I, Christopher Merkley, was born in Williamsburg, Dundas County, Upper Canada, on December 18th, 1808, son of Jacob Merkle or Merkley. Worked on my father's farm until I was fourteen, after which I was apprenticed to shoe making for three years. Served my full time, and for sometime afterwards worked at my trade. At nineteen I married Sarah Davis, who was born on May 19th, 1810, at La Shute, Lower Canada. We were married in February, 1828. My wife bore me a son, now known as Nelson Merkley.
In 1831, I became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and continued a member and class leader in this church until 1837. In that year the sound of the everlasting gospel was brought to my hearing by Phineas Wright and Benjamin Wright. It did not take me long to determine what I should do. I soon after embraced the opportunity and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder John E. Page, on July 27th,1837, and was ordained an Elder that winter. The principle of gathering was believed by me; consequently I settled my business, and in one year after purchased my outfit and started for Missouri then the gathering place of the Saints.
There were at that time two families of Saints who were anxious to gather with the Church, but being very poor they were unable to do so. Their names were Zenos H. Gurley, wife, and three children; and Stephen Kettle, who had a wife and three children. The last named stopped at Illinois, and afterward apostatized. I purchased horses, harness, and wagon, and took them with me. We were detained by sickness two weeks, having camped in a low, marshy district. My wife Sarah dreamed a man came and told her if we did not move from there we should all be sick. This was Saturday. We did not move, as the next day was Sunday. We were all taken sick directly afterward. There were none of us well enough to drive team. We had to stay there two weeks.
We reached Dewitt, Missouri, on Saturday night, about the first of October. Here we were counseled to stop. On Sunday, Elder Page, who had arrived a few days previous, came to my wagon and told me to run fifty balls to protect ourselves from the mob; but being rather religious, I refused. The next Sunday, however, I loaded my rifle and went to the meeting, which was held but a short distance from my wagon. We formed a hollow square: I sat down with my gun on my lap. We listened to splendid sermons from the Prophet Joseph Smith, and Sidney Rigdon, who had come down during the night with sixty men to help protect us. We were surrounded by a mob for about two weeks. They were led by a Presbyterian preacher named Sachiel Woods.
Having lost one of my mares I mounted my horse and started toward Grand River Ferry to look for her. While passing through the woods, I met two men heavily armed. One of them pointed his gun at me and ordered me to come up to him, at the same time using a terrible oath; the other sounded a bugle, which was answered in the distance. I asked him what he wanted of me. He cursed me, and told me not to ask him, but come to him. I again asked him what he wanted of me. He stomped his foot, and with a terrible oath, told me it was the last time he would tell me to come up to him. He still kept his gun pointed at me. Again I inquired what he wanted me for. He ordered his partner to sound the bugle again. In a few minutes ten or twelve horsemen came up armed to the teeth. They surrounded me and all dismounted, and ordered me to do the same. They held a few minutes talk together, and then asked me where I was from. I told them from Canada. They then wanted to know where I was going. I told them I did not know; I was looking for a place to locate. They asked me if I had any arms. My answer was "No." "Any letters?" "No." They then searched me, and found no arms nor letter, but a Bible in my breast pocket. They said that was a d----d good weapon to carry. They wanted me to pull off my boots, saying the British generally carried letters in their boots. I told them I should not; if they wanted them off they could pull them off. They cursed me and said I should! I told them I should not! Finally, one said if I would tell them the truth, I should not be hurt. I told them my father always taught me to tell the truth. They then asked, "How many are you in number in Dewitt?" I answered, "I don't know." "Are you five hundred?" I answered, "I don't know." "Are you three hundred?" "I don't know." He asked, "How is it you are such a G---d----fool?" I said, "I don"t know." Another cocked his rifle, and put it against my breast, saying, "I will put a ball through you, then there'll be one G---d---'Mormon' out of the way." I said, "Let off; perhaps I shall never be better prepared." Another said, "So you think you are prepared now?" Another nudged the one with the rifle, and he put it down. They then held a counsel to know what was best to do with me. One said, "Let us take him to camp," Another one said, "No, he is too big a d----d fool; We don't want him there." They finally decided to let me go back, which I accordingly did.
The mob being so troublesome, I concluded to go to Far West. When I arrived there, Bishop Buchanan directed me to a house six miles out belonging to another person, but the Bishop thought he would not want it that winter. We had then been living in wagons from July 5th; it was now October, 1838. My wife being sick a long time. We moved into the house, made a fire, and begun to cook our supper when a man drove up and asked who told us to move in there. I told him Bishop Buchanan. He said, he had no business to do so, as the house belonged to him, and he was going to move it in town. He got on the roof, and tore it off; he tried to pull down the chimney, scattering dirt in our food; he then got on his running gear, and rode away. The house stood there all winter. That night there was a storm, and we had a foot of snow; this made it very uncomfortable for us all.
In the morning I hunted up my horses, but could not find my cow. Some time after we packed our things in the wagon and started out to look for Zenos Gurley. We found him about one mile and a half off, clearing out an old cabin, into which we moved--eleven persons in all--on account of the mob prowling around. I hid my rifle in a corn shock, and took my shot-gun and went up the creek, sat down on a log and was reading my Bible; when, on looking up I saw two men coming on horseback, each having a gun. I jumped into the creek bottom, and they, not seeing me, passed on, and went to the cabin, and asked my wife where I was. She told them I had gone out. They asked if I had a gun. She told them I had. They asked her where it was. She said I had it with me. They pretended to be friends, and told her I had better go into Far West and give up my gun, as the mob would kill me if they found me with it. They passed on to the next house, and asked who we were. The woman told them she did not know. She pretended to them she was not a "Mormon," and they told her there was a splendid chance for plunder at our place, some of which they were going to have.
A few nights after, at eleven o'clock there was a rap at the door. I asked, "Who is there?" The answer was, "Friends!" I asked, "Friends to whom?" They said "To the Mormons;'" said their names were Stodard, and they had lost their way; they had been to Far West, and wanted to come in and stay all night.
After I was somewhat satisfied I told them I would let them in; if they were what they represented themselves to be, all right; if not, the Lord have mercy on their souls. After admitting them, I found they were friends, and were hungry; we had no flour, but a neighbor had given us permission to gather what corn we could eat from his field. We boiled the corn, grated it, and then made bread of it. I went and gathered the corn, and we prepared them some supper.
A few days afterwards, I rode over to Brother Beckstead's. While there some of the neighbor's boys came in and said the mob were at their place. They had taken their horses and wagon, and took their things to fill the wagon with, then drove off with their plunder. I immediately rode into Far West and notified the people.
That afternoon we saw the army coming upon us from Goose Creek Mountain. The Prophet Joseph hastily called us together. Being unarmed I got a pitchfork, and we were swung out, as it were, in two wings, the Prophet being at the head of the right wing. A portion of them rode up to within a few hundred yards from us, halted, mixed up like a flock of sheep, and then went back. We were about three hundred and fifty strong. Some time after I was thrown in company with one of the members of the army. I asked him what stopped them from coming into Far West. He said there were too many of us. I asked him how many there were. He said they saw ten thousand.
