Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part I.

In tracking how JS’s sermon-texts have been treated over the last 170 odd years, more than one mysterious personality surfaces.  One of these was Jonathan Grimshaw.   Grimshaw was an English convert to Mormonism who had tried more than one religion prior to his contact with the Mormons.  He was a seeker, moving from the “Particular Baptists”[1] of his parents to the Millerite Adventists[2] in 1844 (they did have a presence in England).  Born in 1818, Grimshaw experienced  Dickensian England, at the height of the industrial revolution.

From a middle class family, Grimshaw learned the shoemaking trade but had some ambition and eventually became involved in the railway business.  It was a profession he would fall back on in later life.  Jonathan had a strong intellect though little access to the educational system of the time.  He stopped formal schooling at 11 (1829) but continued self-education in writing and arithmetic after his apprentice hours as a shoemaker.[3]

When his master decided to go into the leather business and move Grimshaw to another master, Jonathan decided to leave the business himself.  Through contacts from his father, he found a position with a “carrying” firm, and freight transport became his profession.  But the coming of the railroad would alter his life.  He notes in his journal [4]:

“Mr. Rolland was a partner in the firm of Deacon of the well known and eminent Carriers to and from the North of England and London. During the greater part of the time I was with them, the railway was forming from the town of Leeds to Derby and others in connection with that on to London. This was completed in 1840 and as it was feared at that time that the private carrying business would soon be at an end, Mr. Holland advised me to apply for a situation on the railway. I did so, and with his recommendation succeeded in obtaining one at one hundred pounds per annum. This was about Sept. 1840. A little farther on in the same year Mr. Rolland entered into partnership with Mr. Perrins proprietor of the Leeds Intelligence Newspaper. He was now anxious to dispose of his carrying business or at all events to give up the management of it to some responsible party that he could trust. The report that the Railway Co. would not allow private Carriers on the line having proved to be unfounded he at once offered to make me his partner.”[5]

Grimshaw’s salary took a jump to 300 pounds/year.  The good fortune did not last: the railway decided to bar private carriers from the road.  Grimshaw went back to his apprentice condition, this time as district “goods manager.”

Jonathan was a musician/singer and met his wife when she was engaged to become the church choir director.  They were married in 1841.

Grimshaw narrates his conversion to Mormonism:

“In the early part of 1844 my attention had been drawn to the Second Advent Doctrine originated by Mr. Miller of America. I became a believer of it, but did not leave the baptist church as long as I staid in Leeds, but when I finally removed to Nottingham I joined myself to the Second Advent church which had been previously formed in Denman Street chapel, New Radford. After I had met with them for about a year a great excitement arose in consequence of the Latter Day Saints coming to preach in Nottingham. Without at all understanding their principles I joined in the general cry of importure Joe Smith and the like. and for some time resisted every temptation (if I may so call it) of going to hear them. I at last, however, broke through my resolution and went to hear for myself, found I could not overturn their doctrines or principles.”

When Grimshaw became aware that the traveling elders might bless the sick, he invited them to bless his wife.  She was healed.  Grimshaw and his wife were baptized April 23, 1849 by an Elder Clayton.  Grimshaw was ordained a priest August 4, 1849 and then an elder  May 12, 1850.

The gathering was in high gear and Grimshaw and his wife were ready to move to America.  They sold their furniture (their home was provided by the railroad) and left Nottingham, December 31, 1850 with 133 pounds and about the same amount in possessions they carried.  The Nottingham Review of January 3 wrote:

“On Monday last a complimentary dinner .as given by the clerks and other employees at the goods station, to Mr. Grimshaw, late manager of the Goods Department of the Railway Station in this town, who is about leaving this country for the Great Salt Lake City, Deseret, California, at Mr. Starkey’s, the Victoria Hotel, Station Street Queen’s Road, on which occasion a beautifully embroidered purse containing 15 pounds with the inscription ‘J. Grimshaw, Nottingham, 1850’ on each side, was presented to him. J.G. left Nottingham by the 10:30 A.M. train for Liverpool on Wednesday accompanied by about thirty friends who are bound for the same destination, Deseret, the Mormon settlement in North America. Along with him went Mr. Abraham Taylor, book-vendor, of this town, Mr. Kirk, and Mr. Hazzledine or Basford, and some others.”

The Grimshaw’s sailed January 8, 1851 from Liverpool on the “Ellen” with about 450 Latter-day Saints.  Sea sickness prevailed among the passengers until a collision with a small schooner caused them to put into a Welsh harbor for minor repairs.  Rough weather continued when the ship finally put out to sea and measles ran through the ships company.  Grimshaw’s son Arthur was seriously ill but survived.

A typical entry from Grimshaw’s journal for the journey reads:

“Monday March 10, 1851.  This morning at 3 A.M. Sister (left blank) gave birth to a female child, both are doing well. Latitude 23-46 Long 88-50. A meeting of the priesthood was held this afternoon to pray espacial1y that the wind might be changed that we might be wafted speedily to the port of New Orleans. Our prayers were heard and answered as the wind immediately took a more favorable turn. A fellowship meeting of the priesthood was held at night at which great freedom was enjoyed.”

The ship arrived in New Orleans harbor March 15 and Grimshaw wrote: “I felt truly to rejoice at the privilege [of setting foot on American soil] knowing that this is the Land of Promise to the Seed of Joseph” although he found the prices high in the city.  Jonathan was stunned at the lack of Sabbath observance in New Orleans.

The Saints on the Ellen had chartered a steamer, the Alec Scott for the trip up river.  Grimshaw notes an incident that reveals his moral principles:

“It was a very tiresome job having to handle all the luggage twice over, and many of the boxes got broken, but upon the whole I think we managed pretty well. I went out the last thing to buy a few provisions, being thirsty and weary with the fatiguing business of the day, I took ~a little brandy which was offered me at Mr. Fisher’s store, and it flew into my head and set my tongue a-going like the clapper of a bell. I was as merry as a lark. To speak the truth right out I was regularly fuddled. I have recorded my fault and think now I have a right to record. something in my praise. I remembered in going back to the steamer that I was bringing a dollar’s worth of sugar away unpaid for, and I ran back to Mr. Fisher’s as fast as my legs would carry me and made the matter right.”

He paid for the brandy with a hangover in the morning.

The steamer arrived in St. Louis March 25, 1851 and the Grimshaw’s began to prepare for the journey to Salt Lake City.  They finally departed in mid April by steamer for Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Grimshaw bought 6 oxen, 4 cows two wagons and took on a boarder for the trip to Utah and departed from Winter Quarters June 22, 1851.


[1] Particular Baptists as opposed to General Baptists, were strict Calvinists.

[2] Jonathan was indentured though the indenture system had ended as a rule by that time.

[3] JS remarked on William Miller’s predictions in a discourse of March 10, 1844.

[4] Grimshaw’s short journal is currently held by unidentified descendants. A typescript is found in the archives of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C.

[5] Railroads in Britain began as private mining enterprises.  Mostly horse drawn they began to convert to steam by the time Grimshaw was involved. See for example, P. J. G. Ransom, The Victorian Railway and How it Evolved. (London: Heinemann, 1989).

6 Responses to Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part I.

  1. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 2 «'s Blog

  2. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 3. «'s Blog

  3. Pingback: Two King Follett Sermon Traditions «'s Blog

  4. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw Redux «'s Blog

  5. J. Stapley says:

    Great to come back to these posts. As a side note, I recently came across a typescript of Grimshaw’s immigration diary on the Mormon Migration site.

  6. WVS says:

    Thanks for the link, J.

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