Harry Jones.

To San Francisco and back online

. (page 8 of 12)
Online LibraryHarry JonesTo San Francisco and back → online text (page 8 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

believe that large numbers will fall away from Mor-
monism, but that a body will be left sufficiently for-
midable to cause serious embarrassment to the
authorities of the Republic. Surely the best way to
correct their influence and isolated self-esteem and,
what is of great importance, to provide an escape for
those who repent of Mormonism is not to assail it
by force, but to introduce and support Christian, or,
as Mormons would call them, Gentile, churches in
the territory. One such has been already started,
amid great opposition, in the Salt Lake City. Two
years and a-half ago the Protestant Episcopal Church
of America sent a mission to the town. A school was
opened, and 16 scholars presented themselves. Their
numbers soon grew to 60. Then the Mormon
authorities denounced the mission, and the school
received a severe check. Presently, however, the
people got over the alarm, and, in 1869, there were
130 children in the school, and the teachers could


admit many more if they had room for them. Divers
of the scholars were children of professing Mormons.

The sanitary condition of the city is questionable.
I repeatedly asked what diseases were prevalent, and
was told they were diphtheria, scarlet fever, ague,
diarrhoea, and dysentery. The fact is that the lovely
limpid streams that " flash through the city " are
open sewers, and propagate disease among the
inhabitants. I asked a man whom I knew as a
resident in one of the most crowded spots in
Westminster how he kept his health in Salt Lake
City. " Sir," he said, " I never had a day's illness
in London, but here I have had four or five spells."
" What do you drink ? " I asked. " Why, the water
that flows by my door." No wonder he was ill !
Another said, " The grown-up people live, but lots of
children die." Poor little things ! I was given to
understand that in many cases their parents sent for
the elders of the Church to anoint them with oil, but
that in their own sickness they took physic. I went
to the chief druggist to ask, and he said he made up
a great deal of medicine specially for diarrhoea : and,
according to the " Salt Lake Directory," there are
eight medical men residing in the city. But the
babies had, I suppose, a small voice in the matter.

Another nuisance in the place, besides mischief-
making surface water, arises from the flies. I never
saw so many flies in my life. They crawled over our


faces at breakfast by hundreds ; they spotted the
cloth, drowned themselves in the milk, buzzed among
the dishes ; and it was not until night, when they
retired in black lumps to sleep upon the ceiling, that
we were freed from the extreme annoyance they
occasioned. These flies have their own way through
the summer and autumn, and the residents seem to
have made up their minds to endure their tickling
inquisitiveness without complaint.

However, in spite of its drawbacks, we were deeply
interested in our visit to the Mormons, especially as
the present time seems to show a crisis in their
history. They had just " called " about two hundred
fresh missionaries, all but three of whom were to be
sent out to preach in the United States. This is wise
on their part, for though they make but comparatively
few converts among the Yankees, it serves their purpose
well to show their best side among a people who profess
a strong desire for religious freedom and are yet sus-
pected of a wish to lay heavy hands upon them before
long, and "put down" polygamy, now that slavery has
been swept away. But, as I have said, Brigham does
not depend upon the persuasive powers of his mis-
sionaries alone. He has, Mormons say, thousands of
rifles at his service in a few days if need should arise ;
and they will be in the hands of hardy men, who are
committed, if once they begin, to fight to the last.




I HAVE been asked to furnish another account of my
visit to the Salt Lake City, and I furnish it at the
risk of some repetition ; but as I mention several
matters not contained in that which precedes this, I
may as well let it stand. I have said that the city
lies about forty miles off the great Atlantic and Pacific
Railway, but by this time is connected with it by a
branch line. The railway runs by the side of the
lake, which stretches far away on the left hand as you
travel westward. It is one hundred miles long, by
about thirty broad. Not a sail or boat was to be seen
as I passed it on my way to California. The waves,
however, twinkled merrily, and many gulls were flying
about, while herds of cattle grazed in the saltings
between the rail and the edge of the lake. Mormon
farms were scattered over the plain on our right ;
beyond which there rose some few miles off a fine
mountain range. Other mountains, patched with
snow, showed themselves in the distance across the


