W. Fraser (William Fraser) Rae.

Westward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons online

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Gentiles was dear to the hearts of the persecuted
Latter Day Saints. The indignation which the
Gentiles have displayed towards those who openly
practised Polygamy has tended more than anything
else to confirm the Mormons in their notion as to
the divinity of plural marriage.

Mormon principles have triumphed all along the
line ; yet, in the thoroughness of the victory, lurks
the greatest peril to the cause. The high-handed
measures which commanded cheerful assent while


the danger lasted, have been regarded with aversion
and have excited antipathy since the time has ar-
rived for enjoying the fruits of conquest. To the
vigour and foresight of Brigham Young, and to
the daring and devotion of colleagues not inferior
to him in ability, the Mormons are almost wholly
indebted for their prosperity. But, even while
acknowledging this, they hesitate to yield uni-
form respect and implicit obedience to those who
originally guided their footsteps and sustained their
efforts. They see that the leaders have had their
reward in the form of positions of honour and of
large possessions. These leaders cling to the
authority which they have acquired or usurped.
They will not relinquish it save under compulsion.
Hundreds refuse to submit to its exercise. Those
who have stood forth and challenged the claims of
Brigham Young, who point out his shortcomings,
who contest his right to demand that he shall
be blindly obeyed, and who ridicule his preten-
sions to be infallible, elicit sympathy and aid from
among the mass; and the warfare which once was
waged by the Gentiles against the Mormons pro-
mises to be succeeded by an embittered strife
between Mormonism and Brigham Youngdom.

Under these circumstances what should be the
course of Congress, what the attitude of the Go-


vernment of the United States ? Interference with
Mormonism as a system of religion is above all
things to be deprecated. It does not follow, how-
ever, that everything which assumes the cloak of
religion should be connived at, tolerated, or ap-
proved. If a minority were to contend that a
divine revelation authorised them to pick pockets
and cut throats, the majority would rightly reply
that they were empowered by law to imprison
thieves and hang murderers. The same argument
applies to such a case as that of the Mormons as
far as Polygamy is concerned. To marry several
wives is alleged to be a part of the Mormon reli-
gion. The majority may retort that their religion
pronounces Polygamy illegal and, in a country
like the United States, where the supreme law is
the will of the majority, the Mormons must either
convert the majority to their views, or else suffer
the penalty provided for law-breakers. No Ameri-
can citizen is entitled to complain of persecution
when the law is impartially administered.

To be just and fear not ; to enforce the law
which is no respecter of persons ; to treat the erring
Mormons as citizens of the United States who
have no royal claim for exemption from the penal-
ties which other wrongdoers must pay, but whom,
at the same time, it would be iniquitous to single



out and sacrifice on the unhallowed altar of reli-
gious fanaticism, is the sacred duty incumbent on
Congress, is the imperative mandate of the execu-
tive authorities. The original and crying grievance
of the Mormons was that justice had invariably
and intentionally been denied them. They were
exiled from Missouri, they were expelled from
Illinois because an unjustifiable prejudice had been
excited to their detriment. No Act of Congress
had they infringed, nor had they denied the supre-
macy of the law of the land. In turn they have
become violators of statutes and ruthless persecu-
tors ; the Gentiles have suffered at their hands in-
dignities quite as unbearable and injuries nearly
as unpardonable as those which they underwent at
the hands of the Gentiles. The fountain of justice
is tainted in Utah : the juries and judges are cor-
rupt or biassed. A righteous policy requires that
these gross abuses should be extirpated and that
in the eye of the law Mormon and Gentile should
be absolutely equal. To accomplish this should be
the endeavour and aim of American statesmen and
rulers. That more than this should be undertaken
or achieved, no right-thinking man will desire.

