Hannah Brandham Williams, Straw Plaiter


Hannah Brandham Williams (a brief sketch of her life by Audrey Nelson) Hannah was born on November 1, 1843 in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, England, the first of six children born to John Brandham and Mary Smuin Brandham.

Her father and grandfather owned a straw business and the family, including the mother and children earned their living as “straw plaiters.” (Braiders of straw, which was later made into straw hats.)

Children as young as four or five, had to learn to braid straw and sit working for hours each day in cramped quarters, instead of being able to run and play. In the 1851 census, Hannah is listed as a “straw plaiter” and she was barely 7 years of age.

In 1847, the Elders of the Church found Hannah’s family and her mother and several of her Aunts and Uncles joined the Church. In the early Church records it states that Mary Brandham was baptized on November 2, 1847 by Elder J. Lewis, in the Eaton Bray Branch.

Hannah’s father never joined the Church and was not happy about his wife and children attending it.

Around this time in England, the country was suffering an industrial and agricultural depression. Large companies with machinery began making straw hats and other items and the little home industries could not compete. The Brandhams and many other families lost their livelihood and there was great poverty in the country.

By 1851, we find John and Mary Brandham and their family living in a big building called a Workhouse, where the poor had to live and even the small children had to work hard each day.

Hannah’s mother became very ill and died of tuberculosis on July 15, 1856. She was only 38 years old. Hannah’s father deserted the family and the children went to live with their aunts and uncles. Hannah was 13 when her mother died. She went to live with Hannah Harvey (her mother’s sister and her husband Daniel Harvey) in London, England. This family loved the Gospel and was very anxious to go to Zion and join the Saints in America, as Hannah’s mother had hoped to do.

They all worked very hard and finally, on June 4, 1864, Hannah, her sister Naomi and the Harvey family, set sail for America on the Ship “Amazon.” Hannah was then 20 years of age.

They arrived in Salt Lake City on October 13, 1863 and went directly to Kaysville, Utah, where they made their home in a dug-out in a hill until they could build a cabin.

Here in Kaysville, Hannah met Ebenezer Albert Williams and they were married in the Endowment house in Salt Lake City on October 29, 1864 Hannah and Ebenezer had six children:

1.Mary Williams, born February 6 1866; died June 21 1869 (3 years of age.)
2.Horace Williams born 3 Dec 1867. Died 20 Oct 1929
3.Albert Williams, born 2 May 1870. Died 21 July 1891
4.Esther Williams, born 20 Sept 1872. Died 15 may 1941
5.Jabez Williams, born 24 May 1875. Died 1 Nov 1940
6.Mabel Williams, born 21 June 1878. Died 2 Aug 1969

Hannah worked hard all her life. She used her skills in straw plaiting and hat making to help support her family. On May 20 1879, at the young age of 36, Hannah died of blood clots in her legs. She left a family of young children who loved her very much.Straw splitter and bonnet block

She is described as a fine-looking, small in stature, with dark hair; a good homemaker, quick in her actions and hard working. We honor her name and memory. I enclose a copy of the only know picture of Hannah Brandham Williams.

All of Hannah’s siblings eventually came to America.


Here is some fascinating information about straw plaiting in England, during the time Hannah was a young plaiter:





About annlaemmlenlewis

I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am currently serving as a Missionary in the Washington Yakima Mission. Welcome to my personal blog, Ann's Words, and my Mission blog, Our Yakima Mission. If you are interested in family history stories and histories, you can find those posted in Ann's Stories. Thanks for looking in!
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One Response to Hannah Brandham Williams, Straw Plaiter

  1. Paddy Spilsbury says:

    Ann, I’m so pleased that I found your blog site. I literally stumbled upon Hannah’s headstone in the Kaysville City Cemetery about two weeks ago. I have been doing research on straw plaiting, and was surprised and very excited to find it. I’ve just begun looking for confirmation information about Hannah, and then found the url to your blog included on FamilySearch. I especially love the picture of Hannah and the graph of the various straw plaits listed in this blog article. Would you be interested in sharing information? You may contact me at sharrsh@gmail.com.
    Thanks so much.

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