[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]
WE have one more sad and fearful tale to tell about the Mormons ore their fortunes brightened. The mobocratic spirit did not expire when it destroyed the great leader. Threats and demonstrations clearly proved, that their present abode, which had been made lovely by unheard-of exertions, must be abandoned. The monster conflagrations on Green Plains cast a funereal glare on the spires of Nauvoo. The present venerable patriarch, uncle of the prophet Joseph, in prophetic vision announced that the whole people must retire to the wilderness, to grow into a multitude aloof from the haunts of civilisation.
This matter was taken into consideration by Brigham and high council. The result was, that they would move as fast as possible across Iowa to the Missouri, and into the Indian country in the vicinity of Council Bluffs. Speculators flocked in, and offered nominal prices for what they significantly hinted would very soon be taken for nothing, if the offers were rejected. Houses, lots, and such goods as could not be moved, were sold by many in the fall of '41 and winter of '40; and several parties set out on the dreary journey early the following spring. Ox-carts and mule teams, loaded with all sorts of furniture' intermingled with women and children, wended their way slowly along on miry tracks, and crossed the swollen streamsfuel and grass scanty but the spirits of all unbroken, save the sick and helpless. Closely bound together by common dangers and a common faith, they performed with alacrity their duties, and sympathy made the dreary journey one of social life. Their mirthfulness would be excited by little incidents, and even misfortunes were turned into jokes, as helping hands lent their aid to right a broken wheel or upset wagon. At the halting places, the spinning-wheel would be taken down and yarn spun to keep the knitting-needles going when riding during the dayand cloth made from wool sheared after the journey begun. At some places land was broken up and planted with seed, awl a family or two left to rear a crop for those who were to follow in autumn. The lowing herd accompanied, and the milch line yielded the nourishing beverage, and butter was made by the jolting of the wagons as they travelled along.
Still, the work continued unabated on the temple, for they were commanded to dedicate it before leaving the city of Beauty. It was the work of their hearts, each person owned a share of the noble pile, for his hands had labored on it, his tithes were expended there, and the ladies had contributed their ornaments to forward the sacred edifice. The mob became impatient of delay, and would not believe the Mormons sincere in the stipulated move. As the corn-fields began to ripen, the rabble collected, it is said, to the number of two thousand, and there were only three hundred of the old legion to defend the place against them. For three days an irregular fight went on, the assailants taking advantage of the high waving corn to conceal their approaches. The defenders nobly stood their ground, and drove them back at all points, and obtained a truce until spring; and then set diligently to work to complete the architectural ornaments, the holy emblems, and the angel on the lofty spire with his gospel trump, to prepare the sacred temple for the last act assigned them by "revelation."*
* I am informed by Captain S. Eastman, the accomplished scholar and artist, that the angel and tromp are in Barnum's Museum, New York city.
When completed in all its minutiae, the consecrators were called. From the surrounding country, and from parties far advanced on their prophetic journey, priests, elders, and bishops stole into the city as dusty travellers, and were suddenly metamorphosed to dignity by their robes of office; and one day, from high noon to the shade of night, was there a scene of rejoicing and solemn consecration of the beautiful edifice, on which so much anxiety and thought had lately been expended. There stood the Mormon temple in simple beauty, the pride of the valley. The great altar hung with festoons of flowers and green wreaths; the baptistic lover resting on twelve elaborately carved oxen, decorated with the symbolic glories, celestial, telestial, and terrestrial; the chaunt was sung, the prayers offered up, and the noble building, resplendent with lights of lamp and torches, solemnly dedicated to their own God. This done, and the walls were dismantled of ornaments and the symbols of their faith, the key-words of the mysteries, and lettered insignia were all removed with haste, except the sun, moon, and stars, carved in stones of the walls, and the temple forsaken, to be "profaned and trodden down by the Gentiles." A few brief hours were given to this brilliant pageant, and during this festive, joyous scene, a spectator would have supposed the actors expected that house to be their own for ever. There is something truly affecting in the contemplation of that devotional offering of so fine a temple, and then leaving it unscathed to the hand of their enemies.
