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Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Year of Decision

by
Bernard DeVoto

published by Little, Brown and Company,
Boston, 1943

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 17
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p431  Chapter 16:
Whether It Be Fat or Lean: Canaan

On November 24, 1846, Hosea Stout, the captain of Israel's guard, moved into his new house at Winter Quarters. It was not much of a house — "neither door nor windows not even but a few of the craks was yet stoped up and a hard North wind blowing." But it was about as good a shelter as any in this town and better than most. Hosea remarked that it would be hard to burn the Saints out, so many of them were living in dugouts, converts in the bluffs, or log shacks roofed with dirt. But John D. Lee, coming back from Santa Fe with the Mormon Battalion's pay, looked at those hundreds of buildings and was proud. "No other people but the Saints of God," he said, "has ever been known to accomplish so much in so short a time."

The accomplishment had had a price. Shivering through the first night in his cabin, Hosea Stout remembered that there had been no roof over his family since he left Nauvoo, nine months and fifteen days before.

During which time we have under went almost every change of fortune that could be imagined. One half of my family so dear to me has been consigned to the silent grave & we who yet remain have often been brought to the verge of death often in storms & rains have I stood to hold my tent from uncovering my sick family expecting every moment to see them exposed to the rain & wind which would have been certain death. . . . How often in sorrow & anguish have I said in my heart when shall my trials and tribulations end. But amid all these adverse changes, these heart wrending trials not once yet have I ever regretted that I set out to follow the council of the people of God & to obey the voice of the spirit to flee from the land of the Gentiles.

One of Hosea's wives and three of his children had died on the way to Winter Quarters. The death of little Hosea, the father's favorite, had been particularly horrible, for a devil had entered into the child's body,  p432 twisting and contorting it. The priesthood cast out the devil so that the child's spasms and delirium quieted and he died peacefully. . . . Hosea had one child left now, one child and two wives. The child was to fall into a long stupor and die and one of the wives was to die in childbirth, before the winter was out.

It is the sheer bad health of Winter Quarters and the other camps the most impresses one who reads the journals of the Saints. (They themselves called the Missouri bottoms, "Misery Bottoms.") They were now paying in full for a year of terrorism and a summer and fall of forced migration. It amounted to another tax assessed by the mobbers and today, all the way across Iowa, you can find little clusters of graves, the winter's fatalities where groups of Saints had settled down. Winter Quarters was not only the largest but the richest and healthiest of the camps, and in Winter Quarters burial parties were always at work. The old wives exhausted their brews of prairie simples, the priesthood laid their hands on the afflicted and spoke the holy incantations. Even the indestructible John D. Lee sickened. His third wife, Louisa, lay and embraced him for two hours. (She only caught the infection.) Neither herbs nor a saleratus bath restored him. Finally he called on his father by spiritual adoption, Brigham Young. The prophet came and "laid on my breast a cane built from one of the branches of the Tree of Life that stood in the garden of the Temple." Then Apostle Woodruff rebuked the sickness and promised Lee that his usefulness would continue and that "Heavenly visions of Eternity" would be opened to him. The disease withdrew but there was no physician to heal the physicians and both Young and Woodruff were sick repeatedly.

East of Winter Quarters the other camps were worse. They had been composed of the poor and the infirm to begin with and had the smallest granaries. No colony escaped disease and death but the six hundred Saints at Garden Grove had the worst time. They had stripped their small store for the relief of the Poor Camp — the refugees from the final mobbing of Nauvoo — and had taken in many of these invalids. The Twelve sent such supplies as they could from Winter Quarters. The local authorities detailed laborers to work among the Gentiles, scoured the countryside for help, and even sent missions as far as Kentucky and Ohio to collect any charity that might be had — a barrel of flour, a yard of cloth to make a child's dress, a side of bacon or a pig of lead. They lay and shivered in their sod huts. The autumnal agues lingered on. They were ravaged by scurvy and pneumonia. By April their food was gone entirely.

Winter Quarters had been established when it was finally determined  p433 that Grand Island would not do and could not be reached in force, anyway. Bishop George Miller's company, which had been in the lead most of the way to the Missouri and had several times been ordered to go on to the mountains (until Young finally made up his mind) — Bishop Miller's company pushed on to the Ponca village at the mouth of Niobrara.​1 Here most of the group that had joined James Emmett (the scout whom Joseph had sent West) attached themselves to Miller and shared a winter of discontent that finally ended in apostasy.

There was another sizable detachment of Saints far from Brigham's control. They had started out from Mississippi in April under William Crosby and John Brown, instructed to pick up the main emigration of the Saints somewhere along the trail. Since the main body never reached the trail, they traveled it in ignorance till July 2. That day they reached Ash Hollow and met Jim Clyman, who was coming east. Clyman performed his last service of that emigration of '46 by telling them that there were no Mormons ahead of them anywhere on the trail.

They were dumbfounded by the information. After counsel, they continued up the trail, nineteen wagons, twenty-four men, a miscellany of wives and children, and five Negro slaves. They got to Fort Bernard and so were farther west than any other Mormons got in '46 except the Battalion and the obscure few who, like the Rhoads family, made the trip to California with Gentile trains.

At Fort Bernard, Richard, the bourgeois, advised them to winter on the upper Arkansas and, starting with some robes for Taos, offered to guide them. He took them to a trappers' winter stockade at the Pueblo (Colorado). "We were received very kindly," John Brown's Autobiography says, "and they [the trappers] seemed pleased to see us." They began to build cabins for the winter.

On August 20 Francis Parkman, coming down from Fort Laramie to Bent's Fort, reached the Pueblo and met his old friend Richard, who "entertained us hospitably in the little round room, the best in the fort, and gave us a good supper on the floor." Brother Therlkill,º who had recently been mauled by a grizzly, dropped in that evening and asked Parkman some personal questions, eventually begetting another shudder in The Oregon Trail. Next day Parkman rode over to visit the Saints. His notebook says, "Found them at work upon their log houses but they suspended their labors to talk with us. Some of them completely imbued with the true fanatic spirit — ripe for anything — a very dangerous body of men." They were just some devout Mormons far from home but their manners were too rude for Francis Parkman.

 p434  There at the Pueblo they were joined by the families of the Mormon Battalion that had been sent on from the crossing of the Arkansas.​2 On November 17 the laundresses and the "Sick Detachment," whom Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Cooke had sent on from Santa Fe, arrived under Captain James Brown and Lieutenant Elam Luddington. Later still the last detachment of Battalion invalids joined them. All told about three hundred Mormons spent the winter at the Pueblo.

Winter Quarters, Perrigrine Sessions remarked with satisfaction, was "surrounded by the Lamanites on all sides and over one hundred miles from the cursed Gentiles." The Lamanites were of the Omaha tribe, an unmilitary but thievish race who constantly stole the cattle of their Nephite brethren and kept running to them for help against the Sioux, Oto, and Potawatomi. Working out an Indian policy for use hereafter, Young tried every method from flogging to overfeeding but no method got results. Yet the Omaha have a uniqueness in history: they were a people who could endure more "counsel," harangues, and sermonizing than the Mormons.

