I have been doing a lot of reading over the past week or so, particularly of some of the old Strangite newspapers and other publications I just purchased with some of our tax rebate money. My attention was much caught with the story of George Miller (1794 – 1856), Apostle and Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Although some of Brother Miller’s story is recorded in some non-Strangite publications (e.g. B.H. Robert’s History of the Church, along with the Journal of Discourses), most of this brands him as an Apostate because he did not sustain Brigham Young, nor Lyman Wight, and gathered with the Saints in Voree and Beaver Island, staying faithful until the end. His story is typical of many of the great, generous and brave people who flocked to and took up the ensign of the Restoration, which is maybe why he is not lionized or remembered the way he ought to be. His story struck a chord with me, however, as he worked hard, gave much, loved much, and was loyal to the Prophet James to the end. He deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest Mormons who ever lived, whose efforts on behalf of Zion and the Saints equal those of many whose memories are enshrined in books and films available to millions.
We are blessed, however, that some writings by and about Bishop Miller are still obtainable, if not really easy to get. The most valuable of these are the letters that Bishop Miller wrote for the Church newspaper, “Northern Islander” in June 1856, only weeks before the murder of the Prophet. I am going to use excerpts from some of these letters to illustrate Brother George’s life in his own words. They trace out Bishop Miller’s early involvement with the Saints, his viewpoints on succession, his gathering to the Saints in Beaver Island, and his position at James’ side at his death, which preceded Brother Miller’s by a very short span.
Joseph Smith already began to make preparations to build a Temple, and had suggested the propriety to me of building a house suitable for a tavern or hotel, answering to the growing importance of the city. Whilst I was out in out on my mission, on the 19th of January, 1841, Joseph Smith received the revelation appointing me to the office of Bishop, to organize an association to build the Nauvoo House, also the revelation to build a temple. Apheus Cutler, Reynolds Cahoon, and Elias Higby were appointed a Building Committee to superintend the building of the Temple.
In this commandment I was made one of the Committee of the Nauvoo House Association, and named by Joseph as its President. In the month of February I was ordained and set apart in the Bishopric, to which I was called in the revelation; and also as President of the Nauvoo House Association.
I immediately entered on the duties of the stupendous work before me, and a scene of activity peculiarly complicated and diversified in every feature, involving responsibility and manifold labors, hitherto unknown to me. Early this spring the English emigrants (late converts of the Apostles and the Elders in the vineyard) began to come in, in apparent poverty and in considerable numbers. Beside these, they were crowding in from the States, all poor, as the rich did not generally respond to the proclamation of the prophet to come with their effects and assist in building the temple and Nauvoo House. The poor had to be cared for, and labor created that they might at least earn part of their subsistence, there not being one in ten persons that could set themselves to work, to earn those indispensable things for the comfort of their families.
My brethren of the Committee of the Nauvoo House Association, and the Committee of the Temple, all bore a part in the employment of laborers, and the providing food for them, but I had a burden aside from theirs that rested heavily upon me, growing out of my Bishopric. The poor, the blind, the lame, the widow, and the fatherless all looked to me for their daily wants; and but for the fact of some private property I had on hand, they must have starved; for I could not possibly, by soliciting gratuitous contributions to bury the dead, obtain them, let alone feeding the living. I was here thrown into straits unlooked for. No tithing in store, the rich amongst us pretended to be too poor to barely feed themselves and nurse their speculations which they were more or less engaged in, and those there were really poor could not help themselves.
I was now in the midst of a sickly season, filled with anxiety for the suffering. Multiplied labors crowed upon me, and hundreds of mouths to feed. My days were filled with toil and care, and my nights were not spent with the giddy and the mirthful, but with sleepless anxiety in waiting on the suffering poor and sick of the city. Perhaps I am saying too much, but I praise the God of heaven that he gave me shoulders to bear, and patience to endure the burdens placed upon me.
The residue of the summer and fall were taken up with providing the means for feeding and paying the wages of the laborers engaged on the Temple and Nauvoo House which was done abundantly for the time being, mainly by the exertions of Lyman Wight and myself, for both houses. The workmen were kept all winter, as we necessarily had to feed them where we discharged them form the work or not; they having no means of buying their winter's food without our aid.