If Salt Lake Valley were to become the home
of a really free people, it would be one of the


glories of the American Union. Its situation is
unrivalled in this part of the Continent. A tem-
perate climate blesses the inhabitants with good
health ; a fruitful soil yields them food in abun-
dance. The surrounding mountains are rich in
minerals ; the multitudinous streams are alive with
fish. Xature has designed this valley to be a ter-
restrial paradise : hitherto, the doings of man have
frustrated, rather than forwarded the designs of

My statement of actual facts will probably pro-
duce an impression very different from that made
by the brilliant but misleading pictures with which
preceding visitors to the mountain home of the
Mormons have delighted the public. As no two
persons ever see the same thing in precisely the
same light, so any two travellers may widely differ
in their estimate of an institution or their opinion
of a people. It is quite true, as several writers
have averred, that President Brigham Young in-
culcates on his flock as a paramount duty that of
labouring with their hands, and he does this with
the greater success, inasmuch as it is certain that
those who will not work must starve. So far, I
agree with certain other visitors to Utah. Rather
than note the points of disagreement in detail let
me give by way of conclusion the summarised

N 2


results of my own observation. I found the
Mormons as a body, very backward and ignorant
when compared with the other dwellers on the
American continent* I found them reluctant to
embody their thoughts in words, afraid to speak
their minds lest they should be punished for giving
utterance to what was obnoxious to those in high
places. The leaders and rulers of the Mormons are,
for the most part, shrewd and determined Yankees
who exercise a control over the multitude as grind-

* Mr. Horace White, one of the most distinguished members of
the American Press, gives as the result of his enquiry into the work-
ing of Mormonism an opinion similar to mine, and supports it with
examples which, I think, merit quotation : ' I happen to know a
Norwegian settlement in Wisconsin, whose original constituents
were as ignorant and desperately poor as any Mormon immigrants
from Wales or Denmark, and who have been in occupation of the
soil about the same length of time as the Utah Mormons. They are
to-day more than seventy-five per cent, in advance of the Mormons
in point of intelligence, wealth, culture, and everything which goes
under the name of civilization, and they have neither gambling
shops nor grog shops, nor houses of prostitution licensed, or un-
licensed, among them. They had no better start in America than
the Mormons. They have no better market for their crops. If they
had a rather richer soil to begin with, it was not so good in the long
run, for while the crops in Wisconsin are subject to constant vicissi-
tudes of climate, those of Utah are unfailing and enormous in their
yield.' ' Returning to my Norwegian friends on Jefferson Prairie,
Wisconsin (and I might point with equal force to the Swedish settle-
ment at Galva, Illinois, or to the Hollanders of Iowa), we find that
Mormonism, so far from advancing the physical condition of the
common people, has kept them from making the advancement to
which the bountiful earth and sky have constantly invited them.'
The Chicago Tribune, 16th July, 1869.


ing and despotic as that of the worst tyrants in
history. Neither Jew nor Christian can safely and
easily establish himself in Utah, either for the sake
of pleasure or for the purposes of trade. All non-
Mormons are subjected to a system of persecution
skilfully organised and conducted with a view to
their expulsion from the Valley of the Great Salt
Lake. In the Territory of Utah I found a parody
on the religion of the Bible and of the Koran,
sanctioning and prescribing the treatment of
women, not as intellectual human beings, but as
mere human toys. Having had this experience, I
am unable to accept, as a reply to all objections
and a counter-balance to all drawbacks, the incon-
testable facts that President Young preaches the
gospel of labour, and that Mormon orchards yield
annually many thousand bushels of large ripe
peaches and rosy-cheeked apples.




To ENTER the cars -of the Union Pacific Rail-
way after having paid a visit to Salt Lake City is
like setting foot on one's native soil after sojourning
among a strange people in a foreign land. The
habits and modes of thought of the Mormons and
the social atmosphere in which they live are alien
to the visitor who has neither special sympathy with
their creed, nor is predisposed to admire their
customs. Seated in the cars again, he feels himself
free to speak his mind without dread of being mis-
understood and without danger of giving offence.

