Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)


Lt 6b, 1880

Bangs, Sister Lizzie [Elizabeth]

On the train en route to California

February 26, 1880

Variant of Lt 6a, 1880, as edited by Ellen White for publication in RH 06/17/1880. This letter is published in entirety in 20MR 299-306.

Dear Sister Lizzie [Bangs]:

After I left you Monday, I was very sick. Tuesday [I] was nervous and suffering with headache, unable to sit up. Tuesday night we arrived at Council Bluffs, where we stopped to visit Sister Milnor. After walking about half a mile, found her not at home. I had not tasted food through the day and was still suffering with nervous headache. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 1

We walked back to a hotel, the nearest one we could find. It was not very promising. We were shown to our rooms, two very small rooms above the kitchen, where the scent of the kitchen cookery had full access, without a current of air to purify it from disgusting smells. There was no current of air to purify it from disgusting, poisonous effluvia. There was but one little window in each room. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 2

If I had not heretofore been thoroughly disgusted with pork, I should have been now, for with the nauseating smell of pork, ham, cabbage, and all kinds of scents confined in the room, I could scarcely breathe. I became sick and faint, but my good Mary [White] opened the window as far as possible after piling our baggage and the chairs on the bed, and by close management moved our bed so that the head of it came close by the window. The bed being quite comfortable, we slept well and felt refreshed in the morning, notwithstanding unpleasant odors in bedroom and bedding. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 3

We took the transfer car next morning to Omaha. We enjoyed our breakfast very much from our well-provided lunch basket. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 4

We waited here several hours and had some opportunity to see character in its different angles all the way from four years up to 24. There came into the depot a woman about forty years old, followed by a flock of children. One boy about ten years old was hard to keep still, [and] went out on the platform. His mother went after him, reproving, scolding, and dragging him in, he resisting at every step. She pushed him into the seat beside her with violence, bringing his head with considerable force against the seat, really hurting the lad. Then came screech after screech, equaled only by the engine’s blast. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 5

The mother threatened him, but to no purpose. He was in for a regular time as his explosive, maddened cries filled the rooms, calling the attention of gentlemen and ladies, while the mother threatened in no gentle language. She might as well have talked to a stone. She was desperate. I urged our daughter, Mary K. White, to induce him to stop if she had to hire him, but it was no use. He had grit and perseverance. When he became too tired to screech longer, then he lowered his voice to a monotonous long-drawn-out wail just for the purpose of persevering and being revengeful. Here the mother’s countenance was a study. She looked vexed, but I [contend], she was as much at fault as her boy. The boy was restless and wilful and stubborn; she was passionate. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 6

I conversed some with the mother. She stated that the boy refused to come in and threw himself full length upon the platform to provoke her. She then took him by force and dragged him in and said, “Oh, if I only had him alone in some place, I would pound him well for this behavior.” I said, “That would not change his inward feelings. Violence would only raise his combativeness and make him still worse.” I told her the more calm a mother can keep at such times, however provoking the conduct of her children, the better she maintains her influence and dignity as a mother and the more easily will they be controlled. She assented that it might be so. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 7

I inquired how many children she had. She replied, “Eleven.” Then pointing to two pretty, bright-looking girls, said, “These are my youngest—one is six and the other four. My eldest are grown-up boys.” She said that they as a family were on their way from Iowa City to Nebraska, where there is plenty of land and work for their children. They intended to locate there. Not a bad idea to give these high-toned, sharp, active boys employment; there is nothing so beneficial as plenty to do to keep children from being ruined with the temptations and allurements of evil. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 8

It was plain to see that the mother was fretful, impatient, harsh, and severe. The scold was expressed in her countenance. What wonder then that the children should be unsubmissive and insubordinate. These children and the husband showed they felt the mother’s power that permitted no liberty of will. She would jerk one, fret at another, twitch about another. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 9

This mother’s mode of management set my mind on a study. She forced them to self-assertion in various improper ways, thus showing that her management was a sorry failure. If she had oiled the machinery with patience and self-command, as every mother should, if she possessed the right spirit, she would not have aroused the combative spirit of her children. All this mother seemed to know of government was brute force. She was threatening and intimidating and reproving and scolding. Her youngest children seemed to have a fear of stirring, others looked hard and defiant, while others looked ashamed and distressed at the exhibition they were making. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 10

I longed to have some conversation with that mother. I wanted to tell her [that] if she realized her responsibility she would not have pursued the course which she did in that depot. Her burdens were necessarily heavy, but how much more weighty she was making them by her lack of self-control. Every harsh word, every passionate blow, would be reflected back upon her. If she were kind and patient and calm in her discipline, the power of her example for good would be seen in the deportment of her children. How much she needed the Christian graces, the help of Jesus, to mold the minds and fashion the characters of her children. Such mothers will gain no souls to the fold of Christ. They train, they rule, they ruin, but [they] do not bless and save. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 11

We purchased our sleeping car tickets to Ogden, which cost sixteen dollars. We should be two days and a half and two nights in reaching there. We obtained two lower berths, but we were told that had we applied the day before, we could not have been accommodated. But the travel was light from Omaha that day, which was much in our favor. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 12

