History of the Robert Bodily Family
Taken from a History of James Bodily
Received from his daughter, Orpha B. Bronson
Robert Bodily was born 30 Dec 1815 at Blakesley, Northamptonshire, England. Jane Pittam Bodily was born 2 Nov 1816 in the same town. Robert was born about the same time the Napoleonic war ended. Robert Bodily belonged to the middle class of England and like most of that group was ambitious to advance his family in society. When Robert and his wife were about thirty years of age, they with their two sons left England about the year 1845-1846, for the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa.
About this time the government wanted mechanics and stone masons to fortify the Cape. Robert saw a chance to better himself by accepting the call of the government in South Africa; as he was a brick layer, stone mason, stonecutter, and plasterer. At Cape Town he did masonry and brick laying until about the year 1848. The town then had a population of about 10,000.
Robert and his family moved from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth had a population of 5,000 to 6,000 people, and was situated in eastern South Africa. At the point of Table Mountain just north of Cape Town and when the winds blew, the clouds settled down on the mountain so it looked like a table cloth spread over a table. During the time they lived in Port Elizabeth Robert Bodily worked at his trade as a mason.
They moved from Port Elizabeth to a small place called Dry Fountain and remained there for about six months. Each move he made, he went to a smaller community with less advantage, but with a better chance for one who is interested in the welfare of his family. His wife was willing to go where he went and she encouraged him in his work.
Robert Bodily took a government grant consisting of about 12,000 morgans (a morgan contains about 1-1/4 acres) which required him to maintain a public house for the accommodation of travelers, and also a wagon and blacksmith shop so the traveler could repair their wagons as they traveled through the country. This grant was situated on Bushman’s River about midway between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, a small town of about 3,000 people.
Robert and Jane Bodily were staunch members of the Church of England, and were now out in the world away from the church. Before leaving England Robert was a member of the Choir of the Church.
Bushman’s River was a very sparsely settled country with not many neighbors. Brother and Sister Bodily were a prayerful people and they taught their children to observe and respect the principles of the Church of England.
They became acquainted with a dear friend, John Stock, who lived in Port Elizabeth and who used to make a practice of visiting them about Christmas time every year. He affected their lives more than anyone whom they had ever met. Brother Stock had met the Mormon Elders and had been converted to the Mormon Church. He endeavored to convert Brother and Sister Bodily to his faith, but was unable to do so at this time.
The first Mormon Elders sent to Africa were Jesse Haven, Leonard I. Smith, and William Walker. They were sent to Africa about 1855 or 1856.
About the year 1857 the Elders were sent to Bushman’s River by Brother Stock, to visit the Bodily family. The Elders stopped over night with the family. They talked until a late hour about the scriptures. Sister Bodily, a great Bible student, produced many scriptures in support of her own faith, but the Elders took the same scriptures and used them in defense of their own cause. The Elders left the next morning on horseback, was the way they traveled, and upon their departure Brother Bodily presented them with a purse and some money. He was now considered a rich man; he accumulated wealth rapidly while he lived at Bushman’s River. He had large herds of cattle and many acres of land.
The Elders were gone about a month, then returned and stopped again over night with the family. This time Sister Bodily had lots of scriptures to present to them, and they talked until late in the night. Brother Bodily employed a good number of hands, and they with their families studied and pondered over the instructions of the Elders. The result was, that about the latter part of the year Brother Bodily wrote to his friend, Brother Stock who was at this time president of the Port Elizabeth Branch, to come and baptize him, along with his wife; their three sons, William, Robert, and James, as well as some of the work hands. Brother Bodily was put in charge of the Little Company to be baptized by Brother Stock in Bushman’s River. Brother Bodily’s family immediately began to make preparations to come to America to the land of Zion in Utah.
Country houses in Africa were all built with shed roofs on account of the terrible winds that visited the country. In Port Elizabeth there were no large blocks as like we have here today and along Bushman’s River the houses had thatched roofs.
Several Black tribes lived near Bushman’s River. The Hottentots, a short people worked as teamsters and most any kind of work; the Kaffirs, a hardy stalwart people and hardly ever shorter than six feet, herded cattle and sheep, but did not engage in farming. They were a great deal like the American Indians only better looking and they did differently. They gathered seeds of different kinds. They had a flat rock which they used to grind the seed and make a dough, then they made a fire on the ground, and when it had been there long enough for the ground to be hot, they scraped away the coals, put the dough where the fire was, then pulled the coals over the dough and made another fire, and in this way they cooked the dough.
The Hottenntots ate their meat where they killed it. When they killed a cow they tied ropes on its hind and front feet and stretched it out then cut a hole in its stomach while it was alive and tormented it to death, and made it bawl as much as they could. After they tormented it to death, they cut off a strip, gave it a shake to get rid of the blood and then ate it.
