Ancestors discussed in this article are:

Elizabeth Bray (2nd-great-grandmother, 1795).

Charlotte Elsmore (great-grandmother, 1828).

James Bowyer Shelley (2nd-great-grandfather, 1792).

Thomas Shelley (great-grandfather, 1822).

Thomas Shelley (great-grandfather, 1822). Top of Page

  Thomas Shelley and Charlotte Elsmore (his wife).

      Thomas Shelley was born in 1822 in Claverley, Shropshire, England. A contemporary of Thomas Shelley was Charles Darwin. Darwin was born in the capital of Shropshire, Shrewsbury, in 1809. His well-known book, �On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection�, was published in 1859 (Biographical Sketch of Darwin). Shrewsbury is an attractive Tudor town famous for its buildings and winding streets.

Agricultural Laborer.

      On the 1841 census when Thomas was nineteen, he was living separately from his family at Valley Farm as an agricultural laborer. Thomas lived with other agricultural laborers who worked for the farmer. A farm laborer who �lived in�, like Thomas, was provided food and lodging. Sometimes the laborers could save some money and perhaps even setup a farm himself when he married (Mingay 73). Perhaps Thomas was starting to save money too. Working as a farm laborer, as Thomas was doing at 19, was very hard work. Sleeping in late was unheard of. These laborers started work about 6 AM (Mingay 60). A workweek was about 70 hours for a farm laborer. There weren�t any paid holidays either (Parker 206). Young boys in the countryside would start working as laborers at about the age of eleven.


      Thomas Shelley could read and write, at least as an adult. We know this because he kept his own diary. His children were all literate also. It was rare for someone like Thomas in rural England to read, but it was even more rare to be able to write. Perhaps his mother, Elizabeth Bray, taught him to read using the Bible. She was the granddaughter of a surgeon, a tradesman. She was also the great-granddaughter of a rector or clergyman. The Bible was often the only book available to read. Perhaps Thomas went to a village school in Claverley. The rector or vicar, the minister of the Church of England, ran the typical village school. Very few children attended school (Mingay 164).

Converted to Mormon Church.

      The only thing known about Thomas, from his children or from his journal, is the story of his conversion to the Mormon Church. The original is lost, as far as we know. It implies he could read the Book of Mormon, but it doesn�t specifically state so. The account was probably written much later in life. Because it was a major event in his life, the entire diary entry is repeated here. As Thomas remembered, ��my father and mother belonged to the Church of England. I never became a member. My mother tried to persuade me to do so, but I never could see or feel anything to take to join that Church. I was about twenty years of age, at this time I began to be troubled in my mind about religion. I thought if there was a God as I believed there was I was anxious to know something about my being on earth. My mother went to the Methodist and sometimes I would go with her. I liked them much better than the Church of England, but I never could feel that enjoyment that they seemed to feel. One night when I came home, my mother handed me a book which she said our neighbor had loaned her which she said belonged to a sect called Latter-Day Saints.�

      Thomas continues, �A short time after, the owner of the Book came after it, and made the appointment to come and preach at my father�s house. I was at home at the time and I heard them and I felt that it was true. It caused me to reflect much about it. I could not rest in my mind until I was baptized for I felt that it was true. My mother and myself went to Bridgnorth where there was a small branch of the Church and was baptized by Joseph Wall, December 11, 1848, and confirmed the same night by the same. On January 1, I was called to the office of priest by William Hawkens, President Robert Mantin. On April 22, was called to the office of Elder by elders President John Lyon and John Tolley. On July 8, I was appointed to preside over the Claverley Branch by President John Lyon and Second John Tolley, although I felt my weakness to such a high calling, but I did the best I could and the Lord was with me and many were added to the Claverley Branch. Bridgnorth Branch was cut off I was then appointed by Elder John Lyon to preside over that Branch. I did so for a while then Brother Wheate came back into the Church again and it was his place to again preside. A short time afterward I accompanied John Lyon to Bridgnorth, and he John Lyon, the President was under the necessity of cutting off that branch for they were a disgrace to the Church of Christ and said if there were any that desired to come into the Church again, they might do so by baptism. When John Tolley said he would do so, we then went to the water and I baptized him. We began now to prepare to come to Zion. My father and mother and all the family made preparations, except Martha, as she was not a member of the Church. On the 18th of January 1851, I married my wife Charlotte Elsmore in the Parish of Claverley, Shropshire, England at the established Church of England. In February we started to come to the Land of Zion (Thomas Shelley Diary).�

      It is interesting that Thomas Shelley was the Branch President for a short time in Claverley and Bridgnorth. We didn�t find church records for either of these branches to confirm this.

