Nearly one hundred thousand Latter-day Saints made the journey across the Atlantic during the nineteenth century. Both contemporary commentators and Mormon historians alike have described these ocean crossings extensively. Yet the journey from Liverpool to America was but one segment in the much longer gathering process for over twenty-four thousand Scandinavian Mormons who migrated to Utah during this period. Scandinavians represented the second-largest ethnic group of Saints gathering to Zion between 1852 and 1894. During these years, nearly two hundred vessels carrying Latter-day Saints (fig. 1) left Scandinavia bound for Hull, an important port on the east coast of England.1 The emigrants then made the overland railway crossing from Hull to Liverpool, where the headquarters of the British and European Missions were situated.2 Only once they had completed the journey to Liverpool could the transatlantic crossing commence. Our study of the migrant journeys made during these years seeks to explain the patterns of migration along established trade routes through the British port of Hull.
The Call to Gather and the Founding of the Hull Conference
Less than six months after the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith announced that he had received a revelation calling for a gathering of the Saints: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; . . . they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land” (D&C 29:7–8). Latter-day Saint immigration to America commenced a decade later when the Latter-day Saint missionaries who had first arrived in Britain in 1837 reaped a rich harvest of converts in the British Isles.3
During this period, 1837–41, the missionaries baptized thousands throughout Great Britain, necessitating the organization of various conferences (ecclesiastical units). Each conference comprised several branches (smaller ecclesiastical units). Among the larger units was the Hull Conference, established in 1843.4 By December 1847, its membership had reached 65, “including 1 high priest, 3 elders, 5 priests, 3 teachers, and 2 deacons.”5 Eight months later, the conference had reportedly increased to 163.6 By 1851, the Hull Conference had grown to 318 members.7 By the mid-nineteenth century, the Latter-day Saints in the Hull region were in a position not only to observe and proselytize the inhabitants of England’s third largest port but also to offer support to their fellow Saints who were immigrating through the port en route to America.
Hull as a Way Station for Converts in Eastern England
The first known Saints who migrated to America through Hull were a group of five families from the Louth Branch in Lincolnshire (then part of the Hull Conference).8 The members of this group made their way through Hull before traveling by rail to Liverpool and then crossing the Atlantic en route to Utah via New Orleans.9 One teenage member of the group recalled:
On the 16th of January, 1849, we left Louth by the morning train and although it was quite early in the morning, the station house was crowded with our friends and associates who were there to say farewell. . . . The departure of these leading families of the Louth Branch left it in a disorganized condition, from which it has not since recovered.
Our journey from Louth to Hull on the 16th, and from Hull to Liverpool on the 17th of January was full of interest to me, a boy of 16 years of age, when I could appreciate to some extent the many strange, interesting, and delightful scenes we witnessed.10
The use of the port of Hull as an entrepôt for gathering Saints increased as rates of conversion in the hinterlands of Hull, the East Riding of Yorkshire, and nearby North Lincolnshire accelerated. But Hull and its surrounding region would never harvest the large numbers of converts that the West Yorkshire and Lancastrian towns yielded.11 In this aspect, Hull would remain a relatively insignificant branch of the Church throughout the 1840s. Hull’s important role in Latter-day Saint history grew not from the region’s harvested souls but through the large numbers of Latter-day Saint emigrants who migrated through the port en route to Utah. Hull’s location as a harbor with railway access to Liverpool allowed the Church an economically feasible yet quick option in assisting the newly converted migrants who passed through the port each year.
Early History of the Latter-day Saint Scandinavian Mission
Having already established a secure foothold in Britain, the Church began planning to expand missionary work into parts of mainland Europe. The funds needed for missionary work and for helping converts migrate came from the trade generated by prospectors passing through Utah in 1849.12 During the same year, King Frederick VII of Denmark signed a new constitution, which granted religious toleration to its citizens and enabled the Danes—who were the largest portion of Scandinavian Latter-day Saint converts—the opportunity to hear the restored gospel.13
Four months after this declaration of religious tolerance, the fall general conference saw several Mormon elders called to various missions on October 6–7, 1849.14 Among them was Elder Erastus Snow, called to Denmark, with Elders Peter O. Hansen and John E. Forsgren called to work under his direction in Denmark and Sweden.15 Hasty preparations were made for the missionaries’ late-season journey across America. They left their wives and children to perform the household chores and prepare for the crop harvest, while they departed to Europe to harvest souls.
