Ever wonder where & how your ancestors were living - those who paved the roads for us and made our present lives better.


 ANCESTOR STORIES 
 

           
 


PRESTON THOMAS STORY (1814-1877)
Excerpts from book...

 

 "FIRST MISSIONS"

January 1, 1849.... The new year has opened upon us and a beautiful day it was.   The old year is gone  with its events and cares, and it has been a year of commotion among nations.  It has been a year in which I have toiled much.   During the early part of it I took a long mission with Brother Amos  A. Lyman through the Southern States, and I returned home to Council Bluffs early in the spring and moved my family from Winter Quarters east side to the Missouri River and then made a fine crop by the blessing of God and now here I am in Texas.

During the forenoon of this day, we had a long interview with Elder Wight in which it was evident that he was alienated in feeling from his brethren of the Twelve, and he said many hard things of them, yet he would not express himself with any kind of freedom and when hardly pressed by us concerning some passages in his pamphlet, he would try to equivocate and put entirely a different construction upon them from the ideas the passages would naturally convey.  one passage in particular, where he defies earth, hell, aspirants or bigots or anyone else to take away from him the station he holds and appeals to all them of like ordination with himself if they have power to remove him from this place. 


When his attention was called to this passage, he said the language here used showed nothing in it which meant the Twelve....if they considered themselves aspirants or bigots, then he meant it. And so he went on for some time praising the passage and trying to distort it and show something else was meant by it.  At length, looking him straight in the face I asked him,

"Elder Wight, did you or did you not mean the Twelve when you penned this passage?'   He replied that he considered the Twelve of Heaven and not of earth and therefore, he could not of meant them. Then Elder Martindale called his attention of the passage, "like all things else this seems to be reversed in the last days."  this passage had reference to a sentence in the epistle of the Twelve which says, "The rich are required to help the poor to gather up, but may require them to pay them back again if they choose."   To this passage he acknowledged to, without trying to distort it, but he was perfectly cornered.  Towards the close of this conversation, he made some bitter remarks about Elder Hyde. 

He said he wanted none of his fellowship and he wanted us to tell the people when we returned that he  wanted the fellowship of no one who would fellowship President Orson Hyde or W. W. Phelps of who he spoke many bitter things.   He then read from the Times & Season's Newspaper an extract from  President Brigham Young's remarks made on the stand at a conference soon after he (Elder Wight) left Nauvoo, which read, "I suppose there are some here for Joseph, some for the Temple, some for the Nauvoo House and some for Sidney Ridgon, some for Lyman Wight, some for Emmit and suppose some for the Twelve."   He read this passage to show that they (they, the Twelve) did not consider him as one  of their Quorum.  He then said that Brigham Young had told on the stand in Nauvoo an outrageous, knowing, willful, fascally lie, that is, he then said that he (Lyman Wight) ran away from Nauvoo because he was a coward, and he ridiculed him as such, and he further said that he did not recognize him as first President of the Church, but had usurped a place that did not belong to him. 


 In all this conversation Elder Wight sat very uneasy upon his chair. About noon or a little after, we were invited to sit down to a table prepared for all his colony, a New Year's feast.  Some 8 to 10 Dutchman and women were present upon this occasion and in all did
ample justice to the dinner, which was a very good one, and Elder Wight said to me,
"When you return
home tell your people that we can eat a whole hog at a lick, and other things in proportion."  The afternoon was spent in conversation with and among the people inquiring and hearing concerning their welfare and then we took a walk around their village which they called Zodiac.  (According to an article in the September 1968 ERA their settlement which had once numbered 250 people, was down to 142 at this time.)  We examined their mills, both saw and grist.  They have great water power, the whole Pedernales River with rock foundation.  It is a beautiful pure mountain stream. At night there was a meeting of the people and Elder Wright preached upon his common stock principles.  He had great effort and labored hard.  I suppose he wanted to convert us.   In his discourse a great many low insinuations were thrown out against the Twelve and the Church and the store holders caught a glancing shot or two.  Finally, he sat down and we were invited to make some remarks.  I arose and spoke a short time.  

I told them we did not come among them as spies or enemies, but as friends, and we did not come to learn concerning nor find fault with their common stock principles, but we were send to Elder Wight to tell him that it was expected and required of him to visit his brethren of the Twelve both at Council Bluffs and the City of the Salt Lake, and that his pamphlet did not meet the mind of the Church, neither the mind of the Lord for He had spoken concerning him and we wanted to know whether we might say to the Church when we returned, that they might cherish the hope that he would visit them and be united in feeling and hope.  And I told him this was required of him.  These remarks brought him out and he spoke freely.  H made some bitter remarks about them and especially Elder Hyde.  He said he was not going to take that wild goose chase away to Salt Lake City to please them.  No, he would see them all dammed to the lowest hell before he would do it.  He could not see why they did not let him alone and mind their business and let him do so, too.  He had his bark afloat already rigged with the rudder fixed, and he meant to run it into heaven and would if they did not run their big Steamboat in his way.