James Bowyer Shelley (2nd-great-grandfather, 1792). Top of Page

  James Bowyer Shelley.


      When James, the father of Thomas Shelley, was born, George Washington was the president of the United States. The well-known English poet with the same surname, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was also born in the same year, 1792. James� mother, Martha Shelley, never married James Bowyer, his father. We know that Martha Shelley and James Bowyer met in Easthope (see the Village of Easthope for more information). She raised her son, James Bowyer Shelley, and he bore her surname as his own. When James was just six years old, Martha married Samuel Hughes. James was orphaned at ten. As far as we know, his sons never wrote or told others about their father�s life in England. Edith Shelley, a researcher on the line stated, �If we are right, his mother was buried in 1802 making him only ten years. Her father and mother died in 1798. Her brother Richard in 1802. The only one left was her sister Ann who married Edward Morris. They lived in Neenton. Since James Boyer [his father] moved out of the area and didn�t mention James Shelley in his will, he must not have helped him (James Boyer Shelley Ancestral Family Newsletter. Page 5).�

Agricultural Laborer.

      James was an agricultural laborer according to the 1841 census. George F. Shelley states a little about James� farming in a biographical sketch he wrote, a person who he never personally knew. �The golden headed grain was cut by hand with the sickle or the old fashioned cradle and then carted to the barn and stored until the cold weather of winter came on when it was threshed out with a flail, furnishing employment to the farm hands during the winter season. Farm wages were low, ten shilling a week � was considered a good wage.�

More Wealthy Than A Typical Agricultural Laborer.

      According to the 1840 Tithe Map (see Map), James was farming several parcels that he rented in 1840. Because of this and the fact that he was able to emigrate with all of his family who converted to Mormonism in 1851, it is clear that he was much better off financially than the typical agricultural laborer of the day (for more detail, see the hamlet of Farmcote).

Elizabeth Bray (2nd-great-grandmother, 1795). Top of Page


      We don�t know much about Elizabeth, the wife of James Bowyer Shelley. According to biographical sketches, she was spiritual and a member of the Methodist and Anglican Churches at different times in her life. Elizabeth was a dedicated wife. These sketches don�t tell us about her life in England.

Modest Wealth and Marriage.

      She came from a family that had assets and may have had modest wealth when she married James Bowyer Shelley. Elizabeth undoubtedly brought more assets than most wives to a marriage with a rural agricultural laborer, James Bowyer Shelley. After marriage, Elizabeth�s property became the property of James. The wife could not make a contract. If the husband wished, he could confine her against her will until 1891. If the wife committed a crime, it was the husband who was responsible. If the wife entered into debt, again the husband was responsible. Until 1857, divorces were only possible through the Church of England. Divorce was difficult to obtain. The 1857 Divorce Act �liberalized� the allowed reasons for a divorce. Men could now get a divorce for adultery. Women needed adultery plus another action, such as desertion for two years or physical cruelty (Pool 180-186).


      Perhaps Elizabeth�s greatest asset to her family would have been literacy. She appears to be the reason that her children, including Thomas Shelley, were extremely well educated for agricultural laborers. Wives of farm laborers like Elizabeth might do washing for others, sell their eggs, make and sell pies or other confectionery, or work on a craft. This would also add to the income of the family (Mingay 73). Together, James and Elizabeth managed to start moving out of the agricultural laborer class to become a small farmer in Claverley before they emigrated. Her family�s financial wealth undoubtedly helped this progress too.

Her Grandfather, Francis Bray (Surgeon).

      Elizabeth�s grandfather, Francis Bray, was born in 1727. He was a surgeon. A surgeon was a tradesman, much like a shoemaker, carpenter or other tradesman. A surgeon fixed broken bones, wounds, and any external injury. A �physician� did not fix broken bones. A physician was trained at a University, like Oxford or Cambridge. Physicians prescribed drugs. A surgeon learned his trade by being apprenticed to another surgeon. Surgeons were of lower social status than Physicians. When addressing a Surgeon, �Mr.� was the correct title. When addressing a Physician, �Dr.� was used (Pool 379). In 1745, near the time Francis Bray was a surgeon, surgeons were still formally linked with barbers as a trade.

