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Two Little English Boys

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 08, 2008

Alfred Milnes was born in Bradford, England, in 1844. He and his parents and several siblings emigrated to the United States, landing at New Orleans in 1854; after a few years of wandering, during which time his mother and two of his little brothers died, Milnes settled in Coldwater, Michigan. He attended public school, served in the Michigan Infantry throughout the Civil War, and went into business in Coldwater, becoming a banker, postmaster, and dealer in real estate.

Milnes was active in Republican party politics, casting his first vote for Abraham Lincoln in 1862. He served his neighborhood as a delegate to numerous state conventions; was elected as alderman once and mayor of Coldwater twice; became a state senator for two terms; was elected as Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor; and in 1894 was elected as a representative to Congress.

Theophilus Mantle, or “Lee” Mantle as he preferred, was born in Birmingham, England in 1851. His father died before Mantle was born, and his widowed mother brought Mantle and his siblings to the United States in 1864. Life was harder than she expected, and the children were forced to seek labor as soon as they were able. Mantle worked as a farm hand from the time he was 14 or 15 years old, then found work with the Union Pacific Railroad. This work took him to Idaho and then to Montana, where he learned to be a telegraph operator and a line repairman.

Like Milnes, Mantle had political ambitions. He published a newspaper at Butte in the interest of the Republican party; served as his city’s representative at Republican state conventions numerous times; was elected as an alderman once and as a member of Montana’s territorial House of Representatives three times; and became the mayor of Butte. The Montana legislature failed to elect a senator in 1893, and Mantle was appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy; the United States Senate refused to seat him, however, because of machinations involved in his appointment. He was regularly elected the following year and served in the Senate from 1895 to 1899.

Alfred Milnes and Lee Mantle – two emigrants from England who were recognized as leaders in their communities and served responsibly in the highest levels of American government, their federal service overlapping.

I wonder if these two men knew each other, and if they did, whether they knew what else they had in common?

You see, the parents of both men were converted to Mormonism while still in England. Both boys came to the United States aboard LDS emigrant ships, with the help of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund; both boys crossed the plains with LDS overland companies. Milnes’s father became discouraged by the deaths of his wife and children, and he left the church and Utah in 1859, taking his surviving children first to Iowa and then to Michigan. Mantle’s difficult adolescence, and the nomadic life he led while seeking employment, led him away from the church; he eventually made a home for himself in Montana and brought his mother there to live with him.

Part of me wants to wave Milnes and Mantle as examples – See! Mormonism did not appeal solely to the dregs of English society as so many critics have said – here are two boys with talent and ambition, if not stellar congressional careers. If they were the dregs, they were good enough for government work.

And part of me wonders what their ambition and talent might have contributed to Mormonism, had they had the guts (parental or personal) to stick with it.

Mostly, though, I wonder if their paths ever crossed in Washington, and if either knew the other’s secret.



22 Comments »

  1. See! Mormonism did not appeal solely to the dregs of English society

    I’m assuming you’re saying this tongue-in-cheek?

    At what point in British society do we draw a line and say: below this everyone is the dregs?

    From a brief review of my own ancestry, sure, a few of them could have been labeled as the “dregs” of England…

    Let’s look at the Parkinsons and Bryants and Stapleys. In the 1840s parishes in Kent decided that it was cheaper to send displaced farmers to Australia than to try and take care of them in England. After a few years in Australia, these families joined the church and were on a boat for the United States soon after.

    Were they the “dregs of society”? Sure, they were a drain on their parishes. But they were very respectable and willing to work and all they needed was opportunity, which, by the way, they had before they met the missionaries.

    Looking at my other English ancestors they were…a baker, a builder, a ship builder, the manager of a brewery, a seamstress, a doctor, a sailor, and so forth. Some working class, some middle class, none unemployed except the families I referred to above.

    By the way, Ardis, very interesting article. Mrs. Cheney is someone else in politics whose family did not stay with the Church. I just looked to see if the Milnes you reference are related to the large Milne family from St. George. [No.] I also just reloaded the page before posting and saw that J. Stapley commented — I hope I’m not maligning his ancestors here :-) (they’re mine too).

