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December 19, 2018

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Life Story of Francis Astle
Written by his granddaughter, Sarah Astle Call

Francis Astle
Francis Astle

Francis was the son of James Spannons Astle and Rachel King. He was born 2 February 1810 at Diesworth, Leicestershire, England. His wife, Felicia Raynor, was born at Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, England, 4 May 1814. His parents had lived, at least for a time, at Chellaston, Derbyshire, England.

In early manhood, he, with others of his family, moved to Nottinghamshire to work in the Lace Mills where he became an expert workman in this trade. In this Shire, he met and married Felicia Raynor. To them were born one daughter and four sons.

Francis was a calm, dignified, and very intelligent man with a fine personality. He had a good voice for singing and at an early age, he was a member of the famous "Boys Choir" of England. He had received a liberal education for those times. His writing and spelling of the English language were almost perfect as substantiated by a diary kept by him. It is now in our possession and will be included in this writing.

He was born of a lineage that connects with those of a very ancient origin and honorable ancestry and had possessed great love for his family especially his sons and only daughter, Mary. His one great desire was to keep them near their Father and Mother that they might be taught the true meaning of life and to become useful to the world and to their own families. Being a religious man, he was anxious to know more about God and what church he should join.

Sometime before 1850, he and his wife met the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes called Mormons. Their message appealed to him. Through sincere investigation and prayer, a testimony of its truthfulness was given to him by the Lord. His baptism took place in September 1850 and from that very time, his main desire was to immigrate to America and live with the Saints in Utah. His wife delayed a little longer, but she, too, was baptized the same year, 1850.

It may be well to say something about this lovable little wife, Felicia Raynor. She was small of stature and an unusually beautiful girl in every way. Although it is a little ahead of our story, right here may be a good place to tell a little incident that was related to us by our parents.

Felicia Raynor
Felicia Raynor

As soon as Grandfather had joined the church, he began saving money for the "emigration fees" for crossing the ocean and going to Utah. The family income was kept by the budget system and Grandmother was given a certain amount for household needs and care of the family. More than once she remarked that she was not going to America. This caused her husband to wonder and to worry to some extent. One day Grandfather was counting his saving and remarked that he still lacked a certain amount for the voyage. Quietly Grandmother went into an adjoining room. She returned with a small bag in her hand. Grandfather wondered why, and was he surprised when she laid before him the exact amount he needed.

As stated previously, Grandmother was a beautiful woman. In 1900-1902, her son John was filling a mission for the Church in the old home city of Nottingham, and in 1901 John's son William was also transferred to the same Conference. William told one incident that happed when he met a lady who knew our grandparents. When she learned that he was a grandson of Francis Astle, she said, "And a grandson of that beautiful Felicia Raynor." Felicia Raynor was also a very neat and orderly person. Someone asked her why she scrubbed her floor every day. Her reply was, "To make room for more dirt."

Now they were financially ready to leave England for America. Immediately they began preparations for the journey for which they had so long wished, planned, and anticipated. We have Grandfather's diary, as before mentioned in our possession, that he kept daily from the very day they left their home in Hucknall, Nottingham, England. There must have been many fond memories and the association of loved ones, of life-long neighbors and friends, and all the scenes of their beloved city and nation, that almost rent their very heart strings, knowing that, without doubt, they would never see this home and surroundings again. It must have been like uprooting a tree from its long-established soil to leave all familiar things and go to live in an almost unknown place which was virtually a wilderness. Little could they imagine what was before them in this complete change of life.

However, their faith was secure in the fact that they had become members of the true church as God intended for those in whose veins, like theirs, flowed the blood of Israel. And, as Christ said, "When my sheep hear my voice, they know the Shepherd."

The "farewells" were over, and on Monday, the seventh of May, 1860, they began the trip from Nottingham to Liverpool, England. From here, they were to set sail for America in the sailing vessel "William Tapscott".

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