The two companies whose lines together make what
we call the Atlantic and Pacific Railway, meet at
Promontory this station being so named because it
is on a point which juts out into the Salt Lake. I
stopped to visit the City of the Saints on my way
hack, getting down at a little station called Uintah.
The Salt Lake stage, with four greys, was waiting
to take us on at once. We got seats outside, and
started under a brilliant sun at twenty minutes to
twelve. The lake lay on the right of our course ; a
range of mountains, whose lower wooded slopes were
in a blaze with the bright tints of an American
autumn, rose on our left. The road was the worst
I ever saw. Every now and then I wondered how we
could get over the watercourses, some dry, some wet,
which made downright ditches athwart our track.
Some we took with a rush that involved a fearful
bump, for which we prepared by holding on hard ;
others we crossed slowly, letting the front wheels in,
and then dragging them out with much straining and
lashing, the hind ones following as well as they could,
but at the best with a jerk which nearly " chucked "
us who sat in front up into the air. I was never
more jolted in my life, but I never took a drive the
end of which I looked forward to with more interest,
independently of its relief from rough riding. Pre-
sently we drew away from the lake, and kept closer
under the hills on our left. After changing horses


twice, and meeting many tilted carts with Mormons
returning from their autumn gathering at the Salt
Lake City, we turned a corner and saw it before us
on a slope of the mountains, a grand range of which
showed themselves beyond. The valley of Utah,
traversed by the Jordan, and backed by another range
about twenty miles off, lay on the right. As almost
every house in the city has a garden and orchard, it
covers a considerable space, and in the distance looks
like a low wood, studded with roofs and gables. In
the midst stands the Tabernacle, white and oval, like
a Brobdingnag dish-cover. Last time I compared it
to an egg ; but whatever it may resemble, it is unlike
any other building I ever saw. It has no tower, spire,
or ornament of any kind within or without, but is
simply a whited dish-cover, holding about 5,000
people on the floor, in benches which look towards
the pulpit or platform where Brigham Young and the
twelve " Apostles " sit, a large organ being behind

The streets of the city are very wide, unpaved and
unlit. They run at right angles to each other, and
on three sides die off into straight roads traversing
the flat valley. The stage stopped at the post-office,
and then put us down at the Townsend House, kept
by a Mormon and his three wives. He has been a
missionary in England, and I believe his wives are
English. He was generally to be found sitting in an


arm-chair in the verandah hefore his house, and was
very polite ; while one of his dames, rather a stout
and stately lady in a black silk dress, looked after the
maids who waited upon the guests. Mr. Townsend
is a placid old gentleman, who talked freely ahout
Mormonism to me, and took criticisms with a quiet
smile. He is a man of substance. I was conversing
with him one day about the schism caused by Alex-
ander and David Smith, the sons of the founder of the
" faith," when he admitted it all with the philosophic
remark, " You will never find a community, sir, with-
out divisions. We are like others in that respect."
This, however, involves a serious concession ; since
Mormons pique themselves on unity and exclusiveness.

Many of the houses in the city, which contains
about 20,000 inhabitants, are white, though some are
built of " adobe," or brown sun-dried brick, there
abbreviated and pronounced " dubby." Some are
large, and have their grounds fenced with high stone

Streams of water run in the gutters of every street.
I mentioned before that this must have an injurious
sanitary effect on those who drink of them, since the
seeds of disease are specially likely to be conveyed by
water. I was told again and again that dysentery,
diarrhoea, and fever prevailed in the place. There
had been a great mortality among infants, and many
residents complained of bad health. The air of the


place is very clear, and the sunset is generally
magnificent ; but a sudden trying chill comes on
immediately after it, however hot the day has been,
and I was not surprised at being told that ague was
troublesome there. The downpour of heat on the flat
valley seemed to bring out a malarious haze in the

We spent a good deal of our time in conversation
with " promiscuous " Mormons in the stores and
streets. They held much variety of opinion about
polygamy, and the prospective relations of the com-
munity to the United States. Some declared that if
polygamy were put down, Mormonism would perish
too, and spoke very confidently about fighting the
Government. I particularly remember the positive-
ness of one little man with a face like a weasel's. I
said, " Surely you don't think you could stand against
the force of the whole country ? " " Sir," he replied,
" the Lord will deliver us." " How ? " I asked. He
twinkled at me and said, " I believe that He would
raise up a war between England and America, if the
Government wree to try and put us down by force."
I suggested that I did not think England would feel
gratified at such an arrangement, but he stuck fast to
his notion.

