Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: ****California Saints

California Saints was written by Richard Cowan and William Homer.  It was published in 1996 by the Religious Studies Center of Brigham Young University.  I was able to check it out from the Manteca Library, but they had gotten it on loan from another library in the system. 

This book was published for the 150 anniversary of the church in California.  It tells the story of the Brooklyn Saints--Sam Brannon and John Horner, of the Mormon Battalion, the Mormon involvement in the Gold Rush, Ina Coolbrith and the history of the San Bernadino Saints.  It also tells even more recent history--the establishment of stakes and temples, and prophets and apostles who have come from California. 

Of interest to me is the story of the New Hope Colony, and its disolving after less than a year, and before the Saints were in Utah. 

There were several things I learned which I did not know.  It was in San Bernadino where Joseph F. Smith was being confronted by the mob, and when asked if he was a Mormon, responded, "Yes siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through."  This won the persecutor over.  He was returning from his mission to Hawaii.  I had always thought this was with the persecution back east, but he was too young then.

I also learned of the church during WWII.  This was a time that brought a great many Mormons to California.  It talked about a family that set up a soldier's home in their house in Berkeley, Anna Patton.  It was also during his time that the Church purchased Temple Hill in Oakland.  

I found this book enjoyable.  My only complaint is the book doesn't cover the last 15 years, but I guess you have to publish a book some time, and that leaves out what happens after.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Report: ***Manteca; Selected Chapters from its History

This book was published 31 years ago by the Manteca Bulletin and it written by Evelyn Prouty who is a docent at the Manteca Historical Museum.  I checked it out from the Manteca library.  It presents the prehistory, Native American history first, and then important persons in the history of Manteca, emigrants and founders.  It isn't until chapter eight that it presents the history of the city of Manteca.  However it is a great book to imagine what the area was like long ago.  It actually covers most of the area, rather than just Manteca, talking about Lathrop, French Camp, Mossdale and Atlanta.  It mentions that one of the oldest buildings still standing is the Zinc House barns at Wagner and 120.  This is well East of town. 

In a brief synopsis, Manteca was first populated by persons who turned from farming after the gold rush, and some he served in the transportation industry for those in the gold mines or farming--hotels, stage station managers etc.  However farming was the main industry.  There was also transportation via the river, taking wheat to Stockton.  The first manufacturing industry was a creamery.  Here they extracted the cream from milk for shipping, returning the milk product to the farmers for feeding cattle etc.  The fat was made into butter and ice cream. 

This book talks about many little things.  I now know that the first sewage plant is off of union where the park and gold course are now.  At a railway restaurant in Lathrop.  By chance, two feuding men where on the same train.  Judge David Terry had previously threatened to kill Judge Stephen J.Field. When Judge Terry discovered the presence of the other man, he approached him and hit him a couple of times.  Judge Field's body guard, David Neagle, drew a pistol and shot Judge Terry twice, killing him.  The two men then boarded the train and continued on their way.  They were arrested and brought back  for trial but where found not guilty.

The area was hampered by floods for many years, one of the most tragic was in 1950.  It talks about the response to the flu epidemic of 1920, which in a different part of the country killed a couple of my father's siblings, before my father was born.

This book gives a very good background history of e area.  I would recommend it for those seeking out local history.  However there is a lot of history which has taken place since it was written.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Movie Review: ***^The Crossing

This is the crossing of the Delaware by the troops of George Washington on Christmas of 1776.  This movie is a made for t.v. movie and stares Jeff Daniels as General Washington.  I must admit I had not realized how desperate the plight of General Washington was at the time.  He had just barely escaped into Pennsylvania as he retreated form New York, and had put the Delaware River between he and the pursuing British, supported by Hessian mercenaries.  He had gone into winter quarters at Valley Forge, and everyone expected him to sit out the winter there.  However the British were just waiting for the river to freeze over so they could continue their pursuit.  At this time there were 20,000 British, compared with Washington's 2000, who were poorly armed, and lacked munitions and food.  It was a desperate time, and in short, the fate of the federal army depended on the outcome of this battle.

General Washington was able to keep his movements a secret from the Hessian forces at Trenton, and they did catch them by surprise Christmas morning.  The result was the elimination of a force of 1200, with 300 killed and 900 captured, with no casualties on the par of the federals.  It was truly a miracle, and the cannon and arms taken from the fort there, resupplied the federal forces, so they could live and fight another day.  Never would the federal forces be as depleted again.  Even though the was would continue for seven more years, this was a turning point that changed history.

I enjoyed this movie, but I love history, as well as love to watch Jeff Daniels act.  It was fun the play he had with his generals as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Manteca Historical Museum

I visited the historical museum, and found a treasure of information.  They have old artifacts from the local schools and churches, and an area that has old pictures depicting the history of Manteca.  However where I found the most information was talking with the docents.  Amongst them were many historians, including one who wrote a book about the history of Manteca.  I learned about the Native Americans of the area, and a place just north and east of us where there is a stone which was used as an Indian grinding stone, similar to one in the South Bay.  I also learned about the early pioneer settlers, and heard of stories of New Hope.  I also learned about gold in the area, and how it is still panned for.  You can find gold as low as the area of San Joaquin and Stanislaus Rivers, but this is difficult.  However gold sometimes gets caught under stones, and then in a high moisture year as this has been, it will washed down stream. 

My only complaint about the museum is the hours they keep.  For a commuter their week day hours do not work.  And for a church going man their weekend hours do not work as they are not open on Saturday but only on Sunday.  The day I did visit was a day I had taken off from work.

But if you can visit the museum do so, and be sure to ask questions because if the person you ask doesn't know they will refer you to another docent who does know.

Friday, September 23, 2011

San Joaquin City: Ghost Town


Old San Joaquin City was located just south of where the Dunham Road goes over the San Joaquin River on the River Road, now Kasson Road.  It was on the west side of the road.  It originally was a ferry town, the Dunham Ferry crossing about where the bridge is now.  It later became a river time and at one time had 1500 residents.  Today there is one farm house in the area, and everything else is farms, or brush area leading to the river.  These pictures were taken on the east side of the river going towards Sturgeon Bend.  They are of the East Side Slough, but hopefully in the area where George Williams lived.  He was a resident who pioneers electricity in the area.  He also had the first wireless.  He had come up with an idea for smokeless gun powder.  In an effort to get money for his project, he attempted to rob a train in Manteca.  This went array when a hobo came from under the train and started George.  He ended up shooting him and killed him.  He was convicted of train robbery and sent to prison.  He was later paroled and returned to live long the river.







