Open main menu





Eli H. Peirce. Called on a mission. Thoughtless of religion. Taken by surprise. Throws aside pipe and novel. What his associates said. What Moses Thatcher did. Eli starts forthwith. In New York. To the coal regions, Pennsylvania. Great success. A testimonial. Baptizes and administers to sick. The power of God attends. Organizes branches. Heavenly messenger appears. Release. A second mission. On the frontier. Baptized a Sioux. From Deseret News. A third mission. With B. Morris Young. Meets with success. Opposition. Close of mission. Happy expression.

N the fifth day of October, 1875, at the Semi-annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, I was called to perform a mission to the United States.

Just why my name was suggested as a candidate for this mission, and presented at conference for approval or rejection by the people, I cannot say. My mind prior to that time had been entirely given up to temporalities. I had never read to exceed a dozen chapters of the Bible in my life, and little more than that from either the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, and concerning Church history was entirely ignorant. Had never made but one attempt to address a public audience, large or small, and that effort was no credit to me. Had been engaged in the railroad business for a number of years, and this occupation would have deprived me of meetings and religious services even had my inclinations led in that direction, which I frankly confess they did not. I had become almost an inveterate smoker, and bought cigars by -the wholesale, a thousand at a time. Was addicted to the use of language which, if not profane, was at least vulgar, and reprehensible. Frequently visited saloons,


but was not an habitual drinker. Was not proficient at billiards, but squandered considerable money in acquiring what little knowledge I possessed of the game; and pool fre- quently cost me more for drinks than my board bill came to. Though these indiscretions were common and frequent, thanks to a mother's sagacious training, they never led to grosser or more alluring ones.

Nature never endowed me with a superabundance of religious sentiment or veneration; my region of spirituality is not high, but below the average. A phrenologist once said to me: "You are too level-headed to ever make a sanctimo- nious church member." With this list of disqualifications, which serious reflection helped to magnify, is it surprising that I marveled and wondered if the Church were not run- ning short of missionary material?

One of my fellow employees was at the conference; I was not, because I did not care to be. He heard my name called, abruptly left the meeting and ran over .to the telegraph office to call and tell me the startling news. This was the first intimation I had received that such a thing was contem- plated. At the very moment this intelligence was being flashed over the wires, I was sitting lazily thrown back in an office rocking chair, my feet on the desk, reading a novel and simultaneously sucking an old Dutch pipe, of massive pro- portions, just to vary the monotony of cigar smoking.

As soon as I had been informed of what had taken place, I threw the novel in the waste basket, the pipe in a corner and started up town to buy a catechism. Haye never read a novel nor smoked a pipe from that hour. Sent in my resig- nation the sajne day, to take effect at once, in order that I might have time for study and preparation.

Remarkable as it may seem, and has since appeared to me, a thought of disregarding the call, dr of refusing to com- ply with the requirement, never once entered my mind. The question I asked myself a thousand times, and which seemed


so all-important, was: "How can I accomplish this mission? How can I, who am so shamefully ignorant and untaught in doctrine, do honor to God and justice to the souls of men, and merit the trust reposed in me by the Priesthood?"

Some of my companions ridiculed me for entertaining sentimental thoughts; some mocked and derided, whilst others predicted that I would tire of working for glory before I had been out six months, and seek my level by uniting with some comedy troupe or minstrel show; but no word of encouragement from any of my associates.

The first man to congratulate me and offer words of com- fort and cheer, was President Moses Thatcher; he not only strengthened me with kind words and fatherly advice, but handed me a fifty-dollar note with his blessing, wished me every success, and expressed a fervent desire for my welfare.

I was rebaptized, confirmed, set apart, ordained a Sev- enty and started on my mission, all within a month from the time I was called. Went direct to New York City, where I remained several days visiting places of interest. Saw the great tragedian, Edwin Booth, in his favorite character of Hamlet. Met with the Saints at Williamsburg, New York, but contrived to get out of preaching. My traveling com- panion arrived and we went up to the coal regions of Penn- sylvania. At a meeting of the Bellevue branch, I made my maiden effort as a preacher of the Gospel. I stammeringly told the Saints that I had never received a testimony that would justify me in declaring to them a knowledge of the work of the latter days.

Elder McKean was unexpectedly called into New Jersey, and I was left alone. In December was joined by Elder David Evans, Jr., of Lehi, Utah, who became my missionary com- panion. Our labors were confined exclusively to the State of Pennsylvania, mostly in the counties of Luzerne, Tioga and Bradford, and our circuit extended over two hundred miles.

