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Guest Post: Charlotte Emma Senior King (1850-1921)

By: Kevin Folkman - July 09, 2012

Charlotte Senior, sixth child born to Robert Senior and Sarah Hague, grew up mostly in the booming city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, during the Industrial Revolution. Her father worked as a shoe maker to provide for the family, but did not much like it, according to Charlotte. In 1857, Robert and Sarah met the missionaries, and joined the LDS church.

Charlotte describes her childhood as “happy and free from all care.” She enjoyed attending her church meetings, and as an adolescent, delighted in delivering church tracts up and down the streets of her working class neighborhood with her friend Ellen Wanless, despite “opposition and ridicule.” [1] Her father made sure that missionaries who visited them always had their shoes repaired, and her mother often nursed them when they got sick.

In 1861, Charlotte’s older sister Mary emigrated to Utah, and married John Bennett of Payson, Utah. However, Charlotte and her parents were not able to emigrate themselves until 1869, taking ship on the steamer Manhattan in September of that year. In addition to Charlotte and her parents, her younger sister Nellie (Ellen) accompanied the family. The voyage turned out to be rough; a storm broke one of the masts, and the ship came near to foundering. [2]

The rolling seas and stormy weather had severely affected a couple of the missionaries who were traveling with the company of Saints to Utah. Alonzo Hyde, writing to European Mission President Albert Carrington, noted that even while just exiting the harbor in Liverpool, two of his fellow missionaries, Jonathan Dye and Fredrick A. King, were “discharging cargo,” and that nine tenths of the passengers were seasick and “going through the ceremony of separation.” [3] Charlotte seems not to have become ill herself, and was surprised to meet Fredrick when he finally got the strength to come out on deck, several days into the voyage. The two struck up a friendship, “attracted to each other from the first.”

Fredrick was also a native of Yorkshire, who had emigrated to Utah in 1861 himself, and had returned to England to visit his parents and other family. While there, he was called to be a missionary, and was completing his service by escorting the Manhattan’s company of Saints, before returning to his new home in Ogden, Utah. [4]

Charlotte, her family, and the rest of their fellow converts were among the first companies to travel by rail all the way from New York to Utah, and thus avoid the hardships of the overland trek. Arriving in Utah, Fredrick and Charlotte parted. Charlotte and her family moved to Payson with her older sister Mary, and Fredrick returned to boarding with the Browning family in Ogden. They did not see each other again until September of the following year, but rapidly progressed in their relationship, and were married in the Endowment House by Heber C. Kimball in May of 1871.

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Charlotte and Fredrick boarded for a while with the Brownings, while Fredrick, always interested in medicine, started the Pioneer Drug in Ogden with a partner. Their first child, a daughter Mary named after Charlotte’s sister, was born in 1872. In March of 1873, the call came to Fredrick and many of his acquaintances in Ogden to join the first company of colonists attempting to settle the Little Colorado River basin in Arizona. Mormon first colonizing efforts consisted mostly of men, very few women, rarely ever children. Fredrick, not willing to leave his new little family behind, decided that the whole family, including toddler Mary, would go together. Mary, at age one, was the only child included in the 1873 effort. Fredrick and Charlotte bought some horses and a wagon, outfitted themselves with everything they thought would be needed in their new home, and sold half their interest in the Pioneer Drug to Fredrick’s partner, and used the proceeds to pay their expenses for Arizona. The balance of Fredrick’s interest was due to be paid the next year.

The 1873 expedition did not fare well. They started south in the midst of a late spring that Brigham Young described as “backwards this year,” meeting snow, rain, and mud on the poor roads south to Pipe Springs on the Arizona strip. From there, they encountered bad water, stifling heat, and the worst drought in Arizona in years as they traveled on to Moencopi, near present day Tuba City. The trek included the grueling construction of a road over Lee’s Backbone on the south side of the Colorado at Lee’s Ferry. That road, pioneered by the 1873 colonists, became an important link in the Mormon Wagon Road used by the subsequent settlers of Arizona, and except for Lee’s Backbone, also pioneered the path for US Highway 89 from the Colorado south to Flagstaff and Interstate 40.

Charlotte spent some time with the Hopi Indians, her white baby a source of great interest among them. Charlotte eventually gave one of her daughter Mary’s red flannel nightgowns to a Hopi mother and naked toddler, which “pleased the little chap and its Mother.”

