California: a pleasure trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate,
April, May, June, 1877.
By Mrs. Frank Leslie.
Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33
SALT LAKE CITY; MRS. AMELIA'S PICTURE; MISS SNOW.
OGDEN, a city not otherwise remarkable, is the junction of the two great
railways that unite sea to sea--the clasp upon the belt, so to speak, by which
the contient is girdled. In point of fact, the junction was effected at a place
called Promontory, some fifty miles west of Ogden, and readers of the
illustrated papers eight years ago may recall the poetic and picturesque
interest attaching to the scene that took place when an engine upon the Union
Pacific road, and another upon the Central Pacific approached, the one from the
East and the other from the West, until they actually touched, while a libation
of wine was poured upon the last tie, the golden and silver spikes were driven
by the hand of Governor Stamford, representing the C.P.R.R., and Dr. Durant of
the U.P.R.R., and a prayer was offered by a Massachusetts clergyman--a
combination of heathen, Christian and civil rites, characteristic enough of our
great Republic, and also of a work carried on and completed by Europeans and
Asiatics, with Americans directing both. Ogden is also the terminus, or rather
starting point, of the Utah Central road, running south to Salt Lake City and
beyond, and of the Utah Northern, running nowhere in particular as yet. These
two great and two little roads have amicably agreed to build a large Union
depot, to be occupied in common.
Our car being detached from the Union Pacific train, was connected with one waiting upon the Utah Central road, becoming, during that process, the nucleus of an inquiring group of Mormon and Gentile youth, and we were not sorry to find ourselves presently steaming southward at full speed, and enjoying a beautiful sunset scene, where the Wahsatch Mountains at the East and the Great Salt Lake at the West, with a smiling and fertile country between, make up a landscape one longs for time to dwell upon. The distance from Ogden to Salt Lake City is thirty-six miles, and we arrive at the terminus a little before nine o'clock, just in time to hear the last part of a service in one of the small churches scattered over the city, to serve when the weather is too cold to use the Tabernacle, which, from its vast size, cannot be artificially heated. The fragment of a sermon to which we listened seemed rather of a denunciatory than a benevolent nature, and turned upon the wrath of God toward apostates, and the propriety of rooting out those who had gone astray after Amalek. We wondered whether this meant Ann Eliza, but could not determine!
Those familiar with Mormon doctrines and preaching, although not of the faith, aver that the more usual Christian teaching of charity, humility, patience and forgiveness of enemies is rarely if ever made the leading topic of any sermon; but that, as the Mormons are fond of likening themselves to the children of Israel and a People Peculiar to the Lord, their texts and lessons are generally drawn from the denunciations of the Prophets, whom they interpret with a literalness not found in other forms of faith.
The next morning we sallied forth to view the City of the Saints, with the same odd sort of excitement and vague expectation one must experience in Constantinople or Tangiers, or several other places which stand out in a traveler's memory as typical of a state of society utterly alien to his own. Nothing peculiar appeared at the outset, however, except that here for the first time did we perceive about the poorer houses that attempt at decoration, that consciousness that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever," which makes the difference between poverty and squalor; which shows that penury has neither broken the spirit nor crushed out the taste for refinement. Every house, however small or poor, had its little garden in front, filled with flowering shrubs or plants, many of them fruit trees, in this Spring time of the year rosy or white with bloom. Everywhere was thrift, care, the evidence of hard work, and a pride of ownership; and oddly enough, these homes of rigid, yet tasteful and dignified poverty, reminded me of nothing so much as a Shaker village, visited not long since--a place where nobody was rich, nobody poor, nobody idle, nobody overworked, and where a certain prim love of the beautiful everywhere gilded the necessity of the useful. Is it that a strong religious conviction pervading a community, a religion that permeates every phase of life, has this effect upon outward forms of living? We present the question to the psychologists. As for the better houses, they were many of them elegant, all of them comely and substantial; mostly built of yellow brick or stuccoed with yellow or white plaster, very few of wood; all had their own grounds, large or small, well cared for, and thoroughly irrigated by means of the streams of pure, bright water running along each street, and applied through branch ducts as required, to private grounds. These roadside streams also water the roots of the cottonwood and poplar trees which line the street on either side, and keep the grass vividly bright and green. There was no dust, no mud, no litter of any kind. Arrived at the main street, we noticed the Merchant's Co-operative Union Building, or "Co-op," as it is facetiously and popularly termed, with its inscription of "Holiness to the Lord," in black and gold above the door; a profusion of neat shops of all sorts, but more especially well-stocked and flourishing millinery establishments, and several fine book and stationery shops.
