By Sea
Source: Prelude to the Kingdom by Gustive O. Larson, pages 128-143

THE Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company was introduced into a program already well under way. Thousands of Mormon converts would have continued to find their way to Zion had no emigrating fund been created at all. The special mission of the Fund, was to assist the poor. It added greatly to the total number of those who came out of "Babylon" to participate in the building of the Kingdom. In addition to this direct contribution the company aided the migrating movement generally as those who paid for their own transportation shared in the benefits of its routine work. As its agents went about chartering ships, buying supplies and equipment, and exercising general supervision over routes of travel and the safety of the emigrants, the company became the core of the whole gathering movement for nearly four decades1.

The general plan of migration to Zion included two major divisions. First there was the shipping agency in England, charged with the task of assembling the emigrants and providing for their safe passage overseas. The President of the British Mission usually served as shipping agent. Second, there was the receiving agency on the American frontier whose responsibility was to account for the newly arrived immigrants and provide for their continued journey overland to Utah. This agency included a representative at the port of entry and another at the outfitting place on the frontier. Operations in America varied with changing ports of entry, changing modes of transportation, and shifting frontier stations. In general the procedure was the same for the "P. E. F." emigrants as for the "independents."

Without special reference to the fund the following reviews the salient features of the emigration system as it transported thousands of foreign converts from Liverpool to deliver them, eight to ten months later, in the Salt Lake Valley. Subscribers to the Millennial Star which had wide circulation among the British Saints, read the following in a winter issue:

"The John Cummins is chartered for us, and is to sail on the twentieth of February, 1842. Immediate application should be made by those who wish a passage. Passage costs from L3 15 s to L4 including provisions. Passengers bring their own bedding and cooking utensils; and all luggage goes free. On arriving at New Orleans, a passage can be obtained up the Mississippi River, fifteen hundred miles by steamer, for fifteen shillings and freight free, as we have learned by letter from Elder Joseph Fielding who sailed with 200 passengers in the Tyrean last September."

Applicants responding to this notice in 1842 were thinking of emigration to Nauvoo and expecting there to meet Joseph Smith. However, those who read the following, a decade later, were looking forward to meeting Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley:

"Notice of first ship of season will sail early in January 1853. Applications to be accompanied by name, age, occupation, and nativity of applicant and deposit of one pound. Parties will provide own bedding, cooking utensils, etc2."

Such announcements appeared with increasing frequency in the Star as the gathering increased in momentum. The British agent chartered ships as applications for passage justified. Sometimes these were for exclusive Mormon use. Transportation rates depended upon what ships could be chartered for, but generally Mormon credit was good and issue: the agent was in a position to deal favorably with shipping companies. Occasionally large numbers from a single district in England made application for passage. Under such circumstances, arrangements were also made with railways for reduced rates to Liverpool.

The conduct of these Mormon emigrations from Europe was as patriarchal as the early church itself. Always missionaries escorted the departing members to Liverpool and once in the port of embarkation the passengers were ushered immediately on board ship. Not for a moment were they left to the mercy of "runners" or professional shipping agents3.

Watchmen were appointed to stand guard while the vessel lay in harbor to prevent any who did not belong from passing among them.

Mormon Companies became known for their heavy luggage. Mechanics and other craftsmen, who made up a large percentage of the emigrants, brought all available tools with them much to the dismay of the ships' captains. Some complained that the ship lay at least an inch lower in the water on account of this excess baggage.

When all were on board the Mormon Agent arrived to organize them for their overseas journey. First he appointed a president to preside over the entire company which varied in size from occasional small groups to four and five hundred. The president, together with two counsellors were usually selected from returning missionaries and were presented to the company for a sustaining vote. The presidency of the company now proceeded to divide the ship into "wards" or 44 branches" with bishops or presiding elders and assigning to each a particular part of the ship.