From this time all defence ceased, and their enemies rested satisfied that the Mormons had decided to sell their possessions. Arrangements for surrender and departure were quickly made. company after company followed the pioneers to the white Missouri; and many, crossing over in early summer, turned up the rich, but pestilential prairie sod, to prepare a harvest for autumns and await the last of the trains. During that summer the plague and fever raged violently, and its ravages in the great bottom, on Indian and white men, were fearful. Winter approachedthe tent an; wagon body, with its trooped canvas, was exchanged for caves dug in the sides of the hills, and covered with logs, reeds, or cloth. The scanty fuel gave but little warmth to ward off the cold, made more searching from the piercing winds that howled over the delta prairies of the Missouri and Nebraska. Then came the ague, the rheumatism, and the scurvy, the terrible concomitants of fatigue' exposure, and scanty fare. Numbers died, and were buried in the rich alluvion. Awful as was that winter and spring, a cheerful heart and countenance was on all sidesa revelation gave permission to dance, to sing, and enjoy the swelling music from the excellent band that accompanied all their journeys.
Let us revert to the summer. A city was laid out, and soon the streets were dusty with the tread of busy industry. A printing-press issued the Frontier Guardian, the able exponent of their doctrines still. The name assumed was Mane' in honor of their guest and eloquent defender, whose historical oration on these dark periods of their fortunes, does equal honor to his charitable heart and intelligencea sketch, however; of the epic kind, replete with poetical ornament and fervor.
It was at this time, in July, that a battalion of 500 men was recruited among them for the Mexican war. The government, knowing their intention to settle in California, would thus do them a favor by bearing a part of the expense of removal, test and demonstrate their fidelity, and show the reports of their enemies' concerning leagues with the Indians, to be false. The people, however, thought this only another persecution, yet submitted, to prove their patriotism. Enfeebled by disease, and scattered, it was an enormous effort. The elders called the congregation, and asked for recruits. The unmarried were ordered to volunteer then fathers and husbands were called to leave their families, and the elders declared, if necessary, they would shoulder the Musket. In three days the battalion was organised, and a merry ball, from " noon to dewy eve," was given, in holiday attire, by young men and maidens, joined in by reverend priests and matrons. The warriors were blessed in holy convocation, a prophecy made that they should conquer the country without a drop of blood shed in battle, and the battalion departed "in the name of the Lord."
Men were sent to the mountains, to the heads of the Missouri branches, and to California, to spy out the land, and the Calebs and Joshnas brought such a report of the Great Salt Lake Valley, that it was chosen for another "everlasting abode."
In the spring of 1843 a pioneer party of 143 men proceeded to open the way; and the host, in parties of tens, fifties, and hundreds, followed. This was an admirable system' and baffled the thievish desire of the Sioux, Crows, and Shoshones. A captain was over each division, but the captains of hundreds had the supervision of the smaller bands. A strict discipline of guard and march was observed. But the drain of the battalion threw the burden of toil much upon the women. Females drove teams of several yoke of oxen a thousand miles. A man could walk three teams by the help of a woman and ladhe driving the middle one, and stepping forward to assist over the creeks with the foremost, and then bring up the rear onesand at the camps unyoke and "hitch up" for his feebler coadjutors. Thus they wound along their weary way, at ten and fifteen miles a day forded, or bridged, and ferried over, the Loup, the Horn, and Platte rivers on the plains, and the swollen streams of the Bear, and rushing Weber, in the mountains.
The first glimpse of the great valley on the road was from the summit of the second mountain, sixteen miles distant. As each team rose upon the narrow table, the delighted pilgrims save the white salt beach of the Great False glistening in the never-clouded sunbeam of summerand the view down the open gorge of the mountains, divided by a single conical peak' into the long-toiled for vale of repose, was most ravishing to the beholders. Few such ecstatic moments are vouchsafed to mortals in the pilgrimage of life, when the dreary past is all forgotten, and the soul rovers in unalloyed enjoyment, anticipating the fruition of hope. A few moments are allotted to each little party to gaze, to admire and to praiseand they begin to descend a steep declivity, amid the shades of a dense poplar grove, and for twenty-four hours are desiring to renew their pleasurable sensations on emerging from the frowning Canyon into the paradisaical valley, and long-sought-for home.
