Question: What miracle happened at the baptism of Ann Elizabeth Hodgkinson Walmsley?
Answer: Ann was the ninth child born to Francis Hodgkinson and Jane Malley on August 24, 1807 in Chipping, Lancashire, England. On December 25, 1826, Ann married Thomas Walmsley who was also from Chipping. He was a blacksmith by trade. Together the couple had five children born in England: John 1830; Francis 1833, William 1834, Thomas 1835 (died at age 4), and Nancy Marinda 1839.
On July 19, 1837, seven missionaries, including Apostles Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding and Elders Snyder, Goodson, and Russell, landed at Princes Dock in Liverpool aboard the ship Garrick. They made their way to Preston, 30 miles north of Liverpool, where they arrived in the marketplace on a busy Saturday, July 22.
It was the middle of a general election, called following the ascension of the young Victoria to the throne of Great Britain. As the missionaries descended from the coach, a political banner was unfurled from a window above them. “Truth Shall Prevail,” it proclaimed. The missionaries thought it a provident sign, and with a resounding “Amen” they immediately adopted it as the motto of their mission to England.
Of the party, Joseph Fielding had a brother in Preston, Reverend James Fielding, who briefly allowed them to preach in his Vauxhall Chapel. However, when he perceived that he was about to lose some of his members, he became very antagonistic and bitter in his feelings.
One particular home the missionaries visited was that of Thomas and Ann Walmsley. There they found Ann very sick with consumption (tuberculosis), a disease she had been dealing with for several years prior to the missionaries’ visit. She had been reduced to a mere skeleton and local physicians had given up hope for her to live much longer. Hearing this news, Elder Kimball began to preach the gospel to the couple. He promised Ann in the name of the Lord that if she would believe, repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of her sins that she would be restored to health and strength.
After about a week of preaching to the people in Preston, the missionaries were ready to baptize nine candidates. They were performed on the morning of July 30, 1837. The baptisms took place in the River Ribble. Elder Kimball performed the baptisms for the nine candidates, six being men of which one was Thomas and three being women.
After a few men were baptized, Ann was carried into the water because she was too weak to move herself. Her doctor had warned her that the sudden immersion in the water would probably kill her!
Elder Kimball baptized her, and after she came up out of the water, she immediately felt a little better and managed to walk out of the water unaided. Later, after her confirmation, she was fully healed, and was back to doing her regular chores around the house that she had not been able to do for many years. Ann had become the first female convert to the LDS Church in Europe. Other baptisms followed closely, and it was not long before a considerable branch was organized in Preston.
A few years later, on February 6, 1841, a council meeting was held at Brother Richard Harrison’s, for the purpose of organizing a company of Saints going to New Orleans on the ship Sheffield. Captain Porter, Apostles Brigham Young, John Taylor and Willard Richards and other officers were present. Elder Hiram Clark was chosen president, and Thomas Walmsley, Miles Romney, Edward Martin, John Taylor, Francis Clark and John Riley, were appointed counselors.
The Sheffield sailed from Liverpool, bound for New Orleans on February 7, 1841, with two hundred and thirty-five Saints on board, including Thomas and Ann and their four children. The bulk of the company landed in Nauvoo on April 18, 1841. On May 15, 1841, Ann Elizabeth gave birth to their sixth child, who they named Heber Chase Kimball Walmsley. On November 16, 1842, the father, Thomas Walmsley, died in Nauvoo. The cause is not recorded.
In 1846, Ann Elizabeth married Isaac Palmer and three children were born to this union: Journal (1847), Isaac Hodgkinson (1848), and Rhoda (1851). They left Council Bluffs, Nebraska on 5 July 1849 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October 10, 1849, being members of Allen Taylor’s Company. Ann’s husband, Isaac, and two children (Journal and Isaac) are listed under the name of Palmer. Ann is listed as Ann Elizabeth Walmsley with her four children John, Francis, Nancy and Heber. It is not recorded why her son, William, went in the Ezra T. Benson Company, at the age of fifteen, the same year.
After their daughter, Rhoda’s, birth and death in March 1851, Isaac Palmer left his family and went to the gold fields of California. He was caught up in the frenzy of the Gold rush, Ann never heard from her husband again and was forced to move on. Ann married a third time to John Dalton, but the marriage only lasted a couple of weeks.
Ann and her children moved to Bloomington in the Bear Lake Valley to settle and to be near her oldest son, John. Her home was always neat and orderly. She died in Wardboro, Idaho on November 16, 1888 at the home of her daughter, Nancy, at the age of 81.
She was buried in the Bloomington Cemetery in Bloomington, Bear Lake, Idaho, where a monument erected in 1938 reads: “Ann Elizabeth Walmsley, August 24 1807 – November 16 1888. The first female convert to the LDS Church in Europe. Baptized by Heber Chase Kimball July 30 1837. At the time she was ill and a cripple, unable to walk. She was healed by the power of the priesthood.”
Source: Excerpts from the History of Ann Elizabeth Hodgkinson (Walmsley-Palmer-Dalton) by Jessica Sara Morris (3rd great-granddaughter); A brief history of Ann Elizabeth Hodgkinson (Walmsley-Palmer-Dalton) was compiled by Leslie Duane Langford a 3rd Great Grandson who placed the story on a website at: www.MissouriMormonHistory.org; findagrave.com