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The Family File

The Forgotten Missionary
The Story of Elder Ezra James Clark

Making his way home

He was officially released from his mission on June 30, 1868 but the release hardly meant an easy trip home for Elder Ezra James Clark.

Even as Elder Clark was released from one responsibility, he was given another as he made his way home on the steamship "Minnesota" with a number of British Saints. He was appointed first counselor to Elder John Parry, president of the company of the saints onboard, and "discharged his duty to the best of his ability, although his health was poor during the voyage."

Some details of the 11 ½ day voyage and struggles within that timeframe are preserved through the writings of passengers on board or letters written from the ship.

Elder Parry, who was a returning missionary from Wales, wrote to Pres. Franklin D. Richards of the British Mission on July 1, 1868 when the "Minnesota" was near Ireland.

"Elder Clark and (Zebulon) Jacobs are helping me make all comfortable as far as we can and everything is going on very satisfactory on the ship. 18

Parry was a little more general and kind in his mention of some details and overlooking of others.

Elder Jacobs was a little more specific and showed a bit more of the frustration he faced in being in a leadership role with such a large number of emigrants.

Jacobs noted the high maintenance required to meet passenger needs among the largely elderly or female crowd and said confusion started on ship from the boarding and never completely left. "About 11 p.m. the London Saints came aboard which added to the confusion. Finally, we got them into their bunks for the remainder of the night. Will have to change them in the morning. Oh dear, I'm about done out with the excitement, labor, way and head which is very great." 19

In subsequent entries on board when the ship left Liverpool, Jacobs noted the illness among passengers as well as the presence of fleas and other forms of discomfort.

"My time was pretty well occupied," he noted as they left Liverpool. "Brother Parry was ill most of the way. Brother Ezra Clark could hardly move round and it kept me moving from daylight in the morning until 11 or 12 at night before I could get all settled down to rest."

Thirty who were ill

Jacobs and his fellow leaders were as physically busy as they were physically able. Elder Jacobs carried a bottle of castor oil in one pocket and three or four boxes of pills in the other to give to sick passengers. One account claims there were at least 30 passengers who were ill on the voyage, not counting the sick elders.

There was a bit of merriment on board as well in the interaction with the saints on board. Jacobs notes in his journal the experience of getting an elderly woman named Ainsworth from her sick bed when she appeared unwilling to move a muscle well into the voyage. After several days of trying to be nice about getting her up and about he took a more coarse method and threatened to pull her ears. She called him a saucebox and told him to leave. He didn't and grabbed the bed sheets and commenced pulling. She threw a shoe. He dodged and she threw another, which he also dodged. Then she threw a tin cup and a plate and piece of a board. He managed to get her so mad that she started chasing after him, which drew screams of laughter from about 30 people. "She went back about as mad as people generally get. So did I. When I could get near enough with safety, I told her to dress and I would assist her on deck. …She dressed. I carried her up to the companionway to the deck and placed her on the sunny side of the vessel where she remained all the afternoon and was left to go below at night."

Jacobs's experience, which would have been shared with Ezra, also had an impact on the rest of the passengers.

'Whenever [the passengers] saw me coming, they would say, 'Here comes Brother Jacob. Let's get up.'"

Another entry from Bro. Jacob's journal involves a far-greater problem that he and Elders Clark and Parry also wrestled with. They found a brother on the vessel "without funds"---which meant he had no ticket. "I went to the captain, told him I understood there was a man aboard without a ticket, but would try and find him. What to do I did not know. Neither did Brothers Parry, Clark or Kimball."

After stewing over the issue and consulting with his fellow leaders, Elder Jacobs devised a plan to temporarily give the man a ticket when the captain passed by, and then re-secure the ticket after the planned encounter. It worked.

The vessel was at sea on July 4, 1868, a day noted in the diary of one passenger because the ship's captain, fired the ship's cannons in salute of the holiday.

Hottest time of year

Ezra James' company landed in New York City on July 12 and came into the U.S. during one of the hottest times and weeks of the year. New York State was sweltering under blistering heat and the heat, combined with the high humidity, was taking a toll. One newspaper account 20 says that people were stacked six and seven deep in the morgue on that July week with more dead coming in at almost an hourly clip---all of them dying from heat related illnesses.

The heat made things worse for the emigrating saints and Elder Clark. The ship landed in New York City on a Sunday and so they were confined to the ship, below deck, which offered no relief or ventilation to cope with the conditions.

That day, described by Elder Jacobs at one point, as almost endless, resulted in a sleepless night for almost the entire body of saints.

So the returning six missionaries and emigrating body of 500 plus saints that left the Minnesota on July 13, 1886 were in poor shape before they went through customs or ever loaded their luggage on the train the following day. Elder Jacobs notes that Monday, July 13th, was so hot and muggy that "perspiration dropped off me like rain. At the same time I felt chilled as though it was midwinter." 21

Those tough conditions would not dissipate the next day, Tuesday, July 14, when the elders and emigrants boarded the train in New York City headed north. The train ride would prove to be deadly and exhaustive for more than just Elder Clark.

18 Journal of John Parry, page 446
19 Reminiscences and Diary of Zebulon Jacobs page 113
20 The Mohawk Valley Democrat July 18, 1868
21 Reminiscences and Diary of Zebulon Jacobs, page 121

Forgotten Missionary - Main Page
Bad News Dispels the Excitement of a Summer's Day
The First Clark Born in the New Covenant
Called to Serve
Making his way home
The final hours
Bringing the body home