Wyoming, N.T., June 17, 1865.President Wells.
Dear Brother,--As I informed you by previous letter, we anchored in New York Harbor on May 31st, and were landed at Castle Garden, with our luggage, on the following day. We experienced no difficulty in passing the doctor and custom house officers, who were very courteous and accommodating. Of course we did not fail to show our appreciation of their kindness in enabling us to pass our effects without going through all the tedious formalities of the custom house regulations. In consequence of unwillingness on the part of railway contractors to fulfil their engagements with Elder Thomas Taylor, we were detained in Castle Garden between five and six days. The weather was intensely hot, the Saints suffered much from various sources of annoyance, and disease made its appearance and began to spread rapidly. I am thankful, however, to be able to say that, by the blessing of the Lord, we escaped with the loss of but one child, who died of the croup. Under these circumstances Brother Taylor had no alterative but to take steps to obtain legal redress; which, when the contractors found he was determined to do, they concluded to fulfil their agreement.
We accordingly left New York for Albany, by the Hudson River Railroad at 8 p.m., on the 6th. We arrived safely at this place on the 15th instant, having had a very agreeable trip, without any material detention, with the exception of the short distance between Quincy and the Palmyra Junction, which we had to ride in miserable dirty cattle trucks. At the latter place the Saints - men, women and children - were turned out into the pitiless storm without shelter. We remonstrated with the officials in vain, until assuming to have more authority than I really possessed, I told them I should certainly send our following company by some other route, where they would be treated with something like decency and humanity. The station master then concluded to let us into the depot where the people were tolerably comfortable till they proceeded to St. Joseph. About a mile east of St. Joseph the flood, during the night, had washed away a portion of the railway, causing a detention of a few hours. We experienced no material difficulty along the route, and were treated with great courtesy and kindness by nearly all with whom we came in contact. We have had a great many cases of measles, but all have done well with two or three exceptions. One child, aged eleven months, (Frederick Wilson Simons) died in the cars near, and was buried at St. Joseph. Sidney Biddle, aged 9 months, from Walsall near Birmingham, died of decline, and was buried at this place yesterday; Samuel A. [p.461] Shaw aged 3 years, from the same place died today of measles.
During the journey from New York to this place, every possible attention was given to the sick and feeble, the best railway carriage was always appropriated exclusively to their use, and the preference was given to them in all things.
It has been very stormy ever since we have been here, making the country very muddy and disagreeable. The thunder and lightning have been of that fearfully grand and, to me, sublimely magnificent character peculiar to America. Elder J. G. Holman has done everything in his power to make the Saints comfortable and to provide for their necessities. Several merchant trains for Salt Lake City are starting for Nebraska City, seven miles below this place, and are engaging many of the brethren as teamsters, paying from $40 to $50 per month. Twenty-six men and four women engaged and went to Nebraska today, under the presidency of Elder William Willes. Elder Holman has selected twenty more men, half of them with families, whom he expects will start with another train on Monday, under the presidency of Elder E. F. Bird. From present appearances it is likely that many more will be wanted , and Brother Holman hopes to be able in this manner, to get off many who would otherwise have been unable to go to Zion this season. We all feel very grateful to the Lord for thus opening the way for the gathering of his poor Saints. The wagon masters and the rest of the teamsters are Gentiles, but Brothers Naisbett, Hampton, Basset, and others have done all in their power to ensure the comfort and welfare of our brethren and families who go with them.
In consequence of the fall of gold, and the high prices of every article needed for emigration, Brother Holman and Taylor are seriously embarrassed for means. Brother Holman called a meeting for the brethren who wished to drive teams over the plains, and stated the case to them, when nearly everyone nobly and cheerfully volunteered to give their wages to the Church, to assist to gather the aged and females who are here without means. I do not think there has ever been a company of Saints come from Europe who have been more generally united and willing to obey counsel than this one. Provisions are very high here at present; flour is five dollars per cwt., bacon is 18 to 20 cents, sugar 25 to 30, coffee 45, tea $2.50 cents, and other things in proportion.
There has been a great deal of luggage brought this season, the freight of which, over the railway, will I fear be lost to the Church, as there was no possibility of weighing it - individually - in New York, and no means of doing it here.
The health of the returning elders is generally good. Matthew Lyon has greatly improved, as also Father Lee. Brothers C. B. Taylor, and F. W. Cox have gone to see their relatives in the States, but we are expecting them here in a few days. Brother T. Taylor was very anxious that I should accompany the Saints to this point, and I am now waiting their arrival at Nebraska of Brother W. T. Godbie (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at New York) and George Reynolds, when we expect to take stage together for Salt Lake City.
I forgot to mention that while detained in New York, we had some excellent meetings at Williamsburg, in the Aldelphi Hall at which a great number of Saints from Castle Garden attended. By the liberality of Brother W. T. Godbie and the kindness of Elder T. Taylor and others, a very refreshing and substantial repast was provided for all had come from Castle Garden, consisting of rich sweet milk, new bread, and good fresh butter, spread in our liberal American style. The food was very acceptable, and refreshing to the bodies of the fatigued Saints, and the kindness that prompted the movement was still more grateful and invigorating to their spirits, as it showed an interest in their welfare and comfort, that can only be fully appreciated under such circumstances.
Brother Holman says he hopes to be able to get the last of the Saints off by the 10th or 15th of next month.
Ever praying for your welfare and [p.462] prosperity, as also for all the elders laboring under your watchcare, I remain your brother.
William H. Shearman
P.S. - Sunday, 18th. Brothers Godbie and Reynolds arrived today. We leave by stage in the morning at 7. [p.463]
BIB: Shearman, W.[William] H. et al. [Letter], Latter-day Saints
' Millennial Star 27:29 (July 22, 1865) pp. 461-63 (CHL)