John London and Hannah Smith

Stories of John London (1840- 1922)
Hannah Elizabeth Smith (1838-1901)

John London was born in Alcester, Warwickshire, England, on November 7, 1840, the fourth son and child of a family of six. His father was George London and his mother, Sarah Garfield.

John was the only member of his family to immigrate to this country as a convert to the Mormon Faith, being only 22 years old. His occupation in England had been that of a baker. His parents were dead and he lost track of three brothers, Thomas, William, and George Henry. He wrote to his two sisters, Sarah Barker and Rebecca Chambers until their death. He had belonged to the C1urch of England. He was baptized March 27, 1859 by Henry Stokes and confirmed 31 March 1859 by Samuel Francis.

He crossed the ocean in the John J. Boyd ship, a journey of seven weeks. From a Church Chronology, a record of important events pertaining to the church history compiled by Andrew Jenson we read:

1862 — April, Wed. 23 — The ship John J. Boyd sailed from Liverpool, England with 701 saints, under the direction of James S. Brown. It arrived at New York June 1.

May 1862 – Two hundred and sixty—two wagons, 293 men, 880 oxen, and 143,315 pounds of flour were sent from Utah to assist the poor of the immigration across the plains and mountains. They traveled in six companies under Captains Horton S. Haight, Henry W. Miller, Homer Duncan, Joseph Horn, John R. Murdock and Ansel P. Harmon.

1862 — Wed. 24 Sept. Captain Homer Dunkin’s church train (first) which had left Florence, Neb. July 22 arrived in Great Salt Lake City. This train had made the round trip from the Valley to Florence and back in 130 days.

John had charge of one of the above wagons of 12 people. He walked the greater part of the way across the plains. He says, ‘We buried three of our party along the way, I had to bury them myself, one man and two children. We did not have any coffins to put them in, but wrapped them in blankets, just dug the graves and put large bushes to mark the place, it being the best I could do, I felt.’ They supplemented their diet with lots of fish from the Platt River along the way.

John first settled in Echo, Utah and worked there on the railroad.

November 8, 1863, at Coalville, Utah, John at the age of 23 married his sweetheart from England, Hannah Elizabeth Smith, 25 years old, the ceremony being performed by Edwin Wilde. Later, on December 12, 1878 they went to the Temple for their endowments and sealing.

Hannah Elizabeth Smith was born June 22, 1838 at Willersey, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Samuel Smith and Elizabeth Baldwin. He was the seventh child, with two older brothers and four older sisters.

It seems the Smith family were a very poor and hard working people and some of the members lived and worked on the farms and in the fields of their landlords. At times the women worked in the homes as well as in the fields. Some of them owned their own land.

Elizabeth Baldwin Smith died when Hannah was 2 years of age so she knew very little about her. Hannah’s daughter Alice (Alice Rebecca London Condie) says her mother was very young when she left home and ‘went out to service’. She may have lived in another part of England as she did not see her father much. She had an unkind stepmother; she tells that Hannah wanted to go to school so she could learn to read and write and when she obtained some pencils she hid them in her bed. One day while she was out to play her step-mother found them and broke them in pieces. In spite of these hardships she learned to read and write. She could find passages in the Bible for her sons, George and Alfred and attended spelling bees at the school in Croydon and would stand up with the best of them.

Hannah’s sister, Sarah Andrews, did dressmaking a1 it is possible that Hannah may have bad this occupation in England. Her brother, Charles Smith, wrote that: ‘Mrs. Boswell is still in the same shop as when you left and has inquired about you several times.’ Hannah may have worked in this shop.

Hannah too, belonged to the Church of England and as far as anyone knows, was the only member of her family to join the Mormon Church. She was baptized in 1861. She and John kept company before he left England. In 1863 she came across the Atlantic Ocean on the ship Amazon, with the Captain Eats Company.

From the church history again we read: 1863 Thur. June 4 the packet ship Amazon sailed from London, England with 882 or 895 Saints under the direction of Wm. Bramall. It arrived in New York harbor July 18 and the immigrants reached Florence a few days later.

She was sick a great deal on the way over with mountain fever. She would sit on deck and do fine hand-sewing. A friend, Martha Housley, wife of John Hopkins, who came over on the same ship with her made the remark that Hannah drew the attention of the people on the boat by her being alone and by doing the fine sewing. She specialized in eyelet embroidery and while on the boat, made a long christening dress in which all of her children, her daughter Annie1s children, grand-children and most of the great-grand children have been named and blessed.