This picture is from the other side of the river where the city was actually located.  In the early days the boats would tie up to the trees.  Grain and wood were hauled from here to Stockton.  The landing helped the west side of the valley develop the wheat industry.  Today the channel of the river has moved east some yards.  The plaque is now missing, having been stolen at least five years ago.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Francis Webster: California Gold Miner; Handcart Pioneer


Before reading the words of Francis Webster, it is important to note that he did not need to be a hand cart pioneer.  He was not poor  He had been to the California gold fields, and had done well.  He then returned to England, and became branch president in London.  He was planning on immigrating with his wife in a covered wagon, but chose to come by hand cart as an example to his branch.  He used the money he saved to help others join the handcart company.  They were able to help nine others.  The links at the bottom of the page will lead you to this article, as well as the original from David O. McKay and an article from Chad Orton with regards to Francis Webster.

Some years ago president David O. McKay told from this pulpit of the experience of some of those in the Martin handcart company. Many of these early converts had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. President McKay relates an occurrence which took place some years after the heroic exodus: “A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.
“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8.)


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: San Joaquin: A River Betrayed

 http://books.google.com/books?id=Z4hmwY9r8cYC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=san+joaquin+a+river+betrayed&source=bl&ots=kazmG6od5N&sig=A4arjfIya51mOBKbp7RyHk-no3s&hl=en&ei=wl1tTueDLtDTiAKenOzADg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

I checked this book out at the Manteca Library.  It is written by Gene Rose and was published in 1992by Linrose Publishing, Fresno, CA.  It is available online at Google Books.  I was worried this was just going to be some environmental wacko book, but in fact I really enjoyed it. Maybe I am more an environmentalist wacko than I admit.  I like to call myself a conservationist; after all, I did earn my Conservation of Natural Resources Merit badge.  (I don't know if they still have that one.)

This book included enough history to keep it interesting.  It did go off on its environmental soap opera a few times, and using its labels of others like I use the label wacko, "Greedy, selfish, etc."  It was published in 1992, and left me wanting more of the story, the story of the last 20 years.  Maybe I got some from the news a couple years ago when farmers were starving for water and had fields unplanted. This may be a response to this book, as the river passing by Manteca looks very vibrant.  In fact it was flooding earlier this year.  But the contention of the book is that the river is diverted up stream; 95 percent of the water is run through irrigation, and the run off is overly polluted with chemicals and run off from the natural minerals in the ground.  Selenium occurs naturally in the western side of the Valley.  This has resulted in a toxic river and irrigation system downstream and salts and minerals being overly applied to fields.  Most notably the Kesterson Reservoir, where the runoff waters were accumulated, became a dead reservoir, casing bird and animal deformities.  Some of the water is put back into the river, causing higher levels of minerals there as well.

The most interesting part of the book is the history.  It starts with the Native populations, who used the tulle reeds which were supported by the river.  They made canoes and baskets from the tulle.  The river supported their lifestyle.  It talked of Jedediah Smith who hunted beaver in the valley.  Of Smith he said, "Some historians have speculated that Smith first discovered gold during his 1827 trip when he was exploring and trapping along the Stanislaus River." (p 19) The book informs us that only Smith knew where the gold was, that they didn't have proper equipment to extract the gold, and that he went East to obtain this.  However on his way back to California, he was killed by Indians along the Santa Fe Trail.  It is interesting to note the supposed location of the find, "...near the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers--although the geology of that area does not support a known gold bearing lode." (p 20)  (Let me note that this is within five miles of our current home.  I was talking to the docents at the history museum today who said it is possible for gold to travel that far, washing down from the lodes higher up, especially in wet years.)
 reason, they soon established a community, New Hope, in the wilds of the valley. 

Also close to this confluence is the community established by Mormons.  "A group of Mormon settlers forced their way up from the San Francisco Bay in a small boat rigged with sails form the larger "Brooklyn."  Led by Sam Brannan, the group made their way up the San Joaquin channel to the Stanislaus River.  About a mile above the confluence, they went ashore.  Putting hope and prayer before reason, they soon established a community, New Hope, in the wilds of the valley.  A barn, sawmill and a collection of shelters were built.  Others began tilling the virgin soil; planting wheat and other crops in preparation for the arrival of their spiritual leader Brigham Young, along with other members who were fleeing religious persecution of Nauvoo, Illinois.  Next, the settlers turned to the construction a small sailing craft, the "San Joaquin"--the first known bot to be built along the river.  But something went wrong.  Somewhere along the line, the Saints' revered leader, Young, failed to arrive at new Hope.  Puzzled by this incident, Brannan then made his was to Salt Lake City, only to find Young committed to the Utah location.  Despite his appeals, Brannan was unable to sway the church's elder and he returned to New Hope discouraged and dismayed.  Gradually dissension set in and the members of the colony began drifting away.  Today, New Hope remains on a facing enigma, its fate and precise location unknown."

The author also mentions the Mormons when talking about navigation on the San Joaquin River.  "No craft of man had rippled its waters save the rude balsas and tule rafts of the Indians, till one day in 1846 the nose of a little schooner worked its way up the crooked channel of the Suison bay to the mouth of the Stanislaus.  This Mormon boat was he first to which the San Joaquin submitted..."

A couple corrections to the account should be made.  The Mormon's did not land one mile up the Stanislaus, but four miles before the confluence at Moss landing.  The traveled the last few miles overland.  Sam Brannan did not meet Brigham Young at Salt Lake City, but at Fort Laramie while the Mormons were enroute to Salt Lake.  They had not yet seen the valley. 

This book is worth reading.  It does have a few grammatical errors, but they can be easily over looked for the content, and the story of the river.  Of course there are many more stories than those I shared; the story of gold, of hunting, fishing, irrigating, ranching and of manufacture, etc.  The story of the high country and hydro electric power, and that of John Muir.  They all belong to this valley.

I previously wrote about New Hope and the plaque in Ripon.  http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=9070393224809863190#editor/target=post;postID=611725638337466151 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Echoes From the Past

This book I checked out from the Manteca library.  It is written by General John Bidwell (he was Captain during the Mexican American War and general of the California Militia during the Civil War.

