Biography of Samuel Roskelley
Having spent most of my life as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, I feel prompted to write a few items of my history for the perusal of my family and those that may be interested and that my testimony may remain with those it may concern regarding the work of God revealed and organized through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this the last dispensation of the fullness of times. As the Lord in his mercy saw fit to bring me to a knowledge of His work in the days of my youth and by His merciful providence has kept me from turning my back upon His Kingdom and people. I own Him all I have and am, because He has over-ruled all things during my life for my good and has given me the testimony of His spirit more or less according to my faithfulness to Him thru life.
Samuel Roskelley was born 1 January 1837 in Morris Square, Devonport, Devonshire, England, being the 6th and youngest child of Thomas and Ann Kitt Roskelley. The family consisted of Richard, Thomas, John Joseph, Jane (now Mrs. Williams), William Henry and Samuel. My parents were born and spent their youth in the county of Cornwall in the parish and neighborhood of St. Germans, removing to Devonport, the place of my birth, a few years after they were married. And although in but moderate circumstances, they gave their children a good common school education which they considered as good a legacy as they could bestow upon them. Being Baptists by profession, the children were all taught in the faith and belief of that denomination by Sabbath School and Church teachings, and I being the youngest in the family was subject to more strict discipline than the older children. Although being religiously inclined in my childhood I could readily understand that there was quite a difference between the teachings of my Sabbath School teachers and the teachings of the New Testament consequently when I was about eleven or twelve years old I used to ponder over these differences and frequently wished that I could have lived in the days when the Savior and His Apostles lived on the earth, little realizing I was living in the “dispensation of the fullness of times.”
When nearly fourteen years old, my father desired to apprentice me to learn a trade. Opportunities were given annually to young men to learn trades in Her Majesty’s Dock Yards and my father did all in his power to get me apposition there, but his application was too late and his efforts to bind me an apprentice was a failure, the cause can be readily seen now for the Lord wanted me somewhere else. While of tender years, I became associated with a number of youths about my own age and older, whose habits and examples were of a pernicious character and to some extent I fell a prey to their evil influence, but there was a spirit with me that held me in check and many times have I felt the remorse that follows wrong doing when the good Spirit would chide me for my acts. Notably I remember walking along a street with my companions who would swear and drink and were habituated to other vices. One of the boys annoyed me and I made use of an expression using a vulgar word that made my hair almost stand on end. I was so shocked at my own words that I stood still for a moment as if paralyzed and looked around to see if anyone was near me or heard me I felt so ashamed of my expression that it made a lasting impression upon my mind and I have never permitted myself to swear or use bad language since.
When I was near fourteen years old the members of the Naurice Square Baptist chapel were quite exercised over the question of “Open” and “Closed” Communion, upon which they seemed about equally divided— my parents and other members of the family took quite a prominent part in the discussion which finally divided the flock— causing many bitter feelings— this led me to believe that other sects were as good and sincere in their worship as the Baptists and I asked and obtained my father’s consent to go to other places of worship on Sunday evenings. I visited and heard the services of the Methodists, Catholics, Ranters, Episcopalians and other sects but did not feel at home with any of them. If I had a preference it was for the last named sect because they seemed to teach as good doctrine as the rest and their singing was superb, but my youthful companions and their examples held quite a sway over me, and I more or less fell into the snares they laid for me, much to the regret of my parents, and family associates. But the eye of the Lord was over me and His spirit chided me in my silent reflection and He wonderfully plucked me from the path I was walking and gave me work in another direction.
While walking the streets of my native town during the month of November 1850, I heard some singing in a hall above some stables— it attracted my attention because it seemed to have a peculiar “ring” to it. I had never heard before. I stepped up the stairway and listened with delight much to the annoyance of my companions, who after making some unkind and vulgar remarks about me and the singing, went away and left me. I remained until the song was ended much impressed with the words and the tune. In passing the same place in about two weeks later I was again attracted with the singing (This place proved to be the Latter-day Saints Granby Street meeting room, Devonport) this time my companions left me thinking I would follow them, but I did not. I remained until the singing was over and heard remarks made by several persons bearing testimonies to the gospel revealed in our day and the Priesthood brought to earth by an angel. This sounded strange to me but not inconsistent. I pondered over it for several days, told my father what I had heart and asked him what he thought of such things. But he made light of it saying it was some of the false Prophets that scripture said should arise. But I resolved to go again at an early date and hear more. Within a few days a lady acquaintance, a Sunday School companion of my sister, named Maria Kicks, came to my mothers to visit my sister and to help her with the dressmaking business. She was much afflicted with rheumatism, and having heard of a people called Latter-day Saints who believed in laying hands on the sick after the Scriptures pattern, she induced my mother to send for one of the Elders of the church to visit and take tea one afternoon, and explain the doctrines of this faith. I over heard all that was said by the Elder on one side and my mother, sister and Miss Kicks on the other, and understood that the doctrines he advocated, although scriptural were unpopular and were not well received by my mother and sister but they sank deep within me although I was not permitted to say a word. But learning where the Elders preached on Sunday evening I lost no opportunity to go to meeting and took note of all references made to the Bible doctrine, I afterwards read and found correct. Altho but a boy I was deeply impressed with the sermon preached by Elder Wm. G. Mills and left the meeting feeling if any sect were true, these people had the true gospel if Scriptural evidence were any proof. My former companions no more possessed any influence over me. I cared no longer for their society. I had found something more congenial. And when the following Thursday evening came I wended my way to the place where I had previously heard such delightful singing, although services had already commenced, I found a seat and was enraptured with the service during the evening. It was a testimony meeting and truly the Spirit ran from heart to heart for all seemed eager to testify that they knew this to be the work of the Lord revealed thru Joseph Smith the Prophet. I was a silent listener to these testimonies and the beautiful songs interspersed, and to the exhortations of some of the Elders, near the close of the meeting my thoughts were many and I firmly believed that I had heard them testify to. After the meeting closed the usual salutations and hand shaking among Saints took place and I had never seen such freedom and affection for each other exhibited among any other sect I had visited. All seemed so kind to each other and I could not help but look on with astonishment and I might say delight. In wending my way toward the head of the stairway to make my exit I encountered the President of the Branch (Elder Nichols) who asked me how I liked the meeting. I answered him “pretty well” or something to that effect, then he raised his hand and placed it on my head, said in a voice loud enough for all persons nearby to hear, “Young man I Prophecy in the name of Jesus Christ that you will become a Mormon Elder and preach the Gospel in its fullness.”
