New Orleans to Council Bluffs—the Hartley Group

Ronald D. Dennis, The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1987), 47-51.

Waiting at New Orleans for the arrival of the Hartley was Lucius Scoville, who was there on assignment for the Church to assist the immigrants. Also he was there at the request of Thomas D. Brown. On board were sixty-six boxes which Brown had asked Scoville to see through customs, preferably without having to pay duty. In case that was not possible, Brown had sent $400. Scoville assisted the Hartley passengers through customs and succeeded in getting his assigned sixty-six boxes through duty free.

William Hulme, president of the 238 Hartley Saints, went back on board the ship to make a final check for any items which may have been left behind. He found one small box containing a writing desk and fixtures. He put the box under his arm and left the boat. He was promptly arrested for smuggling and put in jail to await his trial four days hence. The box was taken to the customhouse, where Lucius Scoville was transacting business. Scoville recognized it as one of the sixty-six and learned that Hulme had been put in prison with bail posted at $750. The Mameluke, the steamer which Scoville had arranged to transport the immigrants upriver to St. Louis, was loaded and ready to leave that evening, the third of May, at 7 o’clock. Hulme, who had been a professor of music back in England, was now behind bars of a different kind, and his two teenage daughters were waiting for him at the docks. Scoville did about the only thing he could do; he arranged for a lawyer to go the next morning to the jail, post Hulme’s bail and try to clear him of the charges. The lawyer, as Scoville learned later, did just as promised. The Mameluke, however, departed on schedule, one passenger short. Hulme was able to rejoin the others shortly thereafter.

The only other happening in New Orleans which David D. Bowen recorded in his journal was that John Hughes Williams, president of the Welsh Saints on board the Hartley, got drunk. Although Bowen did not mention any repercussions, the imprisonment of one of their leaders and the inebriety of the other must have caused the immigrating Saints considerable concern. Their minds, however, would soon be fixed on a far more pressing matter—the cholera.

The New Orleans–St. Louis journey of the Hartley Saints coincided almost exactly with the St. Louis-Council Bluffs journey of their Buena Vista compatriots. And the toll exacted by the cholera epidemic was equally disastrous. On 12 May after a nine-day voyage, the Mameluke steamer arrived at St. Louis. Lucius Scoville wrote in his journal: “We had buried 30 Saints and 4 deck hands between New Orleans and St. Louis” (8 June 1849, 2). Ten of the dead were from among the Welsh-five children and five adults from four different families.

At St. Louis another steamboat, the Lightfoot, was contracted to take the company up the Missouri River to Council Bluffs. According to Scoville, only 110 passengers boarded on 14 May. Apparently, nearly half of the original 238 remained in St. Louis. The Lightfoot left St. Louis at 1:00 A.M. on 15 May and stopped a few miles upstream at the mouth of the Missouri River to bury the seven immigrants who had died while at St. Louis. Two days later at Jefferson City twenty-five more passengers were taken on board, all that was left of Brothers Farnum and Appleby’s company who had been on the Monroe (Scoville, 8 June 1849, 4). And at St. Joseph another fifteen persons boarded the Lightfoot, these from Brother Jesse Haven’s company.

By 30 May when the Lightfoot reached Iowa Point, twenty more persons had died from the cholera, the chief pilot and the fireman among them. The river was high and the current was so strong that the steamer could not progress any further. For want of a pilot to take the group the forty-five remaining miles upstream to Council Bluffs, the boat lay idle for several days. Finally, Captain Brooks, whom Appleby labeled “a base swindler without any refinement, more fit for a wood raft than Captain of a steamboat” (Appleby, 1), decided to go back downstream about seventy-five miles to Savannah Landing. There he “put all the passengers and their freight ashore” (Appleby, 1) and hired another steamer, the St. Croix, to take the hapless immigrants the rest of the way to Council Bluffs. There they arrived on 8 June after a frustrating and sorrow-filled twenty-five-day journey, which even the Buena Vista group with all their difficulties had accomplished in fifteen days.

When the Lightfoot backtracked to Savannah Landing, there was one Welshman who determined that he had had enough. Having buried his wife and four-year-old son just a few miles upriver from St. Louis, Thomas Davies decided to take his remaining eight children and remain in northwestern Missouri. Nineteen-year-old Thomas, Jr., however, went contrary to his father’s wishes and stayed with the main body of the Saints.

When thirteen-year-old Nathaniel Eames stepped off the St. Croix at Council Bluffs he had been an orphan for nearly a month. In a five-day period just before the Lightfoot reached St. Louis, Nathaniel had lost his father, his stepmother, his five-year-old half brother and two little half sisters. One of the little girls had been named Jane Hartley Eames, having been born on board the Hartley just two months before. At the end of the journey the William Owens family consisted of just three children; a complete family of parents and seven children had left Liverpool three months earlier. Of the seventy-seven Welsh passengers on the Hartley at least twenty died between Liverpool and Council Bluffs. There may have been more among those who remained at St. Louis; no record has been located.

David D. Bowen, the unpaid cook for the Hartley passengers, was one who stayed in St. Louis. Both his wife, Mary, and his mother-in-law, Elizabeth David, were extremely ill. He took them to a hospital in St. Louis where his mother-in-law was admitted as a cholera patient. Mary Bowen was refused admittance, however, because her illness was something other than cholera. Bowen then left his mother-in-law at the Charity Hospital with her youngest daughter, six-year-old Rachel, whereupon he took his wife about three miles further to the City Hospital. He left her there “with a lot of strengers that shee never seen before” and went back to the Mameluke, the steamer which had brought them from New Orleans. “There,” wrote Bowen, “I had to nurse my little babe eight months old all night without her mother. We had a very miserable night of it.”

The next day did not bring any better fortune:

When I arrived there [at the Charity Hospital] to my astonishment shee [his mother-in-law] was dead and beried before I got there. I did not see her atall and little girl Rachel was there like a little stranger. I then went to the other hospital where my wife was. There I found her very weak & feble. She said that she had nothing to take while shee was in there but water and shee begged on me to take her out from such a miserable place. I compleyed with her desire. I took her out. I had to carry her on my back most of the way from the hospital to the boat through the City of St. Louis. (Bowen, 12 May 1849, 21)

When they reached the boat, David and Mary found two of Mary’s younger sisters sick with cholera.

The next morning Morgan David, Bowen’s father-in-law, went out to the country to look for a place to live. He found a small branch of the Church located at Dry Hill, about six miles from St. Louis. Some kind brothers in the gospel, Thomas Green and William Stone, accompanied him back to the Mameluke with a team and wagon. There they retrieved Morgan David’s family and David Bowen’s and transported them with their belongings back to Dry Hill. That night all nine guests, three of them extremely ill, stayed at the home of Brother Green. His landlord, a Mr. Garsaide, gave orders that the newcomers be sent away for fear they would bring the cholera to the coal diggings at Dry Hill. His orders were ignored.

The next day Bowen and his father-in-law purchased a little cabin for fifteen dollars. In a short time all were healthy except for Mary Bowen, whose condition worsened with the passing of each day. On 23 May, Bowen recorded: “With day light this morning shee was very bad and about 4 o clock shee set on the box and leaned her head back on the wall, shee died in an instant without uttering a word” (23 May 1849, 22). A month later Bowen’s infant daughter died; she was buried in the same grave with her mother.