The Church Historian's Press

August 1877

1 August 1877 • Saturday

On the first of this month Brother Brigham, Jr., and myself, at the request of Pres. B. Young took charge of the Deseret News and put our names as editors and publishers at the head of its columns. Bro. John W. Young had taken considerable interest in the printing business and had proposed many plans to his father to improve and make the paper more useful. The President proposed finally that I should take charge of the paper and his sons, Brigham and John W. be associated with me. This, I saw, did not please the latter. He told me he had no feelings against me upon this matter; but he thought his father did not have confidence in him, and had not treated him very well. In riding out with the President I told him that I would gladly labor with Bro. John W., and assist <him> all in my power, if he would let his name be placed first; that I did not think he would accept the position on the paper unless his name were first. He said he wanted me to take the lead; he did not want John W. to go in there and “fly balloons”; that I had experience in the business and would manage it properly, and if John W. would not go in it would be all right. Bro. John W., when I spoke to him, declined to have his name appear with ours, so Brigham and I took hold. I wrote very hard on the first of Aug. and in the afternoon drove to my place on the river to meet Sister Spencer, Bro. & Sister Carlson, Sister Spencer’s daughter — and Sister Barton. Bro. Carlson was appointed a mission to Sweden, and we desired them to make us a visit before he started. I felt very unwell all the evening and night and had a high fever. I suffered for days and weeks from this fever. I think it must have been something of the typhoid character. My tongue was constantly furred. I took many vapor baths and tried many simple remedies, but they seemed to have but little effect.1

23 August 1877 • Saturday

On Thursday, the 23rd of August, I felt much impressed to go up to the Office of President Young and see him. I was very unwell and feeble and my family thought I ought not to go out. I was taken up in the buggy. When the President saw me enter he said: “Is this not imprudent, George, your coming out when you are so sick?” I replied that I felt impressed to come up and pay my respects to him. He was sitting in his chair at the north end of the office, and he invited me to take a chair beside him. I shook him by the hand and was startled at the heat of his hand (mine was feverish) and inquired how his health was. He replied that he felt very well; he certainly looked well; and my fears were quieted. We talked for some little time and I arose to go. He said to me: “Stop, my dinner will soon be ready, and I would like you to eat with me;” an invitation which he always gave me when I was near him at his dinner hour. I begged to be excused as I had no appetite and felt that I ought to return and lie down. He excused me and I returned home. That evening he attended the meeting of the Bishops, and spoke to them – the last time he attended meeting. He was attacked with diarrhea that night about midnight, and suffered some time before calling his family. The next day, hearing of his illness, I went up to see him. I found him quite sick, but lively. The next day, Saturday, I went up again. On Sunday I was sent for to administer to him. On Monday I spent as much time as I was able with him on account of my own condition, and upon leaving in the evening to get a little sleep, I felt that his sickness was critical, though the thought that he would die I could not entertain. About 4 o’clock on Tuesday morning I was again sent for. I found him in a bad condition. I did not leave him from that time until he was laid out for burial. I was at his bedside and in the bed room, constantly, except when I stepped out to eat, until he expired. He ceased to breathe at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and this was so gradual as to be almost imperceptible even to those who were nearest to him. I stood close to his head during his last moments in company with Bro’s. Wells and John W. Young. I was requested by the family to superintend the laying of him out and also the funeral. I almost feared that sick as I had been, and still feeble, this sitting up at night and anxiety and overwork would have a bad effect upon me; but to the contrary I shook off my sickness; the excitement appeared to do me good.2

29 August 1877 • Thursday

To describe my feelings upon the death of this man of God, whom I loved so much and who had always treated me with such kindness and affection, is impossible. His family, because of his partiality and affection for me and the desire which he always manifested to have my company when I was at home, to eat with him, to spend my evenings with him, and when we visited the settlements on preaching excursions, to have me stop where he stopped, called me his last wife. I have endeavored to appreciate these manifestations of affection and love, and now that he has gone I feel exceedingly thankful that I had these up to the last – that nothing occurred to alienate his feelings from me. On my part, he was in my eyes as perfect a man as I ever knew. I never desired to see his faults; I closed my eyes to them. To me he was a prophet of God, the head of the dispensation on the earth, holding the keys under the prophet Joseph, and in my mind there clustered about him, holding this position, everything holy and sacred and to be revered. Some, I am satisfied, now as I write this in Washington, Jan. 17, 1878, have thought that I carried this feeling too far; but I know this, that in revering him as the prophet of the Lord, in obeying him, in being governed by his counsel, in bearing testimony to his teachings and his character I have been blessed of the Lord, peace has been in my heart, light has rested upon me, and the Lord has borne witness to me that my course was pleasing to Him. Now that Brother Brigham has gone I rejoice in this. I never criticized or found fault with his conduct, his counsel or his teachings at any time in my heart, much less in my words or actions. This is a pleasure to me now. The thought that ever was with me was: If I criticize or find fault with, or Judge Brother Brigham, how far shall I go; if I commence, where shall I stop? I dared not <to> trust myself in such a course. I knew that apostacy frequently resulted from the indulgence of the spirit of criticizing and fault-finding. Others, of greater strength, wisdom and experience than myself, might do many things and escape evil consequences which I dare not do. Many Some of my brethren, as I have learned since the death of President Brigham Young, did have feelings concerning his course. They did not approve of it, and felt oppressed, and yet they dare not exhibit their feelings to him, he ruled with so strong and stiff a hand, and they say they felt that it would be of no use. In a few words, the feeling seems to be that he transcended the bounds of the authority which he legitimately <held.> I have been greatly surprised to find so much dissatisfaction in such quarters. It is felt that the funds of the Church have been used with a freedom not warranted by the authority which he held, and some even feel that in the promulgation of doctrine he took liberties beyond those to which he was legitimately entitled. I shall have more to say upon these points hereafter.

I got Bro. Rumell, assisted by Dr’s Benedict and Geo. Ottinger to take a cast of President Young’s face and hand and the necessary measurements of the head, body and limbs, so that if it were ever deemed proper to have either a bust or statue these might be used instead of trusting to memory, guess work or taste.3

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August 1877, The Journal of George Q. Cannon, accessed June 14, 2024