July 24th is Pioneer Day in celebration of the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. In an effort to teach our children about their pioneer heritage we are learning about their pioneer ancestors. We are lucky to have access to detailed records of their lives. This week’s posts all come from a book my grandmother wrote to her grandchildren about our pioneer forefathers. This book was written in 1989 when the oldest grandchild (me) was 12 so keep that in mind as it is written specifically for children.
Edward Ashton is one of our first Mormon pioneers. He was born in 1821 in the country of Wales, far across the Atlantic Ocean.
Edward had a very hard time when he was a little boy. His father died when he was 6, and so the family was very poor. He was sent to work in a woolen factory when he was 8. He worked from 6 in the morning until 9 at night, 15 long hours every day, and was paid only 6 cents a day! Can you imagine how hard that would be? He didn’t go to school and never had time to play. He must have been tired by the end of the day. In those days many children were sent to work in big factories.
When Edward was 10, he caught his hand in one of the big weaving machines and tore it so badly that he couldn’t work in the factory any more. So his mother worked for another place for him. She decided that if he learned to be a shoemaker, he would have a good trade when he grew up. He was only 13 then. So she signed and agreement with a shoemaker for him to work in his shop for three years. But the man was very mean and would beat Edward all the time.
One day he began to beat him on his back with an iron tool that he used for making shoes. He pulled Edward’s ears until they bled, and his nose bled too. Then he picked him up and threw him across a bench and onto the floor.
Edward got up and ran as fast as he could out the door and down the street. A man saw him running and crying, with his clothes all covered with blood. He reached out his arms and Edward ran to him, and told him what had happened. When the man saw the shoemaker coming after Edward, he shook his fist at him and told him to stay away. This kind man then walked with Edward a few miles, and he was able to get home.
Edward had to go before a judge so that the contract with the shoemaker could be broken. The judge asked Edward to show him the terrible marks on his back, and then broke the contract so that Edward would never have to return to that shoemaker’s shop.
After that, Edward traveled around by himself, even though he was still very young. He didn’t want to live at home because his mother had married a man who was not good to him. He was always poor and out of work. Sometimes he did not live a very good life because he had bad friends who liked to drink and play cards. But Edward loved music and started attending two different churches so that he could sing in their choirs.
One day he heard the Mormon missionaries tell about the church and he was baptized. He too wanted to come to Zion. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship in 1849. He was very poor and worked at different jobs along the way to earn enough money to pay his way on a wagon train. Finally he was able to cross the plains and reach Salt Lake City. The first winter he had to live part of the time in a tent, and he and a friend walked from town to town in the cold trying to find work and begging for food to eat. It was such a cold hard winter. He wrote in his journal that in one place it was Sunday, so they did not travel or beg for food that day, but instead went to a church meeting held in a log cabin.
This part of Edward’s life was very sad, but soon it would change. He was about to become very good friends with a young Welsh girl named Jane.