Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)

Lt 6a, 1880

Bangs, Elizabeth

On the cars en route for California

February 26, 1880

See variant Lt 6b, 1880. This letter is published in entirety in 20MR 291-298.

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. There we stopped off 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. 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. In the rooms were only small windows, one in each room. The scent of the cooking had full access to these rooms, with no current of air to take the nauseating smell of ham, pork, onions, cabbage, and all kinds of scents away. If I had not heretofore been most thoroughly disgusted with pork, I should have been now. I could scarcely refrain from vomiting. I became sick and faint, but my good daughter, Mary [White], opened the window as far as possible and moved our bed so that the head of it was close by the window, the bed being quite nice. We slept well and felt refreshed in the morning, notwithstanding unpleasant odors. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 1

We took the transfer car to Omaha. We enjoyed our breakfast very much. There came into the depot a woman about forty years old, followed by a large flock of children. One boy about ten years old went out on the platform. This mother went after him and came dragging him in, he resisting at every step. She pushed him with violence into the seat, bringing his head with considerable force against the back of the seat, really hurting the lad. Then came screech after screech, equalled only by the screaming engine. This mother threatened him but to no purpose. He was in for a regular war-cry. When he became tired out, then he lowered his voice to the monotonous long-drawn-out drawling cry just for the purpose of being persevering and revengeful. Here the Mother, I judge, was as much to blame as her boy. The boy was stubborn; she was passionate. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 2

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

I inquired, “How many children have you?” She answered, “Eleven,” pointing to two bright-looking little girls. “These are my youngest—one is six, the other four. My eldest are nearly-grown-up boys.” She stated they were as a family on their way to locate in Nebraska, where there was plenty of land to keep the boys at work. Not a bad idea to give these active, sharp high-toned boys employment; nothing so good as plenty to do in open air, to keep children from being ruined with the temptations and allurements to evil in this life. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 4

It was plain to be seen the mother was fretful, impatient, and harsh and severe. What wonder, then, that the children should be unsubmissive and insubordinate. These children, eleven in number, and the husband, showed they felt the mother’s power that permitted no liberty of will. She would jerk one, and fret at another, and twitch about another, answer her husband’s questions with a firm vim. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 5

This mother’s mode of government set my mind on a study. She forced them to self-assertion in various improper ways, showing the mother’s management was a sorry failure. There were eleven bright, active children, if the mother had the machinery oiled with patience and self-command as every mother should have, if she had possessed the right spirit, she would not have aroused the combative spirit of her ten-year-old boy. All this mother seemed to know of government was that of brute force. She was threatening, intimidating. Her youngest children seemed to have a fear to stir; others looked hard and defiant. Some looked ashamed and distressed. I longed to preach a sermon to that mother. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 6

I thought if that mother knew her responsibility as a mother, she would not pursue the course she had done in that depot. Her burdens must necessarily be heavy, but how much more weighty was she making them for herself by her own lack of self-control. Every harsh word, every passionate blow, would react upon her again. If she were calm and patient and kind in her discipline, the power of her example would be for good, [and] would be seen in her children’s deportment. How much that mother needed the help of Jesus to mould the minds and fashion the characters of her children. How many souls such mothers will gain to the fold of Christ is a question. I really do not believe they will gather one soul to Jesus. They train, they rule, they ruin. But enough of this. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 7

We purchased our sleeping car tickets [for] sixteen dollars to Ogden. We should be two days and a half and two nights in reaching there. We obtained two lower berths and were told if we had 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 6a, 1880, par. 8

On leaving Omaha we found ourselves and numerous baskets and satchels well disposed of in an elegant palace sleeper [with] only seventeen passengers in our car—no babies to cry, no invalids to exclaim, “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 6a, 1880, par. 9

There was nothing especial to engage our attention Wednesday night but the prairie fires. These looked grand and awful. In the distance while the train is slowly moving onward, we see the long belts of lurid flame stretching for miles across the prairie. As the wind rises, the flame rises higher and becomes more brilliant, brightening the desolate plains with their awful brightness. We see, farther on, hay stacks and settlers’ homes guarded with deep furrows broken by the plow to protect their little homes. We saw dark objects in the distance guarding their homes from the fire fiend by throwing up embankments. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 10

