Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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Miner Grant Atwood, Captain, 1865 (age 42), Biographical Sketch

Miner Grant Atwood was born March 18, 1823, in Wilmington, Connecticut. His parents were Daniel and Polly Sawyer Atwood and his early life was spent on a farm. Through frugality and sacrifice the family of five sons and three daughters were comfortably situated, and the children had the advantage of a common school education. Each of the boys considered it his duty to work for his father until he became twenty-one years of age.

Came to Utah, 1850
When Miner was fifteen years of age he first heard the Mormon elders preach, and became interested in the new religion. In the year 1845, all the members of the Atwood family were baptized into the Latter-day Saint Church with the exception of two sons. On October 6, 1844, Miner married Mary Delilah Guilde. Millen, his brother, left Connecticut and went to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he took an active part in the final exodus of the Saints and became one of the original pioneers to this Valley in the company of Brigham Young in 1847. Miner came to Utah in 1850.

Member of Missionary Handcart Company
At the April 1857 conference, Miner G. Atwood was called with nearly one hundred other missionaries to go to the Eastern States. This group was to make their way to Florence, Nebraska, with handcarts. There were twenty-six carts in the caravan. He later served as a missionary to the New England States and after his return was just getting himself comfortably settled and in a fair way to properly care for his family, when another call came for foreign service. Early in May 1862, while walking down Main Street, President Brigham Young, who was on the opposite side of the street conversing with some brethren, said to them, "There is the man I want to go to South Africa to settle the difficulties among the Saints there." President Young called to Mr. Atwood and told him what he wanted him to do. Without hesitancy Miner replied, "If that is your wish I am ready." On May 11, 1862, he was set apart for this mission under the hands of Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith. Ten days later he bade farewell to his loved ones and started on the journey that was to carry him more than half way around the world. On the fly leaf of Elder Atwood's journal appears a letter of appreciation to the members of his family for their loyalty in providing the means needed for the journey, and assurances to his family that God would protect him and he would return to them in safety.

Miner G. Atwood arrived at Port Elizabeth, South Africa, December 30, 1862, seven months and ten days after leaving Salt Lake City. The mission record states they were sixty-one days at sea from London. Immediately, Elder Atwood began investigation of the difficulties among members of the Church in Cape Colony, and they were soon amicably settled. Other difficulties were adjusted, and Elder Atwood was free to carry on an intensive missionary campaign which took him into all parts of the colony.

South Africa to New York to Utah
There were many baptisms, and each year some Saints emigrated to Utah. After laboring for many months, Elder Atwood was the only elder from Zion remaining in the mission. Instructions were issued for him to return home. Preparations were immediately begun to organize a company of Saints who desired to go to Zion. Forty-six members of the Church and two Kaffir servants constituted the emigrant company, for which the owners of the vessel were paid 569 sterling for passage from Port Elizabeth to New York. At high noon on April 12, 1865, the captain weighed anchor and the homeward voyage began. The journey was rather tiresome and uneventful, except for the death of George F. W. Kershaw which occurred June 6, 1865.

It was 5 p.m. on June 18th when the vessel Mexicana cast anchor at New York. There had been some friction on the journey between Elder Atwood and the captain because of medicine given Mr. Kershaw without the consent and approval of Elder Atwood and Elder Noon who were in charge of the company. However, upon their arrival in New York, the two elders prepared a testimonial expressing the good will and best wishes of the Saints for the courtesies shown them during the long voyage. The captain attempted to collect a head-tax from the passengers, but after discovering he could not force payment, he released the baggage and permitted the Saints to land. At Wyoming, Nebraska, it required thirty-three days to gather oxen, wagons and supplies preparatory to traveling the distance of one thousand miles to Utah.

It was a long and tedious journey. Provisions became scarce and Elder Atwood wired President Young to send help from Great Salt Lake City. The company arrived November 8, 1865. After an absence of three and one-half years, Elder Atwood was once again re-united with his family. His entire life was one of devout service to his Church and he also held many important civic positions. He passed away May 10, 1887.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.