. . . In the spring of 1856 the chance opened up for us to immigrate to this country for which I was truly thankful. We sold our small effects and bade our friends farewell, took the train for Glasgow and from there went by steamboat to Liverpool, had a very rough passage on the Irish Channel. Landed in Liverpool, I think, on the first of May, stayed at the New York Hotel for several days. We embarked on the sixth of the same month on board the American ship Thornton bound for New York. There were 700 souls on board, nearly all of whom were bound for Salt Lake the same season. We had a very long passage, being six weeks on the sea. I enjoyed the voyage very well, for the [p.1] sake of health, the captain took a northerly route. We saw at different times some very large icebergs towering up in the sky like huge mountains. The cold was very intense for several days before we passed them. The next place of importance was on the banks of Newfoundland, sailing in perpetual fogs and heavy mists. The man on lookout at the bow of the vessel kept up a continual beating night and day on something like an old brass drum which sounded very unmusical to my ear. We were told that this was done to warn the men of fishing crafts to keep out of the way, there being danger of them being run down by large vessels. A few more days sailing brought us to the mouth of the Hudson.
A steam tug met us there to tow us up the river, having on board a custom house officer and inspector. A subscription was drawn up amongst the passengers for them. That was all they wanted and we were all allowed to go into New York without being asked a single question. We unshipped at Castle Garden, a very pleasant place with every accommodation for immigrants. I well can remember the first step that I made on American soil. I had been taught to believe that it was a land of promise, blessed above all other lands and although a small boy of fifteen years of age I felt like thanking God for the blessings I then enjoyed. We stayed a few days in New York City, then started up the river on a steamboat for Albany. We then took a train for about three hundred miles, then embarked on the Great Lakes. After sailing two or three days, we again took a rail car for Iowa City, via Chicago, Rock Island and Davenport, arriving about the latter part of June. We went about two miles out of the city to the Mormon campground where six or seven hundred immigrants were encamped in a delightful country. Everything seemed beautiful and pleasant as far as they eye could reach. We had not been there long ere night set in. The sky began to gleam with lightning steaks, followed in rapid succession until some parts of the firmament seemed entirely in a blaze. The rain commenced to fall in torrents, the wind blew most terrible. We were there without the least particle of shelter, no tent, no cover whatever. Water was swimming everywhere, everyone in an uproar. Children were crying, mothers sighing. Burns in his Tom O'Shanter hardly does such a subject justice when he says:
The wind blew as 'twould blow its last
The rattling shower rose on the blast
The lightning gleams the darkness swallowed
Loud, deep and long the thunders bellowed
That night a child might understand
The devil had business on his hand.
I think that it is written somewhere that the devil is prince and power of the air. If so, he must have been in an awful rage; for such storms continued for several successive nights. Of course, some growled and repined about the good homes they had left. Indeed, many felt like the ancient Israelites who looked back and moaned after the leeks and onions of Egypt. But after a few days, cloth was procured and tents were made and things went along much better. We camped here five or six weeks before we could get away. At last we were told that we were to go in Brother Willie's handcart company. This company consisted of about six hundred persons, men, women and children. There were one hundred Scotch, two hundred Danes, and about three hundred English. A captain was appointed over each hundred, he being chosen from the returning missionaries. One team was appointed to haul provisions for each hundred. The cattle were wild and the teamsters were green but we got along the best we could. We had three hundred miles to travel right through Iowa before we could reach the permanent starting place, Winter Quarters or Florence. While traveling along, people would mock, sneer, and deride us on every occasion for being such fools as they termed us, and would often throw out inducements to get us to stop. But we told them that we were going to Zion and would not stop on any account. When we went through a town or settlement, pulling our handcarts as we always had to do, people would turn out in crowds to laugh at us, crying gee and haw as if we were oxen. But this did not discourage us in the least, for we knew that we were on the right track. That was enough.
After several weeks pulling, hauling and praying, we arrived at Florence but were detained again several weeks more. Some stayed here, and would not go any farther. In fact, we were told that if any wanted to stop that they might do so, but the counsel was to go on to the valleys. I can remember of being at a meeting one night when Brother Levi Savage, a returning missionary arose and spoke. He counseled the old, weak, and sickly to stop until another spring. The tears commenced to flow down his cheeks and he prophesied that if such undertook the journey at that late season of the year that their bones would strew the way. [p.2]
At length we started, but our number was greatly reduced. About one hundred stayed who would not go any farther. I must state that there was not one of our hundred stopped, for that we got the praise. . . . [p.3]
. . . At last we arrived in Salt Lake where we were kindly cared for and well treated. The sick were doctored and then sent to the various settlements. . . . [p.5]
BIB: Cunningham, George. Reminiscences. (Ms 7322 2), pp. 1-3, 5. (CHL)