Elijah Knapp Fuller, Sr.
FROM AN OCTOGENARIAN.
E.K. Fuller Tells How He Brought Potatoes to Utah.
Early Experience and Trials.--Wife and Three Children in One Grave.
--A Pioneer's Life.
Leeds, Washington Co., Utah,
March 18, 1894.
Editor Deseret News:
I consider myself invited to give a sketch of what took place in my time and travels with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will commence with my father. Although he never heard the Gospel preached by the Latter-day Saints he advocated it and could not join any of the sects of his day. My father, Cornelius Fuller, was born September 14, 1770, in Columbia county, New York. He married Zilpha Knapp, born June 29, 1771; by her he had sixteen children who all lived to marry and have families. My father and my brother Peter Fuller were both in the war of 1812. My father was on the general's staff and held the office of major. He moved west, twenty-five miles from the Hudson river, to Green county, right in the backwoods, where there was no land clear of timber. The timber consisted of hemlock, birch, maple and beech. This all had to be cleared out of the way before a crop could be grown. It was then a barren, sterile, rocky country, with long, cold winters and deep snows. They generally had to feed stock six months. The staple articles of food raised there were rye, buckwheat and potatoes.
I was the fourteenth child in the family and was born in Windham, Green county, New York, June 13, 1811; Married Harriet Loomis of the same place December 20th, 1831. I made a start in life on the farm. The chief articles that would bring money then were hemlock bark and lumber. I believe that not one in twenty of our Utah boys would dare to tackle one of these large trees for the bark. It would take four trees to make one cord of bark, and then it had to be hauled out of the woods so as to get at it with a wagon, and then be hauled twelve miles to get $5 a cord. The lumber, after cutting the logs, hauling them to the saw mill and giving one half for sawing, and hauling the other half twenty miles, would bring $5 per thousand.
I was baptized in May, 1842. I went 130 miles to the city of New York to get an Elder to come and baptize. There were five in the place ready to join the Church. Elder Moses Martin came and baptized us all. I was ordained an Elder and appointed to preside over the branch. Then came the outside pressure of persecution. The Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists were all arrayed against us. The Methodists were the worst persecutors.
The year that Joseph the Prophet had his name on the list to run for President, I lectured in his behalf. The leading politicians in that part of country said his views on government showed him to be a powerful man. When we heard of his and Hyrum's assassination the Saints mourned as though they could not be comforted.
I sold out, and in September, 1844, started with my family to Nauvoo and arrived there in October. I have been with the Church from that day to this. There was a good deal of suffering and privation in Nauvoo the year before we left, such as I have not power to describe. My wife died July 27, 1845, in Nauvoo, aged 31 years; Harriet Francis Fuller, my daughter, died August 9, 1845, aged 9 months; William Henry Fuller, my son, died September 22, 1845, aged 12 years; Mary Lovina Fuller, my daughter, died October 7, 1845, aged 7 years and 7 months. When I left Nauvoo I buried them all in one grave.
President Brigham Young called a meeting of all the members of the Church in the Nauvoo Temple and we made covenants to use our means and do all in our power to help move the people to the far West, but not knowing where we would locate. The people commenced in earnest for the move in building wagons, gathering cattle to haul them, and providing provisions. the main body of the Church left in April and May and traveled in small companies. While they were moving came the requisition from the government for 500 men for the Mexican war. I was asked to go and said I did not feel much like it as I had served seven years. I had a commission as captain. I told Brother Kimball, however, to put my name down and I would go. Later he said if I would let one of my drivers go he would go. The driver's name was Edwin Walker. He could not have gone any further that season had it not been for this opportunity.
When the news came that our brethren who were left in Nauvoo were all driven across the Mississippi river at the point of the bayonet, by the mob, and were in a deplorable condition, a call was made for volunteers to take teams and wagons to go back and aid them. Many responded to the call. I took two teams and brought three families up to the camp of Israel, and then began to fix for winter quarters. I had traveled three times across Iowa. A company called Pioneers was organized to leave early in the spring. They started in April. the main body of the camp was organized in companies of hundreds, fifties and tens, and counseled to start as soon as the grass grew for feed. I was organized in the fifty of which Peregrine Sessions was captain. I was placed in the second ten as captain. In my ten were Father John Smith, John L. Smith, Thomas Callister and Silas and Jesse Smith. We left our winter quarters in May, 1847. There being a good deal of rain the ground became very soft and it was with great difficulty we could move our loaded wagons.
We traveled for over four months and reached the Salt Lake Basin, as it was then called, September 16th, 1847, rejoicing that we had got out of the reach of the mob. I came to Nauvoo in 1844 with three thousand dollars in money and when I arrived in the valley I had only 25 cents left. We were all on the same footing and union and the spirit of the Lord was with us. We went to work and put up houses in Spanish style with flat roofs, but the roofs were a failure; they would not keep the rain out.