I was very impressed with this book, which is actually a series of three articles which he wrote and were first published in the Century Magazine.  He was one of the first American settlers of California.   However I have noted that it is available online. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/calbk:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28calbk141%29%29

John Bidwell emigrated in 1841, saying his group was the first to come over the Sierra Mountains into California.  His party went up the East side of the Sierras at Walker River, and then followed the Stanislaus River which brought them to the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers, pretty much in our front yard, only three miles away.  He tells of many harrowing experiences along the trail.

They first went to the home of Dr. Henry Marsh, an American settler.  [He was not a real doctor.]  He then tells of his early life in California.  He spent some time in jail, before getting a visa.  He worked with John Sutter and talks about how Sutter got his start in California.  The other articles include life before the Gold where he talks of the discovery of gold. He and a Californio had figured there was gold, and were going to look together.  However this plan came to nothing when his friend was caught and hung carrying papers during a revolt.  [This was an internal Mexican revolt with a change of the governor of California.]

He also has an article describing the events surrounding the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican American War.  He down plays the role of William Ide and puts the credit on John Fremont.  He did participate in the retaking of L.A.

This book gives a gives a general description of California History, 1841 though 1849.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Corrall Hollow Road: Tesla Coal Mine and pottery works

I have been researching some local historical areas.  Corral Hollow road goes from Tracy to Livermore.  This road gets regular use today from people going to the Carnegie State Recreation Area where they do off road biking. 

However the area was first developed as a coal mining area.  The coal was used to power steam locomotives and the rail way.  The mine opened and closed several times.  Most recently is was called the Tesla Mine, after a developer for electrical energy and alternating currents.  During that period the coal was sent to Stockton to power the factories there.  At one time it was proposed to make a coal powered generator there, but this was not done as it was felt it couldn't compete with hydroelectric power.

Also in the area was a pottery works.  There was also sand and clay manufacturing.  The sand was sent to Stockton for manufacturing into glass. 

Today it is hard to recognize the original mine locations.  Entry into the area is discouraged for fear of falling into a mine shaft.  The links below provide additional historical information as well as a mad of the canyon.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

1969 Altamont Free Concert

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPM-x5ugLLE&feature=related

On the train I heard of a big concert that took place at Altamont Speedway; The Rolling Stones West Coast answer to Woodstock.   Although the Speedway is in Alameda County, it is actually in the San Joaquin Valley, and the closest town is Tracy (Mountain House now.)  It is where the 580 and the 205 split. 

The line up included, in order of appearance: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, with the Rolling Stones taking the stage as the final act. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform, but declined to play shortly before their scheduled appearance due to the increasing violence at the venue.  (Wikipedia)

Several logistical problems plagued the concert.  First, it was moved to the location only a day before.  It was originally planned for San Jose, and then San Francisco, but both venues fell through.  It required quick logistical changes.  The problems of  parking or ample rest rooms were not overcome.  300,000 or more were at the concert.  That crowd would have required much more planning and accommodation. Cars were parked up and down the freeway.  The hastily built stage was too low, which allowed audience members to sit or lean over the stage disturbing the concert and damaging property.  The Hells Angels were hired, for $500 of beer.  The used their bikes to block access to the stage.  There were fights over the bikes, and over keeping people off the stage.  Often the Hells Angels would use clubs to control the crowd.

The 1969 concert has been declared the end of the hippy era.  It demonstrated that free-love and drug abuse have consequences.  The concert is known as having four births, but also four tragic deaths.  The deaths included an accidental drowning which occurred in a local canal, a hit-and-run auto accident, in which a car ran over a couple of party goers, and a tragic murder.  A young black man, Meredith Hunter, at the concert with a white girlfriend, which was a bigger deal in those days, high on methamphetamine, had brought a gun to the concert.  When he pulled the gun to confront some of the Hells Angels, who were in charge of security, one of the Hells Angels stabbed him in the back of the neck, as he was taken to the ground and kicked.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.  Latter is was adjudged to be self defense because of the gun.

There were also many broken heads and other injuries.  The concert performers had to stop many times to ask the crowd to calm down.  The lead singer for Jefferson Airplane was hit, Mick Jagger was hit when he first arrived, and there were many scuffles.  Several times while the Rolling Stones played, they had to stop and calm the crowd.  Many times they threatened to stop the concert, but in the end, thought the riot would be worse had they stopped.  The Rolling Stones did not realize anyone had been murdered until after the concert.  


At the concert there were too many drugs, too many people who were interested only in themselves, too many people.  What was suppose to be the best party of December, turned into a tragedy instead; and the end of the age of innocence.

http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=6805706512913964474&postID=6111034838402330738

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Reviews: Mormon Country by Wallace Stegner



Mormon Country:  This book presents a nice picture of Mormon Territory in the 1940s.  This book was published in 1942.  It starts with the description of a mutual dance, and talks about the importance of the mutual in a Mormon Community.  Wallace Stegner is very good at description, and this chapter is very fun.  He talks about the immigration of the Mormons to the Great Basin, including a chapter on the handcart pioneers.   He talks about “Mormon Trees” how Mormon Communities are lined with trees.  He can recognize Mormon land as a result.  He tells the stories of prominent Mormons J. Golden Kimball, and apostle who would get in trouble at the pulpit for colorful language; and Jesse Knight, who established mining in the Tintic era.  He was able to develop a righteous mining environment.  He also became very wealthy, and used much of his wealth to establish economic opportunities for other Mormons.  Some were successful and some weren’t, but still they provided employment. 
Stegner does not hesitate to talk about black spots as well, self-proclaimed prophets, polygamy.  He devotes a section of the book to talk about “gentiles” in Mormon Country.  He talks of the establishment of the dinosaur quarry outside of Vernal. He talks of prominent criminals, including Butch Cassidy.  Many who rode with him were Mormons, or at least raised Mormon.  I found many of his stories interesting and enjoyable, however a few were a bit too much, and focused on the negative.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

John Horner: My Father's Field

I visited the temple grounds to see the musical, My Father's Field.  It was enjoyable.  I had read about John Horner on several occasions  How he had purchased his property on several occasions, with different people saying it belonged to them, and then how he had to buy the same property three or four times.  Then after being a success, he lost everything by over extending himself in signing notes for others, and not keeping $30,000 available as advised by the Prophet.

