Rochester, 21 Apr 1841:

Other Voyage Accounts:

Journal of Wilford Woodruff


. . . Truly the Lord hath been good unto us all during this mission & given us all things we needed for which blessings I feel offer up the gratitude of my heart to my Heavenly Father.

Seven of the Twelve with 120 Saints & 160 other about 280 in all got our baggage on board of the ship to set sail, but the wind being contrary we staid on shore.

20th April 1841 I went on board of the ship Rochester in the morning in company with Elders B. [Brigham] Young, H. [Heber] C. Kimball, O. [Orson] Pratt, W. [Willard] Richards, W. [Wilford] Woodruff, J. [John] Taylor & G. [George] A. Smith of the Twelve. R. [Reuben] Hedlock High priest 120 Saints, 160 of the world 20 of the crew, 2 mates (porter & steward) Captain Woodhouse, 1 carpenter, 1 cook, 2 stewards asking 307 souls in all. We took the parting had with Elders P. [Parley] P. Pratt & O. [Orson Hyde] Hide & a multitude of Saints who stood upon the dock or quay to see us start. [p.92]

We drew out into the River Mercy & cast anchor in sight of Liverpool & spent the day & night. It was with some difficulty that we could get the baggage stowed away so that we could make our beds. However we lay down & slept well.

21st Wednesday The wind is favorable & we are all very busy in nailing down & lashing our baggage to prepare for sea. The anchor was hauled up & sails spread at 12 o’clock & started on our voyage.* * We had a good breeze through the day but most all the passengers were seasick & stacked up in heaves & vomiting at a dreadful rate.

We had a room built for our quorum in the second cabin. The second cabin was mostly occupied by the Saints the steerage by other passengers. Fare was £3.15. We were allowed the privilege of the aft quarter deck. The Rochester is a fast sailing vessel of about 1,000 tons.

We passed by all the ships that went out of Liverpool at the time we did. Among the number was the “Oxford” of the line the one that we sailed to England in 1840.

22nd We arose quite weak by vomiting & sickness. It is a pleasant morning. We are nearly out of sight of land but 10 sail are in sight of us. I went among the sick passengers & got them out of their births on deck to take the air. Elder G. [George] A. Smith was quite sick with a severe cough through the night.

23rd Cloudy & some rain. Contrary winds.

24th It commenced at midnight to blow a gale. All head wind. It blew away our fore topsail. We were all dreadful seasick. I could not get out of my berths all day. It was a distressing time to us all.

25th Sea mountains. High head winds. Ship [p.93] rocking & pitching dreadfully. All seasick. I spent some of the day on deck. I was faint. I only eat two baked potatoes in two days & that I soon vomited up. I spent a sick night which was the case with most of us Sunday.

26th Monday We got a little food in our stomachs & got on deck. Vary feeble in body. I never felt worse in any sickness. Was thankful that my wife & children was not with me to share in such sufferings.

The sun is pleasant today. We have still west head winds & rough sea. There has been some fears that several children would die on board being vary sick. We got together & prayed the Lord to have mercy upon us all & spare the lives of our company, & the sick began to amend. Truly we have perils by sea as well as by land.

*Two years ago this day the Twelve held their conference on the building spot of the house of the Lord in the city Far West on which occasion I was ordained to the quorum of the Twelve in company with G. [George] A. Smith & we started on that day to take our foreign mission & thank God we are now on our return home & are still alive & through the mercy of God are like to live. * * We had a still night.

27th Wind {W} still blows. The Saints are some better. The Twelve are generally well & very patient well united & agree in all things & love one another. I visited the sick & got them on deck.

28th This was a day that caused many mixed sensations of pleasure & pain grandeur & solemnity hope & fear to many. To me it was a day that satisfied mine eyes in many respects.

When we arose in the morning we still found strong head winds which soon increased to a great storm & tempest which scenery I have not language to describe. The sails were close reefed or taken in as soon as possible. It took 16 men to close reef [p.94] the main top sail. The tempest was now raging with all power the sea piling up into mountains, the ship mountain the waves & billows & pitching into the valleys & rocking tremendously & shipping seas occasionally.

In the midst of this scenery the cry of help was herd in our cabin. I rushed to the scene & found the ropes giving way & breaking which held the whole mass of baggage which was piled up between decks, consisting of heavy trunks, chests, boxes & barrels which if once liberated from their Confinement would with one surge be hurled with all their force into the births of the men, women, & Children which would endanger the lives of all.

