Mormon Battalion Vignettes


This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 1990 issue of Pioneer Magazine

By Carl V. Larson

Before they left Council Bluffs, Brigham Young told the members of the to do their duty and honor the Priesthood. For the most part they were faithful in heeding Brigham’s council. An event from the life of James Van Nostrand illustrates the point very well.

James V. Williams was a member of Company E. He re-enlisted at Los Angeles and was eventually discharged in March of 1848. The summer of 1848 found him prospecting for gold with a man named Patton.

Unfortunately James contracted mountain fever which left him very weak and blind. Patton then ran off with all the gold the two of them had dug. James described it as being, “a little over $18.00 between us.” The following incident was extracted from James’ journal:

“Sometime in October there came to my camp one evening an aged Mexican and his wife, I could not see them but heard them speak the Spanish language, which I understood sufficiently to converse with them. They had a couple of jackasses each to pack and one to ride for each.”

“I asked them to camp with me, as I was alone, sick and blind. They unpacked and camped with me. I told the man that I had a rich claim and he could work it which he agreed to. His wife being a good herb doctoress, soon had the fever broken and tried to cure my eyes, but could do them no good.”

“In a few days after the arrival of my new acquired friends, one of my Battalion mess mates came to my camp and knew me. His name is John Spidle, and accompanied with an outsider, who were prospecting.”

“John asked me what I was doing there. I told him my condition, that I had had the mountain fever, but that this Mexican and wife had broken that up and that I was gaining strength very rapidly, but that I was blind. John then asked me if I had any faith in the healing powers of the priesthood? I told him that I had. Then if you have, said he, you can and will receive your sight in half an hour.”

“He opened a box of sardines, took the fishes out and blessed the oil and anointed my eyes with the oil, and sure enough what felt like scales fell off my eyes and my sight was restored to me in that same hour. But my eyes smarted and burned terribly.”

“He told me to keep my eyes shaded with some dark colored cloth until they got used to the light, which I did. His companion and my friends, the Mexicans, looking on. They thought Brother Spidle to be a wizard.”

James V. Williams eventually made his way to the Salt Lake valley where he met his family. His father did not know him as he had been away for 9 years. James was 15 1/2 years old when he joined the Battalion having been born December 13, 1830, and was 18 years old when the above events took place. He was 81 on March 11, 1911 when he died at Monroe, Utah. He is buried in the Monroe, Utah Cemetery.

Williams, James V. Personal Journal. Copy on file with the US Mormon Battalion Inc.

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