A brief and partial history of the
life of Elizabeth Davis who later married William Ayrton and was thereafter
known as Elizabeth Davis Ayrton.
Elizabeth Davis was born 14 August, 1837, in Denbingshire County in North
Wales in an area referred to as "Little Church." Her parents were
David Davis and Grace Roberts Davis. She was the sixth of seven children.
Her daughter-in-law, Eleanor (Helena) Ayrton, said that Elizabeth told her
that her father forbid her to join the Mormon Church, and that if she did he
would throw her our of the house. She, in fact, did join the Mormon Church when
she was fourteen years old. Her father fulfilled his threat, and he did
literally and physically throw her through the front door of their home. She
carried the injuries sustained in this incident for the rest of her life.
Forced from her home, she traveled to the northern part of Ireland where for
about the next twelve years she worked as a nanny in the home of some wealthy
Catholics. They wanted her to remain with them but Elizabeth was determined to
assemble with the "Saints" (LDS Church members in Zion, meaning Salt
Lake City, Utah, USA). In recognition of their love and friendship for
Elizabeth, this family gave her a silver teapot on her departure.
Elizabeth, her cousin Catherine Robert, and Catherine's brother, Thomas
Hughes, sailed out of Liverpool, England, on the sailing ship Cynosure on the
30th of May, 1863. Elizabeth was twenty six years old at this time. The ship's
manifest indicates that she paid for the bookings for all three of them.
White taking the train from New York City, New York, to Council Bluffs,
Iowa, the train was halted in southern Pennsylvania by Confederate Cavalrymen,
who first robbed and then burned the train. Of three trunks containing her
belongings, Elizabeth was able to salvage only one.
At Council Bluffs, Iowa, Elizabeth, Catherine and Thomas were assigned to a
company of Saints for their travel to Utah. Early in their journey, where the
Mormon Trail crosses the Elkhorn River, Thomas Hughes died and was buried there
in a typical "Trail grave" on the 17th of August, 1863. Despite her
physical infirmities, Elizabeth later related that she and her cousin Catherine
walked every step of the way from the banks of the Missouri River to the Valley
of the Great Salt Lake.
After their arrival in Salt Lake City, they were given a piece of property
on which they could build a home with space for a garden. Elizabeth and
Catherine traveled to a nearby canyon where they gathered rocks which they used
to build themselves a home. Under what circumstances she met William Ayrton is
not known. Nevertheless, they were married on the 22nd of August, 1868, when
Elizabeth was thirty-one years old. There is some evidence that she gave birth
to a child, given the name of John Ayrton, on the 18th of August, 1871. John
died shortly after his birth. William and Elizabeth adopted a small child,
which they named David James Ayrton, in September, 1873. Elizabeth's husband,
Williams, died at the age of sixty-five in September, 1902. Elizabeth lived to
the age of seventy-eight, dying on 5 February, 1915, in the home of her
daughter-in-law in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elizabeth left perhaps some of the best-preserved dresses of the pioneer
era, currently displayed at the International Society, Daughters of the Utah
Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Compiled and submitted by Frank H. Ayrton
2767 Brinton Way
Dated 3 December 1999