ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY GEORGE BENDALL
FOR THE PONTYPOOL BRANCH WELSH REUNION UTAH GROUP
ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE OF GEORGE BENDALL
I was born on May 10th 1903, Varteg,
Monmouthshire, Wales. I was the second child born to my
parents Sarah Ann Biggs and William John Bendall. My
parent's first child, Lily Mae, was born October 24th 1900. After me came my
sister Ellen, born October 22nd 1906 and then my brother Thomas, born April 8th
1909. My home was called the Severn View Place because from it, on a clear day,
the mouth of the River Severn could be seen. It was more commonly know as the Five Houses.
My great grandparents, James and Ann Hamblin Pitman and their
family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when the first
missionaries, Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor came to Wales. The Pontypool Branch of the Church was organized in the spring
of 1848. The missionaries in those early days traveled without purse or script
and depended on local members or people who were investigating the church to
provide them with the necessities of life.
The Pitman Family was quite well off and had a lovely home
with property. After converting to the Church they sold all they had and
emigrated to America and Zion in 1877. My Grandmother, Ellen Pitman, had
married Thomas Biggs and they had four small children, consequently they didn't
feel that they could make such a trip. It made her very sad to see her parents
and four of her brothers and sisters leave Wales. She wondered often if she
would ever see them again.
The Pitman family left Liverpool on September 19th 1877. They
landed in New York September 30th. They made their way across the plains with
the H.G. Park Company and arrived in Salt Lake City October 6th 1877. Brigham Young
sent them on to Spanish Fork to help settle that area. Great Grandfather Pitman
and his sons found work at the Winter Quarters coal mine near Scofield. Great Grandfather Pitman died from a stroke in
1884. Three of his sons, one son-in-law and two grandsons were killed in the Scofield Coal Mine explosion on May 1st 1900. They are all
buried in the Spanish Fork cemetery.
Thomas and Ellen Pitman Biggs who stayed behind in Wales had
ten more children, making a total of fourteen. Two of their children died in
infancy. My mother was their tenth child. After my Grandmother (Ellen Pitman)
received the news about her family she became a very sad and bitter woman. She
didn't want any more of her loved ones to leave Wales.
My Grandfather Biggs worked the coal mines. One day he got
hit on the head with a piece of coal. Afterward he was never well enough to work again. His
condition slowly deteriorated for the next ten years until he passed away in
My father William John Bendall and
his brother and 3 sisters were orphans. They were reared by kind Methodist or
Wesleyan church people named Werrett and Parfitt who lived at Varteg. Our
family always lived in the mining company's five houses. It was made of stone
with a slate roof and was called the Five Houses because it had living
accommodations for 5 families. My Grandmother and Grandfather Biggs and their
son, George (my mother's youngest brother) lived in one of the houses that had
a kitchen, a small pantry and 2 bedrooms. My parents, my sisters and brother and
I lived in another part that had a kitchen and 1 bedroom. We did not have water
piped into the houses, so we had to carry it from a well that was about a
quarter of a mile away.
Living in Wales, as
children were happy times. We
spent a lot time on the mountains with playmates. In the winter we had great
fun on our sleighs on the hillsides. At Christmastime we would gather the holly
that grew wild and sell it door to door for people to decorate their homes. For
Christmas sometimes we got one toy, an orange and nuts but most of the time we
were fortunate to set some stockings and a piece of fruit. On Christmas Day we
would go from home to home singing carols for which people would give money but
only to the first ones there. I always tried to be first. On New Years day the custom was the same except it was only for
the boys. It was considered lucky for a household if a boy was the first to
wish them Happy New Year. Often they paid boys for being first to welcome the
New Year into their houses. Again, I always did my best to be first.
On our birthdays Mother would make a big stack of pancakes
with currants and lots of sugar so they were juicy. We didn't have a lot of
worldly goods but we did have the necessities. We raised our own gardens and
had chickens, sheep and pigs. We made our fun as we went.
My father was the leader of a male choir. He often traveled with the men to
compete in an Eisteddfod in Blackpool. While there,
the men went swimming. Unknowingly, my father dived into the shallow end of the
pool and hit his head on the bottom. His injury was very serious and he was
never able to recover. The doctors didn't know of anything that done to help
either my grandfather or my father. The children living in the five houses had to watch the two sick
men. The children had to keep them from straying away and getting lost when
they suffered head pains caused from their accidents. Grandfather died in 1903
and my father died in 1910. Neither one had joined the LDS Church.
After my father died, we all moved in with Grandmother Biggs.
There was no assistance for widows in those days so my mother had to work very
hard at tiring jobs to support her family. She took in washing and did cleaning
along with wall papering for other families. All of us had to work in order to
survive. When Ellen would complain about having to work so hard our Uncle
George Biggs would tell her, “You haven't got a father so you have got to work
hard”. Children without fathers were looked down on.
My family joined the LDS Church in 1912. We were baptized at Llanover, Wales, in a canal that was a long way from our
home. The canal had locks, barges pulled by horses and other trade ships that
carried merchandise all the way to Newport and Cardiff
My father's brother sometimes preached in the Wesleyan church
and the Trinity Methodist
church. It seemed that after my family joined the LDS church, the Bendall's didn't have much to do with us. As we were
growing up we had many missionaries and church dignitaries on our home. Some of
them were David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith
and James E. Talmadge. Many times the missionaries
came to our homes soaked to the skin with rain and their clothes and shoes
covered with mud. While
they were sleeping my mother would clean, dry their clothes and polish their
shoes and they would get up to a hot breakfast.
