written by Annette Bott Richards
Philip Wise Bott was born November 6, 1813 in St. Luke’s Parish in London, England, and was christened at the Trinity Chapel in Holborn, a suburb of London. He was the youngest of three children, but his two older sisters died, probably in infancy. At the time of his birth, his father was working as a clerk in the Bank of England. Unfortunately, his mother died while he was still a small child, having been administered the wrong medicine. After her death, Philip became very ill and probably would have died had it not been for a friend of his mother’s. She was determined to do all she could to save his life and was in a position to call in the court physician, which cost his father one hundred pounds.
When he was still quite young, he was sent to a boarding school by his father and received the best education possible at that time, but, sadly, missed out on any kind of family life and the nurturing love of his mother. As he grew older, he had a desire to become a lawyer, but his father would not consent to this profession for his son.
On May 21, 1832 he married Elizabeth Frances Roxby at St. James, Clerkenwell Parish in London, but we know little about their relationship except most of the eleven children he had by her were born in Surreyshire or county. One child was born in Fulham in 1847, near Hammersmith where Eliza Elizabeth Skeggs was living. About the time of his first marriage, he developed health problems due to an abscess on his liver. His physician recommended that he go to Southern France where it was a warmer, sunnier climate, which he did. He and his father made plans to go into the hotel business in France, taking enough dishes to supply the hotel kitchen. Unfortunately, the hotel caught fire, burning it badly enough to ruin their business. However, from the sale of the dishes, they came out ahead financially because there was nothing available like them in France. After he returned to England, his father financed him in a cocoa and chocolate business, but evidently he had a rather unscrupulous and crafty business partner who gave their customers the impression that the company was insolvent and collected so many shillings to the pound, leaving Philip broke.
Philip and Elizabeth Frances had their first child on 17 June 1835 in Newington, Surrey and he was christened Philip Wise Bott in the Primitive Methodist Church. While living in Surrey, he and his wife had five more children prior to moving to Fulham. Between 1847 and 1852, three more children were born in Fulham. In 1848 they were back in Surrey and two more children were born to them there in 1855 and 1856. This was while Eliza was also having children by him. I asked Aunt Edna about this and she said she heard that it was an unhappy marriage and they were probably divorced. In checking with a professional researcher, I found out that it would have taken a whole years’ wages to get a divorce. He suggested that probably there was no divorce. However, both wives were having children at the same time, which is puzzling. However, I make no judgements of Philip because I know little of their circumstances.
I feel certain that he and Eliza Skeggs must have met by 1847 or a little sooner, for their son James was born in 1848 in Fulham. Eliza was probably helping her mother, who was a widow, run the laundry business in Hamersmith, her husband, James Skeggs, having died in 1845. In the 1851 Census we found that she was living with her mother, Charlotte Skeggs, and her son, James, age three, only they were using the name “Jones” instead of “Bott”. Philip was evidently with her only part of the time and was not there when the census was taken. He must have spent some of his time with his wife, Elizabeth Frances, in Surrey. Starting in 1848 they were both having children at the same time until 1856. Evidently Philip’s father was pretty upset with him and at his death, left everything to his first family.
In the meantime, Philip and Eliza had three more children born to them, but unfortunately, all three died in their infancy. Edward was born in 1850 and died at seven months of Whooping Cough and Influenza. Eliza, born in 1851, and Charlotte, born in 1853, died a month apart in 1855 of Scarletina. Mary Ann had been born the month before, so this had to be a terribly difficult time, particularly for Eliza.
I obtained the birth and death certificates in a very unusual way as the first five were listed under “Jones” and their sixth child, John Henry, who was born in 1859, was listed as a “Skeggs”. In 1860 Fanny’s birth certificate has the names of the parents listed correctly, then Elizabeth and Emma were listed as “Skeggs” and papa [Joseph Barfoot] and Cella were both “Botts”. When I ordered the birth certificates I received a letter from Somerset House where the records were kept. In the letter, the person doing the research, suggested the possibility that he had found corresponding children, only they were under “Jones” and suggested that these might be the same children. It was very puzzling but I took a chance and sent for them. When I received them, there was no question that I had the correct birth certificates. Evidently Philip wanted to keep his second family hidden. I have often wondered how the person in the records office could even put them together as everything is filed alphabetically by year. We have not been able to find a marriage certificate for Eliza and Philip but eventually they were sealed in the Endowment House in 1878. This whole situation seems very unusual, and in writing this part of my research into Philip’s history, I have never intended to reflect anything good or bad on my great grandparents, but merely to record the truth. And, not knowing the circumstances, I can only say that the way it all turned out was certainly in our best interest. I am grateful for the principle of repentance and forgiveness, for this is something we all need, to make it through this life successfully and we should not judge them negatively.
