History of Abraham & Lydia Johnson Marchant
The setting for our family history is in the city of Bath, England which is located on the river Avon a dozen miles from its junction with the Severn. At this junction the Severn is an estuary of the Bristol channel which separates Wales from South England and joins the Atlantic Ocean just south of England.
Bath possesses many mineral springs with properties similar to those of Saratoga, New York; Hot Springs, Arkansas and Hot Springs, Georgia. These springs are now known the nation over for their health giving and recreational qualities. Similar springs in the Wasatch and Salt Lake valleys have become favorite recreational spots in the Intermountain West and the sulphur springs at Peoa have, on occasions, been considered for similar treatment.
Bath grew around these springs and even received its name from them. The tonic effect which the water gave to those who drank from them or bathed in them made the springs the center of the city’s commerce and caused it to grow into a resort for health and pleasure seekers.
This town in which Abraham Marchant was born during the year of 1816 and where he was to live for 35 years was thus spared some of the most violent eruptions of the industrial revolution because of its resort features. (Nineteenth century England could probably be compared to twentieth century American resort towns. What ever adventures it offered in the way of stable work and steady income was, to a large extent, offset by excessive charges for food and rent.)
Living in a resort city may have spared the Marchants from the worst upheavals of the industrial revolution, but if the main current passed them by, they were still reached by violent enough eddies that made their way from England’s industrial section.
Abraham was born a year and a half after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The country of his birth had found, instead of the prosperity it expected, an era of severe depression. European markets failed to replace the army in consuming manufactured goods and many factories closed down. The British armies were demobilized, adding 400,000 men to the ranks of the unemployed. Ironically, the chief step taken by the government to correct the problem placed a greater burden on the poor. These were the ill-famed corn laws of 1815 which virtually excluded foreign grain from English markets unless home grown grain had reached the famine price of 80 shillings per quarter. A second measure replaced the 10% income tax with higher duties on imported goods. The Corn laws were modified in 1828 so that a sliding scale of duties was levied–more when corn was cheap and less as it became higher. However the British wage earner was not freed from the threat of exorbitant prices when the local crops were low until 1846 when the laws were repealed.
Such conduct on the part of the government stimulated unrest among the people and their extra-legal attempts to improve their lot provoked retaliation which on occasion amounted to the loss of all civil liberties. Several events happened that certainly provoked many Englishmen to give up their English citizenship and emigrate to America in search of greater opportunities. The Peterloo Massacre of August 16, 1819 at Manchester is one example. A crowd gathered to hear a speech on parliamentary reform and was charged by soldiers with the resulting death of several people and injuries to hundreds of others.
In all fairness to the British, despite the oppressive acts of the government, there was a marked tendency toward more liberal government particularly in the third and fourth decades of the century. Francis Place, a master tailor, turned politician and actually succeeded in getting the Combination Acts repealed and as a result trade-unionism sprung into being almost full grown overnight. So much violence resulted that the unions were suppressed almost as fast.
In 1833 the Factory Act was passed which applied only to the textile industry. This act prohibited the employment of children under 9 years of age and restricted those between 9 and 13 to 48 hours a week or 9 hours a day. Those children from 13 to 18 years of age could work no more than 69 hours a week or 12 hours a day.
The reader must speculate upon what effect the general unrest and turmoil of England had upon this baby who was born March 17, 1816 to Abraham Marchant and Mary Prankt Marchant.
The baby, named Abraham after his father, was the youngest of eight children. His oldest brother was twenty-one years of age and the child next to Abraham was four years old. Abraham senior was a fireman and lost his life in a fall from a ladder when his youngest son was little more than two years old. From that day on the widow was obsessed with a desire to view all fires and as soon as she heard the fire bell she would rush to the stable, hitch up the horse and dash off to the fire.
The older children were making their own way by the time their father died. The oldest brother was married when Abraham was three months old, and doubtless provided help to their mother and enabled her to eke out whatever miserable pension the city provided to her. Undoubtedly some of the older children were responsible for the fact that Abraham was apprenticed as a tailor.
The tailor in nineteenth century England was one of the better professions. It still retained many of the protective features of the old guilds and yes was given access to an almost unlimited source of raw materials by the steady growth of the textile industry. During his youth Abraham thus learned the finer points of cutting and fitting clothing and obtained sufficient business experience so that at the end of his apprenticeship he was able to become a full-fledged merchant tailor. As a merchant tailor, he bought cloth and fashioned it into clothing.
Wearing a silk hat, Prince Albert coat and carrying a cane (a mark of dignity) he became an English gentleman.
As Abraham approached maturity he was a man to inspire confidences, and one whose stature was equal to the dignity of his profession. He stood out in a crowd because of his height and was full bodied and heavy set without being fat. Among his acquaintances was a slight figure of a girl, Lydia Johnson, who could stand beneath his out-stretched arm. Lydia worked as a milliner and since tailoring and millinery have much in common he would always find an excuse to see her and before he had completed his apprenticeship he and Lydia were secretly married.
