“By Every Possible Means,” chapter 13 of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 2, No Unhallowed Hand, 1846–1893 (2020)
Chapter 13: “By Every Possible Means”
By the fall of 1853, Augusta Dorius had been living in Salt Lake City for about a year. The city was nowhere near as large as Copenhagen. Most of the buildings were log cabins or adobe structures with one or two stories. Aside from the large Council House, where many government and Church meetings were held, the Saints had built an office and stockyard for collecting tithing and a social hall for dances, plays, and other community events. Nearby, on the temple block, were various workshops for temple construction and a new adobe tabernacle that seated close to three thousand people.1
Like other young immigrant women in the valley, Augusta worked as a hired girl for a family. Living and working with them helped her learn English quickly. Still, she missed Denmark and her family.2 Her brother Johan had been released from prison in Norway, and now he and Carl were preaching the gospel in Denmark and Norway, sometimes as companions. Her father also preached throughout Denmark when he was not caring for Augusta’s three younger sisters. Augusta’s mother lived in Copenhagen, still uninterested in the Church.3
Late in September, Augusta rejoiced when a company with more than two hundred Danish Saints arrived in Salt Lake City. Although her family was not among them, the arrival of fellow Danes helped Augusta feel more at home in Utah. But almost as soon as the company arrived, Brigham Young called the newly arrived Danes to help settle another part of the territory.4
Since coming to the Rocky Mountains, the Saints had established settlements beyond the Salt Lake Valley, including Ogden to the north and Provo to the south. Other towns had grown up in between and beyond these settlements. Brigham had also sent families to build an ironworks in southern Utah to manufacture iron products and make the territory more self-sufficient.5
Brigham sent the Danes to strengthen settlements in Sanpete Valley, about a hundred miles southeast of Salt Lake City.6 Settlers had first come to Sanpete in the fall of 1849 at the invitation of Walkara, a powerful Ute leader who received baptism the following spring.7 Around this time, however, problems had arisen when three settlers in nearby Utah Valley killed a Ute named Old Bishop in an argument over a shirt.
When the Utes retaliated, Brigham had first urged the settlers not to fight back. His general policy was to teach the Saints to live in peace with their Indian neighbors. But after counseling with the leader of the Provo settlement, who concealed the murder of Old Bishop from him, Brigham had ultimately ordered the militia to wage a campaign against the Ute attackers. In early 1850, the militia struck a camp of about seventy Utes along the Provo River. After two days of fighting, the camp scattered, and the militia pursued most of the band to the south end of Utah Lake, where the militia surrounded and killed the remaining Ute men.
The swift and bloody campaign had put an end to fighting around Provo.8 But the tension it created spread quickly to Sanpete Valley, where settlers had claimed choice land, blocking the Indians’ access to fishing and hunting grounds. Out of hunger and desperation, some Indians began raiding cattle or demanding food from the settlers.9
Territorial leaders had also angered Walkara and his people by regulating trade in the area, including some Indians’ longstanding practice of taking captives from other tribes to sell as slaves. Though Utah’s laws prohibited Indians from selling their captives to Spanish and Mexican slave-traders, Walkara and other Indians could still sell them to Saints as indentured servants. Many of these captives were women and children, and the Saints often purchased them, believing they were rescuing them from torture, neglect, or death. Some Saints employed the former captives as laborers, while others treated them as family members.
The loss of the Spanish and Mexican market was a severe blow to the Utes’ livelihood, especially since they had come to depend more on the slave trade after losing their land to new settlements.10
Tensions had reached a breaking point in July 1853 when a man in Utah Valley killed a Ute in a fight and Walkara retaliated.11 Militia leaders in Salt Lake City ordered militia units to respond defensively and refrain from killing Utes, but some settlers acted against orders, and both sides attacked each other brutally.12
Although moving to Sanpete Valley would place her in the middle of this conflict, Augusta chose to join the Danish Saints. Traveling south, they saw that wary settlers had abandoned smaller farms and towns and had built forts.13
In Sanpete Valley, the company settled in a place called Spring Town. The town’s fifteen families had arranged their cabins in a tight circle. Since there were no spare cabins, Augusta and the other new settlers lived in their wagons. Every morning and evening a drumbeat ordered the settlement’s inhabitants to roll call, where Bishop Reuben Allred appointed guards and assigned other duties. Because Augusta had learned English while working for the family in the Salt Lake Valley, the bishop hired her to be his interpreter for the Danish Saints.14
In time, the settlement ran low on food, and the bishop sent swift riders to the nearby town of Manti for help. When the party returned, they came with word that Walkara had moved south and was no longer a threat.15 In other parts of the territory, it appeared the war was coming to an end.16
But heavy snows and freezing temperatures that winter made both the settlers and the Utes more desperate than ever as provisions grew scarce. Fearing that an attack on their town was imminent, Spring Town leaders decided that everyone needed to move to Manti for safety. In December, Augusta and the other settlers abandoned the town as a hard snowstorm swirled around them.17
While Augusta was getting settled in Manti and the conflict with Walkara’s people remained unresolved, thirty-five-year-old Matilda Dudley met with several of her friends in Salt Lake City to discuss what they could do to help Indian women and children.18
Since the start of the conflict with Walkara, Brigham Young and other Church leaders had urged the Saints to stop hostility toward the Utes and other Native peoples. “Seek by every possible means to reach the Indians with a peaceful message,” he pleaded.