Horton D. Haight, leader of the expedition, along with Jacob Hamblin and others, could not find anyplace that season that would support over one hundred colonists, their livestock, and show the promise of being able to put in crops to harvest that year. The colonists’ livestock were getting into the Hopi’s fields, eating their corn and squash plants, and minor disputes over water erupted from time to time. With their seed grain and flour mostly going to feed their failing livestock, and the telegraph lines down between Kanab and Salt Lake City, the colonists finally gave up their quest and started back north again in July. [5]

Charlotte and Fredrick had left behind dishes, a sewing machine, and many other of their prized possessions in their attempts to lighten the load for their horses on the way south. Fredrick became deathly ill at one point with what sounds like heatstroke; Charlotte herself fell ill at Lee’s Ferry, waiting to cross the river. On the return, one of their horses died, and the other became so weakened as to become useless. They traded their wagon, canvas, and harness, and what little else they still had to other colonists for a pony and transport home to Ogden.

Upon their arrival in August, broke and with only what they could carry on the pony, Charlotte and Fredrick discovered that their partner in the Pioneer Drug had died, the business failed, and Fredrick’s remaining interest could not to be paid. All they could recover in value from their partner’s widow was a pair of cows.

Still, they persevered, Fredrick still interested in medicine, and Charlotte bearing and raising nine more children. They settled for a while in Parowan, where Fredrick worked as a tanner, his father’s occupation that Fredrick had left England to avoid. Eventually Fredrick qualified as a licensed M.D., and he and Charlotte opened a practice and a new drug store in Hooper, Weber County, Utah. For several years, they prospered, but in 1911, Fredrick fell ill and died in Ogden of a bladder inflammation. Charlotte eventually moved in with her oldest son, also named Fredrick, and died in Soda Springs, Idaho, in 1929. She and Fredrick are both buried in Hooper.

Despite the hardships of the 1873 Arizona experience, the subsequent failure of Fredrick’s business, the loss of two children as infants, and the years spent working a trade that Fredrick detested, there is no hint of bitterness or disappointment in Charlotte’s autobiographical account of her life. Instead, she devotes almost two thirds of her biographical sketch to a very matter of fact description of the 1873 expedition, and the trek south and then north again. She seemed to view the whole journey as an interesting and useful experience.

I am especially proud to call Charlotte and Fredrick my own great-grandparents, and have loved getting acquainted with them through my research. Charlotte was truly a remarkable woman.

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[1] All quotes from Charlotte are from her autobiographical life sketch, copy in my possession, available at the CHL, MS 11228.

[2] Although the Manhattan was a steamer, she still carried two full masts with square rigged sails, and often used both sail and steam.

[3] Alonzo Hyde to Albert Carrington, September 23, 1869, in Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, 31:40, September 29, 1873, p 648, CHL.

[4] Researching the Manhattan passenger lists turned out to be interesting. Alonzo Hyde, Fredrick King, and the other missionaries are listed as “Apostles.” Also, Charlotte’s age is listed as 12, and Fredrick’s as 39 instead of 29, which sounds creepy at best. One can only assume that the ship’s clerks were not all that interested in the distinction between Elder and Apostle, or in accuracy (many names are misspelled or partly wrong), and that possibly the Senior family may have listed Charlotte as younger to obtain a less expensive fare.

[5] For a full treatment of the 1873 expedition, see my article in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal of Mormon History (Vol 37:1), “The Most Desert Lukking Plase I Ever Saw, Amen!” pps 115-150



5 Comments »

  1. What a wretched trip that was in 1873! I’m very interested to hear about the spin your great-grandmother put on it. How inspiring! What a woman!

    I think your experience with the passenger list is typical. They tend to be significantly less accurate then census records, and like census records, the information depends on the respondent and the person recording the information, and that person’s handwriting.

    Comment by Amy T — July 9, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  2. If there is a Keepa Beard Contest this year, I nominate Fredrick A. King. Great account, Kevin!

    Comment by Alison — July 9, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  3. Alison, I thought the beard was kind of cool, too. Amy, it was my few experiences with passenger lists, so I was still a little surprised, which now makes me approach all of them with some skepticism.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Comment by kevinf — July 9, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  4. Side note: The latest issue of Pioneer magazine is all about John Browning.

    Comment by reed russell — July 9, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

  5. I love the picture of Charlotte, looking very stylish and beautiful.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — July 11, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

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