The action and prophecy of Elder Nichols was so unexpected to me and sent such a thrill through me that for a moment I felt quite perplexed, for there was such a strange feeling ran through me at the time. But I quickly recovered myself and turning to him I looked what I could not say, for I was dumbfounded, but I thought, you foolish man, what do you know about me or my future, as I am an entire stranger to you in every respect? Little did I know that the spirit of Prophecy was restored to earth and this people I was with possessed it. I felt that with this people I was more at home than anywhere else, and I desired to unite with them but I felt sure my parents would not give consent by the manner I had heard them express themselves. And just how to do I could not tell as I was a minor and my parents had the right to control me by law. But I prayed to my Heavenly Father in the depths of my heart that He would forgive me all my sins and if it was right for me to be baptized for the remission of my sins to open up away, for the impression remained with me to be baptized at an early date, and learning from the traveling Elder (James Caffall) that the ordinance of baptism was to be administered to some applicants soon I resolved to be one of the party if possible. Succeeding in getting a bundle of clothing to be baptized in I found the party among whom was Elder Wm. G. Mills, James Caffall and a few sisters with a lady candidate for baptism. We left Mutton Cove, Devonport, in a boat and crossed the Tamer River after dark on a very pleasant evening, for the season of the year, and arrived at Barn Pool near Mount Edgecombe, on the west side of the river in about 45 minutes, and after the usual change of raiment and prayer I was baptized by Elder James Caffall, Wednesday, 3 December 1851 and afterwards witnessed the baptism of the other candidates. I felt, on coming out of the water an inward satisfaction that I had done right for I realized God’s approval was upon me and much enjoyed the society and company of my newly made friends in the Gospel— for in their fellowship I felt a contentment and satisfaction I could feel nowhere else. Little did I dream while with the Saints on that memorable occasion, and feeling that I had eventually entered into a new life, that such a storm was gathering and would break upon me in such a short time, for after bidding the Saints goodnight and going to my home I found my father and some of the other members of the family eating supper, which, though so late in the evening was customary. My father, looking up, asked me where I had been till so late an hour? Altho it was not unusually late for me to be out, I answered I had been with some friends, but my mother taking up the subject answered, “I know where he has been! He’s been to Barn Pool and been baptized by the Mormons, I know he has.”
Whether my mother’s imagination had been aroused by seeing my hair glistening in the light of the candle, through being wet with sea water, or whether an inspiration from an evil source caused her to know where I had been I do not know, but her statement had an effect I never saw produced in the family before. There was no more supper eaten that night and it was the only time in my life I ever saw my father give way to passion without restraint, that I remember of, but on this occasion, his voice together with my mothers, sister and brothers mingled and co-mingled till it was hard to tell which was loudest in denouncing the Mormons and their youngest son and brother who, Mother said she knew had been baptized. Father walked the floor, white as a sheet and shaking his clinched fist in my face said, “If I had known you were going to Barns Pool to be baptized by these Mormons I would have sunk the boat if I had been drowned myself.” This was poor encouragement for a young convert to Mormonism and especially one so young in years. Notwithstanding all the threats and abuse I kept still and said nothing, considering it unwise to retaliate. I shortly went to bed but not to sleep, for the circumstances of the previous day and evening were of such a nature that sleep had fled from my eyelids for I rejoiced that the Lord had led me to the Truth. No better outward evidences could I ask for than to see the manifestations of anger on the part of my parents and family, under the influence of the power of the evil one. But I had resolved to serve the Lord at all costs, hence the more consistent I tried to live to the spirit of my religion the more embittered the family seemed to be toward me. I attended the Baptist Sabbath School as usual on the following Sabbath but excused myself early in the afternoon and went to the Saints meeting at Haydens rooms, Devonport and was confirmed a member of the church by Elder William G. Mills, 7 December 1851. I rejoiced to hear the testimonies of the Saints and the teachings of the Elders from this time forth and I gradually withdrew from the Baptist Sunday School and meetings and became more fervently attached to the Saints and took comfort in their meetings. God strengthening my faith and adding testimony to testimony of the divinity of His work until my heart was fully satisfied of its divine character. But so many thorns beset my path I doubted my own ability to withstand all the trials that met me. But God gave me strength according to my day and time, for which I Gave him thanks— the Elders and Saints knowing my situation would encourage me and I received much strength through their kind words and took much comfort in their company.
