Tag Archives | Elam Luddington

The Opening Scene

To Siam

 Audrey Bastian

Copyright: Audrey Bastian LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  Author reserves the right to make changes before publication.



 thy name shall not be lost

Joseph Smith, Sr. to Elam Luddington

Nauvoo, September 7, 1842



Chapter 1



Wood creaked, its canvas clapped as the ship John Adams pitched through waves like fins.  The ocean bulged; its spritz like pellets. Alone at sea between Liverpool and New York clouds blurred the touch of earth and sky. With bent knees and fists at their eyes the deck’s seamen dashed about listening through gale force winds for the boatswain’s orders. The deck rose and fell beneath them.

Hands about ship! Reef topsails in one! said the mate on the watch and the boatswain echoed coning the shout with his palm.

Reef the sails, men roared.

The stout ones bent for the rail of the ship scaling the salty ropes up the shroud for the yardarm, the young Luddington amongst them. They felt for the guard lines then hinged the yardarm at their waists shimmying over the sail. The ship’s carpenter below assessed the mast, gauging the groan and yawn of its wood. Luddington strained to mind the boatswain’s commands. The wind danced his hair. Legs wriggled as they all clung to the worn stalk. The yard thrust downward to the tilt of the ship then pushed back up hard against them. Their hands slid wet with sweat and sea.

Luddington lunged for the reefing ties on the bloated sail. His grip slackened. Fear creased his face. He hollered to the carpenter pacing below.

“Catch me!”

The carpenter followed the trajectory of Luddington’s body like a puppet above. Seamen turned their gaze. The ship’s lean, the mast’s growing angle; he could drop to the ocean.

Others froze; some quieted.

The wind burst. Luddington lost his grip. A yell. Breathing stiffened. Feeling canvas flapping from the windward yardarm he caught hold, airborne with the wind. Remembering like a dream; the deep hole in the river when he didn’t know how to swim, eight years old, nearly drowning, then crawling on the bed of the creek until he reached the opposite bank, panting. Dangling now, he opened his eyes.

A glance upward to the Almighty.

Nineteen year old Elam Luddington slogged down the gang-plank in New York the summer of 1825 with a lingering pain in his arm. There would be no return to sea for twenty-seven years. Then a man named Wilford Woodruff with hands on Elam’s head to bless him “saw nothing but seas, waves and storms”.


A couple of generations earlier British redcoats torched grandfather Elam Luddington’s house on their ride out of town in 1779 scarring the American into him. With other New Haven militiamen he picked up the planks from their ravaged coastline and rebuilt. Rachel and their two sons, four and one, dodged the siege among relatives. Elam died of an illness the year after George Washington relinquished his military command of the American rebel forces. His eighteen-month-old son and namesake matured with rarely a reprieve.  Menacing British war ships with commanders reluctant to honor the colonies’ delusions of independence, strangled businesses. He finally moved. Inland, a quiet town beckoned where pastoral simplicity still reigned. He married Sena. Their son, another Elam, filled with the stories of two generations’ battles at sea was ready for his own war. It wouldn’t come to him, though, in Connecticut.



“thy name shall not be lost” (Joseph Smith, Sr. patriarchal blessing to Elam Luddington.  Courtesy of Karen Bush Heritage documents.  Nauvoo, September, 1842.)

“Wood creaked and its canvas clapped…”  The event is taken from Elam Luddington’s Autobiographical Statement.  “One thing I forgot to mention, while reefing the topsails in a gale of wind, I lost my hold.  I cried out to the carpenter to catch me, and I barely saved myself by the sail flapping on the windward yard arm or main top sail.”  (Luddington, Elam.  “An Autobiographical Statement of Elam Luddington”. (Written some time between 1868-1893) Transcribed.  Luddington Family and all Existing Portions of an Autobiographical Sketch, FHL US/CAN Fiche 6018292, LDS Family History Center, Salt Lake City, UT.)  Bent knees comes from the reality that as the ship is moving through rough seas, it would behoove seamen to keep knees bent to stay upright.

