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Theodore Turley: A Biography
Richard E. Turley, Jr.

[This is another in a continuing series of newsletter articles that together will make up the first rough draft of a biography of Theodore Turley. The draft will undergo considerable revision before being published in book form. I invite all family members to read it critically, make suggestions, and offer additional information for possible inclusion. Feel free to e-mail me.]

18 Early Missionaries Continue their Voyage to England, 2 January–11 January 1840

Elder Taylor described Thursday, 2 January 1840, as “calm till 6 O clock then fair wind.”1 Elder Woodruff’s account proved far more specific. “The Sun rose clear,” he began, noting “it was the first time we had seen the Sun for 5 days.” Of the wind, he wrote, “We have a calm this morning.” Considering his New Year’s Eve entry that had lamented not seeing other ships to break up the trip’s monotony, his next description must have been written somewhat gleefully: “There is a vessel in sight of us the first one we have seen since we left N[ew] Y[ork]. [I]t was astern of us.”

His final sentence of the day provides a colorful verbal snapshot of Theodore and his companions: “Elders Taylor, Turl[e]y, & myself sat down upon the anchor & had a [snack?] of Buternuts.”2

“Fair wind” was all Elder Taylor wrote of the next day.3 The ever dutiful historian, Elder Woodruff, called it “A good day,” then gave two reasons for calling it that. First was the weather and its impact on their travel: “fair Sailing & good breeze.” The second was the highlight of the day: “We were in full view of two Sail[s] one fore & the other aft of us We soon overtook the one before us & spoke to her & found her to be a British Brigg Sailed from Halifax & bound for Liverpool & 20 days at sea her Long[itude] was 33, 30 She raised British colors The Oxford rais[e]d American colors & her Long[itude] was 34, 40.”4

“[W]ind aft,” Elder Taylor recorded of the next day, a Saturday.5 Elder Woodruff gave details: “Fair weather, wind right aft, & stiff breeze & sail fast.” Again alert to interesting details, Elder Woodruff wrote, “They had a time of butchering hogs & sheep on board.”6

“Fair wind” was once again the only detail Elder Taylor gave of the next day, Sunday, 5 January.7 Elder Woodruff’s account broke the day into parts: “rough Sea, High winds, & rain in the morning sea & winds more calm at noon We saw a large school of porposes We have a calm & plesant evening which we spent on deck viewing the stars & ocean.”8 Far away from city lights, the stars must have appeared brilliant to Theodore and his companions.

Elder Taylor’s one-word description of Monday, 6 January, was “calm.”9 For passengers on a sailing ship, calmness is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, calm seas mean less turbulent travel. On the other hand, little wind means slow traveling and a longer trip. Elder Woodruff’s account reflected the dilemma: “A pleasant morning & a calm but having 12 sails spread we traveled about 3 miles an hour.”10

“Calm” was all Elder Taylor wrote for the next day.11 “We have a dead calm to Day in Long[itude] 17, 40,” Elder Woodruff elaborated. “We spoke [to] a Scottish Bark nam[e]d Georgeana from Leith Scotland bound for Granada a west Indi[a]n Island this her 7th day at Sea her Long[itude] 1740.”

A close observer of nature, he wrote, “A number of Birds Such as Sea Guls were flying around the Ship & the passengers shot several of them & they fell dead into the water We saw a large School of porposes & blackfish some of the Blackfish were supposed to be as much as 20 feet in length they would roll on top of the water all around the Ship.”12 What Elder Woodruff meant by “Blackfish” is uncertain since the various species that go by that name today do not come anywhere close to twenty feet in size.13

“Close to the wind,” Elder Taylor noted of 8 January.14 “A good Stiff breeze arose about 1 oclo[c]k P.M. & we sailed well th[r]ough the day,” Elder Woodruff jotted. “A lig[h]ted tar Barrel was set afloat from the Ship in the evening which looked splendid at Sea.”15