I, however, before the boat came, got on a raft, and met them coming on by poling, and on the evening or rather afternoon of the 12th of November, we got to Prairie DuChien. I got my family aboard, and came on towards our destination. The weather cold, and the river running with slush ice, with intense labor we made at noon, on the 17th of November, within seven miles of the mouth of Black River and stopped at a trading post. The river now being completely filled with snow and ice, here we secured our boat for the winter, and stored our freight.
I will not attempt to give in detail (as appears in my diary) the toil, cold, breasting snow banks (it was two and a half feet deep on a level), treading a road for oxen and sleds to travel on, and the labor of myself and the men in getting the teams down from the mills, and the families moved up; suffice it to say that Bonaparte's retreat from Moscow was a mere nothing in comparison, save there were no deaths or freezing amongst us.
It was not until the 31st day of December that we got fully established at our mill at the falls of Black River and began our lumbering operations. We were one hundred and twenty miles from our principal winter supplies of provision, our cattle not half supplied with grain and forage to enable us to prosecute our winter's work to advantage; the men almost worn out with the incredible toil that we had just passed through, indeed they performed labors that are almost incredible to relate, and I felt in my heart to praise God that He had given me strength to take the lead, and go before the men in all their toil.
Too much cannot be said in praise of these faithful brethren. They really performed wonders. We were in the midst of a howling wilderness, and the aspect or our affairs to some might seem forbidding; but we were all buoyant with hope of better days, and resolved on accomplishing the work we had undertaken. We now being organized for regular train of operations, we though our labors and exposures might in a great degree be past; but it was not so and with the best division of labor that we could possibly devise, it was all we could do to keep our families and cattle from perishing for want of food, from the fact of our winter's supplies being far distant, and the depth of snow on the mountains and valleys intervening, we had to draw on sleds, and carry by back loads the principal supplies for men and animals beside our lumbering operations.
The foregoing was not all the difficulties we had to encounter. Several bands of Winnebago Indians were scattered up and down Black River on their winter's hunt, and as is common, a number of traders and whiskey sellers were also in attendance, in order to buy or rather cheat the Indians out of their furs and peltry. Those fiends in human shape influenced the Indians to come in sufficient numbers (as they supposed) to our mill and make a demand of us for the pine trees we were sawing, two barrels of pork with proportion of flour, or, on our refusal, they would burn down our mill. The lumbermen on the river had a hand in this matter, but they tried to excuse themselves clear.
When the Indians came to our mills they were drunk, or partly so, and very clamourous. I could not understand their language so as to know what they wanted, more than I conjectured by their signs; but prevailed in making them understand that I would go with them to a trading post, where there was an interpreter, and I would have a talk with them; and accordingly set off with them, unattended, as I did not wish to raise any excitement amongst our men.
On our arrival at the post, the Indians told me that we were cutting and sawing up the pine that was once theirs and of right ought then to be; that their children were perishing with hunger, the snow so deep that they could not hunt, and the white men had told them that we ought to pay them, or they ought to burn our mills.
In my speech in reply, I told them that I did not fear them, or the white men either; that when they got ready to burn our mills, to come on and bring the white men with them; that I had not at any time sold them whiskey to make them drunk, causing them to lay in the snow and freeze to death, as had been the case several times the present winter; nor had I at any time cheated them out of their furs and peltry by giving them trifles in return, thereby depriving them of the means of buying food to feed their starving children; nor had I any hand in buying the Indian's lands; nor had I, as a lease, held up the bottle, or trifling presents as an inducement to sell; that they might receive annuities for the traders to squabble over, which of them should get the first chance to cheat the Indians out of them by smuggling whiskey to them, thereby disqualifying them from getting their living as their forefathers had done; and that the white man had done all this and more too; that they had driven them from the bones and homes of their fathers, and that I did not sanction any of these wrongs done the Indians; that I had been, and always expected to be, their friend; that I had fed and warmed them, when they came to my house, and had sent food to their hungry children; and if for these things, they wanted to burn our mills to come and burn them.
While I was speaking the tears rolled down the cheeks of several of their principal men, and they came up to me when I closed my remarks, and embraced me, telling me in broken English, good captain, brother, good captain.
