[Geo. A. Smith & E. T. Benson to Orson Hyde, Carbonca, Council Bluffs, Iowa, 20 Dec 1848; in Millennial Star, vol. 11 no. 4 (15 Feb 1849), 52–54.]
Letters to President Pratt.
Carbonca, Council Bluffs, Iowa, December 20th, 1848.
Dear Brother, Elder Orson Pratt,—As an apology for our long silence, we write this letter, for, no doubt, you are aware that there would be a great crowd of business on our hands as soon as the presidency all left Winter Quarters. The people are scattered over so great an extent of territory, that it requires an immense amount of labour to communicate with them, and in a great measure it has been done through others. There are about fifty branches organized, all doing well, as a general thing, except some slight touches of the big head, which is a natural consequence where men forget the work of the Lord, and seek to build up themselves. On the 9th of December, all the soldiers that had come from California, and the valley, with their wives and families were feasted in the tabernacle on a general collection of good things, provided by the Saints for the occasion; it was certainly equal to the dinner provided for the pioneers at the pass, in the rocky mountains, which you know would be difficult to beat. After the soldiers had all feasted, the weather being very cold, they praised the Lord in a dance; after an hour spent in this way, several appropriate addresses were made, and all felt first rate. The Seventies held a meeting on the Sunday and Monday following, which were well attended, notwithstanding the severe weather; unity and the good spirit pervaded these gatherings. They adjourned to the new tabernacle on Pigeon Creek on the last Saturday in December. Brother Egan and twelve others arrived here from the Salt Lake city on Thursday, the 7th; he left the city on the 13th of October, President Young arrived there on the 20th of September, President Kimball, on the 24th. A conference had been held: on motion of Elder P. Pratt, the presidency, as organized here, were unanimously acknowledged, also, my father as patriarch, Charles C. Rich as president in the valley, John Young and Erastus Snow his counsellors. Arrangements were made for inclosing an additional field of 11,000 acres; and a company of 860 men have taken shares in it, varying from 5 to 80 acres, the smallest lots being nearest the city, to accommodate mechanics. All the buildings composing the fort ere to be moved on the city lots, except the square inclosed by the pioneers. The Indians are friendly, and it is considered safe to settle out on farms. A new city is to be laid out 10 miles north of the Temple block, another 10 miles south; all the lots surveyed had been taken up, and an addition had been made to the old survey, running to the mountains on the east side, and with addition there would not be inheritances enough for the Saints already there; but some of them would have to settle in the new cities. Brother Egan tells us that the pioneers’ claims were respected, so the prospect is we will find a place when we are permitted to go there. Elder Addison Pratt, from the South Sea Islands, had arrived in the valley in good health and spirits. A company of the Saints who went to California in the ship Brooklyn were en route for the Slat Lake, and would probably arrive in about two weeks after the express left.
Nearly all the soldiers had arrived; a public dinner was given them on the 6th of October: from accounts they had fine times, that is, if music, dancing, public speeches, a feast of fat things, the firing of artillery, all combined, would produce fine times. Dr. Richards, A. Lyman, and companies were within three days’ drive of the city when the express met them; the doctor was driving his own team; they met Captain Compton and company with our express at Fort John.