At the October 1853 general conference, Brigham had observed that missionaries were traveling the globe to gather Israel while Indians—remnants of the house of Israel—already lived in their midst. He then called more than twenty missionaries to spend the winter learning the Indians’ languages so that they could serve among them in the spring.
Brigham likewise counseled the Saints not to seek revenge if Indians took horses, cattle, or other property from them. “Shame on you if you feel like killing them,” he said. “Instead of murdering them, preach the gospel to them.”19 Parley Pratt also urged the Saints to feed and clothe Indian women and children.20
Such words had inspired Matilda, a single mother with one son. When she was a baby in the eastern United States, Indians had killed her father and then kidnapped her and her mother. But an elderly Indian man had shown compassion by intervening to save their lives. She had since come to cherish the values of union, humility, and love. And she believed that it was important for her and her friends to organize a society of women to make clothes for the Indians.21
One of her friends, Amanda Smith, agreed to help. Amanda was a survivor of the Hawn’s Mill massacre and a former member of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. Though Brigham Young had suspended Relief Society meetings nine months after the death of Joseph Smith, Amanda and other women in the Church had continued serving their communities and knew the good that Relief Societies could do.22
On February 9, 1854, Matilda convened the first official meeting of her new relief organization. Women from different parts of the city met at her house and elected officers for the group. Matilda became their president and treasurer and asked that every member pay twenty-five cents to join the society. She also proposed that together they make a rag carpet and sell it to raise money for material to make clothes for the Indian women and children.23
The women began to meet weekly through the rest of winter and spring, sewing rags for the carpet and enjoying each other’s company. “The Spirit of the Lord was with us,” Amanda Smith recorded, “and union prevailed.”24
When spring arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, the men called to the Indian mission headed south, accompanied by a group of twenty missionaries assigned to the Hawaiian Islands. Around the same time, Brigham Young and several Church leaders also left Salt Lake City to visit the southern settlements and meet with Walkara. The Ute leader had recently promised to end the conflict in exchange for gifts and a pledge to end the territory’s opposition to the slave trade.25
Knowing conflict would continue until the settlers and the Utes honored the territorial laws and respected each other’s rights, Brigham arranged to meet Walkara at a place called Chicken Creek, not far from the settlement of Salt Creek, where settlers had killed nine Utes the previous fall.26
Brigham’s party arrived at Chicken Creek on May 11. About a dozen people in the Ute camp, including Walkara’s daughter, were ill. Several warriors guarded Walkara’s tent. With the Utes’ permission, Brigham and other Church leaders entered the tent and found Walkara wrapped in a blanket and lying on the dirt floor. Other Ute leaders from neighboring valleys sat nearby.
Walkara looked sick and ill-tempered. “I do not want to talk. I want to hear President Young talk,” he said. “I have neither heart nor spirit and am afraid.”
