Liverpool, September 3, 1842--Gave notice to my employer that I was leaving his employ that day. He had previous to this offered me five shillings a week more wages, telling me that it was quite absurd to think of more distress coming on this country--that things were beginning to look brighter, and in a short time would be (as he termed it) alright. Finding that I was determined by the help of God to go, he acknowledged that my testimony and his own observation had led him to conclusions which made him tremble, and he begged of me to write to him when I got to Nauvoo the truth, and he would place confidence in my account, and he thought he could induce about forty of his relatives to join him in emigrating to Nauvoo, and they are pretty rich in worldly substance (he has no prejudice against the doctrine.)
Now the petty trials commence in every shape. All our friends know that we will bitterly repent leaving England and a constant employ. We can get nothing for our furniture--our friends who are so anxious about us will buy none of it, not even the clock or drawers which belonged to the family. My wife's brother did not come to see us off. Well, this shows how deeply they have our happiness in view!
Saturday morning about nine o'clock. 17th of September, 1842, we hauled out of the Waterloo Dock on board the ship Sidney. Captain Cowan, and were towed by a [p.109] steamer past the light ship (the wind being about northeast and very light). On Sunday, the 18th, we all left Liverpool in good spirits, and nothing caused me so much regret as leaving so many of the Saints behind, anxious to go but without the means to do so.
We are now launched on the bosom of the mighty deep, and sea-sickness had made the passengers for the most part very ill. My dear Ann is dreadfully affected with this nauseous sickness, perhaps more so on account of her pregnancy. In how may ways and shapes are we tried! Not a morsel of food or drink will remain on her stomach--the moment she lifts her head she is sick almost to death. Yet I have never heard one complaint from her on her own account, but regret at not being able to assist me in the care of the children. Her stomach seems to have changed its functions, and this is the tenth day without anything passing through her.
And how am I all this time! Well in body, but if depending on my own strength I should be in despair. But thanks be to our Heavenly Father, he has removed a fear from my mind which has preyed on it for years. Many years since I dreamed a dream which time or circumstance has never been able entirely to remove. I was impressed with a conviction that my wife should die while in a state of pregnancy. This was before I thought of marrying. Many would think this preceded from imbecility of mind or superstition; but my dreams (those I mean which made a deep impression on my memory) have been fulfilled so plainly that I never could doubt but that God sent them for some good purpose. I have never seen my wife pregnant without this fear of her death, and always felt thankful to God in a twofold sense [p.110] when this critical time was past. She was aware of this feeling of mine, and it was a trial of our faith to cross the sea while she was in this state. But thoughts of undertaking the voyage in the spring when the weather was so cold, and with an infant of two or three months old, was in her estimation worse; and both of us feeling, while in England, that we were away from home and could not rest satisfies, although worldly circumstances favored us, still our hearts were in Zion and with our children, however persecuted, calumniated and belied.
While racking my mind and considering and devising what more I could do for my Ann-- I had given her consecrated oil, castor oil, pills, salt water, etc., had the hands of the elders laid on her, still she continued in the same state and I feared that inflammation would take place. Sister [Harriet] Chandler had no apparatus for administering an injection. I applied to Brother [Franklin D.] Richards, who got all that was requisite of the captain, and this was the means under the hand of God of removing one fear from my bosom, and causing me to rest in peace that night--the first for many nights and days. Leonora and David have had no sickness and are less trouble than I expected, but George, Mary Alice, Anny and Angus have all been very sick, particularly George and Anny.
Perhaps a more agreeable ship's company, both of the Saints and seamen, never crossed the Atlantic. The captain and officers are kind and humane men and so far from disputes or hard feelings that the sailors say they never saw a family who agreed better: and they wonder how a company of people who were many of them strangers to each other can bear and forbear in the manner they do. One of the sailors, an intelligent man, told [p.111] me that he had been in the passenger line of shipping for years and never saw anything like it: in general the captain kept his distance and did not allow of freedoms from the passengers: but here he allowed them every indulgence, took pleasure in having the children round him on the quarter-deck and would play with them as if they were his own. May the Lord bless him for his kindness!
This is Tuesday, the 4th of October-- a delightful day; the wind is fair and the vessel going about five knots. I am sitting in the stern of the vessel. On each side of the deck are laid some spars, on which and on the vessel's sides--not too high up-- are seated men, women and children, the younger children scrambling about the deck, while my poor old woman is lying on the hatch under the boat still very ill and unable to hold her head up for any length of time. This is the only drawback to my pleasure, as all the res of us are well.