      Surgeons learned a lot about anatomy by operating on corpses. Until 1833, surgeons got corpses from graveyards (Pool 251). They would employ grave robbers who would steal the corpses at night after they were buried. Surgeons also acquired the bodies of criminals from the government after they were executed. There wasn�t a shortage of executed criminals either. In 1800 you could be hung for steeling something worth more than 5s (less than one week of wages for an agricultural laborer). After an execution, the body would either be given to a surgeon for an anatomy class or else, until 1832, it would be hung in chains-preferably at a crossroads from a crosspiece set about twenty feet off the ground (Pool 135).

      It was illegal to practice a trade, such as a shoemaker, surgeon, milliner, etc. without being an apprentice for seven years. This law was passed in 1563. It wasn�t repealed until 1875. A youth or his parents would sign a contract (indenture) with a master to become an apprentice. The apprentice could not get out of the contract. If you were a pauper, the overseers of the poor could apprentice you without your consent from the time you were eight until twenty-one (Pool 241). At the end of the apprentice period, you became a journeyman and could practice, as you desired, including starting your own business.

      The will of Francis Bray (Church of England), written in 1803 the year before he died, has him bequeathing to his children and grandchildren hundreds of pounds. He also forgives substantial debts. To Francis, the father of Elizabeth Bray, he leaves 100� and forgives his debts (amounts unspecified). Francis has eight children at the time the will is written. None of them, including Elizabeth Bray, are mentioned in the will. Sarah and Richard have already been given �shares of his substance� when the will is written and are given just a shilling. Three of Richard�s children receive 20� each. His son Thomas is forgiven a 100� debt. He gives 5� to the son of Thomas. His son William is forgiven a 100� debt. His daughter Martha is forgiven only a 30� debt because a previous debt of 170� was already forgiven. The husband of Martha gets 10� and her daughter gets 5� plus the remainder of the estate. There is only one object mentioned in the will, a watch given to Martha. This is a substantial estate in that day (most rural English in the 19th century didn�t leave any will at all). To put these amounts in perspective, a laborer would have made just 20� working one year.

      The land tax was assessed on real property with a tax of at least 2s. In 1798 the tax assessed for Francis Bray�s property (the surgeon) was the fourth highest in Abdon (Great Britain. Board of Inland Revenue). The tax was 3�14s; even though he didn�t own the property. The tax on the property of the father of Elizabeth, Francis Bray Jr., is 12s. The total tax in Abdon was 29�8s. There are 18 dwellings shown on the tax list in 1798 in Abdon and of these, either Bray or Tasker families occupy 7 of them. To put this in perspective, Isaac Wagstaff (3rd-great-grandfather, 1787), a contemporary of Elizabeth Bray, paid 2s (the minimum) in tax for the property he occupied each year from 1812 to 1823 (Bedfordshire County Council). Since there are 20s to the pound, the property occupied by Francis Bray was 36 times more valuable than that occupied by Isaac Wagstaff.

Her Grandfather, John Collier (Rector).

      Elizabeth�s paternal line wasn�t the most educated or wealthy. Her grandfather Tasker had even more wealth and married the daughter of a Rector (Clergyman), John Collier. He was the Rector (Clergyman) in Abdon from 1745 to 1780. He was also a clergyman in Badger from 1729 to 1737. Clergymen were frequently the most highly educated people in rural villages. They also had a great deal of social status (Mingay 147).

      Elizabeth�s great-grandfather, John Collier, would be in the second highest class. He was a gentry. Until about the start of the nineteenth century there were few other churches in England. These churches, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Mormons, were called nonconformist churches. The Anglican minister wouldn�t talk to, socialize with, or eat at the house of the common laborers, such as our ancestors. It would be demeaning to his upper class status (Mingay 149).

Disowned by Her Family.

      Because Elizabeth had joined the Methodist and Mormon religions (nonconformist religions), it is clear that her family would have strongly disapproved. In England, there was often much contention between these nonconformists and members of the Church of England, or Anglicans. Most likely, Elizabeth�s family was very upset with her repeatedly joining nonconformist churches. In 1851, her parents had died long ago but she still had at least two brothers living nearby. According to Earl, before leaving England Elizabeth�s family would not speak with her. During the long trip to Utah, Elizabeth accidentally drowned in the Mississippi River near Memphis.