On October 19, 1849, the missionaries gathered east of the Salt Lake Valley “at the mouth of Emigration Canyon,” where they were met by Brigham Young, who bade farewell to a company consisting of “twelve wagons, forty-two horses and mules, one carriage, and thirty-five men.” By December 7, 1849, despite terrible mountain snowstorms, they reached the Missouri River and were warmly greeted by friends at Kanesville, Iowa. From Kanesville, the missionaries took different routes and visited local groups of Saints in the cities they passed through, such as St. Louis, New Orleans, and Boston. They preached the gathering and received liberal contributions to their missions in each of the places they visited.16 In spring 1850, they finally set sail for Liverpool.17
Once in Britain, the three elders traveled extensively, preached to local Saints, and received much-needed financial assistance for their forthcoming missionary work in Scandinavia. They added to their number George Parker Dykes, a Latter-day Saint missionary already serving in Britain who had earlier ministered among Norwegian immigrants in Illinois. Peter O. Hansen “proceeded alone to his native land, Denmark,” arriving in Copenhagen on May 11, 1850.18 The others followed from Hull on June 14, on board the steamer Victoria.19 Once the missionaries were reunited, their important work could commence, and they began to introduce the gospel in Scandinavia.
During the earliest days of the Scandinavian Mission, Elder Snow (who served as Scandinavian Mission president) urged postponing baptisms until converts had thoroughly investigated the Church. The Lord, however, warned him in a dream to move ahead with baptisms. As a result, the first fifteen Danish Latter-day Saint converts were baptized on August 12, 1850, just two months after the missionaries arrived in Copenhagen.20 The first fruits of preaching the restored gospel in Denmark were now realized, and the first Danish branch was organized in Copenhagen on September 15, 1850.21
Just as in America in the 1830s and then Britain in the late 1830s and ’40s, the early successes of missionary work enabled the mission to spread. The Scandinavian Mission expanded throughout Denmark and then to Sweden and Norway. Though the Latter-day Saint missionaries encountered difficulties throughout Scandinavia, they successfully established branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in each of the countries that they visited. As the Scandinavian Mission grew, the need to organize the gathering escalated.
The Beginnings of Latter-day Saint Scandinavian Emigration
Each Scandinavian convert represented a potential emigrant. Between 1850 and 1905, just under 49 percent of the Scandinavian converts emigrated22 (fig. 2). Unlike the British emigrants from Liverpool, no Scandinavian convert would travel a direct course to America but instead made a “series of journeys.”23 As William Mulder explained:
Going to America involved a whole series of journeys. The proselytes first had to make their way to Copenhagen [the] main assembly point. . . . From Copenhagen they took a steamer to Kiel or Lübeck on the German portion of the peninsula, continuing by rail to Altona, within walking distance of Hamburg, or Glückstadt, a little farther down the Elbe. Except for the years 1862, 1865, and 1866, when parties went directly from Hamburg to America, the emigrants moved straight across the North Sea to Grimsby or Hull and entrained for Liverpool along with whatever Norwegian Saints had come directly from Christiania or Stavanger.24
The First Scandinavian Migrants. The first Mormon Scandinavian migrants, consisting of a small group of nine converts, left Copenhagen on January 31, 1852, and traveled to Liverpool via Hamburg and London. They arrived on February 7, too late for the voyage of the Ellen Maria, and so had to wait over a month in Liverpool for the chance to leave on another Latter-day Saint–chartered vessel.25 During this time, Elder Erastus Snow arrived from Copenhagen with another group of nineteen Scandinavian converts. The combined group of twenty-eight emigrants left Liverpool on the ship Italy on March 11, 1852, in the care of Ole U. C. Mönster.26
