Panting with the effort the young man hurried through the night. Under one arm he carried his bundle of belongings and in his other arm, his three year old son Thomas. Samuel OBray had left Bootle, Liverpool in great haste and was headed to the Liverpool Docks with his precious bundles to board the Ellen Maria (1) sailing soon for New Orleans USA for a new life in America.
Samuel was a shipwright. He joined the Church of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) on the 6th February, 1846, before his first marriage to Margret Harris in November 1846 in Pembroke Dock, Wales. Samuel and Margret had two sons, Thomas and John. Margret had never agreed with his religious beliefs so unbeknownst to her, Samuel had booked passage for himself and his eldest son, Thomas to New Orleans Louisiana later, to join the rest of the ‘Mormon Saints’ in Utah or Zion as they called it. Samuel left behind him, his wife Margret and their youngest son John.
The ship was due to leave port on 29th January 1851 but had been anchored in the River Mersey for two days due to storms until it was deemed safe enough to set sail. Whilst on board, Samuel had befriended other Mormon Saints on the ship, particularly a family named Bainbridge. They were a family of six. Three sons and three daughters. Eleanor was the second daughter and she and Samuel struck up a friendship.
According to the ‘Biography of Samuel William OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray’ (2) there are two versions of what happened when Margret realised what Samuel had done.
In the first family legend, she reported it to the authorities who headed to the Docks and searched the ship but could not discover Thomas. During the search of the ship Samuel had persuaded the Bainbridge family to claim Thomas as their own. Whilst the authorities were looking for a small boy Thomas had been dressed as a little girl and integrated into the Bainbridge family.
In the second version Samuel was able to steal the oldest boy from his mother and took him on board the ship Ellen Maria just prior to its departure. The boy had red hair and Samuel was able to place him with a family of red-headed children so that when the police came aboard they could not find him. The boys name was Thomas William, age three.
Poor Margret never did find her son. Was she on the dock when the ship sailed from Liverpool on the 2nd February 1851? If so, how must she have felt as she watched the ship sail away? It can only be imagined.
Upon arrival in New Orleans, The OBray and Bainbridge families were not able financially to continue their journey to Utah so they stayed and worked until they were able to continue. Whilst in New Orleans Samuel and Eleanor married and their first child, Ellen Jane was born. (3) They went on to have eight more children and Samuel took a third plural wife, but there were no children from this union. However, according to his obituary (4) as it appeared in “The Journal” 11 June 1910:
“His descendants number about 176, as follows: 10 children 87 grandchildren 75 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren”
Samuel William OBray was my second great grand uncle.
Samuel OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray
3 ‘The New World having Become Attractive To Thomas Sharratt, he came to America and Settled” Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 3 p 514