While learning the principles of the Everlasting Gospel through the teachings of the Elders and reading the books of the church, things grew worse at home. My people would gather as sweet morsels, every bad story told against the Saints and their bitterness became more pronounced against my religion and consequently against me because of the sect I had chosen to unite my destinies with. I was looked upon as the black sheep of my family and told that I had brought all the trouble upon them because of my persistency in doing as I pleased and would not be controlled. My company was undesirable and the sooner I changed my faith or withdrew from the family, the more pleased it would be. I was of the same opinion, as my home had been a very unpleasant one since the night I was baptized. I found employment with Brother William G. Burton— he being a member of the church and knowing my circumstances gave me a home at his house where I assisted in helping in the bake house and ding such things as I was capable of doing until an opening presented itself for me to teach school as the Saints held meetings. My school was very successful considering I had so little experience previously. During the time I taught school I boarded most of the time with sister Matilda Hooper (now Hall) a member of the church and a widow.
My promptness at meetings, etc., soon gained the confidence of the Priesthood of the Branch and I was ordained to the office of Deacon, January 8, 1852 by Elder William G. Mills, which calling I endeavored to magnify notwithstanding the influences brought to bear against me, for God had given me a testimony of the truth of his work and I felt I would be Ungrateful to Him if I did not devote my whole life to His service. At a conference of the Saints held at Haydens Rooms Devonport, Sunday, December 19, 1852 I was called and ordained a Priest by Elder John Chislett and took pleasure in accompanying the Elders to the villages in the country and assisting in the services— bearing testimony of the truths revealed thru the Prophet Joseph Smith and sustaining the Elders in preaching the Gospel to the people. I used to take delight in going to Salt Ash with Elder James Caffall, who was a traveling Elder in Devonport District of the Lands End Conference and to him I owe much for explaining many principles of the Everlasting Gospel, although he has since apostatized and left the church. June rolled rapidly away.
In my association with the Saints and becoming acquainted with the principles of the Gospel and as the spring of 1853 approached, the privilege was given by the Presidency of the European Mission for the lands End Conference to send one person to Zion by the Perpetual Emigration Fund. Greatly to my astonishment and joy I was the one selected. No tongue nor pen can describe the feelings I had when notified by them of the fact that I had the privilege of going to Zion. Such a sudden change of circumstances, from bitter persecution to comparative peace. To travel and be in company with the Saints, whose society I loved so well. Going to the gathering place of the people of God to be taught by Prophets and Apostles and learn of the ways of the Lord seemed to move my feelings to a higher plane for I felt it would be among the happiest days of my life to leave kindred, friends and Babylon behind me.
Being a minor— but sixteen years old— and out of respect for my parents I concluded to tell them of my good fortune and that soon the Atlantic Ocean would separate us and perhaps “Absence would make the heart grow fonder.” I never once dreamed that they would object to my leaving the country, and thus cause them no further pain thru m wayward course in becoming a follower of the doctrine taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Mormons; but alas! I was doomed to meet more disappointment. I had carefully selected the time and place to tell my parents and family the— to me good news. When I had done so, my father Passionately said “You shall not go, and if you succeed in leaving this town (Devonport) and get to Liverpool I will follow and put you in prison, for you are a minor and under my control according to law.” I replied coolly “I know I am a minor and under your control and you can put me in prison but you can’t keep me there always and whenever I am released from prison I’ll go to Zion and you can’t hinder me, so you might as well save all he trouble and let me go now, seeing it will cost you nothing.” My bold answer rather cooled my father’s anger for the time.
My troubles were not yet over although I have little time to prepare for the journey awaiting me. The evil one had set his eye upon me and made calculations to stop me from enjoying my anticipations, for I was taken violently sick with fevers. Going home to my parents I took to my bet and my mother seemed to think she would have the privilege to carry out her threat made at the time I told the family I had an opportunity of going to Zion— Viz: “That she would rather bury me than I should go off to America with these Mormons.” The family Doctor was called, pronouncing it a very violent attack of fever and left directions I must be watched constantly and medicine given me regularly, kept perfectly quiet. No one to see me but the persons attending me— I hear it all— low as I was, but I thought, old fellow, God is the greatest and I am going to Zion and you might as well keep your medicine in the Drug store for notwithstanding all inducements I would not take a particle of medicine although the Doctor called regularly and so did I call upon my people to send for the Elders of the Church but there I lay for several days and nights helpless—exhausted, burning up with fever, pleading to have the Elders sent for.
After several days and seeing no improvement, but rather getting worse, my people consented for the Elders to come and see me one evening. I was so thankful, they seemed like Angels. I had not seen a Latter-day Saint for some time, some of the Elders had called at the home but were informed that the doctor said it was dangerous for any one but my nurses to see me and were consequently denied. They brought oil and in the presence of my mother, who remained to see the administration as she said I cold get no worse by being administered to. They anointed me profusely and then laid their hands on my head and rebuked the fever and promised me I should live and go to Zion, and realize my hopes, but my mother heaving a sigh and shaking her head said, “That will never be.” Thanks to my Heavenly Father, the disease left me and I went to sleep quietly and slept all night, the first sleep for many nights.
