Men in Motion: Administering and Organizing the Gathering

Fred E. Woods

Fred E. Woods, “Men in Motion: Administering and Organizing the Gathering,” in A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration, ed. David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 197–222.

Fred E. Woods is a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University.

Shortly after the restored Church of Jesus Christ was officially established, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation that focused on the doctrine of gathering Israel in modern times: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts; wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked” (D&C 29:7–8).

A decade later, in 1840, thousands of European converts began to flow to America to join the body of Saints gathering in Nauvoo. Less than a year after the first vessel of Latter-day Saint British converts embarked for America, [1] the Quorum of the Twelve made a key decision that significantly aided the emigration process when they selected a man to serve in Liverpool as the first Latter-day Saint emigration agent. On April 5, 1841, Wilford Woodruff recorded that the Twelve “resolved that Elder Amos Fielding be appointed to superintend fitting out the Saints from Liverpool to America under the instructions of Elder [Parley] P. Pratt.” [2] This same month, the Church periodical Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star published an “Epistle of the Twelve,” which discussed the appointment and the advantages of having such a representative:

We have found that there are so many “pick-pockets,” and so many that will take every possible advantage of strangers, in Liverpool, that we have appointed Elder Amos Fielding, as agent of the church, to superintend the fitting out of Saints from Liverpool to America. Whatever information the Saints may want about the preparations for a voyage, they are advised to call on Elder Fielding, at Liverpool, as their first movement, when they arrive there as emigrants. There are some brethren who have felt themselves competent to do their own business in these matters, and rather despising the counsel of their friends, have been robbed and cheated out of nearly all they had. A word of caution to the wise is sufficient. It is also a great saving to go in companies, instead of going individually. First, a company can charter a vessel, so as to make the passage much cheaper than otherwise. Secondly, provisions can be purchased at wholesale for a company much cheaper than otherwise. Thirdly, this will avoid bad company on the passage. Fourthly, when a company arrives in New Orleans they can charter a steam-boat so as to reduce the passage near one-half. The measure will save some hundreds of pounds on each ship load. Fifthly, a man of experience can go as leader of each company, who will know how to avoid rogues and knaves. [3]

Regarding these agents, historian Craig S. Smith wrote, “The monumental efforts of the Church agents in implementing and achieving a successful Mormon emigration are generally not considered in most studies. Stories of the Mormon emigration typically focus on the faith, sacrifices, and hardships of the emigrants themselves.” Smith further explains, “What is usually not examined is the tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes organizing, planning, and preparing required for a successful emigration.” [4]

The focus of this paper, therefore, is to examine the pivotal role these agents played in concert with Church leaders. Under the inspired leadership of Joseph Smith and especially his able administrative successor Brigham Young, tens of thousands of foreign converts were successfully directed to Nauvoo (1840–46) and to the Great Basin (1847–77). [5] In addition, members of the Twelve and other local Church leaders were assigned duties pertaining to the gathering, and these leaders worked hand in hand with the appointed agents and, in some instances, as the agents themselves.

Among the many resources aiding Mormon migration was the Millennial Star, which served as an important tool in arranging for the transport of converts across the Atlantic during the latter half of the nineteenth century. [6] The first editor of the Millennial Star, Elder Parley P. Pratt, indicated in a prospectus issued May 27, 1840, that the purpose of the periodical was to spread the truth, gather Israel, and be as a star of light for the faithful to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This publication was established in Manchester in April 1840, two months before the first emigration of foreign converts from Liverpool. Just two years later, in April 1842, the Star began to be published from Liverpool, which had become headquarters for the British Mission. [7]

Within its pages, the Star created the feeling that the Second Coming was nigh at hand. The first article of the opening issue discussed the Millennium and reviewed the teachings of ancient prophets regarding the restoration and gathering of Israel in the last days. [8] This periodical not only stimulated a desire to gather; it also served as an essential instrument for Church leaders and agents in providing a continual stream of information and direction to the passing migrants. Even the departure times of the chartered vessels were published in various editions of the Star.

Very detailed guidance was regularly provided on each aspect of the emigrants’ journey to Zion. For example, in August 1841, the Star published an article titled “Information to Emigrants.” After furnishing several pages of general information regarding immigration to North America, the following practical counsel guided the emigrants on what they should take on their voyage: “Those intending to emigrate will do well to take no furniture with them except the necessary articles of beds, bedding, wearing apparel, pots, cooking utensils, &c., which will come in useful both on the ship and on the steam-boat, and after they arrive. . . . Every thing which is not designed for use on the passage should be carefully packed in strong boxes or trunks.”

Advice was also given on the best routes and travel costs, including specific guidelines for the purchase of tickets and the avoidance of extra lodging expenses:

New Orleans is by far the cheapest route for emigrants to Illinois; and much more money may be saved by emigrating in large companies. . . . When all things are prepared, they can go immediately on board, and begin to arrange the berths, beds, provisions, &c., and avoid the expense of living a while in the town of Liverpool.

Perhaps the passage money and provisions for each passenger from Liverpool to New Orleans will be not far from four pounds. Children under fourteen years of age, half-price; under one year nothing. . . .

