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Charlotte Burgum and Fredrick Weight - the Mormon Connection

Fredrick Weight was born on 18th June 1828 at Stroud, in Gloucestershire, England. He married Charlotte Burgum, of the AA family tree in Bristol, England, in 1849. They both became Mormons and undertook a perilous journey across the Atlantic, then across America to find the Promised Land. Here is their story…

Charlotte Burgum was born on 12th October 1828, at Wick and Abson, near Bristol. Charlotte's parents were John and Elizabeth Burgum (nee Sawyer) and they had five other children - Samuel, Elizabeth, Ann, Henry and Thomas. John was born 26th May 1783, also in the parish of Wick and Abson and had married Elizabeth Sawyer 16th September 1819. John had worked as a forgeman, working iron. John's parents were John and Sarah Burgum (nee Summerville). John (Senior) had also been an iron worker and was born at Flaxley, in the Forest of Dean, close to where I now live. [John (Senior) was my Great-great-great-great-great-grandfather!]

John (Senior) and Sarah had other children - Henry, Thomas, Martha (possibly two daughters of that name) and Samuel. Their first son Henry was my Great-great-great-great-grandfather! He was also born at Wick and Abson. Confusingly, John (Senior)'s father was also named John (born 1731) and married someone called Sarah! That John's parents were Thomas and Ann Burgum, both of whom lived and died in Flaxley. Thomas was born in 1679!!!!
Fredrick Weight was born to James and Ann Foukes Weight in 1828. His father was a blacksmith by trade and they had six children. After a time in Cheltenham, the family moved to Bristol. From the age of ten, Fred did several jobs. He worked as a mason tender, a plasterer and an errand boy for a Doctor, before working in a tobacco factory. Eventually he worked at the Iron works, working in the same shop as his father for seven years. It was about this time that he became acquainted with Charlotte Burgum. Fred would often see his "intended" as many as six times a day, as he passed her house to and from work.

Music played a significant part in Fred’s life, with he and his brothers singing and playing in concerts together. He sang the bass, while his brother Martin took the treble, Alfred the alto, and James, the tenor. His sisters, Athaliah and Amelia, also sang with them. He would work ten hours every day and practice from one to three hours. Fredrick arose at 4:00 am and practiced for two hours, then went to his work at 6:00, practiced thirty minutes at noon, leaving just thirty minutes in which to eat his dinner. He then went back to work until 5:30, and after returning home, ate his supper. He walked to music meetings - four miles there, and four miles back, twice weekly, with his violin-cello under his arm. He kept this up for three or four years.

Fredrick Weight was very religious and joined a religious sect called the Independents at the age of 15. He attended the chapel on Anvil Street, in the parish of St Phillip and Jacobs, in Bristol. Charlotte was also a member. At one time he attended eight meetings every Sunday. Two prayer meetings before breakfast, Sunday School at 9:00am, Divine service at 10:00, Sunday School again at 2:00pm, prayer meeting at 5:30, Divine Service at 6:00, then a prayer meeting at 8:00pm. Times were hard and Fred often found himself out of work, as did his father. At age twenty he felt restless and unsettled. He also had grown unhappy with his church. About this time his brother James went to hear the Latter-Day-Saints preach and was soon baptized into their Church. Over time, whole family became drawn to the Mormon religion.

Charlotte and Fred attended a Conference of the Mormon Church held at Newport, in Wales, crossing the River Severn on the morning tide. Fred and his brothers had been invited to play their instruments and to sing. Charlotte was baptized into the Mormon church the next day, while Fred continued to struggle with his religious conscience. He converted a few days later. Having joined the Church of the Latter-Day-Saints, Fred decided to leave England and go to America. Charlotte Burgum and he were married on Sunday 18th August 1849. He was 21 years of age, his wife four months younger. They were married in the Broad Street Chapel in the Parish of St Phillips and Jacobs, Bristol.

