Eli Wiggill's story of migration from Gloucester, England, to South Africa and then to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, epitomizes an inspiring and informative example of the gathering of the Saints to Zion in the mid-nineteenth century. Eli and his wife, Susannah Bentley Wiggill, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Africa while Eli served as a Methodist missionary. Both became stalwart members following their conversion. Eli and Susannah Wiggill's faithful dedication affected the lives of hundreds of South African Saints. This essay adds to scholarship about Eli and Susannah Wiggill's immigration from England to South Africa, their conversion to the restored gospel, their missionary labors, their role in congregation formation and leadership, and their efforts to gather to Zion while building up and strengthening communities of South African Saints during the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s.1On November 5, 1811, Isaac and Elizabeth Grimes Wiggill welcomed son Eli into their family living in Painswick, Gloucestershire, England.2 Eli became the oldest of eight children eventually born to Isaac and Elizabeth. Isaac's profession as a millwright and carpenter served the family well. On January 10, 1820, Isaac, Elizabeth, Eli and his siblings George, Joseph, and Elizabeth decided to leave England and start a new life in South Africa.3 They embarked from Bristol, joining the Samuel Bradshaw Company of sixty-four emigrants aboard the Kennersley Castle, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 5, 1820, after a four-month voyage from England. These 1820 British Settlers, as they were known, then traveled east through the Indian Ocean to Algoa Bay and the harbor city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. They trekked inland and settled in Lemon Valley, which they renamed New Gloucester.Wiggill loved nature and wrote lengthy journal passages describing South Africa's landscapes, flora, and fauna. He loved Lemon Valley and penned this description: “Well when my parents settled in that valley I was about ten years old and I thought it was the prittyest [prettiest] place I had ever seen for the rising hills and mountains were so beautiful bedect [bedecked] with all the most beautiful fruits and flowers and a beautiful Serpentine river runs through the center of the Valley.”4 These charming descriptions continue throughout his autobiography as he observed different landscapes in South Africa and the United States.A young British trader named Edward King convinced Wiggill's father to allow the teenage Eli to apprentice with him, tending the oxen and caring for the wagons and their wares. Unfortunately, King turned out to be an unworthy mentor and Wiggill faced numerous hazards and fatigues. King repeatedly lied to and even abandoned Wiggill along their journey and left him destitute. Wiggill nearly starved to death. Both hungry and thirsty, he resorted to breaking open the bones from an old carcass hoping to suck the marrow for nourishment, only to find that even the marrow was dried up.5 Isaac Wiggill asked another trader named William Kidson to watch for his son Eli and, if he found him, to bring him safely home. Kidson found Eli and helped him terminate his service with King and returned him to his family. Wiggill's experiences with King served as his initiation into adulthood. He vowed to live a more Christlike life and to never mistreat anyone the way the abusive King had mistreated him.Eli returned home to work with his father, an industrious builder who crafted mills, wagons, and plows and did other carpentry work for a living. When his mother Elizabeth died in 1827, she left behind eight children. As the oldest son, Eli recognized he needed to learn a trade to help care for his family. He chose wagonmaking as his trade and became a wheelwright, being absent for about a year before returning home.6 Meanwhile, his father, Isaac, married Mary Sears.Eli continued in his wagonmaking and carpentry profession and married Susannah Bentley on February 20, 1831, in Grahamstown, Cape Colony, South Africa. He was twenty-two and she was nineteen. They lived in various locales—including Grahamstown, Bathurst, Thaba Nchu, Winterberg, Port Retief, Portugals Rivier, Bongolo, Queenstown, and Port Elizabeth [Algoa Bay]—and raised four sons and six daughters: John Wesley, Sarah Ann, Jemima Rosetta, Jeremiah Francis, Sarah Ann Susannah, Margaret Alice, Rosannah Maria, Frances Amelia, Joseph Elijah, and Abram.7Eli and Susannah moved to Grahamstown where they lived some of the most comfortable and happy years of their lives.8 Wiggill was always a professed man of God and soon after moving to Grahamstown, he