The journey was ended, but this gave no reposeindustry continued. In five days a field was consecrated, fenced, ploughed, and planted' and seeds were germinating in the moisture of irrigating streams and the genial warmth of the internal heat of the earth' here brought to their notice by the thermal waters gushing from a thousand springs.
Though cramped in their means, and feeble as they were, nothing of interest on that long journey was left unobserved or unrecorded. Parties were directed to scour the vicinity of the road, and report on springs, timber, grass, and other objects of interest. An ingenious and accurate road-measurer was attached to a wagon, and a person designated to note the distances from point to point, and every feasible camping-ground was marked down and a Directory for every rod of the road, admirably arranged and filled with useful information, was published for the use of those who should follow. The self-taught mathematician and learned apostle Orson Pratt, noted for latitude and longitude. The valley of the Platte is found to be almost an unbroken plane, whose slope is so gentle that the eye detects neither ascent nor descent, and from the Black Hills to its mouth is almost a straight line, and is perhaps the most remarkable trace, and finest natural road, in the world. The flat, or bottom, begins to spread at the hills, gradually from a point to ten or fifteen miles in width; and lies between bluffs, whose height is the origand plane or surface; out of which the river has excavated its valley. Few clumps of trees are along the banks; but the islands, secure from the prairie fires, are covered with groves of cottonwood. Irrigation would make valuable the level meadows, and to the north and south, pastures can be found covered with nutritious grasses, whose limits would be the range of the shepherds from the watering river.
Portions of the Platte have the appearance of shallow lakes, two or three miles wide; and in summer the stream is divided into thousands of currents by the sand islands. Its volume increases as you ascend toward its sources; the absorption by the soil and rapid evaporation on so wide a surface diminish the flow, while but few tributaries enter below the Sweetwater. What is here said of this river applies to the mountain streams generally; they attain their full size where the rivulets are collected into one at the mountain base' and, in many instances' disappear in the samls of the plains far distant from the ocean.
Near the Sweetwater, they discovered a lake with a deposition of borax, and another with an abundance of soda, which they named "Saleratus Lake," and where they loaded up a few years' supply of the alkali, to use in its native state in preparing biscuit and bread. They noted the beds of bituminous coal on the Platte, and in the Green river basinthe petroleum issuing with the springs near Bear river, and tested the poisonous quality of other fountains, leaving a warning to the traveller not to suffer his cattle to drink at them. The beds of gypsum, the character of the soil, the minerals and geology of the route, were not neglected in that journal; and the elevations of the summits on the road were barometrically taken. Thus observant and industrious, they press on, and emerge cheerfully into the valley of the Great Salt Lake.
The pioneers arrived on the 21st of July, and the Church Presidency on the 24th, which latter day is their grand epoch, which, in the language of the third one in rank, of that corps, on the third anniversary," is the day whose events are of the most importance to mankind of any that ever transpired, the creation of Adam and birth of Jesus Christ alone excepted."
And there they are, bidding defiance to their persecutors and ready to fight for the land that has been fertilised by their labors, and made valuable by their perseverance and almost superhuman exertions. It has been made sacred to them by the blood of their sons, which has flowed in its defence against hostile Indians. It is holy ground, set apart to their use by the rites of their conscience loved religion. Nor could they be easily molested. It were more than a march to the ancient Aztec city, to carry an army to their mountain home. In those distant fastnesses they feel secure against any force the United States would send against them. But they invite no such attention as this, and seek to evade it; they will do all that conscience and a sense of right will allow, to avoid collision. They feel well entitled to the lands as already wolf paid forand can but expect a grant for Improvements and Educational purposes like other new States which will cover all the lands that would be bought in the market. They also feel it due to them, to grant them the privilege of self-control; to exercise just laws over their own people, and of their faith, by persons of their own choice or recommendation, and that Gentile governors and judges are unjust impositions upon them.
They were driven to a land worthless and savageleft three years without protection or controlhave formed their habits, agricultural, mechanical, and religious or moral; and know better than all the world what is suited to their condition. Non-interference with the vote of its citizens is the wish of Utah. True, they could be annoyed by cutting off supplies of luxuries, and blockading the routes by which they receive their poor emigrants, but that would at once make a foreign nation in the centre of American territory.