I bought some flour and pork of the traders and gave them telling them to take it home to their children. I returned to the mills the same day. No further difficulty occurred with the Indians, lumberman or traders in the course of the winter and spring. Nothing but toil and hardships awaited us at every stage of our undertaking.
But when I took down the last rafts in the fall season (1843), upon my arrival at Nauvoo, I found a great deal of lumber that we had (the two last seasons of toil and sacrifice) made for the temple and Nauvoo House had, to my great mortification, been used for other purposes than those intended. The Temple Committee said that the workmen must needs have houses, and they had to pay their men. But the truth of the case was that committee had become house builders; that they were not alone content to have fresh eggs to set themselves, but they wanted eggs to set all their numerous brood of chickens, and that it was really convenient to use the material provided for the Nauvoo House (as its operations were temporarily suspended), as in like manner the Temple materials also, as we had in common such productive mills in the pinery.
I remonstrated at this course of procedure, but Joseph told me to be content, and that he would see by and by that all should be made right, saying it was most likely his persecutors would let him alone since his final discharge by Judge Pope, and he would in future have more leisure.
I gathered up a large supply of provisions to make up the deficit that might be feed the hundred and fifty persons we then had in the pineries, and shipped on the steamer Gen. Brooks, then on her last trip to Saint Peters. The water was very low this fall, and the boat lay so long from time to time on sand bars, that when she got to Prairie Du Chien the master concluded to go no further up, as the water was low and the season far advanced, and abating something on the price of my freight put it off and turned back.
On the morning of the fifth day we set out on our journey very early. Our hunters set out to bring into camp a good supply of meat, and the others went on with me to make a trail and take up camp as on the day before. But night again brought all up without food. It was indeed laughable to hear the occasional complaints, followed a period of silence, and see the bitter faces of all hands, this kind of starvation being nothing new to me, I did not mind it.
On the morning of the sixth day we all set out together, traveled hard all day, and took up camp for the night, having made the best progress that we had any day since we left Prairie Du Chien. We decreed this night to slay a dog that had followed us from Prairie Du Chien, and make a supper of him. We halved him, and roasted him before the fire. I tasted the dog, it is true, but my prejudice were such that I could not eat (not so now). One old man, whose name I did not hear, as we called him old gentleman, could not be prevailed on to taste the dog. All hands seemed to be cheerful and happy whilst feasting on the dog, and by the morning light he was wholly demolished.
About nine o'clock at night my hunter companion told me not to walk so fast, that he could not stand it. I slackened my pace, and all went on well for a while. He again called to me, saying, he'd be God dammed if he didn't shoot me if I continued to walk so fast. I turned to him and clubbed my gun, and placed myself in a position to strike, telling him that I was almost minded to make a finish of him. He humbly begged my pardon, and would be more patient in future, and to have pity on him, for he was almost perishing with fatigue and hunger.
I told him to take courage, I would take care of him, and that we were near a camp, for I smelled pine burning. After a half hour's walk we came to a place where the fire was yet burning. Here we called aloud and were answered near by. We proceeded and soon came to an Indian lodge, where we found all our company eating venison. When I got into the lodge the old Indian told me that the men had came out of the way; that they could have gone to the falls as soon as to his lodge, and that he would send two of his boys in the morning to Mr. Nichols' mill with us, to show us a near way through the mountain pass.
On my return home brother Daniels got badly frost bitten. On my arrival I found things progressing as usual. About this time a band of Northern Chippewa Indians were on a hunt above us on the river. Their chief came down on a trading expedition to a trader's shanty below us. They sold him whiskey and made him nearly drunk, and some dispute taking place between him and the trader, he took a large bar and beat the chief, and left him laying in the snow for dead. The residue of this company fled precipitately, and coming to our place told us what had happened. I took some of our men with me and went to the trader's, and told him if any more whiskey was sold to Indians I would demolish his shanty and its contents, and if the chief died I would make it a bad job for him.
We took the chief into our houses and bound up his wounds, and toward the latter part of the night of this day he left our place for his lodge. In about two weeks he came to our place with part of his band and interpreter. He had the United States flag, carried by one of his braves, saying to us in his speech that the snow was so deep that they could not hunt, and that their children were starving and (producing a purse of money) said that whenever that flag (pointing to it) was produced to the white man, as he was told when he received it, that it should be an order to him for provisions.
