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Elizabeth Ann Birch

Elizabeth Ann Birch


            Elizabeth Ann Birch was born 2 November 1824 in Radnorshire, Wales, the daughter of John and Ann Craven Birch.  For many years her birth was given as 1821 but from later sources, this seems to be incorrect.


            Nothing is known of Elizabeth’s early life.   She had two older brothers; Francis, born in 1806 or 1807 in Knill, Wales and William, born in 1821.


            Elder Wilford Woodruff was preaching in England and having great success.  At one time he converted an entire congregation of people.  Radnor and Knill were very near the boundary between England and Wales and the Birch family heard the Gospel from him.  Francis Birch was baptized into the Church on 18 March 1840 by Brother Woodruff at Stanley Hill, England.  We think Elizabeth was also baptized at the same time.  Apparently the father didn’t accept the Gospel for we have no further records on him.


            The family, consisting of the mother, Ann Birch, Francis, his wife, Elizabeth and their two children; William and Elizabeth Ann, left their native land in 1841.  They sailed from Liverpool, England on the ship, Alesto, and landed at New Orleans, Louisiana, 16 May 1841.  the wife of Francis died at sea, and perhaps her little children also.


            Following the family in our imagination, they travelled up the mighty Mississippi River until they came to the beautiful city of the saints, Nauvoo, Illinois.  They established a home there, and were a part of the city until the saints were driven out in 1846.


            We have no record of the marriage of Elizabeth to Arnold Potter, but place it as about 1843.  Arnold was a widower with five children, the oldest being nineteen years old and the youngest was twelve.  There is only one of this family of whom we have any record.  The remainder are lost to us.  It is always a conjecture as to where they went and what happened to them.  Arnold may have heard the Gospel in New York state for that is where he was born and lived.  Later he had gathered at Nauvoo to be with the saints there.  His older children may not have gone with him to Nauvoo.  We suppose that his younger children, at least, lived with him and his new wife.  Their life in Nauvoo must have been similar to that of all the other people living there, when they would see their homes burned, their lives threatened by mobs and persecutions and loved ones killed.  They must have known the Prophet, Joseph, too.


            A great sorrow came to Mother Birch when her son, William, was drowned in the Mississippi River.  He, with two other young men, was crossing the river in a canoe from the Iowa side to Nauvoo, when the canoe overturned, drowning William.  This was on 17 March 1844 and he was only twenty-three years old.  This account is from the newspaper, “The Nauvoo Neighbor”.  Mother Birch stood proxy for him and he was baptized 13 May 1844.


            After the beautiful Nauvoo Temple was completed, Elizabeth Ann and Arnold had their endowments in that sacred edifice on 2 February 1846, just a few days before the first company of Saints left Nauvoo.  There is no record that they were sealed to each other.


Mother Birch received two patriarchal blessings while in Nauvoo.  The first one on 6 October 1841, was given by Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother.  The second one given by Patriarch John Smith 18 April 1845.  Elizabeth also received hers.


The family must have left Nauvoo among the first ones to leave, as they were across the Mississippi River and in Lee County, Iowa when Mother Birch passed away and was buried there on 11 February 1846.  Elizabeth Ann was now left without a family except her husband and his children.  Her oldest brother was not with them.


We have no account of their journey across the plains, if they walked or road, what hardships they might have endured.  They were members of Captain Luddington’s ten and of Captain Silas Richard’s fifty, and arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah 27 October 1849.  From an account in “Heart Throbs of the West”, there is an item about him.  “Arnold Potter, born 11 January 1804, came to Salt Lake City in 1848.  He left Elkshorn River on 1 June 1848, and arrived in Salt Lake City 20 to 24 September 1848.”  From that it seems he made a trip into the valley previous to the one when he came with his wife.


Upon arriving in the valley they settled in Mill Creek, which is now called Murray.  Here their first son, Wallace Edwin (my father) was born on 14 April 1850.


It was not long until they were on the move again, this time to San Bernardino in California.  A company of Saints lead by Apostles Hyman and Rich, went to California to settle in the Rancho of San Bernardino and there establish a city.  Whether Arnold and his family were with the officially or just traveled down at the same time is not known.  It did entail for them another breaking up of their home and a long, arduous journey into a new country, and another beginning of building a home.


Two children were born to them while in San Bernardino; George A., born 28 April 1853, who died as a child, and Mary Adeline, born 7 September 1855.


Arnold left his family to labor as a Missionary in Australia and New Zealand.  He was gone eighteen months and returned in 1857 a very sick man mentally, claiming to have received revelations that the Church was not functioning properly.


During his absence, Elizabeth had kept a restaurant in order to provide a living for herself and family.  She had become a friend of a family by the name of Brown, which consisted of Francis Brown, his Indian wife and children.


After Arnold’s return, she decided to go back to Utah to see her relatives.  Her husband provided her with a good wagon, provisions and everything he could for her comfort.  Still there were strained feelings between them.


Most of the people in San Bernardino had returned to Utah in the winter of 1857.  Some went back in the spring of 1858.  All had returned because Brigham Young had called them back to the safety of the mountains and because of the threat posed by the coming of Johnston’s army to Utah.  Elizabeth, her two children, Edwin and Mary traveled back with the Browns together with some other people.  Elizabeth was expecting a baby as was Mrs. Brown.


Their trip proved a very difficult and hazardous one, much more than they had expected.  When they were traveling in what is now Nevada, Mrs. Brown had a miscarriage and died.  She was buried there beside the road.  The little group struggled on until they came to Beaver, Utah where they stopped to recuperate.  Here Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl on 5 June 1858 and named her Eliza Ann.  While in Beaver, Elizabeth obtained a divorce from Arnold and married Francis Brown.


Francis was a Private in Company B. of the Mormon Battalion and was under Captain Jesse D. Hunter.  When the Battalion was mustered out in California he had stayed there, where he had married and had a family.


After they returned to Salt Lake City, they again settled in Mill Creek.  They had two children – Francis Brown, Jr., born 18 September 1861 and Elizabeth Rosella, born 27 December 1863.  Francis worked as a teamster hauling logs from the canyons.  He was killed 26 December 1873 in a snowslide in Cottonwood Canyon.  He had been a faithful Temple worker before his death. 


After Elizabeth’s daughter, Rosella, was married, she made her home with them.  She was very interested in her family genealogy and made a trip to Wales to gather records, but because of her being a Mormon, her people would give her no information.


Elizabeth passed away 22 October 1899 in Murray, Utah.  I don’t recall ever seeing her but from a picture we have of her she was a nice looking woman, quite slender and with dark hair, but she had grown very heavy before her death.

She had lived a life of pioneering, of many hardships. Of privations, and I trust her later life was one of comfort.


Children of Elizabeth Ann Birch and Arnold Potter;


Wallace Edwin Potter, born 14 April 1850, Mill Creek, Salt Lake Co.

            Died 30 September 1909 – Vernal, Utah

George A. Potter, born 28 April 1853, San Bernardino, Calif.

            Died as a child.

Mary Adeline Potter, born 7 September 1855, San Bernardino, Calif.

            Died 7 March 1870.

Eliza Ann Potter, born 5 June 1858, Beaver, Utah

            Died 15 January 1931, Los Angeles, California.


Children of Elizabeth Ann Birch and Francis Brown;


Francis Brown, Jr., born 18 September 1861, Dover, Sanpeto Co., Utah

            Died about 1908 in Provo, Utah.

Elizabeth Rosella Brown, born 27 December 1863, Murray, Utah.

            Died 6 April 1935, Salt Lake City, Utah.


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