FIRST IMMIGRANTS TO NAUVOO
THE FIRST IMMIGRANTS TO NAUVOO
by Stanley B. Kimball.
The first foreign mission of the Church began when Heber C. Kimball and associates landed in England July 20, 1837. Nine months later there were between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the British Mission. Since that time tens of thousands of converts have immigrated to this country first to Nauvoo, later to Utah. This flood of immigrants began with a company of forty-one under the direction of Elder John Moon.

Sometime in November 1837, Heber C. Kimball went to the village of Wrightington in Lancashire (near Preston, which was then church headquarters in England). on the way he stopped at the home of a Francis Moon, a member of the Church. There he learned that the family of Matthias Moon had "sent a request for me to visit them." He did so, but felt that the family was prejudiced against the gospel. Several days later upon his return from Wrightington, Elder Kimball felt "forcibly led" to the Moons. This time he was enthusiastically received and shortly afterwards baptized Matthias Moon, his wife Alice Plumb Moon, and their four daughters, Hannah, Dorothy, Lydia, and Alice. Sometime later the rest of the family consisting of five sons was baptized. Their names were Richard, William, John, Thomas, and Hugh. Elder Kimball reports that the sons were good musicians and the daughters were excellent singers.

Before Elder Kimball left England, April 20,1830, he had baptized about thirty of the Moon family. The five sons of Matthias were all ordained to be "fellow laborers," or missionaries. For the next several years various members of the Moon family worked to spread the gospel. At a general conference of the Church held in Preston on April 15, 1840, for example, Elder John Moon represented the neighborhood at Dauber's Lane, Elder Francis Moon at Blackburn, and Elder John Moon at Leyland Moss.

After the death of Father Matthias in 1839, his wife and some of the children and other members of the family decided to immigrate to the United States. Accordingly they left their home in Penwortham for Liverpool on May 20, 1840, where the Moon family became the core of the first company to leave England. The company consisted of Alice Moon, her brother-in-law Henry Moon, her sons John and Hugh, seven others of her family, Francis Moon, another Henry Moon, William Sutton, William Sitgraves, Richard Eaves, Thomas Moss, Henry Moore, Nancy Ashworth, Richard Ainscough, and twenty other members of these families. This company was officially organized by Brigham Young and others of the Council of the Twelve on June 1, 1840, Brigham Young's thirty-ninth birthday.

This company under John Moon was blessed by Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young and given directions on how to reach Nauvoo. John Moon's younger brother Hugh was instructed by Elder Kimball to keep a record of their trip to Nauvoo. Since his comments are very brief they are here quoted.

"June 6, about four o'clock we were let loose in the river and set sail. June 7, Sunday most of us were sick, June 8, we had a strong boisterous wind. June 9, some of us began to be a little better. "From this time until the eighteenth of June we had much sickness and sea-sickness, and flucks. Had a strong head wind. June 19, the passengers were aroused to much excitement by the sailors beating the old cook. The Captain and First and Second Mates were called. They laid hold of the sailor who began the fight to put him in irons, but all the balance took sides with him After quite a stir they got the sailor quieted down again. June 28, we had a fine day, but much sickness again. July 2, we got to the banks of New Foundland, saw fishing craft, bought some fish. July 17, we cast anchor in the sight of the city of New York. We stopped in the river two days, then came to the city, stayed in the city eight days."

During the eight days in New York City, Hugh, at least, stayed with some members of the Church there, the Addison Everett family. On July 28, the company started overland for Nauvoo. They took steamboat and train for Philadelphia, and slowly Proceeded by way of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. They arrived in St. Louis April 21, 1841, after nearly nine months on the way from New York. They had done no traveling between August 21 until April 3, but spent the winter in Pine Township near Allegheny City, not far from Pittsburgh. While there their Uncle Henry Moon died January 19, 1841 at age seventy-one. Their brother Thomas also died on October 2, 1841.

From St. Louis they took a river-steamer and arrived at Montrose, Iowa, (opposite Nauvoo) April off where they immediately moved into a log cabin about half a mile from the rivers Shortly afterwards they all took sick with the fever from which their mother Alice Moon died August 14, 1841 at Montrose.