Young had chosen to build his city on Omaha land several miles downriver from the first crossing. The site, today a suburb of the city of Omaha, was selected on the stated ground that it was favorable for defense by John Scott's homemade three-pounders. For terror of mobs and government lingered on, there were repeated rumors of impending destruction, and the U. S. Dragoons were always coming in force to arrest the Twelve. Little outpost groups were as much as twelve miles in the interior, and there were small settlements north and south as well as across the river in Iowa. But the principal group, about thirty-five hundred, was at Winter Quarters and built there a town of six or seven hundred rude structures. And John D. Lee was quite right: nobody but the Saints had ever done anything remotely like it.

The most important element in the preservation of the Church was Young's conversion of the dizzy sacerdotal system which Joseph Smith had created into a system of fiscal administration and control. It was a long process but the beginning was made right here. The Church was a delirious network of councils, committees, degrees, lodges, and societies, all based on eternal mysteries which multiplied so fast that there was never time to get any of them quite central. They overlapped so badly that it is doubtful if the more exalted Saints knew themselves just which ones they belonged to or just how many holy prerogatives they possessed. Young was constantly getting entangled in the sacred red tape, and the journals of such honest subalterns as Lee and Stout record a bewildered effort to  p435 keep the jurisdictions straight that frequently ended in quarrels. But Young kept his mind centered on his goal: to save Israel here and now and to build up its inheritance in this world. He made Winter Quarters a town and a church. Civil and ecclesiastical organizations were coterminous. He was to simplify the organization as time went on but here, even before starting, he shaped the instrument that eventually conquered the desert.

Nothing in American history — not the ephemeral towns of mining rushes nor the hardier ones of real-estate booms — is like Winter Quarters. An entire people had uprooted itself and, on the way to the mountains, paused here and put down roots. The endless church government went on. Not only the other camps had to be managed from Winter Quarters but all the missions too, in the United States and overseas. Supplies had to be kept moving; hundreds of teams were out all the time, freighting grain, flour, beef, pork, hardware, dry goods. Brigham invested most of the Battalion's first pay, which Lee brought back, in foodstuffs which he sold to the Saints through his own firm. The money belonged to Battalion families in fact, though theory consecrated it to the Church. There was much grumbling and Brigham finally yielded to it, at least in part, but he turned an honest profit on the deal. (The grumbling was unjustified, for life at Winter Quarters was easier after the supplies arrived.) He also conscripted labor to build a gristmill from which he expected to make twenty dollars a day. He dispatched Saints to work for the Gentiles wherever jobs can be found. Others had to herd the thirty thousand cattle and innumerable sheep, which the desirous Omaha simply could not leave alone. Scores were on wood duty, gathering fuel. Some trapped, some hunted, some made baskets. Israel had to work in order to live and the prophet made sure that there was little time for the dangerous pursuit of leisure.

Well, Peletiah Brown had proved to be a profane swearer when he hired out to William Clayton, Zion's clerk. So no one was surprised when, on complaint of Apostle Woodruff, it appeared that he and Daniel Barnum and Jack Clothier had been out for fifteen successive nights with some of the girls, committing the crime of "adultery or having carnal communication." In the mores of a polygamous society there is no greater crime. The boys expected either death or castration when Colonel Hosea Stout and Marshal Eldredge came for them. But the Marshal let them off with a sound flogging. The punishment shocked Israel and so great a murmur rose that Brigham had to justify his police in open meeting. And the Word of Wisdom, which forbade strong drink, was disregarded to the extent of the available supply. Brigham's own freighting company imported  p436 whiskey which was sold over the counter in Brigham's own store. With that sanction, they used liquor who could buy or make it. Hosea Stout's guards and rangers needed solace, for they had to patrol the town in all weathers and were always riding out to scout imaginary enemies. One night three Apostles came to reason with the police, who had protested when their pay was cut. Hosea found the best solvent and Orson Hyde, Parley Pratt, and John Taylor, holy men all, took a grateful turn at the jug. Parley would know how to find protection from now on, he said, and Hosea spoke wisdom: "Parley, do you not know that some things in this kingdom are only spiritually discerned?" . . . The trouble was that such discernment might end in resentment of the priesthood. Eventually Brigham (though he made a regional wine from some wild grapes) had to denounce the traffic. But it kept on and, as they started west, the Lord Himself had to reprove His Saints for drunkenness.

There was, the truth is, a lot of denunciation at Winter Quarters. The Saints were afraid of the mob behind them and the wilderness ahead. They were sick and underfed. Their bowels were uncomfortable. They could not love the outbreaks of communism that levied on their goods for the poor. They hankered for more celestial fireworks than Brigham had time or willingness to give them. They but incompletely developed the holy docility that he desired for them. "It is the policy and intention to put down any spirit in the Camp of Israel that would seek to establish independence," Norton Jacob wrote, and loyally added, "I say Amen." Tirelessly pursuing transgression, Brigham scolded, fumed, denounced, derided, threatened, and rebuked. This people must find righteousness or they would be swept from the earth. Covetousness and insubordination must end or they would "all be destroyed by the Lamanites as were the Nephites of old." He summoned them to reform. He would bring them to grace by his own hand. And he warned them that when they started into the desert the "law of God in every particular would take full effect and that would cut the matter short, even as short as the man who went to cut a dog's tail off and by mistake he cut it close behind the ears." It was due notice and something of a revival answered it, the Saints hurrying to confess and be rebaptized in the icy Missouri for the remission of sins.

There was not enough revival, however, to slake the thirst of a millennial people for the glories Joseph had accustomed them to. There are times when Mormonism seems a single, sustained harangue. They outdid the Indians and the Germans in passionate love of exhortation. The innumerable holy orders kept meeting and preaching. They petitioned for more. Brigham was too busy. He preferred to discuss fiscal affairs — and  p437 even there set a limit to oratory, as, growing bored with the Omaha mourning their dead, he sent out guards to shut them up. So at the Council House he could put an end to talk. "The thing was talked out of countenance," Hosea Stout says, "and finally Prest. Brigham Young moved to have the whole matter laid over till the first resolution and then burn the papers the day before."

But if the flavor of miracle was lacking and if the reformation loudly demanded by Heber Kimball proved fairly quiet, the thirst could be slaked at the daily meetings of the priesthood's divisions. Winter Quarters was not organized as a Stake of Zion (for doctrinal reasons and because there could be no substitute for a Temple), so the holy ordinances had to be suspended. But Brigham would make exceptions for his favorites, chief assistants, and spiritual family. Many faithful workers got the solace of young wives, sometimes the Twelve were permitted to reveal more of the celestial arcana, and there was always a sermon or a prayer meeting or an experience meeting or a fast.

