On the twentieth day of Feb 1861 we bid farewell to the Branch of the Church where I had presided over for about eleven months and also to Algo Bay, and went on board the bark Race Horse, commanded by Captain John Searles. First myself, wife five children two sons and three daughters, my son-in-law George Elles wife and three children, Mr Henry Talbot wife and family. Mr Henry Talbot wife and one child making in all thirty two souls.
It got to be quite late in the afternoon when we weighed anchor. So after we got out to sea a little distance the wind arose and caused the sea to be quite rough. And as I had not been on the sea for at least forty years and [p.445] then I was quite a boy, I became very sick and giddy so that I could not help myself and was glad to lie down in the first place that I could find, and all the company became so sick that night that one could not help another or look after the children. But as luck would have it we had a very good and kind steward who took charge of the little children unrolled the beds and arranged them and put them to bed, and for several days we were all so sick but some of the young men was the first to get over their sickness and they would help others. But for myself I was sick more or less all the voyage I could not bare the smell of the cooking and had no appetite to eat anything. The captain had ten sheep brought on board to kill on the voyage and of course brought a good supply of [p.446] forage or oat hay to feed them with and to sit and pick the grains from the oats and eat them was the only thing that I relished and tasted good to me and also now and then I could eat a few sour dried apples, I think when people are going on a sea voyage even as first class passengers, they aught to lay in a supply of little delicacies for their own use independent of cabin fare. For when I was so sick, I often wished that I had done so which I would have done as well as not for I had plenty to do with. I have already mentioned that these young men soon got over been sick. Well one of them who's name was Thomas Talbot made himself [p.447] very useful, for he would get around amongst the young women and help them to go upon deck to get the fresh air, and our captain been a very clever and sociable man he gave him the title of "Doc" Talbot, and also a young man by the name of Robert Wall was very attentive to the girls which were six in number, and they also paid great attention to the married women of which there were four.
Mr. Talbot senior brought along with him a little Kaffir boy who was between six and seven years old. He was one of those starved and abandoned children that as already been mentioned in this history, Mr Talbot got him at that time and kept him and the little fellow became attached to his family and himself so [p.448] that when Mr Talbot was leaving Africa he would come along and his name was Gobo [Fango], and the captain gave him the office of sheep feeder while on the voyage, some times the captain would doubt him whether he had fed the sheep, and used to call him gumbo and would call him to him and tell him to let him look at his hand and that would prove whether he had fed them or not. The captain told him that he could tell by certain veins in his hand when he was telling a story. On one occasion the captain asked him if he had his dinner and the boy said no sir but the captain had seen him eating with the sailors and so he the captain proved it by his hand. Well after our company got right well over their [p.449] seasickness things went on all right and we enjoyed ourselves, especially the young folks. The captain's son, John Searles Junior, was a very nice young man. His father wanted him to stay at home and go to school but he did not want to dot that , but felt a great desire to go to Sea, so his father told me that he was so determined to go to sea that he thought that he had better take him under his own charge. So he held the office of second mate, and made himself very agreeable with the young folks of the passengers and our evening used to be spent in dancing singing and playing music which made the time pass very agreeable, and very often the captain would prevail on the girls to sing for him. [p.450]
In addition to our company we had the captain and two seamen of the wrecked whaling vessel "Hero" who was very agreeable company. Well on the first of April the boys wanted a bit of fun, and one of them hollowed out a whale ahead which made Captain Hussey jump and run to see, but there were no whale there and the boys told him that it was the first of April which created a great laugh among them. But now and then we would in reality see a whale and flying fish in abundance as we drew near the line, and when near the line it was the hottest weather that I ever felt. It was unbearable, and sometimes we would have what is called a contrary wind or a calm and then the captain would feel discouraged and [p.451] say that we were going straight to England, but when the ship would be rushing before a good strong wind then he would feel all right. The Race Horse was a clipper built vessel and was a very quick sailor. On one day we seen the wrecked brig "Benguela" of Stockton, dismasted full of water and abandoned in the neighborhood of the Island Bermuda. Well all went well with us until within about two weeks of arriving at Boston we encountered what I considered a very severe storm which lasted two days and nights and the waves rolled mountains high and broke over the vessel in one mass of form and all the sails were reefed close, and without any sails we were drove before the wind at the rate of ten or twelve [p.452] knots an hour and the ship rolled and pitched fearfully so that I thought to be sure that we would all be lost. The captain had two small cannons on board which he said he carried for ornament, and well in this storm one of them broke loose from its fastings and rolled about for some time breaking everything it struck. It was just like a battering ram, until finally it gamed itself fast and the sailors lashed it fast so that it had to stay there until the storm was over, and the weather was intensely cold while the storm lasted. This storm has near far as I can remember was in the gulf stream known as the gulf of Mexico by sea faring men. Sailors always know when they are in the this stream especially [p.453] the Cooks who dip so much water because it is so much warmer, and also by the abundance of sea weeds that floats on the surface of the water which comes from the Gulf of Mexico and runs across the ocean to the England Coast.
Well after this we got along first rate for the rest of the way and finally the pilot came on board and brought papers and also the news that the war had broke out in the United States between the north and the south. It did not surprise the Captain much for he was expecting to hear of it. The Battle of Bull Run had already been fought.
