University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


collapse section 
1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




MR. STREET was very busy with his telegraphic matters
—and considering that he had eight or nine hundred
miles of rugged, snowy, uninhabited mountains, and waterless,
treeless, melancholy deserts to traverse with his wire, it was
natural and needful that he should be as busy as possible. He
could not go comfortably along and cut his poles by the roadside,
either, but they had to be hauled by ox teams across
those exhausting deserts—and it was two days' journey from
water to water, in one or two of them. Mr. Street's contract
was a vast work, every way one looked at it; and yet to comprehend
what the vague words “eight hundred miles of rugged
mountains and dismal deserts” mean, one must go over
the ground in person—pen and ink descriptions cannot convey
the dreary reality to the reader. And after all, Mr. S.'s
mightiest difficulty turned out to be one which he had never
taken into the account at all. Unto Mormons he had sub-let
the hardest and heaviest half of his great undertaking, and all
of a sudden they concluded that they were going to make
little or nothing, and so they tranquilly threw their poles
overboard in mountain or desert, just as it happened when
they took the notion, and drove home and went about their
customary business! They were under written contract to
Mr. Street, but they did not care anything for that. They
said they would “admire” to see a “Gentile” force a Mormon
to fulfil a losing contract in Utah! And they made themselves


Page 115
very merry over the matter. Street said—for it was he
that told us these things:

“I was in dismay. I was under heavy bonds to complete
my contract in a given time, and this disaster looked very
much like ruin. It was an astounding thing; it was such a
wholly unlooked-for difficulty, that I was entirely nonplussed.
I am a business man—have always been a business man—do
not know anything but business—and so you can imagine how
like being struck by lightning it was to find myself in a country
where written contracts were worthless!—that main security,
that sheet-anchor, that absolute necessity, of business. My
confidence left me. There was no use in making new contracts—that
was plain. I talked with first one prominent
citizen and then another. They all sympathized with me, first
rate, but they did not know how to help me. But at last a
Gentile said, `Go to Brigham Young!—these small fry cannot
do you any good.' I did not think much of the idea, for if
the law could not help me, what could an individual do who
had not even anything to do with either making the laws or
executing them? He might be a very good patriarch of a
church and preacher in its tabernacle, but something sterner
than religion and moral suasion was needed to handle a hundred
refractory, half-civilized sub-contractors. But what was
a man to do? I thought if Mr. Young could not do anything
else, he might probably be able to give me some advice and a
valuable hint or two, and so I went straight to him and laid
the whole case before him. He said very little, but he showed
strong interest all the way through. He examined all the
papers in detail, and whenever there seemed anything like a
hitch, either in the papers or my statement, he would go back
and take up the thread and follow it patiently out to an intelligent
and satisfactory result. Then he made a list of the
contractors' names. Finally he said:

“`Mr. Street, this is all perfectly plain. These contracts
are strictly and legally drawn, and are duly signed and certified.
These men manifestly entered into them with their eyes
open. I see no fault or flaw anywhere.'

“Then Mr. Young turned to a man waiting at the other


Page 116


[Description: 504EAF. Page 116. In-line image of a group of men negotiating around a desk placed next to a window. The man sitting at the desk has a piece of paper in his hand.]
end of the room and said: `Take this list of names to So-and-so,
and tell him to have these men here at such-and-such an

“They were there, to the minute. So was I. Mr. Young
asked them a number of questions, and their answers made
my statement good. Then he said to them:

“`You signed these contracts and assumed these obligations
of your own free will and accord?'


“`Then carry them out to the letter, if it makes paupers of
you! Go!'

“And they did go, too! They are strung across the deserts
now, working like bees. And I never hear a word out
of them. There is a batch of governors, and judges, and other
officials here, shipped from Washington, and they maintain
the semblance of a republican form of government—but the


Page 117


[Description: 504EAF. Page 117. In-line image of a gathered group of peope. In the front there are two old hags next to a man with a hankie over his face.]
petrified truth is that Utah is an absolute monarchy and Brigham
Young is king!”

Mr. Street was a fine man, and I believe his story. I
knew him well during several years afterward in San Francisco.

Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days,
and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition
into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual
statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention
of the nation at large once more to the matter. I had the
will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was
feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform
here—until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched.
My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these


Page 118
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 504EAF. Page 118. Tail-piece image of a woman in white standing next to an altar, with an image of a leaf on her apron.] poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I
turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said,
“No—the man that marries one of them has done an act of
Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause
of mankind, not their harsh censure—and the man that marries
sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity
so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his
presence and worship in silence.”[1]


For a brief sketch of Mormon history, and the noted Mountain Meadow
massacre, see Appendices A and B.