100 Years Ago: Insurrection, Death, North Pole

Robert Peary and Bob Bartlett

Robert Peary and Captain Bob Bartlett standing on a ship, Battle Harbor, Labrador, circa 1909

The following was adapted from the Improvement Era magazine of March 1911.

Insurrection In Mexico (Again)

The insurrection in Mexico, in the interest of Francisco de Madero, the defeated candidate for the presidency, which broke out on November 17 last, is still in progress in northern Mexico. Considerable trouble has been experienced by roving bands of robbers in Chihuahua, where they have attacked settlements which they considered were unable to defend themselves.

Several conflicts with government troops have taken place, and things are in an uncertain condition in that state. So far the settlements of the Latter-day Saints have not been disturbed, though much anxiety has been felt, and the situation is serious.

[Not much has changed in 100 years. Today’s Mexican Drug War, an armed conflict among rival drug cartels and between the drug cartels and the Mexican government, killed 12 mayors and a candidate for governor in 2010. Among the states that suffer most is Chihuahua, mentioned in the 1911 story.]

Falling Mule Death (Amended)

[This is a continuation of last month’s story]
Elder John Edward Kirkman, who came to his death in Hawaii, on January 10, it appears did not fall from a precipitous cliff into the sea. He came to his death in trying to cross a mountain stream which was unusually swollen. He got into the center of the stream, when his mule lost its footing, and he was washed with the animal over a high waterfall, some twenty feet below the crossing, which neither he nor his companion, who wisely did not venture to cross the stream, knew existed.

After strenous effort, the body was found in a cave below the fall; it was veiled by the falling waters and washed continually with the rainbow spray, so that his body was preserved as though in sleep. It is expected the body will be brought to Utah for burial.

North Pole (Almost)

Peary reached the north pole within a mile and three-fifths, according to the government report made by an expert who examined his observations. It thus appears that the exact spot was not reached, but it is evident that it was near enough for all practical purposes, and no one else is likely to attempt the feat in the near future.

Adapted from: “Passing Events”, Improvement Era, Vol. XIV. March, 1911. No. 5.
Photograph: Library of Congress, Peary & Bartlett, Battle Harbor
Rickety signature.

100 Years Ago: Wards, Liquor, and Lynchings

The following was adapted from the Improvement Era magazine of February 1911.

Number of Wards

The number of wards in the various stakes of Zion increased from 689, in 1909, to 696 in 1910. There are now 62 stakes, not including the California mission, where five wards were organized in 1910.

Duchesne stake, with four wards, and Carbon, with seven wards were organized in 1910. Bear Lake stake has 23 wards, the largest number in any of the stakes; Oneida and St. George each has 20; Cassia and Granite each 19; then Blackfoot and Sevier 18 each; and Summit 17.

[100 years later, on January 1, 2010, the Church reported 20,518 wards and 2,863 stakes.]

Liquor Regulation

Utah State Capitol

In 1911 the Capitol building did not yet exist but efforts were underway to choose a site.

The Utah Legislature, ninth session, met on January 9, 1911.

Governor William Spry read his message to the joint session on the 10th. It is a lengthy document touching on the needs of every department of the state, and recommending the passage of a local option bill “with provision for the proper regulation and control of the liquor traffic, as pledged in the platform” of the Republican party.

Senator George Sutherland was elected to succeed himself as U. S. Senator at the conjoint session, Jan. 18.

[In 1913, the ratification of the 17th Amendment provided for election of senators by popular vote rather than appointment by the state legislatures.]

Death to Americans

Rioting in Mexico, against Americans, took place in the city of Mexico, November 9, when the mob paraded the streets crying death to Americans, and threatening the American consulate. At Guadalajara there was anti-American rioting. The cause of the trouble was the lynching of a man, who was supposed to be a Mexican, at Rock Springs, Texas, November 3, which awakened bitter resentment in Mexico.

The disturbance, however, was promptly suppressed, more than two hundred rioters being arrested. The matter has been fixed up between the two governments, and the governor of Texas has promised to use every effort to punish the leaders of the lynchers.

