FROM THE MISSOURI TO THE PACIFIC.... VIII.
The Mormon Pioneers—How They Began and How They Have Prospered—Their Present Numbers—The City of the Future—The Fruit Gardens—A Visit to Great Salt Lake—Brigham Young's School—His Children—His Wives,Tem-poral and Spiritual—Polygamy : How the Wives Regard it—How the Problem will be Solved—A Portrait of Brigham.
From Our Special Correspondent.
GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, Utah,
Monday, June 19, 1865.
It will be eighteen years, on the 24th of July, since the first Mormons arrived in this lonely region. Their prophet killed, themselves exiles from Missouri and Illinois, after a weary journey of many months, they reached this basin to struggle for existence with the unkindly soil, with Indians and with Mexicans. They claim that they left the Missouri River with no definite point of settlement; that on the route, in a vision Brigham Young saw a beautiful, mountain-guarded Valley which Heaven assured him was their future home; that on coming in view of Ensign Peak, the Jordan and the Great Salt Lake he instantly exclaimed “Here is the spot."
They numbered 143, including four women. Imme-diately upon arrival they knelt down and thanked God for his guidance and protection. The same day they commenced plowing. An old trader, the only white man in this region, declared that he would give a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn they could raise from this parched and barren soil. But there is always a future for settlers who pray and then go to plowing. How this strange beginning carries one back to that other despised band which once landed at Plymouth on a dreary December morning ?
Snowy Winters and rainless Summers, hostile Indians and all-devouring grasshoppers did not dishearten the Mormons. They learned this new agriculture; estab-lished homes; began to have cattle upon a thousand hills; contributed largely from their lean purses to the Church, sending missionaries all over the world. The great deluge of California migration furnished a mar-ket for their grain and beef. Even Johnston's army, sent out to restrain and, if needful, to subdue them, purchased their crops and added to their wealth. Later, the silver mines of Nevada, and the gold discoveries of Colorado, Idaho and Montana (the last among the richest placer diggings in the world) have contributed vastly to their prosperity. How can farmers fail to grow rich when flour commands $10 per hundred throughout the year ?
Now a population of 100,000 is claimed for Utah and 20,000 for this city. Perhaps the last figures are too large, but already this is the most populous, as it is the most beautiful, town between St. Louis and San Fran-cisco. During the year ending June 1, Ben. Holladay's Overland Express took $ 1,612,979 67 in gold dust hence to the States—though only a small fraction of the gold goes in by express. Last year a single merchant sold upward of $1,000,000 worth of goods, and paid for freight alone from the Missouri River over $150,000. This is the City of the Future. Here is the field of agri-culture, the focus of commerce, the pathway of empire.
Indeed, this treeless desert has been made to blossom as the rose. The other evening a Mormon friend turned us loose among his delicious strawberries and juicy cherries. Apricots, peaches, plums, pears and apples were all ripening upon his trees. Right beside them, just beyond his inclosure, the dreary sage bush was growing on the dry, sandy soil; and four years ago, what is now his garden was an unbroken desert like the rest. In his house the caterpillars were making silk. The linen of his coat and pantaloons was woven in his own dwelling from his own flax, and his underclothing was manufactured in a factory of Brigham Young's from cotton grown in the southern counties.
On Wednesday we visited the Great Salt Lake, 20 miles hence. It is 120 miles long, containing six or seven islands, all of rugged mountains. At low water three gallons of its fluid will produce one of fine, clear salt. The fact that while four fresh-water rivers flow in, it has no visible outlet, gives rise to many theories. We found it delightful to swim in, though unpleasantly buoyant. It is claimed that one cannot possibly sink, but its pregnant waters must render strangulation very easy.
The great number of children in these streets arouses wonder until one remembers that they are the only crop which does not require irrigation. On Friday, by in-vitation, I visited Brigham Young's school. Its regis-ter contains 34 names, two or three of them his grandchildren, the rest his children. There were 28 present, ranging in age from four years upward. They are peculiarly bright-looking, intelligent, and well advanced in study. With three of the older girls —of about 17—I afterward had some conversation. Though a little shy, all used good language and graceful manners. One is so pretty that I do not wonder there is great emulation for her smiles among the young men of the city. Brigham's children exceed 50, including many who are married and have sons and daughters of their own. I also visited one of the Ward schools. Tuition $4 to $10 per quarter; free schools are unknown. The foreheads were narrower, and the average intelligence lower, though in some cases very good.
The cordial hospitalities we have enjoyed have en-abled me to see something of home and family life among the Mormons. With them are no Misters or Esquires everybody is "Brother A." or "Sister B." The brethren all assure me that the women acquiesce cheerfully in Polygamy—from religious conviction not from feeling—frequently urging their husbands to take additional wives. I am convinced that this is often true—a wonderful triumph of faith over nature. But the only Mormon wife with whom I conversed alone on the subject—a lady of intelligence and culture—spoke of it with earnest, undisguised abhorrence.