sold his property and became a Wesleyan Methodist assistant minister to Reverend John Edwards. He traveled to various places along the South African frontier. During his ministry in Umpukani [Umpukane] Station, he learned to teach the gospel somewhat in Dutch/Afrikaans. He was released from his mission in 1842 and settled in Queenstown.9The 1846 War of the Axe forced Wiggill and his family to move to the colonial fort Post Retief. Records indicate that Henry and Ruth Talbot also took shelter in the same outpost, so the two families might have become acquainted as early as 1846.10 After the War of the Axe concluded and peace was restored, Eli and Susannah began to build a home in Winterberg. The Wiggills received news, however, of another impending war with the Indigenous Khoi-Khoi population in 1850.11 They again took refuge in Post Retief and weathered the war there. Eli lost his livestock and nearly lost his son John. Some Khoi-Khoi captured him, but other Khoi-Khoi recognized and protected him from their comrades.12 The war of 1850 ended around November of 1852, and Eli bought a coveted plot of land in the burgeoning city of Queenstown.13 As one of the first builders and settlers of the British colonial town, he said that he “never saw any town or village grow so fast.”14 At the same time, his brother George and wife, Mary Ann King Wiggill, built a home at Winterberg.When Eli first heard of the LDS missionaries from Utah, he “said to a friend that they must have been sent of the Devil to try to deceive the very elect, if it was posable [possible], and I believe they were called Mormons which I thought was a very strange name.”15 He was surprised when some of his friends joined the new faith through baptism and his brother George had even taken them into his home in Winterberg. Later, George, who had never been affiliated with any religion, brought Elder William Walker sixty miles from Winterberg to Queenstown to converse with Eli.16George thought the doctrine taught by the missionaries aligned well with the New Testament and wanted his brother's input since Eli had ecclesiastical experience and scholarly knowledge of the Bible. Eli heard Walker's sermon, which focused primarily on baptism, and agreed that the Book of Mormon mirrored the teachings of the Bible. After his return home, Eli had a dream about numerous debts that plagued him. He dreamt that George could help him resolve his issues and traveled to Winterberg to visit him. While there, he again met with William Walker, “the Mormon Elder.”17Walker's journal corroborates Eli Wiggill's attendance as a witness to the baptisms of some of his extended family members. Walker baptized George and Mary Ann Wiggill on February 11, 1855.18 According to Walker, “Eli Weigle took some books and told me that when I came to Queenstown, that I should have his house to preach in and that he had made up his mind to be baptized.”19 In Eli's mind though, his journey to conversion was far from over.Wiggill purchased every available book or pamphlet on Mormon doctrine and read them. He related that “on the road home my mind was so full of light and knowlage [knowledge] of the scriptures and it seemed to me that I could see the meaning of every text in the Bible, so when I got home my Wife said she thought I had got completely converted to Mormonism.”20 Thereafter he dedicated his leisure time to studying his new library. This awoke the missionary spirit in him, so much so that he “had a great many arguments with religious people with whom I was surrounded and especially with my Wesleyan Breathren [Brethren].”21 Unfortunately, his zeal towards a peculiar and foreign religion brought harsh criticism, censure, and opprobrium from their acquaintances. Susannah asked him to stop investigating further, cited as evidence that their friends already had distanced themselves and that several potential business clients refused to engage in economics with Wiggill because of his favorable view of Mormonism.Eli complied with Susannah's wishes and stopped investigating the church for a time. The first three Latter-day Saint missionaries to arrive in Cape Town on April 19, 1853—Elders Jesse C. Haven, William Holmes Walker, and Leonard I. Smith—recorded the intense persecution they and new converts faced. Local preachers told their congregations to shun and spurn the missionaries and angry mobs harassed and dispersed LDS missionary evangelizing as well as LDS gatherings. The backlash against the Latter-day Saints kept the church from gaining converts very quickly and sparked fear of reprisal for the few who did join. Missionaries did not find willing converts for months due to the intense persecution.22 Although Wiggill still was not