Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Possible, Ambiguous Glimpse of Eleanor in Springville 1858

Captain Albert Tracy came to Utah with Johnston's Army as part of the Utah War. He kept a diary that included some great sketches of Utah Territory in 1858-60. He is an obvious Utah "outsider" and not at all kindly disposed towards the Mormons holding every prejudice about them common at the time among the US government and American society at large (hence, the Utah "War").

An Example of Capt. Tracy's Excellent Sketch Work
At one point supposedly to keep peace between the Mormons and the Utes in Utah County (and to keep watch on Bishop Aaron Johnson), Capt. Tracy was ordered to maintain a post at Springville. He gave a grudgingly good description of the city even if he had little respect for its citizens:
October 11, 1858
. . . .We are about a quarter of a mile without the walls of Springville, and near to and at left of the road running southward, past the eastern-most point of Utah Lake--hard by, and plain to see. A beautiful spring supplies us with water, but a few spaces across the way from my guard tent. To our front extends beyond a ravine, a plain or bench walled at points with dobie [adobe], and at present, this being the autumn, patches appear cultivated in many places and yellow with the stubble of recently reaped wheat and oats. Beyond the level rises abruptly the chain forming the foot hills of the Wasatch range, and at considerable distance below, opens among the ragged rocks and points, Spanish Fork Canyon. From that point, if any, we will have an incursion, though this danger is far from great. Behind us, at our right, are fields of the Mormons fenced and bordered with trees--mainly locusts--and trenched deep, for the induction of water. Eight or ten miles southward, below the Lake and at my right, lies, with Ruggles of the 5th, near by some little town of which I forget the name [Payson?]. . . .
October 14, 1858
. . . . The village of Springville, although accounted by the Mormons, a very pretty one, presents from the interior little to attract or interest. Houses of adobie, or, on occasions of wood unpainted--fences of pickets, poles or brush; wheat and oat stacks, or shocks of corn; these, with scattered trees of aspen or locust--the garden with its fading vegetables, as also with the ever-running streams at the road-sides, form the objects principally attracting the eye. One thing, however, Thompson and myself had occasion to observe; and that was, that wherever we went, there lounged about, or followed upon our track, a single citizen, who never failed to keep his eye upon us. It is the Mormon system of espial, or of "shadowing" forever, strangers. Having as yet no sinister intentions, and finding, very soon, the novelties of the town to pall, we took our backward way to camp.
Then it gets interesting:
Albeit the male portion of the population have been chary of their presence . . . there have been coming among us, and have been permitted to come--a couple of women--Welsh, as it proves--so poor, so broken, and disconsolate of aspect, that their market for pies--minus every form of sweetening--has, perhaps, been better than it might otherwise have been, had the vendors themselves appeared a little more in case. To all questions as had relations to themselves, the history or the doings of the Mormons hereabouts, the women have generally maintained silence, or answered evasively, or with the affectation of knowing nothing. . . .
The Captain then goes into a long soliloquy on the virtues of tea and how he had it and sugar in abundance which enabled him to draw the Welsh women into the tent for a long discussion. He claims one of them became very talkative about the Parrish/Potter murders, avenging angels, how her fortune had been taken, and how she was assigned a man to marry by the prophet. She also said that she had come to America by arriving in New Orleans. Assuming any of this conversation ever happened or is in any way accurately reported, this cannot be our Eleanor as she came in the Enoch Train arriving in Boston--and she certainly had no fortune to be taken.

Finally, the captain relates:
. . . . The elder, or stouter of the two women, came in from time to time with a nod or ejaculation, generally confirmatory of what was said, but further took no part save to dispose in the fullest manner of her share of the tea and its accompaniments. "For," said they both, "we have never had, since we have been in the Valley, a dish of tea such as this, and as to white sugar, it is a thing almost unknown among us." For sometime, the notes of our bugles had died away for the night in the echoes of the mountains, and, filled and stimulated with a second supply of the decoction of our favorite herb, the women with their gratuities in hand, and in some apprehension at having stayed so long, rose, to depart. . . .
It is only the "elder, or stouter of the two women" who could possibly have been our Eleanor. We do believe she may have liked tea if she is the one who tied the teapot to her apron string. But we are now building conjecture upon conjecture.

I did check the 1860 census (in which Eleanor does not appear) for any women from Wales in Springville. There are only a half dozen. I tried to cross-reference with the Welsh Mormon History website for any of those names landing in New Orleans and could not make any clear match. Of course, like Eleanor, a Welsh woman could have been born in England or been represented as such with Welsh parentage or the confusion as to whether Monmouthshire was in England or Wales (it generally depended on whether you were English or Welsh).

As I have said, in spite of his excellent drawings, Capt. Tracy is not easily trusted in his account of Welsh women revealing all the "secrets" of murders and mayhem in Territorial Utah. It could just as well have been the ladies who were attempting to play Capt. Tracy for information with the Mormon men "shadowing" close by.

And another thing, for all his eastern sophistication, the Captain didn't seem to know that not all Welsh pies are intended to be sweet. Anybody else ever try a turnip-leek pasty?

But there is just the slightest of chances that the "elder, or stouter of the two women" was Eleanor Jenkins Vaughan Hulet. Someday I intend to ask her about that.

You are welcome to read Capt. Tracy's full diary published online from the Utah Historical Quarterly (Vol. 13, 1945).

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