The presiding elders soon acquainted the members of their respective wards with customary procedure on such journeys. After rising at an appointed early hour the first duty was to thoroughly clean their portion of the ship and dispose of all refuse overboard. Then, they would assemble for prayer before breakfast. This latter, the emigrants prepared themselves with cooking apparatus provided by the ship. Beyond the barest necessities for preparation of meals, the passengers provided their own utensils, as they also did their bedding. Breakfast over, and necessary clearing away of dishes, etc. accomplished, the day belonged to each passenger to divide between minor duties and amusements as he chose. At eight or nine at night prayer was again conducted in each ward and all retired. Except in cases of married couples and children, the sexes were berthed apart in strict compliance with provisions of emigration laws4.

The routine of the Mormon emigrants on board ship was regarded as superior to that of passengers generally. So unusual was their conduct in contrast with that of current emigration practice that no less a writer than Charles Dickens was led to visit one of their ships to make first hand observations. He came away with the following comment:

"Two or three Mormon agents stood ready to hand them (the emigrants) on to the inspector, and to hand them forward when they had passed. By what successful means, a special aptitude for organization had been infused into these people, I am, of course, unable to report. But I know that, even now, there was no disorder, hurry or difficulty. . . I afterwards learned that a dispatch was sent home by the captain before he struck out into the wide Atlantic, highly extolling the behavior of these emigrants, and the perfect order and propriety of all their social arrangements... I went on board their ship to bear testimony against them, if they deserved it, as I fully believed they would; to my great astonishment they did not deserve it, and my predispositions and tendencies must not affect me as an honest witness. I went over the Amazon's side, feeling it impossible to deny that, so far, some remarkable influence has produced a remarkable result which better known influences have often missed5."

Standards of health and morals, as well as of ordinary comforts, maintained by the Latter-day Saints exceeded those of legal enactments regulating emigration between Great Britain and America. The Passenger Act of 1852 required a minimum of food provisions for seventy or eighty days depending on the time of sailing: The weekly ration for each adult, with one half the amount for minors, was as follows: Two and one 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." Substitutes were permitted, including potatoes, beef or pork, preserved meat, dried fish, split peas and rice.

In addition to the above, the Mormon companies 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 adult and half the amount for those under fourteen. Such provisions, in many cases exceeded the living standards to which the emigrants were accustomed at home.

Another advantage in favor of the Mormon system was the provision that all food not consumed upon arrival at New Orleans belonged to the passengers and was not returned to England as in general practice. Often favorable sailing winds provided them with considerable food supplies upon arrival. For instance, the John M. Wood, sailing in the spring of 1854, left the Perpetual Emigrating Fund passengers with 150 pounds of tea, nineteen barrels of biscuits, five barrels of oatmeal, four bags of rice, and three barrels of pork6.

Two passenger acts - British and American - passed in 1855, raised the standards of the earlier law. They provided for more room per passenger, better dietary scale, and improved health requirements. These last provided for supplies and a doctor and two cooks when the number of adults exceeded three hundred. Since the British act more than covered all of the provisions of the American, the Mormon Agents generally complied with the former.

The Mormon shipping operations attracted the attention of State departments, as well as journalists. While the United States and Great Britain were engaged in revising their immigration laws, the latter had occasion to call upon the Mormon Agent for assistance. A committee of the House of Commons sent for Samuel W. Richards, presiding in Britain in 1854, asking that he appear before it to be questioned relative to Latter-day Saint emigration activities. A London correspondent of the Cambridge Independent Press gave the following picture of the hearings:

"On Tuesday I heard a rather remarkable examination before the committee of the House of Commons. The witness was none other than the supreme authority in England of the Mormonites, and the subject upon which he was giving information was the mode in which the emigration to Utah, Great Salt Lake, is conducted. The curious personage is named Richards; he is an American by birth; is a dark rather good looking man: I should judge of fair education, and certainly of more than average intelligence. He gave himself no airs, but was so respectful in his demeanor and ready in his answers, that, at the close of the examination, he received the thanks of the committee in rather a marked manner. According to his statements, about 2,600 Mormonite emigrants leave Liverpool during the first three months of every year. They have ships of their own, and are under the care of a president. The average cost of a journey to Utah is about 30 pounds that is, to steerage passengers. On arriving at New Orleans, they are received by another president, who returns to Mr. Richards an account of the state in which he found the ship, etc. They have then 3,000 miles to go, and after leaving the Mississippi, 1,000 miles are traversed overland in wagons.... There is one thing which, in the emigration committee of the House of Commons, they can do - viz., teach christian ship owners how to send poor people decently, cheaply, and healthfully across the Atlantic7."

