Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XVIII

Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow:
One of The Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
by Eliza Roxcy Snow
Chapter XVIII


The Brethren covenant to help the poor out from Nauvoo.—Lorenzo called to obtain means.—The poverty and liberality of the Saints.—One offers his only cow.—Anecdote of Captain Brown.—Called on a mission to Italy.—Increase of family.—Weight of responsibility.—No time for preparation.—Company organized.—Letter to his Sister.—The Journey.—Wonderful manifestations of the hand of God.—Nauvoo.—Carthage.—Arrival in Liverpool.—Meets the brethren.

BEFORE the first companies of the Saints who were driven from Illinois left Nauvoo, the leading brethren entered into a solemn covenant they would not cease their exertions until all the Saints who had not the means, but were desirious[1] of moving to the location of the Church, should be assisted to do so. In connection with this, in his journal, my brother says: Early in the autumn of 1849, I was called to assist in gathering means for emigrating the poor Saints. This movement culminated in what is now known as the "Perpetual Emigrating Company," the organization of which was commenced at the October Conference, for the gathering of Saints from all parts of the world.

In performing the mission of soliciting means from the Saints who, after having been robbed and plundered, had performed a journey of more than one thousand miles, and just located in an unwatered, desolate recess of the great "American Desert," I found myself inducted into an uphill business. With very few exceptions, the people had very, little, or nothing they could possibly spare. But the efforts and willingness, everywhere manifested, to eke out a portion of the little the feeling of liberality and greatness of soul, which everywhere I met in the midst of poverty, the warm-hearted greetings I received even where comparative indigence held court, filled my heart with exceeding great joy. One man insisted that I should take his only cow, saying that the Lord had delivered him, and blessed him in leaving the old country and coming to a land of peace; and in giving his only cow, he felt that he would only do what duty demanded, and what he would expect from others, were the situation reversed.

After visiting the Saints in Great Salt Lake City, I traveled north, calling on all the inhabitants, who at this early date were much scattered, and went as far as Ogden, then the northern limit of our settlements, and there found about one dozen families. I was hospitably entertained by Captain Brown, who occupied a log house with earth floor, and roof of the same material, with the addition of willow boughs. I called a meeting, which was held in the captain's house—everybody attended, and we had a glorious season. The hearts of the Saints were open, and, considering their circumstances, they donated liberally and amply, and I need not say cheerfully. Elder (Captain) Brown exhibited the nobility and generosity of soul characteristic of the man. There is an amusing anecdote told of Captain Brown, as follows: He owned a ferry on the Weber River at the time when the "Gold Diggers" were rushing through the country, some of whom were bitterly hostile to the "Mormons," and availed themselves of every occasion to vent their spite in the presence and hearing of the captain, in the following style: "Whoa haw, old Brigham," "Gee up there, old Heber," at the same time flourishing and cracking their long ox whips. This vulgar language applied in demeaning the leaders of the Church, made Captain Brown very angry, so much so that he could hardly restrain himself from retaliating; but finally, when, with increasing impudence, they added the name of Captain Brown, his temper at once arose to fever heat[2], and became uncontrollable, and to use his own words, "I pitched into them." In public meetings, occasionally, I have referred to this anecdote in illustrating a principle, i. e., when the Priesthood is assailed, we should be more valiant in its defense than when the offense is merely personal. Without doubt this was the captain's sentiment, and had he received the first insult, he could have borne it, but after having the brethren insulted, which was all he could endure and contain himself, the addition of his name was "the straw that broke the camel's back."

At the October Conference many, of the leading Elders were called on missions to different nations of the earth. Lorenzo was appointed to establish a mission in Italy, with discretionary power to labor in any other country or nation, whenever the Spirit should direct. He arranged as best he could under the circumstances, for the comfort of his family during his absence—his family having increased by the birth of a son, Oliver Goddard, and a daughter, Roxcy Charlotte, born in Salt Lake City.

