game, persuaded us to go to St. Louis, Missouri, where we saw a real ball game. It was
a chance to see lots of pretty country on our way home.
We arrived home May 21, 1947 just three years to the day that we arrived home from our mission in Mississippi.
Sarah continued writing to many of our dear friends in Mississippi and Florida as long as she was able to write.
THE BRIGHAM YOUNG MEMORIAL TOUR
One of the most interesting and enjoyable
times of our life we spent with a company of 38 people on what was known as the
"Brigham Young Memorial Tour" which took place May 20 to June 8, 1950.
A Grey Hound Bus was chartered for the trip and all arrangements were made for hotel accommodations for the whole trip, so we traveled according to schedule the whole trip.
Brother John D. .Giles, Secretary of the Utah Pioneer Land Marks Association, was our conductor of tour. He. is said to be one of the best versed in Mormon Pioneer History and has traveled much to gather information concerning the work and movements of the Mormon people.
Brother Giles said, "Never before had any company of tourists ever visited on one trip so many points of interest in early day Church History as did we on that trip."
It may be interesting to others who wish to visit points of interest in early church history to learn just the route we traveled and where we stopped each night.
We started the morning of May 20, 1950. We went up Emigration Canyon, passed "This is the place monument". It was erected at a cost of more than $400,000.00. It was dedicated July 24, 1927, one hundred years after the entrance of Brigham Young and the Pioneers into the Great Salt Lake Valley. We were told there is 40 tons of bronze in the monument. (My wife Sarah and I were there the day of the dedication and also the day when the place was dedicated for the erection of the monument.)
We followed the Pioneer Trail through Emigration Canyon to Little Mountain, the last climb on the 1,000 mile trek from Winter Quarters. The old Pioneer Trail dropped off Big Mountain down on Parley's Canyon side, then turned north again and climbed Little Mountain.
At that time, we could not go over the old trail from Henefer to the top of Big Mountain, but we followed up Parley's Canyon and down Silver Creek, which road was first built in 1862 by Parley P. Pratt.
In Echo Canyon, we were shown Echo Rocks, Pioneer Bastians erected in the cliffs as defenses against Johnson's Army.
We followed the Pioneer trail to beyond Castle Rock where the present highway swings north to Evanston and into Wyoming. The old Pioneer Trail crossed the Bear River several miles up the river above Evanston.
We visited Fort Bridger, purchased by the Church from
Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez, for a sum said to have been $8,000.00. It was abandoned and burned in 1857 upon the approach of Johnson's Army.
We passed Granger, the junction of the "Mormon Pioneer Trail" and the Old Oregon Trail. Of interest to us was Church Buttes, its peculiar formation, and gray peaks resemble church spires.
At Green River, the trail swings north towards the Big Sandy Creek, Little Sandy, where Samuel Brannon met Brigham Young and the Pioneers. We passed Pacific Springs, South Pass and Sweetwater river.
As we traveled along the names and places interested us because we had heard them talked of so much by our parents and other early pioneers.
In my father's short history, we read (page 2) "We traveled with this train almost to the Black Hills on the Sweet Water. There Captain Creighton's train drivers had left him to go to California where there was a gold rush, so Captain Creightor came to Captain Murdock for help." Father's story of the occasion and his experience with oxen is interesting.
Our first night's stop was at Rawlings. After leaving Rawlings, we left Highway 30 and traveled north to rejoin the Old Pioneer Trail at Muddy Gap, thence to Martin's Cove Monument where occurred the tragedy of the Edward Martin Handcart Company where 135 emigrants died. (The Willie Handcart Company was at the same time about 100 miles ahead when they were caught in the same storm on September, 1856.)
We passed Devil's Gate before arriving at Independence Rock. Our general route was along the Sweetwater and the North Platte Rivers, passing by Scoffs Bluff, Fort Larime, Chimney Rock, Court House Rock, and Ask Hollow.
Again I quote from my father's sotry: "Needless to say, we traveled slowly. On arriving at Devil's Gate, we turned our cattle out for the night. Next morning, we found some of them dead, having drunk too much saleratus water. Among the dead were two of mine."
Independence Rock is rich in history, carrying a number of bronze tablets including one commemorating the Pioneer Trail.
The tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad follow the same route with variations. The site of Old Fort Kearney which is now the objects of efforts to preserve its history is on the same highway.
We continued following the Platte River to Grand Island.