Elder Kimball writes, that two squashes, Ellen S. raised in her garden, weighted sixty-three pounds each. Mother Sessions presented me with one weighing eighty-four pounds; big turnips weigh from eight to eight and a half pounds, the sweetest I ever saw. Elder P. Pratt made a vegetable dinner for me and President Young: among his bill of fare were the following items:—green corn, green peas, green beans, cucumbers, beets, parsnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips, squashes, pumpkin pies, cabbage, mush mellon, water mellon, cantelopes, corn bread, wheat bread, corn stalk molasses, roast beef, &c., &c. There had been some symptoms of the California gold mine fever breaking out in the valley: a company of about twenty were secretly formed for the purpose of going to spend the winter in washing for the [p.53] precious dust, but the symptoms developed themselves so strongly, the malady was detected by President Young who prescribed as physician in the case, not only to stop the contagion, but also to cure many who had caught the infection. It was the opinion of Dr. Egan that there would be no deaths from the gold fever this season, although it is like the big head, a dreadful and contaminating disease. The winter here has been very severe since the fore part of November? if it continues as it has commenced, grain will be at a high price in the spring, as the people will be obliged to feed it to their cattle. It is our wish to leave Pottowatamie county for the mountains in spring with our families, as we do not feel ourselves safe in our present condition, within the jurisdiction of mob laws, and mob officers to rule us; and as soon as we get our families situated in the great basin, we shall hold ourselves ready to come here or where council may direct for the building up of Zion. We have received counsel from the presidency to come here next season with our families. We have exerted ourselves to the uttermost to help away our brethren, and are destitute of the necessary means to help ourselves, and cannot go unless God or his Saints help us away; and should any of our brethren stretch forth the friendly hand, and set us at liberty, we feel that in so doing, they would be entitled to the blessing of the Most High, and if you could use an influence among the wealthy Saints to our advantage, it will be appreciated by us with every feeling of gratitude; any means thus raised may be sent to us by confidential brethren as early as possible, with a letter from you. Elder Hyde has got his printing establishment all ready, and is only waiting for his foreman to come from St. Louis, who is daily expected. Walker, the famous Utah chief, has visited the Saints in the valley with his band of riflemen: he said he always wished to live in peace with our people; he wanted his children to grow up with ours as brothers; that his people should not steal from ours, if any of them did, let him know it, and he would punish them and stop it. The brethren told him they did not want his men to steal from the Spaniards, for we were at peace wit h them. Walker replied, “my men hate the Spaniards, they will steal from them and I cannot help it; they love your people, and they will not steal from you, and if any of the bad boys do, I will stop them.” Brother Daniel Brown, Brother Allen, and a young man named Cox, were killed by a band of “diggers” in the California mountains. As they were exploring a new pass through the mountains, they were surrounded when asleep and killed with stones. A hundred dollars’ worth of gold dust belonging to Brother Allen was found on the ground; their bodies were stripped of their clothes and buried by the Indians; this occurred forty miles from the settlements on the Sacramento; their bodies were found by a company who followed them. Sister Benson’s health is poor at present, and she has not been able to answer Sister Pratt’s kind letter a few days since received, but will write as soon as she gets able. We rejoice much through hearing from the STAR that the work of the Lord is spreading so rapidly. We feel grateful for the favour you have shown in sending the MILLENNIAL STAR; we have received four numbers up to this date. When we read you epistle and instructions to the Saints in that region of country, we said truly the Lord is with Brother Pratt. We wish to be remembered by you and Sister Pratt; also Sister Smith and Sister Benson send their love, also to Brother Orson Spencer and lady, and all inquiring friends. Please say to Brother Thomas Clark that his family are all well. Elder Hyde is here at home presiding, and is a terror to evil-doers, and a comfort and a support to the Saints. Before him sinners in Zion tremble and the Saints rejoice, and he enjoys himself first-rate, and we need not say that we are doing all we can to strengthen his hands, and forward the work of the Lord. There is no opening as yet for paying those debts left by the presidency. A large assembly of Saints passed a merry Christmas at the tabernacle on the 25th.
Now, dear brother, we are about to close our epistle to you. We have given you a brief sketch of all matters that we think of at this time, and when we look at the poverty of our family, and other cares rolling in upon us, it seems as though the burden was more than we can bear, but we trust in God and our good brethren to set us at liberty, and we ask God our Heavenly Father to bless you and yours, and give you power through your influence to set us at liberty, which shall be everlastingly remembered by us. Brother Wheelock leaves here in a few days for England with dispatches, &c.; he will probably sail from New Orleans about the 1st of [p.54] March. The brethren are calling loudly for the printing presses, carding machine, and other public property left here, such as mill irons, temple tools, chemical laboratory, &c., &c. We now have eighteen inches of snow, and the weather is very cold.
May the Lord bless you for ever, Amen.
Geo. A. Smith.
E. T. Benson.