Friday, July 23, 2010

Ashton family

William and Sarah Ann Barlow Ashton (parents), Mary Ann Ashton (daughter) and her siblings

(Artist representation of Mary Ann and Sarah Ellen Ashton by Julie Rogers, titled "Orphans.")

William and Sarah Ann Barlow Ashton brought their four daughters, Betsy (11), Sarah Ellen (7), Mary (4) and Elizabeth Ann (2), from England in 1856 with the Martin Handcart Company, leaving behind the grave site of another little daughter, Esther, who had died in infancy. As the ship Horizon docked at Boston Harbor on July 2, Elizabeth Ann died and the bereaved family left behind another never to be visited grave.

The Ashton family bore their grief in the summer heat and crowded train as they traveled from Boston to Iowa City where they waited and worked for three weeks, preparing handcarts and tents to continue their journey. On the next leg of their journey through Iowa, the Ashtons successfully walked and drew their handcart 300 miles to Florence, Nebraska. Sarah Ann bore the extra burden of an advanced pregnancy.

For three days at Florence, the Martin Company regrouped, repaired their carts, and prepared for their 1,000-mile march through the wilderness of the Nebraska plains and Rocky Mountains to reach their Zion. On August 26, one day after leaving Florence, Sarah Ann died in childbirth. William named their precious baby girl Sarah Ann, then took up his march again, caring for his daughters as best he could through the searingly hot days and increasingly frosty nights. He would dig one more grave on September 11 for his new baby girl, less than three weeks old.

Upon reaching Ft. Laramie on October 9, William left the care of his three little girls with the Martin Company as he enlisted in the U.S. Army. It was not uncommon in those times for a widowed father to turn the care of his young children over to others, in order to secure employment for their support. On an unknown date, William returned from Ft. Laramie to England and lost touch with his children. On another unknown date, the Martin Company would attend to the burial of Betsy Ashton. Sarah Ellen lost sight in one of her eyes as the cold weather arrived in October, but she and Mary survived the rest of the journey and arrived in their Promised Valley on November 30, 1856, completely dependent on others for their care.

Sarah Ellen married Thomas W. Beckstead at the age of 15 and gave birth to 10 children, 6 of whom lived to adulthood. Mary married Isaac Wardle, a man who had also been in the Martin Handcart Company. Mary died after giving birth to her first child, William Ashton Wardle, in 1869.

Bereft of family once more, Sarah Ellen put her energies into hard work, serving others and raising her children. She pioneered in Whitney, Idaho, where she lived to be 92 years old. She also worked as a midwife and insisted that her posterity receive a good education. Her descendants fondly remember her for many good things, but perhaps one secret to her success in overcoming her trials and handicap was her love of beauty. "Her flower garden on the old place was so lovely . . . the Sweet Williams, pansies and old-fashioned flowers she had growing there. . . . She was so clean, neat and orderly - always had her windows filled with blooming plants, even in the winter time, and carefully covered them with paper each night so they would not freeze." She made "exquisite samplers" as a girl, and even "her aprons always had handwork across the bottoms."

One day a copy of the Church publication Millennial Star was brought to Sarah Ellen's home. It contained an inquiry concerning anyone who might know of relatives of William Ashton, pauper, in England, who had emigrated to America previously and left his children on the plains. Sarah Ellen sent passage money to England for her father to come to Idaho and join her family. Thomas and Sarah Ellen cared for William until his death. He is buried in the Whitney cemetery a short distance from the grave sites of Thomas and Sarah Ellen Beckstead.

Ashton, William Albert (33 or 34) father, b. England, turned back and left surviving daughters

Ashton, Sarah Ann Barlow (33), mother, b. England, d. Aug. 26 in childbirth at Cutler’s Park, Nebraska
Ashton, Betsy (11), b. England, died on plains
Ashton, Sarah (10), b. England
Ashton, Mary (4), b. England
Ashton, Elizabeth Ann (1 or 2), b.England, d. July 2, 1856, on ship docked in Boston
Ashton, Sarah Ann, daughter, born on Aug. 26, 1856, Cutler’s Park, Nebraska, d. Sept. 11, 1856

Sarah Ellen Ashton

Born: July 8, 1846 in England
Age: 10
Martin Handcart Company

Sarah Ellen's family was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and they made plans to sail for American. Sarah's parents, William (33 or 34) and Betsy Barlow Ashton (33), their children Betsy (11), Sarah Ellen (10), Mary (4), and Elizabeth Ann (1 or 2), left Liverpool, England in may 1856 on the ship "Horizon".