With the first group of converts now sailing to Zion, the Scandinavian Mission commenced arrangements for the transportation of future emigrating companies along the migrant route (via Hull and Liverpool) used by thousands of non–Latter-day Saint European emigrants. As historian Phillip A. M. Taylor noted:
In 1852, Appleton Harmon made enquiries about the cost of bringing over the very first company of Scandinavian Mormons. He found that Gee and Company of Hull would charge a guinea a head from Copenhagen for deck or steerage passage, or would provide a whole ship for three or four hundred people, at £1. 10.[s] 0d. each [per shipload].27
Many steamship operators of the time were willing to transport passengers on the routes their ships plied regularly, but transporting the large companies of emigrating Saints necessitated special arrangements between the shipping agent and the mission leaders. Furthermore, the leaders of the Scandinavian Mission in Copenhagen and the British Mission in Liverpool sought to charter such vessels for their exclusive use, enabling the allocation of more space (per passenger) than was normally provided for third-class passengers traveling during this period.28
Such arrangements required careful negotiation, but the business was competitive. By fall 1852, Morris and Company of Hamburg had outbid the competing companies and accordingly received the contract to carry the first large company, the John Forsgren Company, of Scandinavian Latter-day Saint converts from Copenhagen, through various cities and finally to New Orleans.29 With this contract in place, the emigration of Latter-day Saint converts commenced en masse. Each group of emigrating Saints gathered in Copenhagen, then traveled to Hamburg or Glückstadt, before journeying to Liverpool via Hull or Grimsby.30
The John Forsgren Company. The first large company of Mormon Scandinavians to embark from Copenhagen—led by Elder John E. Forsgren, one of the original four missionaries sent to Scandinavia—consisted of “199 adults and 95 children under [the age of] twelve.”31 These Latter-day Saint converts voyaged from Copenhagen to Kiel, Germany, on the steamer Obotrit. After taking a train to Hamburg, they voyaged down the Elbe River and into the North Sea on the Lion (see fig. 1). Here they abruptly encountered the most difficult part of their journey westward when a terrible winter storm enveloped them in the night. One Danish Saint wrote in his journal on Sunday, December 26, 1852: “Toward midnight a terrific storm arose and the great waves broke over the ship in quick succession, and frequently the water poured down upon us in the hold.”32 The “Manuscript History of the John H. Forsgren Emigrating Company” entry for Tuesday, December 28, verifies this event:
After sailing all of Sunday and Monday, and most of today we arrived through the grace and kindness of God at Hull, England, at 5 o’clock in the evening. We had come through a storm the like of which the captain of the ship said he had never been out in. Some of the ship’s cargo was ruined, and the wind was so strong that our clothes were nearly blown overboard. The Lord helped and strengthened all of us both in body and soul so that we could continue our journey without delay.33
The hurricane conditions experienced on this North Sea crossing were some of the worst in the area for over thirteen years. The local press described the storm and its aftermath: “On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday last, this island was visited by terrific gales of wind, approaching, in fact, to a perfect hurricane. As a matter of course, the wrecks upon our coast have been frightfully numerous, and, what is still worse, they have been accompanied with a shocking loss of human life.”34 The John Forsgren Company suffered no loss of life and landed at the Steam Packet Wharf in Hull on Tuesday, December 28, where they were met by Richard Cortis, one of Hull’s emigration agents35 (fig. 3).
