My mother had a special love for her Freestone grandparents and longed to see her grandfather, George Freestone, who lived so far away with his second wife and family, in the Uintah Basin of Utah. In her journal she mentioned his name with reverence, and wished she could see “that tender hearted, soft-spoken, very kind man” again.
George Freestone was the eldest of nine children born to Thomas and Ann Fall Freestone. George came into the world on Prince Edward Island near beautiful Nova Scotia on 13 August 1838. His parents had been farming there, but when George was two years old they pulled up stakes and moved to Hayden County, Ohio in the United States. In about 1850, the family joined the Church and prepared to join the Saints heading for the West. They struggled through the fall to reach Mt. Pisgah, where they wintered in uncomfortable shelters; then on in the spring to winter quarters, where they immediately joined a company leaving for the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived at their destination in September 1853. They settled in Alpine (then “Mountain Valley) in northern Utah County.
George found himself, as a fifteen year-old, driving four yoke of oxen on a heavy freight wagon to the Utah Territory. His younger brother, James, later wrote that he had driven sheep 1,000 miles barefooted across the Plains. “In Alpine,” George wrote, “between 1855 and 1856, I spent about half of my time building forts to fight against the Indians and half my time killing crickets.” The family struggled against these odds to make a living. Then in 1858, they lost their father when he was killed by Indians.
In 1861, George was employed hauling stone for the Salt Lake Temple. On Christmas Eve’ that year, twenty-three year-old George married Alice Carlisle, a twenty-six year-old divorcee. Alice had been born in England in 1835, had come to America with her family, but had made her own way at age seventeen across the Plains. Soon after arriving in Salt Lake City, she married the captain of the immigrant company, Mr. David Wilkins. Mr. Wilkins, a prominent and faithful member of the Church, already had two wives, was twice Alice’s age and married Alice and another woman the same day in the Endowment House. He and Alice had three children together. But then Wilkins fell into a disagreement with church authorities, left the Church, and his then six wives and their families, and went away to California. Heartbroken, Alice divorced him, and suffered the shame that a divorce carried with it in that day. A more complete record of the short life of Alice Carlisle and her forebears will be found soon on this website.
During the seven years after their marriage, four little girls were born to George Freestone and Alice. My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Freestone, was the second of these. One week after the last child was born, near the seventh anniversary of their marriage, Alice died. She was only thirty-three years old, but had borne seven children. This was in the day when babies were born at home and the need for sanitation was not always met. She likely died of a staph infection. Alice’s death left George alone with the four little girls and Alice’s three slightly-older children. Somehow he provided for them for the next four years, apparently with a great deal of help from relatives and friends. During the years in Alpine, George was very active in the Sunday School and was a superintendent. He also became a captain in the local militia and fought in the Blackhawk Indian war of 1866.
In 1872, at age 34, George married a Danish immigrant girl, Jennie Lind, only seventeen years old and not yet able to speak English. Jennie had been born on 26 March 1855 in Aalsborg, Juland, Denmark, to Jens Christian Anton Lind and Mary Ann Nielson. Jennie Lind and her mother moved with George to Franklin Meadows, an almost uninhabited area about six miles north and west of where Preston now sits, near the Idaho border. Of their seven children, they apparently took with them only eight year-old Mary Elizabeth, the writer’s grandmother. Soon after they arrived in their new home, George Oscar was born at Bridgeport, Oneida County, Idaho, followed by Georgiana Maria (called Jenny), and then Rosella Caroline. Little Jenny died at age four, shortly before the family left for the Ashley Valley in Eastern Utah in 1879.
George had loved the virgin Idaho land, the small cattle ranch he owned and the hunting and fishing that abounded. But it must have become too crowded for him. After seven years, George and Jennie Lind, George’s third daughter, Rhoda, and Jennie’s two small children moved to Vernal, the newest settlement in the Uintah Basin of eastern Utah, just starting to be settled. My grandmother, Mary, now age fifteen, and two younger sisters stayed behind in Alpine, to live for a year with their Aunt Rhoda.
The first year (1879-1880) wintering in Ashley Valley, all but one of the cattle froze to death. The family was very happy when one surviving cow showed up with her calf, and provided them with a source of milk. They subsisted on flour they had brought with them and wild game that George shot. They lived in a one room log house with a sod roof, a dirt floor, three windows and a split log door. Only candles were available for light. The winter became more bleak when diphtheria struck. All the children were sick, but none died. A new baby was also born in this primitive situation. The next year the crops were good. The third year George raised 3,000 bushels of grain. It was a tough pioneer life in the new home, but they overcame the wilderness and made their way.