Lydia was a slip of a girl weighing less than 100 pounds, probably have of what her husband did, and in her later years wore two curls in front of each ear with the long hair in back braided and done up in a net cap.
The happiness of the young couple was marred when their first baby died. Lydia had a plaster of the child made which was brought to Utah with them. However, a second child, Mary Ann, was born March 19, 1839, two days after Abraham became 23 years old. Two and a half years later Sarah Matilda was born Sept. 1, 1841. A son, Abraham Robert was born April 5, 1843.
If Abraham and Lydia had planned to conduct a combination millinery and tailor business, the rapid increase in the size of their family must have caused many curtailments in the millinery business. In addition to their own babies, they were responsible for an apprentice tailor who not only learned the trade from Abraham but lived with them as a member of the family.
The second great event in Abraham’s life was his conversion to Mormonism which later resulted in the trip to Utah. It began at about the same time as the first great event, his marriage.
In June 1837 Joseph Smith appointed Heber C. Kimball to establish a mission in England. Accompanied by Orson Hyde, Willard Richards and Joseph Fielding from Independence who were joined in New York by John Goodson, Isaac Russell and John Snyder, Kimball arrived in Liverpool, England on July 20. Three days later Joseph Fielding preached the first sermon in England at Preston to the congregation of his brother, the Reverend James Fielding.
The reader must use his imagination to supply the details–the meeting between Joseph Fielding and his brother, the text of the sermon, the reception by the congregation and the tracting and preaching that followed. The results were so favorable that Joseph Smith did not even allow the expulsion of the "Mormons" from Missouri to interfere with the missionary work. Instead the summer that the Saints moved to Nauvoo, he dispatched some of his ablest apostles to England, including Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt.
Young had his first real taste of leadership and his first opportunity to give his genius for organization full play during the six months that Joseph Smith spent in the Missouri jail. Upon his arrival in England he drew upon his newly discovered talents. After a few months of exploration, he founded the Millennial Star, a monthly paper, on May 27, 1840; Parley P. Pratt became editor. A couple of weeks later the first conference in the British mission was organized at Worchester, which was the Gran Green and Gadfiend conference with twelve branches. A week later Wilford Woodruff organized the Fromehill conference at Herefordshire with twenty branches.
Brigham not only placed organization of the Church on a sound basis, but he also taught the missionaries to use all the tolls in their hands to gain converts. As a result, the teaching of "Mormonism" were interspersed with glowing accounts of life in America. The following is one account which appeared in the Millennial Star:
Living is about one-eighth what is costs in this country…millions on millions of acres of land lie before them unoccupied with a soil as rich as Eden, and a surface as smooth, clear and ready for the plough as the park scenery of England. Instead of a lonely swamp or dense forest filled with savages, wild beasts and serpents, large cities and villages are springing up in their midst, with schools, colleges, and temples….
The missionaries ranged far and wide over England calling for both temporal and spiritual salvation and in most cities were well received. In late 1840 Lorenzo Snow went to Birmingham and before the close of the year wrote that they had fifteen members and many more converts on the eve of being baptized.
On April 3, 1841, one of London’s newspapers reported "Mormonism is making rapid progress particularly in the manufacturing districts and it is also spreading in Wales. Furthermore, it’s converts are not made from the lowest ranks; those sought and obtained by Mormonite apostles are merchants and tradesmen who have saved a little money, and who are remarkable for their moral character…."
Two and a half weeks later Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball sailed from Liverpool taking with them 130 converts. They arrived in New York City on May 20, and reached Nauvoo six weeks later.
Brigham Young had been too practical to leave the converts to the mercies of the unscrupulous ship owners and passenger agents. He perceived that the problem of transporting tens of thousands of people thousands of miles could not be solved in that manner. By obtaining a ship-load of passengers he could bargain with the ship owners and thereby insure passage at a fair price and respectful treatment for all. The "Mormons" set up an office, chartered their own ships, organized the emigrants so that there would be ample food and water, and did it all so well that, according to one writer, the system was cited in the House of Commons as a model for other companies to follow.
Despite all of their care, however they made the mistake of placing the system in the hands of unscrupulous people and made their one misstep. The British American Joint Stock Company probably served as a combination savings bank and emigration office. In February of 1846 Abraham Marchant placed four pounds and five shillings with it. If he made other contributions they were not listed, and we can hope that the total was small.
In early 1846 word reached Brigham Young that all was not well with the Church in England and he took time from his planning to care for the "Mormons" who had just been expelled from Nauvoo to dispatch Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor to England to set the Church in order. Almost immediately upon their arrival in October they advised the Saint’s to "patronize the Joint Stock Company no more for the present". Soon they dissolved the company and disfellowshipped its resident, Reuben Hedlock, along with Thomas Ward who presided over the British Mission. This was done for disregard of counsel. The audit disclosed that the depositors had been swindled and their means squandered by the officers of the company. In fact only one shilling and three pence were returned for each pound paid (roughly six cents on the dollar).
