Tuesday, August 25, 2009

George Cannon and Family Join the Church

Teaching in Liverpool:

Joseph Fielding’s brother-in-law, the Reverend Timothy R. Matthews, was preaching at an Aitkenite church on Hope Street in Liverpool. This was the same Reverend Matthews who was contacted in Bedford three years earlier by Willard Richards and who nearly joined the Church. However, he declined baptism at the last moment and became an opponent of the Church. [1] When John Taylor and Joseph Fielding visited his Hope Street congregation, on Sunday, January 26th, Matthews was absent. They listened to the service and introduced themselves afterwards to the preacher. They were directed to the vestry and introduced to a number of class leaders and preachers and had an opportunity to share a short message with them about the restored gospel. When Taylor and Fielding asked if they could share their message with the congregation, one of the Aitkenite leaders indicated they had heard unfavorable things about them from their pastors, Matthews and Aitken, and that they would need permission from Matthews before they could allow Taylor and Fielding to preach. That evening Taylor and Fielding attended the services again. One of the leaders, William Cook Mitchell, and his wife, Eliza Ridsdale Mitchell, invited Taylor and Fielding to spend the night at their home. They did so and were up until late into the night teaching the Mitchells. [2]

The next morning, William Mitchell had already gone to work by the time Taylor and Fielding got up. However, they were invited to come back Tuesday evening. [3] Later that day, they went to visit a Captain Gile who had been introduced to them by Ann Cannon. Captain Gile was not there, but a cousin of his, named Philip Gile, was, as well as a Mrs. Gile and Miss Collister. They preached the gospel to them and were invited back to teach them again. “Mrs. Gile & Miss Collester are very much beleiving.” In a letter to Leonora, John Taylor said that Ann had introduced them to many of her friends and was “a complete missionary & happy in the Lord.” On Tuesday the 28th, Taylor and Fielding visited the Mitchell home again. They learned that their visit to the Mitchell home had caused an uproar with his fellow preachers and that Mitchell had been pestered until he promised that he would not allow Taylor and Fielding into his home to preach again. However, before the promise, Mrs. Mitchell had invited a number of friends and neighbors to listen to the missionaries. Some of them still showed up and Taylor and Fielding talked with them, carefully trying to avoid the charge they had “preached” to them. [4] They were so pleased, the Mitchell’s had them over again on Friday, January 31st. Joseph Fielding spoke to them.

In a letter to his wife, Leonora, dated January 30, 1840, John Taylor told her that when sending letters to Preston she should “write on the direction the number of the house, the name of the Street, as well as of the person[,] otherwise the P. O. regulations are that they keep them eight days & afterwards send them to the dead letter office in London…Liverpool however is an exception to that. They have a strangers letter office…I have however made some arrangements with the P. O. in Preston so that if letters should come addressed to me at the above named place [that is, “Mr. George Cannons No. 43 Norfolk St Liverpool”] I might have some prospect of obtaining them…” [5] This must have worked well, as Brigham Young later wrote to his wife, Mary Ann, and told her to send his mail to John Taylor in Liverpool, who would know where to locate him. [6]

On Sunday, February 2, 1840, Taylor and Fielding had an evening service in a hall on Preston Street they had rented. The hall was large enough to hold 300 people and it was filled to near capacity. We can assume that George and Ann Cannon were there. Taylor preached that “many of them had been praying for the ancient faith” and the “Lord had answered their prayers & sent us his servants to testify to them that God had restored these things…I had left my family & come a distance of 2000 miles without purse or scrip…I then said the Lord had sent us to baptize & called upon them to repent & be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…That we his servants stood ready to administer in this ordinance [and] that if any wanted to be baptized they may make it known to us…Many wept[. O]thers rejoiced & praised the Lord. The spirit of the Lord indeed was with us & bore testimony to what we said & I plainly saw that it was the power of God…After the meeting a young man came to me & told me that the Lord had showed these things to him in a vision. He…said that he would be baptized. A young woman come to me & wept & said that she knew it was the truth…Mr. Mitchell spoke to many of his class who were present & told the that these things were of God & that he could not resist,…that he would obey the gospel & hoped that they would consider seriously about it. We appointed Teusdy at 3 O Clock to baptize…”

First Baptisms in Liverpool:

