Vessels chartered—Emigration—Sail for New Orleans on the “Emerald”—Passage—Land in New Orleans—Charter of a steamer—Historical letter—Journey and arrival at Nauvoo—Mission with Joseph Smith—Visit to Chester.
September 1842–December 31, 1843
Between the middle of September and my own embarkation in October, I chartered three vessels for New Orleans, and filled them with the emigrating Saints, viz:
The “Sidney,” with one hundred and eighty souls; the “Medford,” with two hundred and fourteen souls; and the “Henry,” with one hundred and fifty-seven.
I next chartered the “Emerald,” on which I placed about two hundred and fifty passengers, including myself and family.
Having finished my present mission in England and taken an affectionate leave of the Saints and friends there, I embarked on the “Emerald,” and sailed on the 29th of October. 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 starvation.
We landed in New Orleans early in January, 1843. Here I chartered a steamer called the “Goddess of Liberty,” and took passage with the company for St. Louis. Running up the river for about a week, I landed with my family in Chester, Illinois—eighty miles below St. Louis. 1 The company continued on to St. Louis. My reason for landing here was, that I would not venture into Missouri after the abuses I had experienced there in former times.
Here I wrote the following historical letter, which appeared in the Star of April 1, 1843.
Chester, State of Illinois
January 21, 1843.
Dear Brother Ward—I take this opportunity of communicating a few items of news which may be of use to your readers. I arrived here two weeks since with my family. We are all well, except my eldest daughter, Olivia, who has the whooping cough. 2 We are living here a few weeks, waiting for the river to open for Nauvoo. 3 We are comfortably situated, a few yards from the landing, in a stone house in a small village, eighty miles below St. Louis, and three hundred from Nauvoo. Provisions are cheaper than ever; Indian corn is 20 cents per bushel; wheat, 40 cents; flour, 31⁄2 dollars per barrel; oats, 15 cents per bushel; pork and beef, from 2 to 3 cents per lb.; butter, 10 cents; sugar, 5 cents; chickens, 8 cents each. Cows, from 8 to 10 and 12 dollars per head; good horses, from 25 to 50 dollars; land, from 11⁄4 to 4 dollars per acre.
We were ten weeks on the “Emerald,” and one in coming up the river. The weather was very fine until the day before we landed, when it became extremely cold and snowy; but after a week of severe weather, it became suddenly warm and pleasant, and it remains so yet—all ice and snow have disappeared, and the weather is like May.
I have not heard from Nauvoo, except by the public prints. From these I learn that brother Joseph Smith gave himself up to the authorities of Illinois, agreeably to the Governor’s writ of last fall to attempt to deliver him to the State of Missouri. He was brought by habeas corpus before the Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, and after a trial at Springfield, the seat of Government for Illinois, he was honorably discharged—the Judge deciding that he must not be delivered to the Missouri authorities, according to the demand of the Governors of the two States. 4 Thus, one more malicious lawsuit has terminated in which the rulers have been disappointed and bloodthirsty men have lost their prey—the prophet of the Lord having found protection under the wings of the eagle.
Brother William Smith, Joseph’s brother, is a member of the Legislature of Illinois, which is now in session. They have introduced two bills for the purpose of taking away all our Nauvoo charters, but they have both been lost without becoming a law, and the charters still stand good. The first was a bill for the repealing of all city charters in the State (for the avowed object of getting rid of Nauvoo), this bill was lost by a majority of one. Next a bill was introduced to repeal the Nauvoo charter alone. This was too barefaced to be countenanced, and was lost by an overwhelming majority; but not until some warm debating on Mormonism had occupied the house for some time. The fact is, it grieves the enemies of the Saints very much to see them enjoying political privileges in common with others, and every exertion is made to hinder the progress of a people and of principles which they consider as already becoming too formidable to be easily trampled under foot.
I have now been here two weeks, and have minded my own affairs as a private man, in no way seeking to be public, or even to be known. I have spent my time in providing for my family, getting wood for fire, bringing water, etc., together with reading papers, educating my children, etc., and have not mentioned “Mormonism,” or any other “ism,” or principle, till it was first mentioned to me. Mrs. Pratt and I attended a Presbyterian meeting last Sabbath, and listened in silence to a dry sermon.
But after all my endeavors to be quiet, it is noised abroad, through all parts of the town and surrounding country for twenty-five miles, that a “Mormon” is here. All parties are on tiptoe to hear him preach; the citizens have sent the postmaster to me with a request to hear me, and have opened their chapel for to-morrow, where we heard the Presbyterian last Sabbath. I have consented, and commence my public ministry to-morrow. In the meantime I have lent and sold several books, “Voice of Warning,” “Book of Mormon,” etc., and these are having the desired effect. The people here were greatly prejudiced against something called “Mormonism;” they knew not what, having never read or heard any of the Saints; indeed they had not the most distant idea of our holding to Christianity in any shape.
Yesterday a brother called here, from twenty-five miles in the country; he had heard of my coming and came to see me. He is a rich farmer, possessing two hundred acres of land well improved. He informed me of a small branch of the Church in his neighborhood, and made an appointment for me to go to George Town (sixteen miles distant), on Monday next, and another to his own house, nine miles further, for Tuesday evening, so you see I am getting into business fast. This man brought me two Nauvoo Wasps, 5 the latest of which was printed January 7th. From these I learned that all was peace, industry and prosperity there; a fine hard winter had set in so early that none of our ships’ companies which had sailed this season had been able to get up the river to Nauvoo; they are scattered from New Orleans to St. Louis, and are waiting to swarm Nauvoo in the spring. From the weather, I judge that the river is about opening that far; it is now open above St.