These are some of the remarks which Elder Wight made in the meeting.   Next morning before we took our departure, he repeated many of the expressions he had made the night before and spoke more  free and positive.  He said, he considered himself as President of the Twelve, as he was the oldest  man, and if they wanted anything of him they must come and see him for he would not go to
see them and that he considered them all apostates.  This was said in the presence of his family and
several others.  My mind must be guessed at when I heard this, for only the day before when he was
pressed hard concerning some passages in his pamphlet where an allusion is made to certain characters not having the right to remove him from his place and his trying to show that he in that passage might have alluded to Strand or Sidney Rigdon or someone else?  He has said he believed the Twelve were from heaven and now here he pronounces them all apostates.  In all the conversations we had with Elder Wight, he never expressed any good feelings towards the Twelve nor towards one of the Church.  However, when we started, he told us to give his respects of George A. Smith.

(They departed from Lyman Wight's on January 2, 1849.  Preston describes the countryside)....
"We took the road down the Colorado bottom which led through an extremely fertile country. 
 Webber's Prairie some fourteen miles below Austin is one of the most handsome places I ever saw. 
The soil is of a reddish loom and is extremely rich.  Here we left the Colorado bottom.   We then
passed through a country well timbered with Post Oak and Cedar and then through some very
large praries set with muskeet grass and occasionally a creek passing through."

January 5, 1948.....Finally about nightfall we arrived at his house (his brother, Claiborne's) feeling
grateful to God for His blessings in preserving us on this long and arduous journey, saving us from
 the dangers of men, the waters and from the hands of ungodly and wicked, and providing us with
means to travel with and for good health and strength.

January 8, 1849......Today, I have spend mostly in writing.  Among other things I wrote a letter
to Brother Joseph Young.  We are waiting to have our shirts washed and then we think of taking
a tour, preaching, but we have not agreed upon the plan and course we shall take.  Claiborne
 is trying to persuade me to stop with him and help him to sell his property so that he may get to
the city of the Great Salt Lake, and I am anxious that he should go as he could do much good
with his property and by tarrying here the prospect is I may baptize several others in this
neighborhood, who are inquiring.

January 11, 1849.......Today I devoted almost entirely to reading.  Among other things I have read
are Elder Orson Spenser's letters written to the Rev. Mr. Crowel of Boston Mass.  In these letters a
series of subjects is treated upon setting forth the doctrine and faith held by the Latter-Day-Saints. 
These letters set forth in a masterly way the great work of God on the earth in the last days and are
replete with instruction and I would recommend their persual to every Saint.

 

January 12, 1849......I am yet tarrying at my brothers whilest he had gone down on Mill Creek to try
to sell some property, for he is now offering all he has for sale.  But as I was sent to this country to
 visit Lyman Wight and also, to preach the gospel, if an opening appeared, both by President Young
and Brother Hyde, I feel to devote my time to it. 

I have had it in mind to go down south of this place on the Colorado, Naridad or Guadaloupe,
for this is the way my feeling has led me, and having a dream in which I saw beautiful fields of
strawberries ready for gathering, and asking an unknown personage where this field was, he said,
"on the Guadaloupe."   I also dreamed of traveling through mud and water and being much fatigued.  When I awoke I resolved to get out at once, though I was not quite ready, for Sister Ione Thomas was making me some shirts, two of which were done, one yet to make.  Accordingly after breakfast, I packed up my clothes and books and set out on foot without purse or script.  


Brother Claiborne coming some two miles with me to put me in a new road which led out to the
settlements on the Colorado River.   Taking this road, I traveled all day through a wilderness country,
mostly timbered with post oak.   The ground was very wet and boggy.   Wading several creeks, I reached the settlements I set out for just at dark.  The man of the first house refusing to take me in, but sent me on the next house, who took me in and fed and lodged me well.  His name is Blair.

January 16, 1849.....I traveled on all day through mud and water, walking being very tiresome as the
black mud would attach itself to my boots more and more every step until several pounds weight
would have to be carried along on my feet, being held together faster by the grass that was united
with it as I trudged along, then ever and anon it would disengage itself from my boots and I would feel lightened up some and thus it would produce an irregular gait to my traveling.

January 17, 1849......This morning I took a late start, it having rained some through the night and
still raining occasionally, a thick fog resting upon the earth.   Today it has been very tiresome walking
from the same causes that made it so yesterday.  During the day I passed by two houses, the road
leading through an extensive prairie most of the day.   Towards noon the clouds cleared up a little and the sun shone out for a short time which was a welcome sight, for ever since I have been in Texas,  there has been but a few days of sunshine.   Today I became very tired, more so that any day previously.  Finally near the approach of night, the muscles of my legs became so sore that I began to think of lying down on the ground until morning, but kneeling down and praying fervently for strength, the soreness immediately departed and I renewed freshness and vigor in my limbs, and I tripped along more briskly than I had for some days.  Night at length came on attended with pitchy darkness for it had become very cloudy in the meantime. The road could only be followed by the tread of my feet, as I could easily tell by the grass when I was out of it.  

Journeying on I waded several creeks feeling before me with my cane.   Finally I heard ahead of me the familiar bark of a dog which I readily distinguished from the howling of the hungry wolves which I had heard all around.   This inspired me with fresh hope for I knew I was near the habitation of man. 