Tuesday, February 4, 1840, ten people were baptized in the afternoon in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea, including William and Eliza Mitchell. These were the first people baptized in Liverpool. [7]

Taylor and Fielding Stay at Cannon Home:

Ann Cannon was a firm believer in John Taylor’s message from the beginning. George Cannon was not as responsive and wanted time to give the message further consideration. After Taylor left for Preston, initially, George decided to spend as much time reading the Book of Mormon as he could. His interest grew until he could barely put the Book of Mormon down. He read it far into the night, at meal times and even had it propped open on his joiner's bench where he could glimpse it while he worked. By the time Taylor returned to Liverpool, George had read the entire Book of Mormon. [8]

On February 6, 1840, William Clayton recorded in his journal that he arrived in Liverpool on the railway about 1:40 and “Went to Norfolk Street and found brothers Fielding and Taylor at Mrs. Kannon’s No. 43.” After visiting several other people during the day, presumably with Fielding and Taylor, they “returned to Kannons to sleep. [They] slept together.” The next morning, February 7th, Clayton “[t]ook breakfast at Kannon’s” and then “[w]ent with Brother Taylor to see Brother Gills daughter” and “[f]ound her comfortable [and] ready to be baptized.” They “[r]eturned from the Docks to Norfolk [Street]” where John Fielding had to write some letters. After “[d]inner at Kannons”, Clayton noted, “Brother Taylor gave me his blessing. He blessed me with wisdom and utterance so that I should be a wonder to myself and others. By the spirit. Ministering angels. He blessed Brother Fielding and then Brother Fielding blessed Brother Taylor. Brother Taylor afterwards give an address in tongues and interpreted. We then started to go by the Docks to the Railway station” at 2:30.” [9]

George Cannon apparently read the Book of Mormon a second time. He told John Taylor that the Book of Mormon was true and he was ready for baptism. He said that an evil-minded man could not have written the Book of Mormon and a good man would not have tried to write it with intent to deceive. [10]

George and Ann Cannon Baptized:

George and Ann Cannon were baptized on Tuesday, February 11, 1840, one month to the day after John Taylor had arrived at their home in Liverpool and one week after the first baptisms in Liverpool. Two other people were baptized at the same time. In a letter to his wife, Leonora, Taylor wrote: “I baptized 4. Will it not cause the heart of My Leonora to rejoice when I tell her Br. George & his Wife made two of this number & they now stand in a nearer relationship than kindred flesh. They are brother & sister in Jesus Christ. They have manifested to us the greatest kindness since we came & we have made their house our stopping place.” In the same letter, in George Cannon’s handwriting, George wrote: “Dear Sister I hope you and your little ones are well. You may imagine how surprised I was to see Mr. Taylor. I should have been happy if you had been along with him, I believe that the Lord had a hand in sending him to England and shewing me in what a dangerous state I lived without even the form of religion but with the assistance of Gods Holy spirit we – that is Ann and I are determined to lead a new life and shew a better example to our children. Dear Sister I wish you were here. There are many things I could talk to you about that I am ashamed to let others know I am ignorant of, but I am in hopes that I shall see you and your dear little ones before I die…I mean to write you a long letter soon dear Sister remember me in your prayers. Seldom as I went on my knees, I always prayed for you and my brothers. God has promised to hear us when we are gathered together in his name. Our prayers may ascend the same time to the throne of grace, for what is distance in the sight of God. G. Cannon” [11]

George Q. Cannon and eleven year old Mary Alice were ready and desirous to be baptized when their parents were, but no one had suggested it and they were restrained from asking because of their youth. They later talked with their parents about it and made it a matter of prayer. [12] At first, George and Ann would not let their children attend sacrament meetings at the rented hall on Preston Street, but they soon relented. The Cannon’s had many people come to their home to talk about the gospel. Eight year old Ann recalls being sent to bed with two year old David. Then she would get up when David was asleep and “sit on the stairs and listen to them converse on the gospel.” The Immigrant found little Ann asleep on the stairs and said she could stay up thereafter, so that she would not fall and break her neck. [13]