When the ship arrives in New Orleans the company will need to send their foreman, or leader, or committee, to charter a steam boat for Nauvoo or St. Louis, which will probably be from 15s. [shillings] to 25s. per head, and provisions to be purchased for about two weeks; so the whole passage money from Liverpool to Nauvoo will probable [sic] be from £5 to £7. [9]

The Millennial Star also encouraged emigration with reports from those who had reached America. An article titled “Emigration” notes, “The news from the emigrants who sailed from this country last season, is so very encouraging that it will give a new impulse to the spirit of emigration.” [10] Written instructions especially encouraged emigration to Nauvoo so that the Saints might build the temple and partake of its blessings. [11] British converts were also encouraged by the excellent organization and dependability of Church leaders, both at Liverpool and Nauvoo, and later at Salt Lake City, as well as at the frontier outfitting posts along the way.

Such excellence was not achieved without a price. Whether the agents

dealt with transportation by land or by sea, there were always challenges to contend with. For example, one Mormon agent in Liverpool had this to say concerning his assignment: “There is much to do when a vessel is preparing to sail for some days; from ten to twenty emigrants coming to the office; one wants this and one wants that, and the third wants to know where he shall sleep all night, with a dozen or more women and children in the office to run over; one wants tin ware, another is short of cash and their children are hungry.” [12]

Following the Nauvoo exodus of 1846, the Saints began to stream into the Salt Lake Valley instead of Nauvoo. As the Saints gathered to Utah, each emigration agent continued to provide valiant service, and the Millennial Star continued to offer instruction to emigrants:

We beg to inform the Saints intending to emigrate, that we are now prepared to receive their applications for berths. Every application should be accompanied by the names, age, occupation, country where born, and £1 deposit for each one named, except for children under one year old. . . .

Passengers must furnish their own beds and bedding, their cooking utensils, provision boxes, &c.

very person applying for a berth or berths should be careful to give their address very distinct, in order to insure the delivery of our answer to them by letter carriers. [13]

Such exemplary administration soon caught the eye of those who were not of the faith. A London newspaper correspondent reported that Mormon emigration agent Samuel W. Richards had been interviewed by the House of Commons concerning the agents’ success in bringing Mormon converts across the Atlantic: “I heard a rather remarkable examination before a committee of the House of Commons. The witness was no other than the supreme authority in England of the Mormonites, and the subject upon which he was giving information was the mode in which the emigration to Utah, Great Salt Lake, is conducted. . . . There is one thing which . . . they [the Mormons] can do, viz., teach Christian shipowners how to send poor people decently, cheaply, and healthfully across the Atlantic.” [14]

This promising system launched by the Prophet Joseph Smith was later buttressed by what may be referred to as an emigration revelation received by Brigham Young at Winter Quarters on January 14, 1847. Following the Nauvoo exodus, with thousands of Saints strung out across Iowa Territory, Young received “The Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West” (D&C 136:1). Among other things, the Lord revealed that the Mormon companies were under covenant “to keep all the commandments” and to be organized with captains “under the direction of the Twelve Apostles” (D&C 136:2–3).

As Mormon Trail historian Richard E. Bennett has noted, this inspired document clearly emphasized the important doctrinal point that the gathering was to take place under apostolic supervision. [15] Further, those selected as captains (or others assigned to assist with migration matters) clearly understood their vital roles under the direction of the Twelve, and emigrants knew they were under covenant to obey. This emigration revelation provided not only a much-needed administrative map to guide the Mormon pioneers across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley but also a divine pattern of principles and promises for all segments of the journey, whether by sail, rail, or trail.

Apostles and prophets designated trail captains and later appointed emigration agents to ensure efficiency and safety. The general Church membership now benefited from a revelation that provided a model of migration from ports to outfitting posts or by tracks or trail. All along the journey—from the time converts left their native lands until their arrival in Zion—the Lord’s inspired system was to be followed. This system was wisely administered under Brigham Young, the American Moses, for three decades. President Young’s skill and concern regarding migration issues are manifest in hundreds of letters. Correspondence demonstrates that he kept a watchful eye on all aspects of the emigration business during his years as Church President. This carefulness is evident from a letter which President Young sent to his nephew Joseph W. Young, who had been assigned to be the emigration agent at the town of Wyoming, Nebraska, in 1864: “I trust you will always frankly and fully express to me your views upon any and every subject of importance in your official operations, for that gives me a chance to sanction or correct, as my judgement may direct.” [16]

Although the system was inspired, sometimes challenges arose—for example, mail delivery was slow and took weeks or even months. William Gibson, who oversaw emigration as a local Church leader in St. Louis, reported the following in 1852:

Fall I received a letter from S [Samuel] W Richards in Liverpool saying that there would be a large Emigration next spring & he would need from 300 to 500 waggons & he desired me [to] look around & find out where they could be got best & cheapest[;] the waggons before this[,] [they] had mostly come from Cincin[n]ati[,] so I wrote there to find out their prices now & having got that I went around to all the wagon makers in St. Louis & round about it I found that the Cheapest[,] best & most reliable waggons were made by Mr. [Louis] Espenschied of St. Louis[;] they cost about ten dollars less each waggon than those from Cincinatti &[,] to judge from those we had received from there were much superior wagons[;] accordingly I wrote back to Br Richards but some how he delayed sending me on the final order for them[,] which in the end was the cause of the loss of several thousand dollars to the Emigration Fund. [17]

Even though those involved with the emigration operation were certainly dedicated, they were not perfect. A few instances arose in which those who administered the program may have used poor judgment, though this was certainly more the exception than the rule. Such seems to be the exception with the Willie and Martin handcart company tragedies, for which President Young publicly reproved two of his agents for allowing the Saints to cross the plains so late in the season. [18]

