On Saturday, 22 February 1845, Heber C. Kimball laid his hands on Thomas Bullock’s head and pronounced a blessing. Three days later as he was pondering on this blessing, Bullock poured out his soul in a journal entry which illustrates the dreams and feelings of a man devoted to a new religious movement and its leaders:
Oh my God prepare me, for that time, that I may (according to my blessing) have a glorious hope of immortal life—and according to Elder H. C. Kimball’s promise of last Saturday, that I may rise with the 12—and be with them thro’ all Eternity. [And] that I should always be a scribe for the 12—[and] that I should rise in the morn of the resurrection with them, and be with them thro’ all Eternity. . . . May God grant—that the whole of his blessing be fulfilled.
Since his arrival in Nauvoo in 1843, Thomas had served as a clerk: first to Joseph Smith and then to the Twelve. After the exodus, he served as Brigham Young’s clerk for more than a decade. Altogether, Bullock was involved with clerking in the Church (although not directly for the Twelve) for the remainder of his life.
Thomas Bullock’s clerking career began in England, where he was born at Leek, Staffordshire, on 23 December 1816.At thirteen, he clerked in the law office of John Cruso. After eight years as a clerk, Bullock secured employment as an excise officer, inspecting and rating taxable items. In this position, he sometimes referred to himself as “One of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria’s Officers of Excise.” In 1838, Bullock married Henrietta Rushton, who was also born and raised in Leek. One year later, Bullock was promoted and transferred to Ireland. In November 1841, while visiting family members in Leek, the Bullocks heard the Mormon elders preaching and subsequently joined the Church. Reflecting on his conversion, Bullock later explained how grateful he was that God had revealed “the Gospel unto a simple ploughboy, named Joseph Smith,” and that “His servants . . . were sent into my native town . . . where I was privileged with hearing their voices, and was led by one into the waters of baptism on a cold November night.”
By 1842, Bullock had already begun to consider immigrating to Nauvoo, but he first served a mission in England, where, in his native Staffordshire, he organized forty-six members into a branch of the Church.He also continued his work as an excise officer until February 1843, when he finalized his plans to emigrate. In March 1843, Thomas, along with his wife, three children, mother-in-law, and two brothers-in-law and their families, sailed from England aboard the Yorkshire. After reaching New Orleans, the party boarded the steamboat Dove, which took them to St. Louis, and from there the steamer Amaranth carried them to Nauvoo. They arrived on 31 May 1843.
In Nauvoo, Bullock wasted no time getting settled. The day after his arrival, he purchased a lot in southeastern Nauvoo, where construction began immediately on a new house. Until the house was completed, Bullock rented another house. Within a year he was living in a two-story brick home measuring 25 by 14 feet and having a good well, a cellar, and fences. The surrounding lot had ample room for gardening. The home was valued at about $600.
Because of his skill with a pen, Bullock also quickly secured employment; by October 1843 he was working as one of Joseph Smith’s personal scribes along with Willard Richards and William Clayton. As such, Bullock recorded several sermons of the Prophet, the most famous of which was the King Follett Discourse.Additionally, Bullock copied letters, served as secretary of the Nauvoo municipal council and court, clerked at the April 1844 general conference, and clerked for the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. Bullock also accepted another assignment from the Prophet: to serve as the clerk aboard the Church-owned steamboat Maid of Iowa, operated by Welshman Daniel Jones.
From late 1844 through January 1846, Bullock was primarily involved with the writing of Church history. Due to his frequent contact with Joseph Smith and the Church leadership, Bullock had become personally acquainted with Apostle and official Church Historian Willard Richards. On 9 December 1844, Richards appointed Bullock as his personal scribe. Working closely together, these two men would develop a deep friendship, and in a sense Apostle Richards would become Bullock’s mentor and role model. (Bullock would name a son after the Apostle and also seal his family to Richards.) In the meantime, Bullock worked hard under Richards’s tutelage; the two of them, along with several other clerks, completed almost seven hundred pages of the official “manuscript history of the Church,” more than twice the amount of material written by previous clerks in less than a third of the time.
In addition to his historical work, many other projects engaged the faithful scribe’s pen. In 1845 Bullock began serving as the Nauvoo City Recorder.He copied numerous temple records such as those for baptisms for the dead. He also copied affidavits of Saints whose property was destroyed by mobs, letters of Church leaders, patriarchal blessings, membership records, and hymns. Because of his beautiful handwriting and unusually refined grammar and spelling, Bullock was also asked by several Church leaders and members to write personal letters and to fill in their diaries. All told, Bullock helped copy and record literally thousands of important documents and historical facts.