The Edinburgh Review for January 1862, made this report: "The select committee of the House of Commons on emigrant ships for 1854 summoned the Mormon agent and passenger broker before it and came to the conclusion that no ships under the provisions of the "Passenger's Act" could be depended upon for comfort and security in the same degree as those under his administration. The Mormon ship is a family under strong and accepted discipline, with every provision for comfort, decorum and internal peace8."

The regular emigration , season extended over January and February with New Orleans as the earlier port of disembarkation. Early departures were urged in order to escape the unhealthy seasons on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It was also desirable for those who contemplated a "through journey" to arrive in the states in time to allow for the overland journey before winter set in.

Close confinement on a sailing vessel tossing upon the broad Atlantic for eight or ten weeks demanded every precaution against all that such a situation might breed. Ordinarily the ship's captain found it necessary to rule with an iron hand as all the changing moods of the sea were reflected in his human cargo. But somehow these Latter-day Saint companies seemed different. It was not unusual that he relaxed his vigilance and before the journey's end had granted privileges and concessions quite beyond the regular practice. The following excerpts, from eye witnesses, present a composite picture - reflecting the general spirit of the "Zion bound" emigrants.

"The splendid ship Metoka, Captain M'Laren, sailed from Liverpool, September 5, 1843 under favorable circumstances. The Saints on board gave expression to their feelings in various hymns which they sang as the vessel was towed into the river. The ship which was admirably adapted for passengers, together with the respectable appearance of the emigrants appeared very much to surprise the bystanders, who were compelled to acknowledge that they had not often witnessed the departure of such a people9."

Wrote William Kay on March 9th, 1843: ... "The Captain and the crew declared they never experienced such a passage before; but such a captain and crew for kindness I believe could scarcely be met with; his liberality exceeds all that ever came under our notice.... The cabin and its provisions have been at the service of all who stood in need of them, and the captain has with his own hand ministered unto the necessities of all who required it. . . . We have had two deaths on board.... We have had regular meetings or prayer morning and evening, and three times each Lord's day, administering the sacrament in the afternoon. The Saints generally have shown a willingness to give heed to the counsel from myself and Brothers Hall and Cuerden10."

However, there was not always unbroken peace in the Mormon emigrant ranks as Parley P. Pratt reflects in an earlier report. "We had a tedious passage of ten weeks and some difficulties, murmurings and rebellions; but the Saints on board were called together, and chastened and reproved sharply, which brought them to repentance. We then humbled ourselves and called on the Lord and he sent a fair wind and brought us into port in time to save us from starvation11."

Charles R. Savage wrote, following a crossing a few years later: "We left Liverpool on Wednesday, December 12, at seven A. M. and had a fine run down -the channel, sighted Cape Clear on the Friday morning following and had -mild weather with a fair wind for three days after. During this time we had leisure to devise plans for the maintenance of order and cleanliness during the voyage. Notwithstanding that our company consisted of Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Icelanders, Italians., English, Irish, and Scotch, the rules adopted proved efficacious in maintaining a strict entente cordiale among us all. The Saints were by the sound of the trumpet called to prayer morning and evening. Meetings were also frequently held in the Danish, English and Italian languages during the voyage. On the whole we enjoyed ourselves first rate, notwithstanding the gales and hurricanes we experienced.... We had much sickness on board from the breaking out of measles, which caused many deaths among the Danish, chiefly among the children. In the English and Italian companies we lost three children. The weather got worse after crossing the Banks, so much so, that we were driven into the Gulf Stream three times and many of our sailors were frost bitten. Our captain got superstitious on account of the long voyage and ordered that -there should be no singing on board. The mate said that all ships that had preachers on board were always sure of a bad passage12"