From the Church History records: 1863 — Sunday, Oct. 4 Captain Horton D. Haight’s Church train of immigrants arrived at Great Salt Lake City.

1864— April 28 — Wyoming, a village seven miles north of Nebraska City, Nebraska had been selected as the outfitting place for the emigrants. About 170 church trains were sent from Utah to the Missouri River this year after the poor.

1869— Jan. Fridayl3. The end of the Union Pacific Railroad track reached Echo, Summit County.

Hannah arrived in Utah on October 4, 1863 and went directly to Echo She was a girl of 25 when she left all of her own folks and came to America because of her love of the Gospel and the love of her sweetheart, John. She knew nothing of the hardships that awaited her. They were married one month after she arrived. John did not have a pair of pants suitable for the wedding so Hannah sat up at night and made him a pair, doing all the sewing by hand and by the light of a candle.

While they lived in Eco John London helped build the railroad into Utah. The Golden Spike was driven May 10, 1869. Hannah did laundry for the stage drivers. They would leave the laundry enroute to Salt Lake and she would have it ready for them to pick tip on their return trip east.

They lived several years at Echo where two children were born to them; Annie Elizabeth September 19, 1864 and George Thomas on June 25, 1866. When they moved to Croydon, a distance of ten miles away, John farmed. He helped build a fort to protect them from the Indians but it was never quite completed.

In the early days the Indians used to frequent the settlement. They made their camp along the Lost Creek where they would hunt and fish. Alice tells of how frightened she was when they would dress in their war paint and race through the town on horse back dragging their tent poles behind them. Often when the family was eating a meal they would turn from the table to see an old buck Indian with his nose pressed against the window. He would ask for food in the usual way, ‘We want biscuit.’ John always gave them food and they went away. There was one particular Indian called Old Soldier who brought them good venison. Hannah called them nice fat hams of deer meat, The Indians told the people of their remedies for various ills, and since there were no doctors in the settlement, sometimes their remedies were used.

Hannah was a rather plain girl and her dark hair might have curled if it had been given a chance. The pictures show her hair done in the style of the day, parted in the middle and drawn back tight on each side into a bun at the back. Alice says when her own hair was washed it fell in little curls all over her head. Her girls had curls too, so perhaps the curls in the various fam1ies came from the London side.

Because Hannah was such an exceptional seamstress, she was always called upon to make the burial clothes for all who died in Croydon. John made the coffins, and Hannah lined the. Alice tells of watching her mother as she puffed the silk around the sides, made a little mattress and pillow and if it was for a child she would add a little ribbon or lace.

She also took in sewing and made men’s suits as well as women’s dresses and coats besides doing sewing for her 8 children. She made quilts and knit lace for others too. She must have helped and taught her daughters because we know that Annie made her husband’s suits and did much beautiful sewing. This ability to sew has been acquired by others in her family and has drifted down to many of her descendents. She left a rich heritage to the women of the families in her sewing talent as well as her love for the Gospel.

Hannah had a reputation in Croydon for not only her personal neatness and manner of dress but her good housekeeping. Floors were scrubbed regularly, stoves., were blacked and polished, coal oil lamps were filled, wicks trimmed and the chimneys washed and polished. She made butter, did all the sewing, made bread and did the washing on a wash board. She adorned her home with beautiful knitted lace and also knitted stockings for all her family. She says she learned to knit by watching someone else knit.

About 1867, in Croydon they built a one room log cabin with a dirt roof. It was a large room with a fireplace at one end and a stove at the other. The floor was of pine boards and very pretty when well scrubbed, daughter Alice recalls. The walls were white washed regularly and when the rains came, the mud ran down over the nice white walls. The homemade beds were four posts with rope laced through the side and head boards to serve as springs. Their mattress was a good strong tick filled with straw and refilled after the grain was thrashed. Sometime later another room was built about eight feet from the other room and it was used as a bedroom. Alice says when she was a little girl she had a homemade candle to light her way to bed and often as she was going from one room to the other, the wind would blow out her candle and she had to return to the kitchen for another light.

When Alice and Annie had the measles they had a bed in one corner and her two brothers had a bed on the floor at the foot. Alice says when the fire went out she or one of the other children would be sent with a bucket to the neighbors for hot coals to start the fire again. And she says, ‘Many times I have helped my Mother make candles. We had a small mould and I would thread the wick in and tie it at the bottom then Mother would pour in the melted mutton tallow.’ The house that is still standing was built later.

