Steamboat "Iowa," near Memphis, April 10, 1849.
Dear Brother,--Agreeable to request, I improve the earliest convenience to inform you of my safe progress thus far on the long journey to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Our voyage from Liverpool to New Orleans was accomplished in just nine weeks. Although the time consumed was more than usual, yet the passage upon the whole was prosperous and pleasant. The weather was uncommonly fine and mild. The winds and the waters treated us with all gentleness. There was but little sickness of any kind among us during the voyage. Many remarked that it was more like a pleasure excursion than a common sea voyage. The God of Israel was truly better than our fears, and to him let all the Saints give unceasing praise. My own health improved daily throughout the whole voyage. I felt that the incense of many thousand prayers was continually calling down numberless blessings upon my head. We had preachings several times a week during the passage, in which delightful service I was able to contribute my part. A great degree of union prevailed; and Captain Harrison Brown acted towards us the part of a gentleman and friend. For his diligent efforts to make our voyage prosperous and happy, we returned him a unanimous vote of thanks. A like vote was also awarded to the president of the company, and the other two members of the committee. Also a similar vote was awarded to President Pratt for the good and abundant provision stores furnished to the emigrating company. The exclamation was often repeated, what good provisions! - how abundant! - who could live as well and as cheap on land! - rent is free! Future emigrants should not forget that the first part of a sea voyage especially has an astringent effect upon the bowels, for which they should be prepared by having aperient food or medicine; and females experience an obstruction of the urinary ducts, &c., for which it might be well to provide sweet spirits of nitre, spirit of juniper, and balsam of capivi; also carbonate of iron. Diarrhoea often follows costiveness at sea. Persons presiding over emigrating companies on their voyage have both a difficult and important service to perform. A collision between them and the captains of the vessels is quite undesirable. The captain's influence may save or prevent a laborious examination [p.182] at the Custom House in some instances. A well-regulated and united company will generally escape difficulty both with officers of vessels and officers of customs. None but Saints can cross the Atlantic in large companies without serious difficulties and probable loss of life, without a much better organization than I have yet seen or heard of. In some instances, one-half of the Irish emigrants die going only to New York. And much greater mortality would doubtless attend them on a voyage through the West Indies to New Orleans. The system by which British emigrants to Australia are conducted is the best I have yet seen. The details of that system are suited to a given number of emigrants for the period of twenty-two weeks, showing the amount and variety of provisions and medicines, and luxuries too for the voyage. It shows how the food is cooked and distributed among so many under all the disadvantages of a promiscuous company of heterogenous spirits. I should like to see a revision of that system by your fruitful mind, and such improvements as will bless the myriads that gather to Zion. When the good order of the emigrating Saints, and the cheapness of their passage, is known by other people about to emigrate, they will seek to share the benefits of our order, and the cheapness of our passage price. But allow me to suggest that the annoyance of a few disorderly Gentiles, not members with us, during a sea-voyage - scoffing at our worship or our principles, and refusing to comply with general regulations and order - sowing discord, and weakening those who need to be strengthened - plotting mischief with the sailors, &c., &c., is a double tax on the patience of the Saints. It is giving to dogs the cream of the hard earnings of just men - when there are Saints enough to fill every ship you charter. I am aware that you published an explicit manifesto, that other persons emigrating with us should conform to our order. But some have crept in unawares, or their vouchers have forfeited their pledges in their behalf. The uncircumcised in heart, that came from London with our company, were rather troublesome at first, but the beauty of our order at length softened the asperity of their temper, and they sought earnestly our company up the river. Yet if Saints have done their duty in England, I believe they ought to be exempt from the labor of converting rebellious spirits, or submitting to their abuse during the inconveniences of a sea voyage. During the passage, we baptized one very promising young man, and confirmed more than a dozen, who were baptized after they entered the ship at Liverpool. Four infant children died on board the ship, and three infants were born, and a fourth child has been born on the steamer since. In every single case the mothers never did better. William M`Hendre, who begged his passage at the moment of our sailing form Liverpool, proved himself an infamous wretch. His iniquity found him out, and made him loathsome to the senses. I hope no other company will be disgraced and annoyed with such a contentious, lewd, filthy person. Two young females married sailors immediately on their arrival at New Orleans. If they had been married sooner, it would have been some apology for previous conduct. However, the spots on so large a company were very few. General love and union have prevailed. Nearly the whole of our large company are on their way with me to St. Louis. The cholera prevails in New Orleans and river towns to a considerable extent. It pleads with emigrants to hasten forward to the mountains for safety. Several deaths occur during every passage to St. Louis. We have already buried seven persons, and one or two lie waiting for the same rite. One brother and one sister have died, and are buried at the island "82." The brother's case was very much like cholera brought on by imprudence. The wife of William Eure had been in poor health for many months previous to her death. Very much of the sickness and death now prevalent may be traced to imprudence and gross mismanagement. I venture to say that it is not prudent of English emigrants to change their habit of diet too suddenly upon their arrival in New Orleans. A free use of strong drink, to which the emigrant is tempted after long restrictions at sea, is