Lancaster Church history tour guide; Lancaster Church History Tour Notes
More information can be found in this draft of the congregation’s history, you can view it here; A History of the Lancaster Congregation of the Church.
My research into the LDS in Lancaster began in 2013, when I became interested in the history of Religious Nonconformity in Great Britain. I began by utilising digital methodologies to explore the local congregation and those local members who practiced the faith in Lancaster and the surrounding area. What became apparent was that due to it’s proximity to Preston, the Church in the area had been largely ignored or forgotten due to the story of the Church’s arrival in 1837. Similarly, the absence of remarkable conversion experiences like those that took place in Bedfordshire and Gloucestershire in the early days of the Church meant that the less spectacular and documented events have evaded research and remembrance.
This research was designed to test digital approaches to researching LDS history, and to provide local members with a better understanding of those people who went before them in living the gospel in their area.
The first recorded instance of a missionary being assigned to Lancaster came in a General Conference of the Church which was held on 6 July 1840 in the Carpenter’s Hall, Manchester. In the conference, Elder Robert McBride, a Scottish convert who had been baptised in Preston on 1 August 1837, was assigned to labour in Lancaster having been assigned by Elder Heber C. Kimball.
Elder McBride baptised Sarah Lishman on the 8 September 1840, who was a widow with some young children at the time. She may have been one of the first LDS converts to have been baptised in Lancaster.
Elder McBride did not appear to labour long in Lancaster. After being assigned in the July he wrote to Elder Parley P. Pratt, and Elder Brigham Young in the October of 1840. In the letter he said;
I had a letter from Lancaster and the brethren wishes to see me there again, but I have to say that I could not get the favour of of that people I seem? I seem? To them as a root out of a dry ground, I am in in work here at present so that I cannot rightly leave to go to [lon?] found this week will finish our work here at present for what I know and when I get employment I will preach the gospel until I be more at liberty.
Bro Smith or Bro Whitehead will represent the church at Lancaster.
I have nothing more particular to mention [thy off Bro Headlock to them, I wish him to come and see me at Churchtown and stop a few days with us if he can have an appointment, if not to send word if he has seen my parents at Rothesay.
My kind affection glows in my breast to you and our prophet, and also the rest of the Saints that are faithful they shall have my [favour?] here upon earth, or in heaven above. The Lord help you. Yours in the E. lc Robert McBride. Oct 5th – 1840’
His work and family commitments appear to have limited Elder McBride’s ability to serve in Lancaster, nonetheless he served faithfully in the Churchtown branch, near Southport, where he and his family lived for a number of years prior to their emigration.
In December 1840, he received the following letter from Apostle Heber C. Kimball;
London, December 17, 1840
Dear Brother Robert in Christ and to all the Saint in Churchtown and Southport:
Greetings, and may God bless you wit peace, love, joy long life and the good things in this life and in that which is to come, and I say unto you all if you will be faithful and keep the commandments of God you shall go to that land before long and I shall see you there [in America] and eat and drink with you and when this time comes to pass then you will know that I told you these things. Now, my dear brothers and sisters, let your hearts be comforted, for all things will work for good for them that love the Lord and keep his commandments. I would say one word to Alice for her comfort, be of good cheer for the time will come when your loss will be made up, for you will have your little one in the next world. You say it has got through with its troubles. When you begin to see what is coming in the world you will rejoice. I have lost two, Sister McBride has lost two.1 We know how to sympathize with you. Be of good cheer, for all things will go good with you in the end.
I received your letter this morning. Was glad to hear from you. It was written part by you and part by An.[Margaret Ann?] McBride.2
I feel glad to hear of the prosperity of the work in that part. I say Brother, roll it on till thou hast gathered out thy people and prepared them for thine own use that thy servant may see them crowned in the Celestial world in the presence of the Father and son where we can see each other face to face, where death mourning, sorrow, pain will be swept away for Christ’s sake, Amen.
