. . . Elder Wilson G. Nowers, of Beaver, Utah, who was a passenger on board the Olympus, gives the following particulars concerning the voyage:
Prior to the sailing of the ship from Liverpool, Apostle John Taylor, then presiding over the French Mission, foretold some of the trials that would befall the Saints during the voyage. Among other things he said the ship would encounter storms and furious gales, and be exposed to raging waves; that the Saints would have to contend with sickness, evil spirits and other troubles; but God would preserve them in the midst of all dangers, and lead them to a harbor of safety; [p. 1] all of which was verified in every particular.
Almost immediately after leaving port, seasickness began to prevail among the passengers, owing to storms and high seas, and many of the Saints lingered for weeks, suffering intensely form that distressing affliction, but they were finally restored by the faith and prayers of the brethren so that none were lost.
During this time of trouble with the elements, and sea sickness, the powers of the evil one were manifested in the case of a lad named Mackenzie [George McKenzie], about 12 years of age [age 13], who in the dead hour of night came leaping from his bunk, shouting at the top of his voice the name of John McNeil; it soon became apparent that he was possessed of an evil spirit, which was so enraged that for hours the brethren labored to exercise him; but this proved effectual only for a short time, as the evil one returned bringing others of his companions with him and again entered into the lad. This was repeated several times, until there were seven of them who called themselves legion and bid defiance to all who were on the ship, declaring that they would be subject to none but Brigham Young. They also threatened to follow the Saints until they should reach the mountains. During the administrations of the brethren, the Spirit of the Lord was so visibly manifest, that the discernment of the spirits was given to Elder Thomas Smith so plainly that he could see them, and he demanded of them in the name of Jesus Christ that they should tell their names. With this request they compiled reluctantly, but finally yielded, and one by one obeyed and were exercised. The seventh and last one was finally cast out. This left the poor boy in a very feeble state, and for several days his life was in jeopardy. At times, when the evil spirits were expelled form the boy, they would afflict others, though not to such an extent as the main object of their power. On one occasion the writer and two of his immediate friends, were overcome by this power. True to their threats, as I afterwards learned, they followed in the wake of the Saints, their special object of hatred being Elder [Thomas] Smith, whom they finally overcame, and n the town of St. Joseph, Missouri, the poor man succumbed to their dreadful power, while he was calling for help from the elders of the Church, of whom there were none to be reached in time to save his life. President William Howell also died in great distress at Council Bluffs the following year after our arrival in the United States. [p. 2]
For nearly twenty days after setting sail from Liverpool, we made but slow progress, as were continually beating against head winds in the Irish Sea, trying to reach the Atlantic Ocean. O Saturday, March 22, 1851, the weather however, was calm and pleasant and Captain Wilson according to his usual custom was walking from his cabin on the quarter deck, when he placed his hand to his forehead in order to shade his eyes from the sun, and made a hasty survey of the horizon. Then raising his eyes for a moment he scanned the upper deep, whereupon he immediately called for the officers of the watch and ordered the men of both watches on deck for the purpose of shortening sail, for we had been running under all the canvas the good ship was able to carry, including studding of all descriptions. I was somewhat surprised to hear the order from the master of the vessel to shorten sail so suddenly, when we were only drifting, for our speed could not be called sailing. I ventured to inquire of the captain the reason for giving such a positive order to the men of both watches to shorten sail.
He replied: "Don't your see that cloud yonder." I answered in the affirmative. "Well, when that strikes our ship we will have no need for so much canvas." And he was promptly obeyed, and the men worked with a will, the officers urging them continually to bear a hand, in which the writer lent his assistance.
The cloud which at first appeared but a trifle larger than a man's hat increased rapidly in size and advanced to all appearances directly towards us. By this time the outrigged sails were all hauled down and the men were engaged in close reefing the main topsail, when the squall struck the ship causing her to tremble and reel like a drunkard. This proved to be as the captain had expected a regular white squall, the fury of which was such that it carried the foremast overboard, and seriously sprung the mainmast at the decks. Several of the men barley escaped being carried overboard with the sails. The stays were out loose with axes in order to free the ship from the mast that was hanging by her side.