Another challenge in the effort to get Saints to Utah was cost. Thousands of Latter-day Saints who desired to come to Zion simply did not have the means to do so. To address this problem, the Church initiated the Perpetual Emigrating Fund (PEF) in 1849, a revolving loan system that transported nearly one-third of the nineteenth-century European emigrants to Utah. [19] This same year, the Church also launched the Frontier Guardian from Kanesville, Iowa, with Elder Orson Hyde as editor. Like the Millennial Star and other Church periodicals of the mid-nineteenth century, the Frontier Guardian provided advice for the migrant Saints and others heading west. At the conclusion of its first volume, the Guardian explained the purpose of the PEF in two separate articles written by the First Presidency (Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards). The first, titled “Second General Epistle,” specified that the PEF was created for the purpose of gathering the poor, “agreeably to our covenants in the [Nauvoo] Temple that we would never ‘cease our exertions, by all the means and influence within our reach, till all the saints . . . should be located at some gathering place of the saints.’” [20] The second, a letter from the Presidency to Orson Hyde, noted, “The Funds are to be appropriated in the form of a loan, rather than a gift; and this will make the honest in heart rejoice, . . . while the lazy idlers, if any such there be, will find fault, and want every luxury furnished them for their journey, and in the end pay nothing.” [21]

There is evidence that Church leaders and agents were often pressed financially in administering the migration program on both sides of the Atlantic. Such conditions required both practical experience as well as inspiration and sometimes unconventional methods. Such appears to be the case with Lucius Scovil, who served as an emigration agent in New Orleans. As the 1849 winter dragged on, Scovil grew a bit despondent as he considered his own financial circumstances as well as the poverty of the local Saints, some of whom were emigrants who needed funding to reach Zion. This undesirable condition was augmented by the fact that cholera had once again attacked the inhabitants of New Orleans.

Scovil recalled that on March 2, 1849, he meditated on the difficult conditions. While he pondered, he was impressed to go to Caliboose Square. [22] Further, he should walk to a nearby bookstore and buy a lottery ticket from a Frenchman employed there. Although he conceded “the thought was foreign to my natural feelings as anything could be,” he explained:

Yet I walked forward and 15 minutes later I found myself at the book store. when I entered the store I felt that I had been very familiar with the Frenchman at some previous time. I therefore inquired if he had lottery tickets for sale. He asked me who told me that he had lottery tickets for sale, as there was no lottery tickets for sale in Louisiana, it being contrary to law, “but,” said he, “I have lottery tickets for sale and the drawing is tomorrow.” He then spread out the tickets before me on the counter and I soon discovered a half ticket of the number I wanted, No. 9998. I asked him the price, and he said $2.50. I took the ticket and paid for it.

Ten days later, Scovil, on learning that he had won one hundred times his money, expressed gratitude to God that he had opened up the way for Scovil to perform his appointed task in New Orleans and advance the immigrants to St. Louis. [23]

Because of the high volume of British Saints passing through St. Louis, it was deemed necessary to establish temporary lodging for these Saints. Minutes from a meeting held in the spring of 1849 indicate that many of the brethren “urged the propriety of procuring some place, as a rendezvous for the saints emigrating from Europe so that the Poor might have some place to put up at until they would be enabled to get Houses. [It] was recommended that the Mound House if Possible be procured for the purpose.” [24] The following month, Nathaniel H. Felt, the local Church leader who oversaw emigration, suggested that another building be rented, and eventually the Concert Hall in St. Louis was leased for the price of twenty-five dollars per year. [25]

St. Louis Mormon emigration agents like Felt were diligent in attending to the emigrants’ various needs, which ranged from employment and housing to arranging vessels for steamboat travel, as well as preaching the importance of the gathering. At the close of 1849, Felt spoke on this theme, urging the Saints to move to Salt Lake City as soon as possible. He further desired that the local branch leaders “let this idea go forth, that all gather up, if it be only to the Bluffs [Council Bluffs, Iowa].” Just two months later, Felt advised the Saints who had temporarily congregated in St. Louis to “go to the Valley go to the Bluff. . . . Go; Go; as far as you can.” [26]

The many who were unable to go because of economic hardship remained in St. Louis for several months or even years. [27] Thus, in April 1854, President Young and other Church leaders designated St. Louis as a location where the “Saints might gather with approbation who were unable to go directly through to Utah.” [28] Apostle Erastus Snow was chosen to journey to St. Louis, organize a stake, preside over the region, and oversee general emigration matters in Iowa and Missouri.

Before his arrival, Elder Snow already had plans to establish and edit a Latter-day Saint periodical, which he called the St. Louis Luminary. [29] As with the Millennial Star and the Frontier Guardian, Elder Snow intended that the paper be used as an emigration guide of sorts for the many scattered Saints, offering news from the Valley, support, and instruction. [30] Just one month after the organization of the St. Louis Stake, he published a cry for assistance in the December 2, 1854, issue of the Luminary, explaining, “Soon we will have a great many of our foreign emigration here, and some of them perhaps destitute. I wish . . . every man in Israel . . . consider themselves a vigilance committee, to keep their eyes and ears open, and learn of every opening and avenue by which they can throw their employment in the hands of those who stand in need.” [31]

Moreover, Elder Snow gave instructions to the European converts and Eastern States Mormon emigrants who planned to stop just briefly in St. Louis before continuing forward to the Salt Lake Valley. In an article titled “Emigrants for Utah,” he counseled:

My assent will not be given for any Saint to leave the Missouri River, unless so organized in a company of at least fifty effectual well armed men, and that too under the command of a man appointed by me; one who will carry out my instruction. . . .