The work is going on steady here in the great city. I have baptized five since I came here, Elder Woodruff baptized four before I came. I baptized four last evening. There are others hanging by the gills that will come in soon. The only way is to have patience with the generation. If we were merciful with them the Lord will be merciful with us, for he says as we measure to them it shall be measured to us again, so let us do good the rest of our days, for this is the law, this is what the Lord has placed us on this earth for, to do all the good we can to each other.
You say you have the gift of tongues, then I am glad, but I wish to give you some counsel, that is, not to speak before the world but it is for the edifying of the Church. When you speak let is be when the Church is together, as part of it; when there is an elder and a priest present; and open your meeting with prayer then all things will be in order and the devil will not have power over you. All the meetings are to be led by the Elders as they are led by the Holy Ghost; it is the Priesthood that governs the Church and not the tongues. You see the I have much love for you and that all things may be right before God. I have had some experience in these things. If all things are done right at first and do not have to undo what we have done. I know you want to do right and this is the reason I want to give you counsel. Pray for the gift of wisdom. The Lord is pouring out his spirit on all the churches. The work is spreading in all parts of this land, not only here but in the land of America. On the third day of October the Church held a conference that continued for three days. There were five thousand people. There were so many baptized there were ten elders in the river baptizing at once. Such a time has not been known since Christ’s day. The glory of God shone upon them
The Church is growing through England, Scotland and Ireland. The work will be great and powerful in these places. Great and terrible trouble is coming to the inhabitants of America, that one year will bring much of it to pass. Read this epistle to the Church and not to the world.
You know that the Prophet Joseph told us of the Nephites and that Moroni came with the plates that contain the Book of Mormon.
Speaking of your situation and of the work in Lancaster – If you are in a situation to go to America, you go. It is not wisdom to go without your circumstances will admit (permit), but you know your own situation. When you go there let them support you, if they will not, learn them, you know the labor is worthy of the hire. Go ahead and the way will be open for you. And it is your privilege to go when you can.
I must close. Elder Young only stayed a little more than a week. He has gone to Hirilpond Shire. I didn’t expect to stay here when I came but the spirit said it was wisdom for me to stop and the brethren thought it best.
Elder Woodruff is here and sends his love to you all. Give my love to your wife, Brother John and his wife, Brother Laide and his wife and all the Saints for I have much care for you all. Please read this to the church. May God bless you forever. I need your prayers and you shall have mine. Give my love to Mother Dickerson. When you receive this please write. I remain you brother in Christ.
(to Robert McBride)
The first mention of an LDS branch in Lancaster came from a report with Lancaster listed as a branch in a meeting held on 15 May 1842, however, by the end of the decade it had disappeared from the records. Sarah Lishman and her family moved to Preston after joining the Church, and later in the 1850s they would emigrate to Tooele, Utah, USA.
In the General Conference meeting held at the Hall of Science, Manchester, on 6th April 1845, it was reported that the ‘Preston Conference was represented by Elder Leonard Hardy, including 10 branches, viz., Preston, Lancaster, Kendal, Brigsteer, Holme, Heskin, Hunter’s Hill, Euxton, Leyland, Southport, and Longton, including 505 members, 16 elders, 24 priests, 15 teachers, 4 deacons; baptized since last general conference, 21.’
In 1846, Elder Oliver Boardman Huntingdon, a missionary serving in the British mission recorded an experience where Elder John Taylor visited him in his lodgings, followed by a short discussion, after which John Taylor went to Lancaster before later returning to Liverpool. Later Elder Huntingdon records how on one occasion whilst heading to visit the Kendal, Holme, and Lancaster branches, the train he was on did not stop at Lancaster and went straight to Kendal, a place which he described as ‘a very rough looking town’.
Later Elder Huntingdon did succeed in making it to Lancaster, and described some of the experiences in his diary. ‘…to my surprise, in stepped Bro. Wm Wignal from Preston, into the same carriage I was in, when there was a dozen others he might have got into as well. He was going near to Holme and when we got to Lancaster I persuaded him to go with me to Holme and spend the Sabbath. We searched for Brethren in Lancaster but found none, so we walked on, 13 miles to Holme, where I found the Saints in a bad condition; low and dull spirited; had no meetings for want of being rebaptized. The Presiding Elder Thomas Beck was of little energy and force, while his wife ruled him, and others contended as they would with one another.’
