Elder Payne's Account of the Immigrants' Trip
A Deseret News representative has had a conversation with Elder William P. Payne, of Fillmore, Millard County, who had charge of the company of immigrants which arrived in Salt Lake City on the 20th ultimo. He left on his mission to Great Britain, May 3, 1888, and on his arrival at Liverpool was assigned to labor in the London Conference, as traveling elder. He remained in that conference during his whole mission, and met with good [p.643] success in his labors...Elder Payne says he never enjoyed himself better in his life, and when his health began to fail and it was suggested that he should return home, he made a strong objection. He grew still more feeble, but was still averse to leaving the field. A severe attack of inflammation of the lungs came on, and the presiding authorities considered it imperative that he should leave the damp English climate before winter came on. He was accordingly released. Brother Payne gives the following account of the trip from Liverpool to Utah:
We left Liverpool on August 31, and from thence to Queenstown the ocean was as smooth as glass. We stopped at Queenstown about three and a half hours, waiting for the mails. Here the wind arose, and kept getting stronger. When we reached mid-ocean the ship began to roll badly, though the swell on the water was not at first very considerable. Presently, however, it reached such an extent that the waves swept over the deck. Many seasick passengers were at this time either sitting or lying upon it. I shouted to the members of our company that they must go below, and those who were unable to do so were rendered assistance. Before they could get cleared away, however, a huge wave had dashed over the sides of the vessel, causing the utmost consternation and drenching some of the passengers. After the elapse of an hour or so the sea again became calm, but next day the waves raised once more, accompanied by a high wind, rendering it impossible to stand upon the deck. For five or six hours there was another lull, but after that the ocean became as rough as ever, and so continued until the arrival at Sandy Hook. Fortunately, however, the Wisconsin escaped almost entirely the fury of the gale which pervaded along the Atlantic Coast.
Sandy Hook was reached about three o'clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 11th, but the water was so dangerously rough at this time that no pilot would venture out, and the Wisconsin was compelled to lay at anchor until next morning, drifting around the lighthouse, and occasionally tossing about in a most unpleasant fashion. Indeed a large number of passengers - more especially the women and children - were so terrified that they preferred to walk the cabins during the greater part of the night instead of going to bed, the frequent blowing of the fog-horn by no means lessening their terror.
Morning at length came, still the waters raged violently and still no pilot could be seen. Three other vessels were now awaiting that anxiously-looked-for guide.
Towards eleven o'clock a.m. a boat was lowered from the Wisconsins side and a crew of six men started out on the tossing sea, now and again being almost lost to view amid the angry waves. This frail craft was making for an outward bound steamer, off which the pilot was taken and rowed to the Wisconsin. Having been put on board, the vessel headed for New York Harbor, where it safely landed us about three o'clock in the afternoon. Having remained on board all night, we were met next morning by Mr. Gibson, agent of the Guion Line, and by him treated with every courtesy.
The same afternoon we proceeded to the Old Dominion Docks, took up our abode there for the night, and on the following day, at 2:30 p.m. set sail for Norfolk [Virginia]. The voyage was an extremely pleasant one, and we were treated handsomely. The journey from New York to Norfolk occupied some twenty-four hours.
It was raining heavily when we started from Norfolk, and so continued during the remainder of the day. The streams of water began to increase rapidly in volume until midnight, when we reached the stone bridge at which the unfortunate accident occurred, four miles east of Lynchburg, Virginia.
Questioned as to this catastrophe, Elder Payne proceeded to say: The engine and tender, after passing over the bridge, were thrown from the track on to their sides, and completely wrecked. The engine lay about sixty [p.644] feet from the track, the tender about thirty feet, and the baggage car forty. The last named was wholly demolished, while the baggage was literally crushed to pieces. The first coach struck the opposite abutment of the bridge, the coach wheeling around and dropping upon its side on the bed of the creek, some thirty feet below. Three of its four sides were mashed up, and the passengers within were violently thrown upon each other in a huddled mass, the seats, racks, luggage, broken glass, etc., being piled upon them. One of the sisters, Mary Evans, aged 32, had her shoulder blade broken; Catherine Evans, her daughter, aged 11, had her leg badly bruised; Margaret Lewis, 22, sustained a similar injury, as did also Sarah Hills, 36, whose foot was likewise hurt; and Frederick Holton, 59, received an injury to the back.
The next car came in contact with the upper portion of the abutment of the stone bridge, jerking the inmates into the fore-end of the car, which had dropped to an angle of some 60 degrees. Adeline Allen, 24, had her left arm broken near the shoulder; Elder L. H. Durant [Durrant] met with a severe bruise on the left leg; some few others escaped with slight abrasions. The third coach remained on the rails.
