Chapter XL.


The Object of our Mission--Our Arrival at Chihuahua--Our

Generous Landlord--We Call on the Governor--Interest Aroused Concerning us--Interview With Robbers

BEFORE writing any further account of our travels and experiences in Mexico. I will explain as briefly as I can the cause of the mission being called and the expectations entertained by many.

The Book of Mormon teaches us that the gospel is to be carried to the remnants, that is, the natives of America (Indians.) The promise is that the natives will receive the gospel and rejoice in it.

The census of Mexico shows that there are over six millions of pure blooded Indians or descendants of the ancient races inhabiting this country. Now when this mission was opened a great many became enthusiastic over the prospects and expected great things of us, the first missionaries to Mexico. I remember writing to my wife while in El Paso, referring to this spirit, telling her that many would be disappointed in the mission, but that I should not; that I should be satisfied even if we did not baptize a single person; that our mission was more as prospectors going through to prepare the way, and that President Young so understood it. We were to be governed by circumstances and not to feel disappointed if we could get to distribute our books and learn about the country and make friendly acquaintance with the people. That was all that would be expected of us on the trip. This was our calling. We were not sent to baptize and organize branches, neither were we forbidden to do so. That was an open question to be decided upon according to the openings made.

There were two parties in Mexico, the Catholics and Liberals. We kept our eyes opened for the latter as we were always safe with them.

When we reached the city of Chihuahua, I desired to find a stopping place with a Liberal. The Liberals of Mexico believe in religious liberty, please don't think they were like Utah Liberals(?). We did not wish to seem partial to either, and did not like to make a direct enquiry. I was well acquainted with the old customs of this place, having lived there for some time, so we drove up near the Catholic cathedral. I knew that any good Catholic, passing in front of the church, would take off his hat, but a Liberal would pass along with his hat on.

In 1847, when I was there, all had to take off their hats, or run the risk of getting a good pelting with rocks. But it was not the case in 1876, the time I am now writing about.

I soon noticed a large, fine-looking man coming along who did not to raise his hat. I asked him to direct us to a good maison or hostelry I felt sure he would send me to the right place which he did, to the maison San Francisco. A maison is a large building with rooms, corrals and stabling where you can rent accommodations and sustain yourself, generally with stores of provisions kept by the proprietor to sell to travelers, connected.

On arriving and taking rooms and stables, I went to the landlord and told him we had left our money at El Paso, to be expressed to us, and we wished him to credit us for a few days for such provisions and feed as we needed. He said, "No sir. I will not do that."

I was "stumped" and did not know what to do as we had but a few dollars with us. Our outfit was first class and valuable, and we had not expected to be refused.

While I was wondering in my mind what to do, the landlord stepped into a room and soon returned with a large, well-filled pocket book, and handed it to me saying, "There is money, take what you want, and when yours comes, you can return it. If I should sell you things on credit, you might think I took advantage of your circumstances and charge you more than if you had money. Take what money you want, look around and buy where you can do the best."

I thought how very different from the average white man whether Gentile or Mormon.

The landlord proved a true gentleman in every respect, giving us much useful information and treating us kindly during our stay.

As soon as we got cleaned up and rested a little, we called upon the governor and presented the letter received from the Jefe Politico of El Paso. He received us kindly, saying that he had heard about us, and laughingly said he had heard of Padre Borajo's speech and hoped we were not so bad as the padre had represented us to be.

Governor Ochoa was an intelligent, liberal-minded man and was much respected. His name is still held in respectful remembrance in Chihuahua. He was known to be truthful and honest. He was quite learned and understood well the condition of Mexico.

After explaining our reasons to him for visiting Mexico, he said he was glad to have us come among them; that he believed our principles taught to the people would do them good. He also said that he was well acquainted with the lands of Mexico and would give us all the information he could to help us understand them properly, so we could report correctly to Brigham Young.

The governor recommended us to the Jefe Politico of Chihuahua who furnished us the public cockpit to preach in. Printed notices were circulated. The editor of the official paper gave us a favorable notice.