I awoke in the morning feeling better and heard my attendants whispering to each other “He’s better. He’s slept all night— he’s taken none of the medicine the Doctor left. There must be something with these Mormons after all for there is such a change in him.” I took nourishment for the first time in many days, asked for my clothing as I began to feel it was time to move and get ready to go to Zion as I expected each mail would bring my notification to be inn Liverpool at a stated period. My clothing were refused me but were promised if I continued to mend and get stronger, I might sit up in a few days. I watched my change when my attendant left the room and I crawled to the wardrobe and got my pants and after several trials and several rests, I succeeded in getting them on and was part way down stairs when I met the nurse coming up with some refreshments. She screamed— I sat down took my time and after a while succeeded in getting to the room down stairs to the utter astonishment of mother and the family, who the night previous had been expecting to carry me before long to the bone yard. I was there, a living monument of Gods mercy and the power of faith through the ordinance of the gospel for no medicine had passed my lips and they could not but acknowledge some superior power had saved my life and raised me up from the very verge of death.
To their credit be it written, their opposition was broken, for as I gradually grew stronger and the words of the Elders who administered to me rang in my ears, “You shall live and go to Zion,” inspired me with confidence and I began gathering articles necessary for the journey. Seeing my determination in the matter, my father, mother and the family did what they could to give me a comfortable fitout.
In due time the “notification” to be in Liverpool to sail on the packet ship “Falcon,” Captain Wade, on Saturday 26 March 1853 came to hand. My heart leaped high with expectation when I read the letter, for I looked upon it as a high honor to be selected under such circumstances to go to Zion and mingle with the Saints of God. At a Priesthood meeting held in the Granby Rooms, Devonport, about the 16th of march 1853, I was called and ordained an Elder by the Elders of that branch, Elder Joseph Hall being mouth. Receiving a certificate of good standing and with the blessings of the Saints, whom I had learned to love, my parents accompanied me to the railway station at Plymouth. After repeated solicitations I promised them that if I did not “like it” when I got to America I would write and let them know. I bid them an affectionate good bye.
The good ship “Falcon” was towed out of her dock and se sail on Saturday 26 March 1853. I was sixteen years, two months and twenty-six days old, leaving home, friends, kindred and everything that was near and dear to me on earth, to follow the Lord and obey His commands. Not a soul on board had I ever met before in my life except a few I had accompanied from Bristol but a few days since, but I rejoiced and praised the Lord for His mercies to me in bringing about my deliverance from Babylon and sang with many of the Saints on board.
The gallant ship is under way; To bear me off to sea; And yonder floats the steamer gay; That says she waits for me. ‘Tis not for treasure that are hid; In mountain or in dell; ‘Tis not for joys like these I bid; My native land Farewell.
After a voyage of seven weeks and two days without any unusual incident we landed at New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America. Cloth having been provided England, many of us spent our leisure time on the ship making tents for the use of the company while crossing the plains. I thus learned to sew with needle and palm. Ascending the Grand Old Mississippi River on one of those large magnificent steamboats common on that river, to Keokuk, Iowa, the outfitting point of the Mormon emigrants. Spring of 1853, with a few other young men I was assigned the duty of heading cattle for several weeks, opposite the famed city of Nauvoo. I crossed the river and spent several hours in looking among the ruins left by the mob who sacked the city and drove the Saints out, also destroying the once magnificent temple built by the hands of Gods chosen people. There was but little of the walls standing of that once blessed edifice and but few houses inhabited, it seemed to be a “deserted city” where once the feet of Holy Men and Women had trod and evidences of thrift and industry were seen on every hand. Now all was silent as the grave and all I saw that gave evidence of life was a few women passing in and out of the house and curling smoke from a few of the chimneys.
Our company being organized— Appleton M. Harmon was appointed captain and we set out to cross the state of Iowa, but no pen can describe the starting. Thirteen or fourteen of the teams were composed of young wild steers with perhaps one yoke of partly broke cattle to each wagon. Teamsters composed of men fresh from cotton factories and workshops—many of who had never seen two animals with a yoke on their necks before arriving at the campground at Keokuk. They knew as much about Gee and Haw as the unbroken steers in the team. In using a whip, such teamsters would as frequently strike themselves as the animal they were aiming at. Plank roads were frequent and sometimes of considerable length, bridging large and deep sloughs and ponds of stagnant water. While passing over these roads, herders would be placed each side of the teams. This in many instances would do more to frighten than keep the team straight, consequently many of the teams made a wild run for the sloughs to gain freedom, running over their herders and into water and mud half way up their sides, tipping over wagons, breaking bows, tongues and ruining the contents of the wagons with mud and water while the united yelling of Woa from the teamsters and herders frightened the cattle until they would get so badly tangled up with turned yokes and the chains around their legs and horns that an axe in the hand of an experienced man would have to be used to cut the bows and free the cattle from death by drowning. Then accusations from teamsters or herders or both, would following quick succession and while wading from knee deep to halfway up to the armpits in mud and such would be forgotten for the time being, and war of words unbecoming Saints— indulged in. Thus on our road to Zion we had the privilege of learning the art of self-government if we would improve it. As night came on, camp was formed on as dry a place as could be found near a creek and the cattle unchained from each other, would be turned out to feed after a colored string of some sort had been tied around the horses or the yoke by the green teamsters so he might know his cattle when driven up in the morning. Wood and water brought to camp and the skill of a green factory girl as also the English housewife would be tested in frying bacon and slap-jacks for the mess, usually of ten persons. Burnt fingers, scorched hair, tired limbs and more tired throats of the men who lay around the fie stretched upon the ground to get a little ease for their aching limbs or drying their clothes after wading through the sloughs and mud, closed the days labors after prayer and the setting of the guard for the night. Matters improved day by day as the teamsters and cattle knew each other better.