On the morning of Wednesday, December 29, 1852, having stayed overnight in a nearby lodging house, the migrants made the one-and-a-half-mile journey on foot to the Paragon Railway Station.36 From this station, the Scandinavian Saints traveled on a specially chartered train that took them all the way to Liverpool. There, the Forsgren Company remained in another lodging house while awaiting their departure on the Forest Monarch, which sailed on January 16, 1853, with 297 Saints on board.37
The migration route of the Forsgren Company from Copenhagen to Liverpool (via Hull) established the primary pattern that would be followed by Scandinavian converts for the subsequent forty-one years. Though 3,175 immigrating Saints would arrive in Liverpool via Grimsby, 4 via Newcastle, and 9 via London, it would be Hull that received most of the Saints destined for Utah, with 21,243 (87 percent) arriving there between 1852 and 1894.38
Trade Agreements and Migration through Hull
The Latter-day Saint Scandinavians who emigrated between 1852 and 1894 represent only a small fraction of the many Europeans who migrated to America. Between 1836 and 1914, an estimated thirty million Europeans immigrated to the United States.39 About four million of these migrated through the United Kingdom “via the eastern ports of Harwich, Hull, Grimsby, Leith, London, Newcastle and West Hartlepool.” Having arrived at an east coast port, the “transmigrants were then transported by train to the ports of Glasgow, Liverpool, London, and Southampton.”40 Even though London was used as the primary port of entry for European immigrants who settled in Great Britain, the ports of Hull and Grimsby were used by about three million (75 percent) of the European migrants destined for America and Canada because the distance between the River Humber and Liverpool by rail was the shortest. Of these migrants, about 2.2 million (73 percent) favored Hull over Grimsby.
British ship owners, and later the railway companies, developed an effective system of organization for migrant shipping. As steamships replaced sailing vessels, trade agreements between steamship companies and rail operators became stronger, led by the Wilson shipping line of Hull, the North Eastern Railway, and (later) the Guion shipping line of Liverpool. Trade agreements between shipping and railway operators were essential because they enabled the British operators to lower the price of direct migration. Cheap, safe, and reliable travel encouraged millions of Europeans to travel via Britain.
Morris and Company. From 1852 to 1869, Morris and Company provided good service for the European Latter-day Saint migrants. Although Morris and Company chartered only sailing vessels to transport Saints on the Atlantic crossing from Liverpool, they were able to use the steamers of the Wilson Line, owned by the Hull-based Thomas Wilson (fig. 4), Sons and Company and other North Sea operators, on the North Sea crossing.41 The success of the Wilson Line’s passenger operations was based upon its ability to supply Liverpool shipping operators with the large numbers of third-class passengers needed to fill the vessels that ferried passengers across the North Atlantic. But beginning in 1867, Morris and Company gradually lost the “Mormon Contract” to transport Saints to Zion when the Guion Line began transporting Saints across the North Atlantic on steamships instead of sailing vessels. After three sailing vessels (probably belonging to Morris and Company) of Latter-day Saint immigrants were sent the following year (1868), an agreement was made between the Church and the Guion Line to transport the remaining Mormon migrants for the remainder of the year.42
The Guion and Wilson Lines. The Guion Line’s steamships drastically reduced the time involved in gathering to Zion, shortening the length of the Atlantic crossing from 32–36 days to 10–16 days.43 Although the Mormons contracted solely with the Guion Line for the transport of all their European converts, the Liverpool-based company subcontracted the Wilson Line to carry the European converts across the North Sea to Hull (as the Wilson Line had successfully done for Morris and Company). After the Church signed a new emigrant contract with Guion for a company traveling in 1869, Mormon converts traveled on a Wilson Line steamer to Hull (fig. 5) and journeyed across England to Liverpool by the North Eastern Railway’s trains before they were allocated a berth on a steamship of the Guion Line for their transatlantic passage. This integrated service utilized the successful operations of large-scale transport companies on chartered (not scheduled) services and demonstrated how organized groups could form successful partnerships that were beneficial to all parties concerned. In addition, organized groups, such as the Mormons, were able to obtain a reduction in price by purchasing their tickets in bulk.