However John Horner was a good man, a church man.  Church was held in his home on many occasions.  He was also a good friend to the missionaries traveling to the South Pacific and Hawaii.  I read in the Millennial Star the story of how some missionaries traveling west were told to seek him out, and he helped pay their passage to Hawaii.  At the first state fair he was declared "The first farmer of California."  It is ironic that he left California and ended up pioneering agriculture in Hawaii.
http://www.wheelwrightenterprises.com/musicals/MyFathersField.htm

This link is the script for the musical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRq_RwFfrQ8
This link is a brief promotion for the musical

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Colonel Patrick E. Connor: Stockton Volunteer

http://www.onlineutah.com/connor_patrick_e_history.shtml

http://www.militarymuseum.org/Conner.html

The Stockton volunteers were not just recruited in Stockton, but also in Benecia.  They were recruited during the Civil war, to  be stationed in Utah, to guard the overland stage, but also to keep on eye on the Mormons.  The volunteers would have preferred moving on to the Eastern United States to participate in the Civil War.  They presented this offer to Washington, offering to pay their expenses to get there, but there offer was denied.

Colonel Stockton did not have a positive interaction with the Mormons.  This started with his having his base at Fort Douglas rather than Camp Floyd.  This put him much closer to the Mormon hierarchy. It is said he aimed his cannons at the home of Brigham Young, even though they were out of range.

While in Utah, the most famous or infamous (depending on our point of view) accomplishment of the Volunteers was the defeat of the Northern Shoshone at the Bear River Massacre.  The Union troops were responding to the murder of some minors and other minor incidents.  The Union side was not interested in suing for peace, and when a peace party from the Indian encampment, close to the Bear River, approached them they were fired upon.  The Indians held their own for the initial battle, but when their ammunition became low, and they were flanked by the infantry, the battle turned into a massacre.

At the end of the Civil War, the Volunteers were discharged from duty.  Colonel Connor became a brevet general based on his actions at the Bear River.  He went on to also lead another Indian Massacre farther east called the Tongue River Massacre.  He also became a leader in the mining industry in Utah.

As for the Mormon population in Idaho and Northern Utah.  They benefited from the reduced aggression from the Native Americans.  They had increased freedom to build their towns and cities.  They had adopted the policy of feeding the Indians to keep the peace.  They were still merciful to the Indians, and took some in after the battle.  The Shoshone population continues to thrive.  Mostly at the Fort Hall reservation, but also throughout this area.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: ****Prelude to the Kingdom: Mormon Desert Conquest


I was able to purchase this book for a reasonable price online.  It is in the references of the "Handcarts to Zion" book. 
This book is about the Mormon emigration and economic systems from the beginnings of the church up to the 1940s.  It was published in 1947 by Marshall Jones Company.  It was written by Gustav Larsen.  There are a couple concepts form this book which I find very interesting.
First it talks about the Nauvoo Covenant.  A group of priesthood holder met in the Nauvoo Temple, during that troublesome time after the Prophet Joseph had been murdered, and before the forced exile form Nauvoo.  They made a commitment to make sure the poor Saints would have the means to travel with the body of the church.  This covenant was the back bone of the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
This book is probably the best in talking about the Perpetual Emigration Fund, what it is and what it did.  It assisted over 100,000 people in immigrating to Utah.  It also became the emigrating arm of the church, so it assisted not only those who used the fund, but also all who were emigrating by supplying organization to the immigration in general.  
This book not only talks about the immigration, but also what the Saints did after arriving.  How their communal systems allowed an irrigation agricultural economy to work. It was an economy with limited water and limited arable land.    It told the story of economic missions such as the iron mission and the cotton mission.  It also included establishing in San Bernadino.  It talked about agriculture and the development of the irrigation system, as well as of the sugar beet industry.  One interesting thing it mentioned, which I had never thought about, was that the first alfalfa seed brought to America was done so by a Mormon convert from Australia.  It was first planted in the San Bernadino area.  I have always thought of alfalfa as having always been here.  It never occurred to me that there may have been a time when it wasn’t.  This story is not exactly corroborated by Wikipedia.  “The English name "alfalfa" dates from mid-19th century far-west USA, from the Spanish. Alfalfa seeds were imported to California from Chile in the 1850s. That was the beginning of a rapid and extensive introduction of the crop over the western US States.”  Wikipedia mentions that alfalfa was tried in the Eastern U.S., but never very successfully.  The spread of alfalfa took place in the West. 
The book ends with talking about the church welfare system.  It points out certain characteristics of the Mormon lifestyle, which allowed it to flourish in the desert.
                                                                                          

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: **The History of Old Farmington

This book was published in 1977 and tells the history of a small rural town which is between here and Sonora.  It is on highway 4.I borrowed it from the Manteca library.  It is part of my study of local history.

This town was originally established as a way place between Stockton and Sonora. It is about a day's drive by teamster from Stockton.  In the early days there were three or four hotels.  However its economy quickly became an agricultural based system.  Last week we saw the big picture of the combine which was hauled by over 20 horses, these were used in this area, as the primary crop was wheat.

This book gives glimpses into the life in this town over the years.  This includes looking at the business, government operation, fire fighting, recreation--bands and ball teams and track teams, schools and churches.  It provides information about the local Dr.  It was important they have there own doctor, as the roads could become impassable in the winter. It tells the story of the collapse of the local bridge over a creek, in which a horse was killed.  It talks of the early settlers.

I don't think I would recommend this book, unless you are really wanting to catch a bit of the flavor of growing up in rural San Joaquin Valley.  This is an area which looked for a boom which never came.  In this its history is different than that of Manteca.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Life History and Writings of John Jaques.

Much of the source material with regards to the Martin Handcart Company comes from this book

This book was put together by the great-granddaughter, Stella Jaques Bell, of John Jaques and includes his journal, his reminiscences,  some of his letters, his poetry as well as his sister-in-law.s recollections.  More importantly for us, it documents the deaths of three of the Ashtons; Sarah Barlow Ashton, Elizabeth Ashton and Baby Sarah Jane Ashton.  (See post from 10/12/10)  It also includes his obituary and other writings related to John Jaques.  It was published in 1978 by Ricks College Press.

John Jaques is prominent in LDS history as a former assistant editor of the Millennial Star, as well as the author of poems which are two LDS hymns, Oh Say What is Truth" and "Softly Beams the Sacred Dawning".  His "Cathecism for Children" was used in the Church Sunday School program for many years as an instruction for children.