From early boyhood, Philip was religiously inclined. His parents had belonged to the Church of England but he was affiliated with a non-conformist church called the Sweden Borgian Chapel at Hatton Garden. Later he joined what he thought was the Seventh Day Adventist Church. On one occasion, while preaching on the streets of London, he was arrested and placed in jail. Probably after that he confined his preaching to “Speakers Corner” in Hyde Park where it was legal, and many people took advantage of this. It was on one of these occasions that he was preaching when two Mormon Elders stopped to listen to him. At first they thought he was a Mormon until he made some statement that made them realize that he was not. When he had finished his sermon, the missionaries conversed with him, showing him where their religions differed and it was almost as if a light had gone on in his heart. He recognized the truths they were teaching and was converted to what he considered the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He did not inform his wife immediately that he had joined this church, as he wanted her to first hear the truths that he had heard and accepted. Her mother died in 1858 and Eliza took over the operation of the laundry. Because Eliza was managing the laundry, she had little or no time to read the tracts that the missionaries had left with her. Later she was persuaded by her husband to attend church and see for herself. Following the meeting, she remarked that she could listen to what was being taught indefinitely. From that day, she was converted to the teachings and doctrines of the L. D. S. Church. She was baptized six months after her husband, in 1863, along with their daughter Mary Ann (Polly) who had just turned eight. James, at fifteen, would have nothing to do with this new religion.
It appears that by the 1860’s, Philip had separated himself completely from his first wife and they were beginning to talk about emigrating to the U.S. and then continue on to Utah to be with the bulk of the Church members. It must have taken a great deal of courage to begin to make the necessary arrangements and carry them through. Eliza had to dispose of the laundry and equipment, which she sold at a great sacrifice. Previously one of her customers had gone bankrupt, owing her one hundred pounds. She hired a lawyer for the purpose of collecting it, but lost another one hundred pounds. This left her and the family in rather serious financial straits. They owned enough furniture to fill an eight room house, but no one was willing to buy any of it, which meant that there was nothing to do but practically give it away.
By the time they were ready to leave, their ship fare was paid but that left them with only one shilling among them, and that belonged to their son, Johnny. James had no desire to leave England, so his mother left him with enough furniture for two rooms. He was twenty-one at the time, and within a month he had married a girl by the name of Mary Ann Hoskins. I believe he had been unhappy with his father and the circumstances of his two families because he did not go by the name of Bott, instead using his mother’s maiden surname of Skeggs. We did not know that when we first started researching the family. But on his marriage certificate, he listed his father as “Philip William Skeggs”.
As the Bott family prepared to leave England, the entire Shepherd Bush Branch of the Church was also preparing to leave, and was broken up as a branch as everyone left for America at the same time. It must have been stressful for Eliza with her baby due so close to the time of their departure, but her eleventh child was born in June 1, 1869. She was about ten days old at their departure and was given the name of “Cella”, after the ship they traveled on. It was a rather rough voyage but only eight year old Elizabeth was sick, having found a bottle of Claret wine from which she drank. The ship took three weeks to cross the ocean, six days longer than necessary because they docked in France to take on some marble for a church being built in Vermont.
Most everyone on board went ashore, mainly to be able to say they had set foot on French soil. The smell of the new-mown hay carried with it quite an appeal as did the opportunity to watch the French farmers at their work. Eliza, with her baby in her arms, started down the gang plank when a man, who was helping to either unload or load the ship, accidently fell into the hold, which was quite a drop. A doctor standing nearby remarked, “that man is dead”. The whole incident made Eliza so sick that she preferred to remain on board. The next day she was surprised and relieved to see the victim on deck playing cards with only a bandage on his head to show for what could have been a fatal accident.
After docking in New York City, the family spent three long days at Castle Gardens, the immigration station of that day, as Ellis Island was not in existence until 1900. They expected to be met by church members who would help them, but no one was there to meet the ship. They were finally told they would have to leave as another ship was about to dock. As the Branch President, Jacob Peacey and Philip went out to look for someone from the Williamsburg (Brooklyn) Branch, they passed two men. Although neither pair had stopped initially, they suddenly hesitated and turned simultaneously being possessed with the feeling that the other pair were Mormons. It so happened they were working men who had laid off to see if there were any people among the emigrants whom they might know. They gave what money they had to Philip and Jacob and hired an express wagon to take them and their belongings to a Civil War Soldiers’ barracks which the church had rented to house the emigrants until they could find a place to live.
The inconveniences they experienced in the barracks were unbelievable. The whole company shared one broom and there were few chairs on which to sit. Some one brought in an old rocking chair with one of the rockers missing and John sawed off the other rocker so his mother could sit down and hold the baby. Some of their possessions were left at Castle Gardens for over three weeks before they could get them. There was an old well in the middle of the barracks which was the source of their water supply and Eliza lived in constant fear that her small children might fall in. Each emigrant family borrowed money from the Church until they could become established. Philip, with a larger family than anyone else, paid back his loan first, having kept his family on bread and molasses until the entire sum was returned.