“Hands about ship!…”  The sailing commands are from an old sailing song, “Oh’t is a fine frigate” from 1835 recorded by John Harland. I gained a fuller knowledge of reefing procedures from his work.  (Harland, John.  Illustrated by Mark Meyers.  Seamanship in the Age of Sail.  Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1985 p153.)  John Harland also points out that the stout were the ones recruited for reefing assignments.  This lines up with our measurements of Elam Luddington which we have from his military pension application, 5’8″.  I also met with his descendent Sam Bush who is also stout and aligns with this account.

“rail of the ship scaling the salty ropes up the shroud” I tried to balance actual sailing terms with words modern readers can understand.  A shroud is the latticed rope structure that leads to the upper part of the ship’s masts and yardarms.  Ropes have several names depending on their function and location on a ship.  In an attempt to replicate the experience as closely as possible, I consulted several sources.  (US Sloop-of-War Constellation (1854-1955).  Maintained and operated by Historic Ships in Baltimore.  Baltimore, MD.)  Even after all the book research, it still took a careful walk with some ready guides navigating around the US Sloop-of-War Constellation to realize some of the finer details that Luddington needn’t include for an audience more familiar with ships.  Bjorn Landstrom’s book directed me to period appropriate drawings of ships of different sizes and modalities.  (Landstom, Bjorn.  The Ship: An Illustrated History, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1961.)  I also ran my version of events with Jonathan Vega, a sailing instructor who corrected some of my assumptions.  I sailed on the schooner Pioneer (1885) in New York harbor under the care of the South Street Seaport Museum to get a sense of a moving sailing ship.  I would also recommend the movie Master and Commander.

“Catch me [!]”  This is a quote taken from Elam Luddington’s Autobiography.  “I cried out to the carpenter to catch me…”.

“The carpenter followed the trajectory of Luddington’s body like a puppet above….he could drop to the ocean.”  We can assume that at least some people watched the men risking their lives reefing the sail.  Seamen often lost their lives in this very dangerous activity.  The carpenter who was in charge of repairs to the ship would have paid attention, especially since we know he was somewhere below Elam when he lost hold.  Jonathan Vega helped me understand that the wind would have tilted or rocked the boat quite dramatically and at the angle and height a typical mariner was stationed reefing a topsail, Elam could easily have fallen into the ocean.

“Others froze; some quieted.”  Officers aboard ships expected that seamen would not talk on the top deck so they could hear orders.  Likely in a gale, it would have been hard to hear anyway.  Even with the potential for a fatal fall, not all of the men would have been able to stop but some must have realized what could have happened to Luddington and froze, perhaps even imagining themselves in his place.  The men depended on the sails to be reefed so they could manage the ship keeping as many safe as possible.

“Remembering like a dream; the deep hole in the river…”  This also comes from Luddington’s autobiography previously cited.  I used the even as a surreal memory that blurs his mind when he thinks he will lose his life.  He writes about this memory very close to when he writes about reefing the sails.  From his autobiography, “Three times I have come very near losing my life…. [The first is while reefing the sails which is portrayed in this opening scene.  The second is in Lousiana.] The third occasion was when I was eight years old, when, before I knew how to swim, I stepped in a deep hole in the river and crawled on the bed of the creek until I reached the opposite bank.”

“Nineteen year old Elam Luddington slogged down the gang plank in New York with a lingering pain in his arm”  We know he arrived in New York during the summer.  He writes in his autobiography, “We took on a load of coal, salt and 200 passengers, and sailed for New York, where we arrived after a sixty day passage, making the end of my first long sea trip.”  The lingering pain in his arm also comes from his autobiography.  “Here [Liverpool-1825], while discharging cargo between daylight and dark I feel down the hold and broke my left arm.  It was not properly set, and is lame to this day.”

“There would be no return to sea for twenty seven years.”  We have no record of him returning to sea until his mission to Siam.  All other accounts of him are inland.

