Sunday, July 17, 2011

Colonel Patrick E. Connor: Stockton Volunteer

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.