The first work Philip was able to obtain, was digging sewers in New York City. The man for whom he was working, finally decided the work was too hard for him at the ripe age of fifty-five. Philip was willing to try but his boss determined he was too old to hold up under the heavy work and let him go. He was given a team of horses to drive through the busy streets of the city, the first experience of its kind for him. Then, because of his experience in selling spices in England, he started selling spices, tea, and coffee door to door. He was very successful at this and saved quite a sum of money, which he later used to take his family to Utah and get established there.
His supplier of spices received a shipment of tea that had become damp during the voyage. He expressed the belief that the entire lot was ruined, but Philip assured him that he could blend it with other tea and sell it. This he did in such a clever way that the customers were demanding more of that particular kind. So grateful was his supplier for Philip’s help that he offered to set him up in business when he arrived in Salt Lake City. He told him he would give him all the necessary credit he needed to get started.
The children worked at almost anything they could find to do to help their parents prepare for the trip west. Mary Ann worked in an undertaking parlor but did not find this to be a very pleasant kind of employment. John shined shoes and cleaned knives and forks and any other kind of work he could find. Over a period of time, he had saved enough money to take him to Utah “like a little gentleman”, his mother would often remark.
After arriving in New York, Eliza was pretty unhappy at the separation from her eldest son. She had wanted to return home to England, but John insisted he would not return to England under any circumstances, so that ended that! A neighbor to the Botts, who was also a member of the church suggested a school to Eliza, where she might be able to send the children. It was a private school maintained by wealthy people and businesses in New York City as a service to help working mothers and other families like the Botts who may have just emigrated or were poor and needed help. They were able to enroll them in the school.
The Bott children were always well behaved at school. Also, they were kept so spotlessly clean and neat, with their shoes shined and in good condition as they had in England, that the teachers were quite impressed and took a liking to them. One day Eliza kept them home because she felt that their shoes were getting to be quite ragged. The teacher inquired of another youngster concerning their absence, and when the three younger children came home from school the next day, they were dressed in new clothes from head to foot. Eliza couldn’t believe that they would not have to pay for them. Philip wrote a letter of appreciation to the school for the clothing that was given to his children. His letter so impressed the teachers that they published it in the newspaper.
On one occasion, the matron of the school asked Eliza if she would like to help at one of the socials. She agreed to do it and found someone to stay with the baby. Her job was to serve and take care of the dishes. When she arrived, she was amazed at the beauty of the hall where the banquet was held, as it was full of potted plants and canaries that sang with the music performed there. She was able to help them on many occasions, for which she was well paid. They would often send home with her the remaining portions of turkey, chicken and sometimes oysters, which she shared with her neighbors.
During the five years they spent in New York, they lived in the suburbs in Williamsburg, which is now Brooklyn. For part of that time, Philip served as President of the L.D.S. branch there. They had been in the U.S. for less than a year when little Cella died. We have been unable to get her death certificate so that it is uncertain what caused her death. The following year, in January of 1871, their last child, William, was born but he lived for only six months. This left them with only seven of their twelve children, counting Jim who was still in England. In that day, death was so common that it was expected to happen often. We are very fortunate in the modern day and age to see most of our children grow to maturity.
Eliza was still feeling the absence of her eldest son, Jim, who now had a son born 5 Aug 1870 and named James George. Eliza was in contact with him and begged them to come to the U.S. She even went so far as to send her hard-earned money to them to pay for their fare. However they spent the money on other things, not really convinced they wanted to leave England. But she did not give up easily and the next time, instead of sending money, she sent the tickets to them.
They finally weakened, and arrived in New York sometime in 1871. On September 24, 1873, they had their second son and named him Henry. Sometime in 1874, the family had their picture taken of Jim, and Mary Ann with the newest baby on her lap and their oldest son standing by his dad. I think it was the same time that Philip and Eliza had their family portrait taken, which is familiar to most of the descendants. At any rate, this picture was what tied us to Jim’s living descendants, but that is another story.
Johnny, at fifteen, earned enough money to pay his own way and was so anxious to go to Utah that he left for the west by himself and arrived May 21, 1874. When he arrived, he went to work for his Bishop, Alvin Nichols and resided with him for a short time. He started to learn the stone cutting trade when he was called to work on the Salt Lake Temple, which he did for two years until he was called to work in the Brigham City Tabernacle.