Through prayerfulness, humility and a persevering faith


we soon obtained the coveted testimony; were greatly blessed of the Lord in freedom of speech and delivery, and we became known in that locality as "the boy evangelists."

The following from the pen of a well-to-do farmer, resid- ing near Towanda, will convey a fair impression and serve to illustrate the liberality of feeling with which we were gener- ally received:

TOWANDA, PA., SEPT. 12, 1876. Friend Eli:

I feel that your presence in our midst has been a God- given thing, an oasis in the desert of our lives, and while I sincerely regret your departure from among us, I know there are broader fields for your missionary labor. I believe you to be a true messenger of God, endowed with power which, when fully developed, will seldom have been equalled in the pulpit.

Hoping that you may live long to reap a reward,

I am, your friend,


Aunt Sally Mace was a venerable name, widely known and universally esteemed and respected. She had heard that we were in the neighborhood, and sent her son, the writer of the above, several miles, on a cold December night, to attend our meeting and bring the boy preachers home with him. We found Aunt Sally very low and suffering greatly from nervous prostration; said she could not live another night and endure the excruciating pains that had racked her body the past few days. We told her of the restoration of the primitive Gospel, with all attending gifts, blessings, etc. She believed our tes- timony and requested us to administer to her before retiring. We complied with her wishes, the Lord heard our prayers, and she was greatly

and lastingly blessed. This called forth 

the following from her daughter, Mrs. S. J. Cole, an influen- tial lady of the city of Towanda:



Dear Elder, your mission of love is fulfilled, The Gospel of truth as of old we've received,

Supported by God's holy word. You show to us miracles now in our day, And that the believers have only to pray

The prayers of the righteous are heard.

We thank thee, dear friend, for thy labor of love; A savior of life to our mother you've proved,

Through gifts God our Father has given. May the Lord whom you serve keep you ever from sin; May I, through His mercy, be, too, gathered in,

And meet you, a brother, in heaven.

Throughout our entire mission we were greatly blessed, comforted and strengthened by "signs following." Anoint- ings and healings were of frequent occurrence, many of which appeared miraculous even unto ourselves. Evil spirits were likewise submissive to the will of the Priesthood, when rebuked in the name of Jesus. In one locality these mani- festations were so common that the faith of the people amounted almost to a superstition.

The departure of the old year chronicled our first bap- tism that of three persons at Kingston, on December 31st, 1875, and the centennial year was ushered in with bright prospects soon to be realized.

At Plains, on January 1st, we baptized eight souls; five on the fifteenth, and on the sixteenth organized a branch, baptized and confirmed three additional members into the branch the ame date. This baptism took place at night, and I think the coldest I ever experienced; we chose a secluded spot, under the trestle work of a railroad bridge, in a tribu- tary of the Susquehanna. The stream was frozen over, and we were obliged to take an axe and chop the ice before we could get to the water. While we were baptizing, a party of


Irishmen passed over the bridge, and, seeing us in the water, one of them called out, "Is it in schwimmin ye are? Be gorry, it's purty cold onneway." There being no reply, they passed on. We learned next day that this same party belonged to that secret organization known as the Molly Maguires, the terror of the coal fields, and were then on their way home from an Irish wake they had been attending. They subsequently boasted of what they would have done had they suspected our motive or mission.

Baptized one at Providence, three at Plymouth, five at Miners, and, April 6th, organized another branch. This is the anniversary of our birth as a Church and the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Up to this date we had blessed six children and held meetings regularly in Luzerne and Bradford counties, with but little molestation. Two schoolhouses had been closed against us, but in both instances friends threw open private houses, so that those who came to hear were not disappointed. A few times our services were interrupted by the unruly element, but they never succeeded in breaking up a meeting. Some mischievous boys attended one of our gatherings, bringing their pockets full of peas, which they continued to flip at us until the supply was exhausted, making targets of our noses. Some of them were pretty good marksmen, and> as a consequence, we tired of the sport long before they did, but took it all in good part throughout. We never had a more attentive audience than assembled at the same place the following night.

In April we started north for Tioga county, preaching by the way. Visited Nauvoo, a small town founded by a few old-time Saints, and named after the beautiful city on the banks of the Mississippi. Baptized one and blessed three at Covington.