Choice wagons made to order and delivered at the point of outfit, with bows, projections, &c., will be about $78, without projections, $75. Oxen, with yokes and chains, from $70 to $85 per yoke; cows from $16 to $25 each.

My experience, derived by six journeys over the plains enables me to know what kind of teams and outfits are wanted for the plains. [32]

Yet the number of Mormons coming up the Mississippi, passing through St. Louis, and heading west on the Missouri River would soon be curtailed when the port of arrival for incoming foreign converts changed from New Orleans to the East Coast as a result of a letter written in 1854 by President Young to Elder Franklin D. Richards, who then presided over emigration from Liverpool. Because of the threat of diseases such as cholera, President Young directed Elder Richards as follows: “You are aware of the sickness liable to assail our unacclimated brethren on the Mississippi river, hence I wish you to ship no more to New Orleans, but ship to Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, giving preference in the order named.” [33]

In 1855, the Saints began using eastern ports and soon found that New York was the best choice, thanks to the Castle Garden Immigration Depot, which opened that same year. The European converts also benefited from the Latter-day Saint emigration agents stationed in New York, who arranged temporary employment or lodging for emigrants. [34] The first New York agent appointed by President Young was Elder John Taylor, who oversaw emigration matters and presided over the Eastern states Mission. Elder Richards was stationed in Liverpool, with stewardship over Latter-day Saints embarking for America as well as over all issues pertaining to the Saints in Europe. Each man was heavily involved in gathering the Saints to Zion and was in contact with the other as well as with President Young.

In a letter Elder Taylor reminded Elder Richards explains that he was aware of the emigration instructions that President Young and his counselors had sent, which had previously been published in two Latter-day Saint periodicals: the Mormon, published in New York and edited by Elder Taylor, and the St. Louis Luminary. [35]

Whenever you ship a company, whether it be small or large, be careful to forward to Elder John Taylor, at New York City, a correct list of the names of the persons in each company with their occupation and approximate amount of property or means, & forward it in season for Elder John Taylor to receive it before the company arrive in port, that he may be so advised as to be able to meet them, or appoint some proper person to do so & counsel them immediately on landing as to the best course for each and all in every company to pursue; viz, whether to tarry for a season, to work in the place, or immediate neighbourhood of their landing or to proceed. [36]

Such a superior emigrant location system was evident by both land and sea, [37] as is readily apparent in the manner in which Elder Taylor used the Mormon to assist these European converts upon their arrival on the Eastern Seaboard. In its first issue, dated February 17, 1855, Elder Taylor articulated that a primary purpose of the new periodical was “to impart the latest information relative to the best course to be pursued by Emigrants on their arrival in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.” [38]

Besides serving as a directory for routing emigrants west, the Mormon included dates of port arrivals as well as employment opportunities for those who needed to raise money to continue their journey to the Salt Lake Valley. Two weeks after the establishment of the Mormon, local missionaries received the following instruction from Elder Taylor via this newspaper: “As there will shortly be many of our brethren here from Europe who will be in want of employment, in various trades and occupations, you are requested to send to this office, directions whereby we may know where to send those that are in need of employment, on their arrival in this country.” [39]

Though the Mormon was short lived, [40] the system of using a Latter-day Saint periodical to find much-needed jobs for the incoming European immigrants proved most effective. For example, the Mormon reported an abundance of mining jobs in a local area. [41] In a letter to Church headquarters, Elder Taylor soon reported, “We have been doing what we could lately in assisting the emigrating operations, and not withstanding the bad times, with the united efforts of the brethren, we have succeeded in obtaining work for all, with very few exceptions, and they are provided for by the others.” Further, “I am in hopes we shall be as successfull with the remainder; You will see by the published lists, in the ‘Mormon’ the names of those coming.” [42] Less than two months later, Elder Taylor informed President Young that “although 30,000 persons have been out of work in New York and the same proportion in Phila[delphia], yet our brethren I believe have all got employment.” [43]

For the incoming who could not find employment, Elder Taylor devised a plan to assist them in their stranded condition on the East Coast. In a letter to President Young dated February 20, 1856, Elder Taylor remarked, “We have had pretty hard times here with many poor saints here; but shall see it through. I am raising a loan fund something after the order of the P.E.F. to be kept for the purpose of assisting those that are poor untill they get employment, & then to be returned.” [44]

Elder Taylor continued to provide direction and aid to improve conditions for the migrant Saints. [45] In his multifaceted assignment and in all his plans and demands for sail, rail, and trail travel, Elder Taylor was also assisted in New York by his son George and other elders. One elder of particular note was Nathaniel H. Felt, who, as previously noted, assisted with emigration in St. Louis. Felt, an experienced, wealthy tailor from Salem, Massachusetts, eased the heavy responsibilities pouring into Elder Taylor’s New York office. [46] Elder Taylor informed President Young, “Br. Felt & my son George are with me, as I found their assistance absolutely necessary. They are all well & doing well.” [47]

Elder Taylor regularly corresponded with President Young, whose counsel he valued and implemented. [48] For example, an extract from a letter written to President Young in April 1855 gives a glimpse at Elder Taylor’s concerted efforts to assist in the emigration process. Having just informed the President that the ship Siddons had not yet arrived in Philadelphia, Elder Taylor offered the following plan for the remaining 1855 season of emigrant rail travel: “Concerning emigration I have made all the enquiries I can & am decidedly of the opinion that the best rout[e] at present will be by Burlington Iowa to which place a railroad goes direct.” [49]