James Linforth wrote in 1853, "After looking around the good ship and taking a peep at the passengers who were to be my companions during the voyage to New Orleans, I selected a berth quite to my taste in the second cabin. A small house on deck fitted up with single berths for eight persons. ... The steerage passengers, of whom there were three hundred, were composed one half of English and the other half of Welsh causing a confusion of tongues quite amusing until one was personally interested in what was said. They however managed very well and most heartily and lustily helped each other ... Soon the land grew less distinct and as it became more and more grey there rose above all other sounds voices mingling in the song "Yes my native land I love thee." Then the deck became deserted, as the motion of the ship began to affect the heads and stomachs of men and women hitherto used only to steady terra firma.... The next day the necessary instructions were given to the emigrants relative to the regulations deemed necessary for their comfort, health, and safety. The married men and women had already been placed in the center of the ship, and the unmarried portion at the two extremities - the males at the bow and the females at the stern. The whole of the passengers were divided into districts of equal numbers with a president... etc. The presidents of districts also had to see that no principle of morality was violated; to meet their districts at 8 P. M.; to pray with them and give any general instruction thought necessary; and to daily meet in council with the president of the whole company. . .13."

William Howell, who presided over the Mormons sailing on the Olympus in March 1851, reported in part as follows:... dancing billows pleasing to sight extending around us for miles the ship steadily running her course Zionward, the helmsman keeping her bows in a direct line with the setting sun. On the poop I observed a number of our young brothers and sisters listening with attention to an instructive lecture on the science of grammar, delivered by old Father Waddington, who Diogenes life, sat in the midst of his pupils asking them various questions.... The whole length of the deck was crowded with interesting groups worthy of an artist's pencil; in one place I observed one of the young sisters teaching others the art of knitting lace in various patterns; opposite on the larboard side of the vessel, a number of mothers amusing their little ones, at the same time conversing with one another with grateful hearts, about the goodness of God, in delivering them with their families from the confusion and poverty of Babylon, that often caused their hearts to fail within them, but now going to their homes in Zion, containing peaceful habitations, sure dwellings and quiet resting places.... The brethren sat in various groups here and there, some singing, some reading the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Millennial Star, Voice of Warning, Spencer's Letters, with Brother Orson Pratt's profound philosophical works, a library more valuable in the estimation of the Saints than all the gold of California....Some females in groups were partaking out of various dishes...for the sea appetite is sharp, the little children... looking up to the faces of their parents with lamb-like innocence just as if they said, 'We are happy indeed14.'"

Schools were conducted particularly for the children in the day time in which English and French were taught. The curriculum was widened and varied with the hobbies and interests of the teachers. In. the evening lectures were given at which the adult company gathered around the speakers on the deck floor. Among the subjects which received consideration were astronomy, geography, agriculture and experiences of the missionaries, some of whom had travelled considerably.

But the scenes were not always as peaceful as here portrayed. Wilson G. Nowers, passenger on the same ship Olympus added to the Howell narrative: "The cloud increased rapidly... By this time the outrigger sails were all hauled down, and the men were engaged in close reefing the main topsail, when the squall struck the ship, causing her to tremble and reel like a drunkard. This proved to be as the captain had expected, a regular white squall, the fury of which was such that it carried the foremast overboard, and seriously sprung the mainmast at the decks .... Shortly before midnight the captain called Mr. Rogers...then the second mate, '... You go to the captain of the Mormons and tell him from Captain Wilson that if the God of the Mormons can do anything to save the ship and the people, they had better be calling on him to do so for we are now sinking at the rate of a foot every hour, and if the storm continues we shall all be at the bottom of the ocean before daylight. The order was given in such a tone that I heard distinctly what was said.... President Howell arose, dressed himself and called a few of the brethren (about twelve, myself included) to his side all of whom engaged in prayer...we continued our toils at the pumps, and at length the dawn of the Sabbath broke upon us clear bright and calm. Capt. Wilson acknowledged the miraculous hand of God in our preservation."

