St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., March 29th, 1851.
Dear Brother F.[ Franklin] D. Richards,--I embrace the present opportunity of writing to you, and I will endeavor to give in few words a history of our voyage to this place. I should have written ere this, but circumstances and the press of business would not admit of my doing so.
I have not other apology to offer for not writing sooner, and I believe the above will be sufficient, for you are well aware of the labor and anxiety attending the presidency of 470 people in crossing the sea. No one can realize the responsibility until he has tried it--but to the history.
We weighed anchor in the river opposite Liverpool on the 8th of January, about eleven o'clock, a.m., the wind was fair, and we were soon under way; we ran at the rate of seven miles an hour till about eleven o'clock at night, when we struck a schooner, broke our jib boom and main and foreyards. The captain, the next day, put into Cardigan Bay, North Wales, to repair; the ship, however, was ready in a few days for sea again, but the wind changed the day we put into port, to an unfavorable quarter, and remained there for three weeks. Therefore we considered our accident a blessing to us, for we were comfortable in port while hundreds were being knocked about, many vessels wrecked, and hundreds of human beings consigned to a watery grave. While many were experiencing the awful horrors of shipwreck, we had great cause to thank our Heavenly Father that we were safe and comfortable, and every Saint on board the Ellen felt that the invisible hand of God was over them for good, and they did not forget to thank him for the same.
The captain, however, became rather impatient, and although the wind continued unfavorable, on the 23rd we again weighed anchor and put to sea, but the wind blew a strong gale from the direction we wanted to sail, so we made but little progress for several days; however, on the 1st of Feb. the wind changed in our favor, and we soon lost sight of the Irish Coast, and from that time we had pleasant weather, and for the most part fair winds, and on the night of the 14th of March we anchored in the river off New Orleans, making the passage from Cardigan Bay, (which is 12 hours sail from Liverpool), in seven weeks. We did not encounter a storm on the passage, and after we left the channel it was more like a pleasure trip than a sea voyage, so far as weather was concerned.
We had ten deaths on the voyage, two adults, namely, James Wright, of Skellow, and the wife of brother William [W.] Allen, from the Birmingham Conference, and the remainder were children. Brother Wright and Sister Allen died of fever; four of the children died of measles; three of consumption; one of inflammation of the chest. I do not at this time recollect the names of any except the daughter of S. [Samuel] J. and Abigail Lees, of Sheffield, and the child of Brother William Allen. The measles broke out among us the day we left the dock, and nearly every child on board had them, besides several adults; I should judge there were more than seventy cases. Many of the children were afflicted with another disease in the tropical clime, that I named the tropical cough, it was similar to the whooping cough, but not exactly like it, many of the small children suffered much from it.
Immediately after leaving port we divided the company into twelve divisions, or wards, allotting ten berths to each division, and appointed a president over each, then those twelve companies we divided into two, and appointed a president for each six, so that in the steerage there were twelve companies, with a president to each, and two to preside over the whole; the second cabin we organized in like manner. We found the above organization to be of great utility in preserving peace, good order, and the health and comfort of the Saints while on board of the vessel, and we would recommend the same or a similar organization to all companies of Saints that may hereafter cross the sea. We also organized the priesthood, and appointed president over them, to see that each attended to his duties. My two counselors and myself often met with them in council, we could there learn the condition of every Saint of board, if any were sick, or in want, or in transgression, we were made acquainted with it, and immediately adopted measures to relieve the wants of the needy, and to pre- [p.158] vent iniquity from creeping into our midst. We had men appointed to visit every family twice a day, and to administer to the sick; and but few days passed but what myself, in connection with Brothers Dunn or Moss, visited each family. I would say here that Brothers Dunn and Moss acted in concert with me in all things, and we were united in all our counselings. They did not spare labor nor pains to make the Saints comfortable and happy so far as it lay in their power.
At New Orleans we chartered the steamer "Alex Scott," to take the company to St. Louis, we paid 10 shillings 5 pounds per head for adults, all our luggage included, children half price. We left New Orleans on the morning of the 19th of March, and landed in St. Louis on the 26th. We had a good passage up the river, and I would recommend the "Alex Scott" as a good, commodious, and safe boat, commanded by a good captain of the name of Swan. I am persuaded there is no better nor safer boat on the river. There were two deaths coming up the river, both children. On the voyage we had ten deaths, one birth, and six marriages, and one birth coming up the river. Everything in this country is working together for the building up of the kingdom of God. I have had an interview with Dr. Bernhisel, he requested me to give his kind love to Elder Richards, and say to him that "Mormonism" is at par in this country.
He has received some very liberal donations for the library for the Valley, from the literary and scientific institutions, and from editors and publishers of books and papers in the States. I can plainly see that the tide of public feeling is fast changing in our favor, there are calls on every hand for preaching. The emigration to the Valley this season will be pretty extensive.
Elder Gibson and company arrived here today, generally in good health and spirits. I must now close praying for your prosperity, and for the prosperity of Zion's cause in England, and in all the world.
From your brother in the covenant of peace.
J.W. Cummings [p.159]
BIB: Cummings, J.[James] W., [Letter] Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 13:10 (May 15, 1851) p. 158, 159. (CHL)