The following article, "Mode of Conducting the Emigration" by church
historian Andrew Jenson first appeared
in the LDS periodical, The Contributor, Volume 13 (1892) pages 181-185.
MODE OF CONDUCTING THE MIGRATION
THE object of the Latter day Saints' emigration being the fulfillment of a divine command and not a pecuniary speculation, the spiritual and temporal comfort and happiness of the emigrants have ever been the principal aim on the part of those charged from time to time with the superintendence of the business. Consequently, from the first we find that arrangements were made to assist the emigrants from the time they left their native homes and until they arrived at e places of their destination. Experienced elders were sent with the vessels to superintend the voyage, in connection with the masters, and again in making the long and tedious journey over the plains and mountains. The time selected for embarkation in the beginning was from September until March or April, and later, when emigration to the Valley was commenced, from January to April which enabled the emigrants to arrive upon the frontiers between April and June, early enough to cross the plains and the mountains before winter set in, and the mountain passes filled with snow. While the emigration was only as far as Nauvoo or Council Bluffs, these circumstances did not of course interfere, the only object then being to pass New Orleans before the summer and sickly season commenced. The duties and responsibilities of all charged with the oversight any of the business were proportionally less than they were afterwards when he entire journey to the Valley had to be ranged for at once; yet they have always been sufficiently onerous, and have required the best faculties and judgment of the Elders and others engaged. The following will explain the modus operandi of conducting the emigration in the early fifties, when most of the Saints landed in New Orleans:
Applications for passage were received by the agent in Liverpool, and when sufficient were on hand a vessel was chartered by him, and the intended passengers were notified by circulars, generally printed, containing instructions to them how to proceed, when to be in Liverpool to embark, also stating the price of passage, the amount of provisions allowed, etc. In some instances one conference or district would furnish a ship load, or the greatest part of it; in such cases arrangements were made for them to embark together, and the president of the conference or some other suitable elder would contract with the railway companies for their conveyance to Liverpool in a body, which generally saved much expense. The emigration from Scandinavia generally gathered at Copenhagen, and from thence proceeded in organized companies by rail and steamships to Liverpool where the emigrants would be reshipped sometimes in vessels chartered specially for them, and sometimes they would be joined with companies emigrating from the British Isles, or other parts of Europe.
In contracting for the vessel it was generally agreed that the passengers should go on board either on the day of their arrival in Liverpool, or the day following, which arrangement, although sometimes considered inconvenient to them, saved the expense of lodging ashore and preserved many inexperienced person from being robbed by sharpers, for whom Liverpool has always been a profitable field. When the passengers were on board, the agent, who was generally the president of the Church in the British Isles, would visit them and proceed to appoint a committee, consisting of a president and two counselors. As a rule they were Elders who had traveled the route before, or, at least had been to sea. They were received by the emigrants by vote, and implicit confidence was reposed in them. This presidency would then proceed to divide ship into wards or branches, over each of which an Elder or Priest would be placed, with his assistants to preside. Watchmen were then selected from among the adult passengers, who, in rotation, stood guard day and night over the ship until her departure, and after nightfall prevented any unauthorized person from descending the hatchways. When at sea, the presidents of the various wards saw that the passengers arose about five or six o'clock in the morning, that they cleaned their respective portions of the ship, and threw the rubbish overboard. This attended to, prayers were offered in every ward, after which the passengers prepared their breakfasts, and during the remainder of the day they could occupy themselves with various duties and amusements. At eight or nine o'clock at night prayers were again offered, and all retired to their berths. Such regularity and cleanliness, with constant exercise on deck, were an excellent conservative of the general health of the passengers, a thing which has always been proverbial of the Latter-day Saints' emigration. In addition to this daily routine, when the weather permitted, meetings were held on Sundays, and twice or thrice in the week, at which the usual Church services were observed. Schools for both children and adults were also frequently conducted. When Elders were on board who were either going or returning to the Valley, and had traveled in foreign countries they would often interest the passengers by relating incidents of their travels, and describing the scenes they had witnessed, and the vicissitudes through which they had passed. Lectures on various subjects were also delivered. These agreeable exercises helped a great deal to break the monotony of a long voyage, and tended to improve the mental capacities of the passengers. The good order, cleanliness, regularity, and moral deportment of the passengers generally, seldom failed to produce a good impression upon the captain, crew and any persons on board who were not Latter-day Saints. The result was, that they would attend the religious meetings or exercises, and some of them become converted to "Mormonism." Thus in the Olympus, which sailed in March, 1851, fifty persons were added to the church during the voyage, and in the International, which sailed in February, 1853, forty-eight persons, including the captain and other officers of the ship, were added.
