Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Wilford Woodruff’s First Mission, part 10 (Graphic History)

Wilford Woodruff’s First Mission, part 10 (Graphic History)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 15, 2009

Adapted from Leaves from My Journal, by Wilford Woodruff; artwork by Douglas Johnson.







to be continued …

Text from Leaves from My Journal

… We made a fire in the tavern, roasted a piece of our pork, ate our supper, said our prayers, went into a chamber, lay down on the bare floor, and were soon asleep.

I dreamed I was at my father’s house in a good feather bed, and I had a good night’s rest. When I awoke the bed vanished, and I found myself on the bare floor and well rested, not having been troubled with evil spirits or anything else.

We thanked the Lord for His goodness to us, ate the remainder of our provisions and continued our journey down the river to Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas, which then consisted of only a few cabins. After visiting the place, we crossed the river and tied up our canoe, which had carried us safely one hundred and fifty miles.

We then took the old military road, leading from Little Rock to Memphis, Tennessee. This road lay through swamps, and was covered with mud and water most of the way, for one hundred and seventy miles. We walked forty miles in a day through mud and water knee-deep.

On the 24th of March, after traveling some ten miles through mud, I was taken lame with a sharp pain in my knee. I sat down on a log. My companion, who was anxious to get to his home in Kirtland, left me sitting in an alligator swamp. …

Wilford Woodruff’s First Mission (Graphic History) part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18



  1. When first posted, panel 3 was missing and panel 4 was repeated — that has been corrected.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 15, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  2. The accuracy of the distances is a little off. It’s not 370 miles from Little Rock to Memphis. It’s just a little over a hundred miles. I believe that by the time WW reached Little Rock the state house was either completed or under construction. It was/is quite an impressive building, especially for the time and location. It’s still standing overlooking the Arkansas River.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 15, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  3. I hate it how we are always left hanging after each episode, so I can’t wait until the next segment.

    Comment by Maurine — November 15, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  4. He is about three days from Memphis. I know it says 40 miles a day. But in Tennesse he traveled about 18-20 miles a day when walking alone. I’m guessing he wasn’t going nearly that fast through the swamps. So perhaps he was less than 50 miles from Memphis when Elder Brown left him.

    Or maybe Elder Brown wanted to go 40 miles a day, and Wilford just couldn’t keep up that pace. I wonder if Elder Brown ever wrote about this experience.

    Oh wait, was I not supposed to give his name? I noticed that Wilford didn’t give his name, though it certainly wasn’t a secret.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — November 16, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  5. Oh, yes, let’s keep it a secret! :)

    I think the cartoonist must not have known his name, but I named him in the first installment.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  6. It is true; when I read the line “My companion…left me sitting in an alligator swamp,” I did wonder who this companion was and if that’s why he was not generally named throughout the story…

    Comment by Researcher — November 16, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  7. His name is Harry Brown; I haven’t tried to hunt up anything about him beyond a quick bit of Googling to see that he remained connected to the Church beyond the point of this mission. WW doesn’t give his name in “Leaves from My Journal,” for whatever reason, so I think the artist just didn’t know his name. WW does name him in his fuller record, though. This episode isn’t flattering, but he’s been a pretty darned good mission companion up to this point, don’t you think?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  8. He had been a great companion. Plus Wilford asked him to come along, they weren’t assigned to each other “randomly”, so he must have thought a great deal of him. There is more to this story that Wilford just hasn’t told us. Too bad it happened in Arkansas. It is out of my area. Where is Steve C. when we need him? :)

    Comment by Bruce Crow — November 16, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  9. Not that we’re anxious to get out of Arkansas (c’mon, Steve, tell us why!), but as long as we’re headed into Tennessee pretty quickly, let us hie to Bruce’s blog and read about the missionary who beat Wilford Woodruff there by several months.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  10. To be honest, I know very little about WW’s mission to Arkansas/Tennessee. I have learned quite a bit reading this graphic serial. All I can do is add the “color commentary” but I can’t do the “play-by-play.” :-(

    Too bad he had to leave Arkansas so soon. Beautiful area. I can imagine how the swamps of eastern Arkansas might have looked. I’ve seen some. I really can’t blame him for wanting to get out of the swamps. I’m sure that if he were in the swamp regions he wasn’t traveling 40 miles a day. Depending on conditions he might have made four miles a day. I didn’t realize the Old Military Road traversed swamps. (FIY: The Old Military Road extended from Little Rock to the Mexican, later Texas, border. It runs right outside of town here.)

    Western Arkansas in the “River Valley” (Arkansas River valley) and the area of the Petite Jean river it is really pretty. The forests are very thick so travel overland on the primitive roads would have been somewhat slow. Perhaps that is why they made a canoe.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 16, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  11. Harry Brown was one of the men who altered the course of Wilford Woodruff’s life in 1834. He accompanied Parley P. Pratt to New York in April 1834 to recruit men for Zion’s Camp. Wilford agreed to drop everything and go, his brother Azmon did not. (Although Azmon wss ordained an elder to lead the branch in Richland NY while Wilford was only ordained a teacher, Azmon’s choice meant he did not rejoin the Saints for 30 years while Wilford, of course, went on to become president of the Church.)

    Harry and Wilford returned to Kirtland together and were members of Zion’s Camp together. After Zion’s Camp Wilford asked Harry to go with him to the Southern States. Wilford was single, Harry had a family he wanted to get back to.

    In March 1852 Harry and his family began their journey to join the Saints in Utah. They boarded the ill-fated steamboat Saluda to travel down the Missouri River from St. Louis. The Saluda exploded and of the 175 passengers, (90 of whom were Latter-day Saints) about one hundred were killed or injured. Harry died three weeks later from his injuries. His son Ira lost a leg. But his daughter Sarah continued on to Utah and became Wilford Woodruff’s plural wife in 1853.

    That about sums it up.

    Comment by Jennifer — October 23, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  12. The place they stayed in was most likely the Blockhouse. It has been restored and overlooks the Arkansas River at Conway’s Cadron Settlement Park. I have pictures if interested.

    Comment by Richard McFadden — September 14, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

  13. Pictures would be great, Richard. I’d like to write a brief introduction and post them here, with full credit to you, of course.

    Email will reach me at aeparshall (at) aol (dot) com.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 14, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

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