Transcript

Transcript for Bear, John L., "Autobiography of Elder John L.Bear," in Journal of History (Lamoni, Iowa: Board of Publication of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, January, 1911), 4:80-82

At Saint Joseph we boarded a steamer bound north. We landed at Florence, two miles above Omaha. There we were left on the sand bank of the river. Soon some vehicles came down, and people began moving away till all were gone, excepting us, no one taking any notice of us. At last I went up to see what could be done, so a Swiss brother informed me that there was a hand car standing in an alley, saying, "If I were you, I would go and get it and take your things up?" I hesitated, saying, "They may take me up for it." He answered, "What else in the world can you do? You can not stay down on that sand bank. I would risk it if I were you."

So I took the car and was going to start, when I heard a shouting, and looking back, there was a big man, and I recognized him as John Smith, Hyrum's Son, patriarch in Utah, whom I had seen in Zurich. What I could make out of his hollering was that he wanted me to leave the car alone. But I started with it in full run down the hill, speaking to myself, "Let him come and catch me if he can." So we got our stuff up and crowded with others into one of those deserted houses; then I put the car back from where I took it.

We had to stay there a few weeks till our teams arrived. I was informed that we could not take our trunks with us, as the wagons would be overloaded. I did not like to leave them behind, as they were strongly built, bound with iron and put together with two-inch screws; they had cost me fourteen dollars; my older brother had made them.

There came a man, they said he was a Josephite, (the first time we had heard of Jospehites,) that wanted to buy some trunks. No doubt he knew that some could not take them along across the American desert, and they could be bought for a song. Well, he offered me so little for it, that I considered it a shame (don't know exactly the price any more, either twenty-five or fifty cents for both). I told him the screws alone cost that, if not more, and before I would sell them at that price, I would take the screws out and the locks and would take them with me, and would use the wood as firewood to cook our victuals. I considered him a poor specimen of Latter Day Saint. The screws and locks came in handy to me in the Rocky Mountain valleys, and the wood I burnt up to cook our meals with, as we had to stay at Florence quite a while.

Brother Diem, a Swiss, helped us to continue our journey from New York and he bought four teams, I assisting to drive one, I to pay him after I would be able to do so, after our arrival in the valley, which I heartily agreed to do. Our train consisted of thirty-five wagons, with two or three yoke of cattle to each. Eight wagons belonged to the Swiss.

I had such a faith in this latter day work that I thought when I could see that place of refuge I would fall down and kiss the very ground and praise His holy name; but oh, how soon it changed. We had all along the journey our evening and morning prayers, and did sing the songs of Zion. As we were getting toward the Rocky Mountain range a strange feeling came over me; evil forebodings of terrible things; troubles and trials seemed to penetrate my whole system, and I felt like the air was full of demons and evil spirits, which made me feel so miserable I can not describe it; yea, the nearer I got to our journey's end the worse I felt. When we reached the top of the big mountain, we could look down into that chamber and soon could see teams, on the Sabbath day, going up and down the canyons hauling wood. I was horrified and inquired who they were, and was answered, "They are Gentiles." "Well," I said, "we were told in the old country that no Gentiles would come here, as this was the Lord's chamber, where the people of God had a hiding place, till his wrath is passed over the nation." About seven or eight miles from Salt Lake City we made a noon halt. There came a few heavy set fellows from the valley; one of them offered up a prayer, but they did not remove their hats, and on inquiring who they were, I was informed that they were some of the Twelve to meet us. Well, I did think very little of them, because they would not remove their hats in the time of prayer, while all the rest of us were bareheaded. I also soon found out that those teams on the mountain road belonged to Mormons; some Brigham's, some Kimball's, and others.

Reader, you may think how I felt, coming from Babylon in full confidence to go to the Saints of the Most High, and then find them such transgressors of the law, which would not have been tolerated in Babylon, so called. Oh, my God, my God, what will be the end of this? Oh, Israel of old has gone astray in spite of the warnings of the prophets and here Israel of latter day is going astray; yea, their prophet and their leaders, their seducers. As we arrived at the city square, which was as dusty as earth could be made, and a strong wind blowing, we were in a puzzle, thousands of miles away from home and friends, destitute, in a strange country, with but little understanding of their language; no advice, no help, no assistance in any way; there you are, root or die.

Those who had friends were fetched by them, and so it was repeated as the same as it was on the sand banks of the Missouri at Florence.

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