On February 27, 1840, as Joseph Fielding was getting ready to leave Liverpool, “George Cannon insisted that he take a sovereign, as a loan to be repaid whenever he could do it.” [14] On another occasion, Taylor and Fielding were “sitting in their upstairs room [at the Cannons] discussing how they could pay the Cannons for their hospitality when George came in and presented a sovereign to Elder Taylor. The apostle objected, but Cannon insisted, telling him that his old hat was getting shabby and he needed a new one. Taylor had no choice but to accept the money graciously.” [15]

At the end of March, the missionaries moved from the hall on Preston Street to one on Renshaw Street, closer to the center of Liverpool. It held three to four hundred people and they could hold two meetings each day. [16]

On April 4, 1840, William Clayton noted in his journal that “Brother Fielding came in [to Manchester] from Liverpool about 10.” [17]

Brigham Young and Other Apostles Arrive in Liverpool:

On April 6, 1840, the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Church, Brigham Young, George Albert Smith, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball and Rueben Hedlock arrived in Liverpool on the ship Patrick Henry. Coming into the River Mersey the ship was not able to make it to the dock because of the tide and had to cast anchor off shore. A small boat picked up Young, Kimball and Parley Pratt and took them to the landing. “On reaching the quay, Brother Young shouted hosannah three times, which he had promised to do whenever he should land on the shores of Old England.” They procured a room at 8 Union Street and sent a small boat back to the ship to pick up Smith, Hedlock and Orson Pratt who were looking after the baggage. Once together in their room, they “partook of the sacrament and returned thanks for their safe deliverance.” The next day, April 7th, they found John Taylor, John Moon and 27 new converts, presumably including George and Ann Cannon, “who received [them] with kindness.” [18]

On April 8th the newly arrived apostles, other than Parley P. Pratt, traveled to Preston. Pratt and John Taylor stayed in Liverpool an additional day or two, before going on to Preston. Over the course of the next week or so, they had various meetings, including meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve and a general conference of the Church. The first item of business was to ordain Willard Richards an apostle and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. This made eight apostles in the Quorum, all of them present in England. Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Quorum and Hiram Clark was sustained into the British Mission presidency, under Joseph Fielding, to replace Willard Richards. It was resolved that a periodical would be published called the “Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star.” Parley P. Pratt was appointed editor. They also resolved to publish a hymn book and print an edition of the Book of Mormon. John Taylor was told to continue to preach in Liverpool and that vicinity. [19]

Leonora Cannon Taylor Learns of Her Brother’s Baptism:

On April 14th, Leonora Taylor, after reading her husband’s letter about the baptism of her brother, George, responded, “I never received a letter that gave me so much real comfort as it has done. I do rejoice, and praise God for what he has done in bringing my dear brother George, and sister Ann, into the Church…” [20]

On April 25, 1840, Richard and Mary Ann Harrison, who lived at 72 Burlington Street, in Liverpool, were baptized. Three days later, on April 28th, Mary Ann’s sister, Sophia Whitaker, who was living with her, was baptized. [21]

William Clayton Stays at Cannons:

On May 7, 1840, William Clayton and Parley P. Pratt, in Manchester, received a letter from John Taylor indicating he was very sick. He asked one of them to come to Liverpool for the Sabbath on the 10th. Clayton arrived in Liverpool about 8:00 p.m. on the evening of May 9th. He “Found Brother Taylor better. Supper with Cannons.” The next morning, Clayton baptized three people then had “Breakfast at Cannons.” It appears Clayton was sleeping at the Cannon’s as he had breakfast there each of the next three mornings, the 11th, 12th and 13th, as well as evening tea on the 11th, before returning to Manchester. He also noted being measured for a vest by Brother Armstrong and eating at Brother Mitchell’s and Brother Dumville’s. [22] On May 12th, Clayton records: “We had a church meeting for the purpose of organizing the church. Brother Taylor spake considerable on the necessity of organization the nature and design &c. He then proposed William Mitchell to be chosen as secretary for the church, Richard Harrison priest and John James priest Thomas Dumville and John Dixon T[eachers?]. which being elected unanimously Elder Taylor called upon the brethren to know if they accepted their offices which William Mitchell said he would rather have nothing to do with money matters. He was told there was no money matters – but to keep a church record – but he refused to do it. Elder Taylor then proposed Brother George Cannon who accepted the office. We then proceeded with ordinations…” Clayton at that evening at the Dumville’s and noted that Brother Mitchell had repaired his boots. [23]