“saw nothing but seas, waves and storms”  This is a quote from Wilford Woodruff in 1857 recalling a blessing he gave Elam Luddington in 1852.  (Long, J.V. Report on Elder Wilford Woodruff’s Remarks.  Bowery, Sunday Morning, September 27, 1857.  Courtesy of Karen Bush Heritage documents.)

“British redcoats torched Elam Luddington’s house on their ride out of town in 1779…”  This Elam Luddington refers to Elam Luddington’s grandfather.  The reference to the British burning down his house as well as replacing it the following year as well as more details regarding the British raid are from this work: (Hayward, Marjorie F.  The East Side of New Haven Harbor, Morris Cover (Solitary Cover), The Annex (The Indian Reservation), South End & Waterside 1644 to 1868.  New Haven: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1938.  p33-34, 75-76.)

“eighteen-month-old son and namesake matured with rarely a reprieve from menacing British war ships…” The dates of both grandpa Elam Luddington and father Elam Luddington as well as the Elam Luddington of this book come from a well respected genealogy.  (Jacobus, Donald Lines, compiler.  Families of Ancient New Haven, Vol IV.  New York: Clarance D. Smith, 1927.)  Father Luddington grew up during the wind up to the War of 1812 and was married with children when it occurred.  We know from Elam Luddington’s autobiographical sketch that his father was also a mariner at one time which strongly suggests that as a younger man he might have even taken part in some of the runs on British ships because New Haven and all the northeastern ports were involved.  The blockades of the New Haven harbor may have also instigated his move inland as well as his change in profession.  For this book I have chosen to take a more conservative route and assume that he at least had stories from his friends and extended family who were involved.

“He married Sena.”  This comes from the genealogy cited above as well as Luddington’s autobiographical sketch.  Her full name was Aseneth Munger Luddington.


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11 Things I’ve learned from Luddington

Here are 11 things I’ve learned while writing this book about Elam Luddington’s mission to Siam:

1  Nephi has been to Southeast Asia.


2  Nauvoo is land that Luddington’s relatives sold to Joseph Smith.


3  Another man turned down the mission call to Siam before Luddington was called.


4  New Haven is a dangerous city.


5  Queen Victoria started the trend in the English speaking world to have Christmas trees in the early 1800s.


6  Burmese also practiced polygamy.


7  Thailand/Siam didn’t allow foreigners to enter it’s borders for over 100 years before Luddington arrived.


8  The emperor in China during the Opium Wars was a foreigner himself.


9  Mormon pioneers enjoyed Sweet Pickle and Pinto Bean pies.


10  Reefing the Sails is a death wish for mariners in the 1800s.


11  In 160 years Barren Island only erupted once in recorded history and the Mormon missionaries witnessed it in 1853.

Here is a video from the Neal A Maxwell Institute. In minute 1:15 (towards the end) is the discussion of Nephi (and Lehi and the family) in Southeast Asia. JoAnn Seely (in the video) is my aunt.  (http://youtu.be/i_M_Faw_s3s)

Here is an image of the Christmas tree of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The German Prince Albert and other Germans brought the Christmas tree to England but it was Queen Victoria who adopted it and started the trend in the English speaking world for Christmas trees.

Prince Albert-Christmas Tree

Here is a drawing of seamen reefing the sails.

Reefing the Sails


[Update 1/21: Barren Island may well have erupted other times but was not recorded.  The next interesting research question is why it was not recorded.]

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Top 5 at MHA & Recent Publications

Top 5 at the Mormon History Association Conference (MHA) in Layton, Utah June 6-9, 2013:

<p>1Networking with so many intriguing Mormon history scholars asking questions. Writers and researchers are an inquisitive bunch. You couldn’t stand still without people posing new questions and others striking down myths. Very interesting. <p>2The Mormon/Asian history panels. These people gave me a sense for where Asian-Mormon history is, where it has been in the past, and where it could go in the future. I got new ideas for how to approach the story of Elam Luddington. <p>3Mormon Women’s History Initiative. There were so many interesting women historians who knew details that added depth to all the presentations. During the women’s initiative breakfast they read out our projects. Most of the writers/researchers are writing about women. When they read my name and that I was writing about Elam Luddington, a man, the woman paused looked up and said something like, it would be nice to have more women in our historical record. Or maybe that’s the feeling I got from her comments. I heartily agree that we should write about more women. However, I am interested in writing about a man. I think that women can write about men and bring new insights. <p>4Meeting Lanier Britsch. Lanny is the man who laid the foundation for Mormon history in Asia and the Pacific islands writing From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996 and Nothing More Heroic: The Compelling Story of the First Latter-day Saint Missionaries in India. He knew my grandpa, George Horton and had a similar warm and bright personality. <p>5Getting the inside story on authors’ book projects. I love watching authors work. When they’re in the middle of a book project, they are passionate, inquisitive, and completely enveloped in their subject matter. One of my favorite things to do is hear how they are making decisions; where to focus, how to approach, what details and why.MHA Conference2

Other highlights from the research trip:

Meeting Associate Professor Michael Goodman of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, former mission president in Thailand and former missionary to Thailand. He is the most recently published author on Elam Luddington in the book, Go Ye into All the World: The Growth & Development of Mormon Missionary Work. He’s done a wonderful job of putting together evidence from Luddington’s life and bringing it to a wider audience. I am honored to be able to work with him.

Finding a letter from Elam Luddington’s wife in the Church History Archives. The letter to Brigham Young points to her poverty while Luddington was on his mission.

Sitting for a few minutes near Elam Luddington’s burial plot in the Salt Lake City cemetery. It gave me a chance to reflect on all the information I had gathered up until then and try to get a sense of him.

Publications after the conference:

People I met at the conference gave me the opportunity to publish twice since I returned home from the trip on their websites:

“From Siamese Prison to Mormon Memory”   June 28, 2013

“The Broken History”   July 15, 2013

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Q&A with the Author

I was recently honored with an opportunity to guest post for the Juvenile Instructor.  For the full transcript of the post click here: “From Siamese Prison to Mormon Memory”.

People asked great questions that further developed my thoughts on the book’s trajectory and purpose.  Here are a few of the Q&A from the post.

Q  How long was Captain Trail in jail? Did he ever emigrate to the U.S? Utah?  Comment by Helen — June 28, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

A  Captain Trail was in prison roughly 2 1/2 months or 71 days. Here is the rest of the quote for those who are interested.  Paraphrasing the first part, The King confined bro. T. 71 days in a Siamese prison…”There grones while under the torture drew tears from the eyes of bro Trail he canciled several debts & set them at liberty only 10 soles came out alive, the King never feeds his prisoners if they hav no friends to feed them they starve to death…”

Did Captain Trail emigrate to US/Utah?

This is a great question. Luddington himself doesn’t mention Trail emigrating and may have lost contact with him. I checked both the “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel” and “Mormon Migration” databases and didn’t find Trail. If someone else knows something about it, please let me know.

What I think is also interesting is that if we only focus on the fact Luddington’s only convert was thrust in a Siamese prison, we might miss the powerful impact that experience might have had on Luddington’s perceptions of the King and Siam as a whole. What does that tell us about the Siamese? What does it say that 40 people died in that prison during those 2 1/2 months? I presume that many if not all 40 of those people were native Siamese. Do we have many stories of Westerners in prison in Siam?

Does this story help us get a more nuanced angle on what was happening in Siam in the mid 1800s? Western reports of Siam during this period were often positive or dismissive. This story shows the power of the King in a very intimate way.

Comment by Audrey Bastian — June 28, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

Another quick note: I think this story also demonstrates the power of the King in Siam in 1854. He was protecting his people from Western intrusion.

Comment by Audrey Bastian — June 28, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

Comment  Your points about paying attention to the “abysmal” baptism records are important. I feel too often we interpret signs of success (such as with high baptism numbers in certain regions) as being a marker of change whereas low or high baptism rates do reveal a lot about interactions between cultures.

I am also interested in learning about Elam Luddington’s missionary experience comparison of to others understandings of the missionary experience in the 19th century.