Thursday morning we arose from our berths refreshed with sleep. At eight o’clock we took a portion of the pressed chicken furnished us by the matron of the sanitarium, put the same in a two-quart pail, and placed it on the stove, and thus we had good hot chicken broth. The morning was very cold and this hot dish was very palatable. I limited myself to only one meal each day during the entire journey. When the cars stopped at stations any length of time, we improved the opportunity by taking a brisk walk. Generally in approaching Cheyenne and Sherman, I have difficulty of breathing. Thursday noon we were at Cheyenne and it was snowing and cold. Could not walk much that day. “All aboard” was sounded about half past three, and again we were moving onward. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 11

In nearing Cheyenne we were interested by the view of the Rocky Mountains. Dark clouds obstructed our view. As we neared Laramie, we were having a hail storm. Occasionally the sun light would break through the clouds, striking full upon the mountain tops, but night drew on and we were all huddled together while preparations were being made for us to occupy our berths. This night the wind blew the coal gas into the windows, nearly suffocating me. I was afraid to sleep. This night was the only disagreeable one upon the route. In the morning after we had taken our breakfast from our well-filled dinner baskets, we felt much refreshed. I wrote several pages back to Battle Creek. Here we began to come to scenery worth our attention. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 12

The cars move slowly and smoothly along, giving the passengers a fair 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 two thousand and one feet, the distance nearly thirty-three miles. The ascending grade averages from Cheyenne sixty-seven feet per mile. The two engines puff and blow as if requiring a powerful effort to breathe. At length the summit is reached and the descent begins two miles west of Sherman. We cross Dale Creek bridge. It looks frail, as if incapable of sustaining the ponderous train, but it is built of iron and very substantial. A beautiful, narrow, silvery stream is winding its way in the depths below. The bridge is six hundred-fifty feet long, one hundred-thirty feet high and is considered a wonderful affair in this route. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 13

We look in the valley below and the settlements look like pigeon houses. We pass rapidly down the grade through the snow sheds and granite cuts. We have now, as we pass on, a full view of the Diamond Peaks of the Medicine Bow Range. They are, with their sharp-pointed summits, pointing 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 the robes of perpetual snow. A chilliness creeps over you as you look upon them, so cold, so cheerless, and yet there is an indescribable grandeur about these everlasting mountains and perpetual snows. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 14

But 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 opening and crevice 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, dared not sleep. This was the most disagreeable night that I had on the journey. In the morning felt better than I expected. We again prepared our breakfast, making a nice hot broth. 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 6a, 1880, par. 15

We are known on the train. One says, “I heard Mrs. White speak at such a meeting.” The book agent, a fine young man from Colorado, says he heard Mrs. White speak in the large, mammoth tent in Boulder City. He was a resident of Denver. We have agreeable chats with one and another. As we move on slowly over the great American desert, with no objects in sight except sage brush and distant mountain peaks, we seem more like a ship at sea. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 16

The massive train, headed by our faithful steam horse moving along so grandly, seems like a thing of life. You look occasionally back from the rear of the cars upon the straight track, hundreds of miles with scarcely a curve, while wilderness and desolation meet you whichever way you may look. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 17

Passing Cheyenne, we soon entered snow sheds, constantly varying 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 were telegraphed to Ogden 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 leave. Therefore, it is always best to secure good seats when you take 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 the 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 6a, 1880, par. 18

We have additional passengers. There is a tall, straight, gentleman eyeing us critically. He has his wife and child with him. His own hair is as dark as the raven’s wing, but his wife’s hair is as white as I ever saw human hair, curled in ringlets. It gave her a singular appearance, not what I should call desirable. She was rather a delicate looking woman. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 19

This man was the wonderful worker in the temperance cause, McKenzie. He has established an institution for to treat inebriates in Boston and is now visiting California for the same object. He made himself known to us. As he saw us all engaged in writing, he had, I suppose, some curiosity to know who we were and what we were doing. He composed some verses upon that evening sunset as he was seated by my side. I will copy it for you. This great temperance man was the most inveterate tobacco user we ever saw. O, what ideas of temperance! 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 20