Milk and butter was kept in an underground cellar that had a dirt roof. One day the cow got loose and almost fell through the roof. Dirt and sticks fell into the pans of milk set out for the cream to form so they could skim it off from the milk.

Around 1866 and 1867 the grasshoppers were so numerous the men could not grow grain. They cut wood and hauled it to Salt Lake and brought back flour from Kaysville, a distance of about 65 miles. John also worked in the rock quarry which was by the old depot in Croydon, but now known as Devil’s Slide.

Six more children were born to this couple at Croydon; Mary Louisa on March 22, 1868, Alfred John born March 28, 1870, Alice Rebecca the 28th of March, 1872, Emily Maude, May 15, 1874, William Henry, October 27, 1876 and Oliver Charles on May 12, 1879,

In 1878 when the dread disease diphtheria, spread through the town Mary Louisa contracted it. ‘There were no doctors in Croydon. Many of the townspeople who had had experience in oaring for the sick came to help. Alice’s father-in-law, Ephraim Swann, sat with her the night before she died and as he left, said he was a little better but she died a short time later March 27th. This was the first death in the family. She was only ten years old. The other seven children grew to adulthood, all were married in the temple, except Emily Maude, whose endowments were later done by her sister, Annie. All the children were sealed to their parents.

Alice tells that it was at the time Oliver was born that George was bitten by a rattle snake. She remembers his coming to the door of his mother’s room where she was in bed with her new baby and telling her be had been bitten. All known remedies were used. They made him a bed on the floor and buried his leg in black mud obtained from a ditch bank. When the poison reached his abdomen, his mother thought he would die. John got some very good whiskey from a friend in Echo and they gave it to him as often as they could and the poison left.

From letters dated September 26, 1881 we read: Charles Smith tells his sister Hannah that he ‘had been to Willersey and found the folks there busy and getting in their harvest’. ‘The corn crop is good’. Sister Sarah has seven or eight children at home and has raised twelve. They are still living in the old cottage where we were all reared and where our Father lived for about 55 years. They are all little farmers at Willersey’.

He tells how neat and clean his sister Ann keeps her home and children so Hannah must have learned her clean ways from her sisters. Her brother goes on to say, ‘the old spot looks very natural, the hills and all the scenes look very familiar and brings back the remembrance of the time we used to play upon the green’.

Jan 23, 1892, Hannah received a letter from her nephew, Harry Andrews. He says, ‘Dear Aunt, I must tell you that the old house is still standing and we have been living in it until Mother’s death, (Dec. 2, 1890) nearly twenty years. And the little flower beds are still there beneath the windows.’ Hannah loved flowers and she had her flower bed beneath her bedroom window. Her room was the north room on the front of the house. Perhaps this is the same room where she died. One of the ladies who lived in Croydon used to lean over the white picket fence and pick out the pansies in her garden that resembled the faces of the townspeople. Geraniums always grew in Hannah’s kitchen window. Her nephew, Harry, often sent her flower seeds from England. Her father died about two years after Hannah came to Utah. Croydon was organized as a branch in October 1863 with a Presiding Elder. The Croydon Ward was organized July 1l, 1877. The first Sunday School was in charge of William Chapman, Joseph Blackwell and John London. John was later made superintendent, November 9, 1879, and served until his release Dec. 31, 1899, more than 25 years of Sunday School work. Solomon Edwards and Wil11am Wagstaff were choir leaders. No music books were then used. The old L.D.S. Hymnbook contained the hymns.

As to John’s priesthood Ordinations, he was ordained a Seventy by Thomas Grover, on the 17th of February, 1884, and was later ordained a high Priest.

John was the second postmaster of Croydon, appointed in, October 1888. Three times a week John Bunting carried mail by horseback to Echo to catch the train. In January 1893 daily mail was started in Croydon and John drove in a horse and buggy to the Croydon depot (now Devil’s Slide) to take and pick up mail. Mail is still carried daily from there.

John took care of the church house and Alice tells of how she and her sisters washed the glass chimneys for the coal oil lamps. She said they were held in brackets on the wall between the windows on either side of the hall. There must have been several because he said it took them some time to wash and polish them John made the ‘fires in the wood burning stove before church so the building would be warm by the time the people arrived. Hannah often served Sunday dinner for visiting church officials.

The church was used for the school house. The children used a slate. As they advanced in school they passed from one reader to another, rather than from grade to grade.

