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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 22.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Sojourn at Parowan—Colonel Fremont refits his Expedition—Illness of the Author—His Inability to Proceed—Takes Leave of Col. Fremont—Mr. Egloffstien and the Author leave to go to Great Salt Lake City in a Wagon—Col. Fremont's Departure—Mormons for Conference—Arrival at Salt Lake City—Massacre of Capt. Gunnison—Interview with Lieut. Beckwith—Mr. Egloffstien appointed Topographical Engineer—Painting Materials—Kinkead and Livingston—Brigham Young—Governor's Residence—Apology for Mormonism among the Masses—Their previous Ignorance of the Practice of Polygamy.

I REMAINED from the 8th to the 21st February at Parowan. I was very ill during the whole time; I was so much enervated by diarrhoea, that my physician advised me not to accompany the expedition; the exertion of riding on horseback would have completely prostrated me, my digestive organs were so much weakened, and impaired, by the irregular living on horse meat, without salt or vegetables, that I was fearful that I should never recover. Col. Fremont was very anxious for me to continue, but yielded to the necessity of my remaining; he supplied me with means to reach home, and on the same day he bade me farewell, to continue his journey over the Sierra Nevada, I left for great Salt Lake City, in a wagon belonging to one of a large company of Mormons, who were on their way to "Conference." I was so weak, that I had to be lifted in and out like a child. To the kind attentions of Mr. Henry Lunt, President of Cedar City, Coal Creek, and his lady, I was indebted for some necessaries, viz.—sugar, tea and coffee, which it was impossible to purchase; they also offered me the use of their wagon, which was better adapted to an invalid, than the one I occupied. Mr. Egloffstien also accompanied me; his physical condition being similar to my own, he could not continue with Col. Fremont; he successfully managed, notwithstanding his illness, to make topographical notes all the way to Great Salt Lake City, a distance of three hundred miles, which we accomplished in ten days, passing through all the different Mormon settlements on the road, particulars of which I shall give in my journal, from Salt Lake City. We arrived at Great Salt Lake City on the night of the 1st of March 1854, and took lodgings at Blair's hotel; in the morning I learned that Lieut. Beckwith and Captain Morris, with the remnant of Captain Gunnison's expedition, were hibernating in the city. I called on Lieut. Beckwith, who invited me and my friend to mess at their table, at E. T. Benson's, one of the Mormon apostles, which I gladly accepted, and that night I found myself once more associating with intelligent gentlemen. The arrival of my friend, Egloffstien, proved very timely; the massacre of the lamented Captain Gunnison and his officers, deprived Lieut. Beckwith of the services of their topographical engineer, to which situation Mr. Egloffstien was immediately appointed, and Lieut. Beckwith generously invited me to accompany the expedition, free of any expense, which I respectfully declined, as I intended to reach California by the Southern route, over the trail of Colonel Fremont, in 1843. To the kindness of Lieut. Beckwith I was also indebted for a supply of painting materials which I could not have procured elsewhere, and by the use of which, I was enabled to successfully prosecute my profession, during my residence in that city.

Messrs. Kincaid and Livingston, cashed Col. Fremont's bills on California, without any discount, and contributed many luxuries which were not on sale, and I feel deeply grateful to them for their disinterested friendship. After I was comfortably settled, I called on Governor Young, and was received by him with marked attention. He tendered me the use of all his philosophical instruments and access to a large and valuable library.

The court-house of the city of the Great Salt Lake lies in 40º 45' 44" N. Lat. 111º 26' 34" W. Longitude, and the city covers an area of four square miles, it is laid out at right angles. The principal business streets run due north and south, a delicious stream of water flows through the centre of the city, this is subdivided into murmuring rivulets on either side of all the streets. The water coming directly from the mountains, is always pure and fresh, affording this most useful element in any quantity, and within reach of every one, besides creating a healthful influence in the city. Cotton-wood trees grow on the main stream, and saplings had just been planted while I was there, on the sides of the streets. Most of the dwelling-houses are built a little distance from the side-walk, and to each dwelling is appropriated an acre and a quarter of ground, for gardening purposes.

Salt Lake Valley runs east and west, and the city is immediately at the base of a high range of mountains. An adobe wall, twelve feet high, six feet at the base, tapering upwards to 2½ feet, entirely surrounds the city, enclosing an immense area of ground for pasturage, etc. thus protecting the people and cattle from the aggressions of Indians. The Timpanagos mountains are near the city: "Emigration Canon" is the gate (a low depression in the mountains) through which the great tide of emigration flows into the Valley of Great Salt Lake.

