New Orleans, April 18, 1849.Dear Brother Davis--
According to my frequent promise to the dear Saints whom I left behind in Wales, I shall give an account of our voyage across the ocean up to this point. There are no doubt many tales about us which have been spread throughout Wales, and prophecies about our drowning, etc. Therefore, I beseech you to announce in yourUdgorn [The Udgorn Selon was a Welsh periodical for the Saints in Wales.] that all these are false up to now--that we are still alive, even though on the other side of the sea from you. I hope that they do not believe that this letter is coming from thespirit world. Furthermore, the captain has not turned the ship to Cuba and sold the Saints into slavery as yet, as was prophesied in Seren Gomer and by others that he would do. It is facts like these which prove who the false prophets really are.
But on with the account of our voyage. Since I am writing to many who intend to follow us sooner or later, for whose happiness we are desirous, allow me to itemize the most educational things, so that they may benefit from our experience. According to the account concerning us which you heard from Liverpool, I report that before sailing, that is, the first Sunday after boarding the ship, we established ourselves as an emigrating or floating Branch on the depths, yet, in another sense, as an established branch, and the various officers were chosen to fill the difference responsibilities appertaining. We held a meeting of the Saints, distributed the sacrament and received open evidence that our worship was accepted by Heaven, through the presence of the Holy Spirit in his lovely influence. And we received open evidence that the enemy, as in the days of Job, had come there also, by his possessing of one sister, until she was driven out of her senses, causing her to scream and utter inhuman things and frightening curses; but her disturbance did not keep up very long, for through the laying on of hands of the elders and the prayer of faith, our father saw fit to seal [p.146] the promise of his son "to them that believe," on land and on sea, that is-- "In my name shall they cast out devils"; and oh, how valuable was the blessing this time.
The ship was divided into eight sections according to the number of the families. Elders were assigned to supervise each section, to see that everyone acted properly and received justice impartially, to foster and nurture love and unity, and especially to see that all kept the places clean and healthful. To that end, it was arranged for two each morning to arise before the others around them and wash the deck clean and dry it. These eight presidents, together with another triad, that is, William Morgans, Merthyr, and Rice Williams and William Davis, Rhymni, his counselors, constituted a council to organize all temporal and spiritual matters. In this manner we prepared ourselves through agreement without exception.
On Monday, the 26th of February, about two o'clock in the afternoon, we set sail from the port, and all the Saints, accompanied by the harp, sang "The Saints' Farewell" as we left the dock. Their sweet voices resounded throughout the city, attracting the attention of and causing amazement to thousands of spectators who followed us along the shore as if charmed. We were followed here by our dear and faithful brethren. William Phillips, Merthyr; Able Evans, Eliaser Edwards, and some of the other faithful elders, together with David Jeremy from Brechfa. These brethren, having shown every other kindness and assistance they could, like dear kinsmen to loved ones at the graveside, vied with each other in showing yet additional love by buying oranges and throwing them to us in the ship as long as they could reach it. The fall of the oranges out of our reach into the sea proved that we were too far to shake hands with each other anymore. It was only this last separation from them that could agitate the fountains of tears in spite of ourselves. By this time, almost unawares, all we could see behind us were their handkerchiefs like flags waving in the breeze, in a language shouting from the aching heart, "Farewell, farewell! To sail across the vast sea to dear Zion"; while all they heard back were the echoes of our warm hearts coming with the breeze from the water, "Farewell, farewell! land of Britain," etc. We thought that not only foreign men but all nature as well had become calm to [p.147] observe the scene and that the winds of February had turned into summer breezes in our behalf. With indescribable feelings we were dragged by two large steamers out of sight of the city; and before nightfall our ship was rocking just like a hut on the surging waves of the sea. The steamers turned back after escorting us about 30 miles, and inwardly the scene changed on us. Now some would go to light fires, boil water, make tea, etc., while others, made more miserable by seasickness, staggered to their beds. When eight o'clock came and the ship was under full sail--the wind from the west and everything in order as much as possible--a meeting was held for family prayer, and everyone went to lie down, but hardly anyone could sleep; and even though the wind was not stormy and the sea was not rough, still it was sufficiently rough to make almost everyone so sick that I shall not forget that night for a long time. Though hardly anyone could sleep, yet no one slept less than myself and a few of the other elders, as we were back and forth comforting and assisting the sick as much as we could throughout almost the entire night. The sunlight was beautiful the next day, and some of the sick improved; yet they could hardly walk by themselves across the deck without someone guiding them, which service kept me quite busy, but it was no less pleasant than every other guidance in their behalf. This morning I tried hard before succeeding in getting some of the sick out of bed to breathe the healthful air, since seasickness causes such a debilitating feeling. Some were almost angry with me because of my insistence; but I wouldn't be refused, even though I was obliged to carry many a person on the deck. And I was well paid for my trouble through patience, once they realized that the topside and healthful air would improve them gradually and without exception, so that it was easy to see the difference between those who succumbed to their desires to stay in their beds and the others who showed their courage by coming to the healthful air on deck, whose healing, together with the testimonies of these to others, convinced others to follow their example. And I cannot encourage too much those who will yet come to do all they can to come on deck in similar circumstances.