That evening Hyrum Smith came to me and asked me to go to Littlefield's, half way to Diamon. I told him I was a stranger there, and asked him if it would not be better to send some one more acquainted with the country. He said "No": you are unarmed. I want you to go. Lyman Wight is camped there with fifty men and I want you to tell him to come in directly." He gave me directions and I went. When I got there I found the prairie on fire. When I found the house there was no one in it. I rode all around, found several cabins, but no living being could I find. I turned to go back on the prairie. I met two men on horseback, but it was so dark I could not see only their outline. I supposed them to be a mob. I hailed them and asked who they were. They said, "Friends." I asked, "Friends to whom?" They said, "To the Mormons'." They told me it had been ascertained that Lyman Wight had gone to Diamon, twenty-five miles distant, and they were sent after him. This night was the most lonesome I ever spent in my life. Lyman Wight arrived with his company in the morning.
After it was decided to leave there, I went over to Ray County to buy wheat for breadstuff. I purchased twenty bushels, and took it to the horse mill to have it ground. While waiting for my turn, several persons came in with small grists who did not want me to have mine ground until theirs were. They tried to scare me off, and when they could not, they said Tarwater would be there that night, and he would kill any "Mormon" he could find. Sure enough he came. He was one of the mob that had been in the Crooked River Battle, and had been terribly wounded. He asked me questions; one was if I had taken part in the Crooked River Battle. I told him "No." He said if I had he would kill me. He threatened me, and tried to scare me by saying I should not have my grist ground in my turn. I, however, was not scared, and when the miller gave me the sign he promised he would, I hitched my team on, and they all went home.
This winter I was engaged with another man in hunting. We killed forty-three deer; took the choice pieces for ourselves and gave the rest to the poor. About this time my best wagon was stolen. A man by the name of Sloan was very poor, and complained that he had no way of moving out of Missouri. I took pity on him and told him if he would pay my expenses, I would move him out to Quincy, Illinois, which he agreed to, and I moved him out. The distance was over two hundred miles, made in the dead of winter, early in 1839. He gave me three and one-half dollars to pay my expenses back. He has since apostatized.
We then got ready and moved twelve miles north of Quincy, to Lima. There, in connection with Bishop Buchanan, I rented some land and put in a crop.
After the Prophet Joseph Smith came out of prison, he called a conference at Quincy, which was held on a camp meeting ground. While the people was gathering, I was standing near the Prophet, when a brother approached him and dunned him for money. The Prophet asked him where he thought he could have money as he had just gotten out of prison. The man, however, still importuned him. The debt was not the Prophet's, but another brother's, who had bought land from this man in Missouri. The Prophet had endorsed for the man who bought. Soon after, our people were driven out, and obliged to leave everything. The Prophet told him that under the circumstances he thought that he ought not to demand any pay; but the man was very obdurate, and insisted on having it. Brother Joseph finally told him, he had five dollars in his pocket, if four dollars would do him any good he could have them. These the man accepted. Brother Joseph took five silver dollars from his pocket and gave him four of them, returning one to his own pocket.
While walking around with the Prophet, a man came and told him a sister wanted to see him. He asked where she was. He was told she was in the cabin. At the same time it was pointed out to him. Brother Joseph went to see her. I followed him. The sister was sick, and her friends had written to her from the East telling her if she would come back, they would take care of her. She stated this to him, and asked him what she should do. Brother Joseph asked her what she would rather do. She said she would rather stay with the Saints if she was not too burdensome. He said, "Then stay, sister, and God bless you." He put his hand in his pocket and gave her his last dollar. He then instructed the brethren not to let her suffer.
At the close of the conference the Prophet Joseph went to Commerce. On his way he stopped at Lima to take dinner. I met him there and asked him if he would like a little money. He said, "Yes, Brother Merkley, I am now on a journey of fifty miles, and I have not a dime in my pocket." I gave him a sovereign. He took me by the hand and blessed me, and he said, "Brother Merkley, may you never want." I never have.
THE AUTHOR'S FIRST MISSION
I was called at the conference to go on a mission to Canada. I started in company with Brother William Snow. We left June 27th, 1839. Brother Snow not being blessed with much of the world's goods, I paid his expenses. I took a horse which we rode in turn on our journey. We called on Brothers Roberts, Beckstead, and Kellers. It took us eight days to reach Chicago---two hundred and eighty-two miles. Here I sold my horse. We here met four elders who had not sufficient money to pay their passage across the lake. I let them have what they needed, and early next morning we went on board the steamer Illinois, and traveled by it to Cleveland. We took breakfast with a distant relative of my wife's. I then went on foot to Kirtland, where we visited the temple.
We then traveled by steamboat and railroad until we reached our destination, which was on July 16th. We visited and preached, made a few baptisms, and were kindly received by all. On November 16th, and 17th, I attended a conference at Great Bend, New York. I borrowed a horse to go to conference. When I arrived at Great Bend it was after dark; not knowing anyone I depended on the Spirit, or the impressions thereof, to guide me to the house of some of the brethren. While riding down the street I was impressed to stop at a house I was passing, but rode on. Not receiving any more impressions, I turned back and stopped at the house that the spirit had indicated. I found it to be the residence of Brother Day. Sister Day came out and made me welcome. She said she had seen a vision the night before, and said I was going to help Brother Day and another brother out of trouble, which I did. I returned to Canada and continued to travel and preach; sometimes baptizing, but the opposition was very strong against us. The preachers opposed us very much. One Johnstone, a preacher for the Church of England, went so far as to try to use force by seizing me, but I brushed his hands off me, and he ceased to oppose, as he was ordered to keep quiet.
Some time in December, Brother Snow went to Vermont, and Brother Arza Adams left me to visit his father, previous to our returning home to Nauvoo. After he left I dreamed I had been lumbering at the Nation River, and went to a merchant to sell it. He asked me if it was rafted. I said "No." He said he did not want it. I saw at once I was wrong; it should have been rafted. I felt bad, but I thought to myself it will only take two floats and five traverses, and I can haul them over bare ground. I started with my little ax, and chain, hauled my rafting back and rafted. I had eighteen sticks of timber, two oars, two floats, and five traverses, making in all twenty-seven pieces.
In the morning I went to a spring in the front of the house to wash me; my dream came to my mind, and the interpretation came also. While at breakfast I told Sister Wilcox my dream, and asked her to give the interpretation. She said I was going to baptize twenty-seven persons before I went home. That was the same way it had been shown to me, but I thought it impossible as the work was done--no more to be baptized. Brother Adams had gone and I was ready to go home. Sister Wilcox, however, insisted that was the interpretation, and she was right. After Brother Adams had left I was invited to preach, and did so in two or three places. I baptized several persons, then left appointments and went to visit my father. When I returned I filled my appointments, and baptized many more, altogether twenty-seven, exactly. I ordained the officers necessary, and organized them into a branch called the Mountain Branch. Thus my dream was fulfilled to the letter---my raft completed.
Altogether we baptized seventy-two persons. I baptized forty-four of them myself. We blessed thirty children, ordained two elders, one priest, two teachers, one deacon, and organized two branches; then started for home in May, 1840. I arrived home early in June, and afterward moved to Commerce---since called Nauvoo. There I was taken sick with the ague and did not recover until fall. I became a member of the Nauvoo Legion, and was assigned duty in the mounted company of the Legion.
ANOTHER MISSION TO CANADA
In 1841, I was again called on a mission to Canada, and started on June 23rd, accompanied by my wife Sarah, and my son Nelson Merkley, as my wife wished to visit relatives. We also took Brother Henry Jacobs with us, who had been called on a mission to Canada, and I bore his expenses. We arrived at our destination on August 12th. We traveled and preached until October 19th, when Brother Jacobs left me. He had a dream which greatly affected him. He left his mission and returned home, leaving me entirely alone. Not being much of a preacher, I felt very bad. After making it a subject of prayer, it was shown to me that the Lord required no more of me than he had given me. After this I was determined to do my duty to the best of my ability. I continued in my labors traveling and preaching, and occasionally baptizing a few, until February 14th, 1842. Then Brother Murray Seamons came to labor with me.