“Fair wind,” Elder Taylor recorded of Thursday, 9 January 1840.16 “Cloudy & cold,” Elder Woodruff scrawled in his journal. “Smooth Sea & fair breeze it grows coldier as we draw nearer to land We are about entering the St Gerge’s channel or the mouth of it & Ho, Ho, the cry of land is he[a]rd from [the] masthead. We went on to the fore castle & after Straining our eyes a few moments we got sight of it. [I]t was the Irish coast laying 3 points to our Lee bow this is the first land we have seen for 20 days At 8 oclo[c]k in the evening the se[a]rching lamp at the lighthouse at cape clear came in full view.”17

Cape Clear, also known as Oileán Chléire or Clear Island, is an island three miles long and one mile wide lying off the southern coast of Ireland.18 St. George’s Channel, the southern opening into the Irish Sea between Ireland and Wales, is roughly one hundred fifty miles further east northeast.

At the end of his day’s account, perhaps the most exciting of the voyage to that point, Elder Woodruff included a mysterious shorthand entry, which one source has transcribed as follows: “The company of passengers was disturbed by the grling of some wicked [-].”19 Apparently something happened on board that was so distasteful that the missionary diarist didn’t think it fit for regular recording.

Perhaps the disturbance was caused by sailors, who were infamous for their crude behavior. Or perhaps the disturbance was of a religious nature. In a later published account of his mission, Wilford Woodruff recounted: “While on the ship, a Methodist minister got into a discussion with some Catholics who were in the company, and the arguments of the minister ran rather more into abuse than sound argument. Elder Taylor told the Methodist minister that he did not think it was becoming in a daughter to find so much fault with the mother as they did, for as the Methodists came out of the Catholics, Elder Taylor thought the mother had as much right to enjoy her religion unmolested as the daughter had. That ended the argument.”20

For the date of 10 January 1840, John Taylor wrote, “Saw Cape Clear.”21 For that same date, Elder Woodruff recorded, “The mountains of the Irish coast are in full view & also 6 or 7 Sail[s] the weather is cloudy & rather cool we have a good view & sail fast we have a plesant evening & walked the decks untils 9 oclok & viewed the lighthouses &c.”22

The next day, Saturday, 11 January 1840, would be their last at sea—and for a time it seemed it might be their last on earth. “We have a heavy gale commencing about 1 oclok in the morning,” Wilford Woodruff explained, “& we were in some danger having the weltch [Welsh] coast on one side & the Irish on the other, their was a great bustle & noise on board arising from the command of the Captain & mates &c the singing of the Sailors & the whistling of the winds & the roaring of the waters while at the same time the Ship was pitching & rocking to & fro.”23

“Passed Hollyhead,” Elder Taylor began his account for the day.24 North of the town of Holyhead, situated on Holy Island in North Wales, the ship would have been able to turn directly east toward Liverpool, their destination.

“We reached the pilate [pilot] ground at day light & raised colours for a pilate to come on board,” Elder Woodruff wrote. “A pilate Boat soon appear[e]d & . . . came along side & gave us a pilate, & he informed us that the Liverpool had not yet ar[riv]ed She was a Steem Ship & started 5 days before us & the Indipendance had not got in & she started 10 days before us. The pilate had no sooner came on board before the Steem Ship Liverpool hove in sight over our stern. the pilate ordered the Sail to be spread notwithstanding it was blowing a gale we then gained fast of the Liverpool, & their was many [a] Sail floating upon our right & left hand.”25 Elder Taylor gave a similar, but shorter, account of the same events.26

When it became clear the passengers would soon reach land, the ship became a hive of activity. Elder Woodruff observed, “There was much bustle among the passengers in shaving, washing & prep[a]ring themselves to go on shore.”