The River Jordan runs through the valley and empties into Great Salt Lake. The city is thirty miles from the Lake, and the valley is entirely surrounded with high mountains topped with snow, winter and summer.

The governor's residence, a large wooden building of sufficient capacity to contain his extensive family—nineteen wives and thirty-three children, was nearly finished. I made a daguerreotype view of it, and also a drawing.

The court house is a large square building, on the east side, opposite the Temple square.

The post office occupies the corner on the south side.

The Tabernacle, an unpretending one story building, occupies a portion of the Temple square.

The Temple is in course of building—the foundation is laid—and I was allowed to see the plan projected by a Mr. Angell, who by inspiration has succeeded in producing an exact model of the one used by the Melchizedek Priesthood, in older times.

The theatre, a well built modern building, is opposite to the governor's house on the north, and is the property of the church as are all the public buildings. I may say all the real estate in the valley is the property of the church, for proprietors have only an interest in property so long as they are members of the Mormon Church, and reside in the valley. The moment they leave or apostatize, they are obliged to abandon their property, and are precluded from selling it, or if they do give the bill of sale it is not valid—it is not tenable by the purchaser. This arrangement was proposed by the governor and council, at the conference which took place during my residence among them in 1854, and thousands of property holders subsequently deeded their houses and lands to the church, in perpetuity.

Under the operation of this law, nobody but Mormons can hold property in Great Salt Lake City. There are numbers of citizens who are not Mormons, who rent properties; but there is no property for sale—a most politic course on the part of the Mormons—for in case of a railroad being established between the two oceans, Great Salt Lake City must be the half way stopping place, and the city will be kept purified from taverns and grog shops at every corner of the street. Another city will have to be built some distance from them, for they have determined to keep themselves distinct from the vices of civilization. During a residence of ten weeks in Great Salt Lake City, and my observations in all their various settlements, amongst a homogeneous population of over seventy-five thousand inhabitants, it is worthy of record, that I never heard any obscene or improper language; never saw a man drunk; never had my attention called to the exhibition of vice of any sort. There are no gambling houses, grog shops, or buildings of ill fame, in all their settlements. They preach morality in their churches and from their stands, and what is as strange as it is true, the people practise it, and religiously believe their salvation depends on fulfilling the behests of the religion they have adopted.

The masses are sincere in their belief, if they are incredulous, and have been deceived by their leaders, the sin, if any, rests on them. I firmly believe the people to be honest, and imbued with true religious feelings,—and when we take into consideration their general character previously, we cannot but believe in their sincerity. Nine-tenths of this vast population are the peasantry of Scotland, England and Wales, originally brought up with religious feelings at Protestant parish churches. I observed no Catholic proselytes. They have been induced to emigrate, by the offers of the Mormon missionaries to take them free of expense, to their land flowing with milk and honey, where, they are told, the Protestant Christian religion is inculcated in all its purity, and where a farm and house are bestowed gratuitously upon each family. Seduced by this independence from the state of poverty which surrounds them at home, they take advantage of the opportunity and are baptized into the faith of the "latter day saints," and it is only after their arrival in the Valley that the spiritual wife system is even mentioned to them. Thousands of families are now in Utah who are as much horrified at the name of polygamy, as the most carefully educated in the enlightened circles of Europe and America. More than two-thirds of this population (at least, this is the ratio of my experience) cannot read or write, and they place implicit faith in their leaders, who, in a pecuniary point of view, have fulfilled their promise; each and all of them are comfortably provided with land and tenements. The first year they, of course, suffer privations, until they build their houses and reap their crops, yet all their necessities in the meantime are provided for by the church, and in a social point of view, they are much happier than they could ever hope to have been at their native homes. From being tenants at will of an imperious and exacting landlord, they suddenly become land holders, in their own right-free men, living on free soil, under a free and enlightened government.

Their religious teachers of Mormonism, preach to them, as they call it, "Christianity in its purity." With their perfect right to imbibe new religious ideas, I have no wish to interfere, nor has any one. All religions are tolerated, or ought to be, in the United States, and I offer these remarks as an apology for the masses of honest men, many of whom have personally told me, that they were ignorant of the practice of polygamy before their arrival in the Valley, and surrounded as they are, by hostile tribes of Indians, and almost unsurmountable mountains of snow, they are precluded from returning home, but live among themselves, practicing as well as they know how, the strict principles of virtue and morality.

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