While at sea (or in Boston), Sarah's sister, Elizabeth, died. The family arrived in America and traveled to Iowa City, Iowa. They had to wait there nearly a month for their handcarts to be finished. they then joined with the Martin Company.

They traveled several weeks and on August 4, 1856, a baby girl, Sarah Ann, was born on the plains in Nebraska. A short time later on August 26, 1856, Sarah Ellen's mother, Betsy, died. Two weeks later on September 11, 1856, the new baby, Sarah Ann, also died.

After this sad tragedy, Sarah's father became discouraged, left his three little girls with the company, returned to New York, and later went back to England. The Saints cared for the little girls as well as they could. They all suffered greatly from food shortages and the lack of warm clothing. Sarah Ellen's oldest sister, Betsy, froze to death. This left Sarah and her sister, Mary, to continue walking on to the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived on November 30, 1856.

They were met by a group of Saints who took them in and cared for them. Later, they found a home with the Hatfield family in Farmington, Utah. They remained there until Sarah married Thomas W. Beckstead when she was 15. Sarah and Thomas had 10 children, four of whom died as infants.

Sarah devoted her life to her children, her husband, and her church. In 1887, the Beckstead family moved to Idaho. Sarah read in the paper where her father was advertising for his family. Sarah Ellen sent to England for him to come and join her family. Sarah's father accepted her invitation and Sarah cared for her father until his death.

Sarah Ellen lived a good life helping the sick and needy. Surely, she learned to trust in God and be forgiving. She lived to be 92.

MARY ANN ASHTON (2nd Wife of Isaac John Wardle and mother of William Hasten Wardle)

Mary Ann Ashton Remembered

Mary Ann Ashton, age 4, of England. Martin Company. [Out of their family of two parents and four daughters, Mary Ann and one sister are the only ones who made it safely to the Valley. Her sister Sarah Ellen lost the sight in one eye because of experiences of the handcart trek.
Online Source: (


My Handcart Memories, (
 I had an experience this summer that I can’t explain. I was with a handcart company for several months. Like I said, I can’t explain it, but it was real and it was powerful. My biggest fear now is that I’ll forget those I met and came to love. I also worry that I’ll forget what they taught me. In this notebook I plan to write all I can remember and learn about them. I don’t know if it will ever matter to anyone else. But to me, they matter. I won’t forget them. -Jake

Betsy, Sarah Ellen, and Mary Ashton
What I Remember:
The three little girls that joined my tent at Ft.Laramie. Their father left the company and joined the army.
 What Happened to Dad? Sarah Ellen’s Granddaughter wrote:
A man by the name of Clark came to grandmother’s door with a copy of the Millenial Star which contained an inquiry concerning anyone who might know of relatives of William Ashton, pauper, in England, who had emigrated to America previously and left his children on the plains. Grandmother recognized this man as her father who had left when she was seven…Now she was the only one of the children living. She…got in touch with the authorities where her father lived, sending passage money for him. He arrived withsome missionaries from England and spent the rest of his years with [his daughter Sarah Ellen].
 What I’ve Learned:
- Daughters of William and Sarah Ann Ashton
- Their sister, one year old Elizabeth, died while the Company was in Boston
- Their mother, Sarah Ann died while giving birth to another daughter one day out of Florence. “She was buried in an old wagon box, wearing a dark red cashmere dress and wrapped in a white bedspread.”
- The new baby died two weeks later.
- Father was so sad he left the Company in Ft. Laramie and enlisted in the army. He later returned to England.
- The girls were taken in by other members of the Company. Betsy, the oldest at 11, died someplace in Wyoming.
- Sarah married Thomas Beckstead in 1864 they had 10 children, 4 died as babies.
- Mary married Isaac Wardle in 1867. She died two years later while giving birth to her only child.
- Sarah lived to the age of 62.
Online Source: Olsen, The Price we Paid, pg 301, 434,15773,3966-1,00.html
Online Source: (

1 comment:

  1. My daughters are going to dress up as Sarah and talk about her in church on Sunday and I goggled her to get more info then I had and your blog came up. She is my 3rd great grandmother. I know you blogged about her four years ago but I just wanted to say thanks!