It was not long before those who resisted most strongly to come topside with me were thanking me the most because of almost forcing them to come. This day I got enough men to come to the [p.148] "Company Shop" (as was called the storeroom at the back of the ship where the supplies were kept); and the three members of the first presidency and myself became makeshift shopkeepers to weigh the following different foods for each family as they wished; so that each one could prepare it how and when he wished. To all over fourteen years of age the following amounts were distributed with half that to everyone between one and fourteen; that is--ten pounds of hard bread, white and good; four pounds of sugar; three pounds of cheese; three pounds of butter; four pounds of raisins; two pounds of rice; two pounds of coffee; four pounds of molasses; one-fourth pound of tea. This food was of extremely high quality and a gift from President Pratt, something which no one else gave to emigrants; and no matter how sad some of the women's faces were, the sight of such a gift caused them to go cheerfully to the shop; and although they stepped on each other's feet and sometimes fell into each other because of the shaking of the ship, yet I declare that they laughingly called for help "to raise the lowest," and they tried again. There was no respecting of persons in this, rather it was the best on his feet who kept his head up, and everyone agreed that the one leg was too short, or that the other was too long, almost every step.
In the afternoon, since there was a cross wind, the ship stayed along the coast of Ireland, until its steep mountains and jagged rocks threatened to mangle us if we came closer. And we all rejoiced when the sailors turned the other side of the ship to the wind and its point toward the borders of our own beloved country. There were several other large ships in our sight sailing to the west, but it was absolutely incredible how our ship sped by them all one by one so that we could see them no longer. In the middle of the night the winds increased when we very close to the lights of the Holyhead peninsula. Almost everyone, except for myself and Brother Daniel Daniel, was sick.
[February] 28. We went on deck at the break of day, and the first thing which attracted my attention was Bardsey Island, not far from us. And beyond it the huge mountains of Caernarvonshire lifted up their snowy peaks, vying with each other in height and in the desire to see at the crack of dawn whether the children who had been raised on their breasts were still alive or whether they had [p.149] drowned; or if what they heard on the ocean were the lovely voices of their emigrant sons echoing as before in the forests and glens of their land. In this eager search, like a nostalgic mother in the midst of her daughters, dear Snowdon above the rocks of Snowdonia stretched her neck most and raised her head highest into the heavens gazing after us and forgot, because of her desire, to take off her snowy night cap to greet us; yet, there were none of these sons, except myself, who had strength to echo back her motherly farewell before she lowered her comely head behind her daughters one by one in the eastern ocean.
But my vessel did not wait for my affection to embrace for long its object (that is, the dear land of my fathers) because of her greyhound-like desire to speed along her way across the seething white caps, as though frolicking, splendid and fearless, on the tops of the furious waves. But it was not the green ocean, in spite of its commotion; the blue sky, in spite of its ferocity; not even the comfort of my fellow travelers nor how much I wanted this; nor was it the last farewell to the shores of my country which mainly filled my thoughts. Rather, I pondered seriously the condition of her inhabitants. I see myself now with a small handful, a sheaf of the fluttering of the inhabitants of Wales, looking from afar on the country which is called the "garden of Christianity"--"the country of the Bibles," which had erected the lofty tops of her numerous houses of worship to the sky as a monument to her zealous enthusiasm, yes, behold this and even more. And is it a fact or just a dream that I have escaped on the water from the midst of my Welsh Brothers with my life by the skin of my teeth? If so, why? If not, why all the persecution, the slander, and the false accusations I suffered for years from the press and the pulpits? Why did my residence have to be guarded for weeks? Why was my life safe only among guards? Why did I have to flee in secret before the time? Why was I not able to bid farewell to my dear wife and my baby? It was doubtless not for transgression in the world; for once, twice, yes, even three times I challenged any man to prove me guilty of transgression. Oh, it must be admitted, it cannot be hidden, that religious persecution is what caused it all; there must be strength in my religion, if nothing else but that could prove it, for it to have been able to excite the old passion of every false [p.150] religion to persecute it. Persecution does not originate from God; neither does the religion which persecutes come from him.
Oh, yes, 'tis a fact, the sun dawns cheerfully on my head as an exile from the borders of my country; the winds try to beat me back as an exile for his belief; my beloved vessel, my castle, fights to defend me against danger as an exile cast out by his brothers whose benefit he seeks, and she opens her sails to the wind to carry me, as if her kinsman, safely home to Zion, like a victorious soldier to his home. Their thoughts, unawares, drew my affection and my eyes toward the west to ponder on Zion and her glories, until once again, like a flowing stream, it came to my memory that of her dear children thousands are left behind in Wales and that of my gentle fellow nation there, multitudes would love the true faith if they had a chance.
Once again I turned my face to the east and my spirit in prayer to the God who initiated this good work, and blessed his gospel with success in Wales to make his servants mighty men, and beloved like the sons of the great thunder, to sound the trump more loudly, until the inhabitants of hill and vale are awakened from the sleep of false religion, to embrace the gospel so that his spirit, like the purifying fire, could refine those who obeyed. But by this time, the blue cover of the sky and the high whitecaps of the waves, between them almost hid under their covers the little green garden, that is, the country which raised me. I vowed that I would not be angry for the evil which I received there. Nor am I exiled forever, rather I shall yet come across the depths to the home of my loved ones to try, if there be a way, to take them to worthy Zion in my embrace in time.