A week later they set sail for Liverpool, a distance of some five hundred miles around the Welsh coast. They sailed in a dory steam packet known as the “Town of Wexford” which was used to import pigs. There was no accommodation for passengers, and some had to share the hold with the pigs! There were eight adult Latter Day Saints and several children. The journey to Liverpool was stormy, with the sea dashing over the sides of the steamer. Charlotte was badly sea-sick. Finally, Fred secured a sailor’s birth for a half-crown. It reeked with filth, oil and grease and poor Charlotte vomited constantly. Fred nursed her with a slop basin as she was too weak to help herself. The weather improved on the third day as they passed the Mumbles, near Swansea and on day four they arrived at Holyhead. Only cold food, brought with them, was all they had to eat. Charlotte continued to be ill. They finally arrived in Liverpool after a passage of five days and five nights. They hired a bed for one night (paying one shilling and sixpence) before boarding their ship to America. However, it did not sail for three days. About seven hundred souls sailed on the sailing vessel, the “North American”, with Captain Cook as commander.

Fredrick and Charlotte sailed out of Liverpool on 3rd September 1849, down the River Mersey into the Irish Channel with a fair wind. Fredrick describes the journey -

“My wife was feeling much better and busied herself arranging our personal belongings in our berth, trying to make things as comfortable as she could. We had fine weather in the Channel the first day. While the men were fixing the spars up in the rigging a heavy spar, about twenty feet long and six inches through, fell endways, striking the deck with much force that the end went right on though, making a four inch hole right through to the berths below. Fortunately no one was hurt, even though there were hundreds of people on the deck. This was an act of Providence.

We had fine weather for about four or five days and were able to hold meetings on deck and administer the sacrament. The second day we had a wedding on deck. Our berths were mid-ship, right under the hatchway. After about a week, bad weather really came on. The ship began to rock and roll and the waves began to swell, making us all seasick again. This was a dreadful feeling - I was sick seven days and my wife was ill most all the time keeping to her bed all during that time. The ship rolled from side to side, loosening our boxes and causing them to roll also. We could not stand on our feet. The berths began to give way and some of them came down - occupants and all. The pots and kettles rolled about the deck, people were vomiting, children crying, some praying, some singing, and some of the most fearful, moaning.

We were locked down under the deck without any light and remained in this condition for two days and nights with very little to eat or drink. The vessel rolled so much that we could get no rest day or night. On the third day it began to abate, so they unlocked the hatchways and allowed us to have a little daylight, for which we were all very thankful. We began to clean up our beds and berths and many other things that did not smell so sweet. We went on deck for a good wash and some fresh air. I shall never forget that time - seven hundred people all crowded together in a ship between decks and locked down with no light. This ship rolled and tossed about like a cork in a wash tub and we were unable to get out as there was no back door from which to escape. If the vessel had gone down we should all have been smothered to death before we ever reached the bottom. But I had no fears for we were obeying the word of the Lord in getting out of Babylon, according to the word of the Lord.

We ran into headwinds after this, which drove us back and off our course several hundred miles. We tacked ship several times. We held meetings on deck when the weather would permit, as most of us had overcome our seasickness by now and were beginning to feel better. We had two marriages, two births, and two deaths. One old lady about seventy years of age, died and was thrown into the sea with a piece of iron anchored to her feet. A child died also, and was buried in the same manner. We now began to get into the trade winds, making sailing very smooth at about ten knots per hour. The sea was very rough but it did not hamper our sailing; however, when we reached the West Indies we were becalmed. The weather was very hot, melting the pitch on deck, and it poured over our beds. We remained in this condition for almost two weeks, the sea being as smooth as glass with the ship standing still on the water. Everything was as still as a little boat on a still pond.”

Eventually the winds began to blow and the ship experienced several storms. At times, passengers and crew thought they might be lost. Charlotte had been very ill during the entire journey across the sea, catching a severe cold from which she never completely recovered, and which later was the cause of her death. Having reached New Orleans, the ship dropped anchor at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The next morning they were towed up the river. The journey had taken eight weeks and two days! Later a large and powerful steamboat called the "Sultana" arrived to take them up river to St Louis. The accommodations were again very poor in steerage and they had to cook, eat and sleep as best they could.