“The City of Liverpool soon was in sight,” he continued, “& an English SteemBoat soon came along side & towed us into port or the dock in Liverpool we got along side of the key a few minutes before the Liverpool or Independence the Oxford Liverpool & Independence all reached the dock within 30 minutes of each other.”27 John Taylor noted that they landed at “the Princes Dock.”28 The arrival of so many ships near the same time meant huge crowds at the dock. In a later letter, Wilford Woodruff noted that “the three above named ships reached the quay or dock at Liverpool within 30 minutes of each other; the Oxford arrived first, and we landed in the midst of thousands who stood upon the quay anxiously awaiting the arrival of the ships.”29

Wilford Woodruff, in his characteristic way, provided a statistical summary of the last half of the trip since he recorded his last such summary midway across the ocean on New Year’s Day: “Their was 109 souls of us all who reached the shore in good health and spirits our company was composed of Americans English, Scotch, Irish, Weltch, & Dutch. . . . Distance from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool England 1950 mi[les].”30

The impressions of Theodore Turley and John Taylor upon landing in England were different from those of American native Wilford Woodruff, who later reflected: “As England was the native place of Elders Taylor, and Turley, of course it appeared natural unto them: but it being the first time that I had set my feet upon the soil of England, it appeared unto me like an old world sure enough, for all the fires, from the parlor to the largest public works of every name and nature, being fed alone from stone coal, that it causes the whole horizon, air, elements, earth, buildings, and every thing visible to be covered with gas, soot and smoke, that it makes the towns and cities appear at the first sight something similar to a coal pit, or smoke house.”31

Elder Woodruff also recorded what he, John Taylor, and Theodore did when they landed: “We went into Liverpool & visited several Noted places the New market, custom house, Lord Nelsons monument which is much Noted in England &c all of which were quite splendid.”32 He later added, “The buildings in England are mostly composed of stone or brick, the plain walls of which show that the majority of them were built more for durability and profit, than outward show; while others indicate great architecture, splendor, and magnificience.”33

After visiting these noted architectural structures, Elder Woodruff wrote, “We took supper in white Chapel & lo[d]gings in Church street at the Birmingham arms.”34 Apparently their lodgings were less than desirable, for Elder Woodruff again made a cryptic shorthand entry that has been interpreted to mean “and may the Lord henceforth deliver me from such a place.”35

Having finally reached the shores of England, they would soon begin their missionary work in earnest.

[Next issue: “From Liverpool to Birmingham, 12 January-29 January 1840”]

© 2002 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the February 2002 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  2. Woodruff, Journal, 2 January 1840.
  3. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  4. Woodruff, Journal, 3 January 1840.
  5. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  6. Woodruff, Journal, 4 January 1840.
  7. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  8. Woodruff, Journal, 5 January 1840.
  9. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  10. Woodruff, Journal, 6 January 1840.
  11. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  12. Woodruff, Journal, 7 January 1840.
  13. See, e.g., The World Book Encyclopedia (1988), s.v. “Blackfish,” which describes two Atlantic species, the tautog, which reaches about two feet in length, and the black sea bass.
  14. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  15. Woodruff, Journal, 8 January 1840.
  16. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  17. Woodruff, Journal, 9 January 1840.
  18. For additional information on this island, including excellent photographs, see the website at http://www.oilean-chleire.ie/index.htm. (TTFO Admin Note 9/14/19: the updated site address is http://www.oilean-chleire.ie/index.)
  19. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Typescript, vol. 1 (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983), 402. I have omitted the angle brackets included in the transcript of the quoted passage.
  20. W[ilford] Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881), 74.
  21. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  22. Woodruff, Journal, 10 January 1840.
  23. Woodruff, Journal, 11 January 1840.
  24. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362.
  25. Woodruff, Journal, 11 January 1840.
  26. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 362-63.
  27. Woodruff, Journal, 11 January 1840.
  28. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, 30 January 1840, in Men with a Mission, 363.
  29. Wilford Woodruff to Elders Robinson and Smith, 7 October 1840, in Times and Seasons 2, no. 8 (15 February 1841): 313.
  30. Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 11 January 1840.
  31. Woodruff to Robinson and Smith.
  32. Woodruff Journal, 11 January 1840.
  33. Woodruff to Robinson and Smith.
  34. Woodruff Journal, 11 January 1840.
  35. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1:403.