Maria Ann Cook
By Emily Tyler
I remember only one of my grandparents, Maria Ann Cook Bezzant. The last years of her life she lived in our home and this is where I remember her.
Maria Ann was born into a stalwart English family in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England on 27 March 1837. Her father, Cotton Cook, was a Wesleyan Methodist minister of some renown. (see addendum) Her mother, Emily (Amelia) Green make a very happy home for Maria Ann and her three brothers and two sisters. (see addendum)
Maria Ann was the youngest in her family. She had a twin sister, Ann Marie, that died when she was about a month old. (see addendum) I was reading one day in the Genealogical Library in The History of Wesleyan Methodists in the Town of Lowstoft and Yarmouth (p. 68) for the year 1843 and came across the following quote: “The system of tuition now in use has been found to succeed better than any former system employed: it has been in operation more that twelve months and was introduced by Mr. C. Cook, Master of the late Wesleyan Day School.”
From things I remember Grandmother saying and from what happened later in her life, I pictured Cotton Cook as a loving man, very sincere in his beliefs, but very stern and unrelenting in doing what he believed was right. He raised his family to always devote themselves to the spiritual side of life. Maria Ann read the Bible daily. At the age of eight she won a prayer book for repeating scripture in church.
One day when Maria Ann was about twenty years old she heard some Mormon missionaries preaching on a street corner. She stopped to listen and the Holy Spirit touched her very strongly. They answered questions that she had from her study of the scriptures, questions she had not been able to find answers for.
She excitedly went home and told her family of her experience. This really caused a rumpus in the home of Cotton Cook, who was very bitter against the Mormons. She was told not to go back and not to go to any of their meetings. But it was just like something seething within her. She had to go back, for how else could she learn more about this new religion. She went back. She believed what the elders taught. The Spirit was very strong and even though her father said he would throw her out and disown her, she asked for baptism.
When she returned home after she had been baptized all her earthly possessions were out in the street. She was not allowed back into her home. She never again saw her mother or any of her brothers and sisters. What a great sorrow this must have been to her mother, not to have a chance to say good-bye to her beautiful daughter, not knowing where she was going or what she would do.
Maria Ann left every relative she had and the security of home for the gospel she believed to be true. She gathered up her belongings (I have a glass pitcher that was among them) and went to London, where she found she found work as a servant (housework). She saved her money and paid into the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
She belonged to the Goswell Road Branch while she was in London. Matthew Bezzant, who later became her husband, was the branch president.
She left London on 3rd June 1864 and sailed on the ship Hudson for America. On the ship they were organized into fourteen wards. Each ward had two teachers and night and morning meetings were held where they would pray and sing. They were six weeks crossing the ocean, arriving in Hew York on the 14th July 1864.
Maria Ann arrived in Salt Lake City in November 1864 after experiencing many of the hardships and trials common to our pioneer ancestors. They rode on trains to the Missouri River. This was at the time the Civil War had just ended and the railroads were being used for soldiers. The Saints had to ride in cattle cars.
One car in which they were riding caught on fire from cinders. A man named Brother Ross climbed to the tope of the car, walked on the cars to the front and had them stop the train and put out the fire. This saved them all from being burned to death.
Maria Ann walked the entire distance from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City. They were organized into companies. Maria Ann was is Captains Snow’s company to Nebraska and William Hyde Company from Nebraska to Salt Lake City. In the evening they would hold meetings in their camps and sing, trying to make the journey as pleasant as possible. Many became discouraged before the journey was over and some of the older people died from the cold and hardships.
The first winter in Salt Lake City, Maria Ann lived with the William Ward family.
In the spring she married Matthew Bezzant, on 21 April 1865. Matthew was a widower with two sons. They were married by Bishop John Brown in Pleasant Grove. They made their home in Pleasant Grove for awhile and then moved to Lindon, where they raised their family. Their five children were: Alfred, Emily Martha, Joseph, and Mary Jane. Her husband died on 14 February 1891.
Maria Ann worked in different organizations of the church. she was a Sunday School teacher for many years and a Relief Society visiting teacher until the time of her death. She spent much time among the sick and was always ready to help where there was trouble or death.
An interesting incident in her life and one that impressed her very much was a dream she had. She said her father came to her. He was distressed. There was this high mountain he was anxious to cross, but it was impossible for him to go any further. He told her he needed her help. He kept calling to her and telling her to hurry because it would soon be sundown and too late to cross over. She interpreted this dream as meaning the temple work which must be done here on earth in order for her family to progress in the spirit world. From this time she took great joy in doing genealogical and temple work for her relatives.
Maria Ann died on 13 April 1917 in Lindon, Utah in the home of her daughter Mary Jane Wright.
I honor my grandmother. What if she had faltered when the missionaries taught her the gospel and when she faced so many hardships? How would our lives have been? Her life was not easy. She lost her beloved Matthew when my mother was fifteen years old. She was a widow for twenty-five years. I remember the tiny home in which she raised her family, with no conveniences whatever. I remember her cheerful disposition and her laughter and how I loved to be near her as a young girl. I am proud of the faith and courage she showed as she served the Lord during her lifetime on earth.
As I add this information I want everyone to understand that what Aunt Em wrote was correct as far as she knew. Many new records can now be researched that were previously unavailable to us.
At the time of the births of the brothers and sisters of Maria Ann, her father is listed as a Twine Spinner which is a net maker. He had some training in Southwold as a Wesleyan minister but there hasn’t been found a record of him becoming officially one. In this faith of course the ministers were lay men and made their living a lot of the time elsewhere. But I can’t find a record of him ever preaching in the local churches. As far as the school is concerned the entry may be him or Charles Cook, who knows. They both lived there and were about the same age.
Maria Ann grew up with three brothers and three sisters. In the 1851 census her twin sister is with her mother at her brother Thomas W. Cook’s residence in the Parish of Great Yarmouth, district of Southam in the registration district of Great Yarmouth, County Norfolk age 16, unmarried. Emily Cook is listed as a Mariner’s wife. I have found no other record for Ann Maria. As the mother died in 1869 and her father in 1868 both in Yarmouth, Norfolk there should be some record somewhere in 1861.
Maria Ann’s sister Phobe (Phebe) was married in Poplar, Middlesex a suburb of London and her sister Emily was married in Barking, Essex,. But her brother Thomas and his wife were living in Great Yarmouth and boarding at Mrs. Emily Cook’s on King Street, Great Yarmouth at the time of his marriage.
Nancy and I received a research box from Aunt Em and in it is a letter from my Grandmother to her daughter Emily about research for Maria Ann and it states that she grew up in Great Yarmouth as her parents moved there while she was little.
Maria Ann was living at the Isaac Bullock residence in London, England when she received her notification of sailing in 1864.
(From the files of Mary Jean Caldwell.)