By Elaine Hillyard Hyer
Elizabeth was born 21 April 1810 at Doddington, Cambridgeshire, England. She married Thomas Hillyard of Doddington, Cambridgeshire, England, when she was twenty years old [about 1830] and became the mother of four children, two sons and two daughters. Two of her children died soon after birth [1833 and 1835 in Doddington]. Her husband also died about ten years after they were married (26 January 1840). [Alternate death dates are 23 January 1839 and 23 January 1840. Thomas HILLYARD was born 14 Feb 1808 in Doddington, Cambridge, England and christened 3 Apr 1808 in the same town. Alternate spellings may be HILLIARD or HILLARD.] She was left a widow with two young children when she was but 30 years old. Thomas, her oldest, was about nine years old and Elizabeth, the youngest, about two years old at this time. There are a lot of questions we would like answered as how this young mother was able to provide for herself and the children; but this we do not know in detail. We know only that at least she kept a little store during her later years in England and that she encouraged her son to learn a trade; which was a great benefit to him as well as herself in later years.
She seemed to be trying to serve the Lord and live as best she knew when missionaries came to their town and preached a new Gospel. She was open minded and so willing to hear what they were preaching. Her son, Thomas, was now a grown man. He also went to hear the Elders and as a result they were all converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and soon became members. [She was baptized 31 Jan 1849 and Thomas on 29 Jan 1850.]
So now a change came to their way of living. She was no longer content to live in England with things going on in the same old way. Saints who had joined the Church were leaving England and coming to Utah, and so the desire grew with her. She had married again, sometime during these last few years to a Murfitt Meeks who was also a member of the Church. They disposed of their store and what little holdings they had and were ready to leave for America 23 June 1853. Her daughter, Elizabeth, came with them but her son, Thomas, who was married did not leave for one more year.
She walked all the way across the plains. There was luggage for six persons in every wagon. By the time they reached Salt Lake City their money was almost gone; but with two other families they rented a home with two rooms. It was some little time before they could get work trimming beets for the making of molasses. They received pay at the tithing office. Times were hard but the people were united and enjoyed themselves together. And so the time passed until the following year when her son, Thomas, and his wife and little son, Alma, arrived.
Times were never quite so hard after Thomas arrived. He had a trade that was needed in this new country. He was a carpenter and a wheelwright and so he was able to help his mother the rest of her days. The family stayed close together. When Thomas went, the others followed.
The Hillyards moved to Richmond and there Murfitt Meeks died in 1864 leaving Elizabeth Wool Hillyard Meeks a widow again. Thomas with his wife and family had moved to Smithfield a short time before, so she came to live with them and made that her home the rest of her days. The home was crowded with only one log room at that time. She was young enough to be of great help to the family who had so many small children.
Her daughter, Elizabeth, had married but was soon left a widow with two small children and in poor health. Part of her time was spent in caring for her daughter, but her home was always with Thomas, her son. Deaths as well as marriages came to both families. In all this she shared, but never forgot the Church she had joined and was always faithful to attend her Sacrament Meetings; pay her tithing and even attended Conference in Salt Lake City several times where she met old friends. She continued to do work in the temple for dead relatives until she was 75 years old.
She was loved by her grandsons, for her thoughtfulness to them, shining shoes and keeping their one and only suit always brushed and ready in case it was needed. One more log room had been added to the home, but still the home was crowded. Most of the time she shared a bed with others.
She was the one who blazed the trail; making it possible for so many to enjoy blessings and comforts they never even had heard of. But comforts on this earth was not the reason for Elizabeth Wool joining a very unpopular religion. She could not have proved her great love for her husband and children more than she did in the decisions she made. I think we can count Elizabeth Wool Hillyard Meeks as one of the great ones who was willing join an unpopular religion, leave friends and relatives and endure hardships of pioneer life; for she knew this life was not the end.
She died 1 June 1891 and is buried in her sonís lot in the Smithfield Cemetery. Wednesday, 18-Feb-2004 20:38:13 MST