Saturday, July 16, 2011



“You would lose no more children if you will come to America with us” said the Mormon missionaries to Charles and Catherine Houghton.  The promise brought the two converts here to Castle Gate, Utah in 1907.   This is their story written more than ninety years later. 
For three generations our records list the Houghtons as residents of Heather, Leicestershire, England.  So, our story begins with a little of what we know about Heather and what life was like at this time.  An Earl, Earl Howe, owned most of the land in the Heather Parish.  There was a flourmill on the river dating back to the middle ages.  There were several small businesses, a brick making plant and a small coal mine with a railroad passing near them.  The Houghtons were all listed as colliers (miners).  They lived in a rented house on Main Street.  Every house was on Main Street and they all had gardens. 
This was where Charles Houghton was born 3 March 1874 in Heather, Leicestershire, England to Ann Wragg and George Houghton.  His two sisters were Sarah Jane 5 and Catherine 2.  Four months after the birth of Charles on the 20th of July 1874 their father, George was killed in a mine accident.  The death of a breadwinner must have caused a great hardship.  How the family survived is unknown to us but life would have been hard.  Little was done for the welfare of its people then.   Ann later married a Smith and had one more child, Edith.  Marie, daughter of Edith is 71 and is still alive.  Yet, no one here in America knew of this. 
We know nothing about the opportunities of these children but education was very limited.  Rarely were there opportunities to learn more than to read and write.  To them it was a waste of time to teach children whose only future lay in the coalmines, factory or farms.  School was only possible if the parents could afford the required fees and ended at the age of  11.  There was no secondary education in most towns and they were expensive.   Charles must have received some schooling because he acted like it and he had the most beautiful handwriting found anywhere.  He served the community in Castle Gate with his talents in various ways. 
I have in my possession the marriage certificate when Charles Houghton married Catherine Burrows in the Parish Church in Heather.   On the 25th of May 1896 Charles was listed as a miner and she as a twenty-year-old spinster.  Witnessed by John Thomas Burrows and Catherine Salisbury (Charles’ sister).  Catherine's' father and brothers were also miners and they were from Kimberly and Whitwick.  The operators of these English mines paid their workers very little for their labor and cared little for their welfare.  There were no child labor laws then, both the fathers and their children were lowered hundreds of feet into the earth to work long, hard shifts.  Unfortunately the miners in America weren't treated much better.

On the 9th of February 1897 their first child Agnes was born in Heather.  Then it seems as soon as the next child was born, they would pack up and move to the next town.  Times were poor and work was scarce.  The industrial revolution caused a need for more and more coal.  Towns were growing and expanding with no thought of a clean healthy water supply or proper sanitation.  There was no sewer system, no garbage collection all rubbish was burnt or buried in the garden.  Large out breaks of scarlet fever and typhoid were common many children died from disease and malnutrition.  Five children would die in the next five years, Agnes, Gladys, Sarah Ann, Elizabeth May and George Herbert. The places they lived during these trying times were Heather, Leicestershire County; Swadlincote, Derbyshire County; and Audenshaw, Lancashire County.
We have two stories of the oldest girl, Agnes.  The first was when they once lived in a large two story home in Audenshaw where candles were used for lights.  It tells of how little Agnes while walking down the stairs caught her nightgown on fire serious enough to have caused her death.  The other story tells of a little five year old girl who got up early one morning to make the fire to cook breakfast.  Somehow she was severely burned by a kerosene explosion. 

                Sometime after their sixth child, Charles Arthur, was born 6 November 1903, the Mormon missionaries came to them and promised them that if they accepted the gospel and immigrated to Utah all the rest of their children would live, and they did.  In the later months of 1907, the family sailed to America.  Another story tells of an earlier date but the 1907 date is more believable since Charley who was five years old remembers the Niagara Falls in New York and the train ride to Utah.  They came straight to the coal mining town of Castle Gate. Charles was an experienced miner by now and a job was waiting for him. 
 There is where my wife's father Bill was born a few months later on the 26 April 1908.  His brother, John Thomas was born October 1909.   
                This was the site of the first coal found in Carbon County, 1888.  Soon after discovery, the Pleasant Valley Coal Company opened the Number One Mine and later in 1890 the Wasatch Store was built.  A company town with company houses soon followed.  To live in a company house you had to have a company job and if you didn't buy from the company store, you were fired from your job and you were immediately evicted from the town.
I'm told that Catherine's sister Ruth and two of her brothers came with them.  One of them was Arthur who married Metta Minerva Harley here in Utah.  The Burrow brothers were both miners.  Their home was a large three-room house that was later made into the Castle Gate Library.  I'm told that they all lived together in this house - Charles' family and the Burrows.
Catherine missed her family and life in England.  She hated Utah.  Later the two brothers were supposed to have returned to England.   We know that Arthur' wife, Minerva, lived a long life and eventually died in Magna.  Did they all return and was she left her?
Catherine was very religious but did have a little milk and tea ever day, and her grandchildren could not remember her attending Church, but she was old then.  She had a China closet full of glass shoes that she brought from England. She had a lot of commemorative plates from the World's Fair.  She also had an old fashioned phonograph with a crank for power.  "Grandma would never allow us to even touch these things".  All of these heirlooms are in the possessions of Lois Houghton Dansey.
When visitors came she served them tea with milk and caraway seed cake.  In later years she became more reclusive and depressed.  He blinds were drawn and her mirrors covered.  She was afraid of the old lady in the mirror.  She died in her home 13 October 1953 and her viewing was at the home of her son, John T. Houghton.
Charles Houghton was a very dignified old Englishman.  He was very civic minded.  He was secretary of both the fraternal orders of the Knights of Pithius and the Odd Fellows.  He had beautiful penmanship.  After working in the mine for few years, he injured his hand.  His thumb was nearly cut off, but was sewn back on.  After this he started working outside the mine doing whatever was asked of him.  He delivered coal to the homes, garbage collection and town maintenance.  He also built sand dummies for blasting in the mine.
Charley used a horse drawn sleigh in the winter and a team and wagon in the summer.  The town's children were often seen riding with him.  I have no stories that would tell what kind of person he was and what he enjoyed doing.

Charley smoked a great deal and in his later years suffered from cancer of the larynx.  He soon became unable to talk and died in 6 September 1937. 
                The Houghton’s life in England came from the records and stories sent recently from England by the grandson’s of Sarah Jane, Paul Winstanley and Trevor Jones.  Most of the history of the Houghton’s has been lost over the years.  Trevor said in his letter, “As you will realize as you read on we now know more of the descendants of Charles Houghton than we do of our own grandmother (Sarah Jane).  Life in America has come mostly from the writings of Charles’ grandson, John Houghton.  Through this cooperative exchange of knowledge we now have a story to tell.

My father, Herbert Burrows was born in 1850 in Whitwick, Leicestershire, England.  He was a kind and loving father.  He was a Mine Superintendent.  He began his mining career at the age of nine years, he was so small his brothers carried him on their backs to work.  He was a mine deputy at sixteen years.  He was a stern man around his work because he expected things done properly.  He had an accident when he was fifty-six years which caused his death.  He took us to Sunday School, and when he joined the church he was a devout member.

No comments:

Post a Comment