At Freemont, Nebraska, we took part where a marker was unveiled on the Pioneer Trail. Funds were provided by Mrs. Dan V. Stephens whose husband, a Fremont Banker, had suggested to
President Heber J. Grant that the marker be placed. It was in this area, on April 17, 1847, that the Pioneer Company was organized with Brigham Young as Lt. General and a complete list of officers.
After leaving Fremont, the course traveled led us to Winter Quarters, now the Florence section of Omaha, where 600 of Nebraska's first white settlers (Mormon Pioneers) were buried. We visited the beautiful, monument in the old cemetery in the old park.
Several times Sarah had said while en route, "I want to go to Winter Quarters where my great grandparents are buried." On the beautiful bronze plaque by the monument we soon located the names of Halmah I. Van Wagoner, 58, and Mary Ann Van Houten Van Wagoner, 53.
Monday night, May 22, we stayed in Omaha. The next morning we crossed the Missouri River and soon arrived at Council Bluffs. Originally it was known as Miller's Hollow; then Kanesville, and after our people left, it became Council Bluffs. At one time, practically all the white settlers, who shared the area with the Indians, were members of the church.
Council Bluffs, no doubt, would not be far from the birth place of Sarah's father, John Van Wagoner, as he was born in Pottawattome County, Iowa, September 13, 1849. The Van Wagoner family, it would seem, must have then been in Iowa more than three years after leaving Nauvoo in 1846. Nearly three more years would pass before they were able to equip themselves with ox teams and wagons and food with which to cross the plains in 1852.
No doubt they were among the hundreds who were instructed to remain for a time at Mt. Pisgah or Garden Grove and help plant crops for those who followed.
During the dav we passed bv those old historical points and near evening we arrived at Montrose, on the banks of the Mississippi River, where we could look across and see Nauvoo.
It seemed that we were on sacred ground, a place where the Prophet Joseph often visited, and where he made the prophetic utterances that the saints would continue to suffer persecution, that many would apostatize, while others would go and assist in building homes and there become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.
We stopped for the night in Keokuk. In the morning we crossed the river below the large Electric Power Plant Dam.
After a glorious ride up the river road, we
visited Nauvoo and many places of interest, including the temple block, and the site where
the temple once stood, the only piece of property then owned by the Church.
We saw the Icarian Building, the office of the Catholic Church, built of stones taken from the L.D.S. temple.
On the site of the Parley P. Pratt home now stands the home of the Nunns of Catholic Teachers. The population of Nauvoo is now about 2000, mostly Catholic.
We visited the Nauvoo house, the Mansion house and the old home of Joseph Smith. We visited the graves of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the grave of Joseph's wife Emma.
We saw the Moon Stones that had been gathered from the temple site. We drank water from the original well at the Joseph Smith old home.
We visited the old homes of Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young, the John Taylor home and the Times and Seasons Office whose Editor was John Taylor.
We visited the Old Masonic Hall, built about 1843. Likewise we saw the old homes of Orson Hyde, Erastus Snow, Wilford Woodruff and Lorin Farr who was a President of the First Quorum of Seventy.
The guides of the Reorganized church watched for every opportunity for argument. Our company was not there to argue but to observe and bow our heads in reverence to the martyred prophets and loyal saints and the leaders who triumphantly carried on. Yes, we were treading on sacred ground. And forever may the words be heard:
"Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah
Jesus anointed that prophet and Seer,
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him and Nations revere."
I felt reluctant to leave, but to follow our outlined schedule, it was necessary that we travel on.
Our next ride was to Carthage where we
visited the old jail where the prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred. We
spent about two hours at the Carthage jail.
The old door through which the mob shot is still there, showing the bullet hole in the door, also where a bullet went through the edge of the door and split off a piece from the door.
There is a glass over the floor showing the blood stains from Hyrum Smith's body when he was killed by assassins.
Traveling on, we passed through Cochester where descendants of Joseph Smith resided for many years after the main body of the church moved westward. We stopped at Peoria for the night. Next we crossed Indiana into Ohio.
The great work and movements of Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt reminds me of the saying "God moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform." It was in this wilderness country and through their teachings and preaching that hundreds of people were in readiness to receive the greater light, the restored gospel.
The following I wish to record:
Parly P. Pratt was born in April 12, 1807, in Burlington, New York. He joined the Baptist Church in 1826. He moved to a wilderness home west of Cleveland, Ohio.
About 18 months later, Sidney Rigdon came into his neighborhood. He liked Parley P. Pratt and joined the Baptist Church and for some time had been a Baptist minister but had quit because he did not believe all the doctrines taught by the Baptist Church. That was in the year 1824. He soon thereafter formed the acquaintance of Alexander Campbell, a resident of Pittsburg, Pa. a Scotchman by birth; also Walter Scott.