O my country! My love binds itself around your beautiful vales; your rocky shores are all "magnetic stones;" for I want to benefit your peoples. May the gospel of heaven raise its white banners on every brow and hill within your land, and wave in all your breezes. But yet, there is within your land something which surpasses everything I have noted, something far above, more beloved and fair, though so far away now, and closer than anything else to my heart! O my mind, stop, come, return back. Why do I break the strings of my heart? Why do I call? She will not come back. Well, then, just for an instant raise your wings to the wind and feast in [p.151] her company. Angels of heaven now surround her bed lulling her to sleep; her cheeks red and her smile happy as if she sees me; she reaches out her pure arms; she embraces tightly as if her dear Lord were in her arms. But he is not there, just his image. O little rosebud, and the only one, hardly as old as a new moon, why did I leave thee? Even until this morning, my beloved,* for following me across land and sea, and many countries; for happily sharing the troubles and comforts of my breast; for many times having caused me to forget the world and its things, and for so tightly having kept the keys of my heart for ten years; for everything and everyone who has ever been even until this morning as my mind shot at the break of dawn to your bedchamber--I have loved you. Oh, if only my mind could stay here longer, yes, wait for you to awake. But the first parting was sorrow enough--why cause a second wound?
*As was noted in the Udgorn lately, Mrs. Jones improved so quickly that she was able to leave after her dear husband, and he has most likely seen her in Council Bluffs by now--JD.
Take courage, my spirit; this must be for Christ's religion--it is not for long, nor is this separation without its everlasting rewards. You, angels pure, I charge you to care for my wife and baby; I go courageously on. Watch over her until I return; she is precious to my soul, for she was content for my sake. For this Snowdon will jump into the sea before I shall ever, ever, forget her. To thy arms, my father, I commend everything I have. One look yet--one more greeting ere I leave. My spirit bows above the place where she lies; now it takes strength for this adventure! Hush! What is the matter? Where am I? What, on the high sea? Yes, with a call to hasten to the sick.
Well, well, I wandered far, but I shall return to my account. There was hardly anyone able to prepare food today, but Daniel Daniel and William Jenkins and I agreed on an attracting device by helping several onto the deck. We made a comfortable place for a row of the women to sit in the air, and I set about making a gruel out of oat flour for them, which strengthened them greatly. And so, pot after pot we apportioned to them in a circle on the condition that they stay up to eat it. It is hard to describe the good this did them, and I would counsel everyone to take a sufficient quantity [p.152] of good oat flour and oat bread with them, for they shall see that this will taste better to them than anything else for awhile.
In the evening, Ireland was in sight; the wind increased so that it was necessary to lower the top sails to the lowest position and pull all the other sails in. The ship was turned with its stern to the south for awhile, and then back to the other side throughout the night; but whether on one side or the other it was totally impossible for it to remain still or to allow anyone else to lie or stand in his place, rather like a door on its hinge it continually swayed those who were lying down; but as for those standing, it was throwing them along the deck with the boxes and their crockery as recklessly and without warning as the wild horse throws its unskilled rider across the hedge and leaves him there. But without any pity when the rider got up, the ship would throw him somewhere else until he crawled home. It was no use begging her to stop; the grumbling of the one or the groaning of the other together with the voices of the children had the same effect on her, that is to increase her drunkenness. Many agreed with me before morning that it was better to let her have her own way and let her rock until she was tired of it. And so it was. She has hardly ceased yet.
March 1. For a good part of the day we were running a race with the steeple of St. David's, Pembrokeshire. But before night we got ahead of it, thanks to the help of the wind. By this time, many, especially the men, had taken courage, in spite of falling so much like the baby, until they had learned to walk along the sides. A prayer meeting was held in the evening, and soon after that the wind turned to our favor, something which greatly encouraged the sick. Only oat bread tasted good today.
[March] 2. We were out of sight of land and only blue sky and green water around us except for an occasional ship sailing her own way. The majority improving considerably.
[March] 3. Beautiful weather, and the little children playing all along the ship, and the parents laughing upon seeing an occasional pile of them on top of each other on the deck, yet not daring to venture there to interfere. Until today we were escorted by birds of our country, but no longer; rather, having entrusted our care to multitudes of sea birds, they returned.
[March] 4. (Sunday). At two o'clock, we had a splendid, lovely meeting of the Saints, and everyone was perfectly content except for an occasional one of them who refused every counsel to come on deck, who have by now gotten fevers in their beds. All this caused us great concern and trouble, along with sincere prayers before they were restored to health. I would warn others to refrain from doing the same thing. Many beneficial and interesting admonitions were given in the meeting. After the sacrament, several testified of the goodness of God, etc. The sick improving. At night the Saints divided into two prayer meetings, half at each end of the ship. The wind supported us pleasantly.
[March] 5. Beautiful weather throughout the day; constant strolling on the deck; the musicians singing with eleven musical instruments and everyone except a few sick fairly comfortable.
[March] 6. Rather unexpectedly to any of us, our dear sister, wife of Brother Hugh Davies from Liverpool died, over sixty years of age. Her health was very poor when she came on board so that she hardly expected to get across the sea, yet her wish was to come with her family. The captain and the officers of the ship were very kind in view of the circumstances, and everyone throughout the ship felt that our dwelling today is a house of mourning. A prayer meeting was held in the evening, and everyone's health improved. The death had the effect of causing others, who had up until now refused, to rise from their beds, and the result was their improvement.