    Comment by Amy T — May 8, 2008 @ 7:52 am

  2. Ardis,
    I’m fascinated by the story of Mormons who emigrated but then left the church. (It seems to run counter to the usual narrative, and I’m a contrarian like that.) Do you know of any other studies of such people?

    Comment by Ronan — May 8, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  3. Another fine post, Ardis. Ronan, the first thing that comes to my mind is Polly Aird’s stuff, but that may be because I have talked to her about it. There may be other and better stuff out there (I haven’t done much research at all on the topic). See, e.g., “‘You Nasty Apostates, Clear Out': Reasons for Disaffection in the Late 1850s,” Journal Journal of Mormon History 30 (Fall 2004): 129-207.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 8, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  4. One of the best articles on this subject is Leonard J. Arrington, “Centrifugal Tendencies in Mormon History,” published in To the Glory of God, ed. Truman G. Madsen and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.,172), 163-77. He has some very interesting examples of people who had Mormon backgrounds and then became important in other areas.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — May 8, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  5. Ronan, most of the work I’ve seen has focused on a single person or family. Polly Aird, “‘You Nasty Apostates, Clear Out': Reasons for Disaffection in the late 1850s,” Journal of Mormon History 30:2 (Fall 2004), 129 looks at the personal stories of about six who left. I don’t know, though, that anybody has ever done a truly thorough and responsible study.

    I occasionally try to help with the church’s Pioneer Overland Travel database by researching some names to add birth and death dates. There are thousands listed in the database who are otherwise unknown — they may not all have left the church and/or Utah, but they don’t seem to have been here long enough to have left much trace of themselves in church or civil records, nor do they appear to have LDS descendants to have submitted their genealogical data to Ancestral File. That suggests that there are many such stories to uncover and understand.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 8, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  6. (My comment was in the works for quite a while — J.’s and Jeff’s citations weren’t there when I started. Thanks.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 8, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  7. Researcher, I don’t happen to think that anybody who accepted the gospel was the “dregs,” no matter how little they had or how much help they needed to get to Zion. That’s a charge that was thrown against us over and over by the politicians and writers of the 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic — I can see now how my words might sound as though I *did* believe that, but in their full expression would say something like “See! Granting only for the sake of argument that you Mormon-haters are correct in saying that Mormonism appeals only to what you call the dregs of society, even our dregs are of such high quality that they rise to be your governors.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 8, 2008 @ 8:22 am

  8. Wow, I hadn’t even read this thread when I commented on the BY one, and yet I was already on the same mental track. Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed and carved Mt Rushmore, was the product of a polygamous LDS family. The polygamous marriage was dissolved, the family left Mormonism, and Gutzon was raised with the other children by their fathers’ first wife. I learned this happenstantially reading a biography about him several years ago.

    Comment by Lisa B — May 8, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  9. There’s also George Sutherland, who emigrated to Utah, graduated from BY Academy, left the church, and went on to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Sutherland).

    Comment by Jacob F — May 8, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  10. Just found this blog today. Congrats on a great new start.

    One comment about your OP: you say Milnes cast his first vote for A. Lincoln in 1862. Impossible! Had to be either 1860, or 1864.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  11. Jacob, why don’t I know George Sutherland?? After checking your link, I find several reasons why I should. Thanks. (Since a British-convert-immigrant-leaver wouldn’t have been eligible for president, I suppose I’m safe from your springing an unknown former Mormon chief executive on me?)

    You’re right, Mark B. And since Milnes wouldn’t have been 21 until 1865 (assuming that was the age of majority then), he couldn’t have voted for Abe at all. Fancy that — his autobio building cred with the Republicans is fudged.

    Good catches, both.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 8, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  12. Two quick notes, Ardis:

    The answer to both issues is: you didn’t go to law school!

    Sutherland is the only Justice of the Supreme Court from Utah, and, doggone it, he wasn’t a Mormon–or, if he was, any evidence of that had long since faded.

    As to Milnes voting: the appointment of electors for president was delegated to the states, which could choose them however they wanted. Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution states:

    Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress

    By the Civil War, all the states had granted to the voters the power to appoint electors. The qualifications of voters for presidential electors was wholly within the discretion of state legislatures (note the language in Article 2 quoted above–“in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct”–but states generally applied the same tests to determine who could vote in all Federal elections (whether for congressmen or presidential electors–remember, Senators were elected by state legislatures back then).