Returned to Bradford county, baptized six at Monroeton, six at Greenwood, three at Creighton and one at Franklin;


blessed five children and organized the Bradford branch. Some of those baptized were confirmed at the meeting, and strangers present were moved to tears by testimonies of the newly initiated, so full were they of earnestness and the power of God.

I returned to Luzerne county; Elder Evans remained in Bradford. Baptized three at Plymouth, three at Kingston and two at Plains. Was called in to administer to the youngest child of one of the branch presidents. The mother, an apostate, seriously objected to anything of the kind in her presence, and she refused to leave the bedside of the dying child. Not wishing to intrude, we retired to an upper room to pray, and she, designing our motives, sent her little girl to spy upon us. In a secluded chamber we knelt down and prayed earnestly and fervently, until we felt that the child would live and knew that our prayers had been heard and answered. Turning round, we saw the little girl standing in the half open door gazing intently into the room, but not heeding our movements. She stood as if entranced for some seconds, her eyes fixed immovably upon a certain spot, and did not stir until her father spoke. She then said, "Papa, who was that other man in there?" He answered, "Brother Peirce." She said, "No, I mean that other man." He replied, "There was no other, darling, except Brother Peirce and myself; we were praying for baby." She shook her head, and, with perfect composure, said, "Oh, yes, there was; I saw him standing between you and Mr. Peirce, and he was qll dressed in white" This was repeated to the mother, who tried every means in her power to persuade the child that it was a mere delusion, but all to no purpose. Entreaties, bribes, threats and expostulations were alike unavailing. She knew what she had seen and nothing could shake that conviction.

The baby was speedily restored to perfect health. Made it a point to meet a second time with the Saints at Bellevue and let them know that "hope was at length merged into


sweet fruition." The long sought testimony had been received and repeatedly confirmed.

Baptized three at Plains in September, and on the twenty-seventh of this month I received an honorable release from my mission for a birthday present. Did not come directly home, as I perhaps should. Went down to Philadel- phia to do the centennial, where I remained two weeks. Stopped at Chicago and other places, loitering on the way, and the consequence was, when I reached Council Blufls, Iowa, I met a re-appointment to labor, in connection with Elder James A. Little, until other Elders were sent down in the Spring.

This was a disappointment felt keenly at first, but a feel- ing of perfect contentment soon followed, and it was not long before I was forced to acknowledge the advantages it pos- sessed over my former mission. In Pennsylvania I had used little else than the New Testament Scriptures, but here on the frontier, amongst apostates and in the very hotbed of Josephism, it became an absolute necessity for me to study up our Church history, modern revelation and points in doc- trine.

Rode thirty-six miles one day, on horseback, to purchase several numbers of the Millennial Star and the Times and Seasons. We held public discussions with two of the Josephite apostles, so-called.

Baptized fifteen at Council Bluffs, three at Boomer and two in Lewis township; blessed six children and organized a flourishing branch at the Bluffs. These baptisms had all to be performed under an old mill, the streams on the outside being solidly frozen over.

One of our Pottawottarnie converts was a Sioux Indian woman, the first, I think, of that warlike tribe that had ever received the Gospel. Never felt the power of the adversary so strongly as at this baptism. A horse we had borrowed, perfectly kind and gentle on ordinary occasions, broke from


secure fastenings and ran away three times before we suc- ceeded in getting her into the water. She was well acquainted with Sitting Bull and other noted war chiefs of the Sioux nation; had a moderate education, self acquired, and was deeply interested in the Book of Mormon. Made her a pres- ent of mine, and she returned to her people, rejoicing in the truth and impatient to tell them something of their fore- fathers from the record which she bore.

In April, baptized several, blessed one, and received my second release. This time I did not stand upon the "order of going," but went at once.

The following extract is from the Deseret Evening News of April 21 :

"RETURNED MISSIONARY. This afternoon we were pleased to meet with Elder Eli H. Peirce, of Brigham City who returned on the seventh instant, from a mission to the Eastern States. He left Utah November 1st, 1875, and pro- ceeded to Pennsylvania, where he labored for about ten months, in conjunction with Elder David Evans, Jr., and where these two Elders baptized fifty-six persons, about twelve of whom had been previously connected with the Church, and organized three branches. Being released, Elder Peirce proceeded toward home in September, 1876, and had arrived at Council Bluffs, when he received another appointment to labor in conjunction with Elder James A. Little, in Iowa, where he remained until he came home. In the last named field, the labors of Elders Little and Peirce resulted in twenty-seven persons being baptized, and they organized one branch.