We said in reply that the United States was no friend of ours; that they had robbed us, and permitted us to be plundered by the white man; and further, if we let them have food it would not be for the love we had for the United States, but for that we had toward the abused and oppressed Indians; to put up his money, that we would give him some flour and an ox to take to his camp, and feed their children.
They received the flour and ox and started, blessing us by returning many thanks and lasting friendship, stating that we were not like other white men.
At one of those meetings (during Joseph’s presidential campaign in 1844), while one of the candidates was speaking, I was rather on the outskirts of the immense crowd reading to a few of my old acquaintances Joseph Smith's views of the powers and policy of government. One of my old neighbors, and a relative by marriage, brought up a Missourian with him, and, addressing me, said, here is a man that knows all about the enormities committed by the Mormons in Missouri, without a moment's pause I answered, yes, I have no doubt of it, and I believe I recognize in him one of those murderers who shot a little Mormon boy in the blacksmith's shop, under the bellows. Upon which the fellow struck off, and I saw no more of him.
Not so, however, with my old neighbor and relative. Now, said he, I have a matter to tell you as a friend, that if you do not leave this country and put a stop to preaching your religious views and political Mormonism, the Negroes are employed to hang you to an apple tree. I told him that I had enough of his hollow friendship, and if I could believe that there was courage enough among such intolerant scamps, I would hire a house and hold forth three months to give them an opportunity of carrying out their threat.
In ten or twelve days after I went about twenty-five miles into Mercer county, Ky., to fill some engagements, were I preached to large collections of people, so that we resorted to groves for the convenience of room. About this time we saw notices in the newspapers that there was a civil war in Nauvoo. And on the morning of the 28th of June, 1844, I had a dream or vision in an upper room in the house of a Mr. Sander's, where I then lodged with brother Thomas Edwards. It took place after sunrise.
I was laying on my bed, and suddenly Joseph Smith appeared to me, saying, God bless you, brother Miller. The mob broke in upon us in Carthage jail and killed brother Hyrum and myself. I was delivered up by the brethern as a lamb for the slaughter. You out not to have left me. If you had stayed with me I should not have been given up. I answered, but you sent me. I know I did, but you ought not to have gone; and approaching me, said, God bless you forever and ever, making as though he was about to embrace me, and in the act of extending my arms to return the embrace, the vision fled, and I found myself standing on the floor in the middle of the room. Brother Edwards, roused me from his slumbers, called to me, what is the matter brother Miller? Who are you talking to? I requested him to rise and dress himself, and for us to take our morning walk, as was our custom.
Whilst on my walk I related to brother Edwards my vision; told him my mission was filled, for my firm belief was that Joseph was dead. Brother Edwards told me that I had preached too much, and my mind was somewhat deranged, and I must not think of going home until our present appointments were filled, the last as week hence. And the rumors of trouble at Nauvoo he did not believe a word in. I told him if I stayed, he would have to do the preaching.
On the day that we filled our last appointment. We started for home. On passing a tavern, the landlord walked on his porch, and addressing us, said, are you the gentlemen that preached at the schoolhouse today? We said yes. He said, walk in, gentlemen, and refresh yourselves, handing us some ice water, and at the same time handing us a newspaper, said, you will find an article that may be of interest to you. We read an extract from the Warsaw Signal, giving an account of Joseph and Hyrum Smith's death. After reading we started on. Brother Edwards being an excitable man, was wholly unmanned, and insisted on an immediate separation, as we traveled together might endanger our lives, and broke off from me as one distracted, and I did not see any more of him until I saw him in Nauvoo, four weeks afterwards.
On my arrival in Nauvoo, I visited Elder John Taylor, of the quorum of the Apostles, who was sick of his wounds received in Carthage jail, at the time of Joseph's death. Dr. Willard Richards was there, and after a few remarks in regard to the mob, I asked him who Joseph had left to succeed him in the prophetic office. He replied that all was right; that there were sealed documents left, which would be opened when the twelve Apostles should get home that would settle all these matters. Sidney Rigdon had already returned from Pittsburgh (where he was sent before Joseph's death), and had made some moves as a leader of the people, and from hints and innuendos that I heard frequently I was induced to believe that Joseph had designated his son to succeed him in the prophetic office, and on this belief I rested.