‘Tuesday July 15th I returned to Holme and preached in the evening and comforted the Saints much, and they were very fond of me there saying that no Elder had ever been there and done as much good as I had and none they loved so well, but now they had to take the parting hard, and early Wednesday morning I started and walked 13 miles to Lancaster where I got dinner with a Brother Robert Young who was living in tally and after eating he went with me to get an order from a County justice, which when presented to the keeper of the Castle would take me all through it, but none of the justices were at home and I had but little time to spend, so I contented myself with walking twice around it and seeing all there was on the outside to be seen. I think it covered 3 or 4 acres of land and all of solid stone, or made nearly solid by cement. It was truly an interesting & romantic scene to me, and at one side close by side of the wall was a pond of water surrounded with trees ————– That night Bro. Jacobs & I had a good meeting at John Newshams.’
The next branch to be established in Lancaster would not be until 1899, over fifty years later.
There was no recorded LDS presence in the 1851 Census of Religious Worship. A newspaper article does record an Anti-Mormon lecture in Holme in 1852, with members of the Church being in attendance.
The next reference to Lancaster isn’t until 1880, when Elder James Lovett Bunting visited President L.J. Nuttall’s family in Lancaster on Thursday 29th January 1880. They lived on Church Street in Lancaster and were President Nuttall’s cousins. L.J. Nuttall was a prominent member of the Church and served as personal secretary to President’s of the Church. After touring the Asylum, they returned to the Dawsons (President L.J. Nuttall’s family), and were treated quite coldly. She had secured them some accommodation at the White Heart, but the family, who were Catholics, had kept the daughters in the back, afraid of letting them make acquaintance with the missionaries.
In March, Elder Bunting returned again to Lancaster and visited with President Nuttall’s relatives. He visited a seed store on Market Street that was run by Mr and Mrs Nelson, who were President Nuttall’s uncle and aunt. He found the Aunt to be in very bad health and was a cripple.
Later, in March of 1880, Elder Bunting visited President Nuttall’s family again, to find them in much better health. They also visited John and Chs. Pye’s, with whom they also had dinner. They talked with a John Kew about the signs of the time and the Latter-day work. They were invited to come again and he left them some tracts. They visited Mrs Maggie Pye, and her daughter, at the Kings Head, Chapel Street, Lancaster. Elder Bunting also visited President Nuttall’s relatives who were in the Asylum, including a Mr and Mrs Standen. He had a letter from President Nuttall which he read to all of the family members he visited. Elder Bunting visited a number of other individuals around Lancaster, and left a positive impression on President Nuttall’s family.
In the 27th August 1883 edition of the Millennial Star, it was reported by Elder Henry Leyland that ‘Since you went on the Continent, President W.F. Smith and I went to the north end of our District, around by Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness, and have opened that part of the mission again. Elder Druce and I (after President Smith had left me) found some stray sheep who had been looking for an Elder from Utah for several years, and had found none until we came, and through our holding open air meetings they happened to hear of us, as the whole country seemed to be awakened after we had been there a few days. Many up there are willing to listen to us, and seem to be favourably impressed towards us. Several of the reverend divines came to oppose us, and even threatened us, and the Sunday before we came away they challenged me to a public discussion. I accepted, and they notified the public there and then that they would furnish the hall, come and make the arrangements with me, and then let them know when and where it was to come off. The next day we took a stroll into the country, to visit other places and find some Saints and relatives of mine whom we had heard of. We held meetings at Askham, where we found a good old faithful sister and some of her sons, and some relatives of mine, who treated us very kindly and gave a standing invitation for the Elders to call upon them.’
The next reference to Lancaster came in the form of a letter in the Millennial Star dated 2 October 1884, Elder John W. Thornley wrote as follows;
‘On the morning of Sept. 5th, I left the town of Preston and walked to Lancaster, 21 miles, where I met Brother L. J. Nuttall, Jun., who had preceded me on business. We directly took our stand in the market place, and raised our warning voices to the people for the space of half an hour, when we were compelled to desist by a minstrel troupe taking their stand close by and robbing us of our listeners. The following day we started for the northern towns, viz.: Carnforth, Bowness, Dalton-in-Furness, Barrow-in-Furness, and intermediate places, holding meetings when opportunity was afforded.’
