Our family has a rich heritage of pioneer ancestors who were willing to give up all – homes, family and at times even their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a history of George Holyoak Sr. who willingly came to Utah from England in 1854 losing his dear wife and two daughters on the journey.
George Leo Holyoak
George Eli Holyoak was born January 17, 1799 at Yardley, Worcestershire, England, the son of Isaac and Ann Bird Holyoak. He was the youngest of 8 children.
Several of his children’s histories tell of growing up in “Rose Cottage” in Yardley Wood, a suburb south of Birmingham, England. Climbing roses almost covered the house, the yard was full of beautiful flowers, and the grass was green almost all year. From this lovely home and beautiful surroundings the children say that they inherited a love for flowers and beauty. They were also taught to be industrious and religious.
The Holyoak family listened to the Mormon missionaries but it was rather hard at first for George, the father to see the Gospel light. He was perfectly willing for his good wife, Sarah Green, and other members of his family to attend missionary meetings and other gatherings but felt that the Church of England had always been good enough for his family and therefore it was good enough for him.
One day something happened that changed all this. His baby, which he dearly loved became quite ill. It was so sick they were afraid it might die any minute. His wife, Sarah, asked if he would run through the fields and get the Elders. He went, thinking it would be of no use, sure they could do no good. The Elders came gladly, laid their hands upon the child and blessed it. Through the powers of the priesthood, it was healed. He was sure then the Spirit of the Lord was with the Elders and that they had something very precious and dear. His church seemed to lack something. He started to investigate and it was not very long before he was converted. George was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Birmingham, England on December 3, 1841.
George was ordained an elder in England, where he served as a faithful teacher for many years. The President of the Conference at that time was Brother Crook. The held their meetings in a carriage house in Peck Lane and also in the home of George Holyoak. They had been holding them at his home for three months before he joined the Church. He remained in England for about eleven years after joining the L.D.S. Church. During this time, he saw the power of God made manifest many times.
George and Sarah’s oldest son, William’s first wife died just days after the birth of their son, Nehemiah. The grandparents – George and Sarah brought the baby into their home to raise. William married again and he and his second wife were also members of the LDS Church emigrated to America in 1850. They stayed in Missouri, where he found work. Their son, George Jr. emigrated in 1851 and joined his brother and sister-in-law in Missouri. George Jr. married while living there.
In January of 1854, George Holyoak Sr. and his family started to emigrate to Utah. They sailed on the ship Windemere with over 400 other Saints. The Holyoak group included, George and his wife, Sarah; their daughters, Sarah and Ann; son, Henry; and grandson, Nehemiah; plus their married daughter, Mary Knowles with her husband and two children. (note: Joseph James who later married Sarah was on this same voyage) The journey was difficult. It was not long until some of the people were sea sick. Then small pox started to break out with some deaths and burials at sea. This outbreak was stopped by a priesthood blessing.This means of travel was very new to most of them being the first time they had been at sea. The stove broke loose and caught fire and the ship started to leak. Men, women and children worked with buckets and pans dipping the water out so they wouldn't sink. For some time the weather was so calm that they basically drifted until there was enough breeze for the sails. They had to go on half-rations at the end of the journey. Finally, after nine long weeks on a stormy sea they arrived in New Orleans. Those who’d had small pox were taken to a hospital and they rest were sent up-river to Quarantine Island near St. Louis, Missouri. Here they camped at the Missouri River where George's oldest daughter, Mary Holyoak Knowles, died of cholera, leaving her husband with two small children.
When they were able to leave the island the Holyoak met up with their sons, George and William and their families. George Jr. and his family traveled on with the family and William followed a few years later.
The family traveled in the Darwin Richardson Company (1854) departing on 17 June 1854 and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on 30 September 1854. We don’t have a personal account of the journey from the Holyoak family but I have included personal experiences from others in the company at the end of this narrative. It was a hard journey. There were about 40 wagons with two or three families per wagon. Most walked all of the way. Cholera struck the company several times and there were many deaths.
The Holyoak family lost two more family members on the journey: George’s dear wife, Sarah died of mountain fever (some records say cholera) and ten days later a second daughter, Ann, died of the same complaint. They were buried sewed into blankets and buried on the plains of Nebraska. You can imagine how it must have been for George to leave his faithful wife and two lovely daughters behind as he journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley.
It took a great deal of courage and faith to continue onward to the land of promise walking all the way. The arrived in Salt Lake City, weary and footsore, but they were very happy saints, sure it was worth every effort and very pleased as all pioneers were at what they had accomplished. They arrived in Salt Lake City on the 30th of September 1854. At that time, there was little there but sage brush. George remained there a short time before moving with the rest of his family to Parowan, Iron County, Utah where he was called to settle.
While he was in Salt Lake City, his daughter, Sarah, was married to a very fine young man--Joseph James. Joseph had traveled most of the way west with their company. They were married in a covered wagon. The bride wore a calico dress.
George received his endowments on the 14th of October in 1859 at the Salt Lake Endowment House. George settled in Parowan in company with George A. Smith and other good brothers. His two teenage children and grandson went to Parowan with him. Nehemiah was with him until his father, William came to Utah two years later and also settled in Parowan. George married again about 1862 to a widow named Ann Brazier Gunn. There may have been another wife also named Ann Wactin.
George Holyoak Sr. remained in Parowan for the remainder of his life, a faithful pioneer, a good father and a true Latter-day Saint. He was the father of 8 children who were all faithful members of the Church and very proud to be the sons and daughters of such wonderful parents as George and Sarah Green Holyoak. They always remembered with true love and devotion the wonderful inheritance they received from these wonderful pioneers who were so willing to sacrifice for a just cause and a Gospel which meant more than life itself to them. George died the 27th of October 1881, in his beloved country. He is buried in Parowan.
George Eli Holyoak birth: 17 January 1799 in Yardley Wood, Worcestershire, England death: 27 October 1881 in Parowan, Iron, Utah,s married: 17 January 1825 in Yardley Worcestershire, England
Sarah Green birth: 2 July 1797 in Kings Norton, Worcestershire, England death: 26 July 1854 Near Big Blue, Hamilton, Nebraska
William Holyoak birth: 12 April 1825 in Yardley, Worcestershire, England death: 28 March 1914 in Parowan, Iron, Utah
Mary Holyoak Knowles birth: 10 March 1827 at Solihull, Warwickshire, England death: May 1854 near Kansas City, Clay, Missouri
George Holyoak Jr. birth: 1 Sep 1829 at Solihull, Warwickshire, England death: 15 March 1921 in Parowan, Iron, Utah, United States
Ann Holyoak birth: 6 January 1832 at Yardley, Worcestershire, England death: August 1854 in Wyoming, United States Eli Daniel Holyoak birth: 1833 at Solihull, Warwickshire, England death: 20 January 1838 in England
*Sarah Holyoak James birth: 4 August 1835 at Yardley, Worcestershire, England death: 25 October 1916 in Ogden Weber, Utah
Henry Holyoak birth: 5 March 1839 at Moseley Wake Gre, Yardley, Worcestershire, England death: 23 January 1926 in Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
Hannah Holyoak Lefevre birth: 25 March 1841 at Birmingham, Warwickshire, England death: 2 August 1920 in Panguitch, Garfield, Utah
(those in Red died coming to Utah)
Family Records in possession of D. Larsen
Pioneer Overland Travel database
Mormon Migration - BYU
old Holyoak.org website now found in the internet archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20140102013704/http://holyoak.org/