‘To Gather with Gods People’: Robert Hazen

by Dr. James Perry

At age fourteen, Robert, a native of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, secured an apprenticeship as a moulder.  His work involved pouring liquid metal into moulds to create tools and other implements.[1]  During this time, Robert got mixed up in the ways of the world until one day his conscience hit him.  “I felt hurt because I knew I was not doing right; my conscience smote me many times.  I often thought of the grave, and hellfire and brimstone, and the wicked living there forever and ever.”[2]

Thomas Greener
Thomas Greener The member who introduced Robert to the gospel

One of Robert’s cousins, a Methodist and teetotaller, helped him to change his ways.  Robert also became a teetotaller and although he attended religious services, he “never could join” the Methodists.  At work, Robert met a young man who abstained from drinking and was the only colleague who was kind to him.  It emerged that this young man was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In their conversations Robert found himself agreeing with everything his colleague said.  Finally, despite his family’s opposition, he was baptised on May 25th, 1850 by Thomas Greener, his colleague who had introduced him to the gospel.  Of the experience, Robert wrote: “I felt that I was changed from darkness to light and from the Kingdom of Satan unto the light of the Glorious Gospel.”

Several months later Robert was ordained a priest and served in a number of callings.  After a couple of years of faithful missionary work and church service, Robert had become a key member of the branch.  Then, on 14 March 1853, he was called to be the president of the Newcastle branch, which was no small task for the twenty-year-old convert of two years.  The branch was split into three areas, Nelson Street, Shield Field, and Byker Hill.  In total there were almost 100 members, for whom the young apprentice was responsible.[3]

Robert worked six days a week and then spent Sunday attending church meetings.  Many evenings were also given to church meetings and missionary work, as he committed himself fully to his faith and leadership responsibilities.

July 15th, 1853 was an exciting day; he had completed his apprenticeship and was free to marry the woman he had been courting for several years, Mary Ann Bainbridge.  On August 29th, the couple were married in a registry office, before then being married again by Elder Thomas Squires.

“A day never to be forgot … only thing I felt was deficient [sic], namely, my father and mother, and they knew nothing of it.”

Robert’s family soon found out about the marriage and although his father was happy for him, his mother continued to fret.  But a far worse concern was about to grip the family.

Late summer of 1853 saw an epidemic of cholera sweep across the town.  In six weeks, more than 1,500 inhabitants died, and now Robert was ill.[4]  On September 8th, he felt so unwell that he requested a fellow priesthood holder to administer to him.  Then, although ill himself, Robert continued to serve others, by visiting and blessing those who were afflicted.  Robert recorded:

“In morning at 6 o’clock, Sister Sutherland knocked me up to lay hands upon her son who was taken ill.  I went and administered to him and before I came away, he got out of bed and had his breakfast.”

Robert Hazen
Robert Hazen Early Latter-day Saint convert in Newcastle and Branch President

Robert recovered and returned to full health.  As time wore on, Robert continued to worry about his wider family, both temporally and spiritually.  “May I not descend to where they are, but may they ascend to where I am, and all of us go on rejoicing in our journey to Celestial Glory.”  Sadly, soon after expressing these thoughts his mother died; but good followed with the birth of his daughter in September 1854.

In the following months, Robert struggled to find and keep work due to the uncertain economic conditions.  He considered emigrating with his family.  In January 1855, his mind was set: “I have been six weeks out of work, and we expect to emigrate this season for we are [sic] heartily sick of this land.”  A month later, Robert was still out of work.  The Hazen family, now resolved to emigrate, sold their furniture.  They looked forward to “Gather with God’s people this year”.  However, they still didn’t have enough money.  Robert had been without work for over three months; what could they do to pay for passage to the United States of America?

The difference was made up by Robert’s elderly mother-in-law, also a member of the Church, who sold her house and joined them on the journey to Zion.  On 25 March 25th, 1855, a small group of the Newcastle Saints set off for Liverpool on the first step of their journey.  Ultimately, Robert and his family arrived safely in the United States of America and eventually make their way to join the Saints in the west.

Robert continued to valiantly stand for truth and remained committed to it throughout his life.  It was the harsh and sad realities of life in Newcastle that encouraged the Hazens, and many other British Latter-day Saints, to leave the land of their birth and seek Zion with the prospect of living with the main body of the Saints.  Robert was just one of tens of thousands of converts who would make their way to America and pioneered the West.

[1] 1851 England Census, Class: HO107; Piece: 2407; Folio: 389; Page: 50; GSU roll: 87085

[2] The following quotations and matter come from Robert Hazen’s journal, the original is held in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA.

[3] See Ebenezer Gillies, Half-yearly report of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (London: W. Bowden, 1853), available at: https://archive.org/details/halfyearlyrepor00newc/page/n15/mode/2up/search/Hason, [date accessed 25 January 2020].

[4] M. Callcott, ‘The Challenge of Cholera: The Last Epidemic at Newcastle Upon Tyne’, Northern History, Vol. 20, No. 1 (1984), p. 167.