Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Great Expectations?

With so much family history and Scouting activities recently, I haven't had time to get too political. Well, how 'bout if we pine for the good old days in Britain before Labour governments destroyed the free enterprise system? Having stumbled into Dickensian coincidence with my own ancestors, I discover that I'm not a Thatcherite.

There are Welsh Historical Journals on-line at the National Library of Wales site (or if you prefer, Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru). Today, I found an article on Abersychan from where my Ancestress Eleanor Vaughan left in 1856 to come to Zion. Her husband having died in 1851, she left behind all her children. It was a son and a couple of grandchildren of hers and their families that came to America in the 1880s. Her son, John, is listed on the census and birth records of his children as a puddler. That was likely at the Abersychan Ironworks described in the article. 

But I could never figure out why the son John seemed to be moving back and forth around the mountain a few miles between the beautiful village of Llanfoist and the industrial valley where the Ironworks at Abersychan fouled the air. The article explained that by the very nature of British Capitalism exploiting the resources, workers, and the free markets resulted in frequent booms and busts as the furnaces and mines opened and closed. Then there were the "industrial actions," what we call "strikes," generally unsuccessful, in which the workers stopped work attempting to obtain better conditions than maybe those pictured above.

On our recent trip across the Wyoming plains, I asked my wife why Eleanor would want to leave the beautiful green hills of Wales to cross the ocean and walk to Utah with a handcart. More of a practical person, she wisely said that our corner of Wales wasn't as green and pretty back then as we saw it a couple of years ago. She said that in those days, the people lived in horrible poverty. The picture above nails that home.

There were a lot of those poor punished for crime. The only thing I came across in the local papers for my family was rather tame:
PETTY SESSIONS.—MARCH 23, 1853. Magistrates present-F. H. Williams, Esq., and the Rev. G. W. Gabb. George Hewson, constable of Llanfoist, charged Elisha Price, James Probert, John Vaughan, and William Vaughan, with assaulting him. On Sunday, the 13th instant, a great noise was made in the village of Llanfoist, greatly to the annoyance of the inhabitants. Complainant's attention was directed to it by some of the neighbours—upon endeavouring to quell the noise, he found it necessary to apprehend William Vaughan, when the other defendant treated him very rudely —used a great deal of bad language, and knocked off his hat; but he was not struck by any one else. They were all tipsy. The constable's evidence was fully corroborated by that of Mr. Thomas Johnson, of Abergavenny. The defendants were all bound over to keep the peace on their own recognizances, in the sum of £10 each, for three months, and pay expenses 13s. 6d. each.
John and William Vaughan were sons of Eleanor at ages 28 and 22. I imagine the unnamed defendant of the group who "very rudely" knocked off the constable's hat was likely the brother of William, John. I wonder if Eleanor wished her sons had been more attentive to the Mormon Elders. John's son Thomas, at the time three years old and eventually my 2nd-Great-Grandfather, was. 

He came to America three years after his Uncle "Willie," the one who had a little trouble with the constable.

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