Saturday, 8th of October--Up to this time nothing of consequence occurred on board. My poor Ann still continues very sick and is getting weaker every day. This morning a child of Brother John Yates' died, a fine little boy [Robert] three years old. This afternoon we committed his little body to the deep. Brother [John] Greenhow addressed us in a very impressive manner on the occasion, and was listened to by the whole on board with the most marked attention. On Thursday, the 13th, a fine young sailor fell from the foreyard on deck. He was taken up insensible and died next morning and was committed to the deep the afternoon of the same day. His name was George Hill, belonging to the state of Maine, U. S.
During the whole of this time my dear Ann continues very and is still getting weaker. There is not [p.112] a drop of wine or porter in the vessel, and she wishes very much for a little porter or ale. This day I learned for the first time that there was some porter on board, belonging to the cargo in the lower hold. The captain got some of it taken up to his cabin, and from that time I have got as much as I wanted for my wife. When she got the porter I was in hopes that she would retain strength until we got to land; but it was ordained other ways. We had performed the first half of our voyage in less than three weeks, but from that time it has been a series of calms with a light breeze, sometimes in our face. My heart used to die or sink within me along with the breeze. "Are we far from New Orleans that I may get some grapes and wine?" as my dear Ann's constant inquiry when I cam down off deck, as she is too weak to be taken on deck herself. I endeavored to speak words of comfort to her, while I had no prospect of her ever seeing the land of Joseph in this life. Dear Ann, the next wine thou shalt get will be pure in the Kingdom of Heaven! She talked of her death as of a sleep, told me not to lament her, that if she lived to reach the Mississippi she must be buried on land, if not, the great deep must receive her poor body that is shrunk to a mere skeleton.
I will not attempt to describe the nights in particular which I have passed while watching by the side of one of the best wives that ever man was blest with--to see the grim tyrant approaching slowly but steadily to his victim; yet with all her sufferings no complaint ever escaped her, but the words, "Dear George, what am I to do?" These words are never to be forgotten by me while I have memory. O God, how mysterious are thy ways! Teach me resignation to thy will! [p.113]
This morning, Friday 28th of October, she fell asleep without a sigh, and in the performance of what she considered the commands of God, at half past four o'clock, and was buried in that element which needed no consecration, it never being cursed, in Latitude 24.37 North, Longitude 69.50 West, at five o'clock in the afternoon of the same day.
How soon our plans and prospects are changed! Although in expectation of bearing many things which are not of a pleasant nature--privation or poverty we agreed to share with the Saints, but we are tried in a more tender part, and were it not for our helpless children's sake I should like to repose under the peaceful blue waters with her who shared my every joy and sorrow. Heavenly Father keep me from repining! But seeing other people enjoying the society of those they love, my heart sickens and I long to be at rest with my dear wife.
On Sunday, the 30th of October, a child of three years old died of scarlet fever and was interred in the deep that afternoon after a suitable and impressive discourse and prayer from Brother [John] Greenhow. On Tuesday, the 3rd of November, we passed Abaco, commonly called the "Hole in the Rock," and at night fell in with the ship "Rockall". She left Liverpool on the 3rd of October, fifteen days after we left, and had a good wind all the way, having kept a more northerly course. On the 4th, fair winds but light. This day another child died of scarlet fever, brother to the little one who died of the same complaint.
Brother R----, Greenhow, Harrison and Watt were appointed to lead the company, and the first-named as presiding over the whole. This we understood after we were on shipboard, and I saw plainly that our leader did not posses the confidence of the company which he had under [p.114] his care. How much better it would be were the officers elected by the company they represent! On one occasion, seeing we had so much spare time, Brother G------ wished that instructive meetings should be held among the officers of the Church. This was what we had followed for some time in Liverpool with success, for I believe the Lord blessed us in this thing. We came together, not to show our wisdom, but our ignorance, and the presiding officer appointed a certain thing for our ensuing meeting--for instance, the priesthood. All the Scriptures were examined concerning it--what one omitted another produced; in short, there was hardly a subject but what was brought forward in this manner; and as all felt their own weaknesses we were all blessed in this way--the weakest were strengthened and even the strongest were made more strong. We were blessed in these meetings and expected they would answer on shipboard where all was harmony. Brother G------ proposed this meeting on the quarterdeck, Brother R----- being below at the time. Brother W----- opposed the motion, and stated that it tended to discord and discussion and that the Church in Edinburgh tried this and it led to discussion and ill-feelings. Brother R----- was called upon for his opinion on the subject and it went against G------'s proposal. All the Liverpool brethren and sisters were fond of G-----, knowing him to be a man of God, and that the Lord blessed him in restoring hundreds to health through his instrumentality.
