Open main menu

Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 1/Number 3/Letter from W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery (Nov. 6, 1834)

Liberty, Mo. Nov. 6, 1834.Edit

LETTER NO. II.

DEAR BROTHER:

I am one, but the world has many, and the many so various and extensive that every mind and body may have its portion, and satisfaction, even of truth: wherefore I continue the sketches of the western wilds. And let me begin with that section of land which lies between the Missouri river, and the north western counties of this State. This fine tract of territory embraces land enough for two or three counties, and contrary to the observation which I wrote you last August about it, there will be a further effort for annexation to this State, as soon as matters can move.

The appearance of this tract, as far as I know, is much the same, of the other contiguous country, as described in my last: Extensive prairies, fringed with timber upon the streams. The streams have generally a small assortment of fish, such as large cat, carp, buffalo—shad, hickory—shad, gars, and a few other small pan fish. About three or four miles west of the boundary line, there is a beautiful creek of living water, pebble bottom, running northwardly and empties into the Little Plat.. It is called "Tod's Creek," and is sufficient for light mills. Passing some dry branches, in dry times, the Little Platt comes next, and a fine looking river it is, too, about eight or ten rods wide, with a grand fall for mills, of say six or seven feet, at the ford and ferry. Like other western waters, however, it sometimes rises very high, (fifty or sixty feet,) on short notice; and to use it for mill privileges and purposes, would require a stamina and capital equal to what brought the grand canal, by an aqueduct across the Genesee at Rochester, New York.

On the great garrison road, near five miles westerly of the Platt, is a precious rivulet, called "Clear Creek," along which the Indians camp, in hunting seasons, by scores.—This route to the garrison, from the Platt west, is timber land, and has fine appearance: in fact, from what I can learn, some of this section looks as rich and fertile as Jackson. At the distance of sixty or eighty rods from Clear Creek, as you come down upon the Missouri bottom, is a Jordan—like, deep sluggish stream, bridged, named "Bee Creek," from the great quantities of bees that have been found in its woods. The Missouri bottom from this creek to the garrison, about three miles, is covered with an unparalleled phalanx of rushes, four or five feet high, presenting one of the stiffest pastures I ever beheld. The cattle live and fatten upon these rushes, year in and year out, without any other fodder. One Mr. Martin, who has a permit from the garrison, has the benefit of all this spontaneous feed, together with a farm and ferry at the Platt, a farm and ferry at the Missouri, opposite the garrison, and a boarding house in the garrison, or cantonment, more properly, an account of which will be given hereafter. This permission with the facilities, without money or price, gives him a chance to amass a fortune with little trouble, little competition, and in a little time.

But to my subject. The last Congress, if I am not mistaken, extended the limits, jurisdiction and laws, of the territory of Michigan, to all "the district of country north of the State of Missouri, and west of the Mississippi," so that the "far west," or western world of territory, laid down on some of the maps, as the Missouri Territory, is now bounded, south by the Arkansas Territory; and Mexican States; west by the Rocky Mountains: north by the British line, as it shall be established according to the treaty of Ghent, cornering on the north—east, at the Lake of the Woods: and east by Michigan Territory, and the State of Missouri: comprising more land than did the old "Thirteen United States," and may emphatically be called the heart of North America. It is about nine hundred miles long and eight hundred miles broad, containing, at estimates, four hundred and sixty millions, and eight hundred thousand acres, spread over thirteen degrees of north latitude, and embracing all the beauty and variety of season and climate, that may be found from the south line of Virginia, to the gulf of St. Lawrence! It is a great place, and every thing about it is GREAT. The Missouri, than which a large or more dreadful river, (with its muddy face always scowling,) is not on earth, rushes rapidly from near the 49th to about the 39th degree of north latitude, hurrying along with it, its numerous relatives, and tributaries, from the vast prairies, that lay spread out like an empire, and passes into the State of Missouri, as the President of rivers.

Notwithstanding, this great country may be ranked as a part of the realm of the United States, yet, the title to the land, is held by the Indians that hunt upon it; or, at least, the most of it, is theirs; and as the general government, has already commenced gathering and settling the various tribes upon the south eastern limits of this grand region, I shall be justified on that point, and because we have the word of the Lord, that these Indians are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, I certainly shall write truth, on another point, when I call it THE LAND OF ISRAEL. Time will tell whether the United States will be so humane as to gather all the wandering tribes of the forest, and extinguish their title to such lands as they do not want. If the government should succeed in its philanthropic operation to ameliorate the condition of the Indians, and honorably purchase much of their land: if the Lord should permit timber to grow upon the prairies, like corn stalks upon the cultivated fields, so that towns and cities might speckle the west as they now do the east, still, when "Jacob takes root," according to the prediction of Isaiah, "and blossoms and buds and fills the face of the world with fruit," this country will then be The Land of Israel.

page 34I should do injustice to the subject, were I to omit a notice of the Indians that inhabit the territory, of which I am writing. When I was at the garrison, I saw a noble looking, portly Indian, dressed and harnessed in fine style for hunting, and for the life of me, I could not help composing the following lines for

THE RED MAN.Edit

O stop and tell me, Red Man, "And long they've liv'd by hunting,

Who are ye? why you roam? "Instead of work and arts,

And how you get your living? "And so our race has dwindled

Have you no God;—no home? "To idle Indian hearts.