As an instance of the estimation, in which the mode of conducting tile Latter-day Saints' emigration was held in high quarters, we quote from the Morning Advertiser (a newspaper published a Liverpool,) of June 2 1854:
"On Tuesday, says the London correspondent of the Cambridge Independent Press, I heard a rather remarkable examination before a committee of the House of Commons. The witness was no other than the supreme authority in England of the Mormonites (Elder Samuel W. Richards,) and the subject upon which he was giving information was to mode in which the emigration to Utah, Great Salt Lake, is conducted. * * *
He gave himself no airs, but was respectful in his demeaner, and ready in his answers, and at the close of his examination he received the thanks of the committee in rather a marked manner. * * *
There is one thing which, in the opinion of the Emigration Committee of House of Commons, they (the Latter-day Saints) can do, viz., teach Christian ship owners how to send poor people decently, cheaply and healthfully across the Atlantic."
Both the United States and the British governments undertook at an early day to establish by law certain rules and regulations looking to the safety and convience of passengers, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, but more especially emigrants wending their way from the British Isles to American ports. These laws, however seem to have been very imperfect until the British Parliament in 1852, enacted what was known as the Passengers' Act which, among many other things, provided that every emigration agent, who shipped companies to North America should supply the passengers with seven-days provisions, if the ship sailed between the sixteenth day of January and the fourteenth day of October and eighty day's provisions if she sailed between the fourteenth of October and the sixteenth of January, according to the following scale of weekly rations to each statute adult, and half the amount to children between fourteen years and one year old:
"Two and a half pounds of bread or biscuit, not inferior in quality to navy biscuit, one pound of wheat flour, five pounds oatmeal, two pounds rice, half pound sugar, two ounces tea, two ounces salt, also three quarts of water daily for each passenger."
The act authorized substitutes as follows: five pounds of good potatoes, or half pound of beef or pork, exclusive of hone, or of preserved meat, or three-fourths of a pound of dried salt fish, or one pound of bread or biscuit, not inferior in quality to navy biscuit, or one pound of best wheaten flour, or one pound of split peas for one and a quarter pound of oatmeal. or for one pound of rice; and a quarter of a pound of preserved potatoes might be substituted for one pound of potatoes.
In addition to the above scale the Latter-day Saints were furnished for the voyage with two and a half pounds of sago, three pounds of butter, two pounds of cheese, and one pint of vinegar for each statute adult, and half the amount to children between fourteen years and one year old; one pound of beef or pork weekly to each statute adult was substituted for its equivalent in oatmeal This quantity of provisions enabled many the passengers to live, during the voyage, more bountifully than they had en in the habit of living in their native countries. Passengers furnished their own beds and bedding, and likewise their cooking utensils such as a boiler, saucepan and frying pan; also a tin plate tin dish, knife and fork, spoon and a tin vessel, or an earthen one encased in wickerwork, large enough to hold three quarts of water, for each person. Such provisions as were not consumed on the arrival at New Orleans, were given to the passengers, instead of being returned to England as in the case of other emigrants ships. If a vessel made a quick trip, there would be a considerable amount left, which would materially aid poor emigrants. The John M. Wood which sailed March 12, 1854, had a quick passage and the amount of provisions saved Perpetual Emigration Fund passengers was one hundred and fifty pounds of tea, nineteen barrels of biscuit, five barrels of oatmeal, four barrels and four bags of rice and three barrels of pork. The ship provided the cooking apparatus and fuel, and the Passengers' Act required that every passenger ship carrying as many as one hundred statute adults should have on board a seafaring person who should be rated in the ship's articles as passengers' steward, and who should be employed in messing and serving out the provisions to the passengers, and in assisting to maintain cleanliness, order and good discipline among them, and who should not assist in any way in navigating or working the ship. The act also provided that every passenger ship carrying as many as one hundred statute adults should have on board a seafaring man, or if carrying more than four hundred statute adults, two seafaring men, to be rated and approved as in the case of passengers' steward, who should be employed in cooking the food of the passengers. When the number of passengers exceeded one hundred statute adults and the space allotted to each on the passengers' deck was less than fourteen feet clear superficial feet, or when, whatever might be the space allotted to the passengers, the number of persons on board (including cabin passengers, officers and crew,) exceeded five hundred the act required a duly qualified medical practitioner to be carried and rated on the ship's articles. The act provided for the berthing of the passengers It required that the berths should be six feet in length, and that eighteen inches in width be allowed each statute adult. No two passengers, unless members of the same family, should be placed in the same berth, nor in any case was it allowed to place persons of different sexes, above the age of fourteen years, unless husband and wife, in the same berth. All unmarried male passengers of the age of fourteen years and upwards were berthed in the fore part of the vessel, and were separated from the rest of the passengers by a strong bulkhead.