Later, a revolution was planned to overthrow the government on November 20, but it failed, not without considerable bloodshed, however, and much alarm, especially in the state of Chihuahua, where matters are still in uproar at this writing.

[At least 597 Mexicans were lynched between 1848 and 1928. Between 1848 to 1879, Mexicans were lynched at the rate of 473 per 100,000 of population.]

Adapted from: “Passing Events”, Improvement Era, Vol. XIV. February, 1911. No. 4.
Photograph: Scott Catron
Rickety signature.

Mormons Living in El Paso Lumber Yard

Mormons living in El Paso lumber yard

This photograph was published by Bain News Service between 1910 and 1915. These Mormons were probably refugees from Mexico. In addition to numerous Mexican refugees, nearly 3,000 Mormons sought refuge in El Paso in 1912, going there from Mexico to escape dangers in the border areas during the Mexican revolution that started in 1911. The refugees received a warm welcome from the hospitable people of El Paso—so warm that many of them decided to stay.

When Salazar, a leading revolutionary general, demanded that the Mormons surrender all their guns to his army, they hurriedly made preparations to move their families out of Mexico.

At 7:30 a.m. on July 29, 1912, the Colonia Diaz colonists were informed that they would need to leave in three hours. By 10:30 a.m., 800 colonists were ready to board trains bound for El Paso. The trains contained mostly women and children. Many of the men rode north hoping to avoid militia in an effort to drive their remaining livestock across the border. Many were robbed, some were beaten, and a few were killed. As many as 1,500 colonists found themselves homeless in El Paso during the summer of 1912

Once villages were abandoned, Mexican troops ransacked and burned homes and property. Livestock was slaughtered and left to rot in the street. Furniture was set ablaze within comfortable, clean homes. Machinery was smashed to bits. For a revolution ignited by poverty, such wanton acts of destruction revealed an alarming rage. The Sonora colonies were utterly destroyed never to be resettled.

After 25 years of careful cultivation, the crops and orchards were particularly bountiful that season and the colonists were forced to leave just before harvest. George Sevey wrote in his memoirs of the day the women and children left:

Our gaze is now turned toward the north, there like field after field of corn, oats, and potatoes, clothed in that deep rich verdure which promises abundant harvest of mature products.

Source: The 1912 Exodus of Mormon Colonists from Mexico
Photo Credit: Library of Congress. Here is a high resolution 5784 x 4218 pixels version, in Tagged Image File (TIF) format, that you can download.
Rickety signature.

Mission Reflexiones: Comienzos

Jake and his Dad at the MTC August 2006
My guest writer today is my son Jake Willoughby who just sent this post via email from Mexico.

More than two years ago in May I received my calling to Mexico as an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the Savior Himself. I remember calmly opening the envelope with the cameras rolling and reading the letter that extended my call to serve in the Mexico, Mexico City North Mission. My feelings indifferent as I was glad to serve the Lord wheresoever He desired. I had a great desire to learn another language and my two brothers had learned Spanish in their missions. I believe the realization of what I had undertaking did not sink in until I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

Wednesday, 23rd of August, 2006: My family accompanied me to Provo to see me off. I had already been through the experience with my two brothers so I knew what to expect. I dropped my luggage in the indicated place, and signed in. After the short meeting they instructed us to say goodbye and part from our family through opposite doors. I had learned from my older brother, Paul, that getting it over quickly is the best way. I gave a quick hug to everyone and said “goodbye.” I was eager to enter the other door and start the mission I had prepared for all of my life.

Missionary Jake – Part 8 of 10

This is part eight of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

January 2008

Looks like I have several cavities. The dentist says I could take them out right now or wait until I get back so it would be under the insurance.

Mom, I hear the exuse of “I am too old to (change/learn something new/whatever thing)” from a lot of people. The mind only gets old from disuse. The prophet is 97 years old and he has a mind very active! What a great example of diligence and perseverance. Learn the song in Spanish, not just how to sing it but what each word means and why it is that way. I have seen many people who have been born from above (see John 3:3-7 and the footnotes) in their old age and have truly walked in new life (see Romans 6:4). We should not just follow what the prophet says but also what he does.