Then followed an unprecedented event on the open seas. Although baptisms were not uncommon with succeeding companies, only once did they approach the following in numbers involved. "... The sailors were busy righting up the tacking of the ship, and making preparations to rig a jury mast in place of the fore -topmast that had been carried away, while the faces of all who came on deck beamed with joy and gratitude for their marvellous escape from a watery grave. The Saints attired themselves in clean clothing and newly shaved faces were seen for the first time since leaving Liverpool. There was talk of holding religious services for which purposes a delegation of -the Saints waited on Captain Wilson in order to obtain his consent, which was readily granted. It was also proposed that an opportunity should be offered for those who desired it to have the holy ordinance of baptism attended to, for several of the non-Mormon emigrants had been converted to the faith of the Saints and now expressed their conversion by presenting themselves as candidates for baptism, if only an oppor-tunity could be obtained. Accordingly, one of the largest barrels, in which fresh water had been stored for the use of the passengers, was brought out and placed on deck, the head of the same was removed, a short ladder of the ship's gangway was placed by the side of the barrel and another on the inside which gave easy access in and out for the candidates. The barrel was then filled with sea water to the depth of a man's waist, and twenty-one persons of both sexes were initiated by baptism into the Church.... Sometime afterward about twenty others, all males, were baptized in the ocean by means of a platform improvised by -the side of the ship.... In this manner the candidate was placed be-neath the briny wave and brought forth therefrom, and thus was the ordinance of baptism performed in the Atlantic ocean where soundings were then unknown."

"During the voyage fifty persons were baptized, including one baptism just prior to embarking and one after the arrival of the company at New Orleans15."

Births, deaths, marriages and conversions to the faith were common on the high seas as the "Mormon ships" continued to speed the "gathering." During the voyage of the International in 1853, seven deaths, seven births and five mar. riages took place. This company of 425 Saints under presidency of Christopher Arthur rivaled that of the Olympus two years previous in wholesale conversions. Arthur's report to Samuel W. Richards in England recounts in addition to conversions, further incidents quite typical of these Mormon migrations. "Never," he begin, "since the days of Old Captain Noah until the present emigration, has a more respectful company of Saints crossed the wide deluge of waters, to be freed from Babylon's corruption than has sailed on the International.... I also appointed meetings to be held every evening for worship, testimony bearing, teaching, etc., under prescribed order, which was carried fully into effect.... The Saints without exception have enjoyed a great amount of the spirit of God.... These things and the good conduct of the Saints, have had a happy result in bringing many to a knowledge of the truth. And I am now glad to inform you that we have baptized all on board, except three persons. We can number the Captain, first and second mates, with eighteen of the crew most of whom intend going right through to the Valley. The carpenter and eight of the seamen are Swedish, German and Dutch. There are two negroes and others from Otaheite, etc. Many of them have already testified to the truth of this work, and are rejoicing in anticipation in building up Zion. The others baptized were friends of the brethren. The number baptized in all is forty-eight since we left our native shores....

"On the sixth of April we held the twenty third anniversary of the organization of the Church, which was in our circumstances a splendid affair. Early in the morning a goodly number of brethren assembled on the forecastle and fired rounds of musketry to usher in our festivities. At half past ten we marched in regular procession to the poop deck in following order:...Presidents and counsellors with sashes and white rosettes on their breasts, who took their seats with their backs to the main-mast. After them followed twelve young men appropriately robed, each with a white rod in his hand, with sashes, rosettes, etc. Then followed twelve young women in light dresses, each holding in her hand a scroll of white paper bearing the significant motto 'Utahs rights,' adorned with ribbon and white rosettes. The young men took their seats on the right hand of the Presidency, and the young women on the left. Then followed twelve old venerable men, dressed similar to the young men each carrying a Bible and a Book of Mormon in his hand, led by Father Waugh, who read portions out of each book, illustrative of this Latter-day work.

"We then took the Sacrament, and attended to the celebration of four marriages, which finished our forenoon service.

"At two o'clock we met and took our seats as formerly, and after an address from the President, songs, speeches and recitations commemorative of the occasion followed in due order for three hours. Henry Maiben, from Brighton, composed and sang a song graphically and wittily portraying our happy company and our progress from Liverpool.

