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William Young Empey Papers: Finding Aid
mssHM 52583-52617  
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Description
This collection chiefly contains records documenting the work of William Young Empey (1808-1890) in England and America as an agent of the Perpetual Emigration Fund (PEF) of the Mormon Church, chiefly dating from the early 1850s. There are also letters relating to Empey's service as a missionary in England and to his personal affairs in later life.
Background
William Adam Empey (1808-1890) was born July 4, 1808 in modern-day Ontario Province, Canada. He returned to the United States, the birthplace of his parents and grandparents, sometime before the year 1844. Although the date and place of his conversion to Mormonism is not known, he became involved in the Mormon Church before the exodus from Nauvoo and was "sealed" to Brigham Young as an "adopted son". From this point on, he abandoned his first middle name and used "Young" quite frequently. In 1847, he participated in Brigham Young's pioneer expedition to the Great Salt Lake Valley. He never reached the Valley, however, for Young selected Empey and eight other members of the party to operate the first Mormon ferry at Upper Crossing on the North Platte River. After arriving in the Valley with a later emigrant party, he served on the Iron County Mission which settled Parowan in southern Utah. Then, in 1852, he was called to a mission in England, and from 1852 through 1854, William Young Empey played an important role in the operations of the PEF. During his two-year stint, while still preaching the Church's gospel abroad, he was ordered home to America and appointed to oversee all preparations of the overland parties in Missouri during the 1853-54 travel season. When the Utah territorial legislature incorporated the Perpetual Emigrating Company, more commonly known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund (PEF), in 1850, the Mormon "gathering of Zion" entered a new phase. Although Mormon converts had often been encouraged to migrate from their present locations to join the main body of believers, little institutional support had been provided for them. With the establishment of the PEF, however, the Church committed itself to financing in part or in full the emigration of impoverished Saints converted by its increasingly successful overseas missions. Drawing in large measure upon the contributions of the members of the Church already settled in Utah, the PEF assisted nearly 10,000 Saints in emigrating to Zion just between 1852 and 1855. PEF agents, in cooperation with representatives of the Church's British Mission, organized companies of emigrants early each year, funneling them through the English port of Liverpool and across the Atlantic on chartered steamers to New Orleans. From there, river steamers carried the emigrants and their supplies up the Mississippi to St. Louis and then up the Missouri to frontier communities such as Westport, the precursor of modern Kansas City, Missouri which served as the jumping-off points for overland wagon trains destined for the Great Salt Lake Valley. Other PEF agents in New Orleans, St. Louis and the Missouri frontier towns received this human cargo, ministered to their needs and forwarded them on to their next stop. These agents dealt with steamship lines, freighters and merchants throughout the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys, hiring transportation to carry their charges to the edge of the settlements and purchasing the enormous quantities of provisions and equipment necessary to outfit each overland party.
Extent
307 pieces in 2 boxes
Restrictions
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
Availability
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.