P days we sometimes play soccer. Every chapel has a small soccer court.

Jake ready to baptize in February

The priesthood holder that I baptized, Alan Olmos, baptized his niece this week. We are also teaching more people from his family and their baptism will be in a few weeks. I forgot the cables to download the photos from the camera, until next week!

This week we found two great families. The mom of one family said “I’ve been praying to know which church is the true church.” I said something like “Perfect, we have an answer.” She will be baptized in two weeks along with two of her five children and her mother.

I have several extremely small cavities, they don’t even show up on the X-ray. He used a blue light to find them and show me them.

In December we broke a mission record of baptisms. The last record was set more than 20 years ago when my mission president was the assistant here. He said he was a little sad to see it fall, but not to missionaries like us. The Lord is truly working a marvelous work here in Mexico.

I think my email last week got returned. Transfers were today. I am now in Cuatitlan Izcali with Elder Martinez. It is a great new opportunity to build the kingdom and accelerate the work of the Lord.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 7 of 10

This is part seven of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

October 2007

I’ll buy the camera. Transfer some money from my savings to my checking so I can buy it directly from the card. I am still in the best zone in the mission going for 3 months baptizing more than cualquier otra. Who is Adelaide? Maybe a picture of them dos with her last name? Elder Ontiveros is my new companion. The mission continues progressing baptizing more than every other mission in Mexico for a couple of months. Good to see that Steven is happy as ever.

Halloween is the same here in Mexico. Just think of Mexico as the United States but with a culture twist to everything. I don’t know what you can send in the newsletter. I barely have time to get an email off to the family. Just don’t paste in things like “my mission is the best in the world”. They might not like stuff like that.

Missionaries from my zone

The camera was probably stolen from my backpack in the chapel. Another missionary had his camera stolen from the same chapel. There really isn’t a way to report it. The police would just laugh. The members are keeping an eye out, and we are thinking of setting a trap so I can at least get my pictures if they even still exist. The cameras here are about double the price as in the United States. I am going to buy a new little Canon for 4100 pesos.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 2 of 10

This is part two of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

October 2006

Mexico is a blast. There is a ton of people to teach and they are a very faithful people. The mission president has told us to always invite people to be baptized in the first lesson, and most of them accept! If they don’t during the first lesson then usually the second. Two elders pointing to mission destinations on MTC mapWe don’t have to hold back on any commitments because the people are clear-cut—they either accept all of our message or none of it. My first baptism here was going to be a woman who has a terrible fear of water (when she was baptized before she got infections in her ears), and the bishop managed to do it, but her whole body might not have been under water. We’ll figure it out. Not much else is going on. My companion is a Native Mexican from another part of the country and is an excellent missionary.

November 2006

Things are great in Mexico. The weather is perfect. Everyone thinks I am absolutely crazy walking around in short sleeves. When it is 70 degrees they bring out their heavy coats and grumble about the cold. We had a baptism that my companion said se cayò de los cielos or fell from the sky. After teaching someone two lessons, he said that he didn’t want to be baptized. A week later he came to church and said I want to be baptized right now. We were happy to oblige and had the service right after church.Photo of Mission President and his wife with Jake

December 2006

The Sunday school lessons are about the same here. The only difference is I can’t understand what they are always saying. The stories are the same and the application is the same. It just takes a bit of getting used to. I still have to get a manual, so I can follow along for the new year, but our study time is limited so we try and make it the most effective that we can (because of this it makes sense that we can only study the mission library and the Ensign). The chapels here are quite a bit different in construction, but they are all similar in and of themselves. It seems like they have a set for the United States, a set for Mexico, and possibly more. Being a missionary is really neat. Whenever I get the chance to tell your conversion story. I always think of the blessing that it is to be able to serve a mission. I guess you could really say that having four sons that have served/will serve counts as your mission.