Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XXXV
.Necessity of recreation. Lorenzo anticipates the need of the people. Pro- vides a miniature theatre. How it was managed. Moves to a new building. A windstorm. House blown down. Everything destroyed. Discouragement. President J. Young speaks prophetically. His prophecy fulfilled. The Dramatic Association organized. Lorenzo pre- sides over it. Bishop McQuarrie speaks. delates an incident. The Social Hall erected. Its uses. Concerning circulating medium. Checks as good as gold. Within reach of all. Assessment.
EALIZING as he did, the fact that those who have the
, charge and oversight of the people, without providing proper recreation, have adopted a mistaken policy, Lorenzo made an elaborate effort, in this direction, to meet the wants of the semi-progressive inhabitants of his new-born city.
Early in the winter of 1855-6, while his recently erected dwelling house was unfinished, he converted his largest room, which was fifteen by thirty feet, into a theatrical department, by erecting a stage in one end of this not-too-capacious hall furnishing scenery appropriate to the situation. He then organized a dramatic company; and during the long winter evenings his amateur performers drew crowded audiences of invited guests. The diminutive size of his auditory being insufficient to accommodate all of the citizens at once, it was necessary, in order to avoid partiality, to invite the people alternately, which gave equal opportunities to all.
Here the- old and the young, the grey-headed and the little prattlers, met and mingled the people were drawn together and a union of feeling was awakened. These were free of charge. My brother, in connection with the voluntary actors, furnished the entertainments he held the strings, not
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allowing anything of a demoralizing character to be presented carefully examining the plays before they were exhibited on the stage, and only accepting such as would create innocent merriment, or inspire elevating and refining sentiment.
The effect was very satisfactory, not only in producing pleasurable recreation at the time, but was one of the aids in arousing the partially dormant energies of the people.
This hall, and these theatricals, answered their purpose for the first winter. During the summer, the people, although in their poverty, experiencing the great need of a larger build- ing, commenced the erection of one forty-five by sixty-five feet. This was called "Court House," and was designed to be at the service of the county for county purposes, but was' mostly built by the labor tithing and donations of the people of Brig- ham City. It was an adobie building, two stories high; they succeeded in erecting the Avails, and early the next winter Lorenzo had several thicknesses of boards laid on the sleepers overhead as a temporary roof fitted up the comparatively spacious hall, which was twenty-two by forty-five feet, and moved his theatricals into the basement.
AVith this improved condition my brother determined to have a dramatic company of ability, and capable of attaining to celebrity in the profession. Accordingly, he selected some of the most talented young gentlemen and ladies, including several of his own family, and engaged an actor who had con-
siderable experience on the Salt Lake stage set apart one of his private rooms for the instruction of the class, in which the students made rapid progress.
When the "Dramatic Association of Brigham City" was organized, Lorenzo was chosen president, which position he has filled from that time.
But misfortune awaited them. After enjoying their im- proved circumstances, and having successfully performed dur- ing the winter, in the spring a terrific windstorm visited the city, and the court house was blown down with destruction to
the stage, theatrical scenery, and all the accompanying fix- tures, which, of course, put a quietus on the Dramatic Asso- ciation for a season.
The people were poor; they had struggled beyond meas- ure to erect the walls now lying in ruins, and how to repair the loss was a problem which apparently amounted to impossi- bility even the irrepressible Lorenzo Snow felt almost dis- heartened. Not long, however, after the trying occurrence, he attended a dinner-party at Brother Hunsaker's, in company with President Joseph Young (familiarly called Uncle Joseph), when, rather tlespoiidingly, as they sat viewing the ruins, he remarked, "I cannot see how we ever can rebuild those walls;" when Uncle Joseph, turning to him, very emphatically said: "Brother Lorenzo, the Lord will soon open your way to build, and you shall have a much better house than the first;" then taking a sovereign from his pocket, said, "Take this for that purpose as a commencement." Lorenzo's feelings were averse to taking anything from Prest. Young, and said, "No, Brother Joseph," but, on second thought, it flashed across his mind, "Yes, I will take it, for I think it a favorable omen a start- ing point." And so it proved from that time the way opened little by little, and in fulfilment of Brother Joseph's words, they erected a second structure, in many respects better than the first. But in several instances labor and ingenuity sup- plied the lack of cash. In case of roofing, not being able to purchase nails, they made wooden pins with which their sheet- ing is fastened to the rafters, as can be seen to this day.
The upper story of the building was forty-five by sixty- five feet, and was used .as an assembly hall, for meetings of religious worship, concerts, lectures and dancing, until they built their large Tabernacle. After the first year, the theater was transferred from the basement to the upper story. A stage was erected in the east end, 18x45 feet, furnished with fine elaborate scenery and apartments, where the members of the Dramatic Association had appropriate oppor-
tunities to exercise and display genius and ability. They soon AVOII laurels and gained considerable celebrity, and were justly acknowledged as the best dramatic company in the Territory outside Salt Lake City: The main body of the lower story was used for county purposes, sittings of the courts, etc., the county having assisted sufficiently to claim a share, although, as with the iirst building, this also was mostly built by labor tithing, and donations from the people of Brigham City.
On or about the middle of March just past, the writer attended the Ladies' Relief Society Quarterly Conference in Ogden City. One of the speakers, Bishop Robert McQuarrie, in addressing the large attentive audience in the "Tabernacle," earnestly and eloquently impressed on the minds of the audi- ence the virtue, benefit and, as Saints of God, the practical necessity of living in constant communion with and acknowl- edging God at all times, and relying on His assistance in the performance of every duty; he also admonished all present to honor Him and cultivate His Spirit in their hearts, not only when officiating in organized capacity and in religious exer- cises, but in their amusements, he said, they should be gov- erned, by its influence, and engage in nothing in which they could not, with propriety, ask the blessing of the Lord. As a corresponding closing refrain, the Bishop related an impressive ilicident which he said had made a lasting impression 011 his mind. At. a time not specified, he was spending an afternoon with my brother in his family residence in Brigham City. A theatrical performance was in anticipation for the evening entertainment, and Lorenzo invited the Bishop to attend. He accepted the invitation, and as the hour of opening approached all made ready for going, and when in group assembled and ready to start, Lorenzo said, "Let us all kneel down and pray," which accordingly they did.
As a theater promoter, theater director and theater attend- ant, this little, yet significant incident is very strikingly char- acteristic of my brother, and so illustrative of he leading
principles of his life, it is worthy of record as a true index and as a judicious monitor.
In 1875 the "Brigham City Mercantile and Manufactur- ing Association" erected a Social Hall 33x63 feet, and two stories; the first was designed for amusement, social and dancing parties, lectures, and the assemblies of the Polysophi- cal Association ; the second for a high school or seminary of learning.
"Hoiv blessings brighten as they take their flight !." Although the good people of Box Elder County had exhibited well- . developed appreciative faculties, it is hardly admissible to sup- pose that they fully realized the many advantages and con- veniences resulting from their co-operative system, which extended to the social, as well as to the business and financial departments of society. The checks (scrip) issued by this institution, as a home circulating medium, (until an unlawful assessment, with its blighting touch, rendered it obsolete, as will be fully explained hereafter,) were good as gold for admis- sion to theatres, lectures, dancing parties in fact, wherever and whenever entrance fees w r ere demanded; and, independent of cash fluctuations, they were within the reach of all men, women and children. Being paid out for all kinds of labor, they were accessible to all who were able to work, arid pro- vision was made for those who were not.