Hugh was ordained a high priest in the Masonic Hall at Nauvoo January 12, 1848, and John was called on a mission to Maine. In April 1846 he moved to Nauvoo where he married Maria Emeline Mott, a daughter of Able Mott of Montrose.

During the mobbings at Nauvoo in 1846, he, his wife, two sisters, and a brother John, moved back to Montrose. In May of 1848 Hugh made himself a wagon and moved his family west. He fell in with the Moses Witeer company which later joined Amasa Lyman's company, and they all reached the valley of the Great Salt Lake October 18, 1848.

Apparently John Moon remained behind in Montrose for some time. The record says that he died of cholera en route to Salt Lake City on July 12, at age forty-five. This would place the year of his death in 1854.

When this first company of converts arrived in New York City, 1840, they sent a notice back to England of their success which was printed in the Millennial Star, September 1840. It reads: "When thousands and tens of thousands are emigrating from this land to America, New Holland, etc., hoping by their industry to get a morsel of bread cheaper, and easier than they now do, and thus escape the miseries of hunger which some are already enduring, we rejoice that a few poor Saints find it in their hearts and can get the means to do likewise."

The second company of 200 converts left Liverpool on the North America September 7, 1840 under the direction of Elder Theodore Turley and William Clayton. The third and last company for that year left October 15th on the Isaac Newton with fifty Scotch Saints. They sailed for New Orleans, a more direct and less expensive route since it was an all water journey via New Orleans up the Mississippi to Nauvoo. Thereafter the New Orleans route was the main one.

This change of routing was undoubtedly the result of a letter which Joseph Smith wrote in October 1840 to the twelve in England in which he said, "I think that those who came here this fall did not take the best possible route, or the least expensive." Brigham Young himself directed all migration until April 1841 when he returned to Nauvoo. By that time 1,020 converts had migrated.

Francis Moon, uncle of John and Hugh wrote two letters back to England entitled "Advice to Emigrants." In the second one, printed in the Millenial Star in February 1842 he warned future enigrants in a candid fashion that they would face difficulties and advised them to lay in a good store of patience,"to have "great courage," and to put on the "whole armour of God," to beware of "some whose tongues are smoother than oil, but the poison of asps is under their tongue." He says that they would find some who are wicked and deceitful.

In spite of this frank advice so many converts desired to emigrate that it taxed the Church to take care of them and to absorb them into the economy of the harassed and persecuted stakes in and around Nauvoo. In relation to this problem the Council of the Twelve, just before they left England for their return trip to Nauvoo, wrote a General Epistle to the Saints in England on April 15, 1841, setting forth the following advice and admonition.

"It will be necessary, in the first place, for men of capital to go on first and make large purchases of land, and erect mills, machinery, manufacturies, etc., so that the poor who go from this country can find employment. Therefore, it is not wisdom for the poor to flock to that place extensively, until the necessary preparations are made. Neither is it wisdom for those who feel a spirit of benevolence to expend all their means in helping others to emigrate, and thus all arrive in a new country empty-handed. In all settlements there must be capital and labor united, in order to flourish.... Building cities cannot be done without means and labor.... We would also exhort the saints not to be in haste, nor by flight, but to prepare all things in a proper manner before they migrate."

One of the last things the apostles did before leaving England was to appoint Elder Amos Fielding as "agent of the Church, to superintend the fitting out of the Saints from Liverpool to America." This was occasioned by the fact that many Saints had been robbed and cheated by pickpockets and others who took advantage of their poor judgment and inexperience while in Liverpool awaiting ship. This step eventually led to the chartering of vessels for the purpose of saving passage money, buying provisions wholesale, and avoiding bad company, and ultimately to the creation of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund which functioned from 1849 to 1887.

Such is the story of the first immigrants to Nauvoo. Incomplete records show that over 3,300 British converts migrated to Nauvoo by the time of the exodus west in 1846. The strength and faith of these converts did much to build up and fortify the Church during the period of persecution when Joseph Smith was murdered and the Church was driven by mobs from Nauvoo.

From Improvement Era , March 1963