James Armitstead journals, circa 1860-1903, folder 2, 77-87, 87-92.
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Beloved Brother. The great distance and the long silence which has intervened between us; makes us feel anxious to hear from you, and no doubt you feel the same with respect to us. I sent a lengthy letter to E. Holden a few weeks ago and one to Blackburn the other day with a request that they be forwarded to you.
We still fondly cherish the rememberance of your lovely faces and the many acts of kindness which you have shown us, and though; like the morn when her light is obscured your dear faces are hid from us; we still entertain the fond hope of seeing you again. What do I mean to i[n]vite you to come to this country? Certainly I do. But if you had the same object in view which we have you would need no invitation. We wish it distinctly understood that we do not regret coaming to this country. If we had our lives to live over again we should be alike, in that respect to do as we have done. Though, as the song says, we have long time been traveling, and of course, we long to be at hoame. A few words respecting our present journey may not be amiss.
It is said "Experience produces some comforts". And again it is said, "None can lead a life without allays, all must taste the [illegible] Cup of sorrow mixed with joy."
In this journey we realise the truthfulness of these sayings yet--affords many comforts, and at the same time is froug<ht> with some things which are not very very comfortable. But considering all the circumstances, we plod along very well. The health of the camp is good at present. We have had some sickness. Two died of scarlet fever at Loupe [Loup] Fork. Our cattle are in excellent condition. We average about 100 Miles per week. Our road at present, lays along the Platt[e] River on a level bottam with exception of a few Sand hills here and there. The river bottam averages about 10 or 12 miles wide from bluff to bluff. It appears to me that the river has at some time covered the entire bottam. Beyond the bluffs on each side the river the country is very uneven--in fact a real wilderness--wild and romantic. For 2
00 hundred Miles on the N. side, the river, there[s] not a tree to be seen. At a place 239 Miles from Missouri river there is the greatest spring of good water I ever saw, There are a number if very singarl singularly formed bluffs, known by various names, such as Scott's bluffs, Bluff Ruins, Chimney Rock, &c
These plains, as they are called, are characterized by some of the several storms of wind, rain, thunder and lightning, I eve[r] witnessed. It does not feel very agreeable to turn out in the middle of the night, to stand g[u]ard in one of these storms.
250 miles west of the Mo. R. there is a grave, the head board of which bears the following inscription. James Fast, native of London, and late of Louis, killed on g[u]ard, supposed to be by Indians. June 27 yr.
We also passed the graves of two young men who were killed by the light
ening on the 12th of June 1853.
The Indians have not troubled us, as a camp. We were visited, July 29, by a hunting party of Siouxs [Sioux] Indians. They were very friendly. We traveled some with them. We gave them Bread, Crackers, Sugar, Milk, Coffee an[d] molasses. In return they gave us skins, moc[c]asins (shoes made of deer skin and decorated with beads). They shot a buf[fa]lo just as we came to our noon halt, and we had the pleasure of seeing them cut it up, which only occupied about 15 minutes, and they perfectly desected it, sepperating all the flesh from the bone, and eating of it all the time: they eat the tripe--washing in the blood. The men were nearly naked, but the women were well covered with skins. They rode on horse back just like the men--astride.
I was lead [led] to compare these uncivilized American Savages, as they are called, with my white civilized brethren and Sisters, in England, phisically I mean. The contrast is very great indeed.
A civilized race of men ought to be as much superior to this savage tribes as the cultivated Apple is to that of the wild Crab. But I find it is not, physically, at least. Let us for example, take the Cotton-Spinner of England and compare him with the American Savage. Look at him at his frames, or Mules, and you see a crooked, emaciated, pale and Sallow complexioned being, half naked midst the stiffling heat; and perspiring all day long with muscular exertion, following the machine in its movements, and sliding along the floor, as the frame returns to its fixture, and no sooner has one half of the machine recceed [receded] than he turns to the other half; and from morning to evening, week in and week out, he has to pursue the inces[s]ant labor, except while the mules are doffing and then he has to assist in the opperation. This is a fair sample of the working classes generally in civilized and proud England.