We found ourselves and numerous baskets and satchels well disposed of in an elegant palace sleeping car. Only seventeen passengers in our car—no babies, no invalids, no one to cry, “Please close the ventilators. Will you shut down that window?” We were at perfect liberty to open and close windows for our convenience. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 13

There was nothing in the scenery to especially engage our attention until Wednesday night but the prairie fires. These looked grand and awful. In the distance, while the train moved slowly onward, we saw the long belts of lurid flame stretching miles across the prairies as a wall of fire. As the wind rises, the flames leap higher and become more grand, brightening the desolate plains with their awful light. We see, farther on, hay stacks and settlers’ homes guarded with deep furrows broken by the plow to protect them from the fire. We saw dark objects in the distance guarding their homes from the fire fiend. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 14

Thursday morning we arose from our berths refreshed with sleep. At eight o’clock we took a portion of the food liberally furnished us by our friends and the sanitarium, and enjoyed our breakfast. I limited myself to but one meal per day during the entire journey. When the train stopped for any length of time at stations, we improved the opportunity by taking a brisk walk. Generally in approaching Cheyenne and Sherman I have difficulty in breathing, but did not realize any inconvenience this time. We reached Cheyenne Thursday noon, but as it was snowing and cold, we did not walk much that day. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 15

In nearing Cheyenne we were interested by a view of the Rocky Mountains. Soon dark clouds obstructed our view, and as we neared Laramie, we had a hail storm. Occasionally the sunlight would break through clouds, striking full upon the mountaintops. At half past three, “All aboard” was sounded, and again we were moving onward. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 16

The train moved slowly and smoothly, giving the passengers a good chance to view the scenery. An additional engine is added to help draw the train up the summit of Sherman. We reached Sherman about six o’clock and had no inconvenience in breathing. The elevation between Cheyenne and Sherman is 2,001 feet, the distance nearly 33 miles. The two great engines puff and blow as though they had difficulty in breathing. At length the summit is reached and the descent begins. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 17

Two miles west of Sherman we cross Dale Creek Bridge, one of the most wonderful sights on the route. It looks frail and incapable of sustaining the weight of so ponderous a train, but it is build of iron and is really very substantial. It is 650 feet long, 130 feet high. A beautiful, silvery stream is winding its way in the depths below. And as we look down upon the dwellings, they seem like mere pigeon houses in the distance. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 18

As we pass rapidly down the grade through the snow sheds and granite cuts into the great Laramie plains, we get a full view of the Diamond peaks of the Medicine Bow Range. Their sharp-pointed summits reach heavenward, while their sides and the rugged hills around them are covered with timber. When the atmosphere is clear, the Snowy Range can be distinctly seen clothed in robes of perpetual snow. A chilliness creeps over you as you look upon them so cold, so cheerless, yet there is an indescribable grandeur about them. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 19

But the night draws her sable curtains around us, and we are preparing to occupy our berths for the night. The wind was blowing strong against us, sending the smoke of our heating stove into every crevice and opening in the car. I slept, but awoke with a suffocating scream. I found myself laboring hard for breath, and the coal gas was so stifling I could not sleep for hours. This was the most disagreeable night I had on the journey. In the morning felt better than I had expected to feel. We again made a nice hot broth of our pressed chicken. Our two tables were prepared, one in each seat, and we ate our nice breakfast with thankful hearts. The porter, well filled [with silver donations], was very accommodating, bringing lunch baskets, making room, and depositing our baggage with all pleasantness. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 20

We were known on the train. One says, “I heard you speak at such a meeting.” The book agent, a fine young man from Colorado, heard me speak in the mammoth tent in Boulder City. He was a resident of Denver. We have agreeable chats with one and another. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 21

Moving slowly over the great American desert, with not an object in view except sagebrush and distant mountain peaks, we seem much like a ship at sea. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 22

The massive train, headed by our faithful steam horse moving along so grandly, seems like a thing of life. You look back occasionally from the rear of the cars upon the straight track, with scarcely a curve for hundreds of miles, while wilderness and desolation meet you whichever way you may look. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 23

Passing Truckee, [this probably should read “Cheyenne”] we entered snow sheds. From light to darkness and from darkness to light was the only change for miles. I had been growing stronger as I neared Colorado. We entered one hour before Cheyenne. We were telegraphed, soon after leaving Omaha, for seats in the car for California, and our seats were assigned us just as we were located in the car we left; therefore, it is always best to secure good seats in the palace car from Omaha, for that secures you good seats all the trip. Now the tickets have to be purchased at the ticket office before your baggage can be taken into the car. We are all settled some time before the sun has passed out of sight beyond the mountains. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 24

At Ogden we have additional passengers. A tall, dignified gentleman enters, accompanied by his wife and little daughter. His own hair is as black as the raven’s wing, but his wife’s is as white as snow and hangs in ringlets, giving her a singular appearance. This man is the great temperance worker, Mr. McKenzie. He has established an institution in the east to treat inebriates and is now visiting Colorado for the same purpose, having already obtained pledges to the amount of several thousand dollars. Seeing us all writing, he had some curiosity to know who we were and what we were doing, and so introduced himself to us. While seated by our side, he composed some verses upon that evening’s sunset, which we will here copy. This celebrated temperance lecturer, we doubt not, has accomplished a great amount of good in the world, but he is an inveterate tobacco user. We venture the assertion that if he would reform on this point, his usefulness would be greatly increased. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 25