[March] 7. The climate beautiful and the wind fair, the ship sailing about seven miles per hour. Preparations were made to commit the body of our sister to her watery grave. I preached her funeral sermon at two o'clock on the text "How are the dead raised up and with what body do they come?" --(Paul). I answered the last question briefly, but the answer to the other question was continued along for several Sundays, and it has not been completely answered yet! After the sermon, the coffin was placed on a large plank, the ship was stopped, and after the Saints had sung a hymn the sailors raised the inward end of the plank so that the coffin slipped down the other end to the salty deep, which, because of the weight of the stones which were placed in the coffin to sink it, opened up to swallow its precious treasure and to keep it safe until the day when the command shall be given for the "sea to yield up [p.154] the dead which are in it." Some have very mistaken ideas and are greatly afraid to think of being buried in the sea. Some think they would float on the surface, a prey to the fish. Even if it were so, it is no worse than rotting in the cold gravel and being food for grave worms; but the fish do not have those who are buried in the sea; the purpose for putting weights with the body is so that it will sink down quickly and lower in the ocean than the fish ever go and lower than they can live. And there it will float in peaceful salt water, which will keep it from decomposing or rotting forever. Yes, until the day of their rising, when the "sea will boil," they will be kept better than the best of the Egyptians were kept through embalming. This understanding does away with the conflict which is in the thought of being buried in the sea and rather makes it preferable. Also I think that this is what the apostle had in mind when he said that the sea gave up the dead, not alive I would think, but the body which was buried in it, and which was preserved in this manner, never to be made alive, for "the body which is sown is not that which shall be," whether it be sown in the sea or land, but an incorruptible body which shall be united with the spirit which possessed the body before. After the sea had closed its jaws on its morsel, and after our little ship had stood for us to be able to behold this majestic sight for a few minutes, her sails were filled with breezes and she galloped across the waves as if nothing had ever happened. The wind continued in our favor, and everything was comfortable, and all the sick had improved with everyone eating his allowance throughout this week. A prayer and counsel meeting was held each night.
[March] 11. (Sunday). The wind, light and against us; the sea, calm, with each having scrubbed himself before the meeting, which began at two o'clock and continued until five o'clock; we were for over two hours trying to answer the previous question, that is, "How are the dead raised up?" It was postponed until the next meeting. Everyone appeared to be happy and rejoicing in the teaching. Before the end of the meeting the wind turned strongly in our favor according to our prayers, and it continued for the most part in our favor throughout the week. Sometimes it blew us over ten miles an hour. We felt the wind and the climate by now gradually getting warmer, since we had sailed still to the southwest. [p.155] Several began to complain that their woolen clothing was too heavy and that they could not bear it any longer. Better for everyone to have additional light clothing. We have had hardly any rain, except for a few showers; but it was not raining that time, rather pouring water down from the clouds. At times, we saw several different kinds of fish, some very big, others smaller, jumping from the water. This helped the lazy ones to come on deck, which helped them with every breath they took.
[March] 16. The wind was against us greatly in the afternoon. A prayer meeting was called at seven to pray for fair wind. After the meeting, I said to some who were near me that I felt the desire to go on deck and not return until our Father would give us fair wind. As I was going, having put my foot on the lowest rung of the ladder, those around me were chatting about one thing and another, and one asked what I wanted most. I answered that I would most like to hear the mate on the deck shouting "Haul in the weather braces!" (Order to pull on the ropes which set the sails across the ship and means without exception fair wind.) And before I had moved my foot, I, and the others who had heard my wish, heard the mate above our head shouting loudly, "Haul in the weather braces!" --yea, word for word as I had said. And behold a fair wind blowing strongly in our favor which within a few days had driven us about a thousand miles homeward, that is toward Zion. Great was our thanks to our God for that.
[March] 17 (Sunday). Beautiful weather and everyone comfortable. In the afternoon we had an excellent meeting of the Saints with more on "How are the dead raised up?" Meeting in the evening. Fair wind and weather so beautiful throughout the week that it was almost like Wales in June. An occasional squall and cloud breaking to supply us with water for washing. It is beautiful to see the children playing across the deck and entertaining their parents. Some singing here, others talking or reading there; some walking arm-in-arm while others prepare foods of as many kinds almost as could be obtained in any cook shop. The musicians did their best to beautify the atmosphere. Also the harp with its pleasant sounds alone in the evening entertained us as it sang farewell to the king [p.156] of the day as he lowered his head into the western sea. To light the scene in his place, lovely Phebus awakes from her sleep, as if she envied him. No wonder that scenes less wondrous than this excited the heels of David of old to the point that he even took off his garment in the temple--and for what? Hush! Shall we reply? What is the use of hiding the fact, did he not do this in order to dance? Yes, yes, and there was hardly anyone in our midst, except for an occasional dry sectarian, who did not prefer to imitate him rather than to find fault. At least it would be hard to deny that it was so here at times, and it did not even cause a storm. "The company store" was open, without books or money, to distribute a sufficiency of either white beans, rice, wheat flour, oat flour, bacon or anything else, and plenty of it for everyone. Some complained of a cold through getting wet in this rain.