After leaving Uintah and proceeding Westward,
Corinne is the next station of note. Passengers
bound for the Territory of Montana, which lies to
the north of Utah, leave the train here, and take
the stage coach. Montana has the reputation of
being a second California. Although a Mormon
town and almost exclusively subjected to Mormon
influences, yet in Corinne a most vigorous and un-


relenting warfare against the Saints is waged by
Mr. J. H. Beadle, the editor of the Utah Daily
Reporter. In Salt Lake City this could not be
done. The Mormon leaders would soon find means
for silencing a declared foe to their system and
scoffer at their pretensions. Certainly they would
be justified in protesting against the virulent lan-
guage of their critic. In a leading article, the
Mormons in authority are likened to men { who
would rob their grandmothers of their spectacles
and sell their frames for silver.' The principal
Saints whom the mass of the ignorant people of
Utah almost worship, are represented as ' a lot of
New England Yankees out on a speculation with
not the least speck of moral or honest sentiment in
their whole composition. They are out here lord-
ing it over a lot of foreign converts who are here
made peasants and slaves to these Yankee masters.
With such men to obtain absolute sway over an
ignorant and bigoted people, can we expect any-
thing else than that these leaders should be what
they are crafty swindlers and licentious monsters?'
When the editor leaves Corinne for other parts of
the settlement he does so at the risk of his life.
He has more than once experienced harsh treatment
at the hands of exasperated Mormons. It is pos-
sible that his voice will one day be silenced by


such irresistible and congenial Mormon arguments
as bullets from a revolver or blows from a club.

After passing Corinne, around which the country
is fertile and well-cultivated, the line runs through
a barren tract, skirts the shore of the Great Salt
Lake, and ascends the side of Promontory Moun-
tain. The gradients here are very steep, and the
cuttings in the rock must have been made with
much expenditure of toil and money. Two trestle
bridges are crossed, a sharp curve is rounded, and
the station of Promontory is reached. This is the
Western terminus of the Union Pacific, and the
Eastern terminus of the Central Pacific Railway.
Here it was that the ceremony of uniting the two
sides of the Continent by rail was performed on the
10th of May, 1869. The point of junction was
then the subject of controversy, and has not yet
been finally settled. The present arrangement is
the result of a compromise. The two companies in
their anxiety to earn as much as possible of the
Government subsidy, carried their respective lines
as far as an hundred miles to the east and west of
Promontory. These unfinished roadways are still
to be seen side by side with the completed line.
As one result of the disagreement, there are few
through trains. In general the passengers have to
change carriages, secure fresh sleeping berths, and


get their luggage moved from one train to the
other. Two hours are allowed for this, as well as
for taking a meal. There is usually ample time to
stroll through the town and see the sights. The
town is built partly of canvas and partly of wood,
and has but one street. The signs are hardly in
keeping with the structures to which they are
attached. Over a shanty is painted in large letters,
f Pacific Hotel,' and over a tent, 6 Club House.'
One of the wooden dwellings attracts notice on ac-
count of the neatly arranged muslin curtains within
the window. Unlike the others, it has no sign-
board to indicate its purpose, but a glance through
the open door satisfies the curiosity of the passer-
by. He sees two or three smiling females ready to
extend welcomes to whoever will enter in. This is
characteristic of all these rude settlements in the
wild Western country. In a canvas town, the
abode of women with few scruples to overcome and
no characters to lose is as distinguishable, and as
much a thing of course, as the gambling hell and
the drinking saloon. Of drinking saloons there
are many at Promontory ; but there is only one
gambling hell as far as I could learn. This one is
quite enough for the place. In its way the hell is
unique. The object of its keepers is to entice the
passengers halting here to try their luck. With


this view agents are sent to the neighbouring
stations, where they take their places in the cars,
and enter into conversation with the occupants.
Of course, as soon as the train stops at Promontory
these agents lead the way to the gaming table.
Nor have they far to go. It is in the open air,
within a few yards of the line. The game played
is three card Monte. It is as simple as thimblerig.
Three cards are laid out in line with their faces
downwards. Let it be supposed that these are a
Jack, a King, and a Queen, the denomination of
the cards making no difference the dealer will
then challenge any one to point out one of them,
say the Jack. A stake of a twenty dollar gold
piece depends on the event. In front of the card-
dealer is a pile of these gold pieces. He addresses
the on-lookers as follows : ( Gentlemen, you have
your eyes against my hand. You see how I place
the cards,' moving the three backwards and for-
wards, and then laying them in a row. ( Now I
will bet any one of you that he does not point out
the Jack ; if he does so at the first chance he wins
his money, if he fails he loses it.' One of the by-
standers inquires if he will bet without touching the
cards, to which the reply is, ( Certainly, sir ; I will
bet anything, from 20 to 1 00 dollars, that you do
not point out the Jack.' The speaker steps for-