In less than two weeks from the time of his appointment, he was to leave. With little means—in a wild, uncultivated country, one thousand miles from supplies, what could he do towards providing for the coming wants of an increasing family, which in a few days he was to leave for an indefinite period? Although he felt the weight of the responsibilities of a husband and father, he did not hesitate. He knew that God, through His servants, had called him to the mission—the mission was before him, and its accomplishment paramount to every consideration. The two young men, John and Porter kindly proposed to remain with his family during his absence and render all the assistance in their power.

This was the first company of missionaries sent from the Rocky Mountains; it was organized on the nineteenth of October, by President Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the brethren started the same day on their various missions—some to Nauvoo to assist in gathering the Saints remaining there—some to the Eastern States, and others to the nations abroad. Shadrach Roundy was appointed captain of the company across the plains.

We will now glean a portion of my brother's history from his letters, in which we meet him in Southampton, England:

                        Southampton, England, June 14, 1850.

My Dear Sister:

Although nearly half the world lies between us, I hope this brief record of my travels will reach you in safety. Wherever I may be destined to wander, I shall ever remember those claims of relationship, which may be interrupted on earth, but are happily consecrated in your bosom and mine for eternity; they seem like a golden chain, passing over earth and ocean, and linking this foreign shore with your dwelling in the far distant West.

Recalling the scenes of the past, my mind reverts to the nineteenth of October, 1849, when, in solemn silence, I left what, next to God, was dearest to my heart—my friends, my loving wives and my dear little children. As I pursued my journey, in company with my brethren, many conflicting feelings occupied my bosom. The gardens and fields in and around our new-born city, just emerging from nature's barrenness, through the faith, energy and the necessities of the exiled Saints, now struggling for subsistence, in a wild recess in the Rocky Mountains, were exchanged for the vast unbroken wilderness which lay spread out before us for a thousand miles.

If my mind still glanced onward, there was the storm}" main, and, in the far distant perspective, a land of strangers—the field of my mission. We were hastening farther and still farther from the mighty magnet—Home. But we knew that the work in which we were engaged was to carry light to those who sat in darkness and in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and our bosoms glowed with love and compassion toward them.

Some persons feared our horses were too enfeebled to bear us over the mighty plain; but when the snows began to fall, winds swept our pathway, and enabled us to pass without difficulty, while on our right and left the country was deeply covered for hundreds of miles.

One day, as we were taking our noontide meal, and our horses were quietly grazing on the prairie; the following thrilling scene occurred. A startling call resounded through our little camp, "To arms! to arms! the Indians are upon us!" All eyes were turned in the direction, and we beheld a spectacle, grand, imposing and frightful. Two hundred warriors, upon their furious steeds, painted, armed and clothed with all the horrors of war, rushing towards us like a mighty torrent. In a moment we placed ourselves in attitude of defence. But could we expect, with thirty men, to withstand this powerful host? Onward rushed the savage band with accelerated speed as a huge rock, loosened from the mountain's brow, dashes impetuously downward, sweeping, overturning, and burying everything in its course!

We saw it was their intention to crush us beneath the feet of their foaming chargers. They approached within a few paces, and in another moment we should be overwhelmed, when lo! an. alarm like an electric shock struck through their ranks and stayed their career, as an avalanche, sweeping down the mountain side, stops in the midst of its course by the power of a hand unseen. The Lord had said, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."

Many incidents occurred which called forth the remark that in our past experience the hand of the Lord had never been more visibly manifested. When we arrived on the banks of the great Missouri, her waters immediately congealed for the first time during the season, thus forming a bridge over which we passed to the other side; this was no sooner accomplished than the torrent ran as before.

On arriving at Kanesville, we were saluted with shoutings, firing of cannon, songs of rejoicing, and other demonstrations of welcome. During the few days of our stay, we experienced universal kindness from the Saints. I shall never But now, O how sad the change! The moss was growing upon the buildings, which were fast crumbling down; the windows were broken in, the doors were shaking to and fro by the wind, as they played upon their rusty, creaking hinges. The lovely Temple of our God—once the admiration and astonishment of the world and the hope of the Saints, was burned, and its blackened walls were falling upon each other! Ever and anon a human head would be thrust through windows to gaze upon the traveler; but these people were not Saints—they who were dwelling in those houses, who walked those streets, believed not in Jesus, the Son of God—they were professed infidels.

