The town of Oldham has played an important role in the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Native son William Marsden was baptized on 7th October 1839 and ordained a Priest by Apostles Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt. In January 1840, Brigham Young asked Marsden to go to Oldham to preach the gospel. He was accompanied by Thomas Yates and James Mahon. The Oldham branch was organized in 1840.[i] In 1842, there were 86 members. In 1843, membership had grown to nearly 120. This article is about one family who were early converts to the Church from the Oldham area.
Joseph Albiston was born in Stockport, Cheshire, on 29th August 1820, the son of John Albiston and Hannah Thacker. He married Mary Ann Clayton at St. Mary’s Church in Oldham on 19th July 1846. Joseph and his brother John Albiston, Jr. had been baptized in April 1840 by Henry Royle, a British convert and first official missionary to Wales. Joseph was later rebaptized at Ashton-under-Lyne on 16th June 1848 by his brother John, Jr., and his wife, Mary Ann, was baptized the same day.
Joseph and Mary Ann had six children.
- John, born in Dukinfield on 9th January 1847, died in an accident at Brook Mill, Oldham in 1882. He was a member of the Oldham branch and was baptized on 8th June 1879. He was ordained a deacon on 4th July 1880 by branch president Elijah Ranacre.[ii]
- James, born in Stayley on 10th April 1849. He was an iron worker, lived at 94 Drury Lane, Chadderton, never married, and in 1894 he died at the Oldham Union Workhouse.
- William, see below.
- Joseph, born in Stayley on 10th February 1856, never married, and died in Utah in 1885.
- Ann, born in Dukinfield on 28th September 1858, and died in Winton on Christmas Day 1928. She married James Smith on 10th October 1877 at Christ Church Chadderton. They lived in Salford and were visited by the elders assigned to the Oldham branch in 1897.[iii] Annie was baptized on 5th July 1910 and James on 13th June 1935.
- Thomas, see below.
In November 1854, Joseph and Mary Ann’s membership was transferred to the Stalybridge Branch. By 1871, they had moved to 221 Manchester Road, Oldham where Joseph worked as a hairdresser or barber. Joseph was rebaptized at Oldham branch on 8th June 1879. That following September, he left for America. After Joseph left England, Mary Ann and her unmarried sons James, Joseph and Thomas resided at 292 Washbrook, Chadderton. Mary Ann, Joseph and Thomas were members of the Oldham branch through 29th August 1883 when they emigrated to Utah.
Joseph’s father, John Albiston, Sr. was born in Congleton, Cheshire on 3rd July 1782. He and two of his brothers moved to Stockport where he found work as a cotton weaver. He married Hannah Thacker in 1802 and together they had 9 children, most of whom were born in Stockport or Heaton Norris. Hannah died in 1827 when their youngest child, Nancy, was less than 8 months old. John did not waste any time finding another bride, the details of which were published in The Chester Courant on 15th July 1828: “On 6th inst. at Astbury, Mr. John Albiston, of Duckinfield, to Mrs. [Lois] Garratt, of Congleton, after a protracted and tedious courtship of two hours and a half, in which the agreement was made, the license purchased, and all other arrangements settled.”
John, Sr. had joined the Church sometime around 1840 and was a member of the Ashton-under-Lyne branch, baptizing several of its early members. While speaking at a conference in Manchester on 6th April 1841, President Brigham Young “… proceeded to make some remarks on the office of patriarch and concluded by moving that Elder John Albiston be ordained to that office” which was seconded by Apostle Heber C. Kimball.[iv] Then, Patriarch Peter Melling was called upon to pronounce a patriarchal blessing on John Albiston, prior to his being ordained to the office of patriarch. Melling and Albiston were the only two patriarchs ordained by the Apostles while they were in England, and no other resident patriarchs were ordained in England until 1960, when the first stake was formed.
