David Russell Creer's Great Grandmother
Jane Foster Bowen
Came to Utah in 1856 in Captain Hunt’s Company
Written By Jane Bowen Hoggins Tuttle (her granddaughter)
My grandmother, Jane Foster Bowen, was born at Dowlas, Glamorganshire, South Wales, June 19, 1820. She was the youngest of four children of Eleanor Parry of Welch descent and George Foster of Scottish parentage. Her sisters were: Eleanor, who was born at Bath, England, June 9, 1811; and Elizabeth, born at Bath, April 12, 1817; George, her only brother, was born at Crickhowell in 1814. He died in his early manhood. Grandmother was the only member of her family who married. Her father was spoken of as a gentleman’s gardener and he was also a cabinetmaker by trade. He made the casket for Princess Charlotte, a daughter of King George III. The casket was made of rosewood, and from small pieces that were left; he made a snuffbox of excellent workmanship. (I have it in my possession) This was brought across the plains.
I know very little of my grandmother’s childhood, except that she was reared in a highly cultured family, She carried off this all her life for she was a very refined lady.
As a girl, she was religiously inclined and attended Church regularly. My grandfather related a story of their love romance which originated at the church. I shall try to repeat it as he gave it to me. “I have lived in Llanelly, a town not far from Dowlas. I was born and confirmed a member of the Episcopal Church, but the main thing about the church, that interested me, was the pretty girls who attended the services. It was a favorite pastime of mine to gather with my chums to watch the young ladies walk down the Church steps as the services were dismissed.”
“It was on an occasion of this kind that I met my wife. I was not content to visit my own church, but went to neighboring towns to be on hand when church dismissed there. As a group of girls were leaving the church at Dowlas, my eyes fell upon a dainty miss who completely captivated me. I remarked to my companions, “Boys, that’s my wife,” and called their attention to this particular young lady. I had never seen her before, but I lost no time in making her acquaintance and I soon became a regular visitor at her home. A friendship sprang up between us which ripened into courtship and finally, one glorious autumn day in 1844, I became the husband of one of the finest girls in the land.”
During their courtship, grandpa gave his sweetheart a small penknife, which she brought to America with other treasures. Uncle John still has this much-cherished token.
After their marriage my grandparents resided in Llanely, South Wales, where most of their children were born. Grandfather had never taken any great interest in the Episcopal Church, but when he heard the Latter-Day Saint Missionaries preaching on the streets he became deeply interested in their message. He soon began to investigate and study this new religion and in due time became thoroughly converted and was baptized October 11, 1848, confirmed October 13, 1848 by William Hughes. Grandmother was baptized by Elder William Thomas, January 19, 1849, and confirmed By Elder Howell Williams, January 24, 1849. Ere long, grandfather decided to bring his family to Zion. His people tried hard to dissuade him, but to no avail. He saved sufficient money for the trip on sea and across the plains and with this wife, and family left Liverpool, England, sometime in the spring of 1855.
My grandparents had lost two children in Wales, they were Eleanor Jane, born at Llanelly, March 19, 1848, died April 25, 1848; and Emily, born in Llanelly, September 20, 1851, died January 7, 1852. These children are buried in St. Paul’s cemetery, Llanelly, Glamorganshire, South Wales. There were three children to come to Utah with their parents. William, my father, age nine; George Foster, six; and Eleanor Jane, the second, age two.
As the family embarked on the sea voyage, grandpa lost his bag of money into the sea. This was thought to be a great disaster at the time, but was really a blessing in disguise. They had planned to cross the plains when they first landed in America, but were forced to remain in the East long enough to earn sufficient money to buy an outfit. They located at Minersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. where grandfather worked at blacksmithing. At this place another baby was born, July 12, 1855. This was uncle John. Grandfather said, “If I hadn’t lost my money, I might have lost my wife, for the baby would have been born on the plains and the mother was quite frail. We had no conception of the hardships to be encountered on the way.”