Reaching the principal photographer, who was an old acquaintance of our Chief's, we paid him a visit, and found a good assortment of views of the city and its surroundings, and a very civil and gentleman-like proprietor, who seemed quite amiably willing to impart the information we were thirsting to obtain. He freely admitted himself to be a Mormon, somewhat defiantly stating that he had nailed his colors to the mast. A picture of the Beehive, Brigham Young's principal residence, easily led to a discussion of Mormon houses and Mormon domesticity. But our new friend considered it very unlikely that we, even the women of the party, would be able to "interview" any of the upper class of Mormon wives. "The ladies here don't like being made subjects of curiosity," said he. "Their homes are just as sacred to them as yours in the East are to you, and they are very sensitive about being questioned." Then he cited, evidently as a timely warning, the case of a titled English lady recently passing through Utah, and remarkable, as our photographer seemed to think, in possessing more than the usual amount of cheek--"as much cheek as a government mule"--some artistic effect of which feature probably attracted his professional eye. This lady, as it seemed, possessed the troublesome characteristic of "wanting to know, you know," and attempted to gratify it in an artless manner by calling upon several of the Mormon ladies, and putting them to their catechism with the vigorous candor of a parish visitor. The consequence was that Miladi got terribly snubbed, and what was perhaps worse, learned nothing, and went away next day to make up her notes of travel as best she could. Having furnished this little narrative, our friend paused significantly, with a " Hc fabula docet " air, and then indulgently added: "But I'll give you an introduction to the leading Mormon editor of the city, and you can see what he will do for you." Then he showed us some portraits of the various Mesdames Young, first of the recreant Ann Eliza, who "bolted," as he phrased it, upon the very day the President was about to present her with the title-deeds of the house she lived in. "And here's the house," continued he, producing a picture of a neat little villa; "that's the hovel she talks about in the East." When President Young was informed that she was gone, or at least had removed with all her effects to the Walker House--the Gentile hotel, you know--he just opened his desk, took out the "title-deeds," and, tearing them across, said, quitly: "So much saved!"
The next picture represented a lady of about thirty, well dressed, a little stout, with a strong, sensible, pleasing face, and something of a stylish air. This was Mrs. Amelia, said to be Mr. Young's favorite wife, but this assumption our photographer scouted indignantly. "That was only Eastern talk; there was a lot of nonsense talked in the East about the Mormons, and Ann Eliza had set a whole raft of stories afloat, but all about it was that Mrs. Amelia was a born nurse, and had taken care of Mr. Young through some bad times, and so he always took her traveling with him and liked to have her near him at home." To a delicate suggestion about selling Amelia's picture, the artist shook his head; no, he couldn't sell that or the picture of any private lady. He had been offered a hundred dollars for it, but it was not for sale. We appreciated the fine feeling of this little speech, and mentally wondered how long our friend's position in Salt Lake City would be tenable if he offended Mrs. Amelia, and whether a hundred dollars would make up his loss in that case. On the whole, we concluded that he was a wise as well as an amusing and instructive photographer, and so took our leave.
The editor of the Mormon paper proved a very intelligent and cultured man, and after a little talk he escorted us to see some of the lions of the place, first to the "Woman's Union," a large establishment, where the work of the women of Utah is collected and offered for sale. It is under the charge of a lady called Miss Snow--although she is one of Brigham Young's wives--two of his daughters, and Mrs. Davis. The large room on the ground floor was decorated with the American flag and three large mottoes done in white on a blue ground, to wit:
"Knowledge is Power."
"In Union is Strength."
"Success to Industry."
The goods consisted of every sort of home manufacture: clothes of all descriptions, shoes, bonnets, straw hats, artificial flowers, laces, including some beautiful wrought Honiton, and a piece of the first silk manufactured in Utah--a silver-gray fabric, resembling Japanese silk. Miss Snow presently entered, and greeted us pleasantly; she is a lady considerably past middle age, with a good and pleasing face, a quiet, refined manner, although cold and reserved, and a very precise and deliberate mode of speech. She seemed perfectly willing to talk upon any subject which we introduced, and quite able to give information in any direction indicated. She had been abroad, and told me she took cocoons of their own raising to Palestine, to compare with those of that country, and that the Utah article was pronounced fully equal to that of Oriental growth. She quietly acknowledged herself the principal mover in the Woman's Union, the object of which is to encourage self reliance, and perfect independence of the outside world, and added, with a smile of conscious strength and power: "We consider ourselves among the finest women in the world, and aim to compete with our sisters elsewhere in every pursuit and every branch of education." Women, she said, had as much interest as man in the prosperity of the territory, and their rights and privileges were equal. At the two colleges of Utah the course of study was the same for male and female students, and the progress of the latter was fully equal to the former. Education had necessarily been neglected among them in the first hard years of struggle, when every one had to labor for the means of bare existence; but now good schools were established everywhere, and the rising generation would be admirably trained.
In this connection she spoke of the hard journey across the plains thirty years ago, when, on the twelfth of June, leaving the place where Omaha now stands, they did not arrive at Salt Lake until the second day of October.
We touched slightly upon the peculiar institution of Utah, and I inquired if the various wives of one husband got along amicably among themselves, to which she decisively replied: "Perfectly so, their religion inculcates it; and besides, their work is so large, and their aims so high, that they have no time and no capacity for petty jealousies."
While talking we turned over some of the books by Mormon authors for sale
here, and noticed a volume of Voyages by Miss Snow, and also a collection of
poems, but she herself was more interesting than her books, and seemed so strong
and earnest, and full of ideas and aspirations, and plans for the widest good of
her chosen people, that we left her with real regret.
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