Fredrick and Charlotte arrived in St. Louis in the month of November 1849, about six days journey from New Orleans. Fred rented two rooms in the basement of a house for $4.00 per month. Charlotte was very ill now having been exposed to cold and privations on the steam boat. The weather was very cold and winter was coming. They had no furniture, no fuel, no light, no money, and nothing to eat. Charlotte lay sick on the floor, unable to help herself. Fredrick found work hard to come by but managed to buy a bedstead and sold a pair of boots, which he had brought with him from England, for an old stove. He worked in a sugar factory for a few weeks, then worked in a foundry. Charlotte was feeling much better and could do her own housework.

Fredrick was appointed to lead the choir in the Latter-Day Saints meetings, a place which he held as long as they stayed in St. Louis. The Mormon meetings were held in Concert Hall on Market Street each Sunday. They remained in St. Louis for two years. Eventually Fredrick found a steady job at the Eagle Foundry. He kept that job for a year earning $8.50 per week. Fredrick began to save. They began planning for their journey across the plains to Utah. Provisions were relatively cheap, with mutton five cents per pound and bacon two or three cents. On the 8th January 1852 Charlotte gave birth to a son, Martin Burgum Weight (Martin died 19th July 1919). Already frail, the experience weakened her further.

In the spring of 1852 Fredrick bought a light wagon and a yoke of cows with which to cross the plains. His brother had arrived from England and took the team to Council Bluffs, a distance of 500 miles with a large company. Fredrick and Charlotte, with their infant son, went up the Missouri River by steam boat. Again the experience was not a pleasant one. Arriving at Council Bluffs, Fredrick found wagon broken and one of his cows had died. They had no home, no provisions, very little money, one cow, a sick wife, and a three month old baby. Fred sold his wagon, the cow and his outfit and used the money to buy passage with a fellow Mormon. He walked most of the way, a distance of 1,013 miles! They left the Missouri behind them and began their journey on the 9th June, 1852, to cross the mighty plains with oxen and wagons, taking provisions to last about three or four months. The company was made up of fifty wagons with one head Captain over all, (Captain Howell).
Fredrick and Charlotte traveled in the first company of ten, in the second wagon. Divided into companies - ten wagons to a company with a captain over each ten. They traveled about ten or twelve miles the first day, then camped for the night. The wagon, belonging to Brother Brain, contained three women, two men, and four children. They averaged fifteen or twenty miles each day. Charlotte was too weak to do anything, so Fred had to take care of his sick wife, help look after the baby, cook, wash for his wife, do camp duties and take turn at standing guard. Charlotte had no milk for her baby, making it necessary to feed him on cow’s milk from a bottle, which was a great trial as they no longer had a cow of our own. Fred would go around the camp every morning to get milk for his son.
The travelers held meetings on Sundays and laid over to rest. Sometimes they had a little dance in the evenings when things went well. Fred drove an ox team 500 miles and walked all the way with bare feet, through mud holes and creeks, and waded through rivers, over rough rocks, prickly pears and hot. Charlotte remained very ill and very weak, finding it difficult to look after her baby. She was too weak to wash and dress him herself. They arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the 15th September, 1852. The journey had taken four months.

Fredrick arrived in Salt Lake City (picture right) with a sick wife, a six month old baby, 25¢, and knew no one. He set to finding shelter and work. It was cold and miserable and Charlotte was gradually getting worse. Fred found a house which was owned by Sister Dalton and she consented to care for her, but she still became worse. One time Brigham Young came to visit her and administered to her, at which time he promised her that she would improve and be able to come and have her endowments. Fred finally found work on the Public Works and came to see his wife every night. Consumption had set in and
Charlotte was nothing but skin and bone. She suffered a great deal and just five weeks after they arrived in Salt Lake City she passed away. She died 22nd October, 1852, at the age of 23. They had been married about three years and two months.

