Sisters of the United Brethren

by Bernard Haw

Most of us will be familiar with the story of the 600-strong congregation of United Brethren who owned Gadfield Elm chapel and who (with only one exception) converted to the restored gospel during Wilford Woodruff’s mission in the Three Counties area in the early 1840s. We’re also familiar with the stories of hardship and persecution experienced by converts to the church in the American Midwest – the pioneers who crossed the plains and settled in Utah territory. But we sometimes fail to link these two strands of church history. Here are seven women who experienced all of that hardship and persecution. They were all early British converts, they all passed through Nauvoo, most were widowed, they all lost children.  These are some of the British faces that fit those pioneer stories.


Ellen Benbow, niece of John and Jane Benbow of Hill Farm, was fostered by them after her father died.

She was baptised by Wilford Woodruff in March 1840, and emigrated with her uncle and aunt later that year. In Nauvoo she married William Carter.

When he was called to go with the first company to cross the plains, she was very seriously ill and hardly expected to survive.

Brigham Young promised she would be healed and follow her husband. She was healed.

A year later she was able to drive an ox team and wagon to join her husband in the Salt Lake valley. She was born in Winslow, Herefordshire; she died age 76 in St George, Utah.


Mary Harding Field, born in Bishops Frome, Herefordshire, was baptised and emigrated in 1844 with her husband William and their children.

William died in Nauvoo, leaving Mary and the children almost destitute, but the Lord sent quail into their camp to feed them.

She re-married but lost her second husband after only 18 months.

Only four of her nine children would survive her, but she lived to be 94 and died in Slaterville, near Ogden, Utah.


Mary Field’s parents were baptised in 1840 when she was only four.

The family emigrated shortly thereafter, settling in Nauvoo. Her father and two of her sisters died there, leaving her mother with six children.

They too were saved by the quail when they were forced out of their home. On the journey west, an Indian chief wanted to buy Mary for her bright red hair; she had to hide to avoid being taken away.

She later supported her husband William Garner when he returned to Britain as a missionary.

She died age 107 in Hooper, Utah.


Ann Green  heard the restored gospel message in her 20s while working as a servant.

She married John Dutson, one of the sons of her employers, but when she was expecting their second child he went away to sea and never returned; he was presumed drowned.

She was baptised by Wilford Woodruff in the summer of 1840 at Hill Farm.

She emigrated in 1842 and re-married in Nauvoo. Joseph Smith set her apart as a midwife, telling her to base her treatments solely on herbs. She was both midwife and ‘herb doctor’ until the age of ninety, when she broke a hip and was no longer able to practise. She died in Filmore, Utah, age 94.


Mary Jenkins [and her husband William were both preachers for the United Brethren.

She was one of the first six baptised by Wilford Woodruff at Hill Farm.

She had a beautiful singing voice and would accompany Elder Woodruff on his preaching tours around the area.

Mary and William left with the first group of converts from Britain in October 1840.

She would live to raise a family of eight daughters, and died age 67 in Cache Valley, northern Utah.




Ann Jewell Rowley was baptised by Wilford Woodruff in May 1840, as was her husband William.

Two years of crop failure and William dying as a result of an accident, left Ann a widow with seven young children.

She worked for her brother in his tailor’s shop and was only able to emigrate in 1856 because of the Perpetual Emigration Fund.

The family were part of the ill-fated Willie handcart company, although Ann survived. Subsequently widowed twice Ann died age 81 in Huntingdon, Utah. She had only learned to read after emigrating.



Mary Ann Weston was the daughter of a gentleman farmer in Gloucestershire and was brought up as a Methodist.

She first heard the restored gospel when working as an apprentice dressmaker, and was baptised by Wilford Woodruff in April 1840 – at night because of the disturbances at daytime baptisms.

She married convert John Davis, but at one of the church meetings held at their home, John was attacked by persecutors and subsequently died - after only four months of marriage.

Mary Ann emigrated in 1841. She wrote of being sick and overcome with the grief and sorrow I had passed through, losing her husband and then leaving her family who did not approve of her membership in the church. In Nauvoo she re-married, and after the many trials associated with crossing the plains and living on the frontier of Utah Territory, she died age 84 in Cache Valley, northern Utah.

These were women who were all born in early nineteenth century England, no doubt expecting to live ordinary lives. But they all literally took a leap of faith as early converts to the restored gospel, and would go on to help establish new communities on the frontiers of the American West, and live to witness the growth of the church there and into the rest of the world. They became American because of their continuing devotion to the gospel; they began their pioneer journeys as ordinary but faithful English women.