On the return of the Twelve there was a public meeting called-the Apostles and Sidney Rigdon on the stand-Brigham Young acting as principal speaker. Sidney urged his pretensions as a kind of guardian or temporary leader. Young made a long and loud harangue, and as I had always took him to be a blunderbuss in speaking, and on this occasion to me apparently more so, for the life of me I could not see any point in the course of his remarks, than to overturn Sidney Rigdon's pretensions. As this meeting was pretty a general Conference of the Elders, the Twelve assuming a temporary leadership, which was generally conceded to them, as they were the quorum next in authority to the prophet and presidency of the whole church, N. K. Whitney and myself were put in nomination as trustees in trust for the church, instead of Joseph Smith deceased, and were voted in by acclamation, and acknowledge as such by all present.
There was a good deal of speaking from the stand. The principal, however was said by Brigham Young. I must confess that all the proceedings at this time was anarchy and boisterous confusion, as it appeared to me, and I felt indeed as one who had lost a friend. I had no one in whom I could implicitly confide in all things, as he to whom I sought in all times of trouble for counseling advice was dead. Oh! Who can appreciate my (then) feelings? Let me be excused from saying more on this painful subject.
Subsequent to these times of intense excitement I had frequent attempts at conversation with Brigham Young and H. C. Kimball in regard to Joseph's leaving one to succeed him in the prophetic office, and in all my attempts to ascertain the desired truth as to that personage, I was invariable met with the innuendo, "stop," or "hush'" brother Miller, let there be nothing said in regard to this matter, or we will have little Joseph killed as his father was, inferring indirectly that Joseph Smith had appointed his son Joseph to succeed him in the prophetic office, and I believe in this impression was not alone left on my mind, but on the brethren in general, and remains with many until this day.
It is not my design to give in detail the things that transpired during the continuance of the exciting times from the death of Joseph Smith to the beginning of the exodus of the Saints, for it would really take more time to write them than I can at this time devote to the subject. But as many things are inseparably connected with my history, I cannot well abridge this work so as to leave them out.
Brigham Young and myself had frequent sparrings as it respected the legitimate authority to lead the church, as I always conceived the leadership of the Twelve nothing but a usurpation of authority, that could not under any circumstances be exercised rightfully by any quorum of the church. And without the prophet at their head, they could not enter upon the duties of their calling. Therefore, no prophet, no church.
Brigham, on a certain occasion, in the upper room of the Temple, urged emphatically (before the principal official members of the church and their wives there assembled to hear instruction), that so long as one man remained on earth holding priesthood the kingdom of God would be borne off triumphant in all nations of the earth, until the coming of Jesus Christ and in the event of the Apostles being killed, or otherwise die, they would be succeeded by the quorums of the Seventies (then thirty-three quorums), and by gradation down to the Deacons; each in their time and order, until the winding up of the present dispensation.
After he had finished his teachings, I asked leave, and obtained the floor. On rising I told them that I differed in opinion with the President of the Quorum of the Twelve; that I did not so understand the revelation of God's law; that I so understood the law that no quorum from that of the Twelve, in regular gradation to High Priests, Seventies, Elders, Priests, Teachers and Deacons could rightfully exercise and authority in the government of God's church and kingdom, except under the legitimate head of the church, viz., the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, of the church; that all acts of the several quorums were invalid, unless so directed.
I considered the order of God's Kingdom, in its full organization, to be, a Prophet, at the head, with his home ministry, consisting of High Council, chosen from among the High Priests after the order of Melchisedec, High Priests, Elders, Priests Teachers and Deacons, and amenable to the Prophet, the Chief Shepherd of the flock; the quorum of the Twelve Apostles, under the direction of the Chief Shepherd, of equal authority as a traveling High Council, with the Seventies to help them; whose duty is to open the gospel to the nations, and have jurisdiction on all the face of the earth.