The knock against this book is that it is hard to figure out the source for some of the material.  It goes back and forth between different sources and even different writers, and is at times hard to follow.

However it is probably the best original source material with regards to the handcarts.  Granted some of the material can be accessed from other sources such as the BYU Library and the Church History website.

My favorite quote is John Jaques words with regards to the women at the last crossing;
"That was a bitter cold day. Winter came on all at once, and that was the first day of it. The river was wide, the current strong, the water exceedingly cold and up to the wagon beds in the deepest parts, and the bed of the river was covered with cobble stones. Some of the men carried some of the women over on their backs or in their arms, but others of the women tied up their skirts and waded through, like heroines as they were, and as they had done through many other rivers and creeks. The company was barely over when snow, hail, and sleet began to fall, accompanied by a piercing north wind, and camp was made on this side of the river."

This book includes a general history of John's life after entering the valley, and his mission back to England.  Of course some of these things don't apply to the study of the handcart company, but are interesting none the less.


John Jaques wrote a summary of his life at age sixty.  He wrote with regards to the handcart trek, "Traveled one of the hardest journeys of my life across the plains by handcart, nearly worked to death, starved to death and froze to death."


Just a sample of John Jaques' poetry from the LDS Hymn Book:

1. Oh say, what is truth? ’Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
2. Yes, say, what is truth? ’Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
’Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
3. The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.
4. Then say, what is truth? ’Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.
Text: John Jaques, 1827–1900
Music: Ellen Knowles Melling, 1820–1905

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Book Review: **A Guide to Historical Locations in San Joaquin County

This book I checked out from the Manteca library in an effort to get to know the history of the area where I am currently living.  This book lists 27 historical sites, and offers a brief description of each. It has a picture of the plaques if there is one, or a sketch of the historical site.  It was published in 1967 so some of the information is out of date.

He mentions New Hope and the Ship Comet landing site.  Both of these events had to do with the Mormon group under Sam Brannan.  The landing site is where they brought the sailing ship up the San Joaquin river and disembarked.  New Hope is where they established a farming community.  The New Hope plaques has moved, and the Comet plaque is no longer there, having been removed after vandals had their way with it.

The book includes illustrations of many old buildings in Stockton.  However it does have other signiificant information with regards to South San Joaquin County.  There are a couple sites up Coral Hollow road I want to go see--Corral Hallow, where a house use to be which was along the route of the 49ers from the Bay area to the mines, and Carnegie where there use to be a community of 3500 and a pottery and brick operation.

Another which interests me is the General Vallejo battle site.  This was a battle between Native Americans and Mexican forces.  It took place someplace near Ripon, but the book says the exact location of the battle is unknown.

I have a few places to visit, and have a bit more appreciation of the local history.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sugar Beet Manufacturing in Utah and Idaho

I wrote this brief history as a note to my mom's history which I transcribed for her a couple years ago. 

The first sugar from the Utah Sugar Company was processed at the Lehi factory in 1891.  This came after a failed experiment with sugar manufacturing in Sugar House in Salt Lake City several years prior.  The Lehi factory was the fourth sugar beet factory in the United States.  "The Lehi factory was the first beet sugar factory int he world to utilize beets grown by irrigation, the first to have a systematic program for the production of its own beet seed, the first to use American-made machinery, and the first to build ancillary cutting stations. " (Arrington p 182)

The Mormon Church was highly invested and involved in the sugar industry.  They were looking for a stable industry where their population could be employed.  President Wilford Woodruff attended the laying of the cornerstone for the Lehi factory:  "I want to say to all Israel that we believe it right to dedicate everything we engage unto the Lord.  We have assembled today to lay this cornerstone, as is our custom in establishing all our temples.  I want you all to unite on the subject of sugar.  There is not a question of public improvement which is of more value or has better prospects than sugar.  God bless you."  (as quoted in Arrington p 10)

Sugar was processed at Lehi from 1891 to 1924:  "The demise of the Lehi Sugar Factory was ultimately caused by two beet maladies: nematodes (round worms) and "curly top" from white fly infection.  Farmers did not plant sufficient acreage in this area to sustain the factory and it closed after the 1924 campaign although beets continued to be grown locally and processed at other factories until the 1960s."  (Lehi)

After the closing of the Lehi factory, local beets were processed in Spanish Fork which became operational in 1916.  Before that time it had been a cutting station for the Lehi factory (Arrington p 189)

The men from the Lehi factory became a valuable resource to the sugar industry:  "Lehi technicians learned their trade in "the school of hard knocks" and in the process acquired a special capacity to devise imaginative solutions to problems.  The emergent industry, as it expanded toward national stature, learned to rely on Lehi men.  A substantial number of the factories which were subsequently erected in the West and Midwest employed Lehi "alumni" for the know-how and experience they had acquired.  (Arrington p 38)

U&I Sugar was born from the merger of the Utah Sugar Company and the Idaho Sugar Company.  They had factories throughout the inter mountain states: Washington, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada and South Dakota.  Of  course there were other sugar companies operating in the same  area, including  Amalgamated Sugar.  Major competition also came from cane sugar, C&H (California and Hawaii) Sugar and Cuban sugar.

At times the raising of sugar, and the marketing of sugar was controlled by tariffs and allotments.  This was to control the price of sugar.  I remember Dad (my father) saying that sugar beets was always a cash crop, but the acreage was controlled strictly by government regulations. (Wardle)

By the 1960s, sugar beet production was losing to that of cane.  The last U&I factories in operation were in Idaho Falls and Washington.  However these factories also closed in the 1970s. 

Bibliography:

Arrington, Leonard J. Beet Sugar in the West, University of Washington Press, 1966

Lehi Chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, Blue Bell Camp of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Civic Improvement Association of Lehi  (Plaque at the site of the old Lehi Sugar Factory, picture taken by Charles Wardle)

Wardle, Billy, memories

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Story of the Mormon Pioneers,W. Cleon Skousen

This is a little book published by the 223rd Quorum of Seventy, San Fernando Stake in 1947.  It deals primarily with the 1847 trek of the first Mormon Company to the Salt Lake Valley.  I know you can get it through Amazon.com.

There are a couple of things that stood out to me from this book.  One is the dedicatory poem at the beginning of the book:
Dedicated
TO THOSE PIONEERS WHO DIED ON THE PLAINS
AND WERE BURIED IN LONELY GRAVES
ALONG THE TRAIL

Lay him down tenderly under the willows;
Dampen the warm brown earth with your tears;
Then turn your face again to the prairie,
Harden your heart to the lonely years.