“I have brought some beef cattle for you,” Brigham said. “I want one killed so you can have a feast while we are here.” He helped Walkara sit up and then sat down beside him.27
“Brother Brigham, lay your hands upon me,” Walkara said, “for my spirit has gone away from me, and I want it to come back again.” Brigham gave him a blessing, and though Walkara soon appeared to improve, he still refused to speak.28
“Let Walkara have some sleep and rest awhile, and then he may talk perhaps,” Brigham said to the other men in the tent.29 He gave the Utes gifts of cattle, tobacco, and flour, and that night the entire camp feasted.30
The next morning, Brigham blessed Walkara’s daughter, and the company’s doctor administered medicine to her and the other sick people in camp. Brigham then promised to continue his friendship with the Utes and offered to supply them with food and clothes if they promised not to fight. Yet he did not agree to lift the prohibition on the slave trade.31
Walkara agreed to no longer attack the settlers. “We now understand each other,” he said. “All can now go on the road in peace and not be afraid.” The two men shook hands and smoked a peace pipe.32
As Brigham continued south with his party of Church leaders and missionaries, he spoke to settlement after settlement about the Indians.33 “The Lord has told me it is the duty of this people to save the remnants of the house of Israel, who are our brethren,” Brigham told one congregation.
He reminded them that many Saints, before coming west, had prophesied or seen visions of sharing the gospel with Indians and teaching them skills like sewing and farming. But now these same people wanted nothing to do with the Indians. “The time has come,” he declared, “that you will have to carry out that which you have seen years and years ago.”34
After visiting Cedar City, the Saints’ southernmost settlement in the territory, Brigham parted ways with the men headed to the Indian and Hawaiian missions. Returning north, he used his first Sunday home to talk to the women of Salt Lake City about each ward organizing relief societies like Matilda Dudley’s to help clothe Indian women and children.35
Wards in the Salt Lake Valley soon organized more than twenty Indian Relief Societies. The women visited individual homes and asked for donations of cloth or carpet, sewing supplies, and items they could sell for cash.36
Among the missionaries who traveled south with Brigham Young was fifteen-year-old Joseph F. Smith, the youngest son of Hyrum Smith, the martyred patriarch. On the night of May 20, 1854, after Brigham had started for home, Joseph spread a blanket down in Cedar City and stretched out to sleep on the hard ground. He had been on the road all afternoon, traveling through the territory on his way to the California coast. Yet he could not sleep. He looked up at the sky, saw the countless stars of the Milky Way, and felt homesick.
Joseph was the youngest of twenty missionaries going to Hawaii. Although two of his father’s cousins had been called alongside him, he felt cut off from everyone he loved and revered.37 Young men his age were not usually called on missions. Joseph was a special case.
His temper had been “white hot” for almost ten years—ever since his father and uncle had been murdered. And it had only grown hotter as he got older and came to feel that people had not shown proper respect to his mother, Mary Fielding Smith. Joseph believed that she had often been overlooked after her husband’s death, especially during the journey west.38
He remembered how their company captain had complained that Mary and her family would slow down his wagon train. Mary had vowed that she and her family would beat him to the valley, however, and Joseph had wanted to help her keep her vow. Though only nine years old at the time, he drove a wagon, tended cattle, and did whatever his mother asked him to do. In the end, her strong will and faith had brought the family to the valley ahead of the captain, just as she said they would.39
The family settled south of Salt Lake City, and Mary died of a lung infection in the fall of 1852. Joseph had fainted when he learned about her death.40 For a time, he and his younger sister, Martha Ann, lived on a farm with a kind woman, but she died too. Their aunt Mercy Thompson then took care of Martha Ann while apostle George A. Smith, their father’s cousin, took Joseph under his wing.
Joseph also relied on the support of his older siblings. Although his oldest sister, Lovina, had remained in Illinois with her husband and children, his older brother John and his older sisters Jerusha and Sarah lived nearby.
Like many young men his age, Joseph worked as a herdboy, watching over his family’s cattle and sheep.41 But even with this work to occupy him, he soon grew wild and volatile. When he received his mission call, he could have rejected it, as some men did, and followed his anger down another path. But the example of his parents meant too much to him. In a matter of weeks, he was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, endowed, and set apart to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.42
As he lay beneath the stars in Cedar City, he did not know much about where he was going or what to expect when he got there. He was only fifteen, after all. Sometimes he felt strong and important, but other times he sensed his own weakness and insignificance.
What did he know about the world or preaching the gospel?43
A cautious peace settled over Sanpete Valley in the summer of 1854. By then, Augusta Dorius had joined Bishop Reuben Allred and a company of fifteen families in building a fort seven miles north of Manti. Most people in the company were Danes from Spring Town, but a Canadian Saint named Henry Stevens, his wife, Mary Ann, and their four children had gone with them. Henry and Mary Ann had been members of the Church for many years and were among the more recent pioneers to Sanpete Valley.44
Bishop Allred settled the company along a creek near a low mountain ridge. The site appeared ideal for settlement, though fear of attacks by Indians who lived off the land had kept most people away from the area.
