Watching the ice flow up and down the Hudson in this fierce winter weather reminds me how the Nauvoo pioneers walked west across the frozen Mississippi on 4 February 1846. That’s six or seven generations ago, the combined ages of two old men. I once walked across the frozen Charles, and it was brutally cold for a long time to freeze up that smaller river.
On that same February day, by coincidence, New York’s own pioneers, the more than 230 LDS passengers of The Ship Brooklyn set sail for “Upper California” which probably meant Oregon, though they ended up in Yerba Buena, later San Francisco, where they doubled the population. No Panama Canal for them. They sailed down and up South America, passing Tierra del Fuego, the ultima Thule of the world. Imagine the faith, hope and desperation necessary to sail off on those grim grey seas to an unknown future in the worst month of the year.
They left from a dock even then named Old Slip, below South Street Seaport. They sailed under the direction of clay-footed martinet Samuel Brannan who demanded such regimentation and obedience that he was later taken to court by the passengers. They spent months at sea. During a storm, one of my husband’s ancestors, traveling with her husband and seven children and pregnant with the eighth, fell down a hatchway and suffered fatal injuries. She was buried on the island of Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile, the place where Robinson Crusoe may once have lived. Augusta Joyce Crocheron, who later wrote Representative Women of Deseret, quoted her mother as saying that nothing in her life had been as hard as the voyage on that old immigrant ship.
Old Slip is now the home of fabulous financial enterprises housed in the alabaster towers of the unsleeping city. And quite amazingly, one of those towers will soon wear a bronze
plaque commemorating the embarkation of The Ship Brooklyn. In actuality this will be a small reminder. Symbolically, it is huge. This will be a little part of a current LDS thrust: reclaiming and celebrating our heritage by taking possession, actually or symbolically, of lands which our people left or from which they have been driven. This impulse has been operative for more than a hundred years. In 1905, President Joseph F. Smith dedicated the Monument at Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, the site of Joseph Smith’s birthplace 100 years earlier. We see the movement gaining momentum as our towns of Kirtland and Nauvoo are restored. And not just triumphant places but also the sacrificial ground of Martin’s Cove and Haun’s Mill. We believe in significant locations, shrines and monuments, sacred places.
Should anyone in reading distance actually be in commuting distance, please consider attending the dedicatory event which will be Saturday, February 7th at 2 pm at 32 Old Slip. There will be a brief program of commemoration and dedication outdoors, followed by a reception upstairs courtesy of Goldman Sachs. A prize-winning documentary Forgotten Voyage, make by Scott Tiffany at [email protected] will be shown. We had planned to serve hard tack, brown water, and moldy cheese, but won’t.
To get to Old Slip, for this event or for a later pilgrimage, travel to the Wall Street station on the 2/3 red line. On Wall Street, with Trinity Church at your back, walk east to Water Street. Turn right (south) and walk to Old Slip. 32 Old Slip, called Financial Square, is the building on the far left corner of Old Slip.
For security reasons we need the names of all those attending the reception in advance. If
anyone is able to come, please respond to this blog on Times and Seasons.