"In the evening we met on the quarter deck, and skipped the light fantastic toe until a late hour. During the whole day everything was done with the highest decorum and I can say, to the credit of the company, that a more harmonious festival was never before held on the high seas ......

So this composite company of Mormons, crossing the Atlantic annually for a half century following 1840, arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River. James Linforth, already quoted on the high seas, now gives a final picture of the arrival at New Orleans. "When we got up the last morning before arriving at the anchorage at the mouth of the Mississippi River, we found that the water had changed 'from its deep ocean blue and was already contaminated by the light muddy water of the Mississippi, and then when the pilot boat came along side and the pilot got on board there came in with him a feeling of security and satisfaction. He was an assurance of safety, and seemed a sort of amphibious animal to convey us from the dangers of the deep to the security of terra firma.

"At the bar we found a ship (the Golconda) which had started from England two weeks before us, detained at the mouth of the river on account of the shallowness of the water. We should have remained there too had not our crafty old captain represented his ship as drawing less water than she really did. The consequence was that in two or three hours a huge Mississippi steamboat came alongside, and having bound herself to us, very soon carried us safely inside the bar. Then another boat of similar appearance took hold of us and we began to ascend the far famed and mighty Mississippi.... The distance from the bar to New Orleans is between ninety and one hundred miles, and the Jersey was four days in being towed up. For thirty miles from the entrance of the channel nothing is seen but muddy swamps and rushes, but above Fort Jackson the plantations commence.... The banks on the side of the river are very low, and as far up as New Orleans they present the same general appearance. We arrived at New Orleans on the twenty-first of March. (185 3) ...

"We had now entered the great Republic of the United States of North America, and had ascended from ninety to a hundred miles into the interior of the State of Louisiana, and our ship was moored along side the levee of the thriving city of New Orleans.

"Here the emigrants were met by Elder John Brown, the agent appointed by the Church authorities to receive and forward them to St. Louis. The gentleman rendered every assistance to the passengers in disembarking, etc., and acted in concert with George H. Halliday, who had led the company over the sea, in giving advice to the emigrants, and pro. tecting them from depredations.... The advice given to the emigrants was so well observed that as a general thing they escaped the numerous evils with which all foreigners arriving at this place are beset.

"Owing to the promptness of Elder Brown, the steamboat John Simonds was soon engaged for the passengers. The passage for adults was two dollars and twenty-five cents, for children between fourteen and three years, half price, and those under three went free16."

When agent Brown had assisted the Mormon passengers in clearing the customs at New Orleans, helped them transfer their luggage to the Mississippi River steamer bound for St. Louis, and waved them farewell, he retired to his quarters to make the customary report of the company's arrival to the shipping agent in Liverpool. He felt fortunate indeed in this instance that none had been delayed in New Orleans due either to quarantine or the necessity of securing employment to provide funds for the river journey.


1 Millenial Star, XVIII: 713, "A prompt observance of these instructions, concerning deposits and remittance of funds, is as necessary on the part of those who intend to go through independent of the P. E. F. Company, but who wish our agent to have their outfit in readiness for them on their arrival on the frontiers, as it is for the P. E. Fund passengers."
2 Millennial Star, XV: 618.
3 Tullidge, Edward W., History of Salt Lake City, p. 100.
4 Bancroft, H. H., History of Utah, 418-319.
5 Dickens, Charles, Uncommercial Traveller, pp. 209,213.
6 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XIII: 183.
7 Richards, Samuel W., Contributor, Vol. XI: 158-159.
8 Todd, Rev. John D. D., Sunset Land, p. 182, "A committee of the British Parliament has sat at the feet of the Mormons to learn their system of aiding emigration." Also Burton, R. F., City of the Saints, pp. 296-297.
9 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XII: 448.
10 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XII: 449.
11 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XII: 446.
12 Millennial Star, XVIII: 206.
13 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XIII: 460-461.
14 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor, XIII: 345.
15 Jensen, Andrew, Contributor XIII: 345-349.
16 Linforth, James, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake.

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