Ellen Bennett's Story

Ellen Bennett's Story

by Vivian Karen Bush

Ellen Bennett Darnley Rogers

In the summer of 1832, in the parish in Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, lived a coal miner, Thomas Bennett, with his wife, Elizabeth (Westwood) and two children, Mary Anne (b. 1827) and George (b. 1831). There had been another child, Francis, who had died.

A coal miner's life was hard. Thomas went to the colliery pits and worked on his back chipping away at coal with his pick for twelve house shifts. But the pay is enough to support his family. He worked in several different mines. When one would close he would go to another that was operating. Elizabeth kept a good house and raised the children. This is the life my great-great grandmother, Ellen Bennett Darnley Rogers, is born to on June 20, 1832. Her birth in our family line was to have important consequences for both past and future generations.

A year after Ellen's birth, the Bennetts took their little daughter to the Chapel in Horbury to be baptized. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all came for the happy occasion. All lived in neighboring towns and villages. Thomas and his family lived at Haggs End Lane in Westgate Common. William Barston, their neighbor who had a family for several children was the colliery supervisor.

Children started school when they were four years old. Some parents sent there children to work in the mines and factories instead. Even the few shillings a week they earned help put food on the table. Ellen's parents wanted their children to attend school to learn how to read and write and do sums. The day was long. Lessons were copied from the black board in childish handwriting on to the slates. Reading out loud and reciting was clearly heard through the curtain dividers separating one class from another. At lunchtime, the children burst into the school yard to eat their bread and butter and relieve the stress of the day in rambunctious games of Blind Man's Bluff, "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" and hopscotch.

In 1837, when Ellen was five years old, King William IV died. His niece, Victoria, became Queen. But there was another event that happened that year that would have a greater impact upon Ellen's life. Seven missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints landed in Liverpool, and began teaching the restored gospel to the people of England.

In the next few years, Thomas and Betty had four more children: Henry (b. 1835), John (b. 1838), Martha (b. 1841) and Charles (b. 1844).

Shortly after the birth of Charles, Thomas Bennett moved his family to Clifton near Hartshead, famous for being where Robin Hood had lived. Her two older brothers, George and Henry stayed behind in Horbory, living with their mother's cousin, because they still had jobs in the colliery there. Ellen was old enough to start working in the factory. In the Bennett and Westwood families, the boys went to work in the coal mines as hurriers and the girls went to work in the textile mills and became weavers. The children worked ten hour days. The sound of the machinery was deafening. After many years, Ellen became partially deaf. By eighteen, Ellen was an expert power loom weaver.

The Bennetts lived at 100 Clifton Road. Down the road at 128, lived Ellen's sister, Mary Ann Saville. She had a new baby girl. Down the road in the other direction, lived the Darnley family, Ellen's future in-laws.

The Bennetts were members of the Church of England. They had baptized their children, married, and buried their dead at the local chapel. Ellen, at twenty, took a different path. One day she had heard about the Mormons. They had meetings over in Burslem where they had a branch. Missionaries from America came to preach. Ellen was baptized into the new faith on December 20, 1852. There were many discussions in the Bennett family home, but it seems that her family allowed her to choose this step, even though they may not of whole-heartedly approve.

Perhaps it was at the branch meetings that Ellen met Edward Darnley, a young stonemason. They were married in Bradford near Leeds the next year on September 5, 1853. Their first child, a daughter, Mary Ann Darnley, was born on August 28, 1854 at Westgate Common.

Edward was baptized on April 25, 1856. At this time he was ordained an Elder in the church. He may have actually been baptized a few years earlier. The English Saints were encouraged to emigrate to America and "gather to Zion" in the Salt Lake Valley. It was Edward and Ellen's dream to do that. They worked and saved to the day when they could go. They had another child, a son this time, who was born at Kidsgrove, Staffordshire England. They named him William Edward Darnley. [Note: His name is actually Charles a shipping manifest and the 1860 U.S. Census. I believe that Ellen changed his name after her husband's death.]

The day finally arrived when their dream of emigrating became reality. Edward and Ellen were re-baptized on October 11, 1859 to re-confrim their baptismal covenant. That winter they began making preparations to emigrate the next spring. In March of 1860 they tearfully bade their families good-by, not knowing if they would ever see one another again, but hopeful of new life and opportunities in a new land. The boarded the train to Liverpool where six hundred Latter-day Saints, including a group of sixty from Switzerland, were gathering ready to emigrate.