[March] 25. (Sunday). Light gusts of wind at times. Again the scene around us was "like a calm sea of glass." And not only the elements, but our ship and all her children as well were observing this holy Sabbath by resting quietly. But the sun gazed too intently on some until it was a relief to retreat to anywhere from its presence. A meeting of the Saints in the afternoon, and a lecture on "How are the dead raised up?" A sermon in English on deck in the evening and nearly all the sailors spoke well of the teaching. The wind rose strongly in our favor in the night. Hardly any scene in particular this week worthy of note, except for an occasional cross breeze, which changed almost consistently in the middle or at the end of our prayer meeting held each night. There was also an occasional appearance of fish to entertain us, and a ship here and there in the distance to gladden the lonely scene. Also the devilish foe, himself, asserted his right with Neptune (the god of the sea) to journey with us, though his company was not so sweet; nevertheless, it was hard work to cast him overboard because of his cleverness. And not infrequently in hard times he would turn himself into an angel of light and as such would occasionally hide in the pocket of an officer. Of everyone who may be left behind in Babylon let this one be the last! He is a poor sailor, a troublemaker, and a worse guide than Ahithophel. Not to the swine, not to the sea, but to some of the Babylonians he escapes at times. And the next time that I cross the sea with a group of the Saints to Zion the other two [p.157] kinds can stay home! A great benefit is felt by drinking and bathing in the sea water in the morning. Let everyone have his children do so as often as possible. Let everyone take care to refrain from suspending anything which would keep the air from going through the ship. Also let everyone take care that neither they nor their children become constipated--take a laxative. Because of this neglect some have suffered until they were almost incurable. Refrain from eating a lot of heavy food, for this idleness does not allow it to digest. Above any other valuable thing to bring to the sea do not forget to bring a generous supply of patience. There will be a great deal of wear on this commodity; let care be taken that it may not fail. Even more valuable than much gold is a little grain of true faith on the sea, for that will buy a fair wind and everything essential. But in spite of everything that has happened, I have not heard anyone repent for having undertaken the journey. It is just that they are desirous of reaching Zion. It has been a great pleasure to hear almost everyone over and over again praising the goodness of God in our behalf--the fair weather, the beautiful breezes, the excellent food, and the general success which we have had better than expected before getting underway. And truly it was not a small pleasure to see the cooks by the fire making their puddings, their pancakes and their fries piling up and inviting the one and the other to drink tea with each other. And in the evening "they arose" happily as did those earlier "to dance." In this manner frequently many pleasant days came and went on the ocean. Who can blame them?
April 1 (Sunday). This Sabbath again all nature agreed with us to pause and gaze on this excellence of the creation of our God. Two other ships did the same in the distance. A very lovely meeting of the Saints; a lecture for two hours on "How are the dead raised up?" Several took off all their woolen clothing, like myself, and caught cold. Take care against this. Although summer clothing is lovely now, it is better to check yourself (so say my sufferings). For in this climate the clouds suddenly rend under the weight of their watery burden. And especially do not wear wet clothing. At noon today our time here was four hours later than London time. When it was twelve o'clock or noon here, it was four o'clock in the afternoon in London, which proves that we are 60 degrees to the west [p.158] of London, with 30 degrees and 9 minutes to the west to run yet before reaching New Orleans. I observed the sun today again through the sextant, and I determined our latitude to be 23 degrees and 54 minutes north, or within 14 miles of the tropics where in the middle of summer the sun would be above our heads. But since it is in the south now and lovely breezes temper the weather, we did not feel uncomfortable heat. Our distance from New Orleans today is about 2,000 miles. Our distance from the land we expect to see on our journey, that is "Hole in the Wall," one of the islands of the Bahamas, is between 900 and 1,000 miles. Our southerly distance from Liverpool is 1,806 miles.
[April] 2. We had some storms and rain and rough winds from several directions which threatened to swallow our little shell into the depth of the salty cauldron; in spite of all this, through the protection of our God and the skill of our captain and his sailors, our ship climbed upwards from wave to wave, as the swallow would fly through the slight breeze. The sea shook our little vessel and all the passengers as does the whirlwind with the crow's nest in the oak tree without being able to disturb even one of the small chicks therein. Upon perceiving, however that its awful and fierce waves did not deter us, the sea desisted in its effort and smiled pleasantly. The sun, which had earlier worn sackcloth, with a stern and ugly gaze, not took off his clothing a cloak at a time and laughed at the battle, promising fairly as he lowered his head amidst the red sky that we would have a fine night for sleeping. For this everyone offered thanks and made the most of it. Perhaps the next statement will be incredible to the ignorant, but it is absolutely true, nonetheless, that we saw almost every day after that fish flying! Sometimes we saw scores of them together. They flew at times a good mile or more, and then they would wet their wings in the top of a wave and off they would go a second time. They are chased by other fish who jump several feet out of the water after them. It is a good thing for the defenseless that the Creator in this case had provided them with wings for their protection. These fish do not fly very high--but higher when the wind is strong than when it is peaceful. And other times, in these areas I saw them fly against the sails of the ship and fall on the deck. And inasmuch as they can rise only from water we caught them. They are not as big as [p.159] a common mackerel. Their wings are not feathers, rather a kind of bright and very thin skin. In the water they close and serve the same purpose as wings. Their length is from six to ten inches. They cannot fly unless they keep their wings wet, and they are seen only in warm weather.