baptized, he overcame his social fear of conversion and became somewhat of a missionary for the church. He related how his own preaching changed because of the additional light and knowledge he found in the Latter-day Saint religious tradition, as well as a greater outpouring of the holy spirit. “I found when I had to preach and speake [speak] in public that scriptural topics would flow from me with such force and meaning has [as] I had never experianced [experienced] before that my Brethren thought that I had got a renewal of the spiret [spirit] of the Methodists religion.”23Wiggill conversed extensively about this new religion with neighbor and friend Robert Wall. These conversations and close relationship with Wall culminated in the conversion of Wall's brother-in-law Henry Talbot, a stone mason in Grahamstown. Wiggill had spent time assuaging Wall's fears concerning the new faith and Henry Talbot became convinced of the veracity of the new religion. Talbot's wife, Ruth Sweetnam, related to her husband that she had received a dream some years previous regarding “a religion that was not in Africa at that time, but that it would be brought by someone at some time and that you joined it.” They both agreed that the Latter-day Saint missionaries fulfilled this dream, and that they should join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.24Wiggill investigated the church for nearly a year before Elder John Green traveled a hundred miles to Winterberg to baptize Eli, Susannah, and two daughters on March 1, 1858.25 After their baptism, Eli and Susannah sold their beloved Queenstown property and purchased a nearby farm in Bongolo, where he and his family held Sunday meetings attended by the Talbots and other converts.26 Some Methodist friends tried to convince Wiggill of his supposed folly in being baptized. He rebuffed them. In one iconic instance, he recorded the words of a confounded Methodist preacher who, in Eli's words, claimed “there was no use in talking or arguing with me for it seemed to him that I knew the Bible from end to end by heart.”27 Eli's dedication to the church continued as he, Henry Talbot, and Talbot's son Henry James Talbot began their proselytizing in Bongolo and Queenstown to help establish the church.Wiggill baptized Charles and Catharine Fancott, and Lavinia Ann Talbot, and saw the fruits of his earlier missionary labors bear fruit when he healed Robert Wall through the power of the priesthood and subsequently baptized him.28 The Talbots and George Ellis aided Eli in Wall's confirmation as a member of the church and the conferral of the Holy Ghost. In the months that followed, the Talbots and Wiggills continued to baptize and strengthen the small community of South African Saints.Eventually, many of the converted Saints decided to gather to Zion and travel to Utah Territory in the United States, a massive undertaking that would carry them across the Atlantic Ocean and overland to Salt Lake City. To prepare for the exodus, Henry and Ruth Talbot had already sold their Bongolo property and moved their family to Port Elizabeth in 1860. Eli and Susannah Wiggill prepared to do the same, although they faced several setbacks when floods inundated the Wiggill home and farm in Bongolo near Queenstown.29After they sold their property and moved to Port Elizabeth, Latter-day Saint church leaders called Eli Wiggill as the conference president and Henry Talbot as branch president of the forty Port Elizabeth Saints.30 Over the next year they strengthened the Port Elizabeth branch and prepared for their overseas journey. Wiggill highlighted some of their responsibilities and contributions: “We held meeting in Mr[.] Talbot's House, twice on Sunday and once through the week, and by paying strict attention to our duty by acting has [as] Teacher and visiting the sick, and also attending to my daley [daily] labour it kept me well employed.”31The previous branch president in Port Elizabeth, John Stock, had owned many sheep. He and Edward Slaughter operated a tannery in Port Elizabeth. They both joined the church in 1854 after hearing Elder Leonard I. Smith preach. In October 1855, Stock was sustained as Port Elizabeth conference president (like a modern district) and financial book agent. Stock and his counselors, which included Slaughter, ministered to members’ temporal and spiritual needs. Stock and his friends Thomas Parker and Charles Roper sold many of their sheep and bought their own boat when local captains refused to transport “Mormons” to America. Stock and dozens of members embarked to America in 1860 on the boat he purchased. Several South African members who remained in Port Elizabeth at the “Mormon Flats” settlement remained bitter with the financial