In the spring of 1856 with four children, the baby less than a year old, the family joined the other saints to cross the plains. They were members of the Captain John Hunt’s company, which followed Martin’s handcart company. They expected to reach Salt Lake City early in the fall, but Hunt’s company was held back to help the handcart company and they did not reach the “Valley” until December 22. Brother Charles Martell went to Salt Lake City to meet the Bowen family, but through some misunderstanding they failed to make contact and the emigrants came direct to Spanish Fork, where they had relatives. They spent several weeks at the home of Morgan Hughes.
This hospitality was a great accommodation to the newcomers, one of which grandfather never forgot for he availed himself of the opportunity to help his cousin and her family when she became a widow.
As spring grew near my grandparents moved into their first Utah home, crude as it was, as were all the houses here at that time, but home, sweet, sweet home to them. Times were hard and the food was meager, but they worked untiredly toward an objective.
Grandmother’s people in Wales, worried a great deal about her. Their aristocratic minds could not believe nor be reconciled to the fact, that one of their’s had joined the Mormons.
They heard about the hardships through which the Pioneers were going, and they wrote repeatedly, pleading with her to come back home to Wales. Her parents were anxious to forward the money for the fare, and traveling expenses to bring their daughter and her family back to them. But she had come to Utah for a purpose. Nothing could induce her to go back. She said, “I will never go back, I will never cross the plains again.”
Grandmother was thirty-six years old when she came to Spanish Fork and there were three more children born here. They are Lucy Ann, Julia Susannah, and David Challinder. The two little girls died in childhood, and are buried in the Spanish Fork’s first cemetery, which is located on what is now the Finch Farm on the east bench.
I cannot remember my grandmother Bowen, but as a child, I formed a very high estimate of her. My mother loved her and respected her and always held her up as an example for us children. Mother spoke of her as a lady with a sweet, soft voice, very refined, very proud. Mother never saw her angry, was always kind to everybody and was very fond of pets. Grandmother was very systematic in all she did and was an excellent cook. If she had a hobby, it was that of collecting fine china. She brought some beautiful china across the plains and was very careful in using it. She was very precise and although the fare was often meager, she set her table with great care and served her meals according to the best form. She was never tiring in teaching her children to be polite and she found delight in having them use good table manners. She took pride in her personal appearance and her hair was always in curls. I have consulted several people who knew my grandmother, from Mrs. Emma Robertson Creer who chummed with Aunt Eleanor Bowen Thomas, I quote: “She was a very refined lady, and always wore her hair in curls. She had beautiful china.” Agnes Miller Creer: “The first cuckoo clock, I ever saw, was in Grandma Bowen’s home. She had a great deal of beautiful china and I loved to go to her home because she was always so sweet and kind.”
Everyone to whom I spoke regarding her was enthusiastic in their praise. Marintha Jones Milner lived with the Bowen family from the time she was nine years old, until she became a grown lady. She tells me that grandmother was a pleasant, kind soul and was considerate of everybody. As an illustration, she related the following story: Mrs. Danna was a blind lady who lived alone a block south of the Bowen home. Every morning as soon as the men were off to work, grandmother sent Marintha or she herself went for this lonely little widow to spend the day with them. In gratitude Mrs. Danna sewed carpet rags for grandmother when there was any to be had, and Marintha threaded the needles. This little lady was French and frequently repeated a blessing on the food in the French language. She had lunch and supper with grandmother, then was taken back home to sleep.
Grandmother was sick for several months before she passed away. The end came May 25, 1877, when she was nearly fifty-seven years old. Marintha stated that up to that time there had never been in Spanish Fork, such a large crowd of people attend funeral services.
I don’t know much about her church activities except that she was a counselor to Aunt Mary Jones Flavel in one of the first Relief Society organizations in Spanish Fork. Sister Karen Hanson was the other counselor.
Mother was the mother of nine children. She set a good example for them and guided them aright. She instilled in them a profound respect for the Ten Commandments.
Grandmother was the embodiment of gentleness, kindness thoughtfulness, truthfulness and honesty. We may say, she was a lady in every respect. Like all early pioneers, her life was not a bed of roses. She endured and suffered, as did her contempories, but if so her posterity, will emulate her example, she will not have lived in vain.