The Saints began building their fort immediately. Quarrying limestone from the nearby mountains, they built walls nine feet high with portholes every twenty feet for defense. At the front of the structure, which they named Fort Ephraim, they built a tower and a massive gate where guards could keep a lookout for danger. Inside, the fort was large enough to corral the settlers’ horses, cattle, and sheep during the night. Around the inner walls were houses made of mud and logs for the settlers.
Augusta lived with Bishop Allred and his wife, Lucy Ann. The Allreds had seven children living with them, including Rachel, a young Indian girl they had adopted. Though the Ephraim settlers were poorly equipped, they were hopeful about the future of their new settlement. During the day, the children played in the fort while the women and men worked.45
More than two years had passed since Augusta left Denmark. Many families had taken her in and cared for her, but she wanted a family of her own. At sixteen, she had reached an age at which some women on the frontier married. She had even received a few marriage proposals, but she had felt too young to marry.
Then Henry Stevens proposed to her, and she gave the proposal serious consideration. Some women thrived in plural marriages, but others found the practice difficult and sometimes lonely. Often, those who chose to live the principle did so more out of faith than romantic love. From the pulpit, and in private, Church leaders often counseled those who practiced plural marriage to cultivate selflessness and the pure love of Christ within their homes.46
In Sanpete Valley, about a quarter of the settlers belonged to families who practiced plural marriage.47 As Augusta reflected on the principle, she felt that it was right. Though she barely knew Henry and Mary Ann, who was frail and often sick, she believed they were good people who wanted to care and provide for her. Still, joining their family would be an act of faith.
Augusta ultimately decided to accept Henry’s proposal, and they soon traveled to Salt Lake City to be sealed together in the Council House. When they returned to Fort Ephraim, Augusta took her place among the family. Like most married women, she milked cows; made candles, butter, and cheese; spun wool and wove cloth; and made clothing for the family, sometimes adorning the women’s clothing with fine crochet work.
The family had no stove, so Augusta and Mary Ann did their cooking in the fireplace that also heated and lit their simple home. In the evening, they sometimes attended dances and other activities with their neighbors.48
On September 26, rainfall obscured the Hawaiian Islands from Joseph F. Smith and the other missionaries bound for the port of Honolulu. In the late afternoon, the rains lifted and the sun cut through the mist, revealing a beautiful view of the nearest island. From the deck of the ship, the missionaries could see runoff from the shower cascading down a narrow canyon to the Pacific Ocean.49
The missionaries arrived in Honolulu the following day, and Joseph was sent to the home of Francis and Mary Jane Hammond on the island of Maui. Most of the original missionaries to Hawaii, including George Q. Cannon, had already returned to the United States. Under Francis’s leadership, missionary work continued to thrive on the island, although many Saints were preparing to move to the new gathering place on Lanai, where the Saints had established a settlement in the Palawai Valley.50
Almost as soon as Joseph arrived at the Hammonds’ home, he came down with what the missionaries called “Lahaina fever.” Mary Jane, who operated a school for the Hawaiians while her husband preached, began to nurse Joseph back to health and introduced him to local Church members.51
On October 8, 1854, Joseph’s first Sunday on Maui, she took him to a Sabbath meeting with six Hawaiian Saints. Having heard that Joseph was the nephew of the prophet Joseph Smith, the Saints were anxious to hear him preach. They seemed to have an immediate love for him, even though he could not speak a single sentence to them in their own language.
In the days that followed, Joseph’s health took a turn for the worse. After teaching school, Mary Jane gave Joseph some herbal tea and soaked his feet to try to help his fever break. He sweat through the night, and in the morning he felt better.
Soon Francis gave him a tour of Lanai. It was home to only about a hundred Saints, but the missionaries expected more than a thousand to gather there in the coming months. To prepare for their arrival, some missionaries had begun plowing fields, sowing crops, and plotting a city.52
After his visit to Lanai, Joseph went back to Maui, where Jonathan and Kitty Napela lived. Joseph wanted to be a good missionary, so he dedicated himself to the work, studying the language and meeting often with Hawaiian Saints.
“I am happy to say that I am ready to go through thick and thin for this cause in which I am engaged,” he wrote George A. Smith, “and truly hope and pray that I may prove faithful to the end.”53