During the furling of the sails on the main mast, word was passed on two different occasions that a man had been blown overboard. At this the captain raged furiously, using much blasphemous language, as he attributed the accident to the carelessness of the men. In the meantime the ship was rolling in the sea and was tossed about by the furious gale [p. 3] to such an extent that she was thrown on her beam ends and became unmanageable. The men up aloft were complaining of the extreme difficulty they had in furling the sails, remarking that enormous weights seemed to be attached to them. This was soon proven to be a positive fact, as both of the men that were blown from the foot ropes and were supposed to be in the water were caught in the belly of the sail and to the great surprise of all hands they were both rescued in a miraculous manner. When word was passed the officers to that effect, the captain exclaimed "My God, how did they get there!" The night was fearfully dark and blew a hurricane, the seams of the ship cracking and admitting water into the hold.
When the first order was given to shorten sail, a command was also given for all persons to go below, and for the hatches to be battened down but by permission of the chief officer, the writer and a companion were allowed to remain on deck to assist the crew in any way we might be able. As soon as the sails were arranged so as to stand the storm, the ship's pumps were sounded, when it was ascertained that there was already about four feet of water in the hold, the storm having then raged for about two hours. Orders were immediately given to man the pumps. The water at that time was flooding over the decks, sometimes almost knee deep, as well as rushing through the seams of the ship's bottom into the hold; this was about 8 in the evening.
Desiring to aid and assist all in my power, in connection with my companion (Edmund B. Fuller), we manned one of the pumps, placing a line around our bodies, and lashing ourselves to the pump, so as to prevent our being washed overboard. The storm continued without cessation from hour to hour and the water also increased in the hold of the ship, which was determined by occasionally sounding the pumps. About midnight everything seemed despondency on board, or at least among those on the deck, the captain included, as there was no appearance of a lull in the storm.
Shortly before midnight the captain called to Mr. Rogers, the first officer, with an oath, summoning him to his presence; a short consultation followed, which resulted in a call for Mr. Hamilton, the second mate who, with the expression of several oaths from his superior, was commanded in about the following words to go to Elder William Howell: "Your go to the captain of the Mormons and tell him from Captain Wilson that if the God of the Mormons can do anything to save the ship and the people, [p. 4] they had better be calling on Him to do so, for we are now sinking at the rate of a foot every hour; and if the storm continues we shall all be at the bottom of the ocean before daylight." The order was given in such a tone of voice that I heard distinctly what was said. Mr. Hamilton, however, came to me, and in his kind, affable way (for he was not a man of profanity), reiterated the message and requested me to accompany him to the Mormon captain, which I willingly did. The companion-way was at once unbarred, and the two of us hurried below as soon as the vessel was in a position that the water would not rush into the hold while we passed through. Closing the companion-way after us, we made our way to Elder William Howell, who had charge of the company of Saints. Finding him in his bed we aroused him and delivered our message. In response he said, in a surprisingly calm tone, "Very well. You may tell Captain Wilson that we are not going to the bottom of the ocean, for we embarked from Liverpool on a voyage for New Orleans, and we will arrive safely in that port. Our God will protect us." Mr. Hamilton returned to deliver the reply to the Captain Wilson, but I remained with my brethren.
The scene between decks can scarcely be described; all was confusion; trunks and packages that were not properly secured were rolling and sliding form one side to the other. Some of the passengers were crying, others praying, and again others trying to feel composed. President Howell arose, dressed himself, and called a few of the brethren (about 12, myself included) to his side, all of whom engaged in prayer, one after another, as directed by the President, who finally prayed himself. While he was still engage in prayer, I noticed a material change in the motion of the ship; for instead of her rolling and pitching as she had been doing, she seemed to tremble as one suffering from the effects of a severe cold. Varied thoughts passed through my mind; I could not entertain the idea that the vessel was sinking, nor could I realize that the storm had so suddenly abated. At the close of the prayer of President Howell, all responded with a hearty Amen, and we arose from our position. President Howell then remarked, "You may all retire to your beds." I returned to the deck to find that the storm had miraculously ceased; the wind had gone down, and the waves were stilled immediately round about the ship, while in the distance the billows were still raging. The vessel trembled and seemed to quiver [p. 5] at the effects of so sudden a change.