Some time before Elder Seamons came to labor with me, I dreamed I went fishing with a seine. I spread the seine in the river and fastened the rope to a thorn apple tree. I then went upon the bank and watched it. Pretty soon I saw there was a fish in the seine, and saw it sway down the river. I thought the tree would not hold it. I ran down the bank and got hold of the rope, but it pulled the tree out by the roots, and all went down the stream together. I saw there was a bay below the point, and tried with all my might to pull it in the bay below. I held on as long as I could. The top of the tree was full of thorns, and one of them stuck me in the bottom of the foot. I immediately pulled it out, and on looking up saw two men in a boat working at the seine. I called to them to come ashore and let me in, and we could get it in the bay; with this I awoke.
Some time before we were called on our mission, the Prophet, in a discourse, said he wanted those who went on missions to leave their families at home. He conveyed the meaning in this way, when brethren went from home they should leave their families in the hands of the Lord, and devote themselves to their missionary labors, and not allow their minds to be drawn away from their work by worrying about their families. Before Brother Seamons started on his mission, he went and asked permission of the Prophet to take his family with him, but did not get permission; nevertheless, he took them, and on June 2d, 1842, his wife was taken sick; she died on the 3d, and was buried on the 4th. For some time before her death, I had noticed there was quite a change in him. He began to oppose me in points of doctrine. I had said in preaching, that he who would do the will of the Father, should know the doctrine. Seamons preached that if he had now known, he never would have been baptized. The Sabbath evening before his wife died, I preached on the first principles of the gospel with the gifts following the believer. He opposed me and said the gift of tongues was not necessary. I visited him the next day, and tried to show him he was wrong. His wife joined me, but all to no purpose.
On September 22d I met Elder Amos F. Hodges, and we agreed to go to Montreal together. Tuesday, October 25th, we went on board the barge for Montreal, and reached there Thursday, the 27th. We tried hard to get a place to preach in, but failed. At last we got permission to preach on board the ship. We had an interesting time, and an attentive audience. I felt sure that good was done there.
Elder Hodges then left me and started to Vermont. I went up through Canada and visited Van Cleek's Hill, and preached; held a debate with two preachers, but the Lord brought me off victorious. I continued to visit and preach until the latter part of November. I gave out an appointment to preach in the red schoolhouse. On my way to the schoolhouse, I was informed by a woman where I stopped for supper, that I was to be opposed by six preachers. I told her I did not care how many. I had the truth and I knew it. I accordingly went to meeting and preached on the first principles; at the close, a Methodist preacher arose and asked if I would answer him a few questions. I told him I would providing he would answer me as many more. This he would not do, but insisted on my answering his questions. I told him all I asked was an equal chance with any gentleman; but he still insisted. Finally I told him I would answer his questions. He asked several. One question he asked was, "What qualifications were necessary to prepare an individual to preach the gospel?" I answered, "The same that were necessary in the days of the Savior when He went to the sea shore." This confused him very much. I saw he calculated to make a point on my not being educated. His next question was, "Do you believe in repentance after death?" I replied, "To answer that I would like to give my reasons for my belief." He said, "No; all we want is yes or no." I stated that I believed the gospel was preached in the spirit world. He said "That will do." After he got through with his questions, he folded his paper on which they were written and began to talk. I told him to hold on, he could not give his opinion on the questions that had been asked, unless he stated what time he wished to occupy, and gave me the same privilege. He would not listen to this, and again commenced speaking. I called him to order, and told him if he was a gentleman he would not try any such a game as that. I told him I wanted him to understand this was my appointment, and I was presiding; that I had not yet dismissed the meeting, and that he could not talk without saying how many minutes he wished to occupy. He then said ten minutes. He commenced and said he presumed the gentleman would have no objections to his weeding his garden a little. He was referring to me. I told him not in the least. He then spoke of the lies told against us, and of course represented them as true.
When I arose I told the people inasmuch as the reverend gentleman undertook to weed my garden, I presumed he would have no objections to my weeding his a little. I then compared Methodism with the teachings of the Apostles. This gentleman tells the people when they are convinced they are sinners, and they ask what they shall do to be saved, they are to come forward to the anxious seat, kneel down and pray, and we will also pray for you that Christ will convert your souls. I compared this teaching with that of the Apostle Peter's, on the day of Pentecost, when the people asked a similar question. Peter said: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost. "After we had each spoken in turn several times, he got out of patience, and said I delighted in British Play. He tried to burlesque considerably. He told the people that I had come among them and had talked a good deal bout a Gentile being made Israel. "Now," said he, "there is no Israel except the natural seed of Abraham, and I defy him to prove it."
I then arose and said, "I am a British born subject myself; sword points are what I delight in." I handled the gentleman pretty roughly, or I suppose he thought so. He was an Irishman, and was quite flippant with the tongue. I said, "I am quite surprised at the gentleman's putting me at defiance. I will not merely give you my assertion, but will give you the language of the Apostle Paul to be found in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, thirteenth verse: 'For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free.' In his Epistle to the Galatians, third chapter, and twenty-seventh verse, he says: 'For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise.' I do not know how long this reverend gentleman has professed to be a preacher of the gospel, but really if I did not understand the plan of salvation better than he does, I would go home and hoe potatoes for a living." He arose and looked all around him; seeing all eyes were on him, he said, "Never mind, brethren, I will be up to him yet."
At this junction Dr. Wilcox got up and went out. As he passed his reverend he pointed to him and said, "Next summer I will let you out a field of potatoes on shares. I think you will understand that better than preaching." The gentleman spoke a few words, then asked if his time was up. He was told "No." He said a word or two more, and again asked if his time was up. He was told that he had three minutes yet. He said, "Well, I'll give way." I then occupied ten minutes. He again arose and commenced on Joseph Smith. I raised my hand and said, "Hold on." He stopped. I said, "Did you not agree to let Joseph Smith and everybody else alone---that the Bible should be the text.?" He said, "I did." I asked, "Will you do as you agreed?" He answered, "I will." Before he closed his remarks he said I pretended to know a good deal about Methodism. I told them I did not only pretend, but that I knew, for I was a Methodist until I was sold with the balance of them for two pence farthing ahead, and then told them how that was brought about. When I got through, he had no more to say. I asked him to close the meeting. He said "No." After I closed, another gentleman came up and gave me a hearty shake of the hand and said, "God bless you. I am an Episcopal Methodist preacher. I came here tonight to oppose you, but you have taught me more about Methodism than I ever knew. He then invited me to go home with him, but I was engaged elsewhere, and had to decline his kind invitation. This was about the last of November. Early in December I gave out a notice that if anyone wished baptism, I was ready to attend to it. On the 12th of December, I baptized eleven persons.
After this visit I visited my relatives. I went to visit my brother-in-law, Peter Marcelles, who was very sick. I remained with him that night, and talked to him on the principles of the gospel. During the evening he asked me to administer to him, which I did, and he was miraculously healed. He said he should come the next time I held a meeting and be baptized, but he never came. From the time I started on my second mission to December, 1842, I baptized twenty-three persons.