Joseph’s brother, John Albiston, Jr., was a power loom overlooker. He married Elizabeth Mellor Smith in 1833 and they had several children, most of whom were born at Stalybridge. John Jr. served as branch president of Dukinfield and Ashton-under-Lyne, and oversaw the branches in Hyde, Wooley Hill, and Stalybridge.
John Jr., and his father represented their home branches at a meeting of the Manchester conference that was held Sunday, 3rd September 1843, in a room behind Manchester’s Heyward Hotel on Bridge Street. During the sessions, representatives from the branches throughout the conference gave short presentations and membership statistics about the Church in their communities. John Albiston, Sr. representing the Ashton and Mottram branches, reported that there were 83 members in Ashton and 38 in Mottram. Elder John Albiston, Jr. representing Dukinfield, reported that there were 49 members in that branch. Elder J. Dunn representing Oldham, reported that there were 114 members, 2 elders, 9 priests, 3 teachers and 2 deacons.[v]
On 2nd January 1852, a cold-water festival was held at the Forresters’ Hall, Stalybridge to celebrate John Jr.’s release from the Ashton presidency and call to preside over the Sheffield conference.[vii]
In 1853, he was called to preside over the Bradford conference, and then in 1854, he and his family emigrated to Utah.
William Albiston, son of Joseph and Mary Ann, was born on 3rd May 1856 in Stalybridge. He was an iron worker and married Elizabeth Hargreaves on 23rd October 1875 at the Oldham Registrar’s Office. They had three children: Harry, Thomas Hargreaves and Eda. Will, as he was known, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Eda were baptized in Oldham on 21st January 1897, by Elder Joseph Samuel Broadbent. That following Sunday, on 24th January, Will was confirmed by Elder Abraham Marsh Wilde, Elizabeth by Elder Mark Austin, and Eda by Joseph Black. The Albistons were members of the Oldham branch which, during this time, were meeting in a rented hall at the House & Mill Company offices, 127 Union Street.
According to Will’s descendants, he was converted to the gospel by an Elder from Alberta, Canada. That would have been Elder Wilde.
Abraham Marsh Wilde was born in 1852 in Bedford Leigh, Lancashire. He was baptized by his father in 1865 and emigrated with his parents to Utah in 1876. He was called to serve a mission to the British Isles from 1895 to 1897, moved to Canada in 1902, and was the presiding Elder of the Welling branch, Taylor stake, Alberta Province from 1903 to 1908.
Elder Wilde mentioned the Albiston family a few times in his missionary journal:
“20 January 1897. Elders Broadbent, Austin and Moss came down, we had a good time together talking on the principles of the gospel. We should have gone out tracting in the afternoon, but the weather was so cold, we didn’t go. We spent the [evening] at Mr. Albiston’s who was to [be] baptized the next evening.
21st January 1897. The weather is still cold, therefore we did not get out, in the evening Bro. Broadbent baptized twelve persons, there were the heads of five families namely Mr. Scofield and son and daughter, Mr. Wright, Mr. Kenyon and wife, Mr. Albiston and wife and daughter, Mr. Fitton and wife and daughter. They were baptized in the font of the Baptist Chapel in Oldham.
24 January 1897. I attended Sunday School, and meetings, in the afternoon we confirmed twelve persons and blessed seven children but before doing so I spoke upon the Holy Ghost. After the confirmations and blessings, we administered the sacrament, then closed the meeting.”[xiii] They emigrated in 1859 along with Sarah’s unmarried sister, Elizabeth Dixon, crossing the American Plains in the George Rowley Handcart Company. Their son Joseph Samuel Broadbent served his mission from April 1896 to May 1898.
Elder Joseph Samuel Broadbent, who was born in Lehi, Utah in 1863, had a connection to the Oldham branch beyond that of missionary service. His father, Joseph Lees Broadbent, was born in Oldham, baptized there at around age 13, and met his mother, Sarah Ann Dixon, while attending church meetings in Oldham. They emigrated in 1859 along with Sarah’s unmarried sister, Elizabeth Dixon, crossing the American Plains in the George Rowley Handcart Company. Their son Joseph Samuel Broadbent served his mission from April 1896 to May 1898.