It was three years after this debacle before Brigham Young found a better way to help the emigration, and by that time the "Mormons" had moved safely to the shores of the Great Salt Lake, which added a thousand miles overland trek to the long sea voyage which the emigrants faced. After the hardships of the first two winters in Utah were over, on September 9, 1849, Brigham Young presented the idea of a "perpetual fund to gather the poor" to the congregation which voted that such a fund be instituted.
The original fund was raised by voluntary donations and loans were made to the emigrants which were later repaid, thus giving the fund its perpetual nature. In addition to donations the fund also received the proceeds from the sale of cattle which were left in the astray pound for a month. At one time the Perpetual Emigration Fund, PEF, herd was so large that the stock was pastured on Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake–an excellent unfenced range.
Thus less than three years after the Joint Stock Company was dissolved, it was replaced by a better means of assisting the emigrant and one that could be used to help those people who lacked resources to make the trip.
It was not until 1843 that the first missionaries appeared in Bath. By January 1844, Bath had eleven members, and twenty new converts were added during the next three months. The growth of the Bath branch was steady if not spectacular and in seven years had increased to 130 members.
We do not know when or under what circumstances Abraham and his family, which consisted of three children, first became acquainted with the "Mormon" missionaries, however Abraham was baptized on April 17, 1844. According to one story, his wife first became interested in Mormonism and he discouraged the interest until she was baptized and then he followed her in less than a month. As this story goes he learned of her intention to be baptized and set out to prevent it. However, he was delayed by a mad bull and consequently by the time he arrived, the baptismal was over.
We have no stories on how friends, customers and fellow workmen took the news that Abraham and Lydia became "Mormons". Someone seems to remember that customers stayed away and their income stopped. Yet they lived in Bath for seven years after their conversion. During that time thousands of people in the British Isles were converted and even in Bath services were well attended.
After his conversion, doubtless some of Abraham’s associations accepted him as before, while others made him the target of many crude and vulgar witticisms. This latter group vented their spite by assigning an idiot to him as an apprentice, and then through their constant gibes at Abraham, influenced the weak minded boy to carry on as in the following incident which Lydia related in her later years.
In the month before the fifth baby was born the aforementioned apprentice took a great dislike to Lydia. He not only teased and taunted her but also carried on as if he were bereft of all reason. He would spring against the wall and strike a blow at Lydia and then laugh with glee to see the swollen woman dodge clumsily. Her exertions served to excite him to greater efforts and he once seized a butcher knife and threatened to kill the woman. Inasmuch as the apprentice was possessed of evil spirits the only explanation the missionaries could give was that "this is the devil’s way of trying to get rid of your first baby to be born into the Church."
Despite the devil’s efforts to the contrary the fifth child and third son was born on January 3, 1845. He was not blessed until July or later as Joseph Albert Stratton, the Elder who blessed the baby, was in charge of the Bath and Bristol conferences from July 22, to December 3, 1845. Abraham and Lydia decided to name their son George Henry. However when the missionary performed the blessing he inserted his own name, Albert, making the baby’s name Albert George Henry. Years later when Lydia related this story to a daughter-in-law the girl replied, with all of the independence of youth, "If I hadn’t liked the name, I wouldn’t have used it." To this the dear old lady replied quietly, "You don’t know what the elders meant to us. I wouldn’t show disrespect by not using it."
It was within the next year that the Joint Stock Company was dissolved. The most difficult task that faced Parley P. Pratt, Orson Hyde and John Taylor was not to determine where had been the wrong doing, or discipline the defenders, but to console and reassure the people who had lost their savings. It fell to John Taylor to go to Bath and after dispelling whatever bitterness Lydia and Abraham felt, be became a frequent visitor in their home and a lifelong friend.
After joining the Church, Abraham became a devout worker and was soon shouldering many responsibilities in the Bath conference. On March 1847, he was called upon to act as clerk to the new mission. It was nine months later that he wrote the following to the Millennial Star:
"I preached the first lecture and you would have been delighted to have seen the immense congregation that attended and the attention they paid. Truly I was and I felt quit at home addressing the largest number of people I have ever stood before. I baptized a young woman last Sunday morning, the first fruits of my labors since you left."
We know very little concerning the reaction of Abraham senior’s other sons and daughters when their youngest brother joined the "Mormon" Church. Abraham’s mother died about a year before her son was baptized, and of his seven brothers and sisters we only know that Mary, who was eight years his senior, looked upon his now faith with tolerance, understanding and interest.
Mary’s husband, Robert Sleater, and their son, Robert, were passing the building where the "Mormons" were holding services when the boy said to his father, "Let’s go inside and her ‘Uncle Abram" preach." Once inside, they were impressed with the devoutness of the congregation and the sincerity of the speakers. This introduction led to further investigation and the entire family became interested in "Mormonism". However, the daughter, Louisa, became more interested in a missionary name Mills than in the Gospel that he was teaching. Mills proved more interested in Louisa than in converting her family and the pair eloped.