If Israel always thirsted for three-hour harangues, it always hungered for the innocent pleasures of gregariousness. With the graveyard on the bluffs filling so fast that some of the dead could not even be given burial robes, the Saints still made as merry as they could. There were always parties, and a pan of hominy sprinkled with maple sugar was a "sweetness" acceptable unto the Lord. They gathered in the dugouts to pleasure themselves with frugal meals and the high spirits of the elect. The bands played every day. The children in dugout schools had games between sessions at Webster's spelling book, and their families had games, mock trials, elocution, singing classes, quiltings, all the diversions of the frontier society from which they came. About the turn of the year the improvement of transport made supplies more plenti­ful and a general rise in morale could be observed. The little private entertainments widened into a community program. The log Council House was turned over to various organizations, which were told to bring their "cakes, pies, sweetmeats &c" and praise God. "I will take the liberty of showing you how to dance before the Lord," Brigham had said. So, John D. Lee wrote, he "then bowed before the Lord, dedicated the hall to Him and asked Him to accept of their offerings this evening, after which the band struck up a lively tune and in a moment the whole house appeared to me to be filled with the melodious sounds of the inspired harps of Heaven. Pres. B. Young led and went forth in the dance of praise before the Lord. About 10 Pres. B. Y. retired and about 11 the music ceased."

Over and above sickness, supply, doctrine, the administration of a  p438 fiscal and spiritual kingdom, and the refreshment of the weary — above all these was one paramount objective. Brigham was preparing the final Exodus. All through the summer and fall of '46 and the succeeding winter the prophet and his best minds examined its problems. Everyone who came down the river or eastward over the prairies was drained of his information. There were a good many of them, from Father De Smet, the great missionary who had spent a lifetime in the mountains, to casual strays from trading posts upriver. The Apostles learned what they could, made a census of Israel's resources, worked out minute calculations of what had to be done. The first fruits of this preparation — all that the faithful need know — were introduced to a meeting of the Twelve at Heber Kimball's cabin on the afternoon of January 14. The Council was above Hosea Stout's station but, as commander of the guard, he was invited to attend nevertheless. His joy was great when he found that the Lord had taken this occasion to reveal to His servant Brigham the general orders for the migration.

This is the only formal revelation that Brigham Young ever issued, though of course he spoke by inspiration all his life long, as occasion might require. It is called "The Word and Will of the Lord," and it is a plan for the move west. The Lord did not require of the Saints more than they could accomplish. They were to maintain the organization of companies, hundreds, fifties, and tens which had served them so far. Each company was to determine how many of its members could afford the journey this year and was to prepare all the vehicles and supplies it could. It was to take its share of the poor and those whose providers were with the Battalion. It was to build houses and provide supplies for those who could not cross this year. Five Apostles and Erastus Snow, who was soon to become an Apostle, were named to head various companies. The Saints were instructed to grow in virtue, stop drinking, pay back what they had borrowed from neighbors, maintain their "testimony," and humble themselves. God repeated the long, long history of their blessings and tribulations — and of their enemies, who would destroy them if their faith should fail. And, putting aside the pen, the Deity closed, "So no more at present." Brigham, the Lion of the Lord, could be trusted to attend to the rest.

As he starts west from Winter Quarters, we may remember that the Lion of the Lord was one of the nineteenth century's great men. The modern Church has lavished on Joseph Smith's birthplace at Sharon, Vermont, all the resources of pious commemoration. At Whitingham, sixty miles away, there is neither landscaping nor missionary service to do reverence to the man who saved the Mormon Church, brought the Kingdom in,  p439 and gave the Great Basin to the United States. There is only, on a bare hillside, above the waters of Whitingham Dam, a barbed-wire inclosure round an apple tree and a marker of native marble about the size and appearance of a gravestone. "Brigham Young," the inscription reads."Born on this spot. 1801. A man of much courage and superb equipment." Stet.

Nothing. Henry Thoreau wrote at Walden Pond, nothing is effected but by one man. Brigham Young saved his Church when Joseph was lynched, brought it to Missouri, took it to Great Salt Lake, gave it safety, wealth, and power. The state of Utah is his monument: or if you like, the lives of hundreds of thousands. He was not a large man in stature, this seeking Methodist who found his fulfilment in the chaos of Joseph Smith's vision. In January, '46, he was five months short of forty‑six, smooth-shaven, his eyes small but steady and severe, his body beginning to thicken. He grew fatter as the years passed and raised a benignant "wreath" beard that set the style for patriarchs in Utah. It did not wholly soften the chin, which stiffened as the iron came out of his soul, and he needed it for the insufficiencies of his people and the strain of defending them against their oppressors. He was a carpenter and glazier, a mechanic, a man who worked with his hands — and with his hands he built the greater part of his own white cottage in Salt Lake City, just such a Yankee farmhouse as one might see in Whitingham. So he became the foremost American colonizer, the only man who succeeded in colonizing the desert in his century, it may well be the only one who will have proved to have colonized it successfully when all the bills are in. He had the genius of leadership, of foresight, of command, of administration, of effective will. He was not gifted at seeing into the mysteries of Heaven, except when a half-antic mood led him to indulge his people's love of sweets, but he saw into the making of society. His kingdom was of this earth. His God commanded him to establish Zion, to act where the great Joseph had only made promises. He was a great man, great in whatever was needful for Israel. Great in understanding, in will and fortitude and resolution, in finding the means which others could not find. Great in remembering also, in the command and management of men, in opposition and hostility and haste. A great leader, a great diplomat, a great administrator, and at need a great liar and a great scoundrel. He was one of the finders and one of the makers of the West.

* * *

It came to sending out a small pioneer party, as the Twelve had tried to do ever since the spring of '45.

 p440  But first proper obeisance had to be made to Israel's need of portents. So one morning as Brigham got out of bed a trance came upon him. A wife thought that he was dying and when the trance lifted he told her that he had been where Joseph and Hyrum were. "It is hard," he told the Saints next Sunday, "it is hard coming to life again. But I know that I went to the world of spirits but what I saw I know not, for the vision went away from me, as a dream which you lose when you awake. The next day I had a dream."

In the dream he saw Joseph sitting by a bright window with his feet on the lower round of his chair. Brigham took Joseph by the hand, kissed him on both cheeks, and asked why they could not be together again. Joseph said that they would be but must be separated for a while, and went on to speak of the Temple ordinances. He then gave Brigham further instructions in the ways of distinguishing the spirit of the Lord from the spirit of the enemy and in the highest order of mysteries, which Brigham was to teach his people at the proper time. A treasury on which Brigham could draw in moments of stress thus established, "I turned away and saw that Joseph was in the edge of the light, but where I had to go was as midnight darkness." So the venture westward was perfumed with marvel, and Brigham said pointedly, "I want you all to remember my dream for it is a vision of God and was revealed through the spirit of Joseph."

Pretty soon it was the holiest day, April 6, the day when the Church of Jesus Christ was restored to this earth in the Last Days. Seventeen years ago Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, kneeling in Peter Whitmer's house at the village of Fayette in York State, had felt the power of the Holy Ghost poured out upon them and had ordained each other the first elders of the restored Church. With that ordination the Dispensation of the Fullness of Time had begun. Seventeen years, from York State to Kirtland, to Independence, to Clay County, to Nauvoo, and on to the Missouri River. At Winter Quarters on April 6, 1847, the second prophet addressed the Latter‑day Saints in General Conference, looking still farther west, and the spirit was poured out again.