ward eagerly and excitedly, places a 20 dollar gold
piece on the table, and points to a card, which,
when reversed, is seen to be the right one. He
gets his 20 dollars, which he clutches, and then
makes off rapidly, as if surprised and delighted at
his good fortune, carrying off, also, the winning
card in the excitement of the moment. The card-
dealer calls upon him to return the e ticket,' adding,
( By golly, Sir, you have beaten me this time, but
you are as welcome to the money as if you had
worked hard for it.' This is repeated several times,
the keeper of the table invariably losing. Indeed
the game seems absurdly easy, as there is always a
small black speck on the back of the winning card,
and every onlooker thinks it a certainty to point
out this card. At last, after the dealer had lost re-
peatedly, a man came out of the tent behind the
table saying, ' Come now, partner, you had better
stop ; this won't do.' To which he replies, ' By
golly I will play till I lose every cent I have in
the world. I must win nine times out of ten, and
I am ready to bet any gentleman 100 dollars that
he does not point out the right card this time.'
The truth is the men who had staked and won
were what we call confederates, and what are here
called ' cappers.' They certainly played their parts
exceedingly well, and would have imposed on any


other set of spectators than one composed of old
Californians, who are too knowing birds to be
caught by the chaff of cardsharpers. They are well
acquainted with the trick of the game. I saw a
poor German baker, destitute of experience and
endowed with but little sense, dispossessed in a few
minutes of all that he had in his pockets. The
trick consists in being able to deceive the spectator
by shifting the small black speck on the back of the
cards in such a way as to make him point to the
wrong one. When the betting is real the ' Bank '
never loses. I have been told that the winnings on
some days are as high as 1,700 dollars. It is the
passengers who alone become dupes, and the emi-
grant trains yield the most plentiful harvest. A
6 capper ' with whom I conversed supplied me with
what he deemed a defence of the ' institution.'
This e capper ' strongly urged me to try my luck.
I thanked him for his recommendation and ex-
pressed my deep regret at my inability to con-
tribute an adequate amount to the gains of the
Bank. I told him that I should not forget his
advice, if at any future time I might be possessed of
more money than I could easily squander, and that,
rather than get rid of it all by throwing it out of
the window, I should reserve a portion wherewith
to visit Promontory station and lose the remainder


at three card Monte. Thereupon he changed his
tone, and Said that the keepers of the table had
been harshly treated by the press, had been called
robbers and other hard names, whereas they were
honest, straightforward men who laboured hard in
order to earn their living. He added that the play
was perfectly fair to those who took part in it.
This was perfectly true if fairness consisted in
uniform winning on the one side, and uniform
losing on the other. He told me, moreover, that
many emigrants had come to Promontory, had lost
all they had, and had been kindly treated by these
calumniated hell keepers. Their charity, he said
with an accent of candour and an air of kindliness
which would have done credit to the most practised
adept in professional philanthropy, was conspicu-
ously displayed towards those whom they had
beggared, for they gave them a sum sufficient to
pay their journey to their destination, or to keep
them during the journey. I modify while trans-
lating his language, which was rather highly
seasoned with vigorous and sonorous expletives.
Although the small population of this place is com-
posed for the most part of roughs and gamblers,
with the admixture of a female element quite as
obnoxious, yet the peace is tolerably well kept on
account of the awe felt for the railway officials. It


is tacitly understood that open lawlessness or any
serious disturbance would end in the clean sweep of
the whole nest of scoundrels. If those who had the
power were at once to begin the cleansing process,
they would do a service to all travellers over this