During December I was actively engaged traveling and preaching. I visited Norfolk. The Saints urged me to preach, as they were disgusted with Elder Seamons. I, therefore, had the announcement made that I would preach on Sunday, January 3rd, 1843. After meeting was opened, Elder Seamons forbade my preaching, but the people insisted by their vote, so I preached. On Monday, I went after Elders Duncan and Hodges, and laid the case before them. On the 17th they decided against him, and demanded his license. He became angry and turned anti-Mormon, and hired himself to preach for the Universalists. January 22nd, I commenced to work for my father, and cut cord-wood for myself, to help me with means. February 9th, I again commenced laboring and preaching, and continued until April, 1843. I then went to work in a saw-mill to earn money to get home, and continued working there until fall. I then started for Nauvoo. Arriving at Laport, Indiana, late in the fall, I became winter-bound, and worked in a shoe-shop until spring. I was invited to preach in the Court House, which I did. I was then invited to go fifteen miles south of Laport to preach, which I did; preached five times, and baptized twelve persons.
On April 25th, I started home; arrived in Hendersonville; left my wife visiting with my sister at Hendersonville, seventy-five miles from Nauvoo, while I went home to Nauvoo. I stayed there only one night, and then started back on a mission to Michigan. I first went to Hendersonville, and from there I took Elder Stoddard and wife in my wagon with me to Michigan, where we arrived July 18th, 1844. We visited and preached. I baptized one person in Washington. On the 22nd of August I started for home, but was detained in passing through Indiana, to baptize three persons--one of them Aurilla Pratt, who had been bedridden for seven years. I baptized her for the remission of her sins, and then baptized her seven times for the restoration of her health. She was carried into the water, but after baptism, she walked out of the water by my side. Her son and daughter were also healed of the chills by baptism. I prophesied Sister Pratt would yet gather with the Saints, which has been fulfilled, and she now lives at Provo, Utah Co.
We started for Michigan the latter part of August. We had previously heard of the assassination of the Prophet and Patriarch, but had not believed it. We now received the sad tidings from a source that could not be doubted. This news filled my heart with an unspeakable grief, so much so that I made up my mind to go home and leave the Gentiles to go to the devil their own way, because I felt that they were not worthy of any better treatment from me, after they had inbued their hands in the blood of the best men that had ever been on the earth since the days of Jesus. I reached Nauvoo in September, 1844. After filling two missions--my second and third---we had baptized forty-eight persons; forty-one of whom I baptized myself. We ordained one Elder and excommunicated one person.
THE AUTHOR'S FURTHER PROGRESS IN THE WORK OF GOD, WITH EXCITING SCENES THROUGH WHICH HE PASSED
In the spring of 1845, I received my endowments in the Nauvoo Temple, where I took a second wife, Minerva Stowel. All I possessed when I returned from my last mission was a wagon and pair of good French grey horses.
During the summer, a stranger came to me who said he was not a "Mormon," but his wife was, and he was pleased with Nauvoo and would move there; said he lived in Indiana, and hired me with my team at one dollar and fifty cents a day to go with him and move him to Nauvoo. At the time he wanted to start, I was not well, so I sent my son Nelson, who was about fifteen years old. Another man had owed me five dollars and paid me in peck and half-peck measures, which I sent with my son for him to sell. After they started he told my son that they would dispose of the measures to pay their expenses, and he would pay him the money for them. They traveled across the State of Illinois until they got to the outskirts of Indiana, when they stopped for supper at a hotel. After supper they traveled until dusk. They then hobbled the horses and turned them out on the prairie to feed. This man and my son slept under the wagon. During the night while Nelson was asleep, this man got up, took the hobbles off the horses, and took them away into the brush and tied them up, then put the hobbles back on the road, and went and laid down until morning. When they arose of course the horses were gone. He took Nelson back to the hotel, and on the way they found the hobbles. My son then thought the horses were stolen, and wanted to write to me, but this man would not let him. He persuaded Nelson to take a horse he had hired from the landlord. He put the landlord's son on one horse and my son on the other; he took Nelson ten miles and then left him to come on foot the rest of the way. This man gave him a five dollar bill which proved to be a counterfeit. He told Nelson to tell me there was a regular gang of horse thieves through that country to Galena, and if I were to get on a boat and to Galena, I might intercept them. He said he would have my wagon and harness brought in off the prairie, and when he came to Nauvoo he would bring them with him.
Nelson traveled fifty miles the first-day--ten miles on the horse and forty miles on foot. He offered the five dollar bill in payment for food, and found it was a counterfeit. A gentleman advised him not to try to pass it again as he might be arrested for passing counterfeit money. He gave his handkerchief and a pocket knife with other things he had to pay for his food until he reached home.
As soon as I learned the particulars, I hired a man who had a buggy and a span of horses to go with me to try and get mine back. We arrived at the hotel my son left when he started home; there I found that this man, after he had sent my son back, that same day went and got my horses, harnessed them to the wagon and started off with them. As soon as I heard this I started off on foot to seek my horses and wagon, the man who had brought me thus for having to return.
The first night I stopped at a place to sleep, and here found one of my measures with which he had paid his way. He had stopped at the same place just two weeks before. I found no trouble in tracing him through Terre Haute, and east through Indiana, as everybody had noticed him with a nice span of horses and a new red Yankee wagon, which was uncommon in that part of the country. While passing through the village of Putnamville, I saw a crowd gathered at a store door. I made a general inquiry, and the merchant asked me if I knew who had my wagon and horses. I told him I only knew the man told me his name was Smith, and that he was from Wayne Co., Indiana. He turned to the crowd and said, "His name is John Harris. He is a d----d thief! He stole a boat load of whisky at Cincinnati."
The next day I was advised to write to a livery stable keeper in Cincinnatti, one in Rising Sun, and to one in Richmond, that they might be on the lookout for the thief. This I did. I then went on to Indianapolis. When I arrived there I learned that Harris had left the place on the Friday previous. This was Sunday night. I then visited his son, seven miles north, and found he had just called there, but had left the same day---Friday. From there I went on to Richmond, and found he had been there, but had not visited his relatives. He had passed through there, and started west, instead of going east as he had previously been traveling. Mr. Burke, the livery stable keeper, treated me very kindly, and paid my fare by stage sixty miles west.
From Richmond I traveled on foot north to a village where he had two brothers-in-law. They described a man that had passed through there whom I knew from their description, was the man I was looking for but he did not call on them, as they had discarded him because they knew him to be a bad man. They advised me not to follow him any further, as they said if it was a good team he would be sure to take it home. They also told me their brother was in Missouri, and when he came home they would inquire of him about it, and if they learned anything from him they would write and let me know. They told me he lived in Trenton, Grundy Co., Missouri.
I then traveled on foot to Cincinnati. I could not find any trace of him there. From this place I worked my passage on a steamboat to Nauvoo, arriving there in the night, with just one York shilling in my pocket, my horses and wagon gone, and my family destitute, and I had to buy flour for breakfast with the twelve and a half cents I brought home.
In the winter of 1846, a friend of mine had been to Indiana on a visit, and while there he saw the men who had promised to write to me. They sent word that the man who stole my wagon and horses had got home to Missouri with them. I took my son Nelson with me and went through Iowa to Missouri, and found Harris was home. I went to a magistrate to get a warrant, and he sent me to a lawyer. This man would not take the case unless I paid him ten dollars, which amount I did not have; neither would he take my overcoat in lieu of the money. I then returned to the magistrate and demanded the warrant. He went to another magistrate with me and they made out two warrants, one of which was a search warrant. I then had to get the sheriff and constable, from whom I learned that Harris was a regular desperado, and they were afraid of him. They got a posse of ten men and surrounded his cabin early in the morning and arrested him; he offered pretexts to get away, but the sheriff did not let him go. He pretended not to know me or my son. One of the posse went out with me to the corral, where there were several horses, which started off as we approached. I called out to one of my horses and told him to come back, which he did, and walked right up to me.
