Robert Weekes and Mary Ann Baldry

 

 

 

Robert was the fourth child of William and Sarah Hibbens Weekes. He was born in Kent county, which is just south of London. He was christened on 27 March, either 1790 or 1791 in the parish of Bexley. I show his birth date as 26 March, 1790.

There is a good map of historic English counties at http://www.picturesofengland.com/images/mapofengland/historic-counties-map.gif Kent is in the lower right portion of the isle. In Kent there are two ancient highways, Watling Street and Pilgrims Way. The Romans landed in Kent. The Jutes (Danish invaders from Jutland) landed in Kent. Kent was fought over and conquered many times in the history of England.

On 3 August, 1818 Robert married Mary Ann Baldry in the Dartford parish, Kent. Mary Ann was the oldest child of James and Elizabeth Hall Baldry. She was born 2 December 1799 in the town of Thelnetham, Suffolk, England. She was christened in the parish of St. Nicholas on 11 December 1799.

Thelnetham is a parish on the Ouse river on the border between Suffolk and Norfolk. In 1901 it had a population of 615.

Sometime between 1805 and 1809 James and Elizabeth moved from Thelnetham to East Wickham, Kent. Mary Ann's mother, Elizabeth, was originally from Bexley.

In 1819, Robert and Mary Ann were living in East Wickham, Kent. Their children were Robert, born 19 July 1819; John, born in 1821; Elizabeth, born 1 May 1824; Mary Ann, born 26 August, 1826; Eunice who was born in 1831 and died in infancy; Benjamin, born 16 February 1834. The family then moved to Bexley where their last four children were born - David, 9 July 1836; Edith, 12 December 1838; Sidney, 8 March 1841; and Emma 18 April, 1846. I show another daughter, Mary J Weekes born about 1847. Perhaps this daughter died in infancy as well.

In the 1851 English census the family is listed at house number 70 on Dover Road, Welling, Kent. Robert is listed as 60 years old and his occupation "cow keeper". Mary Ann was not at home that day but is listed with her daughter Mary Ann, who had married Charles Jones.

Mary Ann Baldry seems to have been the family leader. She and son David were the first to be baptized into the Church on 19 August, 1849 in the Welling branch, London Conference (conference was the equivalent of our stakes today). Over the next few years other family members were baptized and the desire to go to Zion was strong.

In February, 1852 the son-in-law, Charles Jones and sons Benjamin and Samuel Weekes sailed from Liverpool on the sailng ship "Ellen Maria". It appears that they were sent to prepare the way for the rest of the family to arrive the next year.

They landed in New Orleans where Samuel remained. Benjamin and Charles, along with other saints from the "Ellen Maria" and the "Kennebec" made their way to Kansas City, Missouri where they were met by Elder Abraham Smoot. They were led first to Council Bluffs and then west across present-day Nebraska. They were in the first company to be financed by the Perpetual Immigration Fund.

Somewhere along the way Benjamin drowned while crossing the Platte River. Benjamin's grave is unknown today as are most graves of those who died crossing the plain. Often the companies took care to conceal the graves of those who died. In part this was to protect the remains and also to keep their losses unknown to possible marauding indians.

To add to the confusion, the Platte River had no well-defined channel owing to the relative flatness of Nebraska. Early in the 20th century the army Corps of Engineers straightened the Platte and created defined channels in order to cut down on floods and erosion.

Charles continued on to Utah alone, arriving there 3 September 1852. Once in Utah he set up housekeeping and began a lonely vigil of waiting for his family to arrive.

In January, 1853 Robert was finally baptized. A month later, on 28 February Robert and Mary Ann with their four youngest children David, Edith, Sidney and Emma as well as Charles' wife Mary Ann and her three children boarded the "International" at Liverpool. They arrived at New Orleans on April 23.

From New Orleans they travelled by steamer to Keokuk, Iowa and by wagon to Council Bluffs. There were about 250 people travelling in 40 wagons, under the command of Claudius V. Spencer, that crossed the Missouri on June 3 to begin the last leg of their long journey.

Most people preferred to walk across the plains. The wagons had very poor suspension and the jolting was horrendous. Only the very elderly, very sick or the very young rode in the wagons. In order to preserve the animals' strength the wagons carried as little as possible. They averaged 15 to 25 miles a day and in just a few days' travel the pioneers easily became accustomed to walking that far, if not further.

Robert was 63 years old and not in very good health. It's possible he delayed his baptism for health reasons. In any event, his health failed rapidly and and he was allowed to ride in one of the wagons with his head resting on the lap of his youngest daughter, 7 year-old Emma. Robert passed away somewhere around Fort Bridger and was laid to rest along the trail 14 September 1853.

In a short history of Charles Jones it's claimed that he prepared a meal for his family on September 3 (their wedding anniversary) then went on foot to meet them. Charles was a cook by trade.

While that's possible - many of the pioneer companies travelled together only loosely - I find it more likely that Charles met them somewhere along the trail and accompanied them to Utah. On September 3 they were probably around South Pass. One of the ladies in the company recorded in her journal for September 1 that they were ascending steep and rocky places and that the Rocky Mountains were well-named. That description would fit well for Rocky Ridge, a bit east of South Pass.

Sometime around September 17 - 26 they arived in Salt Lake City. Arguably the Weekes probably arrrived nearer the September 26 date since Robert died at Fort Bridger on September 14. From Fort Bridger to Salt Lake City is a little over 100 miles or about a weeks travel.

Mary Ann and her four children were sent to Lehi initially but later moved to Smithfield. Life was difficult for Mary Ann. She and her children suffered through drought, grasshoppers, storms and bitterly cold winters. They gathered and ate pig weeds, dug Seg Lilly roots and picked wild berries. She had brought enough tea to see her through until it could be bought in Utah (the Word of Wisdom was much more loosely observed in those days). If anyone had a need for her tea, she gladly shared it but wouldn't sell it.

Several years after arriving in Utah, Samuel expressed a desire to travel to Utah. Sidney was chosen to drive a wagon to Council Bluffs and get Samuel and Samuel's family. Sidney was a teen-ager at the time and clothes were hard to come by. His pants were made from the best cut-off parts of worn-out pants. During the time it took to get Samuel's family and return, Sidney grew several inches and put on some weight.

On his return, his Mother and sisters shed more than a few tears of joy at his safe return as well as sadness at seeing the sorry state of his clothing.

Mary Ann died 26 October 1888 at Smithfield.

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