The pioneer party was almost ready to set out, but the timorous in Israel were shrinking back. Hearts that had been staunch so far began to falter, and half-dugouts in the Omaha bluffs, now sodden with the spring run‑off, seemed preferable to the trail and the unknown mountains whither the Twelve were to journey. Panic showed itself and for a while Brigham ordered the ferries to take no one to the Iowa shore who could not show a passport from the priesthood. In the Iowa camps the fear was stronger. They were composed mostly of those who had to stop there because they  p441 could go no farther. Weak, sick, impoverished, scared of what was to come, a great many refused to set out again. Some had private revelations, illiterate copies of semi-literate originals, with God telling the head of a family that the Twelve had departed from the true faith, and then neighbors gathering by night and finding after prayer that this new light was true. Others simply fell away, returning to the Westminster Confession or just letting religion slide while they made a new beginning in the prairies. For years there was a state-wide belt across Iowa of tiny schismatic sects and mere apostates. Their descendants are there still.

At Winter Quarters the refractory Bishop Miller, coming down from his Niobrara outpost, had a revelation of his own. He wanted to uphold the hands of James K. Polk — to settle the Church between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande and "make a treaty with Mexico and have them give us the land." It was queer inspiration: to settle among Texans and in the army's corridor. (Miller had been one of the earliest advocates of founding Zion in Texas.) Brigham told him "that his views were wild and visionary, that when we moved hence it would be to the Great Basin where the Saints would soon form a nucleus of strength and power sufficient to cope with mobs." Miller preferred his own light and departed for Texas, where Lyman Wight's schism had established itself. It did not satisfy him; he ended at Voree and Beaver Island, with King Strang.

Miller's was the last apostasy. But there remained a sharp, an incurable anxiety. Israel's notorious tendency to grow muddleheaded when the wise were absent might prove fatal now. Brigham spent the entire afternoon of March 26 admonishing the assembled Saints. After he had started west, he said, "men would rise up and complain that the Twelve were not right and they themselves were the ones to lead and govern the people, and that he knew who it was, and plainly pointed out some who were now trying to raise up a party to themselves." The most sedulous dispatch of couriers between the pioneers and the Church could not relieve this fear, and on the way west Brigham's nightly meditation dwelt on the sheepfold, the wolves, and the silly sheep. He did not lose the fear till, leaving the pioneers beside Great Salt Lake, he hurried back over the trail and met Israel coming on.

Then they were off. Between April 7 and April 15 those who were to compose the pioneer party left Winter Quarters for the rendezvous at the Elkhorn River. They were to have made up the twelve times twelve chosen men of the Apocalypse but the true Scriptural formation was impaired when one of them proved too feeble for the trop. None of the sisters in Israel was to have gone along, but a wife of Lorenzo Young's was at last  p442 accepted in order to restore her health after the malaria of "Misery Bottoms." She took two children with her and, one exception having been made, Brigham permitted himself to take a wife and granted the same privilege to Heber Kimball, the Second in Israel. So the party which left the Elkhorn on April 16, 1847, numbered 143 men, three women, and two children. They had 75 wagons, 93 horses, 52 mules, 19 cows, 17 dogs, and some chickens. A stringent selection had been made and most of the party were from the upper ranks of the priesthood: 8 Apostles, 18 high priests, and 80 Seventies.3

We need neither name the ten companies of Mormons that left Winter Quarters later in the summer of '47 nor say anything about their experiences on the march. They numbered something more than eighteen hundred all told, and when the winter closed in the new Great Salt Lake City had a population of about twenty‑one hundred. Nor need we say much about the pioneer party as emigrants. The experiences of the Mormons do not differ in kind from those of the emigration of '46 which we have followed or the considerably larger emigration of '47 which was on the trail while the Mormons were and whose fringes they were continually touching. The Mormons were less well equipped than most of the Gentiles — they were migrating on a frayed shoestring — but they made the passage in less time and with less hardship. Naturally, to move an eighth of the Church west in one summer was a more difficult enterprise than to take over the same trail any of the parties we have studied. That so remarkable a job was done so well depended on three things: the shorter distance they traveled, the preparation that had been made after searching study, and the authority of God's vicar, Brigham Young.

Reaching Great Salt Lake, the Saints were at trail's end, whereas at an equivalent distance those who were bound to Oregon or California had still to make the most difficult part of their journey. Through the preceding ten months, from books and maps, from mountain men and prairie travelers, they had learned what was ahead of them. They knew when Indians had been troublesome, where the main buffalo herds were usually encountered, what specific problems characterized each section of the trail. They had studied the trail, the grades, the fords, the passes, and the mountains. To an astonishing degree they had been able to provide in advance the right answers to problems which they actually encountered. Finally, individualism made no trouble in the Camp of Israel. The Way and the Will of the Lord provided a surface varnish of religion but its structure was military: though the "counsel" of the priesthood was expressed in a pious vocabulary, it was a military discipline. There would be  p443 no trouble about the nightly corral, guard duty, hunting, the order of the march, the distribution or conservation of supplies, double-teaming at a grade, or any other of the disagreements of freeholders that split, delayed, and frustrated the Gentile trains. Trouble might break out but it could last no longer than it took the responsible Apostle, bishop, or delegate of priestly power to get there on the run. The Saints had their hardships, they found the trail long and dry and painful, but there was clamped down on them a discipline which came straight down the channel of revelations from the Throne. It was enough.

After the pioneers reached the Platte (beyond the Loup Fork) they traveled up the north bank, thus establishing what is called "The Mormon trail." It was not a new trail and in fact they repeatedly met parties coming down it from the west, but the usual trail was up the south bank. The Saints took their new course for two reasons: grass would be more plenti­ful north the river and they need not mingle with the Gentile migration. They remained in deadly fear of persecution (as they still do in 1942) and preserved their illusion that innumerable mobbers, politicians, and especially Pukes were after them. There is not the slightest evidence that, by the summer of '47, anyone anywhere in the prairies or the Far West intended them any harm whatever — but it was good sense to avoid the opportunities of friction. (Later companies wandered widely from the trace made by the pioneers.)

They were pioneers in the strict military sense: they were preparing the way for the main body of the Church. So they made careful observations and recorded all the data they assembled. When the Apostle Parley Pratt was sent to the English mission late in the preceding summer, money for scientific instruments had been given him. They arrived in time were turned over to Parley's brother, the Apostle Orson Pratt. Orson was the best educated of the Saints and one of the principal intelligences, a remarkable man who had been the faculty of the putative Nauvoo University as he was to be the faculty of the University of Deseret. He determined the latitude and longitude of the camp whenever observation was possible, and examined the terrain for all conceivable information. He soon found that his observation were more precise than those of Frémont, whose map they were using. Therefore, in collaboration with Willard Richards and William Clayton, two other trained minds, he proposed to make a new map. Eventually the data they assembled were digested by Clayton in The Latter‑Day Saints Emigrant's Guide. Published the next year, it was the most accurate study of the trail before Stansbury's. Clayton, who had been detailed to compute distances, grew bored with counting  p444 the revolutions of a wagon wheel — 360 to the mile — and so Orson Pratt invented an odometer. Appleton Harmon carved its gears from planking and thereafter the distances were exactly known. At intervals a kind of logbook of the pioneers, together with all relevant information and the counsel of the Twelve, was deposited in a slotted board and set up where the next company would see it. They dotted the route with such "prairie post­offices" and occasionally set up signboards giving the total distance from Winter Quarters and other landmarks. These were the first mileposts ever erected on the Oregon Trail. The pioneers also sent back letters and counsel by everyone whom they met coming down the trail.