Six months after John left, Eliza traveled west with Joe, Emma, Elizabeth, and Fanny. By this time, Mary Ann had married Hyrum Ford and had a son, Henry, born in 1873 so she did not go with her family but stayed awhile longer. We know she had a daughter born in 1876, so it is uncertain when they came to Utah, but they did eventually come. One daughter, Mary Amelia was born in Ogden, 5 Jun 1881, while the earlier daughter, Louise Elizabeth, was born in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). She was born 23 September 1875 or 1876 as previously mentioned. She had seven or possibly eight children and they were all born in Ogden before the family moved to California.
During the course of their journey, they changed trains something like twenty-seven times. In all, they were carrying thirteen bundles, which included her flat irons and an iron pot. Two people traveling in the same railroad car were disgusted to think anyone would attempt to carry so much. They were heard to remark, “It is a wonder some people don’t bring their cottages along”. Eliza, being very sensitive, was deeply hurt by this remark. As the train traveled at the rate of only fifteen or twenty miles per hour, it took the family eleven days to arrive in Utah. However, that is still better than crossing the plains by covered wagons or walking all the way as earlier pioneers did.
Philip finished taking care of all his business, etc., and prepared to follow. Just prior to starting his journey, he sent a postcard to his son, who had settled in Brigham City, Box Elder County in “Utah Territory”. On this postcard dated October 27th (1875?) He writes this message: “this is my last act to inform you that my freight left here for Zion, directed as before, and I, myself – in company with — Hannar – Waring – Lambert – Bishop’s daughter – Sis Green and family, old Sis. Evans and two of her daughter’s children – leave this evening – the company arrived last night before midnight – was in the sun this morning – we purpose leaving if the company do not – I am now 11:00 o’clock waiting for the old – man – HW I shall bring along to you – I will forward you a p. card on the road if possible. So God bless you all and make your calculations as to our arrival – for I can give you no information myself – Jim and family, Mary and children are all well and send love to all – a doll and her cradle for Emma and things for all of you … Lack nothing forgot, I think!
From your loving husband and father
Signed P. W. Bott
The card is hard to read, which explains the dashes.
Unfortunately for Eliza, James had no desire to come with them to Utah. The last they heard from him, he was still in New York. In his last letter to his mother, he made this remark: “Don’t be surprised if you see me come walking in with my gun over my shoulder”. The last letter from his mother to him was never answered. What a heart ache for her! The family always thought he had taken his family and gone back to England. I think if Papa [Joseph Barfoot] had known he was somewhere in the country, he would have made an effort to travel to see him. It appears that because of their religion, Jim’s wife wanted nothing more to do with the family. And I also believe it was through her influence that he did not keep in touch with them. In fact, on Jim’s death certificate, his wife listed his parentage as “not known.”
John met the family upon their arrival and they, too, stayed with Bishop Nichols until they could find a place to live. John had a lot of artistic talent and with the training he received, working on the temple, he was able to start his own stone cutting business, which eventually grew into a very successful memorial stone business. He was a very energetic individual whose love of the Gospel never wavered, serving in many leadership positions in the church and teaching the Gospel in various organizations of the Church. He practiced polygamy and had three wives, spending time in prison when it was outlawed by the U.S. Government. In all, he had thirty-three children. Brigham City was to be his home until his death of appendicitis May 3, 1914.
One of his sons tells of an incident in his life worth repeating. “When the officers were taking him to prison, one of the guards was particularly cruel. He was on horseback while John was walking and being driven with a black whip. If John did not move fast enough, he would be hit by the whip. Finally, in the majesty of his indignation he said to the guard, ‘Mr. Whetstone, I will live to see you led around the streets of Brigham City, a blind old man, by your grandchildren’. And he was and he did.”
In the meantime, Philip and Eliza and the family lived in Brigham City for about five years. But inasmuch as opportunities in this small community were limited for them, the family sold their cow and moved to Ogden. This would have been in about 1880. They were in Ogden for two years before Philip could afford to buy property. He worked hard, probably selling from door to door, and bought a pasture on Lincoln Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street. He build a four room house that cost $1,000.00, which was a lot of money in those days. Everyone pitched in and worked hard to raise the necessary money, paying for it as it was built. It was here that Philip and Eliza spent the remaining years of their lives.
The girls, Fanny, Elizabeth, and Emma, all married and had children. Fanny raised her family in Ogden, while Emma lived in Salt Lake City. Elizabeth had an unfortunate accident while visiting a friend. They had a large swing which she either fell from or was hit in the head by it. She suffered a head injury and never quite recovered from it. It affected her mentally and as she grew older her condition grew worse until she ended up in the hospital in Provo where she died in 1926.
On July 7, 1886, Philip died after suffering from ill health for some time. Eliza remained in her home and Joe and his new wife moved in with her and took care of her for seventeen years, until her death in March 17, 1901. All of their children were born here except the last two who were born in the “Big House”.