"Elder Peirce states that in his labors the word was con- firmed by 'signs following,' the power of God being mani- fested in causing the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and evil spirits to be cast out. The gifts were also, in some instances, bestowed upon persons previous to baptism, and even upon one who has not yet been baptized.


"In the labors of Elder Peirce, twenty-four children were blessed, and he attended

over one hundred and seventy-five 

meetings, at all of which he preached. He enjoyed himself greatly in his labors, and returns in good health. He is thankful for the experience he has thus obtained in his youth, and he now knows for himself that there is power and efficacy in the Gospel."

Three days after reaching home, I was called upon a second mission, or more properly, a third; it came about in this way: At the regular April Conference, held at St. George, cousin B. Morris Young had been called on a mission to Great Britain. President B. Young, hearing of my return and the success which had attended us, changed his son's mission to the United States and appointed me to accompany him.

Morris was not prepared to start at once, so I resumed my labors on the railroad, but was not so wild and volatile as before.

In August, 1877, we bid a tearful adieu to kindred and friends at home, and once more went forth to declare the words of life everlasting unto the inhabitants of our own land.

Remained two weeks at Council Bluffs, Iowa, and vicinity, and baptized two. We next went to Ashland, thence to Platte Bottom, Nebraska, where we held protracted meetings, bap- tized six, organized a branch and blessed four children. The first man baptized into this branch had never heard the sound of the Gospel until an inscrutable Providence directed our footsteps thither. He is now counselor to the Bishop of the Preston Ward, Cache Valley Stake of Zion.

No sooner had we commenced to baptize than priestcraft and the powers of darkness began to join forces against us. Three ministers, all of different persuasions, and two apos- tates, were imported to oppose us; all at variance to religious tenets, but united in their efforts to crush out and obliterate an unpopular faith. They advertised us thoroughly. The


people turned out in such force to hear us and refute their arguments, that on two different occasions the floor sank beneath us; fortunately, however, we were near the ground and no one was hurt.

Failing to accomplish their purpose by fair means, they next resorted to foul. An appointment was out for October 17; upon going to the schoolhouse we found the following anonymous communication lying on the preacher's stand :

"Gentlemen: You are requested not to preach any more in this neighborhood; the people are opposed to it. By leav- ing immediately you will save trouble, as we may resort to means we do not wish to. We are strong and you are weak, so govern yourselves accordingly.

(Signed) DISTRICT No. 4."

We treated this with the silent contempt it deserved, pro- ceeded with our meetings as though nothing unusual had taken place, and gave out another appointment. That night the author of the foregoing, who was a local preacher of the Christian or Campbellite faith, with some of his truly good and pious followers, tore the windows all out of the building and destroyed them. The day school had to be discontinued indefinitely in consequence. We returned to Council Bluffs and baptized one.

President Brigham Young died while we were in Iowa, and we suffered much persecution because of bitter feelings engendered through the publication of scurrilous articles in the local papers.

One evening, after prayers, Brother Mahood said to us: "How is it you have not prayed for President Young the last two days; I never knew you to fail before." This incident was brought vividly to our minds the following morning, when the melancholy tidings came that our beloved President had passed away.



Four Elders arrived from the October Conference, and we prepared to go East. Stopped at Nauvoo and preached there; put up at the Mansion House and slept in the same room the Prophet Joseph once occupied. We interviewed Mrs. Emma Smith Bideman and sought to draw her out. She was not at all communicative, but enough was elicited to know that she felt keenly the one false and fatal step of her life that of leaving the Church and uniting herself, heart and hand, with an infidel, after having raised a famity to one of the greatest and noblest of the creations of God.

Visited the site of the Temple. Like the Temple at Jeru- salem, "not one stone is left upon another." We found them in store and dwelling foundations, and on street crossings; in walking up the principal sidewalk, we trod upon what were once corner stones in the Temple of God. Preached some through Iowa and Illinois.

Went to Carthage and through the jail wherein the mar- tyrs died for the testimony of Jesus, and where President John Taylor so nearly lost his life. The property is now owned by Mr. Browning, a relative of the Brownings of Ogden, Utah. The building is used as a dwelling; what was then the prison room is now the parlor. A fine Brussels car- pet covers the indelible stain upon the floor made by the life's blood of the Patriarch.

In the corner where once stood the humble cot, now stands a handsome piece of furniture, and the window, through which the Prophet sprang to his death, is heavily hung with rich lace curtains. The well has been filled up and the curbing removed.