This fact so embittered Mary and her husband that they would have no more to do with the "Mormons". However, Mary, Robert and their family eventually emigrated to America and settled in Carthage. Robert and four of his sons fought in the Civil War and one lost his life. In addition to Louisa, a son, Robert, and a daughter, Mary Sperry, moved to Utah. Mary lived in Park City, only 12 miles from her Uncle Abraham’s family.
Abraham lived in Bath for four year after he was made clerk, and during this time his family increased to seven children. At the same time he assumed more and more Church responsibilities and eventually became President of the Bath branch. When he moved to Birmingham in 1851, he was immediately appointed to the Presidency of the Birmingham Conference.
At the close of 1851, Abraham and his family moved form the town of his birth to Birmingham which is 80 miles to the Northeast.
Even then Birmingham was a teeming industrial city of 200,00 people producing the steel which made it famous the world over. It was very much a metal working center processing brass, copper and gold and silver plate as well as the ferrous metal. It was somewhat larger than Salt Lake City is today, and the rapid industrialization of England with its demand for more and more iron caused it to grow very rapidly.
This industrialization came about largely due to inventions and developments which occurred during Abraham’s own lifetime. During his first twenty-five years many changes were made in the modes an methods of living in England. It was only two years before Abraham’s birth that George Stephenson completed the first adaptation of the steam engine to the railroad. When Abraham was four years old iron was introduced into shipbuilding; when he was eleven the world’s first railway line was opened between Stockton and Darlington, England. The next year a Dutch ship made the first all steam crossing of the Atlantic. The telegraph, the reaper, the breech loading gun, the revolver, the steel plow, the bicycle, the sewing machine and the electric motor were all developed and put into use by 1851 when Abraham moved to Birmingham. Each of these items created a demand for more iron and hence Birmingham boomed during a period when much of England was in a state of depression.
It was Abraham’s determination to emigrate to America that led him to move from the rather sedate town of Bath to the dirty, sprawling city of Birmingham. Tailors must have been much in demand in the boom town. Even though his Church activities had caused his business to decline in Bath, a rapidly growing city would not allow its prejudices to interfere with the services which a skilled workman could provide.
Nor did his transfer to Birmingham bring any surcease in his Church activities. The branch at Birmingham was more than five times as large a the one in Bath. Since his reputation as a loyal and steady worker preceded him, Abraham was immediately appointed to the Presidency of the Birmingham Conference on December 6, 1851.
Abraham may have decided to move to Birmingham because he feared that if he remained in Bath he would not be able to accumulate the eight pounds to pay the passage to Council Bluffs for each member of the family. An additional amount was also necessary to purchase wagons and stock for the overland trip to Utah. The figure of eight pounds per person for this trip was given in the Millennial Star during the year of 1848. This amount was far from the total cost. In 1851 the cost amounted to twenty pounds per person. When Abraham asked, in April of 1852, if the cost of the passage would continue to be that high he was informed that "this sum has been required up to the present time because of the great demand for cattle and teams but this will not be the case anymore." Undoubtedly this prediction was not true, for in 1852 the last of the refugees from Nauvoo arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in a great migration. The initial surge of gold-rushers on their way to California had gone by. However, it was replaced by a steady stream of Westward bound settlers who competed with the Mormons for stock and equipment at the Kansas City area.
Even though the expense of the trip to Utah had kept Abraham and his family in England, thousands of other converts were not stopped by the need of money. Nearly 1500 converts left England for Utah every year. Abraham and Lydia longed to join each time, but until they were actually prepared to make the journey they continued their spiritual and temporal labors. According to the Millennial Star, Abraham wrote in July 15, 1853, "A good spirit was prevailing at the meetings and the gifts of the spirit were much enjoyed, particularly in healing. The meetings were well attended and tract distributing was vigorously carried on by the Saints." In response to the recent Church announcement officially condoning plural marriage "a great spirit of inquiry respecting the Patriarchal order of Marriage was manifested."
The latter statement is an indication of how far Abraham had come in less than ten years in the Mormon Church. He had not only turned into an able speaker, but also was able to handle a crowd in what might have turned into a crisis as Church members in staid Victorian England questioned the meaning of plural wives and the Patriarchal order of marriage. By drawing upon biblical example he was able to explain the higher meaning of the order. No doubt it was at that time that he and Lydia determined to eventually perform the solemn rites in the Holy Temple.
Abraham’s years in England were drawing to a close and on November 26, 1853, Elder George Bramwell was appointed to succeed Abraham in the Birmingham Conference. This was an active step towards Abraham’s realization of a ten year dream. Abraham, Lydia and their family were preparing to depart for Zion, and since the ship sailed from England in mid-winter they had less than three months in which to put their affairs in order. It was on the third of February 1854 that Abraham made a deposit of one pound for each member of the family or a total of nine pounds on the passage. This left a balance of 28 pounds and ten shillings due on the ocean passage which was paid at the time of departure. Abraham booked ordinary passage on the Windermere and paid for the tickets himself rather than rely on the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
At this time Abraham and Lydia’s family consists of eight children, Mary Ann, just a month less than 15; Sarah Matilda, age 12 1/2; Abraham Robert, almost 11, Albert George Henry, 9; Lydia Elizabeth, 7 1/2; John Alma, not quite 6; Maria Louisa, 2 1/2; and Franklin Williams, 5 months.