Although Bullock worked hard as a clerk, he seldom received money for his labors.Because of the acute lack of cash in Nauvoo, his pay was principally in goods. To receive these goods, Bullock made frequent trips to the temple store, which functioned much like the bishop’s storehouse does in the Church today. Tithing, often in the form of meat, grains, tools, etc., was donated to the store. These items could then be distributed to laborers employed in building the temple. Bullock, as a Church scribe and recorder, was apparently eligible to draw on the supplies provided by the store. His dependency on the temple store presented some interesting problems. For example, on Thursday, 29 May 1845, Bullock made the following entry in the Historian’s Office Journal:
R[eynolds]. Cahoon with his usual sneer said he noticed my going to the Temple [Store] every day—but on my asking him if he saw me carry something away every day—he confessed he did not—I can not bring myself to like that man—his ways and words do not suit me—why he should act so—God only knows—I do not recollect having done any thing to cause it—
Bullock was often troubled and frustrated by people’s attitudes toward his situation and later by the way the trustees in charge of the store treated him. As demands on the store’s resources began to tax its ability to supply the fleeing Saints, the store became less and less able (and willing) to provide for Bullock’s needs. On one occasion, after several unsuccessful attempts to procure meat for his family had failed, Bullock lamented, “I found that the ox was killed this week but I had no beef as usual. I have to live on meal and milk while others can live on the best the land affords. I wish I was in the midst of equal justice.”
Despite the inconveniences of his job, Bullock welcomed the interaction he had with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Patriarch John Smith, and other Church leaders. During the last few months in Illinois, Bullock was able to take minutes for many important meetings concerning immigration to the West, mob actions and appropriate responses to them, the completion of the temple, and other pressing issues. Thankfully, Bullock’s comprehensive minutes preserve the content of these important conferences. These minutes are indisputably the most detailed and, in some cases, the only records of these events extant.
After the commencement of ordinance work in the Nauvoo Temple, Bullock married his second wife on 26 January 1846. Two weeks later, the majority of the Saints evacuated Nauvoo. However, Bullock remained behind due both to his lack of supplies and to the sickness which often seemed to plague his family. Because Bullock had to temporarily remain in Nauvoo, Willard Richards asked him to collect any historical documents pertaining to the last months of Mormonism in Nauvoo and to record any important events that occurred. Only after the impatient Illinois vigilantes threatened the remaining Saints with extermination did the ill-prepared Bullock family flee to the Iowa wilderness.
In a sense, we are fortunate that Bullock remained behind. His record of the demise of Nauvoo, called “unparalleled” by one of Bullock’s biographers is—at the very least—helpful in reconstructing the events that occurred and in revealing the pervading atmosphere of the time.On 27 June 1846, Bullock eloquently captured what for many must have seemed true: “What a tremendous alteration has taken place in Nauvoo. Surely it has fallen, is fallen.”
Bullock’s contributions to the Church while in Nauvoo were substantial, but even after the “fall” of Nauvoo his accomplishments and service to the Church were significant. He served as the official clerk of the First Pioneer Company under Brigham Young from April 1847 until its arrival in the Salt Lake Valley and of a subsequent company in 1848.In Utah, Bullock was involved in plotting and distributing land to the Saints; taking minutes for the Council of Fifty; proofreading the first copies of the Deseret News; writing, stamping, and issuing the first “valley currency”; laying off the boundaries of a “city in Utah Valley to be called Provo”; clerking for the House of Representatives; helping in the attempts to secure a territorial government for “Deseret”; and serving as a regent to the new Deseret University (later to become the University of Utah).
In 1852, Bullock married Betsy Prudence Howard, his third wife.Four years later in August 1856, he received a mission call to return to his homeland of England, where he was reported to be having “good success, he is well and feeling good.” He returned home in 1858 and by September 1859 was again employed in the Church Historian’s Office. After moving to Summit County in 1862, he left the position but continued various clerking activities until his death on 10 February 1885 at age sixty-eight.