With stature straight and portly, "Yet hope within us lingers,

And decked in native pride, "As if the Spirit spoke:—

With feathers, paints, and broaches, "He'll come for your redemption,

He willingly replied:—— "And break your Gentile yoke:


"I once was pleasant Ephraim, "And all your captive brothers,

"When Jacob for me pray'd; "From every clime shall come,

"But oh! how blessings vanish, "And quit their savage customs,

"When man from God has stray'd; "To live with God at home.

"Before your nation knew us, "Then joy will fill our bosoms,

"Some thousand moons ago, "And blessings crown our days,

"Our fathers fell in darkness, "To live in pure religion,

"And wander'd to and fro. "And sing our Maker's praise."

Now, to my story again. Besides the Delawares, Shawnees, Kickapoos, Wyandots, Pottowattomies, Senecas, Osages, Choctaws, Cherokees, Kaskaskias, Kansas, &c. &c. which our nation and the missionaries are domesticating as they are gathered, upon the southern limits of the land of Israel, the Pawnees, the Sioux, the Rickarees, the Mandans, the Nespersees, the Blackfeet, the Sacs, the Foxes, and many other tribes, rove and hunt from prairie to prairie, from river to river, from hill to hill, and from mountain to mountain, and live, and are blessed before the face of heaven daily as well as their contemporary whites; and, perhaps I may add, are as justifiable before God, as any people on the globe, called heathens. No church bell from its elevated steeple, rings "Go to meeting; it is Sunday," while a dozen lesser ones, for stages and Steam boats, peal a ding dong "for parties of pleasure, as a holiday," among these rude sons of the west.—And it is a difficult matter to make one soul of them believe the Great Spirit ever said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," while they know, that the majority of the white nation, use it for a holiday. No politicians boast of freedom and equal rights, while thousands are imprisoned for debt, or are in bondage: No; when the tribes are at peace, the Indian is free; his land is free; his game is free; his time is free, and all is free.

But the glory of the whole matter is yet to be told; and that is, that the hour is near, when the Lord will gather his elect, even Israel; that the righteous may come flocking to the standard of God like doves to the windows. This is the glory of the children of the promise. This is the expectation of the faithful. This is they joy of the saints, that they may be gathered and live and reign a thousand years on earth with Christ. And who would not be full of hope, faith, and charity, at such a grand prospect. Or in other words, Is there an heir of the celestial kingdom, that would take this world as a mite towards the glory and blessings, after much tribulation, that he can receive in the one to come? No!

The generations generally, except the saints, as they have passed by, from the beginning, have had their measure, of glory, fame and power, because they have eagerly sought for it—but where are the mightiest of them? Numbered with the dead! The Nephites who once had the Lord personally among them, where are they? Numbered with the dead! And the present generation, with the knowledge of six thousand years in advance, after a little, where will all its chiefest be? Numbered with the dead! O grave! grave! how many mysteries thou hidest!—but the hour of revelation is nigh, and who is prepared to hear it? And the time to renew the earth is not far off, and who will then possess it? And the time is soon at hand, when the Lord can be seen, and who shall see him? Yea, who can enjoy all these sublime privileges? The pure in heart.

No wonder the Saints endured martyrdom! No wonder the Son of God suffered upon the cross, it was for the sake of eternal life in a world of perfection, where the order and the power, and the realm, are unchangeable, and the enjoyment unutterable, (in this world.) Away with crowns and kingdoms; away with grandeur and gold; away with fame and fassions [fashions]—all are vanity: seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, and when the Lord comes, the riches of eternity will be given to the saints; and the curse will be taken off of the earth, and the land will yield its increase, and the whole world will become the garden of God and his people. The land of the north, the land of the east, the land of the south, and the land of the "West," will be the land of Israel, the home of the blessed, and the seat of the beloved city: and though oceans shall roll back, and mountains sink down; though worlds may be created, and disappear, and ages come and go, yet, amidst my littleness, and nothingness, compared with the vastness of God's works, I hope to enjoy an inheritance in that city.

As ever, W. W. PHELPS.

To OLIVER COWDERY, Esq.