Later, in a letter in the Millennial Star dated 3 June 1885 from the now President John W. Thornley of the Liverpool Conference, who described some of the conditions of the local area;
‘I have been thinking that a few lines from here would not be out of place, in order to let the readers of the Star see how the good work of the Lord is progressing in this part of his vineyard. As may be known to some, the teaching of the Gospel, for many years past, has been little pursued in this neighbourhood, inasmuch that many of the people here had never seen an Elder or heard him speak. There being several towns, each with a population of from 25,000 to 60,000 people in them, I thought it prudent – from advice given by our worthy President of the Mission – to break up new fields of labor and sound the Gospel message in the ears of those who had never yet heard it. … Last evening, on Lancaster Market, we had more indifference shown us; nevertheless, we had a good meeting, and at the close, one local preacher, of the Primitive Methodists, walked with us down the street to the river bridge, where another of his colleagues joined him. We were reasoning with them until eleven o’clock, when they gave us their address for us to call the following evening, that they might hear more of our teachings, as they were not so sure of being saved, when they got through talking, as they were in the beginning. I find there are a great many who desire to investigate. I know not whether they will have the courage that is required, to come forth and embrace such an unpopular doctrine as it always was and always will be, until our Lord and Savior shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; when He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords; when everything that offends Him shall be cut off. I feel there is good to be done in this part; the Elders are buoyant and energetic, and will sow the Gospel seed and leave the increase unto God.’
It was on Thursday 4th April 1895, Elders Gerrard and Romney were assigned to the Lancaster District.
On Thursday 5th November 1896, it was reported at a council meeting by Elder Parker that the Lancaster District was a new district, and that a great work might be performed there. There were some very earnest investigators there.
On Sunday 25th April 1897 edition of the Millennial Star, it was reported that ’On Sunday April 25 1897, a special meeting of the Latter-day Saints was held in Lancaster, situated in the Liverpool Conference District. During the preceding week the President of the conference Elder J W Grace and a number of the traveling elders went there and distributed tracts and hand bills through the town and advertised the meeting through the newspapers and by having large bills posted in prominent places Brother J. H. Riley the only member of the church in Lancaster also gave his hearty assistance in arousing interest in the meeting the most commodious public hall in the place was secured for the occasion and at the time appointed there was quite a large and very respectable appearing audience assembled the presidency of the mission attended and took part in the services all who were present listened attentively to the remarks made and many expressed their appreciation of what was said during their brief sojourn in Lancaster several of the elders were kindly entertained by strangers who were friendly disposed and who took special pains to make their visit agreeable and pleasant.’
In the 23rd March 1899 edition of the Millennial Star, it was reported that ‘On 28th February 1899, William Riley, aged 1½, died in Lancaster. William was the son of J.H. and Margarette Riley.’
In the 1st June 1899 edition of the Millennial Star, it was reported by President Merrill of the Liverpool Conference that ‘No doubt, the many letters of similar character to this, which come from the various presidents, will lead you to believe that the field is white already for harvest. In imagination I hear you give the same admonition as did our Savior in His day, ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into the vineyard.’
Not long ago, I was up at Lancaster and baptized seven into the church. While there I had the privilege of preaching on two evenings and from there now comes the cry, ‘Come over and help us.’ There are members enough now to start a nice little branch with the prospects, judging from letters I receive from those who are investigating, of more being baptized in the near future. It is my great desire to place two Elders in that city, and there establish a branch of the Church, and yet with the present very limited number of Elders in this conference, I hardly know from which field to get them.’
The Lancaster branch was again organised on 13 September 1899.
