But as no one is certain of anything till they receive it, I thought I would ask the Lord for a sign. It was this -- I told the Lord if I was to go on the Ellen Maria for him to put me aboard of the ship that night, and if I was not aboard it would be a sign I was not to go -- and I troubled the Lord considerable on this matter.
I am on the Ship
Now I kept all these prayers and anxieties to myself. Well the Lord condescended to hear the prayer of a poor uneducated boy and that same night I was aboard of a sailing vessel looked to be such a one as I sailed on. She was in the harbor. The deck, bulwarks, blocks and rigging were as plain as if I had actually been on her, so now I had faith that I was going, but still kept it to myself. I now bought me a new suit of clothes to be ready when the time come. We were to leave on the 31st of January 1852. I collected all my debts I could and what I could not I left my mother to collect. At last the day came for the sale of the brethren's household goods and at the same time I sold what remained of my pack. All was sold at auction on the morning of the 31st of January 1852. I bid adieu to my mother and family, says I am going to Liverpool, it may be I will go to Salt Lake. If I don't I will soon return. We embarked at Glasgow the same day at 4 p.m. and landed at Liverpool next morning at 4 a.m., being on sea only 12 hours. We had a rough passage most all the passengers were sick. I was up all night carrying hot coffee to the sick. I have crossed the Irish Channel 10 times and the Atlantic Ocean 3 times, and in all my adventures I have never had one moment of seasickness. I remained in Liverpool till the 10th day before I knew I was to come. Shadden and Mark McGlachelin would not render me any assistance. I went up to 15 Wilton St. and talked to F. [Franklin] D. Richards on the subject. I told him the plain truth and my situation and how I had failed to obtain the help promised.
February 8, 1889 [THE DATE HE BEGAN WRITING HIS REMINISCENCES]
He says if you can raise 3 pounds - $15.00 - I will send you through to Salt Lake. I had a little over one pound, but to raise two more might bother me, but I had faith it would come, so down I goes to the ship for all the passengers had secured their berths. I had none for I was last of all, as one born out of due season.
The eye of God was upon Me
But though I might be looked upon as lonely and unworthy the notice of the puffed up and proud there was one's eye resting upon me. His help always comes in at the 11th hour. The strong and powerful do not need any help, but the poor and weak. I had thrown myself entirely upon his care and he was watching over me. My passage on the Ellen Maria was just as certain as if I had been the possessor of a million of money. I went direct from the office down to the dock where the ship lay well rigged and manned and ready for sea. All was bustle. The barrels were being filled with water from the hydrants by means of hose. Provisions were being lowered as fast as hands and machinery could do it. I walked the bridge aboard the ship, and ere long I was standing beside Brother James and Sister Isabella Smith. Says I to them, we been up to the office and seen Brother Richards, and what does he say. He told me if I could raise 3 pounds he would send me clear to Salt Lake with this company. I have one pound and a few shillings. Brother Smith says to his wife we will let Brother Wilson have it. She replied - yes, and give me two sovereigns and I at the same time passed her the few shillings, I had not reserving [p.36] one penny to myself thanking them kindly for their generosity. I put the three sovereigns in my pocket, feeling more grateful to God and my benefactors than men of the world who are possessed with millions. After receiving it I was not long before I was again at No. 15 Wilton St. and handed the money to President Richards. He manifested great pleasure at the success I had and presently made out my shipping papers, after which I passed the doctor all right. I walked aboard the ship feeling as great as if I had fallen heir to a large fortune.
February 8, 1889
All I had was on my back
I was now aboard the ship without bed or bedding, neither cups, knife, or spoon, and all my earthly sustenance was on my back. But one thing I could depend upon and that was the ship's allowance. Sister Smith says to me - you will help us in our cooking. Certainly I said, I shall do all I can to assist you, for I should certainly have been very ungrateful if I had not a done it. There were several families now on the vessel. I had prior to this time made their acquaintance. They had formerly lived in Johnstone Branch in the Glasgow Conference. There names were - Leishman and Watson. The first named had a large family of boys and through the kindness of Mrs. Leishman I was made welcome to sleep with them. At this time she was not in the church, but after she came to the valley she joined the church and died in the faith. Her husband died lately at the age of 84 years.