Understandably, Bullock’s accomplishments and historical reputation mainly reflect his work as a scribe, clerk, and historian; indeed he devoted much of his life to clerking and writing for the Church. But, even though Bullock was a prolific writer, much of his writing lacks introspection and reflection. He recorded the daily events in which he was immersed; however, he rarely provided glimpses into his own thoughts, beliefs, or feelings. Thus part of the significance of this Nauvoo journal is its many insightful passages. From this journal one can assemble a picture not only of Thomas Bullock the clerk, but also of Thomas Bullock the man, steeped in complexity and paradox.
Thomas Bullock was a profoundly spiritual man. His journal entries describe events that, at least in his own eyes, were evidences of divine approval of his own life and also of the inchoate religious cause to which he had cast his allegiance. These events included miraculous healings, supernatural appearances, and occurrences reminiscent of biblical times, like the quail miracle in October 1846. He was a dreamer who pictured himself fulfilling his church responsibilities but also fantasized about traveling the world. He was hard-working and diligent, but his frail body was frequently handicapped by sickness and poor health.
Endowed with unique humility and patience, he could also occasionally exhibit intolerance and disgust toward those with less faith and intelligence than he had. Because of his naturally trusting nature and amicable disposition, he was often exploited and taken advantage of by his relatives and friends. However, he could take only so much; when perturbed, he was capable of lashing back with a fearsome temper that was usually hidden inside him. He was not afraid to speak his mind when he felt the need—a feeling that seemed to surface more frequently as selfishness and injustice began to flourish in Nauvoo after the main exodus of the Saints. Throughout his Nauvoo journal, there is an underlying sense of frustration at the treatment he received. He not only came into conflict with the Wilson family over what he believed was his stolen cow, but he also lost patience with his in-laws because of their “abominable conduct.” As a man raised in Victorian England, he was perhaps not well prepared for the crudity and injustice rampant on the American frontier. On the other hand, Bullock could also be somewhat oversensitive, even hypersensitive; he sometimes got his feelings hurt and saw malicious personal attacks where perhaps none were intended.
Despite his few weaknesses, Thomas Bullock was a very loving and warm man, and when visitors would drop in for a minute, they were often detained for over an hour while Bullock visited with them. He was also a tender man unusually devoted to his wives and children, who were constantly in need of comfort due to sickness. His tenderness seemed to heighten his awareness of the beauty of the natural world around him. He recorded sightings of various animals, weather patterns, seasonal variations, and other elements of his environment, recordings that are absent from many journals of his contemporaries. He was also careful to record a short comment about the day, such as “fine day” or “dull day,” which usually described the weather but could also be a succinct report of the kind of day he had had. These idiosyncratic details, trivial as they may seem, illustrate Bullock’s uniqueness and complexity.
Thomas Bullock was a faithful disciple and a strong believer in the truth of the cause he had espoused. Bullock’s Nauvoo years were some of his most formative, and this journal represents an important chapter in his life, without which no understanding of him can be complete. The journal not only paints a masterful picture of the final months of Bullock’s and the Church’s Nauvoo experience, but it also evokes the pathos of both.
The journal introduced here begins at the time mob actions against the Saints were escalating. It covers much of the period from 31 August 1845 to 5 July 1846, detailing the suffering and struggles associated with the uprooting of an entire city. The one unfortunate gap in the journal includes part of March and all of April and May 1846, a time of preparation and trepidation for the remaining Saints. This gap also includes the official dedication of the temple on 30 April and 1 May. For such a meticulous scribe, such a gap seems strange. Perhaps he was extremely busy preparing for the westward trek, thinking that he would later record these days based on the materials he was collecting for Willard Richards. Or maybe he recorded the events of these weeks in a source that has been lost, destroyed, or kept by family members somewhere. Whatever the case, in lieu of this missing chronology, Bullock provides a description of his cattle—for us humorously illustrating the extent to which his concern had escalated since losing his cow Bos.
While some of the entries might seem routine and plodding, looking past the personal details reveals the broader story of Nauvoo. In the journal we see the momentary glory associated with the Nauvoo Temple and the ordinances performed there. We also get one man’s perspective of and feelings towards baptisms for the dead, washings and anointings, sealings, adoptions, celestial marriage, and the endowment. To be sure, Bullock witnessed some of the Church’s most monumental doctrinal and ceremonial developments—including polygamy. During the Nauvoo years, polygamy was not considered an “official” Church doctrine. Thus, polygamy was secretive and often created complex problems for those who practiced it. Although Bullock never directly mentions polygamy, his entries do not completely eclipse the subject of polygamy in Nauvoo; he, too, struggled with the frustrations of secretly courting his second wife. Less veiled are his references about the intake of alcoholic beverages and tea, for medicinal purposes and otherwise. In this regard, Bullock was perfectly consistent with the contemporary Latter-day Saint attitude toward the Word of Wisdom.Bullock’s entries also illuminate our understanding of the Strangite group and the confusion they created for a church still trying to grasp the idea of apostolic succession.
