Charles Denney, Jr. (1849-1937) was the son of English converts of London, baptized when he was 9, and ordained a deacon when he was 15 (which seems unusually early to me, for that time and place). He emigrated when he was 15, ahead of his parents, although he had an uncle and aunt, whom he did not know, to meet him when he reached Utah.
Denney wrote a biographical reminiscence in 1876-77 which includes one of the most engaging (if brief) accounts of emigration I ever recall reading. He remembered the trip as if he were still a 15-year-old rather than as an adult looking back, and recorded the details a boy would notice: the drowning of another boy about his age, his first taste of chewing gum, how his leader on the trail christened each wagon with a name as if it were a ship (Denney traveled with the “Weber Sal”), how he “washed” his shirt by wearing it into the river and rubbing it as best he could, then laying it out on the bank to dry while he went back into the river to wash his body. (You can read his short autobiography to 1877 here.)
Denney was called on a mission to Great Britain in April 1883, possibly in an effort to move him out of the reach of federal marshals who were beginning The Raid to arrest and prosecute men for plural marriage. That may have worked for the years of his mission, but almost as soon as he returned to Utah he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to the usual prison term in the summer of 1886.
In the 1890s he reminisced about his mission. Here is the account of a single day of a missionary, serving without purse or scrip but with very direct faith, and the generous local Saints who struggled to support the elders, in the Hampshire District of England.:
In this district the Saints were few, and not very rich, and what we here regard as a good, square meal was not often had by the Elders, who had to depend on the generosity of the Saints for their daily food. As I was a strict observer of the Word of Wisdom, I did not even indulge in a cup of warm tea, so commonly used there; my breakfast would generally consist of bread and butter and water, and sometimes not much of that.
On the day of which I am speaking I started out to walk from Southampton to Buckland, Portsmouth, and my breakfast was an unusually light one. It was toward three or four o’clock when I neared the town of Gosport, and just before entering it, being quite tired and hungry, I stood by the roadside, raised my hat and prayed to the Lord that He would give me a good dinner, as I was very hungry and working in His cause. I replaced my hat and went on my way rejoicing, feeling that my prayer would be answered.
The first Saint’s house that I stopped at was a Brother Harvey, who had invariably invited me to eat when I called there, but he was not at home, and his son informed me that he did not know when his father would be home. So my first chance for a dinner was gone.
I crossed over the water from Gosport to Portsmouth on the ferry-boat, and made my way to Sister Willkes’, who had for many years kept an open house for the Elders; but she, too, was not at home, and I began to wonder why my prayer was not answered, feeling somewhat disappointed.
Sister Tolfree’s home was only a block or two distant, and thither I wended my way, for she had often made me welcome before, and I was confident a good meal would be provided for me when I got there. But imagine my feelings when I arrived there and was informed by her daughter that her mother was not at home and perhaps would not be for several hours. My stay there lasted but a few minutes.
I determined to make my way to my lodging place, which was a room in a house kept by Brother and Sister Russell, whose mother (Sister Burton) lived with her daughter and son-in-law. I had never known Brother and Sister Russell fail to ask after the health of the missionaries, speak a kind word or two, and invite them to eat. But upon this occasion Sister Russell opened the door for me and scarcely spoke a word. I sat down to a table where my letters and papers had been accumulating for the two weeks I had been absent and tried to read, but couldn’t. I examined myself mentally to see what I had done or said that my prayer should not be answered, but could call to mind nothing out of the way, and was sorely perplexed and very tired and hungry.
Presently while in this frame of mind I was suddenly arouse by a voice, almost as audible as that of a human being, which said to me, “Why don’t you go round to Sister Chambers’?”
I replied, “I will,” and suiting the action to the word, laid down the letter from home I was reading, put on my shoes, hat and coat and went round to the back street and knocked at the door. Sister Chambers opened it, and with a hearty welcome said, “Come in; we are very pleased to see you. What do you think, that boy Arthur has come from the ship today and brought a big piece of beef, and we didn’t know what to do with it.” (Sister Chambers and her daughter were vegetarians, so the meat was of no use to them.) “How fortunate you have come! We had to cook it, you know, to keep it from spoiling and now you have just come in time to help eat it.” Besides the hot roast of beef there were potatoes, cabbage and pudding, and other things to make a good meal, indeed. I believe it was the best meal I ever had in England, at least I appreciated it as such.
During the evening I related to Sister Chambers and her daughter Flora my day’s experience, and we all acknowledged the hand of the Lord in answering the prayer of one of His humble servants in an hour of need. I can never forget this circumstance – the prayer, the confidence, the disappointment, the self-examination, and the final abundant answering of the roadside prayer.
(I am not certain, but I think Sister Chambers may be Mary Jane Springate Chambers, b. 1850, with her daughter Flora Jane, b. 1875. I have no idea who “that boy Arthur” is, nor the other Saints mentioned only by last name.)