Messed with Brother Smith and his wife
I drew my rations with Brother and Sister Smith and I messed with them. Now as relates as to what became of these 3 families from Dalry Branch, Smith, Shadden [Shedden], and McGlachelin [McLaughlin], I shall accurately set it down in its proper place. This was the 10th of February 1852 about 3 p.m. Having made all necessary arrangements my mind was at rest. I sat down and wrote home to mother and family. As relates to what success I had and that by the time they should receive this letter, I should be many miles on my way away to the far west. It was about one year before I received any word from home. We set sail next day, having on board some 350 Latter-day Saints. All Saints from Europe who were emigrated by the Perpetual Emigration Fund and was supposed to be entitled to assistance first both as to their faithfulness and in poor circumstances. Isaac C. Haight had charge of the company, and brought us to the frontiers and handed us over to the care of Brother A. O. Smoot. He was sent from the Valley by President Young to fetch this company of Saints home.
Funeral at Sea
Brother Haight after he delivered us to the care of Bishop Smoot, he again returned to England coming home next year in charge of the 15 pound company. We had a prosperous passage. Only one death of an old lady. She was sewed up in a sheet, a large piece of coal tied to her feet. She was lowered by sliding of a smooth plank feet first. The ship was hauled too. While the lowering of her body was being done, we watched her closely till she sank many fathoms down out of sight in the deep blue sea, and if anything is sad and impressive and that is calculated to leave an impression upon the mind, it is a funeral at sea. She had one son aboard. He seemed almost as old as she was and at that 1852 I should guess him to be nearly 70 years of age. He cried like a child. When we went out to sea three days a stowaway made his appearance on deck. He hid among the coal. He was as black as any niger. He was poorly clad and worse treated all the way. He was a lackey to all the sailors and if he did not move at the moment when ordered he was helped with a kick from the toe of a heavy boot. But he was not entirely annihilated. He got to New Orleans, when he left the ship. We held meetings on Sundays and enjoyed ourselves first rate. At night all lights had to be out by 9 o'clock. We kept a guard up all night to keep the sailors from coming downstairs for some of the girls would associate with them if not under strict surveillance. Our ship was ballast with railroad rails. In one storm it was thought she might capsize or go down, fearing the rails would shift to one side so as to unbalance her. One day we got in a trough of the sea. She rocked sometimes from side to side till she nearly lay on her broadside, her masts nearly touching the waves. When in these troughs numerous flying fish would fly out of one wave across the trough and light on the next wave. We were 6 weeks without seeing land. The first we seen was the Island of Sandemingo [PROBABLY, San Domingo]. We passed near to Jamaica, but the weather was hazy as we did not see it. We touched near to the coast of Cuba. We could see the houses on the beach. We came through what is termed the hole in the wall never hearing the narrow passage fully explained, I had supposed it was a very dangerous place for a ship to pass through, and us greenhorns would remark seriously - there was a great danger of being wrecked going through the hole in the wall - when at the same time it was a great wide passage many miles in extent. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer near Cuba, the sun being vertical at noon we had no shadow it was very warm and it so affected my eyes that to the present day it affects me more or less. We landed at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico on the 12th of April, after a long but prosperous passage of 8 weeks and 3 days. Our vessel drew 19 feet of water, consequently we stuck on the bar for 3 days before we could engage any tug steamer to haul us off. This sandbar extends clear across the river at its mouth, and vessels of large draught always sticks on it, so vessel when once fast, must either be hauled off or wait on a spring tide. It was all two steam tugs could do to haul our ship off and all sailing vessels must be tugged up to New Orleans, a distance from here of 120 miles. One tug takes up two vessels, one lashed to each side. This is the largest known river in North America and is over 3,00
0 miles long. It is very circuitous, turbid and deep, its current generally is sluggish and some places a mile wide and it has many whirlpools and in some of them it seems as if a small boat would be sucked in.