When the family boarded the ship, they were to find only one other larger family–that of Caroline and George Smith in which there were nine children ranging from 16 to 1. John and Rebecca Forrest had eight children ranging from 19 to an infant. The William Davis family, with seven children, ranged from 19 to an infant.
Thus Abraham and Lydia had as heavy family responsibilities as any of the passengers aboard the Windermere. Their skills with needle and shears were much in demand as one of the tasks assigned the passengers was to make wagon covers for future use. Abraham was continually turned to by the other passengers for council because of his being an ex-mission president.
No specific information is available as to the background of the other passengers. The list of passengers, which the ship’s captain deposited at the Port of New Orleans at the end of the journey had a space to show the occupation of each passenger. Of the first forty-five names on the list, 4 were farmers, 39 laborers, and 3 domestics.
At that point the clerk tired of writing so much for each passenger, and the rest f the list was left with the occupation space blank.
Abraham and Lydia must have had an exceedingly busy February, disposing of household possessions, packing necessary equipment for a journey into the unknown, and arranging their family for the trip.
At the beginning of the emigration, Church authorities had given much thought to proper organization in order that the emigrants could receive the best possible terms and in most cases entire ships were chartered. Such was the case of the Windermere which carried 572 emigrants. In addition to meeting the requirements of the Mormons, the ship owners and ship captains were governed by the laws which the United States and England had enacted protecting the passengers. The Mormon church acted as a policing agency and thereby insured that the emigrants had full benefits of the laws which were governed with provisioning, sanitary facilities, space and such other items as were necessary to provide for the comfort of the passengers. Since the ships were made up in England, the ship captains naturally paid more attention to the English laws than those of the United States which could only come into effect at the end of the journey. The British Passenger Act of 1852, which governed the emigrant ships in 1854, required that provisions for seventy days be carried if the passage was begun between the 16th of January and the 14th of October. In the ships carrying Latter-Day Saints certain adjustments were made in the minimum diet. The weekly provisions furnished, for each person consisted of two and a half pounds of hard tack, pound of wheat flour, two and a half pounds of oatmeal, one pound of pork or beef, two pounds of rice, one half pound of sugar, two ounces of tea, a quarter pound of butter and two ounces of salt. In addition, three quarts of water was furnished each adult for each day. Children under fourteen received half of the adult ration. Each passenger was also allowed two and one-half pounds of sago and a pint of vinegar for the entire trip. The vinegar must have been a life saver as it provided a means of flavoring the dry and monotonous rations. The fact that any provisions which were left at the end of the voyage were given to the passengers is an example of the shrewd handling and foresight which characterized the Mormon emigrations.
Once complete account of the voyage of the Windermere by W. W. Burton exists. Unfortunately most of the details differ from what is included in the Ship’s Passenger List. For instance, according to Burton, Father Squires died on the day the ships said, or February 23, 1854, which the Ships Passenger List showed him as having died on March 12. Similarly, Burton related that Emma Brooks and her "sister Fanny" died of smallpox on the same day while the Passenger List showed that Marise Brooks died on February 27 (two and a half weeks before Burton said the smallpox broke out) and Francis Brooks, a male, died on March 7. Burton also related that on the last portion of the journey across the Gulf of Mexico the provisions and water nearly ran out and the rations consisted of a biscuit a day. While the fire that broke out near the galley may have consumed part of the rations, and forced short rationing it would certainly have been placed into effect much earlier than the last two weeks of the voyage as the fire occurred relatively early. If rations were extremely short the Captain would have stopped at Cuba or Haiti for replenishment as the ship passed in sight of both islands. If not, surely Elden Goon who was in charge of the emigrants would have required him to stop at one of these islands.
As a result of these discrepancies, the writer has concluded that he can only accept Burton’s account as it can be verified from other sources – an unfortunate fact since it deprives us of much of the eye witness account of the voyage of the Windermere.
A transatlantic passage in any of the old wooden sailing vessels must have been exceedingly trying to the passengers. The control which the Mormons maintained over their ships was aimed at increasing the chances of survival and only incidentally at making the voyage more comfortable. However, no one was expecting a pleasure cruise and Abraham and Lydia in particular had work to do. Simply keeping their children together and guarding them against the many hazards of the ship was a time consuming task. There were wagon covers to be made for use on the overland trek, and Abraham and Lydia found their tailoring skills in much demand as they instructed and assisted their brethren who were less familiar with shears and needle. In addition, Abraham had many yards of textile material which he fashioned into clothing, the better to avoid the duty. [taxes?]