There were no saw mills or flour mills and only one grist mill in Africa. The people ate brown bread made by the grist mills until later when flour and bread were imported from America. Some of the more financially well off bought white flour to have what they called white bread on Sunday. White flour was very expensive. They made most bread from sour dough and baked it in a bade oven as they had no stoves, until Robert Bodily made a brick oven. Inside of this a fire was made and when it was very hot, all of the coals and ashes were scraped out and the bread was put in. It was then closed tight and the bread was baked from the heat. The other cooking utensils such as pots and pans were made of cast iron. Nearly every kind of vegetable was grown by the people. They did not have much fruit until later years, then there were oranges, lemons, pears, peaches, and apricots, but not many apples and what there were, were of a poor class. The Africans cultivated their crops but little, and harvested with a sickle.
Clothing was all imported from England and the styles originated there. The clothes were made of English broadcloth, calico and the like, some plain and some plaid.
Before Robert Bodily’s family left Africa the hoops were introduced there from America. Young people had little chance for an education unless their parents were able to give them private tutors; fortunately Robert was able to do this for his family, as for amusement the youth had to provide for their own. The younger hunted bird nests among the trees, wild animals abounded in the jungle near where they lived; monkeys, baboons, goatspeci, (a goat about twice as large as the common hare), another a little larger called the grey-stem-back, a yet larger one an awful runner is the diker, one still larger called the bush buck which is the size of a good deer. Wolves, jackals tigers and snakes of all kinds, some twelve to fifteen feet long, but the large black ones were not dangerous. One big yellow variety climbs in a tree over a trail and watches for deer. When they come along the trail the snake drops down and wraps itself around the deers; stomach and pulls him into the tree. They squeeze the life out of the deer and eat what they want. Other varieties of snakes are: the Puff-adders, Rencles, a big black snake, and the boa constrictor. The latter when coiled is as big as the hind wheel of a wagon. As long as a person is in front of a Puff Adder there is no danger as their teeth are hooked and they have to throw themselves backward to hook their teeth into anything.
The old English money was used in Africa and for common labor the people would receive three shillings a day (about seventy-two cents) while mechanics receive five or six shillings a day.
Brother Bodily was considered a wealthy man at the time he joined the Church and decided to come to America. He with his family spent one month in Port Elizabeth before sailing for America. Most of their time was spent in fishing. They started for America in a sailing vessel called the Alacrity, under charge of Captain Cooper on 22 March 1860. There were few saints in Africa, but what few there were gave to the Little Company who were leaving for America a farewell. Farewells were not the custom then as they are now.
Brother Bodily was financially well off and he assisted several of the saints in crossing the ocean. The company on the ship numbered about forty. They sailed from Port Elizabeth and went by way of Cape Town and St. Helena. They stopped at Cape Town over night and the boys went fishing for sharks. They caught several but the largest was not more than two feet long. There were so many sharks in the bay of Cape Town that it was very unsafe to go in swimming.
St. Helena island, the place where Napoleon was buried was their second stopping place. A baby girl was born there the night they stopped. The Malay people of the island fished with a harpoon and used shrimp for bait to catch the mackerel. A harpoon is a little steel with a hook on the end; it will go into the fish but will not come out.
After they left St. Helena, James (Robert’s son) got his fishing line and sat on the back of the ship fishing for a shark that had been following them. One day as he was trying to get a bite the captain came out and called What ya doin here, ya little brat? James told him and the captain called the sailors and they got a piece of pork fat and put it on the shark hook. Immediately Mr. Shark grabbed it; the sailors had a big rope and as they pulled the shark aboard they sang their song Pull away, Pull away. The shark flopped and jerked and kept knocking against the cabin with its tail, making it very hard to get him on board for he was a big fellow twelve feet long.
The steward on the ship did all the cooking. He cooked such foods as we have today: Pork, beans, salted and pickled beef, potatoes, vegetables and sea biscuits. The sea biscuits are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and the size of a plate. They are very hard until dipped into coffee or tea. They resemble soda crackers only much larger. They kept them in a barrel until they crossed the sea. The steward fried fish for those who caught them. James enjoyed himself by setting out on the ship fishing. One day while fishing by a man named William Stokes, who before joining the Church was a sailor, asked him what he was doing out there all alone. James told him that the was trying to catch a fish. Brother Stokes took the line and put a piece of white cloth on it where the bait was, put it in the water, gave the line a jerk, and he had a fish. He soon had eight dolphin which are choice fish. One morning when they awoke, as far as they could see whales bounded and played in the water. The captain said that if one hit the ship with its tail it would sink it.