We must relinquish him to this wide darkness,
Push toward the goal again, smiling and brave;
The willows will guard him silent and weeping,
No one will know that they shelter his grave.

Lay him down quietly under the willows,
Lay him down gently, gently, and then
Run away quickly, softly, on tiptoe--
We cannot come back to the willows again.

     by Lisbeth Wallis, Improvement Era, July 1943

I think this poem says a lot.  Over the years, 60-80,000 pioneers crossed the plains making there way to Utah.  Of those 6000 were left in graves, mostly unmarked, along the way.
The other quote that caught my eye from this book is a quote from Brigham Young, which more explains why the Mormons moved so far away from everyone else, resulting in such a long and dangerous trek.  "We wish strangers to understand that we did not come here out of choice, but because we were obliged to go somewhere and this was the best place we could find.  It was impossible for any person to live here unless he labored hard and battled and fought against the elements, but it was a first-rate place to raise Latter Day Saints, and we shall be blessed in living here, and shall make it like the Garden of Eden"

This explains a lot to me why people were so willing to put there selves through such risk, and hardship.  They must have known that they would not all make it to Salt Lake.  They sang it along the way, "And should we Die."  I am grateful for people who chose to endure despite the obstacles.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Stories of Young Pioneers In Their Own Words

This book is written by Violet T. Kimball,Mountain Press Publishing, Montana, 2000. This book has many interesting stories. It tells not only the story of the Mormon Trail, but also the Oregon and California trails. It is a very good book for background information on what the trail was like, what activities the children participated in, and what tragedies befell some of the pioneers.

My favorite part of the book was a song from the out and backers (when young men would go out, pick up the Mormon pioneers and bring them back.) It refers to to ox team:
Whoa, haw, Buck and Jerry Boy
There's a pretty little girl in the outfit ahead
Who, haw, Buck and Jerry Boy
I wish she were by my side instead
Whoa, haw, Buck and Jerry Boy
Look at her now with a pout on her lips
As daintily with her fingertips
She picks for the fire some buffalo chips
Who, haw, Buck and Jerry Boy.

The author includes several stories of different pioneers at the end of each chapter. I enjoyed the story of Lizzy Flake Rowan, an African American Mormon who helped found the city of San Bernadino. She eventually married Charles Rowan, a local barber.

This book is full of many such stories and tidbits about the plains, romance, deaths, hardship, happy times. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning about the Western migration in our county.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Riview: BYU Harold B. Lee Library, Liverpool to Boston, Horizon

 http://www.lib.byu.edu/mormonmigration/voyage.php?id=168&q=horizon#account557
The Harold B. Lee Library has transcribed many of their historical documents and put them on the internet. This particular collection is a compendium of first person accounts of the voyage of the Ship Horizon, which carried most of the Martin Handcart Company. However I think the collection contains information on most of the Mormon voyages.

I think this is the most complete information with regards to this voyage. I pleasantly found stories I had never heard before. At on point while hoisting said on of the officer said "hoist higher." This was misinterpreted by one of the young guards to be "fire." He raised the alarm, but fortunately his mistake was quickly corrected.

On passenger was on deck with her father during a fog, when they saw an ice mountain. They were frightened, but then the sun began to shine brightly which it did until the ship was out of danger. John Jacques talks of how the company suffered when they were ordered below to give more reign to the seamen as the entered Boston Harbor.

An interesting story is told by John William Southwell, but not collaborated by any other entry. He described a wedding where the bride and groom were hoisted into the topmast and were there married. He says when they were lowered each of the couple were met by 100 people congratulating them.

I would recommend this series of diary entries and reminicences for anyone interested in studying the handcart pioneers.

The above website could be used to check the records of other boats.  It seems this website has the boat trek, while the church history website has the trail trek.  Together there are many primary sources of pioneering information.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hx of the Mormon Church in England

 Book Review: BYU studies 1987
1987 marked 150 yeas since the Gospel was first taken to Great Britain. To commemorate BYU Studies dedicated the first two issues of the year to the history of the Gospel in Britain. There was also a symposium held at BYU which provided much of the material for the magazine. Gordon B. Hinkley, counselor in the First Presidency at the time, introduced the theme with a discourse published in the magazine "A declaration to the World." He gives a good introduction, and testimony, but not much in terms of historical detail. However he points out the sacrifice of those who first went to England, and their millennial call.

The article by Robert D. Hales "The British Contribution to the Restored Gospel" is excellent. As is the following article, "Cradling Mormonism, the Rise of the Gospel in Victorian England" by Ronald W. Walker. This article points out the influence of the environment to the rise of Mormonism, while not discrediting the message of the Gospel itself--That the original Christian Church had been reestablished upon the earth.

Leonard J. Arrington talks about the history of British women in the Church. Thomas Lyon talks of the first book of poetry published by the church "The Harp of Zion." I will provide a review of the Book of Poetry at a later time, but this article gives a good idea of the history of the book and how it came about. It was written by someone who could not read and write until age 25. There are more articles, which were not directly related to my topic of research, but which someone might find interesting.

My only disappointment was that the articles mentioned the revelation Heber C. Kimball had in which he saw the evil spirits who opposed the restoration of the Gospel. I would have liked to have read the original revelation.

I would recommend these studies to someone interested in looking at the history of the Mormon Church in England. It can be accessed via the internet at
http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=95

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: Expectations Westward

 I priced this book $100 through Amazon.  It is also available through San Jose State, City Library.

This book is completely titled Expectations Westward: The Mormons and the Emigration in the Nineteenth Century of their British Converts by P.A.M. Taylor. It is published in 1966 by Cornell University Press. It is an very good look at the migration of the Mormons by and makes several very good conclusions. It is not written by a Mormon, however the author did considerable homework in going through the old Millennial Stars, and other resources to compile some very good data about the Mormon migration from Utah.

55,000 British Saints migrated to Utah during the 19th century. While this was only a small percentage of the millions of British who were immigrating the United States and Australia, it represented 25 percent of the population in Zion. They made a significant contribution to the economy of Utah in music, business, mining, farming and religion. They now have a posterity numbering in the millions.