On May 13, 1869, George Ramsden, agent of the Guion Line, met with British Mission President Albert Carrington in Liverpool to arrange transatlantic transport for a company of Mormon converts aboard the Minnesota.44 According to their plan, the Saints boarded the Minnesota in Liverpool on June 1, 1869. The British Mission history records:
On their arrival on board they were provided with tea, and everything was done by the manager, Mr. G. Ramsden, for the comfort of the Saints. They had the best part of the steamer entirely for themselves and could use the aft part of the ship in common with the cabin passengers.45
The successful partnership between the Church and the Guion line lasted for a quarter of a century (1869–94). The relationship of Guion agent George Ramsden with the Mormons was extraordinary. In praise of the trust Ramsden enjoyed with the Saints, British Mission President Anthon H. Lund pointed out that Ramsden worked for decades with the Church without a written contract.46
For its part, the Wilson Line provided a standard of steamer that surpassed most of its North Sea rivals.47 The Guion Line (fig. 6), for its agreed responsibilities, hired the services of Charles Maples, a Hull-based emigration agent, who met the migrants on arrival in port and escorted them safely to the railway station.48 Maples, like his counterparts at Liverpool, was noted by Latter-day Saint migrants for the help he provided in assisting the foreign converts en route to Liverpool.49
Not only did the Saints receive a good standard of service from these shipping lines, but they were also assisted by their fellow Saints en route. Scandinavian Saint Peter O. Hansen noted on arrival at Hull in 1855 that the company he traveled with was “very kindly greeted by the Hull Saints.”50 Four years later, another Mormon migrant wrote: “At the landing place, 18 brethren and sisters picked us up, who accompanied us to our inn where they entertained us greatly with their song.”51
Those who could not afford to emigrate often sought assistance through the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, a revolving fund that assisted Saints migrating to Utah. Others sold their goods in order to pay for the cost of the long journey westward. Unlike previously used shipping lines, the Wilson Line offered services from numerous ports in Europe. Eventually a system was established in which Saints would journey to Hull from their local port in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark without having always to gather at the Scandinavian Mission headquarters in Copenhagen. Although this system increased the number of European ports from which the Saints could embark, Wilson’s base in Hull ensured that Grimsby would no longer be used by the Saints as a port of entry into Britain. Hull would now monopolize the Latter-day Saint migrant trade to Liverpool as Copenhagen once had. Hull would retain this role until 1894, when the Guion Line folded.
The Rail Journey from Hull to Liverpool
From Hull, the Latter-day Saint migrants traveled by train to Liverpool. A fifteen-year-old Mormon convert who traveled in 1888 described the train:
The passenger trains were different then any I had seen before. The coaches were divided into compartments that would accommodate from 6 to eight passengers; they would be locked in. A running board on the outside of the train that the conductor used to go from compartment through the whole train. I thought it a practical way to check all passengers with out disturbing those already checked.52
Rail services from Hull to Liverpool had been established in 1840 when the rail line between Liverpool and Selby was extended all the way to Hull.53 The North Eastern Railway, which took over control of this route in 1851, chartered trains from Hull to Liverpool for emigrants when trade necessitated. As the scale of the migration grew, so the facilities improved. An emigrant waiting room was provided at the Paragon Railway Station in Hull from 1871 and extended in 1881 (fig. 7). It provided the migrants with a warm room, limited washing facilities, and seats to rest on while waiting for the train tickets for their railway journey across the Pennines to Liverpool.54 The journey to Liverpool lasted up to six hours.
The rail route out of Hull varied according to arrangements made in advance between the railway and steamship companies and the agents for the Latter-day Saints. The majority traveled on the North Eastern Railway’s trains via Leeds, Manchester, and Bolton before arriving at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station. Most migrating Saints saw little of the port of Hull. As one passing Saint recorded:
I did not see anything of Hull beyond the streets through which we went to reach the railway station. The railway station itself was beautiful and imposing. We left for Liverpool on a special train at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and came through the towns of Howden, Selby, Normington [Normanton], Brandford [Bradford], Leeds Hudbersfild [Huddersfield], Manchester and Bolton to Liverpool. But as it became dark at an early hour, I saw little or nothing at all of the cities and the country we passed through. The country around Hull was pretty, flat and fertile. Farther away it was more mountainous. The railway was frequently on a higher level than the towns and villages, and sometimes it also went along below the surface at considerably long stretches.55
Passengers arriving in England via Grimsby in the 1850s and 1860s waited at the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway’s dock terminus in Grimsby. Located near to the landing stage where the migrants had arrived, they slept overnight in a large dining-cum sleeping room before traveling to Liverpool via Sheffield, Manchester, and seven tunnels.56
Regardless of the route they took, all migrants traveled the 140-mile journey to Liverpool by steam train. The scenery they passed through varied as greatly as the diverse backgrounds of the passengers on board. From the flat hinterlands of the Humber to the rugged terrain of the Pennines, the journey was an experience they would never forget—especially for those like Joseph Hansen and his father. Joseph wrote that “this was the first and only time that my father rode in a railroad train.”57
The Arrival in Liverpool
At Liverpool, the Mormon converts were greeted by the agents of the shipping company with which they were booked to cross the Atlantic as well as with Church-appointed emigration agents. As the primary port of Mormon embarkation, Liverpool launched most of the international emigration-voyages made to America in the nineteenth century. It was not only the home of the British Mission and the administrative headquarters for the Church in Europe,58 but it was also (by the time Mormon emigration was launched in 1840) considered the most active international port of emigration in the world. With two thousand public houses, it was considered a sailor’s paradise. Its prominence derived from its prime location for rail connections in the British Isles and from its excellent navigable channels in the Mersey River.59 Though Scandinavian Latter-day Saint emigrants would join other European converts (mostly British) who were also emigrating to Zion, the cosmopolitan nature of Britain’s second largest port left a permanent impression upon those traveling via the Atlantic port.
