from Utah As It Is, by S.A. Kenner, published in 1904

THE want of proper was, as it always is, a source of great discontent and great discomfort. Such things as “square meals” were not to be thought of, at least they were not to be had.

To give an idea of how poorly the Pioneers fared for two or three years, I will here reproduce a bill of fare for a Sunday dinner late in 1847. It must be borne in mind that this was an exceptionally good meal; for ordinary occasions, several of these items would not appear:

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  • Soup—Puree of Bacon and Greens. 
  • Fish—Boiled Sucker, a la Jordan.
  • Game—Ragout of Jack Rabbit.
  • Entrees—Bacon, Greens, Mountain Air.
  • Removes—Hardtack and Flapjacks, with Jokes.
  • Fruit—Serviceberries and Segoe.
  • Wine—Adam’s Ale, vin de City Creek.

Let those who so frequently open a meal with the query: “Is there nothing fit to eat in the place?”—and they are quite numerous—look over the above array and then hold their peace; and, as previously suggested, it was an unusually fine one, too. Greens were the staple, with bacon when any could be got, but quite frequently without. Even with the seasoning, they must have become a trifle monotonous after a while.

Bacon and greens are sometimes a decided luxury, nearly always so when their visits are measurably restricted; but to have them fifty to a hundred times in succession would, I should think, blunt the keenest appetite for such delicacies. Nowadays, people have nothing worth naming unless they can waste more than some of the Pioneers used at a meal.

Delicious fish
Delicious fish

The fish item in the bill of fare reminds me that fishing in the Jordan used to be not only a great sport but combined usefulness with it. This is a wonderful stream, being one of the most treacherous on earth, and thereby the cause of many deaths. It is somewhat muddy all year-round, except late in the spring when it proudly distinguishes itself by being muddier than ever.

Suckers and chubs of good size abounded, and occasionally a trout was hooked and borne away in triumph. Nowadays a person has time to think over most of his sins before getting a bite, but then the markets are now well-stocked, and there is plenty of money to buy fish with—somewhere.

More attention was bestowed upon the young than anything else, and properly so. They meant everything in a temporal sense to the State builders and were never too abundant even with the most untiring care. In the summer of 1848 a number of men—among whom was Apostle Parley P. Pratt, whose alliterative name was extended by the titles of prophet, priest, and poet, and who was subsequently assassinated in Arkansas—were hoeing and in various ways encouraging the growth of corn at a spot near where the grand City and County building now stands.

The stalks were few and far between, and from the descriptions must have made a person think of home and friends to look at them. They were dying for want of rain, and upon them was the dependence for bread for a year to come. Something must be done.

All at once, the Apostle said: “Brethren, I move that we have rain!”

The motion was seconded by Albert Dewey and carried. At once a cloud no larger than a man’s hand arose on the horizon; it grew and spread, and in less than an hour the party was huddled under a for shelter from the downpour. It came in torrents, and notwithstanding the shelter, every one of the party went home soaked, but no one complained of that for an instant. The crops grew fast and matured finely; the people were saved.

To the unorthodox mind which may receive with some credence this true recital, there will be but one expression regarding the circumstance—that it was a singular coincidence. The writer has his own idea regarding it, but suffice it to say that it occurred and substantially as herein stated. It was not, however, the only rescue from starvation by many.

One more notable and general was a year later when the growing grain was threatened by vast armies of voracious crickets. They had not long practiced their depredations when large flocks of sea-gulls dawned upon the scene, pounced upon the predatory insects, and devoured them with great rapidity, not ceasing in their work till the menace was abated.

Perhaps this was a coincidence, too. We are all familiar with the old chestnut of how Rome was saved by geese, but I hope this little recital of Utah being saved by may be a new thing to at least a few readers.

At this point it is proper to say that the seagull is a sacred bird in Utah, having been fully and deservedly protected by law. It is a crime severely punishable to kill one of them, and they seem to be aware of it, for they never show the timidity or alarm of other birds when approached by the human animal. Indeed, the gull will follow with impunity in the wake of the plowman, right at his heels, and devour the worms which the furrows turn up. What a grateful, forbearing creature is the man when the law compels him to be!

Thus the people worried along and held on in the midst of their discouragements, and discouraged they must have been at times “hard and plenty.” Asking for bread and receiving a stone is a performance that soon tells upon the strongest and most courageous, so that now and then one who had endured faithfully up to that time fell by the way and passed to the rear.

The great body, however, was by no means swayed, but if anything were bound more firmly together and made more determined by the repeated and long-continued hardships. We all know how difficult it is to reason with hungry people; the hunger will assert itself to the exclusion of other considerations, and if there is any yield, bend or break in a man it will assuredly show itself when he becomes ravenous through prolonged fasting and the flesh-pots of Egypt are promised him if he will only go to Egypt.

Some idea of the steadfastness of the colonizers of Utah can therefore be had by considering the condition of things prevailing until the community numbered thousands, and out of these not to exceed a baker’s dozen gave up the ship!

It began to look as if the people were to become inured to all kinds of hard times before being permitted to enjoy anything in the line of good ones, and so it proved to be. One misfortune, to paraphrase “Hamlet,” trod upon another’s heels, so fast they came.

Yet there was not as much complaining as there is today, with abundance prevailing on every hand and comfort smiling from all corners. The indurating experiences of the people bound them together and kept ever before them the sacred compact by which their life-work was gauged and directed, just as luxuriousness and possessions have tended to loosen up and cause a drifting apart in many instances.

It was a long time before there was enough even of breadstuffs to enable the people to look upon their situation with entire complacency and confidence, and until that time came there were many sorrowful and doubtless some terrible occasions. During one of those years, when destitution in the matter of food supply was so nearly reached that it seemed as if the famine of ’48 were to be gone over again, President Young came to the rescue in a manner so effective and 3ret so quiet that it is doubtful if the reader has ever heard of it. (I gain this information from the President’s steward-in-chief at that time, H. G. Park, now proprietor of the Manitou Hotel in this city, who alone was made the means of carrying out the plan.)

It was already a time of the greatest scarcity, but a look-ahead eye could see that the worst was to come. There was still some little flour for sale, but it was held at such that, so far as the majority was concerned, it might as well have no existence at all. It was then that the President told Mr. Park to take some money with which he was then entrusted, buy up all the flour he could find for sale and put it away in a safe place, and whenever a case of actual want came to his notice to relieve it at once without pay.

Not a pound was to be sold by him at any price, and no family or member of one—the President’s own not excepted—was to be favored more than any other under similar circumstances. By this means much suffering was averted, perhaps in some cases starvation itself was kept at bay.

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