The Sharps of Clackmannan

by Laura Goodman


John Sharp, the first person to be baptised from the Clackmannan area in central Scotland was my 4th great grandfather. He became the first branch president of Clackmannan and baptised over 100 people of his family and friends. Here is his story.

John Sharp was born 9 November 1820 in Devon Iron Works, Clackmannanshire. His family were colliers and John first entered the coal mines at the age of eight years. He was still working in the coal mines when the gospel was brought to his quarter by William Gibson, one of the first Scottish Elders sent out to preach the restored gospel in Scotland.

John Sharp was the first of his family to embrace the gospel. He was baptised 2 May 1847 and was ordained an Elder shortly thereafter. John served for a short time as the branch president of the Clackmannan branch. According to the Clackmannan LDS Branch Record, he performed 105 baptisms in the twelve months from 12 September 1847 to 13 September 1848. He baptised his sister Catherine Sharp Wilson, then a widow, on 7 February 1848. His older sister, Helen, and her husband Adam Fife were baptised on 13 September 1848. He baptised Janet Cook on 27 August 1847 and the next day she married Adam Sharp, John’s brother, in the Clackmannan parish church.

Although the great majority of those who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were the lowly-esteemed colliers, the anger of the Clackmannan clergy was stirred and mob action aroused. When Howard Sharp Bennion, a grandson of Adam Sharp, visited the Parish Clerk of Clackmannan in 1919, Mr James Alan Hunter, he said “This is the very house where the Mormons were holding a meeting when the mob came and rapped on the door and demanded entrance. My grandfather held them talking while the Mormons slid out the window and through the garden and went back through the fields to Sauchie.” This house is located across the street from the parish church.

In 1848 the spirit of gathering to Zion took hold of the Sharps. Perhaps the anti-Mormon sentiment of the locals strengthened a resolve to emigrate. Entries and notations in the Clackmannan branch membership record indicate that a band of 63 members plus their children left Sauchie under the leadership of Elder John Sharp, bound for Glasgow on their way to the Salt Lake Valley. Ship records indicate the Clackmannan group boarded the Erin’s Queen 7 September 1848 from Liverpool to New Orleans, USA. The notation “emigrated September 1848” is written after the membership record of 9 Sharps, 8 Patersons, 7 Hunters, 5 Wilsons, 3 Condies and others. The Sharps were John and his wife Jane, with their young children John, James and Margaret; John’s father (also named John) and mother Mary; his brothers Adam and Joseph. Adam’s wife Janet was also with them.

In Utah, John Sharp became an influential business leader and remained an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, serving as bishop of the Salt Lake City 20th ward for 30 years. On 23 December 1891 John Sharp died of complications caused by the flu. His funeral was attended by the leaders of both the Mormon and non-Mormon communities. John Sharp, of humble Scottish coal mining stock, had realised the elusive “great American dream” and had become a self-made man. He truly was one of the first cosmopolitan Mormons. He was a man of pronounced character, possessed of a very common-sense type of mind.

We visited the Alloa ward in July 2022. I was excited to see the place of birth of my ancestors. We loved our visit to Scotland and the highlight was definitely going to church in Alloa and meeting wonderful people there. They were the most friendly we have ever met! We love and are so proud of our Scottish heritage. Thank-you for your service there in the Edinburgh stake.