Branch Meetings at 127 Union Street.
On 15th November 1896, presiding Elders Joseph Samuel Broadbent and Joseph Nelson took part in three inauguration services of a “new meeting room at the House and Mill’s company office, Union Street.”[xv]
Elder Broadbent wrote a letter dated 27th July 1897 which was published in the Deseret Weekly recounting the Oldham branch’s celebration of the 50th year anniversary of Utah’s Pioneer Day with an organized outing to Alderly Edge. As part of the programme, Elder [Jabez William] West and Miss [Eda] Albiston sang ‘The Standard of Zion.’ Elder Broadbent ended the letter by describing that “the work of the Lord is growing very fast in Oldham. We have had forty-four baptisms, this year in Oldham, and the Elders feel like the Lord is blessing the humble endeavors to spread the Gospel truths, and that the honest are being brought to a knowledge thereof.”[xvii] He went on to write that “[t]he work in this part of the country is growing very rapidly; two years ago the Manchester conference was one of the weakest in England, and now is the leading one.”
In a letter to the editor of the Deseret Evening News dated 30th April 1898, Elder Broadbent wrote of the Manchester conference that was held on 24th April in Oldham. Sisters Jennie Brimhall and Inez Knight were the first two single female missionaries of the Church. He wrote that “(t)hey each spoke at some length on Utah and her people and bore strong testimonies on the restoration of the Gospel and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. There were about 800 people present and a pin could have been heard drop.” He went on to write that “[t]he work in this part of the country is growing very rapidly; two years ago the Manchester conference was one of the weakest in England, and now is the leading one.”
Elder Benjamin Rhodes Birchall and wife Elizabeth served as traveling missionaries in the Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool districts from 1895 through 1897. Both had been born in Oldham. In October 1897, Elder Birchall wrote how Elders Barnes, Broadbent and himself were spending time cultivating connections with Christian workers, including their associations. On 17th October, Elder Birchall preached at the Loydd Street Gospel Mission Hall in Manchester with about one hundred people in attendance. The Mission’s lay minister, Samuel Brookes, had recently been baptized into the Church and he wanted the worshippers to hear the Elders’ message. The meeting was a success and Birchall was invited to return. Birchall wrote that, “Brother W. Albiston, one of the teachers of the Oldham branch, accompanied me and gave out many of our tracts as the people wended their way home.”
Like so many other members of the Oldham branch, Will and his family left England for Utah, but Will wanted to be ‘in the Empire’, and so the family moved to Alberta, Canada, settling on a homestead in Cardston County. Will farmed up until his death.
All three of the Albiston children were musically talented as was their father. Thomas Hargreaves (“Tom” or “Tommy”) moved to Salt Lake City, worked as a barber and sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Harry played the violin and taught music lessons. Eda sang. Will played the bass fiddle or viola, which his father had owned. Will’s brother, Thomas, got it when their father died, and Thomas took it to Canada. Elizabeth died in 1908 in Cardston. Will died in 1914 in Frankberg, Alberta, Canada.
William Albiston (center).
Elizabeth Albiston (nee Hargreaves). Photo was taken at the J.F. Beaumont studio, 6 Park Road, Oldham
Thomas Albiston, son of Joseph and Mary Ann, was born on 14th November 1860, in Dukinfield, Cheshire. He worked in his father’s hairdressing shop, and later, as a piecer in a cotton mill after his father emigrated.
Thomas (“Tom”) married Ane Cathrine Petrea Jensen (“Annie Katherine”) on 12 October 1885 in Coveville, Cache, Utah Territory. He later joined his brother Will in Canada and received a homestead grant in Taylorville, Cardston county, Alberta. Thomas raised grain and some livestock. He and Annie Katherine had 7 children, and all but one of them learned to play a musical instrument.