Scenery viewed on Friday while nearing Ogden: at Green River is the place where specimens of fossils, petrifactions, and general natural curiosities are seen. Shells and wood in a petrified state can be purchased for a trifle. There is a high, projecting rock, in appearance like a tower, and there are twin rocks of gigantic proportions. The appearance of these rocks is as though some great temples once stood here and their massive pillars were left standing as witness of their former greatness. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 26

There is a rock called Giant’s Club, and in proportion it is a giant. It rises almost perpendicularly and it is impossible to climb up its steep sides. This is one of nature’s curiosities. I was told that its composition bears evidence of its once having been located in the bottom of a lake. This rock has regular strata, all horizontal, containing fossils of plants and of fish and curiously-shaped specimens of sea animals. The plants appear like our fruit and forest trees. There are ferns and palms. The fishes seem to be of species now extinct. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 27

A large flat stone was shown us in which were distinct specimens of fish and curious leaves. The proprietor told us [that] on a previous trip he had brought these two large rocks on horseback eight miles. The rock did not look so far, but he said that was the distance to get access to it. There were in these split off slabs of rock, feathers of birds and other curiosities, which were plainly to be seen. We look with curious interest upon rocks composed of sandstone in perfectly horizontal strata containing most interesting remains. These rocks assume most curious and fantastic shapes, as if chiseled out by the hand of art. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 28

There are in appearance lofty domes and pinnacles and fluted columns. These rocks resemble some cathedral of ancient date, standing in desolation. The imagination here has a fruitful field in which to range. In the vicinity of these rocks are moss agates. When standing at a distance from these wonderful-shaped rocks, you may imagine some ruined city, bare and desolate, but bearing their silent history to what once was. Close beside us sits Stokes, the murderer of Fisk. Having retreated to the mountains, he is actively engaged in the mining business. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 29

We pass on quite rapidly to the Devil’s Gate, a canyon worn through the granite by the actions of water. The walls of the canyon are about 300 feet high, and at its bottom a beautiful stream flows slowly and murmuringly over the rocks. We pass on while the mountaintops rise perpendicularly toward heaven. They are covered with perpetual snows, while other mountaintops, apparently horizontal, are seen. In passing we get some view of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery in groups of mountains dotted with pines. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 30

Soon we enter Echo Canyon. The rocks look as if formed by art and placed in position, so regularly are they laid. The average height of all the rocks in this canyon is from 600 to 800 feet. The scenery here is grand and beautiful. We see great caves worn by storm and wind, where the eagles build their nests. One is called Eagle Nest Rock. Here the king of birds finds a safe habitation in which to rear its young where the ruthless hand of man cannot disturb them. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 31

Here we come to the Thousand Mile Tree, on which hangs a sign giving us the distance from Omaha. And a little farther on we pass the wonderful rocks called the Devil’s Slide. This is composed of two parallel walls of granite standing upon their edges, with about 14 feet of space between. They form a wall about 800 feet long, running up the side of the mountain. This looks as if formed by art and placed in position, so regularly are they laid. This is a wonderful sight, but we reach Ogden and night draws on. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 32

Our last night on the train was spent in sleeping and in viewing the scenery in the clear bright light of the moon. We passed Cape Horn in the light of the moon. The wintry scene in the Sierra Nevadas, viewed in the light of the moon, is grand. We can look 2,000 feet below. The soft light of the moon shines upon the mountain heights, revealing the grand pines and lighting up the canyons. No pen or language can describe the grandeur of such a scene. We preferred to enjoy this [rather than] to sleep. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 33

In the morning, the last morning upon the cars, we rejoice that we have nearly completed our week’s trip, protected by a kind Providence and receiving neither accident or harm, and hardly weariness. We are nearly to our journey’s end. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 34

We learn that we arrive in Oakland at eleven o’clock. As we near Sacramento, we see the green grass, [and] the fruit trees loaded with fragrant blossoms. We ride out of the winter of [the] Sierra Nevadas into summer. We find our friends waiting for us at the depot. We came on an entirely new route from Sacramento, which brought us in earlier. We met Edson and Emma with joy, also Lucinda and other friends. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 35

We find in market new potatoes. The very day I arrived we rode out and gathered nice new turnip greens. We are beginning to get used to Oakland a little now. But it has been raining all the forenoon and last night as well. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 36

I hope you are doing well. I would be so glad to see you. May the Lord bless you and lead you to put your trust in Him entirely. He loves you and will delight to bless you if you will come to Him for light and strength. Do, my sister, identify yourself with the people of God. Stand in the ranks and under the banner of Jesus Christ. Much love to my dear sister, Lizzie, 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 37

From her twin sister. 3LtMs, Lt 6b, 1880, par. 38