February 9, 1889
Slavery on the Mississippi
This river passes through several of the slave states. In those days wood was used for fuel for the steamboats and it was niggers who entirely done the loading of the wood and they worked constant and earnestly, often singing as they marched in single file over the plank to deliver their heavy loads of wood from their shoulders -- being the first men I ever beheld in slavery, who had no liberty, but just to do as they were told or have a raw hide applied to their almost bare backs, my heart felt to commiserate these awful conditions, but really when I come to look back at the pit from whence myself was dug with million more as myself in the same condition, I do not see much difference between black slavery and white slavery. One is compelled to work or be chastised - the other [p.38] must work for what he can get or starve or do the next best thing, or steal and go to prison.
We reached New Orleans I think on the second day from the mouth of the river. I am not aware than any sailing vessels navigate this river any further. We lay here 3 days waiting to be transferred to a steamship. While waiting, I had a good chance to go round and take in the sights, but being destitute of money I had to be satisfied with what I could see. As a general rule the city is tidy and clean, but the streets are narrow and paved, and it contains a great number of eating houses, hotels, and saloons and vast quantities of baled cotton ready for shipping. In being transferred from our ship to the steamboat St. Paul, Brother John Shadden [Shedden] fell off the plank between the two boats, but was fortunately picked up just as he was a short distance from the paddle.
The steamboats on the river are huge monsters resembling old castles, having good saloon or dining rooms and are very commodious - that is providing you have plenty of money, but storage passengers who are not overly stocked with this commodity must be satisfied with a pallet or a straw mattress laid upon a rack similar to sailor's bunks. More or properly speaking, they compare more favorably to an institution where I was kindly invited to visit at Uncle Sam's expense to spend a beautiful summer, or deny God and His gospel. So not to be stubborn I accepted of Judge Pinney's Moderate dose, having lain upon both styles of bed ranges, I believe I am enabled to give an unbiased decision and I think the Yuma prison beds are at least a class higher than what I had on the St. Paul. But to give the reader an idea of the arrangement of these nocturnal sleepers, I would refer you to the vender of the feathered race where one floor of his coop is vertical to the 2 lower stories. The St. Paul, I was informed, was an old condemned leaker and liable to go up at any moment, but she didn't. But sometimes she tried to run out of the river but the banks were rather steep to succeed. There are many islands in the river, and on dark nights when the helmsman might not be quite straight the boat would take advantage of the helm and would attempt to cross the islands, but was generally unsuccessful and sometimes the deck hands had to tighten the forepart so as to be able to back out. But after 7 days hard labor we reach St. Louis having traveled 1100 miles. Here we were detained 3 days waiting another transfer, and also here we parted forever in this life. The 3 Dalry families, Smith, Shadden, and McGlachelin and also Brother Robert Watson and family and only one of the families ever came to Utah. He is now superintendent of Z.C.M.I. at Ogden.
The 3 Dalry Families
The Dalry families had money sufficient to buy their provisions and came independently on their own hooks. Brother R. [Robert] Watson and family were being brought by the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company. I have promised to give an outline of the three Dalrys.
The end of Smith, Shadden, and McGlachenlin - their fate
They all remained at St. Louis and further than this I am indebted to others for my information as to them. John Shadden's wife was found dead in bed. . . His two sons were killed in the mines; . . .
Mark McGlachelin's wife died soon after coming to this country. The old Mark kept a saloon in Atton [PROBABLY, Afton, Wyoming] and was killed. His son Mark was through the late Civil War and after coming back was also killed, both killed in quarrels.
