Frances POTTS

Wife of Robert MICHIE

Born 22 December 1835, Boughton Under Blean, Kent, England
Died 20 July 1904, Woodland, Wasatch, Utah, United States

Frances Potts

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History of Frances Potts (My Grandmother)

Written by Hilda Michie Cherrington


Home of John POTTS, Petham

Frances Potts, my grandmother, was born 22 December 1835, at Faversham*, Kent, England. She was the daughter of Thomas Potts, born 4 July 1795 at Petham, Kent, England, and Harriott Pullen, born 22 September 1791 at Chilham, Kent, England. She had seven* brothers and sisters: Harriott, William Alfred and John Pullen, older, and Alice, Thomas [Pullen], Frederick George and Elizabeth Ann, younger. Her mother died when Frances was 11 years old and left her father with this large family, the youngest only two years old.

They were very poor. As soon as Frances was old enough, she worked as a servant to help care for the family. She had very little education, in fact she learned to read from novels she borrowed after they came to America.

Preston next Faversham ChurchFrances married Robert Michie 16 March 1857 in the Parish Church of Preston Next Faversham* [Kent, England] by the Rev. J. Peto (Bedo). Six days later, 22 March 1857, she was baptized [a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] at White Chapel Hall, London. Her sister, Alice, was married the same day to Thomas Phillip White and these two young couples sailed from Liverpool, England, for America 28 March 1857 on the ship George Washington. They arrived in Boston 20 April 1857 after a short but unpleasant trip for Frances as she was sea sick all the way. One time they told her the ship was on fire, but she was so sick she didn't even care.

They lived in Boston for fours years where two children were born to them, Agnes Catherine Harriott and Eliza Ann Helena. In 1861 they crossed the plains to Utah. The men of the group all walked and all the women who were able. Grandma also walked, at least a lot of the way. She said, "Sometime I would be that tired at night I would make my bed and crawl into it, too tired to get a bite to eat." Without the proper food for small children, little Eliza Ann Helena became ill with black canker and died at Ice Spring on the Sweetwater [River, Wyoming].* Grandma washed her little white nightgown to dress her for burial and Grandpa cut up part of the wagon box to make a little casket and she was buried on the plains. They arrived in Utah in the fall, sometime in September or October 1861, and their third child, my father, Robert Moroni, was born soon after, 11 November 1861.

Mormon wagon train to Utah After they arrived in Utah, they had a hard time making a living and moved from place to place to find employment, my grandfather being a miller by trade. Seven more children were born to them, Harriett Frances, Alice Matilda, John Thomas, Mary Ellen, Della, William George and Christina. Her youngest son said he had heard his mother say that they always had bread to eat, but many times nothing to go with it.

During the winter of 1879, diphtheria visited the Michie home and two daughters, Della and Mary Ellen had the dread disease. After a long illness, Della recovered, but Mary Ellen, age 9, died 13 January 1879 and was buried in their own yard [in Woodland] until spring when she was exhumed and moved to the Heber City cemetery. Two of the children, Harriett Frances and John Thomas, died when babies. The remaining six children grew to maturity, married and raised families of their own.

Grandma was a very good looking woman with a kindly, sweet face which denoted her disposition, [and which] must have been beautiful when young. She was of medium size, with snow white hair and a little on the plump side. She was always cheerful and kind, at least to us kiddies. [She] pretended to be interested in everything we said and would make such comments as, "Well, well, did you ever," and "For the land sakes."

Woodland, near the Michie homestead Grandma loved flowers and her window sills were full of them, it seemed her geraniums were always in bloom. On cold winter nights, to prevent them from freezing, she would move them on to the kitchen table. Early in March grandpa would bring in dirt for her flower boxes where she would plant petunias, asters, cabbage and such things as needed an early shart. Her flower garden was a beautiful sight from May, when pansies and crocuses gloomed, to September when her asters came on. I've never seen prettier asters anywhere since. On each side of the walk that led from the front door to the gate were always colorful, velvet faced pansies, poppies, fever-fews, batchelor-buttons, columbines, the large white fragrent variety, and a lilac bush or two. She took delight in giving away big bunches of flowers to her friends and neighbors. Their vegetable garden, too, always seemed to be ready earlier than ours and grandma would send us bunches of early radishes.

Every time father called to see her, she gave him something to bring home to us. We always ran to meet him knowing he would have something grandma had sent, perhaps a bit of candy, ribbon, cookies, a few apples, a pretty box or just an old magazine with pictures for us to look at.

Grandma's cupboard was full of beautiful dishes of many different colors and odd shapes. We children were sometimes allowed to play with some of them and we always loved looking at them in the cupboard and thinking how pretty they were. One day her youngest daughter accidentally tipped the cupboard over and many of her beautiful dishes were broken, so the pretty colored pieces were given to us kids to play with and we were tickled to death as we had no regular sets of play dishes as the children of today have for their play dinners.

Woodland, Summit County, Utah Grandma's house [in Woodland, Wasatch County, Utah] was always clean, sunny, comfortable and home-like. She had home-made carpets on her bedroom and front room [floors], and an old fashioned clock on the shelf that cheerfully ticked away the time and struck out the hours. Grandpa's last chore of each busy day was to wind this clock.

Grandma loved little children and we surely loved her, we always felt free and happy when there. Sometimes when the weather was extra cold or stormy we were allowed to stay over night at Gandma's as she lived close to the school house and it was quite a long way to our home. We were always thrilled and glad for this chance, she made such a fuss over us and did everything to keep us happy. After supper, while grandpa read a book, grandma would often tell us of her early experiences when a girl and while crossing the plains, while she sewed or mended.