Comment by NatalieR — June 28, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

Q  When is the book going to be published? Or where is it in process?  Comment by Brig — June 28, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

A  Brig,  As to your question: Where is the book in progress?

The foundational research is mostly done. The first chapter is almost complete and the second chapter is well under way. There is an outline for the entire book already. A professional published narrative non-fiction writer critiqued it twice here in Washington DC. A published fiction writer also critiqued it here as well. I currently receive weekly feedback from another writer. Others are giving me feedback where they have expertise.

A note about narrative non-fiction:

Narrative non-fiction is lots of fun. Not a quote or an adjective can be fiction but it needs to read somewhat like fiction. Using fiction techniques to arrange a non-fiction piece can be tricky. Sometimes it takes me a week or more to write a sentence because not only do I need to know what happened, I need to know what it looked like, smelled like, sounded like, etc.

The process is a bit slow but very interesting. I hope to get lots of feedback as I go along from the experts in their fields related to my project. As you may notice, my website is full of reports on the narrative research that I am doing along with the scholarly. For example I recently wrote a post about how much time it took to go from Elam’s ward to the tabernacle. We actually walked and clocked it so that it would be an accurate narrative account rather a guess.

I appreciate this opportunity to write a piece on this blog.

Comment by Audrey Bastian — June 29, 2013 @ 9:28 am

Q  Very interesting piece. It’s clear that you are looking at the topic from many different angles! I’m curious about your outline — how many chapters are focused on Luddington’s observations as a window into Siam/Asia vs. how many are focused more on Mormonism and how it was being spread to other countries? I look forward to reading more!

Comment by llcall — June 29, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

A  llcall, I appreciate this question and it is a difficult question to answer. If I am reading your question correctly, it seems you are interested in knowing what the overall thesis or direction the book is taking at this point. And really there are two sides of this as you point out. The book could be more focused on Asian history and using Luddington’s story as a window into those dynamics. Or the book could focus more on the Mormon aspect of being in Asia as a missionary.

Although I am Mormon, my life focus and educational background has been in Asian history including speaking the languages, living and working there, or with Asians here in the United States. This is a new angle for me to come back into my own Mormon history and tackle a story that is a mixture of both.

The ultimate goal for me is to tell a powerful story of a man who goes on a quest and then believes he has failed. His people even think he has failed. But I want to use the years of training, language, and living in Asia to squeeze out every detail possible about the people he met and give them life and a voice. Just looking at Elam Luddington’s journal isn’t enough I believe. We have to know the dynamics of what was happening in those countries well enough to understand that his descriptions are only the very first blush of what he actually witnessed.

The interplay between what he thought he saw and what he actually saw is for me, breathtaking.

My goal is to show that interplay well. If people then read lessons into the story, it will be there own. I want to tell the story as honestly as I can.

There are some great pieces, though, that are telling the story of Mormon missionaries’ affect on the countries to which they proselyte. A new piece came out about New Zealand that won an award at the MHA conference. I think those points are also very interesting to take into account.

Comment by Audrey Bastian — June 29, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

To see all comments please refer to the article here: “From Siamese Prison to Mormon Memory”





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The Walk to the Tabernacle

A walk that changed Elam Luddington’s life took at least 13:22 minutes.  Elam walked to the Tabernacle for October conference 1852 as a City Marshall, Assessor, and Collector.  He walked back home with a mission call to Siam.

How did we get 13:22 minutes?

In the Church Archives in Salt Lake City, Utah I found the 1852 census in Brigham Young’s office records.  Elam is listed in the 12th ward in 1852.  Next we used this map of 1885 Salt Lake City to determine where the twelfth ward was located.  (Although the map is of 1885 Salt Lake City, the wards maintained the same boundaries of 1852 Salt Lake City.)

Salt Lake City wards in 1852

Salt Lake City wards in 1852

Then Jared Allebest and I went for a walk with a stop watch on a smart phone.