The Mormon emigrants’ stay in Liverpool was often shorter than that of their non–Latter-day Saint counterparts. When Morris and Company (based in Hamburg) had the Mormon contract, emigrants usually spent anywhere from a few days to a few weeks there. Once Guion (based in Liverpool) had taken over the business of shipping Latter-day Saint emigrants, the waiting time was reduced to a day or two. After gathering their luggage from the railway station, a lodging house, or the mission headquarters, the Scandinavian pioneers joined their fellow travelers on board vessels that would transport them across the Atlantic. Having traversed the North Sea and Britain, the Saints had overcome the first stage in their lengthy journey west.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Scandinavian Mission sent off over twenty-four thousand Latter-day Saint immigrants.60 Each detail of their journey from Europe to America was planned in advance by Church leaders, shepherding missionaries, and the providers of chartered transport. Leaders arranged for agents, located from Copenhagen to Liverpool, to meet each group of Saints at each stop on their epic journeys west.
Throughout the period of gathering, Church leaders took advantage of the latest developments in technology to transport the foreign converts in as comfortable and efficient a way as possible. Though Latter-day Saints are generally aware of European converts crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool, it was the transit arrangements at Copenhagen, Hamburg, Grimsby, and Hull that ensured that the Scandinavian converts would reach Utah. These “feeder ports” each had a pivotal role in this process, but it would be Hull that sent more Latter-day Saint Scandinavian migrants on to Liverpool than any other port in this era of gathering.
Hull’s role was not determined by geographic location alone. More important, the links fostered between the Church leaders in Copenhagen and Liverpool and specific steam and rail operators accounted for Hull’s significant role in transporting Latter-day Saint converts to America. Such operators proved they could provide a level of service and integrated transportation systems that would efficiently convey the migrants to the vessels moored in Liverpool. Such services led Church leaders in Europe to direct the majority of Scandinavia’s Mormon emigrants to the ships chartered by Morris and Company and later the Guion Line. Both shipping lines chartered ships to transport the Saints across the North Sea from various parts of Europe to the European Mission headquarters in Liverpool. Between 1867 and 1894, all these feeder services would be provided by the Wilson Line of Hull and the rail services of the North Eastern Railway.
The revolution in steam technology drastically reduced the time needed to make the journey from mainland Europe to the great Mormon gathering place in the Salt Lake Valley. This change, coupled with competition between rival steamship operators and Church financial assistance, put Zion within easier reach of European disciples.
Though traveling was a drawn-out affair, almost every one of Zion’s gatherers knew it would be worth it. This determination to reach Zion is perhaps best exemplified by the journal of Jane C. Robinson Hindley, who in 1855 wrote:
I believed in the principle of the gathering and felt it my duty to go altho it was a severe trial to me in my feelings to leave my native Land and the pleasing associations I had formed there, but my heart was fixed I knew in whom I had trusted and with the fire of Israels God burning in my bosom, I forsook my home.61