Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “A True Story” by Hannah Last Cornaby

“A True Story” by Hannah Last Cornaby

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 27, 2012

[Part of a week-long series about Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock and the poetry of Hannah Last Cornaby. See index here.]


“A True Story”
by Hannah Last Cornaby

An Elder was preaching the Gospel in Wales,
Without either purse or scrip,
And it happened sometimes that he had to feel
Hunger’s keen, unwelcome grip.

One day—‘twas past noon—he was trav’ling along,
Quite uncertain where to dine,
He was weary and faint, but his faith was strong,
Nor did he feel to repine.

His heart raised in prayer, still onward he went,
‘Till a house appeared to view,
With signs of much comfort and plenty around,
And smithy attached thereto.

Now, a blacksmith’s shop is a place of resort,
And hither he bent his way,
Very shortly a listening group had met,
To hear what he had to say.

With truth’s own eloquence, the Elder then spoke,
And the simple story told,
That God, in these great Latter-days had restored,
The Gospel, as ‘twas of old.

He was preaching repentance, baptism for sin,
When in came the blacksmith’s wife,
Full of anger toward this servant of God,
Like some spirit bent on strife.

Very wisely our Elder kept back the ire,
‘Twas impossible not to feel,
‘Till the blacksmith’s wife had expended her words
As well as anger and zeal.

“Now madam,” the Elder said, “I would enquire
“To what sect you may belong?”
“I am a Baptist, sir, and firmly believe
“All other religions wrong.”

“You do not believe in the Testament then?”
“Why, yes, most truly I do.”
“It seems rather strange, but allow me to ask
“If you keep it[s] precepts too?

“You called me your enemy only just now,
“I’m very hungry indeed,
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him,
“Is the way my Bible reads.”

A deafening shout broke from the gathered throng,
And loudly they cheer and clap,
“There now, woman,” the blacksmith laughingly said,
“You’re surely caught in a trap.”

My story is told, for the sequel soon proved
That Philip Sykes was winner,
Without even a murmur, she sat him down
To a substantial dinner.



  1. So, was there a Mormon Elder in Wales in the 19th Century named Philip Sykes? The Mormon Migration Database shows a “Phillip Sykes” from Merthyr Tydfil, 45 years old, traveling to New Orleans in winter 1854. But there’s no entry for him in the Overland Trail Database. What happened to him?

    Ardis, time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of [research]!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 27, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

  2. By all means, Mark B., get busy with the research! :)

    First thing I see is an entry in the index to the Journal History that says *a* (I don’t know yet whether it’s *our*) Philip Sykes died in Spanish Fork in 1888. I’ll look that up when I have a chance to see whether it’s the right one — in which case, you may have identified someone who needs to be added to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Database.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 27, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

  3. Yes, that’s our man. His obituary says he emigrated “to Utah” in 1854, but I’ll have to do a little more digging to be sure he came all the way through that year, and was somehow left off the rosters.

    In any case, with Amy’s discovery of the poem and Mark’s curiosity about the man, you’ve identified another man who needs to be remembered in that database.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 27, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  4. While you’re at it, there was a woman named Mary A. Sykes, 15 years Philip’s junior, who emigrated with him–at least on the good ship Golconda. And no corresponding entry in the Overland Trail Database. Philip’s wife?

    Comment by Mark B. — November 27, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  5. Oh, and by the way, thanks, Ardis. A great find!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 27, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  6. I hadn’t even thought to look for him until you got curious, Mark. We can get all pretzel-tied patting each other on the back, but I love this kind of cooperative discovery!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 27, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

  7. What’s the source for this poem? Or at least the year that it was published?

    Comment by Kent Larsen — November 27, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

  8. Cool! So what else is in the records? (With just a quick look.)

    Phillip Sykes is mentioned in passing on the website Welsh Mormon History (“Benjamin was confirmed by Philip Sykes”).

    He is also mentioned two times in Andrew Jenson’s Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia. In the first instance, he is mentioned as a member of the presidency of the Brecknockshire (Brecon) conference in 1849 and in the other instance he is ordaining someone an elder in Spanish Fork in 1867.

    Let’s see what Ancestry has. The Utah Census shows a Philip Sykes in Sugarhouse Ward, Salt Lake, in the 1856 Utah Census. The 1870 census lists his wife as Margaret and the 1880 census lists his wife as Elizabeth. He may not have had any children. Does the obituary say one way or the other, Ardis?

    And, wow! What an addition to the poem! Thanks, Mark and Ardis.

    Comment by Amy T — November 27, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  9. Kent — Hannah Last Cornaby is best known as the author of “Who’s On the Lord’s Side, Who?” but despite that, her poems are an interesting record of life in the British mission, the emigration, and life in early Utah.

    Her Autobiography and Poems was published in 1881 in Salt Lake City.

    Comment by Amy T — November 27, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

  10. I’m sort of partial (Parshall?) to a version of that song I made up in a long meeting one day–it starts “Horton he heard a Who” and has another verse about “The Grinch hated the Whos.”

    Comment by Mark B. — November 27, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

  11. I nominate Mark B. for youth choir director.

    Comment by Carol — November 27, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this poem. Hannah Last Cornaby is my great-great-great grandma and I was raised learning about her and some of her stories. For me her song Who’s on the Lord Side is like listening to her testimony of the Gospel.

    You have inspired me to get in touch with my Grandma to get my own copy of her book.

    Comment by Heather — January 6, 2013 @ 2:03 am

  13. Thanks for commenting, Heather. I really enjoyed getting to know Hannah Cornaby through her poetry. All her poems posted along with this one are listed in the intro to Cyrus Wheelock Week. (Link.)

    You can download a copy of Hannah’s book here. (Link.)

    Also, Deseret Book is publishing a nice series called Women of Faith in the Latter Days and the recently released Vol. 2 has a chapter on Hannah Cornaby.

    And finally, Ardis, I need to follow up with you on the Phillip Sykes project. I’ll send you a note.

    Comment by Amy T — January 6, 2013 @ 7:08 pm