Heritage Gateways

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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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The Ship "Brooklyn" - Sea Emigration, 1846 also, Sam Brannan

The Brooklyn was built at Newcastle, Maine, in 1834, and was a full-rigged ship of 445 tons, 125 feet 4 inches long, 27 feet 11 inch beam, and 13 feet 1 1/2 inches depth of hold. Elder Brannan chartered her at $1200 per month, the rate of passage to California being fixed at $50 for adults, with an additional charge of $25 for subsistence. There were 300 applications for passage and of that number 70 men, 68 women and 100 children boarded the ship. Her provisioning and the cabins and bunks he had built cost over $16,000; and though he did not have the money, he was courageous and shrewd enough to raise it with the help of his flock.

Like their forbears, these pilgrims were seeking a place for freedom of worship, in spite of the fact that their departure was from the port of New York, supposed to be the front door to the land of freedom itself. But mobs had murdered their prophet, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum, and had driven their co-religionists from state to state. In faraway California they hoped at last to find a refuge. En route they stopped at the Hawaiian Islands to deliver 500 barrels of freight, the proceeds helping to defray part of their passage. There they saw warships; the United States was at war with Mexico, and the very place for which they were headed was subject to attack. Some of the passengers became panic-stricken. They feared they would be stranded on the Island of Oahu instead of going to California. Others favored going to Oregon or to Victoria Island. But the peril of war was not the paramount problem in the thoughts of their adventure-loving leader.

Instead, Brannan was remembering a contract he had signed with Kendall, Benson and Company of New York, who were said to have influence with the government which was disposed to prevent the Mormons from leaving. This company agreed to furnish protection if the Mormon leaders would sign an agreement to transfer to "A. G. Benson, Kendall and Company and their heirs and assigns," the odd number of all land units and town lots settled or acquired by the Mormons wherever they might choose to colonize in the new Zion-to-be. Brannan signed the agreement and in vain waited nearly a month for Brigham Young's signature to arrive by mail from Nauvoo, Illinois. By February 4, 1846, he had determined to slip past the guns of Fort Lafayette in New York harbor without waiting any longer.

Now he was faced with the threat of being stopped in Hawaii by Commodore Robert F. Stockton. He must see Stockton. The interview proved pleasing, even exhilarating, to Samuel Brannan. Instead of preventing their progress, Stockton encouraged the venture. He said that the Navy was to begin an assault against Mexico at Monterey, and he offered the suggestion that the Mormons take and hold Yerba Buena in the name of the United States. To that end, he assisted Brannan in buying some outmoded arms from the Navy. Brannan drilled the seventy male passengers of the Brooklyn, aided by Samuel Ladd, an ex-soldier, and Robert Smith, another passenger who understood military tactics. As for dissenters, Brannan reminded them of their obligation to prepare a place in California for the 10,000 overland pioneers who were being led westward by Brigham Young. Brannan never took his fellow voyagers into his full confidence; and they, on their part, liked neither his pomposity nor his forceful methods of ruling, but, with Mormon loyalty to leadership, they obeyed.

When they were again on the way to California, Brannan dug up a suitable bolt of cloth from the cargo, and the women fashioned it into uniforms for their new-fledged warriors. Each man had a military cap, and there were 50 Allen revolvers available. Thus outfitted, they drilled while they sailed. On July 31, 1846, as they neared their destination Samuel Brannan strutted to the front of the deck. Why shouldn't he and his men plant the American flag on San Francisco Bay? That would be an act worthy of notice. Shortly thereafter, they were passing through the rocky portals of the Golden Gate. Sam was eagerly peering through the telescope. He saw a warship anchored in the cove; but what was more to his consternation was the sight of the American flag, hoisted and waving. "Damn that flag!" he said, not in disrespect for the flag but in disappointment that he had not arrived in time to be the first to fly it.

Cannons from the Yerba Buena battery boomed a salute, and a gun from the Brooklyn responded. A sturdy rowboat glided out to meet them. Soon uniformed men trod the Brooklyn's deck. The Mormons were happy to see that they were friendly Americans from the U.S.S. Portsmouth, not Mexicans. One of the passengers reported: "In our native tongue the officer in command, with head uncovered, courteously said,"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to inform you that you are in the United States of America." Three hearty cheers were given in reply." So far as is known, the Brooklyn's passengers constituted the first Anglo-Saxon colony to sail around Cape Horn with their women and children and to land in California. The ship herself was the second to come through the Golden Gate after the American flag was raised. War had scarcely begun. A Mexican counter-attack was expected, and the seventy impromptu Mormon soldiers were welcome. A month before the Bear Flag revolt had precipitated hostilities in California. Commodore Sloat had now captured Monterey, and Colonel Fremont's "California Battalion" was marching south to engage the enemy. Yerba Buena's flank stood exposed.