James Elmer Taylor served as the Branch President of Lancaster, presumably from its formation, before being released at the end of his mission in 1900. A biographical extract describes him and his life as follows; ‘TAYLOR, James Elmer, Bishop of the Levan Ward (Juab Stake), Juab county, Utah, was born Feb. 20, 1864, at Springville, Utah county, Utah, the son of Elmer Taylor and Wealthy Ann Spafford. He was raised in Levan and educated in Juab and Levan and the B. Y. U. at Provo. He was baptized in 1872, by Eric Petersen, ordained an Elder about 1885 and a Seventy in 1895 by B. H. Roberts. In 1895-1896 he filled a mission to Great Britain, laboring in the Liverpool conference. In 1898-1900 he filled another mission to Great Britain, during which he presided over the Lancaster branch of the Liverpool conference. He served as Ward clerk at Juab ten years, and later, in Levan, he acted as assistant superintendent of Sunday school and president of the Y. M. M. I. A. After removing to Levan he became an active worker in that Ward, and in 1902 (Jan. 12th) he was ordained a High Priest and Bishop by George Teasdale and set apart to preside over the Levan Ward. Bishop Taylor has filled many positions of honor and responsibility in the interest of his fellow-citizens. Thus he served one term as a county commissioner and ten years on the school board of Juab county. He also acted as constable in the Juab precinct two years. In 1885 (Nov. 12th) he married Almira Ollerton (daughter of Seth Ollerton and May Ann Newman), who was born April 7, 1868, in Parowan, Iron county, Utah. This marriage has been blessed with eight children, namely, Ann M., Joel E., Vinnie J., Frank S., Mary J., James Orlando, Wealthy Eva and Olive. Farming and mercantile business are the Bishop’s main avocations. Bishop Taylor has already presided over the Levan Ward for nearly eighteen years, and during that time, has taken a leading part in building a meeting house, a modern school building, a Relief Society building, and at the present time a $15,000 amusement hall is being erected in Levan.’
This is the old LDS mission hall in Lancaster town centre, just next to the Judges Lodgings. The branch used to meet here from around 1909, until c.1916. This is a property that was formerly owned and used by Gillow’s furniture company. In 1911 Edith and Winifred Simmonds lived here and the missionaries lodged here for a while. On 25th April 1911, the chapel was attacked with the members inside, and then again, on Sunday 21 January 1912, the chapel was attacked during the Sunday service which was led by a local minister. The brethren and the missionaries held the mob back from attacking people inside the building.
‘The elders of the Liverpool conference and the saints of Lancaster, had a splendid two days’ jollification on Monday and Tuesday of this week. On the 4th of July the elders met in the regular monthly Priesthood meeting at Lancaster—instead of Preston, the usual place— and in the evening a social was held where a good, impromptu program was rendered, elders and saints contributing numbers, refreshments being served in excellent style by the sisters of the Relief Society. Good cheer was a feature of the evening. Next morning, three waggonettes were loaded to their capacity — there were fully fifty in the company — and a drive of about eighteen miles made to Milnthorpe, where is located the old church in which President John Taylor was christened. It was a most delightful drive. The scenery was entrancing, beautiful beyond our powers to even commence a description. Everyone was in good spirits, as the singing of songs and cracking of jokes joyfully testified. Arrived at Milnthorpe, all took “tea,” which was served by those ministering angels, the sisters of the Relief Society. After “tea,” all visited the church; then some played baseball in, a field in the neighborhood, some looked on and others went a mile farther up the road and visited the beautiful Leven’s gardens. A misty rain began to fall about four o’clock and the company set out for home, making a short detour to visit the ancestral home of the illustrious Washingtons — made particularly illustrious by the achievements of General George Washington. At seven o’clock the whole company was back safe and happy in Lancaster, and soon thereafter the elders and visitors had taken leave of their generous hosts and were on their various ways to their homes. The saints of Lancaster, and Elders Larsen and Crawford and Lambert, with Elder Lambert as Master of Ceremonies, are entitled to much praise for the truly fine time had during the two days. Elder S. Norman Lee and Sister Lydia S. Clawson and family, of Liverpool; Sister Taylor of Carlisle, and Elders H. B. Clawson and Horace Bond of Sheffield conference were among the visitors.’