On seeing the foundation of this mass give way Elder W. [Willard] Richards & myself sprang to this place of danger & braced ourselves against the barrels & held them for a few moments until it was a little secured. I then went on deck to the captain & informed him of the situation of things below & he sent the sailors with some ropes & secured the pile which was endangering the lives of many.

After this was done I again repaired to the aft quarter deck to behold the raging of the tempest & the wonders of the deep & the movements of the ship which was the greatest scenery I ever beheld upon the water. Elders Young, Kimball, Richard’s & Smith was with me on deck for a time but all had now gone below except Elder Richards & myself & the officers & crew. We were shipping heavy seas.

It was now about sunset. I stood in the middle of the aft quarter deck holding the captains speaking trumpet in one hand & holding to a fast bench with the other when we shipped a tremendous sea on the windward side of us which passed clear over the quarter deck on which I stood. On seeing that we could not escape it Elder Richards flung himself close under the bulwarks & the body of the wave went clear over him without wetting him but little. But as I could not take the same advantage I flung myself upon the deck & held upon the fast [p.95] seat where I remained until the sea passed over me & left me drenched in the surge.

I now thought it time for me to leave my seat of observation for the day & go below as I was thoroughly wet with salt water. I went to bed but did not sleep but little for the ship rocked at a dreadful rate. Boxes, barrels, & times were tumbling from one end of the cabin to the other. And in the steerage about 15 births were flung down 9 at one surge with all the men women & children flung into a pile in the midst of the berths but no lives lost or bones broken. This is the 8th day in succession that we have had strong headwind.

April 29th Sea very rough after the gale. The sun shines pleasant, & we have a fair wind for the first time since we left Liverpool. We sail 10 knots an hour. There is one sail in sight of us. A pleasant evening wind aft. Nearly all the canvass spread. I had a good nights rest.

30. A fine breeze from northeast. Sail 10 knot an hour. Fears were entertained that the ship was on fire as smoke arose from the holes but it was found to come from the cook shop. I was requested to carry the dishes to the cook so I got my hands full of dishes of various kinds & I just as I stepped to the door of the cook house the ship gave a dreadful surge & rocked so that she lay upon her side with her stud sails in the water. This unexpected surge plunged me head foremost about 10 feet the whole breadth of the cook shop against the side of the cook room with the cook [on] top of me. As this was my first introduction to the cook since I had been at sea I begged his pardon for such an abrupt entrance, & withdrew leaving the cook with three smashed fingers (caused by trying to save me in the fall) to pick up my dishes at leisure which were scattered from one end to the other of his shop. I hope it will be a long time before I shall pay the cook a similar visit. [p.96]

We sail exceeding fine & have now for 3 days. The passengers are over their seasickness & feel cheerful.

May 1st A fine beautiful pleasant May’s morning. A fair northeast wind or light breeze. Water smooth. We have 19 pieces of canvass spread. A jib, flying gib 8 pieces upon the foremast 5 upon the main mast & 4 upon the mizzen mast including the spanker. It was truly a beautiful sight. There is two sail in sight. We sail 12 knot an hour. We feel well & are much prospered.

2nd A strong {N} favorable wind. Some cloudy. We sail 12 knot an hour. We overtook & passed a brig to the windward of us. We sailed nearly 2 miles to her one. We saw a fin back whale come out of water several times about 20 rods from the ship. We are drawing near the banks of Newfoundland. Sunday.

3rd Cloudy. We have a calm but sail about 3 knots an hour. In the evening a good wind northeast. Sail 12 knots an hour.

4th A clear serene May’s morning, the most pleasant we have had on the voyage. The water almost perfectly smooth. A calm. Hardly air enough to move a sail. The captain sounded for bottom but could not find it. We are spending the time pleasantly. The captain took the names, ages, & occupations of each passenger in order to make out a correct entry when he arrives in port.

5th We have a warm pleasant morning but almost a dead calm. We sail about 2 knot an hour. They sounded but could not find bottom. We saw a large school of porpoises to the north of us.

Elder Peter Maughan lost a child this morning 6 weeks old. His wife died a short time before he set sail. The body of this child was committed to a [p.97] watery grave by sewing it up in a cloth tying a stone to it & sinking it in the sea on the banks of Newfoundland in latitude 42.25 longitude 50.10.