Brother [James] . . . Smith went on the river as a boat carpenter. He was an excellent mechanic and he was so much attached to his wife and took it so hard at her leaving him, that his mind became deranged, and he would walk the deck of the ship not knowing what he was doing, till one night in one of those spells, he unwittingly walked overboard and was drowned. His wife had 11 children by him but none survived to be a year old. . . . The Savior says, make to yourselves friends with the mammon of uprighteousness that should you fail they may receive you into everlasting habitation. Now as relates to them and their fate, this must suffice. Before I left St. Louis, Sister Smith bought me a pair of shoes, a hickory shirt and give me a small chest to put my clothing in but I never had any use for this chest till sometime after my arrival in Salt Lake. We were transferred to another packet and in the afternoon on the 3rd day we were again afloat on the Old Mississippi heading towards the west. 40 miles above St. Louis we are at the mouth of the Missouri River it being dark when we entered it and was next day before I learned we were sailing up the Missouri, and if I had not been told I scarcely would have known the difference. There is a great many snags in the river. One night I rose out of bed. I was afraid of something happening. I was standing behind the paddle wheel. All at once a large snag run through the floor or projection just aback of the paddle wheel. I had a narrow escape of being thrown into the river so I went back to my bed seeing I was just as safe in one place as another for if God takes notice of a sparrow, how much more will he care for his children who put their trust in him. We were 4 days from St. Louis to Kansas City, a distance of 400 miles. 60 miles below this place we passed Lexington where the Saluda exploded her boiler blowing her upper decks into the river. There was a company of Saints on this vessel and many of them were blown into the river and were drowned. Many were scalded. Some had to get their legs amputated. I went to see the maimed and scalded in the hospital. They looked a sorrowful lot. I examined the blown-up boat, all that remained of her was the hull, laying on its side at the shore. When we landed in Kansas we moved into a two story log cabin. We got along some way but we were awfully crowded, but people can get along most in any situation when they are agreeable.
February 11, 1889
There was a family who came with the company I was in by the name of McKinney. They had 4 or 5 of a family. After we got to Kansas I was fortunate enough to succeed in getting to board with this family, so I was now numbered in their family, my rations being drawn with theirs. But I found a camp life to be to monotonous loitering about the wharf idling away my time to no profit, so it came into my mind to walk down to Independence, Jackson County, [p.40] whereon is to built the New Jerusalem. It was only 9 miles distant.
I start for Jackson County
I tried to get some of the boys to accompany me, but did not succeed. So away I started alone and just outside the city limits I struck a belt of heavy timber, but the farther I went, the timber seemed to get thicker, and I began to have doubts as to the wisdom of my adventurous journey. If I could get there and not be able to come back the same day, I would be out of luck for I had not a cent of money to meet any expenses. Another drawback....I was unarmed and thinking I might fall among bad company or become a prey for wild beasts I philosophically concluded to retrace my steps and return to camp. I got back in time for dinner. Now whether it was timidity or being led by the whisperings within I leave others to judge. I would have liked very much to have been enabled to accomplish this journey, but fate was against it. But one thing I can say that I never have regretted it to any great extent. The distance between Kansas City and Salt Lake is 1200 miles and it would take us at least 3 months to reach our destination after we started traveling by ox team. Being in Paddy's fix, having the small chest which Sister Smith give to me before leaving St. Louis but no clothes to put it in, a long journey before me, and my wardrobe as I have related somewhat scant, I set out to seek for employment. It was now about the end of April 1852. Just as I got outside of the city I came to a nice frame building sitting upon a small patch of land not long cleared, the stumps remaining. I rapped at the door and was answered by the gentleman of the house. I told him my business. He asked me many questions as to where I came from and where I was going to. All of his interrogations I answered correctly. Then you are a Mormon. Yes sir. "Well, says he, "I do not care as to what creed you belong to. It's not one's business but your own. What can you do...anything...Do you think you could take out those stumps and straighten up my place?" 'Yes sir - I can.' I do not think I mentioned anything about wages until I finished the job but he agreed to board me. I agreed to begin next morning at 7 a.m.