Harris was taken to Trenton for trial. After my son and I had given our testimony, the man who saw me call the horse testified to it; also to the fact that my initials were on the clevis of the wagon. Harris' lawyer told the court they had better bring the horse in court for a witness. I told them if they would bring the horse I would call him into the court room. At the recess of the court all hands went with me to the stable where the horses were, and there it was thoroughly proved to the court, by the actions of one of the horses, that he belonged to me. Harris' lawyer in the afternoon session of the court, said he did not deny that they had belonged to me, but his client bought them of me and paid for them. Harris was committed to jail to await the April term of court. My son and I were placed under one hundred dollar bonds each, to appear in April against him. I secured the gentlemen who went my bonds by leaving my wagon and harness with them, and took my horses and started home.
Through illness I was not able to attend the trial, but sent my own and my son's deposition by mail to the court. I afterwards learned by letter from one of the bondsmen, that our deposition did not get there in time, so the prisoner was discharged; and he took the wagon and harness and went home with them.
I omitted to state that when I got home, I found the Twelve had left Nauvoo, and crossed over into Iowa. We crossed the ice in a buggy, picking our way between the air holes to get to Nauvoo.
Not being able to get my outfit to go to the mountains, I moved out to Hendersonville, Illinois. I remained there a short time, and then moved to Rockwell's Mills, seven miles north of Monmouth. I worked with my team part of the time at one dollar and fifty cents per day, and boarded myself and team. I also took a contract to cut, split and haul cord wood, a distance of a mile and a half, and then pile up the wood at one dollar per cord. I also contracted to make fifty pairs of boots from the side, at one dollar per pair, which I fulfilled. I had to take my pay on each contract, in store orders and no cash. I continued to work there at whatever I could get to do until spring of 1848. Then I procured an outfit consisting of two wagons, my span of French horses, one yoke of oxen, one yoke of three-year-old steers, one yoke of two-year-old steers, three cows, and two heifers.
When we reached Council Bluffs, the Indians stole my horses. It was impossible to get another team in the place of the one stolen, so we consulted together and decided that my wife Sarah, with our son Nelson, should take the outfit, with the exception of one wagon and the yoke of two-year-old steers and go on to the valley.
THE AUTHOR NARROWLY ESCAPES DROWNING---CONFERENCE WITH INDIANS, ETC.
Some time after I went to Winter Quarters, I determined to go to the Indian nation to try and secure my horses. To do this I would have to go down the Missouri River. Brother Alexander McRae and son also wanted to go. We accordingly made a raft with two house logs, with some pieces of boards fastened to them and two doors laid across the logs without any fastening. We started in the evening about sundown, and floated until after dark. A large cottonwood tree had been washed out by the roots, and had lodged on a sand bar. As we could not see it, our raft struck against it and swung round, and one end sunk. The door on which McRae's son and I were standing floated off. I caught the raft with one hand and McRae's son did the same and held on until we passed through under the limbs of the tree. We then concluded we would land and not travel at night, any farther.
Next day we continued our journey, and landed safely at Fort Kearney. There I engaged the Indian Agent and interpreter, who went over into the country with me. On entering the camp of the Omaha Indians we were conducted to the chief, who had a large tent. We met the chief at the door. My business was made known, and he invited us to enter his tent; at the same time he sent a messenger for his council. We were accommodated with seats made of robes and blankets rolled up and placed in a circle. His council soon arrived and very quietly took their seats in the circle. There was a pipe filled and handed to the chief, who smoked a few whiffs, after which it was passed around to each individual. During this time not a word was spoken. After the pipe had passed all around, the chief said, "Now, gentlemen, we are ready for business." The agent, through the interpreter, stated our business was about my horses that had been stolen. They paid strict attention, not saying a word, but listening attentively to the speaker. The chief acknowledged they had the horses, but said they had only borrowed them to go on a buffalo hunt, and accordingly delivered them to me, after which I returned to Council Bluffs. I then took my wife Minerva, and my wagon and horses and went to St. Joseph, Missouri. This was in the early part of winter. I went there to try to get another outfit to start to the valley. My horses had been so used up by the Indians that I had to hire a stable and put them up to feed them, while I got work in a shoe shop. Minerva took in sewing and washing through the winter. One of my horses died and the other had his ankle hurt so bad that I had to sell him for forty dollars. By strict economy we obtained our outfit, consisting of two yoke of cattle, and traveled to Council Bluffs in the spring of 1849.
I got employment running the two ferry boats owned by Brother Hewit, at Winter Quarters. After I had worked a few days, he found I understood the business, so he gave me full charge of both boats. The river being very high, and a great deal of flood wood passing down, made it very dangerous. We had some very narrow escapes from drowning, while ferrying cattle that would become frightened and crowd to one side of the boat, nearly swamping us; but by my close watching and prompt action we had no accident.
At this time there was a great rush for the gold mines, and I had to ferry the gold seekers as well as our own people; it was somewhat difficult to give each their turn.
I remained and ferried until July 5th, 1849, when I ferried myself across the mighty Missouri, and bid farewell to the home of the white man and started across the great plains in a company of fifty, over which Enoch Reese was captain. We traveled to Elk Horn, where we overtook the other company, over which Allen Taylor was captain. They had been detained through the raft being water soaked. The rope broke and let the raft go down steam about a quarter of a mile.
When our company arrived Captain Taylor, knowing that I understood ferrying, called the people together and had me appointed by a unanimous vote to take charge of the ferry. I took a survey of the surroundings, selected the place for the ferry, called for twenty yoke of cattle and drew the raft up stream to the place I had selected. After placing it in position we ferried one company over and they started. The next day we ferried all across, and again started on our journey. We traveled until we reached the Platte River, where we found the first company, who were again at a stand still, as they could not find a ford.
Captain Taylor again appointed me to look for one. I started up stream to find it, judging the water to be shallow by the ripples. I carefully went in until I got to deep water, when I would swim back. I was occupied all day seeking a ford, but found none; and the next day I was sick through being wet so much the day before. Captain Taylor, however, insisted that I must go. He furnished me a horse to ride, and told me not to get out of the saddle, but direct the others how to proceed. I went to the place where I started from the day before.
On looking at the river I told the captain I believed there had been a ford made in the night. I directed the men and they found I was right, for they went across. We then hitched up and crossed by doubling teams, and all of both companies got across except two wagons. The next morning part of the ford had gone, but by going down a little way, we found it, and got the two wagons across, and started on our journey. When we got opposite Grand Island we came upon a lot of oxen that had stampeded. We secured them and took them with us.
Several days after we came up to a California company who had lost all their cattle. They had been stampeded several nights before. They were very thankful to us for bringing them on. Some time after, our own cattle had a stampede in the night. They went about one and one-half miles, where there was another camp. They heard them coming and all hands went out and succeeded in stopping them. Soon after we got there and took them back and herded them the rest of the night.
In the morning when we went to drive them into the corral, half of them had gone in when suddenly they again stampeded. As I was in the midst of them, I had a narrow escape, but being fleet of foot I ran with them and watched my chance, and got out from among them. The horsemen finally stopped them, and we brought them back. After we got them quieted, we drove them into the corral, yoked them up and sat down to breakfast.