In the evening, at the time of meeting, quite a respectable congregation had gathered. The caulk fighting was still going on, but soon closed. Many persons there at their national sport remained to hear us.

As I was the only one who could speak in Spanish, Brother Tenney having gone north, I had to do the preaching. It was quite a task but I knew the native politeness. No Mexican will ever jeer a foreigner if he tries to speak their language. They will listen attentively and try to understand. I understood Spanish quite well, but had never spoken in public and, no doubt, made many blunders. However, our audience seemed pleased.

When meeting was over many came and shook hands with us and said they liked what had been preached. One aged blind man who had held a discussion with the Bishop of Durango, said he had been preaching our doctrine for years. He showed us a report of his discussion. The old fellow, although very poor, had made a name that is known far and wide. No one could answer him. He came to our rooms next day and talked for a long while. We gave him some of our books to distribute. He lived at Jabonero, southwest from Chihuahua some two hundred miles. He said the honest people of Mexico would believe our words. The old man manifested a great desire to have us go to his town. I had never heard of him since, but we were all impressed with his honesty.

By invitation we visited Gov. Ochoa several times. He explained fully to us the condition of government lands. He said the Mexican government made big offers of land to colonizers, but the fact was, they had no good land; that all desirable tracts for settling were covered by old grants with titles. He desired us to say to Brigham Young that if he wanted lands for his people they must be bought from the owners; and for him not to be deceived by any offers coming from the government of Mexico. He said their offers were polite and looked pretty on paper, and sounded well when listened to; and he really believed that if they could do as they offered to they would.

"The Mexicans are naturally kind and polite, but inasmuch as they have neither land or money," he said laughingly, "you must take the will for the deed."

This I reported to Prest. Young on my return home, who received it as a fact, and remarked: "Why should there be good lands left in the heart of Mexico, when they had given out grants clear into California, New Mexico, Arizona and even into this territory?"

We remained some three weeks in the city. A great many persons called upon us, some to enquire about our religion with sincere interest, others for mere curiosity. Among our visitors were some notorious robbers from Arizona who visited us often. We could not avoid them as they passed for gentlemen, and really acted as such. One was a small, heavy-set Dutchman, who seemed to know all about the big mail robbery on the southern route in 1875, as also about the robbing of Golinsky, of Silver City. The other was a young man from Silver City who robbed an old Dutchman of some fifteen hundred dollars, not far from Mecilla, while they were traveling together. The old man had been to California for five years, had mortgaged his farm, or bought it with a mortgage given as security, he had saved the money to pay up and was on the way home full of joy to meet his wife and children. He had traveled all the way from California on horseback and alone, not even a pocket pistol to protect himself. He carried a fifteen hundred draft and some little money. He looked quite poor. No one would have suspected him worth robbing.

This young man got in company with the old fellow and they traveled and camped together. The Dutchman confided his good luck to the lad, who could not stand the temptation but made the old man give up; the boy rode ahead and got across the line, changed his draft and skipped. We saw both while in El Paso. The old man came in hunting the robber, where we heard his story. The young fellow told my son Wiley all about the job, and expressed himself sorry, saying he was of good family but was now ruined for life.

In talking to the people we found that many adhered to and respected their ancient traditions. They also retained a respect for their native lineage. This spirit prevailed strongest among the Liberals.

The power of Catholicism had been broken and a new constitution adopted under the leadership of Juarez, who had overcome Maximilian. Juarez was a pure-blooded Indian. His most active helpers and the main portion of his army were composed of natives. So at the time we were there it was respectable to be called Indigine, or native. This class received the Book of Mormon readily and manifested much interest in the same.

While in Chihuahua we sent out copies of the book, five in a package, to each town and city throughout the republic, wherever there was a mail.

The clerks in the post office assisted us for three days. All their spare time they were packing and directing. Each package was directed to the officers of the place with a request to read and distribute them among the people. We sent to all the head officers of the different departments a package. I received letters of acknowledgment from some of the principal man.

Among the rest Sr. Altamarano, a full-blooded native and a high officer of state; I got several letters from Doctor Rodacanaty professing to have had a vision showing him the truth of the Book of Mormon.

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