Fredrick Weight describes how he felt -
“I felt terrible and cried without ceasing for half a day, until I could cry no more, but I felt worse - there she lay dead in the midst of strangers and there was I without one cent of money with which to bury her. I went to the president of public works telling him of my situation, who let me have $5.00 with which to purchase her burial clothes, and I got her casket at the public works. One of the carpenters made it and I paid him $9.00. It is impossible to describe my feelings at this time for I felt the loss of my wife very deeply.”

Fred paid Sister Dalton with his wife’s clothes to take care of his son. He worked at the Public works for about three or four years, helping to dig the foundation for the Salt Lake Temple and cut stone for it. He was present when Brigham Young broke the ground. Winter was coming on now and Fred had found a place to board for the winter and paid for it with work. He had no clothes but those he stood up in. The winter was harsh. Many a night he crept into bed almost frozen, the snow being on it when he retired. He lived on bread, potatoes, and crust coffee, and was very glad to get that. He earned a few dollars playing at parties and occasionally got his supper too. He paid $1.50 per week for the care of his son whenever he could. Eventually he was able to purchase a city lot located in the 11th ward, which he wished to fence. Fred almost lost his life, venturing three times to Big Cottonwood Canyon to get fence poles. He then purchased a wagon box and put it on the lot, living in it all that summer. He worked around from one job to another and finally completed one room of he first house he had ever owned in his life.

Fred met and married Mary Millns, in Salt Lake City, on the 7th January, 1854. He took her to his house, but there was no bed, no stove, and no cooking utensils with which to cook, but one frying pan. They had two tin plates, an old bedstead, some bed clothes, a big factory sack with a few corn shucks in it for a mattress, two three-legged stools, one fork, one knife, and one spoon. That was all their earthly possessions. During the year of 1854, the grasshoppers came and devoured all the crops, eating every green thing. They took every bit of the wheat, so that food was scarce. These were hard times. Mary was nursing her first baby at this time and she went from house to house to get a meal, anything she could, in order to live. The baby drew blood from the breast sometimes instead of milk. Fred also would have to go from house to house, asking for something to eat but could not get much as people did not have anything to give. The next year a light crop was raised and he milled a little flour from time to time and got along a little better. Fred got more work and put up another room to his house. In 1854 his mother, his brother Martin and wife, and his sister Amelia came to the Valley, staying with them at their house for a year.

In November 1856, Fred and Mary left Salt Lake City to go to Springville, some 56 miles south, where they made their home. They lived in a one room, mud-built house, which leaked in the rain. Fred was appointed choir leader of the Springville branch in the same month, which office he held for twenty-five years. Fred took up plastering, worked on public roads, dug ditches, helped build meeting houses and school houses. Numerous Mormons fled from their homes to southern settlements for refuge and safety in 1858, when the U. S. Army moved into the Valley. Working from day to day and making a living as he best he could, Fred built a house on a lot that he had purchased east of the city, and set out an orchard. He now raised his own garden and potatoes and other things, which he found to be of great help to the family.

In 1865, Fredrick Weight entered into the principle of Polygamy and took another wife according to his Mormon beliefs – her name was Elizabeth Bocock. The two families of Fredrick Weight lived on the same lot in separate houses for over six years. He then bought a place on the east bench of the City, about seven acres of land, and built a house, then moved his second wife and children into it. It was about a mile and a quarter from one house to the other, and he stayed with each of his families week about, for seventeen years, making some 6,000 miles of walking in that time! Elizabeth had nine children with Fred. In 1879, one son died age six, a daughter died twelve hours later; she was four. A year later they buried another son, Wallace, age ten. They were all buried in the Springville City Cemetery.