In 1855, two passenger acts one American and the other British were passed, introducing important changes in providing for the comfort and safety of emigrants crossing the Atlantic, The American act came into effect in British ports May 1, 1855, and the British act on October first following. In nearly all its main features as far as those relating to the carriage of passengers between Great Britain and the United States were concerned, the American act was more than covered by the British, and the Latter-day Saint agents, in sending out their companies, complied with the British act, except in the rating of statute adults, where the American act, making two persons between the ages of one and eight years of age equal to a statute adult, was complied with in preference to the British which made between one and twelve years a statute adult. The act of 1855 was considerable of an improvement on the act of 1852, and provided for more room and convenience on board and a better dietary scale; it also provided for medical comforts, and two cooks and a medical practitioner when the number of statute adults exceeded three hundred.
The first ship sailing with a company of Saints after the American act took place was the Cynosure, which sailed July 29, 1855, and after the British Act, the Emerald Isle which cleared port November 30, 1855.
On arriving at New Orleans the emigrants were received by an agent of the Church stationed there for that purpose, who procured suitable steamboats for them to proceed on to St. Louis, Mo., without detention. It was the duty of this agent, furthermore, to report to the president in l Liverpool, the condition in which these emigrants arrived, and an' important circumstance that might be to his advantage to know. At St. Louis another agent of the Church co-operated with the agent sent from England. From thence the emigrants were forwarded still by steamboat to the camping grounds which in 1853 were at Keokuk, Iowa, at the foot of the lower rapids of the Mississippi, two hundred and five miles from St, Louis, and in 1854 at Kansas City, in Jackson County, Missouri, twelve milts west of Independence. At these outfitting places tile emigrants found their teams, which the agents had purchased, waiting to receive them and their luggage. Ten individuals were the number allotted to one wagon and one tent. In 1854 the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company allowed one hundred pounds of luggage, including beds and clothing, to all persons above eight years old; fifty pounds to those between eight and four years old; none to those under four years The wagons were generally ordered in Cincinnati and St. Louis, and conveyed by steamboat to the camping grounds. The cattle were purchased of cattle dealers in the western settlements and driven to the camping grounds. The full team consisted of one wagon, two yoke of oxen and two cows. The wagon-covers and tents were made of a very superior twilled cotton procured in England for the emigration of 1853 and 1854. It was generally supplied to the emigrants before their departure from Liverpool, and they made their tents and covers on the voyage, and thus saved expense. A common field tent was generally used. The material was twenty-seven inches wide, and forty-four yards were used for a tent and twenty-six for a wagon cover. The two cost about two guineas, or ten dollars. The poles and cord were procured by the agent in the United States. Each wagon in 1854 containing the £13 and Perpetual Emigration Fund emigrants was supplied with one thousand pounds of flour, fifty pounds of sugar, fifty pounds of bacon, fifty of rice, thirty pounds of beans, twenty pounds of dried apples and peaches, five pounds of tea, one gallon of vinegar, ten bars of soap, and twenty-five pounds of salt. These articles, and the milk from the cows, the game caught on the plains and the pure water from the streams, furnished to hundreds better diet, and more of it, than they enjoyed in their native lands, while toiling from ten to eighteen hours a day for their living. Other emigrants who had means, of course, purchased what they pleased, such as dried herrings, pickles, molasses, and more dried fruit and sugar.
As soon as a sufficient number of wagons could be got ready and all things prepared, the company or companies moved off under their respective captains The agent remained on the frontiers, until all the companies were started, and then he would generally go forward himself, passing the companies one by one and arrive in, the Valley first to receive them there; and conduct them into Great Salt Lake City.
From the foregoing it will readily be seen that the transportation of the Latter-day Saints from Europe to the Rocky Mountains was a work of no ordinary magnitude, but that it brought into requisition directly and indirectly, the labors of hundreds of individuals besides the emigrants themselves, and in the years of 1853, 1854 and 1855 it involved an outlay of not less than £40,000 to £50,000 each year, an amount nevertheless small, when the number of emigrants and the distance traveled are considered.