One time we went to her house for Christmas dinner. They had roast chicken, dressing, potatoes and gravy, fruit cake, and of course plum pudding. My aunt and her boys were there and after dinner we played "bear" in grandma's front room and, as kids will, made a lot of noise. Her youngest daughter (a teenager) would come in now and again and straighten us out. We thought she was awfully cross.

In grandpa's garden was a patch of red currants, raspberries and a small strawberry patch. One time grandma invited us to her house for dinner on the 24th of July [Pioneer Day]. Winters were long in Woodland and the stawberries were at their best. After the progam we all went to Grandma's. Two of our aunts and our cousins were there. There was a whole dish pan full of strawberries. Oh, were they beautiful! I don't remember what else we had to eat, I just remember that each one had a heaping dish of strawberries with sugar and cream. Nothing ever tasted so good.

Grandpa kept bees and I remember Grandma would have a large can full of honey in the comb sitting on the back of the stove to warm gradually so the honey could be poured off. They had no extractors in those days. I also remember seeing her fill a candle mould with melted tallow, and I think there was bees wax mixed with it, to make a supply of candles. We had candles for a light when we slept upstairs at Grandma's house. Later when in our teens, we had a coal oil lamp.

She always took care of the chickens. One summer day, we went with her to see how the little chickens were doing. We had to hunt for them and Grandma said, "I declare, that ole 'en will run the legs off the little chicks. I'll 'ave to shut 'er up!"

At home Grandma always were long tie aprons. One for best was a check gingham with cross stitch pattern six inches wide across the bottom. She also had a white apron with crocheted lace about six inches wide for trim.

In the summer Grandma and Grandpa walked to church. I thought she looked so pretty in her long black dress with a pleated ruffle around the bottom of the skirt, and a little old ladies' bonnet on her head, tied on with two inch wide black ribbons, with a bow under her chin.

I've heard others say that Grandma used to sing in the choir in her church in England. She and others of her family belonged to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. She told us about going on a boat up the Thames River to attend church.

When in our early teens, we often stayed at Grandma's house on Sunday night in order to attend Mutual [the LDS young adult auxiliary] which they held on Sunday night in those days. We had to walk through the dark river bottoms to get to our home, and we were afraid after dark as wild animals were frequently seen in the brush there. Grandma often talked to us on how we should act. I liked to read novels and if there was a story of a not-too-good girl, grandma would say, "You don't want to be like that girl. We don't want girls like that." Her daughter said that whenever they went to a dance their mother would say, "Now remember to always act like ladies."

When Grandma became a little perturbed of something Grandpa did or failed to do, she would say, "He is so 'eedless" (her English way of saying heedless). For instance grandpa had a blacksmith shop he built himself and would sometimes become so absorbed in his work there that grandma couldn't get him to come to his meals. He loved to read and one day was churning for his daughter Della, turning the crank of her barrel churn with one hand and holding his book in the other. He churned on and on entirely unconscious that the butter had come. Things like these are what grandma referred to as his "'eedlessness."

Grandma had the old pioneer hospitality to a high degree. No one ever came to her home that she didn't insist on them having a bite to eat, or "just a cup of tea." Grandpa kept the post office at Woodland for years, and it was a small room at the east end of the kitchen. At one time a Mrs. Williams, a widow, was the mail carrier. She came from Kamas every morning with a horse and buggy, rain or shine. Grandma always insisted on her coming into the kitchen to get warm and to have a "bite to eat."

I remember one of Grandma's friends, a bachelor Englishman, who lived on Bench Creek. He would come to get his mail and grandma would alway invite him in. His name was Harry Peak. Grandma would say, "Come in 'Arry and 'ave a cup of tea." She made tea and got bread and butter and preserves and sat down to enjoy a visit while he ate. This man later joined the gold rush to Alaska. I remember before he left he said, "If I strike it rich I'll remember you, Fanny." He did strike it rich, but never came back. He died in Alaska. I remember grandma saying, "Poor old 'Arry."

Two of grandma's brothers, Thomas and George, and her sister, Alice, joined the Church and came to America and Utah. At one time George was a peddler and sold different kinds of cloth, lace ribbons, buttons, thread and all kinds of notions. He carried his goods in a big valise and often came to our house. We would coax mother to buy something and sometimes she did.

Grandma had many friends. They loved to come and chat with her. She was quite a talker and would have something interesting to say about even trivial things.

She died of cancer of the stomach, 20 July 1904, at Woodland, Utah, their home, and was buried in Heber City, Utah. She was sick for a long time and lost weight until she was almost skin and bones. We all missed her so much, it was no fun to go to Grandma's house anymore. Some of the most pleasant memories of my life are of those times we spent at Grandma's house.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Grandma died when I [Hilda Michie] was four years old and this information was given to me by my sisters, Genevieve M. Allen and Myrtle L. M. Wilcken.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

*Further research has shown that Frances was actually born in Boughton under Blean, Kent, a village less than five miles from Faversham.

*Two more children are found in the Parish records: A half-brother, Jesse Pullen, and another older brother, Thomas.

*The church photo was taken by David POTT, a distant cousin from Kent County. Many thanks, David!

*The Sweetwater photo was taken by Marilee Cahoon. Please enjoy her blog, A Look at Life on the Other Side of the Boarder. Thanks for sharing with a stranger, Marilee!

More about Frances Potts:

Robert and Frances' Emigration to America, 1857

Robert and Frances' Trek to Utah, 1861

History of Robert Michie, Husband

Life Story of Robert Michie and Frances Potts
(as told by their daughter, Della Michie Horrocks)

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