At the very beginning they met Papin, the bourgeois of Fort Laramie, making his annual trip to St. Louis with robes and furs, as Parkman had done last year. They met others coming down the at all and pumped them all dry of information. They met a few Sioux and had an occasional Indian scare, though, as Norton Jacob said, "the Lord had turned the Indians aside." They lost an occasional horse. Last year's drouth was not repeated this year and they understood that the Lord was going before them. After time and powder had been wasted, Brigham restricted the hunting privilege to the Twelve and a group of expert marksmen. They traveled by the Way and Will of the Lord and the counsel of Brigham Young: strict herd guard, strict corral, strict night guard, advance party, outriders.

But they began to enjoy themselves too much. Too many practical jokes, too many mock trials, too much (womanless) dancing, too much frivolity of cards, dominoes, and checkers. A puritanism which was not typical of him and probably originated in his anxiety about the sheepfold at Winter Quarters suddenly afflicted the Lion of the Lord. Opposite Scott's Bluff he halted the train and gave them what‑for. "My text will be the way I feel, as I do not feel like going any farther with all this company of men and with the spirit that now prevails in this camp." Expert vituperation loosed like thunder in the desert blew them into virtue, and we get the first hint of Brigham's realization that, hemmed in by the wilderness, there could be persuasions more pointed than oratory. "If anyone shall attempt to introduce anything that is unlawful, secretly, to carry their purpose into operation without permission, I swear they shall not return home." Brigham had talked that way to Gentiles, now he could talk that way to Israel, and let no one suppose that he was fooling.

He ordered them to renew their covenants. Separating into their priestly orders, they donned their priestly robes and went off into the hills for penitence and prayer. When they got back again a more seemly spirit prevailed.

 p445  On June 1 they camped opposite Fort Laramie and two Saints who had brought up their families from Pueblo crossed the river to greet them. These were Robert Crow and his son-in‑law, that George Thirlkillº who had been wounded by a grizzly and rudely questioned Francis Parkman. Their party numbered nine men, five women, and three children, with six wagons, richly outfitted, and a large herd. They reported four deaths and two births at Pueblo and said that the rest of their party and the Battalion's sick detachment were impatient to finish the pilgrimage. Brigham dispatched Apostle Lyman and three men to Pueblo to bring them in. (They were the second Mormon train to reach the valley.)

Crow and Thirlkill, who had been at Fort Laramie for some time, had gathered information from several parties that had come down from South Pass. The Twelve got more information the next morning, when they crossed over to the fort. Bordeau received them amiably in the room that had wrought on the imagination of Parkman, rented them his boat to cross their outfits, and told them all he knew about the conditions ahead of them. He tipped them the by now customary gratuity of hard words about Lillburn Boggs, telling them large and comforting lies about Boggs's Missourians. The blacksmiths set to work reconditioning the wagons. Other Gentile parties came in, from the west, from Santa Fe, and from the east. The year's emigration had caught up with them. The Saints were astonished, for the Gentiles, even the Pukes, showed and of hostility whatever. Must be some diabolical plot.

Here they began to make money from their enemies — it has remained their principal mundane pleasure. At the Crossing of the Platte, near Casper, they occupied both fords, usurping one with what amounted to force. The rains (They were miracle) had swollen the river and the fords had to be ferried. Gentile wagons were jammed up there and the Saints made a good thing of crossing them — for cash or, what was better, foodstuffs at Independence prices. So good a thing that they set up forges and did blacksmithing for the enemy as well and resolved to remain in business here. Brigham detached a party to run the ferries till the Church should come up. He gave it the proper sacerdotal organization, invoked the Lord's blessing, set the Lord's schedule of fees, and started the pioneers west again.

Independence Rock, the Sweetwater River, the first breath-taking vista of the Wind River peaks. Strangely, the Saints were not forced to shoot it out with any of the Gentile trains which they now met every day. (Between Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger they were following the established trail.) Instead there was a sweet, unbelievable neighborliness.

 p446  On June 26 Orson Pratt and several others, a few miles in advance, crossed the divide in South Pass and camped at Pacific Spring. When their fire blazed up, a party that had camped not far away paid a visit. At the head of them was Black Harris, fresh from Oregon on his way to meet the emigration and get his summer's employment. He had some Oregon newspapers and a copy of the California Star which, they were amazed to learn, Brother Samuel Brannan had founded at San Francisco, "beside the far Pacific sea." This also proved that the Lord was taking care of them. Harris stayed in camp the next day, when the rest of the pioneers came up, trading furs and telling Young all he knew about the Great Basin.​4 They were getting close to Zion now, wherever Zion might prove to be, and they questioned him exhaustively. Great Salt Lake Valley, he thought, was not too good, chiefly because there was little timber. Bear River Valley was little better. His judgment was that Cache Valley would be best. But "we feel that we shall know best," William Clayton write, "by going ourselves for the reports of travelers are so contradictory it is impossible to know which is the truth without going to see."

That was June 27, the day when most of the pioneers crossed the continental divide. Their hearts were angry and aggrieved. For just three years ago today Joseph and Hyrum had been murdered in Carthage jail.

They bought some robes from Harris and went on, leaving him in camp to meet the Gentiles who were not far behind.

* * *

The spectacle, as such, of Exodus is to the eastward of the pioneers with the companies now en route for Winter Quarters and those which were getting ready to leave it. With these eighteen hundred Saints going west is the pageantry which the summer of '47 has entered in our legends, the Children of Israel moving toward the land of Canaan and a pillar of cloud going on before. They are the miscellany of the Saints, all kinds and conditions, families, herds, miracles, the yearning and the heartbreak, the humor and the dream — the mural of a chosen people crossing the desert. . . . Better pioneers also had their moment of drama and should be allotted their panel in that mural, on Monday, June 28.

They came down out of the corridor of South Pass and presently they reached the ford where Sublette's or Greenwood's Cutoff left the rutted, iron-hard trail. On July 19 a year ago two trains traveling together had halted here for the last good‑bye and Jessy Thornton had written in his diary that Tamsen Donner was "gloomy and dispirited" when her husband's  p447 wagons kept on down the California ford. The Mormons now took that same ford and some hours later made a nooning at the Little Sandy. Drab sagebrush, no timber, and the merciless Wyoming sun. After their rest they took the wagons across the little stream with a loss of two tar buckets. A mile farther on Apostle George A. Smith came riding back to the main party with a weather-worn gentleman whom he had met coming up the trail. They camped at once and held a "Council" with the Apostles' find. Drums should have rolled and trumpets sounded, or the supernatural stage management of this millennial crowd should have provided signs from on high, for the Mormons had now met the master of these regions, their final authority. Apostle Smith had brought in Old Gabe, Jim Bridger.