Arriving at Council Bluffs 3 July 1853, we crossed the Mississippi River in a ferryboat and wended our way toward the setting sun. Nothing of particular interest occurred with me until a little over two weeks before arriving at Fort Laramie. Our train over took a freight train of goods under Captain Andrew Jackson Stewart, of Springville, Utah. He was crippled for lack of teamsters and asked our captain for help, promising liberal wages to those who would then engage to drive teams for him to Utah. A few were selected, myself among the number to help drive these teams. Captain Harmon’s train passed forward leaving Captain Stewart to follow. I remained with his train until it passed Fort Laramie. When looking in my satchel I discovered to my dismay that the best of my clothing was gone. I supposed by some of the teamsters who left the train at Laramie because of the abuse from Captain Stewart. The train becoming shorthanded through these teamsters leaving the train at Laramie, greater burdens were placed upon those remaining until it became almost unbearable and I told the Captain I could not stand it. He answered I’d have to stand it or leave the train, which latter alternative he thought I had not the courage to do. But waiting until morning I put a little bread in my pockets, my carpet sack in my blankets and told him I wanted something for my services rendered. He was not pleased. He thought to dissuade me from leaving his train and said he could not pay me till he got to Utah. But I had made up my mind that I might as well die in an attempt to overtake Captain Harmon’s Company as to be killed by overwork and buried, like a dog by Captain Stewart and his train hands. Being an Englishman, those claiming American birth, took every opportunity to impose upon me and I was tired of it.
I had no idea of the road or how far Captain Harmon’s train was in advance of me but had idea I could probable reach it in about a days forced travel. I set out with my pack over my shoulder as best I could with a light heart as I considered I was exchanging oppression for freedom. As the sun became warmer I began to walk slower, for my pack became heavier each mile I traveled. The train behind me was soon lost sight of and my loneliness aided my anxiety to reach the train I desired. Crossing a stream of water on coming to the bank of the Platte River I would sit down on my pack, wish it was lighter, soak my hard bread in the water, kneel down and ask the Father to guide my footsteps aright, then with tired limbs press forward on my journey, I watched the sun in its decline in the West, eagerly straining every nerve of my eyes to discover, if possible, the curling smoke of a campfire or some signs of life on those vast plains, but my efforts were fruitless. Occasionally on the road I had picked up a buffalo skull or shoulder blade that the beating storms of years had bleached white, with something like the following written upon it in pencil. “Captain H. C. Wheelocks’ company passed here at ___ o’clock a.m. on the ___ day of August 1853.” “All well.” “Captain Appleton Harmon’s company camped three miles East of this point last night and buried two emigrants, ___ day of August, 1853.” But these signboards were of little value to me, as I did not know the day of the month. For in the train I had been with, Sunday was unknown. I scarcely knew for certain what day of the week it was.
Night drew nigh apace, I was tired, very tired, footsore and my poor shoulders ached beyond measure carrying my pack. What should I do? Travel as long as I could drag a foot, or lie down and take a rest till the morning? Prudence suggested that I rest somewhere— I looked around. All seemed cheerless. I saw about one-half mile distant, a ledge of rocks on a little rising bluff, and resolved to get there if possible, which I accomplished just as it became dark. I found a projecting ledge of rock and mechanically unrolled my bundle and laid down, not knowing whether I should ever rise again. Entirely alone— many miles from any human being that I knew of. I queried to myself, is this what I left parents, kindred and friends for, to die alone on these almost trackless plains— and be eaten by wolves and wild beasts who may gather around my carcass and fight over the possessions of a fragment of my remains? This thought was intensified by hearing the howling wolves not far from me. The picture of my once pleasant home and its inmates around the festive board gave my almost famished stomach and gnawing vitals but little comfort. The recollection of most of the acts of my life came before me in quick succession and I seemingly was in the presence of God. The last I know I was praying to be preserved that I might go to Zion and live with the Saints of God. I must haves slept an hour or two and when I awoke I felt much refreshed although my bed was a ledge of rock and not as comfortable as some beds. I turned over many times before morning— my cogitations and peculiar situation kept me awake but I had the satisfaction of hearing the howling of the wolves farther away than when I lay down t rest. I resolved to proceed on my journey as soon as I could see m way in the morning, for I felt that the Lord would grant me my desires and the desires of the Elders before leaving England would be realized— Viz: “I should go to the land of Zion.”
I arose with the dawn of day and gathered up my bundle and hobbled along as best I could, wondering what would be the results of the coming day. When I came to the water I sat down, soaked my remaining crust, ate thankfully— washed my feet and proceeded on my way, praying and hoping that deliverance would come and give me the opportunity of again mingling with Saints and friends. When near sundown, with blistered feet and aching limbs, I came upon the camp nestled on the bank of the Platte River. My friends were surprised to see me and asked many questions, which I postponed answering until I got something to eat, which was forthcoming. The Captain, learning I was in camp, came to see me and asked me how I got along with Captain Stewart and why I came back to his camp? I told him how I had been treated during my stay and of my adventure in returning to his camp and what I had passed through coming from one camp to the other, afoot and alone. He seemed pleased I had courage enough to do as I had done, and told me he was glad I had got back again— but the strain, physically and mentally had been too much for me. I had overdone myself and has sown the gems of sickness in my system, for when I went to my quarters to rest, I seemed on fire throughout my entire system and the fever seemed to be eating me up.