Charlotte Elsmore (great-grandmother, 1828). Top of Page

  Charlotte Elsmore.

Lived with Her Aunt.

      We don�t know much about Charlotte or her parents. As a young girl Charlotte lived with Miss Harwood, her Aunt, to learn the dress making business. Her Aunt had a very large cherry orchard. One of Charlotte�s jobs was to keep the birds from eating the cherries when they were ripe. She did this by going back and forth in the orchard making noise with clappers.

      On one occasion when she was quite young she was left in charge of the home. Her Aunt, going away for the night, suggested that Charlotte get someone to stay with her, but she felt that she was not afraid to stay in the big house alone. Charlotte went to bed upstairs but in the dead hours of the night was awakened by strange sounds coming from the adjoining lot. She thought it must be a baby in great distress. She decided to investigate. After she quietly crept outside, she discovered that it was just a �cat concert� going on in the next lot.


      According to her biographical sketch, Charlotte Elsmore learned economy and thrift at home and she excelled with her needle. English schools in those days were not maintained well and common people did not go to school for long, if at all. School wasn�t even required until 1880. The Church of England ran the schools they had. Until 1861 there was a tax on paper. Because of this tax, books were scarce and expensive. The schools would use the Bible for a book. The nonconformist minister would look at school as a place where children were being taught incorrect doctrines. The rector blamed the nonconformist minister for stirring antagonism between the laborer and the farmer, and between the laborer and the Church (Mingay 150).

Her Character.

      Charlotte loved to read the Bible. She was spiritually minded and her religion meant the world to her. Her son, George F. Shelley tells us, �She was a strong determined woman with firm convictions of right and wrong. When she said a thing she meant it, and her family knew they must obey. She was a very busy person, so much at times she didn�t want to take time to eat. She would eat with a big spoon so that mealtime would be shortened. She had great fortitude in hardship and suffering. In the raising of her family a doctor was never known in her home. She looked upon her Heavenly Father as her Physician.�

Converted to Mormon Church.

      It was while living with her Mormon Aunt, Miss Harwood, that Charlotte in November 1850 was converted at the age of twenty-two.

      The biographical sketch of James Edward Shelley (her son) with an unknown author states, ��When quite young she went to live with a Miss Harwood to learn the dressmaking business. Miss Harwood was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A conference was being held in Worcester. Charlotte went with Miss Harwood to this conference where she heard Dr. Peter Clinton speak, which was the first Latter-day Saint she had ever heard. He spoke on the first principles of the Gospel and when he got through with the meeting he came straight down from the stand and shook hands with her, which surprised her at the time, but soon she understood. She realized that it was the Spirit of God that led him there. She thought the principles that he spoke upon was very reasonable but she was not thoroughly convinced. She was acquainted with the Bible as she took great pleasure in reading it. Miss Harwood was a very good woman. She took pleasure in referring Charlotte to the scriptures. She loaned her the Voice of Warning. She had a bedroom to herself and she read a part of it and before going to bed she knelt down in secret prayer. Sometime during the night a bright light came into her room and the Savior stood before her with His feet a little distance from the bed. A bright light shone around Him, which had the appearance of fire. As she looked at Him the heavenly feeling that rested upon her was greater than she could even describe. He told her that He had a work for her to do. She asked Him if it was a work for the Lord and he told her yes. She told Him that the work for the Lord was what she wanted to do and He said that was what He wanted her to do and then He left her. He came again the next night. He showed her His hands that were nailed to the cross and told her to put her finger into the dent in the middle of His hands so that she could know that it was Him. He took her to a pool of water and as she stood in the water she saw the Savior standing in the bushes by the side of the pool. After these manifestations she made up her mind to be baptized so on Nov. 22, 1850 she was by Elder George Knight. The Sunday after she was baptized she went to Stourport to a meeting of the Saints. Elder George Knight presided and the Holy Ghost rested upon Charlotte to the extent that she was literally baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost as much as with water. She never forgot this day and she continued to attend these meetings. �After a while attending the meetings of the Saints she became acquainted with a Thomas Shelley�Charlotte Elsmore soon became very well acquainted with Brother Thomas Shelley and they were married �� Within three months, Charlotte married Thomas, got pregnant, and started her emigration journey to Utah. Apparently, she made life-changing decisions with ease.

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