Since Abraham was an ex-conference president, the passengers naturally came to him in time of stress when they wanted comfort and courage to face the unknown. There were a total of seven conference ex-presidents on the Windermere, including, besides Abraham, Robert Menzies, Job Smith, John T. Hardy, John A. Albisten, J. V. Long and Graham Douglas. But with 477 saints aboard, there was plenty of work for all. Six marriages were solemnized during the voyage including that of John Meek and Elizabeth Stout of Worcestershire which was performed by Abraham. Six babies were born and (according to the Ships Passenger List) nine deaths occurred. Andrew Jenson said ten.
The writer wishes he could record a typical day’s events – the hour of arising, the morning prayers, caring for the children, assisting the brethren with their troubles, working as a tailor, conducting lessons on the principles of the gospel, and all of the many details that must be looked after when large numbers of people are thrown into close quarters.
Even with good sailing life would have been full and arduous, but the trip of the Windermere was one of the most difficult crossings in the history of the Mormon emigration.
Burton’s statement that seven vessels went down in the channel on February 21st may or may not be true, but it is an example of the kind of story that was circulating aboard the Windermere as the ship prepared to cast off. Such rumors cast a pall on the passengers that was not dispelled by the shouts of bon voyage from friends on shore nor by the hymns which the passengers struck up a the lines were cast off and the ship slid away from shore.
The voyage began on February 22, 1854.
Inevitably one of the first experiences of most of the passengers was sea sickness. As the protected waters of the harbor gave way to the open seas, the ship’s rolling became more and more pronounced, and practically all of the passengers were affected by sea sickness.
The ship had been at sea a few days when small pox broke out. A young lady, Marise Brooks, who was one of a family of two sisters and a brother, was the first fatality and probably the first person to contract the disease. She died on the 27th of February, on the fifth day out of Liverpool. The following day a year old baby, Cyrus Smith, died. The disease spread rapidly throughout the ship and the acrid smell of closely packed humanity took on the more deadly stink of fever and rotting flesh.
It is a mark of Abraham and Lydia’s progressive point of view, that they had the older children vaccinated for small pox, but Lydia and some of the younger children contacted the disease wile crossing the ocean. Abraham assumed a share of the burden for caring for the sick. He not only administered to the sick but also assisted in preparing the bodies for burial at sea, and conducted the last rites.
A week passed between the second and third deaths, and then on March 6, Charles Lee, a young man of 25, died and a day later Francis Brooks, Marise’s brother. There was nearly a weeks respite, then on March 12, old Father Squires, aged 68, died and he was followed by two year old John Long. On March 17, the 18 year old Ann Read died and on March 25, two girls, one aged five and the other an infant, passed away. These were the last deaths of the voyage. In his account, Andrew Jenson simply said "After 37 passenger and two of the crew were attacked…the malady was suddenly checked in answer to prayer." During the last month no more deaths occurred, but after the Windermere arrived in New Orleans, eleven of the passengers were committed to the Luzenborg Hospital on order of the port Health Officers.
Smallpox was only one of the ordeals encountered on the voyage. The ship took fire under the galley and momentarily panic raged. The well trained crew manned the bucket brigade and the passengers joined the lines and the fire was quickly checked. The worst fear of sea-going men in the days of wooden ships was overcome with no serious casualty. Burton suggests that a share of the rations were lost, but if so there was plenty left for a rapid voyage.
The voyage was not rapid, the seas were heavy and the winds were contrary. Heavy gales were encountered, which Burton described as follows: "An exceedingly fierce storm arose. The wind roared, the masts cracked and the sails were cut in pieces." The captain of the Windermere expressed fears that the ship could not stand so heavy a sea, and in speaking with Daniel Garn, the President of the Saints said, ‘I’m afraid the ship cannot stand this storm, Mr. Garn. If there be a God, as your people say there is, you had better talk to him if he will hear you. I have done all that I can for the ship, and I am afraid with all that can be done she will go down.’
"Elder Garn went to the Elders, who presided over the nine wards in the ship and requested them to get all the Saints on board to fast, and call a prayer meeting, to be held in each ward at 10 A.M. and pray that we might be delivered from the danger. The waves were lashed with white foam, the storm continued in all its fury, but precisely at 10 A.M. the prayer meeting commenced and such a prayer meeting few have ever seen.
"The ship rolled from side to side. On one side the Saints were hanging by their hands, and on the other side they were standing on their heads. Then the ship would roll on the other side which would reverse their positions. About this time the large boxes which were tied with ropes under the berths broke loose and with pots, pans and kettles rolled with terrible force on each side of the vessel.
"Although the prayers were fervent and earnest, as the pleadings of poor souls brought face to face with danger and death, they ceased their prayers to watch and dodge the untied boxes, and great confusion prevailed for some time. The wind roared like a hurricane, sail after sail was torn to shreds and lost. The waves were very large and as far as the eye could reach seemed to be one angry mass of rolling white foam. The hatches were fastened down. This awful storm lasted about 18 hours, then abated a little, but it was stormy from the 8th of March until the 18th. Observations taken by the quadrant on the 18th showed that the ship on in the latitude as it was on the 8th."