Other New York Mormon agents succeeded Elder Taylor, and they likewise made suggestions to improve the process of gathering Saints to the Salt Lake Valley. For example, Mormon emigration from the East Coast was redirected through Quincy, Illinois, thanks to a letter written to President Young by George Q. Cannon, then serving as an agent in New York on the eve of the 1859 migration season. After Cannon had made a trip from the East to St. Louis, he discovered that it was a more economical and better route to channel the gathering Saints through Quincy to Florence, Nebraska, rather than to send them to Iowa City on the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, which had been the established route since this railroad reached Iowa City in the spring of 1856. [50]

In addition, William C. Staines, another New York agent, acted faithfully in this position from 1867 until his death in 1881. Notwithstanding, Staines faced the same challenges as did other agents who offered advice as they observed thousands of incoming emigrants. For example, in a letter to Albert Carrington in England, Staines advised, “If any Saints emigrate to New York without means to go to Utah, they should be competent to take care of themselves, and not rely upon us, as I have not means to further them with. Their luggage should not be mixed up on the ship with that of those who are going through to Utah.” [51]

During his tenure of service, Brother Staines “made regular annual trips between Salt Lake City and New York, his duties requiring his presence in the East during the spring, summer, and fall, after which he would return to spend the winter with his family and friends in Utah.” [52] In the spring of 1871, before his annual departure to the East, he was given a special blessing under the hands of Lorenzo Snow, Franklin D. Richards and Wilford Woodruff, who acted as voice. Brother Staines was commended and received the following promises:

You shall be greatly blessed in the emigration, in laboring for the benefit of your brethren and sisters. The angels will be round about you; you shall be preserved while attending to this mission, and the Lord will open your way in many respects. Whenever you come to a position where all may seem dark, you shall see your way open up before you. Whenever danger shall lie in your path, whether upon rail-roads or else-where, the Spirit of God shall reveal unto you that danger and you shall escape the same. Whenever it shall be right to make contacts for the emigration it shall be clearly made known to your mind. Your labors will be accepted of the Lord God of Israel, and you shall be preserved by His power. [53]

In the spring of 1881, James H. Hart was set apart by now-President John Taylor as emigration agent at New York City to replace Staines. Hart kept President Taylor informed of his labors through his seven-year tenure, as evidenced by sixty-two letters he wrote to the president. During the years Hart served as an agent, he commuted back and forth from Bloomington, Idaho between emigration seasons. This was apparently necessary as he served as first counselor to William Budge in the Bear Lake Stake presidency and spent two years as a prosecuting attorney. [54] Hart had previous experience working with emigration matters in St. Louis, where he had served as president of the St. Louis Stake from 1855 to 1857. [55] His earlier experience as a lawyer—coupled with his work as a farmer, eight years as a postmaster, and three terms in the Idaho Territorial Legislature—provided a wealth of experience for his assignment on the East Coast. [56]

Upon arrival at New York City, and continually thereafter, Brother Hart was interviewed by newspaper reporters. One of his grandsons, Edward L. Hart, noted, “He was, in that metropolis, the visible Mormon—the genuine specimen that could be seen and interviewed.” [57] Besides his challenge of facing the media and thousands of passing emigrants, James Hart also had to deal with continual correspondence from Church members, a task that must have kept him very busy and at times tried his patience. Such correspondence included the following letter sent by James H. Johnson on July 3, 1883: “Dear Brother I have sent you $37 dollars for you to purchase my ticket from Chicago to Salt Lake City Utah. I would like to leave St. Catherine’s on the 6 or 7 that is next Friday or Saturday. I will Saturday the 7 of July. Please and rite back how to go on, yours very truly.” [58]

Three months later an engaging request from a Brother Scofield inquired, “Will you be kind enough to hand the enclosed seven dollars to Sister Sarah Woodenden or any of her family who are emigrants (on the next company) from Brighouse Yorkshire and you will confer a great favor. P.S. They are my relatives.” [59]

In addition to such correspondence, Brother Hart also effectively handled important decisions that affected emigration on a much broader scale. One of the most notable changes was his suggestion that the Saints no longer use the New York trains to travel west. In light of the city emigration procedures, costs, and the passage of the Interstate Railway Act of 1887, Hart suggested that the Church transport Latter-day Saint emigrants from New York to Norfolk by ship and then proceed through the port of Norfolk, Virginia west on Norfolk’s railroads. This suggestion was implemented, and over five thousand converts traveled west through Norfolk to Utah between 1887 and 1890. [60]

As the nineteenth century came to a close, the Mormon gathering, which once flowed at a rapid rate, slowed to a trickle. Antipolygamy laws had an impact, and in 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act, in effect, halted the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Yet by this time, tens of thousands of European converts had been successfully transported to Zion through the wise guidance of Church leaders and a number of dedicated Mormon agents who provided timely advice. These men in motion had propelled the Church forward into the twentieth century and left a great legacy of inspired, consecrated priesthood service.

