Memoir of Brother Frank Bottom

Frank Bottom was my second great grandfather. Frank was baptised in 1845 in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. The son of John and Mary Bottom of Thornhill, his father was a coal miner and Frank’s destiny was to be the same. But when his daughter Annie was born, Frank was recorded on her birth certificate as working as a Warehouseman in a glass factory. Less than a year later, on the 1871 census, at the age of 25, Frank was now working in the coal mine. However, Frank had a calling to become a lay preacher.

Thornhill Lees Glassworks and Colliery 1850-51

When Frank died, at the age of 30, his bible was passed on to his daughter, my great-grandmother, Annie Bottom, who married Lee Sheard. Inside the bible is written “Frank Bottom’s Book, Thornhill Edge, August 19th 1866”.

Later, the bible was given, by his daughter Annie, to my uncle Stan (her grandson) and in it is written:  “Given to Stanley Sheard, Granson, from his Granma Sheard, February 1938.  To take care of it please. It was my father’s”.  

After Stanley’s death, the book passed to his nephew for safekeeping. Along with the bible was an extract from a church magazine from Thornhill, with the following tribute:

Memoir of Brother Frank Bottom:
The subject of this sketch was born at Thornhill Edge in the year 1845. He was sent by his parents to our Sabbath School in early life, where, no doubt, those precious seeds of truth were sown in his heart which brought him in afterlife to feel his need of a Saviour. He had not been brought up at the family altar, and he had not perhaps, that powerful influence of prayer and love following him wherever he went as some have; but thank God, he had a tender heart and ultimately, though the hearing of the Word and the strivings of the Spirit, he gave his heart to God; when about the age of sixteen years he was a very promising character and there was every reason for the Church to hope.

It was not very long ere he manifested a desire to work for the Master and he was therefore called to minister the Word of Life. He was not ordained to the work by the laying on of the hands of a Bishop, as some are, but I believe he had the highest authority to preach the Gospel. Many have felt refreshed from the presence of the Lord whilst sitting under his ministration – I have and some of my hearers have; that was his seal and testimony. He used to say to me at times that he had never seen the fruits of his labour in the shape of converts and this made him doubt sometimes whether he was really called to the work. I told him he could not tell how God would work through him. My hearers will bear me out, I am sure, when I say that he was an acceptable preacher of the Word of Life. I find, in looking over his textbook, that on March 18, 1865, he preached at Fennay-bridge, from the words “Fear not little flock” etc. This would be his first sermon. I also find in the same book that he preached 167 times. There appears to be a mistake however. He preached one sermon in this place which I recollect very well. He was very unwell at the time and I suppose he forgot to put it down; this would be 168.

Our brother entered on the marriage state in the year 1869 at the age of 24 years. He has been blessed with three children, two of whom are gone to their rest a little before him; the other is left, with his poor widow, to mourn his loss. He was a loving husband and a kind father; he loved his earthly home and its fireside enjoyments. He used to say he had a comfortable home here, but a better one to go to.

Our brother seemed as if he would like to get better in the first stage of his illness and this is natural, especially to a young person; but I believe that no murmur escaped his lips and towards the close of his life he became more and more resigned to the will of God. He used to say he was resigned to the Lord’s will. On the Thursday before his death he was heard to pray earnestly for God to prepare him and his partner for what was about to take place and then he was heard to say. “A few more pains and then the last will come”. As the day advanced, he said “God’s will be done and not ours”. On the Friday night he quoted Job xiv.14 “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come;” and again he said “The end of a righteous man is peace; not peace of body but of soul” and further he said “To patient faith the prize is sure and all that to the end endure the cross shall wear the crown.”

He also sent for his father, his brothers and sisters and he earnestly requested them to meet him in heaven. He wanted them to promise him and oh! who could do any other than fulfil the dying request of a son or brother? I ask you in his name – father, brothers, sisters, will you meet him in heaven? May God help you.

On Saturday evening, the 23rd October, the house was nearly full of weeping friends. I think I can never forget his look. That beautiful verse struck me forcibly: “Fearless of Hell and ghastly death, I’d break through every foe; The wings of love and arms of faith would bear me conquer through.”

His last audible words were to his child “Poor Annie soon be without father”. I breathed a silent prayer for him and a few minutes later death struck the final blow and all that remained to us of our brother was his body; his happy spirit had winged its way to the realms of bliss.

Bro. Frank Bottom was possessed of many amiable qualities. He had an honest, upright heart, ever disdaining to do an evil action; full of manly independence, he loved to preserve his freedom to the utmost, allowing all persons the same right. He has gone to his rest esteemed and regretted, for he was held in high reputation by many who knew him. He died on 23rd October and was interred at Thornhill Parish Church. I have mused beside his grave more than once since then and I am hoping by-and-by to meet him on the other shore. Brothers, sisters, – “we shall meet him ‘mid the holy and the blest”.

The tribute is rather romanticised, but does give us some insight into the life and times of Frank Bottom. Frank died in 1875 at the age of 30, when Frank and Amelia’s only remaining child was five years old.  Five years after Frank’s death, in 1880, his widow, Amelia had another child, Clara Bottom, out of wedlock, to Thomas Adamson. Amelia went on to marry Thomas, who already had five children from a previous marriage, and they had another child together, Harriet Adamson, born in 1884. Clara Bottom later took the name Adamson, but Annie continued to be known as “Bottom”.

Annie continued to live with the Adamson family along with her step-brothers and step-sisters and two half sisters. Annie looked after her father’s bible and the memorial to her father until she passed it on, in old age, to her grandson, my uncle Stanley. Little did she know how much information she had salvaged for us over a hundred years later.

© Christine Widdall