Not until nearly the end of March did they encounter a favorable wind and then in four days the ship made 1,000 miles.
Two-thirds of April had passed before the ship approached the mouth of the Mississippi River, and according to Burton, during the last part of the voyage the passengers were placed on short rations – a small biscuit and a measure of water. This is a distinct possibility if part of the rations were destroyed by the fire.
On the morning of April 20, 1854 the ship entered the mouth of the Mississippi and during the next two days sailed up the deep muddy stream, past broad well-kept plantations, and tangled steamy semi-tropical jungles into New Orleans.
We know nothing of the impression that the squat French town made on the emigrants. Certainly the vegetation was exotic compared to the more sedate greenery of England, and the April sun beat down as intense as during the hottest day of mid-July in England.
Emigrants entering the United States through the port of New Orleans certainly found nothing there to prepare them for the remainder of the journey. But as they proceeded up the Mississippi and West across the plains, the vegetation and topography gradually took on a quieter appearance more resembling that in England, although to be sure the landscape lacked the orchard-like appearance of the well-kept English woods. As the journey was continued this was gradually replaced by an almost barren desert and finally the rich Salt Lake Valley appeared as an oasis at the end of the journey.
Whatever the impression that New Orleans and the Mississippi delta made on the travelers, it was only fleeting. On April 27th, after a four day stop, the passengers, other than those who were held back by smallpox, boarded a Grand Tower Steamer and continued the journey to Saint Louis. Abraham stopped in St. Louis to dispose of the clothing made while crossing the ocean.
It must not be supposed that the journey up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers was without its difficulties and problems. Two years earlier one of the worst tragedies of the Mormon emigration had occurred at Lexington Missouri when the river steamer Saludo blew up, killing or badly wounding about 100 emigrants.
No such tragedies occurred in 1854, but abnormally low water in the Missouri River made the river passage exceedingly difficult and increased the fare from one dollar, which it had been previously, 3 to 5 dollars, with an even greater increase in the cost of luggage.
Although the Marchants were spared the cholera, others of their fellow passengers aboard the Windermere were not so fortunate during that plague year. Andrew Jenson reports that there was considerable cholera during the river passage and later during the overland trek. It hit the Scandinavians worse and of a company of 700 who sailed from Copenhazen, [Copenhagen?] nearly 200 had perished before the survivors arrived at Salt Lake City.
After their arrival in Kansas City, the Marchants verified a disturbing rumor that equipment for the overland passage would cost nearly twice as much as was expected. Elder William S. Empey, assisted by Horace S. Eldride [Eldridge?], superintended the emigration business on the frontier. They found that oxen cost from $75.00 to $110.00 a yoke, cows were $25.00 to $40.00 a head and wagons were $67.00 each. Thus, the independent emigrant companies were made dependant upon Perpetual Emigration funds for means to complete their outfits since the necessary outlay far exceeded their expectations.
Empey gave an interesting account of the difficulties of outfitting in a letter which he wrote on June 16, 1854 to President S. W. Richards. After recounting the high costs which he attributed to the immense emigration to California and Salt Lake he said:
"Elder Daniel Garn has arrived with the information that three hundred Saints had arrived in St. Louis. A council was called at St. Louis by Elder O. Pratt to examine the state of affairs pertaining to the general immigration of the Saints in which he advised that none of them should receive their outfit for the valley after 25 instant on account of the late arrival of the last companies.
"The Saints this season, as annually, have encumbered themselves with a vast amount of unnecessary luggage in the shape of boxes, feather beds, etc. The most part of which has been disposed of at a very great sacrifice. I would advise the Saints who may emigrate the following season not to provide themselves with heavy boxes but to dispose with their iron-bound nests, feather beds, and other such cumbrous articles, where thy may be disposed of to a far greater advantage than they possibly can in this country."
The first company to start West from Kansas City was the Scandinavian company which started on the 15th of June. At about the same time three English companies, consisting of those who crossed the Atlantic in the Golcondo, the Windermere, the John M. Wood and the Old England were organized. Soon after other emigrants arrived in Kansas City and started for the valley in three or more companies under the leadership of Daniel Garn, Robert Campbell, William Empey and perhaps others. Empey’s company remained at the outfitting place until the emigration business was finished and started towards the close of June. Abraham, Lydia and their family were in the Robert L. Campbell company.
At this point there was still 1200 miles left to go. Abraham may have paused to reflect on what had occurred and what he had to look forward to. His early training as a tailor had been of some value aboard ship, but from now on out, skill with teams, wagons, firearms, and scouting would be far more useful. If he made such reflections he was keenly aware that he and most of his company were very ill-prepared for the overland trip. Yet they were determined to make the trip and had their trust in God and the counsel of their leaders.