Again. Look at their tender offspring, driven into those misserable work shops (sloughs of disease and death)[.] Human beings are used worse than the brute beast; in this respect. For, no man even thinks of working a young colt, or running a pup hound with pack. It is contrary to nature. Nature does not give wings to the bird, tallons to the eagle, teeth to the Tigar, muscul to the horse, or scent to the dog, untill she has prepared the body of each to endure the hardships of their several pursuits. But in the case of cries of nature sink in despair while her children are hurried to an early, and in many instances, lingering and tormenting death. In no tribes of the uncivilized American Savage do we see the crooked, pale faced, Scroffian [scruffian] and consumptive Skeletons, that are shut up within the prison, like gates of your manufacturing Establishment. No, Sir. They are as tall, handsome and powerful race of men and women. They grow up unrestrained, like the pine trees upon the mountain sides, and step with elastic motion through the forest, their nostrils dilated with the keen air, and breast expanded, and their limbs as free and almost as supple as the bounding Antilope that skips over these native hills
So much for Modern Civilization. And by the by, this one reason why I left my native country. I do not say that, the State of things in this country, generally speaking, are much better.
You are aware that we are a clan[n]ish sort of folks, and differ materially from all other people in the world, in relation to almost every thing which constitutes the present order of Society--political, religious, philosophical, &c, &c And we do not for a moment s<u>ppose that we can by mingling with this professedly wise and enlightened generation induce them to adopt our views. Therefor[e], we design to gather out of their midst--pass through the Nations of the Savage tribes--go beyond the bounds of Modern Civilization--Even into the rich vallies of the rocky mountains which must ere long be filled with a race of free and independent men. We do not mean that our possessions and influence should be forever confined to those vallies. Our religion embraces all that God has promised to His Saints; which comprises the purchased possessions of which St. Paul speaks. An earnest of which we have received, Even the Holy Spirit of promise which enables us to rejoyce, and be prepared and wait patiently untill the redemption of the purchased possessions to the praise of His Glory. Ephe. 1st C [illegible]
All the ancient prophets and men of God looked foreward to the redemption of the earth. This was one of the mainsprings of all their joy--of this they sung, wrote and spoke. Satan will then be cast out, his power will be taken away--his dominion and power will cease. And then, as the savior says, the meek shall inherit the earth, which will be beautiful and be made a fit abode for Celestial beings. David says Ps 37. Evil doers shall be cut off, but they wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth. Job says, 19 C. I know that My Redeemer liveth, and in my flesh I shall see God. Isaiah, Jeremiah and All the prophets of God for[e]saw the [time] when righteousness would cover the earth, even as the waters cover the bed of the great deep. In view of these things they suffered and rejoiced all their lives. And it was because of their faith in those things which brought persecution upon them, and caused them to wander in deserts And Caves of the Mountains, and were strangers and pilgrims on the earth--Just as it is with the Saints of God now.
The people of our day wonder at our proceedings, and at our enduring so patiently the privations And <the> persecutions which have been heaped upon us. But, if they understood things as we do they would not be atal [at all] surprised at these things. The same cause produces the same effect. The same spirit, and the same principles, which activated the ancient prophets and Apostles, is now enjoyed by the L.D.S. and we know as Daniel said, the wicked will be cut off. But so long as the Lord willing they should remain, we have no objections; for we know they must ere long
they resign their possessions, and the earth will be given to the Saints of the most High to inherit forever and ever. It is impossible we are deceived. Our hope is confirmed by the best kind of evidence. The Lord owns us as his people, and gives us revelation--line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, &c And I am satisfied, as an individual, that we shall effect, the object we have in view--But I do not wish you to believe on my word alone; nor to do so and so, merely because another may do such things. Exercise your own judgement. Search and "prove all things" for yourself.--And not be duped by anyone, or pin your faith on any mans sleeve; "The ways of a fool are right in his own eyes."