And, furthermore, the order taught by the President of the Apostles must certainly be erroneous, unless the order and priesthood of God's kingdom had been abrogated, and another established instead thereof. The difficulty (or rather breach) between Brigham Young and myself grew wider daily, and I was told, confidentially, by Lyman Clark Whitney that there had been a plan laid by Brigham and Hosea stout to contrive a row to take place in the Temple, and have me called in to appease the rowdies (as I was then superintending the boring of some cannon in the ground room of the Temple), and Stout was to be there in readiness to kill me. The row was raised, and I was called in to appease the strife, but was not killed.
I bore all this, and more too, with patience, as I was yet laboring under the delusion that Joseph Smith, the younger, was really prophet, and Brigham by sufferance, was acting as temporary leader.
While we were encamped on Sugar Creek (Iowa March 1846) there was scarce a night without a council, and quite as many changes of plans as councils. At one of those councils (which were usually held in the night), Howard Eagan came to my tent and called me aside for a private talk. He asked me if I was going to cross the bridge to the council tent that night. I told him I was. He then told me that he had a private matter to communicate, and did not want me to tell who informed me; that orders had been issued by Hosea Stout to all the sentinels, that if I crossed the bridge to kill me and throw me over the railing into the creek. I immediately started to the council, and the sentinel on the bridge hailed me. I told him that I was the person that he had orders to kill and throw into the creek, and at the instant set forward my foot, taking him by the arms. I threw him his length on the floor of the bridge, then passing on into the council tent, I demanded of Brigham Young what kind of order had been given for the guard to kill me and have me thrown over the bridge into Sugar Creek.
He said he did not know that any such order had been given. We had Stout and some of the guard sent for, who appeared before the council, and upon examination started that Stout had given the order to kill me. Stout said, on mustering and charging the guard, that he had, by way of joke, said to the guard, let all who pass the bridge to the council except bishop Miller, go unmolested, but kill him and throw him over the bridge. He supposed all had understood it as an idle joke, as he had spoke at his usual tone of voice, and in a public way. They said they did not know whether Stout had been joking or not, but could not think he was in earnest, as it seemed to them a very strange order. They were inclined to think he was joking.
I saw daily manifestations of Brigham Young's jealousy and hatred towards me, as indicated by the letters he wrote up to our camp to sundry individuals, warning them not to let me prejudice their minds against the authorities of the church.
When we arrived at the Winter Quarters (January 1846) the council convened, but their deliberations amounted to nothing. But, however, I was not wholly overlooked in their deliberations. Brigham Young, Kimball and Richards proposed I should come down to Winter Quarters, bringing with me part of my family, and take my place with Bishop Whitney in managing the fiscal concerns of the church, and I should be supported out of the revenues of the church, which, however, was not done. This council originally consisting of fifty-three members, and some twenty of them gone on missions, and by death and other means absent, was now swelled to a great crowd under Brigham's reign.
It adjourned sine die, and I proceeded on my way down into Missouri on foot, to meet my son. I went one hundred and forty miles before I met him. The weather was intensely could, and my son got his feet badly frost bitten. When we got to Winter Quarters (about the 28th January, 1846), I had presented to me a revelation, given through Brigham Young, in regard to the journeying of the saints west; Young intimated to me that a First Presidency would be organized.
I was greatly disgusted at the bad composition and folly of this revelation, as also the intimation that a First Presidency would be organized; that I was from this time determined to go with him no longer, and to look out a place where I might support my family, and remain until the true shepherd of God's flock should show himself, to lead the church and kingdom of God. The trio, namely, Young, Kimball and Richards, sent up to Punka village E. T. Benson and others to teach the revelation received by Brigham Young, and assist in bringing me and part of my family to Winter Quarters or Council Bluffs, according to the decree of Brigham and his council.
I must confess that I was broken down in spirit on account of the usurpation of these arrogant Apostles, and their oppressive measures. I made a computation of the number of miles that I had traveled on foot during the course of the winter, to satisfy the desires of these capricious men, and it amounted to seventeen hundred miles; and as my mind was much depressed, my physical force was also greatly abated, and I really panted for a respite for a time from such needless toil, growing out of the jealousy of Brigham Young, lest I should lead away a body of the saints. He on one occasion prophesied that the President of the High Priests quorum would yet lead off a large body of the saints. He made the prophecy when I was not present. When it was told me I forthwith told my informant that I also would prophecy in my own name that President Young had prophesied a great lie in the name of the Lord; that really and truly I could have nothing to do with his corrupt rot-heap; and when I left the leadership that if any of them (the corrupt followers of Brigham) should follow me, I would shoot them. Those sayings of mine were currently retailed through the camp, and multiplied no doubt when returned to the ears of Brigham Young.