As Robert L. Campbell’s company was organized, Richard Cook was first counselor and James J. Woodard second counselor. Brother Richard was Captain of first ten; Thomas Fisher, Captain of second ten, and Brother Ballif, Captain of third ten. Thomas Southerland was clerk and historian.
Most emigrants hitched up six wild steers to a wagon, put the family inside and headed West as fast as the steers could run. For the first few days it was each outfit for itself, but the men and steers soon became accustomed to trail life and settled down into trains. Abraham was fortunate in that he had been able to obtain two steers that were broke to put on the head.
As the wagon train prepared for the trip, a thorough check was made to determine that every family had sufficient provisions for the journey. All had enough except one family and they had money to purchase more at Fort Laramie.
Fortunately the initial part of the trail was relatively easy, with smooth country, good grass and plenty of water. As a result the drivers had a chance to get accustomed to the ways of the trail, the heat of the July sun on a Kansas plain, the task of making and breaking camp under conditions where the animals could recuperate from mistreatment at the hands of inexperienced teamsters. This shaking down is one of the most interesting parts of any trip and we can only wish that he had an account of what happened and how Abraham and Lydia and their family adjusted themselves. Many mishaps occurred to the company of emigrants who where from one of the most highly civilized countries in the world as they adjusted themselves to pioneer life in a trek through a primitive wilderness.
As the party made its way West, they had to take more and more care to avoid Indian trouble. As a general rule the Mormons expected to avoid trouble with the Indians by being on the guard and by being friendly, a combination that worked even in the summer of 1854 when the Indians were unusually troublesome. A cow from H. P. Olsen’s company, the head Mormon company of the summer, strayed into a Sioux Indian camp, where the critter was received as Manna from heaven and promptly eaten. Upon his arrival in Fort Laramie, Olsen reported the loss to Lt. Gratten who sent a detachment of soldiers to the camp and demanded that the man who had killed the cow be given up. Even though the Indian chief offered to pay for the cow and the warrior who had killed it indicated he would relinquish his share of the annuity money which was then due, the Lieutenant judged that this was unsatisfactory and ordered the troops to open fire. In the resulting fight the company of soldiers which numbered over thirty men were killed. Before then the Sioux tribe had been relatively peaceful, but this incident made them angry and many traders fled expecting a general war. The immigrants, as a result of the unrest, had to take every possible precaution to escape death and destruction.
Because of their alertness the threat of Indian attack never materialized, and the only serious loss of cattle occurred when wolves raided the stock.
There were three deaths in the company during the journey including two elderly people and a Fisher child. The latter was thrown from the wagon and run over. Such few deaths and little Indian trouble are indications of a well-organized and tightly-run wagon train. Additional evidence of this point is the fact that a group of California emigrants requested and received permission to join the company and go with the Mormons to Salt Lake City.
During the first part of the journey, camps were selected because of their nearness to water and firewood. As wood became scarcer, buffalo chips were frequently used for fuel, and as the prairie turned into foothills and mountains "sage wood" was frequently used. After the companies left Fort Laramie the going became more and more difficult. Water was no longer plentiful, and many of the streams were bitter and some of them were poisonous as evidenced by the large number of skeletons and carcasses which surrounded them. During this portion of the journey a few stray cattle were picked up, probably enough to make up for the number they lost.
On August 21, Campbell wrote to Brigham Young from Fort Kearney, Nebraska that feed was good, the cattle were fat and that Brother Empey with the rear company was only a few days behind. They were making good headway and hoped to escape inclement weather. On October 4, when this appeared in the Deseret News the reporter added they were probably west of the South pass by now and perhaps this side of the Green River. As a matter of fact they were only three weeks out by the time that the announcement did appear.
The fall had been very open but with October slipping by bad weather could start at any time. Accordingly, Brigham dispatched relief from Salt Lake who met the Campbell Company about the 9th of October. They were the last company on the road as Empey had passed them by. The most jaded of the animals were replaced with fresh ones, and all enjoyed the taste of fresh provisions. Abraham was one of those who obtained an oxen replacement. A few days after his coupling broke, and time was taken to repair it. As the journey neared its end, a stop was made at Cache cave to pick up supplies that the relief company had stored there on the way out. In the trip down Emigration Canyon Abraham’s wagon tipped completely over and did much damage.
On October 26th, it snowed and turned bitter cold for the last two days of the trip. On the 28th of October the teamsters made their last double, arrived at the summit of the hill and looked into the Salt Lake Valley. They quickly moved on into the North Part of the City where the company was dissolved. The various families were dispatched to their winter accommodations and they became a part of the Mormon settlement in the great basin.
Research by Mary M. Pearson
Compiled by Lee M. Pearson
Typed by Connie Bigler and Alice Marchant
Reproduced by David Marchant
Material obtained from Church Records, The Contributor, Millennial Star,
and stories from members of the family:
Albert G. Marchant
Lydia M. Jones
Robert H. C. Marchant
Mary M. Johnson
Retyped and prepared for web, June 2002 by Russell Thomas McMullin (great great great grandson)