Old Gabe was actually three years younger than the Lion of the Lord but he had grown up with the Great Basin. He was an Ashley man; with Fitzpatrick and Carson, he was at the top of the pyramid. He was one of the greatest of the great mountain men, already a legend then and still a legend in our day. While the fires blazed up and the sun sank behind the nondescript hills west of the Little Sandy, Old Gabe told these forerunners of Israel about the land they were to inherit. His memory was the map no one had had in the White House of President Polk or the Council House of President Young. Through his stripped speech, whose idiom must have caused the Saints some trouble, ran thousands of miles with the wind and sun on them. His was the continental mind, like the mind of his namesake Jim Clyman, telling the Donners at Fort Bernard not to take the Hastings Cutoff. The pilgrims of eternity were children come a little way into the kingdom of Old Gabe. As a monarch he instructed them. (And had his pay, some years later, when they ran him out.)

They were bewildered, and why not? — his monologue made marches of a thousand miles, the names of innumerable deserts, gulches, peaks, and rivers jeweling it. They report him differently but all who report him at all say that he spoke favorably of Great Salt Lake Valley.​5 Much of what he said was unintelligible to greenhorns but William Clayton's journal entry is set down from notes which Clayton was making while Old Gabe talked. All the information recorded in that entry is exact. Run through it today and you will find nothing misrepresented in any particular whatever.​6 Jim spoke as one having authority. The only ambiguity is Clayton's note that "there have been nearly a hundred wagons gone on the Hastings route through Weber's Ford" — and here Jim was unquestionably talking about '46, not '47 (and had the number right). He went on talking, sketching in the entire map from the Grand Canyon to the Snake, from the Little Sandy to the far Pacific sea, and all its minerals, trees, shrubs, roots, rainfall, vistas,  p448 local gods. He took them into the big unknown and made it known, compressing into a few hours the whole function of the mountain man. "He said it was his paradise," Wilford Woodruff wrote. It was. His talk moved on to the resident Indians — Paiute, Diggers. The Saints need not be afraid of them, could "drive the whole of them in twenty-four hours." But Jim, a formally adopted Shoshoni brave, would not kill the Diggers; his counsel was to make slaves of them. Finally, "Supper had been provided for Mr. Bridger and his men and the latter having eaten, the council was dismissed, Mr. Bridger going with President Young to supper, the remainder retiring to their wagons, conversing over the subject touched upon."7

Observe that final, private conversation between Old Gabe and the Lion of the Lord. The hours of Bridger's expedition had cleared the obstructions from the channel of inspiration. Now, while Jim sat with Brigham in the patriarchal white‑top and a candle burned in a bucket there, unquestionably the heavens opened. It may be that they talked some more about the Paiute, who were in greater force southward from Great Salt Lake than beside it. It may be that there was further talk about the canyons that broke through the Wasatch at the south end of the lake. Whatever they talked about, Jim Bridger became the oracle of revelation and when the time came, Brigham would be able to speak the Lord's will and say "This is the place."

Two days later while the pioneers were fording Green River another circuit was closed, when Sam Brannan in person rode into camp. The Saints had circumnavigated the United States — Brannan was coming from the colony which he had planted in San Joaquin Valley. Typically, he arrived in bad company, with a man who had been a counterfeiter at Nauvoo. Typically also, he had a rich stock of truth, rumors, and lies. "Old Boys [Boggs] is on the opposite side of the bay" from the colony, Norton Jacob understood, "and dare not come over for fear of the Mormons:" Sam had made this year's earliest crossing of the Sierra (not bad for a greenhorn) and, on his way, had met Fallon and the last relief party bringing Keseberg down. The Saints got their first word of last summer's catastrophe — and began adapting it to fable.​8 The fable was to go on growing until it became a permanent part of Mormon mythology. For years (and occasionally now) the innocent victims of Lansford Hastings were murderers of the prophet or hirelings of the devilish Boggs who paid in the snows for having persecuted God's smuggest people.

Brigham had the satisfaction of learning that his most imperial move, the California outpost, was a success. But he had acquired a Native Son.  p449 Brannan was of the type that the golden shore has always furiously oxidized. He was boosting California and would presently have revelations about it. He could not argue Brigham into taking the Church there. Eventually he apostatized — founding a sizable fortune on gold dust from the mines and the tithes he had piously collected from the San Joaquin Saints.

At the camp on Green River mountain fever broke out. The Saints swelled, ached, and burned. Brigham sent back a party of five under Phineas Young to meet the oncoming Church with notes, statistics, counsel, and rebuke. The next day was July 4 and there was another reunion. Twelve outriders from the Battalion sick detachment, coming up from Pueblo, rode into the camp, to loud hosannas, almost exactly a year after Brigham had set up the flag and ordered them to volunteer.

On the way to Fort Bridger Apostle Woodruff's eye kindled, for some little whitewater brooks must surely have trout in them. He got out the rod he had brought all the way from Liverpool, attached a fly (he thought it likely that he was the first to use one in these parts), and sure enough there were trout. The pioneers camped within a mile or two of the fort on July 7. There was a congregation of mountain men and Indians there, so that the Saints got more intimate details about the route of revelation. The trace of the Hastings Cutoff led west from here, a mere wagon track. As they heard more of its story, the myth grew. The Donners were now from the abhorred Clay County, "a mob company that threatened to drive out the Mormons who were in California, and started with that spirit in their hearts. But it seemed as though they were ripe for judgment." Woodruff thought that he remembered baptizing Mrs. Murphy in Tennessee. She had apostatized and joined the mob, he decided, and in God's lovingkindness had been punished by being killed and eaten.

Nevertheless God had used the mobbers and apostates to prepare a way for His chosen, who took the trail the Donners had made. Taking it, they struck the Bear River on July 10, the first part of Zion which they knew by name. Here they met Miles Goodyear, who was driving a herd of California horses toward the emigration. He had just traveled the whole stretch of the Hastings Cutoff — had passed the cabins at Donner Lake, crossed the Salt Desert, and followed the Donner trail through the Wasatch. Moreover, he was the sole proprietor of Zion, having built a cabin and corral and put in crops on the Weber River, some miles above its mouth. Once more they interviewed a veteran mountain man. This one had real estate to sell but he did not sell it now (he did a few months later), for Porter Rockwell rode back with him to examine the direct route to Goodyear's holdings. This was the Weber Canyon route down which Hastings had  p450 taken the Harlan-Young wagon train. Porter needed only a glance at those chasms: the Saints would not go that way. He reported and Orson Pratt was ordered out with an advance party "to find Mr. Reid's route across the mountains." Mr. Reid, of course, was James Frazier Reid.