Morris went direct to Philadelphia, I to Washington, where I remained two days the guest of Hon. George Q. Can- non. Visited the White House and was introduced to Presi- dent Hayes. Was shown through the Capitol, the treasury building and other places of national note, and was admitted to a seat on the floor of the congressional chamber, all


through the courtesy of President Cannon, Delegate to Con- gress.

Went to Philadelphia, where we remained a month doing much fireside preaching, but no chance for public demon- stration in the "city of brotherly love." However, we antici- pate a harvest from the seed thus humbly sown.

Early in January we took up our line of march for Luzerne county. Re-organized the Plains branch, thence to Bradford county, where we held circuit meetings regularly alternate nights. We had great joy in visiting the sick and comforting the afflicted; the Lord heard our prayers and healed many.

On March 22d we were called in to the bedside of a dying friend, and requested to pray for her; not for her recov- er} 7 , that she had no desire for, but that her sufferings might be alleviated, her pains removed and she be permitted to die- in peace. In the midst of this petition, while all were kneel- ing at the deathbed, we were led to pray that the daughter,, who was present, might be inspired to go forth and perform the labor necessary for her own and her mother's salvation. Agreeable to the mother's expressed desire and our humble prayer, Mrs. W. passed tranquilly away the same night; a few moments before dissolution she audibly spoke our names.

The funeral services were conducted by Minister B.,. Methodist; his sermonizing amounted to simply this that as the deceased had died outside the pale of any church, notably his own, she could never be redeemed from her fallen condition; she would be banished from the society and denied the affiliation of her Christian friends for ever and ever, worlds without end. Amen. This was a little unexpected to> the mourners, and they refused to be consoled and comforted. The daughter came to us and asked for an interpretation of our strange prayer. After it had been explained, she requested that we call another meeting and preach upon the- subject, announcing it as another funeral sermon. We did so,


dwelling upon repentance after death, the Savior's mission to the spirits in prison, and baptism for the dead, showing how broad and expansive is the Gospel of Christ when contrasted with the narrow and contracted theories of man-made religion. The house was full, and a spirit of sympathy pre- vailed. The daughter believed, was baptized, and is to-day in the faith.

Baptized four in the Susquehanna River at Wysauking. Went to Philadelphia, Morris expecting a release. Baptized four Philadelphians, but had to cross the Delaware River to the New Jersey shore and wait for the tide to come in. Received a letter releasing Morris, but instructing me to remain in the eld until relieved by other Elders from home.

June 19th, attended the centennial celebration at Valley Forge, the decisive battle ground of the Revolution. Saw Washington's headquarters, his breastworks and entrench- ments still remaining and can be traced for miles.

Tried to hire the little church in which the Prophet Joseph used to preach, in Philadelphia, but was unsuccessful; the deacon declared it should never again be so polluted and defiled. Baptized two, one a relative; blessed two and started north. Baptized six and blessed two in Bradford county.

At my valedictory I was annoyed several times by a man who sat near the stand, but did not heed his interruptions. Finally he stood upon his feet and said he wanted it dis- tinctly understood by all that he was a Bible believer, and knew more about the Scriptures in a minute than this young preacher did in a month. He said I had mentioned some- thing about a devil ; he defied me, or any living man, to point out one solitary instance wherein the Bible taught a personal devil.

I replied that Jesus chose twelve Apostles, "and one of them was a devil; 1 ' if he could convince other Bible believers in the congregation that Judas was not a person, I would admit that he knew a little something about the Bible. He


abruptly took his seat, and from that time was an attentive listener.

Received my release in July, and in August was suc- ceeded by Elders Siddoway and VanTassel. Stopped at the Bluffs long enough to baptize one, bless one, and solemnize one marriage; reached

home in September. 

Though my missions cost me more than a thousand dol- lars, besides more than double that in wages had I remained at home, I have never, for one moment, regretted the sacri- fice; the experience gained more than compensated for time, labor and means; while the knowledge acquired, of the things of God and the testimony of Jesus, I hold as invaluable- And now, after years have passed, I repeat, in words of sober- ness, and in all sincerity, that the happiest period of my life, as well as the most profitable, was spent in the Master's ser- vice.

Recapitulation: Baptisms, 108: ordinations, 11; children blessed, 37; branches organized, 5; branches re-organized, 1; marriages, 1; meetings held, 249; miles traveled, 9870; total cost, |1320. ELI H. PEIRCE.