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Document 1: John Steele's Letter
The Missionaries kept diaries and sent letters home. They took part of their days to write to their families. Following is an excerpt from John Steele describing conditions at the fort. The underlined blanks indicate words that were indecipherable in the letter and the question marks indicate uncertainty of the word by the transcriber.
Las Vegas October 13/1855 ____ New Mexico
I sit down this morning to address these few lines to you hoping your health is better than when you last wrote and also hoping thet the children also have got rid of their cold and enjoy good health. I have felt rather poorly for awhile past. I got cold working in the adobe yard and rheumatism took ___ in my shoulder and laid me up for two or three days so that I could do nothing but still it did not slacken my labors much and wanted to get my portion of the fort up and also my stuff ___ ___ and wound up that if possible I may have a chance to come home this winter Steven Perry, William G. Mitchell Jr., Sidney Carter and myself is in a mess together? building our portion of the Fort amounting to 33 feet of wall 2 feet thick and 14 feet high and we are getting along pretty well with it It is up 8 feet now and we still lack over two thousand adobies and for that I must get into the mud? again I was working the last two days making? and I think 4 more days more will finish and then we will have to build the rest of the wall which I think will take the most of two weeks and by that time Captain Bringhurst will be back from California and if possible I will come home starting in about three weeks if I can get the chance which I think is possible & that will bring me there about the 17 (sometime) of November therefore you need not send the papers of ___ November mail Steven Perry and Benjamin Cliff? is coming this mail but the can tell you nothing about whether I will be there or not so you need not bother your head I do not think I will say much at this time as I shall probably have a chance to come home and cary my ___ letter myself I expect the mail in today & this is Saturday (always a buisy day) you would like to know how I get along with my washing ___ I will tell you about it when I come home I have just to wash a shirt to preach in tomorrow as every stick is dirty now but still I get along first rate and wash make and mend like some? old woman taking all things into consideration I get along very well You say you are ___ without ___ as yet I believe that and also hope that you will continue so I never go to sleep but what the welfare of you & thy children are last in my mind and I pray continually to the Lord for you & them that he will watch over you and keep you from going astray I wrote to Brother & sister ___ and sent the letter by Myran Tanner? I also wrote to Sister Wilkins I am very glad you got the Tea but he had to go on without his pay because I had not corn? to pay him But I expect to ___ things so that he can have his pay when he comes back whether I am here or not. I had a letter the last mail from George A. Smith he has been sick but I supose he is now better. Kiss the children for me now & when I come I will do it also I will bring the grapes for ___ May the Lord bless you with every good thing. Yours as ever John Steele
John Steele Papers, Vault MSS 528, Box 1, Folder 12, L.
Questions for Document 1
1. How long had the Mormons been in the Las Vegas Valley when this was written? If needed, refer to Reading 1. What hardships and setbacks did they face?
2. How well did the missionaries seem to be working together? What is the evidence for your answer?
3. How useful do you think the missionary journals and letters would have been to the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City? How important are they in helping historians understand the past today?
4. Concern for family was one reason why the Mormons left the mission. How is that reflected in this letter?