bookkeeping that used local tithing funds to help those who emigrated.32 When Wiggill and Talbot arrived in Port Elizabeth, they worked tirelessly to assuage those hurt feelings, regain the converts’ trust, and unite the Port Elizabeth Branch. The nurturing and growth of the branch rested heavily upon their labors. They also spearheaded the arrangements to prepare for the next wave of South African Saints to undergo their journey to Zion.33Between 1855 and 1865, at least 270 Saints emigrated to the United States from the Port Elizabeth seaport, the most populous city in the Eastern Cape province. Most of these early converts were of British descent and many came from the 1820 British Settler groups since the early missionaries did not learn to speak Afrikaans. As the Saints in Port Elizabeth prepared for their oceanic voyage, Wiggill and Talbot went to Algoa Bay to build up the branch there. Then, they entrusted the Algoa Bay Branch to Edward Slaughter so they could answer the call to gather to Zion.34 Susannah Wiggill went on a last-minute quest back to Bongolo to entice their son Jeremiah, who had initially declined to go to America, to rejoin the family before they embarked. She succeeded. The Wiggill-Talbot group of South African Saints departed on the bark Race Horse, a very fast clipper ship, on February 20, 1861. Of the 37 passengers, 28 possessed the last name of Wiggill or Talbot. The Ellis and Wall families comprised the others.35Seasickness plagued Wiggill during the two-month ocean voyage. Luckily, they all arrived without incident in Boston on April 19, 1861, barely a week after the start of the American Civil War.36 The Saints stayed there while awaiting the arrival of the Emigrant, another ship carrying converts bound for Zion. The nine hundred converts from the two ships joined together and traveled by rail through Chicago and on to St. Joseph, Missouri. There they boarded a steamboat and traveled up the Missouri to Florence (formerly Winter Quarters; now north Omaha). The company purchased supplies and wagons for the arduous overland journey ahead. Eli and Susannah paid eighty dollars for their wagon and made it more comfortable by fitting it with ride boxes, carpet, and two covers. They purchased six oxen, two cows, and a calf at Florence. After securing their outfit, they departed with the Homer Duncan Company on June 25, 1861. The company included 264 individuals and 47 wagons. Eight of those wagons consisted of the South African Saints. Captain Duncan elected Henry Talbot as the chaplain, which the company sustained.37 A young six-year-old Xhosa boy named Gobo Fango remained with the Talbot family for the entire trip.38Captain Duncan made good use of Wiggill's skills repairing wagons and wheels. Wiggill grumbled in his journal about having to guard the cattle during the night. Susannah's persistence in bringing son Jeremiah helped unite the Wiggill and Talbot families further through intermarriage. Jeremiah Wiggill married Priscilla Talbot and Margaret Wiggill married Thomas Talbot.39 Throughout the journey, Eli and Henry bought many of the supplies and continued to help converts migrate to Salt Lake City.40 While crossing the Nebraska plains, Henry Talbot reunited with his son John, who had emigrated previously and was returning to South Africa to serve a mission. They passed the familiar Mormon Trail sites of Ash Hollow, Chimney Rock, Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, Fort Bridger, Echo Canyon, the Devil's Slide, and Big and Little Mountains. The entire entourage arrived safely in Salt Lake City via Emigration Canyon on September 13, 1861.41Eli and Susannah Wiggill settled initially in Salt Lake City but eventually moved twenty-five miles north to Kaysville and built a home adjacent Holmes Creek because Susannah claimed that the cold dampness in Salt Lake was bad for her health.42 After a few years of living peacefully in Kaysville, fifty-six-year-old Susannah passed away on August 29, 1869. She died surrounded by family and secure in her chosen religion.43 A few months later, Wiggill married Mrs. Ann Toan [Toen] Swift on October 11, 1869. Ann and her children had emigrated from South Africa in 1863. Wiggill and Talbot also met Charles Roper, their friend from Winterberg who had also emigrated from Port Elizabeth previously.Wiggill's son-in-law William Lowe invited Eli to take a vacation and accompany him and his young family on a journey to South Africa. William's wife—Eli's daughter Frances Amelia Wiggill Lowe—heartbroken and distraught over her mother Susannah's death, needed a South African vacation to facilitate her emotional recovery. Wiggill agreed to his son-in-law's proposition. The fare from New York City to