Some shirked the question of polygamy by asserting
that they would never think of taking more than one
wife. Others admitted that though they approved of


the practice, they had not adopted it in their own cases,
and tried to turn off with a laugh the suggestion that
they would not dare to risk the anger of the single
wives they had.

I feel confident that the women, as a hody, do not
approve of polygamy. Of course it would be very dif-
ficult to get this admission, and indeed a stranger
could not on a bare introduction ask a Mormon lady
in a drawing-room whether she liked the fractional
possession of a husband ; but yet I heard something
about it from sources which I could not doubt ; and
casual witness was occasionally borne to the deep
aversion of the wives to this custom.

Let me give one instance of what I refer to. A
Mormon of whom I had asked some questions about
their prison, broke out saying that I must not suppose
that Mormons ever committed crimes. " Indeed ! "
said I. " No, sir," he rejoined; "and I'll give you
a case to show how falsely we are estimated. A man
I knew was accused of embezzling his master's goods,
and when the charge was gone into they found out
that his wife had contrived it because he was going to
marry another. It was only her spite."

I was struck how on several occasions Mormons
proved too much. One day I was talking to two men,
hot fanatics, about drunkenness. I asked how they
punished it. " Well," one said, " we hardly ever
have drunkards ; but when we have we impose a fine,


and in default of payment set them to work on the
roads with a ball and chain." " I have not seen any-
thing of that," I replied. "Not seen that ! " he cried ;
" why, there are lots. Ain't there, Jack?" he asked,
appealing to his companion. I am bound to say that
I did not see any drunkenness in the streets, though
there are drinking-bars in the city. But no more
did I even in several places where it might have
been expected. However they may injure themselves
by "cocktails" and "cobblers," "rum bitters" and
whisky drams between meals, I must allow that
throughout America I saw no gross display of intem-
perance in the streets. I was very much struck with,
the absence of this everywhere ; and though I believe
that Mormons are much more free from this vice
than some other Western settlers, they are not unique
among Americans in abstaining from public exhi-
bitions of it.

I am inclined to believe, moreover, that fanaticism
is sometimes a sort of alternative to material intoxi-
cation. People who are filled with a pressing sense
of strong and peculiar religious convictions are less
subject to that craving and depression which affects
those who lead a dull, spiritless life. There is no
doubt of the sincerity with which the bulk of Mormons
hold their strange creed. It is a very strange one
indeed, but it has stimulated many of them not only
to break away from their old life, but in some instances



to make their journey to Utah a sort of religious pil-
grimage. Thus they are delivered more or less from
a yearning for physical stimulants.

It might be suggested that in the practice of poly-
gamy they find another species of indulgence ; and in
some instances no doubt this is true, especially since
plural marriage is not part of their original code of life,
and many have adopted it with readiness on the ground
of a later revelation. I can find no directions for it in
the "Book of Mormon" which I purchased at the Salt
Lake City, while it is distinctly forbidden in the "Book
of Doctrine and Covenants" in circulation in the terri-
tory of Utah now. The words I quote from the copy
I bought there are in section cix., on " Marriage,"
and run thus "Inasmuch as this Church of Christ
has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and
polygamy ; we declare that we believe that one man
should have one wife, and one woman but one husband,
except in case of death, when either is at liberty to
marry again." This is " selected from the Revelations
of God, by'Jcseph Smith, President," and is in the
stereotyped edition, published in 1854.