Next morning I started with the camp, assisting in whatever I was called upon to do by Captain of ten, but it seemed the train traveled too fast for it halted at noon and the cattle were turned out to graze before I caught up with it. But as I staggered into the camp it happened I sat down or rather fell down on the tongue of Captain Harmon’s wagon and there fainted from nervous prostration. Sister Hulda Barnes (Captain Harmon’s sister) came to me with others and applied such restoratives as were at hand but I was too sick to realize much. She however nursed me tenderly as a son and after a few days I was able to be around again, feeing very thankful for the kindness I had received at the hands of so good a woman— for she seemed to spare me no pains to give me every comfort in her power.
As we got in to Black Hills the weather became cooler and my health better. The scenery along the road became more varied the farther west we traveled and consequently the more pleasure I took. I have neglected to mention Brother George Taylor from Nottingham Conference, England, whom I first met in the Bachelors Hall on board ship. A friendship grew up between us of a lasting character. We spent many hours on the ship and crossing the plains, walking, singing and discoursing together, and whenever we could be— were bedfellows.
After leaving the Sweetwater River, our provisions got short and we were put on short allowance until we met some teams with provisions from Utah and the nearer we approached the Valleys, the more teams they were expecting to meet in the emigrant trains. With what pleasure I have looked upon seeing the reunion of husbands, wives and children and bosom friends, meeting each other on those dreary plains after having been absent from each other in many cases for years— but under those sunburned faces and necks— those ragged clothes— those rough exteriors, beat hearts that had courage to forsake father and mother, house and lands, husbands, wives, children and friends for the Gospel sake and surmount trials of the most severe character to build up a Zion under the direction of a living priesthood guided by Him who shapes the destinies of all who trust in Him. Green River, Fort Bridger pass, all were getting anxious to see the far famed valleys of Utah and many were the speculations indulged in relation to the future.
The summits of the big and little mountains reached, the “Birds Eye View” of the western side of Salt Lake Valley looked lovely beyond description. The captain told us we might get into the city the next day if no accidents occurred.
In crossing the bench from the mouth of Emigration Canyon to the bluff east of the city, our eyes were feasted with the sublime sight we had desired so long to see and as we caught a view of the City the throbbing of our hearts increased and our anticipations were realized— the promise of the Elders at Devonport fulfilled— “I had come to Zion.” We camped the on the16th ward square, Salt Lake City— Sunday 16 October 1853, a little west of the place where now stands the Deseret University. Friends met friends and took them from the campground to their homes. By night over half the company was gone. By Monday night but few were left on the campground and I began to wonder where I should go and what I should do to find a home. A brother that came from Devonport was living in the 19th ward. I found him but he could give me no employment.
The people of the camp seemingly all had friends to go to but me. I did not seem to have any. I seemed to be a stranger in a strange land. Perhaps my outward appearance was so repulsive that no one felt disposed to offer me a home or place to stay ‘til I could find employment. I certainly was a sad looking sight— for I owned no clothing but an extra shirt except what I stood upright in, that I had worn nearly all the time since I left England. It was so filled with dust and dirt, had been torn, patched and mended, was sowed and re-sewed while upon my body that I could not get it off my person, so it was about skin tight and I dare not stoop and had to sit down very carefully for fear of exposing my nakedness. All this came about through my clothing having been stolen at Laramie. Notwithstanding I thanked the Lord for His kindness and mercies to me in giving me the privilege of coming to Zion. I felt my lot a hard one as I knew no one to unburden my feelings to or ask advice from, but I knew God was my friend and I laid my case before Him and feeling that He would open up my way for good.
Later, Monday evening I met one of the brethren of our camp who told me he had got work as a carpenter and invited me to go with him the next morning as he thought I could get employment. I did so but had not been at work long when Brother Nelson Spafford of Springville, Utah County, drove up with a team and wagon and inquired for a young man that came in with the last company of emigrants and had no home. I heard him and spoke to him. He scanned me from head to foot thinking no doubt, I was a hard looking subject. He said he had been recommended by some friend of his to find me as he was called on a mission to Fort Supply and wanted someone to stay with his family through the winter. He lived some sixty miles south and if I wanted to go with him and stay the winter he would give me a home and plenty to eat if I would do his work and look after his family. I thought it would be the best step I could take and told him I would do the best I could for him. The brother I was working with thought it the best and I got into the wagon and started for Springville without further ceremony, arriving there on the evening of the next day. Seeing my pitiable condition for clothing he gave me some of his partially worn clothing, as at that time clothing of any kind was very scarce and high priced. I was strange to every kind of work done in this country and whatever I went at I made hard work of it and it took me all my time to get the wood, milk the cows and do the chores for Sister Spafford and her child. Brother Spafford soon left for his field of missionary labor and I thought I had an immense labor on my hands of caring for his wife and child. I had to work an ox team on shares to get the wood, but the winter passed very pleasantly. I made many acquaintances and friends among the rest was Bishop Aaron Johnson who used to speak of me as “That young English man at Spafford’s.” When spring came Brother Spafford came home and could do his own work so I was no longer needed by him. I felt impressed to go to Salt Lake City.
