Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mary Ann Mellor and Louisa Mellor Clark

I’d originally intended for these to be two separate posts, but so much of what I admire of Mary Ann Mellor and her daughter Louisa were too connected for me to split apart.

The Mellor family’s emigration to join the saints was difficult from the start. On the day their ship was set to depart from Liverpool, Mary Ann went into premature labor and gave birth to conjoined twins that died after a few hours. The doctors were unsure if Mary Ann would survive. But because this was the last ship available in the season, the future of perpetual emigration funding was tenuous, and the family had already sold their land in Leicester, Mary Ann told her family to board the boat without her. Her sixteen year old daughter, Louisa, and her two year old daughter chose to stay behind with her, and her husband took the other five children with him. Louisa did this knowing full well that she might be left alone with a two year old to care for in an unfamiliar city, possibly never seeing the rest of her family again, but she made the choice to help her mother in her time of need. By a twist of fate, Mary Ann's husband came back two days later for them, as the ship was anchored for a time in a nearby river after its departure. Against doctors’ wishes, they carried Mary Ann on a stretcher to the boat, and the whole family journeyed across the ocean together.

As part of the Martin handcart company, they faced many difficulties on the trail. Mary Ann had regained some of her strength, but was still weak enough she nearly gave up on many occasions. On one occasion, she did. She told her family she would go no further, kissed her children goodbye, and “sat down on a boulder and wept.” Again, Louisa chose to come to her mother’s aid. She told the family to go on without her, prayed that she and her mother would be able to catch up with the company without harm, and got off her knees and went to work. As she returned to her mother’s boulder, she found a pie in the road, which she gave to her mother to eat. They rested for a time, and then succeeded in rejoining the group. Louisa recounts that “many times after that, Mother felt like giving up and quitting, but then she would remember how wonderful the Lord had been to spare her so many times, and offered a prayer of gratitude instead.”

Mary Ann, her husband, and her seven children all arrived safely in Utah. They were eventually called to settle Fayette (building the first brick home there), and in 1875, James was called to serve a mission to England. He returned in 1877, arriving on the doorstep with a woman named Mary (Polly) Knowles that he introduced to Mary Ann as a woman he’d brought back from England to be his plural wife. Stunned, Mary Ann stared at them for a few minutes, then showered them with a pan of fermenting milk and slammed the door. Eventually Mary Ann and Polly would have a cordial relationship. Louisa became the second wife of Edwin Clark, had nine children, and became active in temple work.

My attention was initially drawn to Louisa as I read this account. I love her bravery, devotion, and faith, choosing on two separate occasions to risk her life to support her mother. But I think Mary Ann is also worthy of praise. Despite discouragement and loss, she always made the choice to keep trying, and managed to maintain her spunk. I think their story is a beautiful account of the difference a brave teenager can make, and the power that comes through a strong mother/daughter bond.

Source:
Olsen, Andrew D. (2006). The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers.

11 comments:

Julie said...

I am a descendant of Mary Ann, and this story is acted out in the movie "17 miracles". It is wonderful!

Rachel said...

Thank you so much for your post here. I, too, am a direct decendent of the Mellors, Mary Ann being my fourth or so great grandmother. Everything was accurate, and you do both women justice. Thank you for telling their story!

Karl Mellor said...

I too am a Mellor. Mary Ann was my great, great grandmother. She was such a strong woman. She was nearly dead when she was brought on board the ship "Horizon" in Liverpool, and beat the odds every step along the way to Utah.

After arriving in Utah, Mary Ann and James were sent to Sanpete to settle the town of Fayette. When they first arrived in Sanpete, they built dirt dugout homes in the side of a hill with dirt floors. In spite of her rustic surroundings, Mary Ann was determined to keep things neat and tidy. She crushed white limestone into a fine powder and used it to create ornate designs in the dirt floor. Then she attached a large, flat rock to the end of a pole and used it to beat the clay dirt and limestone powder into an almost marble-like finish.

She kept the dugout swept and spotless and made everyone take their shoes off before entering. She was so fastidious in her housekeeping that everyone else dubbed her "Crazy Clean".

This says an awful lot about her character. She was determined to maintain her dignity even in the toughest circumstances. Her example has been a great source of strength and inspiration to me in my own life as I've face difficult challenges.

Jeanne said...

_Digging through some family history at my mom's this spring looking for a family name for my daughter to take to Martin's Cove (now about a week from today) we came across some stories that were typed up here and there. I was reading through one I felt impressed to look at and found it was the story of Louisa Mellor Clark. We had seen 17 Miracles and my daughter was very excited to really know this story already. We were not sure who she was in our family line though. After some research we found that she became the second wife of one of my grandfathers- Edward Watkin Clark. My mom remembers hearing how Louisa and Edward's first wife Lucy were good friends. I read in one of the stories that Lucy said that God had sent Loiusa to them. So even though she is not our direct ancestor, my daughter is going to take her name to Martin's Cove next week. I have a feeling this is going to be an emotional trip. <3

Jeanne said...

I also want to add that when I read through the story I bawled because I have struggled with some things the past few years and there were days when I felt like her mother and I just wanted to give up, but there were what I like to call my "pie in the wilderness moments" that helped me make it another day. How many times I have likened that story to how I have felt. So grateful for the Pioneers.

Handsfullmom said...

Mary Ann was my great-great-something-grandma. A side note to the story that breaks your heart is that the doctor who delivered the conjoined twins took them and preserved them and they became part of a traveling show of curiosities. The family knew nothing about it until years later; they'd been told the twins were buried.

Julie said...

Handsfullmom- Do you by chance have access to any records that can back up the story of the twins being used in a circus sideshow? I would be interested in it if you do...

Anonymous said...

Juilie, I am a descendent of mary Ann as well. I have a type written document by one of her daughter's that says the twins were indeed kept by the doctor in secret, though it does not say for what.

Anonymous said...

I am a descendant of Mary Ann too.Her daughter Clara, who is a twin, is my great great grandmother. Interesting that there are two sets of twins, and the sad story of the conjoined twins. My daughter has identical twin boys and there are several sets of twins in our family tree, mostly indentical. Fascinating that they say identical twins are not genetic but something that just "happens" from time to time. I don't think so from our family line, curious as to how many indentical twins stem from this family line

Anonymous said...

I am a descendant of Mary Ann through Emma, Clara's twin. My brother has twins. My daughter had twins, but one died.

Had never heard the plural wife story. I wouldn't have been happy either if it really happened that way.

My Dad's Gramma was the 2nd wife and I like that story. WHen the husband was asked to take on a 2nd wife, he asked his first wife, who would you like for me to marry and she told him the young lady, Lorranie, that I work with in Young Women. I love her and I would love to have her in our family as a 2nd wife. They got along well from reading the histories and helped each other out.

Sheri M said...

James and Mary Ann Payne are my 2x great grandparents. It's wonderful to read stories about these and so many other pioneer ancestors. It appears that James' brother John also married a Mary Ann (Fletcher). It shows in Relative Finder that Louisa is the daughter of Mary Ann Fletcher not Mary Ann Payne. Is this correct? If so, the story in the blog is about the wrong Mary Ann.