While we were eating they started on another stampede and in getting out of the corral, they upset a wagon in which was an old man. They broke the axle-trees in their mad flight, crossed a slough and then ran against a big wagon loaded with sixty hundred. Two of them broke their shoulders, and several got their horns broken. We found them sticking in the ground. The horsemen again headed them and brought them back. We fixed up and started our journey. Soon after this we divided the company, and traveled in two separate divisions. After we had separated, the other company had another stampede, in which one sister was killed, and several of the wagons broken.
Nothing particular happened to us until after we had crossed the Big Mountain. We camped in the road late in the evening. The night was very dark. The next morning we found nearly a foot of snow on us. The next day, being October the 3rd, we arrived in Salt Lake City. I had just three and one-half dollars in money and what things I had in my wagon. I found my wife Sarah, and son at North Canon. Nelson had built them a log cabin. After conference, I earned two bushels of wheat, and obtained two bushels of potatoes, which I buried deep so they would not freeze, and kept them until spring, when we cut the eyes off and planted them, and then ate the potatoes, which were a great treat. I took the two bushels of wheat to the Second Ward to a lot that had been given to Nelson, and got a man to put it in on shares. I left him five pecks of wheat, then took the three pecks to the big field and sowed it. In the fall I realized eighty bushels of grain. This was in 1850.
EXPERIENCE IN BUILDING, TRADING, AND MISSION LIFE---ADVENTURE WITH INDIANS, ETC.
In the winter of 1849-50 Nelson and I worked in the canyon, getting wood out for sale, by which I sustained my family and paid a man, in the spring, fifty dollars to take Nelson to California, where many of our brethren were going to make a raise.
Before I left the States I purchased six panes of glass, a pair of hinges, and a lock for a door. I then thought that if ever I could build a house with so many panes of glass in it for lights, and a door to it, I would be satisfied.
After Nelson had gone to California, I worked in the canyon through the summer, getting timber with which to build a house in the fall of 1850. I built a house of five rooms, with seventy-two panes of glass in it. It was one and one-half stories high. When I left the States, I had no idea of being able to build such a house, but through the blessing of God, I did it. At this time nails were forty cents per pound and glass forty cents per pane. When I commenced my house I could not get sufficient lumber from the mill, so I started a whip saw, and by that means obtained sufficient. By the spring of 1851, I had my house finished, painted and grained, and also paid for.
During the year of 1853 I was called to go to Humboldt on a mission. John P. Barnard was appointed to take charge of the company. He selected me for his first counselor. Owing to some dissatisfaction among those called upon that mission, President Brigham Young deemed it wisdom to release the missionaries for the time being; but knowing I had been to considerable trouble and expense to get ready for that mission, he sent me word that if I wanted to go and trade I could do so, and I should be blest. Accordingly, I started with a wagon, span of horses, and one yoke of cattle. A man and boy accompanied me; and I took with me part of a barrel of brandy, which cost three hundred and fifty dollars, and eighty-two dollars in cash. I went to the foot of Goose Creek Mountain, on the emigrant road, and there made a stand, with the aid of some willows, and my wagon cover. I made a station by the road side, took my wagon box off the running gear and stood it upon its side, thereby forming a counter and cupboard for my liquors. The road at this time was lined with emigrants. I bought tea, coffee, sugar, bacon, flour, crippled cattle, or whatever they had to sell, and sold these articles to others who wanted to buy.
Just one month from the day I arrived there, I had to pull up stakes and leave on account of the Indians. I never had so much business on my hands either before or since in my life as I did during the month I was there. When I started home I had two large wagons, and a light spring wagon, two sets of harness, five head of horses, fifty head of crippled cattle, and more money than I took with me. I reached home with forty-three head of cattle.
In the October conference, 1853, I was called on a mission to Green River. I sold part of my cattle, got my outfit and started with a wagon and two yoke of cattle. Quite a company of brethren had been called to go and build a fort, which was named Fort Supply, eight miles south of Bridger, between Smith and Black's Fork. We fenced a large field and a garden, put in our crops and three of us built houses; others also built houses afterward.
In 1854, towards fall, I got a permit from the captain to go out on the road for two weeks to trade. During the time I was out I purchased thirty head of cattle. Soon after this I was called home. I left my improvements there but took my cattle home. I found when I got there I had lost about four hundred dollars worth of stock during the previous winter, as I had to leave them and my family without any one to look after them.
In the spring of 1855 I was called to go to Carson Valley on a mission. The object of this mission was to civilize the Indians. There were seven called besides myself. Elder Orson Hyde went with us. I merely took provisions and rode horse-back. We had a wagon along that carried our provisions. After we got there, Elder Hyde called us together and appointed me captain of the company. I took six of the company with me and started out to explore the country around the Walker River. We saw several Indians who seemed to be afraid of us. On going down the river we entered a valley about five miles wide. There I decided to camp for the night. We hadn't seen any Indians during the day. After we had finished our suppers I lay down and meditated upon the responsibility resting on me. I was studying my duties to the best of my ability. While lying there an impression came over me to get up and leave the place, as plain as though some one had spoken to me, but I heard no voice. I arose and immediately called the company to get the horses up. They wanted to know what was the matter. I told them nothing, but I was going to get out of there.
We traveled across the valley toward the North Star until eleven o'clock. We camped on the side hill, made no fire, and put out no guard, but lay down and slept until morning. After we arose, Reuben Perkins found he had lost his pistol, and asked permission to go back to look for it. I told him he could go by taking another man with him. He found his pistol about one hundred yards from where we had left our camp fire burning. They went to the campground and found it marked with Indian tracks, made after we left it.
The next day we had an adventure with Indians. We saw one, a very powerful fellow, coming across as though to intercept us, which he did. One of the Indians made me understand he was their chief. He directly asked for the cap-a-tain. I was pointed out to him. He came directly to me and held out his hand to shake hands with me. He gave me such a grip and jerk as to make my horse stagger, and then slipped his hand to the end of my fingers and gave them such a grip that it almost crushed them, but I did not cry out. I should think he was fully six feet high, and weighed two hundred and fifty pounds. He endeavored to induce me to go with them into the creek bottom, where he tried to make me understand there was plenty of grass for our horses. I refused to go. After giving him some crackers we got away.
We continued our explorations of the Walker River until we were satisfied, and then turned back and crossed the mountain to the sink of Carson River, thence up the river to Carson Valley, and reported our travels. We had ridden three hundred miles in seventeen days with pack-animals and could not find a suitable place for a settlement. Brother Hyde then sent us north into the Truckee River country. We traveled several days but could find no place, so we returned and again reported unfavorably.
Brother Hyde then told me to select two men and go over to Sacramento, to assist the Surveyor-General to establish the boundary line between Utah and California. I selected Seth Dustin and George Hancock. I left them ten miles this side while I went on to Sacramento. Marlett was Surveyor-General, who had a deputy by the name of Goddard. He and I were occupied on the flat roof of a four story building for two weeks adjusting the instrument and preparing to go to the mountains. Our hotel bill was twenty-three dollars, and we had nothing to pay it with. Marlett wished to see Brother Hyde. I went for him; and after they met Marlett said if we would pay the hotel bill, the government would pay the expense of going to the mountains. Elder Hyde asked me if I had any money. I told him I had a little. As he wished it, I paid the bill.
I got Dustin and Hancock and we all started for Placerville, where we took observations. At this place a Mr. Day, a surveyor of California, joined our company. He was also surveying for the government, and mapping the country. He made us a great deal of unnecessary trouble and labor, as far as our business was concerned. He promised, however, to pay us, but we never received a cent. We were out sixty days on this tour; then returned to Carson Valley.