The author concludes that the migration did not mimic that of the Britain in general, where the primary motivation was economic. Much of the drive to emigrate came from a testimony of the Gospel and a desire to share in building the Kingdom of God.

However many of the converts in Britain were poor. This book talks about the Perpetual Emigration Fund and its role in fulfilling the goal of helping the Saints gather to Zion.

The author has several chapters which follow the migration. The description of the voyages across the Atlantic are very insightful. There were more death aboard a Mormon ship than other ships. The author points out that a Mormon ship represented the British population in general--old, young, women, men, pregnant women, infants and children. There was more contagious disease among the children, and more deaths due to old age. When the migration went through New Orleans and St. Louis there was death due to cholera and typhoid. The alternative resulted in 1700 miles by rail, and an extra 300 miles overland.

The pioneer migration, from 1847 to 1869 was very difficult. Eventually fast steam ships, and trains all the way to Utah made the journey less risky, but it still represented a major change in the lives of the people who were emigrating. I would recommend this book to someone who is wanting to better understand the Mormon migration.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Manteca is a Sugar Town

from Manteca Bulletin
After moving to Manteca, I discovered it has a sugar history.  It was at the Kelly's Brother Restaurant, with all the displays, that I realized this.  I came through Manteca, going to the mountains, while the factory was still here, but never paid attention.   It has now been knocked down, and now a Target is on the property where it use to be.  In the corner is a memorial to the sugar factory, although there is no plaque identifying it as such.  The Spreckels Sugar Factory opened in 1917.  There were a few years it did not operate due to curly top.  The silos were torn down in July 1997, paving the way for Spreckels Park, and property for Home Depot, Target and Food For Less.

My mother's family comes from sugar beat workers, mostly with U&I Sugar.  My great grandfather, and grandfather worked in the sugar in Lehi, the first economically successful sugar factory in Utah.  However it succumbed to curly top.  My grandfather moved from their to Idaho Falls, Lincoln Street where he was the boiler operator for the Idaho Falls Sugar Factory.

Book Review: John Jaques, reminiscenses, from Church History Lbrary

In 1878, 22 years after the Martin Handcart Company, John Jaques wrote a series of newspaper articles which where published in the Salt Lake Herald. As far as I know this was the first published material about the handcart company. They are available through the Church History Library: http://lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysources/1,16272,4019-1-192,00.html
John Jaques had been the company historian. I have other writings from John Jaques put together by Stella Jaques Bell which I will review at another time.

There are lots of things to like from this article and great quotes. There are a couple of things to not like. John Jaques tries to compare the handcart ordeals to the retreat of Napoleon. That just doesn't work. He also uses the third person when he talks about himself and his own family. I guess he didn't want to sound egotistical, but it causes confusion..

Now for a couple of the good quotes. John Jaques describes the last crossing of the Platte River. "That was a bitter cold day. Winter came on all at once, and that was the first day of it. The river was wide, the current strong, the water exceedingly cold and up to the wagon beds in the deepest parts, and the bed of the river was covered with cobble stones. Some of the men carried some of the women over on their backs or in their arms, but others of the women tied up their skirts and waded through, like heroines as they were, and as they had done through many other rivers and creeks. The company was barely over when snow, hail, and sleet began to fall, accompanied by a piercing north wind, and camp was made on this side of the river."

John Jaques also described the duty of those who dug graves, as well as one particular story. This interests me as Isaac Wardle, my ancestor, helped dig graves for those who passed away. "I have mentioned the generally prevalent abnormal indifference to death and the dead, induced by daily familiarity therewith, in the company. In some, if not all, of the hundreds, men were specially appointed to be grave-diggers, and the feelings of these men would naturally grow more callous than those of others of the emigrants, from usage, as well as from the fact that the exigencies of travel would frequently require the interment of the dead in what, under other circumstances, would be considered indecent haste. But on one occasion, at least, the old sensitiveness or normal nervousness returned and re-asserted itself unexpectedly and suddenly though temporarily, to two of these grave-diggers. One evening, on the other side of Devil's Gate, after the tents had been pitched, these two men dug a grave, buried two corpses in it, and filled it up again, out- side of camp. Scarcely had they finished their work, when some unaccountable, irresistible and uncontrollable nervous impulse simultaneously seized them both. Without saying a word to each other at the time, each shouldered his spade or his pick and ran back to camp as fast as his legs could carry him, or in a popular parlance, as if the very Old Harry were after him. This was the only time, one of those grave-digging and pedestrian Tam O'Shanters subsequently declared, that he ever felt frightened over that part of the camp business." I have found lots of other good quotes. I would recommend that people check out the church history website, and this series of newspaper articles is a good place to start.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: Devils Gate

Roberts, David, Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy, 2008, Simon and Schuster, New York.