A Young Doctor
This gentleman's surname was Bridget. He was a professor of medicine. He was quite young. He had a wife and one child, also two young niggers, a boy and a girl which his father give him when he got married for a start in slavery for Missouri is a slavery state. I went next morning and took a chum with me to help with the stumps as they were very heavy. The doctor employed him also. But he did not work to suit him so he paid him off but I do not remember how much per day he received - I know not. After the stumps and holes were all disposed of, he set me to gardening which I did to his entire satisfaction. He paid me 50 cents per day which he said was the highest wages for outdoor hands paid in the state.
Sheriff Smart- My Chum Again
He then introduced me to his father-in-law, Mr. Smart, Sheriff of the County. He give me a good recommendation as a young man he would have no occasion to watch as I was trustworthy and an excellent worker. I again took the same chum along as he wanted to earn a little money and I felt to do him a kindness if it was in my power - for we were both on the most intimate terms - our first job was to plant corn. I got along first rate, but that night my partner was paid off. [p.41]
A Bonnie Lassie
I expect the doctor give Mr. Smart his recommend. He was a young man I much respected, and I felt sorry he had not been able to keep at work, for his family needed his help, but although they both told me their reasons for not keeping him, I had too much regard for his feelings to tell him the reason of his dismissal. This young man at the present is a good man and the father of a large family, and I think it prudent to withhold his name feeling at what I have said he might take offense. I finished my labors with Mr. Smart by fixing his flower garden, putting the beds in, in whatever form he desired. His daughter of 16 summers, a beautiful lassie, kept constantly with me suggesting how she would like it done. Of course I done all I could do to please her. I also boarded with Mr. Smart. Both of these gentlemen kept excellent tables, from 10 to 15 different dishes, and to let those who may pursue this history understand how I got along at the first American tables I ever sat at, and how green I was, it may seen laughable, but to me it was anything but fun.
My first American Experience in eating
At the first American table I ever sat at, I was nearly starved, and this is how it happened - I would be handed first potato gravy, meat, bread, corn doggers, and then different dishes of garden sauce greens, radishes, I would keep taking and piling up my food on my plate till I would not know what to do for want of room. Then came along the pies and custards. By the time I got the last eatables some of them would jump up and not to be thought unmannerly I would also leave the table, little better satisfied when I sat down, for in my native country the head of the house always remains at the table till any guests who may chance to be visiting are through. But when I went to camp in the evening I hunted up all the pieces of scones and hard crusts I could lay my hands upon and they seemed quite palatable without either milk, butter, meat, or molasses.
Near a collision - over a niger
An incident occurred while I was at Mr. Smart's which came very near bringing us in collision with the settlers. It happened on this wise. Elder E. Church, a returning missionary, left us at New Orleans to visit his father's home in Tennessee. His father having died while he had been on his mission, his father in his will left him some property and a portion of it was a niger known as niger Tom. A. O. Smoot of Salt Lake at last owned this niger and finally he was drowned while bathing. As we came up the river Elder Church put this niger aboard of our vessels, but did not accompany us himself. When we arrived at Kansas, Tom lived among the Saints and he behaved himself first rate. Sometime after I was working for Mr. Smart, Tom was arrested as a runaway niger. He was asked to show his papers if he was free, but this he could not do as he had none. Mr. Church held them, thinking he would be safe with us till he would come up, for if Tom had held the papers he could run away and been quite safe. Tom refused to be taken, declaring he was Mr. Church's niger.
Tom's arrest - they beat him [p.42]
So they beat him very severely and thrust him into prison. That evening Mr. Smart came home. He had a long yarn to tell about the niger's arrest and how they had to beat him before he could be taken, that he was a runaway niger and the Mormons were hiding him, and that it was no new thing for the Mormons to do. He said it was for encouraging the slaves to leave their masters that the Mormons were driven from Jackson County just a little ways below.
Mormons blamed for encouraging niggers to run away
I denied these assertions. In tecto, he said it was the intention of the citizens to raise a mob and drive us out of the country, but he says Mr. Wilson, I will hide you in the house for I do not believe you would assist in any such unlawful deeds. He then asked me if I knew anything in relation to this affair. I replied I knew all about it, so he asked me to make a statement of all I knew.