disastrous and often fatal. If our companies that are now actually emigrating through the midst of pestilence, that walketh in darkness and wasteth at noon day, plunging its thousands into death, with little notice, will use due circumspection and follow counsel, they will escape the pestilence to the astonishment of all that behold them as our company escape the pestilence to the astonishment of all that behold them as our company has done. And, as a caution to forthcoming emigrants let me say, some will transgress wholesome rules and be drunken and gluttonous. Then the transition of [p.183] climate and change of water and food, in some instances destroy the unwary: Two Irish people have walked out of the boat, or from the shore into the river, to return no more, under the influence of strong drink. One of our own brethren even walked into the Mississippi upon a plank of moonshine (to use his own expression) taking the moon's reflection upon the water for a plank, but was fortunately rescued form death by brethren at hand. Strong drink was the sole cause of this perilous adventure! Others will overcharge their stomachs with brandy in order to keep off the cholera, to which course, they are often advised by strangers. The company under my charge however, have thus far excited the admiration of all observers for their extraordinary cleanliness and good order, and wonderful measure of health. It was confidently said by officers of this steamboat, that at least fifty of so large a company would die on our passage to St. Louis. We are now within fifty miles of St. Louis, without any apprehension of another death unless a Gentile doctor on board kills them with his favorite dose of 20 grains calomel, laudanum, camphor, and brandy. This dose was given to our deceased brother and sister, contrary to my wishes, (F. Ryder and Mrs. Eure) and to many others who died immediately within a few hours! Several Saints I rescued from this dose who were as mortally seized, and they now live. A hint from your pen to emigrating Saints, how to treat the diarrhoea and other cholera symptoms in this climate may not be unprofitable. I suppose that all nations are destined to encounter the pestilence and the righteous will barely escape it. Yet we can say truly the Lord is a God of might, and his eye is over the righteous for good. Cheerfulness prevails among us, although this boat is thronged even to the hurricane deck with more than five hundred passengers. We are literally jammed together. With a single exception at Orleans we have been treated with great kindness and respect. On our first arrival in New Orleans a few ruffians boarded us in a turbulent manner, probably for a purpose akin to what impelled the Sodomites to annoy Lot's guests. One or two mischievous females that were an offence to the eye of purity during they voyage had gone ashore with their drunken paramours (sailors), and probably incited other wretches to return to our ship for others of like grade. But the furious demons soon left us in quietude. I hope the time will soon come when our emigrants will be carried in our own ships, officered and manned by Saints. I say this because that all may not be as highly favored with good officers and ship as our company has been. Our parting scene with Captain Brown of the Zetland was sanctified with unfeigned tears of good will. Let not the Saints of England be uneasy about their emigrating friends in this day of pestilence that is spreading over both continents. The God of Israel will be their defense. It is better to run the gauntlet even, in order to obtain deliverance in Zion, than to endure the stripes of doomed ill-fated Babylon! I perceive that the abolition of the corn law is causing panic among the agriculturists of England. Poor Babylon, thy hour is come! Russia holds the bayonet in the hands of fifty thousand warriors on the frontier ready for a momentary onslaught. Popery is bartering the liberty and prosperity of her European peasantry in order to purchase the aid of thrones to support the tottering fabric of her long-venerated institution! Oh, Christendom how long shall the veil be over thy eyes! The news from the Bluffs [Council Bluffs] and Valley is every way cheering. High minded intelligent men tell me that they marvel how we came to hit upon such a desirable location as the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. They know not that God has chosen Mount Zion for his habitation. There is a more favorable tone of public feeling manifested towards our people by the more intelligent portion of the community in this country. The gold excitement is the most common topic of conversation here. It is though that 40,000 persons will cross the mountains from New Orleans this season. The price of wagons, provisions, &c., &c., are all affected by this great rush. The emigration is more respectable in character than I supposed.
St. Louis, April 17th. - A company of 40 Saints left here for the [Council] Bluffs four days since. Two more companies from Massachusetts are daily expected. I have engaged a passage for my family and about 150 to the Salt Lake, leaving about the 1st of May. A company of 30 wagons in favor of a mercantile house in St. Louis are destined for the Salt Lake about the same time with every variety of goods. [p.184]
The presidents of conferences and Saints in Britain at large, are ever in my most lively and cordial remembrance. I shall endeavor to write to my friend C. of Liverpool from the heights of the mountain. May God bless you and your family continually is my prayer for Christ's sake. My kind regard to Mr. James.
P.S. - In chartering a vessel it will be well to bind the captain to employ as stevedore such a man as shall be recommended to you by the agent at New Orleans. Again, every family (be their number one or more), is obliged to pay 20 cents to the government for a permit to pass their baggage. This is a baggage permit, and not the fee for head money. If the charterer of the ship should neglect by any means to transmit the head money to the government in season, the passengers would be detained on board until it is paid by somebody. The bags, barrels, &c., containing passengers stores are subject to your order and worth a little attention. I instructed Brother Scovil to take charge of all he could find in each chartered ship and account to the church for the same. A few bags I kept for private use. A hint to emigrants about cleanliness may be safely and frequently administered. . . . [p.185]
BIB: Spencer, Orson. [Letter], Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 11:12, (June 15, 1849), pp. 182-85. (CHL)