Tag Archives | Levi Savage

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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Mormons who Begin Journeys III: The Deseret Weekly is Wrong

Seventy three year old Levi Savage was catching up on the Salt Lake papers when he comes across the obituary of Elam Luddington.  And he didn’t do anything about it,…right away. 

…got a load of driftwood from the river.

This is the same Levi Savage most famous now for his trek across the Plains with the Willie Handcart company.  Against Savage’s warnings the company started west too late in the season suffering hardship and the deaths of loved ones before arriving in Salt Lake on November 7, 1865.  Savage is now played by Jasen Wade in a 2011 T.C. Christensen film, 17 Miracles portraying the Willie Handcart company’s harrowing journey and is getting attention in Mormon circles.

So what does Levi Savage and the handcarts have to do with our character Elam Luddington?

Levi reads the Deseret Weekly of March 7, 1893 and Elam Luddington’s accomplishments.  Then a curious thing happens.  He sets the paper down and does nothing.  Deep in southern Utah amidst the grand red rock mountains of what would eventually be called Zion National Park he was quite a distance from Salt Lake.  Whenever he first read the paper we know that although he set it down, the obituary must have stuck with him.  He did nothing until five months later, on August 8, 1893 when he wrote a letter to Elder Franklin D. Richards, Church Historian. It began,

“Some time since I noticed in the SEMI-WEEKLY NEWS of March 7, 1893, an account of Elam Luddington’s death in Sugar House Ward, Salt Lake county….”

On Saturday, September 16, the Deseret Weekly printed a retraction.  What might not have seemed so significant when he first read the obituary, must have somehow become significant enough to set the record straight.  Was it because he wasn’t feeling well that week and had some time on his hands prior to writing the letter?  Or might he have been interested in preserving his legacy and those of his earlier comrades while facing land disputes in court and denied requests from Washington DC to increase his pension.

On August 8, there is no mention of a letter written to the Church historian although he did mention letters he wrote from time to time in his journal.  There was no mention of concern about reviving his youthful legacy.  He didn’t even mention feeling sick or tired as he had in previous journal entries.  On the day he wrote to Franklin D. Richards to correct Elam Luddington’s Obituary notice he writes one line,

“Aug 8, 1893  Tuesday.  [William] and Riley got a load of driftwood from the river.”

William and Riley were his sons.

To find out what the Deseret Weekly retracted see Mormons who Begin Journeys Part IV.
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