I give a true statement - Mormon Creed
So I related to him all the circumstances in relation to the whole matter in detail. He says I believe you to be a young man who will tell the truth. We are going to try him tomorrow and I shall want you as a witness in this case, and if it is proved that the Mormons are linked in this affair, I am afraid as mobs will rise against you. Says I, Mr. Smart, you need have no fears. If it comes to a trial, the Mormons will come out all right. We believe in minding our own business - but says I, Mr. Smart, if it so happens that a mob is raised to drive us out, I promise you that no house will ever conceal me while my brethren are being mobbed. He seemed quite excited over the affair, and the thought flashed to my mind that I might not be far from many who had took a part in driving the Saints from their homes in Jackson County, and that I might be seeing some of the very men whose hands were yet reeking with the blood on innocence.
Niger case settled
Next day the sheriff came home feeling much better than the day before. The first thing he says, we have investigated the niger's case and found out that you have told the truth. I replied that I had no fears as to the outcome if a fair trial was given, but I was glad it was settled.
This affair just ended as the cholera broke out in our camp, and many of our brethren and sisters fell victims to this awful scourger. Whole families were entirely swept away, parents losing most of their dear ones, and children losing their parents, and if ever I was in a situation requiring all the faith I had, it was then.
A Prayer for my Life - My request granted
I called upon the Lord with all my heart, for I was attacked with it in its first stages. I went out on the steep hill facing the river. It was blowing, raining, and heavy lightning. I held on to the stump of an old tree while I knelt down where no eye could see me but God, and I plead for my life. I told [p.43] the Lord how he had blest and delivered me from the yoke of bondage, and that I was going to Zion and intended to send for my folks and if he took me away they might never get away. He heard my prayer and what I desired has been accomplished.
Want me to stay
The citizens held a meeting and concluded to furnish teams and move us out 8 miles on the open prairie, where they would not be in so much danger of the contagion. As our teams and wagons had not yet arrived in the meantime, Mr. Smart wanted me to remain with him for another year. He said the United States was going to send an army to Utah to wipe out the Mormons and if I went I would be killed. I told him I had but once to die and that I would go if I knew I would die on the way.
A Temptation to me
He then made the following proposition to me -- if you will stay with me one year I will give you $150.00 in cash, a horse and saddle. I will also give you my daughter to wife and you will be enabled to go to the Valley independent.
I then made him the following answer
Mr. Smart, I thank you very kindly for your generous proposition, but the truth is, I left home to go to Salt Lake and I am going if I live, for your eyes never beheld enough of property in any form to be sufficient to entice me to stay. He also paid me 50 cents per day. We parted good friends - and he bid me God speed. . . . [p.44]
. . . Rising to my feet, I gazed with rapture at the scenes before me. Casting my eyes in all directions to see which view was the most enchanting. Looking to the south I could discern the top of the Wasatch range covered with snow. To the west lay like a shining glacier the Great Salt Lake, and 2 of its 7 islands in plain sight, and the beautiful valley lay as far as the eye could reach in every direction and although the valley had only been a little over 5 years settled and as yet we could discern but little of the hand of industry, yet I knew the nucles was laid of a mighty empire whose destiny it was to make laws and govern the world.
Citizen meet us - a multitude come out all dressed in best attire
Now others began to arrive and give many expressions of their feelings, similar to my own, and then the teams. I mounted my mule and traveled with the crowd mingling our voices together on the many topics that presented themselves before us in relation to the Valley - the people and the end of or journey. At last the vanguard of our brethren and sisters from the city to meet us were seen in the distance and in a short time it seemed all the inhabitants had turned out in mass to give us a reception. . . [p.53]
BIB: Wilson, James Thomas. "The Life of James Thomas Wilson."[Reminiscences] , pp. 36,38-44, 53. (CHL)