Yesterday, we had a wonderful Mission Conference with our wonderful Apostle, Elder M. Russell Ballard at the Solihull chapel in Birmingham. What a wonderful experience for each of us to shake his hand, feel his great spirit, and hear his inspired counsel. He was so encouraging, drawing from his own missionary experiences here 67 years ago in the aftermath of World War 2. He used to say in the morning, “It’s raining! Let’s go out where we get to be persecuted like Paul!” Also speaking with him were members of the Seventy, Elder Craig C. Christensen, (and his wife) Elder Paul C. Johnson (and his wife) and our Europe Area President, Patrick Kearon and his wife. Wonderful rousing, spiritual talks! I know I can’t really describe well enough what it meant to be in the presence of a true Apostle of the Jesus Christ and to really feel the power of his testimony of the Savior and His gospel, but it was wonderful! How amazing to have a prophet and apostles on the earth to guide us in these scary times! How important to share that with others searching for truth!
Just a fifteen minute drive away from there, we found the small hamlet village of Maxstoke, where my great, great, great grandpa George Craner lived when he heard the missionaries, was baptized, then left for America, and crossed the plains as a pioneer in 1852. ‘So fun to walk where he walked and get a feel for that lovely village!
Then we explored the village, trying to find George’s family cottage by the 1851 census. We stopped at this driveway to get our bearings and I walked down the street. The owner, Julie M. came out and asked Gene if we were lost. I came back and knocked on her door and she invited me in and helped me find the area where George lived. She and her husband Andrew showed me a book with vintage photos of Maxstoke and insisted on giving it to me! ‘So kind!
We figured out that the Craners lived in the “Hall End” part of the village in the area pictured below. We came upon a caravan park there, and one of the managing family, Heather G., happened to come up while walking her dogs and talked to us about the area. We guessed that the cottages are gone, but this is the general area the Craners lived.
At a couple of places in Maxstoke, the following sign is posted with a map. In the next photo is a detail of the top left corner, which was intriguing to us.
Julie gave us the directions and Heather explained more that this cottage was where Brigham Young stayed in the early 1840s. There is an English oak tree nearby that they still call “the Preacher’s tree” where he taught the villagers. (Here are some younger type photos of Brigham Young that help me imagine what he would have looked like then.)
In the book Julie gave me, it adds, “[Brigham Young] reputedly held clandestine religious meetings in the old timber-framed barn overlooking Church Farm which is now called ‘Prophet’s Barn’. Following growing protests over his activities, the Dilkes estate asked him to leave the parish.” (Maxstoke Remembered, page 30.) Interesting to me is that the Dilkes owned the castle where George worked polishing silver during his teenage years, but about ten years later than Brigham Young’s visit, George joined the Church, and emigrated a year later. Here are some photos of the Skye Cottage where Brigham Young stayed.
Pretty wonderful day, connecting with the Apostle Brigham Young who affected George’s conversion so many years ago, and a modern-day Apostle, Elder M. Russell Ballard, whose testimony affected me! ‘So awesome!