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Brigham Young

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1117, p. 503.

November 16, 1861

Brigham Young, the President and Chief Prophet of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, was born about the year 1800. Very little is known of his early life. It is generally supposed that he is a native of the State of Ohio; and it is said that he has brothers engaged in the ministry in the Methodist Church. In connection with the Mormons he first appeared in a prominent position in August, 1844, soon after the murder of Joseph Smith, the founder of the sect. Young was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and in that capacity signed a letter addressed "To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo (Illinois) and all the World." One of the principal men in the community, Sydney Rigdon, sought to succeed Smith; but charges of heresy and improper conduct were urged against him by Young and others; he was excommunicated, and Young was appointed the successor of Smith. By his shrewdness and great natural ability he has shown the wisdom of the choice. Perceiving that the Illinoisians were hostile to his people, he planned and carried out an exodus unparalleled in history for the sufferings of the people who accomplished it. They resolved to place the Rocky Mountains between them and persecuting Christendom. Cold and hunger killed many on the road; but, after a year and a half of inconceivable hardships, the pioneers reached the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, in July, 1847, and founded a settlement. The mass of the people followed in the next year, and in the thirteen years which have succeeded, under the guidance and government of Brigham Young, they have converted a bare valley into a lovely region of cultivated fields, rich orchards, flower-filled gardens, and pleasant residences. They have brought the water from the hills in sparkling rivulets through every street. They have erected mills for grinding the grain of their own growth, and sawing the wood that their own sturdy arms have felled. They manufacture their own paper, and spin and weave their own fabrics; and when articles are wanted from the outer world they are carried across the great desert in wagons waggons , sometimes numbering over fifty in a single train. In all these works "the President," as the people call him, or "Brother Brigham," as he styles himself, has been the directing and influencing power. He has forbidden the establishment of beershops, and there is only one place in Salt Lake City where liquor in quantities can be obtained. Soon after sunset the streets are as quiet as Goldsmith's Deserted Village, for the citizens remain in their homes, except when in the winter they attend the balls or theatrical entertainments, which are frequent, or exercise their voices in their musical parties. A traveller ignorant of their practice of polygamy would say from the appearance of things that a more industrious and better-conducted community is not to be found. They consider polygamy, to the extent of having five wives at least, an essential of respectability; but the practice is by no means universal. Young is President by semi-annual election, or rather by a unanimous vivâ voce confirmation by the people assembled in the Bowery. He rules, as head of the Church and de facto Governor of the territory of Utah, over a region containing more than 180,000 square miles prior to the formation by the last Congress of the new territories, which have slightly infringed upon his domain. This is an extent of country exceeding the size of Great Britain and Ireland by over 70,000 square miles. Young is a portly man of middle height, now in his sixty-second year, and apparently so healthy that he may live for some years yet to direct the destinies of the 70,000 who are said to reside in Utah.


The residence of Brigham Young is on the northern side of Salt Lake City, on a declivity above which the foothills of the Wahsatch Mountains rise. In the View his house is nearly in the centre, and is surmounted by a small square tower with a golden beehive on the top, the emblem of the city. In this building, which is of timber, his first wife and family reside. The low building on the left contains the offices of the church. Next on the left, the principal object in the picture, is the Zion House, where the remainder of his wives reside. Some say there are twenty of these spiritual wives, others say sixty-one, one for each year of his life. A smaller (round) tower to the left of the turret on the house surmounts the schoolhouse, a neat edifice, in which the children only of Brigham Young and Heber Kimball only are educated. The white house on the right of Brigham's was the first erected for him in Salt Lake City, and is now the home of his eldest son and designated successor, Joseph Young. The buildings on the extreme left in the View are garden houses, offices, and residences of some of the wives. A wall of earth and stones incloses a large piece of ground, and surrounds Young's and Kimball's premises and gardens. In the lower corner of the Engraving, on the right, is a portion of the residence of Bishop Wells.

The View and the Portrait are from photographs taken recently by C. R. Savage, late of Southampton, and were brought from Salt Lake City by a gentleman who spent several days there early in September.

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