Now, when Brigham Young announced that he had
in his possession a revelation superseding this, and
recommending polygamy, which revelation he said he
had kept back because the Church was not ripe to
receive it, we must assume a monstrous readiness to
adopt a practice which is said to prevail among about


sixty thousand of the Mormon community at the
present day. These polygamists have committed
themselves in the face of the prohibition which still
stands in the " Book of Doctrine and Covenants "
current among them.

I am afraid that unbridled passions have had a good
deal to do with what is now defended among many as
& Divine duty, and that though Mormons are not
drunkards, some have seriously damaged their cha-
Tacter for temperance by their unblushing adoption of
a practice that is more than bigamous.

I do not want to paint any one blacker than he is,
"but it is notorious that some Mormons, pure and
simple, represented mainly by the sons of the original
prophet, two of whom, David and Alexander Smith,
ivere at the Salt Lake City, protest against polygamy.
I mentioned in a previous chapter that I heard Alex-
ander Smith, at a crowded meeting of Mormons,
denounce Brighain Young's teaching in this matter
-as " false, foul, and corrupt."

Mormons are now divided into " Josephites " and
" Brighamites," the former of whom denounce the
latter unsparingly. Here is native internal testimony
to the corrupt morality of the sect. No language can
express a sense of the "abomination" of polygamy
more strongly than that which is now being used by
the original Mormons, who are the opponents of
Brigham Young in the very heart of his empire.


I say empire, because he undoubtedly exercises-
imperial power over a very large section of the Mor-
mons, and is backed by all those who have been
induced by his example and precepts to take more
wives than one. If polygamy were abolished, they
would be in a social strait. Thus they are prepared to
fight for I can hardly call it their liberty but their
license. I was told that they had some 18,000 men
well armed and organised. They were preparing to
assemble when I was in Utah. This was intended as
a hint of what would happen if the United States were
to attempt to put down polygamy by force. I have
no doubt that forcible suppression of this practice is
contemplated by many Americans. Divers said to
me, "Well, sir, we shall fix this matter up before
long." But it will be, if tried, a serious business.
I have since learned that measures have been taken
to suppress the Mormon militia. Still they have
pugnacity among them. Many, as I have remarked,
believe now that if polygamy were suppressed, Mor-
monism would perish. Thus they have social and
religious motives to support them. Moreover the
ecclesiastical system pursued by Brigham Young is so
minutely imperious that he has more than the poly-
gamists under his thumb. Organised subdivision of
the " Church," under apostles, bishops, and teachers,
enables him to check at once any material opposition
or conspiracy. No one can move freely. The sons


of Joseph Smith are listened to ; but it is hard to
begin any revolution. Families and individuals are
watched and reported upon. If disobedient they are
-excommunicated, and that means that they are denied
work and help.

It is difficult to see how the compact body of poly-
gamists, and that society of non-polygamists who are
subjected with them to the same tyrannical super-
vision, can be broken up. I believe that there are
elements of dissolution in the growth of the schism
fostered by the sons of Joseph Smith. This is likely
to encourage the belief that there are two sides to
Mormonism. Then comes in the influence of other
teaching, shown already by the success which has
attended the efforts of the Episcopal clergy in the
heart of Utah. But, if hard pressed, divided Mor-
mons may shake hands again.

Extract from a Letter, dated Nov. 4, 1870, to the
Author of " San Francisco and Bach."

THE writer, the Rev. G. W. Foote, the Eector of the
Church Mission at the Salt Lake City, after speaking
of the need he has for help to complete the building
of his church, with schools, clergy-house &c., says:
" The Mormon problem is being gradually solved
by the constant defections of the people. . . . The
United States courts have recently declared all Mor-


mon courts illegal, and their actions null and void.
Our new governor . . . has forbidden the Mormon
militia to meet, and has taken the power into his own
hands, reducing Brigham Young to a mere ecclesias-
tical head of Mormonism. We have also obtained
good judges and a * Gentile ' jury. These judges
refuse to naturalise polygamists or those who believe
in polygamy, and our juries have indicted some
prominent Mormons (a bishop among them) for
murders committed years ago.

" The mines (silver) all about our city are attracting
much attention, and we expect that thousands of people
will rush in here next spring. Already the territory
is fast filling up with * Gentile ' miners, and thousands
of dollars are being taken from the mines. The
Mormon railway is completed from Ogden to this city,
and hundreds of travellers pass through here weekly.

