Interesting or Important Items
Title: William Young Empey Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1847-1890, bulk 1853-1854
Empey, William Young
Extent: 307 pieces
The Huntington Library
San Marino, California 91108
Purchased from Mrs. Ida Terry Empey, 1945
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[Identification of item], William Young Empey Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
When the Utah territorial legislature incorporated the Perpetual Emigrating Company, more commonly known as the Perpetual
Emigration Fund, 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 these human cargos, 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.
From 1852 through 1854, William Young Empey played an important role in the operations of the PEF. Born July 4, 1808 in modern-day
Ontario Province, Canada, William Adam Empey 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. 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. The bulk of Empey's papers document the many tasks that duty
entailed. Among these papers, which concentrate primarily upon the years 1853 and 1854, are lists of PEF passengers on emigrant
vessels from Liverpool, bills of lading and receipts for the purchase and shipment of a great many goods to equip the emigrant
parties, and receipts and promissory notes from the emigrants themselves for wagons and teams or supplies purchased by the
PEF's agent for them. These various documents illuminate many phases of the emigration process and the Church's careful, businesslike
organization of all its details.
Mormon missionary work in Great Britain and the operation of the Perpetual Emigration Fund
Interesting or Important Items
William Empey's incomplete diary account of the pioneer expedition to the Salt Lake Valley and the operation of the North
Platte ferry (HM 52586), Empey's account book including accounts kept for the PEF (HM 52587), an 1853 list of Danish Mormons
who had provided money for the purchase of cattle, wagons and other material (HM 52599), lists of P. E. Fund passengers on
board various ships sailing for the United States in 1854 (HM 52603, 52605-07 and 52610-11), and two letters from Samuel W.
Richards to Empey discussing Mormon missionary work in Great Britain and emigration of the Saints to the United States (HM
52593 and 52597).
All items are filed chronologically and the collection occupies two boxes.
Empey's 1847 diary has been edited by Dale Morgan and published in
Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 21, nos. 2-3 (July-Oct. 1949). The operation of the P. E. Fund and the process of Mormon emigration is described in Frederick
Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley (Liverpool and London, 1855), edited by James Linforth.
The Huntington also possesses a photostatic copy of Empey's diary covering the period of his English mission (1852-1854),
Identifier/Call Number: FAC 517
in the Mormon File.