Now Mrs. Williams, originally from Ynysybont, who has been sick with a fever for several days, is gradually improving. Jane Morgans from Cardiff, who had suffered painful sores on her legs off and on for nine years and had been considered completely incurable by the doctors, is worsening. She has become more and more discouraged about the Church ordinances, and her faith has weakened. Ever since we reached warm weather we have arranged for each section on its day to have a turn to spread out its beds and bedding on the deck in the sun, something which has been very healthful for all. Let everyone do so as often as possible. Our captain has graciously given us some kind of liquid to sprinkle along our sleeping places. It purifies the air wonderfully and we use it frequently. We have several elderly people on the ship, and they are all improving as they come to the deck every lovely day. One old gentleman, close to 100 years old, says cheerfully that he is happier than he has ever been. He says also that many of the sectarians in Wales and even in Liverpool, the Reverend H. Rees and other reverends, tried to dissuade him from coming, prophesying that he would not arrive across the sea and many other things. "But I am," says he, "determined, through the power of God, to prove them all false prophets." He had lost his hair, except for a few strands white as snow, but by now he has an abundant new crop just like the hair of a child. And he says that he feels younger and younger!
Fair and lovely wind. On Saturday the 7th I had been up all through the night looking for land until four o'clock in the morning, and I had hardly slept before the loud shout and its exciting effect on everyone else, that is, "Land ahead," had awakened me. Great was the joy this caused to all the emigrants; there was nothing else mentioned or noticed for a time except land. By sunrise we were sailing nicely along to the south along the coast of Abaco Island, one of the Bahamas. This is quite a deserted island, populated mostly by fishermen, and people who cut firewood and carry it to other parts to sell it. Earthquakes chase everyone away from here [p.160] from time to time and cause much damage. Not a very pleasant sight. Nine o'clock in the morning we turned the ship to the west to round the southern edge of the island within three miles less of land. At this southern tip there is a lighthouse on a rock and a dwelling nearby in which the lighthouse keeper lives. There were three other ships sailing along with us past the lighthouse, but keeping more to the south toward Cuba. By midday the island had disappeared out of sight behind us, and there appeared several other islands and rocks to the south of us less than ten miles away. For the understanding of those who will come this way, since they will come close to the aforementioned lighthouse, I should have commented that its name is "Hole in the Wall"; thus, those who see it will remember it through the eyes of someone who has looked on it before them. I call their attention to the meaning of the words, or their origin. You can see a large hole through the high rocks on the rocky mound where the lighthouse is located. It looks like a bridge or a large "arch" of man-made work, but either nature or the struggle of the elements is what has made it. There was earlier another more remarkable bridge reaching from the top of one rock to the other round rock which is now by itself about 300 yards out to sea from it.
This area is considered the most dangerous place to navigate in the whole world. For several hundred miles we are surrounded by islands, sandbanks and rocks, some above the surface and others below. We see some small ships fishing and some other small ships called "wreckers," that is, ships which know the seas and sail around continually, depending for their livelihood on the misfortune of other ships. Whenever ships have lost their way, these lead them back to the right way and save many lives. If this were all they do their work would be good, but they are accused of using false signals to mislead ships from their path in order to get thousands of dollars for guiding them back out of danger. Many ships must lose their way to support the numerous wreckers surrounding us now. But there is no need for their assistance, and I hope that such will continue to be the case.
At sunset the bottom of the sea was further than twenty fathoms down. We navigated slowly and carefully through the night, and our leader brought us safely to see the light of Sunday [p.161] again. It was Easter Sunday, and although hardly anyone had many new clothes to wear that day, we saw many new and wondrous things around us. We saw a lighthouse on another island and several Frenchmen who lived on the shore, having built their houses, or rather their simple mud huts, along the shore. We sail now to the south along side the Grand Bahama Bank.
There is a lovely wind from the southeast, and the ship is traveling six miles per hour through the water. Also the water is running with us from three to four miles per hour. This southern current is less than a mile wide from which the Gulf Stream to the north runs totally contrary. Here the bottom of the sea is in green water ranging from five to twenty fathoms, and the water is cold. A few yards away to the south, however, the color of the water is black; it is much warmer and runs directly opposite. We saw on the rocky shores the remains of shipwrecks. Several wreckers sail along with us. Everyone is contentedly observing the land. We are especially delighted to leave it so quickly behind us and pull toward the end of our voyage. The island of Cuba is to the south not far from us, and the ridiculous and loathsome prophecy of
Seren Gomer [A periodical in Wales] that the Saints would be sold as slaves here is the subject of scorn between almost every two people along the deck. That correspondent has immortalized his foolishness with poor taste and has brought Cuba more notoriety than anything else. This now serves to bring to the recollection of the emigrants the lies and false accusations which were said and published about them and their dear religion by their fellow nation until it loosened their love, knot after knot, even from the country of their birth. And instead of thinking of turning back, it prompted them to turn their faces not toward the east but into the sunset for freedom to worship
God, and for those rights of which they were deprived by "zealous Christians" of their own country! Yes, the constant prayer of everyone throughout the ship is "Blow, east wind, blow us fiercely to the western ocean."
