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May 24, 2019




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Life Story of John Astle
Written by his daughter, Sarah Astle Call, in 1953

John Astle
John Astle
Taken in Nottinghamshire, England

John Astle, son of Francis Astle and Felicia Raynor, was born 16 June 1846 at Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire, England. As a boy in early life, we know but little of what he did, but we do know that he was born of goodly parents and into a family of noble heritage that extends back to early times in England, and connects with a long line of ancestors that were prominent citizens of that land.

His family life must have been a happy one, as the parents and children kept close to each other. His father was an expert lace maker and worked in the mills at Nottingham, as did John and his older brothers. In England at that time, children began work in the factories at an early age. His Mother cared for her husband and children in a very efficient way, with great love for them all. So John grew up just as other English lads.

He was a rather independent person, desirous of doing for himself whatever was possible without aid of others; a tireless worker, never afraid of doing more than his share of the tasks before him. This trait remained with him throughout his life.

When he was about four years of age his parents met the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons. They were converted to this faith and baptized in 1850. This was not a popular religion at that time. They were ridiculed and shunned by relatives and friends, but there was no turning back into the old religious life. His Father was so thoroughly converted to the newly found truth that the whole family partook of the same spirit and followed the example of the parents. A strong desire took possession of them all to immigrate to America and join the Saints in Utah. As a unit they worked and saved in a financial way to accumulate enough money for this trip to Zion.

John was of a religious nature. He believed wholeheartedly the cause to be a just one. He carried great responsibility at an early age. This formed a close relationship between father and son which held through life. John was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 26 April 1857. His brother Joseph was baptized on the same date. John had arrived at the age of fourteen years when all was in readiness for the long journey. On the 7th of May 1860, with his parents and brothers he bade good-bye to the old home in Nottingham, England.

It may be well to mention here that his only sister, Mary Astle, had at an earlier date, 1856, immigrated to Utah with a Hand Cart company after crossing the sea. While onboard ship in mid-ocean, she was married to William Severn, a young convert to the Church. They located in Hyrum, Utah, and later in Montpelier, Idaho.

William Tapscott
The William Tapscott
Built: 1852 by William Drommond at Bath, Maine

The family traveled to Liverpool, England, a sea port city, and on 8 May 1860 they boarded a sailing vessel, "William Tapscott", and began the voyage. No steam or other power was used to sail the ship; all was dependent upon the winds and waves of the sea. It was a long, cold, and stormy trip of six weeks in crossing the ocean from Liverpool, England, to New York City, U.S.A. There was much sickness among the Saints. Some died and were buried in the sea.

This was a new experience for John and his family. He spent his fourteenth birthday, 16 June 1860, on board ship; but at this time they were anchored in New York Harbor, detained for vaccination because of illness on the ship and were anxiously looking forward to the time when they would land upon the shores of America. This they did three days later.

Instead of proceeding on their journey across the plains to Utah that year as they had anticipated, they were counseled by the Church authorities to stay at least one year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here it was possible that they might obtain employment in the factories, as they were all trained workers in the lace mills. Through the assistance of two of their father's acquaintances, Edwin Spencer, a former resident of Arnold, Nottinghamshire, England, and Henry George, also formerly of England, the three boys, James, Joseph, and John, obtained work in the mills at Germantown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. This helped them financially in preparing for the long trek to Utah. They remained here a little more than two years.

While here the boys had their first opportunity to see and visit with their grandmother, Rachel King Astle, who was then living in either Clinton or Lebanon, New Jersey, as were several of her daughters. Her husband, James Spannons Astle, grandfather of these boys, died 8 May 1846 at Clinton, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, U.S.A., the same year John was born in England. The grandparents had immigrated to America sometime prior to 1846.

This was a joyous meeting with the grandmother! During their two years stay in Philadelphia, they probably visited her several times. This gave them the opportunity of gathering genealogical data of the immediate family that proved useful in later years. Through correspondence John kept in touch with these relatives for many years, by writing to his Aunt Sylvia. For years he purposely refrained from telling her he was a "Mormon". But in 1890, he decided to write and tell her he was a member of the LDS Church. When she learned this, the letter writing came to a close. She never wrote again.

The time came for them to leave Philadelphia and begin the trek across the plains by ox team. This they did traveling in the Joseph Horne Company. They arrived 13 September 1861 in Salt Lake City and were immediately sent to Hyrum, Cache County, Utah. This new locality was just being settled.

John was now sixteen years of age, studious, and deep thinking on all problems that came his way. He was very religious and at an early age was strongly converted to his religion, the LDS Church, and all its principles. Father stated that he had attended school but three weeks in his life. And yet it was said of him that "He was an educated man - well learned." A great lover of the scriptures, he understood them far better than the average man. Often he was called upon to explain various scriptural problems that do arise among the people. He was referred to as a "Walking Bible". One of his sons, John Alva, had this to say: "Dad not only read the scriptures, but he studied them." When he decided, after full consideration, upon any special problem he knew must be met, he went ahead with determination and worked for its accomplishment.

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