Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Journal of William Green Bickley

The son of Mary Jane Green (b1821, Smalley Hill) was William Green Bickley, who was born in May 1842. He became a Mormon while living in England, eventually emigrating to Utah in 1861. 28 years later, he returned to the Black Country on a missionary trip and wrote a journal of his experiences. I have been fortunate enough to have received some extracts from this journal from William Green Bickley's great-grandaughter who lives in Utah. Thanks to my 3rd cousin Gillian for putting me in contact with this fascinating source - Gillian, like myself, is a descendant of Mary Jane Green's younger brother Thomas Green who was born in 1827 in Smalley Hill, Little Wenlock.

The passages concentrate on the missionary work of William, but also contain many interesting social commentaries. The entry for Tuesday 24th November 1889 is of particular interest, as William Green Bickley describes the last few moments of the life of his uncle - and my great-great-grandfather - Thomas Green.

Also, I think diary and journal entries give a wonderful impression of the life and character of individuals. I particularly like one line from this journal entry which I have highlighted in red - it's always important to remember, however, that one person's description of an individual's character may not be the same as another's!

William Green Bickley appears to have had a very eventful and full life in the Mormon Church. I believe that there are some further writings on his life and work, which I hope to be able to read at some point.



"Nov. 3., 1889-- Journeyed to Willenhall in Staffordshire, where my sisters, Betsy and Hannah resided. The meeting between us was affecting as well it may be after a separation of nearly 28 years. I spent that day and the following with them and on Tuesday the 5th I reported to my president at B 40, Roland Road Handsworth, Birmingham. I was excused for 2 or 3 weeks in order that I might visit friends and returned to Willenhall the same day. On the next morning I went to Manchester, and visited with my very dear sisters, Sarah Brown Makinson and Christianna Brown. Oh it was an enjoyable meeting. I myself was moved to tears. I found them both enjoying excellent health. We devoted ourselves to the pleasures of the moment, in talking over old times when we were children and congratulating each other on the happiness of our meeting.

On Friday the 8th we visited our cousin Charles Jones and family and were hospitably received and entertained. During this visit I had the pleasure of going into and inspecting some of the large cotton mills in that vicinity. The manufacture of cotton fabrics being the principal industry of Lancashire. On Saturday we went into Manchester and I must confess, I was astounded and grieved at the sights of degradation and sorrow I witnessed and all caused by that dreadful abomination "Drink". It is certainly a city of wealth and culture but along side of the millionaire, you may see the starving, pinched, haggard faces of the occupants of the slums and oh the agony that is portrayed in the sunken eyes and hollow features of the poor. We visited the royal museum in Peel Park which is really a beautiful collection. We passed a very pleasant day.

On Sunday the 10th we spent the day in visiting with our cousin Fanny, Uncle Thomas Green's eldest daughter at Lees.

Monday the 11th was spent socially by my sister Christianna and myself. In the afternoon I visited some friends of Sarah's and in the evening called upon cousin Charles.

On Wednesday the 13th we made preparations for departure as Christianna was due at a new place of service with Mrs. Smith of 19 Town Hall Square, Bolton.

On the 17th, Sunday, I attended the Sunday School of the church of St. Giles and on the following day I visited my Uncle Thomas at Brownhills, where I passed a very enjoyable two days visit.

On Tuesday the 24th November returned to the mission office and found a note awaiting me desiring that I would go to Brownhills as my Uncle Thomas Green was in a serious condition of ill health. I started at once, walking to Walsall and took the train to Brownhills. I found my uncle very ill indeed and at once endeavored to comfort him and other members of the family.

My uncle said he felt quite content with his prospects of the future state, but he could not hardly have felt so, for he would frequently call upon God for mercy in anything but a contented voice. My mind was sensibly impressed with the absurdity of a death bed repentance. I cannot at all understand how a person can live all his days in a dissolute manner his body continually filled with intoxicants and then at the last moment, when death stares him in the face, expect to have the mercy of God extended to him even so much as to take him to the realms of eternal Glory. I stayed at Uncles until Thursday afternoon. Sat up with him both nights and doing what I could for him. Just before I left Uncle Thomas' home, my aunt Sarah arrived and I must say I was a little disappointed at the cool manner in which she received me after so long an absence. I do not think she interchanged a half dozen words with me but it is of no consequence. I bid Uncle goodbye and went to Willenhall for a day or two, talking wherever I could on the Gospel.

On Monday Dec 9, I returned to the office and found a letter announcing my Uncle's death on the morning of the 6th, inst., and desiring my presence at the funeral on the following day. I went again to Brownhills on Tuesday and saw him laid in his last home on earth and returned to Birmingham in the evening.

Jan 2, Passed the morning studying and writing. In the afternoon, walked to Willenhall to see my relatives. Found all well except my niece, Polly Carter. She was suffering from hysteria produced by fright. A drunken man had threatened to cut her throat and she is naturally quite nervous. I visited both my sisters and stayed at Hannah's.

Saturday March 8. Willenhall. Devoted this morning to a thorough good bath and writing home. In the afternoon I called at the place where my niece is living (Miss Polly Carter).

Sunday March 9. Attended the Parish Church of St. Giles and in the afternoon my niece Polly Carter came to visit me. We took a walk out by Wednesfield and returned by way of Portbello. In the evening my niece Polly Watterson accompanied her back to Darlaston.

May30. Manchester, I took advantage of cheap trip to come and visit my dear sisters, Chrissie met me at the station and we went to Falsworth and passed a social afternoon together. Walked out to the new cemetery and then called upon cousin Charles Jones.

Some interesting entries from September as he visited around the mission. 1890. I imagine they spent a lot of their time just walking from one assignment to the next.

Sept 18. Birmingham. Attended outdoor meeting and the testimony meeting in the chapel.

Sept 19. Walsall. Bro Cummings and I left this morning for a trip through a portion of our district.

Sept 20. Gentleshaw. Upon arising from bed this morning Bro. Cummings felt himself too ill to travel, and it was necessary to visit the people so I continued my journey alone, calling on Uncle Green's folks as I passed through Brownhills.

Sept 21. Gentleshaw. Met with the saints at Wimblebury this afternoon and preached in the evening. Returned to Gentleshaw.

Sept 22. Lichfield. Arrived here early this morning. Visited some of the interesting places.

Sept 23. Birmingham. Walked from Lichfield home. 17 miles. Very tired and glad to get a rest.

Feb 23, 1891. Manchester. Today, I took my bath for the first time in this city. Excellent accommodations are provided by the corporation for this purpose. A really good bath with warm water, soap and flesh brushes and two towels and toilet fixtures can be had for 4 pence, which is 8 cents in U.S. Money and a good second class bath for 2 pence and the large swimming bath only 1 penny. So there is no excuse for any one not getting clean for any length of time. It is out of the question.

In the evening I went to an entertainment in the Central hall which is a place held and controlled by the religious organization known as the Methodists. Whatever the character of their religious services may be, I certainly think they deserve credit for providing an entertainment of the excellent character I witnessed on Saturday evening at the low price of one penny. Exceptionally good artists are secured both vocal, instrumental and elocutory and I must say the various numbers of this program were rendered in a very creditable manner and drew frequent manifestations of approval."

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