Appendix: Nineteenth-Century Presidents of the British Mission [61]

Heber C. KimballJuly 1837April 1838
Joseph FieldingApril 1838July 1840
Brigham YoungJuly 1840April 1841
Parley P. PrattApril 1841October 1842
Thomas WardOctober 1842November 1843
Reuben HedlockNovember 1843February 1845
Wilford WoodruffFebruary 1845October 1846
Orson HydeOctober 1846January 1847
Franklin D. RichardsJanuary 1847February 1847
Orson SpencerFebruary 1847August 1848
Orson PrattAugust 1848January 1851
Franklin D. RichardsJanuary 1851May 1852
Samuel W. RichardsMay 1852June 1854
Franklin D. RichardsJune 1854August 1856
Orson PrattAugust 1856October 1857
Samuel W. RichardsOctober 1857Mar 1858
Asa CalkinMar 1858May 1860
Nathaniel V. JonesMay 1860August 1860
Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. RichAugust 1860May 1862
George Q. CannonMay 1862August 1864
Daniel H. WellsAugust 1864August 1865
Brigham Young Jr.Aug 1865June 1867
Franklin D. RichardsJune 1867Sept 1868
Albert CarringtonSept 1868June 1870
Horace S. EldredgeJune 1870June 1871
Albert CarringtonJune 1871October 1873
Lester J. HerrickOct 1873March 1874
Joseph F. SmithMar 1874Sept 1875
Albert CarringtonSept 1875June 1877
Joseph F. SmithJune 1877July 1878
William BudgeJuly 1878Nov 1880
Albert CarringtonNov 1880Nov 1882
John Henry SmithNov 1882Jan 1885
Daniel H. WellsAug 1885Aug 1887
George TeasdaleFeb 1887Oct 1890
Brigham Young Jr.Oct 1890June 1893
Alfred Solomon (pro tem)  
Anthon H. LundJune 1893July 1896
Rulon S. WellsJuly 1896Dec 1898
Platt D. LymanNov 1898May 1901


[1] The British Saints launched their first maritime emigration to Nauvoo, Illinois (via New York), with the voyage of the Britannia on June 6, 1840, with English convert John Moon leading a group of forty Saints from the port of Liverpool. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966), 134. This maiden voyage ended in New York. The migrants then traveled by rail and steamboat to Nauvoo. This trip was the first of thirty-four chartered voyages to Nauvoo. In addition, at least thirteen non-chartered Latter-day Saint voyages consisted of small groups of families or individuals. For a list of each voyage and the story of their maritime journey, see Fred E. Woods, Gathering to Nauvoo (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2002).

[2] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, ed. Scott G. Kenney (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:79. Parley P. Pratt was then serving as the president of the British Mission. With the exception of the first British Mission president (Heber C. Kimball, 1837–38), each of the presidents had the ultimate responsibility to oversee the emigration of European converts bound for America, which commenced in 1840. Church agents worked under the direction of and in concert with each president, as in the case of Amos Fielding and President Pratt. For example, in the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr., 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 315, Pratt notes, “In the month of September, 1841, Brother Amos Fielding and myself chartered a large new ship called the ‘Tyrean’ . . . for New Orleans.” See also appendix for a list of each of the British Mission presidents during the nineteenth century.

[3] “Epistle of the Twelve,” Millennial Star, April 1841, 311.

[4] Craig S. Smith, “Wyoming, Nebraska Territory: Joseph W. Young and the Mormon Emigration of 1864,” BYU Studies 39, no. 1 (2000): 31.

[5] See Richard L. Jensen, “Brigham Young and the Gathering to Zion,” in Lion of the Lord: Essays on the Life and Service of Brigham Young, ed. Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 209–26, for an excellent treatment of Young’s emigration administrative efforts.

[6] This information has been culled from the Millennial Star and other primary sources, all available on the Mormon Immigration Index CD-ROM, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000). comp. Fred E. Woods. With the exception of a few voyages out of Southampton in 1894, the Mormons continued to use Liverpool as their main port of embarkation throughout the nineteenth century. Additional research reveals that the Church continued to keep a record of voyages from Liverpool to America until 1925. During this first quarter of the twentieth century, Liverpool continued to be the main point of embarkation for European converts voyaging to America. These voyage and passenger records are contained in the “British Mission Registers” (Church History Library, Salt Lake City), which the author has been compiling and analyzing since 2000.

[7] The April 1842 issue of Millennial Star indicates the change of publication location from Manchester to Liverpool. This move certainly made it much easier for Church leaders and agents to supervise emigration affairs, which were often tied in with news from the Star.

[8] Alan K. Parrish, “Beginnings of the Millennial Star: Journal of the Mission to Great Britain,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: British Isles, ed. Donald Q. Cannon (Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1990), 135–39. Parrish also notes that the Millennial Star was “published as a monthly, biweekly, or weekly publication for 130 years, . . . the longest continuous publication in the history of the Church, terminating in 1970” (133). It is also of interest that the name of the periodical certainly fits the scriptural theme contained in Doctrine and Covenants 29:8, which states that one purpose of gathering the faithful to one place is “to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.”

[9] “Information to Emigrants,” Millennial Star, August 1841, 60–61. For instructions to emigrants in the years 1840–54, see Frederick H. Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley, ed. by James Linforth (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1855), 19–22.

[10] “Emigration,” Millennial Star, February 1841, 263.

[11] History of the Church, 4:186; 5:296; D&C 124:25–7.

[12] British Mission History, January 16, 1844, in Philip A. M. Taylor, “Mormons and Gentiles on the Atlantic,” Utah Historical Quarterly 24, no. 3 (July 1956): 204.

[13] “Notice to Intending Emigrants,” Millennial Star, November 20, 1852, 618.

[14] London correspondent of Cambridge Independent Press (May 24, 1854) concerning Mormon emigration agent Samuel W. Richards, in “Missionary Experience,” Contributor, February 1890, 158–59. Pages 155–59 of this article also contain a firsthand account of this unusual evidence by Richards himself.

[15] Richard E. Bennett, Mormons at the Missouri, 1846–1852 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 157.

