. . . My reception at the Liverpool office was certainly a surprise to me. When my name was mentioned, there came forth a corps of elders to greet me and wish me God speed with that spark of brotherly love that only true servants of God can enjoy. I ordered our outfit but in the hurry I neglected to sign as steward of our company, a position President John Nicholson had asked me to occupy in our company across the ocean. At midnight Brother and Sister Stayner [Stainer] brought my family to the vessel and saw them safe on board, a kindness I shall never forget, and when President [John] Nicholson called over the names of those having outfits for the voyage, my name was called twice. I asked him if there were any who had no outfit and when he said there were I told him to give the other one to any who needed it, but said this one is more costly than the one you ordered and was sent from the elders at the office. So thankful I was for the many acts of kindness received that I refused to take more.
But little sleep was enjoyed that night by our company that numbered three hundred fifty eight souls, but the spirit of fond anticipation was manifest in the greetings of people who had never met before. There were also a number of returning missionaries with us to join in thanks in praise to our Heavenly Father that they were now returning to their home and loved ones in the land of Zion after devoting more than two years in the cause of truth. I tried to be as helpful to President Nicholson as possible in caring for so large a body of people with ways strange to each other and tons of baggage to be taken care of and when all was arranged in order the signal was given and we weighed anchor at 12:20 p.m. on Saturday, October 23, 1880.
When we arrived at Queenstown, [p.35] Ireland, quite a number of immigrants were taken on board in the forepart of the vessel and it was then discovered that I had not signed as a steward of our company. President [John] Nicholson came hurriedly and told me that the captain sent for me at once. This is what he said, "What is your name?" I told him and he gruffly stated, "Your name is not in our book, the ship's register and we must put you off at once." This is when President Nicholson explained the matter satisfactorily to him, that I did not understand the rules but that I should act as steward of our company under his direction. Again the gruff voice asked me if I had been to sea before and almost before I could answer he dismissed me by saying, "Go to work" and the ship glided away as usual. When I informed my family of the circumstance and we realized the situation more fully, we praised God from whom all blessings flow and all went well with us until in mid-ocean when a terrible storm commenced to rage which continued three days. Every member of our company were seasick excepting Elder Nixon and myself and instead of our usual evening meeting of singing and prayer, could be heard moaning in all the berths.
On Sunday at midnight as I sat with one arm holding on to the pillar and the other holding our little Francis Joseph on my knee, the head steward came and told me in no uncertain terms to put that kid in bed and come to business, which I did and he told me then that the ship was taking in three feet an hour and that unless the break could be mended we should have to lower the boats. How long we sat waiting I cannot tell but I know that if I ever prayed in earnest it was at that time and if ever I thanked my Heavenly Father for his mercies was when we heard the pump commence to work again.
Now my readers, please take note on Monday morning it seemed as though I must heave up Jonah, and I got the bucket for that purpose but at that very moment a power unseen took me into the middle of the floor and the seat I had [p.36] occupied a moment before and the matchward bucket too, tons of trunks and baggage lay there in a heap that had broken loose during the heavy storm but not the slightest warning had been given to any one except me, as here stated. I was not seasick. We learned on arriving at New York that a ship right behind us went down with all on board but all were well with us and our prayers ascended to the throne of grace for our safe arrival on land.
Upon reaching Castle Garden some changes were made especially the changing of money into American dollars and cents which but few understood even after the change was made but we had plenty of time to talk matters over as we stayed there all day that day. "What are we waiting for?" was a question asked many times but no one seemed to know and we rather enjoyed the change of scenery until evening when Brother Emanual [Immanuel] Wooly [Wooley] suggested trying to get outside and have a look at New York City. Without consulting our people we did go and purchased a few things that we thought would be necessary, but was gone longer than we intended and when we returned there was not a soul to be seen. "Now what shall we do?" said Brother Wooley, "My wife has my ticket," and I had all our tickets and there we were not knowing where our company had gone. We were not long in doubt, however, as Brother George Crane appeared and motioned for us to hurry that way which we did to find that the boat had arrived to the port to take us across the river to Pennsylvania Railroad. Again we had the pleasure of witnessing the fatherly consideration of President John Nicholson when he said, "Brother Bowler, you and your family will occupy the car with the returning missionaries and no matter where we change, night or day, you may need no further advice as I shall be busy all the way through." That surely was an act to feel grateful for with a family of ten in a strange country and so late in the season. And as a further consideration Sister Grey was to accompany us as midwife, in case [p.37] my wife should need her services on the journey. Was that not brotherly love in very deed?
With our well trained voices we accompanied each other and endeavored to reciprocate by singing the songs of Zion in which the elders heartily joined. "We'll make the air with music ring, shout praises to our God and King." That had so often been sung while in Nottingham was no realized more fully as we journey westward to the land of our choice and the home of the Saints.
The horseshoe bend at Pittsburgh was an object of curiosity where one end of our train appeared to be nearly opposite the other and that abyss with smoke reminded one of the lower regions the ministers used to talk to us about when I was a boy. It might have appeared rather amusing to a casual observe, the way my wife took track of our children with her count of 2, 4, 6, 8 at every change.