Do you ask how this matter can be successfully investigated? I know that there are many who think this matter cannot be demonstrated, but don't you believe it for I know it can and that too by anyone, if they go the right way about it. Some think that to read religious books is the most effectual way, others depend entirely upon the clergy. Well, as to religious book they merely a collection of men's opinions; and are not entitled to further respect. They are calculated to mislead the mind, and turn the judgement astray. And as to the clergy, they are no better. They entertain with their learning, or amuse with their wit, but all the information you get from these sources only tend to blacken darkness, and lead onward in the maze of uncertainty; untill the ellusion is dispelled by the startling conviction that your ill directed efforts have resulted in No gain. Therefore, I would advise you to the good old Bible to begin with. The apostle James tells us to ask of God, if we lack wisdom. And assures us we shall not be upbraided for so doing. (James 1 C. 5 v.) God has promised His Spirit unto all who ask for it. And St. Paul tells us this Spirit searches all things, even the deep thoughts of God. And that the things of God no man knoweth but by the spirit of God. And our Savior Says that this spirit will lead and guide into all truth, and show us things to come and that by so doing--taking the things which are His and distributing them to believers, he would thereby glorify Him. (See Jno 16 c. 13, 14, 15 v. also 2nd Cor. 2 c. from the 9 to the 15 v.[)] Therefore, no one need be at loss to know the truth of. Mormonism, or any other ism for he who hath this Spirit can judge all things[.] See also Isaiah 30th c. 21 v.
Therefore, search the scriptures, all of you, and you will learn that by being obediant to the true gospel you are entitled to the promise of an Eternal Inheritance. Hebrews 9 c. 15 v. and also to the holy Spirit of promise, as an earnest of that inheritance, until the redeemtion [redemption] of the same. Ephs. 1 c. 13, 14 v.
I will now relate an incident or two which has occur[r]ed since I wrote the above.
In the letter which I sent to E. Holden, from Winter Quarters, I gave an account of a stampede (run away) that we had. Since then we had two more. One on saturday the 30th of July; and another on wednesday the 3rd of Aug. The cause of them may be at[t]ributed in a great measure, to the inexperiance and carelessness of the teamsters. Though, I must say that, our animals are very easily frightened. On one occation [occasion], the jingling of a stove behind a wagon started them. And at another time, they were started by a mare hooking a snake along side of them. I do not much wish to trouble you with a description of thoes [those] painful scenes, and the perilous situation in which we were placed.
However I will briefly state our own situation are both those occations that you may form an idea of the condition of the whole camp. It so happened that both times we were in the middle of the train; And their teams started first. So by the time they rea[h]ced us they presented, the whole train seemed to be in the wildest commotion. On the first of thes[e] occations, I had taken only two or three leaps <with> my teams when I was surrounded--one team coming in upon me on the off side and [illegible] on the high side. One of the teams on the high side ran into my team, they ran together about ten rods. I had Seven spokes broken on my wagon--about thirty other wagons were more or less broke[n] but no person was injured. The last time my team did not seem to feel like run[n]ing although they did finally make out to run a little when I succeeded in stop[p]ing them which were no sooner done than I tried to start them again, for I saw a team coming upon me, and which did finally upset my wagon, and while in this condition I saw another team coming in direct line of it, but was stop[p]ed a few paces from it; I then jumped to my team and unhitched them from the wagon, and sprung to the rescue of my family. Little Sarah Jane [Armitstead] was just creeping out, and Margaret Ann [Armitstead] and her mother [Mary Coup Armitstead] were burried in the luggage, I soon freed them, when Margaret Ann said calmly "father, is something the matter"--she was slightly bruised. Her mother received a black eye in the scrape. No one were seriously hurt <this> time.
We are all well now, and moving along finel[y].
You may expect to hear from us again soon
Our love to you all.