Next came another trip of a thousand miles across a vast desert. There was a company fitted up to go to California by the middle route. Father John Smith called on me and asked if I was going with the company. I told him I had talked of it but had given up the idea, as I thought it was too much of an undertaking; he said cattle could be bought cheap and said if I would go they would send a recommend signed by the High Council--that they would be responsible for our acts in whatever cattle we purchased. We fitted out with thirty-five days' of provision as that was thought plenty for the trip, but we were forty-six days on the way. We started the middle of November and got to the first ranch in California the 1st of January. We were nearly out of provisions and had been on half rations. We ate horse and mule flesh, a hawk and a wolf, which was the worst of all. Our outfit consisted of eighteen men. The rancher, a Frenchman named Redon, sent out twenty head of horses to help us into his ranch. 19th two of our men had started ahead from the Mohave. One of them became nearly insane and wanted to turn back, but the other prevailed on him to go on and they got to the ranch and gave notice of our situation.
We soon left for Williams' ranch, ten miles below, what is now called San Bernardino. After we had been there some time we commenced to negotiate with Williams for one or two hundred head of his cattle. His price was six dollars per head for cows and calves. It looked rather dark to him to trust men who had been driven out from the United States and were in a place a thousand miles from civilization. At this juncture we saw Capt. Jesse D. Hunter, and he loaned me two hundred dollars, and I was to pay this amount to his family in Salt Lake in cows at a fair value, which I did. By paying this two hundred and giving our note of one thousand dollars we got two hundred cows and calves. The next thing was to get them across the desert. Two hundred and fifty mile stretches without water, and three from twenty-five to thirty-five miles each with no feed, and sharp gravelly ground to pass over. It took him and his boys to manage them.
We engaged six Indians to help drive the stock. They stayed with us until we got to Salt Lake. We had got out in the Cahoon pass on our back trip when I enquired if any had any potatoes along. No one had and did not know where to get any. One of the Indians said he knew where there were some, but they were small--thirty-five miles distant. I fitted pack animals, took the Indian for a guide and struck on a bee line across the country. We got to a ranch owned by an American, who received us very kindly. I told him I was after some potatoes for seed. He asked where I was going to take them to plant. I told him to the Salt Lake basin. "I'll let you have the potatoes," said he, "but you are fooling yourself. You had better leave your potatoes here. You can't raise any crop there, for I have been there trapping for many a year."
I got between three and four bushels, and the next question was how I could pack them so they would keep from spoiling in going across the desert. I was inspired to use a rawhide that we had just taken from a small creature and cut it in half and make two sacks. This I did and filled them while the hides were green, and when dry they had shrunk so the potatoes were so compact that they would not shake, and they got through all sound. This is what seeded Utah with potatoes. I had about a bushel that I could not get in three rawhide sacks and gave them to the brethren. There was but one of them ever got a sound potato through.
Then we got over on the Mohave, about fifty miles from the ranch, forty-five of our cows got away and went back. We sent to Williams; he did not want to gather them again and endorsed that amount on the note. I have no language to describe the toil, labor and hardship that it took to get those cattle across deserts. When I think of it now it makes me shudder.
I got back the 10th of May, and was offered $100 for one bushel of my potatoes. I refused and said I wanted to have 25 or 30 men plant them. Some who got eight potatoes raised one bushel and a half from them.
While I was gone on this mission Brother John Evrets and wife, who crossed the plains with me as one of my family, sowed five acres to wheat north of City Creek and we raised only twenty-one bushels. We had to pull the most of it by hand. It was the only way we could save it. We knew nothing about irrigation then. We put in ten acres of wheat and corn and a patch of potatoes out on Mill Creek, and the crickets destroyed all the wheat except that we saved six bushels. As for the potatoes, the crickets had eaten the tops off to the ground. Aaron and Lorin Farr proposed to take up the roots and plant them down on the side of the creek where they could keep the crickets off and give me one half of what they could raise. They did so and raised a number of bushels. Having our crops destroyed by the crickets caused a good deal of suffering those two years.
I was one of the minute men commanded by Colonel Wm. Kimball to guard against and subdue the Indians, and was out on several excursions; at one time we were out three months. I went with the late President John Taylor to New York City to assist in publishing the paper called The Mormon. This was in the year 1854. I went to Uintah valley on an exploring tour with Jesse W. Fox and others, and to the Los Vegas, New Mexico, in 1856. I was called in 1861 to go to Dixie, which was the last but not the least. I have spent thirty-two years on this mission. Since I joined this Church I have owned and lived in sixteen different houses and reared nearly thirty children, the youngest three years old.
ELIJAH K. FULLER.
--Journal History of the [LDS] Church, 1894 Mar 18 p.4-5
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