" Our congregations have increased in numbers,
and our school has been enlarged also ; we now have
six teachers and 230 pupils."

I must say a word on the natural resources of the
place. Much has been made of the transformation by
the Saints of a barren wilderness into a blooming field.
This is nonsense. Of course land will not grow useful
crops before it is sown. But little more is needed in
the valley of Utah than to till and plant soil aided by
a magnificent sun and supplies of water from all sides.


I have open before me now the " Salt Lake Directory,"
given to me there by a Mormon, and which contains
their own account of their progress in that region. The
" Chronological Events of Utah " has this as its first
statement : " 1847. July 24. Pioneers, numbering
143 men, enter Salt Lake Valley, having left the Mis-
souri River April 14th. The day of their arrival they
commenced ploughing and planting potatoes. A
thunder- shower wet the ground slightly in the after-
noon." A few lines below this we read : " July 31.
Great Salt Lake City laid out in square blocks of ten
acres each." A few lines lower still : " August 26.
The colonists had laid off a fort, built twenty-seven
log houses, ploughed and planted eighty-four acres
with corn, potatoes, beans, buck-wheat, turnips, &c.,
and had manufactured 125 bushels of salt." The salt
they got from the lake pools. The bringing eighty-
four acres under cultivation a month after their arrival
proves that they found soil ready for farming. Such
is the case on their own showing. Utah is a grand
field for agriculture. The triumph of saintly labour
over stubborn Nature is a mere myth. Everything
was as ready for them as it could be. While I was
there I saw Mormon farmers breaking up fresh soil.
They simply ploughed it. I should add that Nature
herself provides much grass for pasturage.

I drove and walked about the neighbourhood of the
city, which is beautifully situated. The territory


produces almost everything fruit, corn, roots, sugar-
cane, cotton, silk, coal, ores. It is not a reclaimed
wilderness, but was in one sense an unclaimed
paradise when the Mormons entered it.

Its seclusion is now gone. But the railroad had to
creep more than a thousand miles from the banks of
the Missouri, across plains in which the buffalo and
Red Indian still wander, over the Rocky Mountains,
and through the barren, stony land which lies beyond
them, before the snort of the engine was heard in the
smiling valley of Utah. My companion and myself
were among the last to traverse the vile road between
the main line and the Salt Lake City. Now a branch
is opened, and you may go by rail into the heart of
the town. I am much mistaken if some summer
tourists will not change their trip among the familiar
scenes of Europe for a visit to this place, and see for
themselves the homes of the " Latter-day Saints : " of
them we have heard much and shall hear more.




I TURNED off to St. Louis on the Missouri from the
terminus of the Pacific Union line at Omaha. On
my way hack from the Salt Lake City I was even more
impressed with the solitary amhition of the line which
has pushed its way across the continent than I was in
my outward journey, for I happened to travel in the
end car of the train, and could thus see the straight
thin track, looking at last no bigger than a piece of
string stretched across, say Dartmoor, or Salisbury
Plain. On our return, too, we saw the prairie on fire ;
but it was daytime, and the effect was simply an horizon
of smoke. The fire had passed close to the line ;
indeed, some of it was blazing only a few hundred
yards off. The flames were in places about ten or
twelve feet high, but, curiously enough, many of the
tall, strong bents of grass were left standing in the
blackened track of the conflagration.

When we got back to Omaha, I left the direct route
to Chicago and turned down the Missouri by the Han-
nibal and St. Joseph Railway, which runs along what
is called the Missouri Bottom. A word about this
line. It is abominable. Accidents occur about once




i 2



o c;




a-week. I happened to say to a fellow-passenger,
" We shall get to St. Joseph, I suppose, about such
and such an hour." "Well, yes," he replied, "if
they don't run off the track." My first indication of
this habit of the train here occurred when I took my
ticket for a sleeping-berth. The clerk gave me one

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12

Online LibraryHarry JonesTo San Francisco and back → online text (page 8 of 12)