Elam's Ward Trees.2Jared Allebest, a deaf lawyer located in Salt Lake City, used his legal mind and propensity for picking up visual cues to help me scope out Elam Luddington’s 12th ward location.  He suggested walking from the closest corner (northwest) of Elam’s city ward to the site of the first Tabernacle building.

For a picture of what the old Tabernacle looked like see this earlier post: Special Conference III: Called without Warning.

At a leisurely pace we arrived at the Assembly Hall, the location of the old Tabernacle in 13:22 minutes.
Here is a tree from the northern edge of Elam Luddington’s ward.  My next project is to consult an environmental historian to see if that particular kind of tree grew in the area in 1852.

Source: Brigham Young’s Office Files, 1852 Census, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library.
Source:  1885 Salt Lake City Ward Map, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library.
Photo (Assembly Hall): Photo by Audrey Bastian of Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photo (Tree): Photo by Audrey Bastian on South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah.


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What does Elam Luddington look like?

What can we piece together to figure out what Elam Luddington looked like?

Sam and Karen2The investigation begins with Karen Bush.  She manages her family’s genealogical research.  Her husband Sam is the living descendent of Elam Luddington.  They are a meticulous couple who’ve scoured the country for puzzle pieces to Elam Luddington’s existence and story.

According to them, there are no known photos of Elam Luddington.  However, a Mormon Battalion pension application gives us a few clues as to what he looks like.Mexican War JPG

It reads, “The following was his description at the time of his enlistment, viz: Age, 40 years; height, 5 feet 8 inches; color of hair, dark brown; color of eyes, dark grey…”.

From studying sailing we learn that seamen assigned to reef the sails were generally stout because of the strength and size it took to pull up sails while hanging across the yard while in inclement weather.  Presumably the taller the seaman, the longer he dangled on the yard.

So in sum, Elam has dark brown hair, dark grey eyes, and is a stout 5’8” or about 1.8 meters.

Feature photo: Elam Luddington’s grave marker in the Salt Lake City cemetery

Photo to the Left: Sam and Karen Bush

Photo to the Right: A portion of his Mormon Battalion pension application

Photo below: Sam Bush, direct ancestor of Elam Luddington.  (Can you imagine Elam in Sam just a few generations back?)

Sam with Hat2

Source: Feature photo: Salt Lake City Cemetery.  Photo by Helen Horton. 
Source: Sam and Karen Bush photo by Audrey Bastian
Source: Mexican War: Claim of Soldier for Service Pension.  Folder3.com and Karen Luddington
Source: Sam Bush photo with hat photo by Audrey Bastian
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The Book of Mormon & Southeast Asia

What do Southeast Asia, the mission to Siam in 1852, and the Book of Mormon all have in common?  

The main family of the Book of Mormon, Lehi, Sariah, and sons traveled east through Southeast Asia after their departure from Jerusalem on ships.  So did Elam Luddington, our Mormon missionary in 1852.  Take a look at this video clip produced by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Did they stop on their way [through Southeast Asia]? Surely.

  John L. Sorenson, Anthropology

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Reefing the Sails

One thing I forgot to mention, while reefing topsails in a gale of wind, I lost my hold.  I cried out to the carpenter to catch me, and I barely saved myself by the sail flapping on the windward yard arm or main top sail. – Elam Luddington “An Autobiographical Statement of Elam Luddington”

Elam Luddington wrote that reefing the sails was one of three times he almost lost his life.  What did this actually look like?  In discussing this passage with Jonathan Vega, an experienced sailor, touring the US Sloop of War Constellation in Baltimore, and consulting John Harland’s Seamanship in the Age of Sail, the conclusion is that Luddington’s description is too vague to determine exactly what happened.  However, can we rule out anything or come up with a few possible scenarios?

The Setting

A gale of wind is a strong forceful wind typical on the Atlantic especially as the northern and southern winds merge off the coast of New England but can occur anywhere along the way to Europe.   According to the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, a gale of wind on a scale of 0-12 occurs between the score of 7-10 just before “Storm”.  In a Moderate Gale between 32-38 miles per hour, trees will sway.  In a Fresh Gale of between 39-46 miles per hour, twigs break and walking is impeded.  In a Strong Gale between 47-54 miles per hour chimneys and slates are damaged.  In a Whole Gale of between 55-63 miles per hour, trees fall and there is considerable damage.