    And the qualifications of voters were not directly mandated by the Constitution. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution says

    . . . the electors [voters for members of the House of Representatives] in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

    So, whatever limitations on voting, whether by race, sex, age, previous condition of servitude, citizenship, etc., were established by the states.

    Thus, it didn’t take the 15th Amendment to allow people of all races to vote–any state could have allowed blacks to vote before its adoption–but as you can imagine, there are many states that would have explicitly barred blacks, or former slaves, from voting absent the 15th Amendment (since they did use other means to bar blacks from voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1965). Likewise, it didn’t take the 19th Amendment to allow women to vote. If a state legislature chose to extend the franchise to women, then they could and did vote, as, for example, the women in Wyoming and Utah. But, the 19th Amendment assured that the woman from Utah who moved to New York would be able to vote here. Finally, it didn’t take the 26th Amendment to lower the voting age to 18. Any state could have done that. I don’t know if some did, but you could look it up.

    Which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that Milnes could have voted in 1864 if Michigan law permitted 20-year-olds to vote at that time.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

  13. I should amend that first line:

    One quick and one long-winded note.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

  14. Mark – You’re right, Sutherland himself was possibly never a Mormon. According to
    this article his father was a new convert who renounced the faith soon after arriving in Utah, and Sutherland was raised a non-Mormon.

    Comment by Jacob F — May 8, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

  15. Thanks again for the post, Ardis. I don’t know why I took your “dregs” comment so literally, but it resulted in an interesting experience.

    For the past eight months I’ve been posting the family histories from my files onto a blog so my extended family has access to them.

    However, I’ve recently been branching off into a different project since I just received a copy of an old diary that I’ve been trying to locate for about 15 years. Consequently, I had forgotten that the families I mentioned in comment 6 are up to be posted next. They probably would have gotten a one page 30 minute treatment some Sunday. However, another kind reader of your blog provided me with a copy of a family history that will allow a better work up of these ancestors. Someone evidently wanted to be remembered.

    Thanks for making this connection possible!

    Comment by Amy T — May 9, 2008 @ 6:04 am

  16. The answer to both issues is: you didn’t go to law school!

    Just one of the many reasons I hang on to friends like you and Nate Oman, Mark B.

    Thanks for the history lesson. There’s probably also a gospel lesson in there somewhere, about divine disapproval over our waiting to be commanded in all things. If I’d stopped to think about it, I might have realized that woman suffrage was available locally and temporarily, but I didn’t think to broaden that to race or age or other qualifications for voting.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 9, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  17. As far as I know, Georgia was the first state to lower the voting age to 18 (1943). I checked Michigan’s first three constitutions (1835, 1850, 1908) and found that 21 was the age.

    Comment by Justin — May 9, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  18. Oh, I’m going to love this blog!

    Comment by Ray — May 9, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  19. Also there was a dispute in Michigan during the Civil War over whether soldiers from Michigan should be able to vote in the field. Twenty-one remained the qualifying age.

    J. Benton, Voting in the Field, 92-104.

    Comment by Justin — May 10, 2008 @ 7:01 am

  20. Very helpful, Justin, thanks. I see from your source that voting in the field wasn’t proposed for Michigan until 1863, so even had Milnes /cough/ lied about his age /cough/ he couldn’t have voted in 1862 under that act, even had Lincoln been up for election in 1862.

    I’ve just found another source for Milnes’ life which clears up most of the problem — the source I drew on earlier was less detailed, and “1862” was either an error of fact or a typo: Wm. Livingstone, History of the Republican Party, 284, says that “Mr. Milnes has been a Republican ever since he was old enough to know politics, and cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln while in the army in front of Petersburg, Va., in 1864.” So if he had /cough/ lied about his age /cough/ by a few months, he could have voted for Lincoln in 1864, under the disputed act discussed in your reference. Whew!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 10, 2008 @ 7:58 am

  21. Isn’t lying about your age to get into the military an honorable old tradition during wars?

    Comment by Researcher — May 10, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  22. So I hear. He would have been okay to get into the army in 1861 or 1862, but would have needed to lie to vote in 1864 when he would have been 20, since voting age was then 21. But hey, it was all in a good cause, ’cause he was voting for Lincoln!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 10, 2008 @ 8:53 am

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