While in California, I heard where Nelson was, so after returning to Carson Valley I again started on my horse for California. I found him at Stanislawove River, where he, with two others, owned a good claim. I advised him to sell out and return home with me, which he did, and we proceeded to Carson. We found on arriving there that the company had gone home without me; so we got ready and started on. We had a horse each and three pack-animals. After crossing a desert of about twenty miles in length, we again met the big Indian chief that I saw in Walker River country, and four other Indians. We stopped and talked a little, and gave them a present, then started on. We had only gone a few paces when I turned my head and looked back. The chief was in the act of drawing his arrow across the bow preparing to shoot. As he saw me looking he lowered the bow and began playing with the arrow. We watched until we were beyond their reach. They seemed to be in a sulky mood when we were talking to them.
We traveled on to Carson Sink and camped over night. In the morning, as we were packing for a start, six or seven Indians came into camp. They were a sulky-looking crowd. As Nelson was driving up the horses they were afraid of the Indians, and started off on the run. I tried to get the Indians to head them off for us, but they would not do so. I dared not leave our things or they would have taken them, all we had. Nelson at last got them in camp. After we started, I asked Nelson how he felt over our trip. He said he did not feel very good about it. I told him my feelings were about like his, and I proposed to return to Carson, which pleased him; so we returned, intending to stay there all winter.
After we had been there a short time, three men came from California. They had been "Mormons." Two of them were named Riddle. There was also a man by the name of Dodge and one named Riley Stewart who wanted to return. These with myself and son, made six. So we determined to start, which we did. I furnished Dodge with sixty dollars to buy a horse with and never got a cent in return. After we reached Carson Sink, we lost the trail and we had to travel by guess work. I tried to keep the course over the mountains. It was cloudy and it rained. We did not see the sun for days, but at last we struck the trail. By this time we were short of provisions and had to be rationed. We at last determined to kill one of our horses to keep from starving. But we had a desert to go over which we could not cross if it got very wet, as there was so much alkali on it; and as it had been raining some we concluded not to stop to kill it. We had to walk and lead our animals.
While crossing the desert Dodge's horse gave out and we killed it; part of us decided to cut some of the flesh and take with us; the other three did not want any of it, neither would they stop for us. They determined to go on. It was snowing and blowing so, I begged them to stop for us, but they would go on and our pack animals followed them. I told Nelson and Dodge to stop and get the meat cut and I would go on and try to get them to stop; I did so, but they would not; finally I caught one of the pack animals, and told Stewart he must help me to repack the things as they were making the horse's back sore. As his blankets were with the things, they stopped, and I delayed them as much as I could so as to give the others a chance to come up with us. I delayed them until I saw their horse moving, then I let them go on.
It was forty miles across the desert, and after the others had caught up with us, it was getting near night. One of the Riddle boys gave out, and said he could go no further and went off and laid down. His brother went to him and tried to make him get up, but he would not; he said he was going to die there. I told him I would not go on and leave him; I went to him and told him he must get up, but all to no purpose; he declared he would die there. I then commenced kicking him and kept on until I got him angry; he then got up to fight me, and we again traveled on. We kept going until eleven o'clock at night, when we stopped in a gap between two mountains.
We tried to make a fire to cook our meat. The only way we could do it was to light the greasewood, and one held the pan with the meat in while the other two set the bushes on fire. By this means we got some of our horse flesh cooked so we could eat it. We then kicked the snow away, and laid down for the night. In the morning we found wood and made a fire. We washed our meat and cooked it for breakfast. It smelled so good while cooking that the other three came and asked us to sell them some of the meat. I told them no; we had not enough for ourselves, as they would not wait for us to get it. I proposed to stay there, while the three went back to where we had left the horse and get what they needed, but they would not go. It was an old, sore backed horse, but it tasted good fried in butter---we had some butter yet.
We crossed another desert, and some evenings after, as we were entering a canyon, I saw something black among the rocks, which proved to be an Indian. I called him, and he came to me. He had killed a little cottontail rabbit, which I bought of him. He went up the canyon and camped with us. My son cleaned the rabbit--cut off its head and feet and threw them away with the entrails. The Indian found them, threw them on the coals, and when they were cooked he ate them. Four of us made our supper on the little rabbit. The company were all young men except myself, and yet I was more lively, had more energy, and could get around quicker than any one of them.
On the last mountain we crossed, the snow was about three feet deep. We passed over the summit into some nice, dry cedars, where we stopped and camped. Here we ate our last morsel of food and drank the last of our coffee. On this journey we had not been able to kill game of any sort, except a raven which I killed and gave to the Riddle boys. On this day we saw any amount of rabbits. I told the boys the night before I thought we were near Rush Valley, and it proved my judgment was correct, for we soon saw signs of civilization, which cheered us very much. Towards evening we camped at Bill Hickman's ranch. Mrs. Hickman went to cooking, and we fulfilled our part creditably by eating the food as fast as she could cook it.
Two days later we reached our homes, having traveled seven hundred miles. Most of the time we were without a trail to follow, and it took us thirty days to complete the journey. We arrived home on December 23rd, 1855.
ANOTHER MISSION TO CARSON, IN WHICH THE AUTHOR SHOWS HIS ENERGY AND TACT, ALSO THE ENTERPRISING SPIRIT HE POSSESSED.
Soon after I got home I went to the barber's shop. Brother Heber C. Kimball was there getting shaved. He told me he wanted me to get ready to go again to Carson Valley. He said I was to take my family with me. Before I left Carson, Brother Hyde had quite a talk with me. He asked me what I thought would be the best to do. I told him I thought it would be best to buy out the settlers. He said he thought so too. I left Brother Hyde in Carson. In the spring, at the April conference, I was called to go on a mission to Carson and to start immediately. I went to President Young and asked him what he wanted me to do. He said he wanted me to guard Enoch Reese through, as he was to go with money to redeem his mill. He also told me he wanted to buy out the old settlers and he would send men with means to pay them. When I arrived there, Brother Hyde had changed his mind, and said he did not think it would be best to buy. As boarding was very high priced---ten dollars per week---I went to work at carpentering, and built a house, receiving three and one-half dollars per day for my work. In the fall I was employed by an Indian agent, Dr. Hurt, to go with him to Salt Lake, for which he agreed to pay me five dollars per day. I furnished two horses and a man to come with us. It took us thirty-five days to get through. When he settled up he was so pleased with me that he paid me six dollars per day. My object in going home was to get my family, but after talking to President Young I determined to leave my family and return alone.
In the spring of 1857, I started by to Carson. I built a shop for a man; but carpenter's wages were very low, so I thought I would try my hand at barbering. I opened a shop that I built; and as there was no paint in the country, I bought some red and white muslin or calico, made my pole and wound it with these fabrics. Just twenty-four hours had elapsed from the time I first spoke of it until I had my shop built and I was at work. True, I had no door or window as yet, but within a week I put in the window and the door. I also made a chair with head and foot rests. The man who owned the land leased it to me for six months, and the building or shop was to be his at the expiration of that time, as he furnished the material. I worked at the barber shop some little time, then I went over the mountain to California with my team. I left the shop in my son Nelson's care, who had also been called on a mission to Carson, and had come through with the company.
Henry Brizzee rented the shop during my absence. When I returned, I again took possession of it, and worked but a short time when we were called home. The word from President Young was to sell if we could; it not, to leave all and come home, as Johnston's army was then advancing to Utah. There was a California man who wanted to buy my dwelling house, stock, and all I had. As soon as I heard the order to leave I went and sold to him that night, and had my pay before seven o'clock next morning. By ten o'clock that day word was spread all over Carson that the "Mormons" were going to leave; so I had just sold in time, or perhaps I should not have been able to sell. I had leased the land for the barber shop for six months, and there were yet three months unexpired. This time and the good will of the business I sold for a horse worth sixty dollars.