This book I cannot recommend. It advertises itself as a book of the Mormon handcarts, but spends most of its pages as an antiMormon book. The contention of the book is that Brigham Young was a man set on greed and power, who lied freely to absolve himself of any guilt with regards to the handcarts. Brigham Young expressed his desire to build up the Kingdom of God as his motivation for helping the pioneers cross the plains, and the use of handcarts allowed them to help more people than otherwise. That true is an economic question, but where you could help a couple thousand, instead of a few hundred, that was Brigham’s motivation, no greed, not power, even though they did hope people would come to Utah to help build Zion.
Roberts does not seem to have any concept of spiritual motives. The idea of building Zion I imagine is very foreign to his nature, and he had difficulty accepting other motivations. He gives himself away in the acknowledgments in which he thanks a Mormon researcher, “Ardis realized early on that my conclusions about the handcart tragedy, nineteenth century Mormon history, and Brigham Young himself would be seriously at odds with hers.” I think Roberts had drawn his conclusions before he began investigating, and minimized anything which was contrary to this conclusion, and played up anything negative.
This is evidenced by his handling of the pioneers themselves and their journals. Mormon diarist who were positive, or write anything upbeat about the handcarts were obviously “fanatics.” He uses sarcasm against some of those who suffer, based on their earlier being for the handcart plan. I personally had difficulty reading the book, until I just took it this is how someone who is a “jerk” would write the story. (I actually thought something stronger.) As an example he quotes from John Jaques rarely and he was the Martin Company historian. He does use his reminiscences because the “fanaticism was mellowed out of him.” (p 23) His major sources of information with regards to the Willie company is people who left the church and wrote derogatory accounts.
The author’s coup de grace is a letter which was written by William Willard to Heber Kimball which announced the arrival of the Thornton to New York, and that it was expected in Iowa in June. The letter was stamped received in Salt Lake July 30, 1856. The author argues that this letter proves Brigham’s lying when he said he did not know of handcarts on the plains until Franklin Richards brought word the first part of October. In my research Brigham never said he didn’t know there were companies in the East, he had assumed they had wintered in the East however. This makes sense as the Church had cautioned against any team leaving the Missouri after August 1. Both the Willie and Martin Companies left Florence after August 1, (P.A.M. Taylor in Expectations Westward, also a nonMormon author but not one with a point to prove.) Roberts spends another part of the book saying there was no date set after which immigrants should winter in the East.
The author does let the pioneer’s stories come through from time to time, and in those places the book is very moving. However some of the “background” stuff he puts in the book seems to over shadow this. The author quotes, and talks about anything negative ever said about Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Some of his sources include Bill Hickman, (excommunicated from the church and saying anything negative he could think of about Brigham Young so as to beat a murder rap against himself. Authorities went along with this but then realized, too late to convict Hickman, that there wasn’t a case against Brigham Young) Fawn Brodie, (whose work has already been discredited as she printed every rumor about Joseph Smith she could find) and Will Bagley (who carries a great deal of anger against the church for whatever reason who knows.)
The strangest chapter is the author’s personal experience, “The Mormon Mayflower.” The author went to Mormon Handcart Visitors Centers and asks, “Who’s to blame.” The question seems so inappropriate, especially when the author wouldn’t accept anyone’s answer anyway, as the only right answer to him was “Brigham Young.” Sometimes bad things happen. There is no guarantee in life. He challenges a group about the rescue at the Sweetwater saying the story was untrue, not explaining that the story is basically true, but in the way it is normally told some of the particulars are incorrect.
If you want to read a book, that concludes before it starts that Brigham Young is a liar, then I guess this book is OK. I read for the handcart stories, and then determined I could go to primary sources which the church makes available, which the author does say to his credit are available via the internet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Handcarts to Zion

This book was written in 1960 and was the first book about the handcarts.  There had been other series of stories written for the newspaper.  It was written by Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen.  It covers the entire history of the handcarts, and all ten of the handcart companies that came to Utah between 1856 and 1860.

It uses the Millennial Star to show why the handcarts were used.  The most famous quote from the book is in the introduction.  "But at only one period, 1856-1860, was the handcart employed for mass migration--the most remarkable travel experiment in the history of Western America."

The Hafens had an ancestor who as a small girl was part of the last handcart company.  The bias of favoring the church and the handcart plan is part of the book, and is to be expected.

The appendices are great.  They include poetry and hymns important to the pioneers, diaries, story of the rescue, and rosters of each of the companies (although not complete as Isaac Wardle is missing from the Martin Handcart Company roster.)

If one is studying the handcarts, this is the place to start that study.  It includes an interesting graph of all the companies, the number of immigrants, the number of handcarts, the number of deaths.  250 or eight and a half percent of the handcart pioneers died along the trail.  The majority, 150 were part of the Martin Company.

Book Review: Scouting for the Mormons on the Great Frontier

This book is the biography of Ephraim Hanks. It is written by Sidney Alvarus Hanks
and Ephraim K. Hanks. I am not sure of the year. It can be accessed at the website: http://wiki.hanksplace.net/images/d/db/Scouting_for_the_mormons.pdf
Some of it is stories from church magazines, some letters are copied, and part of it is the first person account of the rescue of the Martin Handcart Company. It includes stories of Ephraim's life after the handcarts, including his practicing of polygamy and his reaction to the federal marshalls.

Ephraim Hanks was a man of miracles, and I feel closer to he, as well as my great-great-grandfather Isaac from reading this book. His story of the rescue of the handcarts manifests the miracle it was that any of them got out alive. Ephraim was not a rescuer at Red Buttes, or Martin's Cove. He arrived shortly after the company left the Cove.

But he made a big impression. He is one of two rescuers mentioned in Isaac's one page person history. He continued on to the company, when all the other rescuers stopped to ride out the winter storms, and he prayed for a buffalo, and one was provided by God, and he rode into camp at dinner time with his horses laden with buffalo meat. That was his first impression; but the impression he made by anointing and healing and curing the sick even more lasting. He brought one man back to life (at least he was dead as best anyone could tell.) One day he performed over 100 blessings. He also healed with his soap and knife, removing dead skin with his castille soap, and cutting away flesh that was dead due to frost bite.

Miracles followed this man in more dealings than with the handcarts. He carried mail for many years along the trail, and escaped Indian trouble only with God's help. He performed annointings and healed the sick through out his life. He also was somewhat a prophet, seeing beforehand things that would shortly come to pass.

This story is worth reading.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Historic Hyrum Elite Hall; Best Dance Floor in Utah

http://newscafe.ansci.usu.edu/archive/oct99/1013_elite.html
Hyrum Elite Hall is an historic building, but it is still being used.  It was built in 1917 after the opera house on the same site burned down in 1915.  It was used for high school basketball games for South Cache High School, before they had their own gym (before my time).  It also hosted other events such as wrestling.

The big draw was the dance floor.  At one time they had weekly Saturday dances.  The floor bounces, because of the springs built under the floor.  My brother said one time he was able to get underneath the floor with someone and see the springs.  In the really old days, when cars weren't so plentiful, you could take the train to Hyrum to catch the dance.  People still come from all over the Valley.

There was also a time when it was open Saturday morning for people to play basketball, or run around the balcony.  This was the main court for my Bantam Basketball playing days.  The Hall had large restrooms, men's and women's.  Above the restrooms, off of the balcony, were two classrooms, one on each side.  It was in this classroom that I took my hunter's safety.  I also attended an Emergency Preparedness seminar and learned how if the Russians missed nuking Hill Air Force Base by a little bit we were toast.

One year, for our May Day dance program from the elementary school, it was held there.  I think it was the back-up place for bad weather.

While I was growing up, dancing wasn't popular with me.  There were regular dances held there.  Sometimes they would throw saw dust on the floor to enhance the sliding motions.

They stored a drum and other instruments from band in the display case as you entered the Hall.  Eventually the drum had a tear in it.  The instruments have been moved to the museum.
I understand dancing is still taking place in the Hall.  I saw an ad for dances two Saturdays a month with dance instruction for those who may need Swing Dancing instruction.