( Pullman's palace cars ' do not form part of
the ordinary trains on the Central Pacific Railway.
That company has what it calls e silver palace
cars,' of which the name is the best part. They
are very inferior when compared with those of
the Pullman Company. Besides, the system of
management is far less perfect. In Pullman's
cars there is a conductor whose duty it is to see
that the passengers are properly cared for, and
under him are coloured servants, one being attached
to each car. The Central Pacific Company's cars
are in charge of a coloured man, who also acts as
attendant. This double part is generally done
badly. The opinion prevailed throughout the train
that at least one of these coloured gentlemen would
suffer rough usage some day at the hands of ex-
asperated passengers. His insolence and inatten-
tion were unbearable. He was certainly the wrong
man for the place. The conductors of Pullman's
cars are patterns of good officials. They are hand-
somely paid. They hold office on the condition that


no complaint is preferred against them, instant dis-
missal being the consequence of any well-founded
charge. It is this, among other things, which has
rendered Pullman's Car Company a splendid com-
mercial success,

If the cars of the Calif ornian Company are in-
ferior to those of its rival, the Calif ornians are
entitled to a large share of the praise due to
those who constructed this railway. A few words
may fitly be expended in stating what they did.
Several years ago, when Sacramento was a much
smaller place than it now is, some of its most
intelligent residents convinced themselves of the
feasibility of carrying a line of rail across the lofty
and snow-capped Sierra Nevadas. At their own
expense they had a survey made. A route was fixed
upon, plans were drawn up, and the details of the
project elaborated. Throughout the state of Cali-
fornia the scheme became so popular, that to be a
f railroad man ' was one of the best claims where-
with to secure the votes of electors. A state charter
was formally obtained, and the promoters went to
Washington to urge the measure upon Congress.
This was in 1862, when the nation was alive to
the necessity of facilitating intercourse with the
Pacific States, in order that the perils to which the
Union was then exposed might not be rendered


more formidable in character or more extended in
range. The desire of California to have the rail-
way constructed was thus in unison with the heart-
felt aspirations of the Eastern States. Accordingly,
the assent of Congress was given to the pro-
posed scheme, and the pecuniary aid of the Govern-
ment pledged to carry it into effect. However,
forty miles had to be completed before any money
could be claimed from the Government, and these
forty miles ran up the steep slopes of mountains so
lofty as apparently to defy the science of the most
skilful and sanguine engineer. Yet the formidable
obstacles were vanquished one after another, and the
prophets who predicted failure, and the cynics who
styled the scheme a swindle, were put to open
shame. The Californians allege that, while their
section of the line presented the largest number of
engineering problems to solve, it is far the better of
the two. They might add that had they not had
the advantage of the cheap and efficient labour of
Chinamen it would still have been a grand project,
or else but slowly advancing towards completion.

Meantime the train has been careering over the
Central Pacific Railway, and along the shore of
the Great Salt Lake, thus affording to the pas-
sengers a splendid view of that magnificent sheet of
water, as well as of the bold mountain peaks which


encompass it. The prospect is one to be enjoyed
and remembered. But it is the only glimpse of
scenery, worthy of special note, on which the eye
rests with pleasure. We are still within the Ter-
ritory of Utah. Promontory Point, where the
junction was formally made between the railways
of which the starting points were Sacramento and
Omaha, is in that Territory. The Mormons con-
structed more than an hundred miles of the railway,
and Brigham Young is said to have enriched himself
by the way in which he manipulated the contracts.
Yet, on the memorable day when the line was
finally completed and officially opened, the very
existence of the citizens of Utah was unrecognised,
if not forgotten. The Governor of Arizona was
present and brought with him a silver spike as
the contribution of the dwellers in his remote Ter-
ritory. The State of Nevada also sent a silver
spike, fashioned by the hands of one hundred citi-
zens. Some munificent citizens of San Francisco
contributed two golden spikes, as an offering on

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Online LibraryW. Fraser (William Fraser) RaeWestward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons → online text (page 12 of 27)