Although a frontiersman by nature, George was progressive. According to his own account, he was the first farmer in that valley to fence his farm, and to build a frame house. This one was of two stories and seven rooms, and was still standing in Vernal many years later. George brought the first stand of bees and the first twine binder into the area. He also established a nursery which supplied shade and fruit trees for other settlers for years. He was active this time in the stake Sunday School of the Wasatch Stake, which had its headquarters in Heber City, many miles away. George was also very literate, sometimes wrote a good journal, poetry and occasional stories. One of these stories was written in his old age for the Primary children, and provides some insights:
The years 1855-56 were grasshopper years when the hoppers ate up most everything green and the Indians were threatening. . . .I think I spent half of the time building forts. . . and the other half killing crickets. . . . .Once I took some hard-earned money and went to Salt Lake to buy some clothes. First of all I wanted a hat like one of my chums had, with a high crown and a wide brim. . . Next was a red handerkerchief. . . No young man was in full evening dress without a red handekerchief knotted around his neck; also a belt, a scabbard and a butcher knife around his waist to protect him from the Indians. . . . One day the wind was blowing hard and I had on my beautiful cowboy hat, and it kept blowing off. I pulled it extra hard to make it stay on, and off came the brim, and there I stood, a sight to behold! Shoeless feet, armless shirt, and a rimless hat, with a red handkerchief around my neck! I was discouraged. The best part of my $5.00 hat gone and my prospects in life ruined, as far as I could see!
When the Uintah stake was created and the wards divided, George became bishop of the Vernal Ward and served for eleven years. When released, at age fifty-six, he left for a two-year mission to the British Isles. The following delightful account is taken from his diary:
“Feb. 28, 1894. A beautiful morning. I walked to Flixton, the old Freestone homestead, about three miles from cousin James’ place, where Father and his brothers and cousins were born. There is a little church there built of flint stones and gravel cemented together. It stands upon a hill and belongs to the Church of England. It has a tower and a spire on which stands a rooster. In the churchyard lie my grandfather and grandmother, but no tombstones mark their graves. Just below the hill stood the house where they once lived and died, but it is gone now and another takes its place. The country around is very beautiful, being covered with many groves of trees. I returned the way I came, and many curious thoughts filled my mind.”
The mission ended with George’s release shown on the certificate, May 13, 1896.
Counting his first four children by Alice Carlisle, George eventually had fifteen children “born to me.” He died on 26 August 1920 at age 82, and was buried in Vernal. Six of his sons served as pallbearers. Jennie died on 30 August 1936 at age 81, having lived in the Valley for forty years.
The children of George Bardsley and his two wives are as follows, according to new.familysearch.org Remarkably for this time in history, of his own fifteen children and three step-childen (eighteen in all) all but two survived to adulthood and married.
Children of George Freestone and Alice Jane Carlisle:
- Alice Jane (named for her mother) born 14 October 1862 (married John Howard Bawden)
- Mary Elizabeth, born 24 August 1864 (married Harrison Davenport Maughan)
- Rhoda Eliza, born 25 July 1866 (married Beldon Moroni Reynolds)
- Esther Drucilla, born 26 November 1868 (Died at age 8 in Alpine, Utah 4 January 1877)
Children of Alice Jane Carlisle and David Wilkin:
- Jeannette Young, born 6 March 1855 (married Samuel Wright Brown)
- Jedediah Grant, born 16 March 1857 (married Martha Hannah Healey)
- Richard Joseph Carlisle, born 3 April 1859 (married Mary Lettie Wright)
Children of George Freestone and Jenny Eramina Lind:
- George Oscar, born 15 June 1873 (married Mary Ella Holliday)
- Georgiana Maria, born 10 May 1875 (Died at age 4 in Idaho, 11 May 1879)
- Rosella Caroline, born 10 September 1877 (married Peter Stephen Beck)
- James Anton, born 3 April 1880 (married Emily Vilate Batty)
- Emma Zina, born 22 January 1883 (married James Warren Beers)
- Louis Alonzo, born 17 October 1885 (married Elmaide Louise LeBeau)
- Rueben Thomas, born 11 April 1888 (married Adora Elvira Batty)
- Emery Lind, born 30 August 1890 (married Ida Vilate Crouse)
- Charles Royal, born 19 April 1893 (married Ruby May Long)
- May Afton, born 26 May 1895 (married Fredrick Graham Druliard)
- Clarence Fall, born 26 February 1898 (married Cora Hardy)