Large brigs turn sideways to the wind to reef the sails to prevent wind from pushing against them.  This creates a windward and a leeward side of the ship and yard (the arm that holds the sail).  Men climb up to the sails on the shroud or lattice and then hang on their waists along the yard.  They reef the sail or take it in using ties which are attached to the sail.  They don’t completely tie up the sail when reefing because keeping the sail out provides some balance against the wind compared to not having a sail at all.  This is a dangerous occupation and given to the lower ranked crew members.

What Could have Happened?

Now we return to Elam.  The leeward yard arm was the most dangerous side from which to reef the sails because the gale hit the windward side causing the ship to tilt.  The men on the leeward side of the yard arm, therefore, could potentially be hanging over the ocean.  The tricky part about Elam’s description is that he says he barely saves himself ‘by the sail flapping on the winward yard arm or main top sail’.  Does that mean he is on the windward side of the ship or could he be on the leeward side?  What did this look like?

There are several points to consider.  If he is on the windward side of the vessel he would presumably be dangling over the ship.  If he believes he could have lost his life he could have been high enough that the fall would prove fatal or the location of his fall may have been uncertain.  The complicating factor is that the ship could have been swaying dramatically which precludes any definitive position windward or leeward.

He could also have slipped from the leeward side catching hold of a flapping sail from the windward side.  He does not state, however, that he actually caught hold of the sail.  The sail could have broken a fall.  It seems likely that he must be either near the mast on the windward side or on the leeward side since a sail flapping from the windward side would blow away from him if he was on the outer windward side of the yard.  Again, he could fall from a higher location down and caught the flapping sail as well.  If he was on the leeward side catching hold of a windward flapping sail, did he swing at all across the boat as his weight pulled the sail down?  Or were the winds so powerful he stayed horizontal?

What do you think?  Can you picture it?





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Creating the Story

To those who watched him pass, he must have been a baffling figure. -Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve

Many new source materials are becoming available through digitization and the ease of sharing documents.  I continue to ply through original letters and journals recreating the early missionaries’ experiences in Asia.  I am also reading historical accounts of the world in which these missionaries found themselves.  In the next few posts, I would like to pose questions that surface.  Please feel free to comment if you have insight into these quandaries.

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Mormons who Begin Journeys IV: Rangoon Where they Parted

“I  am inclined to think that Elder Elam Ludington was not the first to proclaim the Gospel in China, from the fact that from the October conference, 1852, held in Salt Lake City, Elders Chauncey W. West, Benjamin Franklin Dewey, Elam Ludington and myself, Levi Savage, were called on a mission to Siam;” wrote Levi Savage to the Deseret Weekly.

Levi Savage corrected the claim that Elder Elam Luddington was the first Mormon missionary to China.  He hadn’t seen Elam since they were together in Rangoon, Burma which is where they parted.  Savage did not even find out until he read the September issue of the Deseret Weekly almost 40 years later that his friend Elam had eventually made it to Siam to earn fame as the first Mormon missionary to Thailand.

Savage never made it.

Apparently that wasn’t big news amongst his companions or Mormons in general.  Maybe because it wasn’t something they felt they could be particularly proud of and some may have even seen it as an epic failure.  But Savage and Luddington were the last two missionaries to ride on their carriage out of Salt Lake to begin their missions together.  Both were called to Siam.  Savage never made it.

[Update 8/29/2013: From further research I can now set a couple of things straight.  Savage did see Luddington after their missions.  How often they met or conversed I still don’t know.  Also, I discovered a possible reason why the Deseret Weekly might have thought Luddington was the first missionary to China.  The Church Archives has a letter of introduction for Elam Luddington as the first missionary to China and signed by Brigham Young on October 1st I believe a few days before the October conference.]

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