From this time there was very little faith in the ship. One of our brethren spoke of faith and the blessings we should derive from it. Next evening Brother W----- arose and told us that we pretended to a thing which no man among us had received. He for one had not received the gift of tongues, and he believed the gift of tongues came from a [p.115] lying spirit or we should always have the interpretation--if the Spirit of God dictated to us to speak in tongues, the Spirit of God, the self-same spirit, would interpret it and not say it was not wisdom to interpret all. Well, this something surprised me. He asked, "Shew me one of you who can raise the dead; shew me one who can walk upon the water, or one who can say: Be thou healed!" This created a good deal of confusion among the Saints or community, for I could no longer call it the Church of Christ, faith was dead among us. Brother R----- called me aside and asked me if Brother W-----'s preaching was contrary to my belief. I told him if W-----'s doctrine was true he had kicked the ladder from under my feet and that I considered myself worse than a sectarian in professing things which did no belong to our Church; but that while God had given me such strong proofs of the truth of the gospel, and I had witnessed the power of it in myself and family, nothing could shake me from my faith, which was not built on the sand; and that we were blessed according to our faith and that the arguments of W------ would not apply to Peter in the time of our Savior on the earth. For instance, if you asked Peter, "Can you walk upon the water? Can you raise the dead? Can you say, be thou healed?" he would have held his peace.
This party feeling caused me a good deal of uneasiness, for I knew by the Spirit of God that it was nothing else. I had lost my chief comfort on earth, and had plenty of time to think of my Heavenly Father and his dealings with his children. I had acknowledged his right to all that I possessed and he blessed me with such blessings as I never possessed before, and assuring me in the course which I am now pursuing. [p.116]
I had my trials in the ship Sidney, but they were nothing to the cold and anxiety I experienced on board the steamer "Alex. Scott." We reached New Orleans on the 11th of November, left on the 15th and were at St. Louis on the 11th of December. While on board the packet we had to sleep on the deck between the machinery, the greater part of us, and this was mine and Brother G-----'s situation, with a wind going through the vessel and a keen frost. I have been six nights without having my clothes off, watching my little ones and keeping them covered.
We were now a fortnight on the river, stuck fast in different places; but about four miles below Chester I thought we should spend the winter. John and Archibald Boyd and I took possession of a log house and put it in tolerable repair. Brother Alexander Wright said he had a prior right to this house, but as he had made no agreement with the owner, possession was the first points of law. Here our children were washed and cleaned, and they had need of it, and Betsy, John Boyd's wife, and Ann, Archibald's wife, behaved like Saints ought to do--like mothers to my children. They worked night and day, not knowing how soon the boat might go, washed and cleaned everything belonging to us and mended everything that came under their notice. In fact they behaved like mothers to my children and the Lord will bless them for it.
On the 2nd of December 1842, my poor Davy took ill of the scarlet fever or ship fever, and two days after, John Boyd, son of Archibald, took the same complaint. We left the log house to go up the river when the children were in the height of the complaint, yet I think they [p.117] are the only children who have survived the complaint, of which fourteen died to my knowledge from the ship's company.
November 28th, Brother G----- started for St. Louis on foot, knowing well that he could do no good for his family or the Saints by remaining with them.
About the beginning of December Brother R------ called a meeting and wished to bring the Church to order, to have them such as he could recommend when he got to Nauvoo. It was proved that many had broken the word of wisdom and some females on board the "Alex. Scott" escaped reproof on the principle that he that has least sin should cast the first stone. Our next meeting was on the 8th of December and postponed to the 9th through the non-attendance of the members. Brother R------ addressed the meeting and said that he held a paper in his hand which was copied from one of the St. Louis journals, wherein the editorial remarks were false and likely to do an injury to the boat we came up the river in the "Alex Scott"; and he wished us to contradict it. This was a letter signed, 'J------ G------, passenger on board the "Alex Scott", who stated that the passengers were in a state of destitution, and wishing the company to forward them up the river. This caused the editor to make some remarks, tending on the whole, as far as I can conceive, to bring us sooner up the river; for if the Scott could not go up, we should have been sent by a lighter-draught boat. Upon the meeting being called, a few officers attended. They were asked whether they were in a 'a state of destitution.' It was then duly proposed and asked that those who were not in a state of starvation should hold up their hands; when to astonishment there were [p.118] only four out of perhaps fourteen. I had seen some of these sell things that they could ill spare, to purchase the necessaries of life. I had seen some of them eat potatoes and salt. I had relieved some myself from famine, and still they said they were not destitute. I state my feelings, as I always do when I think a brother is to be the sufferer, and suggested to Brother R------ that perhaps Brother G----- had the advice of Brother Hyde on this subject, as I was convinced G------ had done it for our good. Brother R------ said if Brother Hyde had done it, he would be whipped. May the Lord forgive me if I have done wrong, but I could lose an arm for G------ rather than sign against him, knowing his principles--that he has beggared himself and would die for the Church." [p.119]
BIB: Cannon, George, [Journal], IN Cannon, John Q. George Cannon, the Immigrant (privately printed, 1927) pp 109-19. (CHL)