On May 30, 1840, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball accompanied John Taylor to Liverpool. This was the first time Young had been back to Liverpool since his arrival in England. The next day, Sunday, May 31st, Young preached to the Liverpool members. [24]

First Ship of LDS Converts Leaves Liverpool:

On Monday, June 1st, Young and Kimball met with and organized the first company of English members to emigrate to America. John Moon was selected as president of the company. [25] On Wednesday, June 3rd, Young and Taylor, part of the hymn book committee, visited the printers. [26] The first company of English Mormon immigrants, with 40 members, left Liverpool on the ship Britannia on June 6, 1840, bound for New York. [27] On Sunday, June 7, 1840, Brigham Young again preached to the Liverpool Saints. After spending nine days in Liverpool, Young left for Cheshire, the next day, with John Taylor. [28]

Baptism of Cannon Children:

In early June, Parley P. Pratt visited with John Taylor at the Cannons. They had just finished eating breakfast, with all of the family present, when Parley, as if moved by a sudden inspiration, inquired, “Elder Taylor, have you preached the gospel to these children? Looking at Mary Alice he asked, “Some of them want to be baptized now, don’t you?” Mary Alice responded, “Yes, sir,” and George Q. indicated his desire as well. Little Annie also wanted to be baptized but she was told she should wait a bit longer. Her disappointment was so great and her tears so copious that at the last moment her parents consented. On June 18, 1840, George Q., Mary Alice and Ann were baptized. [29]


[1] Manchester Mormons, pp. 6-7.

[2] Apostles in the British Isles, pp. 111 (?), 366 (check pg on cd); Paul Thomas Smith, pp. 37-38; Roberts, p. 70(?).

[3] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 111(?).

[4] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 111(?).

[5] Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[6] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 157.

[7] Apostles in the British Isles, pp. __, 366 (check pg on cd); Paul Thomas Smith, pp. 37-38. Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal, on February 10th, that he had received a letter from John Taylor indicating they had baptized 10 people in Liverpool. Woodruff Journal, p. 432(?).

[8] CFHT, p. 35.

[9] James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, editors, Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton 1840 to 1842 (Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, Peregrine Smith. Inc.: 1974), pp. 94-95 (hereafter “Manchester Mormons”).

[10] CFHT, p. 35. Ann Cannon, his daughter, states that George read the Book of Mormon twice before accepting it.

[11] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 366 (?).

[12] CFHT, pp. 36-37.

[13] Journal of Ann Cannon Woodbury as cited in CFHT, pp. 159, 161.

[14] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 117 (?).

[15] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 84, citing Joseph Fielding Diary, p. 54.

[16] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 118.

[17] Manchester Mormons, p. 135.

[18] Elden J. Watson, compiler and arranger, The Orson Pratt Journals (Elden J. Watson: Salt Lake City, 1975), pp. 114-115 (hereafter “Orson Pratt”), citing Documentary History of the Church 4:104-105; Reuben Hedlock MS 2:91; Manuscript History of Brigham Young pp. 69-72; Manchester Mormons, p. 137.

[19] Orson Pratt, pp. 115-118, citing Wilford Woodruff in Times and Seasons 2:329-330, the official minutes of the councils and conferences in Times and Seasons 1:119-122; Roberts, pp. 73-74____.

[20] Apostles in the British Isles, p.__, n. 18.

[21] Roberts, p. 486; The John Taylor Nauvoo Journal, BYU Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, Spring 1983. Sophia later became the fifth (plural) wife of John Taylor.

[22] In a letter dated June 1842, William Rowley wrote to John Taylor indicating that a “Dumville” from the Liverpool area intended to emigrate in September of that year. “Letter from William Rowley,” Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 22 (September 15, 1842), p. 925.

[23] Manchester Mormons, pp. 150-153.

[24] Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. __ (hereafter “MHBY”); William Clayton notes that Taylor was sick. Manchester Mormons, p. 158.

[25] MHBY, p. __.

[26] MHBY, p. __.

[27] “British Emigration to Nauvoo” Contributor, vol. 12, September 1891, No. 11, p. 403 (hereafter “British Emigration”); MHBY, p. __ (Young states the number of members was 41).

[28] MHBY, p. __.

[29] CFHT, pp. 36-37.

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