Friday was always payday so our mother would do the grocery
shopping on that day. The
missionaries would come every weekend and were fed and cared for by our
family. On Monday most of the groceries would be gone and we would have to make
do with whatever we had for the rest of the week.
Fourteen was the legal age for children to join the work
force in Wales. At age 14 I left school and went to work in the coalmines, as
did my brother Tom. My sister Lily went to work as a domestic for the Hamblin
family that owned the local laundry. My sister
went into service as a Nanny and later as a domestic. She eventually obtained
work as a cook in a local teashop. Having her children work and contribute to
the family's care greatly
relieved my mother's burden.
After listening to the stories told by the missionaries, it
became my dream to go to Zion. I began saving all my extra money. I had a horse
named Bronco that I sold to the mining company for 30 dollars. This money
went into my savings for emigrating
to America. I volunteered to work double shifts at the mine in order to get the
money I needed. I would work the day shift and then Uncle George, who worked
the afternoon shift, would bring my lunch
and a fresh electric lamp. I had about an hour between shifts to eat and rest.
I finally had saved 300 dollars, enough for the trip, but I
still had to get my mother's approval. I was finally able to talk my mother
into letting me go by promising her that I would send her as much money as I
was giving her then and that I would send money for all of the family to
emigrate as soon as I could.
First I got a British Passport and had it signed by the
proper people. Next I got luggage which was a small trunk and a suitcase. I
bought all new clothes and even my first measured suit. I asked the tailor to
make it American style and put loops around the waist for the belt. I made
arrangements to sail on the Canadian Pacific Liner SS Montclair. I bid my
family goodbye in the Pontypool Railroad station
where I traveled by train to Liverpool. I stayed overnight in the Liverpool
Mission Home and ate at the table with President David O McKay. The next morning
on September 25 1923 the Montclair left for America. After 10 days at sea we
arrived in Quebec and from there I travelled by train across the country to
Salt Lake City, Utah—Zion.
I was met at the train in Salt Lake City by my Uncle Thomas
Biggs and his son from Winter Quarters and oh the sights they showed to me. It
was all so wonderful; the temple, tabernacle. Temple Square,
the organ, hearing the recitals, the electric train, the movies and the food.
It was all too magnificent to describe. I met lots of relatives in Salt Lake,
Springville and Spanish Fork. I rode to Winter Quarters in an American car, a
Dodge with open sides. Some of the roads were dirt but the scenery was
beautiful with all the different colored leaves, green pine trees and streams
of water trickling along the side of the road.
Next day I went to the mine office to get work. Bishop Parmley was Superintendent and Stan Harvey was
mine foreman. Mr. Harvey asked me a few questions about my experience and hired
me. I went to the mine office to get fitted for what I needed and the next
morning I began working.
I sent money home to my mother and in six months had enough
money saved to send for Lily. I sent money for Ellen to come in 1925 and for
Thomas in 1927. I wanted very much for my mother to come also but she had
married William F Griffiths. There was a depression in Wales at that time and
they decided it would be better for them to remain in Wales where Mr. Griffiths
has a good job and the promise of a pension. After Mr. Griffiths passed away my
mother emigrated to America in 1948 and lived the last
12 years of her life close to her children. When my mother finally arrived in
Zion she said that if she had known how far away she was sending her children
she would have never let them go.
On her arrival, Lily settled in Provo and lived with
Elizabeth Ramsbottom and worked in the Roberts Hotel.
Ellen also settled in Provo, living with the Day
family and working in the woolen mills. Within a month after Ellen arrived Lily
became very ill. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis. I sent her to a
sanatorium in Mesa, Arizona in the hopes that the warm dry air would help her
After a year in Arizona, Lily returned to Provo in April, her
health little improved. She lived with Ellen Pittman and John Harris, her
cousins who I paid to care for her. On the last day of April, Lily went to the
Salt Lake Temple and took out her own endowments. She went all alone and seemed
very happy. Following the temple session she went to the Primary Children's
Hospital where Ruth and Mabel Forward worked. They all had lunch together and Ruth and Mabel walked
with Lily to the train for her return trip to Provo. The next morning Lily was much worse. She never got
out of bed again. I asked Ellen to quit her job and move in with the Harris's
and help them take care of Lily.
One day one of Lily's friends visited her and read Lily her patriacharal blessing. It said the Lily had much to live
for. But Lily answered, “It is not to happen here. It will come to me in the
next life”. One time Lily told John that she had seen her father and
grandmother and other people she knew and they were in a most beautiful place.
Lily said that she wanted to stay with them in that place but she kept being
called back and now she would have to wait longer. After that the Harris's
didn't administer to Lily again. She passed away on May 26 1926 and was buried
in the Spanish Fork cemetery.
TRIBUTE TO OUR
We, Ellen and Tom wish to express our thanks to our Grandmother
Biggs. Now we are older we
realize what she put up with. After rearing 12 of her own children
in just a very small 3 roomed house, in her old age she helped care for us and
let us live with her. We think she is a Saint of the rarest kind.
Also, we now realize the many sacrifices of our dear brother,
George. After not seeing Ellen for nine months after she arrived in America,
George's first question to her was “How much money have
you saved?” That is all he had done in his early life—save to give to someone
else. We are very thankful that we had a brother like George.
We want to pay tribute to our Mother for all of her
sacrifices. She worked hard for other people in order to keep her family
together and provide them with the necessities. We had a happy life in Wales.
We didn't have too many
material things but we had lots of love for each other…….and even more as we
grow older. Thanks to all of you for your love and sacrifices in our behalf
Ellen and Tom
(Ellen Bendall Olsen and Thomas Bendall)