Life with Fred’s first wife was also unhappy. On 25th March, 1880, Elizabeth gave birth to another son, Ralph. This was particularly hard as both Elizabeth and Fred were sick and unable to work and they had no money. During all these hardships Fred remained true to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and faithfully attended his duties. While plastering on a scaffold about 12 feet high, it gave way, causing Fred to fall to the ground. He was taken home in a wagon, where he was laid up for about a month, suffering severe pain all this time. Another time, while working on the Springville Theatre on a scaffold about 15 feet high, it also gave way and again he fell to the ground, injuring him very badly. He was unable to work for quite sometime after that and some considerable time in pain.

Soon afterwards, the Edmunds Law (or Manifesto as it was also called) was passed dealing with Polygamy. On 26th day of April, 1887, two marshals appeared to arrest Fred take him to Provo. He was away at the time but on 12th November he was arrested and bound over in the sum of $1,000.00 to await the action of the grand jury. His trial was to come off the following February. Elizabeth was also arrested soon after, being placed under a $300.00 bond to appear against Fredrick as a witness, as was his son George. Mary and her family remained silent and unsupportive. His trial was postponed until the 10th March 1888 at which time he pleaded guilty. Sentence was set for the 24th and he was to receive 60 days. However, while boarding the train Fred learned that Judge Henderson had ruled he should be released and let off with a fine of $100.00. Friends agreed to pay the fine. A collection from the people of Springville had raised the money in less than half a day, and he was a free man once more. However, this was not a time for celebration. Their son, Eugene, age 11 years, was very ill with peritonitis and was dying. He died on 1st April 1888.

On the 24th July, 1887 an advertisement appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune for Elizabeth and her two sisters to communicate with Lawyers Barrow and Smith, in England, regarding a little property which had been left to them from their brother’s estate. He had passed away of a heart ailment, having been found dead in his bed and as he made no will, his property was to go to his brothers and sisters. This enabled the family to pay off their debts and help them out of their extreme poverty. They had never in all our lives felt more thankful and humble. Fred and Elizabeth went to the Logan Temple where he was baptized for nine souls and took out endowments for three, while Elizabeth was baptized for fifteen and had endowments for three. They receiving blessings for themselves as well as for their dead.

When Mary heard of Elizabeth’s inheritance, she demanded $1000 to give Fred a divorce. In the end she received her property and $300.00. On the 7th November, 1889, Fred went to Salt Lake City and paid Mary the money in gold, getting her receipt and she obtained the divorce that day from the District Court. Although Elizabeth had been Fred’s wife according to the 'Law of God’ for nearly 25 years, she was not recognized by the Law of the Land, so they went the next day and were married by Justice Brown according to the Law of the Land, at Provo, on New Year’s Day 1890.

Elizabeth and Fred Weight went to the General Conference of the Church in 1892 and witnessed the laying of the cap-stone of the Salt Lake Temple by electricity - President Woodruff touched a button and the stone swung into place. Fredrick Weight was organist and choir leader in Springfield for more than 45 years and he was respected for his sincere honesty and his faithfulness. He placed much of his energy into family, music and his church. Successive generations followed in his footsteps, with his son Ralph playing his first public concert at age 12.

Fredrick’s granddaughter, May Weight Johnson, daughter of Joseph, said it best – “Every man hath some gift of God - Grandpa's was music. It showed in every part of him, for it lived in his soul. Fredrick Weight found in life, that there is no royal road to anything and that all things come in succession - and that truth and right endure”.

Fredrick passed away at his home in Springville on the 15th day of December, 1901, and lies in the City Cemetery at Springville, Utah. In closing his own story, he said "We desire to be humble and faithful, doing good for the living and the dead, unto the end of our days; and desire that our children and their generations after them, shall walk in the ways of the Lord and continue the grand and glorious work for the dead, which we have commenced”.

My thanks to Mr. Shirl R. Weight for his kind permission to reproduce this version of Fredrick Weight’s story in the BFHS Journal and on the BURGUM FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Website. For more about the Weight's wagon journey across America, click on The Weight´s Wagon Trail