We have this week to tell a tale which will well serve to expose the infatuation which takes possession of the followers of Mormonism and the villainy of its “apostles.” On Spring Hill, Tallow Hill, in this city, lives Mr. Joseph Hodgetts, a coal-dealer, who, by dint of industry and perseverance has accumulated considerable property. His wife, an active and managing woman, supplied his lack of scholarship and conducted his business at home, while he was engaged in voyages up the canal, with both thrift and shrewdness. They were blessed with several children, all of whom were well favored both in body and mind, a progeny of whom their parents might fairly be proud, and they felt themselves well enough off to allow of their adopting and bringing up the child of a relative in addition to their own. This picture of prosperity and domestic happiness was unmarred, till in an evil hour an emissary of Mormonism darkened their door. The eldest son became enamored of the picture drawn of present indulgence at the Salt Lake and future bless which the “apostles” of this detestable superstition know so well to paint, and started off to America. By and by he came back having attained to high office in the Mormon community, charged with the errand of inveigling others – “eligible parties,” who had plenty of money – to the Mormon settlements. He succeeded in inoculating his mother and sisters with the Mormon faith; they believed with all their hearts the wildest of Joe Smith’s stories, and every thought was turned to the far west.
Last week the signal was given by the leaders for a general Exodus, and the “Saints” from every part were ordered to embark in vessels chartered at Liverpool for Boston. The scene at New Street Station, Birmingham, where some 300 persons from the Midland Counties set off for the northern port on this fool’s errand, is said to have been extraordinary enough. Amongst that crowd were Mrs. Hodgetts and her family. Mr. Hodgetts had started on one of his usual voyages into the coal country on the previous Sunday. He left his home just as years of quiet and habit and domestic pleasure had endeared it to him, but when he returned on Saturday morning, he found it stripped and deserted; there was no welcome, and no voice to answer him as he stepped across the threshold. His wife had not only left him, but had induced all the children to accompany her, had taken away much ready cash which she had diligently collected from the customers, had drawn £314 by cheque out of the bank on the previous day, and carried off everything portable – even the bed linen – from the house.
The poor man’s agony and distraction of mind can scarcely be imagined; he implored the aid of the police in recovering his wife and children, and Superintendent Chipp started with him on Saturday night to Liverpool on this almost hopeless errand. They got to that town about three o’clock next morning, and of course immediately procured friendly aid at the police office there, but at such an hour on a Sunday morning it was very difficult to learn anything of the fugitives. After some hours inquiry they ascertained that 400 Mormons had just set sail in the Enoch Train, a fine American ship, and it was reasonably supposed, but only supposed, that Mr. Hodgetts’ family were of the number. It was to have sailed at four o’clock that morning, but had fortunately been detained till about seven.
It was now between nine and ten, and with some difficulty Mr. Chipp struck a bargain with the captain of a steam tug, named the Great Conquest, a new tugboat and one of the fastest on the river, to go in pursuit. The fires were fortunately alight, and steam was soon got up, but the little party of pursuers were no much encouraged by the captain to hope that they would have any chance of overhauling the Enoch Train, for she had been taken out to sea by a strong tug, and had all her sails set to a favoring breeze. They saw nothing of her till they had crossed the bar at the mouth of the Mersey, but the captain of the Great Conquest then made her out with his glass, and screwed down his safety valves. For two or three hours the chase continued, but it was clear that they gained fast on the big ship, and when within hailing distance the captain of the Enoch Train slackened sail, supposing that her pursuers were Custom house officers who had scented something wrong.
As soon as the two vessels were lashed alongside, Supt. Chipp and Mr. Hodgetts, with the Liverpool officer who had accompanied them, jumped aboard, and when they announced their errand the excitement amongst the Mormon emigrants was intense. The captain took them into his cabin and asked to see the warrants under which they were acting. They had none, but that a husband should be robbed of his household gods and goods at once was felt by the captain, who avowed himself no Mormon, to be an unendurable rascality and he was evidently willing enough to render Hodgetts what assistance he could. The woman and children were however kept carefully out of sight between decks, and poor Hodgetts, who was more than half distracted, rendered the position which Mr. Chipp had taken up untenable by declaring that he did not wish to punish the runaways.
For an hour and a half did the officers and the captain and the Mormon leaders wrangle, the vessel all this time going further and further out to sea, and it was only by the finesse and firmness of Mr. Chipp, who declared that rather than fail in his mission he would accompany the vessel to Boston and denounce the whole party to the British authorities there, that the Mormon slave drivers consented to produce the woman, and let her have an interview with her husband. The upshot of the matter was that the wife and youngest child were first of all handed into the tug, and when the husband still knelt on the bulwarks, the very picture of paternal distress, praying that yet more of his offspring might be restored to him, even the emigrants themselves began to murmur and say that it was a shame to part a father and his children. The Mormon elders hereupon peremptorily ordered their insubordinate victims to go below; but the captain, finding now that he could do so safely, ordered the other two children, girls about seven years of age, to be handed to their delighted parent, and the tug then cast herself loose to return to Liverpool. The two eldest daughters, aged 16 and 18, the latter a very fine young woman, obstinately refused to go back, and we shudder to think of the fate that is in store for them.
The errand of the Great Conquest had got wind in Liverpool, and numbers of people were anxiously waiting her return upon the quays to learn the upshot of the chase. Mr. Hodgetts is once more safely housed at home with his wife, but we understand that she still positively declares that she will go to the Salt Lake some time or other. She has brought back with her a great part of the money she took, but not the whole. To show the state of agitation in which the poor man was thrown, we may state that, from the time when he discovered his loss to the moment when he first caught sight of the vessel bearing away his treasures, he refused to taste a morsel of food, and he repeatedly told Mr. Chipp that, if he did not recover his wife and bairns, he should throw himself into the sea. The tact, firmness, and promptitude of Superintendent Chipp through the whole affair cannot be too highly spoken of.
BIB: "Chase Extraordinary," Worcestershire Chronicle, March 26, 1856, p. 2.(source abbreviations)