About twenty years ago, I acquired from a non-Church member friend back East, President Brigham Young’s only known letter he wrote during the final trek of the Vanguard Company to Utah in the Spring of 1847. Unlike so many of his surviving letters, Brother Brigham did not use a scribe in writing this letter on the Plains, which was addressed to be delivered to his wife, Mary A. Young who was then at Winter Quarters with their young children.
Obviously, while leading the final Vanguard Company, he had very little time to write letters. In fact, he started writing his letter on April 20, 1847, and didn’t finish it until May 4, 1847. Brigham was famous for his use of phonetic spelling. If it sounded right, it was spelled right. Sometimes, I think that should still be the rule!
9 O’clock P.M.
April 20 1847
Pioneer Camp of Israel 95 miles from winter quarters
My Dear Companion pardner in Tribulation. I should have writen to you by Br Rockwood but had not time. The Camp was to be organized and a grate deal to be done to prepare for mooving. On Sunday I should have writen but did not feel able to. I lade abed and thought of a gratedeal I should like to say to you. The Camp is in good helth and first rate Spirits. They have never felt better in there lives. I think my helth has verry much improved yesterday and today. You menshend in your letter that you herd I lay on the ground the night I left home. I did but due not think it hurt me. but when I arived in Camp I found found my self complety tired out. I thank you a thousand times for your kind letters to me more especely for your kind acts and still more for your kind hart. I pray for you and the children continualy and for all of our famely. I due think the Lord has blest me with one of best familyes that eney man ever had on the Earth. I due hope the children will be good and mind there mother when I am gon. My son Joseph you must goe away from home, and Brigham also must stay at home how due supose I would feele when I come home and find one of my children destroyed by the Indens. I pray this may not be the case. You menshon there is a grate meney cold for money. I due not want you to pay eney of my debts till I come back. I made arangements with Br Whitney to pay all that I wish paid. due you make you self comfortable and let other folks due so to.
May 4 – 1847 a bout 20 M above the head of grand Island. this morning we have a chance to send a letters to Sarpec(?)- by some traders. I want to wright a long letter but have not time. We are all perty well at present though my labour has bin verry hard for me on the jorney. I pray for you continualy. the pauness have watched us close and have watched them but they have got 2 of our horses Brs Richards & Littles. our cattle standest well. Edmond wants I should say a word to Elizabeth for him Edward has been sick but is now well & in good spirits. John Green wants Ch (torn away) to bring the things that could come sent to him for he thinks he shall not goe back. we stop every sabath and have a day of rest. the Lord has blest us in all things for which we are thankful. I am glad you are not a going to come on this Sumer for I want to be with my famely when they come this journey. on Saterday last we saw buffalow for the first time they went on a chase after them the got 4 old ones and 5 calfs which has made us plenty of meat. if this letter reches there befor the next company starts they had better fetch the 3 canon that are there. Keep up a thurer gard every night tie there horses night keep the cattle close. we shall have to cross the platt River here on the account of feed the praire is all burnt over on the north side of the River the Pauneas have gone a head of us and burnt . the next company had better keep up on the north side I think it is a good rout for us here after. I want to bretheren to help my famely whilstt I am gon and not supress them. Joseph and Brigham be good Boys and mind your mother and Alis Caroline little Jayne and finely all my children and famely be you Blest for ever and ever.
Mary A. Young
Brigham Young’s love for his wife and children is very apparent in this letter. Also, his decision for the Saints to pass on the north side of the Platt River, taking their chances with the Native Americans (the Lamanites) rather than travelling on the south side where their enemies from Missouri and Illinois were passing West, became historic: “…the next company had better keep up on the North side I think it is a good rout for us here after.”
I believe this rare handwritten letter to his wife is a real treasure and a tribute to the Great Colonizer of the American West, President Brigham Young.