We had a very chilly fog in the evening.

6th The wind has changed to the {south west}. We have a light breeze. Sail 8 knot an hour. We passed a full rigged ship in the evening. Wind Changed to the northeast. Sail 12 knot an hour. All the Saints on board are well except Sister Richards who is still feeble. We enjoy ourselves well. We sing & pray with the Saints morning & evening. I never enjoyed myself better with the Twelve than about these days. Union prevails among us & we dwell together in love.

7th Wind southwest head wind. It is still vary foggy. We are in latitude 42 longitude 55 making 3 hours 28 min from Liverpool making 945 miles still to sail to New York 810 geographical miles.

A vary hard storm arose in the evening from the southwest The Sails were taken in. The heavens gathered blackness, the sea rolled into mountains, & the captain looked wild. In the midst of this there was a fight between the cook & the Irish, which was stopped by the first mate who interfered. We had the roughest night at sea which we have seen since we have been on the voyage. The spars & other things were afloat on the main deck.

8th Fair weather but high head winds from the southwest. Sea rough. We shipped some heavy seas. One sail in sight. The captain had his hat blown into the sea while taking observations with his quadrant. We have passed two sail today.

I had a long conversation with the second mate in the evening whose name was Steward. He gave me a rehearsal of his sea faring life for 20 years which was interesting. He had sailed twice around the world been within 14 degrees of the south pole, had had his vessel blockaded by floating mountains of [p.98] ice nearly a mile high for many days, which icebergs frequently come in contact with each other which makes a report like an earthquake or peels of thunder. He has crossed the pacific several times visited the East Indies & China & says in all his sailing he has never found a worse sea or ocean for storm than the Atlantic, in the Liverpool & New York trade. After conversing several hours I retired to my berth & had a good nights rest.

9th Sunday Strong north wind. Very Cold. Sail 12 not an hour towards New York. The coldest day we had on the voyage. The wind went down with the sun. I walked the deck in the evening with O. [Orson] Pratt & conversed about many things among which was the subject of the death of Elder David W. Patten & writing a history of his life. We are within 15 degrees of Long [POSSIBLY LONG ISLAND] of New York.

10th A fine pleasant morning but a calm. We paid our cook bill to day which was £0.10 half a sovereign each. I paid Elder Young £1.10 and Elder Kimball £2.8 shillings which made a settlement of all our affairs.

Elders Kimball, O. [Orson] Pratt & myself undertook to climb the rigging of the ship. Elders Kimball & O. [Orson] Pratt went up to the round top of the main mast about 50 feet & returned. I climbed over the round top & went up to the main top gallant sail about 100 feet from the upper deck which was the top of the rope ladders. I could go no higher without climbing a single bare rope so I returned to the deck. I found it required some presence of mind & caution to go up & down the rigging of a ship as she was waving in the air. We had a calm night.

11th A strong west head wind but warm. We sail 9 not an hour to the north. We passed a full rigged ship standing the same way that we were. We have sailed by every ship that we have some in sight of since we left Liverpool. [p.99]

12th Still head wind. Fair weather but cool. We passed by a ship this morning. Ho!!! Ho!!! Captain Woodhouse proclaims land in sight over our windward stern in the north west which proved to be Cape Sables of Nova Scotia Coast of Halifax. We soon saw it with the naked eye. This is 21 days sailing.

13th A perfect dead calm. Sea smooth still cloudy. We had head wind in the evening.

14th A calm. We are perfectly still. I commenced reading the History of England by the rev John Adams AM 1803. We are in Latitude 41, Longitude 67 from Greenwich & 7 from New York being 365 miles from New York.

15th A pleasant morning. A light breeze from the southwest Sea perfectly smooth. We sail 4 not an hour. We saw a school of Mackerel. I walked the deck in a calm Serene evening & had some pleasant meditations concerning the past, present, & future.

16th Sunday A light west Breeze. Sail 4 not an hour. We saw a top sail schooner to the east of us probably going to Boston. We sounded & found bottom in about 20 fathoms on Nantucket Soundings. Sail 8 not in the evening.

17th A strong west head wind. Run 8 knot an hour to the northwest We are now getting into great danger of shoals & bottoms as wind is against us we can only about hold our own. The sea is much chopped this morning. Appears some like Lake Erie.