They encountered storms at sea and some were severe. Once they came near running onto a large rock hidden under the water. They were going 15 or 20 knots; the captain saw the rock and ran out shouting About ship which means to turn the ship about. He later explained that if they had gone on for about 15 minutes longer there would have been a big wreck. The passengers watched the paupos, a sea animal which is a good deal like a clumsy pig and the size of a yearling calf. They lived in the ocean and go in droves. They bounced up and down showing nearly their entire body. The flying fish also went in droves like the black birds do. They flew until their wings got dried out and they would drop into the sea again; some of them alighting on the ship and Robert dried two or three of them and brought them to Utah to show the people.
The voyage lasted for about three months, for one week of that time they had a calm sea and the boat stood still, not a breath of air was on the sea. From the time they left Port Elizabeth until they reached Boston they crossed the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas and the Atlantic ocean. When they started form Port Elizabeth the sun was in the North, but the night the crossed the equator the sailors brought a lot of water and filled some tubs, they had everybody who had not crossed the line, especially the young people, sit on a board which they had put across the tubs. Neptune was supposed to appear to them as they crossed the line, then they were introduced into the other part of the world by having the board pulled from under them and being dunked into the water. Some took it as a joke and others got very angry, therefore the sun was to the south of them.
There was a very sick woman on the ship, she was Sister Sandall. The captain said the shark that was following them was a sign that she was going to die before they landed, but the fish was caught and she lived. She came to America and Utah some years later died in Kaysville.
Three nationalities are represented in Robert Bodily’s family: English, African, and American. Lucy Matilda, the baby born when they stopped at St. Helena had been declared an American because she first set foot on American soil. They had a pleasant and enjoyable trip. Word had gone out that a ship load of Africans were going to land in Boston harbor; the impression among the people were that the Africans were all colored people. The docks were crowded with people to see the colored people land, but to their surprise the Africans were all white but of different nationalities.
From Boston they went by train to St. Joseph on the Missouri River. This was the first time some of the children had been on a train, and soon after they boarded it two stalwart Indians boarded it also. They were the first Indians the children had ever seen. The little company went from St. Joseph by boat up to Florence Nebraska where they stopped and fitted out a train to cross the plains.
As the boys had been reared with cattle and understood them they were given the responsibility of driving two yoke of cattle across the plains and they had an enjoyable time while crossing. Every night the wagons were circled to form a corral, the tongues of the wagons on the inside, and the company always had prayers night and morning. They travelled in President Budge’s company and as they came up the Platte river a native of the Poenuce Indians travelled with them for a week. The company killed several cows for the Indians to eat. The Poenuces said they were coming to fight the Crow Indians. The company had no trouble with Indians and to furnish amusement Robert Bodily put up a stick on the ground 50 or 75 or one hundred paces off from the group, he put a dime on the stick and the one who shot it off could keep it.
Brother Bodily fitted out five families to cross the plains, and his son James drove for two old maids. The company saw buffaloes, elk, deer, and many other wild game while crossing the plains.
At this time the Church was in need of funds to aid in immigration and unless funds could be raised, the immigrants would have to stop over until spring. Brother Bodily gave George Q. Cannon $2,000.00 to aid in immigration and he brought forty head of cattle and five horses into the valley. Brother Cannon promised him he would get his money back when they got into the valley, but they didn’t have money at the tithing office to let him have and they didn’t have flour so he could get his winter supply, so he had to look somewhere else. In the spring he went to see President Brigham Young and made the Church a present of the money. President Young asked him if he gave it with a good feeling, and the reply was that he dared not give it any other way. President Young slapping his hand on his shoulder said God bless you, Brother Bodily, but you will go down to the bed rocks, but you’ll never see the day when you shall have no bread, and your children after you shall have no bread. A few days after this Brother Bodily met Apostle Cannon and he asked him if he had received his money. Brother Bodily told him what he had done and Brother Cannon slapped his hand on the same place as the President had and said the same words the President has said. Robert marveled at them saying the very same thing.
The Bodily children’s first experience with snow was the night they camped at Little Mountain, east of Salt Lake City, Utah. They came down out of Emigration Canyon into the valley in Salt Lake on 5 October 1860; they had travelled nearly an entire year. When they first entered the valley flour cost $6.00 a hundred pounds and after the mines opened in Montana flour sold for $24.00 a hundred, and for wheat they received only $5.00 a bushel.
Brother Bodily sent his cattle to Grantsville to be wintered and the next spring when the cattle returned he had only seven left out of forty. They used to meet in March to prepare to send boys back after immigrants. Brother Bodily always sent a team and sometimes he sent a team, wagon and hay. Three times in the spring he had only one ox but he had faith and always managed to send a team back and have a team to do his farm work.
The Bodily family lived in Salt Lake City until June 1861, when he sold his place and moved to Kaysville. He left Salt Lake because he had a large family and only a small place and he had a chance to buy a place in Kaysville at a cheap price. Brother and Sister Bodily spent the rest of their days in Kaysville. Brother Bodily died of pneumonia 15 April 1892 and his wife Jane died 22 September 1904.