At this instance the pilot took charge of the vessel as it is their custom and run her into Boston Harbor which was in the night and about four o'clock in [p.454] six miles outside of Boston Light. The Race Horse lost her bowsprit, the head of her foremast, and all above by contact with schooner "Fenmore" which sustained but little damage. So we had to remain there until a steam tug came and towed us in and also another vessel. At the same time a bark as large as the Race Horse the Captain said that, that was the second time the same accident had happened to him and the same vessel in Boston Harbor after the pilot took charge.
Well we arrived in the dock about the twentieth of April 1861, and the captain was very kind and allowed us to remain on board until we could find quarters. So we stayed on board about one week and still eat of the ships provisions. [p.455] There was a very fine pig killed on board a few days before coming into harbor, and it was just about this time that my appetite had come to me and that pork tasted better than anything that I had eat all the voyage.
Well after arriving all right in Boston, we looked around and found a branch of the Church in East Boston, and the members hearing of our arrival the president and some of the members came on board to see us and make our acquaintance, and also a great many strangers hearing that we had come from Africa thought to be sure we were black for they thought it impossible that white people could come from Africa. So when they seen us and talked to us they said why these people are like ourselves and we said why not we came from England just [p.456] the same as many of you have done. Then the president of the branch telegraphed to New York to Elder N. V. Jones to know what to do about us, so Elder Jones Telegraphed back work that we must stay in Boston and make ourselves as comfortable as we could until an emigrant ship arrived, which was expected from England. So I hired a large house which answered for the several families in east Boston. But as there were no fireplaces in the house we had to but stoves to do our cooking by, but there was plenty of good water in every room in the house and as provisions were very plentiful and cheap we lived and made ourselves contented for a month. With in a few days, and as the weather was very [p.457] fine we went around a great deal and seen a great many things that was new to us, such as railroads machines shops and dock yard and bars on the rails, all such things we had not seen for there were no such things in Africa. But I had read a great deal about all those things but had not seen them until I came to Boston. We also visited Bunker Hill, When I said there was no railroads in Africa it was a mistake in me for there were a railroad in Cape Town and also in Natal, but I had never seen them for they were several hundreds of miles from where I live. So while we were there it was all commotion with the bands of music fife and drum and recruiting parties and flags flying in every direction it being the commencement of the War of 1861 between the North and the South. [p.458]
Well after staying in Boston nearly a month we received word that we must go to New York as the ship had arrived that was expected. So we packed up all our goods and chattels and took the cars and bid good by to Boston and all our friends that we made while staying there. So when we arrived in New York the company we waited in Boston for had started on their journey Florence so we had to take a house in Jersey City and wait the arrival of another ship which kept us about one week longer. There was a family in the house we engaged who was very kind as all our cooking utensils were all packed up they let us do [p.459] our cooking on their stove so we got along very well and there we had a chance for a few days to look around New York and there we got our English money changed into American money through the assistance of N. V. Jones. Well at the end of a week we took cars again for the great outfitting place Florence, as it was then called, taking the route through Hannibal and Chicago. While waiting at Chicago for a change of cars and as the War had commenced about slavery and Mr. Talbot having the little Kaffir boy who has been already mentioned. Some colored men happened to spy the little fellow in the car made an attempted and was determined to take him away. They accusing us of taking him away into Slavery and they thought to liberate him and caused great disturbance but they did not [p.460] get him for a lady of the company hid him under her brinoline and they searched through the Cars but could not find him. So after that he was kept concealed as much as possible and put girls clothes on him. Well after leaving Chicago we got along all right until we arrived at St. Joseph's which I believe was the terminus at that time.
Well after staying at St. Joseph's a few hours we went on board the steamboat "Omaha," and steamed up the Missouri River to Florence. But I must say one or two words about the mate we had on board. He was a great passy fussy fellow and the greatest swearer that I ever heard especially when we stopped at the different [p.461] landings to take in fuel or goods, I could not help thinking when I was on board of that boat that I was just near Hell as I wanted to be, and I made the remark at the time to a friend of mine. There were from eight to nine hundred souls on board, and we were huddled together so close which made us very uncomfortable, but I took Cabin passage for my wife for I could not stand to see her in such confusion for she was not very well at the time for she was getting very tired of her journey, and I took charge of my three daughters near to the boiler.
We were between two and three days on the river. We were on sandbars two or [p.462] three times which detained us longer, I was much pleased with the scenery along the banks of the river, and when we landed at Florence I believe it must have rained for we could not find a dry spot to put our luggage down it was almost like putting our boxes down in the river. Every place was so wet, and after we had got all landed our girls were invited on board the boat again but was not told that the boat would start away soon. Well they had not been on board long when the signal was given to start which made the girls have to run as it were for life to get on shore again. . . . [p.463]
. . . Mr. Henry Talbot Senior was chosen chaplain by the captain, and about the last of June 1851 we left that camp and made a grand start [p.467] to cross the plains. . . . [p.468]
. . . We camped between the Big and Little Mountains with another company who was ahead of Captain Donkin's Company a day or two. But the next day we arrived in the city and found an old acquaintance [p.484] from Africa by the name of Charles Roper, who lived in the Seventh Ward. He resided in the Winterberg when he broke up his home to come out to Utah. He was a neighbor to my brother George. Well, we found him very comfortable and he was glad to see us and invited us to stay at his house until our company came into the city. Who came in the next day and we camped on the Emigration Square in the Eighth Ward. That night and the next morning Captain Donkin came to me and invited me and my family to come to his house and make ourselves comfortable until we could look around to see what would be best for us to [p.485] do. . . . [p.486]
BIB: Wiggill, Eli, Autobiography (Ms 8344), pp. 445-63, 467-68, 484-86. (CHL)