Oh, it is beautiful to contemplate this scene! Hope is what fills everyone's breast as the ship sails along, propelled by the lovely [p.162] breeze. All on the seas give many thanks to their Savior. In Zion, however, is the lodestone from which they derive all their comfort. But we shall not continue to put forth our own thoughts, lest this letter be too long for the Udgorn Seion. I shall concentrate more on the account, and each one can think for himself. Perhaps that is what I should have done from the beginning.
I forgot to mention that we had a meeting of the Saints Thursday night last, as we did several times before, but this time was the first in which we put the gifts into practice. And great was the commotion this caused up and down the ship amongst the Babylonians! They clustered along with the officers of the ship at the entrance of our place and listened in amazement. We wondered greatly what had caused this; then we perceived that "Achan" was in our midst--that two or three of the Saints who had transgressed were there with them, translating for them and causing them to believe evil things about us, so that the officers of the ship and the captain also were more bitter toward us then than ever before, and I had a hard time calming him down. To our dismay their interference obliged us to cease practicing the gifts in the middle of the meeting, but not before we had received great comfort through them and learned some things about you, yourself, there in Wales, etc. We were informed that the party of those who failed in their designs on me as I was about to leave Wales is plotting revenge on my dear fellow officers who were left behind me; but they will not succeed. O Lord in Heaven, watch over them. Also, we learned that many of the Babylonians are praying for our failure and the Saints for our success.
Afternoon, wind fair. We had an excellent meeting of the Saints. We had retired to the back of the ship where neither the Babylonians nor the traitors in our midst could prevent us from enjoying the gifts of the Spirit, which gave us great comfort. Daniel Daniel and Benjamin Francis were ordained elders. Many counsels were given concerning health and clothing and the necessity for each one to care for the condition of his stomach. The latter counsel cause nearly everyone to come asking for medicine, inasmuch as the oil was depleted. This is necessary to forestall diarrhea. Let everyone take care in this matter. [p.163]
[April] 9. Our God brought us safely through the dangers of this night also and smiled on us by continuing the wind in our favor. At 8:00 a steamboat came by us on its way from Havana to New York, and we also saw three British warships. Afternoon, we saw the borders of Florida, American continent. The land was low and sandy, a few trees here and there; and only judging from the smoke rising in columns to the clouds from one place and another, there are also some kind of inhabitants living here. We sailed along the coast until nightfall. We saw two lighthouses: one there and the other on a cluster of small, rocky islands which are named Fortugas [Tortugas]. After rounding these at the break of the next day we changed our course to the northwest; and here we left the Gulf Stream behind us with scarcely 500 miles to reach New Orleans. The "N.E. trade winds," which have carried us steadily and quickly for almost the last fortnight, are fair here still. More water was apportioned out for washing, as we have plenty on board to last for another month. And I cannot liken this bustling scene with the sisters all around the deck doing their washing any better than to the scenes I remember seeing by the hot waters of the iron furnaces in Merthyr on washday! The lowest deck was washed, and under the beds, with chloride of lime, in order to purify the air. Mrs. Williams is more ill. All are busy preparing their chests, etc., and to be ready to leave the ship before long. More food was offered from the "company store," but everyone had such an abundance that they did not come to get it. They said that all their sacks and vessels were full so that they had no room to hold any more. And many said that they had never before had such a variety or abundance of foods in their lives. And I maintain that anyone who is not happy with this food should be shut in the oven for a while, like the lap dog of the gentle lady.
Tuesday afternoon. Wind light, the sea calm and the weather uncomfortably warm. We saw some ships which appeared to be coming out of New Orleans. Mrs. Williams, of Ynysybont near Tregaron, is worsening fast, and signs are that she will not live long. She told her sons and me that she had little choice whether she died now or whether she would be granted to live longer. "My greatest desire," she said, "is to reach Zion; and I fear that my dying on the sea will discourage others in their old age from venturing across [p.164] the ocean after me. I am content to die rather than be an obstacle to the cause of God; on the other hand," she said, "I wish to go to rest now in the bosom of Jesus, if that is pleasing in his sight." She said that the greatest honor she had ever received was to be able to become a member of the true church of the Son of God, that there was no fear in her breast concerning the other life and that her religion now proved its strength more than ever before. She was asked if she was sorry that she had left the Methodists, with whom she had been a respected member for 55 years. She replied that she preferred now more than the whole world to have been able to live to hear the preaching of the gospel by the Saints. And she solemnly counseled her sons to continue faithful until death so that they would obtain with her a better resurrection. She depended through her feebleness on the ordinances of the Church, and no complaint was heard from her lips. She continued lucid through the night, and at a quarter past four the next morning her spirit departed in peace, leaving a smile on her lips. She received every care, assistance and kindness from everyone, and especially from her faithful sons who revered her as they did their own souls. They did not weary in serving her almost day and night, comforting her and attending her. She had reached far more than 80 years of age.