Many, she said, accepted it from a sense of religious duty; but even they regarded it as a sore trial, to be compensated for only by the happiness of eternity. Two or three sisters often have the same husband; some men are married to a mother and her daughter, and some I am told to their own half-sisters. When possible, each wife occupies a separate house or room; but poverty sometimes compels three or four to live in the same apartments. I think they never bring in the mothers-in-law ! Even Mormon grace would hardly suffice for that! Not more than one man in four is a practical Polygamist. The first wife nearly always deems herself superior to the rest, sometimes refusing to speak with them, or to recognize the legitimacy of their marriage. "Are you Mr. −−'s only wife?'' asked a Gentile lady of a Mormon sister. "I am," was the reply, "though several other women call themselves, his wives !"
But I know one husband whose two spouses dress pre-cisely alike, go out much together, and really seem to regard each other with sisterly affection. The later wives are a little addicted to running away with Gen-tiles. Our military authorities receive all who go to them for protection. There are now between 40 and 50 recanting Mormon women at the fort. In many cases the soldiers marry them. Only yesterday a father told Col. George, commanding, that the Bishops were urging marriage upon his three young daughters who were opposed to Polygamy, and that he wished to re-move his family to the fort. Here is the natural solu-tion of the Mormon problem. While it is grossly incon-sistent for the Government (as now) to appoint to lucra-tive and responsible offices men who have taken second end third wives since the anti-Polygamy act became the law of the land, I see no special advantage in actively enforcing that act. Within two or three years there will be a great mining population here, in which men will largely preponderate. Human nature will triumph. The majority of these women will no longer accept one undivided half or sixth of a husband in some cases a very vulgar fraction indeed—when a full unit is attainable.
On Saturday night we attended the theater. The playing, costumes, and scenery were decidedly better than metropolitan theaters will average; and the build-ing in size and elegance is excelled by only five or six in the United States. The performance closed with an exquisite fairy spectacle, which made it difficult to realize that we were in the heart of the American Desert. A dozen of Brigham Young's children were among the actors and ballet girls. The President him-self sat in his private box, beside his first wife—a fine-looking matronly lady of 60. His newest wife was in the parquette. So were a score of his children, and eight or ten more of his better-thirtieths, for his wives are said to number nearly thirty, including all who are "sealed" to him. The latter class are wives for eternity; and the relation in this world is supposed to be spirit-ual, not physical I have received the explanatory as-surance that they are mainly like Othello, "declined into the vale of years."
Having said so much of Hamlet, I must not omit a personal description of the Prince. The President of the Mormon Church is six feet high, portly, and weighs about 200. He is wonderfully well-preserved for a man who has passed his sixty-fourth birthday. His face is fresh and unwrinkled, his step agile and elastic. I can hardly detect a single gray hair in his curling auburn locks, or the whiskers of the same hue, which in smooth, crescent line fringe his cheek and chin. Is Brigham Young indeed a new Ponce de Leon, who has discov-ered in Polygamy the fountain of Perpetual Youth ?
His eyes are of grayish blue. They do not impress me as frank and open, but have a secretive expression. He has an eagle nose and a mouth that shuts like a vice, indicating tremendous firmness. His manner is digni-fied—agreeable and affable rather than cordial; and he carries the unmistakable air of one having authority. Ordinarily cold in conversation, he has little ebullitions of earnestness in which he speaks right at people, using his dexter fore-finger with great force to point a moral. He treats the brethren with warmth, throwing his arm caressingly about them and asking carefully after the wives and babies.
He has observed much, thought much, mingled much with practical men; but seems a little unfamiliar with cultivated society. He is abstemious and temperate, using neither tea nor coffee, spirits nor tobacco. Pro-vincialisms of his Vermont boyhood and his Western manhood still cling to him. He says "leetle," "be-yend" and "disremember." An irrepressible conflict between his nominatives and verbs now and then crops out in expressions like "they was," etc.
Yet those who hold Brigham Young a cheap charla-tan, are wilder if possible than the Saints who receive him as an angel of light, or those Gentiles who denounce him as a goblin damned. A most striking embodiment of the One Man Power, he holds a hundred thousand people in the hollow of his hand. Gathered from every nation, always poor, usually ignorant, sometimes vicious, he has molded them into an industrious, pro-ductive, honest and homogeneous community. He has grown very rich; the Gentiles charge him with extor-tion among his own people. He certainly owns much of the most desirable property in Utah. But his ad-herents as a class have vastly improved their condition by coming here. I believe all admit that his large com-mercial dealings are characterized by integrity; and that he possesses great kindness of heart. He is a man of brains, quick intuitions, good judgment and untiring industry. He would doubtless have achieved great success in politics, trade, manufacturing, or almost any other, walk of life. A. D. R.
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