We prepare for rest and sleep, only one more night to pass. Scenery viewed on Friday while approaching Ogden. At Green River is the place where specimens of fossils, petrifactions, and general natural curiosities are seen. These moss agates, petrified shells and wood may be purchased for a trifle. There is a high, projecting rock, in appearance like a tower, and twin rocks of gigantic proportions. The appearance of these rocks is as if some great temples once stood here and their massive pillars were left standing as witness of their former greatness. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 21

There is a rock called Giant’s Club, and in proportions 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 being located at the bottom of a lake. This rock has regular strata, all horizontal, containing fossils of plants and 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 6a, 1880, par. 22

A large flat stone was shown us with distinct specimens of fish and curious leaves. The proprietor told us [that] on a previous trip, he 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 on these spots of slabs of rock, feathers of birds and other curiosities plainly seen. We look with curious interest upon rocks composed of sandstone in perfectly horizontal strata containing most interesting remains. These bluff rocks assume most curious and fantastic forms, as if chiseled out by the hand of art. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 23

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 agate patches. To stand at a distance from these rocks, wonderfully shaped, you may imagine some ruined city, bare, desolate, but bearing their silent history to what once was. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 24

We pass on quite rapidly to the Devil’s Gate, a canyon where the Sweetwater [River] has worn through the granite edge. The walls are about three hundred feet high. The water runs slowly, pleasantly murmuring over the rocks. We pass on while the mountain tops rise perpendicularly towards heaven, covered with perpetual snows, while other mountain tops, apparently horizontal, are seen. Here in passing we get some view of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery in groups of mountains clothed with pines. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 25

In Echo Canyon are rocks curiously representing works of art, [for example] the Sentinel Rock. The average height of all the rocks of Echo Canyon is from six hundred to eight hundred feet. The scenery here is grand and beautiful. We see holes or caves worn by storm and wind, where the eagles build their nests. This is called Eagle Nest Rock. Here the king of birds finds a safe habitation to rear its young. The ruthless hand of man cannot disturb them. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 26

We come to the Thousand Mile Tree. Here hangs the sign giving us the distance from Omaha. Here we pass the wonderful rocks called the Devil’s Slide. It is composed of two parallel walls of granite standing upon their edges. Between these two walls are about fourteen feet. They form a wall about eight hundred feet running up the mountain. This looks as if formed by art and placed in position, the rocks are so regularly laid. This is a wonderful sight, but we reach Ogden and night draws on. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 27


All is quiet. We read our Bibles and write. Close by us sits the notable Stokes, who murdered Fisk. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 28

Our last night on the cars was spent in sleeping some and in viewing the scenery. The moon was shining clear and bright. Mary was resting upon her elbow looking out the window much of the night. We passed Cape Horn in the light of the moon. The wintry scene in the Sierra Nevadas, viewed by the light of the moon, is grand. We look two thousand feet below. The soft light of the moon shining upon mountain heights, revealing the grand pines and lighting up the canyons. No pen or language can describe the grandeur of this scene. We prefer to enjoy this grand sight rather than to sleep. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 29

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 6a, 1880, par. 30

We learn 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 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 6a, 1880, par. 31

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 last night and this forenoon. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 32

Lizzie, I meant to have copied this off but have not time. Please put in Clara’s hands, and tell her to copy it for you and arrange it in order. It is a beautiful morning. Wish it may be as pleasant with you. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 33

Much love to my dear Sister Lizzie, 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 34

From her twin sister. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 35

[P.S.] Will you inquire of Mrs. Dr. Larkins if she is free to engage in the Crystal Springs Sanitarium? If she should, make arrangements for her to do so. This institution is located in St. Helena. She may have seen it. It has almost every advantage healthwise, but needs physicians who understand their business. I go to St. Helena next week and then will write again. What wages will she require? Tell her to address me at Oakland, California, Pacific Press. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 36

I hope you are doing well. I would be so glad to see you. May the Lord lead you to put your entire trust in Him. 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 the Lord. Stand in the ranks and under the banner of Jesus Christ. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 37

Good bye. This must go to the office. 3LtMs, Lt 6a, 1880, par. 38