Edward and Ellen, with their two small children made their way to 42 Islington Street where the LDS offices and meeting room were. They were lodged in the neighborhood and given processing papers. March 25th dawned a cold, rainy and drizzly day, but excitement was felt everywhere as the Saints met at for a special conference. James D. Ross was to be their leader, with counselors James Taylor and John Croft. The next day the boarded the ship Underwriter and settled into their berth in the lower steerage.

Edward and Ellen, holding their children, were on the crowded deck as the ship was pulled by the tug out of the harbor. As they sailed away, their last view of England was the snow covered mountains of Wales in the distance. Soon sea-sickness overtook many of the passengers who took to their berths for the next several hours. The hardier passengers were on deck the next morning as the ship rounded the northern coast of Ireland, leaving behind the sight of the Belfast lighthouse. It would be thirty days before they would see land again.

Once aboard ship, a watch schedule was immediately organized. The men were assigned to serve a three hour ship during the night, guarding the lower decks so that sailors would not rob the passengers during the night while they slept. The routine of the day was to arise early in the morning, make up their berths and do their cleaning assignment. Refuse was thrown overboard. Morning assembly and prayers was held on deck at seven and then breakfast was served. On a sunny day, time was spent on deck. Schools for both children and adults were organized. Meetings were held in the afternoon. At eight p.m. all were in bed for the night, except the guards who had watch duty.

They had not sailed far before they were in rough seas. Wind gusts ripped one of the sails. The rocking of the ship made it difficult to walk. Men and women would slip and fall. Many spilled their dinner of soup and potatoes. Below, anything not tied down was sliding back and forth under their berths. One time all the berths fell down and many had to sit up the night. They lost ten casks of water that was for cooking and drinking. A balmy morning would often turn into a storm by afternoon. Thus it wasn't until April 14th that they had their first day of really beautiful weather and were able to hold church meetings on the deck. It was a day of celebration. Two couples were married. There was a meeting with instruction and singing. In the evening the men gathered for a priesthood meeting and made preparations for the next which was Sunday. Sunday they had more meetings. From 6 to 8 was a sacrament meeting with the sisters and testimonies were born.

There was sadness during the voyage. Four died at sea, two small children, and elderly man and woman. The men would sit with the body during the night and the funeral with burial at sea was performed the next day.

On the 26th, they were saluted by a passing ship. The Underwriter hoisted the American flag and some smaller flags. The passengers cheered and waved from the deck. That evening there was a celebration meeting with more instructions and singing. It seems whenever they saw another ship it was cause to celebrate. A celebration meant dancing and singing on deck.

On Sunday, April 29th, the day dawned beautiful with a fair wind. Porpoises were sighted in the water. The Saints met for a morning meeting and a priesthood session in the afternoon. Just after five o'clock, a pilot boat drew up alongside the Underwriter and a man boarded. There was excitement among the passengers as their voyage was coming to a close. Many walked on deck in the cool evening air. On the next day, the sighted land, Long Island, for the first time. There was a final meeting together on deck. Everyone began to busy themselves packing up their luggage and getting ready to leave the ship.

It was a damp morning on May 1st as the Underwriter sailed into New York Harbor. In the early afternoon they landed at Castle Garden. Edward and Ellen took their children through the process of checking in at Castle Garden. That night they slept on floor of the immigrant center. Many of their new friends bade them farewell and continued their journey across the plains that summer. Edward and Ellen stayed in Brooklyn. Edward worked first at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but was soon able to get work carving headstones at the Cypress Hills Cemetery. While in Brooklyn, Edward and Ellen lived in an apartment with another couple, William and Eliza Cramp, also from England.

Life was going well for the Darnleys. Then in the fall they were faced with the greatest trial of their lives. Five-year old Mary Ann became ill and died. The sexton and his wife and taken an interest in the young family from England. They tried to comfort the grieving parents, telling them that little Mary Ann was beautiful in her little coffin. They buried their little girl in the Cypress Hills Cemetery. Then Edward became ill and he died. So soon after writing home to England, Ellen was again writing sad news. Edward was buried next to their little girl in Cypress Hills.

Ellen was 28, widowed with a small child in a strange land. She had a choice which had greater impact on her children then at that time realized. She could go back to England to a loving family who would help take care of her and her son. Or, she could go on to the Valley as she and Edward had so long worked and planned to do. Conditions for her son would be better, but she would have to make her way alone. Her funds had been mostly used up to pay for the doctor, medicines and burial. Ellen's immediate needs were to support herself and her son. The sexton and his wife, who had befriended the Darnleys, helped Ellen obtain a servant's position with a near-by well-to-do family. While Ellen worked during the day, the sexton's wife took care of little William.

