Ship Belle Wood.Presidents Wells and Young.
Dear Brethren,--After the departure of yourselves, and the elders who accompanied you, from your visit to our vessel in the Mersey, we all stood gazing after you, with emotions only known to Saints who have long enjoyed each other's society, until your forms were no longer distinguishable, when we turned our attention to the practical duties before us, and proceeded to get the luggage below, and all made secure for the night. We then held a council meeting, at which the ship was divided into nine wards, with the following elders as presidents:--1st Ward, Charles Carpenter; 2nd Ward, E.F. Bird; 3rd Ward, William Willes; 4th Ward, George Sims; 5th Ward, F.W. Cox and Henry Walters; 6th Ward, M.P. Romney; 7th Ward, G.W. Grant; 8th Ward, Alfred Lee; 9th Ward, Matthew Lyon. Elder Robert Pixton was also appointed captain of the guard and police, and Elder George Sims clerk. Most of the people were too sick to attempt to hold meetings the next day, and those who were well were busily occupied in ministering to the [p. 397] comfort of the rest. The number of aged, feeble and sick, rendered it necessary to appoint some persons whose special business it should be to attend to them. Accordingly, Elder William Willes and a Female Sanitary Committee, consisting of Sisters Cecilia Campbell, Maria Wixley and Eliseman Savage, were appointed to that important labor of love. This office they cheerfully accepted, and faithfully performed the onerous duties devolving upon them, dispensing sago, tapioca, arrowroot, hot tea, coffee, soup, boiled rice, and dried apple sauce, with other little luxuries, which were carefully prepared, and proved very grateful and nourishing to the invalids. By the kindness of Captain Freeman in permitting these nourishments to be prepared at his own galley, it enabled us to supply the sick with a little light refreshment at an earlier hour than could have been done at our own fire, which was a source of much comfort to many in a debilitated condition. The Saints are unanimous in their expressions of satisfaction and gratitude, for the liberal provision made by you for their comfort and health on the voyage. It was really amusing, if not interesting, to watch the variety and number of dishes sent to the galley, and many on board lived better than they had done for many years.
Sister Campbell and her associates were untiring in their exertions both day and night, to nourish and nurse the sick, and to the providence of the Lord, the ministrations of the elders and these careful attendants, including Elder William Willes, may be attributed the rapid recovery of many, and the general good health that has been enjoyed.
Elder Barfoot has proved himself invaluable, having been most efficient in the discharge of his duties as passenger steward, and both he and Elder Fowler merit the gratitude of the whole ship's company for their indefatigable labors. We would not omit to mention Dr. Fitzpatrick, who, by his gentlemanly, mild and obliging manners, and by his patient and constant attention to the sick, has proved himself a man eminently suited to the position.
To supply the Saints with regular meals, an organization of brethren for cooking was formed. Elders Shaw and Holt were appointed superintendents to preside alternately, and direct the labors of Brothers May, Wise, South, Richards and Bowen, who were very vigilant and patient in the discharge of their duties, supplying three good meals a day. The Saints were notified to prepare their dishes, which were brought to and taken from the galley, by brethren appointed for that purpose from each ward. The wards cooked in rotation, commencing with the 1st Ward one morning, and the 9th Ward the next. Water and provisions were served in the same order. This arrangement gave the middle wards about the same hour for cooking every day, and gave general satisfaction.
Our first Sunday meeting, May 7th, by the permission of the captain, was held on the quarter deck, where the mate, Mr. Graystone, had prepared a sort of pulpit by spreading the union jack on the harness cask, and had also arranged seats for the accommodation of the elders. The ship's bell was tolled for half an hour previous to each meeting. The captain, officers, and as many of the crew as could conveniently do so, favored us with their presence, and paid marked attention. It is but justice to the officers of the ship to state that, during every meeting which was held upon deck, they maintained the strictest order and decorum among the crew. The sacrament was administered, and addresses were given by several of the elders. The Spirit of the Lord was copiously poured out upon both speakers and hearers, and your presence was all that was lacking to make it equal to any conference that we have had the pleasure of attending in England. The speeches were powerful, animated and instructing, inspiring each heart to renewed diligence and faithfulness, and were very comforting to the afflicted. All the wards had meetings morning and evening, at which prayers were said, and instructing remarks made by their presidents, and frequent testimony meetings were held. The weather governed us in the choice of deck or steerage to hold our meetings [p.398] in . A council meeting was held daily at 3 p.m., to provide for any contingency that might arise, and to continue to arrange for order, comfort and cleanliness.
Brothers Fowler, Palmer and Stonehouse, were appointed a committee to make arrangements for social parties for the recreation of the Saints, at which well-selected pieces were recited, and anthems and songs, both spiritual and secular, were executed in a very creditable manner. A small brass band, assisted by one or two good violinists, also by a flute and clarinet, made sweet melody to beguile the leisure hours of our trip, and filled the air with pleasant strains of music. Among the amusements may be classed the publication of a paper, entitled the Bell Wood Gazette, elder George Sims, editor, in which daily appeared sundry communications from the different correspondents, telegrams from various parts of the world, poetical contributions, reports of the board of health, advertisements for matrimonial alliances, lost property, essays, editorial instructions, &c.
Union in good feeling, characterized the conduct of the Saints during the entire trip, and our hearts are thankful to him who rules on high, for the operations of his Holy Spirit, which produced these most desirable results.
We regret to have to inform you of three deaths that have occurred during the voyage. First, John Edwin Hefferan, of consumption, on May 16th, born Jan. 5, 1864, at Dinpore, Bengal, East Indies. Second, William James Hazell, of convulsions, on the 24th of May, born March 12, 1864, at London. Third, Ann Eyre, of general debility, brought on by dysentery, on the 28th instant, born in Eckington, Lincolnshire, in 1798. A few cases of measles have occurred, but which have all terminated favorably.
The pilot boarded us this afternoon, (May 30th,) and as we hope to anchor in New York Bay tomorrow, we are preparing our letters to send on shore by the captain.
We have had an exceedingly pleasant voyage thus far, having experienced very little rough weather, but considerable rain. Captain Freeman has been gentlemanly, courteous and patient in his intercourse with us, he proved himself a skillful and careful officer, expresses himself as highly pleased with his passengers, and very desirous of carrying our people in future.
We feel thankful to our Father in heaven for his protecting care which has been over us, and the many blessings we have enjoyed from his hands. We earnestly pray for a continuance of his goodness and protection during our further journeyings, and for the choicest blessing that accompany his Holy Spirit to rest upon you, and all the faithful elders and Saints over whom you preside. Your brethren in the gospel,
W. H. Shearman,C.B. Taylor,W. S. S. Willes.George Sims, Clerk. [p.399]
BIB: Shearman, W. H., et. al., [Letter], Latter-day Saints Millennial Star. 27:25 (June 24, 1865), pp. 397-99. (CHL)