I got an opportunity to ride with one of the brethren and went directly to President Young’s and saw him and asked for work, told him who I was, where I came from and what I had been doing since y arrival in Utah etc. He seemed favorably impressed and gave me work at $5.00 a month with board and lodging with Brother Hamilton G. Park. The first article I drew for pay was a pair of buckskin pants, that meant nearly three months wages. In dry weather they would come about half way between my ankles and knees and in wet weather, would flippity flop on the sidewalk every step I took. I intended no reflection on President Young or the pants in thus describing them, but to show the scarcity of clothing in the spring of 1854. We used to think in those days that a man who was the owner of a pair of American (cloth) pants was exceedingly well off. While the man who was fortunate enough to own a suit of Buckskin was prepared for society or meetings, or the dance and not fear tearing them up while at his daily labor. I think about the 4th June 1854 was the first time I ever saw President Young. At the time I applied for work. I was deeply impressed with the man— a Prophet of God! A Seer and Revelator. I looked upon him almost with awe, he was the man of all men I desired to become acquainted with— And I suppose that was the reason I was so bold in going to ask him for work for my usual diffidence would have led me in any other direction. I boarded with Brother H. G. Park for about two months and worked with him making road in City Creek Canyon sawing wood and about anything that was to be done. With a recommend from President Brigham Young I received my endowments in August 1854. A blessing I had…
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My wages were increased to $15.00 a month and board, I did not continue to drive team long as the President was finishing the Lion House and he set me to cleaning up and preparing the rooms for occupancy. I helped his families to move into their new quarters about the last of November1855. The President boarded half of his time in the Lion House and when not there it devolved on me to call the family together and pray with them and to ask blessings at the table, etc., etc. This used to be a hard task for me diffident as I was and many times I should have shrunk from it had it not been duty.
As winter approached the President sent all his teams and men, except me, to Cottonwood canyon to work for the winter. While he went to Fillmore as Governor of the Territory to attend the legislation, before leaving he met me and told me to continue living in the Lion House and take care of his families, as I was the only man he was leaving around his premises, except the clerks in the office. I thanked him for the confidence he reposed in me and told him I would do the best I could. He started for Fillmore 1st day of December 1855. Four of his wives and their children lived in the house and it took me all my time to do what was required of me.
After the President had been gone a few weeks the measles broke out among the children and we had a serious time. Nine were down at one time. It seemed that the evil one had his own way for as we would administer to one of the children in one of the rooms it would get much better but those we had just been administering to would get much worse. For five weeks I never took my clothes off except to change my underclothing and all the sleep I would be able to get was when so much exhausted I could go no longer, administering so much day and night took all the vitality out of me. Often when I would take my hands off the sick child I would rest with exhaustion. I fasted much to benefit the sick and pled with God to restore them to health. Clara Decker Young’s Jeddie was very sick and I exercised myself over him very much but after lingering illness of several weeks his spirit left its body to go to a better place on 11 January1856. I believe I mourned over as much as I ever did over one of my own for I loved the child dearly. I am sure Sister Clara felt I was devoted to her child’s interests and remembered me with gratitude Many years afterwards in a letter written by her to a valued friend of mine in referring to the circumstances of the winter if 1855-1856 she says “And as my mind turns to these trying scenes there is no one that claim my thanks and gratitude more than Samuel Roskelley.” As the winter passed away, the family got better. When the President returned home about the last of January 1856, things began to assume a brighter look. It has been a gloomy winter. I remember that while conversing with Sister Clara after the death of her darling, the question of having faith in God was spoken of— she said, “It has been a severe trial of my faith to lose my child in the absence of its father— my husband — but it has taught me a lesson to relay upon the Lord more and my husband less for I do not know but I have thought too much of y Brigham.” I write this as a lesson to my own dear family— not to expose Sister Clara’s private feelings as expressed to me in all confidence.
During the spring and summer the famine for breadstuff was very severe— as the grasshoppers had cleaned the fields two previous years to an alarming extent and flour had run up to fabulous figures— entirely out of reach of the poor. The President had succeeded in buying a few loads of flour from Brother Reese and stored it away He did not reduce his force of work hands but counting noses reduced all dependent upon him to half pound of flour per day. Out of that much would be given away daily to the poor, who would call and the family would divide and many times the box would be scraped for some poor mother who represented that her children were hungry and perhaps half an hour afterward it would be scraped again for some other poor soul under similar circumstances. The flour box always yielded a little every time it was scraped for the poor. Thus have I seen the goodness of God and the faith of Brigham Young and his family manifested in helping the poor, for when the famine was at its worst stage, President Young said at the table his family was sitting at, “I wish every poor soul who has no bread was here to sit down and eat ‘til they were satisfied,” for the family had not eaten more than half that was put on the table for their use at that meal under the ration system. Many of the Saints in Utah suffered for want of bread during those hard times, while many resorted to pig weeds, thistle roots, mustard leaves and every kind of vegetable mixing with bran or shorts for food but no one died of starvation that I am aware of.
Being one of the 18th ward teachers I was kept busy in connection with the 70’s meetings and prayer circle meetings in the old tabernacle and my time was fully occupied with duties of various kinds. While preaching in the old tabernacle one Sunday afternoon, President Young said he had a set of men around him that were incompetent to make a living for themselves and he could not drive them away so he had to provide for them. This expression struck me with much force and I thought— President Young you shall not have the opportunity of saying that much about me very long For although but nineteen years old I felt I could dig for myself and I knew I could under ordinary circumstances, make my own living.
In a short time afterward (I thing perhaps in May 1856) I met Rebecca Hendricks for the first time. She was than what is known as a grass widow. Her husband having left her in the spring of 1855 to go east on a mission but never returned to her and her child. Our acquaintance ripened into friendship and love for each other of which I shall write ore hereafter. During the summer of1856 I spent most of the time in the Lion House— being acquainted with the family and affairs— I took particular pains never to mention anything I saw or heard, but treasured it up, thinking that if it ever was y privilege to have more than one wife I would have some valuable lessons laid away in my memory to draw upon. But alas! All mortals err— for I have never yet seen the place in my experience that one of these lessons fitted. It has all been new ground to me or I have new to the ground.