We all started for home, and arrived in Salt Lake City late in the fall. Shortly after we got home I furnished Nelson a horse with which to go to Echo Canon to help keep the soldiers back.
January 17th of 1858 I took another wife, Xarissa Fairbanks, by whom I have had eight children, all living---three pairs of twins, and two single births---three sons and five daughters. [When I married Xarissa she had a daughter, Sarah Frances "Fannie" Fairbanks born the previous year, on May 19, 1857, whom I adopted.]
When I returned from Carson, I brought goods with me, and opened a store on Main Street. I owned a house in the Thirteenth Ward, which I proposed to enlarge. Accordingly I made a contract with a man to do the work. Early in the spring the order was given for us to move south. The contractor came to me and asked me if I wanted him to finish my house, or should he stop the work. We had received the order from President Young to prepare everything we possessed for burning, as we intended to destroy every vestige of our property rather than it fall into the hands of our enemies. I told the contractor to go on and finish my house, as it would be so much more worth burning if finished. After our families had moved south I was detained for duty in the city, and remained there until after the soldiers came in and passed through it. They went into camp over Jordan. During my stay my house was finished, and I dedicated it, then went south, and soon after we all moved back to our homes. My house consisted of five rooms. I also had a barn built. I rented them to a merchant, who came in with the army, at fifty dollars a month.
In the summer of 1859 a merchant came in here and advertised that he would sell his goods at States prices, with twenty cents a pound added for freight. I purchased goods and opened a store, but having to pay such high prices for my goods I could make very little, so I sold out in the spring of 1860.
In the fall I started to Canada on a visit. That winter I learned the ambrotype business, in the same village I had learned the shoe making trade. The ambrotype (1851-1890s) is a thin negative image on glass made to appear as a positive by showing it against a black background. The reverse of the glass plate was either painted black or backed with a black material. The ambrotype was an inexpensive alternative to the daguerreotype, similar in size and also mainly used for portraits.
In the spring of 1861 I went to New York, bought my outfit and came home. I went to Centerville and Kaysville and took likenesses in both places. This was in 1862. Some time after, I built a house on wheels and started south, took my wife Xarissa and one child with me. I started out in March, and visited all the settlements there were between Salt Lake City and Spanish Fork. I returned home on July 4th, having earned eight thousand dollars. Some of this amount was in notes which have never been redeemed.
In 1863 I built a house of eight rooms in the Thirteenth Ward. I afterward sold the whole of it to President Young for four thousand dollars. I had previously given a two story house and a basement with thirty-four feet front and eighty-four feet deep to the Church as a free will offering.
Early in the year 1864, I went to Canada by stage, and visited with my relatives. I also purchased a French stallion. I then went to New York and purchased another stock of ambrotype goods, and crossed the plains with the emigrants. I had two wagons, a span of horses, three yoke of cattle, and two cows. I arrived home in the fall.
After this I was called to go on a mission to Dixie, and take my family also. I made all preparations to go, and sent some of my goods to Cedar City. When about ready to start, I went to see President Young, to know where he wanted me to go. He told me he would let me select my own location, for which I thanked him. While talking to him he perceived my arms were crippled. He asked me if I could not use my arms any better than I did. I told him "No!"
He said I was in a poor fix to go to Dixie, and told me he would release me, for which I thanked him.
In 1867 I took my team and Edward Covington with me, and went to Cedar after my goods. We worked in Cedar City taking likenesses, as well as in Parowan, Beaver and Round Valley, and returned home in the fall.
From 1860 to 1870 the minute men were called on several times, during the interval, to go out on Indian campaigns. Being a member thereof, I, of course, had to accompany them. I always rode my own horse, and often furnished one for some of the others to ride.
At this time my children were all small. They were no help to me, and being crippled in my arms, I was not able to do manual labor; so I had to sell property to have means with which to live. I also borrowed money to live on, as I did not always have the opportunity to make anything by trading. I also purchased a lot of bees that were brought here from California. I had to borrow the money---five hundred dollars---to pay for them. Between 1870 and 1874, I traded city property for a mill in Bear Lake, and in 1874 I moved my family there and settled in St. Charles. At this time I was fifteen hundred dollars in debt.
Before I moved from Salt Lake, in 1873, Dr. Monroe came here and introduced the vapor baths. I was engaged helping him. It being something I could do, he persuaded me to buy the right of Utah County, which I did, paying one thousand dollars for it, and started with my outfit. I went to Pleasant Grove, and commenced operations. While here I got word about my business in Bear Lake needing my attention. I gave up the baths and went to Bear Lake to attend to my business there, as the man I had engaged (Joseph Phelps) had left without giving me any warning.
During 1874, I rented to a man my ranch in Bear Lake, with all my cattle and horses, for three years. During that time he got up a horse race, and bet twenty head of my cattle and lost them. At the end of his time he hid twenty-eight head of my cattle, and then drove them off to Wind River. It cost me nearly four hundred dollars to expel him from the ranch, as he tried to claim it.
While he occupied the ranch, I, along with my sons, was hauling flour to Evanston---a distance of seventy-five miles---and selling it.
In 1877, I moved back to Salt Lake City with my wife Sarah. I was then nearly out of debt. I had to move to Salt Lake, as my property there was going to ruin. The rest of my family remained in Bear Lake Valley to attend to my property there. My twin boys, Christopher Merkley Jr. and Jacob Merkley, were then eighteen years old.
At the October conference of the same year I was again called on a mission to Canada. I went and stayed through the winter. In the spring of 1878, my youngest sister, then sixty years old, wanted to be baptized, but her family forbade me performing the ordinance. She was the wife of Peter Marsalles.
In the spring of 1884, my mill in Bear Lake was destroyed by fire. It was insured for three thousand dollars. I only recovered one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five dollars. In the fall I commenced to build a new mill, and completed it about the middle of February, 1886.
"Cast thy bread upon the water, and it shall be seen after many days." On February 6th, 1887, Mrs. Aseneth P. Spicer of Hamburgh, Iowa, came to my house in Salt Lake, and asked me to baptize her. She had heard me preach when she was a girl. I at that time baptized her sister and several members of the family. After a lapse of forty years, she traveled over a thousand miles to obtain baptism. I went to her sister's, a distance of forty miles, and on February 8th, 1887, I baptized her. She had been partially paralyzed on her left side for the past three years. She could not hold anything in one hand, neither could she play on the organ.
After she was baptized her brother-in-law and myself administered to her. She was so far restored that she sat down and played the organ. She could also hold a pin and could feel it, which she had been unable to do for a long time. Thus was the power of God made manifest in her behalf. After visiting with her sister a few days, she returned to her home in Iowa.
I am now drawing near the sear and yellow leaf, being seventy-nine years old the eighteenth day of next December. I have nine children, twenty-two grandchildren and six great grandchildren. I am still hale and hearty, and do not allow any young man to walk past me on the street. I have filled eight missions and baptized eighty-five persons. I have also served on several Indian campaigns with my company of minute men. I have always paid my tithing from the days I was in Nauvoo. When the temple in Nauvoo was begun, my team was the first to go to work hauling the earth from the basement. And now I am watching the events transpiring in these last days in fulfillment of ancient prophecy and of the words of the Savior, as well as the prophecies of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I hope to live to see the end of the present raid, and the redemption of Zion.