"Discourse," Deseret News, 12 November 1856, 284.
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By President Jedediah M. Grant, Tabernacle, Nov. 2, 1856.
[REPORTED BY GEO. D. WATT]
. . . . As an individual I have been and am very anxious in relation to the immigration now upon the plains. Their situation is very distressing, and several have died in br. [James G.] Willie's company. Some had died before the brethren could reach them, and a few more died, during the first five days after they met them. The company had encountered cold and storms, and one very stormy day which caused nearly one-third of the deaths that had happened.
They had no serious or contagious diseases, but the storms came and the air was very cold, as a matter of course some who were fatigued with the toil and anxiety of the journey sunk under the inclemency of the weather; they were furnished, by those that returned to them, with shoes, clothing and food. They were not entirely destitute of provisions when the return teams met them; their rations at the outfitting were more than those of the companies in advance of them. When met they had nearly 400 pounds of sea bread, but their last rations of flour and been dealt out on the evening previous.
Br. Willie's company was met with on the upper crossing of Sweet Water, but the whereabouts of the ox trains and the hand-cart company in rear of br. Willie are yet unknown to us.
We have now some two hundred teams out to meet them, and some were only prepared with seven days' forage for animals. It will be necessary for more teams to go to their relief, with grain and hay to sustain the animals already sent out, or they will die.
The weather had been cold enough to freeze over the Sweet Water; I mention this that you may know how the thermometer stood in that region; and some animals had been frozen to death. It is winter where they are, and they are actually in the cold and snow which was near one foot deep. And as they went east it appeared to grow deeper.
The observations made this morning, as a matter of course, would only be treasured up by those who had in them the Spirit of life. We have persons that have so much death in them that they do not know the counsels that are given to the immigrating Saints, that do not know the tenor of the advise contained in the general epistles of the Presidency of the church. But I do not suppose that the thinking part of the community anticipated any censures being placed upon the First Presidency of this church, in consequence of the sufferings of the people now upon the plains. Still there is a certain class of people whose brains never reach above the calves of their legs, and they never will know anything about the general policy of the church, about what is written, what is desired, counseled, or asked for.
In relation to hand-cart companies, I have said, and I say it again, that they should start by the first of May, and then they can travel leisurely according their strength and feelings; they can then have May, June, July and August for the accomplishment of their journey. They could not travel so leisurely this year, from the fact that there were no grain depots on the route, consequently they had to hurry through, lest their rations should fail. Were grain deposited at convenient points on the route, the trip is, in every sense of the word, a feasible one for hand carts, for without that advantage the present year has proved the feasibility of the undertaking.
The grand difficulty with a portion of our immigration this year has been in starting in the forepart of September instead of the first of May, but even then it is worse with ox teams than with hand carts, for if the cattle fail the people have no facilities for transporting their tents, bedding, clothing and provisions. Unless I have different feelings to what I now have. I should never wish to see a train leave the Missouri river after the middle of June or after the first day of July at the latest, until we can establish grain depots on the route, for I do not consider any train safe in starting late.
Br. Brigham has invariably advised early starts, and he gave his reasons for so doing this morning, and I do not wish to reiterate them.
I wish to see those who are directly engaged in carrying out the operations of gathering the Saints to correctly understand the advice given and the system adopted for the gathering, and when they understand that and carry it out, as planned and given by br. Brigham, our immigration will be free from the sad results of mismanagement. But for persons who are ignorant of the special causes and agents in any unpleasant transaction, to at once blame the head is the height of nonsense, though people in all ages have been prone to censure their leader in times of special distress. When crickets and grasshoppers devour, when famine wastes, and when snows, storms and accidents occur it is natural, in that portion of the community that lack the gift of the Holy Ghost, to murmur against the leader of the people. . . .