The sea-weary travelers were glad to land after six months in crowded cabins. They found a community consisting of half a dozen Americans (other than the sailors and Marines from the Portsmouth), several members of Spanish families and about 100 Indians. Everyone wanted to see the Brooklyn, and the natives were amazed at the amount and variety of the things taken off her. There was Brannan's printing press with two years" supply of paper and type, and all the material pertaining to the Prophet, one of the two church papers Brannan had published in New York. There were three flour mills, a saw mill, numerous implements for farmers and mechanics enough for 800 men, in the expectation that there would be later additions to the colony. There were two milch cows, forty pigs, and a crate of fowls, saddles, sewing machines, a blacksmith's forge, iron pipes, brass, copper, tin, crockery, dry goods, hammocks, tents, medical supplies, smooth-bore muskets, food enough to last them another month, and books more, one writer states, than could be found in all the rest of the territory put together. Among them were many copies of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon; also copies of the Doctrine and Covenants, and of the Pearl of Great Price (then in manuscript) the four books that are considered the standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition, there were many school books, dictionaries and encyclopedias, as well as slates. Harper's Family Library of 179 volumes had been given to them by I. M. VanCott at a farewell party on the night before they left New York.

According to the plan, the ship was to carry enough machinery, tools and other necessities so that wherever they landed they could become a self-supporting community. From the time the Saints on the ship Brooklyn sailed from New York harbor until their arrival in California, these people were of one mind to meet Brigham Young and his pioneers. California gave friendly refuge to them when the 445-ton vessel sailed into the bay of Yerba Buena. The contingent of approximately 238 souls was exceedingly happy to reach the place where they could begin a new life while awaiting final word from their great leader. They fully realized that they were part of a great western Mormon migration which consisted of those who were coming overland under the leadership of Brigham Young, the southern Saints who were already on their way under the direction of Elder John Brown, and members of the Mormon Battalion who had left Fort Leavenworth for the west.

Probably a majority of the Brooklyn Saints finally found a home with others of their religious viewpoint in Utah. Some stayed in California and remained true to the faith that had brought them on this perilous journey; while others were led away from the Church through the actions of men and the lure of gold. While the story of Brannan has been written and rewritten, very little has been published of the men and women who accompanied him and who gave so much for the sake of their religious beliefs. These Latter-day pilgrims, or "Water Saints" as they were often called, placed their faith in Brannan until they were satisfied that he had failed to live the life demanded of a Latter-day Saint leader, inasmuch as he had forgotten his followers while surrounding himself with great wealth. Had Brannan remained strong in the faith and fulfilled his obligations to those who trusted him, he would have been a great force for good in the Mormon settling of western America.

Samuel Brannan Their Leader
Samuel Brannan, son of Thomas and Sarah Emery Brannan, was born in Saco, York county, Maine March 2, 1819. He started his adventuring early pushing into the wilds of Ohio where, at the age of seventeen, he purchased his time from a printer to whom he had been bound out and became a traveling printer and journalist. A publication failed him in New Orleans and another in Indianapolis. While living near Kirtland, Ohio at the home of his sister Mary Ann, thirteen years his senior, and her husband Alexander Badlam, who were devout members of the Latter-day Saint Church, he attended some of their meetings and was privileged to hear Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, speak. During this time he became acquainted with Harriet Hatch and after a short courtship they were married by Joseph Smith. One child was born of this union, but the marriage proved `unhappy and soon ended in a separation.

In the early 1840's, Samuel went to New York where he became associated with William Smith, brother of the Prophet and shortly thereafter was baptized a member of the Latter-day Saint Church by him. Soon he began the publication of a Church paper known as The Prophet. It was at this period in his life that he met Ann Elizabeth Corwin, daughter of Fanny Corwin, who later became his second wife.

After the death of the Prophet, when men were divided in their opinions as to who should be the leader of the Church, Brannan supported William Smith's claim for which he was disfellowshipped. But later he made a trip from New York to Nauvoo, Illinois where he asked to be reinstated. After an inquiry as to his beliefs and his loyalty to the Church under the leadership of Brigham Young, he regained his former status. Brannan then returned to New York assigned to work with Apostles Parley P. and Orson Pratt. He was also ordered to go forth with a publication expounding the principles of Mormonism which was called The Messenger.

Apostle Orson Pratt having received word that he must return to Nauvoo, Illinois, bid the Eastern Saints farewell on the 12th of November, 1845, explained the circumstances in Nauvoo and stated: "Elder Samuel Brannan is hereby appointed to preside over and take charge of the company that goes by sea, and all who go with him will be required to give strict heed to his instructions and counsel. They should go as soon as possible."

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.