Mountain fever had stricken a good many of them. Now it afflicted Brigham, who was so sick that, stopping beside the trail, the priesthood had to minister to him. From here on the pioneers traveled in three divisions. While some of the priesthood, in their Temple robes, went up to the high place to pray for the sick, forty‑two men with twenty-three wagons, under Orson Pratt and Stephen Markham, led the advance. Pratt rode a few miles into Weber Canyon, determined that Porter Rockwell's judgment had been sound, and set his men to work improving the Donner road. He could understand what his predecessors had endured. In spite of their more than two weeks of agonizing labor in the brush, along mountainsides, and down the beds of creeks, "we found the road almost impassable and requiring much labor." He had his party supply the labor. They hacked the brush away, pried boulders out, leveled, graded, felled trees. He kept riding ahead to reconnoiter and sent his data back to those who were following. Through most of this scouting his companion was John Brown, of the Mississippi Saints, and after a Sabbath rest on July 18 it was these two who caught the first glimpse of the promised land. On July 19 from the ridge beyond Big Mountain which had thrown the Donners into their first panic they "could see an extensive level prairie some few miles distant, which we thought must be near the Lake."

But it was Erastus Snow, from the second group, who was with Pratt on July 21. (Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.) That day they followed the Donner road up Little Mountain and "looked out on the full extent of the valley where the broad waters of the Great Salt Lake glistened in the sunbeams." Seeing that land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath — seeing it, Pratt says, "we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips." They made their way downhill to Emigration Canyon, down that winding, gentle gulch, and out at last to Zion. They made a twelve-mile circle on the holy land before going back into the mountains. Pratt was back the next day with another Apostle, George A. Smith from the main company, and seven men. Young had sent instructions (unquestionably from the revelation unto Jim Bridger) for them to turn north for a few miles after reaching the valley. This brought them to the twinned creek where ground would first be broken. They rode carefully, examining the soil, thinking of dam sites and crops to come, ominously noting a profusion  p451 of black crickets. That night all the wagons except those which lingered with the sick prophet camped in Canaan. The next day, July 23, they sent a report to Brigham and moved the whole camp to the divided creek. "Here we called the camp together," Pratt says, "and it fell to my lot to offer up prayer and thanksgiving in behalf of our company, all of whom had been preserved from the Missouri River to this point; and, after dedicating ourselves and the land unto the Lord and imploring His blessings upon our labors, we appointed various committees to attend to different branches of business, preparatory to putting in crops, and in about two hours after our arrival we began to plow, and the same afternoon built a dam to irrigate the soil, which at the spot where we were ploughing was exceedingly dry."

* * *

There had lately been some showers in the Wasatch but they could not have greatly freshened the valley. In late July it is always a dry land weary with summer. When the Apostle Orson came over the ridge of Big Mountain he was in a zone where the ground whitened with frost at daybreak and the silver undersides of aspen had the first gilt tinge of autumn. But he came down past the benches of the prehistoric lake to a plain of sage and stunted oak brush smelling of dust under a brazen sun. Dust lay on the oak leaves, dust made a flour to the tops of their boots, the tar-and‑turpentine stench of sage was in their nostrils, and the sky whitened with heat. They saw the valley as men coming from a far country to the promised land. It was the women whose hearts sank at the sight of desolation — the empty plain, the line of the Wasatch stretching south with perhaps a few patches of snow left still like outcrops out of chalk just below the ridge, to the south the more desolate Oquirrhs canting westward toward the end of the lake, and then those bright, amazing waters with peaks rising from them and the sun striking a white fire from them and from the whiter sand. Well enough for the Apostle Orson to fall on his knees and dedicate the land unto the Lord and give thanks. "Because the Lord loved you and because he would keep the oath which he has sworn unto your fathers hath he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you out of the house of bondage." But to the women it was a stark and hideous land. The years of persecution and the long moving ended here — but in a desert. The ground crawled with crickets, a rattler slid into the sage, well out of rifle range a coyote loped and sat and stared and panted off into emptiness.

It has its hideousness, it has its beauty, nor are they separated in the depths of any mind that has known them. A hard, resistant folk had found  p452 a hard, resistant land, and they would grow to fit one another. Remember that the yield of a hard country is a love deeper than a fat and easy land inspires, that throughout the arid West the Americans have found a secret treasure. . . . There is one who remembers it below the Atlantic fall line, to whom east is always the direction where you will see the Wasatch ridge and west the house of the sky where the sun sinks into the lake. The cottonwood leaves flutter always beyond the margins of awareness. The streams come out of the mountains to a plain that was greener when one was young than when Orson Pratt found it. March starts the snow withdrawing up the peaks that have not changed much, sagebrush is a perfume and a stench, and at midnight there is a lighter line along the ridge where the sky begins. A stern and desolate country, a high, bare country, a country brimming with a beauty not to be found elsewhere.

* * *

The day they venerate is the next day, July 24. At five in the afternoon the favor of God was manifested by a shower of rain, but the end of a long journey had come earlier than that. On the twenty-third they had planted grain and parsnips; today they were planting potatoes and bringing water to them from City Creek, near the site of the Temple of the Lord. At two o'clock, accompanied by some white‑top wagons that had had much trouble getting over Little Mountain, wagons held together by the expedients of the trail, wagons groaning and squealing (for the last time in this narrative) with dry axles and shrunken hubs, their tires held on by wedges and rawhide — the carriage of Wilford Woodruff came up to the camp at City Creek and, half-reclining in it, the convalescent prophet Brigham Young looked off at the site of Zion in the land of Canaan, toward the River Jordan flowing into the Dead Sea.

"In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, ye loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, and Ireland king, defender of ye faith, etc. Haveing undertaken for ye glorie of God and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king and countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northern parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another . . ."

No, that was a different covenant. The Apostle Wilford Woodruff: "Thoughts of pleasant meditation ran in rapid succession through our minds at the anticipation that not many years hence the House of God would be established in the mountains and exalted above the hills, while the valleys  p453 would be converted into orchards, vineyards, fields, etc., planted with cities, and the standard of Zion be unfurled unto which the nations would gather."

The prophet had less to say. What he wrote was an entry that gave the distance traveled, recorded the potatoes, and mentioned the shower. What he said from the carriage was that "we were on the spot where the city was to be built. He knew it as the place he had seen in vision. Said we might explore the mountains over and over again and each time return to this place as the best."

It was enough to say. But, though his mind focused sharply on those potatoes and the life-giving water that was flowing over them, though it was already ranging out to the mountains and valleys all about and on to the Pacific and back to Winter Quarters — nevertheless, Brigham Young must have permitted himself a moment or two to taste and savor such triumph as few have known in all our history. The thing was done! Fayette, Kirtland, Jackson County, Clay County, Nauvoo, the frozen Mississippi, Sugar Creek, Pisgah, Winter Quarters — and now Zion. Seventeen years, the angel and the golden plates, the prophet murdered, hundreds of Mormons dying in the passion of battle or the salt frenzy of flight or shaken by ague or starving at slackened breasts or just going down into the dark after too much strain at Misery Bottoms. The faithful and the recreant, the persecuted and the damned, the mobbers and the politicians, the oaths sworn and forsworn — Israel's fear had ended. "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." That promise made to the dispensation of Moses and repeated in the dispensation of Joseph had now been redeemed through the earthly agency of Brigham Young. He had saved his Church, he had brought his people out of bondage, and the gates of hell had not prevailed against them. Danger was over, the kingdom would now come in. He would drive a stake of Zion in the desert soil. Nothing could stop him. The hell with the Gentiles, the hell with the United States. God's people had reached their land. . . .