[16] Brigham Young to Joseph W. Young, May 10, 1864, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

[17] Journals of William Gibson, Fall 1852, 108; Spring 1853, 112, Church History Library. Louis Espenschied was a German immigrant who, at age twenty-two, opened up his St. Louis wagon factory in 1843. His grandson Lloyd Espenschied, in “Louis Espenschied and Family,” Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society 18, no. 2 (January 1962): 91–92, noted, “Strangely enough, it appears to have been a religious sect that gave Louis his first considerable business in ‘prairie schooners.’ When the Mormons sallied forth westward from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846, bound across the vast plains toward the Great Salt Lake, they were desperately in need of wagons. They themselves built most of them, it seems, but they were obliged to call upon others.” Further, Lloyd noted that the eldest grandchild of Espenschied wrote, “Grandfather had made wagons for the Mormons when they left Illinois, and had made a special box on the back to hold fruit trees ready to plant.” In addition, the author, drawing upon correspondence he received dated June 9, 1943, from Church assistant historian A. W. Lund, maintained that by 1855, Louis was still working with Mormon emigration. Lund uncovered a letter written by John Wardle and Elder Erastus Snow to Espenschied that noted, “Paid $2,000.00 to Louis Espenschied and Co., for Wagons.” Finally, later letters between President Brigham Young and Louis Espenschied revealed that President Young and Espenschied were in correspondence with each other as late as 1859. See outgoing letter from Young to Espenschied dated June 1, 1857, and incoming letter from Espenschied to Young, dated August 29, 1859. See also July 14, 1859, letter by Jeter Clinton to President Young, wherein Clinton discusses with President Young a $258.00 debt owed Espenschied. Brigham Young Correspondence, Church History Library.

[18] David Roberts, Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Tragedy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008) has recently tried to pin the blame of the Willie and Martin handcart disasters on President Young. Not only does Roberts jump to conclusions regarding Young’s knowledge of the incident, he fails to examine carefully decades of correspondence between the Mormon prophet and his agents, which reveals that President Young continually provided meticulous instructions on emigration matters. While Roberts is quick to point out that President Young contributed to the greatest tragedy of American emigration by land, he fails to note the maritime migration safety record during President Young’s administration. It is certainly impressive that none of the hundreds of vessels carrying Mormon passengers across the Atlantic ever sank, and only one subvessel sank in the Pacific. This safety record is quite remarkable, as evidenced by the fact that between the years 1847 and 1853 alone, at least fifty-nine other immigrant vessels sank crossing the Atlantic. Conway B. Sonne, Saints on the Seas: A Maritime History of Mormon Migration 1830–1890 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 139.

[19] Fred E. Woods, “Perpetual Emigrating Fund,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, ed. Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 910. See also Richard L. Jensen and William G. Hartley, “Immigration and Emigration,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:674.

[20] “Second General Epistle” from the First Presidency, Frontier Guardian, December 26, 1849, 1.

[21] “Letter to Orson Hyde” from the First Presidency, October 16, 1849, in Frontier Guardian, December 26, 1849, 2.

[22] The caliboose, or “jailhouse,” was located in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

[23] Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 12, 1849, Church History Library, 2–3.

[24] Record of the Saint Louis Branch, 1847–50, Church History Library, May 3, 1849.

[25] Record of the Saint Louis Branch, 1847–50, June 2, 1849.

[26] Record of the Saint Louis Branch, 1847–50, February 16, 1850.

[27] For a complete history of the Saints in St. Louis, see Fred E. Woods and Thomas L. Farmer, When the Saints Came Marching In: A History of the Latter-day Saints in St. Louis (Orem, UT: Millennial Press, 2009).

[28] Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley, 57.

[29] Andrew Karl Larson, Erastus Snow: The Life of a Missionary and Pioneer for the Early Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1971), 257–58.

[30] St. Louis Records, 1852–56, Church History Library, October 3, 1854, 186.

[31] “To the Saints in St. Louis,” St. Louis Luminary, December 2, 1854, 6.

[32] “Emigrants for Utah,” St. Louis Luminary, February 17, 1855, 50.

[33] Brigham Young to Franklin D. Richards, “Foreign Correspondence,” Millennial Star, October 28, 1854, 684.

[34] For more information on the role of Latter-day Saint emigration agents at New York, see Fred E. Woods, “The Knights at Castle Garden: Latter-day Saint Immigration Agents at New York,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New York and Pennsylvania, ed. Alexander L. Baugh and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002), 103–24.

[35] Although emigration was certainly a key issue in these periodicals and others established during this period, this topic was not the primary reason they were launched. Richard D. McClellan, “Polemical Periodicals,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, 907, noted, “Soon after the Church formally announced the practice of plural marriage [1852], Brigham Young appointed several men to go to various cities to establish periodicals to respond to anti-polygamy polemic. . . . The Seer was edited by Orson Pratt and published from 1853 to 1854 in both Washington D.C., and Liverpool, England. It was followed by the St. Louis Luminary (November 1854–December 1855), established by Erastus Snow; the Mormon, founded by John Taylor in New York City in February 1855; and the Western Standard of San Francisco, edited by George Q. Cannon, beginning in February 1856.” For more information on the role of the Luminary in St. Louis concerning emigration and Church matters in general, see Woods and Farmer, When the Saints Came Marching In: A History of the Latter-day Saints in St. Louis, 45–55.

[36] John Taylor to Franklin D. Richards, March 4, 1856, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library.

[37] For an excellent overview of the operations behind Mormon migration during this period, see Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley.

[38] “To the Emigration and Our Readers Generally,” Mormon, February 17, 1855, 3.

[39] “To the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Mormon, March 3, 1855, 3.