Cape Town was fifty dollars. The two men each paid $25.00 of it and embarked on the Deadorous on January 19, 1870.When the Deadorous arrived in Cape Town, they disembarked. Wiggill soon sought out Elder George Ruck. Before leaving Salt Lake City, Wiggill had apparently agreed to help strengthen the church in South Africa and George Q. Cannon set him apart on December 6, 1869. One of the reasons for the uncertainty is that the South African Mission had closed on April 12, 1865, and was not reorganized until July 25, 1903. Nevertheless, whether a formal mission or not, Wiggill did carry out some missionary work by preaching to LDS congregations throughout the Cape province. He records little else of religious significance besides ministering to his ailing brother George. Wiggill's journal focuses mostly upon his travels, interactions with friends, and his extensive wagonbuilding business brought about by the 1870 diamond rush to the Kimberly Diamond Fields.44Some historians suggest that one of the principal reasons for Eli's mission to South Africa was to bring his brother George and his family back to Salt Lake City.45 When the Wiggills first left for Salt Lake City in 1861, George had stayed behind with his family, apparently unable to sell his land and/or commit to the arduous journey to a foreign place. Elder William Walker suggested that George failed to gather to Salt Lake City because of his reluctance to pay tithing on the sale of his lands to fulfill the gathering.46 Regardless, Eli was fond of his brother, and when he found him sick at home and apparently wavering spiritually, he did all he could to remedy his physical and spiritual ailments. Despite Eli's efforts, George died after traveling to Bongolo and Eli paid homage to him in his autobiography.47Eli's mission report is perhaps the best account of his religious activities while in South Africa but provides few specific details. We learn that he “blessed and named many children and baptized one man by the name of Cook.” He continued to preach in the Queenstown area, including to many diamond prospectors and converts who were “too poor to come out [to Zion].”48 Having left Salt Lake City on December 12, 1869, Wiggill sailed for Boston from Cape Town on March 12, 1873, a voyage that took six weeks. Wiggill returned home to Salt Lake City on May 26, 1873, and was released, having completed his three-and-a-half-year South African sojourn.49Once back in Utah Territory, Wiggill entered the final stage of his life. His autobiography ends with his return to Salt Lake City and his granddaughter Susannah (Susie) Margaret Lowe Dodge helped him complete his account, recording the last ten years of Wiggill's life in six pages.50 It is through these pages that we learn that Eli and his second wife, Ann Toen Swift, decided to separate after his return. Ann left the LDS Church and joined the Josephites (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). At age sixty-two, Wiggill married Mrs. Ann Brown Hammer on August 11, 1873, of whom Susie had a very high opinion. Until the end of his life, Wiggill occasionally did carpentry and wheelwright work to make ends meet and continued his voracious reading. On April 13, 1884, Eli Wiggill passed away in Salt Lake City at the age of seventy-three and was buried next to Susannah in the Kaysville City Cemetery.51Eli and Susannah Wiggill's lives were full of journeys to foreign lands and devotion to God and the people around them. Both died as faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, surrounded by family and friends. The Talbots remained particularly influential throughout their lives. On the last page of Wiggill's autobiography, Margaret recorded that “Several Speakers testified to his life and Character. Brother Talbot [spoke] of their friendship, [which] began as boys in the far away land of Sunny South Africa where they both heard and accepted the gospel[,] travelling from there to Utah in the same Company.”52This brief snapshot has highlighted Eli and Susannah Wiggill's great faith and their missionary efforts after their conversion to form a community of South African Saints. Studying their lives and writings reveals how early missionaries like Elder William Walker preached basic gospel principles such as faith, repentance, and baptism. Their record chronicles the opposition and persecution missionaries and converts faced. Their lives provide insights into early church organization and the formation of branches. Finally, Wiggill's journal documents how Eli and Susannah's experiences represent one of the most well-documented accounts of South African Saints answering the call to emigrate to Zion.

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