Thursday, April 12. Every funeral preparation possible having been made, Sister Williams's funeral sermon was preached. Afterwards she was committed to her watery bed in the presence of hundreds of emigrants who looked simply and orderly on this sobering sight while a choir sang. And after that our oscillating dwelling made her way forward away from the mournful scene. Alone on the huge sea, she proceeded slowly with the black darkness as her garment of mourning. The sun also, despite its great strength and courage, was already trimmed in its cloudy cloak of mourning in the distant west when it perceived that one of the mothers of Israel had fallen on her way to Zion. All, all with a look of sadness. That night passed and only the shark, that cruel fish with its long, forked teeth, as if a faithful dog by the grave of its master, stayed as a marker of the resting place of the departed. Though she is among the fish in the sever ocean until the resurrection, peace be to her remains and praise to her name. The next morning at the break of dawn, [p.165] welcome pleasant east wind. It zealously took pity on our condition and blew away the garment of mourning. Our sorrow was bestirred from her sullenness--like Phoenix from the ashes, her appearance was changed from head to foot. In short, like David of old after his son died, our ship in full sail, like a stallion to battle, hastened over the untamed waves. She strove to cheer up her mourners with the hope of seeing their port tomorrow. In spite of that, before morning came she had turned treacherously against us, and other winds blew us toward the eastern world. The sun by this time, despite its mourning and sympathy the night before, became a tormentor. From its hot cage it issued forth strong punishment with its scorching rays.
Friday. Several other ships were seen. Also seen was the greatest wonder which some had ever seen in their lives. In spite of seeing a burial yesterday in the somberest of scenes, today we saw a strange and majestic marriage between the "waters which are beneath the firmament and the waters above the firmament," intermingling through powerful and mighty water spouts. The elements in their boasting tried by resounding together to eliminate all else in our firmament and mix everything together in a water world. In this endeavor they roar frightfully; they stir an acre or more of the briny foam as if in a cauldron. In the depths of the cauldron the fish, in spite of themselves, are seen flying helterskelter from their element to the sky. In its self-activated womb the enormous and heedless vat gives birth to a powerful whirlwind which with the wall of its element blows its opponent like chaff across the surface of the waters. Despite their thickness the clouds part, and from the pieces is woven a long, thick, and spinning neck. Quickly downward the neck goes and the lowest part frolics to join with it! Now a union occurs. They combine--a beautiful marriage between the great salty liquid and its element above! Such an embrace is a surprise! Yes, mixing and kissing until all the sea perspires with the effort. Truly, this is the element which turned in marriage previously. Now, through sweetening that which was salty, the elements imitate the miracle of their Lawgiver! For a moment one thought that the water would prevail and swallow everything into its turmoil. But in time, just as when our earth was flooded, mercy from heaven smiles. A rainbow, the covenant-sign of Noah, was [p.166] given, a phenomenon which revived the faith of the onlookers. Then God released wind "from his hand" to help the feeble whirlwind below. They join in a terrible attack and before them they sweep the wondrous waterspouts into fragments back to their places. And although they try time after time to lift their heads from their watery grave, they are unable to rise any higher than the top of their waves.
Not only the elements around us today are stirred up, but also the emotions of the sojourners. At the bidding of the prince of the air there are some which are boiling. Those in his treacherous army become tailors, and their work is to make a mask of the darkness to enshroud the heads of their magicians. 'Tis painful to say that they succeeded in so doing. Their caps fit so comfortably that I fear that they will be worn by some to their very destruction. The mighty king of Babylon has not only land armies, but I understand by now that also his navies wave their flags on all the seas. May his kingdom be shattered speedily. May his subjects on land and on sea turn traitor on him. Would that his majesty be swallowed by a whale on his way to the depths of the ocean with a lock on his mouth--with myself keeping the key!
Saturday, the 14th. Wind contrary. The land birds flying to the ship are tired, and the children catch them and tame them. We are diligently looking out for land.
Sunday, the 15th. Wind rather contrary and blowing hard. Many are half sick between homesickness and seasickness. It was passed in the council to excommunicate William, the son of B. Jones, Aberdar, and his wife. Others of the family are not much better. They cause much worry to the Saints through their false accusations to the captain, disgracing our dear religion, etc. There is every hope that Ebenr. Thomas will repent. Much trouble has resulted through too much association with the people of the ship back and forth. One of them, in spite of our best efforts, succeeded in bemusing and confusing the maid of one who had been so kind as to pay her cost from Babylon. I shall take more care next time that generous people will not be deceived by lasses who come to make love instead of to serve. Prayer meeting was held at 2:00 and at 6:00. The sea thrashed violently through the night.
Monday, the 16th. At 8:00 in the morning I went to the fore of the ship and saw a column of smoke in the distance rising to the [p.167] air. We soon perceived that it was a steamboat from New Orleans coming to meet us; another steamboat from the other side came running toward us as fast as it could. And within two hours the two were by our sides. We gave a large rope to one of the two which pulled us to the mouth of the Mississippi by noon. Great was everyone's joy and gratitude for arriving here. We have 100 miles yet to the city. We arrived Tuesday, the 17th, all healthy. Soon we shall leave from here to go up the river to St. Louis.
Now hastily, I shall say farewell this time, since other matters are calling me. Dear Saints, be faithful to the heavenly calling which you have received and hasten to prepare to follow us. Listen to the voice of your presidents. That the Lord will bless you is the constant prayer and heartful wish of your brother in the gospel of Christ,D. Jones [p.168]
BIB: Jones, Dan, "Letter from Capt. D. Jones to the Editor of the Udgorn Seion," IN Ronald D. Dennis, The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration, vol. 2, Religious Studies Center Specialized Monograph Series (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1987), pp. 146-52,154-68. (CHL)