He was not a man to spend much time in the unprofitable business of prophecy or cursing — in anything unprofitable. Be sure that he did not long indulge himself with triumph but began to correct mistakes and urge the Saints to greater effort. In a few days more ground had been broken, explorers had been sent out, arrangements had been made to facilitate the coming of those who were on the trail and those who were to take to it through the succeeding twenty years, a city had been plotted, a site for the Temple had been chosen, a company was ready to leave for California,  p454 and another one was ready to go back to Winter Quarters. The prophet was already at work making his empire, his part of the American empire. It was named Deseret, a word which, we are told, means "land of the honey bee." Deseret existed from a corner of California well into Wyoming — for a while. The United States canceled it when Utah became a territory, and you will not find it on maps. But it is there still, an empire within the domestic empire, the commonwealth that Israel built, the life and function of the Latter‑day Saints, a society of their own and like no other. Deseret began in July, 1847, and has gone on up to now, and Deseret is seen to be, as this narrative takes leave of it, what happens when Brook Farm comes into the hands of those fit to build Brook Farm. As such, Deseret was outlined in the sermon which Brigham Young preached on July 18, in Zion.

That sermon, essentially a plan for the self-sufficiency of Israel, would be our focus and taking‑off if we had anything to do with Western history, but we have not. The end of the trail is the beginning of history in the West; we are not concerned with Israel's inheritance but only with Israel's reaching it. . . . If a people had found their land, a land had found its people. A history of the Mormons in the West would be the history of a hard, fanatical people bringing a dead land to bring forth life. Deseret was not the deep soil of the Willamette Valley with the great forests and the abundant rain. It was not the eternal summer of the golden shore. It was a land poisoned with alkali and dead for want of water, a land which could be made to live only by the incessant labor of a people shaped to a fit instrument by suffering, faith, and domination of a prophet who spoke with the authority of Almighty God. It would be a history of a mad prophet's visions turned by an American genius into the seed of life, in the memory of suffering and the expectation of eternal glory, while the angels hovered overhead and portents flamed in the sky. . . . It would be quite a history. Someone should write it.


The Author's Notes:

1 About a hundred and fifty miles up the Missouri from Omaha. The Niobrara is the Eau Qui Court of the fur trade and the Running Water of the Mormon texts.

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2 Crosby and Brown went back to Mississippi for the winter. Traveling east along the Santa Fe trail, they met the Battalion coming west on September 12. Apparently the Pueblo rendezvous was arranged at that time.

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3 It is extremely difficult to identify all the members of this pioneer party, although their names and their division into "tens" (some of which numbered twelve or thirteen) have been published. The 143 included three Negro slaves (Hark Lay, Oscar Crosby, and Green Flake), who belonged to Saints whose names they bore. By doctrine, Negroes could not be members of the Church. The party also included several others — I cannot make out how many — whom all the journals speak of as not being Mormons. On one occasion Brigham Young ordered those who did not belong to the Church to behave themselves. On May 29, a journal entry of Norton Jacob's says there were six of them; Appleton Harmon speaks of "one or two." No Mormon historian has ever cleared up the ambiguity. I conclude that they were Saints lately in good standing who had neglected to be re‑baptized before starting or relatives of Saints in good standing who were Mormons in everything except the formal covenants. Most, possibly all, of them were baptized in Great Salt Lake a few days after the pioneers got to the valley.

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4 He "bought two rifles and some tobacco [!]. He paid in deer and elk skins." (Norton Jacob.)

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5 There is a towering humor in the opinion of Howard Egan, who later became one of the best of Mormon desert rulers, that "he spoke not knowing about the place." The Mormon God taught His people this complacency.

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6 Including Bridger's doubt about the ability of the valley to grow corn. Serious Mormon historians (such as Roberts) have tried to correct an ancient absurdity, which originated in Brigham Young's propaganda bragging. They had been unable to correct it and many Mormon writers still repeat the idiotic statement that, in effect, Bridger offered to bet Young a thousand dollars that corn could not be grown in the valley. It is in such contexts as this that the universal smugness of the Mormon mind ascends into a vainglory which a pious people can find rebuked in the Old Testament.

Clayton, the best reporter, quotes Bridger as follows: "The soil is good and likely to produce corn were it not for the excessive cold nights which he thinks would prevent the growth of corn." Wilford Woodruff says that Jim "remarked that it would not be prudent to bring a great population to the Basin until we ascertained whether grain would grow or not." The unpublished "Manuscript Journal," which was always written by Young himself or under his eye, says (as quoted by Roberts — I have not had access to it): "Bridger considered it imprudent to bring a large population into the Great Basin until it was ascertained that grain could be raised; he said he would give $1000 for a bushel of corn raised in that basin." Precisely. This was an intelligent judgment by a man who knew all there was to know about the country and understood the problems of the Mormons better than anyone outside the faith could be expected to unless he had the continental mind. It expresses a doubt that corn would grow in the valley, a hope that it would, and a caution that they had better find out.

Note that Bridger told them that, in the lands south of Utah Lake, the Indians regularly grew corn as good as any "in old Kentucky." Finally, note that he was right about Great Salt Lake Valley. The Saints got there a month after they talked to him. At that moment the only corn growing in the valley, at Miles Goodyear's stockade on the Weber River, had not yet eared up. Corn was not grown in the valley with much success or promise of success until hardy, specially adapted varieties were introduced there. Even so, it cannot be called a corn-growing country today.

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7 The journal of Norton Jacob contains a detail which I have not found elsewhere. It quotes Bridger as saying that during the preceding winter (and I find no record of his movements then) he had "found a country the best he ever saw." It was "bordering on the range of mountains that constitutes the southern boundary of the Great Basin." Jacob's description is too vague for positive identification, but this was obviously Utah's Dixie, possibly the Parowan country.

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8 Norton Jacob: "Bro. Brannan fell in with a company of emigrants who by quarreling and fighting among themselves delayed time until they got caught in the snows on the mountains last fall and could not extricate themselves. The snows were much deeper in all this region than was ever known before. Thereº sufferings were incredible. Many of them perished with cold and hunger. All their cattle died and they were compelled to eat the flesh of those that died among them. In fact they killed some and among the rest a mormon by the name of Murphy who formerly lived in Nauvoo. These people are in a wretched condition. [Note that Jacob understands they are still in the mountains.] Thereº teams all gone and they cannot get away until assistance can be sent from Oregon. Quarreling is a common complaing [sic] among these emigrants until they all divide and subdivide into small parties. They can't agree to travel together in peace which fulfills Joseph Smith's prophesy, that peace is taken from the earth. These are the men who have mobed and killed the saints." Jacob had badly hashed Brannan's information but he made sure that a Mormon had been persecuted, drew an unctuous moral, and found that this, like all the tongues and testimonies of the earth, bore witness that Joseph was a prophet.


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