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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.]

41 Steaming Up the Hudson

On Tuesday morning, October 13, 1840, Theodore Turley and his fellow passengers loaded their luggage onto a steamer, the Congress, which Theodore had contracted to take the Latter-day Saint emigrants up the Hudson River to the Albany Basin and then on to West Troy. Before the passengers left the ship North America, customs officers inspected their baggage. It wasn’t much of an inspection. Theodore’s assistant William Clayton wrote that the officers soon finished the job, “for they only looked at the top of the goods without examining to the bottom of our boxes.”1

The North America had been the passengers’ floating home for over a month, but at noon on Tuesday, the migrating Saints bid adieu to the ship and its crew. “The Captain seemed very friendly and said he should wish to bring another company of us over,” wrote Clayton. “He enquired if we had a church in New York and where they meet.” Theodore introduced the ship’s captain to Lucian R. Foster, a leader among the Saints in New York. President Foster told Captain Lowber “where they held their meetings.”2

If Theodore and his fellow passengers left on good terms with the captain of the North America, they started out on the wrong foot with the men who operated the Congress. “The agreement which Elder Turley made with the proprietors of the Congress,” wrote Clayton, “was that we should sail this day but they have broke their bargain and Elder Turley is much troubled.”3

Instead of steaming upstream, they spent the night in New York harbor, sleeping aboard the Congress. The delay gave the emigrants a chance to observe with wonder their new country. “I feel struck to see the horses and carts[,] even to see the light harness and small carts and light loads drawn by them,” Clayton said. “The drivers all ride. The fruit is quite delicious to English people.”4

It turned out fortunate that they stayed overnight. The next morning, one of the Latter-day Saint passengers died after being sick for over a week. His death necessitated a coroner’s inquest, which yielded a verdict that he “died from unknown causes.” He was furnished a coffin, and his body was taken into New York City for burial.5

Finally, at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the Latter-day Saint passengers witnessed what Clayton called “a very beautiful sight.” Seven steamboats left New York harbor at the same time. “It seemed as though the harbour was on a move,” he wrote. The Congress departed at 5:20.

“The company was in good spirits,” Clayton mused. “As we left New York we had a pleasant view of the North part of the city. The buildings chiefly white and very neat. The several spires towering towards the sky bore a majestic appearance.” Soon the sun set, and the passengers could see only moonlit rocks along the shore, “with here and there a beautiful white house scattered on the banks.”6

The wonderment continued the next morning. The passengers watched houses and villages pass by as the steamboat paddled up-river. Clayton continued his descriptions of what Theodore and others saw: “As we proceeded we saw many fields of grain which was cut. We saw in one field a great numb[e]r of pumpkins quite yellow and pretty. On one farm we saw about 140 cows and oxen and sheep in different places.”

Continuing upstream, they passed houses and fruit trees. The further up the river they rode, the richer yet rockier the land seemed to become. Around 5:30 p.m. they reached Albany. The Mormon passengers continued upstream another six miles to West Troy, where they stopped overnight.7

[Next issue: “The Erie Canal”]

© 2011 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the June 2011 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, eds., Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840 to 1842 (Santa Barbara, CA: Peregrine Smith, 1974), 185; William Clayton to Edward Martin, November 29, 1840, http://nycldshistory.com/nycldshist/index.php?title=William_Clayton_Diary#cite_ref-1 (accessed May 8, 2011). (Note: the cited link no longer works and an archived version is unavailable. See the online catalog at the Church History Library website for William Clayton’s letter to Edward Martin.)
  2. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 185; Clayton to Martin, November 29, 1840.
  3. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 185.
  4. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 185-86.
  5. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 186.
  6. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 186.
  7. Allen and Alexander, Manchester Mormons, 186-87.