Monday, July 18, 2011

The Journals of James and Ann Ellis

Since some of the inspiration for writing All That Was Promised came from the journals of my great-great grandparents, I’ve been asked what parts of the book are factual, or based on the journals, and what is fiction. So here goes.

The characters Richard and Leah Kenyon are loosely based on my ancestors. My great-great grandfather, James Ellis converted to the LDS church in Wales in 1851. His wife, Ann, was hesitant about the new religion and didn’t join as quickly as he did. But once fully converted, she was devoted her entire life.

James became the Cardiff Branch President (as does Richard) and was instrumental in growing the Cardiff Branch. He met and hosted many of the Church authorities, including Dan Jones (mentioned in the book) John Taylor, and Orson Pratt.

James carved a love spoon for Ann as a sign of his affection. This is included in the book as well. Leah’s beloved Blue Willow china was taken from Grandmother Ann who treasured the dishes so much she brought them with her to Zion.

Both grandparents had a great love of singing which I carried throughout the book. (The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was founded by a Welsh convert and originally consisted of many Welsh Saints. Singing is an integral part of the Welsh culture.)

The journals talk about the missionaries who walked miles and miles until their feet were bloodied from the cobblestone streets. Grandmother Ann cared for these men with great compassion and this became Leah’s legacy as well.

The journals recount episodes of persecution from various ministers in the area, the publishing of anti-Mormon pamphlets and vigorous preaching against the new religion. Members were spat upon, beaten, and harassed, all of which are depicted in the book.

In reality, James and Ann had two children, Hyrum and Annie while living in Wales. Ann was pregnant after they arrived in New Orleans and lost the baby after falling into the Mississippi River.

The Ellis family settled in Farmington, UT, in the area where Lagoon Amusement Park resides today. They later were asked by Brigham Young to go to Cache Valley. The Ellis family was one of five families to settle Logan. Many years later my grandfather became superintendent of the school district. The Ellis School, named after him, is still standing in Logan today.

In the sequel to All That Was Promised, the Kenyon family endures continued hardships in establishing the funds to immigrate to Zion. After great sacrifice and setbacks, they sail from Liverpool, England and arrive in New Orleans. From there they take a riverboat up the Mississippi River where it joins with the Missouri. They take a second riverboat to Council Bluffs where they winter before setting off for Zion. Many other details from the journals are included in the sequel.

I am so grateful for the legacy my ancestors have left me and the ability I have been given to voice their stories. It has truly been a privilege and an honor.

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