William Rowley was born in 1784 at Grafton, Flyford Parish, Worcestershire, England.
There is some mixed information on his mother. There are records of his father being John Rowley (1754-1823) and his mother being Ann Hodges (1753-1825) or Ann Taylor (1760-?).
Nothing is known of his childhood, although it is believed that he did not have a formal education and wasn’t able to write. This belief comes from the fact that there is an ‘X’ following his name on his marriage license to Ann Jewell.
William married Ann Taylor in July 1807. The couple had 7 children between 1808 and 1827. William made a good living for his family in Mars Hill, Worcestershire, England which he owned. He had a nice home surrounded by orchards and fields of hops.
The family were well enough off to afford a governess for their younger children. The governess was a young woman named Ann Jewell.
Ann Taylor Rowley died in 1835. Some of the older children may have been married and out on their own, but William would have been left with children ranging from about 8 to 27 years of age.
About 5 months later on 22 August 1836 in the Suckley, William married Ann Jewell. At the time of their married, William was 51 and Ann was 28.
Marriage certificate. Note the X’s following the words, “The mark of William Rowley.”
The couple lived on Mars Hill for 10 or 11 years after their marriage and added 7 more children to his family. Their children are: Louisa, Elizabeth, John, Samuel, Richard, Thomas and Jane.
William and Ann were faithful members of a congregation known at the United Brethren. This was a group who had broken off from the Wesleyan Methodist church in search for more truth. In 1840, a Mormon missionary named Wilford Woodruff traveled to England and was prompted to go to Herefordshire where he found the home of John Benbow, another member of the United Brethren. Eventually, all but one member of the congregation of over 600 were baptized.
William was baptized at the John Benbow farm on either 6 May 1840 (according to FamilySearch) or 24 May 1840 (according to the book Rowley Family Histories).
William received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon on 22 March 1841 by Wilford Woodruff in Stanley, Lancashire, England (Woodruff, vol. 2, p. 68).
The next few years, the family was active in the LDS Church and helped in its growth in the area. Elder Woodruff stayed with the family on at least two occasions, but possibly more. In the journal of Wilford Woodruff (vol. 1, p. 452) he mentions spending the night at William Rowley’s home.
According to the Millennial Star, a periodical published by the LDS Church, there was a general conference held in Manchester in April 1845 and in attendance were members from the Mars Hill Branch (Millennial Star, vol . 5, p. 167). According to family tradition, the Rowley home was often used for church meetings. The mention of the Mars Hill Branch may indicate that the Rowley home was actually licensed for the use of religious meetings, which was English law at the time.
Later that year on September 21, there was a meeting called the Mars Hill Conference which met “in the parish of Suckley, Worcestershire” (Millennial Star, vol. 7, p. 3). The Mars Hill Conference included 466 members from 11 branches.
One example of William’s faith comes from a story retold by his grandson, William G. Rowley.
“This is a story my Grandmother, Ann Jewell Rowley told me when I was a small boy.
One night while Elder Woodruff was staying at their home, a mob of men came to their door and Grandpa [William Rowley] opened the door and asked them what they wanted. They said they wanted Woodruff, but they were told that Brother Woodruff had gone to bed. This did not satisfy them. They said, "We want Woodruff and we are going to get him!" Grandpa said, "If you get him it will be over my dead body." Members of the Mob then took hold of Grandfather and dragged him out into the yard where they beat him until he was unconscious. While the mob was dragging Grandfather away, he called to Grandmother [Ann Jewell Rowley], telling her to close and lock the doors, which she did. After they had beaten Grandfather until they were afraid he was dead and finding the house locked up, they departed being afraid to break into the house by force. When Elder Woodruff arose in the morning, finding [Grandfather] bruised and in bad condition, he advised them to sell out and move to America and to Zion (Rowley, Roberta Benson, History of William Rowley and Ann Jewell, pp. 3-4).”
As many other early members of the Church, the Rowley’s financial situation declined. In 1845 and 1846, their crops failed, forcing them to sell their home and all their possessions at public auction but a feather bed.
Another blow came to the family when a wagon tipped over onto William, which left him bedridden for a period of time. Some stories say that his leg and hip were crushed in this accident. William was in his 60s at this point. This injury, along with the anxiety over the family’s financial situation are believed to have contributed to his death although the copy of his death certificate (see image on right) states that he had "Influenza, Eight days." William Rowley died on 14 Feb 1849 at the age of 64.
William was buried 20 Feb 1849 in Suckley. (See record on left.) This left Ann widowed at the age of 48 and with sole responsibility over their 7 children, aging 7 months to 12 years as well as one of William’s daughters from his first marriage, Eliza, who lived with the family.
Eventually, Ann and her children made their way to Utah. Eliza also traveled with Ann Jewell but passed away at Sweet Water in Wyoming.
Ann remarried twice to good men who took care of her, but it can be easily assumed that she was always devoted to William. First, after the death of her 3rd husband, Luke Ford when she moved from Parowan to Huntington, Utah she went back to Ann Rowley. Also, the same day she was married to her Mr. Ford (14 Oct 1859), she also received her endowments and was sealed to William in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, UT.