At length I saw a fire which was a welcome sight.  I directed my foot steps towards it and at last I came to a house.   Calling for quarters after my usual manner in informing the man of the house that I was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and traveled without purse or script (his name is Mitchell with a Capt to it).   He replied that he only two beds and he was crowded, but he did not live there, but it was only his negro farm, but there was a house half mile ahead where I could get good quarters. He said he would send a negro man to show me the way and one.   He sent him with me, and passing some very muddy road I reached the house and invited to lodge with him.

January 19, 1849.......This morning I took an early start, thanking Dr. Ponton for his kindness in
 affording me lodging and shelter during the storm which had lasted for two nights and one day. 
 It was still raining occasionally.   I traveled through the mud and water, every little while coming
 to a creek which I generally had to wade or travel up and down in search of some fallen tree to
walk over upon.  I had the good fortune to meet a man and boy riding horseback, just at the ford
of the Lavacca River, who kindly let me ride over this stream which was like all the creeks, very
much swollen with the great quantity of rain which had fallen.   About the close of the day, I came
to a house where seemed to reside some farmer of considerable note from the size of the farm and
 number of negro cabins.  I called to inquire if I could get lodging.   At first he refused alleging that
he had very little house room and was crowded and that by turning off the road one mile I could get
good quarters and that he did not care for pay.  Turning around I was about taking leave of him,
he said, "Stop, I dislike to turn you off," and going into the house he came out and said, after consulting with his family, he had agreed that I might stop with him.  Some supper was ordered to be prepared for me as the family had been to supper. 

In the meantime a conversation commenced and among other things they wanted to know what
church I belonged.   Upon being informed, a great many questions were asked, and answers
corresponding were given, all seeming pleased with what they had hear.   "Stop," said the old gentleman,  "I have a large family, some forty white and black, and I will call them in and you must preach to us."  I agreed, with the help of God.   In the meantime the meals were prepared and house filled with whites, blacks and one Mexican.   I stood up and after referring the peculiar circumstances in which we found ourselves and by a strange providence of God, we had met together, preached to them the  gospel of Jesus.   After preaching we sat up sometime conversing upon the principles of eternal truth.  All the family seemed joyful at what that been told to them.

January 20, 1849.....This morning after breakfast, making mention of my intention of starting over to
the settlements on the Guadaloupe River.  Mr. Carrol (for this I had learned to be his name) asked me to tarry with him during the day and rest until tomorrow.  To this I agreed, and during the day
 I taught them much concerning the Kingdom of God and the great work He is about to perform
upon the earth.   All seemed to feel a deep interest in all I made known to them.   The day was spent
throughout talking and conversing up the things of the Kingdom.   After supper I was invited to preach again.  


The family - white, black and Mexican - were assembled and I preached on the order of the Kingdom.

January 21, 1849.....This morning I resolved to journey on and packing up my clothes, for Mrs.
Carrol had washed for me.   We kept up the conversation concerning salvation.   Finally I took my
leave of them, they parting with me very reluctantly.  Said I must come this way back and see them again, several of them shedding tears at bidding me farewell.   I promised if I found a place to preach at not too far away, I would soon go back and visit them again.   In the meantime Mr. Carrol had me a first rate mule saddled up and a boy mounted on a horse to go half days journey with me.  Mr. Carrol has some seven or eight children, two of which are grown.  Mary Ann, a young woman of beauty and intellect has once married.  

I mounted the mule and the negro man, his horse, and off we rode.  He came with me some
twelve miles to the commencement of the Guadaloupe bottom.  From here I took it afoot, having
to wade through water near one mile.  After walking some four miles across the bottom, I arrived
at the house of Mr. James N. Smith, whose wife is a sister of my wife and we were formerly
acquainted in Tennessee, from whence he removed to Texas during the year 1840.  I found
 Mrs. Smith and children sick with bad colds.  Mr. Smith, himself, not being home having gone
 to Austin some 10 days ago.

January 27, 1849.....Today I have spent with Mr. Smith and family.  During the evening Mr. Smith
gave me a long lecture of the "Delusion of Mormonism" as he pleased to call it.  He would listen to no
reason or would he give me time to give one, but in an angry tone and manner abused the
Latter-Day-Saints, but his spit was mostly aimed at Joseph Smith, calling him "imposter,
false prophet, and a corrupt man."

January 29, 1849....Today I was kindly furnished with a horse and saddle by Mr. Blair to ride out
 and visit Mr. Carrol and family, where I stopped and preached as I came to this river.  They live
some 15 miles from Mr. Blair.  I found them mostly believing, particularly Mrs. Carroll and their
eldest daughter, Mary Ann.   Since my stay with them at first many people have called upon them
and have told all the lies and falsehoods that are usually circulated against the Saints. 
Mr. Carrol seems to be astounded at them, but Mrs. Carrol, Mary Ann and their eldest son seem
to view them slanders as the natural consequence......    Read the whole story by downloading the pdf of Preston Thomas's Life and Travels.

 

PDF download of his story here....

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