In the late spring, Ellen with her son, bade her friends in Brooklyn good-bye, boarded a train and headed west to Florence, Nebraska where Saints were gathering and preparing for the trek west. Ellen was to go with one of the independent companies. The oxen were poor and the wagons heavily loaded. Young children could ride in the wagons, but everyone else who was not driving a team, walked beside the wagons. Will would sometimes cry, so Ellen carried him. She tried to entertain him with her wedding ring tied to a string, shuttling it back and forth between them. One day the ring dropped and could not be found. She could not stay behind to look for it. They had to go on. It broke Ellen's heart to lose the precious symbol of her and Edward's love. The weather turned cold and wet and miserable the last part of the trip through the mountains. Sometime in the fall, Ellen and William arrived in the Valley.

At Emigration Square, Ellen was met by old friends from England who had preceeded her. Many had settled in nearby Provo and took Ellen there. Ellen's family, when they received the news that she was not returning to England, wrote to her of their disappointment.

Morely Common.

Mar. 26, 1862.

Dear douter elln.

We received your letter and was glad to hear from you but sorey to hear that you had travled to meney miles from you natev home when your fater and mother had givne you the chanch to comin home. but we think that it was your intenchon from the very first that you started to to to the vales. Now ellen you are in the vales you will find sumthing thear. Ellen remeber that ben in the vales will not do. your name must bee reten in heaven there is not but Christians in heaven. ellen yoru father and mother as often to wepe for thar doter is not. she as wondered from her fathers house. Ellen rember that you in the valles and us hear will be put into the Calrens mind and have Christ with you as we shall prapes never see you again on earth we would like to meet you in heaven. We have left Wetcet Comon and is now liven at Morley Common near Leedes.

Your brothers sent us your later and your sister Mareyan was at our house and hir children with hir and was glad to hear from you but sorey to hear that you had got into the valles.

your Brothes rote us a later and desired me to sent it to you. these are the lines.

Dear Sister we rite just to let you now that we pray in ould england yet fr you and your son. the place were our sister ought to be. ellen you soyprise us to think that we sent you word that we wod send you money to come home again and you wod not. dear ellen you have offended you Brothers and sisters and yor poor good ould parents. ellen there are money that wood like to have the chanes you have in america i dear say. ellen I think myself that you are realy blind. dear sister ellen your brothers and sisters sendes thar brotherly and sisterle love to you. ellen if you cud just see your poor father and mother with the tears runin dowen thar face for you. you would say together let us live togather let us die. i think you wod stay at home. good by sister may the lord bles thee.

dear sister ellen i brother henery were glad to hear from you and that you were well prase the lord for that. when i heard from you i toked of the prodgleu when he had goon a great journey from hoom. dear sister i think i must rite down farewell dear sister farewell when you crosed over the sae fare away if i had been in your place i would have commed hom but you have gone forever and did you think it wood not greve your father and mother? i think it is like old Jacob when he sayed Joseph is not and simen is not and will tak benjamin also. all these things is against me. i greve to close saying my wife and children is well. if we never met again this side the grae may we met in haven. aman.

this is they brothers later. Ellen you desired me to rit to your husband parentes but we do not now whear to rite to. ellen do you remember when you was about to cross the sea you sayed father pray for us. ellen you have not been forgoten at the hour of grace. your name ellen as often cosed the tears to gus with from your poor fathers hies and mothers to hus with tears. ellen your father and mother will soon have done wepen. then ellen you [will] not have a father and mother to rite to.

we are pretey well at present. thank god. now ellen i must contnu prayen that do may bles you. ellen when you rite the next leter if you have aney ink rit it as we can see the laters. so no more at present from you[r] father and mother. Tos and Betey Bennett.

ellen direct your later for Thomas Bennett miner, Moreley Common near Leedes Yorkshire.

Your Father is 57 to day. it is your fathers birthday to day March the 26th.

Ellen had few options for her support. One solution came in young, handsome Moroni Bigelow. He fell in love with pretty English widow and was soon taking her to church dances and socials.

Although six-years her junior, he asked her to marry him and Ellen accepted him. They were married by their ward bishop. Then Moroni's family began urging him to take his new wife to the Endowment house and be sealed together for eternity. When Ellen understood that this meant she could not be sealed to Edward, she refused to go. She and Moroni could not resolve the conflict, so went to ask the advice of President Brigham Young who was married to two of Moroni's sisters. President Young told them that since there were no children, they could have the marriage annulled. Moroni and Ellen parted and went their separate ways.

