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The Story of
George Swainston Sr. and Mary Groom

written by their granddaughter, Minnie Swainston Hinck


Grandfather George Swainston and Grandmother Mary Groom Swainston were both born in Hertfordshire, England situated about thirty miles north of London. Mr. George Emmison who has done research on the family lines says: "There has been very little change in the town of Kings Walden in the last one-hundred years. The same beautiful holly hedges line the streets; the Bury and Church are still in a good state of preservation". This town was the birthplace of George and Mary Swainston's 10 children, two of whom are buried there.

In a nearby parish, St. Paul's Walden, the present Queen Elizabeth was born and christened and often attends church when visiting with relatives. Hertfordshire is an agricultural county. Grandfather Swainston was foreman on a large estate and as such was a good farmer and taught his sons in the art of farming in their youthful years.

Grandfather and Grandmother joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early fifties (18 Nov 1852) and kept open house for the Elders from then on until they emigrated to Franklin, Idaho, the first permanent settlement in the state. The Whitney Ward was later organized, and they lived there the remainder of their lives.

As I think back now I can remember the dear little Grandmother gleaning the fields after the grain crop had been gathered; in this way she secured a good percentage of the feed for her chickens. She was an example of thrift. From her gleanings they used 15 bushel for seed.

One of the early missionaries died at their home in Kings Walden, Hertfordshire. They buried him in the cemetery, and the family erected a headstone at his grave. About forty years later, Uncle Heber Swainston was back at the old home place visiting and doing missionary work. He found that this monument was settling over to one side, and he had a base built under it and straightened it up again.

This fine family suffered persecution at the hands of their neighbors. Aunt Sarah, the eldest daughter, said the Elders decided to baptize her and Aunt Mary Ann (Thompson) at night to avoid trouble with the village Pastor and his sympathizers. She remembered the Elders went outside about midnight and seeing that the lights were out in the town took her to the stream nearby and baptized her and Mary Ann by the light of the moon. They began soon after their conversion to the Church to save up every bit of spare money for an emigrating fund. It was a slow process since there was very little to spare from their small earnings there, but they all worked and saved. I recall Uncle Heber saying that his mother spread the butter on their bread and then scraped it off again; he said to her, "Mother, why do you scrape the butter off the bread?" to which she replied, "We have to save all we can for our fare to America. When we get there you can have butter on both sides of your bread." And he said, "that prophecy of mother's was fulfilled".

Grandmother was a plaiter of straw which she sold to the hat factory at the nearby city of Luton, Bedfordshire, England which was celebrated for the manufacture of straw hats and bonnets. This industry was chiefly due to the resourcefulness of Mary, Queen of Scots who during a journey through Lorraine, France observed that the women and children occupied their time profitably by plaiting straw for hats. Queen Mary conceived the idea of introducing this handicraft among the peasantry of Scotland. She engaged a group of plaiters and returning to Scotland established the first plait straw manufactory. The calamities that later befell Mary deprived the little colony of her royal support. The workers struggled through great adversity until James I was moved in their favor and transferred them to Luton where factories were established. It remains the chief hat manufacturing center in the kingdom. The work of making the straw plait is still carried on in the villages of the district to some extent, but the greater part of the material used is now imported from China, Italy, and Japan. Grandmother and the children, boys and girls, worked every spare moment at this trade, and their earnings were pooled for the trip to America. They came two or three at a time as fast as the transportation could be provided, and they laughingly remarked that it took five ships to get their family to the "promised land."

In England there are many miles of waterways or canals dug more than a century and a half ago to carry coal, machines, and other bulky traffic of the iron and textile industries. The boats were horse drawn in the early days on the canals; later horses were replaced by diesel engines. In the first days of this network of canals the farmers disliked them immensely, and called them ugly ditches. Later they planted hedges and built stone walls to hides these "scars of commerce" as they were called when first dug. Now farms and villages on either side are pretty well hidden from view. And many are the people who traverse these waterways on week-end vacations. Many people live and raise their families on their freight boats hauling every imaginable type of luggage. The radio lessens the canal folks isolation as they visit and chat with the supervisors of the many locks through which they pass on the ascent from the low lands toward higher ground. The boats are kept clean and painted frequently. The members of the family all help in the management and upkeep of their boats which are their homes and playgrounds.

I fancy the dry, uncultivated land of Cache Valley looked bare and uninviting to Grandfather and Grandmother. They had left a very beautiful, green country with flowers and hedges. But if they were homesick they did not admit it, and toiled early to late to cultivate and beautify their home in these peaceful valleys of the mountains.

(signed by) Minnie S. Hinck - Copied by David Horne


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