shallow water and stick in the sand and mud and the passengers would have to get off and walk, sometimes for considerable distances. Finally after a day and a half of such traveling they came to a place called Wyoming, which was located on the West bank of the Missouri River, and which was then the outfitting place for the west-bound emigrant trains in preparation to cross the great plains.

They were hurriedly jumped out of the boat there at midnight in a terrible storm and in thick darkness. They could see only during the vivid flashes of lightening. The family made their way from the boat partly up the gradual sloping river bank, to a large choke-cherry bush for partial shelter, drenched through, to wait for the coming of day. To add to their miseries and worries, some of their luggage was lost, but the most part of it was found the next day.
During their on the Missouri, Mary Owens Roberts drank some of the river water and became very ill. She said that there was a curse upon the river. She was quite sick during the balance of the journey.  There was no shelter whatsoever at Wyoming, so they made a tent from some bed ticking they had with them in which they lived for three weeks, patiently waiting until the teams arrived from the valleys to take them to their future home.
Upon the arrival of the ox teams or train from the west, the people and their baggage were loaded into the wagons. Two yoke of ox had brought a load of provisions for them for the journey. Most of the outfits of the camp were provided with four yoke of oxen, with three families to each wagon. The westward move of the company was still under the same general leadership of Elders Thomas Jeremy and George Bywater, and John Warren as the immediate Captain and leader of the Hugh Roberts family.
Pioneer Ox Teams Leaving Kansas
After proceeding westward about three days, from Wyoming, the dreaded Cholera broke out in the camp and continued until over fifty souls were left in unmarked graves on the plains, Some of the train were dying daily.  None of Hugh's family had the dreaded disease and acknowledged God's kind preserving care over them.
When about half way over the plains they were over taken by seven men with mule team outfits loaded with merchandise from the valleys. They traveled with the ox train a few days, then, on account of the slow movement of the ox train they went on ahead. About two days later the oxtrain came upon the camping place of the mule-team freighters. The seven men were slain, their bodies lying about and some soldiers were digging a trench in which to bury them. The Indians were bad in that section of the country at that time and had, that morning, attached the mule team outfit, killing the men, taking their mules and what they wanted of the merchandise and burning the rest. Shortly after this some soldiers had found them and were caring for the bodies. What remained of the wagons was smoking when the ox train came up to them. Whenever Indians were around, the women and children of the ox train were ordered into the wagons and were instructed not to peek out of the wagon covers.

At the first crossing of the Platte River, there was a heavy flow of ice, the river was high and the water was very cold. It was neck deep and some who were walking and were compelled to ford the stream nearly drowned. The Hugh Roberts family all passed over safely.

At Fort Laramie, Hugh did some trading at the store and obtained some medicine for Mary Owens Roberts. 

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