But to enjoy their own laws of a republican character, permitted and sanctioned by the (Constitution, they are determined upon doing, and have the administration of them in their own way. Soon they may be numerous enough to demand the position of a sovereign State, and knock loudly for admission into the Union.
Their feeling toward the Union was significantly shown at the third celebration of their memorable epoch of arrival. A small part of its history may serve to illustrate.
At ten o'clock in the morning, the roaring cannon gave notice that the time of gathering to the Bowery on the temple block was at hand. The dignitaries of "The Church," and officers of the United States' exploring party were, by invitation, at the new edifice of the President, Brigham Young, where they were received with all the gentlemanly kindness and urbanity which distinguishes the governor of Utah. At eleven a large military escort, handsomely equipped, and commanded by General Wells, a hero in the three days' defence of Nauvoo, with a fine band of music, followed by twenty-four bishops in official robes, each holding a flag, filed in front of the mansion, and halted. The guests, dignitaries, and Presidency, were then arranged in procession, and all proceeded under conduct of the general, his aides' and Marshal of the Daymusic playing, the banners waving, and the cannon at the Bowery resounding, to the forum, where the exercises were to be held. Here were assembled, in most perfect order and quiet, about six thousand personsall in neat holiday attire, and pleasure beaming on every countenance. When the Orator, Presidency, Fathers, or "aged linen," and principal guests were seated on the numerous benches of the pulpit stand, an invocation of Heaven's blessing was made by one of the twelve.
Then followed the reading of the order of exercises by the Marshal, and the Orator proceeded to deliver his eloquent appeal to the pride, the patriotism, and sense of justice of the attentive listeners. He recounted their many trials and the glorious result; and called on them to uphold their honor and their rights against all invasion, and in their name declared an attack upon them for this, would be resisted. Speeches were made afterward by the President and others, all tending to rouse attention to the character of the celebration, and designate more pointedly why and for what cause they were there to commemorate the day.
Next came the pageant of the day, to which we call attention. It was the presentation to the governor of Deseret of the Constitution of the United States, and their own, for his and his successors' guardian care. The presentation of the Constitution was made by twenty-four "aged fathers," silver-headed men, sons and descendants of ',6. In a neat, brief speech, their foreman admonished the governor that those fathers before him were soon to leave the scene enacting on life's busy stage; and before they went, no more to return, while the present civil governments were in being, they desired to place in charge the legacy they had received from the past generation, to be transmitted on intact to the future, till the consummation of time. This was the glorious and divine Constitution, that had been given by inspiration of God to the statesmen of an earlier dayand this they asked should be placed among the archives of their growing state as a holy treasure, and to be regarded "as the palladium of our liberty," and the supreme ruler under God, that sits over the destinies of the United States; an unembodied power, existing solely in the love and faith of its subject freemen. And it must be held sacred, and every person in the mountains was called to enrol himself its sworn defender; for portentous clouds are rolling up the eastern sky, and the original supporters are soon to break allegiance to the silcut but eloquent constitution, and, insensate by the will of Heaven, will rush to imbrue their hands in fraternal bloodwhile aloof, the chosen depositaries shall cherish the holy casket, and desccod at last like the eagle from its eyrie, to carry back to the repentant remnant that peace by which this highly favored land alone can prosperand, along with the civil instrument, that truth which alone can make them free.
The festivities were continued by a sumptuous banquet at the Presidential mansion, given to those escorted to the Bowery' and after an informal return, toasts, music, songs, and jovial speeches were showered forth until evening, when the delighted multitude, without an incident to mar the harmony of the occasion, dispersed; apparently believing that they were the greatest people on earth, and their rulers the wisest men in existence. They had been told by their Seer that they need not fear any earthly power; and that it was determined to maintain their identity as a State, whatever Congress or President at Washington should say or do, and the people one and all responded a hearty Amen, it shall be so, it is the Sat of justice and of Heaven. Subsequent events have proved that practically it is just as they have determined; a State they are, making their own local laws and enforcing them, whether under the name of Territory of Utah, or State of Deseretthey have made (and is it not just ?) that territory into the " Land of the Honey Bee," and would fain call it their own.