After I had been some time in Winter Quarters, I discovered that Young's promise had not in any part been made good in having my supported out of the church revenue. The wages of the men composing the battalion enlisted to serve in the Mexican war, was sent for and obtained under the pretext of supporting their wives and children. The amount of money obtained was represented to me to be about forty thousand dollars, which was invested partly in dry goods and groceries, and in supplying the quorum of the Twelve apostles and their huge families; and as there was much sickness in Winter Quarters, I was informed that many of the solders' wives and children actually died for the want of common comforts of life; and when any of them got any of the means obtained expressly for them, they got it out of the stores of goods bought with their own money, and charged to them at high retail prices, at the rate of 25 to 100 per centrum, and many of them never got anything.
The men having no families sent back their wages also to support the solders' wives, but was never appropriated as intended. Some of my acquaintances asked me why I did not put in for a share in the soldiers' money. I told them that I would not eat, drink or wear the price of blood. All these sayings of mine were told Brigham Young. He came to me and asked me if I had said it; I told him that I had, and much more. He then said that such like apostasy had caused Joseph' death. I told him not to presume to place himself on a parallel with Joseph-the contrast was as disproportioned as between the ox and toad. Their usurpations was insufferable, and none but fools would bear it.
On another occasion I had a dream that I saw Joseph Smith sitting in a room, talking to a person, who I have since seen. Upon my entering the room, he (Joseph) looked at me, saying, God bless you, brother Miller. I am instructing my successor in the prophetic office, how to manage and conduct the affairs of the church. the appearance of the personage shown me by Joseph Smith, in this dream, was so stamped on my mind that I could not keep it from my view for a single moment, and I was secretly whispered that I should soon hear news that would cheer my drooping spirit.
Dear Brother:-I resume the subject where I left off in my last communication. While pondering in my mind the scattered state of the saints, and hearing of no shepherd that I believed as authorized to lead the church, I was really in a state of gloom and despondency.
One afternoon, after the toil of a warm day, I came to my house to rest, and found some papers setting forth the appointment of J. J. Strang to the prophetic office, instead of Joseph Smith, deceased. It is true that I had heard his name spoken of as a leader and prophet; but in my mind numbered him with other pretenders, as I had not wholly abandoned the belief that Joseph Smith had appointed his successor in one of his own posterity.
I therefore wrote brother Strang a letter, questioning his assumption of authority, and requesting him to publish my letter; but the next day after mailing my letter I received another package from brother Strang, containing the Diamond, a small track, setting forth brother Strang's appointment and calling to the prophetic office.
On a close and critical reading and investigation of the track I changed my opinion, and wrote to brother Strang countermanding the publication of my former letter. From this time I had frequent manifestations of brother Strang's being called of God to lead his people, even as Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, and I began to set myself earnestly to make preparations to gather with the saints. I was prospered in all my undertakings, and managed so as to be well provided with teams and four or five hundred dollars to bear my expenses to Beaver Island.
If it had not been for the circumstance of my horses straying. I should have started the afternoon of the 12th (October 1849), and as everything had transpired from the day I made up my mind to move to the Beaver Islands, seemed to be directed for my good, so also on this occasion. I received a letter from brother Strang (that gave me much comfort) which I should not have received if my horses had not strayed, as it came to hand the evening I had set apart for starting my journey.
On our arrival at Beaver Harbor, our vessel came to anchor, and in a short time brother Strang came on board, giving us a hearty welcome. I knew him from description or otherwise, before he got on board. He and brother Phineas Wright rendered us all the assistance in their power in getting us and our effects landed, and getting a cabin to shelter us from the weather, which was somewhat boisterous at this time.
I did not, it is true, act as the pilgrim fathers that landed some centuries ago at Plymouth Rock, but I have no doubt in my mind that I felt quite as much or more gratitude and heartfelt joy for my safe arrival and landing at this place, as they possibly could have felt on that memorable occasion.
I may at some future time resume my narrative, as subsequent events are fraught with some of the most thrilling incidents of my life.