We came in full view of Long Island at about 3 o’clock p.m. A pilot boat hove in sight & made for us. About the same time a French sail to the leeward of us raised her flag & made for the pilot boat. We took our pilot on board at 4 o’clock. We soon came in sight of 5 sail. We kept in sight of Long Island during the evening. Our pilot informed us that he had not heard from the “Oxford” or any ship that left Liverpool at the time we did & even for several days before. So we had made the best voyage [p.100] of any at this time of sailing. We had not heard from the steamship “President” but expected she was Lost. Wind went down in the evening.

18th A strong northwest wind. Sail 9 knot an hour. No land in sight. I had the perusal of a New York paper which informed us of the death of General Harrison, President of the U.S.A. He Died on the 4th April 1841 just a month after taking the Presidential Chair. This is the first president that has died in the U.S.A. while filling that office.

We came in full view of the Jersey shore & 10 or 15 sail in the afternoon. I felt to rejoice to once more behold the America shore my native country after being absent from it 16 months. We had a view of Barnagar Lighthouse as we passed along.

19th I went on deck at 4 o’clock in the morning to see them go through. We had head wind & had to beat through which made it dangerous. We passed through the hook. Run into a fishing smack. Came near sinking her with all on board. We had a view of the horse shoe and all the light houses as we passed along we saw 50 fishing smack waiting for bait. We raised our flag on the top of the main mast. Having head wind we could not run in. We got within 4 miles of the quarantine ground & cast anchor at 11 o’clock.

A steam boat came along side & took the Liverpool papers containing the latest news. The editor paid $45 dollars for the steam boat to bring him down to the ship to get the news.

We have been 29 days from Liverpool to our casting anchor this morning. We raised our anchor in the afternoon & went in with the tide on to the quarantine ground & again dropped our anchor.

The physician came on board searched the passengers & found them well. But we shall be quarantined until tomorrow. Now is the time we need much patience & long suffering in bearing one with another in taking our baggage going through the [p.101] custom house & getting settled in New York. The captain went onshore at night.

20th Warm pleasant weather. We commenced early in the morning getting our baggage on deck. Passengers went to washing & cleaning up. It was a very busy time. There was a fight between the carpenter & second made which was ended by the first mate who bruised the carpenters head badly by striking him with a junk bottle.

Two quarantine lighters Came along side of the Rochester & took off all the passengers & baggage & took us all to the custom house. Here we had to unload all the baggage which were examined by the custom house officer & out of 300 passengers we were not charged duty for the first article.

We had to load every thing again on board of the lighters who took us to New York City & when we arrived at the docks we found them covered with horses & drays & about 50 drayman who stood ready to leap on board & devour all our baggage & because we were not willing to have our things stolen from us & be defrauded out of our rights but felt disposed to do our own business without being forced to measures by carman. They cursed & swore at a dreadful rate & appeared more like cannibals than civilized men. But after much trouble & difficulty we got our good out of the lighters & loaded them on to drays & constantly had to keep a guard over them to keep them from being stolen. We were until 10 o’clock at night getting off the docks to an inn, where we spent the night.

I was the nearest tired to death by fatigue & labor that I ever was in my life, for I was continually loading & unloading boxes chests, barrels & trunks from sunrise until 10 o’clock at night, without eating or drinking.

I took a hearty supper about midnight & lay down in a room where there was two children expected to die hourly. I did not sleep a moment. Arose in the morning & again commenced carting baggage.

I truly felt to rejoice to once more step upon [p.102] our native shore. I thank God for sparing my life & giving me such a blessing. We spent the night at the Battery Pavilion. Distance from Liverpool to New York is {3,500 miles}.

[May] 21st We paid our bill & took locations in different parts of the city. Elder George A. Smith & myself took up our abode with Elder L. R. Foster who appeared glad to see us & made us welcome. I also was privileged with an interview with Messrs Ezra & Ilus Carter my brothers-in-law also Dr. Charles Fabyan. I send a bundle to Phebe by Ezra Carter. I was truly glad to see the face of my friends & the Saints once more. . . . [p.103] [ELDER WOODRUFF SPENT THE NEXT FEW MONTHS MEETING WITH THE EASTERN SAINTS AND VISITING WITH HIS FAMILY, BEFORE PROCEEDING ON TO NAUVOO.]


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