These three gentlemen often met and discussed the subject of religion, and the necessity of a universal reformation among the churches, the abandonment of their creeds, etc.
The consultations they held led ultimately to the establishment of the "Church of the Disciples" best known to us as the Campbellete Church.
In 1826, Sidney Rigdon left Pittsburg and went to Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio, where the people urged him to speak. He did so, following in his teaching the line of doctrine which in his consultations with Messrs. Campbell and Scott, they had considered were essential to Christian spiritual life, viz., faith in God, repentance of sin, baptism by immersion in water for the remission of sins.
Rigdon continued to labor in Bainbridge for about one year when the people of Mentor, in the same county, but some 30 miles distance from Bainbridge invited him to reside among them and preach. This he consented to do, and notwithstanding, he at first met with some opposition, he prevailed against it and extended his labors into surrounding townships and counties until he had, in a number of places, a large following.
It was the year 1828 that Sidney Rigdon went into Parley P. Pratt's neighborhood and Parley P. Pratt was converted and he also became a minister and worked with Rigdon preaching the doctrine of faith, repentance and baptism. Together they had a large following and many friends.
In the summer of 1830, Pratt started off to convert his own relatives in New York. On his way he stopped off at Newark, New York. And it was there that Parley P. Pratt first heard of and saw a Book of Mormon. He hastened to Palmira to investigate the story of its coming forth.
At the home of the Smith's near Manchester, New York, he met Hyrum Smith, and from him, learned the particulars. He then went with Hyrum Smith to Fayette where he met Oliver Cowdery and about the 1st of September, he was baptized by him in Seneca Lake and straightway was ordained an Elder in the Church.
He then went to the home of his kindred in Columbia County, New York, where he baptized his brother Orson Pratt, then 19 years of age. Parley then returned to Fayette to attend conference.
While at conference he was called by revelation to accompany Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer and Zeba Peterson on a mission among the Lamanites.
The missionaries commenced the journey, preaching by the way, and leaving a sealing testimony behind them.
They continued their journey until they came to Kirtland, Ohio, where they tarried some time, there being quite a number in that place and vicinity who believed their testimony and came forward and obeyed the gospel. Among the number was Sidney Rigdon and a large portion of the Church over which he presided.
Among the other early stalwart converts to the church at that time appears the names of Frederick G. Williams and Edward Partridge.
It was not long before Kirtland, Ohio, became the headquarters of the church and there the first temple was build, in this, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.
I now return to my story of our travels:
At Tiffin, Ohio, we visited the place where
Oliver Cowdery maintained an office as a lawyer during most of the years he was out of the
At Akron, the route of Zions Camp was intersected and followed a short distance.
We went through Mantau to the birthplace of President Lorenzo Snow, near Hiram, Portage County, also the home of John Johnson.
At Kirtland we visited the temple, Joseph Smith's home, and the homes of Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon and others; also the cemetery.
I doubt if there are as many people living at Kirtland today as there were in the early days. I was interested in the temple and country because of what had happened there in the great progress of the church.
It was at Mentor where Sidney Rigdon, the great Campbellite preacher joined the church through the preaching of Parley P. Pratt, the story I have just previously told.
We spent several hours at Niagara Falls, then an afternoon drive took us to Rochester for the night.
A short morning drive took us to Mendon where Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball heard the gospel and joined the church. It was there also that Mirian Yorks Young, youthful sweetheart and first wife of Brigham Young died.
We went through Manchester to the Palmyra area. Our first stop was at the Hill Cumorah.
Three miles more took us to the Joseph Smith farm and the Sacred Grove. We were served lunch near the entrance to the Sacred Grove and then held an impressive meeting in the Grove.
In Palmyra we visited the grave of Alvin Smith; the old Exchange Building where the Book of Mormon was first published; and the Martin Harris farm which was mortgaged for $3,000.00 to print the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. We also visited the Peter Whitmer home where the church was organized.
We went to another area connected with Brigham Young in his youth and to where he learned the carpenter trade, and the house in which he was married. We saw buildings that showed Brigham Young had been an expert carpenter.
Our night stop was at Utica in the Mohawk Valley. The next morning we followed the Mohawk River and the Mohawk Valley eastward.