The conductor of the train, who was very much excited, shouted to the occupants of the third car to get out as quick as possible, stating that all the people in the first coach had been killed. This announcement, for a few moments, created a great sensation, men, women, and children - most of them but partially dressed- hastily quitting the car. The rain was now pouring down heavily, and some of the unfortunate passengers were up to their waist in water.
Among the first to alight from the third car was Elder Payne, who, in company with Elder [W. C.] Farnsworth, made immediately for the first car. Not hearing a sound within, Elder Payne picked up a piece of timber which was lying on the ground and broke in one of the windows. Thinking in the darkness - for it was midnight - that another catastrophe had befallen them, the affrighted ones shrieked out, but were soon reassured.
Elder Davies [Thomas B. Davis], who had charge of the third coach, lost no time after this in obtaining a light, and to the anxious inquiry of Elder Payne as to whether anyone was killed came a welcome answer in the negative. The door of the car was broken down and the prisoners were released from their trying position. The glad intelligence that no lives had been lost soon ran around, and greatly comforted the whole number of the Saints.
It was at first feared that the baggage master, brakesmen, and fireman had perished in the wreck, but happily all anxiety on this score was soon set at rest.
The conductor, directly the accident happened, ran and turned the signals against an approaching train.
The whole of the passengers having alighted, they were obliged to remain out for upwards of two hours, exposed to the elements, many of the women and children being without even shoes and stockings. These, together with wraps and other articles of clothing, had been left in the wrecked cars. Strange to say, however, not one of the company caught the slightest cold.
The injured were taken every possible care of until their removal elsewhere could be arranged for. Shelter was provided for them at three or four houses adjacent to the scene of the accident, the occupants of the premises giving them every assistance within their power, and preparing food for those in need.
Meanwhile a special train had been telegraphed for to convey the immigrants westward. Upon its arrival the baggage, or what remained of it, was transferred from the wrecked cars, a hundred or more Negroes and others aiding in the work. Up to this time the baggage, in consequence of its damaged condition, had been under the charge of two men especially deputed to watch over it. The necessary arrangements completed the train started upon its journey. Elder Durant [ L. H. Durrant] and Adeline Allen, two of the injured, having been seen by a medical man, were left behind at one of the dwellings before referred to, under the watchful care of Elder John Shelton and Patience Bennett.
But yet another trouble was in [p.645] store for the unfortunate immigrants. Just before they arrived at Memphis, Tennessee, they were run into by another train, which had the effect of throwing the end car off the track. Though it was very full of passengers, yet strange to say not one of them was injured. Mrs. Wheeler, an elderly lady, was jerked from her seat, but in no way hurt. This caused a further delay of quite three hours; but, after all, the detention proved fortunate as it afterwards transpired that shortly before a washout had occurred in several places ahead, and had the train proceeded uninterruptedly on its way serious consequences might have ensued. When the collision happened the immigrant train was going very slowly, but the other one was moving along at a good rate. The occupants of the damaged car were transferred to another which had been brought up from Memphis, upon reaching which place the entire company changed cars and transference of baggage was again made.
Upon reaching Kansas City we were met by Mr. Hendershot, who did all that lay in his power for our comfort.
From Norfolk to Memphis and again from Memphis to Kansas City we were provided with wretched cars; indeed they were hardly fit for cattle to ride in; while from Kansas City to the end of our destination the cars placed at our disposal were of the most comfortable description. The conductors throughout the entire journey treated us with every kindness and consideration.
Safe at Pueblo, we fully hoped that we had come to the close of our adventures; but not so. Near Castle Gate Station, in Castle Gate Canyon, the engine became disabled and we were detained for about six hours and a half, which seemed to drag very heavily, as we made up our minds to be in Provo fully two hours before we left our camp. Finally an engine came to our relief and we were soon at P. V. Junction, where all those who booked for that place left us, and were met by their friends and conducted to their final destination.
We had not left P. V. Junction long before we came to another stop, waiting for another train. The wait was long and tedious, and on inquiry we learned that the wires were down and we could not get orders through.
By and by another start was made, and the remainder of the journey proved uneventful, the company landing safely and well, though tried and weary, in Salt Lake City. The entire trip from Liverpool occupied twenty-one days, and the experiences of that journey I shall never forget.
Elder Payne, on behalf of the Saints, presented the captain of the Wisconsin with an address before the party quitted the ship, thanking him and his officers for their kindness during the ocean voyage. This the captain suitably acknowledged.
A letter from Lynchburg has been received by Elder Payne, since his arrival here, stating that Elder Durant [L. H. Durrant] and Sister [Adeline] Allen are progressing satisfactorily. [p.646]
BIB: From England to Utah, The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 51:41, (Oct. 14, 1889) pp. 643-46. (HDL)