[40] Andrew Jenson, “Taylor, John,” in Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Publishing Company, 1887), 1:18, points out that the Mormon was discontinued as a result of Elder Taylor and other elders being called home to the Salt Lake Valley because of the threat of the Utah War.

[41] “Mormonism Revised,” Mormon, March 24, 1855, 3.

[42] John Taylor to Brigham Young, May 18, 1855, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library.

[43] John Taylor to Brigham Young, July 15, 1855, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library. Two months later, Elder Taylor again wrote President Young, stating, “Since I last wrote you, part of another ship load of Emigrants have arrived, numbering 162. All poor, they have most of them obtained employment. Monetary and mercantile affairs are looking up a little, and prospects are brightening for laboring people.” See John Taylor to Brigham Young, September 16, 1855, Brigham Young Correspondence, Church History Library.

[44] John Taylor to Brigham Young, February 20, 1856, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library.

[45] For more information on the role of Elder Taylor in supervising emigration, see Fred E. Woods, “A Gifted Gentleman in Perpetual Motion: John Taylor as an Emigration Agent,” in Champion of Liberty: John Taylor, ed. Mary Jane Woodger (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 171–91.

[46] For a biographical treatise of Nathaniel H. Felt, see Fred E. Woods, “Nathaniel H. Felt: An Essex County Man,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: The New England States, ed. Donald Q. Cannon, Arnold K. Garr, and Bruce A. Van Orden (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 219–36.

[47] John Taylor to Brigham Young, April 11, 1855, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library.

[48] In the Correspondence of Brigham Young collection located in the Church History Library, there are twenty-one known letters which John Taylor wrote to Brigham Young during the period of April 1855–57. There are also seventeen, possibly eighteen, known letters from President Young to Elder Taylor during these same years. These outgoing letters from President Young are full of information regarding emigration. In fact, one lengthy letter dated October 30, 1856, is entirely devoted to this theme and carefully treats the challenges of a triangular correspondence between Franklin D. Richards in Liverpool, Elder Taylor in New York, and President Young in Salt Lake City. Perhaps more letters would have come to Elder Taylor from the Salt Lake Valley, but getting the mail across the nation in a timely fashion was a continual problem in the mid-nineteenth century. For example, in a letter to Elder Taylor dated July 28, 1856, President Young wrote, “In regard to the emigration, whatever we could say . . . would be long past before it reached you.” In any case, the Brigham Young Correspondence provides a wealth of information not only on the dialogue between Elder Taylor and President Young but also the dialogue with other Mormon emigration agents assigned at such ports and posts as Liverpool; New Orleans; New York; Kanesville; Florence; Wyoming; Nebraska; Mormon Grove; Kansas Territory; St. Louis; and Iowa City in their correspondence sent to Salt Lake City during the years that President Young presided over the Church (1847–77). The author is currently involved in writing a book about these dedicated “men in motion.”

[49] John Taylor to Brigham Young, April 11, 1855, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library.

[50] See George Q. Cannon to Brigham Young, April 23, 1859, 1–2, Correspondence of Brigham Young, Church History Library; and Fred E. Woods, “Two Sides of a River: Mormon Transmigration through Quincy, Illinois, and Hannibal, Missouri,” Mormon Historical Studies 2 (Spring 2001): 120–21.

[51] William C. Staines to A. [Albert] Carrington, Millennial Star, August 14, 1869, 536. Mormon emigration historians Richard L. Jensen and William G. Hartley note, “There were three categories of immigrants: the independent, who paid their own way to Utah; ‘states’ or ‘ordinary’ immigrants, who paid only enough to reach a port of entry or other intermediate stopping place in the United States, hoping to earn enough there to finish the journey; and PEF immigrants, assisted by the Perpetual Emigrating Fund.” “Immigration and Emigration,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:674.

[52] Jenson, “Staines, William Carter,” in Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 2:517.

[53] “Blessing,” Papers of William Carter Staines, Church History Library, item 1, 1–2.

[54] Edward L. Hart, Mormon in Motion: The Life and Journals of James H. Hart, 1825–1906, in England, France and America (Salt Lake City: Windsor Books, 1978), 191–92, 194. Jenson, “James Henry Hart,” in Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 2:28, notes that James Hart was a prosecuting attorney from 1883 to 1884.

[55] Stanley B. Kimball, “The Saints and St. Louis, 1831–1857: An Oasis of Tolerance and Security,” BYU Studies 13, no. 4 (Summer 1973): 514–15. For an account of James Hart’s years at St. Louis, see Hart, Mormon in Motion, 124–51.

[56] Hart, Mormon in Motion, 182, 188–89.

[57] Hart, Mormon in Motion, 202. The same page states, “For the most part he was treated fairly by the New York press.” See pages 201–6 for examples of his image as presented by the reporters.

[58] James H. Johnson to Mr. James Hart, July 3, 1883, collected material concerning James H. Hart, n.d., Church History Library.

[59] Jno. Scofield to Elder J. H. Hart, October 24, 1883, New York Emigration Office Records, Church History Library.

[60] For details of Latter-day Saint immigration through Norfolk, see Fred E. Woods, “Norfolk and the Mormon Folk: Latter-day Saint Immigration through Old Dominion (1887–1890),” Mormon Historical Studies 1, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 73–91.

[61] “World Missions and Their Presidents,” unpublished manuscript, Church History Library. The Deseret News 1997–98 Church Almanac (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1996), 411, notes that on June 28, 1854 (commencing with Franklin D. Richards), the British Mission took additional administrative responsibilities, overseeing not only the British Isles but also Europe.