They held their dances in the church and musicians and friends came from Henefer and other near towns. Social life also consisted of rag bees, quilting and spelling bees. These were also held at the church and attended by most of the people, both young and old.

They bad very little money and when they needed provisions not raised on the farm, they took a bucket of wheat, eggs or a pound of butter to the Kate Hopkin, or Mrs. Walker store where they traded for the things they needed. Kate’s store was where Lyon Toone used to live and Mrs. Walker’s at the corner of the Thackeray farm where the road turns to go over the summit.

John raised nice cabbage and hauled them in a wagon to Henefer and Coalsville to sell. The wagon was probably pulled by his oxen which he called Pete and Dime.

When the Croydon Ward Primary was organized, October 28, 1879 by Eliza R. Snow, Elizabeth Blackwell was made the President and Hannah Elizabeth Smith London and Helen Elizabeth Stokes as her counselors, Alice and Emily Maud were members of that first Primary.

A letter written to Hannah from her brother, Charles Smith, Hudson Yard, High Street, West Bromwick Stafforedshire, England contained some interesting information. ‘Dear Sister, we have had a fortune left us from Sarah Robbins of Willersey the amount coming to us on our mothers side of 6 pounds which when shared would be one pound (about $5) each. Can you tell me the best way to send you your share. Could you do with it in stamps or can we send a post office order. I bad a great deal of writing and trouble about the matter, we were determined to know the right of it so we got the will of the late William Robbins of N treadonton by whom the money was left in the first place it was left to Sarah Robbins for her life and at her death it was to be divided among the survivors and our mother being dead her share came to her children.’

Hannah corresponded with her brother and sisters until the time of her death.

A letter written to John by his sister reads: ‘Dear Brother, I tbink you have made a mistake about the time you left home. You have been out of England longer than you say for I was but a little girl when you left and your father wasn’t dead either.’

Another reads: ‘Dear brother, I wish you many happy returns of your birthday that has just gone.’ ‘You are 60 years of age and I shall be 53 coming this July.’ This letter was written in 1900 by his sister Rebecca and she signs with, ‘And may the Lord watch between me and mine while we are absent one from, another hoping to meet on the next earth if . not on this one so good night and God bless you all.’ At the bottom of the page is love and kisses from her little boy. From letters, it appears that John did not keep in touch with his family in England too often. One letter from his sister says she has not heard from him for more than twenty years. (These letters are kept by Lula Condie, daughter of Alice.)

Hannah was sick all summer before her death at 63 on October 3, 1901 at Croydon and she is buried in the Croydon Cemetery. She probably died of heart trouble. When Alice was ill, and her tissues were full of water, she said she was going just like her mother.

In 1905 the cement plant was built two wiles from Croydon and the town that was built around it was called Devil’s Slide from the company’s name.

John married Annie Marie Kirkland at Henefer, Summit County, Utah November 5, l893. [Note: This was Alfred John London’s, John and Hannah’s son, marriage. As far as I can tell, John London married Ann Pedley at a later date.] She had no children by John. After her death, he sent to England for his niece, Bertha Hammond daughter of his sister Rebecca. She came with her son, George to keep house for her uncle.

A story is told by Blanche, Annie’s daughter, ‘When Bertha came on the train to Devil’s Slide, Joe, my husband was asked to meet her at the depot. It was very early in the morning and snowing. He didn’t leave home until the train arrived and she got off and started walking down the tracks instead of toward the depot so he had to run after her. I fixed her a big breakfast because she kept saying she was starved. Later, I learned that what she really wanted was her black tea as she has cold. Grandpa London came during the day to pick up the mail and to take her home.’

In 1916, at the age of 76, he resigned his appointment as Postmaster after almost 30 years of service and with Bertha went to England to visit his sister Rebecca.

John took the flu and Bertha was sick too. Annie was sick too so she sent for Alice to come from Ogden to help care of their father. Alice was with both her parents when they died.

On the 14th of March, 1922, at the age of 82, John died at his log home and is buried on the hill in Croydon. His home is still being lived in 1961.

Material for these stories has been compiled by Ada Blanche Thackeray Rees, Alice Rebecca London Condie and LaVon Rees Carr. Assembled and edited by Helen Thackeray Rees Berger in August 1961.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed this history and was wondering if you have any pictures of John and Hannah and their family. My husband is through the William H London line and I am trying to gather a few stories and pictures from his line.

    Thank You Denise London

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *