Wish I’d Been There

Need a smile? Then you might wish you’d gone to sacrament meeting on March 15, 1857 in the Salt Lake Thirteenth Ward:

Daniel Spencer, notable Salt Lake farmer and businessman, rarely wrote long entries in his journals. But he did after that meeting. Notoriously forthright bishop, Edwin D. Woolley, apparently gave quite a tonguelashing to the men who were “delinquents in Labor on the Canal. Said they wer men of no standing Poor scabby Lousy Loungers the offscouring of all the bad.” Woolley said that even though some of these delinquents were “Big on[e]s” and quorum presidents, “they wer only foot pads” and then proceeded to read off the list of offenders’ names. He read Daniel Spencer’s name and, Daniel recorded, Woolley added “special advice to my Wives not to Sleep with me until I had paid my Tything.” [Whoa! Yep, in sacrament meeting!]

Daniel considered complaining to Brigham Young about Woolley’s “quit sever . . . denunciations,” but decided against it since he had, after all, hired men “to work out all and more than my Tax.” Pulling together what dignity he could, he “concluded from the language and the manner of his speach that he [Bishop Woolley] was not worth minding and of no account.”

Spencer does not comment on whether any of his wives felt moved to follow the bishop’s counsel.

41 comments for “Wish I’d Been There

  1. Earl B
    August 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Sounds like they were pretty serious about getting that canal done……..

  2. Zat
    August 12, 2008 at 11:22 am

    It’s funny, since it didn’t happen to me. Sounds like the bishop needed a vacation.

  3. Mark IV
    August 12, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Bishop Woolley (Spencer Wooley Kimball’s ancestor) was a real piece of work.

    If somebody can document the following story, I’d appreciate it.

    Bishop Wooley’s ward had buit a hall to use for social purposes, and it created competition for the church’s social hall, since SLC was too small at that time to support both. Brigham Young told bishop Wooley to cease and desist using their ward hall, but he refused, saying that their hall was built first, and that BY should cease and desist using his hall. These two men butted heads on this issue until BY used the nuclear option: Do as I say, or I will call you on a mission to Europe for three years. At that point Edwin, saw things Brigham’s way.

  4. Adam Greenwood
    August 12, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Sad. Bishop Woolley didn’t give the single sisters any way to help with the canal.

  5. StillConfused
    August 12, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Now that is a church service worth attending!!

  6. August 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Accountability indeed!

  7. August 12, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Well, I read Mark IV’s comment and looked up the reference he needs, then came back to post it and found Adam’s remark. You’re so funny, Adam. Ha ha ha.

    Mark, if you want the link, write to me privately.

  8. Rick
    August 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    This is a perfect follow-on to Bishop Wooley’s rejoinder to Brigham Young’s criticism: “On one occasion, according to the family, the bishop and Brigham had a heated discussion about a business deal. President Young, who could be very sarcastic, turned as he was leaving and said, ‘Now, Bishop Woolley, I guess you will go off and apostatize.’ To which Edwin rejoined, ‘If this were your church, President Young, I would be tempted to do so. But this is just as much my church as it is yours, and why should I apostatize from my own church?'” See more at: http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/saints/edwinwoolley.htm#woolley. It has been a good reminder to me that “you can choose to be offended, but you are not obligated.”

  9. Jacob F
    August 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    After my wife and I were married I checked our lines back to the early 1800s to see whether we were related. (I had heard stories of people at BYU dating, falling in love, and then realizing they were second cousins.) Luckily I didn’t find anything.

    But after reading some old journals last year I found out we do have at least one connection: back in the 1850s, my ancestor (a SLC bishop) disfellowshipped her ancestor. More interesting, apparently Brigham Young was not happy with the decision and had the man reinstated the next Sunday. (Unfortunately I can’t find any details behind the disciplinary action.) Then, a few months later when the bishop’s wife (plural wife but also my line) asked BY for some marriage counseling (they were having trouble getting along), he suggested a divorce, and she followed the advice.

    I wish I had more details, but it looks like life wasn’t exactly dull back in the day…

  10. Kevin Barney
    August 12, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I had a SP once, a descendant of the Woolleys, who gave me an excellent little memory device for how to properly spell the name, which as a public service I will share here. It’s

    Double U, double O, double L, E-Y


    (You’re welcome)

  11. Researcher
    August 12, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Wasn’t it Bishop Wooley of whom it was said that he was so perverse that if he drowned, his body would be found upstream?

  12. Will Bagley
    August 12, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Researcher: Woolley’s body wouldn’t have been found upstream or down in the canal–at least the canal the church was building to haul granite blocks for the temple from Little Cottonwood Canyon. For some reason, water refused to run uphill, so the canal never worked.

  13. Mark B.
    August 12, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Ironic, Researcher, your spelling of Woolley right after Kevin’s little tutorial! :-)

    I think it just seems that church was more fun back then, since we read just the high points. Lorenzo Brown seems often to note in his journal, after telling who gave a sermon: “Long and dry.” (These seem often to follow the line “Preaching by John Taylor.”)

    And we’ve had just as much fun (twice or thrice in our lifetimes). There was the young man in our ward who spoke about the Ten Commandments. He got to the tenth and was reading off the list of things we shouldn’t covet when he stopped short, cleared his throat, apologized but, he said, that’s what it says, and then told us that we were commanded not to covet our neighbor’s ass.

  14. Researcher
    August 12, 2008 at 4:58 pm


    (Hope I spelled that right.)

  15. Kylie Turley
    August 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks Mark B #12. I will add that story to my collection of sacrament meeting humor. I only wish Jacob F was joking about engaged people discovering they were cousins. Luckily (lucky since it was the day before we were to get married), my husband and I learned we were 5th cousins–plenty of distance to go through with the wedding.

  16. Mark B.
    August 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    All that concern about marrying cousins is overdone. Over half the states in the U.S. permit marriages of first cousins, although some have restrictions (like Utah’s, which limits such marriages to persons over 65 years of age, or over 55 if evidence of sterility is produced), and it seems that the genetic risks of first cousins’ breeding are not significant. See this article, for example.

    Once beyond first cousins, though, it’s open season. I suppose most of us know our first cousins–we don’t face the challenge, as my father did, of a mother with ten siblings and a father with nine and more cousins that one could ever meet, much less know. (Although I must confess that some of my cousins on one side of the family are just faint shadows in the dark.) So, what’s to worry if your dearly beloved turns out to be your 3rd cousin?

  17. E
    August 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I love love love these stories. From a time when there were no sermons on how we should never offend anyone and the bishop or the president of the church felt comfortable saying whatever he thought to people. Not saying we should do likewise, but to me, there is a certain charm to this kind of thing. It makes me smile.

  18. E
    August 12, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    #4: LOL!

  19. Michele
    August 12, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    I am going to have to go through my family history and see if this is in our information, if not…it will be added. (Great Great Great Granddaughter of Daniel Spencer Jr.) Highly entertaining!!
    Thanks for posting.

  20. Kaimi Wenger
    August 13, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Thanks for looking it up, Ardis. And I’m sorry you have to deal with mockery on a sensitive topic.

  21. August 13, 2008 at 7:56 am

    In some times and places marrying a first cousin has been considered a very good thing. I met a couple from Iran and saw them several times over a couple of months. Once talking to the husband alone, I made some comment about his wife. He looked across to her with a dreamy expression on his face. “We’re cousins, you know. We’ve known one another since we were little children.”

    The relatedness between Isaac and Rebekah was 30%. That compares to 12.5% for first cousins, 25% for half-siblings, and 50% for full-siblings. Jacob and Esau’s inbrededness was 7.8%. For more on that see my incomplete “Relatedness of Abraham and the Children of Israel.”

  22. August 13, 2008 at 10:56 am

    My brother lived in Rosevelt, UT for a time. He said at the high school, when they gave the ACT test, the instructions were that no relatives could sit together. When these instructions were issued, everyone got up to move. They were all cousins.

  23. August 13, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Here’s a story that’s as good as learning you’re dating your cousin. There were a couple of roommates living downstairs from me. At Thanksgiving, one was a guest of the other’s family. Conversing with her son’s roommate, the mother discovered the roommate to be the son of a man she had been engaged to, but didn’t marry.

  24. Adam Greenwood
    August 13, 2008 at 11:56 am

    And I’m sorry you have to deal with mockery on a sensitive topic.

    If all your weeping encrusts your clothes with brine, a gentle rinse cycle should get it out. I’m sorry to hear that you laughed until you cried.

  25. bbell
    August 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Its not unheard off at a LDS wedding in the corridor for the older relatives of the bride and groom to meet and realize that the bride and groom and second or third cousins. I have seen it before with my own eyes. FWIW I am NOT related to my wife.

    Guy in my S presidency once started seriously dating a girl at BYU and then discovered that her ggrandmother was his great aunt. Said it was the most awkward breakup ever.

  26. August 13, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Responding to Rick in comment #8 – just wanted to say that link was a very enjoyable read. Sounds like “contrariness” is almost a spiritual gift for some people …

  27. Bill MacKinnon
    August 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Bishop Woolley’s canal was really B.Y.’s canal and it was probably one of several such public projects underway in 1857: there was a tunnel being blasted by the Sharp brothers to connect/ divert the river system near the west end of Echo Canyon, and there was a canal being dug by which to transport rock being quarried in the canyons to Salt Lake City for the temple’s construction. Neither project worked out for technical reasons, and the canal’s engineering was the butt of subterranean dark humor for years thereafter by those disposed to mock the wisdom of the whole project. According to folklore, the canal’s design concept surfaced decades later in St. George in the winter of 1876-77 during a church service in which for some reason there was a heated exchange between President Young and John Taylor, President of the Quorum of The Twelve. As the story goes, B.Y. was tongue-lashing Apostle Taylor in somewhat Woolley-like fashion when Apostle T., not enjoying the public admonitions, got off a rejoinder that included the observation that at least he didn’t attempt to move water up-hill, a not-so-subtle rereference to the well-known and apparently ill-conceived canal project. This struck a nerve, and President Young supposedly reacted by striking the stand with his cane, leaving a mark that the story I heard claims is still visible. Again, according to the folklore, great efforts were exerted to get Apostle Taylor to make amends in some way lest there by a reorganization of the Quorum as in the Orson Pratt case — not an unimportant possibility, in retrospect, with B.Y.’s passing later in 1877. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bishop Woolley was under some pressure in March 1857 to hold up the Thirteenth Ward’s obligations re canal duty. The personalities involved here remind me of LBJ’s twentieth-century descriptor of “men with the bark on.”

  28. Kaimi Wenger
    August 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Adam G.,

    Last time I checked, “mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those in need of comfort,” was still on the books.

    You seem to think that Ardis is being overwrought or whatever else. Fine. Your opinion.

    But introducing gratuitous mockery — in a threadjack! — is way out of line. Do you really dislike Ardis so much that you’re now going out of your way to take cheap shots at her on completely unrelated threads?

  29. Adam Greenwood
    August 13, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Last time I checked, “assume makes an ass out of you and me” was still on the books.

    Thanks for participating in my threadjack. I mean, threadjack!

  30. Researcher
    August 13, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    My goodness. This is so 19th century. You two are about to fight a duel over Ardis. (Perhaps I should say 18th century.)

  31. Researcher
    August 13, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Where were the early Saints in Salt Lake City getting their engineering expertise (or lack thereof)?

    [Simple question, not so simple answer, I’m sure.]

    Was someone walking the slopes with one of the Bernhisel books in hand? The only suspect I see is Mahan, D.H. Elementary Course of Civil Engineering. 5th ed. (Boston, 1851) .

  32. August 13, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Perhaps Adam or Kaimi should say “If this were your blog, I would be tempted to leave. But this is just as much my blog as it is yours, and why should I?’”

  33. Bill MacKinnon
    August 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Researcher (#30), you’re question’s a good one. Early territorial Utah seemed to be blessed with a few highly talented craftsmen and professionals in each field who came to the fore whenever needed, notwithstanding B.Y.’s sometimes withering comments about the value of some of the professions (mainly law and medicine). I doubt if the engineering advice was coming from books; it was mainly practical experience. Some of this talent was available in UT by serendipity, while some of it was present as the result of targeted recruiting, as with the case of John Loba, a chemist from Switzerland working in France, who was recruited in Europe in the early 1850s by mission leaders with the specific hope that he help with the construction of either a gas works or paper mill (and later gunpowder). Perhaps the most famous (successful) case was the gunsmith Johnathan Browning of Ogden, whose sons created the greatest family dynasty of weapons designers and manufacturers in the nation’s history. In engineering (civil), the Sharp brother (John and Adam) were very accomplished, notwithstanding the sand encountered in attempting to tunnel through the Weber River area; it fell to them to design the fortifications in Echo Canyon a few months after Bishop Woolley’s now famous call to the faithful in Kylie’s post. Browning and the Sharps were highly competence (as was Albert G. Carrington, a Dartmouth College grad. who worked as a surveyor with the 1849-50 Stansbury Expedition to survey the Great Salt Lake before becoming editor of the “Deseret News”) whereas Loba was a failure, allowing himself to stray from his gunpowder assignment into a misguided effort to distill alcohol for commercial sale if not personal consumption. In some respects B.Y. provided engineering advice, and at times he seemed to view himself as UT’s Chief Engineer or Craftsman-in-Chief along with his other responsibilities. As Ron Walker’s recent articles have shown, he was actively involved in the design/construction ( highly successful) of the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, and later sent gratuitous advice to the Mayor of Boston on how to construct the rafters and trusses for a new civic auditorium in that city. When the U.S. Army’s Steptoe Expedition was in UT during 1854-55 with multiple missions, including the marking/improvement of a new trail from UT to California, B.Y. provided Col. Steptoe with lengthy gratuitous advice about which streams to bridge and with what kind of structure. The funniest such advice I’ve encountered was contained in a letter in which B.Y. — former woodworker — provided John Taylor (then in NYC as editor of “The Mormon” newspaper) with detailed advice (couched in omniscient tones) on which type of wood to use for which part of a handcart in order to construct one properly — I could just imagine Apostle Taylor reading this gratuitous advice with steam coming out of his ears. When a New York reporter, Fitz Hugh Ludlow (can you imagine someone afoot in territorial UT with that handle and perhaps a velvet smoking jacket?), visited GSLC in the 1860s and was invited to attend a dance by Brigham Young, Ludlow admired a wrought-iron chandelier lighting the ballroom and was told by his host in detail just how he had designed if not fabricated this piece of craftsmanship. ,

  34. Researcher
    August 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Fascinating information, Bill. I’ve always enjoyed A Connecticut Yankee with the engineer, Hank Morgan, who was conversant with all the technology of the day and could do anything and build anything. Brigham Young sounds like a Vermont Yankee with wide ranging technical interests and expertise.

    Just in case the early settlers were to refer to the book I mentioned above, they would find pages 313-339 on canals. Much of the section, however, addresses navigable waterways such as the Erie Canal, and not irrigation ditches.

  35. Bill MacKinnon
    August 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Researcher ( #33), yes I think B.Y.’s background was very much what you’ve described, and he took great pride in his early occupations (woodworker, painter, glazer), and his ability to continue doing such work (or at least speak about it) long after he became a church leader. Somewhere in LDS Archives there’s a letter that he received from a man in Upstate New York who informed a by-then-famous President Young that he owned a wooden chair that he had built before emigrating west. As I remember B.Y.’s response, he went on at some length about how he had constructed the chair and the type of work he was doing at that time in NY’s Burnt-Over District. Henry Ford I was a bit like that.

  36. August 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Adam, seriously, are you really being like this? This is so not like you. Ardis is awesome and we love her.

  37. Researcher
    August 13, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    It seems like specialties have become so much more specialized nowadays and it is rare to find someone who is conversant in a wide number of fields. I imagine that few of us would be able to survive on Lincoln Island (Verne’s Mysterious Island), but then, of course, probably few people of that time would be able to either, as we learned from a recent discussion on another blog about what it took to be able to drive an ox. And digging a canal? Why do it if you could pay someone else to dig for you?

  38. Kylie Turley
    August 13, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Researcher, Didn’t I read that you could hire someone to do your tithing time on the temple building, too? Hmm. How would that work out today?

  39. Researcher
    August 13, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Hire someone to go to Cub Scout Day Camp for you…

  40. Jim Donaldson
    August 13, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    At least in the Union Army you could hire someone to fight the Civil War for you. I suppose that is similar to Cub Scout Day Camp.

  41. Kylie Turley
    August 13, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Oh, thank you. I haven’t laughed that hard for awhile.

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