At the same time, the Bullock Journal provides insight into life on the American frontier with all of its hardships and lawlessness. Throughout the journal the Bullock family battles against “ague and fever,” commonly referred to as the “shakes.” The humid, wet climate of riverside Nauvoo was the perfect breeding ground for the mosquitos that carried this disease, now known as malaria, which was the most common affliction not only in Nauvoo, but also throughout the Mississippi Valley.The “sickly season,” as it was called, stretched from midsummer until the first frosts of fall, but the “shakes” could recur anytime. Unfortunately, malaria was only one of the many maladies which afflicted the Bullocks and thousands of others living in nineteenth-century America. Other ailments mentioned by Bullock include “the flux” (typhoid fever), rheumatism, and hives. And if the illnesses were not bad enough themselves, the treatments seem almost lethal: Bullock’s journal is replete with references to herbal teas, alcoholic prescriptions, and concoctions of poisonous roots and herbs.
Bullock was also careful to record the activities of the state militia and the various vigilante groups—even though he based much of his information on rumors. His record reveals that with each passing week as the lawlessness of the anti-Mormons increased, so did the paranoia and disorganization of the Saints. The conflicts began 9 September 1845 when an anti-Mormon meeting was fired upon (probably by anti-Mormons themselves).The Latter-day Saints were blamed, and as a result, virtual war raged for almost a week, with lootings and shootings performed on both sides. Many Latter-day Saint homes were burned and Church leaders began to seriously consider moving to the West. When Sheriff Jacob Backenstos, who was sympathetic towards Nauvoo, attempted to end the violence by invading Carthage, Governor Thomas Ford declared a state of insurrection and dispatched a unit of the state militia to restore order. After disbanding Backenstos’s posse, the militia, along with Steven A. Douglas, John J. Hardin, and J. A. McDougal, secured a promise from Brigham Young that the Saints would leave Illinois in the spring. An uneasy peace then settled over the county, but new animosity and violence erupted in June 1846, most of which is recorded in Bullock’s journal. Although the journal ends before the “Battle of Nauvoo,” which occurred in September 1846, Bullock’s entries still relay the emotion and tumult present during the demise of Nauvoo from a peaceful sanctuary to a lawless frontier town.
Bullock’s 1845–1846 journal was obtained by BYU Archives and Manuscripts in December 1987 from a branch of the Bullock family in Colorado. The original is not in book form, but is rather eleven long sheets of white paper stitched together across the middle and folded in half. In its full length, the paper measures 41 cm. One page of the journal is half of this length and just 16 cm wide. The journal was folded in half again, making it convenient to carry about. As many of the entries appear to be lists of things done with specific times assigned to each task performed, it is reasonable to suggest that Bullock carried the journal with him.
The format and content of the journal almost exactly match that of the journals kept by Bullock in the Church Historian’s Office—oftentimes just a series of tasks completed, places visited, or people talked to. That Bullock carried his journal around with him would also help explain the acute lack of standard punctuation.
For this and other reasons, I have used the following set of editorial principles and devices in reproducing the document:
1. Dashes (Bullock’s method of separating ideas) have been changed to more conventional punctuation.
2. Capitalization has been standardized.
3. Original spelling is generally excellent and has been retained.
4. Bullock often used abbreviations such as sd. for said and cod. for could. These along with other abbreviations have been retained except in cases where they might be confusing.
5. I have not indicated Bullock’s deletions (with one or two exceptions).
6. I have indicated Bullock’s insertions this way: /insertion/.
7. I have converted ampersands into and but have left the original &c when he used it for etc.
8. In addition to using the ampersand, Bullock used another symbol to mean and. This symbol, which looks like a c descending partly below the line of writing, I have also converted into and.
9. Because the original contains no page numbers, I have enclosed a page number in brackets whenever a new page begins: [page number].