ESTHER “ELIZABETH” YARDLEY THURMAN MILNER
24 Jan 1825 – 29 Sept 1911
Esther is my third great grandmother on my mother’s mother’s side. She was born in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwick, England. She was the oldest of thirteen children born to Thomas and Mary Rose Yardley and learned early on how to help her mother with the duties of raising a large family, becoming a good cook and pitching in with the housekeeping. While still a teenager, Esther moved to Birmingham to run her uncle’s household.
In Birmingham, she met Thomas Edward Thurman. The young couple married on 6 Nov 1848. The two had heard of the Mormons through visiting missionaries and agreed to attend their services. Legend has it that when Esther heard the hymn “O My Father”, she immediately formed a testimony for the truthfulness of the Mormon church. Esther and Thomas were both baptized on 7 Mar 1849.
The couple had two children, a boy and a girl, but their daughter died just a few weeks after she was born. Shortly after, Thomas himself died of tuberculosis. Esther, forced to make her own way, opened a pastry shop and ran a boarding house. One of her customers was Charles Dickens, who was said to have later portrayed her as a pleasant and plump matron of an inn in one of his novels.
A few years later, on 5 Feb 1853, Esther and her son left England aboard The Jersey and, six weeks later, they arrived in New Orleans, before making their way north to Keokuk, Iowa, a staging ground for immigrant Mormon pioneers. Here, Esther outfitted herself with a riding horse and a cow for milking. It is said she walked the whole way across the plains so her son and others could ride the horse.
While on the journey toward the Utah Valley, she met John Brewitt Milner. The couple married the following spring and settled in Provo, Utah.
They had seven children, including one daughter who died in infancy. Their fourth daughter, Sarah Ann Milner, my second great grandmother, was born on 29 May 1862 in Provo, Utah.