David white Rogers

One day, soon afterwards, Ellen woke up knowing she had a problem. She was pregnant. Not knowing what to do, she confided her situation to David White Rogers, an elderly man who did some medicine practice in Provo. After much thought, he offered Ellen a solution. He offered to marry her in the practice of plural marriage and give his name to her unborn child. Ellen accepted his offer. She wrote home to her family of the step she had taken and they answered with a litter written on October 18th:

Dear Ellen, we received your letter and was glad to hear that you and your son was well and we was glad to hear that you seem satisfied with the step you have taken. Ellen, if you please, your Father which is in heaven, all will be right. Ellen, they that sow to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. Ellen, we are glad to hear that you have got with such a fine family. You say that you would be happy if you had your father and mother with you, but Ellen, I think that will never be in the Valley. Strive to meet us in heaven. There we shall we [not] part again. When we got your letter it wanted a fortnight to our feast and your brother George and wife and children, Henry and wife and children, John, wife and child, and Charles' sweetheart was with us at our Feast. Some of them was 3 and 4 days with us and was glad to hear from you and the week after we went to your sister Mary Ann and took your letter with us as Joseph' mother was dead and they could not come to our feast. So your sister, Mary Ann, will send you a letter. They seem pretty well at present. Thank God for it. your brother George has been hill, but he is much better now. Your mother's sister Jane at Horbury died on 8 October. Your mother and me was at her funeral at Horbury and Sunday the 12. Your brothers and wives and children was pretty well but George and he was going to start work again.

You said in your letter I must send you plenty of news. I will tell you a bit about your brother. He calls his self a Mormon. You know the man that called his name Charles Borne that lived about 2 or 3 miles from our house and your cousin Martha heard of us and came to see us and told us about Charles going with other women. he beat her and she went for a summons for him and when she got back, Charles and 2 children was gone, a empty house and the door locked. Then she came to our house not knowing where that was but Charles came to our house the next day with his box and clothes, but Martha and Charles got together and agreed that she was not to appear against him at Bradford. Martha was at our house a week or better and went to wash for him, then he would not have her with him again. She is now gone to live with her sister at Huddersfield. Charles and the 2 children is living with a brother Mormon near Leeds. He says that he does not like Martha nor can not agree with her now. Charles and me had some talk about the Mormons. He says that none will get to heaven but the Mormons. Ellen, I will not have such religion as that leave there own wives and goes after other women. Ellen, tell me you opinion about the matter. you know that we are to know the tree by his fruit. Actions speak louder than words. Now he talks of coming into the valley again. Ellen, we must look to the Lord. It will be only a piece we shall have to stand for ourselves.

Ellen, your mother says that she would be glad to see you.

Your sister Martha began to weave by steam last week and earned 9 shillings the first week. The next week she says that she will have 2 pieces that will be 18 shillings. That will be 13 and 6 pence a week. She thinks that if you had a loom at her side, you would [have] done well together. It would have been more comfort to your father and mother than being in the Valley. Your father, mother, Martha and Charles is pretty well at present. Thank God for it. All your brothers and sisters I think is pretty well at present. Your brother George has 2 children and Sarah is big again, Mary 2, Henry 2, John 1. So no more at present from your Father and Mother.

Thomas Bennett. Morley Common near Leedes. Ellen, write back and let us know how you are coming on.

Mary Elvria Rogers was born on May 27, 1863 in Provo, Utah. Ellen did not keep her birth a secret from Moroni. When President Brigham Young learns of her birth he told Ellen how sorry he was for the situation she found herself in and assured her that the child should be always considered a part of the Bigelow family. However, Mary Elvira did not learn about the circumstances of her birth until she was fourteen. Moroni married that August to Elvira Jane Meacham.

In 1865, Ellen wrote home to England that she had "fallen into a snare" and the only thing to do was move out of the Rogers' household. She went to live with a friend. She contemplated returning to England. She received a letter from her brother Charles in which he tells her that the family had received her letter and that she was to see how she could get back to England with her two children and that her father was arranging for money and would write her very soon. Charles also asked God's blessings "on the woman who took you in."

Whatever the conflict was, David and Ellen were able to resolve it. David took her to the Endowment House and stood as proxy for Edward Darnley as she was sealed to him for eternity. Ellen was touched by David's unselfishness and compassion. She returned to his household and did all she could to make his life comfortable.