At Albany, the State Capitol of New York, we crossed the Hudson River and headed for the Berkshire Hills. At North Adams, Massachusetts, our route veered to the north and we were soon in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
At Whitingham, the birthplace of Brigham Young, was appropriate exercises. It was dedicated by President George Albert Smith. A large crowd of people were there assembled, including Elder John A. Widtsoe, Marion G. Romney, S. Dilworth Young and George Q. Morris. (The last two mentioned being the presidents of the New England and the Eastern States Missions.) A box lunch was served near the site of the monument.
Leaving Whitingham, we traveled via Brattleboro on the Connecticut River, north to South Royalton and the Joseph Smith Memorial Cottage and monument. There again we held services.
The Memorial Cottage is on the side of the Solomon Mack cottage in which Joseph Smith was born. Lucy Mack, the prophet's mother, was in the home of her parents at the time. The Smith family lived in a house a short distance away, at the foot of Patriarch Hill.
After leaving the Memorial Cottage, we returned to White River Junction and to Hanover, New Hampsire, home of Dartsmouth' University.
At the time of Joseph Smith's severe sickness, Hyrum Smith attended school at Dartsmouth Academy and now University.
The night of May28, 1950, we stayed at the Hanover Inn.
Again we returned to White River Junction and to South Royalton, then to Tunbridge and Tunbridge Gore where the Smith Family once lived and where Alvin and Hyrum were born. We visited Bether where Joseph Smith, Senior, once taught school.
The next place of interest was Rutland, an early Vermont town, and Wells in Rutland County where Oliver Cowdery was born. He received a good education, for those days, then he went to Manchester, New York, where he taught school for the winter, and lived with the Joseph Smith family, and during that time, he learned of the Book of Mormon plates and other manifestations.
In the spring, Oliver went to Harmony where he met Joseph Smith and thereafter devoted his time to the work of the church until the year 1838 when he became disaffected. The account of his return to the church is very interesting and inspirational.
John D. Giles reported to us that he had looked up the records at Tiffin, Ohio, where Oliver Cowdery practiced law for about eight years and had learned that while there, he was well respected and trusted.
He told of the wonderful tribute his partner in business paid to him, which had been recorded. "He spoke of his honesty and intelligence and of the many wonderful characteristics. Yet he said there was something strange about the man's actions that he could not understand."
He wrote, "He would sit at times as if his mind was in some far away place, and he seemed not to notice anybody." What a wonderful statement coming from a man not understanding why Oliver was so affected, that he could not forget his past experiences, of his writing the words of the Book of Mormon as they fell from the lips of the young roan, Joseph, and had later been able to view the plates as they had been shown by the Angel Moroni and had heard the voice of God declaring unto them that the records had been translated correctly.
He had been with Joseph when they together had prayed and had asked about baptism and then John the Baptist had visited them and had laid his hands upon their heads and said, "Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of the Messiah, I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of Angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of Baptism by Immersion for the remission of sin, and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the Sons of Levi do again offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
Also, with Joseph Smith, he had received the Melchizedek priesthood under the hands of Peter, James and John.
After so many wonderful experiences we need not wonder why he could not content himself longer at Tiffin, even though the people of that neighborhood tried hard to persuade him to remain with them and continue his practice as a lawyer.
With hundreds of others, he had left the church but he now had had time to study and reflect and he realized his great mistake and longed to be with the saints again.
He had forsaken and turned against the greatest friends he ever had, Joseph and Hyrum who had been martyred in cold blood, and the saints had been driven out upon the open and cold bleak prairies to starve unless the Lord protected and lead them on. Many had died of starvation and exposure.
Oliver Cowdery could stand it no longer. It was the year 1846 when he set out to find the saints. It was at Winter Quarters where he introduced himself when he entered their place of worship. He asked that he might talk to them. He said, "My name is Oliver Cowdery," and then in a very humble way he related to them some of his past experiences and bore a strong testimony to the truth of the things he told them, and bore testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
He said he could not ask to be restored to his former position in the church, but he begged them to allow him to come back and be rebaptized a member of the church again. He only asked to be a humble member. He could not ask for more. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with the people he loved.
The saints voted that his request be granted. He was rebaptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He returned to Missouri where he had left his family with the avowed intent of getting them, that they might all go westward with the saints but his health failed. He took sick and died of tuberculosis.
Our next travel route led us across the Hudson River to Saratogo Spring, thence to Oneonta for the night stop. Oneonta is on the Susquehanna River, one of the most important streams in Church History. We followed it from Oneonta to Harmony (McKune) Pennsylvania.
Our fist stop was at Afton, the South Bainbridge of Joseph Smith's time. It was there Joseph and Emma Hale were married in the house of Squire Tarbill, Justice of the Peace. The Colesville of Church History is a township, called a "town in New York State."