To Ellis Holden
U.T. Dec 25, 1853
Mr. E. Holden.
Dear Sir. It being Christmas, and having an opportunity, I feel like writing to you, and through you to all our relation and friends in Eng.
We suppose you may have had occation to think of us today--where we might be, and how we might be spending our Christmas. We have indeed thought the same of you, and talked about you, and in our hearts we wish you a "Merry Christmas and happy New year." yea even a fulness of them; and that you may obey the gospel and come to these peaceful and happy vallies.
Since we left our house in Illinois, and started west, We have sent three letters to Eng. viz, one to you about the 20th of June, from Winter Quarters, Nebraska Territory. One to R. Eatough 300 miles from that place about 3 weeks after and one to Bro. Jno. Coupe, Heywood, from Larrimie [Laramie] about 500 miles from Winter Quarters. These we hope you have received, and that this may also come safely to hand and find you all well--even as it leaves us at this time.
From the above letters, you would learn the principal particulars of our journey as far as fort Laramie. From that point we had 500 miles to travel, which I will now briefly notice. The road is one of increasing difficulty. Feed for stock is scarce, in consequence, we were obliged to travel in small companies. Sept. 1st traveled 24 miles, without feed or water. Same night, 10 head of our stock strayed back over 30 miles, or at least some of them went so far. Sept. 2ond five of us buckled on our armor and started after them. Same evening, myself and another man found 6 head of them. Ar[r]ived in Camp about midnight. Sept. 3rd I started out again all alone in search of the other men, the women being almost crazy about them, went about 12 miles when I met them with the balance of the cattle. We found one steer in adition to the ones we had lost, which we killed when we got to camp. About this time our provisions were running short. Sept. 4th resumed our journey. We have met with ma<ny> natural curiosities--Such as mineral springs[,] mineral tar-springs, hot springs, Caves, &c In the neighborhood of these springs we lost 16 head of our cattle--being poisoned with the Alkalai. We met several companies of California gold-diggers returning home. And, who informed us that the Indians were hostile, which we found to be correct, for when we got to fort Bridger, we found it in possession of Mormon soldiers, from Salt Lake. Mr. Bridger had eloped, others had been sent to Salt Lake City for trial, these were white men who had been stir[r]ing up the indians to commit depredations upon the Mormons, and to cut off our emigration. Here we found the main body of our company. And, we continued together the balance of the journey--100 miles, it being thought unsafe for small companies.
The last 100 miles was over loft[y] Mountains, and the difficult ravines; these ravines or kanyons, in many places, were over hung with rugged and fearful looking rocks. Some of the mountains are over 7000 ft above the level of the sea. We descended the last mountain by a passage exceedingly steep and abrupt and continued our gradual descent for 5 or 6 miles the [through] a narrow kanyon, when suddenly emerging from the pass, a full view of this beautiful valley opened before us, at the same instant that we caught a gleam of the glisting bossom of the great Salt Lake, which lay expanded to the west was some twenty-five miles.
We arrived <here> on the 17th of Sept. all in good health and hearts full of joy, in having performed our journey, and arrived at home to enjoy the society of our brethren and sisters.
When we left Eng. our aim was to reach this place, and in all our wanderings, we have never lost sight of it; and we have made it, as soon as our circumstances would allow. In our circling arround we have seen much of the country. We are not sorry that we left Eng. But, feel to thank God that we are here at last, safe and sound.