We continued our toils at the pumps, and at length the dawn of the Sabbath broke upon us, clear, bright, and calm. Captain Wilson acknowledged the miraculous hand of God in our preservation, exclaiming that he had done all that he could before calling on the "Mormons," and that no human power could have saved the ship, if the storm had not ceased. All on board also seemed to acknowledge the hand of God in their preservation especially the Saints, who now were offering prayers of thanksgiving.
The next morning, Sunday, March 23rd, was calm and bright, and the sea as smooth as a mill pond; not a ripple was seen on the face of the great deep, and not a breath of air was left to stir the canvas from the masts. The rescued vessel seemed to enjoy the rest brought to her by the miraculous cessation of the fearful storm through which she had passed; the wind had indeed ceased and there was now a great calm. The sailors were busy righting up the tackling of the ship, and making preparations to rig a jury mast in the place of the fore top-mast that had been carried away, while the faces of all who came on deck beamed with joy and gratitude for their marvelous escape from a watery grave. The Saints attired themselves in clean clothing and newly-shaved faces were seen for the first time since leaving Liverpool. There was talk of holding religious services for which purpose a delegation of the Saints waited on Captain Wilson in order to obtain his consent, which was readily granted. It was also proposed that an opportunity should be offered for those who desired it to have the holy ordinance of baptism attended to, for several of the non-Mormon emigrants had been converted to the faith of the Saints, and now expressed their conversion by presenting themselves as candidates for baptism, if only an opportunity could be obtained. Accordingly, one of the largest barrels in which fresh water had been stored for the use of the passengers, was brought out and place on deck, the head of the same was removed, a short ladder of the ship's gangway was placed by the side of the barrel, and another on the inside which gave easy access in and out for the candidates. The barrel was then filled with sea water to the depth of a man's waist, and twenty-one person so of both sexes were initiated by baptism into the Church.
The following day, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the hands of the [p. 6] elders were placed upon the head of each one who had been baptized and they were confirmed members of the Church and received the gift of the holy ghost, and testified with much rejoicing and praise to God to the joy and comfort of all on board. The Holy Sacrament of the Lord's supper was then administered to the Saints, and many who had been sick were healed by anointing them with oil, the laying on of hands and the prayer of faith. Thus was performed one of the great miracles that ushered in the gospel dispensation to the people of Great Britain.
Some time afterwards about twenty others, all males, were baptized in the ocean, by means of a platform, improvised by the side of the ship by placing one of the hatches taken from the main hatchway, and suspending it by ropes on the surface of the water. Upon this Elder Thomas Smith and other attendants took a sitting posture with their feet and lower limbs extending down into the water of the ocean, having first placed a safety rope around their bodies. The candidates reached this floating stage by means of a rope ladder suspended from the bulwarks of the ship, each provided with a stout belt around his waist, such as was usually worn by the sailors, and also a safety rope around the body. The candidate was then placed in a sitting position on the left of the elder officiating, who grasped the belt around the waist with the right hand, and the clothing at the back of the neck with the left, and both hands of the candidate holding on to the wrists of the elder. In this manner the candidate was placed beneath the briny wave and brought forth there-from, and thus was the ordinance of baptism performed in the Atlantic Ocean where soundings were then unknown.
During the voyage, fifty persons were baptized including one baptism just prior to embarking and one after the arrival of the company at New Orleans. [p. 7]
BIB: Nowers, Wilson G. [Reminiscences], Church Emigration Book, vol. 2 (1850-54), pp. 1-7.