The village nearest to Joseph Knight's home, where the first branch of the Church was organized, is Nineveh; across the Susquehanna were the homes of Joseph Knight, his son Newell and others who formed the branch.
Joseph Stowel, (Stoal) one of the Prophet's early friends, lived across the line north a short distance in Chenango County. Colesville (Nineveh) is in Broome County.
(Joseph Smith indicated that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored in "the Wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna County, PA. and Colesville, Broome County, New York.) We followed the river the entire 30 miles of this "wilderness".
At Harmony, the center of interest was the old McKune settlement. There we visited the sites of the homes of Joseph Smith, in which a considerable part of the Book of Mormon was translated, and the home of Isaac Hale, Joseph's Father-in-law. It was there the Aaronic Priesthood was restored and Sections 3, 4, to 13 inclusive and 24 to 27 were given. It was there that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized, also Samuel Smith, the Prophet's younger brother. We visited the old cemetery and the graves of Isaac Hale and wife and the infant child of Joseph and Emma Smith.
After leaving Harmony we took the nearest route to New York City. We crossed the Hudson river over the famed George Washington Bridge. We spent one night and part of the next day in New York City. Sarah and I visited the mission home and Arlan Winterton.
May 31, the bus left Times Square Hotel at 1:00 p.m. for Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
It was after midnight when we arrived in Washington but would have arrived much earlier had not our chauffer gotten lost and taken us a long way off the main route.
In going through Baltimore, I tried to see if any thing looked familiar to me. I was unable to locate familiar streets and buildings. I think we went through a different part of the city than where I had been more familiar.
What a change had come to Washington D.C. forty nine years before, I had visited Elder Gaskell Romney and the scattered Saints in the Maryland Conference. In the city of Washington, we visited one family.
One of the highlights of this trip was to attend the ceremonies of the unveiling of the statue of Brigham Young in the rotunda of the Capitol. The rotunda of the building is quite spacious but it was filled to capacity and no one was allowed in unless they had passes. Many were refused entrance because they had not obtained the passes.
At night, a meeting was held in the beautiful L.D.S. chapel which was crowded to capacity. Oh, what a change in 49 years.
Nahonri M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, had carved the monument out of Italian marble.
At those dedicatory services, we found our old friends, Brother and Sister Green. (William E. Green was formerly one of my counselors in the Winter Haven, Florida, Branch of the Church, the winter of 1946 and 47.)
June 2, we started on our journey westward and while traveling through Virginia, I could see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, and how I longed to visit again many of the places I had tramped over 50 years before.
The night of June 3 we arrived at St. Louis, Mo. June 4 we traveled from St. Louis to Kansas City. We then went by local bus to Independence, Mo. for church services in the L.D.S. Chapel at 302 South Pleasant Street.
June 5, our first visit was on the banks of the Big Blue River. It was there that the "foundations of Zion" were laid by the Colesville Saints under the direction of church leaders.
At Independence, Mo., the following places were visited: The old Court House which was in use when the church moved to Missouri; the Temple site; the Auditorium of the Reorganized Church; the mission office and Zion's Printing and Publishing Co.
Going north, we crossed the Missouri River near the point where Sections 61 and 62 of the Doctrine and Covenants were revealed. The route took us through Fishing River Township.
At Liberty, Clay County, we visited the old Liberty Jail, which is now owned by the Church. In the Cemetery at Liberty is the grave of General Alexander W. Doniphan, the man who defied the orders of his superior officers and refused to execute Joseph Smith. His grave is marked by a beautiful shaft.
At Richmond, Ray County, we visited the Doniphan Statue; the site of the old Richmond Prison; the Site of the David Whitmore home in which both David and Oliver Cowdery died; the old cemetery in which are buried Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, in whose house at Fayette, New York, the church was organized; also Jacob Whitmer and others of the Whitmer family. (David Whitmer and wife were buried in the present City Cemetery.)
We visited Far West in Caldwell County. The four stones laid at the corners of the Temple Site, according to prophecy are still in place.
The Temple Site had an 80 acre farm, of which it is a part, are owned by the Church. It was there President Joseph F. Smith was born. There also, David W. Patten, early martyr to the cause was buried. He was killed in the battle of Crooked River which is eight or ten miles west.
On account of bad roads, we were unable to drive to Adam-ondi-Ahman, although we were quite near. At any rate, we were in the area in which important events have occured and where others are to occur. These events were talked of by
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