On April 2, 1866, daughter was born to David and Ellen (Bennett Darnley) Rogers. They named her Martha Ellen Rogers.

By this time, had lost tract of Edward's family in England. She had written to her father for news of them and he wrote back that "his brother Phillip was still unmarried and his other brother, John, was in the telegraph office and doing well." On June 14, 1867, her father, Thomas Bennett dies at the age of 62 in England.

A son, John David Bennett, was born to David and Ellen on May 9, 1868.

In April 1870, Ellen learned of the death of Moroni Bigelow:

From Saturday's Daily.

Drowned. It is our painful duty to record the death, by drowning, of Brother Moroni Bigelow, which occurred between Camden and Wellington, Mo., on the evening of the 13th inst. The sad intelligence was communicated to the wife of Brother Bigelow, residing at Provo, by Mr. R. H. McKay, clerk of the steamer Mary McDonald on board of which he was a passenger at the time of the melancholy event. Mr. McKay says:

"On the night of the 13th inst., about half past nine o'clock, Mr. Moroni Bigelow was seen to fall from off the guard of the boat into the river. it being dark and the current very swift, before the alarm could be given, he disappeared from sight, and, it is supposed, was drowned, as nothing more was seen of him."

Brother Bigelow started on a mission to the East on the 1st of last November and was returning homeward when his death took place.

He was born in Mercer County, Ill., Sept. 1st, 1840, and emigrated to this valley in the fall of 1850. He leaves a wife, three sons and numerous relatives to mourn his untimely departure.

David provided Ellen with her own separate home in Provo. They had five children, together, the last two being twin boys who died a few weeks after their birth.

Ellen worked hard at what ever she did. Her favorite saying was "This and better may do, but this and worse never will." She taught her daughters how to sew and weave. The boys got jobs and helped with the family expenses. Ellen kept a care record of her receipts and expenses in a little book she noted on one page that "Willie went to work to day." His earnings for the week were two pounds of butter, 50c worth of pork and 15c worth of eggs. In the early 1870s when a textile mill was built in Provo, Ellen obtained work as a weaver.

On June 18, 1881, David's wife, Martha Collins Rogers, died. Three months later, David passed away at the age of 93.

Ellen's children were now all growing up. Mary Elvira attended the Brigham Young Acadamy and took her teaching exams. Martha Ellen met Josiah E. Hickman while attending the Acadmy and they were married on February 18, 1885. That spring her sons, Will Darnley and John Rogers went up to Lost River, Idaho and began homesteading. The next year, Ellen and Mary Elvira followed to do housekeeping for them.

On February 9, 1889, Ellen Bennett Darnley Rogers died in Lost River, Idaho. Her daughters, Ella and Mary Elvira go there to bring her body back to Provo where they bury her in the Rogers' plot in the Provo Cemetery. Her obituary is printed in the Provo newspaper:

Sister Ellen Rogers died Wednesday, February 6, 1889, at her residence in Lost River, Idaho, and her remains were brought to Provo which had been her home since her arrival in Utah, with the exception of the last three years of her life, which were spent with her beloved children in Idaho. She had been in poor health for several years and had suffered much, but the last hours of her life were spent in peace, and she passed away from earth like a sleeping babe. She was born in Yorkshire, England, June 20, 1833. Emigrating to America, her husband died and left her with two small children. It was not long after her sad bereavement before her eldest child died in New York. As soon as she had recovered from this death-telling blow, she started to Utah with a company of emigrants, but as the teams were only able to haul provisions and scanty clothing, she had to walk and carry her three-year-old boy a thousand miles across the plains. In two or three years after reaching Utah she married again.

She died as she had lived, a firm believer and an earnest sympathizer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are left behind four beloved children to mourn her departure, but we feel to say, dear Sister Rogers, rest in peace and to her children, live that you may be enabled to follow her when the angel of death calls you to go.


  • Church of England, Chapelry of Horbury (Yorkshire) Parish Register, 1598-1920, FHL British film #1542241, Baptisms 1598-1907.
  • 1841 Census of England, Alverthorpe, Wakefield, District 16, Thomas Bennett household, p. 25
  • 1851 Census of England, Clifton village, Hartshead cum Clifton twp., family 53, 100 Clifton, Thomas Bennett household, p. 11. Ancestry.com
  • Utah Co., Utah Cemetery Index.
  • Ellen Alta Orser Crocket, Ellen Bennett Darnley Rogers: a short biography (typescript, n.p.) Special Collections and Archives, USU Merrill Library, Logan, Utah 42322-3000.