To supply the Public Works and the citizens of Salt Lake City with lumber the President with others had made a road at great expense to the upper basin in Big Cottonwood Canyon and built several mills for making lumber, and desiring at out(ing), he invited a large number of the Saints to join him in celebrating the 24 July 1856 at the lake in Big Cottonwood.
Brigham Young personally gave me an invitation to accompany a portion of his family who he also had invited. I looked upon it as a great honor— as I was nobody— and did not expect such distinguished favors. When about to start, I found he had made provisions for me to ride in a carriage with some of the family and go free from care and responsibility. I enjoyed this outing very much and the society more— for the meetings held were of the best character and I felt thankful for the privilege of the good association.
During the next week, in August 1856, one evening after the workmen had all gone home, I stood looking into the street from the porch over the Lion of the Lion House, when suddenly I felt someone’s arm around my shoulders and neck. Turning my face I discovered it to be President Young. Said he— calling me by name— “I think you had better go on a mission.” As soon as I could recover from my surprise I answered— “I don’t know what you want to send me on a mission for. I don’t know anything.” He answered— I’ll risk you in that matter. You have not been so attentive to every meeting you could get to in the Tabernacle in the ward and quorum and prayer circle for nothing and…
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…pay it up on my return to Utah, which I said I was willing to do. But President Young spoke up and said he would not ask me for my note although he was satisfied I would return to Utah alright, but in consideration of service I had rendered to him and his family he would make me a present of the amount and square the account. This I considered very generous and I thanked him warmly for his kindness— wished him goodbye with many of my old associates, who had gathered around.
After receiving his blessing I got into my cart and Brother George Taylor and I started for Emigration Canyon to overtake the missionary company who has started two days ahead under the Captaincy of Apostle Parley P Pratt. I have not power to portray my feelings in leaving the home of my parents. For I thought much of the family and I believe they thought much of me.
We overtook the missionary camp the third day after leaving Salt Lake City and soon got acquainted with the members of the camp. Our trip was quite pleasant as we would meet the trains of emigrants pulling hand carts occasionally— although it was heart aching to see the last off the company so far away from Utah, so late in the season. At Independence Rock we met Apostle F. D. Richards, Joseph A. Young, G. W Penrose, D. C. Dunbar and quite a number of the European Missionaries returning to Utah. We camped all night with them and spent a very pleasant evening chatting, singing, etc. Brother Dunbar was sick in bed but at our solicitations got up and leaned against a wagon wheel and sung— Oh Ye Mountains High and several soul stirring songs of Zion. The two missionary companies, one going to the nations and the other returning from their labors, reluctantly parted the next morning, resuming their journey after bidding each other “good bye” with well wishes and expressions of good desires for each others welfare.
We met the last company of emigrants near Chimney Rock with handcarts heavily loaded, during the latter part of October, when they ought to have been in the Valley. When near Fort Kearney, all our company were short of flour as it was scarce there, but we bought some crackers and buffalo meat dried by Indians, which served us until we reached Florence, once Winter Quarters. Although we went on very short rations for several days. Arriving at Florence where many of the Saints lived. The President of the branch quartered the Elders with the Saints. Brother George Taylor and I were sent to Brother Alexander Pypers to stop and we enjoyed ourselves highly. We were fortunate enough in selling our teams for cash, enough to pay our way to Liverpool by being economical.
Some of the other Elders were not quite as fortunate in selling their teams, but borrowed money to proceed on their journey— which we did in a few days by talking passage down the Missouri River for St. Louis on board the “Red Cloud” steam boat and arriving at St. Louis with out accident. We were quartered among the Saints for a few days— spending the Sabbath and going to saints meetings under the Presidency of Apostle Erastus Snow.
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I cannot omit an incident that occurred in President Young’s office about two weeks previous to my starting on my mission. I had been aware for sometime that President Young had desired Apostle Parley P. Pratt to go and visit the churches in the Eastern States during the winter of 1856-1857 and also give his sanction for sister Marion McLean Pratt to go to the frontier with him. He to go on East for the winter and she to go to New Orleans, her former home, and if possible obtain her children— as she had taught school in President Young’s family for sometime, she was well acquainted with me and had desired the President to instruct me to put my team with Apostle Parley P. Pratt’s team and carriage and be teamster for him and her. Also accompany her in trying to get her children to the frontiers so she could get them to Utah the following spring. I had overheard her talking with the President about it and as I had no love for her— but a decided dislike— I made up my mind I would not do as she desired, unless positively commanded. Although if Brother Pratt had been going alone I should have taken it as a pleasure to have waited on him. But that woman— well I did not want to wait upon her on no terms.
One afternoon the office was full of clerks and others, I went in to see President about getting a team for Brother George Taylor and I to cross the plains with, and after making arrangements about the animals, President Young said he would like me to hitch to Brother Parley’s carriage and go with him. I expressed my feelings about the matter by saying I was willing to do anything for Brother Parley but I preferred to travel with Brother Taylor and let sister Pratt wait on herself. The President let the matter drop and matters were arranged, as I desired much to my satisfaction. As I did not have to go to New Orleans nor have anything to do with the McLean children. The obtaining of them thru the efforts of Sister Pratt and one of our missionary company Elder James Cammell cost Apostle Parley P. Pratt his life in the spring of 1857. I have always been thankful my mission took me in another direction.