The awfully grand sight I ever witnessed the prairie fire for although at a distant it seemed as though the whole world was in flames and we were hastening into the conflagration especially so when the night was very dark and the wind blew in an opposite direction. The methodical life in England had nothing in comparison with such scenes as witnessed in the transition from one country to another, to say nothing of the object we had in view in reaching our destination. Many points and objects of interest were pointed out to us by the returning missionaries and many stories told and incidents recounted of the trials and hardships by those noble pioneers who took their solitary weary march over nearly the same ground we were then gliding over so smoothly and rapidly, but the prairie fire was to me the all-absorbing object that my mind dwell upon for a short time and indeed it has appeared in my dreams often since. Occasionally we [p.38] saw a real Indian with garb and feathers something similar to pictures printed in books, but those we saw there were alive and moving along. The wide expansive country and traveling day and night brought to my mind the first trip I made on the railroad in the dog cart journey in the year 1852, only fifteen miles altogether and it took about five hours to make the trip. A wonderful trip and a wonderful change to be sure and let everything to appear to come about quite natural to be sure.
It seemed as though we were never going to find a real stopping place before we reached Chicago and even when we did reach there, there was a very short time to look around and purchase things that we might need on our further journey westward. Our next change was one never to be forgotten by me, at least. No large city there to attract our attention, just the railroad station and a few houses was all that reminded us of civilization when we reached there on Saturday night, but soon discovered that we must stay there indefinitely. There was something wrong about the cars not being ready or not enough of them for our use to proceed further nor did we leave there until Monday morning. I said, "Never to be forgotten" for the reason that during that Sunday we had to stay I never heard so much profanity and abuse as when a few men approached me and stated that they had just returned from Utah. Oh, yes, they knew all about Brigham Young and the whole clique of Mormons and in fact, what they did not know I don't want anyone to try to find out. They tried to persuade to try and turn my face homeward as they said while I had a chance for if we went any further it was all up with us. Not very encouraging to be sure, but was it? I did not seek their company or advice but as I walked around, they followed me, and as before stated, I never heard such blasphemy in all my life, and I certainly had heard many rash speeches concerning the people commonly called Mormons, nearly all my days. I reasoned this way, had I not associated with this people from [p.39] childhood, my parents and grandparents before me, do I not know that their character in general has been grossly, and I may say cruelly, misrepresented and here when I supposed I was free from slanderous reports, I am assailed more shamefully than ever. If ever I realize that the two influence were operating, it was then that I needed to be on my guard constantly and take warning by what I might meet with from such people as had once been friendly to those who they now spoke so much evil about. Again, "constancy, thou art a jewel" and man is man's worst enemy. The gospel of light and truth is the only means of salvation to the human family. Help me to say as did our Savior, get thee behind me. I assure my readers that I kept pretty close to my family during the remainder of that day and until we left that spot.
We crossed the river early on Monday morning and stopped a short time at Omaha and there purchased some provisions and then proceeded on our way toward the Rocky Mountains, the place we had heard, read, and sung so much about while in our native land; where the Saints of God have met and where we fondly anticipated meeting them.
One sad incident occurred on the way in the death of an infant whose father was in Denver and where the fond mother was hastening to meet him. Here again President [John] Nicholson showed a fatherly care and consideration by having a coffin made so that the child might be taken to Father. Are acts like these not worthy of note? Is it not a denial to the lives above reported? That poor mother could not speak or understand the American language but was cared for as well as she could have been in her own home and country and she met her husband in Denver with the best of care and the sympathy of every soul in the company.
The scenery from Denver changed considerably surpassing all imagination and so we speeded from the state of Colorado, Wyoming, and into Utah. Mountains everywhere, so strange and yet so enchanting that we sang "Oh Ye Mountains High" as we had imagined [p.40] it while singing that favorite hymn in other countries. Thus we speeded on to Ogden, Utah where we arrived on Friday afternoon and were met at the station by our old time president, Joseph Morley and his good wife who took us to their home for entertainment and a happy meeting that was to be sure during the short stay before our train proceeded on to Salt Lake City, that night.
I have never returned to Ogden but the memory of those good people will always be green in my mind. Our train stopped at a small station and a lady came in and introduced herself as Mrs. Bowler formerly from England and urged us to stop and make our home there which in justice to others and to keep my word with them I could not do but I promised to write to her when we were settled. She left the car with tears in her eyes stating that she had read our names in the Deseret News and was in hopes that some of her kin-folk were coming to live near her. We did not know the name of that place and when we tried to get in touch with them later no one seemed to know even the name of the person or the place we referred to.
On our arrival at Salt Lake City that night no one was here to meet us as they had been informed that the train would not come in till the next morning. This was our first great disappointment as we did not know where to go and our eight children were sleepy, but by watching a group of people standing there I concluded they were in the same condition as ourselves and I said to my wife we will go where they go and so we passed the night in the tithing house as best we could, but even that was better than thousands of others who came to this country in early days. . . . [p.41]
BIB: Bowler, James Samuel Page. Autobiography (Ms 4551 1), pp. 35-41. (CHL)