Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Alfred DeGrey (1831-1885)

The first child born to John DeGrey and Maria Brooks was a son, Alfred. He was born at West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England on March 12, 1831, and probably spent his childhood and youth in and around Dudley.

Although Alfred's parents were not of the well-to-do class, so to speak, they were of the fine, hardworking stock, who made up the greater part of the population of England. They lived under very humble circumstances, but they, nevertheless, treasured traditions of nobility in their ancestry.

Alfred was the eldest of nine children, seven sisters and one brother. They were as follows: Selina, Kezia, Maria, Charlotte, Sarah, Sophia, Elizabeth, and John. Sophia and Elizabeth died young, and John died June 18, 1847. So Alfred became master and protector for his tiny charges. Naturally, he was given a merry chase as the girls advanced in years, but there was love and devotion in evidence in the DeGrey family.

As the family increased in number, it became necessary for extra finances. Alfred's mother prepared herself to assist her husband in providing for the family by learning her husband's trade. He was a tailor and had quite a well-established business. Maria made it possible for her husband to pursue another type of work. In this way, additional funds were provided for the fast growing family. Alfred was still but a young lad when his father died at the age of 47. Most children in that condition went to work when quite young to help with family expenses. For Alfred, the death of his father only hastened the time when he would quit school and go to work.

Alfred was about sixteen years old when his father died. He found employment in the iron works near his home and later became foreman of the establishment. He was also secretary in the labor union at the plant.

When the family lived in West Bromwich, only a stone wall separated them from their uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Crowley, who lived in a very nice home and had a fine garden where gooseberries, currants, and vegetables grew. The uncle taught Alfred to blow glass in the large glass manufacturing center which he owned.

Alfred, his mother and sisters were still mourning the father and husband's death when, by invitation from a relative, the family met and became well-acquainted with some missionaries who were representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The gospel, as they heard it then and the many visits which came later, touched off a spark. Later the mother and her daughters were privileged to enter the waters of baptism.

When plans to go to America were culminated and the DeGrey family embarked on their long journey to Utah, Alfred chose to remain in England, probably because of a young girl whom he had met. Consequently, it was only after Alfred had married Ann Maria Raybold and they had one son, John, that he, too, came to Utah.

Alfred was twenty-two years old when he and Ann were married. Their first child was born at Netherton, Worcestershire, England, on October 18, 1856. The second son Alfred, was born July 22, 1859 and died at a young age.

Neither Alfred nor Ann were converted and baptized into the Church at the time Alfred's mother and sisters were. It was a great trial for his mother to leave him in England under such circumstances. However, in August 1867, ten years after his mother had left Dudley for America, Alfred and his wife were baptized.

His mother and sisters were quite well established when Alfred brought his wife and children to Salt Lake City. It was in the spring [of] 1868 that Alfred, his wife, and children, John Samuel, Maria, Selina, and Elizabeth (only a few weeks old) left England on the boat "Minnesota" bound for America.

After arriving in Boston the family took a train to Florence or Winter Quarters, where they found wagons, mules, and teamsters waiting to take them [on] the long trek across the plains. They traveled in Captain Loveland's Company and found the journey much easier and faster than had the pioneers who had traveled the same distance ten years hence [or earlier].

The older children walked most of the way. And like their predecessors, they experienced some frightening and exciting moments. On one occasion, two Indians riding pinto ponies, rode up to the camp and stampeded the mules which were grazing nearby. It startled even the men who were guarding the mules, because the Indians appeared so suddenly. A man known as "Mary Ann" who was cook and teamster for the captain did not wait to get a bridal but grabbed up a short barreled shot gun and jumped astride a mule which had lagged behind and been left when the others stampeded. The man used the gun to guide the mule. He traveled quite a long distance before he located the mules. He had started herding the mules back toward camp when he was met by the other teamsters. There was a time of rejoicing when the men returned with the mules.

When the company was crossing the Platte River another terrifying accident occurred. All the men had to wade all streams and had been cautioned about whirlpools and quick sand. On this occasion, one young man, an only child of a well-to-do widow, was just about to step up on the bank of the river when he was caught in a swift whirlpool and pulled under. A man by the name of Kimball attempted to save the boy, but was unable to and the body was never recovered. Such incidents always saddened the entire company; however, there were many happy times to offset the pain of tragedy.

The company arrived in Salt Lake City on August 15, 1868. They drove into the tithing office yard where they were met by Henry Aldous Dixon, Alfred's brother-in-law, who worked at the tithing office and was in charge of meeting each company on its arrival and also finding lodging and employment for all who needed it. He took Alfred and his family to Mother DeGrey's home, a small one room log cabin, where they stayed until they found a home of their own. It was a very happy reunion for the family.

One of Alfred's and Ann's small children had been afflicted with a weak heart even from time of birth. The parents felt that if they could only go to the Endowment House and have their small child sealed to them, the child might be restored to full health. But a short time after they had fulfilled their desire by going to the Endowment House and being sealed one to the other for time and all eternity, the young child died, leaving them very much saddened.

Soon after the family was located in Salt Lake City, Alfred secured employment at the quarry in Cottonwood Canyon, cutting stone for the Temple. For his wages he received script on the tithing office where they procured food and clothing. Later he went to work at a foundry operated by the Utah Central Railway as a boilermaker. Then he worked at the Salt Lake Foundry as foreman of the moulding department, and at the time of this death he was working for Daniel Dunne at the Eagle Foundry. He became quite skilled in the art of casting tools from brass. At the time of this writing (February, 1950) there are, in the possession of his descendants, two small brass anvils which he made. One is in the possession of his daughter-in-law, Maria Jarman DeGrey (Samuel's wife), and the other is in the home of Maria Jarman DeGrey's son.

Alfred died very suddenly at his home in the Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake City, on August 27, 1885, at the age of 54. He left a wife and seven children who mourned the passing of a good companion, husband, and father. Alfred had never been one to take part in public activities nor in his church to any great extent, but he lived a good Christian life. He was honest and upright in all his affairs and was respected by all who knew him.

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