This Valley is about 30 miles long and 25 miles wide and is almost walled in by lofty ranges of mountains on the east-west and south, and on the north by the great Salt Lake. Two of the highest peaks are elevated about 1-1/3 miles above the level of the valley which are capped with perpetual snow. The Utah valley and lake are hid from this valley by a range of hills. A river runs through this valley, it heads in Utah Lake, and empties into Great Salt Lake. It [is] called the Utah out-let, or western Jorden [Jordan]. The great Salt Lake has some lofty islands in it, and it forms a delightful prospect as far as the eye can reach on the North and Northwest. The opening on the North along the Eastern shore, extends about sixty miles to Bear River, and <on> the west along southern shore it opens into another valley, called Tooele. I have been there, and also to Utah v. on the south. The altitude of this valley is 4300 feet above the level of the sea. The soil is good, but requires irrigation to provide vegetation; as there is but little rain that falls in the valley, the showers of rain, hail and Snow, mostly fall upon the lofty ranges of the Mountains, where the vapor is condensed by coming in contact with large masses of snow, and immediately precipitates itself upon the surrounding hills and forests. This circumstance, and the situation of this City, most beautifully illustrates the words of Isaiah, C. 32, v. 18, 19, and C. 40, v. 9. This City is low in a low place when compared with the general surface of the earth or the level of the ocean. There are numerous small streams which empty <in>
n to the valleys from the mountains, which are well adapted to the purpose of irrigation, as well as to supply the City with Cold and pure water continually. A stream of which courses down on each side of every st. The streets are 8 rods wide, Crossing each other at right angles, with shade trees growing on each side of the streets. The city is divided into blocks of 10 acres each, And each block is again subdivided into 8 lots except such are reserved for public purposes of which there are several in differant parts of the city. One block is reserved for a temple, a tabernacle is already built upon it which will seat 2500 persons, and which is crow[d]ed to overflowing ever[y] Sabbath, by a respectable looking people as I ever saw in Eng. The foundation of the temple is laid. And the wall arround the temple block is almost finished. And the wall arround the whole City is in rapid progress. The City is 16 miles around it. Matterials for brick and stone buildings are aboundant, but there is no timber in the valleys, though there is plenty in the kanyons of the mountains [:] fir, pine, Maple, and some mahogany and small oak. But it is unhandy to get at, which is the greatest drawback to the country that [I] know of. The roads to it are generally very rough, we have to clime the mountainside to get to it and then have to snake it to the wagons with horses or cattle, often we have to slide it down the mountains not being able to get the teams to it. It is a business I do not like.
The climate is dry, warm, and healthy. The nights cool and refreshing, the mountain brezes are gentle and exhilarating, the winters are mild and pleasant. In many parts of the Tearitory, cattle graze the year round. Good Salt abou[n]ds at the Lake. Mill sites are exelent. The territory is 460 miles long by 350 wide. The settlements extend 75 miles north and 250 South of the City.
I would enter into a more minute account of things generally if I were sufficiently acquainted, to do them justice. Suffice it to say that people can live here, yea, live happy too, and acquire wealth, and that is what but very few can do in Eng, but all may do it here if they will work and be industrious. We feel to like this place--feel as though we had got home--reached the end of our journey for the present at least. We have been prospered and preserved all the time, in every place. True, I know it may be said that little James Nephi died, in consequence of the journey, I have often mourned his loss. Still he might have died if we had staid in Eng, and not only him but ourselves also. We are all in the hands of the Lord. We do not regret leaving Eng, but often wish that you and all our friends and relations were out from there. Nothing would please us more that [than] to hear of you obeying the gospel and being on the road hither, -- except actually being here. I have traveled since I left Eng. 9000 miles with my family, and 800 miles without them
Farming is the principal business here as yet, I have rented a farm and put in 4 acres of wheat.
The winter now is past, and the spring and the singing of birds has returned with usual pleasantness. And I am happy to inform you
hour health good. I am engaged putting in a crop. Mary was confined on the 29th of Jan. 1854 of a fine little boy. We call him William Henry.
Jno. Robinson and Jane, called to see us on the 12th of last month. They live about 250 miles south of here, they came to this City on business. We gave them those presents[.] Jane looks rather pale, but yet she is healthy.
We continue to enjoy good health. I have not realised much of a crop this year in consequence of grasshoppers, they have come in upon us in countles[s] numbers. I am not discouraged, I can work for more.