Shortly after leaving Nauvoo, I visited another place of painful interest in the history of the Saints. If, on ordinary occasions, words are too weak to convey the feelings of the soul, where shall I find language to portray the thoughts that agitated my mind as I entered Carthage? There, but a few years before, was a scene over which my breast alternately glows and chills with horror and indignation. There an infamous mob were imbruing their hands in the blood of our beloved Prophet and Patriarch, Joseph and Hyrum. O Earth! Then flowed on thy cold bosom the blood of thy noblest and best. Who were those Martyred Ones? Ask the ministering angels from on high! Ask the demons of the dark abyss! Ask the mighty throng whom they have guided to peace, knowledge, wisdom and power! And who are they? My friends—the friends of millions, the friends of Universal Man.

Over that guilty place there seemed to hang the gloom of death, the emblem of the deed committed, and the foreshadowing of righteous retribution! Although fatigued and hungry, nothing could induce me to eat or drink among that cursed and polluted people.

In St. Louis, we found a large branch of the Church of nearly four hundred members. We were kindly received; and it was delightful to see them assembled in their spacious and beautiful hall. The completeness of their organization reflects the highest credit upon their officers.

On the twenty-fifth of March, I left New York on board the Shannon. I had a pleasant voyage over the great waters, and on the nineteenth of April, came in sight of Albion's shores. I never beheld a more lovely morning. Everything wore an enchanting appearance. A calm serenity rested upon the broad bosom of the waters. Old England lay before me, besprinkled with forms and multitudes of human dwellings, with beautiful hawthorn hedges and newly plowed grounds. Around, about on the water, in full view, were ships of all nations—some passing in one direction and some in another.

In the midst of this enchanting scene, my feelings suddenly changed from the high thrilling tone of animation and fell into pensive melancholy, as the thoughts of my loved home crowded upon my mind. Six long months I had been augmenting the distance between me and those I love, and still I must continue to do so. Things certainly appeared strange to me when I thought of the unknown future of my mission. But the Lord of the whole earth had sent me, and in His name I was resolved ever to go forward.

On my arrival in Liverpool, I was favored with the company of Elders Erastus Snow, Franklin D. Richards and President Pratt's family. After leaving that city, I visited the following conferences: Manchester, Macclesfield, Birmingham, Cheltenham, South Conference, London, and Southampton. Presidents, officers and members received me with kindness, and contributed liberally towards my mission; and though I have not had the opportunity of visiting "Cambria's hills," the Welsh brethren have sent donations with all the nobility of soul which gives unsolicited.

How changed are my feelings to what they were some eight years ago. Then, I might say, I entered Britain a lonely foreigner, unacquainted with the laws, manners, customs and institutions of the country. At this time I felt comparatively at home. Many who were my children in the Gospel, surrounded me as I passed through those conferences where I had formerly labored. I also had the pleasure of seeing men whom I baptized when on my former mission, now preaching the Gospel and presiding over conferences.

The traveler in the desert sometimes finds a green spot which stands in deep contrast to the barrenness of surrounding nature. England appears thus now, as I am about to leave its shores for the lands of darkness. The voice of a thousand friends are dying away in the distance, while before me is a land of strangers, whose tongues will sound in my ears like the jargon of Babel. I have been refreshed with the company of so many kind friends, that I go forth on my mission with renewed energy of body and mind.

To-morrow I leave this place for Italy. Farewell, my dear sister, and may Heaven's choicest blessings be your continued portion, is the prayer of

Your affectionate brother,

Lorenzo Snow.

To Miss Eliza R. Snow,

Great Salt Lake City,


"Even the address of this fascinating letter is historically valuable, for it reminds us that Utah was once a part of the province of Upper California; but it is its beautiful enthusiasm—tenderness of the spirit and tone, and the graphic eloquence of the description, which constitutes the charm of this gem of epistolary literature."—Tullidge's Magazine.

  1. sic. desirous
  2. Original seems to be "hea".