Thomas learned to play the violin in England. “He was a wonderful violinist,” his son Wilford recalled. “Father would play his violin for church singing and for all the dances for miles around. He’d play that violin day and night. Lots of nights, he’d sit there while the rest of us would be out in the kitchen. Sometimes he’d be in the front room a playin’ the violin with no lights or anything. He’d sit there and play for hours at a time. And when Cardston was puttin’ on a big musical of some kind and they needed a good first violinist, why they’d send word out to Dad.” Annie Katherine died in 1912, and Thomas in 1939. Both are buried in Taylorville, Alberta, Canada.
At the end of the 19th century, Oldham had become a centre of cotton spinning and the mechanical and structural engineering to support textile manufacture. At the same time, the Oldham branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was coming up on its 60th anniversary. The branch had seen many of its members emigrate to Utah but those who remained were strong and dedicated to their faith. By the end of the next decade, they would be holding services in a chapel which they built in Neville Street.
[i] Marsden, William, ‘Diary of William Marsden,’ typescript 1944, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, pp. 1-2, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s64t80nk.
[ii] Elijah Ranacre was born in 1819 in Wigan, Lancashire. He was a cotton weaver and lived in Middleton. He and his wife, Elizabeth, joined the Church in 1849. He was president of the Oldham Branch in 1880. On 12th April 1882, Ranacre accompanied over 300 emigrants bound for Utah and 11 returning missionaries who departed from Liverpool on the steamship Nevada 12 April 1882. The group was divided into two wards and Ranacre was president of the second ward. Ranacre accompanied the group as far as New York and returned to England. He died at the age of 73 in the Manchester Workhouse in 1894
[iii] West, Jabez William, ‘Missionary Journal,’ 29 January 1898, vol. 1 (“Saturday Jan 29 Being invited to go to Salford in Manchester by Brother Albitson [sic] left Oldham at 1:00 p.m. for Salford, a distance of 7 miles on foot There met Mr. And Mrs. Smith and family. Mrs. Smith is bro Albitson’s Sister They were very sociable, and we spent a pleasant evening with them until 10:30 p.m. Being tired with our long walk we decided to take train for Oldham arriving there at 11:30 p.m.”).
[v] ‘Minutes of the Manchester Conference,’ Millennial Star, October 1843.
[vii] Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, 6 November 1896, reprint of an article which had appeared in in the Oldham Evening Chronicle entitled “Mormonism in Oldham.”
[ix] Mark Austin, born 1864 in Studham, Bedfordshire, served in the British Mission 1896-1898. Later in life, he served as President of the Fremont, Idaho Stake. He was influential in developing the sugar beet industry in Idaho and active in public affairs. The Mark Austin Technical & Engineering Building at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg was named in his honor.
[xi] See, Millennial Star, 28 January 1897 (“The Rev. L. Morris, minister of the Baptist Chapel in Manchester Street, Oldham, courteously tendered the baptismal font in the Chapel for the use the Elders laboring in that district. They had some twelve candidates for baptism on that occasion, and before attending to the ordinance they held a short service in the annex of the Chapel, which was also kindly furnished by the reverend gentleman”).
[xiii] Broadbent, John Shaw, ‘The History of Joseph and Sarah Dixon Broadbent,’ online at: https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/memories/KWJW-43P.
[xv] ‘District Meetings at Oldham,’ Millennial Star, 27 February 1902 (“On the 28th inst., at 127 Union Street, Oldham, we hold another district meeting, to which we invite all Elders, Saints and friends.” Elder H. Wallace Boden, clerk of the Manchester Conference).
[xv] 'Utah, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia', online at: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:WGFY-NPPZ: 30 September 2019), Abraham Marsh Wilde.
[xvii] Joseph S. Broadbent, ‘Sisters in the British Mission,’ Deseret Evening News, 21 May 1898, p. 9. Elder Smith wrote the letter from 24 Sylvan Street, Oldham which would have been where he was staying. This address was at around that time the home of the James Walker family. James and his wife had joined the Church in 1896.
[xix] C.L. Albiston, Wilford J. Albiston, taped recordings (1979).